Set in an alternate timeline World War II, Strike Witches focuses on Witches, elite pilots with innate magical ability, who fly Striker Units and fight against the alien Neuroi who have attacked Earth and devastated most of Europe. The existence of magic makes the world inherently different, however most events and history are largely the same until the Great War. During the World War I, powerful aliens attacked humanity, interrupting the war; although they were defeated, interruption of the war had lasting effects. Nazi-ism never formed in the Empire of Karlsland (based on Germany), the Bolshevik Revolution never occurred in Orussia (based on Russia), Ostmark (based on Austria-Hungary) still exists in full; also of note is that the Italian unification never occurred, leaving the Duchy of Romagna and Duchy of Venezia both on the Apennine Peninsula. Earth's geography differs slightly as well, notably the coastline of North America, but as a whole the world can be defined as "alternate timeline Earth".
In 1937, the Neuroi attacked the Empire of Fuso (based on Japan), but thanks largely to the newly developed Striker Units and the Witches flying them, the Neuroi were repulsed. In 1939, several Neuroi hives formed over Europe, obliterating cities, killing thousands, and forcing humanity to retreat. Much like the real world Fall of Europe in 1939/40, humanity's last free bastion in Europe became the Commonwealth of Britannia (based on Britain), a safe haven only because Neuroi are averse to crossing bodies of water. Given this context, humanity's countries are not at war with each other, but united to defend against the Neuroi, and as such Witches and other military members from all nations work and fight alongside one another.
The story of Strike Witches picks up in early 1944, when Yoshika Miyafuji, due to her extremely strong magical ability, is recruited to by Squadron Leader Mio Sakamoto of the Fuso Imperial Navy to become a Witch. The story of the first season introduces the world and setting of the series, and follows Yoshika's struggles to become a Witch in the 501st Joint Fighter Wing, known as the Strike Witches. The 501st JFW's base is located in Folkestone Harbour, which in the real world was an important strategic port, especially notable for its involvement in the Dunkirk evacuation. All the Witches in the series are based on real world WWII fighter aces; those details will be noted for each character as they come up.
In chronological order, Strike Witches is followed by Brave Witches, which involves the 502nd Joint Fighter Wing; Brave Witches is set before Strike Witches 2.
Warning: Some descriptions and images are potential spoilers for the series, read at your own risk.
The following weapons were used in the anime series Strike Witches:
A Walther PPK is issued to Sergeant Yoshika Miyafuji (inspired by Japanese ace Kaneyoshi Mutou) when she first arrives in Britannia, however she refuses the pistol, stating a dislike for guns. To explain Yoshika's mindset, Yoshika's father, Ichiro Miyafuji (inspired by Jiro Horikoshi, chief designer of many WWII Japanese aircraft), worked on and perfected the Striker Units the Witches use, but he was killed in an accident in his lab in the late '30s, and as such Yoshika, a young civilian in Fuso away from the war, always saw the conflict little more than a terrible, far away thing that stole her father from her. Yoshika accepts Mio's offer to come to Europe on the condition that she simply wants to help people, however Yoshika fairly quickly learns that to help the most people, one must fight the Neuroi. Official artwork for the series later shows Yoshika using a Mauser M712 Schnellfeuer as her sidearm.
Wing Commander Minna-Dietlinde Wilcke of Karlsland (inspired by German ace Wolf-Dietrich Wilcke) uses an identical PPK, which she either keeps on her person or pulled out for the occasion she is seen using it. It's possible its issued to all new Witches of the 501st, but it's not seen otherwise.
The PPK lies on top of a box containing Yoshika Miyafuji's personal effects. Note the Walther logo, and that the safety is on. (Ep.3)
Yoshika returns the PPK, stating that she dislikes guns. (Ep.3)
Minna Wilcke draws her PPK on an old friend. (Ep.8)
Mio almost doesn't even seem surprised. (Ep.8)
Minna could pass for a Bond girl in that dress. (Ep.8)
A close-up of the PPK's muzzle, with the Walther logo. (Ep.9)
Minna begs Mio not to leave. (Ep.9)
Although she initially turned down her PPK, Yoshika acquired a Mauser M712 Schnellfeuer as a sidearm sometime during the events of Season 1, as seen in official artwork.
