Strike Witches: The Complete Series, Early Look/Review
By Marc | March 19th, 2010
As we’ve heard for many months now, and even longer if you go back to when it was brand new and streaming, there is a war. A war against… pants.
Strike Witches is arguably the antithesis to the shows we tend to see from Funimation, with not only mass market appeal, but being relatively niche and a centerpiece in arguments in online communities. So let’s check it out… Yeah, I couldn’t think of a good pants line to use here… maybe I’ll put that up as a contest this weekend…
This screener didn’t include retail packaging, so all I can really comment on is the front cover art. The show logo is quite nice looking and gets prominent and clear placement. The most prominent piece to the cover is a pinup style picture of the series lead, Yoshika. It’s a nice enough picture, but I can’t help but feel the pose seems a bit odd. Nice picture none-the-less though. She’s surrounded by a stars and stripes motif which sort of makes me think of old recruitment posters. The part of the cover I find most amusing though is the ‘Jury Recommended’ label. I just laugh that they added it, and put it in in a way that matches the theme of the cover, rather than just being slapped on a sticker or a random place on the back.
The menu reuses the front cover. I actually like the clean look the menu has. Including the striker units in the background was a nice touch. Sub-menus use pictures of the other characters, but with no attempt to use actiony pictures, sticking to that naughty naughty… naughty fanservice. Although that is what Strike Witches is, so it works well (naughty naughty naughty… GUN… naughty naughty.) The one complaint worth pointing out: the text on the main menu of both disks isn’t lined up properly (in the screencap above Audio is higher up than Play All and Episodes.) It isn’t a big deal, but it’s an odd little mistake to have.
The show itself… where to start… naughty? We’ve all heard what Strike Witches is so I’ll go ahead and knock that out of the way first. The show is fanservice heavy, to the point of lunacy. It’s the tag-line for the show in R1 land after all… the war on pants. And that is where the odd fanservice begins. No one wears pants. Actually, let me correct that… males wear pants, girls don’t. I mean, it’s anime, we all expect a little weirdness, but I’d really like an explanation of why no females wear pants in this universe. I can accept a universe where pants don’t exist… but that guy RIGHT THERE is wearing pants… did it just never occur to the girls they could put the pants on? A few comment how breezy it is during an episode where their panties are missing (NAUGHTY!) Most of the fanservice is just crotch, ass, chest shots, not nearly the ultra (naughty) naked (naughty!) moments I had come to expect from the series. Although don’t get me wrong, there are naked moments also, but these seem rather tame when you consider just how often you get an ass or crotch shot. The show has both the obligatory ‘at the beach’ episode, along with a quite entertaining episode (previously mentioned) about a pair of ‘missing’ panties (did I mention naughty?) It’s quite easy to understand why a lot of people don’t even wanna watch it and have no interest. Watching it you feel kinda skeevy. But removing ourselves from the naughty nakedness, what is the show underneath, and is it worth watching?
It’s a harder question than you’d think to be honest. The show has some decent humor and some fun character moments that makes it hard to hate, but there are significant problems in pacing and the story itself. I can accept that the girls are all witches, but having them grow ears and tails when they use their magic seems an extra push of moe moe cuteness that the show didn’t need. The main problem with the show stems from the story itself. The first two episodes setup plot and story, and then… effectively nothing. Up until the last few episodes the series is effectively just episode after episode of ‘well this is what this character is all about’ stories. The show is only thirteen episodes. I know expecting something more is likely missing the point of the series, but they draw you in with a story and finish off with one. It isn’t completely unreasonable to expect that we would have gotten more story instead of…. NAUGHTY! When that final bit of story starts a few episodes before the end, it just feels so unsatisfying. Outside of one or two, plot elements just appear in the final episodes with no warning. Even the conclusion is so unsatisfying because up until it happens, there is no clue that it’s the conclusion of the adventure (even if it was going to be the conclusion to the series) and we don’t even get an explanation why what happens happens. That isn’t to say I hated the show. It was fun, but it’s sorta like bubble gum: you can enjoy gum, but you chew and chew and chew, and then the more you chew the harder it is to keep chewing, then you spit out the gum and you want something to actually eat. The show is definitely worth a look if you just want to chew a bit though…
The video on Strike Witches is really a mixed bag at times… but that may not be the fault of the encoding itself. Strike Witches is encoded at 480p. Most of the time the video looks quite good, but enough odd problems crop up that it keeps the video from being called great, and maybe even good. On a few occasions lines seem to break up entirely. There doesn’t seem anything remarkable about the scenes, and it only happens a few times over the series. The thing that really makes me go nuts though are times when the show is clearly animated terribly. Characters CGI models are often mis-colored and seem very low resolution. The most obvious appearance of this is Yoshika’s CGI model. Her hair is colored a completely different color than her hair color normally appears. I remember random color mistakes in Transformers and the original Ninja Turtles cartoon, but this is a few decades past that, and from a studio that made their name with their CGI work. And even when you get past CGI models having off colors, there is the very strange matter of often the animation frame-rate screeches to a halt for the CGI. It doesn’t happen every time CGI is used, but happens enough that I switched players to make sure it wasn’t a player error. It just isn’t something you expect from a name production house (but then with all of Gonzo’s problems lately… well… I’m curious if this is because of problems, or if maybe this happens in Gonzo’s work more than I’ve noticed…) These seem to be problems with the animation itself and not with the disks, but it still makes it hard to even try to enjoy the show when you know at any moment it could turn into a ‘My First CGI Animation.’
