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REVIEW: The Magnificent KOTOBUKI




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#HayamiLover



Joined: 22 Jul 2018
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Location: Eastern Europe
PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 1:25 pm Reply with quote
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− Never sets aside its flippant tone even when it should, most characters are stock archetypes


This is just my opinion, but it always seemed to me that this was done intentionally, since in theory every character of an all-female anime "should" be a certain moe and attract viewers. Recall the various CGDCTs and harems where tsundere, kuudere, tomboy, etc. are sure to be. I call it the "find your waifu" cliche.

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By contrast, male characters are typically portrayed as being of lesser competence, flaky fools, or villains beyond the smart but crippled brother of one Corps member, but watch out for that bartender when he finally goes into action!


Quite ironically, this is referred to simply as a fact, while the typification of the female characters above is directly called the minus and the indulgence of cliches. However, on the Internet, it even became a definite fuel for flame bait, where this show was often accused of non-existent “feminist propaganda”.

In any case, it is sad when the authors believe that in order to make female characters stronger in appearance, they need to make male characters idiots.
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Key
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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 6:59 pm Reply with quote
#HayamiLover wrote:
Quite ironically, this is referred to simply as a fact, while the typification of the female characters above is directly called the minus and the indulgence of cliches. However, on the Internet, it even became a definite fuel for flame bait, where this show was often accused of non-existent “feminist propaganda”.

I didn't follow any other commentaries on this series, but I could easily see how people could get that impression. I'm ambivalent on the issue. Because it's entirely possible that the male characters in general coming off weak is just a natural consequence of focusing on the female characters, I can't agree that any kind of agenda was intended here. However, the series is thorough enough on the matter (even the one bad-ass male who isn't a villain is rather pathetic the rest of the time) that disputing accusations of intent is rather hard.

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In any case, it is sad when the authors believe that in order to make female characters stronger in appearance, they need to make male characters idiots.

If this was done deliberately, the sadder thing is that the series didn't need to do it. Most of these female characters are strong enough that no guy is going to push/lead them around.
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Animegomaniac



Joined: 16 Feb 2012
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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 7:35 pm Reply with quote
The dodo was the captain and I'd say he was tough but fair though I feel sorry for the guy since his first officer was so useless. And once you accept that fact, the rest of the series falls into place in how you're supposed to take it:

Not seriously. This is one of those series I'd describe as being a lot better than it has any right to be though in the end, I was following less for its thrilling dogfights and more to see what Julia would next, especially once it's shown that she's genuinely in the right both morally and in general.

Oddly, her supposed rival who's the leader of the Kotobuki has nothing to do and seems to disappear for a few episodes just so the writers don't have to come up with something. I'd say she was redundant but since the captain couldn't speak, she's the closest thing the airship had to someone who could communicate with authority. They could have just made her the captain in place of the bird but I don't know; I liked the idea that the captain of an airship, a flying device extinct in our world, was a flightless bird extinct in our world.

And then there's Isao.... for people who haven't seen the series, I'll just say he's one of the characters to watch it for and leave it at that.

Sadly, none of the actual lead pilots make much of an impression but I think that's by design; they affect the story by flying so when they're out of their position they're useless. The series tries to have a story between Kylie and her rival pilot, the one who keeps shooting her down but it just ends in a meaningless reveal.

Final note: My largest complaint with the series was its 3d versus 2d animation and how inconsistent they were blended. This was one of the few series where I didn't mind the 3d animation for human characters at all but to go 3d to 2d to 3d in a few seconds at times was asking a bit much.
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Denys Lalande



Joined: 28 Jan 2018
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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 8:54 pm Reply with quote
This is the _Crimson Skies_ anime we should have gotten ~20 years ago -- talk about "too little, too late"....
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Cardcaptor Takato



Joined: 27 Jan 2018
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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 10:09 pm Reply with quote
This was one of my favorite under-rated hidden gems of last season. I personally liked The Magnificent Kotobuki better when it was being more of a light hearted slice of life type of show with the aerial dogfights and politics in the background. I think once the series tried to take itself in a more dramatic direction, it started to lose me and it never really explained the sci-fi elements that seem to come out of nowhere at the end. Kylie, Julia, and the dodo captain were the characters that stood out the most to me. I didn't mind the CGI in this show but I agree that I wish they were more consistent with it.
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Nom De Plume De Fanboy
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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 10:47 pm Reply with quote
I liked the review, I think it described the show very well. The characters just were not fleshed out very well, which was too bad. Hopefully that was something the creators accepted or even intended somewhat, as I thought this was supposed to be a light hearted adventure, where there was almost no real risk to most of the characters. In real dog fighting like this, lots of people would be badly hurt or killed, but this show just wasn't going to go there, and I'm fine with that.

I did like Kylie, but as a character she got more backstory, so that helped. I noticed that some of the male characters were not hughly competent, but I put that down as part of the tone of the show, so it didn't bother me much.