Mauser M712 - 7.63x25mm Mauser
Yoshika fires her Schnellfeuer left-handed, while still holding her Type 99, as Mio slices a section off a Neuroi with her katana. Note the pair are using Miyabishi Heavy Industries Type 0 Model 22 A6M3a Striker Units, putting this fight before the end of the first season. (Art)
Sten Mk II
Sten Mk II submachine guns are used by Britannian troops under the command of Air Chief Marshall Trevor Maloney, ordering the 501st JFW be disbanded, intent on replacing Witches with his new mechanized Warlock aircraft/mech. Maloney and his actions are directly inspired by Air Vice-Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, and Leigh-Mallory's similar political moves during the Battle of Britain.
Britannian soldiers hold their Stens behind Maloney. (Ep.10)
The soldiers gripping their Stens by the magazines - effectively asking for them to jam in the event they need to actually shoot someone. (Ep.10)
Britannian soldiers encircle half of the Strike Witches. This positioning would more than likely lead to them hitting each other were they to fire, especially given Witches have shields. Ep.10)
Minna shows admirable calmness, despite being held at gunpoint by Britannian troops. (Ep.11)
The injured and presently wheelchair-bound Mio surrenders her katana to a Britannian soldier, with a Sten slung over his shoulder. (Ep.11)
Boys Mk I*
Flight Sergeant Lynette Bishop of Britannia uses a Boys Mk I* with the bipod removed in her role as the 501st's designated marksman. Lynette, along with her older sister Wilma, are inspired by the children of WWI Canadian ace Billy Bishop, William and Margaret Bishop, both of whom served in WWII, William as a Spitfire pilot. While Lynette is purely Britannian, in a reversal of the Bishop sisters' inspiration Wilma enlisted and serves in the Faraway Land Air Force (Canada, but name inspired by Newfoundland). Wilma does not appear in the anime, but is the protagonist of the One-Winged Witches manga, which follows the Isle of Wight Detachment Group.
Boys Mk I* - .55 Boys (13.9x99mm B)
Lynette Bishop fires her Boys in the opening battle. (Ep.1)
A view through the sights as Lynette practices at base. (Ep.3)
Lynette rechambers her Boys, something she can do very
Lynette scores an extremely long range hit, impressing both Yoshika and Mio; the latter is using her magic eye to actually be able to see the target. (Ep.3)
A view down the Boys' sights... from the other end. (Ep.3)
A stitched image of Lynette aiming her rifle. (Ep.3)
Looking down the massive barrel, note the offset sights. (Ep.3)
Yoshika supports Lynette, physically and emotionally, as they team up to take down a Neuroi. Yes, Yoshika is holding and firing her Type 99 one-handed. (Ep.3)
Lynette cycles her Boys extremely rapidly, sending a wall of lead at the oncoming Neuroi. (Ep.3)
Lynette glomps Yoshika after a battle above Pas-de-Calais, showcasing the incredibly long barrel of the Boys, as well as her Ultramarine Spitfire Mk IX Striker Unit. (Ep.8)
An ecstatic Lynette after their apparent victory. (Ep.12)
Stuck in a narrow hallway and unable to properly dodge, Lynette's rifle takes a Neuroi beam to the barrel, slicing off the end. (Ep.12)
Bren Mk1 (M)
A Bren Mk1 (M) with the bipod removed is carried by Flying Officer Pierrette-Henriette "Perrine" Clostermann (inspired by French ace Pierre Henri Clostermann) of Gallia (France). She would prefer to use a Chatellerault M1924/29, but uses the much more common (in Britannia) Bren due to Gallia being occupied by the Neuroi.
