September 18, 2008

Strike Witches -- episode 12

Lessee, what to say?

It is really exciting, but it approaches the incoheherent. The war is over and the good guys won it, but it isn't at all obvious why.

Lots of action, and everyone got to do something cool. Everyone's a hero; no one let down the team. The war was won by violence, not by being touchy-feely. And Miyafuji made the final kill.

I'm going to watch it again, and I'll post frame grabs and a summary in a couple of hours.

UPDATE: One other thing: we got to see Barkhorn's special power. Turns out to be super-strength. There is evidence from elsewhere in the series that all the witches become much stronger physically when they turn on their power, but Barkhorn takes it to an extreme.

I'm not sure if what Lucchini did in this episode counts as a "special power" or if it's something that any of them could have done. I'm leaning towards yes, an indication of super strength, and if so it may be similar to Barkhorn's. In fact, it may be that Yeager has that same one.

Four of them -- Wilcke, Sakamoto, Sanya, and Bishop -- are sensors, each in a different way, so it's not implausible that Barkhorn, Lucchini, and Yeager all have related powers.

I think Perrine's power is the coolest. Eila's precognition scares me the most, but fortunately it isn't reliable. I don't think we ever really got any hint of what Hartmann's power was.

Anyway, now to watch it again and take frame grabs.

UPDATE: Episode summary and 46 frame grabs below the fold.

I hereby declare this comment thread to be a spoiler. Write anything you want about this series, and you don't have to bother tagging anything.

Just to review: at the end of ep 11 the witches were rather scattered around. Eila and Sanya were riding on a train carrying logs. Wilcke, Hartmann, and Barkhorn were sneaking around observing the base. Sakamoto, Perrine, and Miyafuji were on the Akagi, which was severely damaged by the Warlock, smoking, and beginning to skink. Bishop was being driven home in a British staff car. Yeager and Lucchini are flying a biplane, apparently trying to take Lucchini home to Romagnia.

Sanya detects what's going on with her magic power. Bishop sees the smoke from the distance. So do Yeager and Lucchini, who fly towards it. And now to ep 12...

Before the credits they rerun the last minute of ep 11, where Sakamoto reveals the striker unit hidden inside her wheelchair. Miyafuji says she wants to fly it.

Akagi is down at the rear beginning to sink. There are aoccasional explosions. Our three girls are standing on the flight deck arguing. Sakamoto says that it's an officer's duty. Miyafuji says she doesn't want to give up. If Sakamoto flies, she'll be killed, and that's a form of giving up. Miyafuji wants to fly so she can protect Sakamoto and everyone else.

Sakamoto gives one of her strange laughs, and then agrees. She orders Miyafuji to prepare to sortie.

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Lucchini and Yeager approach the Akagi, flying down at wavetop level.

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Miyafuji begins her takeoff. The Warlock fires on the flightdeck and there's a near miss. It knocks Miyafuji spinning. It's a deliberate reprise of ep 2, by the way, because Sakamoto screams, "FLY, MIYAFUJI!!!" just as she did the previous time.

The difference this time is that Miyafuji loses her weapon. Not good. It lands on the flight deck. Sakamoto picks it up.

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Miyafuji gathers herself and flies up a long way. The Warlock is lining up to fire on Akagi again. On deck, Perine jumps in front of Sakamoto, preparing to use her shield if necessary.

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Miyafuji rams the Warlock, preventing it from firing. (This is the same thing that Yeager did in ep 5, but this time it doesn't destroy the enemy.) The Warlock is knocked backwards, and then it begins to take fire from below. Perrine has taken the gun and is providing cover fire. The Warlock returns to its flight configuration and zooms away.

Yeager and Lucchini continue approaching. (Biplanes are slow!) They see that Miyafuji is locked in a dogfight with the Warlock. Lucchini says they should help. Yeager points out that the plane is unarmed.

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Perrine's ears are out, so she's very strong. She throws the gun up in the air, and Miyafuji swoops and grabs it. She's finally good to go.

Down on the water, the crew of Akagi (including the captain) start cheering. It's a witch! Maybe they're saved!

