It’s time to take to the skies! After a long hiatus, I guess it is time for me to go do my versus variety thingy before I lose touch. Hahaha… Yeah, damn lazy excuse is that I have no anime to compare until a couple of flight and aviation themed animes started airing in the same season. The winter of 2019 season, that is. Hmmm… Suspicious… Just like how Antz and A Bug’s Life were released very close to each other. Anyway, this gives rise to an excuse, erm, I mean reason, oh wait no, motivation for me to do another versus blog. And so today we are going to see what makes Girly Air Force (GAF) different but yet so similar with Kouya Kotobuki No Hikoutai (Kotobuki).

World setting:
GAF: Current modern Earth. Japan particularly.
Kotobuki: Another parallel world. Town in focus is mainly Rahama.

The sea:
GAF: Since most of the setting takes place over the oceans, I guess it is water, water everywhere…
Kotobuki: A dry desert wasteland world where the oceans somehow dried up a long time ago and are being reduced to just fairytales in storybooks.

Type of planes:
GAF: Futuristic jet planes.
Kotobuki: Single engine propeller planes.

The heroine squad:
GAF: Independent Mixed Test Unit (IMTU).
Kotobuki: The Kotobuki Flight Corps. Duh…

Team members:
GAF: Kei Narutani (team leader, somewhat), JAS39 Gripen, F-15J-ANM Eagle, RF-4EJ-ANM Phantom II and somewhat Viper Zero.
Kotobuki: Reona (team captain), Zara, Kate, Emma, Kylie and Chika.

The boss:
Technically the crew’s employer.
GAF: Haruka Yashirodoori.
Kotobuki: Madame Loulou.

Other allies:
GAF: Anima and military from other nations like America and Russia.
Kotobuki: Other flight squadrons like Camilla of Shouto Vigilante and Adolfo Yamada of Nazarene Air Force.

The main enemy:
GAF: An unknown entity known as Xi.
Kotobuki: Air pirates.

Thought you were a good guy but turns out you’re a baddie…:
GAF: F/A-18E-ANM Rhino.
Kotobuki: Isao.

Wild card? And not team player to boot?:
GAF: Viper.
Kotobuki: Naomi.

Technical person:
GAF: Yashirodoori.
Kotobuki: Natsuo.

Loser at love:
It’s so one-sided…
: Song Minghua.
Kotobuki: Adolfo.

The child-like brat:
They also like to brag…
: Eagle.
Kotobuki: Chika.

Emotionless girl:
GAF: Gripen.
Kotobuki: Kate.

B*tch girl:
GAF: Phantom.
Kotobuki: Councillor Julia.

Sexy girl?:
GAF: Gripen. Sort of. No qualms undressing before Kei.
Kotobuki: Zara. Ex-dancer with exotic moves that could hypnotize any horny guys watching.

Dead elder person:
GAF: Kei’s mom. Killed in a raid by Xi during an air show.
Kotobuki: Kylie’s mentor, Sab. Went missing and greatly hinted was shot down by Isao.

The dynamic relationship:
GAF: Kei and Gripen. Some crap about the latter’s brainwaves stabilizing and synchronizing with the former, increasing her efficiency and focus, blah, blah, blah…
Kotobuki: Kylie and Chika. The often quarrel and their petty banter is such an amusement to watch.

GAF: Kei is in fact a better pilot than Gripen. So while he mans the control, this gives more room for Gripen to focus on radar and weapon systems.
Kotobuki: Sab’s age old advice, “You don’t fly a plane. It flies itself”.

Harem potential:
GAF: Yes. Cheap and sleazy as it is.
Kotobuki: No. Thank goodness no lesbo hints too. Phew. Oh wait. Reona and Zara, Julia for Loulou…

Heavy bomber planes:
GAF: Xi has a type of craft that not only serves as heavy bombers but act as an aircraft carrier to carry other smaller Xi crafts.
Kotobuki: Heavy bomber planes try to attack and disrupt a meeting in Areshima. Also later, Isao sends several heavy bomber planes to attack Rahama after accusing them of hogging a portal.

Tactical retreat:
Sometimes you don’t succeed at first, it is best to regroup and rethink the strategy…
GAF: The first charge to attack an island where Xi is building their forward operating base. Because of too many enemies and not enough ammo (also, Phantom being a b*tch not being cooperative), a retreat is necessary.
Kotobuki: The first charge to attack Ikesuka has Loulou ordering a retreat. Do you want to take a gamble and lose more of your men to 200 plus enemy planes?

GAF: Electronic Perceptory Counter Measures AKA EPCM blurs your vision when you get too close to Xi. Also, Phantom has this ability to feed false info to others.
Kotobuki: Elite Industries try to sell fake paintings to the town of Rahama in exchange for an old Raiden plane in their possession.

Taken hostage:
GAF: Kei was kidnapped by the military after they think he is some sort of spy. Only freed because his presence somewhat activated Gripen.
Kotobuki: A group of pirates hijack Hagoromo and demand Isao’s resignation as the mayor of Ikesuka and the disbandment of the Brotherhood. Otherwise they’ll blow up the blimp. Freed after Johnny’s insane gunslinger skills!

Suicide move:
GAF: At the start of the series, Kei risking his life to save a crashed Gripen at sea when no other refugees would sanely think or do the same thing.
Kotobuki: At the end of the series, Saneatsu rides his Hagoromo blimp to blast and seal close the portal. Luckily it’s not just a blind kamikaze mission as he escaped via mini plane in the final moments.

