Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow

•January 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment

swova001Allow me to break the ice by saying that I used to be a huge fan of Strike Witches. Regardless of the shit-storm it might have caused (for all the wrong reasons no less,) I went into this series expecting it to be just a fun fanservice oriented action series. Needless to say, the first season proved itself to be beyond just being eye candy; it wasn’t just a good fanservice anime. It was a great fucking anime period. Seriously, aside from the excellent production values and character designs which made it more than passable for a fanservice anime, it had an excellent story which focuses on developing its characters and kickass dogfight battles against the Neuroi.It’s because of this that I held my expectations for this series a little too high; hoping that each new series would outdo the last, which turned into a feat that will never come into fruition. Strike Witches 2 was a shameless rehashing of the first season, but with less creativity, thought, or effort put into it, basically hitting the series’ low point. The Strike Witches movie almost seemed like a step in the right direction. While that film lacked the fanservice, and some character development in places, it made up for it by being an extremely fun action flick.

And then we have the latest Strike Witches OVA entitled Operation Victory Arrow, and low and behold…it sucks. Apart from being the supposed final chapter of the story of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing, much of these three short stories are pretty much everything we’ve seen from previous incarnations of Strike Witches. It offers nothing new. As the supposed curtain call of the 501st JFW, this feels like a half-assed slap in the face.

swova002Granted up until now, Strike Witches gradually improved in terms of animation, with the movie reaching it’s high point. Needless to say, in terms of animation, Operation Victory Arrow is a fucking eyesore. Sorry but Silverlink is just not the right studio for Strike Witches, at all. While I can constantly praise Takamura’s distinct and detailed character designs, the production value for the majority of this series feels extremely grimey and unpolished. At times the animation becomes much more flat than an old Transformers episode and the highlights and shadowing just doesn’t seem to match at all. But of course, the elephant in the room would have to be the unmitigated shite that is the CGI sequences. No, I’m not talking about scenes featuring the Neuroi, but of the girls flying around in combat, which stands out like a sore thumb. It would be the equivalent of throwing a big blob of putrid looking green paint on top of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. Seriously, this is some of the worst CGI I have seen in anime.

swova004Despite Kazuhiro Takamura returning on directing and character design duties, much of this OVA series is just a bore to sit through. Take the first episode Thunder of San Tron for example. Granted the character interactions are still there and serve as the focal point of the episode, but even then, how many times do we have to see Barkhorn or Hartman grow as a character? (Especially considering how Strike Witches 2 was a missed opportunity and how the Strike Witches movie gave these characters a fair chunk of screen time.) To their credit, they did give us the courtesy of having Ursula Hartman play a more pivotal role in the episode, but even then, compared to say, the first season of Strike Witches, it’s not engaging enough and lacks the energy and excellent narrative of said season. Even the Francesca Lucchini-oriented Goddess of the Aegean suffers from the same thing. It’s got character interactions, it’s got fight scenes, they try to focus on Lucchini’s character…yet at the same time, why does this feel so pedestrian and boring? Doesn’t help the fact that the 504th JFW gets shafted again because the plot says so.

There’s also the fact that the fight scenes are boring as fuck. The well choreographed, highly energetic battles with the Neuroi was what made Strike Witches kickass in the first place. Operation Victory Arrow has fight scenes yes; except here, they come off as sterile, plodding, tedious and dull, lacking any sort of intensity or (this would definitely be the most awkward word I could use here) balls whatsoever. Even when they try to be innovative, as in episode 2 where they try to fish out the snake-shaped Neuroi from the cave, you can’t help but feel the need to watch something better, like say…I don’t know, the first season of Strike Witches, which had far better, energetic, more captivating fight scenes? It doesn’t help that the animation qualities are terrible, which makes it worse. (Slow-mo CGI fight scenes anyone?)

swova003The only saving grace to this OVA series is the third episode Bridge of Arnheim, which is the closest it can get to being on par with the better moments of Strike Witches. Granted it follows the same formula as the first two snoozefests, yet at the same time, they’ve finally managed to play their cards right with this one. The character interactions feel more natural and lively, and the story line (especially how they managed to give one of the side characters a bit of backstory) almost feels like something out of the first season of Strike Witches, in a good way. The animation qualities also seems cleaner and pleasant to look at. The final ground battle between Perrine and the ground-base Neuroi also kicks ass as it’s about as intense and energetic, in comparison to any other battle scene in the series. This is the closest this OVA series can get to being as good as the first season, and is pretty much the only episode worth watching.

