As with Vol. 01 and 03, Operation Victory Arrow Vol. 02 takes place between the end of the second TV season and the Strike Witches movie. In vol. 02, we switch locations to the picturesque Aegean Sea with the focus on 501st Joint Fighter Wing (JFW) members Flight Lieutenant Charlotte E. ‘Shirley’ Yeager (United States of Liberion) and Pilot Officer Francesca Lucchini (Duchy of Romagna). Vol. 02 opens with Shirley and Francesca on some R&R at Francesca’s home. They soon get orders to head to the Crete base for an operation against a pesky Neuroi on Delos who’s causing trouble with nearby shipping lanes. The planned Delos operation causes Francesca quite a bit of distress since she has precious memories of family vacations there. In fact, her father (who is serving in the Romagna Navy) has promised to take Francesca to Delos again during his upcoming leave. After arriving at the Crete base, the two are joined by 31st Joint Fighter Squadron Afrika members Flight Lieutenant Hanna-Justina (“Hanna”) Marseille (Karlsland) and Pilot Officer Raisa Pöttgen (Karlsland). Also making an appearance is Colonel Edytha Neumann along with Afrika Forces Commander, Field Marshall “Ernst” Rommel. The “Desert Fox” has traded hot, sandy desert tank warfare and flea/scorpion ridden tents for attractive, striker equipped witches and a swank Crete base. I call that a step up.
Let me get my primary issue with Vol. 02 out of the way first. I thought things were going just fine until the show pulled some over-the-top, cheesy “Hollywood” type drama with Ernst “coming to save the day”. First, give me a break. Fieseler Fi 156 Storch (see WWII References) or not, landing a plane on a “Liberty Ship” (see WWII References below)? Yeah, not buying it. Second, why is the overall theatre commander flying out into the middle of battle? (I’m as shocked as you are girls). Actually how did Ernst know the winch would run out of fuel? That was a ridiculously well-timed entrance. I could go on. It’s all
just a “bit” too much, and worse, completely unnecessary. Anyway, after a jaunty line of dialog, Ernst hooks up some jumper cables, and… we’re good to go. Cue a couple rounds of shelling by the fleet and scratch one Neuroi. *sigh* Rather than add any drama, the whole thing broke immersion in the story for me.
I really do not understand why the Strike Witches O.V.A. staff felt it was necessary to play up Ernst’s role in all of this. Even before his “dramatic”… whatever at the end, he received considerable screen time – certainly more than a lot of high-ranking, non-witch commanders who are lucky to get 30 seconds of screen time and a line or two or dialog. I can only guess someone on the Strike Witches O.V.A. staff is a big Rommel fan. Having watched both TV seasons, the movie, and O.V.A. Vol. 01, Ernst’s surprisingly large role was both conspicuous and kind of odd for this series. In my opinion, they should have ditched that whole “jumper cable” scene. I had no problem with Ernst’s role up until then. However, if they felt they needed some added drama, have Edytha make a dramatic entrance to help shield the tow cable from attack until the fleet gets a chance to pulverize the Neuroi. Plenty of drama available right there – the four are unable to shield the cable entirely, some near misses start to fray the cable, etc., etc.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to more positive aspects. Apart from the above complaint, on the whole I found Vol. 02 entertaining. I didn’t find Vol. 02 all that funny which is kind of shame since I think the Strike Witches franchise has some good humor, and I do like comedy. Yet to my surprise, I didn’t mind the relative lack of comedy which I think in large part is due to Vol. 02 maintaining a consistently appropriate tone/atmosphere. No need to force a joke just for the sake of having one (something other shows could learn). The pacing was good, arguably very good. The narrative flowed without any rushed feeling. Compared to O.V.A. Vol. 01, there were not as many “WWII Easter Eggs” apart from the usual equipment used by the girls (i.e. WWII fighter plane based strikers units and weaponry), Peter Skene Ogden USN WWII Liberty Ship, Harley-Davidson WLA US military motorcycle, and Fieseler Fi 156. Even so, I didn’t mind that either. Again what was presented worked for the story.
As usual with the franchise, despite a short run time of just under 26 minutes, I thought the characters and character interactions were done well. Nothing “out of character”, but rather consistent with previous material (e.g. Shirley and Hanna’s oppai feud). In fact, I thought there was some nice subtle character depth/development added. Hanna’s softer, empathetic side was shown (not to mention her super kawaii blushing), and I got a sense of Francesca growing up a little when she accepted (sort of) Delos being destroyed rather than be the cause of Shirley and Hanna fighting. I found Edytha interesting because she’s the first witch I really didn’t like. She needs to chill out a little rather than expect perfection every time from Hanna (*pats Hanna ❤ on head*). However, while some might consider the “hard-ass military type” to be cliché, I found her a good, realistic addition. Not every commander is going to be the caring, “motherly” type like Minna, and a “hard-ass” officer is certainly realistic.
Video quality was mostly solid if unspectacular. I think vol. 01 looked somewhat better though perhaps it might be due to the version I watched. Voice acting was good as usual, and same for the music (OP/ED and BGM in particular) as I’ve come to expect from the Strike Witch’s franchise. I suppose I should mention the fan service which was back to TV Season 1 & 2 levels. To be honest, I was surprised since the previous theater releases (Strike Witches Movie and O.V.A. vol. 01) were much more tame and limited in that regard. O.V.A. vol. 02 is definitely a NSFW anime. Personally, I didn’t mind the fan service – nothing new for this series (again very much in line with TV Seasons 1 & 2), and I do not think it got in the way of storytelling. However, others who don’t like that level of fan service may have an issue with it. Finally, one thing that I liked about both O.V.A. Vol. 01 & 02 is the short end scene with Yoshika and Michiko discussing a post card Yoshika got from the witches featured in that particular O.V.A. Minor detail, but something I think adds to the presentation, and a nice touch by the Strike Witches O.V.A. staff.
Overall, I think Vol. 02 compares favorably to O.V.A. vol. 01 though the two are pretty close. While not up to the same level as the Strike Witches Movie, I found O.V.A. vol. 02 to be good, solid Strike Witches fare until towards the end.
- Peter Skene Ogden USN WWII “Liberty Ship”: A USN WWII “Liberty Ship” which was torpedoed by U-boat off the coast of Algeria in Feb. 1944. Though heavily damaged and abandoned, the ship did not sink. It was later towed and beached for possible salvage, but ultimately declared a total loss and scrapped.
- Harley-Davidson WLA US military motorcycle: Shirley’s motorcycle – complete with leather Thompson submachine gun scabbard.
- Fieseler Fi 156 “Storch”: A small German liaison aircraft built before and during World War II. Production continued in other countries into the 1950s for the private market. It remains famous to this day for its STOL performance.
- Usual Strike Witches references including WWII plane based Striker Units and weaponry.