But as an airplane nerd, yeah, I want to buy this. Not high on my ever-lengthening backlist, but I want to get it.

One more bit of nitpicking: besides the ease of speaking in the planes, the outfits were preposterous. With mostly bare legs, people would freeze and get really dirty and oily. The round ( radial, I think ) engines used in most of the planes are really messy beasts. Just one more point, I think, that this is the kind of show where things like that are just not supposed to matter. I did a lot of eye rolling watching this, but I still liked it more than not.

And can I say that the short dancing troupe scene did not have enough "3D physics" to make the dancers shake and shimmy, um, "realisticly?" Embarassed Wink
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nDroae



Joined: 26 May 2017
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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 11:27 pm Reply with quote
I never consciously recognized the issue with incompetent males. Perhaps CGDCT will yet turn me into a proper self-hating misandrist. Razz

The final arc was where I finally got really into the show, so I suppose I'm still stereotypically male in that regard.
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kotomikun



Joined: 06 May 2013
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PostPosted: Tue May 14, 2019 11:49 pm Reply with quote
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By contrast, male characters are typically portrayed as being of lesser competence, flaky fools, or villains


This line was a bit unintentionally funny considering how common it was, and is, for this arrangement to be used for female characters. Besides that, I'm not sure this is really accurate; you gave two notable exceptions, and we can't forget "Old Man Sabu" (a reference to Saburo Sakai, a famous WWII pilot), and that preacher-looking guy whose name I can't remember. Taking it the opposite way, though, none of the female characters are profoundly incompetent, stupid, or evil. (Julia is a bit morally ambiguous, and there was that one pilot who tripped getting out of her plane, but that's about it.) Which might be where the "feminist propaganda" nonsense came from.

The character designs can probably be blamed on this being partly a mobile-game franchise. Pokemon-esque moe-fanservice cliches are apparently required for that sort of thing. In terms of writing, though, I felt like it transcended that limitation about as much as was possible. Except for that one episode where Zara basically worked at a strip club. That was pretty silly.

Overall, though, I don't really get why this, well, flew under the radar (ouch). I never got past the first episode of Girls Und Panzer, partly because tank combat is kind of monotonous, but mainly because of the sheer ridiculousness of having tank-fighting clubs in high school. Kotobuki is, in many ways, also pretty ridiculous, but in a more no-holds-barred sort of way--why just have cute girls in fighter planes when we can also have semi-intelligent dodo birds in charge of flying aircraft carriers, pirate squadrons who insist they aren't pirates and try to sell you paintings, a guy who calls himself the "Flying Magician" and isn't being metaphorical... and so on. And in spite of its cheesy exterior, the amount of detail put into the worldbuilding is kind of nuts; not only the realistic old military tech (none of which I really understood), but also the politics, weird mythology about the portals, and character backstories.

It's a bit too hyperactive to have a clear message, at times, but every episode is fun and produced with such Kemono-Friends earnestness that it's hard to criticize it. The only "what if military, but cute girls" anime to ever achieve any sort of thematic depth is still Sora No Woto (Hisone and Masotan doesn't quite fit the stereotype), but Kotobuki is sort of a Guardians of the Galaxy take on the concept, and does it quite well, at least for me.
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nDroae



Joined: 26 May 2017
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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2019 12:15 am Reply with quote
I grew up a fan of planes, but having seen Girls und Panzer, I felt it would be a challenge for Kotobuki's air combat to be as interesting and fun to watch as GuP's tank combat. And it wasn't, but it compensated with pure adrenaline.
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#HayamiLover



Joined: 22 Jul 2018
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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2019 5:26 am Reply with quote
@Key Well, I certainly didn’t look into the creators' heads, but I think that experience with “all-female action” and the Japanese industry in general is enough to understand that there’s no talk of feminism here. Another thing is that "idealized women vs stupid men" in 2019 looks just like a ready-made target for such flame wars.

Well, depending on what you mean by "intentionally." Many such shows have different girls power to underline the coolness of female protagonists, but that does not mean that female characters are necessarily weak, since this is just the default cliche for such shows.
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meiam



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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2019 8:38 am Reply with quote
I would be extremely surprised if there was any specific intention behind all male character being incompetent, it just seem like plain old good incompetent writer judging from the first two episodes. They clearly don't know how to properly setup characters as competent, so instead they borrow the cliche version (male grizzled veteran) and then show them to be bad at there job and then show the girl character being better at them, except they severely messed that up, so you just end up with cartoonish character.
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Cardcaptor Takato



Joined: 27 Jan 2018
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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2019 7:11 pm Reply with quote
kotomikun wrote:


