Anthropomorphism and Mecha Musume in Strike Witches

charlotte e yeager francesca lucchini shimada humikane strike witches

I saw the first episode of Strike Witches 2 a few days ago, and it reminds me of everything I loved about the first season: adorable fan service, yuri, and pantsu. Indeed, I enjoyed the first season so much that in anticipation for the second, I bought the stunning artbook from Shimada Humikane, who both designed the characters from Strike Witches and coined the term, “mecha musume.”

lynette bishop miyafuji yoshika shimada humikane strike witches

The pages in the artbook really feature some of the most beautiful artworks. The thick coloring and the bold lines are simply gorgeous. Even more impressive are the charming character designs. I love the contrasting blend of flesh and machine, of animals and girls, and of uniforms and panties. However, at first glance, the mecha and the animal ears seem to be an incoherent combination. Yet, although the two parts should not go together, they just feel so right in Strike Witches.

mecha musume shimada humikane Japan shrine maiden

When one considers what mecha musume are, Shimada Humikane’s design really starts to come together. Mecha musume are the anthropomorphized forms of military vehicles and weapons. Much like the many anime mascots and “-tans”, mecha musume are part of a popular trend of personifying abstract ideas and inanimate entities through embellishing characters with various indicative features.

miyafuji yoshika sakamoto mio shimada humikane strike witches

The mechanized legs are really reminiscent of different World War II aircrafts. For example, Striker Units have propellers, engines, and fins. Even the coloring and the flags suggest of military planes. Certainly, when the girls wear those Striker Units to become Strike Witches, they embody those characteristics. Indeed, they become moefied versions of military weapons.

sanya litvyak shimada humikane strike witches

One of the better examples of this is Sanya. With her Striker Unit and her ability to receive various wavelengths and sing, she is essentially a radio satellite. Those antennas really drive the image further.

lynette bishop perrine clostermann shimada humikane strike witches

Realizing this, it is not such a stretch to tie the mecha to the animal parts. Animal ears and tails are the most abundant forms of moe anthropomorphism in anime. Nekomimi, kitsunemimi, wankomimi, usagimimi, and everything in between are everywhere. Thus, besides being moefied versions of vehicles, these girls are also personified forms of pets and cute animals.

sakamoto mio strike witches sword katana

As a further stretch of this, Strike Witches can also be other ideas personified. For example, with her katana, Sakamoto perhaps hints at an anthropomorphosis of Japanese mentality and spirit. Various costumes also suggest anthropomorphisis of different cultures. Indeed, Strike Witches is just one big presentation of moe anthropomorphism… and pantsu. It is blatant about its fan service and about its attempt to add some cuteness to everything, even war.

And I love Strike Witches for that.

Updates and my responses have been kind of slow lately. I apologize for that. 😦
I am moving back to California soon and I have just been so busy between personal stuff and other engagements. Once I settle down again, things should pick up.

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58 Responses to Anthropomorphism and Mecha Musume in Strike Witches

  1. Holy shit, that artwork is unbelievably gorgeous. I want that book!!!

  2. Swordwind says:

    In short, Strike Witches is silly. And humans are less moe than human-anything combinations. Which, coincidentally, is silly.

    Another show I can’t really watch -.-

    I hope moving isn’t too much of a pain.

  3. Kairu90 says:

    I am definitely loving the artbook. The images in the post look absolutely amazing! I have only recently started watching the first season of Strike Witches (trying to catch up so I can start the new season), but I can already see the qualities you are mentioning. Quite interesting really.

  4. Shin says:

    If there’s anything Strike Witches has done right, it would be this. Then there are the slew of other fetishes, but listing them all down would be too much of a chore. Barkhorn is mai waifu do not claim.

  5. Persocom says:

    I love Strike Witches for it too ^^ The more I see the art in this book the more I want it.

  6. glothelegend says:

    PUT ON SOME PANTS!!!!!!!!

    I’m going to marathon the shit out of this show when it finishes…I loved the first season…but still…..throw on some pants.

    • Yi says:

      @glothelegend: I’ve actually grown used to the pants-less witches. It’d be weird to see them with pants now. Plus, that’s part of the charm. ^ ^

      • Break says:

        the german witch that came to visit from africa did wear a skirt though. it surprised me
        also, in the pilot ova that came out before the series, they also did wear pants or skirts when they were not flieng..

