Okay! Strike Witches, season 1. I enjoyed it, but it was far from perfect. Let's recap.
The plot is a bit thin, but pretty nice. I like how it blends history with fiction, in order to make Witches from all different factions from the WWII fight together. An American, two Japanese, two Germans, a Frenchwoman, a Brit, Italian, Russian, Finnish, and one I'm not all sure of.
At the beginning the story is very straightforward, but in the last two or three episodes thankfully there was some attempt at a plot twist that was pretty welcome, for the lack of progression at first. However, unfortunately it leaves a great plot hole about the true intentions of the Neuroi. (When it is implied that they may not be so hostile, one has to wonder "then why did it destroy Europe and plunge the world into chaos?")
That's a fairly ugly and obvious misser there, and I'll have to subtract from the score, but to be true, this is not a very story-driven anime at all, so the damage is limited.
Eleven Witches from all over the world, standard issue without pants on. They follow the predictable patterns of any anime involving an international company: a clumsy shy one, a happy-go-lucky energetic one, a haughty megane with a bad attitude, etcetera etcetera.
The interpersonal relationships are as always in such animes very important: the main character, newcomer Yoshiko, has to gain the group's trust. Then there are some emotional barriers within and between some of the characters to overcome, such as insecurities and the unprocessed loss of loved ones. It's fairly standard and it doesn't go too deep, so you can't expect to be crying in front of the screen, but sure - it works.
This is the best part of the anime, probably. Each episode features some extremely brutal combat with teenage girls operating huge machine guns, rocket launchers and gunboats. The battles are fast and hard, and because of the Striker Units the Witches fly with, there's a lot of stunt flying. It's all brought onto the screen in a very smooth and attractive way, with the camera panning left and right, (into this crotch and that). Bringing us to...
Well, plenty of ecchi here, and to be true I found it to be among the "harder" ecchi among what I've come across.
Of course, part of the premise of the show is that Striker Units are machines for flying that are put on like metal boots up to the thighs. Which is a clever way of making sure the characters can not be wearing pants - you couldn't put on those Striker Units in a hurry if you are, can you now? This makes for panty shots panty shots panty shots all the way from very beginning to very end. By the way, why is Yoshiko not wearing any pants from long before she joins the Witches? And why didn't that nurse wear any? Oh well, let's not complain.
Then there are bathing scenes featuring much nude, including nipples, something that's often censored away otherwise. I had not expected to see that. Yoshiko continually ends up with her face between her friends' boobs, and at some point even seems to have an erotic dream about it. Francesca Lucchini, the young Italian girl, also has a love for breast fondling. Implied lesbian relationships are galore throughout, almost all the Witches at some point seem to pair up into possible couples. Contact with the male personnel is forbidden.
By the way - this is not loli. The youngest of the Witches are probably 13, 14 at their youngest. True lolis are elementary school age. In my opinion, at least. :)
What I didn't like was, when operating magic, the Witches sprouted animal ears and tails. I am not a furry and I thought this was very unnecessary and it kind of rubbed me the wrong way.
I'll start off this review with a disclaimer. I am a huge moetary junkie. I've watched both seasons of Strike Witches twice and read every manga that's been translated to english. I run a blog dedicated solely to moetary, with 99% of the content being Strike Witches related. I've cosplayed Strike Witches, I've roleplayed it briefly, I've written numerous fanfictions, I own more Strike Witches merchandise than for any other anime, and I can name most of the characters on sight regardless of whether they've ever appeared in any manga or anime. I often fantasize about flying around in my underwear and shooting aliens. So when I sit down to review Strike Witches, it's difficult for me to say I'm not biased at all. With that said, I do try to think critically about it, even when I have been desensitized to all its flaws by two years of on-and-off obsession.
