Ayuru OhashiRie TanakaStrike WitchesYuri Amano
Strike Witches: 501st JOINT FIGHTER WING Take Off!
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2019: S
Also known as: Strike Witches 501 Butai Hasshin Shimasu!
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2019
Director: Fumio Ito
Original creator: Humikane Shimada
Actor: Ami Koshimizu, Ayuru Ohashi, Chiwa Saito, Kaori Nazuka, Mai Kadowaki, Mie Sonozaki, Misato Fukuen, Miyuki Sawashiro, Rie Tanaka, Sakura Nogawa, Saori Seto, Shizuka Itou, Yuri Amano
Keywords: Strike Witches, World War II, anime, SF
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: Twelve 13-minute episodes and a 30-minute "movie"
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=21876
Website category: Anime 2019
Review date: 21 April 2023
strike witches
It's a TV adaptation of a 4-panel gag manga about Strike Witches, but better than it might have been. These aren't just three-minute throwaways. Someone had enough confidence to give this material a proper TV run and a total of three hours' screen time, including the movie. (By regular anime standards, these are half-length episodes.)
It even got something akin to a second season two years later with World Witches Take Off!. (Same comedy formula, but the sequel includes the Brave Witches spin-off characters as well as the Strike Witches core cast.)
It's quite funny. I didn't think much of its first episode when I first watched it, mind you, at a time when I'd never seen Strike Witches. Now, though, I'm doing a marathon and so I gave the show another go.
It's following Season 2, with some episodes overlapping with or lampooning official Season 2 episodes. After that, pleasingly, the thirty-minute "movie" parodies the actual 2014 Strike Witches movie. Take Off ep.9, for instance, is a comedy version of Season 2 ep.8, with Miyafuji suddenly having trouble flying. (The canonical reason for this is mentioned at the end, but for most of the episode Shirley and Hartmann succeed in persuading Miyafuji that it's because she's getting fat.) Take Off ep.12 is a flat-out pisstake of Season 2 ep.12 and there's no way they can both be true, but that's okay because this one's funny.
After that, the 2019 "movie" borrows the plot, setting, cast and geographical distribution of the 2014 movie. I enjoyed all that a good deal, although had I been doing it, I'd have been making more pointed jokes about Hattori.
To be honest, Strike Witches doesn't have a particularly memorable cast. They're fine and likeable, but fairly middle-of-the-road by anime standards. No one particularly stands out and they wouldn't be your first choice for a comedy. Here, though, they actually work quite well. Shirley, Hartmann and to a lesser extent Lucchini are this spin-off's main comedy fuel, because they're slobs, skivers and mischief-makers. Whenever there's trouble, they'll probably be (ir)responsible. This has been exaggerated for comedy purposes, as has been Hartmann's inability to tidy her room, but what the hell. (Lucchini's not as bad as the other two, though, because she doesn't have enough brains to be malicious. She's like a lazy, fun-loving cat.)
Other characters are also exaggerated. Miyafuji's fondness for other girls' boobs gets stronger, turning a "do you think she might be a lesbian?" protagonist into a lech who considers groping unconscious girls and pretending it's CPR. Barkhorn's disciplinarian tendencies and bad temper (especially concerning Hartmann) didn't need updating, but the subsequent violence that has been played up. Blood sprays, unrealistically huge, spherical bumps on the head, etc. (This is all funny.) Fortunately, Miyafuji's healing magic cures all injuries.
Lieutenant Minna also becomes more violent, but very specifically. She punches your face in, leaving you with no facial features until Miyafuji's healed you. She's also a lethal cook. "Miyafuji's cooking has taught me that stinky is delicious."
The art style's relatively crude, but it fits the comedy and has the happy side-effect of dragging us further away from panty shots. If you've been watching since the beginning, by now you've probably forgotten that these girls don't wear trousers. There's also no nudity and no fan service, unless you count possibly enlarged cup sizes.
The show genuinely is quite funny. I laughed. I didn't when I first tried watching it years ago, mind you, when I was unfamiliar with the source material. Not all the episodes stand out, but they're so short that that doesn't really matter. The hit rate's good enough. In case you're wondering, incidentally, the girl who most often gets sidelined here is Lynnette. (She had real issues early in Season 1, but since then she's settled down and is just... normal. This is nice, but makes her a source of fewer jokes.) I'm quite looking forward to World Witches Take Off!.