After a two year break, Strike Witches anime returns with the first of three OVAs – Operation Victory Arrow vol. 01: St. Trond no Raimei (Saint Trond’s Thunder).
As with the vol. 02 and 03, Operation Victory Arrow vol. 01 takes place between the end of the second TV season and the Strike Witches movie. Here, the focus is on the 501st Joint Fighter Wing (JFW) Karlsland trio of Wing Commander Minna-Dietlinde Wilcke, Flight Lieutenant Gertrude Barkhorn (Trude), and Flying Officer Erica Hartmann. About a half month after the 501st was disbanded, Minna, Trude and Erica are reassigned to the St. Trond base in the Kingdom of Belgica with Minna replacing Flight Lieutenant Heidemarie W. Schnauferde as base commander. Shortly after the trio settle in to their new home, Erica’s twin sister, Flying Officer Ursula Hartmann, arrives with an assortment of prototype weaponry and equipment for field testing.
I think the Strike Witches production staff had a bit of fun here when naming the OVA series “Operation Victory Arrow”. In my opinion, that word play is quite fitting because “O.V.A.” vol. 01 came across as, well, “OVAish”. More fun hijinks + some action eye-candy + a little fan service than anything substantial in terms of character development, world building and/or progression of the series’ overall story.
First, let me say that I did enjoy the OVA. I don’t think it was bad by any means. But (and yes there is a “but”), it wasn’t great either, and frankly a little disappointing coming off of what I thought was a very good movie apart from some deus ex scripting and perfunctory battle at the end. In contrast the OVA felt more of a “check the box” type production. To use an analogy, the ingredients one would expect were there, but the meal turned out less than fully satisfying.
My biggest complaint centers around the plot line concerning the relationship “problems” between Erica and Ursula. Specifically, I found Erica’s angry outbursts and unfair treatment of Ursula too extreme – extreme to the point of being somewhat character and story insistent. At the end of S2 Ep. 04 (when Trude flew the “Me 262 Jet Striker” prototype v1), Erica showed no signs of being upset with Ursula despite what happened. In fact, she was very nonchalant about Ursula’s arrival, and seemed more interested in the french fries Yoshika made than anything else. In the OVA, Erica is quite happy to see Ursula when Ursula arrives. There’s no hint of Erica’s apparently severe displeasure over what happened before or Ursula’s job in general.
Now it’s not a stretch by any means for Erica to be concerned when Ursula unveils the Jet Striker v2. After all, Erica has always had a soft spot for Trude, and things did go wrong before. However, for Erica to go as far to say “Everything Ursula brings is useless!” is jarring to me and lacks sufficient background/setup. “Everything”? Really? It’s even more suspect when both Trude (who actually flew the defective v1 prototype) and Minna (who is known to be very concerned about the well-being of those under her command) have no significant worries this time around. Again, it’s a matter of degree, and for me the result was that this plot line came across as overly heavy-handed. A way to set up what I guess was deemed a required “feel good” reconciliation and “power of friendship” (in this case family) type plot line. Was it terrible? No, but enough to be noticeable, especially considering the series has handled such plot lines better on more than one occasion.
The humor component fared better in my opinion with a few “LOL” scenes. The usual Trude-Erica banter worked fine as always, and I did LOL at Minna being “bribed” with coffee (I can empathize all too well Minna XD ). A blushing Trude in a medio outfit was very cute though I did wonder why Ursula decided to give Trude that particular gift. I expected the dress to be a gift for Trude’s sister, Chris, (similar to S2 Ep. 05) which would have made more sense in my opinion (Trude could have been persuaded to try it on for size or something – I can see Ursula getting the size wrong). Not a big deal, but again, enough to make me think about it. While I’m not sure if it was meant to be comedy, fan service or both, meido Heidemarie FTW! Shame Heidemarie didn’t get any meaningful screen time and dialog.