Bren Mk1 (M) - .303 British
Pierrette Clostermann with her Bren in the opening credits. (OP)
Perrine makes her debut in the opening battle. (Ep.1)
Perrine covers a downed and injured Gertrud Barkhorn with her shield. (Ep.4)
Perrine and Eila fly through a rainstorm; note the navigation lights on Perrine's Arsenal VG 39 Striker Unit. (Ep.6)
Perrine charges into a large group of small Neuroi to unleash her special Tonnerre
(Thunder) ability, unleashing a devastating blast of lightning. It also has the unfortunate side effect of making her hair a frizzy mess, and being Gallian nobility, that just won't do. (Ep.8)
The stainless steel flash hider of Perrine's Bren gleams as she challenges Yoshika to a duel. (Ep.10)
Speeding over the Britannian countryside, Perrine searches for Yoshika. (Ep.10)
The newbie trio prepares to finish the fight, with Francesca having just cleared them a path. (Ep.12)
Perrine simultaneously fires her Bren and uses her shield. (Ep.12)
Realizing her machine gun is no use against a metal bulkhead, Perrine discards her empty Bren. (Ep.12)
The Browning Automatic Rifle, with its bipod removed (this is a trend), is the preferred weapon of Flight Lieutenant Charlotte Elwyn "Shirley" Yeager of the United States of Liberion. Naturally, Charlotte is inspired by American ace (and later test pilot) Charles Elwood "Chuck" Yeager, while the USL is inspired by the United States of America. Shirley, ever the mechanic and tinkerer, isn't especially impressed with her BAR, but appreciates its durability despite its other drawbacks.
Browning M1918A2 - .30-06
Charlotte Yeager with her BAR, as the Strike Witches are introduced. (Ep.1)
"Well, if you were directly above it, how could you see it?" "Because I was inverted." (Ep.1)
An absolutely gorgeous shot of Shirley's custom-tuned North Liberion P-51D Striker Unit, and her BAR strapped to her back as she chases an extremely fast Neuroi that resembles an SR-71. (Ep.5)
Charlotte and Francesca train against Yoshika and Perrine in a mock battle. (Ep.9)
Charlotte looks back in surprise as Yoshika gets the drop on her. Note the training-version BAR, with all its metal parts coloured orange to denote that it fires paint rounds. (Ep.9)
An unloaded training M1918A2 sits on a gun rack. (Ep.9)
Charlotte, Francesca, and the Karlsland trio look at the absolutely massive Neuroi hive over Gallia. (Ep.10)
Charlotte and company join up with Yoshika during the final battle. Witches' legs do not actually fit inside their Strikers, but rather only enter them a few inches, phasing into a pocket dimension / "hammerspace", as the vast majority of space inside Striker Units houses their piston-driven, magic-fuelled engines. (Ep.12)
The Browning M1919A6 is carried by Pilot Officer Francesca Lucchini (inspired by Italian ace Franco Lucchini) of Romagna. It was given to her by Charlotte, her best friend and combat partner, after Francesca misplaced the Romagnan weapons she had brought to Britannia with her. Francesca states that she likes the gun because of its high rate of fire, durability, and high ammo capacity. To allow Francesca to use it while flying, the M1919A6 has been modified with a fixed ammo box, with a handle on top she sometimes uses to hold the gun in a hipfire position.
Browning M1919A6 - .30-06
A top view of the Browning as Francesca Lucchini fights alongside the rest of the group in the opening credits. (OP)
Francesca in the heads into battle with the rest of the 501st. (Ep.1)
A beautiful shot of Francesca's M1919A6; note the shoulder stock and pistol grip of the A6, and the custom ammo box. This also gives a good look at her Farotto G.55 Centauro Striker Unit. (Ep.1)
Francesca uses a practice-version M1919A6 in a mock battle. (Ep.9)
Francesca takes aim at Yoshika... (Ep.9)
...before Yoshika pulls some quick aerobatics and gets behind her. This is an excellent look at how the custom ammo box works; the shelf underneath is permanently attached to the gun, while the box inside it with the handle on top is removable, and held in place by that metal catch on the side. (Ep.9)
Francesca and company watch the Gallia Neuroi hive. (Ep.10)
Francesca lets loose her signature move: Stacking a whole bunch of shields together and plowing through stuff. It's super effective. (Ep.12)
The MG 42, with its bipod removed like everything else, is used by the members of the 501st from Karlsland and Suomus (Finland). Due to her increased strength ability (on top of all Witches having better strength as a baseline), Flight Lieutenant Gertrud Barkhorn (inspired by German ace Gerhard Barkhorn, including both of them being the second-highest-scoring ace of the war) prefers using two MG 42s at once, to devastating effect, Minna likes the gun's "balance of power and stability", while Flying Officer Erica Hartmann (inspired by German ace Erich Hartmann, also top ace of the war) prefers it to her MP40 sidearm because "it shoots fast and rarely stops working".
