OP: 「Break the Blue!!」by Run Girls, Run!
I didn’t even realise I’d been assigned to write for Girly Air Force until earlier today, so apologies for the delay. It doesn’t help that I don’t care about GAF, a conclusion I quickly arrived at after watching the first episode. In fact, it feels like I lost the preview lottery this time round. But no matter – I’m here to inform you about what I saw and evaluate it with glorious helpings of my own subjectivity. Without further ado, let’s get started!
Last Exile is the GOAT aviation anime. Where overlaps exist, expectations heighten and subconscious comparisons become unavoidable. But I definitely hoped that GAF could have been something special, since the visual assets in the promotional material seemed on the mark.
Narutani Kei (Osaka Ryota) and Song Minghua (Lynn) are Chinese refugees, fleeing to Japan after the Xi (pronounced Zai) overran their home country. These mysterious Zai beings pilot superior air technology and can withstand higher G-Forces, allowing them to overwhelm humanity by dominating the skies. Their significant firepower is made immediately evident, when a single plane effortlessly blows up three gigantic cruiser ships. There’s no mistaking it – these Zai people are the bad guys in our set piece.
Incidentally, my nickname between the other writers is actually Zai-chan. Every auditory mention of these villainous entities put me on alert and captured my attention. Second things second, it’s difficult to disconnect from all the justifiable anger that people were directing towards the ‘Zai’, when the name feels associated with me. So I felt like a villain for the entire episode which was a pretty new experience for me. Perhaps my resulintg sympathies towards the Zai became excessive, because I simply wasn’t feeling any groove for Team Humanity. Our characters left much to be desired, since motivations felt erratic and they were difficult to empathise with; Kei is heroic yet one-dimensionally uninspiring, Minghua is still a naggy mother even after her insecurities are explained, and we’ve seen too little of Gripen (Morishima Yuuka) to make any kind of face value judgement (Ermagerd, why did she randomly snog Kei?). Fair enough, the vibrant visuals were fairly pleasing and aircraft/character designs were delightful. Some of the OST was pretty decent. But even these positives fail to prevent the negatives from dragging this show down. And story-wise, our plot was all over the place, where most events happened on the fly without proper build-up. It just so happens that the protagonist lives near the military base where Gripen is located AND that Gripen’s location is practically available to the public. As a Zai myself, these hoomans are making it way too easy. *le sigh*
The fact that this show is endorsed by the JASDF (Japanese Air Self-Defense Force) suggests to me that this is some form of indirect advertisement for them. Maybe it’s their intended modus operandi to be so upfront about promoting the Japanese military at every opportunity. And you know what? I bloody hate it. Alongside GATE, it could be said that I have an aversion to shows about the Japanese military, specifically due to their fervent nationalistic vibes which verge on propaganda. Given the history between these two countries, the Xi feels like a veiled jab at China’s president, Xi Jingping. Also, China have five times the military budget of Japan and even innovated a real life railgun that doesn’t warp on first use, a military achievement even the USA haven’t quite grasped. Yet China get utterly crushed by the Zai, and Japan are the ones who’ve invented the means of taking them down by harnessing cute girl powers. I know this is anime, a place where logic is frequently flouted for creative liberties. But that’s way too much of a stretch for me.
That’s not to say these things are impossible. Simply put, GAF simply requires better forms of substantiation. Perhaps an introductory episode dedicated to fleshing out what the Zai were doing in China could do the trick, and it would help map out the geopolitical situation with regards to the Zai and why it seems like only China is being afflicted. Some live reactions from Kei and Minghua to losing loved ones would have gone a long way in terms of generating characterisation and winning our sympathies. These answers will probably be given at a later stage, but providing them from the get go would have solidified the premise and made the Zai seem like true other-worldly terrors who pose a genuine threat to humanity’s existence.
Instead, the Zai only got a brief moment to shine as proper villains near the start, before being shut down by an effortless counter-attack by glorious Nippon. Three Zai ships easily lost to a single kawaii girl. The established power levels were exceeded far too quickly, and while it’s shown that humanity can and will fight back, there’s no longer any sensation that anything important is at stake. When push comes to shove, these special girls have already proven themselves superior AND the Japanese military will show up to save the day. While it would be a legitimate direction for the series to go in (focusing on the pilot waifu harem and how awesome the JSDAF are), because military otakus would be jumping for joy, I think it would be a complete waste of untapped potential inherent to its premise.
Anyway, these are merely conjectures on my part and I’d be happy to give the second episode a watch. But if there are no signs of improvement with regards to the points I’ve raised, I’ll be dropping GAF faster than Floyd Mayweather dropped Tenshin Nasukawa.
Quick Impression of the OP/ED Themes
OP: 5.5/10 – Decent beat and nice SFX but the melody itself feels fairly generic. Colourful and well-animated combat visuals are the saving grace.
ED: 7.5/10 – Three kawaii plane girls enjoying themselves makes for a relaxing backdrop. Absolutely adored the art style and colour palette. Melody and vocalists on point, but were fairly forgettable.
ED: 「Colorful☆Wing」by Gripen (Morishima Yuuka), Eagle (Ohwada Hitomi), Phantom (Izawa Shiori)