July 03, 2008

Strike Witches -- episode 1

JPMeyer has paid BOST to see Strike Witches, and he likes it. Aroduc has lots of frame grabs.

Word was that they were going to post the episodes to Youtube. I'm not sure if these are official, but part 1, part 2, part 3. Since they're not subtitled, my guess is that they're not official, and probably will go away as soon as Gonzo or Kadokawa notices them. (UPDATE: Links removed. The official one is here.)

(UPDATE: Looks like they locked it up, though I have no idea why. Too bad; I wanted to watch it again.)

Given that I don't really understand Japanese (for all my pretensions) the best I can do is watch the visuals and try to pick out a word or two. Here's what I figured out:

The Strike Witches are based in England. Somehow I had assumed they'd be in Japan (since, of course, Japan is the center of the universe). Also because the ranking witch (Sakamoto) is Japanese.

The reason she has an eyepatch is because the hidden eye is magical. When she uses it she can see a long way away, through obstructions. Which is handy when you're trying to find alien spaceships hiding in the clouds.

There seems to be a law against girls covering their thighs. As a result, panties or school swimsuits are visible at all times -- often in closeup. (Good old Gonzo, never forgetting what's important.) Not just the girls, women as well. The only females of the species we see with their legs covered are old ladies. Maybe the law says you can cover up varicose veins and cellulite.

Witches aren't all that unknown. When they fire up their power, animal ears and tails pop out. (I had thought that had to do with merging with a familiar, but that's not the case) The existence of witches doesn't seem to be much of a secret.

Our heroine is Yoshika, and she is a witch. Yoshika's father left his family and went to war. He was the chief designer of the "Striker Unit", the leg pieces which permit them to fly, and it turns out that Sakamoto was the first test subject. Not clear whether he's still alive, but I suspect he isn't.

Yoshika knows she's a witch. Part way through the first episode there's a traffic accident and a friend of hers gets badly hurt, with a penetrating chest wound. Yoshika fires up her magic and at least partially heals her friend. Sakamoto observes this, and then helps. Seems Sakamoto is there to observe Yoshika, probably to decide whether to recruit her.

Yoshika passes out before finishing the job. She wakes later as her mother and grandmother finish the healing, so her friend is fine. It would seem that this is something that runs in family lines. And witches are not feared or ostracized.

The aliens showed up in 1939, and apparently in this history line the result was to abort WWII and convince all the nations of the planet to set aside their differences to fight the alien invaders.

Sakamoto supposedly has the same seiyuu as Akina in UFO Princess Valkyrie but it sure doesn't sound the same. Sakamoto also doesn't seem to be quite the same character she was in the OVA. There she was cold, harsh, almost repulsive. This time she seems a bit nicer -- but maybe that's just because she was turning on the charm in order to recruit Yoshika. But I don't think that's the case. I think she's a nerd; she wants to be nice but never really learned how. (I have a feeling it's going to turn out that she has a tragic past.)

The red-head's bikini would get her arrested on almost any American beach now, let alone in the 1940's. The red head is the American, and she and the Italian seem to be shameless. (Suits me fine.)

I think the series is placed in 1942; I think I heard Yoshika say that her father went away three years before, presumably in 1939.

Bottom line: We have a winner. I like what I'm seeing a lot. It's everything I hoped it would be.

UPDATE: Thank you to Canthros for the official Gonzo Youtube version, complete with subtitles, and higher quality.

Further comments: It appears that the 501st Joint Fighter Wing is based on the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea. Either that or they're in Wales.

It looks like Wilcke is in command of the unit. In the OVA Sakamoto was, but it looks like Sakamoto may be second in command this time, leading the second section. During the initial battle Wilcke gives orders .

I got the year wrong. The "three years" I heard was that Yoshika's father died three years after he left for the war. He left when Yoshika was 6. According to the web site for the series, she's 14, so that means it's 1947. Her father, Dr. Miyafuji, was the one who made the Striker Unit possible. And he may not be dead; Yoshika isn't convinced.

