Girly Air Force
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Girly Air Force ?
So after that initial arc of Girly Air Force that covered Gripen and Kei getting together, it's time for the story to expand and give the other characters their due. I criticized the show last week for shortchanging Eagle, leaving her character feeling shallow after being around for a couple episodes now. This episode does give her more to do in terms of interacting with the others and establishing her personality (planesonality?), but now it's becoming apparent that if she still feels shallow, it might just be because she's written that way. Eagle is a pretty standard boisterous n' bratty braggart character, focused on enthusiastically proving her superiority. This arc-initiating episode still feels like an interlude, from her undermining Gripen's confidence to having her own shortcomings spelled out by the end as a new character arrives.
Unfortunately for any Eagle fans in the audience, those bookends are about all you're going to get for her, as the rest of this episode's energy is spent on the remaining members of the JSDF jet force. Gripen and Kei, being the power couple, get the lion's share in the first half, showing that despite their climactic performance last episode, Kei's still having trouble adjusting to this whole ‘flying in a superpowered robo-plane’ business. There's a few interesting ideas at the core of this, namely that despite needing his presence to function properly, having to take care of Kei's squishy body is actually holding back Gripen's performance. It's a unique metaphor for the idea that emotional attachment to a significant other can hinder our psychological performance in some areas. The writing doesn't lean into that idea too hard, but it's still clearly present. On a simpler level, I appreciate that Yashiodori's advice to Kei for dealing with Gripen's flight amounted to simply ‘get good’, making it clear that sometimes hard work is the only way forward in both relationships and combat.
Of course, it wouldn't be Girly Air Force without a trip to a few well-worn wells, and this time that means deepening Kei and Gripen's romantic tension with a trip to her dorm. If you've watched pretty much any anime ever, you know how this is gonna go. The silly plane has no concept of human shame and happily undresses in front of him to go take a shower! Wait, plane-robots sweat and need to take showers? This is one of those cases where you just shouldn't worry about the particulars and enjoy the classic romance anime shenanigans, and Kei's realistic but ultimately sympathetic reactions to the whole situation help it cruise along just fine. Gripen's the main heroine, so her personality and Kei's simple self-insert reactions to it are the main attractions. At least Girly Air Force has its familiar romcom beats down.
This brings us to the other key development of this episode, as the trifecta of plane girls is completed. The F-4 Phantom II gets brought in through another anime classic when Kei saves her from an overzealous creeper (though it's shortly revealed that she easily could have taken care of the threat herself). She endears herself to me simply by virtue of acting far more adult-like than the other two plane-girls. Amusingly, this turns out to be because she's literally based on an older model of plane, which becomes apparent as Phantom and Eagle trade plane-trivia-based barbs. That's the sort of content I was expecting from this series from day one, getting details about the aircraft themselves that lend to the characters' personalities, like some kind of jet-based Hetalia (‘Jetalia’, if you will). Some viewers will probably be put off by the eventual reveal of Phantom's true venomous personality, but just as many will probably see a certain appeal. For my part, the point she made about Eagle's personality type was spot-on, and she brings a more complex character conflict to the team than the others.
Setting up that dynamic between all the main characters is pretty much all this episode has to offer. Some new aspects of Kei and Gripen's chemistry can be gleaned, but it's mostly in the interest of re-establishing the status quo. Honestly, more time and dialogue than I'd like is dedicated to characters discussing why they're engaging in certain training exercises or how the team is going to be set up moving forward. I feel like they could have done more with the presentation or just focused on showing off some of the cast's personalities better, but as with the other high points of Girly Air Force, it still functions just fine if you're into this niche genre.
Girly Air Force is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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