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Kei Narutani's life is forever changed when a mysterious invading force called the Zai attacks Japan with technologically superior aircraft. Humanity has learned to fight back using their own advanced aircraft called "Daughters", piloted by "Anima", androids that look and act like teenage girls. When trying to escape a Zai attack with his friend Minghua, Kei finds a Daughter crashed into the sea. He rushes towards the Daughter and tries to save the pilot, who suddenly kisses him.
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Much later, Kei has decided to join the Japanese military to defeat the Zai, an attack that displeases Minghua greatly because she believes Kei will get killed. Kei attempts to infiltrate a military facility that houses the same Daughter that saved him from the Zai, and Minghua attempts to stop him but they are later captured by the facility's soldiers. They tell Kei that he was able to get the Daughter to fly properly and they offer him a chance to help them to fight the Zai. To that end, they introduce him to the pilot he tried to save, a girl called "Gripen."

Girly Air Force is a light novel series written by Kōji Natsumi and illustrated by Asagi Tōsaka. It has been published by ASCII Media Works under their Dengeki Bunko imprint since September 2014 and, as of 2018, it has spawned nine volumes. An Animated Adaptation by Satelight premiered on January 2019. Crunchyroll is streaming the anime, which can be viewed here for audiences worldwide excluding Asia.

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Girly Air Force contains examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: The Anima were designed to be superior to human pilots.
  • Action Prologue: The story opens with the Zai attacking several tanker ships carrying supplies and refugees. Though there are military ships and fighter jets, neither of them are able to do anything to stop the Zai, which are much faster, more maneuverable, and have much better technology on them. Only when a Daughter shows up do the Zai finally meet their match.
  • Amazon Brigade: All of the Anima manifest as cute girls. After all, it's in the title.
  • And I Must Scream: In Episode 12, it's revealed that Rhino was programmed with far more safeguards than the Japanese Anima were, to the point that the only personality trait she was allowed to have was an outwardly friendly one. Thus, when the Zai invaded her mind, she had no individual sense of self to cling to and fight back, unlike Gripen.
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  • Anger Born of Worry: Minghua initially mocks Kei's desire to join the military as immature and reckless but when she sees he is serious about it, she starts crying and says she is afraid she will be left alone.
  • Appearance Is in the Eye of the Beholder: Everyone perceives Viper Zero as someone they're thinking strongly about, even if they try to view her through video or photographs. To Kei, she looks like Minghua.
  • Asshole Victim: The US Military treated Rhino as nothing more than an asset and conditioned her to be subservient to them. Not only that, they are willing to deprive Japan of their Anima defenders so that they won't have to deal with future rivals. They got what was coming to them when the Japanese Anima survived against their plans and Rhino is the one that gets killed, leaving them without any means to defend their country when the Zai made their move on American soil.
  • Bad Dreams: Kei has one in episode three, when he relives the moment where his mother's Cessna was shot down by a Zai while trying to flee from it. A moment later, the Zai flies down towards him, and momentarily turns into Gripen's Daughter plane, since he had just found out she's part Zai.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Eagle wears a tank top that exposes her midsection.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Gripen's training mission in episode 3 is interrupted when a Zai shows up, which is startling because they're supposed to be nowhere near the front lines. She tries to engage it, but loses consciousness before reaching it. Her autopilot system attempts to flee the area, but the Zai quickly catches up, and any reinforcements aren't expected earlier than an hour from then. Eagle then appears out of nowhere and takes the Zai out, surprising everyone there.
    • Viper Zero provides a Gunship Rescue for Kei, Gripen, and Phantom in episode 8 while they were attempting to wipe out the Zai guarding the newly built base. She destroys the anti-aircraft batteries on the island, which allows Phantom time to coordinate the missiles fired from their allies to destroy the base.
