Review: Strike Witches 2
by: Max Vader
Little girls use flying machines on their legs to battle aliens – that is the basic premise of Strike Witches 2, the sequel to the first season of Strike Witches produced by AIC. The franchise is based on magazine illustrations by Humikane Shimada. The director for Strike Witches 2, Kazuhiro Takamura, is also the script writer, animation director and character designer. His previous work fittingly includes amongst other things character design work for Queen’s Blade.
The series takes place in an alternate reality during the second World War. The two main differences are that the countries have slightly different names and that famous historical flying aces are replaced with underage girls that have no pants but can use magical powers. After an invasion by aliens called the Neuroi takes place, both the Axis powers and their enemies all band together to fight the invading menace. The beginning of the second series alludes to the possibility that communication with the aliens might be possible, but this never comes up again and turns out to be entirely irrelevant. A new, massive fleet of aliens arrives and so the aforementioned Magical Girls are gathered in a group of around a dozen and tasked with fighting them off.
At first glance, Strike Witches 2 seems like a show that is about blatant, shameless lolicon fanservice and that is in fact true. However, there is actually more to the series than fanservice alone. Most episodes can be roughly divided into the following categories: The main part of the episode is usually occupied by either idle conversations or some sort of interpersonal drama between the girls. These are almost always entirely trivial and incredibly boring. Next, we have a good chunk of time dedicated to scenes of them bathing, groping each other, comparing breast sizes and, in one notable episode, having a bug sent by the aliens crawl into their underwear one after the other for reasons that are never explained. (One girl ends up crushing it with her butt, thus destroying the ship connected to the bug and receiving a medal for it.) Lastly, there are the scenes in which they actually fight the aliens, which usually don’t take very long and is also boring. Some episodes spice up this formula by removing the fights with the aliens altogether.
The main problem with Strike Witches 2 is that it tries to do three things at once and does none of them well. It tries to be a lolicon fanservice show, but despite the blatant display of nipples and nudity, there is not nearly enough fanservice in it for it to worth buying if you enjoy that sort of thing. It tries to be a slice of life-show, but the characters either only have one defining trait or none at all and range from unremarkable to actively irritating. It doesn’t help that Funimation’s dub of the show isn’t exactly of high quality, and some of the characters are either cutesy in a way that sounds incredibly forced, or are simply really annoying to listen to. Finally, Strike Witches 2 tries to be a dramatic series about humanity’s battle against vicious aliens that threaten everything they love. Even if you accept the notion that the ludicrous premise alone makes you incapable of taking this show seriously, any attempt at drama falls flat due to the fact that the girls are, for the most part, interchangable and uninteresting. They have no real personality and no interesting designs or anything else which might make the viewer care about them.
Another problem is that our protagonists are never in any real danger. Every single battle involves them attacking the alien of that particular episode but the attacks will be ineffective because the alien regenerates, until the girls finally figure out the trick to destroying it. They might make some grimaces as they generate their magic shields that protect them from harm, but they never suffer any sort of injury, let alone death. Even the final battle against the alien swarm ends with everyone completely unharmed and happy, which raises the question of how much of a threat these otherworldly beings really are.
The design and concept of the aliens themselves actually serves as a perfect example for some of the problems the series suffers from. They are horribly cliché, uninteresting and not entertaining in the least. Every single alien is either some sort of ship or geometric shape made entirely out of black metal that has a red hexagonal pattern on it and fires red lasers. (The aforementioned bug was merely a part of the whole ship.) It is no wonder the show doesn’t spend much time on them despite them technically being the main antagonists. There is so little to them that they barely even exist. There is nothing in the series that suggests they are anything but mindless machines following a very simplistic programming. There is no intelligence guiding them, no greater menace controlling them and they have no goals, emotions or even sentience. Just like you can’t develop an attatchment to the characters because they are so simplistic and irritating and like you can’t fear for them because they never get harmed, you can’t dislike the antagonist and hope for his downfall because he is a completely hollow concept and doesn’t seem menacing. The Neuroi are basically akin to a virus or a plague. Begrudging a virus for doing what it does would make just as much sense as hating the rain because you got wet. Unlike antagonists that are merely badly written, useless or too sympathetic, the Neuroi might as well not be there at all.
The only girls that even remotely receive anything that might be considered a bit of character development are Yoshika Miyafuji and Mio Sakamoto, who both hail from the Strike Witches equivalent of Japan. This is no coincidence, as they are the ones ultimately responsible for taking down the alien hive with the help of both the battleship Yamato – which, unlike in real history, wasn’t a resounding failure in this show and is instead glorified – and Sakamoto’s magical Katana that can cut through anything. Anime glorifying Japan and it’s… shall we say questionable history during WW2 is nothing new, but I was honestly expecting the final episode to be called “Hirohito did nothing wrong”.
Strike Witches 2 clocks in at 12 episodes, and not a single one is worth watching. It fails as a fanservice show, it fails as a comedic slice of life show, and it fails as a military action drama. Aside from the animation, there is nothing in it that isn’t terrible. Watching it constitutes a waste of time for anyone and it is a complete failure as a piece of entertainment.
- The animation is fluid and well done.
- The backgrounds can be pretty to look at sometimes.
- One episode takes place in Rome and briefly shows some historical places.
- The characters are flat, uninteresting and annoying.
- The story is horribly written, cliché and about as unpredictable as a sunrise.
- The antagonist is so insubstantial, he might as well not be there.