Overall, though, I don't really get why this, well, flew under the radar (ouch). I never got past the first episode of Girls Und Panzer, partly because tank combat is kind of monotonous, but mainly because of the sheer ridiculousness of having tank-fighting clubs in high school. Kotobuki is, in many ways, also pretty ridiculous, but in a more no-holds-barred sort of way--why just have cute girls in fighter planes when we can also have semi-intelligent dodo birds in charge of flying aircraft carriers, pirate squadrons who insist they aren't pirates and try to sell you paintings, a guy who calls himself the "Flying Magician" and isn't being metaphorical... and so on. And in spite of its cheesy exterior, the amount of detail put into the worldbuilding is kind of nuts; not only the realistic old military tech (none of which I really understood), but also the politics, weird mythology about the portals, and character backstories. .
I think a lot of it was a combination of fan knee jerk reaction to CGI and coming out at the same time as Girly Air Force. I also think some fans 'dismissed it early on as not having a lot of substance and being too fluffy.
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j_plex



Joined: 28 Aug 2018
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PostPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 9:37 am Reply with quote
Japan is not a western country. They do not have our culture or politics. Don't get me wrong: there are some feminists who write/direct/produce anime, manga visual/light novels etc. but even those usually aren't third wave or even hard second wave feminists. Similar to their anti-racist, anti-war, anti-racist etc. things are very different from ours: based on their own cultural influences and historical experiences.

So yes, when the recent Ghostbusers and Star Wars reboots sidelines males - and makes those who do appear be useless at best and evil at worst - because of "politics as art", when anime does this it is because the target market simply wants to see as many (young, cute and attractive) girls as possible. Capable male? They'll merit screen time. Even worse, they'll get into romantic entanglements with the females. The target market doesn't want that. They want all CGDCT all the time with as little "real world" tensions, complications and emotions as possible. They want pure escapism just like 80s American Stallone and Schwarzenegger action movies. So what you do is take the characters that in a normal work would be male and make them a different type of cute girl.

So not only is this not feminism in any real sense, but it is the opposite: pandering. Note the freakout over Captain Marvel wearing makeup and nice hair in Avengers Endgame. In Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Captain Marvel, Mad Max Fury Road etc. the goal was to make the female characters as unattractive to men as possible so that male physical attraction or desire for females is not a factor in the work's conception, construction, promotion and success. With works like this is the opposite: the main emphasis is satisfying the desire to view as many attractive females as possible and everything else is a variation (cute girl ninjas, cute girl witches, cute girls in space, cute girls in school, cute girls in apocalyptic dystopia) on the theme.
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nDroae



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PostPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 12:43 pm Reply with quote
j_plex wrote:
In Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Captain Marvel, Mad Max Fury Road etc. the goal was to make the female characters as unattractive to men as possible so that male physical attraction or desire for females is not a factor in the work's conception, construction, promotion and success.

Alright, I'm a 31-year-old male and I'm obsessed with CGDCT / moe military. I was never a fan of Ghostbusters to begin with and I haven't seen the new one; you're probably right about that. The other three all cast Hollywood-standard beautiful actresses, so I'm not convinced that was the goal; or if it was, it was carried out poorly.

Before The Force Awakens came out, my main desire was to see a female Jedi lead character, because I like women, and that had never happened in the movies. I was hoping Rey would get to use a lightsaber, though the promotional material was pushing Finn for that role. So when the lightsaber started twitching in the snow, I was whispering "Go to Rey! Go to Rey!" and that was possibly the most exciting moment I've had at the movies this entire decade.

Captain Marvel is physically attractive, with or without makeup. What makes her unattractive is her abrasive haughtiness. Tony and Thor started out with humility arcs, but Captain Marvel's film seemed to say she only needed to fix her perspective, not her attitude. Even so, I liked her movie, because I like women. I think my favorite scene was her getting her friend's daughter to pick out her suit colors, that was super cute! I'd like to see more CGDCT type stuff like that in Marvel crossovers, beyond Endgame's "Look, every female hero on this vast battlefield is miraculously gathered in one spot at the same time! Girl power, right? This is good enough, right...?" That was some serious pandering. (And I loved it. But it was much too short, I wish I could get a whole movie of that.)

Mad Max Fury Road (which I saw opening day and loved) has one "unattractive" lead female in Furiosa, but come on, if you cast Charlize Theron you need to try harder than that if the goal is to make her "unattractive." I could very much see an anime character with a design like that getting a cult following. The nubile wives are obviously very pleasing to look at. The Many Mothers don't get much screen time, but they were just like a moe military team, only older. I'd compare them to Mako's badass grandmother in Girls und Panzer. https://gup.fandom.com/wiki/Hisako_Reizei

There's a missed opportunity in Kotobuki not having a predecessor squad of senior women; that would have been fun. I've been working with seniors for nearly a decade and I've often said it's disappointing how anime is so youth-focused, despite Japan being known for traditionally fostering greater respect for elders compared to the west.
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Cardcaptor Takato



Joined: 27 Jan 2018
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PostPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 4:28 pm Reply with quote
I think the male characters only come across as more incompetent because other than Kylie and Julia, all the characters in the show are one dimensional and not really fleshed out that much. So almost all the characters in the show regardless of gender only end up having one personality trait to them.
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