        • Yi says:

          Oh really? I don’t remember that detail, but that’s kind of neat. It makes me like that German witch from Africa even more!

          Thanks for that note and for the visit. ^ ^

  7. Mira says:

    Strike Witches is my guilty pleasure lawl

  8. Tiffy Tran says:

    Though I’m not a fan of mecha themed anime, Strike Witches is definitely an exception. I love the characters, everyone is so cute in their own ways 🙂

  9. Netty Gritty says:

    Here I am again! I just can’t wait to see what new images you post. You have such a beautiful blog and I get kicks out of lovely visuals.

    Keep it up! 😀

    • Yi says:

      @Netty Gritty: Thanks!! I like your blog too, even though most of the stuff just flies by me. I’m not very good with coding and stuff. It’s really useful stuff too.

  10. 2DT says:

    Here’s something I wonder: Did the mecha musume association with historical ace pilots emerge after the work of merging planes with girls was already done, or did Shimada plan it that way from the beginning? Pilot references definitely enrich one’s understanding of the anime adaptation.

    By the way, this is completely unrelated, but here’s an interesting ad that Advantage Lucy did for a bicycle company.

    • Yi says:

      @2DT: The illustrations came before the anime adaptation, and many of them already associate with historical planes. I think when Shimada coined mecha musume, it was specifically referring to the blend of girls and military hardware, including but not limited to planes. There were some with tanks and such.

      Thanks for sharing more Advantage Lucy stuff. Love that group.

      • 2DT says:

        Yes, but I’m referring to the additional references to WWII aces, like Chuck Yeager and Erich Hartmann. I believe there are lengthy charts online which point out the historical references to the pilots’ lives in the show.

        • Yi says:

          @2DT: Oopsies, I misread your comment. Yea, those references completely flew over my head. I actually don’t know much about WWII flight planes or pilots in general.

          Ningyo educated me on that a bit in a comment below, and now I know even more about Chuck Yeager and Erich Hartmann. Thanks!

          Anyways, I would imagine Shimada to be a fan of this subject, so I’m guessing at the very least, he might have these pilots in mind when he created the illustrations. But that’s just my guess. It’d interesting to know.

  11. Fabrice says:

    Mhmm Season 2 so far is quite decent, probably better than S1 =D

  12. bluedrakon says:

    I enjoyed the first series and the artwork is beautiful. May have to check out the second series and add it to my list as well.

    • Yi says:

      @bluedrakon: The second season is looking really lovely so far and it continues the neuroi plot that the first series didn’t quite finish.

  13. Ryouichi says:

    Ooh, I got this artbook two years ago. It is a fine thing indeed. My only gripe with Strike Witches is the current exclusion of the kickass “other” squadrons.

    • Yi says:

      @Ryouichi: Same here. I was hoping we would see some of the other witches featured in the artbook, such as the miko one, but so far, it looks like 2nd season is sticking with the original cast.

  14. Yeah, I’m just not sure I can buy this combination. I did watch one episode of the first season, but always felt that those… errr… features kinda took away from the seriousness or playfulness of the characters. So yeah, count me in as someone who was distracted and thought that putting those animal features + pantsu in was an unnecessary part of the show. =P

    • Yi says:

      @zzeroparticle: I do agree that the pantsu and animal features were unnecessary to the plot or the developments, but I think they were very necessary to the charm of the show.
      After all, I don’t really watch Strike Witches for the predictable plot.

  15. hisui19 says:

    i already watched the first episode and it’s awesome!! XD gonna watch the next!!! ^_^

  16. Ningyo says:

    Isn’t that the sound that comes to mind when you look at some of these?
    In fact, the striker units are actually modeled, or at least colored and named, after WWII fighters. Not just a reference, but a direct parody. Yoshika and Sakamoto-shousa’s were based on the ever famous Zero-sen, and apparently season 2 sees the shousa change to a Kawanishi George. And of course, Lynette is in a Spitfire. Go Canadia!

    Strike Witches drives me insane, just like Koihime Musou. Any historical semblance is bludgeoned by the Neuroi, their moe-moe girly fun, their Joint Fighter Wing, etc etc. Still, can’t help but love the pantsu, the tails and ears, the girls with guns. It’s what I’m really there for, more often than not.