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Back at the base, our first image is in the control room. One of the men is sitting against the wall, bruised and beaten. Barkhorn is glowing and her ears are out.

All the other men are cowering in the corner. They don't want any part of her. Up above, at the command station, Wilcke is looking through books. She speaks to General whatsisface and makes clear that she understands his sordid plot, which was disrupted by Miyafuji's insubordination. Barkhorn muses, "If only we had trusted Miyafuji sooner..."

Hartmann is at a window and announces that the Akagi is sinking, and that a witch is fighting against the Warlock.

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Wilcke fires it up, and says that it's Miyafuji, wearing Sakamoto's striker. The contrail over the ship indicates that it's a pretty amazing fight. Hartmann cheers for her. Wilcke says, "Miyafuji-san has her hands full just buying time. Let's go!" Barkhorn ties up the general, and then all three of them head to the hangar.

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Miyafuji is putting up a good fight, but so far she hasn't fired on the Warlock. It's faster than she is, but her shield stops all its fire. So far the battle is stalemate, but she's on the defensive.

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Bishop watches from the distance. Seems she's gained more control over her power; she's able to tell that it's Miyafuji fighting even without bringing up her ears.

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Up in the air, the Warlock gets in front of Miyafuji and stops. The two hover, looking at one another. Miyafuji hasn't fired on the Warlock yet; she's confused. She brings up her gun, but the Warlock opens up and exposes its core.

She starts to approach it with her hand out, but it's a trap. The Warlock begins to energize beam units on its arms. They fire on her, but her shield stops the shot. (It's a good thing her shield is as strong as it is; anyone else would have been killed. Of course, no one else would have been in that situation, so I guess it balances.)

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Miyafuji finally, finally realizes that the Warlock is an enemy and has to be destroyed. The Warlock swooms down on Akagi for another attack, and she follows, and she starts firing. And she hits it, too, but her fire doesn't have any important effect.

Now the dogfight begins in earnest. Both of them are firing; both of them are hitting, but both have defenses that are too strong. But unless something changes Miyafuji will lose; she's going to tire and eventually the Warlock will kill her.

On the deck of Akagi, Sakamoto and Perrine watch the fight, and are impressed that Miyafuji is doing so well against it. One of the Warlock's shots hits Akagi. There's a massive explosion, and they're knocked off their feet and roll over the edge. Perrine is holding the edge with one hand and has grabbed Sakamoto with the other. That can't last, either.

Miyafuji sees it and wants to help, but she's got her hands full with the Warlock.

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Back at the base, Wilcke, Hartmann, and Barkhorn run to the hangar entrance. Eila and Sanya are there waiting. There's some banter that they don't have time for. The entrance is completely blocked with steel girders.

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Barkhorn fires it up, lifts one of them out of the ground, and then throws it halfway down the runway. (Remind me not to arm-wrestle that girl.)

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Out at sea, Akagi is sinking. Sakamoto order Perine to let go, and Perrine refuses the order. Miyafuji is still tied up fighting the Warlock and can't help.

Bishop's car arrives back at the base. She runs around to the hangar entrance.

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The biplane arrives, but what can they do? Well, they spot Perrine and Sakamoto. Lucchini stands up and energizes. The Warlock starts firing on the biplane, but Yeager is a hot pilot and dodges all the shots, without dumping Lucchini in the drink.

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Miyafuji fires on the Warlock and makes it start moving again. But it's moving towards the Akagi, where Perrine is at the end of her strength. The Warlock strafes the deck, causing another explosion that knocks the two of them loose. As they fall, Sakamoto pulls Perrine close.

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And Lucchini grabs them as Yeager swoops in with the biplane.

Yeager lands the biplane at the base just as Bishop gets to the hangar. The other five have been hauling striker units out of the hanger through the hole that Barkhorn made.

Eyecatch.

Miyafuji's dogfight is still going strong and it's still a stalemate. But she's buying time, and though she doesn't know it, reinforcements are coming. The Warlock tries to finish the fight, unleashing a terrifying barrage of beams at her while hovering, but her shield holds. Then a shot comes in and hits its leg -- and penetrates, and causes damage. Bishop the sniper has come through for her friend.

