This is a review for episode 1 and 2 of the OVA; Slipstream and Sonic Boom Squadron.
A romanticised view of Germans during WW2? Slipstream begins, of all places, in the cockpit.
It opens with a German v Brit dogfight in August 1944 culminating in a clever bailout technique by Luftwaffe pilot Erhardt von Rheindars into the waters of the Mohne.
The anime then heads into Casablanca territory with lovers reunited, then proceeds onto the thriller aspect with the introduction of an atomic bomb. Erhardt and his love interest's disgust of the implications of the weapon are so palpable, their damnation of anyone who would use it so venomous, you have to wonder if you're watching propaganda for the Fatherland.
This is not to slight actual Germans at the time who were against what their government and leader were doing, or even the idea of there being ‘good Germans’, but it still rubs the viewer the wrong way because the story doesn’t do anything with the core concept driving the show, that of being on the German side of the WW2 conflict.
All we see are a couple good people trying to do the right thing, but the episode doesn’t explore their decisions from a cultural point of view, how they even ended up where they did if they were both so idealistically goody-two-shoes all along; when and why they decided it was acceptable to betray their country. Do they think its ok to shoot Brits down but not blow their city off the map? Why? Do they not want Germany to win the war swiftly? The viewer needs meat on this story, not just potatoes.
Sure the episode is only 20 minutes long, but any writer can achieve anything in any amount of time if they really wanted to. This was too easy, too black and white. Of course I’m also projecting my own expectations and ideas onto the anime, so I’m not downgrading it because of my woulda coulda shouldas listed above.
All in all, it’s decent for what it is, however simple. Watching a character struggle in a hopeless situation is always good drama and you get it in Slipstream with Erhardt having to choose between his love and his honour during a climactic dogfight.
The anime is produced, directed (by the luminary Yoshiaki Kawajiri), edited and animated very well for the time it was released. The music is lovely in a Joe Hisaishi kind of way and the character art is attractive. A fascinating production and worth checking out for the novelty alone.
Sonic Boom Squadron:
Set in August 1945, this opens with a sobering intro to kamikaze fighter jets and their methodology. You think you’re going to be thrown into a dark dramatic tale of epic proportions, unflinching and compelling, engrossing and powerful.
No. Most of the characters look like they belong in a Peanuts or Gary Larson cartoon they're so jarring and misplaced it’s not even funny, and especially in such a tale as this. What the character designer was thinking, I have no idea.
The story revolves around kamikaze pilot Nogami who is all too eager to die in a blaze of glory for his country but has to be punched out to stop him throwing his life away. He recuperates at a raggedy airfield with more US-comic rejects who lament about war and what the era’s youth could achieve if they were allowed to live for 30 more years.
Then, as if this is a comedy sketch but it isn’t because it’s all played very straight-faced, we cut to a bunch of US airmen lamenting the exact same thing, "he wanted to be the world's best comic artist, maybe if he'd lived another 30 years!"
It’s so hackneyed and stupid but you can’t laugh, it’s just a wasted premise with lousy art and writing. The climax did give me goosebumps but only because of the idea of what was occurring on screen, the potential, not the shoddy execution.
The climax is of course utterly ruined with a ludicrous coincidence followed by a convenient announcement that wraps up this failed attempt at exploring WW2 through the Japanese air force via anime.