The Fighting 501st

They were a group of young pilots, brought in from all over the world because of their special qualifications, each bearing the name of a famous pilot of the past. Their mission was to defend Earth against the alien invaders. Flying the latest in air to air technology, they hurl themselves against the black ships that have already conquered most of Europa. Their leader is dedicated, but already too old for the stress of combat.

The Neuroi Attack

Black Ships over Europa

From their isolated base off the coast of Brittania, the pilots of the elite 501st Joint Fighter Wing must fight the enemy while they learn their craft and bond as a team. Some have no country, because the aliens have overrun it. Some, like our Japanese protagonist — a medical student who hates killing — are far, far from home. They train, they test new equipment, and sometimes they have to take untested equipment into combat.

The group includes all the typical war film stereotypes — the insecure newbie, the suicidal despondent, the old hand, jealous of the hot new pilots; the ageing commander, desperate to lead just one more mission. Add to this the clash of different cultures, and you have twelve varied and exciting episodes.

Meanwhile, the generals, jealous of the fighter wing’s successes (or possibly just wanting to cut back on personnel and support costs), have prepared a pilotless mechanized fighter, one that incorporates captured enemy artificial intelligence hardware. They deploy the new system, and use that event as an excuse to disband the fighter wing. Of course, the inevitable happens, and the enemy AI takes over the mech and attacks Brittania itself. The mech also attacks the defending Japanese fleet, including the aircraft carrier Akagi, last seen in our own universe when she was sinking north of Midway Island.

IJN Akagi: A better life in an alternate universe

It’s up to the young pilots of the 501st to scrape together the equipment, apply all their teamwork and flying skills, and finally win the day, preventing the invasion of Brittania and making possible the liberation of Gallia.

I’m a sucker for a good flying movie, and this is a good, but not great, let’s say above-average flying anime. The flying scenes are fun, the air to air combat is exciting, and watching the team bond brings the anime to life, and makes you care about the characters. Plus, it has the snappiest opening since Daphne in the Brilliant Blue.

For more of my anime reviews, click on the Anime tag below

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