The Warlock is knocked out of control and dives right into the prow of Akagi. It crashes. The Akagi goes down, and the Warlock goes with it.

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Everyone shows up where Miyafuji is. Sakamoto is there, too, but she's not wearing a striker. Barkhorn is carrying Miyafuji's striker. She says, "Looks like you won't be needing these." Eila holds a tarot card, The Ruined Tower, and says, "That may not be true..."

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Akagi reemerges from the water. It's been converted into a Neuroi, and it takes to the sky. (Is this a deliberate homage to StarBlazers?) The Warlock is mounted at the front, almost like a ship's figurehead. And Akagi is covered with red weapon spots. This is not good.

There's a quick reequip in the air. Yeager carries Miyafuji as they replace Sakamoto's strikers with Miyafuji's own. Then Sakamoto gets equipped, and now everyone's golden. And just in time, too.

Akagi starts firing on them, and they scatter. Wilcke orders the attack. But their guns aren't going to cut it against something like this. They need to find the core, and only Sakamoto can do that. But she'll need help. Sakamoto and Wilcke join hands, and with Sakamoto borrowing power she is able to determine that the core is in Akagi's engine room, buried deep within the ship.

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It seems too big for them, but if they don't stop it, who will?

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The amount of fire the thing can pour out is astounding, but it doesn't do any good if your enemies are small, nimble, and protected.

It becomes clear that someone's going to have to go inside. Sakamoto wants to do it, naturally, and says she should because she knows the ship best. But that's out of the question. Of course, Miyafuji lived on the ship for months during her passage from Fuso to Britannia, and knows the ship well. She volunteers. Bishop volunteers because her friend is going. Perrine also volunteers; she was on the ship for a while, at least.

Wilcke agrees. So the three of them go. Everyone else's job is to stay on the outside and try to keep it busy. Sakamoto stays with Wilcke so that Wilcke's shield can protect her.

All of them have been climbing all this time, and now they're above the cloud cover. The mosquitoes swarm in and begin pecking away at the dinosaur.

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Hartmann makes a close attack where she fires up her power, spirals past, and seems to unleash a huge swarm of little energy balls that spread out. I guess that's her special ability. Barkhorn follows her and strafes.

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Eila floats behind Sanya, holding her. She uses her precog to predict where to move to avoid Akagi's fire. Sanya fires rockets at Akagi.

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It seems to be having some effect; looks like they're cutting down on Akagi's fire. Yeager and Lucchini head for the prow. They take some fire but dodge it. As they get close, Yeager throws Lucchini at very high speed directly towards the prow.

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Lucchini fires it up and creates something that looks like a cone of shields in front of her. She deliberately collides with the prow of Akagi -- and knocks a big piece of it off. There is now a way into the ship. She zooms away with a big grin on her face.

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Perrine is senior among the three (she's the only officer) and sees that their way into the ship is clear. Let's go.

But there are bulkheads in the way. Bishop blows the first one up with her rifle, but then they take fire, and Bishop and Miyafuji lose their weapons.

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There's one more bulkhead to get through, but Perrine's .30 cal can't open it up. She tosses her gun to the side and she uses her "Tonnere" and blasts it with lightning. After a while she knocks the bulkhead out.

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And now they're in the engine compartment. The core is immense. Problem is, none of them have weapons any longer.

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Miyafuji says, "Support me." The others do. She concentrates, and the propellers on her striker stop, and then reverse direction.

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She aims her legs at the core, and her strikers come off and dive into it at high speed -- and destroy it.

Outside the red lights on the side of the ship all go out. And then it does the typical exploding-glass-shards thing, leaving the three of them out in the open.

Cue closing music.

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One last tit-grope, just because. It's in the rules, at least when it comes to this series. The three of them seem a bit stunned, having the ship vaporize around them.

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Then Perrine pulls away, with a quiet smile. Bishop exults.

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Off in the distance, over Gallia, the black cloud of the Neuroi hive begins to dissipate. Soon it's gone completely.

