Having seen a lot of anime over the past 20 years, I know for a fact that fan service is a part of anime culture. The occasional obligatory panty shot or boob jiggle has been going on for so long, its been engrained into the norms of most anime’s presentation. Strike Witches is an example of what happens to anime fan service gone wrong. Set in a parallel universe of World War II, a group of aliens, called the Neuroi, attack the Earth and cause all of the countries around the world to combine their efforts in destroying this new alien threat. The way that they’ve managed to do this is by using a group of female fighters called Strike Witches, in place of fighter pilots. They wear leggings, in the place of an actual fighter plane and use their magical powers to carry heavy massive armaments, to inflict major destruction upon the Neuroi. Initially created as illustrations in a magazine column by Humikane Shimada, Strike Witches has turned into full on phenomena that I sadly frown upon.
My major issue with it is that it never lets the viewer get into the series, because it feels obligated to show off extreme amounts of fan service. If it was removed, you’d have an interesting setting, some solid characters and some great animation that would be able to hold its own. Instead, we’re treated to tons of awkward situations with the girls, doing some menial task, while showing us the goods or each them fighting the Neuroi and finding a funny pose, where they can both shoot and display their crotches for good measure. With all of this stripped away, you’re left with a typical anime plot and standard archetypes that simply move the story forward and present some decent action scenes to engage the audience.
The series was directed by Kazuhiro Takamura, with the first 12 episodes being produced by Studio Gonzo in 2008 and the last 12 being done by AIC in 2010. While the fan service may be excessive, the overall animation from both studios is extremely well done, especially during the battle sequences. Even with a large two year gap between the productions of Strike Witches, the series flows seamlessly from parts one into two. Just about every single member of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing is a prime example of many various anime archetypes, with their outgoing demeanors and present the straight forward nature that atmosphere that the show exhibits. The primary thing that Strike Witches has going for itself is its alternate setting that can make anyone remotely interested in it.
Both Strike Witches sets come in both Blu-Ray/DVD combo packs, that are both housed in a nice chipboard box that shows the 501st Crew together. On the video side, the series is encoded in an AVC encoded 1080p video track, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Even though the series is an upscale, Strike Witches mostly takes place in clear blue skies and have slick character designs that make it shine on Blu-Ray. The audio is presented in both Dolby TrueHD formats, one being a English 5.1 track and the other a Japanese 2.0 track. The English language track is just absolutely incredible, especially during the aerial dog fights. They really utilize the mix to the fullest, in order immerse the audience into the world of Strike Witches and Funimation has certainly outdone themselves for the audible presentation.
Overall, anime fans would certainly know if Strike Witches is for them. With its mix of an alternate WWII era setting combined with excessive fan service certainly wasn’t for me. If you’re to able to find something amongst these magical, pantless heroines, then you can certainly find yourself included on winning the war on pants as well.