    • All of the Japanese Anima show up to save Gripen and Kei from a massive Zai fleet at the end, as Gripen already expended all her ammunition destroying the Zai-corrupted Rhino.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Kei and Gripen manage to escape from the Zai but Rhino betrays them, siding with the enemy and they have no choice but to destroy her. The operation to retake Shanghai is a total failure and humanity still has yet to know what the Zai and their true objectives are. However, Kei and Gripen's bond have strengthened following this and they reunite with their friends to fight another day.
  • Broken Ace: Although the Anima are humanity's only real hope against the Zai, they also come with their own baggage. Gripen, for whatever reason, is unable to function without Kei. Eagle is extremely skilled at combat, but has the intelligence and mentality of a child. Phantom (the oldest of them) was forced to relive so many war campaign scenarios that she is indifferent to the death of individual humans over her own, because her death would lead to the extinction of mankind. Viper-Zero is under a permanent Perception Filter which can only manifest as the last person you were thinking about. And Rhino is friendly and curious, but this personality is the only one she was programmed to exhibit. This backfires when she begins being taken over by the Zai, because unlike Gripen, she had no personal identity to hold on to.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl:
    • Minghua's reaction when she first encounters Eagle, who hides from her handlers under the table she and Kei were sitting at in a restaurant. Eagle also seems uncomfortably close to Kei even though he says he's only met her twice so far.
    • Gripen is understandably protective about keeping Kei as her partner, especially since without him, she'd be useless.
  • Cool Plane: It's a show about fighter aircraft, after all.
  • The Cracker: Phantom can hack into the other Anima's systems to plant false data in their radar and even thermals.
  • Cute Mute: Viper Zero, who only seems to communicate via text. She seems to understand speech, when Kei talks to her mistakes her for Minghua wearing a frilly dress.
  • Death by Origin Story: Kei's mother is killed when the Cessna plane she was piloting is shot down by a Zai. Consequently, he's come to hate them.
  • Description Cut: In Episode 9, when talking to Rhino, Kei refers to Eagle and Phantom as "loud and silly" and "rude and sarcastic" respectively. Cut to Eagle and Phantom eating lunch and goofing off.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Phantom warms up to Kei a little more after he and Gripen defeat her in a mock battle, and more importantly, successfully destroy the Zai base without losing any Anima.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The ending theme is sung by Gripen, Eagle and Phantom's voice actresses.
  • Eagleland: The US military is depicted as a overly-aggressive and obsessed with control, to the point that they are willing to feign a joint military operation with the JSDF with the hidden purpose of sacrificing Japan's Anima, because their lone successful Anima puts them at a military disadvantage against Japan and Russia.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Technically the Zai is one, only with the forms of crystals, aircraft, and chiming noise instead of flesh, madness inducers, and tentacles.
  • Evolving Credits: In the first two episodes, Gripen is seen looking out a window in one scene. Episode 3's ending swaps her out for Eagle, the blonde haired girl.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Rhino in the final episode.
  • Foreshadowing: We're told that the Americans have been unsuccessful creating Anima or other countermeasures against the Zai because they're unable to see the Zai or Anima as anything more than programs and algorithms, and not people, which is why they intend their main weapon against the Zai to be the AI-controlled Brawlers, which easily get reprogrammed by the Zai in episode 11. In episode 12, this also happens to Rhino, since she was also created with the same flawed programming as the Brawlers.
  • Foil:
    • Gripen and Rhino are Anima. Gripen is shy and monotonous while Rhino is easy going and friendly.
    • Both have scientists to guide them but Gripen's acts like a father figure to her while Rhino's treat her as a weapon.
    • Gripen and Rhino have differing relationships with others. Gripen has made good friends with her fellow Anima, as well as Kei, while Rhino is treated with disdain by the US. It's because of the Power of Friendship that Gripen is saved from the Zai's brainwashing but Rhino isn't.
  • Gas Leak Cover-Up: The world's major media report on the Zai attacks as if they are just a terrorist or militant group that somehow possess advanced technology. The cook at the restaurant Kei eats at in episode 2 lampshades how unbelievable that is, commenting that it sounds more like an Alien Invasion to him, especially considering that the Zai have leveled all of China and are rapidly expanding their attacks to the Pacific Ocean islands.
