Review for Strike Witches Complete Series 2 Collection
We get it first! Can you believe that we are the first English speaking territory in the world to get Strike Witches Season 2? We beat even the US and Australia to the punch. The reason is Blu-ray of course. The US and Australia want their anime in higher definition, and Kadokawa whose property Strike Witches is, require enough time between the Japanese release and Western release on Blu-ray to minimise the effects of reverse importation. We’re only getting it on DVD, which means that Manga only had to wait until Funimation had finished the dub to get their discs onto shop shelves. The Japanese don’t care about DVD importation, and besides, their NTSC players will balk at our PAL discs, even though we are in the same region for DVD.
But here’s where a problem crops up, one that gives me pause. Normally for our anime DVDs, companies like Manga and MVM wait on US companies like Funimation to complete the dub, and then Australian companies like Madman to create PAL masters that we can use for the UK market. To cut out this extra step, and get the UK release out first, Manga have had to eschew this process and create their own PAL masters in the UK. I’m not a fan of this, as Manga Entertainment work to different standards than Madman Entertainment for their DVD masters, and ever since those early Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex discs, I’ve found nits to pick with their releases that I don’t find with Australian discs. Manga’s most recent effort at authoring DVDs hasn’t filled me with confidence either, as they’ve had to recall and re-author the Panty and Stocking discs after a major flaw. Hopefully there’s no such problem here. But still, we may have a world exclusive for about a month, but I do wonder what we have to sacrifice for that privilege. And that’s not the best way to approach a new anime release... Anyway, it’s time to return to a world where the humble panty rules the skies...
In 1939, the Neurois appeared, enigmatic alien creatures that attacked without warning, initiating a world war that drove humanity back, pushing mankind into ever-smaller enclaves. It was the work of one scientist that discovered a defence against the Neurois where no conventional weapon had effect, magic. Those skilled in magic, inheritors of the gift, in other words witches could stand against these creatures and defeat them. The scientist developed technologically advanced ‘brooms’, Striker Units that the witches wore as mechanical legs with propellers on, that they could ride through the sky at great speed.
When Yoshika Miyafuji of the Fuso Empire joined the 501st Joint Fighter Wing to defend Britannia, she had the hope of finding some clue as to what happened to her father. But with the witches of the Wing, she managed to succeed against the alien Neuroi, and even establish a basis for communication between the two opposing sides. She then returned to Fuso and civilian life to continue the family tradition and become a healer. But the war opens up again at the start of the second series, when a new wave of Neuroi invades, destroying the first group with which there had been a chance of peace. When Yoshika learns that her former friends in the 501st are in danger, she joins Major Mio Sakamoto in heading back to Europe, this time to the nation of Romagna to once again take up the fight. While they have new technology and new abilities to exploit, the Strike Witches are facing a new and more adaptable threat, and the flight to Europe comes under Neuroi attack. It’s also where the 501st is reunited when the girls heed the call for reinforcements.
All 12 episodes of the second Strike Witches Series are presented across three discs.
1. Into the Sky Once More
2. The Legendary Witches
3. That Which We Can Do
4. Hard, Fast, Amazing!
5. My Romagna
6. Higher Than the Sky
7. It’s All Creepy Crawly
8. Please Give Me Wings
9. The Bridge to Tomorrow
10. 500 Overs
11. To Be Myself
12. Beyond the Eternal Sky
If there is one positive to be had from Manga Entertainment’s release of Strike Witches, it’s the video transfer. Not only is their native PAL 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer of Strike Witches Season 2, crisp, sharp, and smooth, smoother even then some recent Madman Entertainment discs that Manga have released, but spreading twelve episodes across three dual layer discs also allows for a greater freedom from compression artefacts. Strike Witches Season 2 looks exceptionally good on this DVD release.
For the second season of Strike Witches, the animation production shifted from Gonzo to AIC, and you’ll be glad to hear that there is continuity in character and world design. However, AIC’s animation is actually stronger, and the way they blend the CGI of the Neuroi and the various bits of military hardware with the traditional 2D style animation is actually more seamless than Gonzo. The softness and haze of the first season is gone, replaced by animation that is sharper and with stronger clarity. The action sequences are just as intense, and the fan service is stronger than ever. In fact, you’ll find a few bath scenes with the white bar of censorship, or lens flare to do JJ Abrams proud, all to cover up those bits that would prove problematic even in an 18 rated anime.
While the studio may have changed, there is still at least continuity in voice cast, both English and Japanese, so fans of both dubs will be happy. You have the choice of DD 5.1 English and DD 2.0 Japanese. I listened to the Japanese audio track and found it clear and without flaw throughout. What I sampled of the English dub was just as good, with the 5.1 remix from Funimation bringing out the best in the show’s action sequences.
