Region: 2 - UK
Length: 300 minutes
Japanese 4.0 Surround
The lovely ladies of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing are back to battle a new breed of alien invader! The extraterrestrial menace known as the Neuroi have returned to Earth, and even a direct hit won't stop these monsters. The Strike Witches are Earth's last line of defense, but they'll have to learn some new tricks to survive this dogfight - and win the war on pants once and for all! This limited edition includes an artbox sized to hold both seasons 1 and 2 of Strike Witches!
Strike Witches 2 has landed! After watching series one, I was keen to see how a different studio would tackle the military magical girls. Having AIC at the helm instead of studio Gonzo inevitably gives the series a different feel but the changes are remarkably subtle. For fans familiar with the first series, there is very little to adjust to in terms of character design, settings and scenarios. All of the original Japanese cast return to breathe life into the witches who take to the skies to bring down the neuroi.
As with series one, the neuroi are more or less just a cinematic prop – a target range for the girls demonstrate their exquisite battle formations, shields and strikes. The witches are wonderfully rendered by the animators in the second series, who employ mix of CG and hand drawn animation to show the girls in combat. This works remarkably well with the mecha/moe fusion.
So how different is AIC's Strike Witches as a watching experience? Interestingly enough, the shift in studio is most apparent in the treatment of the fanservice. While Gonzo gave less time to developing stories and tension in the battle sequences, they did take the opportunity to maximise the on screen time of the witches' scantily clad petite posteriors. While I will agree that this is indeed an important element of Strike Witches's iconic appeal, the bottom line was that Gonzo lost sight of the elements that should have held the series together. AIC on the other hand manage to develop the characters wonderfully and to make the fighting quite thrilling, even against the generic menace of the neuroi.
So if AIC reins in the fanservice shots in battle, is there less ero appeal in the sequel overall? Fans may breathe a sigh of relief, for the answer is no. AIC merely makes up for less oshiri with more oppai in the many, many steamy bath sequences.
There are some truly tremendous episodes in Strike Witches 2, which make it sure it never drags but flies high before the series climbs towards the crescendo. AIC masterfully bring out what is best in the girls, showing their true spirit as combatants and comrades, while never forgetting their cuteness. There is a lot to enjoy with a few new characters and some very funny moments but perhaps most importantly, the series builds on the bonds between the girls as they face their toughest challenges.
If you enjoyed series such as Ah My Goddess from AIC, you will know that the Studio is accustomed to making shows that are both heart-warming and hilarious. They have the ability to take creator’s creations and animate characters that really come alive on screen.
Strike Witches 2 was a blast. It realises my hopes for what the franchise could be and is likely to be a hit with former fans and even capture a few more in its sights. The story concludes in a true blaze of glory, befitting the beauty of its special battalion.