Another dimension:
GAF: Unphysical Layer. Kei and Gripen almost got trapped forever in Rhino’s spell.
Kotobuki: Strange portals randomly opening up over the airspace, believed to lead to the other world known as Yufang.

Final charge:
GAF: A joint effort by the Japanese and Americans to retake the Asian continent by counterattacking and overwhelming the Xi with unmanned Brawler clones.
Kotobuki: A joint effort by Rahama and Porokka to attack Ikesuka and prevent Isao and his Brotherhood from controlling the portal.

Dogfight and aviation action style:
GAF: Fast and furious! Loud in your face! Fast missiles everywhere! Boom! Boom! BOOM!!!
Kotobuki: First person view makes every flight experience exhilarating and thrilling!

Music style:
GAF: Heavy and loud techno music. Might go crazy after prolong exposure.
Kotobuki: Typical military marching-like fanfare that complements the aerial action.

Animation style:
GAF: Mostly 2D except for some dogfight scenes.
Kotobuki: Mostly, if not entirely in CGI.

Studio house:
GAF: Satelite.
Kotobuki: WAO World and Gemba.

GAF: Light novel.
Kotobuki: Original anime.

It is without a doubt that Kouya Kotobuki No Hikoutai is superior to Girly Air Force in so many ways (rather, in all aspects) that it is a no brainer to do this. But it has to be done so as to continuously sing and shower praises for the former. I also hope they get a sequel. So it goes to show that sometimes old is gold. Rather, sometimes all that futuristic high technology doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good show. It all boils down to execution and the former nailed and pulled it off flawlessly (well, almost) with its simplicity. While Kouya Kotobuki No Hikoutai is flying high into the sunset, Girl Air Force on the other hand is sent flying away, took a nose dive, then crash and burn. Barbie 01, bail out, BAIL OUT! Kotobuki… Still soaring to greater heights.

Old propeller planes like the Zeros and Spitfires are boring compared to their modern counterparts like F-15 and MiG, huh? Lacking the firepower and the exhilarating Mach speed that would make you go faster than the speed of sound, huh? Well, I’ve got news for you. Don’t look down on old single propeller fighter planes too. Because in the world of Kouya Kotobuki No Hikoutai where the enter land is filled with nothing but desert sand and there are air pirates threatening the skies and livelihood of isolated towns, there is literally no one else you could rely on but these magnificent girls riding their magnificent propeller planes to come save the day. Thank your lucky stars for such great piloting skills.

Episode 1
The Kotobuki Flight Corp girls consisting of Kylie, Reona, Emma, Kate and Zara are chilling out in a bar when Adolfo from Yamada from Nazarene Air Force tries to hit on them. He mentions some of his records and achievements but the girls aren’t impressed and instead make a mockery out of his puny achievements. He really would have wanted to have a go had not his friends stop him. Just in time because the alert has been sounded. Pirate bogeys have been spotted and all pilots are to sortie. The captain of the Hagoromo blimp, Saneatsu issues his orders to take down the pirates and protect the cargo. It is very important because their employer, Madame Loulou despite will reward them for every enemy they shoot down, if one of the cargo goes down, that’s it for them. And so we see the Nazarene side being easily taken out without a fight. Time for Kotobuki to strut their stuffs. They stray a little too far and more pirate reinforcements pop up to attack Hagoromo. Although Hagoromo takes some damage, it is still airworthy and the Kotobuki girls manage to return in time to smoke them out. With the remaining pirates fleeing, Reona gives orders to her crew not to chase and return. However Kylie spots a rogue pirate and chases after it. This is a skilled one as they continue to engage in aerial dogfight. A tricky one too with, leading Kylie into the clouds and almost letting her crash into the ground. If not for Kylie’s skill and good luck, she would have crashed hard. Ultimately the enemy deals some minor damage to the plane but when Kylie is within range of defeat, it looks like time is up for the enemy so he flees instead. Kylie is frustrated and insulted. When Kylie returns to base, she is punched by mechanic, Natsuo for doing something reckless again. When Hagoromo lands safely, the Kotobuki girls immediately head off to town to do their own thing instead of receiving the reward.

Episode 2
As the Kotobuki girls drink in town, they hear a commotion outside. Looks like their comrade, Chika is trying to teach a few men who are looking down upon them. Yeah, she beats him up with her crutches. Kylie even joins in when her pancake was accidentally wasted. Once all that is over, Chika seems jealous that she wasn’t invited to their ‘party’. Technically she is hospitalized but is now discharged early. Bratty girl always seem to quarrel with Kylie on the pettiest of things. They have to put it on hold since they get a call from Saneatsu for another mission. As Loulou explains, this time they will escort Councillor Julia. You can instantly tell she has an attitude problem and basically a b*tch. So why choose to fly this crappy service? Because she hates Loulou. So as Saneatsu shows her around Hagoromo, the rest deduce Loulou and Julia must have go a long way for them to hate each other like that. It seems she gets her kicks by making enemies wherever she goes. Then there’s this sick perversion of men always flocking to Loulou but Julia will steal them before they get to her, twist and use them before tossing them away. Talk time is over with bogeys spotted. They thought they are just the usual pirates but their numbers suddenly rise up to 30. Even more surprising is how they are using the expensive Hien type planes and their formation is very controlled. Skilled fighters to say the least but of course our Kotobuki girls are still better. Even during the dogfights, Kylie and Chika can continue to be buttheads with each other and still shoot down the enemies and cover for each other despite not really liking this order Reona put them up to (they have to or she’ll ground them the next time). They are so in unison. Are they friends? Enemies? Frenemies? In the end, Julia arrives safely and Loulou hopes she would never fly with them again. But what if Julia flash the cash? Loulou is not impressed as Julia waves a load of lovely goodbyes to her. The Kotobuki girls hang out and nobody is paying attention to bratty Chika bragging. For the eleventh time…

