I thought this subgenre was entirely predicated on not giving up the game.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
After a few months of Miafuji’s cooking, a few members of the 501st have started to gain some weight. Some of the top brass at the base take notice and give Shirley and Hartman each a warning for putting on a few too many pounds. Shirley tries to deflect by pretending that she is naturally curvy, while Hartman tries the opposite—pretending that her ‘child-like’ body makes it so that she always has some baby fat. No one is buying it, however, and they are both compelled to join Miafuji and the major for endurance training later that day.
The pair quickly distract Miafuji with a bogus training exercise. They tell her to get her equipment to pretend to be neuroid. She’s reluctant, but they convince her that at a certain flight speed and height combination, flying will feel like she is receiving a full-body caress by a pair of breasts. She decides to do so but never gets to find out if Hartman was pulling her leg or not, because of the Neuroids attack. The 501st is a little nervous, but they bravely go to fight whatever alien menace threatens Earth today.
Later, it is Halloween. Miafuji, coming from Fuso, does not know about the holiday. Luckily, Shirley is there to mis(inform) her about All Hallows Eve and its myriad traditions. The way that Halloween works in the 501st Barracks is that it’s the only day of the year where pranks are not met with swift retribution. Shirley takes Miafuji on a tour of the base, tricking whatever poor soldiers she comes across. She is mostly successful until she gets to Trudy who gives the pranksters food without prompting. She is asked why she’s doing this, and she says that she is trick-or-treating this year, but is quickly castigated for being too old.
The next morning, Miafuji survived the night without being pranked. She tells Shirley that she can’t believe her good fortune. She also remarks that she hasn’t seen Hartman since before Halloween began. Shirley reveals that this is because Hartman refused to give her candy. As punishment, she was hogtied and thrown in a dumpster behind the barracks. Miafuji finds an angry Hartman soon after, itching to get out of her ropes.
Once again we have a bifurcated episode. It’s a little amazing this show’s lack of a) attention span and subsequently b) lack of story structure. 501st JOINT FIGHTER WING Take Off! usually feels like it had most of the elements of a full story at one time or another, but due to their limited time, parts of the narrative were chopped off because they were thought to be unnecessary. So, instead of one fifteen-minute tale with a beginning, middle, and end, we are subjected to two-story fragments that aren’t even connected. This week, in particular, the ending of the first segment seems to trail off into nothing, paying off almost nothing that it started. The second story, by contrast, has a fairly strong punch line, but it’s obscured by a lack of setup. This is a fanservice anime, but it could at least be a coherent one.
The truly worst part, though, was a seemingly innocuous moment in the second half. When Trudy is accused of being too old to trick-or-treat by Shirley, she is told so because she is eighteen. What this means is that the rest of the squad (or at least nearly all of the recruits) are under eighteen, and are thus explicitly teenagers that the show’s camera has been ogling for four weeks.
I am perfectly aware that the age of consent in Japan is thirteen, but for the most part, even Japan knows that that’s probably too low to be sexualizing teens in media. Most loli shows go out of their way to let the audience know that the teenage-looking character is actually eight-hundred years old because of magic or cryogenics or some other such nonsense. 501st JOINT FIGHTER WING Take Off! has decided to completely drop the pretense and really just go for the young girl sexualization. This episode, in particular, has been one of the more suggestive of the series, too. Hartman decides to paw at the larger breasts of her squadmates, and Miafuji—while the show avows her naivety, puts on her propeller shoes in order to feel breasts.
We’re a third of the way through, and I feel like I can’t have both. Loli aside, this was actually the best-constructed episode. It’s really hard not to grade on a curve, and even harder not to just give everything a 1/10, but I didn’t look at my watch once during this one. Maybe, though, it was because my hands were over my face in horror.