  • Genki Girl: Eagle, who acts and talks as if she's on a sugar high in almost every scene she's in.
  • Heroic BSoD: Kei suffers a minor one during episode 3, after learning more about Gripen's origins and learning that the Chinese city he evacuated from was burnt to the ground in a Zai attack.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Gripen gets one in episode 4 when Kei joins her in the Daughter. Though he passes out from the extreme G's, she manages to help Eagle defeat the Zai attacking them.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Animas are technically those, as they are human clones that imbued with the neural parts of the aforementioned Zai. Special mention with models like Viper Zero that could trick human brain to interpret her appearance to the viewer's significant one.
  • Innocently Insensitive:
    • Eagle acts on her emotions and loves to brag, and sometimes she doesn't realize that what she says can upset other people. This is especially evident when she intrudes on Kei while he's out with Minghua. She doesn't know that behaving so familiar with Kei is making Minghua jealous, nor that asking Kei (or both of them) to show her around is interfering with their time together.
    • Kei himself (due to being Oblivious to Love) doesn't understand how rude or insensitive his actions can be toward Minghua, who is obviously in love with him. Five minutes of talking to Viper-Zero helped the Anima understand how Minghua felt and has to tell Kei that Minghua is upset not because she can't go see a movie, but that she can't see the movie with Kei.
  • Jumped at the Call: Kei doesn't hesitate to join the JSDF when he's given the opportunity to sign up and help them fight off the Zai.
  • Last Episode Theme Reprise: In the final episode, the opening theme plays when Kei and Gripen fight a rogue Rhino.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The American military tries to rig a joint-operation so that it will result in Japan's Anima being sacrificed, negating any possible military advantage Japan could have in the future. Instead, said operation ends with their ONLY Anima being the one that gets destroyed.
  • Lensman Arms Race: The Zai boast technology that make their fighter aircraft superior to anything the world's militaries can throw at them. To fight back, the humans started analyzing their enemies and developed their own aircraft technology.
  • Magic Kiss: When Kei first meets Gripen after her plane crashes near the lifeboat he was on, her first action towards him is to kiss him. Later the plane's creator notices that Gripen seems to stabilize when he's around.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Kei tries to make up with Minghua at the end of episode 8 after learning that another Anima that took her form suggested that Minghua was acting in the way she does because she likes him and doesn't want to lose him. Unfortunately he immediately screws it up after some miso soup she was heating up for him spills on the oven, and he starts saying how she would look silly in girly outfits. She gets upset at him again as a result.
  • Oblivious to Love: When Barbie 04 suggests to Kei that Minghua acts the way she does towards him because she wants to pass her genes with him, he immediately tries to dismiss it, saying that they're more Like Brother and Sister.
  • Parental Abandonment: Kei's parents are long gone prior to the story, with his mother being shot down by a Zai during an airshow, while Minghua was separated from hers during an evacuation. While Kei tries to reassure her that they're probably still alive and will show up on a later refugee ship, it's also likely her parents were killed in a Zai attack.
  • Power Glows: When piloting their planes the Anima's hair glows.
  • The Power of Friendship: Kei and Gripen become a better weapon against the Zai when working together. In Episode 12, their friendship is the only thing that prevents Gripen from being taken over by the Zai like Rhino was.
  • Reality Ensues: When Kei wonders if the Daughters couldn't just simply lob some missiles towards the Zai base that was being built on a remote island in episode 7, he's told that even if they were fully outfitted with bombs and faced no Zai opposition, their payload capacity would simply be too small to completely destroy it. He's then told that it would require lots of missiles and bombs being fired from ships and land based launchers. But unless they destroyed the Zai protecting the base first, they would simply shoot down all the missiles fired at the base.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Anima, the pilots for the Daughters, act and look like human teenagers.
  • Rose-Haired Sweetie: Gripen may have some difficulties interacting with normal people, but she's an earnest and sweet girl.