Episode 3
Upon reaching the town of Rahama, they find it partially destroyed. Talking to the mayor, it seems a small group of salesmen from Elite Industries flew in. They want to exchange their old Raiden plane for this (fake) painting. They rejected of course and when they leave, they attacked the town as sourpuss and promised to return with their full force. So is it worth to give up Raiden which is the pride of Rahama just to save the town? The mayor thinks so because Loulou’s bill is too much for his budget. But his vice thinks they should fight. Too bad in the name of democracy, the mayor decides to hold a discussion with everyone to come to a solution. As expected, the town is split. Everybody’s shouting and disagreeing. Until Emma steps in to give them a piece of her mind. If they allow this trade, they will be back to demand more. Plus, if everyone agrees to help out, Loulou might cut him a deal. With everyone reminiscing the old days of protecting each other, they want to fight back and thus the mayor finally decides to go with that. With Elite Industries returning with a strong 40 plane fleet, they take Rahama by surprise by coming from the other direction. This is the opposite of where Kotobuki is. Hence the local vigilantes suit up and take flight. But Elite Industries won’t have it easy as they display Raiden in the middle of town (they can’t damage it) and they have ground artillery support. The locals hold them enough for Kotobuki to return for a real challenging dogfight. When Emma is shot but before being blown out of the sky, here comes the mayor flying the Raiden to save her. A dilemma for Elite Industries because they cannot shoot it down. Too bad Raiden runs out of bullets so the boss hijacks it and kicks the mayor out! That easy?! With mission accomplished, Elite Industries retreat. Kotobuki is forced to give up. Although this is a failed mission, the vice believes this is a wakeup call for Rahama to believe they can protect their town like they used to. Emma apologizes to the mayor and thanks him. But it’s not over for Loulou yet. Because as per their contract, they are to protect Raiden. Yup, they’re going to get it back.

Episode 4
As Kotobuki reach the next town, they receive a warning shot from an old guy. However it wasn’t the Elite Industries but those darn air pirates. It gets personal when Kylie realizes the pancakes are also the casualties. It’s getting personal. They discuss about getting into Elite Industries’ base which is located in the natural canyons. When they show him a painting, he claims it is drawn by the boss’ daughter. Since Elite Industries just ordered a bunch of dance girls to their base, this is a great chance for Zara to disguise as one of them and infiltrate. Yeah, she’s hypnotizing the men with her dance moves. She challenges them to drinking and none can even hold their beer. Perfect time for her to sneak around. She finds Raiden in chains and the boss’ daughter holds the key. So she visits her and sees her trying her hand at drawing. Zara gives some motivational advice and Zara wants her to be her model. Meanwhile the other Kotobuki girls take this chance to ambush the base as distraction and in hopes Zara will get Raiden in 10 minutes. Or else they will have to find and rescue Zara and abandon Raiden. I wonder how they could fly through those tight canyons at night!!! It’s like they know the place like the back of their hand or are they on auto pilot mode?! With Kotobuki beginning their attack, Elite Industries is taken by surprise as they scramble to sortie but many of their planes and equipment have been grounded by the sneak attack. With some managing to take flight, however there seems to be a rebellion from within the company. The HR chief along with the sales division have teamed up to attack the boss. Kotobuki is confused but it buys more time for them. Meanwhile some men try to steal the daughter’s key but Zara easily beats them. The daughter gives Zara the key in hopes she could save her father. Zara takes Raiden to the skies as she chases after the HR chief. He pulls a sneaky move on her by escaping via a hidden small hole and this forces Zara to pull up hard. Luckily she is still in one piece as she rendezvous with her pals. Since they’ve got Raiden, they’re out of here. In the aftermath, the boss and his loyal men have turned over a new leaf and will make an honest living. His daughter is pleased when Zara keeps a painting of hers.

Episode 5
The usual Kylie and Chika bickering almost had them being run over a car. Luckily this driver is quick. Such an eccentric joker too. Is he a street magician? Kotobuki is called by Julia for a mission. In a few days, she will have to attend a meeting she hates. She has to meet with Isao who is the head of View Trading because she can’t stand the way he tries to preach his ideals to become famous. I guess there’s nothing wrong about justice, safety, unification, mutual benefits, etc. Is it because Julia can’t be a sneaky shady b*tch now that Isao is turning those in power to his side? Because of that, there would be air pirates targeting the meeting. Julia could ask the local Areshima services for protection but she doesn’t want to be in their debt and would rather be in Kotobuki’s. By now, we should know that eccentric street magician is Isao and man he loves playing pranks. Either you love him or find him annoying. With Loulou not around, looks like Kotobuki is split in whether to accept the job but Reona is adamant to take on the job. This has the rest wonder her strange act ever since Isao came into the picture. Is it love? Is it some debt repayment? The day Julia and Isao have their meeting (I thought it sounded more like a comedy talk show!), air pirates attack. It looks like there’s a handful of them so Kotobuki should be enough to engage. The couple of guys who are remnants of Nazarene just get to patrol the other peaceful end. Until it turns out it was a diversion and the enemy horde is heading from this direction. I figure Nazarene has to hold them until Kotobuki arrives. Just in time because they run out of bullets. Time for the guys to head home in shame while the girls do their usual kickass. Their aim is to take out a couple of heavy bombers. During the dogfight, Reona becomes ruthless, something that Zara points out to the rest that this is her true nature. But so ruthless that she almost fell for a trap and Kate had to cover for her. Kylie lashes out at Reona if she wants to get ahead of herself, do so by all means but don’t let others take your fall. With the enemies closing in, Julia will not evacuate as not to be deemed a coward. Isao? He is going to fly! Yup, he was once known as the Soaring Magician. And now only Reona remembers him?! That guy who shot down a dozen enemies in some war?! The guy who saved her from being shot down?! I know she hasn’t seen him in 8 years but she can’t even remember him until he flies? As usual, Isao shows off his skills and even takes down the last bomber that crashes right at the doorstep of the hotel of the meeting. The tea must be still warm and nice for Julia.

