In a nutshell: Pants are largely overrated anyway.
Oh, Strike Witches. What have you been up to for the past couple of years? Have you found pants? Nope. Have you given up on the panty shots and fan-service? Uh-uh. So what have the cute little witches been up to? Honestly, not much. Come to the second season of Strike Witches expecting more of the same, though that's not necessarily a bad thing.
FUNimation's release of the second season brings all twelve episodes to the States on two Blu-ray discs. Fans of the original are in for a treat because this time around it's not only familiar ground, but it's marginally better with more focus. That's not to say that the first season was scattershot by any means, but fan-service was the primary objective and story played a second fiddle. While that's still sort of the case here, there's a greater emphasis on developing the world, characters, and story. It helps to flesh out the series, if you'll pardon my pun.
This season starts out roughly six months after the events of the first series. Yoshika has just graduated from middle school and in déjà vu fashion she hitches a ride on a truck with her friend and gets to practice her witchy healing magic on an injured bear cub. Her magic proves to be as potent as ever, if not more so. She and her friend are on their way see Mio to deliver some important blueprints that were mailed to her. The nature of these prints is not known to her and she hopes that Mio may be able to make some sense of it, but to say the reception she gets from her old friend and leader is cold would be an understatement. Yoshika is a civilian now after all.
Soon after she comes in contact with Mio a powerful Neuroi has taken out the 504, leaving many of her friends and colleagues in danger. That's right! The old alien nemesis has returned except this time they are far superior and more deadly. Isn't that always the case? At any rate, Mio heads off to investigate and against her orders Yoshika straps on a pair of Striker boots and darts off after her.
From this point the show goes into full reunion mode as Yoshika and Mio meet up with all the other witches to take down this new Neuroi. It's a tricky son of a gun with a core that moves and it regenerates faster, but with the onslaught of witch magic, technology, and Mio's sword they are able to defeat the monster. The girls seem a little rusty in the fight though, and with a stronger enemy they need to do some more training to get back into the swing of things. Yoshika, Lynne and Perrine are sent to an old witch in order to get back to basics, so to speak. They get to ride old-school brooms instead of their Striker Units, which leads to plenty of awkwardness as the girls react...how should I put it...aroused by the brooms rubbing up against their nether regions. Yes folks, these are middle school girls in panties rubbing sticks, you know...down there. Anyways, another Neuroi appears and it makes a beeline for the place the girls are staying, so it's up to them to stop it and get on with the show.
The rest of the season lines up to put the girls on track to fight the mother of all Neuroi in an epic battle that pushes the girls to their limits. In between there's some experimental Striker Units put into place such as a jet version and a new version just for Yoshika. Other than constant fighting with Neuroi and panty-shots aplenty, Strike Witches really sets to focus on the building of the characters and their relationships. While the first season gave each individual girl more development, this season largely features Mio and Yoshika, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The centralized attention that they get really develops their characters and gives the ending more meaning.
Ultimately, the second season of Strike Witches is something that is reserved almost exclusively for fans of the first season. There's hardly any flashback or history lesson to jog the memory and it really hits the ground running in terms of characters, concept, and story. Granted this isn't a multi-layered anime with diverging plotlines and hooks to keep you watching; it's moe overload with fan-service to boot. Consider it recommended watching if you liked the first season.
Strike Witches is presented on Blu-ray with AVC encoding and 1080p output with an anamorphic widescreen ratio. The picture quality doesn't really disappoint here and fans of the original will be quite pleased with what's offered. Clean lines, sharp details, and eye-popping colors grant plenty of eye candy and the attractive character designs and fluid animations only add to the experience. The second season looks much better than the first in terms of production and this blu-ray is a definite improvement over the first release.
Like most other FUNimation releases, Strike Witches Season Two comes with Japanese 2.0 Dolby TrueHD stereo and English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD surround for audio options. The Japanese track is solid with excellent sounding audio, but a limited presents on the soundstage. There's definitely nothing that detracts from the program other than the flatness of the feature. The English version amps it up a bit, though the English cast kind of hams it up in the dub, making the Japanese track more preferable in some senses.
Two audio commentaries, trailers, and clean animations are included here. The audio commentaries (for episode 5 and 9) are entertaining with the lively English cast having some laughs talk about their experience on the show. Neither commentary is particularly interesting or insightful into the series itself or production of the English version.
The war on pants continues as the second season of Strike Witches hits the market. It stands up to the expectations set by the first and is quite entertaining in its own right. With more of a focus on Yoshika and Mio's developments and relationship the series sets a tone and gets more dramatic towards the end as the story unfolds. Granted there is plenty of inappropriate eye-candy in between and more moe than you can shake a broom at, but that's why you're coming to this series in the first place. It's a cute guilty pleasure that doesn't take itself seriously in the least. It's fun from start to finish and that's all that matters. Recommended
Please note that this review was previewed on a screener copy of the disc. Final product may vary.