And thus we finally get to an episode in which the popular in-universe and fandom nickname for the 502nd is revealed. And considering that opening, the deficiency in broken strikers might be made up for this episode?
While fighting a Neuroi during their test flight, Kanno’s Shinden Kai Ni striker is damaged due to fragments being sucked into the intake and damaging the turbine. This leads her to be punished and Hikari to be warned not to emulate the antics and mannerisms of the ‘Break Witches’, Naoe, Nipa, and Krupinski.
Krupinski is still recovering, sneezing when someone cute (Sasha) mentioned her. Rall is in her room, thanking her for restoring their supply lines, and notes that if the Neuroi managed to defeat her, they’d be strong. Krupinski though cautions Rall due to her own injuries. (This is in reference to Rall’s own broken back and her need for the corset, alluding to her ace archetype’s own injuries.) Rall tells her to focus on healing, due to a major operation to strike at the Grigori hive is coming up.
Later that evening, Naoe is still sore from the punishment she received for damaging her unit, but spots Hikari up rather late. It seems Hikari has been confiding to Chidori, her and her sister’s Striker, about her sister’s condition. Naoe arrives to tell her that Takami won’t die so easily, having appreciated the elder Karibuchi since seeing her at Kure Naval Academy, and deciding no one else can be her partner but her.
When asked, Naoe tells Hikari that the only way she could replace Takami is to be just as strong as she is. This leads to their motivations to fight, with Takami having said she wants peace so she can travel, while Naoe gives a more direct “Neuroi are messing with stuff”. She wants to be stronger than she is now, if only to destroy the Neuroi faster.
The next day, their mission is to protect their still-tenuous supply line Petrozavodsk. Naoe is anxious, intending to use the deployment as way to get experience and to get stronger. Encountering the Neuroi, it knocks out Hikari while also holding the others back due to heavy fire. Roßmann manages to expose the core with her rockets, and Naoe and Sasha head in to defeat it. Sasha is forced away due to the heavy fire but Naoe still pushes forward, comparing herself to Krupinski for having destroyed a tough Neuroi on her own.
The Neuroi focus fires on Naoe, the second time Sasha shoves her aside but her shield fails. She is barely caught from hitting the ground by Naoe and is rushed to base and into the ER. Though with Georgette’s healing and prompt attention, she stabilizes. Later during dinner Naoe admits Sasha getting hurt was her fault, though Nipa says she isn’t. Rall says they’ll attack the Neuroi again and everyone is to rest.
Back at the infirmary, Hikari and Naoe are on hand when Sasha wakes, and thanks the two of them. Even when she apologizes for her rash actions, Sasha pins the blame on herself, noting she didn’t provide enough covering fire, and rushing in is what Naoe does best. With that, she is certain she can defeat the Neuroi, and asks Hikari to help in that regard.
The next day, Rall points out that Naoe is the ranking officer present, but command of the mission goes to Roßmann, to which she doesn’t object. They have to defeat the Neuroi or else their supply line is cut once more and they starve. According to analysis and observation units, the Neuroi focuses most of tis firepower forward and as such, the 502nd will strike from two ways, with Roßmann, Sadako, and Georgette being the decoys and Nipa, Naoe, and Hikari to strike at its vulnerable rear.
All seems according to plan but the Neuroi splits in two, with the split off section reforming to the same firepower-heavy front end. With no way to find the core, under heavy fire, and dwindling ammo, Rall orders a withdrawal. Hikari pleads with Rall to let her use her special ability, with the other witches wondering what she’s on about. Explaining her powers, even Naoe considers it crazy and useless power. Rall though grants her permission, ordering Naoe to escort Hikari in over the protests of Naoe and Roßmann.