Miyafuji voiceover: "September 1944. The complete annihilation of the Neuroi in the Gallia region was confirmed. With this, the 501st Joint Fighter Wing, Strike Witches, was officially disbanded.

Back to base, and then as the closing music and credits run we get "where they all end up going" pictures for everyone.

The three from Karlsland are shown cavorting on green grass, being happy. Sanya and Eila are somewhere in a forest, being happy. Yeager and Lucchini are in a desert (?) being happy.

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Bishop and Perrine go to Gallia. The place is a wreck, but the enemy is gone, and it can be rebuilt. They plant some trees, symbolizing the rebirth of the land.

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Sakamoto is back in Fuso. She's working as a gym teacher, running her girl students ragged. They seem terrified of her. She, too, is happy.

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Yoshika is at the clinic. As we know, she's gained control of her healing power, and has become the prime healer there since her power is the strongest.

The credits are done, the music fades down. Miyafuji looks at the picture of Sakamoto and her father and says, "Everything started with this letter, didn't it?"

Her friend Michiko (the one that got hurt in the first episode) shows up, asking for help. She's holding a bird that looks nearly dead. It's still twitching, though.

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Yoshika heals it easily, and they watch it fly away. Then there's a flash in the sky, and something glowing comes straight down and crashes. It's making airplane sounds as it comes down.

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A pair of strikers, of an unknown model, stick up out of the bushes.

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And we get one more camel-toe, just for luck.

The new witch identifies herself as "Amake Suwa, with the Army Air force, 47th Squadron." She asks for Miyafuji Yoshika. Yoshika identifies herself. And the new witch delivers a letter from Dr. Miyafuji. Yoshika is shocked. The End.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Anime at 11:41 AM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
Post contains 2694 words, total size 17 kb.

1

SO much of that didn't make sense at all I felt like banging my head against a wall (what is with these writers?). The whole Akagi thing was ridiculous- couldn't help but think 'all units, commence attack on the Death Star's main reactor'.

Posted by: Andy Janes at September 18, 2008 01:34 PM (h7yN2)

2

I have been having a growing suspicion of what happened. I think the director was working towards setting up a second series, and at the last minute top management told him, "Forget it. Finish it up."

That's the reason the ending doesn't make any sense. This battle wasn't originally intended to defeat the Neuroi overall and end the war. It was supposed to be a slam-bang ending of the first half of the series.

I've also got a mild retcon that can explain what happens, at least partially, though I'm certain that it isn't what the director was thinking -- mainly because I don't think the director had an explanation himself for how it went.

There are a lot of questions here, but by far the most important one is why destroying the Warlock's core won the war. So how's this?

It's really about interstellar law enforcement. An interstellar criminal was fleeing from justice and crash-landed on Earth. Interstellar police followed him down. But he got captured by humans, who began to experiment on him.

The Neuroi cops appeared over Gallia, and humans attacked it. Since the Neuroi and humans are such radically different kinds of species, and because humans are very primitive, the Neuroi initially treated the situation as if it was being attacked by wild animals. So it cleared an area on the ground large enough to allow it to operate. Then it tried to figure out what was going on, while sending scouts out to try to locate the criminal.

The criminal was in a lab, somewhere in Britannia, and the scouts never found it. That's because they kept being intercepted and shot down by the Strike Witches.

Eventually the Neuroi cops began to figure out that they were tangling with an intelligent species, not with animals, and they created a special unit to try to establish diplomatic contact. That's the one that was witch-shaped that Miyafuji got involved with. Miyafuji was invited into the hive, and if things had gone on for another hour or two, a hell of a lot of tragic misunderstanding might have been straightened out. Unfortunately, that's where General Asshole got involved.

He sent the Warlock in. The Warlock is the criminal, but at least initially was under human control. But it broke free of control, and we got the final fight. Eventually the Witches killed it.

And the reason the hive over Gallia vanished? Because the Neuroi cops detected that the criminal they had been chasing was destroyed, so there was no longer any reason for them to be there. The packed up and headed back to the sky, likely never to return.

