Strike Witches Movie
A few months have passed since the Neuroi have been defeated. Yoshika Miyafuji, still unable to fly following the events of Strike Witches 2, now stays at home in Fuso, living an ordinary high school life as she trains to become a doctor. One day she is greeted by a Striker in the Fuso Imperial Navy named Shizuka Hattori, who offers her an opportunity to study medicine in Europe. Yoshika accepts the opportunity, unaware that the Neuroi have returned. But will the grounded girl be able to come back and fight them again?
NOTE: This review contains massive spoilers for Strike Witches 2, as well as the movie itself. If you do not want anything spoiled for you, please stop reading this review now.
Strike Witches is a series that's not easy to take seriously. Just look at any of the promotional art for the show; girls with animal ears/tails flying with propeller leg planes, and only 3 of the 11 main cast members bother dressing in anything other than a shirt or jacket. But despite a laughable premise and some heavy plot holes/leaps of logic, the Strike Witches series is actually quite likable, with a quirky, fun cast and surprisingly good animation/fight sequences. The execution is worlds better than the silly art of the series makes it look. There's also tons of World War II trivia/errata for those who look deep into it, right down to the guns the girls use to fight with.
In comparison to the silly television shows, Strike Witches Movie is a fair deal more serious. While it still has the typical light moments (such as with series staple characters Getrude and Erica), the main focus is on series heroine Yoshika and her dealing with not only her recent inability to fly, but also her future, her status as a Strike Witch, and coming to terms of what's important in her life. We've seen Yoshika go above and beyond the call of duty before in the series, but here we see her do so without the aid of her Striker Unit or friends, using her own wits and magic. It's kind of refreshing and new compared to the television series, which emphasized teamwork and friendship in comparison. There's also much less fan service, which might come as a big surprise to fans/haters of Strike Witches. While there's still the obligatory panty shots in battle, there's no female nudity, no bath scenes, or other cheesecake moments whatsoever. In this regard Strike Witches Movie is toned down versus the TV show, but it's for the better in this case.
Strike Witches Movie does have its light moments with the other cast members. The first sub-plot of the money involves Charlotte and Francesca gondola racing some fellow Witches (which I would love to see made into a full episode one day), with Charlotte getting a bit too into it, resulting in a crash that would make Launchpad McQuack proud. Later in the film Yoshika and Shizuka visit Lynette and Perrine in the latter's hometown of Gallia. Here we learn that Perrine serves as a kind, sweet teacher to the younger kids in the town, showing how much she's grown from the grumpy, strict girl she was in the beginning of season one. This was far and beyond my favorite part of the film, seeing Yoshika catching up with arguably her two closest friends in the Strike Witches unit and even getting a pleasant conversation with Shizuka and Perrine near the end of it.
Unfortunately, it seems the writing staff for Strike Witches Movie didn't know what to do with the other characters. Gertrude and Erica, the series' perennial Odd Couple, do little more than yell at each other and engage in a Neuroi fight sequence. Fan favorites Sanya and Eila appear for a grand total of 6 minutes or so before the finale, almost all of it fighting a Neuroi. And Minna is just there to give orders, barely doing anything else even in the finale. As for Mio..we'll get to that later.
Now, the unfortunate misuse of half of the Strike Witches wouldn't be so bad if their potential airtime wasn't taken up by Shizuka. Well, let me correct that; it wouldn't be so bad if Shizuka was a fun, interesting character. She's not. She's a combination of Perrine and Minna - a hard-ass who forces others to go by the rules. And aside from a scene where she terrible cooks a meal for Perrine and her students, she brings almost no humor or fun to the entire film. She spends most of her screen time chastising Yoshika, telling her to study, and to show her position as a Pilot Officer on her sleeves. A large chunk of the movie deals with her dealing with Yoshika's selfless ways, and only at the end does she begin to understand, told to us via a cheesy dialogue exchange near the end of the film. Over the course of a few television episodes, or even a third season, this relationship between Yoshika and Shizuka might've worked, But since this is a 93 minutes movie, it doesn't work. Shizuka just came off to me as mildly insufferable, and I was glad when the movie flashed to the other cast members whenever it did so.
Shizuka isn't too great a character, but she's not the film's greatest flaw. Nope, the ending is. And like Strike Witches 2's, it's a doozy.
So near the end of Strike Witches Movie, Yoshika gets terribly hurt protecting a village of people from a ground-digging Neuroi. Shizuka tries to contact other Witches for help, and this somehow gets all of Yoshika's friends to hear her plea. They all come to her rescue, and Yoshika herself wants to join her friends in the air. But she can't fly anymore, as you might remember! Whatever will she do?
Why…get bathed in a giant light that not only completely restores hr ability to fly again, but also heal her fatal wounds. To make this moment even more convenient for Yoshika, Mio appears and drops off her Striker Unit Magnificent Lightning, as if she knew the entire time that Yoshika would be able to fly again. How did she regain her magic? Well, let me quote what Mio says to Shizuka near the end of the film when she asks how her idol somehow regained the ability to fly:
"Miyafuji really wanted to fly again. Her comrades are her wings."
And so Yoshika flies again, destroys a giant Neuroi base, and Minna reinstates the 501st Joint Fighter Wing for like the 5th time. And they all lived happily ever after until the inevitable Strike Witches 3.
So how is the Strike Witches franchise's first movie? Until the last 15 minutes or so, it's not half bad. The animation is really good at times, the fights with the Neuroi feature much more dynamic camera angles than the television seasons ever did (especially the one in Venezia), the cast is just as charming and fun as ever, and we get to see Yoshika at her smartest and most cunning. The Gallia scene alone is worth checking it out for any Strike Witches fan. But the ending really does hamper an otherwise pleasant experience, and new character Shizuka is a stick in the mud at times. Still, there's a lot to love for the Strike Witches fans, so if you liked the show, you'll definitely enjoy this breezy movie, too.
The most solid Strike Witches project, in my opinion. More focus on plot and character development, less fanservice, and all while retaining the aerial sequences/fights fans of the series have come to expect. Non-fans might appreciate the animation quality, but might be overwhelmed/confused by all the characters and panty shots. Those who've never cared for the franchise period can avoid this altogether. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: Well, the girls still don't wear pants, so the usual panty shots in battle are still here. No female nudity this time, though! There's also a lot of blood - unorthodox for the franchise - which includes a large, visible shot from Yoshika herself.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Strike Witches Movie © 2012 501st Joint Fighting Wing / Moving Picture Company
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