Brave Witches is a side story that takes place within the world of the Strike Witches series. The story is a pretty typical underdog's rise to glory arc. While it is not groundbreaking, it was enjoyable. Character development is where Brave Witches was the weakest. While the main characters felt lovable and well developed to me, some of the support characters could have used a bit more attention. What Brave Witches lacks in character development and story, it made up for with animation and sound. Overall a very enjoyable watch for me.
Story - Hikari is a girl who lives in the shadow of her big sister Takami who is a powerful witch and a well respected ace in the 502nd Joint Fighter Wing. Eager to prove to both herself and to the world that she has what it takes to be a witch despite her lack of latent magic, she eventually proves that she has what it takes to get accepted into the military. After Takemi is injured in a battle, Hikari volunteers to be her replacement. While her fellow solders are reluctant to accept her at first, over time she is able to prove that she is exactly where she belongs and a valuable member of the team.
Animation - This was where Brave Witches really shined. There were a lot occasions where witches were flying through elaborate obstacle courses doing aerial acrobatics to dodge enemy laser attacks, fly between buildings, fly between ships and fly in formations. The camera work made all of these flight scenes fantastic. The neuroi (hive mind enemy) had some very interesting designs and the way they explode into fireworks after their cores are destroyed was always a treat to watch. Compared to Strike Witches, the excessive focus on fan service has been reduced from full bath scenes every couple episodes to the occasional panty shot. While the reduction in fan service will be a disappointment to some, others may find that the lack of it makes this series more accessible.
Sound - Sound is always going to be subjective. I'm not really sure what I can say about it. I personally liked the songs featured in both the OP and the ED, and the music that played during battles was both immersive and thrilling. The sounds of the strike units engines and the sound of the gunfire were both crisp and on point.
Characters - This is the part of Brave Witches that I found to be the weakest. Some characters showed good character development. For example, Kanno starts out strongly opposed to allowing Hikari to even be allowed into the 502nd Joint Fighter Wing, but as Hikari is able to prove herself more and more, Kanno eventually opens up to her and eventually calls her a partner. Other characters have one defining characteristic and are not developed beyond that. For example, Krupinski's only defining characteristic is that she likes to hit on other girls.
Overall this is a short action series that does its action well, but prioritizes getting from one action scene to the next without putting a lot of focus on character development or world building. If a deep and meaningful story is what you are looking for, nothing about it will be groundbreaking or memorable. If you are okay with watching a simple series about a bunch of cute girls working together to blow stuff up, Brave Witches is worth a watch.
The origins of the Strike Witches franchise of manga, anime, video games and light novels stems back to the release of a ten manga series back in 2005. This Silver Link spinoff came in 2016 but added little more to the central canon other than move the action to a different Joint Fighter Wing operating out of (St) Petersburg in (O)Russia in 1944. It joins such tales as “Girls und Panzer” and “Azur Lane” in alternative universes where under-dressed teenage girls get to engage in combat using World War Two military equipment. As such it is one of those delightful cross-overs somewhat in the mould of Babymetal in inserting the kawaii anime waifus into a usually rough-tough, male-dominated world. You like heavy metal? You like guns? You like World War Two history? You can tell a Churchill tank from a Panzer IV? You know the difference between a Spitfire and a Yak-3? Let’s face it, whatever you’re into, it just gets better when you insert cute schoolgirls into it. It is heartening in a world where actual teenage girls struggle to get out of bed in the morning and get into an emotional mess about the members of BTS.
The peculiar hallmarks of the Strike Witches franchise are all here: the witches fly in a squadron (probably inappropriate to call it a “wing” really) made up of pilots pulled from the main powers: Russia, USA, Japan, Britain and Germany. They (and all other female roles) seem to yet have discovered the joys of wearing trousers. That said, the Brave Witches is probably more family-friendly than Strike Witches (and even that was rarely ever risqué). The “ecchi” tag is hardly deserved at all. Several characters from Strike Witches get cameos here so keep an eye out for them. The tech used is often based upon real-world equipment from the era and even the faceless alien menace sometime display shapes eerily familiar in representing contemporary technology. However Brave Witches doesn’t push the boat out or explore any new ideas at all. It is a show that knows its audience and sees no reason why it should challenge that fan-base with anything too complicated. In fact, it sometimes goes too far in taking itself too seriously. The characters are all hysterically funny yet predictably so. It would be nice for the show to explore a more adult plotline or for the girls to experience a problem slightly more serious than being a bit shy… Yet, there is simply no point comparing stuff like this to anything else outside of its sub-genre. It is simply a lot of fun. Just don’t think too hard about it. After a good seventeen years it is heartening that this show still has legs with “Luminous Witches” slated for release in 2022. We’ll be watching. Can’t wait.