Episode 6
Reona feels guilty for acting out of line and wants to be indebted but is told to believe in her squad and let them help out whenever they can with no strings attached. Hence Chika asking to borrow money! That was really a fast one! Kylie went to see Julia to get their payment. On her way back, she spots that rogue air pirate and chases after it. It seems the rogue pirate is toying with her as they fly through the skies and canyons. The rogue pirate is much better than her and you bet Kylie is mad and trying to get the better of her. In the end, Kylie is shot down. End of chase. Thankfully, only her engine is blown out. Her plane is still intact as well as its fuel tank. Phew. Man, how did she even landed so perfectly? She recognizes this place as Ofukouyama, a small slab of flat rock in the middle of nowhere that rookie pilots used to practice short landings but always ended with disaster. Hence the wreckage all around. Meanwhile the other girls are worried that Kylie might have run off with the money but they believe she won’t because she’s not into all that. Okay. Time to mount a search. As Kylie scavenges the wreckage to find parts, we see her flashback. She met an old man name Sab and is interested in him because she thinks she come from outside and knows a lot. She often hangs out in his place and is not scared of him despite his fugitive status. Better than her own home where they always fight for food. She soon learns he came from Yufang. People there came here via a hole to build planes and factories but one day they left. Did Sab get left behind? He didn’t say. Since she continues to be amazed by his stuffs and wants to know more, Sab takes her flying in his plane. Awesome view for a kid flying the first time. One day she overheard a guy wanting Sab to come back but he rejects the deal. Soon Sab shuts her out and the next time she returns, his hut is burnt and she felt disappointed he left without her. Kylie has fixed her plane and prepares to take off. Remembering the teachings of Sab, she pulls it off. Yup, you don’t fly a plane. It flies itself. You just follow its lead. Not sure if Sab died but Kylie made a tombstone for him and promised to go see the world. Just in time for Kylie to rendezvous with her comrades. Feels good to be home.

Episode 7
Kylie and Kate are having a mock dogfight as Natsuo is testing the octane level of the cheap fuel they bought. Kylie thought for once she beat Kate but soon realized it’s because Kate was being held back by the cheaper fuel. This cheap fuel proves a drop in performance and they should avoid using this fuel altogether. The irony is that Standon Oil Company as one of the biggest companies out there is supplying it. Kate goes to see her brother, Allen in hospital. He is interested in finding out the disappearance of Yufang but was attacked during one of his flights and still recuperating. The Nazarene guys stop at Nanko to refuel. They notice a plane from Standon here. Talking to the bartender, it seems they are here to make a deal to buy out their oil. However there is no deal struck yet since Nanko rather have quality over quantity and know these corporate guys will make them work to the bone for every last drop. Soon after, the oil fields suddenly explode and the entire town is on fire. Hence the Nazarene guys fly over to the next town for reinforcements. Good thing Kotobuki girls are there. Saving the town is more important than evacuating its people. If they lose their access to Nanko, they’ll be forced to deal with Standon. Despite their inferior quality, they will soon monopolize their oil and jack up prices. Also, there is no other place closer to refuel as Nanko. Losing this means they will be block off and grounded indefinitely. Loulou agrees to help put out the fire but Nanko will have to pay one year’s worth of gas at reduced price. And how are they going to stop the fire? Kate’s answer: Fight fire with fire: Bomb it! To Kylie’s dismay, she will be in the driver’s seat of the bombing plane with Kate guiding her since her plane was damaged the last time. As expected, Standon’s planes come to ‘greet’ time. However they are flying Hayate types that have better power and turning speed. Also, their body armour is thicker. Kotobuki meeting their match since these pilots are really pros and don’t give them space to fight back. Our speculations that emotionless Kate might be a robot as she guides Kylie to move directly while she mans the gunner. When it’s time to bomb, she has to light the fuse manually and then calculate to release the bomb accurately! It does!!! The explosion wipes out the fire and at the same time the enemy retreats. A mission accomplished although Chika is frustrated she couldn’t shoot down any bogeys.