I can’t say I’m disappointed with this OVA, especially given Takaaki Suzuki’s panzer-inflated ego, as this is kind of what I’ve come to expect. Yet I can’t help but feel sad and disappointed knowing that the only thing good to come out of Strike Witches was the first season. As for this OVA, the only thing worth watching would be the third episode as they managed to get their shit straight with that one. But that said, the fact that this is the 501st JFW’s curtain call without any sort of closure is just a travesty. While not as bad as the second season, this is just tireless, uninspired and forgettable. It would be worrisome if Takamura is still on board with this franchise, especially Tactical Vanadis Attack featuring the boring as fuck Brave Witches. I still feel he has a lot more to offer as a director. If only he would be free from Strike Witches which has now become a rusted ship at the bottom of the sea. It’d be a better idea to just avoid Strike Witches at this point.

RATING: 3/10

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Jof’s year end thingy of 2015

•January 1, 2016 • 1 Comment

Hello. It’s been a long time. After a long hiatus, I have decided to revive my anime blog.

This isn’t really an end of the year list as much as it is an overview of what I watched and enjoyed in 2015. I didn’t really watch too many new anime from this year as apart from being busy with life, I kind of feel that the overall quality of most shows kind of dropped in 2014. Even some unanimously praised shows a la Hibike Euphonium I found to be quite mediocre and pedestrian at best. That being said, there were quite a handful of shows this year that I have been quite fond of. I have also decided to include shows that have finished airing in 2015. Therefore, in no particular order, here are the anime that I have enjoyed in 2015.

jojosdc001Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders

I’ve been a fan of Jojo’s for quite some time now and this series is one reason why. While being more straight forward in terms of story telling, the series remains consistent with it’s action scenes and scenarios, which are very elaborate and played out extremely well. One of the better action anime of recent years.

himouto001Himouto Umaru-chan

This is pretty much what OreImo would be like if it were a million times better. Rather than having it being many other things at once, Himouto Umaru-chan goes right for straight up laughs, proving that Douga Koubo can still deliver.

CMRNXaPWcAAc_SZ.jpg largeKoufuku Graffiti

A simple yet excellent slice of life show about cooking. Combine that with Shimbo’s directing, and you’ve got yourself some excellent food porn.

kantai001Kantai Collection

Yes, as over-hyped as it is, the anime adaptation of KanColle is actually a pretty solid action-based slice of life show. The strong character interactions and fight sequences made me appreciate the show for what it is. While it’s no masterpiece, KanColle is overall fairly entertaining.

teruterubouzuNon Non Biyori Repeat

Non Non Biyori Repeat is just as good as it’s predecessor; yet I can’t help but feel that the magic from the first season almost seems absent. That combined with Silverlink’s faults as an animation studio are exposed in terms of production values. That being said, it’s still a pretty good slice of life anime that can deliver in terms of laughs and character interactions.

Honorable Mention

yande.re 320912 sample ayase_eli hoshizora_rin koizumi_hanayo kousaka_honoka love_live! minami_kotori nishikino_maki sonoda_umi thighhighs toujou_nozomi yazawa_nicoLove Live: The School Idol Movie

Love Live has been a grower on me for some time now, and this film brings everything full circle. An excellent ending to a series, one of the few, that has lived up to it’s hype.

Disappointments

Gakkou Gurashi

I expected myself to like this as a more moé-centric take on the zombie apocalypse genre would’ve tickled my fancy. The problem is that the slice of life and zombie horror elements stood out way too much. It’s like watching Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka? with zombies; not really a good sign.

Houkago no Pleiades

Being a fan of the original ONA, I couldn’t help but feel let down by the TV series. While there were some cute moments in the first half, the second half felt sort of lost in terms of plot and character development. It also lacked in energy as well as that Gainax feel that the ONA had.

Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls

I will probably get shit on for this but this series has nothing on the 2011 Idolm@ster anime. While the first half was pretty excellent, the second half felt like it was trying to be like Wake Up Girls minus Yamakan’s enormous ego. That and the fact that many characters got reduced to cameo status was cringe inducing. I really wanted to like this one.

Strike Witches: Operation Victory Arrow

What was once my flagship action-moé anime has now succumbed to the likes of mediocrity. Much of this OVA series is just painfully boring despite Takamura’s character-oriented directing. That and the fact that the animation qualities are very sub-par. I guess my main problem with Strike Witches lies in the fact that practically everything after the first series is pretty much the same thing that offers nothing new; this mediocre OVA included. But the fact that these three short stories were intended to be the curtain call of the 501st Joint Fighter Wing prove that Kadokawa just doesn’t know what the fuck to do with Strike Witches anymore. I know, there’s still that new TV anime with that boring new Joint Fighter Wing, but at this point, who cares? Strike Witches is dead.