Diving in, Naoe’s thoughts cause her to space out, almost being killed by a shot by the Neuroi if Nipa hadn’t intercepted it. This causes Naoe to break down and have them break off, citing her inability to protect Hikari like Krupinski and Sasha, quite out of character for her. She tells Hikari off for not knowing anything, to which Hikari responds that she’s letting Krupinski and Sasha’s efforts go to waste by not pursuing the Neuroi. She pleads with her to take her to the Neuroi, and not to give up before they even tried. This fuels a tear-filled rant on how she can’t be Takami’s partner for her indecision, and that she can’t call herself one of the ‘Break Witches’.
This snaps her out of it, which she shows by head-butting Hikari and acting like herself again. Enlivened, the go after the core, with Kanno punching through the massive beam the Neuroi emitted. This allows Hikari to touch it and spot the core, leading her to expose it. The Neuroi splits once more, but Naoe is able to punch through and destroy the Neuroi.
Happy that they destroyed it, Naoe calls Hikari her partner, though by mistake leading Naoe to deny it while everyone else is amused at this. Unfortunately, it seems combat fatigue (or Nipa’s luck), has the engines on their strikers to cut off, tossing all to the ground below. As Hikari is later punished for damaging her striker, Krupinski appears, saying that Hikari is now a full-fledged member of the 502nd and of the Break Witches. Hikari is happy at this though Sasha isn’t, and also orders Krupinski to kneel for having said such uncouth things.
In a post-credits scene, Takami wakes due to the much greater magical healing powers of Miyafuji Yoshika. Miyafuji doesn’t know anything about Hikari, and fills Takami in on her present whereabouts.
With most of the major characters now having their own episodes, it stands to reason that the producers would want to get the last character’s story out-of-the-way. In comes Naoe, who has been at odds with Hikari from the moment they met. There have been times where Hikari has earned a grudging respect from Naoe for her actions and go-getter attitude, so it stands to reason that this episode will have the two bond and have their somewhat one-sided rivalry end.
It does, yet it still feels off for me. The episode is about Naoe and her quest to get stronger. Her role model took on a Neuroi and won, and that has clouded her eyes to the true cost of victory. She doesn’t want to stop and think how exactly Krupinski managed her kill of the seemingly unbeatable Neuroi, only that she did.
This leads her to act recklessly in battle and cause casualties. She continues to blame herself (and in my eye, rightly so) and earns herself a BSOD in their next engagement. Hikari’s harsh rebuke was what needed to snap her out of it, though to me, it came a little too quickly. Naoe’s motivation to fight and getting stronger fits with her personality, but I still think her seeing Hikari as a partner came a little too quickly.
That or I’m honestly biased. I admit I was never fond of Naoe’s character even when Brave Witches was merely a concept, an expansion of the universe, by Fumikane. Which is odd, I like tough tomboyish characters, but Naoe seemed to rub against me the wrong way. It’s why I thought it was a little hard to take her seriously in this episode, and I do people a disservice by continue to wax philosophical over the motivations of a character I really can’t bring myself to like in the same kind of enthusiasm I had for Roßmann, Krupinski, or Nipa. Much in the same way I couldn’t really ‘care’ for Sanya in the other series.
Don’t get me wrong, I -like- Naoe as the tough bruiser in the 502nd, but I can’t get over my own bias against her, as I repeat again.
Maybe I’m just tsun for the tomboy, who knows?
A surprise was seeing Yoshika. I thought Yoshika was a little too grating and naïve as a main character, and what makes Hikari different from her was Hikari actually has some work to do. It seems Yoshika just jumped into a Striker and was now the best in the world. Which isn’t entirely true but much like Amuro from Gundam, she and a Striker unit just got together and amazing things happened. Unless you were a Zeke/Neuroi.
But her appearance shouldn’t had surprised me. Of all the witches with healing powers (so far, Yoshika, Georgette, and Fernandia Malvezzi from the 504th), Yoshika has the greatest capacity for magical healing. It stands to reason to use the biggest guns you have in trying to revive a comatose witch.
With Takami making her way to Petersburg in the next episode, can’t wait to see the eventual end of the series and to see what kind of twists we’re going to see.
One last thing of note, is that the CG is still kinda meh.