Episode 8
Isao has become the mayor of Ikesuka, he formed the Brotherhood of Freedom Union and to celebrate that he bought a rare arowana fish for public display. Hence the Kotobuki girls are to transport it there. Loulou didn’t want to take this job but since he recommended them and the press asked if they were up to the task, certainly she can’t say no. With Saneatsu having stomach discomfort, Loulou takes command of the bridge. As expected, multiple bogeys in sight. As Kotobuki goes to intercept their unusually large numbers, to their surprise this is only a decoy. Because a few more air pirates crept up on Hagoromo by flying very close to the ground. Because Kotobuki took too long to deal with the decoy, the others have boarded and took over Hagoromo. They order the Kotobuki girls to go away in which Reona orders her girls to do so. Then the pirate leader makes an announcement. In addition to the fish, they demand Isao’s resignation and the disbandment of the Brotherhood. Otherwise they will blow up Hagoromo. Kotobuki isn’t giving up of course. After they receive word from Saneatsu about the situation on board, Emma flies up to Hagoromo’s radar blind spot so that Reona and Kylie can board it.

First they have to go find Johnny the bartender and Ririko his barmaid. Although this is where most of the crew are being held captive, Reona hints to Ririko to make a scene. With Reona crashing in, she hints to Johnny and he is forced to use his gunslinger prowess to dispatch the pirates! You mean this wuss is a sharpshooter?! Because we see him ‘dance’ as he guns down all the baddies?! OMFG!!! So cringe! So cool! Ironically all the pirates are dumb. They have machine guns but cannot even shoot straight? The other crew just throw whatever they got and it counts! Isao has received word of Hagoromo and takes his own action. When Loulou retakes the bridge, a small struggle ensues. Stray bullets damage the controls. With some of the pirates escaping, Kotobuki wonders why they aren’t fighting back. Well, Isao’s full air force is coming their way. Loulou contacts them but no response. This could only mean they are here to take down Hagoromo. Can’t have it explode over Ikesuka, right? Hence Loulou wants Reona to shoot down Hagoromo. No, not destroy it. Take out enough helium so it could safely crash land. Of course Reona the pro does it perfectly and Isao’s air force don’t have to cause any tragedy. In the aftermath as the fish gets displayed, the girls learn Johnny was once a good mercenary but left this trade when he met his wife. However because he continued his gun collection, she resented this and left. No wonder this wuss is still praying for her to come back. Not a chance… Loulou hands Isao the bill and hopes never to take another job from him.

Episode 9
Kylie’s unhappy. She has to hold the fort while the rest of her Kotobuki girls are away on a mission. Yeah, this sucks. It seems Kotobuki are to be guards for some retirement ceremony. Something about the new licence system and union registration red tape made it unbearable for them to go on even if they are just flight postal workers. Meanwhile Julia is being heckled by the men in the council for speaking the truth. Something about giving up their own culture and system to adopt another city’s system. But you can’t beat all those sexist men, right? They kick her out of the hall as she notes being an air pirate will definitely be better than working for Isao. Her underlings know it is not safe for her here anymore and suggest she flees before they come arrest her. Kylie is summoned by Loulou for a job. It is giving Allen a scenic flight around Rahama. She also tells her she has been invited to work under a new company in Areshima. In fact the offer comes for any one of the Kotobuki girls. They’ll double their pay and get whatever aircraft they want since they are teaming up with View Trading. Kylie interprets this as she doesn’t want them anymore but Loulou puts it this way: She has no right to tell them to stay. Kylie takes Allen on a scenic flight with her mind preoccupied with this. But Allen talks about the portal to Yufang. He could have seen it had he not been shot down. He believes the portal didn’t close forever but on and off on a smaller scale. At the same time, the ex-Elite Industries HR chief and his men are rummaging through Allen’s room to find some info. Allen gives Kylie directions until they reach a certain point where they see strange circles in the sky. That’s the portal? However suddenly they are attacked by bogeys. I don’t know how Allen fitted his machine gun in this aircraft but at least they have a fighting chance. I know it’s just fantasy he gets to shoot down the enemies while they all miss but I’ll believe it because he says his aim gets better after drinking! Just when they think they’ve gunned down all the enemies, more of them pop up! Can Kylie outrun them in this canyon chase? Soon reality catches up as they are hit and Kylie crash lands. Oh, they also pretend to be dead to stay alive and let the enemies fly away. If not for Chika, they wouldn’t be rescued. With Kotobuki returning, Loulou tells the rest what she told Kylie. But Kylie instantly says she will always stay with Kotobuki as she doesn’t want to take orders from anyone else but Reona. She shocks everyone by optimistically saying another portal might open over Rahama.

Episode 10
Allen tells he gang about the portal. There are many sizes and opened up here and there many times. It was just coincidence the one that appeared 70 years ago connected them to Yufang. The holes may also be the culprit that absorbed the seas of this world. Then Julia barges in, complaining how she is no more a councillor as all the men voted to kick her out and framed her with fake allegations. While the rest think Isao is a pretty nice guy, Julia then reveals this whole thing is just a setup so Isao can become a dictator of the world. As Rahama has not decided to join the Brotherhood, she doubts he will let it go scot free. Because as per Allen’s calculation, looks like another hole has opened up over Rahama. This is why Isao is targeting this place. They take in a damaged fighter plane. Woah. Who this sexy dolly babe? Camilla from Shouto Vigilante has been shot down despite being allies of Isao. They were accused of plotting something and bombed out. Even though Camilla wanted to surrender, they continued bombing so she escaped. The town of Rahama is now in a discussion over the portal over their town. They are discussing whether to join the Brotherhood or not. Isao knows about this hole because his men stole Allen’s notes from the hospital. Then here comes the HR chief who is now representing the Brotherhood. He is giving Rahama a chance to join them and hand over Julia the fugitive or risk being bombed in 24 hours. However it soon dawned to them that their plan is to evacuate Rahama so that Isao can monopolize the entire portal himself. Rahama’s mayor had balls for the first time to reject all that and with the crowd chanting for them to leave, looks like it is war.

