Strike Witches was originally created by illustrator, Shimada Fumikane as a mixed-media project. It has since been adapted into light novels, manga, anime and video games. The first anime series was brought to us by Gonzo. You may remember them from their work on Gantz, Brave Story, Bakuretsu Tenshi, Basilisk & Zettai Boei Leviathan, just to name some of them I’ve reviewed. So, how does this one compare to the others? Let’s delve into it and see.
Strike Witches is set in an alternate world where an enigmatic enemy called the Neuroi has appeared and started attacking people. Humanity’s best line of defense is a group of young girls, most of whom range in age from twelve to sixteen, with magical powers. These are the titular witches. With the background stuff out of the way, our story proper opens with fourteen year old Miyafuji getting approached by one of the few characters who isn’t disturbingly young, Major Sakamoto Mio. Sakamoto wants to recruit her for the Witches but Miyafuji refuses, not wanting to use her powers for violence. Things change, because the setup is so obvious that of course they do, when Miyafuji receives a letter from her deceased father, the man who designed the “brooms” that the witches use to fly through the sky. She reluctantly agrees to go with Sakamoto.
Let’s start with what’s wrong with the series. The biggest thing is that it wastes a lot of time on really disturbing fan-service scenes. Keep in mind, most of the major characters are twelve to sixteen years old. There are only three of eleven who are adults. And I thought Devil Hunter Yohko was bad about sexualising a young girl, which it is but at least she’s not twelve nor did they have an episode about undergarment pilfering. What were they thinking? The series also doesn’t fully develop its aspects that have potential. There are some interesting ideas that get brought up but never fully taken advantage of. The stuff with the girls trying to unravel the truth about the Neuroi is really interesting, but they only give you a small chunk of it. I guess showing a twelve year old in the bath was more important. Way to keep things the complete opposite of classy and to have your priorities completely ass backwards at the same time. I’m sure the multi-tasking was very hard. Maybe they’re saving it for the sequel, which wouldn’t be a problem if they at least gave you something compelling in the meantime as opposed to really sick fan-service involving girls who are way too young for that shit.
To the series’ credit, it does have some legitimately good stuff too. When the focus is on the characters, rather than the characters’ underage bodies, it has some really good moments. The story proper, in spite of being filler heavy, is legitimately interesting and the last couple episodes are actually really strong. I like that they start things out looking like it’s just going to be a monster of the week type thing but quickly start introducing plot elements that move it beyond that, even if they don’t take full advantage of their potential. The story elements for the major story had a lot of really good ideas that could have made for a really compelling work if not for all the sleaziness.
This is an area where I’ll give Strike Witches credit. In spite of having almost as many major characters as they have episodes, they manage to flesh them out pretty well and there are some really good character moments and interactions. Unfortunately, the villains aren’t particularly compelling. You know that there’s more to them then is readily apparent and there are some interesting bits to go with it, but it’s not fully realised. If only they’d had something pointless and disgusting to cut out, like fan-service scenes of barely pubescent girls. Then they might have been able to go somewhere with it. Oh wait… they did. They chose to keep the fan-service scenes instead.
There are a lot of issues with the art. For one thing, most of our heroines don’t wear pants or anything that covers their legs. Instead, we get shirts and panties. They fly around in the air at high velocities, how do their nethers not get really cold and uncomfortable? Now, you might say “But Ktulu, they use magic. Isn’t it possible that their magic regulates their body temperature?” Which might be a fair point, except that several of them actually talk about being cold during the panty pilfering episode. Because a single pair of panties was so much protection, apparently. You might shift to “well, maybe the lack of fabric helps their flying units work.” Except that they show three of the girls actually covering their legs and it works out just fine for them. You might also wonder if, maybe, their machines heat up a lot and it’s more comfortable. The problem is that they wear the same outfits when they’re on the ground and in the air. No, these outfits are because some sick bastard wanted to see barely pubescent girls in their panties.
The outfits would be bad enough by themselves, but the series really pushes the sleaziness bar by showing these girls, most of whom are twelve to sixteen (I can’t emphasise that fact enough), completely starkers. There’s a continuing tradition in this series of unnecessary group bath scenes involving full breasts, nipples included. Did you want to see a twelve year old’s breasts? You’re probably replying in the negative since you’re sane, but this series will show you anyway. Now, I will be fair to the series. It does have really good action sequences and the designs of the Neuroi are pretty cool. They also did a pretty decent job with the background scenery.
Here’s another area where I’ll give the series quite a bit of credit. The cast does do well in their roles. Tanaka Rie and Ohashi Ayuru in particular but there aren’t any bad performances by any means. The music is also nicely done. I’ll give Nagaoka Seikou credit on that one.
There’s quite a bit of les-yay in Strike Witches. Miyafuji has a thing for Lynne. At one point she even has what is heavily implied to be a sex dream about her, and there are certainly indications that the feeling is mutual. Perrine explicitely has a crush on Major Sakamoto. Barkhorn and Hartmann seem to have a romance going. Eila and Sanya definitely have a romance going, and I will say that the stuff between the two of them is absolutely adorable and, surprisingly for this series, unsexualised. Lucchini gropes the other girls on multiple occasions, Shirley taking the brunt of it. There are also some moments where Minna and Sakamoto seem to have a thing. So, the ho-yay factor is an 8/10. Expect a lot of les-yay.
Strike Witches could have been a good series. Possibly even really good. It has some strong story elements and characters. It does really well with action sequences and the vocal cast is solid. Unfortunately, it’s held back by an absurd level of sleaziness. It wastes time that could have been spent on plot or strengthening the characters with barely pubescent girl fan-service and it makes it a really uncomfortable series to watch at times. Does that aspect make it a bad series? No, but it certainly has a severe detrimental effect on it. If you can tolerate the exploitative shit, and that’s a big if, you might enjoy it. If you’re an ill-supervised horny young teenager who likes girls, then this might just be for you. Seek it out, Young Lady. For me, the positive aspects and negative ones do balance pretty evenly so my rating is a 5/10. Maybe I’ll look at Strike Witches 2 at some point, either because I get curious or because someone requests it, but for next week I’ll look at Choujigen Game Neptune: The Animation. Please tell me it doesn’t have under-aged nudity.