“Never in the animated medium has a cast of so many, worn clothes so few.”
Strike Witches is perhaps the most elaborate method to showcase girls in their underwear that has ever been contrived; while other series make use of upward camera angles or ‘hillarious’ accidental groping to provide the viewer with their ration of sexual titillation, Gonzo decided that it was time to stop beating about the bush and start being candid. And what could be more candid than a five second close up of an adolescent girl’s camel toe?
Admittedly it’s not exactly the most cultured form of entertainment around, and certainly not one you’ll ever find yourself recommending to your parents, co-workers, prospective sexual partners or any Federal Agents that happen to be paying you a visit. However, for those of you who only need to worry about the last item on that list, Strike Witches is the perfect anime for you!
But you don’t need your picture on the side of a Milk Carton in order to enjoy Strike Witches; if you just want to watch one of the most creative, action packed and entertaining anime series out there, then all you need to do is swallow your pride and take your first flight with the guys and girls of the 501st Joint Fighter Squadron.
Just kidding- there aren’t any guys in Strike Witches. Honestly, who on earth would want to see men flying around in their underwear? No, that would just be silly. Yup, they’re all girls. All eleven of them. With each one representing every country in the world that matters- Japan, Britain, The United States of America, Germany, France, Japan, The Soviet Union, Finland, Italy, Germany and Germany. If you’re feeling a little disappointed with that list, you needn’t worry too much—there are more German characters introduced later on in the show.
Of course, with a main character to episode ratio of almost 1:1, you might expect a few issues with character development. And you’d be right- almost half of the cast spend three quarters of the series effectively as background scenery- though the problem is alleviated to a certain degree by the fact that the whole cast has only a quarter of a personality between them.
It sounds terrible, and it probably is- a cast made up entirely of stereotypes is certainly not an artistic statement- but at the same time it’s what allows Strike Witches to work. We don’t need to know about each character, because we already know everything there is to know about them- because we’ve seen them a thousand times before. It sounds a bit illogical, but what’s the use of applying logic to a show about a group of teenage girls flying through the air with aeroplane propellers strapped to their ankles?
And it’s not as if they’re unlikable characters. Quite the opposite, in fact- among the cast of eleven, you’ll end up liking at least eight of them. If nothing else, they certainly are an entertaining bunch to watch.
Now we’ve covered all the key points, let’s delve a little deeper and look at the less important elements of the story, like the story itself: Post World War 2, Alien invasion, Aircraft powered by magic. Got that? Good.
There is an overarching storyline here, but if you hadn’t already realised, Strike Witches isn’t exactly a work of literary genius. What does matter though are the individual episode stories, which are excellent- great fun to watch and reasonably original, which believe me is saying a lot for an ecchi anime. There’s a good mix of action packed battles, low brow humour and some melodrama that makes for some lowest common denominator entertainment of the highest calibre.
On the subject of melodrama, one unintentionally amusing aspect of the show is the use of overly dramatic orchestral music during the battle sequences. When juxtaposed to the high pitched, middle of the road J-pop of the opening sequence, it’s hard not to let out a snobbish little chuckle. Talk about delusions of grandeur...
Of course, when it comes to presentation, there are no delusions... just sweet, sweet grandeur.
Whatever you may think of Gonzo Entertainment, of CGI visuals or of the moe aesthetic, there’s no getting around the fact that Strike Witches is quality animation at its finest. Particularly the battle sequences, which were fast paced, well choreographed and smooth. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it was so well animated that I get a hard on just thinking about it, and not just because of those panty shots I mentioned earlier.
The integration of CGI with traditional animation (by which I mean digital animation) has long been a burning issue for anime fans, without any clear resolution -should those responsible for it be burned at the stake, or would tarring-and-feathering them be justifiable- where you stand on the issue is entirely up to you; but even the most unreasonable of lynch mobs should be willing to consider letting Strike Witches off the hook, because it has actually made it work. That’s right; no obvious shade-free surfaces or objects that look out of place- everything is well done and kept in the backdrop, where it should be when it can’t be where it really ought to be (off screen).
This review has attempted to justify the unjustifiable. It has struggled desperately to sing the praises of a show that is little more than a cacophony of the worst vices in anime- thirty year old single men, thirteen year old girls and, worst of all, three dimensional animation. Cynics will say that Strike Witches is a show that was made with only one goal; to sell to as many depressing and possibly slightly gullible single middle aged men as possible, and the fact that it’s hugely entertaining is a mere co-incidence -and maybe they’re right. But perhaps they can take a little comfort from the fact that it didn’t quite work out.
“A single sale is a tragedy; but even a million sales won’t save Gonzo from Bankruptcy”