Hence Kotobuki and their allies now take to the skies to defend Rahama from the oncoming onslaught of huge bomber planes. The good news is that the bomber planes are huge so you can’t miss them. The bad news is, it’s going to take a while to shoot through their thick armour. Kotobuki shoots down a couple of bomber planes but they were too late for the last one as it unloads over Rahama. Uhm, did it not see the portal was in its path and hence everything just went through the hole?! The explosion causes some sort of huge temporary suction before the portal closes for good. With the hole gone, the enemies retreat. As Kylie is about to land, she spots this rogue pilot. Grrr! Time to chase! Eventually both run out of fuel and land safely. Next to each other! Time to get down for a fist fight! Kylie is no match for the verbal bout with Naomi as she accuses this little girl for always getting in her way. I think it’s fun to see these ladies trade some verbal barb wires but Naomi is the one who always have the upper hand. Yeah, she’s even better than you not only in flying but sarcasm too. Naomi claims she is neither friend nor foe and does what she wants. This time she just sided with Julia as she made more sense than Isao. Naomi then accuses Kylie of copying her plane’s mark that resembles the mark of her mentor’s. That is when Kylie is shocked. Does she know Sab? Oh yeah. Now the girls are like good friends talking about that old bastard. Naomi relates how she was his student training under him but he eventually abandoned her. Since Kylie was abandoned too, now they’re the abandoned sisters! Her goal is to find him and shoot him down with the techniques she stole from him. As for why Naomi flies, because it feels good being up there.

Episode 11
Isao uses his charms (and magic tricks) to convince the crowd that their Brotherhood is the only one that could bring true freedom to this world. Hence anybody else who tries to keep Yufang to themselves are criminals. Like Rahama and Porokka. So to say they aren’t? Rahama and Porokka combine their forces to lead an attack against Ikesuka. Kylie is spaced out not because the briefing was a really long one. She just couldn’t understand what they’re fighting for. Especially their mission to attack Ikesuka. Are wars fought on a whim like this? Is this what Kotobuki stands for? Well, she’s got a point. But no time to think all that because Isao has sent in hundreds of planes to fight them. Man, this is going to be one messy dogfight. I can’t tell who is who shooting each other down. But I’ll bet that the Kotobuki girls will be the ones staying up. Kotobuki is supposed to bomb the factory that makes the firepower for Ikesuka. However it is abandoned and empty. Is this a trap? Speaking of which, yes. 200 enemy planes in sight! At this point, Loulou makes the order to retreat and will not turn this into a gamble to lose any more of their side. They have underestimate Isao. However the Porokka side will not retreat and push on. Unfortunately their blimp gets shot down under heavy fire. And then Isao comes into the fray himself. Because of his more aerodynamic and specially designed plane, he climbs and turns faster and shoots down all his enemies at ease! Reona tries to talk to him to get his side to pull back so they can retreat. He lies so as to get her guard down and then shoots her down. Mad Kylie tries to take on him but Isao recognizes her mark that belongs to Sab. He explains something about Sab being abandoned by Yufang who call themselves the Japanese army. And when that stubborn old goat tried to fleet, Isao shot him down too! Not too sure where he is rotting in desert. This makes Kylie extremely mad and is going to teach this jerk a lesson. Chika is shot down and Hagoromo is about to take heavy damage too. But thank goodness for Elite Industries backing them up. Isao eventually shoots down Kylie but as he brags, he lets his guard down and gets shot by Kate. She confirms that it is this jerk who shot down Allen. In the aftermath when everyone is retrieved back to the blimp, Allen shows them that another hole will appear. This time right over Ikesuka.

Episode 12
Naomi leads her squadron to take on the Ikesuka fighters who have the air pirates on their side. Yeah, money does buy everything in this world. With the battle raging on, Kotobuki is to sneak in and attack Isao’s tower. Along the way, Zara asks Reona if she would like to run away and leave all of this behind. She can do whatever she wants. That will have to wait when the enemies have spotted them. Time for the most exhilarating dogfight action scenes through the narrow streets of Ikesuka’s infrastructures! When Kate gets shot down, it is by a plane with jet engine and using missiles! Just to show how good our girls are, they manage to dodge its radar missiles. Even better, Kylie and Chika trick it to fire multiple missiles at them. Then they dodge for the missiles to hit the huge statue structure to come crashing onto the jet plane. I guess with Chika being taken out because Isao is now itching to get into the fray, as the price to pay seems worth it. Emma gets taken down after her fill of shooting down many enemies. Isao’s butler uses a dirty trick to have the crane crash into Zara’s plane. Don’t worry. She still lives. In return, Reona sacrifices herself to take down the butler. All that is left is an angry Kylie trying to take down Isao. When the portal has fully materialized, that is when the signal is given to Hagoromo. It blasts off into the sky carrying loads of explosives to seal off the hole for good. So Saneatsu is going to do a suicide mission?! Desperate Isao tries to shoot down Hagoromo and even though he took down Kylie before that, Kylie like as though saw the spirit of Sab and remembers his words to let the plane fly itself. I guess it’s a cue so that Kylie’s plane could amazingly land a few more shots on Isao. Hagoromo explodes upon contact with the portal. Saneatsu not on a suicide mission after all. He escaped in his mini plane. Good for him now that he has a chance to confess to Loulou. Isao now being a desperate greedy megalomaniac hell bent on keeping the portal all to himself, gets sucked in as the portal closes. The air pirates retreat and all our heroes fly home, dreaming all the things they want to do. Wait a minute. Naomi seriously considering dating Adolfo?! Amazingly, Kylie’s plane still manages to fly home. I guess her plane really does fly by itself. Reona explains to the rest that Kotobuki comes from the Yufang word of good fortune. I guess it really served them well till the end.

