Strike Witches novels

Steven’s been writing about the Strike Witches second season, which he’s enjoying a lot. As usual, a brief comment got out of hand, so here it is, rather than take up his space…

Curiously, there are also a series of light novels that are attempting to write a history around the war. The anime does not seem to be following it closely, thanks to the ending of the first series; but the same characters are there, as well as many others. Most of the stories follow other IJN Strike Witches sent to the European theater; most from the army are working on the Orussian front. There’s also the Suomus Misfit Squadron (officially the Suomus Volunteer Air Squadron), where everyone dumped their worst problem cases (including the Japanese). They’re fighting out of what we know as Finland. In warmer climes, the Afrika Korps (mostly Karlslanders) fighting against a secondary invasion in Egypt/Lybia; the line’s currently in Tobruk, but facing east, not west. All these stories are set before the animé; there’s talk of setting up a joint fighter squadron of all aces in Brittania, but it hasn’t been confirmed yet.

At least one set of stories does follow the 501st, though it’s not translated yet. In fact, Baka-Tsukai hasn’t completed the translation of any of them yet; as is typical of their volunteer status.

In the light novel history, Neuroi were seen singly for mabye a century or two, but the Great War started in 1939, with the mass invasion of Ostmark (Austria/Hungary area). Although, there is a note about a war in 1917, which may or may not have been the Neuroi. In 1941, a second front was opened with the invasion of Egypt, which is why the Akagi had to sail around the Cape of Good Hope in ’43. There are other incursions that come and go; there’s mention of a “Fuso Incident” in which Japan was attacked, but the Navy repelled the invaders.

While most of the novels are apparently set earlier in the war, it’s mentioned that the reason Karlsland fell is because they sent so much aid to other countries; Gallia wasn’t anywhere near as strong and thus fell immediately afterward. Liberion, as of 1941, is training up its military, and looks to be abandoning its isolationist stance; it sends one terrible screw-up to Suomus. She’s a southerner (from Texas no less) and written as a sweet-but-dumb hick, so I’m wondering if, it were ever animated, would they give her a Kansai accent? Seems likely.

The Suomus stories (3 novels) follow two Japanese girls sent to fight in the frozen north. Tomoko is a tough, dour, highly capable ace from the Fuso incident, but she wont give up her older style Striker unit, is haughty, sees everything as a slight, and a bit paranoid; she comes off like Sakamoto Mio in the original short, only worse. Her ever-so-willing partner, Haruka, is a terrible klutz who has a crush that goes way beyond Perrine’s for Mio. So this is another multi-national squadron, but far less elite, at least to start with; their squadron is full of head-cases and, to put it bluntly, fuck-ups. The American has over sixty kills — all of other Striker units, thanks to landing accidents. The Brit is an insolent head-case who has been arrested 54 times (“no, it was 55.”), and court-martialed eight times (I suspect combat stress–she’s actually pretty good). Their Finnish commander isn’t competent to be an officer, let alone a wing commander. Imagine the timid SOS-dan Mikuru being put in charge of this squadron, and you’re about there. I know Strike Witches are rare, but damn.

The Afrika Korps story (also 3 novels) follows an ex-witch who turned 20 while laid up in the hospital after a training accident and had to resign; she now works as a civilian reporter/photographer. Inspired by her interview with a German ace in Tobruk, she decides to re-enlist, thinking there may be some way she can be of use to the IJN. Much to her surprise, it’s as commander of a Japanese squadron of pilots and support troops dispatched to Tobruk. The translation hasn’t gotten far enough for me to see where it’s going, but I suspect her group will become some kind of reconnaissance force. Interestingly, the African front is noted as the only one where men are the predominant warriors, because the range of their artillery (esp. the Karlslander 88’s) is unimpeded by terrain, and exceeds that of the wildly inaccurate Neuroi.

Back to the 501st group, there’s also 3 novels and nothing translated but the chapter titles. These make me suspect that the episodes from both the first and second series (or at least the better ones) are adapted from the novels. Consider:

Special Operation Riceball!―or, the Maiden’s Waistline
Forget You Not―or, a Red Dress and Lili Marleen

Some differences: the Neuroi aren’t as tough, and attack en masse, instead of individually. They have standardized models recognizable as fighters and bombers, and they use bombs instead of beams for the most part. But hey, bombs aren’t as much fun as beam spam, right?

