Review for Strike Witches 2 (Season 2) Collection
While Strike Witches Season 1 on Blu-ray may have been a bit of a disappointment, little more than an adequate upscale, Strike Witches Season 2 is the real reason I went on a double dip spree at the last Madman New Year sale. Actually the reasons are twofold. The first is that the second season was animated natively in HD, and you can see the difference as soon as you press play on one of these discs. The second reason is Manga Entertainment. Back then, Kadokawa had a policy of holding back the Blu-ray to get the Japanese Blu-rays sold first, to limit reverse importation. Funimation and Madman opted to wait so they could release the show simultaneously on DVD and Blu-ray. Manga Entertainment wasn’t releasing Blu-rays back then, so they weren’t beholden to the holdback policy. They got a bit of coup when they released their DVDs first. Alas, as no other version was out there, they had to author the discs themselves, which meant the illogical chaptering and the poor subtitling that I’ve come to associate with Manga authored releases. There are plenty of problems with the Manga release of Strike Witches Season 2 that need fixing.
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 two Blu-ray 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
With Season 1 of Strike Witches, going from DVD to Blu-ray offered comparatively little gain, given that the first season was animated as an SD show. That all changes with the second season, as the 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer offers a genuine HD picture to appreciate. The animation comes across well with minimal banding, colours are strong and consistent, and line detail is crisp. You can see the quality of the character design, and the detail in the world design in a way that not even Manga’s strong DVD visual presentation can match. This is one case where the BD double dip is worthwhile for the picture upgrade alone.
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 Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English and 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. You have optional English subtitles and a signs only track, presented in that thin white font that you got with the earlier Funimation Blu-rays. The subtitles work, the translation makes sense, all the dialogue is translated just when it needs to be and is easy to read. In other words, none of Manga’s screwed up subtitles are present here.
Just like Season 1, Madman have chosen to present two BD discs in a BD sized Amaray, with one disc on a central hinged panel. The inner sleeve has some nice artwork to it. The discs boot to animated menus.
Disc 1 autoplays a trailer for Heaven’s Lost Property Forte.
You’ll find 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 2 autoplays a trailer for Yamada’s First Time.
The audio commentary accompanies episode 9 and has Scott Sager joining Anastasia Munoz (Mina) and Jad Saxton (Perrine) for another disposable commentary track.
You get the textless credits, one opening and unlike Manga’s release, 11 textless closings.
You also get trailers for Sekirei, My Bride is a Mermaid, Rosario & Vampire, Master of Martial Hearts, Fairy Tail, Chrome Shelled Regios, and Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom.
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. Funimation’s subtitles aren’t broken, and the chaptering makes logical sense, which is an instant reason to upgrade those Manga DVDs, but for this second season, you get a genuine HD picture which really does make the Blu-ray double dip worthwhile. I actually enjoyed this second season a little more than the first season this time, no doubt helped by the presentation, so I’m nudging up the grade. Onwards to the movie next!