With Flying Colours!
Is this the official retirement of the Kotobuki girls?! But I’m sure like Kylie, she’ll continue to do what she loves doing and even with Kotobuki or not, she’ll continue flying. The final episode to close to portal to Yufang felt more like a revenge plot because I am sure the portal will open up somewhere. It is probably to teach Isao a lesson and open up the eyes of all those who blindly follow him. Who knows if Isao will survive through the portal but I guess the important thing is that this world is now freed of his madness. Perhaps Yufang could have brought more and better technology and equipment to this world. But I figure that each world should retain their own culture and even if this one seems primitive, so be it as long as everyone here is free and happy.

Now, the very interesting aspect that I believe what makes this series stands out apart from other animes this season is the fact of its cool and exciting flight scenes. Whether it is just joyride or in the midst of some hot dogfight, the first person views of the flights are very thrilling. Even a casual viewer like me having no sort of interest in aviation have been charmed by the awesome and breath-taking first person flight views right from the start. I was so immersed in watching them that thinking back about it, it was as though I was in some sort of flight simulation! The visuals and views are done in a perfect manner that it really gives the viewers a great experience of what it is like to be in the cockpit of a plane.

Hence the dogfights are pretty much as exciting to watch too. Your staple fix for every episode guaranteed. Although it can be sometimes a bit farfetched that our Kotobuki girls are so skilled that they don’t usually get shot down. Maybe once in a blue moon. But other than that, they are so perfect in their shooting and flying skills that they could be the world’s greatest pilots. No wonder they are called the Magnificent Kotobuki. They live up to their name. Oh heck, I think that title is an understatement to their awesome talents. Sure, all of them got shot down in the final battle but after notching up their victory ratio to over a billion, it was probably time to bow out. It was worth it. A high score that no one can tops for a long time. Hey, can’t last forever being undefeated. The other unbelievable thing is how there are no casualties or deaths from the dogfights. Once a plane gets shot, you see smoke trails from its engine and the plane crash lands. Yeah, planes don’t explode in mid-air. They really avoided shooting the gas tank, huh? I rarely see people eject out so I’m assuming they went down with the plane. Even though the desert wasteland is vast, I don’t see wreckage of downed planes. Even the final big battle with so many planes shot down, where are those wreckages? Is it too small to see from up there?

The final battle at Ikesuka was exhilarating as well as it was exciting. But because Ikesuka looks like a typical modern urbanized city from our world, it felt so different than the rest of the other towns that we see that looked like old ranches from the wild west. So I wonder if Isao somehow managed to steal some ideas to create this big metropolis. I’m sure it wasn’t built in a day or night. However during the final battle, it felt so devoid of people. Like as though it is a giant ghost town. Such a shame with such beautiful skyscrapers and even roads, it really feels abandoned. Perhaps he has evacuated everyone. Or maybe this is one big giant personal playground Isao built for his dream world.

While there is nothing much from the overall story, I believe there is a lot more potential to be fleshed out. We mostly see the Kotobuki girls taking on job requests of certain towns and while they don’t constitute much, it does contribute a bit to the overall story and bigger picture. What could be fleshed out better is the Yufang side and it is confirmed that this world is another parallel world that exists aside from the real Earth. And since Yufang are actually the Japanese military, this feels like a plot rip-off from Gate. Instead of a single fixed portal, many random portals pop up here and there from time to time. It doesn’t help that these portals are not clearly explained except that they are gateways to Yufang’s world. Like as though they are pulled out from the air for plot convenience. Literally. But then again, more details could be clarified if this had another season.

The Kotobuki girls feel a bit shallow. Each of them has their own backgrounds and past but some are just merely touching the surface. I wish there were more meat to show the girls bond together but with the limited number of episodes, this would have replaced the cool aerial scenes and that is a definite no-no. Because of this trade off, the character development suffers. However you can still feel the closeness and bonds of the Kotobuki girls because of the amazing banter and dynamism in their conversations. Some of them are pretty witty and sarcastic especially Chika and Kylie who often don’t get along with each other and even when they do, still have time to throw a few banters at each other. Kylie gets the big bulk of the focus as we get to know her as a simple girl who just loves to fly. Her relationship with Sab makes it more intriguing and it’s like she continues to fly in hopes of looking for him one day.

Even in this world, there is deception. I thought Julia was going to be the antagonist and Isao some sort of hero but it turns out to be the other way round. Yeah, they had me fooled. Hence a valuable lesson to learn, never judge a book by its cover. Julia may look angry and sound a lot like a b*tch but that is only because of all the other men trying to bring her down and put her in place to toe the line. Understandably anyone could get this mad. Her relationship with Loulou also leaves much to be desired. It’s like a love-hate relationship between them and Loulou always keeps her cool and professionalism at all times. It is hard to see Isao as the baddie because he is always laughing and joking at all times. Even during hard times he can still make comeback lines! Not sure if this guy is the Hitler of this world because since Julia paints him in a bad light so I guess she must be right? Uh huh. Remember, don’t be fooled by appearances. If they really want to take on him, they have to be way more prepared than they are now as Isao still walk the talk and remains true to his legendary status.

