This article contains spoilers for episodes 1-8 of The Magnificent Kotobuki.
It’s been quite a while since we last checked in with The Magnificent Kotobuki here at GGA. To a point, that’s because there hasn’t been much to tell. The formula established in the first few episodes has held mostly true. The Kotobuki Air Corps get a job in the first half of an episode, and the execution of said job in the form of lovingly-rendered dogfights takes up the second half. Lately though, two things have happened. First, we’ve gotten several episodes that deviate from or play with this setup in interesting ways. Second, we’ve gotten a lot more information on the world that Kotobuki takes place in.
The last few in particular have painted a portrait of a truly dire political (and literal) climate. The oceans are long gone, human settlement is confined to sparse cities separated by vast wastelands. Oil–for fueling the planes that are by now a necessity of life–and water are both in short supply. This is not the kind of world that would normally be the setting for what is still, at its core, a pretty lighthearted and fun adventure series.
So it makes sense that, while it’s not lost its core optimism, Kotobuki has begun dealing with the repercussions of its setting. We’ve gotten the “how” by now. We know that planes are not a technology developed in Kotobuki‘s world. Instead coming from another world entirely–“Yufeng”, implied to be WWII-era Japan. In addition to that, we’ve now had it established that there is a lot of truly shady politicking going on. Some of this is outside the show’s scope. What isn’t though is the mysterious “air pirates”–suspiciously well-equipped and military-esque–that the Kotobuki have now run into several times. Which brings us to the most recent episode, 8.
The Kotobuki Air Corps find themselves saddled with the unusual task of escorting a fish to a nearby city. Fish, of course, in a world with no oceans, are a rarity.
The Kotobuki crew thus fully expects to be attacked. What they don’t expect though is the scale of the air pirate assault that they run into. Likely because, as prior mentioned, these are not really air pirates of any sort. Being instead some kind of paramilitary group the details about which still remain obscure at this point.
They end up hijacking the zeppelin that Kotobuki operates out of. Most of the rest of the episode, then, is spent trying to get it back.
For a show that’s usually content to let its air fights take up much of its run time, a remarkable amount of sheer stuff happens in the 24 1/2 minutes of episode 8. There’s a subplot about the hitherto-unimportant bartender Johnny, who, in a sequence reminiscent of The Matrix, ends up helping to reclaim the airship by dual-wielding guns and dodging bullets to take on the boarders. It’s completely ridiculous, and it’s in this sort of moment that Kotobuki really shines.
The show’s thematic core is still opaque at this point. But episodes like this one make the argument that maybe it doesn’t really need to have Things To Say in order to be worth watching. The art style that (still) takes some getting used to aside, Kotobuki is just pure fun. I said when I first covered the show that Kotobuki is a series that understands its own strengths. That’s as true now as it was back in January.