You guys are assholes.
I hope you know that. I open up my viewing schedule for anything you all want to support, and what happens? You fund The Room and God Damn Strike Witches. I hope you’re proud of yourselves. You got me to watch Strike Witches. You got me to make despairing jokes on twitter about Strike Witches. The first episode of Strike Witches now exists in my past. When Saint Peter scans down my MAL at the pearly gates, he’ll take a momentary pause at the S section, glance at me with one raised eyebrow, and then continue without a word.
So, how was the first episode of Strike Witches?
Well, for the most part, it was a functional but unremarkable first episode of what’s almost certainly going to play out as part slice of life, part action drama. In an alternate 1940s, World War II is replaced by the attack of the “Neurois,” evil CG planes that threaten all countries indiscriminately. This means all the big WWII fan favorites get to team up in fighting this threat, which they do through use of the “striker unit,” magical airplane boots that young girls fly around in to shoot bad guys. The show opens with a very dull battle between a bunch of flying girls and one of these evil ships, which is noteworthy only for this episode’s one defining feature (which I will certainly get to). After that, we meet Yoshika, a young girl who hates war because it stole her father away. Yoshika has plenty of magical potential, though, and so she’s scouted out by the military officer Mio Sakamoto. Yoshika doesn’t want to fight, but it seems like Mio might lead her to the truth about her father, and so she tags along back to Britannia until they’re ambushed on the high seas.
There’s nothing much to say about the narrative elements of this show’s premise. The episode moves well enough, though its beats are very tired and routine. The premise is definitely more convoluted than most, and the seams of its “let’s find a way to throw a bunch of classic WWII countries together as friends to fight something” objectives definitely show. This world wasn’t designed from the ground up as a compelling or coherent universe – it’s “I like WWII military stuff” + “I like panties,” full stop. The artistry and animation are lousy, and the CG of the battle scenes very bad. If this was an ordinary show, I’d give it a two out of five in the preview guide, say “maybe you’ll like it if you’re really, really into this genre,” and be done with it.
But this isn’t an ordinary show. This is Strike Witches.
Strike Witches’ claim to fame, the one thing that separates it (at least so far) from the many shows much like it, is that it just Can’t. Stop. Doing. Crotch Shots. The show takes place in a world where pants apparently don’t exist (I’d assumed this would be handwaved by the apparel necessities of the striker unit, but even Yoshika’s ordinary classmates just don’t believe in pants), and the show takes full, leering advantage of that to indulge in every single fanservice shot imaginable. That first sequence that introduces the girls in battle is easily the worst offender – every single character is introduced with an extended panty-flash sequence so invasive they often verge on grotesque. This is What Is Up With Strike Witches.
These panty shots serve a variety of key purposes in the show. First, they make sure the battle scenes have absolutely no tension whatsoever. Though the direction is really just serviceable throughout, when it comes to the fight scenes, the prioritization of panties over drama means there’s no real reason to care. We get no sense of scale or momentum – we just get crotches and butts, whizzing past as the characters grimly fire their weapons at a big CG thing. Combining the camera’s priority being butts with the generally lousy artistry of the CG means all of the well-drawn shots are situated roughly five inches from a character’s crotch, leaving no room for exciting sequences and a consistent sense of “how can anyone die in a scene that only cares about vaginas.” Any sense of pacing or drama is lost in the crowning desire to Get Those Panties In There.
This lack of investment also (obviously) bleeds into the character moments. Before we learn anything about her life circumstances, Yoshika is introduced with her own suite of extended butt shots. Jumping from that to a sad monologue about her absent father is just laughable – you can’t expect the audience to care about a character when the camera was treating them as an object to be leered at literally seconds earlier. And “leering” is definitely the right word for it – unlike potentially character-empowering or sex-positive fanservice, everything here comes across as intensely, creepily voyeuristic. The characters are not showing off their butts because that’s a reflection of their personalities or desires – they’re showing off their butts because they’re designed to be innocent in an in-world sense while also acting as objects of sex appeal in a meta-textual one. They’re showing off their butts because this show is a mechanized loli butt assembly line.
So yep, that’s Strike Witches. The show almost seems specifically designed as a strawman version of otaku anime – it is a perfect storm of military fetishization and plain old regular fetishization, served up in a competent but wholly unremarkable genre package. You guys knew how I’d feel about this, and that is exactly why you funded it. You are all jerks, and I should know by now not to trust any of you. That is all I have to say about that.
This article was made possible by financial bullying. You guys are super funny.