Now this is how you do a finale. From start to finish this episode has completely captured my attention, keeping me interested, engaged, and invested in everything that was going on. Friendship, loyalty, and teamwork pave the way for determination, hard work, and inventiveness to pay off for our heroines, allowing them to accomplish something that should have been impossible.
Starting from the beginning, the first part of the episode covers Takami’s attempt to spot the core with her Absolute Eye, while Hikari hopelessly runs through woods and across lakes to try to stop her. One thing that seems clear is that Takami hasn’t really adapted to the team mindset yet. Rather than requesting cover while she uses her Absolute Eye, she recklessly charges in to try to handle it on her own. Of course, just like last episode, everyone quickly comes to help her. She’s risking her life to try and accomplish their mission: they’re not going to leave her to do that alone.
It’s frightening for a moment when she takes another hit despite everything, just as she spots the true core. It feels like it’s happening all over again. This time, however, Georgette reaches her within seconds, her expression determined. Georgette felt she failed once before when she wasn’t able to heal Takami and bring her out of her coma. She has no intention of letting that happen this time.
With the position relayed, the final AP round is fired. However the Neuroi aren’t out of tricks yet. Large vents on the side of the hive begin to spew a dark smog, and the clouds that have always obscured a hive rapidly reform. And as the AP shell hits them, we can see why no intruder has ever survived trying to enter a hive: red lightning strikes the shell from all sides, blasting it apart. The despair and anguish in that moment is palpable, as the pieces of their last hope fall to Earth. After everything they’ve done, after all the efforts they’ve given, after Takami risked her life to give them that final shot, to see it all rendered useless is heartrendingly painful and frustrating.
It is into this situation that Hikari makes her entry, and she is overjoyed to learn that Takami is not seriously hurt. And more importantly, she brings with her her own headstrong determination. While everyone else has seen their best efforts fail and the situation now seem hopeless, Hikari breaks through their despair with her determination to win anyway. She has no idea how to do it, but as she has told us repeatedly throughout the entire season, we don’t know unless we try.
When the AP round shattered and I saw the glowing magical core fall along with the pieces of the shell, I figured it would end up still being important. Years of video game and anime experience have taught me to pay attention to glowy things. I hadn’t expected them to be able to find a fragment of the HE round that was used to blast away the clouds, though. That seems awfully convenient, although given that it was an explosive round, it makes sense for pieces of it to have been blasted around the general area of the hive at the moment of impact. Regardless, with the magic from the AP round infused into Kanno’s glove, and the fragment of the HE round attached to Rall’s grenade launcher, the witches get one more chance to finish off this hive for good.
There is no question that the 502nd is happier to have Hikari flying along with them again.Their plan is improvised, their tools are makeshift, if anything goes wrong they’ll almost certainly never make it out alive, and yet the entire team is cheerful as they fly towards the hive. Despite the dangers, they are now all together again. Despite the weaknesses Hikari has compared to Takami, they know her, and they trust that she will accomplish her part. Perhaps that ability to trust in each other plays the biggest part in their lack of tension here. They’re no longer relying on artillery to get the vital shot in; the mission no longer depends on anything they can’t control. The mission’s success or failure lies solely in their hands, and they believe absolutely in each others’ ability to accomplish their tasks.
The final battle is intense, with everyone doing their part, but it comes down to Hikari and Kanno making a race for the main body of the hive in something of a role reversal. With Kanno carrying the precious payload for the final strike on the core, she can’t risk fighting, so Hikari is actually the one covering her as they rush in, spot the core, and then charge for the final strike. I admit, I was expecting Kanno to finish it off with her Tsurugi Issen; that would have been fine in my eyes. Hikari had already done more than enough to prove that she was an indispensable part of this victory. But having her make the final shot with that damaged Liberator… that is just awesome. And it’s still perfectly in line with what we know she’s learned, using Rossman’s lessons to concentrate all her magic into the gun in her right hand, and then shoot.
This victory is amazing, and worthy of all the praise anyone can give. Certainly it’s a victory of many parts, and no one could have accomplished it if the others hadn’t done what they did, but that doesn’t diminish the value of what was accomplished. They have destroyed a Neuroi hive; not by abusing Neuroi technology, not by some method that they can’t understand and can’t control, but with skill, determination, willpower, and using tools and strategies that can adapted and re-used in other battles. While the destruction of the hive in Gallia in the first season of Strike Witches showed that it was possible to defeat the Neuroi, it’s the destruction of this hive, I believe, that gives humanity a viable strategy for doing do in the future. Also, Hikari gets to join the elite ranks of witches who have actually made a killing blow on a Neuroi hive. Right now she’s one of only two people to accomplish that feat.
Now that the immediate threat of Grigori has passed, the Brave Witches are being redeployed to a new front. Unlike the 501st that is formed from elites for a specific purpose and then disbanded once that purpose is complete, the 502nd is a long standing unit that is merely sent to a new area once their current situation is dealt with. And of course, the unit isn’t going anywhere without their little Fuso squirrel. As Takami says in the end, Hikari has found the place where she can shine the brightest. It was an accident that brought her there, and no one expected her to be able to handle it, yet now no one can argue that she does not belong there. She is a part of that unit, a member of their family, and she has earned her place there through blood, sweat, and tears, overcome trials by fire and ice, and defeated the greatest challenges anyone could face. That is where she belongs, and no one is going to try to change that ever again.
This was a good episode. I might even say a really good episode. Intense action, strong emotions, good highs and lows, and a solid resolution. It was engaging enough that I wasn’t thinking about the tropes that were being used or what was likely to happen next. I was simply caught up in the flow and swept along. In my eyes, that makes for good writing. And a good finale. With this, Brave Witches has come to an end, aside from a bonus episode that I heard is going to be made available sometime in January. But since that is a bonus, I’m not counting it in the regular series review. My thanks to anyone who’s followed these reviews: I hope you’ve enjoyed them. I’ll hopefully have review post up for the full series in the not too distant future.
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