In a barren frontier where people trade goods with each other in order to help each other survive. The Kotobuki Squadron are bodyguards for hire, led by a strict but beautiful squadron leader, an unreliable commanding officer, and a true artisan of a crew chief. Alongside pilots who don't lack for personality, they take to the air in dogfights, letting the engine noise of their Hayabusa fighters ring out in the skies.
I think the vast majority who knows this show by heart now are those who really like or love the ol' classic air pirates and dogfights, and the group of people staying true to their cause, going around spreading their name etc etc, which is just literally Crimson Skies the anime.
From the studio that brought you the god-awful CGI remake that is Berserk, The Magnificent Kotobuki takes us viewers back to the old times where air pirates were a thing, with so many individuals and groups who were just trying to get along in that time and age where raids and dogfights were the norm,
and for this case, we have the 6-man (erm, girlie) crew that is the Kotobuki Squadron, who are trying to help mercenaries do their jobs that involve the use of airplanes that are small and dogfight-certified.
So, for GEMBA to combine the use of 2D and 3DCGI (which is used for the Kotobuki team characters) is really weird, not something which we have seen back then but it's of relevance now that CGI is getting popular (see Houseki no Kuni, Revisions), but alas it's still quite a fair bit of distraction that you'll see 2D characters interacting with 3D characters and such. Often at the start this is a nitpick, but it's easy to get used to it.
The main crux of the series is always the dogfights, and thankfully that covers just about four-fifths of the episodes, which are darn entertaining to watch. Compare this to the subpar Girly Air Force (which also premieres this season), and I can pick this anyday with the nonsense story plots that leads to something better.
For now, I can only say if you hate 3D or CGI, this show will turn you off, but give it a second chance and you might like it.
This is by far my favorite anime of the winter season! The artwork is quite good and the animation of the flying/dogfight scenes is really well done and exciting. You can tell the animators have done their homework on how these WW2 planes flew and handled. There are some great sequences of these Hayabusa both in and out of the cockpit...great stuff if you love planes from this era. Really top notch flight sequences! The character designs are also very good and each one has their own look and personality. Perhaps the roles are a bit the usual slice of life team but it
still works for me. The story gets slightly lower points just because we are thrown into the middle of a future world without any real explanations about the wherefores and whys of that world or why our main characters are doing the job they are doing. Some details are coming out slowly, but plot is not really the focus. It's more about our characters facing challenges and accomplishing the mission at hand. Hopefully, the series will continue long enough for the larger story to be developed (because there is definitely something larger going on that has not yet been revealed). But for now I am just enjoying getting to know these ladies in their flying machines and going along on the adventure!
TL;DR - It's probably enjoyable if you make it past the first episode.
When I initially wrote this review, I did it under the assumption that I would never watch the series again. However, after dropping it, I decided to give it another shot, and holy smokes, this is probably one of the most underrated animes of the season.
I really didn't like the story. At first.
Our anime starts out at some kind of cafe of sorts, where a group of men are sitting and exhibiting what the directors seem to think is "manly behavior."
I'm pretty sure that, in real life, we call it "being a
An annoying guy comes up and tries to hit on some of the girls sitting in the corner, because like two of them look hot, all while pointing out that the rest are not worth his time and generally expressing the maturity of a five year-old. He brags about having almost a dozen stars. It's implied that stars correlate to experience and skill.
But every single one of the girls sitting there is actually an extremely accomplished pilot, having earned 200 stars all together. The main character herself has earned 40 on her own. Another failed plot twist attempt just thrown in your face, trying to teach you that showing off isn't good. Also, helpful bartender just happens to know all this information off the top of his head, and sticks up for the girls because who knows why.
In the evening, everyone suits up for an aerial battle due to a convenient plot device called "irrelevant villains show up." There is a bit of attempted humor by the captain of the giant airship that they are supposed to protect talking to his boss, but it's pretty stale and it's just your typical "weak guy and strong girl" type of relationship. Nothing new.
The men get creamed, because they're complete garbage, which is pretty surprising, considering the fact that they haven't died yet. The anime uses the excuse that "the enemies aren't normal enemies!" Like we haven't heard that one before.
The main character spend a full minute preparing, which is pretty realistic, cool to watch, and deserves bonus points.
Then, the girls launch into the air and completely wipe out most of the enemies, except for one. Our MC decides to pursue and almost dies, but she's spared at the last moment and returns in defeat.
Firstly, a lot of people seem to like the realistic fights that go on in the air. There aren't giant pauses for talking, and it all seems pretty fast-paced and full of action. The story is compelling, albeit a bit strange and with a few sci-fi elements that don't really seem to fit.
In the beginning, the skill of the pilots is shown to be at the top of their class and ridiculously overpowered. But as the series goes on, it is shown how no one can accomplish everything. Tension is high in the air, and a very realistic sense of danger is present, unlike most shounen in which "the power of friendship" conquers all (ahem, Fairy Tail).
The animation is some kind of weird 3D style, but the problem is that some things are in three dimensions and others are in two, and that becomes a bit of a strange sight. Once you get used to it, though, you'll be fine.
But the action scenes. Holy mother of Jesus, those get better and better as time goes on. I'm willing to bet that no plane anime out there has anything even remotely close to what Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai delivers. Full of fast-paced action and smooth animation, this anime should draw you in simply because it looks so nice.