To start, the Strike Witches anime contains very little plot. The light novels and manga have shown that Strike Witches as a franchise has a ton of room to expand its story and universe, and plenty of potential for genuine conflict. Unfortunately, whoever was in charge of the anime tossed all of that out the window and decided that boobs and butts were far more important than story. The first two episodes have this sort of overplayed throwaway angst device where Yoshika wants to know what became of her father, but beyond that we never really hear of him again until Season 2. Episodes 3-6 are thin character development that you barely even catch. Episode 7 is all fanservice - the infamous panty stealing episode. Then more pathetic, withered character development, and then finally the season finale which actually has a plot, but it's scrunched into two episodes which happen to be incredibly unmemorable.
The animation is not bad, but it's very standard and unmemorable. You never look at a scene and wish you could make something that looks like it. The most exciting animation I can remember in the series is the "transformation" sequence in which Yoshika's ears and tail manifest, but the only time the animation is particularly bad is when the witches are seen flying, at which point they use CG that looks like it was made in a knockoff version of MMD programmed by cavemen. However, it doesn't really take away from anything - they tend not to focus on it, and it's rarely noticeable unless you're going out of your way to find things to make fun of.
The characters do have depth. However, their depth is masked by layers of fanservice and standard moe archetypes and doesn't really poke its head out to breathe until season two, or for some characters even until the OVAs. I feel that the anime could have been improved by choosing a different set of characters as well. The Strike Witches universe consists of a huge cast of characters (I count 163 on the wiki, but some of those are just a name and nothing else beyond that.) and the unit they chose to feature are about as boring as it comes. I would even go so far as to call them... and it makes me cringe to think that this term remains in my vocabulary... Mary-Sues. They're overpowered and the majority of them have no personality flaws. However, I found it difficult not to become attached to many of them. I loved Sanya immediately, and many of the other girls grew on me as I watched.
So, my reccomendation is to look into the Strike Witches franchise, but maybe don't start out with the anime. I think much of the controversy around the series is that the anime is the medium people look at rather than the mangas or light novels, so they see something that consists of 75% panty-shots and lose interest. If you like panty-shots and played-out stereotypes (which I do...) go for it! I think Strike Witches does a great job of portraying something between a magical girl anime and a slice of life ecchi. Not to mention, there's no useless male protagonist that all the girls want for some unknown reason... Most of the witches are implied to be lesbians, in fact! Strike Witches is a lot of fun, just not something get serious about.
Okay, where to start. This anime was pretty damn amazing. I originally didn't give it much credit because, well it's an ecchi. However, I was in for a treat. This anime really was something. The characters are developed fairly, the animation is gorgeous and the sound effects are just magnificent. The only real flaw was the plotting. It was paced rather awkwardly. Sometimes it felt like some episodes were drug on for the sake of stretching out the plot. The series while it had magnificent character development, spent a little TOO much time on it. I mean it made the majority of the characters likable, but it also slowed the plot down a bit.
Overall, not the best anime there is, but if you want a glossy, action packed ecchi anime here it is.
Here's an interesting one. While being a completely different thing, while thinking to SW, I can't stop to think to Evangelion, and even more Aquarion as well. Can't ereally say why. It's just like this.
Story - 7/10
A peaceful girl with some magic powers living in a peaceful town gets suddendly recruited into the Strike Witches and in no time finds herself at the front line, in a small elite magical team, fighting an alien enemy of which she barely knows the name and that is wiping away any armed force on its path. Along with this open was against the Neuroi, political tensions lies behind the Strike Witches, for some classic, endlessly used egocentric and bramous of power high-rank military officier just wants to see the SW disbanded in order to take their place as the big powerful hero etc etc...
Also inbetween the SW girls some events happen every now and then, mostly involving Yoshika and one or two of the other girls. Unluckily none of these relationships is really deepened. Everithing is just left vague, while the show maily focus on the struggle of Yoshika in order to gain the trust of her camarades and to keep the head up while things go down with the Neuroi.
Actually there was some unused potential, the story, while not really original (the peaceful girl fights for the world...), it does in fact provide a lot of material to be shaped. A total of eleven Strike Witches (including Yoshika) could mean several stories that develop on parallel, with some more background and evolution during the story for all the characters.
