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Strike Witches: Season 1(TV) (2008)
No synopsis for Strike Witches: Season 1.
For more about Strike Witches: Season 1 and the Strike Witches: Season 1 Blu-ray release, see Strike Witches: Season 1 Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on July 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Cherami Leigh, Kira Vincent-Davis
» See full cast & crew
Strike Witches: Season 1 Blu-ray Review
Three strike witches and you're out.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 23, 2012
The nice thing about crafting an entertainment around an alternate universe is you get the chance to gloss over little peccadilloes like, oh, say, imperialistic delusions of grandeur that saw your country attacking numerous sovereign nations, resulting in the devastation of two atomic bombs being dropped on said country. Now I'm fully aware that some reading this review and realizing we are talking about Strike Witches after all, are going to mutter expletives under the breath, roll their eyes, and ultimately scream, "Oh, for crying out loud, it's only an anime!" And I'm also aware that my reaction to Strike Witches may have something to do with the fact that I watched it in juxtaposition with My Way, a 2011 Korean film that doesn't exactly paint a pretty picture of Japan both before and during World War II. Of course it's probably unfair to judge something as patently unreal as an anime by anything approaching historical standards, but the fact is Strike Witches wants its cake and to eat it, too. While the series has a radical reinvention of World War II, making it in an alien invasion drama, it also repeatedly references both actual events and (especially) people, and yet there's nary a reference to the Rising Sun or suicide bombers or any number of other items that most people are going to be likely to associate with Japan and that era. The problems with Strike Witches are more than just skin deep (and I'm counting my above complaint as a relatively trivial qualm), but in this case skin is part and parcel of the story as well. Strike Witches features some of the most gratuitous fan service of any anime of the past several years, with long lingering shots of girls' crotches, occasional nudity and an obsession with female underwear.
In the Strike Witches universe, 1939 was not the era of Nazis invading Germany's neighbors or Japan's increasing Imperial domination over its little corner of the planet, but instead a time of advancing aliens, which are here called Neuroi. It has been discovered that a cadre of gifted magical girls can battle the aliens with the aid of so-called Striker Units, a technology the witches don on their legs which enable them to fly and battle the nasty aliens. The main focus of this first season of Strike Witches is a young girl named Yoshika, who has healing powers she can't quite control yet, but which are so powerful that she piques the interest of the local branch of a planetary group that recruits young witches (or witches in training) to fight the aliens.
While the cast of Strike Witches is international, in the anime's world the countries are (rather peculiarly) given alternate names, so that, for instance, Japan becomes Fuso, England becomes Brittania and France becomes Gallia. What makes this weird decision even harder to fathom in the English language dub is that most of the main characters speak with the same traditional "Valley Girl" idiolect that is almost a FUNimation tradition by this point. The other main character in the first season is, like Yoshika, from Fuso, and is in fact the squadron's commander, Mio Sakamoto. While there is a gaggle of other supporting characters (some may feel too many, in fact), they're largely interchangeable, despite their ostensible differences of various native countries and a variety of magical powers. One thing they do have in common is names based on actual fighter pilots of yore, albeit names feminized so that one of the Strike Witches is, for example, "Charlotte" Yeager (as opposed to Chuck).
The target demographic for Strike Witches is no doubt adolescent males, young boys who will enjoy the quasi- World War II setting of the piece almost as much as they will the ubiquitous fan service this series offers up in really amazing quantity. This is a show where virtually every other shot is crotch related, and the (how to put this delicately?) "detail" of the animation is quite notable and noticeable, so that the outlines of the female genitalia are clearly visible through the nonstop scenes of panties. It's an odd sort of dichotomy, since this series seems to be positing a very energetic form of "girl power" even as it throws in completely gratuitous shots up girls' skirts and through their legs.
The series ultimately pretty much gives up even the pretense of being an action oriented outing in episodes like the lamentable "Nice and Breezy" which spends an entire half hour (or close to it, anyway) on a supposedly madcap adventure involving several pairs of misplaced panties. What is it about female underwear that some Japanese at least seem to find so obsessively interesting? It's a kind of depressing admission that the series probably has more serious shortcomings than simply glossing over Japan's role in the real World War II.
Strike Witches: Season 1 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Strike Witches is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Note to self: make sure to check whether you've put in a DVD or a Blu-ray when reviewing Combo Packs like this one. I put in the DVD first, thinking how odd it was that this looked like an upconversion when Strike Witches was of such recent vintage. I soon discovered my error, but you know what?: it didn't make a whole heck of a lot of difference, because this is an upconversion. Even given that fact, this is a strangely soft looking outing, one that does offer some appealing character designs and reasonably robust color, but which suffers from a kind of "blah" high definition presentation that never really pops the way the best FUNimation outings usually do. The best looking part of this enterprise is the use of CGI, which looks a good deal crisper than the bulk of the traditional cel animation. While there's nothing downright horrible about this transfer or even the source animation, Strike Witches is weirdly anemic looking for a recent vintage anime, upconversion or not, especially one presented by FUNimation, which regularly offers such stellar looking fare.
Strike Witches: Season 1 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
By far the best thing about Strike Witches is its extremely boisterous Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix, one that bursts out of the gate with a nice action sequence and keeps up a nicely consistent use of the surround channels for the rest of the season. While the voice work is a bit problematic (as detailed above in the main body of the review), the mix here is often fantastically effective. As the Strike Witches zoom into battle against the aliens, a glut of really good panning effects comes into play, and many if not most of the action sequences are rife with bombastic LFE. Fidelity is very strong and dynamic range is equally wide. For the record, there's an excellent Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 mix on the Blu-ray as well, which is a bit more reserved, sonically speaking, but which may be preferable for its voice work even if it doesn't offer the same level of immersion.
Strike Witches: Season 1 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Strike Witches: Season 1 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I may be several decades too old and considerably too married to be the target demographic for Strike Witches' odd blend of kind of science fiction-esque rewriting of World War II mixed with a more than generous amount of fan service. My admittedly potentially misplaced ire over a Japanese series "forgetting" to get into Japan's role in World War II is probably easily dismissed by those who couldn't care less if an anime recasts history in a different light. But the bizarre combination of promoting a kind of nascent feminism, with an all-girl set of heroines, against nonstop shots of panties (replete with outlined female genitalia) and other frankly sexist material is odd, to say the least, if not completely off putting. All of this would be forgivable if Strike Witches simply had a better story to tell, but when you get episodes like the "lost panites" outing, the seams (whether or not they're on underwear) begin to show.
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