Propeller-based engines are all well and good, but if you want speed then surely it has to be a jet engine all the way? So it goes that episode four of Strike Witches 2 sees a prototype jet engine make its début within the franchise for the first time.
Of course, normally you'd expect Shirley to jump at the chance of piloting something newer and faster, and indeed she does seem keen until Lucchini jumps the queue to give it a try and gets a nasty shock. Put off by this incident, she cedes her place as test pilot of the jet-powered Striker Unit to Barkhorn.
However, although she loses out on that occasion this decision does little to dampen the overly competitive spirit between Shirley and Barkhorn, as the former tries to best the latter in numerous tests only to be overcome by the new jet Striker Unit's capabilities in terms of speed, altitude and the ability to carry a ridiculous weight. Prototype that it is however, this new Striker Unit is still far from perfect, and its effect on Barkhorn leads to use of the device being banned after it causes her to run out of magic and crash into the sea. Predictably, not long after this decision is made we see the appearance of a super-fast and agile Neuroi, and it doesn't take a genius to guess what it's going to take to beat the enemy on this occasion...
Once again, Strike Witches 2 somehow manages to get away with its penchant for fan service at every opportunity (complete with blatant censorship) by putting together an overall package for the episode in terms of story and characters which is undeniably fun to watch. The rivalry between Shirley and Barkhorn is old as the hills in anime story-telling terms yet it's not over-used here, and the same goes for Barkhorn's requirement to disobey orders to save the day - It's been done to death and we all know it's going to happen, but when melded into another series of well-produced action scenes it was both tense and enjoyable. I really can't quite get my head around how Strike Witches still manages to work its way into my affections so easily despite its almost abhorrent use of every trick in the book to grab otaku hearts and minds, but work its way into my head it does simply by being an absolute and undoubtable dose of fun to watch.