    • Yi says:

      @Ningyo: Thank you for that information! I vaguely recognize the Strike Units as WWII fighters but I actually have no idea which planes they were modeled after. I just based that off a hunch. Stuff like this is never something I’m knowledgeable about. So this tidbit of information is awesome. Thanks! ^ ^

      “Still, can’t help but love the pantsu, the tails and ears, the girls with guns. It’s what I’m really there for, more often than not.”
      Pretty much sums up my feelings for the show.

  17. Nopy says:

    I like the artwork that’s out there for Strike Witches, but it was one of those anime that I couldn’t really get into. It’s like Akikan, I loved the character designs but I just didn’t enjoy watching the anime.

    • Yi says:

      @Nopy: Yea, there are actually quite a lot of anime with great designs that I just can’t get into.
      Honestly, SW does not have much else going for it, but for some reason, it’s just so much fun for me.

  18. softz says:

    Hmm.. You are tempting me with Strike Witches now. I’ve not watched any of it. Since I’ve finished watching Canaan and K-On pretty up to date episode 13. I guess I can try to find some time to try out the episode 1 of Strike Witches too. In fact, I was trying to watch the trailer of your previous post. When I heard “kimochi”, baaa…. I navigated away. I can only watch that at home I supposed, definitely not in office. *LOL*

    • Yi says:

      @softz: I should warn you that Strike Witches is not going to have much story and may be pretty embarrassing if your colleagues catch you watching it. If you enjoy some mindless moe, then this is a great series. But if you’re looking for something a little more thought provoking, more serious, or you just can’t stand fanservicey stuff, then I’d advice against starting Strike Witches.

      “When I heard “kimochi”, baaa…. I navigated away. I can only watch that at home I supposed, definitely not in office. *LOL*”
      Haha, I should really label NSFW posts. I hope everything turned out fine and sorry about that.

  19. Reltair says:

    I remember thinking that only the Witches didn’t wear any pants. Then I saw Yoshika’s graduation ceremony in episode 1. :O

  20. Kyub says:

    Nice post, Yi.
    Yeah, Strike Witches has good lines. The artwork is amazing, too. It’s really like everything seems perfect on Strike Witches. (;

  21. Solaris says:

    Hi. here’s another essay of mine about religion. Sorry if made some mistakes in the obon article’s comment section. I’m still quite new at that, but the matter is really interesting so i’d like to express some more thoughts here, given the related subject is Antropomorphization. This theme s related to the personification or Youkai subject as well. Youkai are indeed personification of animals, things and other phenomenon as well. Antropomorphization of new kind of objects is the new style of this. We could say it’s were new world joins the old one. Pity today’s personification is less spiritual but far more related to fashon and moe. I wouldn’t mind look back at it with a little glimpse of what spirituality was meant once in the old word, would i? Of course the mecha musume come from another root, but it’s essentially an attempt to give a soul to an inanimated object like a plane or a tank. There are plenty of examples of modern personification in anime ad manga. Sky Girls is another well made anime where the heroines are mecha musume themselves. I suggest to give it a try, as its somewhat better than strike witches in some points. Other examples of personifications are os-tans, moetan too.

    • Yi says:

      @Solaris: Interesting. I didn’t think about the youkai angle. Youkai really seems to be an older form of anthropomorphization, but the intent is much different though.
      I should really check out Sky Girls some time. I’ve heard and seen good things bout it.
      OS-tans and moetans are also perfect examples of this!

      “Sorry if made some mistakes in the obon article’s comment section.”
      Don’t worry about it. Your comment is really insightful, and other than a small misuse of a term, it is spot-on. ^ ^

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  23. lovelyduckie says:

    I would say Strike Witches is the most surprising successful combination I’ve ever seen. I haven’t seen it myself and I really don’t have intentions of watching it, but the thought of it never ceases to make me smile and shake my head about what a crazy hobby I’m in.

    • Yi says:

      Haha, your comment made me chuckle. Sometimes when I’m watching and enjoying Strike Witches, I’d pull back and shake my head at its ridiculousness too.

  24. Smithy says:

    Good to see you’re enjoying that Shimada Humikane artbook, it’s one of my favorites. ^^

    Am very glad they’re keeping his artworks as eye-catch for the episodes in the second season too.

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