There is a hint that the break after the first series might not be due to Gonzo: The last chapter title is “Epilogue – Or Prologue?” But given publication dates, it might also be a retcon to keep the anime and novels in line. It will be interesting to find out, as the translations come in, slowly.

Update: forgot to mention, the primary author is Yamaguchi Noboru, who also did Zero no Tsukaima, though the only ones translated so far are parts of the Suomus and Afrika Korps stories, which have different authors. Some semi-official manga have also been produced.

Update 2: Of course, I could always go read the Wiki entry.

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2 Responses to Strike Witches novels

  1. The new series blows my original retcon for the serious out of the blue. But I’ve been thinking about a different retcon which explains everything:

    There are two Neuroi factions and they’re fighting a war against each other. Their war is interstellar but it’s fought on the surface of planets.

    There’s more to the theory, but that’s the essence of it. Does it fit with what you know of the novels?

  2. Ubu Roi says:

    It’s not out of the question that there’s two factions at war, but I don’t believe so. I don’t think that’s where they were going originally; it may be now due to the retcon I mentioned before. It is possible that the Neuroi ARE in two different factions, but nothing in the novels suggests this the way the animé does. Of course, there wasn’t any hint that there might be communication with the Neuroi, until the odd events around the end of the first series, which would be about 2-3 years in the future of the translated novels. Bear in mind that I’m working from about half of the first Suomus novel and less of the first Afrika Korps novel.

    The Neuroi in the novels are definitely inimical; they send sixty bombers at a time to raid cities, and wherever their ground troops go, they produce a noxious cloud that is poisonous to humans (yet somehow, remains only within areas they have effective control of). One novel refers to a similar war in 1917, and random sightings prior to that, the other just starts the invasion out of the blue in 1939.

    I could buy a theory that there’s two interstellar factions at war with each other, and the stronger decided to invade Earth for use as an advanced base, only to be surprised by the Strike Witches. The weaker infiltrated that effort in order to make contact with the humans and eventually managed to sabotage it entirely. Something like that was the rationale behind the British high command getting enough technology to create their pseudo-Neuroi units. Some of the rest of what happened in the last couple of episodes of the first series could be explained as the equivalent of a cyberspace war going on within the Neuroi hive, between the Militants and the Saboteurs, to give them names. Behind the scenes, elements among the Saboteurs had already made contact with the BAF, leading to a technology transfer and construction of the pseudo-Neuroi units. The 501st was broken up, not because of some insane plot, but because they were multi-national; the BAF wanted to keep sole contact with the aliens. In the meantime, the Saboteurs got the upper hand, and shut the hive down or destroyed it, but weren’t able to get a full report back to their home planets.

    So when the Saboteur diplomatic mission shows up to try and make contact with the Earth and these Strike Witches, who would make fine allies against the Militants, they didn’t know how to talk to humans directly (or just didnt’ get the chance). Nor did they go straight to Brittania — or perhaps, the report that they received was complete enough that they decided they didn’t want to talk to Brittania, which was obviously playing its own game. Unfortunately, the Militants had decided to double down, as they couldn’t let the Saboteurs succeed in enlisting Earth as an ally. The Saboteurs’ diplomatic craft arrived mere moments before the next invasion wave hit Earth, and was destroyed in the opening shots of the Second Neuroi War.

    That doesn’t contradict anything in the novels I’ve seen thus far, but I’m not sure how it fits with the end of first season, as I quit watching around episode 10; with the first hints that the earth militaries were cooperating with the Neuroi, I bailed. Of course, this theory would put a different spin on it; the BAF were cooperating with the Saboteurs, who were handing over Neuroi technology. They weren’t saints, but they weren’t traitors in the name of building bigger toys either.

    But on the other hand, who’s to say that the Neuroi haven’t been scouting us in OUR history also… Churchill ordered UFO Coverup (Note that the picture has nothing to do with the incident that was suppressed.)

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