The Fall 2020 Preview Guide
Strike Witches: Road to Berlin
How would you rate episode 1 of
Strike Witches: Road to Berlin ?
What is this?
The Neuroi still remain a threat, but the defense lines against them have stabilized enough that things have been relatively peaceful since the battle against the underground Neuroi. Yoshika Miyafuji has even managed to settle in at a medical school in Helvetia and make a new friend while awaiting the order to reform the 501st Joint Fighter Wing. That may come sooner than later, as during a visit by the retiring Mio, Yoshika gets wind of trouble at sea. In rushing to help out, she discovers that the Neuroi have learned a new trick.
How was the first episode?
Over the course of the dozen years since the original TV series' debut, the Strike Witches franchise has produced two main series, two spin-off series, a movie, and a couple of OVAs, as well as a plethora of print releases. This series marks the third TV series installment in the main storyline. The first episode spends about 3½ minutes summarizing the concept and showing most of the core cast members in action (and also re-establishing the fanservice inclinations of the franchise with numerous shots from “interesting” angles), so watching this without having seen previous installments and still being able to understand it is theoretically possible. I just don't recommend it.
Episode 1 clearly takes place after the franchise's movie and follows up on several things that occurred during it. Shizuka Hattori (first introduced in the movie) does not appear in this episode but is shown in both the opener and the closer, strongly suggesting that she will be joining the 501st when it formally reforms. The distinctive Neuroi type which popped up in the movie also reappears here, and one incident from the movie that was never explained – namely, the Amagi's encounter with an iceberg – comes back in a big way as another warship has an ominous iceberg encounter. The episode also opens with Yoshika having settled in at the Helvetia medical she was headed to in the movie and having her magic back, as shown in the movie.
At this point the 501st has yet to officially reform, and the witches are back to being widely-scattered, but that's clearly not going to stay true for long. Yoshika is the same as ever, impetuously jumping to scout out the situation when it sounds like a ship that one of her friend's father is on is in trouble; that's where the iceberg, which turns out to have a Neuroi encased within, comes into play. All of the original witches at least make cameos, though outside of the sample battle scene at the beginning only Yoshika sees any action this time. (Again, that's likely to change quickly.) And what is it with Yoshika and taming bears, anyway? The more alarming development is that Mio, who has aged out, is being re-assigned, and she is not shown in the opener or closer.
Overall, this is just set-up for the real story, but it still fully recaptures the style and spirit of the original, fanservice and all. The animation production is now in the hands of David Production, and the franchise may be better for it; character designs all look a little sharper and the animation quality in action scenes is good. (And Mio really should let her hair down more. She looks great that way.) That makes this a must-view for established franchise fans.
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