I must applaud The Cockpit for actually taking place during World War II. It’s the same here in The Netherlands: there are lots of novels and stories about our Golden Age in the seventeenth century, there are lots of stories about World War II, where we were basically the victims of the Third Reich, but you’ll never hear anything about what we did in Indonesia, where we were the bastards. The same goes for anime: there are quite a lot of series about the Japanese ages of glory, the time of the samurais. And there are very few anime about the Second World War, where the Japanese were the bastards. If only for that, this series deserves credit.
Apart from this, The Cockpit is a collection of stories about three people, fighting for Japan in the war. Slipstream is a beautiful tale about a war-veteran and a certain mission he accepts. It may not be historically accurate at times, but its message is wonderful and makes a lot of impact. It’s also got a subtle feeling of loneliness that doesn’t feel out of place in a Makoto Shinkai-movie, and it’s the definite highlight of The Cockpit for me.
Sonic Boom Squadron then comes and tackles a taboo in anime: suicide bombers. We get to look into the mind of one of them, and the ones who will accompany him in his final moments, and it works. While I would have liked to see a bit more about his background, the guy shows us something different from the stereotype that surrounded the suicide-bombers. The ending is also a great one, held back from being underdeveloped and coming from rather nowhere.
Knight of the Iron Dragon is a disappointing finale, though. It doesn’t take itself serious enough, and the themes have been overplayed a bit too much, with a low-ranked war-veteran taking care of a rookie. It has the potential, but the execution just fails.
I must admit that I didn’t think much of the Matsumoto Leiji-universe up till now, but that’s probably because the only thing I had seen from the guy was Gun Frontier, which was just bad. With The Cockpit, though I begin to see the guy’s talent: realistic war-settings about thought-provoking heroes. If his other works are more similar to The Cockpit than to Gun Frontier, then I’m willing to check out more of it somewhere in the future.