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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