So, despite the ominous ending last week, we return this week to what has become business as usual. The Neuroi once again try to attack the 502nd’s supply lines, the girls fight against it and in the process overcome some manner of personal trial, and in the end a closer bond is formed between several of them. This is all well and good, except that based on experience from Strike Witches, episodes like this immediately cease as soon as The Plot™ appears. This seems to be another sign, among many, that Brave Witches doesn’t intend to be bound by the previously established standards for the franchise.
We start this episode with something I’d actually expected much earlier in the series: learning about the trio known unofficially as “The Break Witches” due to them repeatedly trashing their striker units. That’s Nipa, who, as she points out, doesn’t break her units, her units break themselves; Kanno, who does crazy things like charging headfirst into Neuroi with her shield concentrated around her fist, leaving the rest of her body (including her striker unit) unprotected; and Krupinski, who is known to discount personal safety when attacking. Of course, as far as Kanno’s concerned destroying the enemy is a perfect justification for damaging a few things in the process.
The conversation between Rall and Krupinski is worth noting. Some people may have wondered why Commander Rall, humanity 3rd greatest ace, stays behind her desk all the time while everyone else goes out on missions. Krupinski gives us a bit of insight here by mentioning that Rall’s injuries haven’t healed. For those who are unaware of external information, Commander Rall suffered significant injuries during the evacuation of Karlsland. Injuries that, honestly, should have been completely disabling and left her unable to ever continue her career in the military. However, she determinedly pursued treatment and rehabilitation and eventually reached a point of being able to function again. Still, the damage from those injuries hasn’t gone away. Some of you may have noticed she is always wearing a black corset over her military uniform. That corset is made of magically woven fibers, specially designed to prevent her injuries from flaring up. Basically, she’s one of the best witches in the world when she can fly, but she doesn’t dare risk flying very often or for very long, because she could damage herself all over again.
Kanno’s motivations shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise to anyone. She hates the Neuroi for showing up and wrecking the world, and she wants to kill them all. Straightforward enough, but her determination to become stronger faster, to try to surpass Krupinski after the latter’s showing last week, causes her to be even more reckless than usual. Charging headfirst into what is clearly a Neuroi designed for a heavy blockade results in near-disaster when Sasha shoves her out of the way and takes a blast for her, sending Sasha to the hospital.
As a result, Kanno suffers a critical loss of confidence. When Rall orders her to protect Hikari so that Hikari can touch the Neuroi, Kanno hesitates. After all, it was her inability to even protect herself that put Sasha in the hospital. How can she trust herself to protect someone else, especially at point-blank range against a Neuroi like this? And especially how can she protect Hikari, who has very little means of protecting herself? We’ve seen Hikari try to hold up a shield against incoming fire. It shatters almost instantly. Her only defense is to dodge, but there’s no way to dodge when you’re right on top of the thing. Kanno freezes, terrified that she can’t do it, that someone else will be hurt, or killed, because she’ll fail.
Fortunately, Hikari will have none of this. She faces Kanno with part impassioned plea, part angry condemnation, part challenge. Really, as inspiring speeches go it’s not all that coherent. But it is very impassioned, and it serves its purpose. If Kanno gives up here, everything she’s done up to this point, and everything she intends to do after this point, will be for nothing. So with Kanno’s spirits revived, they charge in, Hikari uses her power and spots the core, and the day is saved.
As for the regular discussion of the Neuroi… I’m not sure I even need to point it out this time. This was a blockade. A Neuroi with a massive amount of firepower stationed itself directly in a position to block the witches’ supply line and just sat there. Even after their first failed attack on it, it didn’t move. It was clearly preventing any traffic from coming through to bring supplies to the base, and it was well equipped to fight off any attempts to remove it. These Neuroi know their warfare.
A little side note about something that I find interesting. Some people may have noticed that, after Sasha was injured, Kanno was said to be the next ranking officer (since Rall, as previously mentioned, isn’t flying right now). The rank system for the witches has always been rather opaque, but Kanno actually outranks Rossman, on paper. However, Rossman’s tactical knowledge, training ability, and long combat experience result in her being considered part of the command team, despite her relatively junior rank. Nothing particularly special here, this is just something I’ve found interesting.
Anyway, I hope everyone kept watching after the ending credits this week, because there was an important extra scene after them. After three months in a coma, Hikari’s sister, Takami, has woken up, thanks to treatment by none other than Miyafuji Yoshika: the heroine of Strike Witches. Back when Takami was injured I’d been thinking that if anyone could help her it would be Yoshika. Nothing against Georgette, but she’s only human. It’s not fair to compare her to a logic-defying rule-breaking powerhouse like Yoshika. Regardless, Takami is finally awake, and is shocked to discover how much time has passed.
My predictions haven’t always been accurate with this series, but next week I expect there will be some notable drama between the sisters. Hikari is officially flying under Takami’s name: if Takami wants to get back in the system, so to speak, she’ll likely have to go to St. Petersburg and take Hikari’s place. But three months have passed since the sisters have seen each other, and Hikari is not the same girl she was when Takami last saw her. She has fought Neuroi on the front lines and survived, not just once but many times. She has been willing to place her life at risk for the sake of others. She has learned how to use her powers in a way that makes her a capable fighter, although not an excellent one. Perhaps most importantly, she has been accepted by the 502nd as one of them. They know her. They like her. She is “family” now. Despite Hikari’s improvements, Takami would undoubtedly still be a far more capable member to have on the team. But would the team be willing to give up someone who is now one of their own to accept someone who is a stranger to most of them? Would Takami be willing to drive her sister out of this place that Hikari has earned through sweat and blood and tears in order to claim it for herself? I expect these questions, and more, will swirl around the next episode. See you all then.
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