It’s here that Manga’s rush to bring out the show tells, as they are a company that never includes a signs only track when they author their discs, which is a lamentable oversight. Fortunately in this case, there’s very little Japanese text that needs caption translations. A bigger problem is the quality of the sole English subtitle track in and of itself. Captions alternate with dialogue (2 subtitles aren’t on screen simultaneously) often not leaving enough time to read either. Proofreading is sorely lacking, as simple typos, mistakes and poor translation abounds. I doubt very much that an enemy closing in would be only 7500km behind. Cannons are prepared to be launched, not fired, masculine pronouns are used where impersonal pronouns should be, character names are mixed up, Minna instead of Lynne, one subtitle in episode 6 is missing altogether... On occasion some subtitles make very little sense, don’t scan at all, and switching to the English dub reveals a translation a lot closer to the Japanese. It’s almost like Manga are using the Crunchyroll subs, or worse, fansubs. It does diminish the viewing experience a little for Japanese audio fans, although the situation does improve as the series progresses.
With the extras, we also see some haste making waste. The final product isn’t as polished, and lacks the basic features that anime fans have come to expect. As mentioned already, there isn’t a signs only track to go with the English dub, and the translated subtitles are imperfect. You also won’t see lyrics to the opening or end themes, or the insert songs (especially the ode to Eila and Sanya’s platonic love in episode six). Another thing is that Manga choose not to chapter the episodes, so no skipping credit sequences, or navigating within the episode.
The episodes all have different end songs, with various members of the cast taking turns to sing the lyrics. Manga Entertainment have supplied only one textless ending, but it seems the forthcoming Funimation release will have 12 textless endings. Other than that, the extras are the same.
Instead of 2 discs, Manga have released Strike Witches Season 2 across 3 dual layer discs, and they give the show animated menus, with the transition between the screens nice and rapid.
Disc 2 has an audio commentary for episode 5, with ADR director Scott Sager overwhelmed by the ribald conversation that flows with Jamie Marchi (Charlotte Yeager) and Trina Nishimura (Francesca Lucchini).
Disc 3’s audio commentary accompanies episode 9 and has Scott Sager joining Anastasia Munoz (Mina) and Jad Saxton (Perrine) for another disposable commentary track.
You’ll also find the textless opening and one textless closing.
What a complete and utter waste of time! Most anime is created by committee these days. It’s only through such arcane dealings and complex contracts that the money to create this increasingly niche fan product can be put together. Strike Witches is doubly created by committee, as it’s a show that runs through the checklist of all things guaranteed to appease the male otaku audience, the demographic that has the large disposable income, and is profligate enough to buy all the DVDs, Blu-rays, and assorted merchandising (in triplicate; one to keep, one to play with, and one just in case), in sufficient quantity that they alone can keep a studio afloat without a show ever needing to be aired on television. Strike Witches has a harem of magical girls, exploitative panty shots (made easier in a world without skirt or trouser), nudity, lesbian overtones, and with furry characteristics. It’s a merchandiser’s dream. It’s also got aliens, World War II era, re-imagined characters, action and comedy. Actually, you can read my review of Season 1 and it would apply just as appropriately for season 2.
If you look at Strike Witches analytically, you can imagine what happened. Season 1 performed even better than expectations, to the point where a second season became viable. The problem was that Season 1 actually told a story that led to a certain conclusion that precluded simply picking up where the show left off. The solution presents itself in the first scene, a whopping great reset button that negates all of the first season’s overarching storyline. That’s a kick in the teeth if you had invested in the story, but Strike Witches’ fans aren’t that bothered about story. Season 2 effectively is a retelling of season 1, structured practically identically, focusing on the various witches through the episodes, often split into half pure fan service and half battling Neuroi. There’s even an ultra-pure fan service episode half way through again. In season 1 it was the episode of the missing panties. In season 2, it’s the bug that likes burrowing its way into underwear whilst being worn. And at the end of the run, things get serious for the final couple of episodes with a showdown against the Neuroi menace.
Strike Witches Season 2 is a waste of time, yes. It’s covering ground that’s been effectively explored by the first season, and offers nothing really new, just more of the same. The thing is that more of the same is just what you would want from something like Strike Witches. It’s catering for an established demographic, delivering exactly what they want, ticking off boxes on the otaku checklist as it goes. If I had the time to waste, I would actively seek out Strike Witches 2 to waste it with. It’s booby-bounce-tastic fun. It’s panty peeking perfection. The characters are likeable, the comedy is entertaining, the action sequences are brilliantly animated, and the bawdy sauciness is entertaining, exploitative, but never prurient.
Strike Witches Season 2 is just as entertaining as the first, and the animation is actually stronger. It’s that this release just isn’t technically polished enough. Manga Entertainment need to get this stuff right first time. They’re not large enough to get a second chance with every release. Panty and Stocking’s recall was the exception to the rule. If you are an English dub fan, then Strike Witches 2 will be no problem. If your preference is the original language, then your mileage may vary as to how many silly subtitle mistakes you’re willing to put up with.