It doesn't explain everything, by any means. But I think it does a pretty good job, or as good a job as is possible with an incoherent mess like this.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 18, 2008 02:48 PM (+rSRq)

3 The best thing about this write-up, I don't even need to buy the episode. So grateful. And the finale is pure mirth. One more camel-toe... just for luck!

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at September 18, 2008 05:03 PM (/ppBw)

4

A wonderful, entertaining show for many elements of my family... utterly ruined by a plot. 

SDB's retrocon is not far from my "Trojan War Hypothesis," except that, of course, his makes more sense.  Still kinda sucks for the over 30MM casualties and DPs in Europe:  "Sorry!  Misunderstanding!"  The Good-Cop Neuroi could at least drop color TVs as a consolation prize or sumfink.

If there is a just God, then once I die I expect to see members of the 501st giving aerial tours of Neo-Venezia on Aqua.  Hell, I'd pay US$10 per Ep to see that now.

Posted by: Tiberius at September 18, 2008 06:13 PM (7TV4g)

5 What Pete said.

Posted by: ubu at September 18, 2008 07:33 PM (CUSkv)

6 It seems appropriate that the Big Bad is destroyed by... a tai-atari attack from a Zero.  Even if it was a Fusoian carrier "sunk" by it.

Plenty of action this episode, and some of the best animation in the series, too.  Too darn bad it was so disjointed; it needs another episode's worth of time to try and figure out what the heck happened.

Posted by: Wonderduck at September 18, 2008 09:44 PM (AW3EJ)

7

Tiberius, the reason I prefer the law-enforcement retcon to the Trojan-War retcon is that if the Warlock had been the Neuroi version of Helen, then after the humans killed the Warlock the Neuroi would have sterilized the planet.

But if the Warlock is a criminal, then with it dead the Neuroi have no reason to wreak revenge on humanity.

The other reason I like this idea is that it explains why the Neuroi never sent a fleet to Britannia. It's because they didn't want the place. They didn't want Gallia, either; that's just where they landed initially, and they cleared a landing zone there.

It also explains why they never moved south to Romagnia. I think they were able to determine the Warlock's general location, i.e. that it was in Britannia somewhere.

I think that overall I did enjoy this series, and I'm glad I watched it. But no one will ever mistake it for a top drawer effort.

On the other hand, it isn't just mindless fan service, either. They really did try to tell a story, and the show has several really quite engaging characters, that I came to care about. Even Perrine, in the end. Considering the catastrophe that happened to her home country, I think she's entitled to be cut some slack.

As to the last episode, it had a lot of good moments, but I think that watching Barkhorm pick up that girder and throw it was probably the best one. That was impressive. (By the way, that explains why Barkhorn can and does use two guns instead of only one. She's strong enough to handle it. The limiting factor on her weaponry is how much weight her strikers can lift, not how much she can lift.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 18, 2008 10:52 PM (+rSRq)

8 The way the series ends makes me think that there could be more coming up, but unlike Tower of Druaga where they strictly say so, it's more up in the air here.  I'm not annoyed with the ending, but I will be if more episodes don't appear with how they end it.

Overall, enjoyable fluff. But they could have done much more with it.

Posted by: TheBigN at September 19, 2008 05:16 AM (glNBk)

9

Sorry for the late add to the comments (I was without intarwebs yesterday), but this occurred:  does the 'criminal model' break down when you consider that General Jerkoff and his henchmen (which might be a good name for a band, btw) spoke of needing five Warlock units to properly execute that 'viral takeover' of the Neuroi units?  That might imply that Warlock was not a one-off escapee.  On the other hand, perhaps the Bad Guys were working on, or have, a way of replicating Neuroi cores.  Or, on the gripping hand, had Warlock promised to bring more of his "gang" to Earth?

Your hypothesis still works better than mine; just trying to see into all the dark corners.

Posted by: Tiberius at September 21, 2008 05:21 AM (7TV4g)

10

I specifically stated that it didn't explain everything. That's one of the things it doesn't explain well.

My opinion is that they were trying to figure out how to make more cores, or to divide the one they had into multiple pieces.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at September 21, 2008 09:15 AM (+rSRq)

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