Johnny. This minor character is really amazing and amusing. Better than the Hagoromo bridge crew whose names are I think puns of ABCs. His gunslinger skills are really so cool and had he been a pilot, his skills would have been even more extraordinary. This series’ mascot is a dodo bird who is supposedly the captain of Hagoromo too. I don’t see its significance except being a minor comic relief like sending messages to the Kotobuki girls. And laughing at Saneatsu’s forlorn picture of Loulou he keeps in his room.

On a trivial note, sometimes I feel that this series is more of a feminist series. Given that the politically correct era we now live in, I can’t help think about this even though I believe it is just coincidence and me overthinking. All the women here are capable, independent, strong and reliable. Even Ririko kicks ass. I have nothing against it but many of the men here are just weak and lame ass. Like the Nazarene guys are just losers. Especially that Adolfo dude who just talks big. Even when he tries to help, he’s just like useless. And he is even trying to impress and hit on Naomi? Yeah, that kind of strong girl doesn’t need this wuss. Oh wait. She did. Maybe he has some merit after all. Johnny is so gay, the mayor of Rahama is a wuss, Saneatsu is a wuss (I suppose he is doing it all out for his love for Loulou), the boss of Elite Industries is a conman and Isao is a bad guy. More than often you see females piloting on the good side, that is the side siding with Kotobuki like Camilla and Naomi. Sure, there are other guys fighting on their side too but they are so insignificant that they don’t matter. And here we assume all the faceless piloting bad guys flying on Isao’s side are males. I hope I’m just overthinking…

Like the few animes in the same season, this series is animated via CGI. However I am unsure as if to label the entire series as being done by CGI. Although the main characters like the Kotobuki girls are fully rendered in CGI (you know, you can see that one kind animation), there are some characters like the bridge crew of Hagoromo that I cannot determined if they are CGI material or not. It looks like they are your typical 2D animation but I just can’t say thanks to the lack of screen time. Overall if the CGI feels weird, at least it is not that bad. Luckily the environments and background sceneries are nice to look at despite it is mainly the desert wasteland. I guess I am really enthralled with the first person view flight experience as the animation here is seamless for a really good wholesome experience. I’m not an aviation enthusiast but I can see that they put in some details for the planes. Generally speaking, they look nice. This series is jointly animated by WAO World (Animegataris) and Gemba (Berserk – the new one).

Oddly when I first glimpsed the Kotobuki girls, I thought they reminded me of the same bunch of girls in Akanesasu Shoujo. But that is merely because Kylie has this strange resemblance to Asuka (and replace chikuwa with pancakes), Kate having this uncanny resemblance to Mia and perhaps Emma and Nana do look a bit similar. And Reona had the same seriousness tone as Yuu. It made me wonder if those Akanesasu Shoujo girls did the right frequency, would they have ended up in this strange Fragment? Well, frankly speaking, we did see our heroes and heroines fly off into the sunset. Geddit? Sunset? The twilight? Oh, never mind…

Voice acting feels fine with me only recognizing Shizuka Itou as Naomi and Keiji Fujiwara as Saneatsu. Sayumi Suzushiro as Kylie sounds so lively and amazing that it is hard to think of her as the one who voiced Oono in High Score Girl. The latter felt like it was really a waste of her talents. The other casts are Asami Seto as Reona (Chihaya in Chihayafuru), Hibiku Yamamura as Zara (Sara in Island), Sayaka Nakaya as Kate (Orine in AKB0048), Eri Yukimura as Emma (debut role), Miyu Tomita as Chika (Aoi in Kyoto Teramachi Sanjou No Holmes), Akiko Yajima as Loulou (Kohaku in Inu Yasha), Ayaka Shimizu as Julia (Masaki in Sasameki Koto), Katsuyuki Onishi as Isao (Oga in Beelzebub), Kazutomi Yamamoto as Allen (Yumoto in Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu), Youji Ueda as Johnny (Kisaragi in Basilisk), Nao Touyama as Ririko (Chitoge in Nisekoi), Mai Fuchigami as Camilla (Nagisa in Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) and Rumi Ookubo as Natsuo (Aguri in Gamers).

The opening theme is Soranone by ZAQ. Nothing exciting that attracts my attention. It just sounds lively and okay, trying to breathe some sort of life into the series but I got my kicks from somewhere else during the episodes. The ending theme is Tsubasa Wo Motsumonotachi by the quintet of the Kotobuki Flight Corps. A slower and calmer pacing than the opener and although still not that appealing, it still is a good song if you’re just going on a joyride flight. There are a few fanfare and marching-like military BGMs here. If you heard Girls Und Panzer, you can have an idea what they sound like (heck, they both had the same director). Such BGMs add more thrill and excitement to the dogfights.

Overall, despite the less than stellar storyline and characters, the amazing dogfights and aerial views are the ones that blast all those minus points away. Not to say it is perfect but this is easily one of the best and favourite animes of the season. At least by comparison, still way much better than that other flight anime in the same season, Girly Air Force. To say that old is gold isn’t exactly accurate. It is all in the execution and this series did it right from the start. Truly the top flight. To quote a saying, the sky is the limit to some but to others who love aviation, the sky is their home. And truly this is where the Kotobuki Flight Corps feel at home with. Thank you for letting us fly with you and have a pleasant flight.

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