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801 TTS Airbats
Anime You've Probably Never Seen, But Damn Well Ought To
© Kevin Pezzano

Okay, so this anime follows the hoary old cliche of one doofy-but-nice guy stuck in the middle of a bevy of babes, and having them all vie for his attention. But, to its credit, 801 TTS Airbats doesn't give into any of the other cliches of the genre. The babes aren't aliens or cyberdolls or superpowered in any fashion; they're just members of the modern-day Japanese Air Self-Defense Force's first all-female squadron (the title of the anime is their squadron name, the 801st Tactical Training Squadron, nicknamed the Airbats). No mecha, no sailor suits, and no outer space invasions feature in this anime. Instead, viewers are treated to Top Gun-style rivalries in the air and on the ground, as the two main pilots of the squadron jockey for the position of ace (and the love of aircraft mechanic Sgt. Isurugi, exiled to the 801st because he's, *gasp*, an otaku).

With no artificial, fantastical situations to create the sense of zaniness that most anime of its ilk are known for, 801 TTS Airbats has to rely purely on character development. And, aside from a few initial missteps, this series lives up to its promise. The squadron's internal antics take a back seat to a burgeoning sense of family, with the Airbats facing arrogant American aerobatics squadron pilots, a dismissive high command who don't believe women belong anywhere near a cockpit, and a constant struggle for redemption by a number of squadron members (namely pilot Mitaka's struggle with her half-black, half-Japanese heritage and the squadron captain's unrequited love for his gambling-addicted female staff sergeant). 801 TTS Airbats mixes military comedy reminiscent of McHale's Navy and Sgt. Bilko with a surprisingly frank examination of the issues facing the modern JASDF. You'll come for the haunted hot spring episode, but you'll stay until the final heartwarming, tearjerking flashback episode that wraps everything up. Just ignore everything the box copy says...the tape blurbs are so off-base that they appear to have been written by some alternate-dimension-hopping copywriter. Available from ADV Films.

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Kevin Pezzano is Anime Editor for RevolutionSF.

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