Hikari leaves on a jet plane train, unsure if she’ll ever be back again. And that was painful to write. Regardless, we’re now at the penultimate episode of the series, and it can’t be a Strike Witches episode 11 without something coming up to ruin higher command’s perfectly laid plans.
As Hikari says her goodbye to Chidori, Naoe comes in. While she denies she was cheering for her, she acknowledged her performance the other day. Asking if she was disappointed, Hikari replies that she did her best, so she’s satisfied. Naoe hands Hikari her gloves as a parting gift.
Everyone else sees Hikari off, with each member of the 502nd congratulating her and her growth, and Krupinski handing her back the busted PF-45 Liberator. Hikari was filled in by Nipa, and Waltrud chambers a round as to ensure it is actually more effective good luck charm.
Nipa chases after the truck for a short while, and berates Naoe when she doesn’t. Asking if she was her partner, Naoe merely states that her partner is Takami. The truck driver says he’s honored to carry a member of the 502nd to her destination, though Hikari with pained expression says she’s not part of the Brave Witches.
Back at base, Takami looks at Chidori and its various dings and scratches. Asking how Hikari was to an arriving Gundula, she points out if she was worried, she should’ve seen her off. Remarking on the battered striker unit, Rall says it’s a sign that Hikari was there, though at present, Rall needs a strong witch to accomplish the mission.
At the strategy meeting, the full details of Operation Freya is outlined. Rather than responding to Neuroi incursions, the intelligence gathered through camera-equipped pidgeon show a massive Neuroi complex producing Neuroi fighters. They will use the 800mm caliber railway cannons Gustav and Dora to destroy the nest. Gustav will fire an HE shell to dispel the cloud hiding Grigori, while Dora will fire a specially designed Magic AP Round dueled by the magical energies of a hundred Ground Attack Witches to strike the decisive blow on the hive.
Unfortunately, in order to accurately fire both guns, they need to be fired within the hive’s combat radius, and thus the job of the 502nd is to escort the railway cannons, then for Takami to locate the core.
Back at Petersburg, the 502nd support staff drops off Hikari at the station, with her striker unit station already loaded on a flatbed. Her guides happen to be Eila and Sanya. Back at base, the 502nd scramble, with Takami taking one last longing look at the train bound for the 507th base.
On the train, it seems that Nipa wanted the two of them to meet Hikari, noting that she was worried about her. Sanya picks up the 502nd and Hikari is able to distinguish the members even if they’re so far away. Felling a little down, Eila hands Hikari some sweets which she believes is chocolate and gulps down the whole handful. Sanya is in shock while Eila explains it is salmiakki, a type of Finnish salty liquorice, and Hikari goes sick due to the taste.
Back in the formation, Naoe urges Takami on, reminding her that she beat Hikari to be her partner, and they have to win. Elsewhere, the two railway cannons are sighted, alongside Grigori, which has gotten ever closer to Petersburg. Nipa and Naoe comments on the huge force assembled for the operation, and Takami is steeling herself for what’s to come.
Command HQ orders the carriers to launch planes as the line of Flak 88s start bombarding the cloud, destroying several Neuroi fliers but with many more coming out. Panzers attack quadrupedal ground Neuroi as the planes from the carriers start to strike at the fliers, all the while the 502nd continue to escort the advancing railway cannons.
Back at the train, Hikari recovers from the super-salty salmiakki when Sanya notes it has started. It seems that Soumous forces are the reserve in the operation, being carried out by primarily Karlslander, Fusoan, and Britannians. Hikari can’t see the action from the distance, but Eila produces a radio and the trio of witches start to listen to the combat chatter.
Back at the battle, while Nipa and Georgette shield the railway cannons, everyone else start to work on the Neuroi fliers, with Naoe and Takami working splendidly together. At the HQ though, even with several of their forces wiped out to a man, the Neuroi have started to decrease in strength and the two railway cannons will reach firing range within a minute.
Nipa and Georgette is joined by Naoe and Takami, as Gustav is prepped for firing. With everything set, Gustav fires, dissipating the cloud with the magically embued super HE round, revealing the inner Neuroi structure. The train trio though gets cut off at this point due to jamming.
The 502nd escort Takami in, as the Neuroi hive deploys tendril-like defenses to attack. Takami manages to find it, but a particularly strong attack gets past Nipa and Georgette’s combined shield and destroys the barrel on Dora. A spare round is deployed but Grigori starts to move. With a prep time of 20 minutes, it would take too long and would be out of Gustav’s firing range.
