A new season is upon us, as new shows arrive to try and eat up my time. With the rather lackluster ending to Macross Delta in the last season, I thought some sense of normalcy can arise from the two shows I have been waiting on for. Spectacular Airshow Part 3 will be posted in the future, when I get around to finish writing it, but for now, onto the first entry of what I decided to call “Two Theatres of War”.
Brave Witches – Episode 1: The Witch of Sasebo?
Brave Witches takes place in the Strike Witches world, set in September 1944, around the time of the Liberation of Gallia. Episode 1 introduces us to Karibuchi Hikari, a fourteen year old witch cadet from Sasebo, Fuso. While she is noted to have a lack of skill as a witch, she has a great amount of stamina. Her older sister, Karibuchi Takami, is a famous witch. She is known for her exploits in Europe and also has a movie about her being released soon.
While delivering food to her father who works as a technician at the Hario Transceiver Station, news have come that the Third Carrier Division is arriving, and with it her sister as well. Hikari is happy at this, relaying the news to her mother and then running off to school, still soaking wet from having attempted to use magic to cross a small lagoon earlier and failing.
Her mood is somewhat dampened later that day at school by Misumi Mia, a witch trainee with advanced skills who cannot believe someone with such low magic skills like Hikari is related to the famed Witch of Sasebo.
While she is ecstatic that her older sister has come home, she isn’t too pleased when Takami informs her that she has new orders cut for her to go to Europe. An announcement at school provides the answer. With the need for more witches in Europe, a program to send a volunteer to ‘learn the ropes’ is announced. Mia volunteers, as does Hikari. Due to this, both will have to pass an examination in order to see which the best is qualified to be sent to Europe.
While she meets resistance from her family, including Takami, Hikari still goes through with the test, which has them flying in similar conditions as combat. A storm brewed and in an attempt to get ahead of Hikari (who seems to be holding up with the added weight and weather of the storm due to her stamina), Mia doesn’t see a pole appear until too late, and knocks the two of them out. Hikari wakes on a nearby beach but Mia is seen clinging onto a small outcropping in the heavy current. Losing her grip, she goes under and Hikari skips across, managing to rescue her rival and crossing the small section of sea.
This rescue is seen by Squadron Leader Shindou Mie, who takes note of it. Later, news comes through from the Imperial Navy headquarters that Hikari had passed the exam (whereupon she had believed she and Mia did not pass due to not completing is). This was no doubt from Shindou Mie’s recommendations and both Karibuchi sisters would be headed to Europe.
Meanwhile, in Europe, it would seem the destruction of the Neuroi hive over Gallia prompted the creation of a new one elsewhere.
Izetta: The Last Witch – Episode 1: Beginning of the War
A young Princess Finé is running in the woods where what can be described as magical dandelion seeds draw her to the witch Izetta, floating in the air on a piece of wood. This dream is interrupted when one of her bodyguards wakes her, drawing attention to a pair of Germanian soldiers looking for her. Even when the train is in neutral country, they are pushing their weight around.
The trio escape and the pair give chase, and as they bother the First Class passengers, the Germanian soldiers come across special agents of the Germanian military, the younger of whom (Sieg) they report their reason for disruption. The older of the men (Belkman) figures that rather than seeking asylum, the Princess is seeking to negotiate with the Allies for help for her country, who is next in line for invasion.
Finding their way blocked, the trio get on top of the train and have a running gun battle with the two soldiers. Making their way into the baggage cars, Finé is drawn to a capsule and starts to open it but is told to stay away from it by Belkman, who says it is top secret information. One of her guards wounded, they take the opportunity to open a door while in a tunnel and jump out while over a bridge. The Germanian soldiers inquire as well, and the agent, reminding them that it was top secret, kills all of them.
The bodyguard that Belkman shot dies, though she promises to save their country for them, and the Princess and the remaining bodyguard makes it to town, where a sympathetic Westerian hotel keeper gives them a room as well as a change of clothes. Elsewhere in town, Belkman and Sieg are transporting the capsule by air the rest of the way. Finé opening the capsule partially seems to have broken the seal, and while Belkman isn’t as willing to believe in her destructive capabilities, the Emperor is big on that regard of the legend and it’s their job to investigate and considers it romantic if true.
Later that night, Finé meets with the Britannian Ambassador Lord Redford at the opera, where she indicates she is prepared to give up her succession as Archduchess in exchange for a political marriage with the Britannian Prince Henry (whom she declined his first offer for marraige) which could spur the Britannian public to make another expedition to relieve pressure on Elystadt. Before anything can come about it, an aide hands a note to the ambassador, indicating that the Duchy of Elystadt has been invaded by Germanian forces. The local Germanian intelligence officer, after killing the last bodyguard outside the opera box, arrests Finé in front of Lord Redford. Lord Redford proclaims his innocence, to which the Germanian indicates his truthfulness, just that Germanian Empire’s spy network is simply better.