Flying Officer Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen (inspired by Finnish ace Eino Ilmari Juutilainen) of Suomus prefers the MG 42 to her heavy (for an SMG) Suomi KP/-31. Eila's magical trait of short-term precognition allows her to effortlessly dodge enemy fire (to the degree that she's never used a magic shield, the staple of every other Witch's combat abilities); this trait is inspired by her namesake having never been hit by enemy fire, despite being the highest scoring non-German ace in history.
All Witches' MG 42s in the series are modified to use the 75-round Patronentrommel 34 drum magazine from the MG 34; this is likely because it's far easier for an airborne Witch to simply swap a magazine than deal with replacing a belt in mid-air. This sort of fictional-but-entirely-plausible weapon design appears for several notable weapons in the World Witches universe.
MG 34 with Patronentrommel 34 for reference - 7.92mm Mauser
Minna fires her MG 42 in the opening credits; Charlotte, Francesca, and Eila are also visible. (OP)
Erica Hartmann opens fire with her MG 42. (Ep.1)
Gertrud Barkhorn fires her signature dual MG 42s. (Ep.1)
A close-up of Gertrud's right-hand MG 42 as she gets more than a bit too aggressive and careless... (Ep.4)
...and gets it sliced in half by a Neuroi beam. The remaining ammo promptly explodes, sending the severely injured Gertrud crashing to the ground. She's lucky she didn't lose a finger... or everything else, for that matter. (Ep.4)
Inspired my Yoshika's determination to save everyone, a mostly-healed Trude replaces her lost MG 42 with Yoshika's Type 99 and flies off to end the fight. The upper part of her Flak-Wulf Fw 190 D-6 Striker Unit can be seen as well. (Ep.4)
The Strike Witches fly through a rainy day to meet their returning comrades. (Ep.6)
Eila Juutilainen fires her MG 42 to protect Sanya, who lost one of her Striker halves in an ambush. Eila herself uses a Messerscharf Bf 109 G-2. (Ep.6)
A close-up of Eila's war face. (Ep.6)
A still-frame of Erica posing in front of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
she is supposed to be awarded later that day, for having shot down 250 Neuroi. (Ep.7)
In a flashback to June, 1941, Minna flies over the ruined Calais near the end of the evacuation, looking for someone in particular. (Ep.8)
Back in the present, Minna covers Mio so she can use her magic eye to find the Neuroi's core, every Neuroi's one weak point. This also provides a nice view of the paint scheme of Minna's Messerscharf Bf 109 G-2/R6. (Ep.8)
Minna fires at the fleeing Neuroi. (Ep.8)
Back in June, 1941, Minna says goodbye to Kurt Flachfeld, her boyfriend and childhood neighbour. Kurt enlisted in the Army and worked in the maintenance division of Minna's squadron, so they could spend more time together. This would ultimately keep them apart forever, as Kurt remained behind to help evacuate the base in Calais, but never made it out himself. Minna's forbidding of Witches to interact with male personal, and intense, panic-inducing aversion to the possibility of losing anyone close to her are rooted in this loss. (Ep.8)
Erica and Gertrud inform Minna none of the base's personnel made it over to Britannia, and are forced to restrain her when she attempts to go back. In a cruel reversal of Dunkirk, Minna looks across the channel from Britannia desperately saying that it's just right there, they can see it.
An unloaded training-version MG 42 sits on a gun rack. (Ep.9)
Gertrud and Erica get ready to kick names and take ass in the final battle. (Ep.12)
Erica performs her signature move, Sturm
(Storm), involving rapid aileron rolls that produce a tornado-like effect, which can tear clean through any Neuroi. Although out of frame, Erica's Messerscharf Bf 109 G-6 Striker features the same tulip-pattern paint scheme as her namesake's aircraft. (Ep.12)
Type 99-2 Model 2 Kai
A fictional iteration of the Type 99 aircraft cannon in its flexible mount configuration is the standard armament for Fuso Empire Witches. This iconic World Witches series weapon is a fictional iteration of a real world weapon, much like the fictional iteration of the MG 42 that can use MG 34 drum magazines, but on a more substantial scale. It is used by both Yoshika Miyafuji and Mio Sakamoto (inspired by Japanese ace Saburou Sakai).
There are two versions of the real world Type 99 cannon, the Mark 1 and the Mark 2; the Mark 1 uses a 20x72mm RB round, while the Mark 2 was the same design scaled up to use a 20x101mm RB round. To further complicate matters, these two related guns also had their own variants, resulting in designations like "Type 99 Mark 1 Model 3" or "Type 99 Mark 2 Model 5". One variant of the Type 99 Mark 1 was outfitted for use on pintle mounts, giving it AA sights, a handguard, flash suppressor, stock pad, large ejection chute on top, and (crude) pistol grip. See pictures below for reference.
Back in the World Witches universe, the need for Witches to have an effective primary weapon arose, and out of this need came the Type 99-2 Model 2 Kai, or Type 99 Mark 2 Model 2 Kai (Kai means improve/alter/modify); either translation is equally acceptable, the former is the official World Witches translation, the latter is the same designation using the established Western terms for the Type 99 variants. The Type 99-2 Model 2 Kai takes the infantry-rifle-like traits of the pintle-mounted Type 99 Mark 1 variant, improves them, and applies them to the larger Type 99 Mark 2. The notable improvements from the pintle-mounted design are a more traditionally-shaped receiver, deletion of the top ejection chute in favour of a traditional side-mounted ejection port, and a traditional pistol grip assembly; in short, it was made into a proper infantry rifle, albeit a very large and very heavy one.
To further complicate matters, while the original Type 99-2 Model 2 Kai prototypes were in the original 20x101mm RB cartridge, tests showed it was a bit too powerful to be practical, even for Witches. As such, it was redesigned to use the Japanese 13x64mm B cartridge. However once the war in Europe broke out, the Type 99-2 Model 2 Kai was rechambered again for .50 BMG, in the interest of ammo commonality with allied nations. This rechamber also reclassifies the weapon as a machine gun, rather than an autocannon. While the original Type 99 uses 100-round drum magazines, the smaller .50 BMG rounds would allow for a higher capacity than that, though the exact amount is unknown.
Type 99 Mark 1 in pintle mount configuration - 20x72mm RB
Top: Type 99 Mark 1 Model 3 - 20x72mm RB / Bottom: Type 99 Mark 2 Model 3 - 20x101mm RB
Yoshika demonstrates good trigger discipline with her Type 99 in the opening credits. (OP)
Mio's Type 99 deploys out of the side of the Striker launch unit. (Ep.1)
Mio fires her Type 99 over Akagi
and her escort ships. (Ep.2)
Having brought a Type 99 for Mio to use, Mio tells Yoshika she should use it herself is she really wants to save people. Coming in low, right up against the Neuroi itself, Yoshika lines up to take out its core. (Ep.2)
Gertrud lets loose with her remaining MG 42 and Yoshika's Type 99. (Ep.4)
Still missing her left-side Striker, Sanya takes Yoshika's Type 99 to help out with some cover fire. (Ep.6)
Sanya looking this intense is a rare sight to behold. (Ep.6)
Mio searches for a Neuroi's core with her magic eye, while holding her Type 99. (Ep.8)
A close-up of Yoshika's Type 99 dumping brass. (Ep.8)
The Fuso Witches unload their .50 BMG payload into the last straggler. (Ep.8)
Yoshika takes out Francesca and Charlotte during a training match. (Ep.9)
A training Type 99 and MG 42 sit on a weapon rack behind Yoshika, giving a perfect size comparison. (Ep.9)
Yoshika switches her Type 99 from Safe to Fire. Although the colours are reversed from what one may expect, the kanji here do in fact fairly literally translate to "Safe" (red) and "Fire" (white). (Ep.9)
Not waiting to hear the situation explained, Mio recklessly charges in, despite her weakening magic power leaving her barely able to raise a shield... (Ep.9)