The train trio attempt to get their radio to work, while Grigori seems to have ignored the combatants. Takami won’t take their situation lying down, and goes to Dora, extracting the magical AP round. Realizing her plan, she says this is what Hikari would do, and would not give up. The others pitch in, noting that Takami is much like her sister.
With everyone pitching in to help, HQ gives their blessing and the 502nd manages to carry the heavy projectile up and above the moving hive. Takami guides the shell in with Naoe shielding Takami from Grigori’s fire, and the shell hits true, destroying the hive.
This isn’t so though, as Grigori starts to reconsolidate, and Takami is now able to spot the true-core inside its main core, much like the trickery employed by the orb-like Neuroi. Gustav is reloaded, and Takami starts to target the core when she loses sight of it. The outer core happens to be shielding the location of the real core.
The train trio manages to obtain transmissions just as Manstein is trying to confirm what Takami says, and Hikari realizes that Takami is going to utilize her unique power at its max. Hikari goes to stop her, though she is greeted with the back of the tracks, with Sanya reminding her that the cargo train is different.
She still intends to stop her, and jumps from the train, landing face first into the snow, getting up and running towards the battle.
Theodore Roosevelt said it best. That “nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty”. Hikari had risen to the test she was given, and she met her test with all the strength she had and then some. Which is why at the end of the day, one can go satisfied at having managed to touch, briefly, the lofty heights that Takami flew.
And I think this is what everyone acknowledges, including Takami, but especially Naoe. Of the people who have trouble trying to say this, Naoe was one of them, but still can’t get past Takami’s own self-imposed distancing.
Now, folks within the fandom have reacted strongly at Takami last episode, and some folks pushed back on that. It is quite fine, but there was one in which our reaction to Takami-Hikari of Brave Witches vis-à-vis Maho-Miho of Girls und Panzer was pointed out. In defense of Takami and our backlash, Takami’s complete turn in attitude is a complete change compared to when she was presented in the beginning of the series, and how much she’s been hyped up as some amazing sibling by Hikari and others.
This compared to Maho, who is only to be revealed later on that she is distancing herself throughout the Senshadou tournament to shield her younger sister from their demanding mother. We find out that Maho isn’t an ass, and our opinions changed. We find out that Takami becomes an ass, and naturally our voicing of that particular character development is rather strong.
But going back to Takami, she is pained. She is doing this to the sister she loves in order to keep her safe, and everyone could see it’s hurting her. The fact she asks how Hikari was when everyone saw her off shows she’s on knife’s edge when dealing with this deal she cut with Manstein.
And in my eyes, doomed to failure, considering that Hikari is now running back into danger, because her beloved older sister is going to end up using the dangerous potential that caused her to be out of action for several months.
The episode itself is great, though of the bits that felt lacking is the actual combat, but to be fair, I guess I shouldn’t have expected much. I wanted to see some ground witches in action this time around, considering that some were featured at Murmansk. I also can’t wait for the now-loaded PF-45 Liberator to make some dent in the fighting. Maybe it destroys the core (lolz).
The large-scale plans and reliance on specialist weaponry seems to be a bit of a theme of the anime. Starting with the Warlock project, and the Neuroified Yamato, to the usage of Gustav and Dora. Always a hitch in the plans. What with Warlock going rampant, the Yamato being stopped and now Dora getting blasted to pieces.
I am curious though what they meant by using the magic power of a hundred Ground Attack witches. I’m pretty sure some doujinshi artist will probably show the girls hooked up to a contraption that sucks their powers away. I mean, they were pretty much doing so with the Neuroification projects. But that’s just my imagination going on a completely different tangent I don’t want to think about right now.
Still, at least this time they’re trying to use magic rather than Neuroi to kill the Neuroi hive. Just sucks that it’s doing the core-within-a-core trickery and this time in a greater scale since the outer core is blocking Takami’s Absolute Eye power.
We’ll see what Episode 12 brings in. It’s following the formula set by Strike Witches, and I expect nothing else, but overall, I consider Brave Witches a better executed show with little bits of trivia tossed at fans of the series who delve regularly in the side stories and aren’t exactly making the gratuitous panty-shots the main focus of their viewing.