I guess twelve episodes to deepely inquire the events around eleven girls might be a little too few. If this would have been a 24 episodes anime, I believe it would have really improved. I hope the second season will fill this feeling of mine.
Animation - 8/10
I'm satisfied, it is actually a simple yet effective design style. Neither excedence nor lackness of details, it provides a preasant view. And no, I'm not talking only about the curves of the girls. Not that alone, at least.
I would have, however, appreciated some more variety in the animation of fighting sequences... The SW are sorceresses, aren't them? Apart from shields and a couple magics here and there, there is barely no magic at all. Well I guess it has been done in order to not steal the attention of the viewer from other more important things...
Just one question remains... In this world, slightly more technological than our own (but not that much)... How is that not a single girl in the world... Wears neither trousers nor skirts?
Sound - 7/10
Can't really judge... No bad points, no good points... Voices fits in well, sometimes I would have appreciated some more "emotion" in them, however they are in the end well suited to each character personality.
Still, apart from the dialogues, I can't really mention that much that could help me to evaluate the sound... As mentioned above, some more magics with all their audio/visual effects wouldn't have hurted...
Characters - 9/10
Evaluation flies that high mostly because of the potential behind the characters. As previously stated, if more time (and more episodes) would have been invested in the other characters, it could have been a way better anime.
Big groups are in fact hard to handle. Ideate the events in an eleven girl team like the SW that that would develop, follow and affect the relationships between them all (and not only between each one of them and Yoshika) is not easy task, and something feels in fact missing.
It is nevertheless a well built group. Some chars are actually quite the stereotype found in many anime, but some curious personality shows up. If just there was more ti-... Ah, I already said that...
Aside from the main characters, about no secundary chars shows up... A few nameless guys in the crew of the ships and the staff of the SW QG, a few people in Yoshika's town, but if you count how many people outside the SW team ever said a word, even just one... Eck, even just a "gggrrrulg"... Your ten fingers should be enough... But being them the side chars, it is not that really important...
Now I'm just wandering... Apart from Yoshika's mama and grandma... Where are all the womans? Only girls around? Oh well...
Overall - 8/10
Cool anime, I'm eager to watch the second season.
I have however to mention something. Sometimes, things happen, but *how* they happen it's just skipped. It would have been a cool scene... What a pity.
And because of this do not expect that much pathos and tension. It works really well if you are looking for some "cute action" anime (or better... "cute fanservice action" anime), without the need to activate your emotional center, that can just relax. Yes, of course, some touching scenes every now and then, but far both from tears and from suspence.
It's basically one of those anime where you watch with the same emotions a battle to the death between the various factions andthe everyday quarrel between the chars, and it offers a worthy break for those that usually search for intense action, as well as an interesting option with a glimpse of action for who prefears more calm stuffs.
Overall I thought that the premise of Strike Witches was pretty decent. I found the war against the Neuroi thing to be quite fascinating, and I have always been a fan of alternate history. However, the story seemed to take to much of a light hearted tone in the middle of the series, and then it quickly changes into a deadly serious piece, which didn't seem to fit as well with the rest of the show. Other than that the story was pretty good.
I felt that the art was quite good throughout but there were some things that I didn't find visually appealing. In parts of the show, it seemed that the characters didn't fit in with the backgrounds and scenery. I also felt that some of the backgrounds were not immersive to the characters. One last thing was that I felt that the characters sometimes could convey emotions, but I can excuse that as them being in the military. When you get beyond that though, the art can shine.
By far the best thing in this anime. I found all of the characters to be interesting and unique. They were all lovable in each of their own ways. I personally liked Shirley myself, but this is the kind of show where anyone can have a favorite character.
I felt that Strike Witches was a decent anime and that I would recommend it. However I know that there is a second season, but I'm not really sure how they could continue on with the story, since this series wrapped everything up so nicely.