...shield failing, Mio attempts to block the Neuroi beams with her Type 99, which results in its ammo detonating, destroying the gun and hospitalizing Mio. (Ep.9)
Ready for the final fight, Yoshika takes off. (Ep.12)
Taking fire on takeoff Yoshika drops her gun, and Mio catches it. (Ep.12)
After which Perrine uses it to distract the enemy and make it temporarily retreat. (Ep.12)
Now back in her possession, Yoshika uses the Type 99 to great effect while fighting all alone. (Ep.12)
Flying through a cramped corridor, Yoshika's Type 99 meets the same fate as Lynette's rifle. Perrine is not pleased. (Ep.12)
The Fliegerhammer is a fictional multi-barrel rocket launcher used by Flying Officer Aleksandra Vladimirovna "Sanya" Litvyak (inspired by Russian ace Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak) of Orussia. The Fliegerhammer, or "Flyer/Plane Hammer", was designed by Erica Hartmann's twin sister and genius Karlsland scientist Ursula Hartmann (named for Erich Hartmann's wife, Ursula Paetsch), and inspired by (both in-universe and from a story design standpoint) the Fliegerfaust. Like the Fliegerfaust, the Fliegerhammer is a nine-barrel, unguided rocket launcher, though Sanya and some other Witches are able to guide or partially guide the rockets with their magic. The launcher's large, boxy shape is also reminiscent of the more modern M202 FLASH.
Fliegerfaust B with 9-rocket clip - 20mm
Aleksandra Litvyak aims her Fliegerhammer in the opening credits... (OP)
...and fires a volley. (OP)
Sanya escorts the 501st's Junkers Ju 52 transport, carrying Minna, Mio, and Yoshika back to base. Sanya uses a MiG-60 Striker Unit; while the name is a reference to a fictional design from Humikane Shimada's previous works, the Striker itself is based on the MiG I-220. (Ep.6)
Sensing a nearby Neuroi, Sanya flicks the safety off... (Ep.6)
...and fires into the clouds, driving it away. (Ep.6)
As a Night Witch, Sanya possesses a magic antenna that allows her to detect things like radio signals or Neuroi over incredible distances; the visual design of her antenna is based on the Lichtenstein Radar fitted to many German night fighters. (Ep.6)
After being ambushed by a Neuroi that tricked her radio detection ability, Sanya loses her left-side Striker, and so Eila takes the Fliegerhammer. (Ep.6)
Always wanting to protect her precious Sanya, Eila asks her to track the Neuroi. (Ep.6)
Eila opens fire with the Fliegerhammer. (Ep.6)
Nothing goes better with a peaceful, starry night than a multi-barrel rocket launcher. (Ep.6)
A very sleepy Sanya returns from night patrol. (Ep.9)
Eila uses her prediction ability to give targeting advice to Sanya. (Ep.12)
Browning .303 Mk II
Several Britannian Hawker Hurricanes are seen attacking a Neuroi hive in the prologue, each armed with eight Browning .303 Mk II machine guns.
Browning .303 Mk II - .303 British
Britannian Hurricanes approach a Neuroi hive. (Ep.1)
The Hurricanes fire their Browning .303 Mk IIs at the enormous cloud that conceals a Neuroi hive. (Ep.1)
A bottom view of one of the Hurricanes. (Ep.1)
The Mitsubishi A5M fighters aboard Akagi are armed with a pair of Type 97 aircraft machine guns each.
Type 97 aircraft machine gun - 7.7x56mm R
s complement of A5M's scramble to take off. (Ep.1)
A trio of A5Ms form up with Mio Sakamoto. (Ep.2)
The A5Ms' Type 97s are visible in front of the windscreen. (Ep.2)
Assorted AA guns and cannons are seen on naval ships, mostly those of the Fuso Imperial Navy.
June, 1941, in Calais. (Ep.8)
The Warlock, the flying mech that Air Chief Marshall Trevor Maloney intends to replace the Strike Witches with, is armed with four autocannons in its nose, as well as Neuroi-style beam weapons.
The Warlock makes its entrance. (Ep.10)
The four cannons firing. (Ep.10)
Maloney stands in front of his creation, now in mech mode. (Ep.10)
Warlock back in flight mode. (Ep.11)