Aces and Pancakes: Flying High with The Magnificent KOTOBUKI

The Winter 2019 Rewind swoops in for a look at the plane-crazy TV anime from the director of "GIRLS und PANZER"


Paul Chapman (@gooberzilla) struggling in the jaws of a life-sized model hippo.


Heads up, all you would-be flying aces out there! The Winter 2019 Rewind by “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog” is coming at you with another look at one of the stand-out anime series that gave the Winter season of one year ago its wings.


This week we're reflecting on The Magnificent KOTOBUKI, an anime that follows the time-honored formula of little women + big war machines = huge entertainment value.



What is The Magnificent KOTOBUKI?


The Magnificent KOTOBUKI is an original 2019 TV anime with direction by Tsutomu Mizushima (GIRLS und PANZER, SHIROBAKO) and animation production by GEMBA with production assistance from Digital Frontier and Wao World. Crunchyroll describes the series as follows:


"Air combat is part of daily life, as a team of beautiful ace pilots battle against renegades in the skies. The talented members of Team KOTOBUKI use their impressive aerial fighting skills to help defend and transport goods across a desolate wasteland. For the right price, protagonist KYLIE, KOTOBUKI's no-nonsense leader REONA, and the rest of the team will take on any enemy that comes their way!"


Similar to GIRLS und PANZER, The Magnificent KOTOBUKI explores the concept of “cute girls with heavy military ordinance” in a world not exactly like our own. In terms of tone and tenor, it's like a Western movie where the cowgirls ride in planes instead of on horses, and there's also a healthy portion of Mizushima's irreverent sense of humor thrown in.


Kylie grimaces in frustration as an aerial dogfight doesn't go her way in a scene from The Magnificent KOTOBUKI TV anime.


Advances in Aerial Combat.


The aerial combat scenes, in which WWII-era prop-driven fighter planes vie for control of the skies, are some of the most thrilling sequences in The Magnificent KOTOBUKI, and these scenes are overflowing with solid staging and composition, excellent camerawork, and exacting attention to detail, right down to the different colors of smoke that indicate how badly an aircraft is damaged after taking fire.


If you like high-flying, pulpy adventure featuring aerial duels between the sky pirates trying to raid huge dirigible merchant airships and the crackerjack mercenaries attempting to protect those same blimps, then The Magnificent KOTOBUKI is definitely the anime for you.


Disguised as a dancing girl, Zara winks at the camera in a scene from The Magnificent KOTOBUKI TV anime.


Stealth Isekai.


Hinted at in the first few episodes and confirmed by the middle of the series, The Magnificent KOTOBUKI is actually a secret isekai show. The reason that the main characters tool around in recognizable fighter planes from the WWII-era Imperial Japan is because – according to the backstory of the show - the Japanese military (known as the “Yufang” to the locals) invaded the wasteland through an inter-dimensional rift decades ago, establishing bases of operation and manufacturing before retreating through the rift and leaving their technology behind.


By linking the history of this fictional world to our own through a “parallel worlds” framework, The Magnificent KOTOBUKI side-steps some of the questions raised by GIRLS und PANZER while at the same time largely de-coupling the machineries of modern warfare from their original historical contexts, allowing the story to explore its political themes from the relative safety of a science fiction setting.


Kylie is on the receiving end of an accusatory finger-pointing in a scene from The Magnificent KOTOBUKI TV Anime.


Politics, Politics, Politics.


Another strong element of The Magnificent KOTOBUKI is its sense of politics. Don't recoil, dear readers, you're not going to get a lecture about real-life praxis. Instead, the manner in which people organize, how they distribute goods and services, and who the law binds and how it binds them are central themes explored within the show.


The introduction of aviation technology from Yufang to the wasteland has drastically re-shaped society there, and people are still scrambling to deal with the consequences. While the KOTOBUKI Squadron is satisfied with playing the role of mercenaries, there are dozens of other political conflicts happening all around them: some administrators want to restrict civilian flight; some politicians want to re-integrate the bandit clans into society, and some smooth-talking technocrats want to monopolize the dimensional rift for their own personal gain. It's a rich and rewarding examination of a fantasy world and the people that live there.


Reona and Zara share a skeptical expression in a scene from The Magnificent KOTOBUKI TV anime.


Up, Up, and Away.


Crunchyroll currently streams The Magnificent KOTOBUKI in 50 regions worldwide. The series is available in the original Japanese language with subtitles in English, Spanish, Latin American Spanish, and Portuguese. The Magnificent KOTOBUKI is also released on Bluray in the U.S. by Sentai Filmworks.


Although the mixture of traditional cell animation and 3DCG means that the visual aesthetic of The Magnificent KOTOBUKI may not appeal to all viewers, fans of high-flying action and derring-do will find a lot to enjoy here. If you're in the mood for some of the best period-accurate aerial combat you're likely to find in the medium of TV animation, and if the series is available in your area, then please consider giving The Magnificent KOTOBUKI a try.


Kylie prepares to enjoy her pancakes in a scene from The Magnificent KOTOBUKI TV anime.


Thank you for joining us for this most recent entry in the Winter 2019 Rewind by “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog”. Be sure to tune in next time, when we shift our attention away from the wonders of flight to the mysteries of academic intrigue with a handful of royal pains-in-the-neck. Don't miss it!


Is there a series in Crunchyroll's catalog that you think needs some more love and attention? Please send in your suggestions via e-mail to [email protected] or post a Tweet to @gooberzilla. Your pick could inspire the next installment of “Cruising the Crunchy-Catalog!"

Hime poses for a Crunchyroll ad banner.




Paul Chapman is the host of The Greatest Movie EVER! Podcast and GME! Anime Fun Time.

Do you love writing? Do you love anime? If you have an idea for a features story, pitch it to Crunchyroll Features!

Other Top News

Sort by: