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Studio Gemba’s 2020 action fantasy adventure movie is fast moving action show with pretty girls and fast fighter planes. What more could we want? However it is a compilation from the 2019 season so it isn’t a new story. For those of us who believe their anime diet is built on a staple of “Girls und Panzer” this should be a slam dunk. The story is set in an alternative Earth where all the oceans have long disappeared under circumstances in which the story offers some speculation. Those left alive on the planet survive huddled in small towns surrounded by a desert wasteland. Sounds a bit like a Mad Max-dystopia. In some ways it does resemble this sort of post-apocalyptic show yet, in other ways, it is more of an optimistic Diesel-punk vision of a world dominated by 1940’s era air-travel. Everyone has propellor driven fighter planes designed and built by the Japanese in World War Two. Fighter-carrying airships ply the trade routes between the wild-west-style settlements. The fighter planes are there to protect against air-pirates. Enter this narrative are our intrepid band of female ace pilots – the Kotobuki Corp of the title. They are six pretty girls flying Nakajima Ki-43 “Hayabusa” whilst wearing extremely impractical flight gear. In reality they would have frozen to death. But, heh, girls-and-guns anime yeah? Oh yeah, and did we mention the Captain of the home airship is a Dodo that can fly? (We guess this was inserted so the audience know this is a parallel universe?) The series bears a strong resemblance to “Drifting Dragons” (Polygons Pictures 2020) with its 3d CGI animated characters. The many kinds of World War Two fighter and bomber planes are lovingly reproduced with 3d rendered skins and the action plays out exactly like every kind of aerial combat computer game you have ever seen. (It is for Flight Sims what “Girls und Panzer” is to World of Tanks.) The in-cockpit start up routine for the Hayabusa is lovingly reproduced in every authentic detail. The 3d CGI is a big plus for the aerial combat scenes (of which there are many – some quite spectacular) but on the main characters it is a bit of a drag. Human drawn animation still beats CGI in reproducing naturalistic human movement. “The Magnificent KOTOBUKI” is fast moving, fun, funny and highly entertaining. It is, in equal measure, poorly written, has inadequate character backstory, suffers from superficial integration of the science fiction elements into the plot, and is sometimes hard to follow. It is a good effort but it could have been a lot better. Some many good plot ideas get squandered and go nowhere. The audience gets to spend too much time wondering exactly how this planet’s global economy works when our minds should have been too engrossed in the story to care. Despite being sassy, sexy and at times quite glamourous “The Magnificent KOTOBUKI” never quite come up to spec. But, boy, those aerial combat scenes! Wondrous if highly unlikely. Not a film to waste too much time on unless this sub-genre is your thing and you spent a lot of your youth obsessing over fighter plane statistics. This movie does enjoy many new scenes inserted at both the beginning and end. We also detected the possibility that new material was inserted elsewhere – so, even if you have seen the show do check-out the movie as you will see something new.
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