I like the sound. The dogfights are pretty realistic. The OST isn't really there, but the key part of the sound is listening to each individual sound effect for all the parts of the plane. It's like watching a great racing movie, but in the air instead of with cars.
The characters each fit into their own stereotypes: the drama queen, the serious one, the quiet one, the one who watches others, the one that is always drunk, the violent one, the loli, etc. Each character does have some depth, but what really makes this show enjoyable is the fluid interactions between them.
Its portrayal of men was literally from the standpoint of an aggressive feminist, and basically establishing the fact that males will not have a prominent role at all in this entire anime. And looking at the teaser for the next episode, it looks like all accomplished fighters in the entire show are women. Considering the fact that most shounen at least try to include a few important female leads and that most shoujo have prominent males, this looks pretty discriminatory to me. There isn't an explanation provided as to why they don't accept and have never befriended males, either.
In addition, the show tries to piece too many unique thoughts together. Not many animes are about planes; not many animes have a 3D animation style. Not many action animes feature a cast full of women, and not many animes are so deeply rooted in the culture of Western warfare.
Put them all together, and you have an audience that enjoys the strange CGI feel, supports women empowerment to an excessive extent, and/or appreciates the representation of aerial battles, which is to say - not many.
I'm not saying you can't enjoy the anime if you aren't one of the above. But personally, all of these things irked me throughout my viewing of the anime. As their names suggest, shounen is geared towards boys and shoujo is geared towards girls. But the target audience of Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai is rather limited.
However, I'm not trying to say that this anime is complete garbage, which it isn't. It has the potential to be one of those "gem in the rough" animes. I can assure you that this isn't the anime of the season, but you should give it a shot, and see if you like it.
Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai is a pretty strange anime. The 3D animation probably chased a lot of people away, and the first episode wasn't anything special. But that's exactly what makes this anime so good.
The animators know that, with all the negative connotations attached to their work, it probably won't be seen by too many people. But they still do it anyway, because we desperately need an anime like Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai.
Just take a look at the other aviation anime of the season, Girly Air Force. Planes are definitely underrepresented aspect of anime. The last time I saw one in mainstream anime was when Deku and All Might took one to I Island in the movie, Futari no Hero.
Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai isn't a great anime. It's got tons of flaws and has a ridiculously limited audience. It's not exactly what I would call a diamond in the rough. But it's definitely an emerald, at least. It's got its good parts, its own value, and will make you appreciate the atmosphere behind dogfights.
If you're looking for a touching story full of heartbreak and emotions, this isn't it. But if you want to sit back and relax and see some girls shoot stuff in planes every Sunday, go ahead.
Maybe you'll discover a new passion for this kind of culture that you never had before. Maybe you won't. But I guarantee that this will be an enjoyable watch. That is, if you can get through the whole thing.
,,Hey let’s put bunch of girls into japanese WWII plane’s cockpits and make them fight some air pirates!“
This is how you can describe the plot in one sentence. But saying just this won’t be really fair, so let’s take a closer look.
If you‘re familiar with an old videogame called Crimson Skies, and you like it, then there’s a huge chance, that you will like this as well. Airships used instead of carriers? Air pirates? Dogfights? Yes everything is here, just like in CS. But unlike in CS, this show is not from pirate’s point of view, but from the other side instead. You will follow
a small female mercenary squadron called ,,Kotobuki Squadron“ on their adventures. So much for the plot, most of the screen time is reserved for dogfights anyways. Now let’s move to technical aspects, shall we?
Art and Visuals
This is something questionable. We have impressive CGI plane models and animations, with the same attention to details,that we can find in GuP (no doubt since both shows have the same director). However, and this is probably the biggest problem of the show, unlike GuP, which uses traditional animation for characters, Kotobuki uses CGI not just for the machines, but also for people. Especially for the main characters. And that’s the problem. With this amount of CGI characters used, the show feels more like a cutscene from Bandai Namco game, than anime. They should’ve sticked to use CGI only for vehicles, where it works really great, for example that unforgettable engine starting sequence in the first episode, that was just pleasure to watch.To make it simple, the vehicle visuals and animations are stunning, but the decision to use CGI for characters makes the overall visuals kinda odd.
Sounds and Music
OP is great, it resembles the atmosphere of sandy wasteland in alternative 1930s-1940s (which is most likely, when and where the show takes place, judging by the usage of WWII airplanes).In terms of sounds, I like them, especially gunshots and engine sounds.
There’s not much to say, we have almost no backstory nor character development (but we sometimes get some hints about character's past, and
we also know, that there is a one girl who loves pancakes). The Kotobuki Squadron consists of 6 girls, however the only remarkable one so far is Kirie (the one who loves pancakes). But this show is mostly about planes and dogfights, so let’s overlook the lack of character development.
If you are a fan of doghfights and WWII airplanes, then go for it. If not, well then try it, if you can bare with CGI characters and small/no character development you will be rewarded by amazing air battle scenes. As a someone who has dozens of hours on games like IL-2 Sturmovik or Crimson Skies, and likes WWII stuff in general, I can only say it deserves 9/10, because of the way they presented the dogfights and airplanes, which are the main aspect of the show after all.