  • Running Gag: Haruka smoking in the immediate vicinity of No Smoking signs
  • Secret Test: Kei and Minghua are immediately kidnapped by some Men in Black after they linger around outside a military base for too long. He is then interrogated, and the man asking him questions threatens to shoot him for being a spy. However, it ends up being a charade once Gripen's plane lights up behind them and seemingly threatens to attack the man. The man then tells Kei he's a JSDF officer researching technology to help defeat the Zai, and was curious to find out why Gripen seems to be more active whenever he's around.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Anima cockpit and control system is very clearly based on the COFFIN System, which the mind-based control and glass-less cockpit.
    • The way that the Zai dodges incoming attack are reminiscent of the physics-defying dodge roll maneuvers that Milosz Sulejmani pulls off in the GAF-1 Varcolac.
    • The final two episodes have a lot of references to Sentou Yousei Yukikaze with elements such as the American Brawler drones being hijacked by the Zai similar to the JAM hijacking the Faery Air Force's Fand-II drones and the Zai's aerial carriers looking like miniature Banshee ships. In addition, all the events at the eerily abandoned yet pristine Shanghai Pudong airport are a Whole Plot Reference to the incident where Rei & Yukikaze get trapped in the JAM copy of Tactical Air Base 14.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Crunchyroll's subtitles call the antagonists the "Xi" instead of "Zai".
  • Suppressed Rage:
    • When Kei tells her he's already seen a movie he told her he wanted to see, Minghua becomes extremely angry because she thought he was giving her an idea for a date. They have their first big fight over it, and Minghua is still seething with rage for some time afterward, until Kei tells her about another film they can see together.
    • When Eagle intrudes on a day out with Kei, Minghua becomes increasingly angry both at the other girl's presence and the way she physically clings to Kei.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kei gives one of these to Phantom at the end of Episode 6.
  • The Tease: Phantom tells Kei in episode 8 that if he ever wants a new partner, she'd be waiting for him. She also suggests she could teach him some new things, which Kei immediately assumes are naughty things.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Both Gripen and Eagle in Episode 5. They have since developed a rivalry of each other, with Eagle constantly boasting proudly about herself (until her defeat at Phantom's hands in a mock dogfight). Gripen and Eagle also both look down on Phantom until they are both defeated in the mock dogfight. Phantom herself isn't any better either. Over the course of the episode, Kei tries to play peacemaker between them to no avail.
  • Tyop on the Cover: The anime identifies the Zai as "Boggy" instead of "Bogey" during the radar scenes.
  • Watching Troy Burn: In episode 3, Kei finds out that the Chinese city he had been living with his parents in was essentially burnt to the ground during a Zai attack.
  • Weak, but Skilled: After losing a simulated dogfight to Kei and Gripen, Phantom notes that Kei is a better pilot than Gripen despite not being able to handle as many Gs as the Anima. She recommends that Kei handles the piloting while Gripen handles the weapons and radar.
  • Weak-Willed: Rhino was programmed with many limitations on her personality, which means she couldn't develop a sense of self to resist the Zais' brainwashing.
  • Wet Blanket Wife: Minghua is against Kei getting involved in the war against the Zai. Understandable, because she doesn't want to lose her only friend (whom she secretly loves) in a Hopeless War. However, this is at odds with the fact that Kei is one of the few humans with the power to actually make a difference.
  • Wham Episode: Kei is given one by a JSDF pilot when he tells him of how Anima such as Gripen originated from during episode 3. She's made of parts recovered from destroyed Zai aircraft. He also learns the Zai destroy the Chinese city he and Minghua were living in.
  • World of Silence: The world that the Zai created, within occupied China. Rhino finds it to be pleasant, and as she gets taken over more and more by the Zai, she sees the silent world as more desirable than the noisy and strife-filled one that humans live in.
  • Yandere: This personality is what manifests in Rhino, while she's possessed by the Zai. She threatens Kei at gunpoint to prevent him from leaving the Chinese airport, while repeatedly telling him she just wants him to stay with her and Gripen.
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