The final battle itself was fine in general though I thought it lacked sufficient tension. Nothing came as a surprise – including Erica and Ursula putting aside their differences (well, really just Erica) to save the day. Again, not bad, but still not quite up to par compared to some of the previous Strike Witches battles I’ve watched. Albeit for credible reasons (i.e. a surprise attack), I have mixed feelings about watching Trude fight in that dress. For me it made taking the battle seriously more difficult. Granted the witches fly around in their pantsu (or swimsuits) anyway, but that dress was very conspicuous and, frankly, a little jarring visually. Just my opinion as I suspect most Strike Witches fans very much enjoyed watching “meido Trude” in battle.
Overall visual quality, including the battles, was superior as one would expect for a theatrical release. There were some very nice backgrounds including the witches flying through cloud laden skies. CGI was a times was bit noticeable, but overall good enough. As with both TV seasons and the movie, I found the OVA soundtrack, particularly the background music, very good as well.
Typical of the franchise, OVA vol. 01 did fine job with WWII references and there were a number of them – some quite obscure: A curved barrel rifle (RL counterpart); a “simple” air to air homing missile (RL counterpart); a flight capable flamethrower (RL counterpart); a sonic cannon (RL counterpart); an MK-214 50mm cannon (RL counterpart) – an improved version of the 50mm BK-5 cannon; the BF109 “Zwei Link” Striker (RL counterpart); the HE-162 Jet Striker prototype (RL counterpart); and of course the 2nd generation prototype ME 262 Jet Striker (RL counterpart ) – including details on the Juma 004-D engine (RL counterpart)
Despite a few issues, overall I think Strike Witches Operation Victory Arrow vol. 01: St. Trond no Raimei was a good OVA. It doesn’t quite measure up to the movie, TV Season 1 or even parts of TV Season 2, but most, if not all, Strike Witches fans should enjoy watching it.
LOL, I did not catch the Operation Victory Arrow =>OVA joke and here I was wondering where such a silly title came from. Oh well. I have to say that it was better than many OVAs in that it wasn’t just an excuse for fanservice (not that there wasn’t any) with a weak or no plot, though I agree with diakama that it was very OVAish and added little to advancing the overall story. Some things just seemed to be thrown in as space fillers such as what amounts to a cameo by Heidemarie being relieved of command by Minna. Even the curved barrel rifle (krumlauf mounted on a Sturmgewehr 44), though actual weapon, made no sense in the story since when would the Strike Witches ever use such a weapon which was designed for firing out of a tank. Basically, just a throwaway WWII reference. The others that daikama references are a little more relevant to the story, though I don’t think I want to be flying that flame thrower! The MK214 is also somewhat of a stretch since the real one weighs 718kg which is over ¾ of a ton! IIRC we don’t see the girls carrying anything of that size in other parts of the story. Since Trude is supposed to have Superhuman strength as her power, it’s justified for her but how many Strike Witches can even use that thing? How did Erica manage it?
While I agree that the Erica/Ursula conflict seemed contrived, though they did show Erica looking somewhat horrified at the weapons that Ursula had brought even before the Mk214 was unveiled. OTOH, it’s true that Erica didn’t seem at all upset with Ursula in the episode where the prototype jet was introduced. They definitely lacked some background to show why Erica was opposed to Barkhorn flying the jet. If they had had Erica listing some of the failures (with possible vignettes showing them) it might have made more sense. Could also made for some funny moments showing the failures.
AFA the Bf-109 “zwei” goes, I wasn’t aware of that model which is similar to the Mustang F-82 though neither of them utilized more than one pilot (the second cockpit in the Mustang was used for a radar operator). Flying with both Hartman’s was just a plot expedient.
I agree with daikama on the battle though Ursula suddenly pulling the He-162 out of the hat like a rabbit was a bit much. It did give us another WWII reference though.
Overall impression? A very good OVA with superior animation and story to most OVAs though not up to the quality of the original series and movie.