Finé is trundled off to a Germanian plane headed back to the Germanian capital Neue Berlin, while overflying Elystatdt. Having inquired about the state of the invasion, the intelligence officer taunts her and indicates that she can be used as leverage to have the people stop resisting, or worse. She doesn’t give up, and as this is going on, the capsule that was on the train earlier starts to open. Finé manages to disarm the intelligence officer when the same magical dandelion seeds stops one of the engines on the plane. Taking his pistol, she fumbles with the safety and is shot by the other men.
The person inside the capsule wakes, seeing through the little porthole Finé, who defiantly states her name and the fact she is willing to die for her country. The person inside remembers a similar time, where a younger Finé saved the girl from an angry mob, incurring a wound that was seen earlier as a scar on her abdomen. This fully wakes her, and the red-haired witch Izetta destroys the plane. Taking a wood furnitured anti-tank rifle that was freed from the racks, she uses it as a broomstick to rescue Finé before she falls to her death. Safely in the arms of her witch, they fly off back into Elystadt territory.
A friend once told me, that “izetta and BW are excluded from the 3 ep rule”. I’m inclined to agree, but as I explained to that friend, I do the three episode rule as a blogging rule. Especially now that while I watch anime, not many get considered to be followed as a blogging exercise. The three episode rule isn’t sacrosanct, and isn’t an indicator on how well I’ll follow the series. I’ve been burned by some choices before, most notably Rail Wars, where every week I was hoping it’d get some resemblance of plot from the source material, and Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta, which I dropped around episode 10 or so from blogging.
Brave Witches is a given considering it is set in the Strike Witches universe, no matter how some of my friends finds it super silly. That friend thinks that Nanoha merely needs to Starlight Breaker every single Neuroi hive and the world is at peace, among other things. Things that are explained from other material not just the anime, as well as widely accepted fan conjecture. But I’m going to follow Brave Witches to the end, and I’ll explain why later.
Izetta came as a surprise to me, someone else on the Bookfaces linked the preview trailer for it and I was intrigued, and decided to give it a try. The whole first episode built up nicely, there was never really any spots where it loss tempo or decided to break the growing tension. Princess Finé was instantly likable for her personality and drive for her people. In all, I’m going to follow it.
One thing that also ties the two intro episodes together is a scar, especially one in the abdominal area. Takami has one from her exploits in the retreat from Libau on the Black Sea. Finé has one from when she defended Izetta from an angry mob. So I guess there’s that as well.
Of the little niggles I had, both series had one. For Izetta, a bit of a ‘wtf’ moment happened with the Germanian intelligence officer. While having a golden Luger that can be suppressed seems fitting his status and rank, the fact the inscription on the side says ‘Who Dares, Wins’ made a friend and I pause. That is most well known as the unit motto of the British Special Air Service, and this friend wondered if he is this series’ Revolver Ocelot (assuming he survives) and is really an Allied double agent. Assuming he survives the plane crash of course.
Brave Witches doesn’t really have something like that, but my focus was on trying to figure out which Shoukaku-class aircraft carrier seems to be the featured ‘ship’ this series. Strike Witches Season One has the aircraft carrier “Akagi”, while Strike Witches Season Two and the Movie both featured the super-battleship “Yamato”. As per canon, the 508th Joint Fighter Wing “Mighty Witches” has the Shoukaku as the Fusoan carrier assigned to the three carrier witch strike group. But owing to the late war (September 1944) era as well as the presence of this alternate universe’s Jisaburo Ozawa, makes me think the carrier in question is actually the Shoukaku-class carrier Zuikaku. I would prefer it to be Zuikaku, if only because it would fit the time and the stated IJN order of battle from our timeline.
But those are really the two trains of thought that really enveloped my mind after viewing the episodes, one was a mere disconnect, the other just my wandering mind at work. And that leads me to this series of posts and why I named it as such.
The difference between the two series is quite wide, even though the basic premise is the same. World War Two with Magic. One deals with unspeakable ancient horrors that have once before taken the guise of giant spiders, demons, and dragons and now of advanced technological aircraft; the other a retelling of World War Two from the guise of a fictional duchy.
Granted some folks cannot watch anything from the Strike Witches universe due to the obscene amount of fanservice (while some would also then watch purely fanservice shows too, hypocritcally) but there is a nice amount of proper plot and character development in the series. Izetta is promising to be the same, and would seem to be much deeper in plot.
It would seem that World of Tanks has had a hand in Izetta, a friend with sharper eyes than mine has spotted the name Salva Malkovka, who is World of Tank’s creative director.
So I think I’ll keep this up past the three episode rule. Both shows have certainly impressed me in their introductory episodes.
On a non-anime note, I am also going to be doing quick thoughts on The Grand Tour. Or as many fans are calling it: Top Gear Two. The hype train is so much bigger for TGT.