This franchise is a moderately big deal. It started fifteen years ago and it's never really stopped since. Here's all the Strike Witches anime to date:
- Pilot OVA (2007)
- Strike Witches (2008, twelve episodes)
- Strike Witches 2 (2010, twelve episodes)
- Strike Witches: The Movie (2012)
- Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow (2014, three episodes)
- Brave Witches (2016, thirteen episodes)
- Strike Witches: 501st Joint Fighter Wing Take Off! (2019, thirteen parody episodes)
- Strike Witches: Road to Berlin (2020, twelve episodes)
- World Witches Take Off! (2021, twelve parody episodes)
- Luminous Witches (2022, twelve episodes)
It's set in an alternate universe where World War Two was humans vs. aliens. All the world's surviving countries are fighting together against the Neuroi, who fly around in aircraft-like shapes and have death rays. Brittania is Britain, Gallia is France, Karlsland is Germany, Hispania is Spain, Romagna is Italy, etc. Europe has fallen and our heroines are holding out in England!
Because this is anime, mankind's main weapon against the aliens is SCHOOLGIRLS! (Sorry, "witches".) They wear "striker units", which look like stockings in the shape of jet engines. Because of this, the girls never wear trousers or skirts. Result: non-stop panty shots. Do the striker units need bare skin? What about the rare girls who wear tights or stockings, then? Apparently (i.e. not explained in the show itself and you'd have to read the light novels or something), this is because striker units transport your legs into subspace to leave more room for the unit's engine and so any clothing must be skintight.
Furthermore, the girls always dress like that (to be ready for action) and call knickers "trousers". Oh, and this fashion has spread even to women who never wear striker units (e.g. nurses in hospital, ordinary schoolgirls), including in the UK where you'd expect to get cold. Men wear trousers normally.
Some of the camera angles make all this nonsense slightly gross. Also, don't think about how old these girls are. (If you've reached the ancient age of twenty, your magical powers are past their peak and to enter combat is like having a death wish.) Mind you, the uncensored version of ep.7 is so outrageous that it'll make you forget that it's possible even to notice mere underwear.
There's also plenty of outright nudity, with nipples.
Then, on top of all that, the show can be a bit stupid. I'm not convinced that Commander Minna-Dietlinde Wilcke's order in ep.8 follows on logically from her backstory. I feel sorry for her, yes, but that's not the same. That's subtle and debatable, though, compared with the show-breaking howler in ep.10. Miyafuji's discovered evidence that the Neuroi might not be hostile and that the aliens might just be imitating us (and that's not even the first time we'd thought that).
WHAT THE ARMY DO: punish Miyafuji for her discovery (because she'd disobeyed orders) and insist that everyone keep shooting the Neuroi.
WHAT THE ARMY SHOULD HAVE DONE: investigate this. For all we know, the Neuroi really are just copying everything they see. You shoot, we shoot. They're aliens. We know nothing about them. They're also on the point of taking control of the world, so to ignore this possibility might easily lead to the trivially avoidable extermination of the human race.
The show never thinks to refute this possibility, either. It ends with a grand military victory for our heroes and the audience is going "no, but wait".
That said, though, the show's also quite fun and better than you'd think. The Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs called the show an example of cultural excellence and held public screenings of it with lots of families and young children. Fanservice? What fanservice?
The first couple of episodes deal with Miyafuji being recruited despite her hatred of war, which definitely wouldn't have gone down as well in 1944 (either the real one or this fictional equivalent) as is shown here. This portrayal is very Japanese. For obvious reasons, war became extremely unpopular there after World War Two. After that, the show starts exploring its reasonably large cast. Lynette thinks she can't do anything and is slowing everyone else down. Gertrud Barkhorn has a seriously injured sister and effectively attempts suicide in ep.4. Minna's judgement is being influenced by bereavement. Sakamoto has (in Miyafuji's words) "given up".
The show's not dark, though. It can get serious when it wants, but it has lighter episodes too. The girls are fun. I was telling the show to piss off throughout eps.10-11, with the army brass not even pretending to be rational, but in fact it's sort of justified by the fact that they're being selfish and evil. They're gambling with the future of mankind... well, yeah. They know it. Also, in fairness, this sets up an exciting finale.
The 2007 OVA isn't part of the main show, incidentally. It's more like a brief first draft, with different characterisation, worse hair and a very weird moment where Miyafuji has a pink glowing animal on her shoulder in combat. (Instead, in the main show, the girls grow animal ears and tails when they activate their magic. No, I don't know why.)
I enjoyed it, despite going out of my mind at the stupidity in eps.10-11. I'm planning to watch all of its different series, including a rewatch for the one I've already seen before (Brave Witches).