Both audio tracks are rather similar. The English track is Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448k, the Japanese track is Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192k. The Japanese track definitely seems to have quite a bit more punch in relation to music, while the English track seems more clear in regards to voices. Both tracks are quite good though, and outside of each having their own flavor there isn’t really anything wrong with either, even if they aren’t amazingly remarkable. The one thing worth mentioning is both the rotor/engine noise on the strike units and the weapons all sound remarkably great.
The Strike Witches dub was quite enjoyable. I found the casting to make all the characters come alive as everyone was cast quite well. I’d normally try and find anyone who specifically stood out, but each time I find one, I remember another, and then another and then… so let’s just say I enjoyed the dub completely. The only negative is visually, everyone has that ‘cutesy look’ to them, so hearing anyone with a serious voice sorta makes you turn your head and yanks you out of the show until a few episodes in when personalities properly sink into your head.
Extras are a bit above the standard for anime. We have the standard clean opening and clean ending. The only other extra is a standout commentary track. This commentary track features Scott Sager (the dub director), Cherami Leigh (Yoshika), and Kate Bristol (Lynette.) Giving us three out of the four people I’d want to hear from on a dub specific Strike Witches commentary leads to a good track. It’s very energetic, and the show is talked about honestly (even including details about actors being warned multiple times about how…NAUGHTY the show can be.) It’s especially nice to have them even talk about how much they all liked the way a specific line was said on the Japanese side, and even go out of their way to point the line out when it happens so that even the dub only watchers can go and check it out. It’s one of the better commentary tracks on a DVD and gives off a really fun vibe (and Scott, if you read this, do the webcast… I wanna see that.) The extras aren’t deep or detailed, but the commentary is just plain fun to listen to, and I imagine I’ll likely listen to it again.
Strike Witches did indeed fight the war on pants (ha ha… overused tag-line…) As for if it won or not… I can easily see any anime fan finding the series great, terrible, overdone, empty, NAUGHTY, and any of 1000 other descriptive terms. I wouldn’t put it anywhere near the top of my list, but it was fun enough to watch. There are definite complaints to be found, a few problems with the animation and the general feel of the series (NAUGHTY!) high among them… but it’s harmless enough fun if you want a decent laugh or two. After all.. who doesn’t like chewing on a little bubble gum now and again…
Show: B- (Unexceptional, fun, and harmless… if you don’t mind extreme NAUGHTYNESS that is. I considered giving it lower due to the show having a few to many issues, but the fact the show is basically fluff… I suppose it’s lucky there is a story in there.)
Video Quality: B- (The DVDs themselves don’t seem to have many problems, but they aren’t exceptional either. Flaws in the animation smash the score down quite a bit. Considered giving it a C or C+, but the disks in general do seem to be accurate to the source material…)
Audio Quality: B+ (The audio isn’t exceptional, but it’s good enough. A nice boost when the engines turn on and guns start going off.)
English Dub: A (Once you get used to a few voices, it’s quite a fantastic little dub. I doubt I will be alone in saying I’d hope this cast returns when Season 2 comes out…)
Extras: B- (Standard extras. Commentary is a fantastic dub specific track. Definitely worth a listen.)
Overall (not an average): B- (Naughty… naughty…. naughty….. but fun. And I still would like to know what is up with the lack of pants… I can accept aliens, creatures, whatever without much explanation, but I really would like an explanation for half the population walking around in just shirts and underpants.)
Strike Witches is available to watch streaming for free subtitled (with a few dubbed episodes) at Funimation Video.
Gallery and copyright information under ad. All caps are lossless PNGs taken in MPC-HC, feel free to request more. (Caps are sized 853×480 so as to display properly on computer monitors, they were modified to this resolution via Photoshop CS4 as MPC-HC takes screen captures at 720×480 on the disc. Having the caps be 853×480 makes them appear at the properly intended aspect ratio.)
This show was reviewed using a screener that used final disks, but did not include retail packaging.