The translator botched Sakamoto's military rank, but I guess that's pretty common. Military rank names for the Navy and Army are the same in Japanese, and Sakamoto's rank is shousa. But she's clearly wearing a Navy uniform (from the waist up, anyway) so they should have translated it as Commander. (Her rank is Lt. Commander, and "Commander" is the proper form of address.) Of course, if they consider the 501st Joint Fighter Wing to be an air unit, then she would be "major" but in that case she should be wearing Army greens, not Navy whites.

It turns out that Yoshika's mother and grandmother run a clinic. They routinely use their magic to cure people, and that explains why they're not feared and why their magic is not a secret.

As to this world, the lack of pants on the women and the existence of witches isn't all that's strange. Japan is called the "Fuso Empire". Great Britain is called "Brittania". I wonder what it'll turn out that the US is called?

The carrier in which Sakamoto and Yoshika are transported to England is the Akagi, which in our timeline was sunk at Midway. It looks like they did a moderately good job modeling it. It was built in the 1920's, so it's entirely believable that it is still around by 1947 (since it didn't have to fight against Admiral Nimitz).

The reason the 501st Joint Fighter Wing is based in Britannia is that the Neuroi have conquered continental Europe. As in our timeline, Britain stands almost alone as a bulwark against evil forces. And as in our timeline, some of the forces which protect it are refugees from conquered nations.

UPDATE: Just to prove that I have waaaaay too much time on my hands, I just tore apart the flash files on the Strike Witches home page and came up with a list of the characters, which I'm putting below the fold.

Yoshika Miyafuji: FUSO Imperial Navy EUROPE expeditionary fleet 24th air flotilla 288th flying corps, sergeant (gunsou, E5)
   Height: 150 cm
   Born: August 18 (age 14)
   Striker unit: A6M3a (Zero)
   Armament: 13mm Type 99-2-2 Machine Gun, M712 Schnellfeuer (Broomhandle Mauser)

Mio Sakamoto: FUSO Imperial NAVY Europe expeditionary fleet 24th air flotilla 288th flying corps, Lt. Commander (or major? shousa, O4)
   Height: 165 cm
   Born: August 26 (age 19)
   Striker unit: A6M3a (Zero)
   Armament: 13 mm Type 99-2-2 Machine gun, nihontou (katana)

Lynette Bishop: Royal air force No. 610 fighter squadron, sergeant (gunsou, E5)
   Height: 156 cm
   Born: June 11 (age 15)
   Striker unit: Spitfire Mk. IX
   Armament: Boys anti-tank rifle Mk. 1

Perrine-H.Clostermann: Gallic freedom Air Force Fighter Squadron 602, lieutenant (chuui, O2)
  Height: 152 cm
  Born: February 28 (age 15)
  Striker unit: VG39
  Armament: Bren gun Mk1, rapier

Francesca Lucchini: Italia(?) aeronautica 4th wing, 2nd Lt. (shoui, O1)
  Height: 148 cm
  Born: December 24 (age 12)
  Striker Unit: G55 Centauro
  Armament: M1919A6

Charlotte E. Yeager: U.S. Rebellion Army 363rd fighter squadron, captain (taii, O3)
  Height: 167 cm
  Born: February 13 (age 16)
  Striker Unit: P-51D
  Armament: BAR, M1911A1

Minna-Dietlinde Wilcke: Karlsland Luftwaffe JG3, Lt. Colonel (chuusa, O5)
  Height: 165 cm
  Born: March 11 (age 18)
  Striker Unit: Bf109G-2
  Armament: MG42

Gertrud Barkhorn: Karlsland Luftwaffe JG52, Captain (taii, O3)
  Height: 162 cm
  Born: March 20 (age 18)
  Striker Unit: FW190D-6 (prototype)
  Armament: MG42, MG131, MG151/20

Erica Hartmann: Karlsland Luftwaffe JG52, lieutenant (chuui, O2)
  Height: 154 cm
  Born: April 19 (age 16)
  Striker Unit: BF109G-6
  Armament: MG42, MP40

Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen: Suomusu Air Force 24th flight, 2nd Lieutenant (shoui, O1)
  Height: 160 cm
  Born: Feb 21 (age 15)
  Striker Unit: BF109G-2
  Armament: Finland M1931 submachine gun, MG42

Sanya V. Litvyak: Army of Russia 586th fighter squadron, Lieutenant (chuui, O2)
  Height: 152 cm
  Born: Aug 18 (age 13)
  Striker Unit: Mig60
  Armament: Hammer-flieger

So Wilcke is definitely ranking officer and Sakamoto is second. Miyafuji and Bishop are the only enlisted.

Miyafuji's rank is given in Japanese as gunsou which means "sergeant". "Petty officer" is kaisou. Miyafuji is listed as Navy; what's she doing with an army rank? Well, if she's a sergeant, then Sakamoto really does have to be a major.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Anime at 06:30 PM | Comments (12) | Add Comment
Post contains 1541 words, total size 10 kb.

1 Hey, Steve: Gonzo's got it on youtube here.

Posted by: Canthros at July 03, 2008 07:15 PM (QF0kY)

2 All Hail Brittania!

Sorry, just had to say it.

Posted by: ubu at July 03, 2008 10:00 PM (UukMI)

3 Is there some trick to make that youtube link work?  I get "This is a private video, if you were sent a link, make sure to accept the sender's friend invite."

Posted by: David at July 03, 2008 11:32 PM (UpR/+)


Looks like they changed it. I wonder why?

Unfortunately, I didn't keep the other links. And I doubt they're still active anyway.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 03, 2008 11:48 PM (+rSRq)

5 There was some note about it being open for limited viewing on Thursday only, so they've probably pulled it back for that purpose. The paid downloads are still available, though.

Posted by: Canthros at July 04, 2008 04:32 AM (QF0kY)

6 Going by their Youtube profile and posts on the other sites, it looks like they're going to make each episode available for free streaming only from 2 PM to midnight PST every Thursday.

That Nekobox link in your later post explains the no pants point.  Clearly Earth is desperate to save economic resources for the war against the aliens or whatever they are, so pants are being strictly rationed.

I couldn't make it past the second main scene because I couldn't stop laughing at the lack of pants.  Oh, Gonzo, what will you think of next?

Posted by: Griffin at July 04, 2008 04:33 AM (TWVjA)

7 I have two browser windows with the Youtube version loaded in them, so I can replay it even though it's since been marked private, but sadly, I can't save the high-res version for offline viewing (the usual Youtube extractors just grab the standard-res one). For the moment, they seem to have managed to figure out how to get something back off of the Internet after posting it.

If they can keep that up long enough to convert frustration into a few actual sales, they may have a viable model.


Posted by: J Greely at July 04, 2008 07:23 AM (2XtN5)

8 BOST ranked Sakamoto as Major.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at July 04, 2008 10:52 AM (/ppBw)

9 That confusion on translation of military ranks happens a lot. In Divergence Eve, they translated Misaki's rank as "ensign" but they translated Lyar's rank as "Major".

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 04, 2008 10:58 AM (+rSRq)

10 BTW, 586 IAP (fighter regiment -- consists of 4 squadrons) was iconic for being an all-women unit. So they bothered to research that, yet would not give Sanya a ShKAS or UBT and a MiG-3. I just don't understand what goes through the mind of Japanese creators.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at July 04, 2008 11:30 AM (/ppBw)


Remember the fateful words: "You don't have to be faster than the dragon. You just have to be faster than the dwarf."

They didn't have to have it good enough for an anime fan who is an expatriate Russian. They just had to have it good enough for Japanese otaku. On what is basically a silly fan service show, that level of research and verisimilitude would have been a waste of time.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 04, 2008 12:51 PM (+rSRq)


...they had more important things to do with their time.

Like draw panties.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 04, 2008 12:52 PM (+rSRq)

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