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Dated 25 March 2019: Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai is good, but I wouldn't call it magnificent

Kylie
Go on, Kylie, curse the bitch out.

The air battles in Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai (The Magnificent KOTOBUKI) are consistently fantastic. Those alone managed to keep the show at the top of my Winter 2019 list all season long. However, I never got particularly invested in the story or the characters, perhaps with the exception of the flashback-heavy one with Kylie before she became a pilot. In contrast, Mizushima Tsutomu was much more successful with GIRLS und PANZER (admittedly a very tough act to follow), which has much more engaging characters complemented by the excellent tank battles.

Kylie
Somehow, Kylie wasn't a hellion as a kid.

With 11 episodes down and presumably only one to go, KOTOBUKI seems poised to hit its big finish. This would have greater significance if I cared more about the characters or the things they had at stake, but at least I'm confident the dogfights will be awesome. Incidentally, since my initial post included comparisons with Girly Air Force, I suppose I should note that my interest in Girly Air Force crashed and burned within four episodes. I don't think I've seen anyone else mention it on the Twitter in all that time either, so I guess it probably didn't have enough going for it even if Eagle was very American.

Dated 14 January 2019: There are two Girls with Planes shows in the Winter 2019 anime season

Gripen and Kei
No, this is not a Meet Cute.

Technically, I guess there's only one show about girls with planes: Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai (The Magnificent KOTOBUKI), since Girly Air Force seems to be about girls who are planes. Both shows have only one episode out so far, but Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai seems to be far and away the better show. For one thing, the planes in Girly Air Force are strictly 3DCG sentient artificial intelligence jobbies based on contemporary jet fighters. For other, Potato-kun is in Girly Air Force. He's not too bad, actually, but the cranky Chinese girl he's partnered with is going to get annoying if she doesn't get any actual character development. Probably the real weakness of the show will be the so-called "Xi" menace which is responsible for war in China and all the refugees from the mainland fleeing to Japan. Bogus opponents hurt Strike Witches and Sky Girls and will probably hurt Girly Air Force for all the same reasons.

Kirie
The googles do nothing.

Thankfully, enemy aircraft in Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai appear to have human pilots (although none were clearly shown in the first episode). At a minimum, they certainly have more personality than the Xi or the Neuroi or WORMs, even if it's only revealed in little displays such as the dipped wings at the conclusion of an air battle. Kotobuki also benefits from direction by Mizushima Tsutomu who looks ready to combine ideas from his work on GIRLS und PANZER and The Third Girls Aerial Squad of Shirobako fame. Curiously, the female characters are all 3DCG (but look good for basically the same reason 3DCG characters worked in Bubuki Buranki, as opposed to Ajin). I don't know how realistic the air battles are in Kotobuki, but they look and sound great, and the anime goes out of its way to show details of the controls. Overall, the dogfighting depicted with The Magnificient KOTOBUKI's propeller-driven planes is much more compelling than the super high-G BFM (read: bullshit fighter maneuvers) demonstrated by the AI jets of Girly Air Force.

Zero
He probably also has a video about the Hayabusa.

Incidentally, if you're interested in the practical elements of World War II fighter aircraft and the associated engineering aspects that influence performance and combat effectiveness, "Greg's Airplanes and Automobiles" on the YouTube is fascinating.

Dated 14 February 2018: iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA is a classic story about a teenage girl and her giant robot finding true love together

Haruka and Imber
Shameless flirting.

I was a stranger to the iDOLM@STER franchise the first time I watched iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA. I mentioned this before, but perhaps I should have noted I was also mystified by the amount of hostility displayed by some fans of the original games (arcade and Japanese Xbox 360 exclusive) toward Xenoglossia when the anime came out in 2007. Although I understood in principle the objections fans would have concerning the different character designs and replaced voices, I was not personally invested in any of the characters, so some of the more venomous attacks seemed excessive. Moreover, the character designs looked fine to me, at least relative to other anime of the period and Sunrise shows in particular. I finally watched my DVDs over the past few months, and actually enjoyed Xenoglossia a lot more on re-watch than I did during its initial broadcast, despite having a better understanding now of THE iDOLM@STER as a whole. Or maybe I like Xenoglossia more because I've watched several cours of bona fide iDOLM@STER anime now, not "despite" watching them.

Iori
Yukarin Iori with purple hair is good too.

Still, I'm not quite sure how I would characterize iDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA. It's not really much of a giant robot show for a show about giant robots, and it's not an idol anime despite having (regular-type) idols and iDOLs in it. It's not a "cute girls doing cute things" show, nor is it an early example of the more recent phenomenon where anime girls band together to be really excited about some typically male-dominated activity, like Bakuon!! or Two Car or GIRLS und PANZER. Honestly, it really is a love story about a teenage girl and her much older robot boyfriend. Notably, the affection Haruka develops for Imber is not at all unusual, as all of the other pilots also develop complex feelings toward their robots as well. In fact, jealousy plays a huge role in the plot, as do the inevitable love triangles.

Azusa
Also, Xenoglossia Azusa > regular Azusa.

