Girly Air Force
Episode 3

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 3 of
Girly Air Force ?

I previously compared Girly Air Force to an older style of dating-sim-based harem show, but I didn't necessarily mean that as a bad thing. There's something comforting about the sheer confidence with which the show plays out all its expected tropes this week. Far from the droll date we saw in the second episode, this third outing expands on the relationship between Kei and Gripen, even delving more into our protagonist's origins. That comes with some expected baggage of course, since one of the main reveals we get is that Gripen was actually created using salvaged Xi technology. It's a plot development that will hardly surprise if you're familiar with these kinds of shows, and Kei's initial shocked reaction to being ‘deceived’ by Gripen is also paint-by-numbers. But the series just commits to everything so earnestly that it's hard for me to be bothered by the stereotypical storytelling.

Even before that big turning point, this episode's on an upswing overall. Gripen actually has a personality for almost the whole episode, perhaps mirroring her ability to stay active longer as she spends time with Kei. Granted, by ‘personality’ I just mean that she acts slightly more snarky where she was previously a monotone slate, but it brings much more energy to the show, so I'll take it. This shift also helps to underscore some of Kei's own developments, as he takes to her training simulator and we discover that he's actually better at flying than a literal anthropomorphized airplane. Gripen's grouchy reaction balances that much better than if she'd just been cooing over his skills.

However, this raised an expectation that an actual conflict might arise between the two leads that sadly went unfulfilled. Gripen being motivated to catch up to Kei's abilities while he continues to hone his talents could have carried this whole little arc, but the show just skips ahead to a tandem training montage for the two of them instead. Actually, this montage seems to skip over a few things, including some apparently-important bracelets Kei and Gripen are shown wearing. These things would seem to track their synchronization abilities, and I have to assume they got some explanation in the original novel, but they go unexplained in this adaptation. There is a whole section where Yashiodori explains to Kei that they've been tracking the duo's brain-waves, so maybe the bracelets are involved with that process. Not to fixate on a small thing too much, but the omission of much explanation does make me wonder if there are other key details from the source material that the anime may be glossing over.

Fortunately, the other details given out this episode are much more well-realized. The scene where Gripen's Xi heritage is revealed actually gets preceded by a scene where Kei discovers his home city of Changshu has been devastated in a Xi attack, and while he does seem to get over it too quickly, it's primarily there to remind us of how much he understandably hates the enemy. So that gets punctuated with the reveal about Gripen's origin, making its otherwise cliche impact on Kei ring true. That doesn't stop the show from wringing the drama out in the most expected ways, though. When it capped that big scene off with a sad voiceover saying “the rain didn't stop for the next three days”, that came off as more of a punchline to me.

But I recognize that's not entirely fair to a show like Girly Air Force. Every series, no matter how boilerplate, is going to be some viewer's first experience with those tropes. To some degree, it's part of the appeal of genre fiction, and if the series is doing well enough with its cliches, I can't really gripe about it. All that said, this episode does still drop the ball at the finish line. It might be befitting of her direct character, but the letter Gripen leaves Kei explaining everything in excruciatingly convenient detail still comes off too blunt for my standards. It feels more designed just to get Kei to make up with Gripen and get the story back on track quickly rather than leaving a strong emotional impression. And the nature of his return ends up being frustratingly underwhelming, since he's not able to be near Gripen for her test and doesn't even speak up to encourage her until it's way too late. Granted, this is all to set up another cliffhanger prolonging this test-flight plot, as well as introduce a new plane-girl, but that smacks of artificially extending an arc that felt primed to end here.

Maybe this narrative choice will prove worth it in the coming episodes, but for now, this last section of turbulence has really slowed down a flight that was only getting by okay until now.

Rating: B-

Girly Air Force is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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