The Princess and the Pilot is one of the more widely acclaimed anime films to come out in the last few years and was based on a light novel of the same name by Koroku Inumura. However this would not be the last time we would see the world of this film and book, as Inumura would create a series of light novels set in this world called The Pilot's Love Song. Unlike The Princess and the Pilot, The Pilot's Love Song focuses on a class of teenage pilot trainees as they embark on a journey on the floating island Isla to find the End of the Sky. Does The Pilot's Love Song soar up to the lofty heights of its predecessor, or does it crash and burn?
A Tale of Love and Forgiveness
The central theme to The Pilot's Love Song is one of forgiveness. Kal-el Albus, the primary character of the show, begins the show with his heart full of hatred towards those who wronged him in the past, but by clinging to his late mother's lessons on forgiving others, he slowly comes to accept the people he hated. Kal is not the only character who goes through arcs of forgiving others. Kal's adoptive family were slow to accept him as well, but eventually grew to love him despite their anger towards his biological family.
On top of that, the heart of the series revolves around the relationship between Kal and Claire Cruz, a beautiful but shy girl who holds a secret that could utterly devastate Kal should he learn the truth. Furthermore, Claire also goes through her own arc of forgiveness, but unlike everyone else, she is trying to forgive herself for things she did in the past.
The second half of the series has the soldiers of Isla trying to defend the island from the Sky Clan, a group of people called barbarians by the higher ups of Isla. These fight scenes can be pretty tense, because you never know when a character will be struck with a fatal blow.
Story and Character Development Told Via Flashbacks
The truth is, during the "present" part of The Pilot's Love Song, there isn't much story or character development. The bulk of it is told via flashbacks of the primary characters as children, and it is some pretty good stuff, giving a glimpse of a rather bleak period of time.
I don't know if it was intentional or not, but, well...The Pilot's Love Song hits a rough patch in the second half where it gets rather misogynistic. You see, there are quite a few female pilot trainees, and in the first half of the show they are made to look more than capable of holding their own. If anything I praised the series early on for having a mixgender military with seemingly no difference between characters from either sex. That all changes once the fighting starts in the second half of the series.
(Minor spoilers follow, if you don't want anything spoiled, head to the next talking point)
And it ranges from Claire suddenly not being able to properly handle a rifle, despite training right alongside everyone else. To the best female pilot conveniently being injured so severely that she could never fly a plane again. To only the female pilots being the ones to run away from their duty to fly into battle while the guys man it up and go into what is almost certain death. To flat out no female characters dying in this show.
It is the men who get to go fight and die with bravery and honor, while the ladies that I thought were supposed to be badasses as well cower and hide and generally just don't get the same treatment at all. And quite frankly it really pissed me the hell off.
Suspension Breaking Aerial Combat
Look, I know this is a show with a floating island and a girl with magical powers that allows her to control the wind. I get that. That still doesn't prevent me from having my suspension of disbelief shattered time and again seeing the trainees take down fast moving fighter jets with freaking piddly ass rifles. And not just with rifles, but with single shots from the rifles. It isn't like they are shooting the pilots in the planes, they are shooting the damned bodies of the planes and score the perfect shot needed to down a plane with a single bullet from a rifle.
You see the gentleman with the golden locks and face fur up above? He's one of the highest ranking leaders on Isla, if not the actual overall leader, and he's a total dumbass. He's the main reason so many of the trainees end up dying, because he fell into an obvious as all hell trap set up by the Sky Clan and thus was caught with his forces in the wrong positions.
On top of that, he constantly questions the enemy positioning and strength information the trainees send back to headquarters, despite them putting their lives on the line to get that much needed info. To be blunt, if they failed their mission, it would be squarely this numbskull's fault.
Lastly, the series ends with not only a rushed ending, but an open ending as well. A one-two punch of ingredients that individually would make for a bad ending. Combined they make for one of the weakest endings of the season.
The Pilot's Love Song started as one of my favorite shows of the season. I was wowed by the Miyazaki-esque feeling of wonder and aviation fantasy. However once they started fighting the Sky Clan, it became a completely different show and the flaws just continued to mount for me. I still enjoyed the show as a whole, but the latter half was carried almost entirely by my investment in Kal's and Claire's relationship. Is The Pilot's Love Song a bad anime? Even with the flaws I can't say it is a bad series. I have seen far worse, to be sure. But it is most certainly not at the same level of quality as The Princess and the Pilot, and it stumbles into its conclusion upon which it falls flat on its face.