where would our new anime season be without the designated military fetish anime

Kei and childhood friend Minghua are refugees from mainland China – escaping from some kind of enemy spacecraft known as ‘the Xi’. Their evacuation fleet is attacked by the Xi en route to Japan, and all seems lost until a mysterious aircraft easily defeats them. When the aircraft lands in the water and the pilot doesn’t exit, Kei fears for the pilot’s safety and swims over – to find that nside the aircraft is an even more mysterious girl. She kisses him and both pass out.
Afterwards, as Kei and Minghua slowly adapt to life at Kei’s grandparents house in Komatsu, Kei sees the same aircraft being driven to a base. He tries to investigate – with Minghua following – and both are apprehended at the fence-line and taken away in vans. Inside the base, Kei is interrogated as though he is a spy and threatened with death until the aircraft itself tries to stop the proceedings – and it turns out that was the original goal. It’s revealed that the girl inside the cockpit is not a real human, but some kind of piloting device called an Anima built to be able to withstand the g-forces necessary for out-maneuvering the Xi by the Japanese Defense Force. What’s more, she is strange and unstable – but for some reason Kei may be the key to getting her into shape.

Just not feeling these character designs.

Well, let’s be blunt. There are some issues with the plot of Girly Air Force that bugged me a lot. It’s not exactly a secret that Japan and China do not have the best of relationships, but a show about the valiant JADF rescuing the poor defenseless Chinese seems…distasteful? The planes also all have Japanese flags on them, and i just found out this show was literally endorsed by the JADF, which is somewhat…troubling. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really keen on military sponsorship of anime – no matter how benign. The venn diagram of fans that go gaga for this military stuff does have some worrying overlap with Japanese nationalism and right wing politics, so whether intentional or not, it’s an uncomfortable feeling that I really couldn’t shake. Maybe I’m looking waaaay too far into this, but it’s a point that’s worth raising. But let’s just pretend it’s all a coincidence and the military/Chinese aspect is completely benign – unfortunately there are still problems.

Anime has a long and troubled history of ethereal female characters being literal objects, and this is yet another instance of that taken to its extreme. I’m not saying its bad or sexist to make girls into plane souls or whatever is going on here. That alone does not bother me – to be honest, a lot of shows where female characters are ‘objects’ (like robots, gijinka or whatever) don’t and there’s a lot I do and have enjoyed. What does bother me is that there’s a weird dichotomy here – they look and act like girls, the planes themselves are even called ‘Daughters’, but the ministry of Defense guy talks about her not only like she’s not human, but like some kind of naughty animal. Not to mention how the entire plot seems to be ‘This girl is wild and useless, she needs a Strong Male Protagonist to tame her so she can be more useful’, which makes it sound like she’s a horse or something. Yeah, she isn’t human, but that’s besides the point – it’s still kinda uncomfy in a way that similar shows aren’t to me. And if the Anima are man-made (like a robot I guess?) it also begs the question of why on earth they were designed to look like young teenage girls, which is a can of worms on its own. (The kiss went completely unexplained, by the way. There’s probably some dumb plot justification for it later)

Maybe that’s all just a coincidence too, of course, and this show is far more benign than the warning bells I get from this first episode would indicate. Either way, it’s very obviously a show for the military buffs (particularly the airforce ones), an audience I really am not part of, and if I was there are other anime that have done this far better. Since the focus of the show is the ‘Daughters’ and they dont get to do much in this episode, it would probably be fairer to judge it from the second episode onwards. Because honestly, warning bells aside this was really kinda dull – not just in writing but also character design – and I’ll be interested to know if anyone is still talking about it by March.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s…a punchline I couldn’t be bothered to come up with.

Out of 5,