801 TTS Airbats
The Japanese Self Defense Force has a place for those aviators who just can't seem to get out of trouble - Iruma Air Base's all-female 801st Tactical Training Squadron, where both pilots and planes go to pieces on a regular basis. The 801st consists of four cute pilots: Haneda Miyuki, who slapped her previous commander for being telling her she couldn't be a pilot; Mitaka Arisa, a tough-girl who beat up someone in her old squadron; Shimorenjaku Yoko, who'd rather let her pet bat, Chii-chan, fly around than get into a plane herself; and Saginomiya Sakura, an otherwise upstanding sergeant with a gambling problem. Into the fray comes the hapless Isurugi Takuya, the lucky guy who's been assigned as their mechanic. His sin: being an otaku, naturally. And of course, he's there to cheer on the girls of the 801st as they try to beat the odds to become the pilots of Japan's aerobatic team: Blue Impulse. But of course, they have to make sure their egos don't tear the squadron apart first.
Well, seeing as this is based off a manga by Shimizu Toshimitsu, who also did such (ahem) classics as Rei Rei: The Missionary of Love, one can be forgiven for mistaking this for ecchi fluff.
The first few minutes will definitely lead you in that direction, since there's a shower scene and an "oops-I-walked-into-a-naked-woman-dressing" scene. But apart from a bit of fan service in successive episodes, that's it. No sex. And God forbid, no tentacles. 801 TTS Airbats has none of that stuff.
What it does have are cute, cute pilots, a genuinely fun daydreamer of a male lead in Takuya, and an average plot that manages to stay charming enough to be enjoyable. Though each one of the pilots is a bit stereotyped, the seiyuu pull it off well enough to make them reasonably believable - well, there is Yoko, who -shouldn't- be piloting, but her choice of a pet alone is enough to make her funny. (There's a reason they're called the "Airbats", ya know.) Of course, the main rivalry is between Arisa and Miyuki - the two of them start to develop feelings for Takuya (which isn't surprising considering how few males will associate with the 801st, much less males their own age), and sparks fly. And, naturally, Takuya always gets the worst of it. Especially when the planes get involved.
Speaking of the planes, they are invariably heavily detailed and quite recognizable. Most of the time, at least in the first tape, they're flying Mitsubishi F-1 trainers. More than once did I say, "Oh, that's an -insert plane type here-" about three seconds before Takuya says it. Okay, so maybe I'm a bit of an airplane otaku myself, but it says a bit for a series if it at least stays technically accurate. The one drawback, of course, is that with so much detail, you just can't get the budget on an OAV series to animate a plane like that smoothly, but the flight sequences were passable, even if quite a few of the stunts they pull in Airbats would get anyone court-martialed in a heartbeat in real life. (As if Top Gun didn't pull that either!)
The one drawback is that the writing isn't particularly good. The plot goes here and there without fully resolving some scenes, but by and large it isn't terribly out of the norm for an anime. 801 TTS Airbats is like, say, watching one of those 80s movies like Feds and Stripes, nothing more than lightweight military fantasy. It's not supposed to be impressive - it's made to be cute and funny and more than a bit silly. By and large, it works, too.
Surprisingly good stuff that's fun and harmless, if not terribly intelligent. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: A bit of fan service here and there, a bit of slapstick violence, and some near-crashes with the airplanes. Nothing a teenager couldn't handle, though I'd have some reservations about showing it to younger children.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Partial (3/7)
801 TTS Airbats © 1994 Shimizu Toshimitsu / Tokuma Shoten / JVC
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