Planes, romance, and adventure; I might as well be in heaven as I jump into The Princess and the Pilot, a fantasy romance adventure film. It's exactly what it says on the box: there's a princess, there's a pilot, and there's gloriously animated planes.
First off, I'd like to announce my new hybrid reviewing system. In addition to my usual Good/Great/Bad/Verdict categories, I'm also going be adding an Ani-TAY review card and Ani-TAY logo to my header images. I've also adapted the TAY review images for my own system. I hope you all like it.
The Princess and the Pilot is the first entry in what is referred to as the "Pilots" franchise, which also includes the anime television series The Pilot's Love Song. The aforementioned is currently airing as part of the winter anime season and is on my Five Anime of Winter 2014 You Should be Watching list, so go watch it if it sounds good!
Back on topic, The Princess and the Pilot is a high-flying aviation romance adventure film that stars Fana del Moral (Juana in the import), the princess consort of the Levamme Kingdom. Problematically, her official marriage is on hold because the Levamme Kingdom and the Amatsukami Empire are locked in a tense, long running war.
The princess is suddenly subjected to an assassination attempt in a bid to erode the morale of the Levammian forces by the Amatsukami Empire. It fails and the Levamme Kingdom attempts to extract her from her home island and back to the mainland. Unfortunately, they are mostly unsuccessful. Once most strategic possibilities are exhausted, the Kingdom calls on mercenary pilot Charles Karino (our other main character) to fly the princess across nearly 12,000 kilometers of the contested zone to the mainland in a solo mission.
It's a good aviation adventure film, I have to say. It does a lot right in its plot. There's a reasonable degree of tension in the film and nothing seems contrived or out-of place. There's something very touching and excellent about the way they've managed to tell this plot that I can't quite put my finger on.
Every logical bone in my body wants to call this plot cliche-ridden and formulaic, but I just can't. It gets this plot right with exactly the type of execution that it needs.
A big part of this can be chalked up to the implicit character exploration and development with Fana and Charles. The movie doesn't waste much time with explicitly explaining the world and the characters and instead opts to use the cinematography, the offhand dialogue, and its tropes to explain who these characters are. For instance, we don't really know anything about Princess Fana at the beginning of the film. She's a princess and she's a bit timid, but that's really it.
Over the course of the film, we get a chance to peel back the layers and see how this timid girl is very different than she would appear at first glance. She's a caged bird that has serious reservations about her life as a princess. This is accomplished through seeing her interactions with the world around her, not because anyone said it. It's an implicit observation.
Similarly, Charles is explored at length too. His half-blood heritage (Amatsukami-Levamme) makes him the target of racism and a resident of a low social class. This discrimination serves as a driving force behind his personality and it tells us a lot about him.
While these themes aren't really there to make a statement about racism or classes, but they do indeed make for some great worldbuilding and an exploration into why racism happens.
The one thing in particular that I love about The Princess and the Pilot is the excellent world. It meshes real world elements with downright brilliant fantasy elements, which results in a gloriously fantastical world. The technology of this reality is roughly real-life World War II era, but the planes run off of hydrogen gas (which they can actually replenish by camping on the water overnight, which I find awesomely fantastical and real at the same time). They've also got cool airships, which the aviation otaku inside me practically squeals in delight at seeing.
When I say downright brilliant fantasy though, I'm mostly talking about the absolutely gorgeous scenery that we're treated to throughout the movie. From the high-octane aircraft flight sequences to this:
It's a giant waterfall in the ocean! Does this make any sense in reality? Hell no!
Do I care? Absolutely not, that's AWESOME.
This is one of those animation movies where it would be better to just hotkey a button on your keyboard to take wallpaper photos for you while you watch, there's no end to the gloriously animated sequences that could fill your desktop with amazing fantasy and cool planes. The wallpaper-able moments are endless.
Also, I can't even begin to describe how the aviation otaku inside me was in absolute glee over the fighter animation sequences. They're so well done and fluid in many instances within the movie. Let's not even get me started on the Santa Cruz's dance.
The ending does leave some things to be desired of course. While it's well done and filled with more glorious plane animation, the plot ends on something of a cliche and noncommittal note. That said, The Pilot's Love Song (the ongoing anime set in the same universe) dropped a hint in episode eight that implies that we'll hear more about how things have ended up for the main characters of this movie. The letter at the end of the episode is signed by Fana Levamme. Sound familiar?
I am going to concede here that the whole movie, in spite of its incredibly great execution, animation, and worldbuilding, is very trope-y and straightforward. It's your standard "characters on a journey" romance adventure formula.
The Princess and the Pilot is a formulaic romance adventure that just happens to be an incredible visual spectacle. It's one those animation films that will quickly overtake your wallpaper folder if you don't restrain yourself. It's got a little something for fans of aviation, romance, and adventure that's worth taking a look at if you want a feel-good movie to top off your day.
As I said, it's a pretty formulaic romance adventure film though, so I wouldn't get too stoked to see it for that specifically. While it has merit and it's well done, the strength of this film lies in its excellent execution rather than excellent substance.
Put simply, The Princess and the Pilot is a surprisingly strong visual spectacle that I would recommend to fans of the romance and aviation genres if they have the chance to. I'm not saying that it will forever change your life or anything, but it's a well done movie that I just happened to stumble into buying.
Personally, as a lover of good animation, aviation, and the world they built, I think the $33 admission price that I got for the special edition was worth it. It will occupy a special place on my shelf well into the future and I'll keep it there proudly as one of the reasons that I came back to anime. I missed stuff like this far more than I thought I did.
Don't forget to pick up The Pilot's Love Song on Crunchyroll if you want aviation romance adventure like this. It's set in the same universe.
As usual, I claim no ownership of the images herein. This review system is partially adapted from Ani-TAY's review system (I have not released it yet), which is itself adapted from TAY's official review system.
This is part of Anime Marathon 2014, a continuation of Anime Marathon 2013 by popular demand. I'm on a mission to review every anime I can for the TAY community and anyone else that wants to read it. I can never guarantee when these reviews will be posted, but I'll do my best to keep it consistent.
You can see all my articles on Dex's Corner.