「エリート砦」 (Eriito Toride)
I thought Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai would be a show all about World War II aircraft, that it’d spend its time showing off the technical details of its planes, throwing together all sorts of unlikely matchups in action-heavy set pieces. I thought episode 04 would be the most dramatic yet as the Kotobuki sally forth to redeem their honour, storming the enemy fortress, their single squadron against dozens of pirate fighters. I thought that lanes will darken the sky! It will have to be the Kotobuki’s finest hour! Instead, this is the episode where Zara is grounded, goes full Mata Hari, infiltrates the pirate base, and persuades the pirate leader to just give her back the plane through mutual appreciation of fine art. Oh, and said leader is actually a little girl, because of course she is.
How am I supposed to explain this to my grandchildren?
To be fair, it’s important for any anime to offer variety. There’s only so much you can ramp up the spectacle before an audience grows numb to it. Which is why even ‘dark’ and ‘serious’ shows will have bouts of comic relief or random fanservice, because they need to mix things up and break up the pacing. Otherwise, their only way to maintain viewer interest is to continue escalating, which will eventually reach a point that is completely unfeasible and/or ridiculous. Of course, most plots eventually become ridiculous anyway if they drag on long enough (never-ending shounen shows come to mind; how high were their power levels supposed to be again?) but the aim is to avoid hitting peak absurdity too quickly. So actually having a bit of minor silliness here and there on the side actually helps keep the main plot sane.
And it’s not like this week’s Kotobuki had no planes in it, and you’ll notice even that had a different flavour this episode, with more air-to-ground combat and our girls less interested in shooting pirates to give the pirates a chance to shoot each other. It’s just that Kotobuki was evidently focused on… other things. By which I, of course, mean character development for Zara, who apparently had a very busy past where she gained experience in basically everything. If there’s one thing I keep praising Kotobuki (and there’s more than one) it’s that it always manages to pack a lot of content into each episode. It also means, though, that each episode is very busy and in trying to do everything at once perhaps we don’t have enough time to do anything thoroughly. It shows in this episode, in particular, where there are plenty of loose ends I wish were explored with a bit more depth, especially in regards to sudden character introductions. Why, in the middle of nowhere on the frontier, is there a girl who does nothing but paint? Why does the Elite CEO revere her so? And are we just going to forgive their piracy just because she’s cute? Doesn’t blondie hate pirates? Are we just going to let it all go?
It could be that loose ends or implied backstory will come up again later in the series. Certainly, I’m at least pretty sure that the pirates who got away will be recurring villains in the future; they seemed to be more important and be part of a larger organisation than throwaway characters would warrant, and we already know there’s some overarching plot building in the background of Kotobuki so they may be useful there. Next episode politics lady is showing up again, and if we’re getting more plot she’ll be the one delivering it.