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801 T.T.S. Airbats

Airbats is quite the pleasant surprise as far as anime OVAs go. It’s a show about an all-female fighter squadron that’s all about romance and rivalries. Meanwhile, it has some nice art and memorable characters. If there’s anything that is disappointing about this anime, it’s that it’s too short. There are seven episodes to this series of OVAs, but a full television season would have been even better.

Things start off with Takuya Isurugi heading to his new assignment as the mechanic for the 801st Tactical Training Squadron. While he spends a lot of time in the limelight early on, it becomes much more of an ensemble cast by the second half of the series. Over time, viewers are introduced to Arisa Mitaka and Miyuki Haneda, the two main pilots in the squadron, who both wind up developing feelings for Takuya. The two girls feel like opposite sides of the same coin with Haneda being sweet and polite, while Mitaka has a more abrasive exterior but is pretty soft on the inside. Both of them have quite a bit of screen time, and many will find themselves falling into “best girl” arguments over the course of the series.

There are also a number of supporting characters that are quite enjoyable. Yoko Shimorenjaku is the youngest, least experienced pilot in the squad and seems to spend most of her time eating and somehow never gaining a pound. Generally she’s quite immature, and an angry drunk. Most of the time, Yoko acts as a comedic vehicle in the show. She also has a pet bat that is the mascot of the squadron.

Then there is Sakura Saginomiya, who is second in command of the squadron. In her younger years, she was an extremely talented pilot, and it was her skills that in part lead to the formation of the 801. While she’s an excellent pilot, she’s also a compulsive gambler who is willing to bet on pretty much anything. She also has a pension for karaoke, but isn’t a very good singer, so her friends try and get out of joining her for some.

Next we have Mitsuru Konishi who is the captain of the 801st. He’s very boisterous, constantly exercising and talking with a loud voice. He’s easily identified by his large stature and the aviator glasses that he constantly wears. When he was younger, he was Sakura’s senior in flight school, and has secretly been in love with her ever since.

Finally, there is Kenji Kengamine, a commander that oversees the 801. He’s always had it out for the squadron, and constantly searches for ways to get it disbanded. Kenji is very much against an all-women squadron and wants it shut down. He was also a classmate of Mitsuru in flight school, and the two have had a rivalry ever since.

With all of these different characters, they go a long way in carrying Airbats. While some of them are fairly archetypal, they are generally quite likeable and will grow on viewers over the course of the series. Most of them get at least a little bit of development, and it’s hard not to want to root for them while they’re overcoming whatever obstacles have been thrown in front of them. Much of the development comes from the Mitaka-Haneda dynamic, but Kengamine gets a bit fleshed out so that he isn’t just a cookie cutter heel, and viewers even get an entire episode dedicated to Sakura and Mitsuru’s past which was actually a rather sweet way to wrap up the OVAs.

Not only is the story enjoyable, but the art design is pretty good as well. Character design is typical early to mid 90s fair, with a bit extra detail given that these are OVAs after all. Each character’s personality is ingrained in their appearance. Konishi has a mix of dopiness and levelheadedness in his look, Isurugi has a youthful naivety to him, and Mitaka has a stern sexiness to her design. No matter who one looks at, they’re all quite eye catching. Meanwhile, the environments are all very well done as well. The planes in particular have quite a bit of detail to them, and will be very appealing to fans of prominent jet fighters of the 1990s.

The biggest complaint one can level against Airbats is that it’s too short. The seven episodes made were very enjoyable, but it really leaves one wanting more. It’s disappointing that it couldn’t have been 10-12 episodes instead. Then again, it only had three manga as source material, so was running out of material. Moreover, if it did get 12 episodes, it probably would have been a television program and had less detail to its visuals. So, there may have been cons to being longer as well. Still, the show really manages to sink its claws into viewers, leaving people with an, “Aw, it’s over?” sort of feeling at the end.

In any case, 801 T.T.S. Airbats are OVAs well worth checking out. The characters are very likeable, there are some fun little stories being told, and the whole thing looks great. The 1990s had a few fighter plane-centric anime, and this is definitely one of the better ones.

- April 19, 2019

More Fighter Plane Anime We've Discussed

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Directed by: Yuji Moriyama
Studio: Studio Fantasia
Released: 1994-96
Episodes: 7

801 TTS Airbats Image 1
Cover Art

801 TTS Airbats Image 2
Haneda and Mitaka totally surprised

801 TTS Airbats Image 3
Haneda flying her plane

801 TTS Airbats Image 4
Isurugi working on one of the planes