Strike Witches… needs no introduction. A bunch of little girls flying around in the sky with nothing but the least of undergarments on their tushes, it has been described as simultaneously fanservice, drama and an ode to history.Owing to the show’s enigmatic status as both a fanservice show and a historical homage (though the first was, bluntly put, fanserviced historical homage), directors have to cater to both core audiences: First, the original core audience, the people who would watch the show to indeed watch a bunch of little girls flying around in underwear, and the second, cult core audience, who are actually watching the show for the subtle references to history and the surprisingly strong character development within the series.
Parts of the show catering to the original core are fairly obvious; it’s a bunch of little girls prancing around in underwear, for one. And there is almost always a bath scene in every episode, with the obligatory lightstream-censoring keeping things safe for a television audience.
The not-so-obvious fanservice comes in the form of the little character quirks that each girl has, and the often inane actions (cute-looking, by the way, if you didn’t get my drift) which they engage in to pander to the viewers.
Parts that cater to the second, on the other hand, are less obvious. A history buff with sufficient knowledge about World War II pilots would know off-hand about the references that the Striker units and the characters themselves make to real life.
Miyafuji Yoshika （宮藤 芳佳） is based on Muto Kaneyoshi （武藤 金義）, similarly to how her two Striker units, the Zero and the Magnificent Lightning, are based on the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and the Kyushu J7W Shinden respectively.
Other similar examples include Erica Hartmann being based on the famous German pilot Erich Hartmann, and the jet Striker being based on the Messerschmidt Me262, the first jet-powered air superiority fighter in the world.
In fact, some of these references are pretty subtle. Episode 10’s choice of character, Hanna-Justina Marseille, is based on an ace that, while famous among fighter enthusiasts, is only credited with 150 kills in real life – a number far inferior to that of Hartmann’s 352 victories.
In the series, however, Hanna was credited with over 200 kills and is a celebrity – an exploration of what might have happened if Marseille had not died to engine failure in an alternate universe context.
Of course, the show does take some liberties with the references – (irl) Hartmann was never much of a dogfighting pilot, and would have never been able to go toe-to-toe with Marseille, whom the real-life pilot considered “the best”, and the real Marseille would never have gone so fast in a real battle.
Do I love this show for its historical references, however? Yes, indeed. This show is a dirty fantasy for me – even while I enjoy watching it for the characters (oh god Hartmann is cute) and the development, something somewhere inside me squeals every time the show references something I know.
And of course, there’s the fact that I love fighter aircraft and I love magical girls. And more than that, I love magical girls with vast amounts of power. That’s why Strike Witches is an easy shoe-in for me.