IDOLM@STER XENOGLOSSIA does not take itself too seriously, but does not devolve into camp either. I buy into the HARUKA X IMBER pairing enough to believe there should be real questions raised about the ED once its setting becomes clear. I also enjoy the romance enough that I think I like the Xenoglossia Haruka more than I like the regular Haruka. Not that there's anything wrong with the regular Haruka necessarily, but I like the Xenoglossia Haruka's attitude better. Perhaps it's because she comes across as more of a main character in her own show, while the "real" Haruka necessarily seems more like a token default protagonist in a franchise with an ensemble cast, must the way I regard Miyafuji in Strike Witches or ol' Bucky in the Kantai Collection anime. I don't know if true fans of THE iDOLM@STER will ever regard Xenoglossia as positively as I do—the different voices must be especially jarring for them—but perhaps they'll come to appreciate the series if they think of it as one of those in-universe television programs the iM@S characters themselves occasionally feature in as actresses.

Dated 23 October 2017: I can't believe Best Girl is already dead (full-on Juuni Taisen spoilers)

Niwatori
Seriously, though, this is great hair.

I'm going to depart from my typical spoiler-free policy for this bit. Avert your eyes if you care about Juuni Taisen spoilers at all. Juuni Taisen (also Juni Taisen: Zodiac War) is an anime adaptation of a NisiOisiN light novel about 12 psychos (loosely based on the Chinese zodiac) killing each other in an urban ghost town. Their reasons for doing so aren't particularly important, as the main draw of the series simply happens to be the homicide carnival. After three episodes, I'm mostly unimpressed with the menagerie of murderers who mostly seem sort of uninteresting, even the ones intentionally designed to be weirdos. That is, except for Chicken, who is already dead now. This is some bullshit. P.S. Spoilers.

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Dated 1 May 2017: SukaSuka, the light novel at the WorldEnd of the tunnel

Chtholly
No pressure.

My preconceptions about Shūmatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii Desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii Desu ka? (WorldEnd: What are you doing at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us? also known as SukaSuka) were generally negative. After all, it's an anime adaptation of a light novel with a stupidly long title. It also seems to feature a lot of shrimpy anime children. Moreover, the lead is a male character who seems to be absent from much of the promotional art, which instead focuses on yet another girl with a sword. On the plus side, her hair isn't red and she didn't seem to use fire magic. That's at least a departure. And she has a giant witch hat. So, while I could find positive aspects, it was not an inspiring first impression. Nevertheless, I was at least willing to give it a shot. Thankfully, through three episodes, Shūmatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii Desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii Desu ka? is surprisingly all right.

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Dated 10 April 2017: Re:CREATORS evolved from light novels

Souta
Looks like 2016, going by the calendar.

From what I've been able to gather based on the first episode, the basic premise of Re:CREATORS involves the arrival of various characters from contemporary popular fiction to the land of their authors: Japan. That is, rather than Potato-kun getting hit by a truck and reincarnating in a fantasy world, characters from these fantasy light novel, video game, and/or anime worlds are transported to Japan instead. There have been shows with similar premises (e.g., Hataraku Maou-sama!), but this twist is still fresh enough to give Re:CREATORS the edge in capturing my attention this season.

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Dated 16 January 2017: Youjo Senki and the Moshidora of reincarnation anime

Tanya
Shouldn't she be wearing some goggles?

On its face, Youjo Senki (The Saga of Tanya the Evil) should be absolute light-novel garbage. According to those who have investigated the source material, the original light novel really is the sonorous trash you get in these sorts of reincarnation stories. The actual execution, though, is surprisingly deft. And while its appeal is somewhat niche, it does appeal to me, and it safely stays out of the uncanny valley of military anime. Notably, the air battles are quite good, and are a great deal more satisfying than what we got from Brave Witches or Strike Witches. It's easy to accept this is the way witches and warlocks might fight, particularly when one is clearly stronger than the others.

Tanya
Duckface.

However, there's still the issue of Tanya's backstory. Through two episodes at least, there's not really a compelling reason why she needs to be a reincarnated Japanese salaryman. I can at least appreciate that the flashback to her previous death was executed in a clever way. Then again, at this point, just not getting hit by a truck sort of qualifies as being somewhat clever by default. Possibly the story will actually include Tanya's past life's corporate experience as a way to improve her chances on the battlefield, but I'm not expecting any sort of Moshidora epiphanies. Really, trying to make a Moshidora connection to Youjo Senki is tenuous at best, and I confess I only bring it up here and in the title of this post so I can pretend to casually mention I read an 800-page Peter Drucker book from the '70s in 2011 for a baseball anime which hardly anyone watched. Good times.

Dated 25 September 2016: Looking forward to autumn 2016 anime

Kogane
Who's ready for more BBK/BRNK faces?

There are a surprising number of shows I'm interested in scheduled for autumn 2016. Most of these are sequels of some sort, but there are a few new properties that have caught my eye. Notably, I've yet to do any concerted investigating into the upcoming season, so the following only include titles that I noticed at some point and deemed worthy of preemptively annotating in my anime spreadsheet.

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