Two disclaimers before I begin:
1) Same as my review for Strike Witches. If you don't like fan service, stay away from this show. Very, very far away. If fan service makes you uncomfortable in any way, go stick your head under a pillow and pretend this show does not exist. You'll be happier for it.
2) There are going to be some minor SPOILERS from the first season in my review. If this bothers you, I'm sorry. But in order to review the second season correctly, I feel I must mention some stuff that happened in the first season.
Now that that's out of the way, let's begin (Yes, this is a combo DVD and Blu-ray box set, despite what the description says).
The lovely ladies (did I really just write that?) from the 501st Joint Fighter Wing return in Strike Witches 2. Once again, they find themselves struggling in the war against the Neuroi. However, they have clearly won the war on pants because no female wears them anymore. I still don't understand what pants did to deserve an entire war on them. Poor pants.
Actually, the real reason the witches don't wear pants is because their Striker Units (the planes their wear on their legs) are powered by a witch's magic, and must have direct contact (or near direct like wearing tights) with the skin. Again, this is never explained and you're just suppose to know. That's because the anime is a continuation of the manga, which has unfortunately never been released in the United States. So that, along with a few other plot points, are never really explained.
I'll make it simple. If you liked the first season of Strike Witches, you'll like season 2. All the same characters are back, all the same action, all the same jokes, all the same camera shots. And NEW camera shots, now with less pants! Miafuji is still the main star and is still jealous of Lynne's figure, which Lynne is clueless about (the flirt!), Sanya is still crazy cute, Eila is still overprotective of her. And attracted to her. Erica still gives Barkhorn a headache, Shirley is still insanely "developed" for a teenager and Francesca wouldn't have any other way. Perine is still tripping over herself regarding Major Mio Sakamoto, and Mina is still in charge.
This season does add some depth to the characters, though not much. What really made me happy was that the four characters who didn't get their own episode last season get one this time. Eila gets her own episode which shows her relationship with Sanya in a more revealing light, and we find out that Sanya can be violent with Eila (that made me laugh: quite little Sanya smacking Eila hard). Perine gets an episode that, shockingly, doesn't involve her fawning over Mio but instead focuses on her desire to help her country and gives her character a new level beyond "I'm the stuck up one." Francesca spends an entire episode running around Rome with her new friend and showing how much she loves her homeland, and Erica enters a duel with an ace just as good as she is. I was happy that these episodes were made because, while all the characters were in the previous season, these four never really got their own episodes. They were always 'part' of the episodes, but never the main focus.
Another fun thing that was added this season is the fact that each witch gets to use her special magic ability in combat right from the start. It only happens once, but it was fun to see it. I had no idea that Erica's special combat skill was turning into a wind bullet, because I'm pretty sure that was never shown in the first season.
The sound effects are again pretty accurate, although I think they may have changed some of the machine guns' noises because several models sound the same. The English voice acting is spot on for the most part. The only time I found myself cringing is when Mio did her laugh, or in the last few episodes where one of the characters starts to have a mental break down because of what's happening to her. Those two parts felt way too forced, and while I'm sure that works in Japanese, it doesn't here. Also, the name of Mio's sword attack and the way she says it always causes me to roll my eyes.
Now for the reasoning behind my missing star. Once again, Strike Witches sets up for a big plot reveal, and then fails to deliver (here come those SPOILERS from the first season I warned you about, and for the first episode of season 2). As you recall at the end of the first season, the Neuroi suddenly takes the shape of a witch and plays, for lack of a better term, with Miafuji. It even goes so far as to show that the humans are building a superweapon that turns out to be a real danger to the witches. All this implies that, perhaps, the Neuroi are not what we think they are. Miafuji even says, "Are you really our enemy?" Season 2 picks up this idea, with the first episode showing a unit of witches flying to meet the strange Neuroi witch. It seems like the Neuroi are willing to talk, but then a more powerful Neuroi shows up, wipes out the Neuroi witch and the Neuroi hive there, and...nothing. The Neuroi attack themselves for one episode, suggesting that maybe there are factions of Neuroi and not all of them want war, but this is never touched again. The finale, while better than the first season, still leaves you with that nagging question of "Why did the Neuroi attack themselves?" Again, I'm left feeling like I'm missing some information, but the writers were hoping I'd forget about it between all the laughs and nudity.
The finale episode ends with a hook for the movie that came out in Japan earlier this year. I really hope that FUNimation gets a hold of it and releases it here in the U.S. because I really do like this series. It makes me laugh and it does have an interesting take on World War II. I just wish that the writers would stop dangling this carrot in front of viewers. Either complete the underlying plot that keeps getting suggested, or drop it in favor of the complete silliness that the rest of the episodes feature.
And Commander Mina, if I may make a suggestion: The 501st seems to be the only unit that is getting ANY results in the war against the Neuroi. As such, stop disbanding them after every major victory! You could save a lot of trouble and time if you kept the unit together and just moved to the next battlefield.