The Princess and the Pilot

In the Winter of 2014 there was an anime series titled The Pilot’s Love Song, which featured a romance between a commoner pilot and the daughter of a lordly house. That was embedded in a plot best described as “society puts all it’s useless aristocracy on the Golgafrincham B-Ark and sends them to find the other side of the sky.” There were some good flying scenes at the start, but they grew fewer as the ‘plot’ progressed. Many people compared it, unfavorably, to a 2011 anime movie The Princess and the Pilot. I just watched TP2, and I agree.

Surprisingly, TP2 is set in the same universe as TPLS. It’s a better show, overall, but it still demonstrates many of the flaws of the series.

There’s a war on between two countries, let’s call them A and L. Country L evidently doesn’t have enough good pilots, so they hire mercenaries, one of whom is an A/L half breed, called a bastid or some such. He, of course, is the best pilot in the sky, but is hated by all the L-sians. Nonetheless, he’s the one chosen to haul their princess from the island she’s on, surrounded by A-ish forces, to rendezvous with the L-sian flying fleet, or what’s left of it, so she can marry The Prince.

The Boulton-Paul SantaCruz

The Boulton-Paul SantaCruz

The story deals with their three day flight in a seaplane/recon fighter that has to stop every evening to refuel with water. The Prince of L-sia is evidently just as bright as the rest of the aristos, and sends a telegram to her in a breakable code, giving her itinerary. Think Yamamoto shoot-down — for a while I wondered if it was deliberate. Naturally, the entire A-ish flying fleet is out after them. They almost get shot down several times, and do get damaged badly enough that they have to hide out on an island for an idyllic several days while they fix the plane, and install a new cockpit canopy (he carries a spare). She becomes enamoured of him (as castaways on desert islands are wont to do, and the whiskey might have helped), but he’s a true gentleman, and politely rebuffs her, maintaining his stoic acceptance of the status quo.

Not a flight of Kyushu J7W1 Shinden

Not a flight of Kyushu J7W1 Shinden

The airplanes are cool, mostly. The seaplane/recon fighter has fully retractable floats and an overdrive function that won’t quit. It also has stowage in the back for an 8-man raft, a full first aid kit, and seven suitcases, plus stowage in the front for various spare parts, like cockpit canopies. One wonders where the fuel goes. While we’re on design flaws, it’s a little disconcerting to see that their recon bird doesn’t have any forward firing weapons, but it does have a rear seat with a rear seat gunner, reminiscent of a Boulton Paul Defiant. The enemy fighters all look like the Sanka Mk.B from Sky Crawlers.

The flying scenes are great, but the actual flying is terrible. The A-ish fleet does an open ocean search by flying in close formation with wandering searchlights, like they were the Goodyear blimp at a football halftime, rather than spreading out in a line. Even Admiral Nelson could have run a better air war. All of the encounters take place in broken clouds, but The Pilot doesn’t think to just jump into a cloud and stay there — he’s always on top of the cloud, where it’s easy to see him. He also doesn’t even consider the possibility of flying at night.

Do you think they're looking for something?

Look sharp! The Sea Gals are about to take the field!!

The A-ish fleet has some sort of homing missile, probably a heat seeker, but they seem to be barely faster than the seaplane, and the L-sians haven’t invented flares. The A-ish fighters have radios, but don’t seem to coordinate their attacks very well — The Pilot gets down on the deck and they line up to take turns missing him. In the final combat, the A-ish fighter gets on his tail and drives up to within pistol shot, so The Princess sprays him with the tail gun. Her sustained burst, pointed right at his aiming reticle, manages to saw off the outer two feet of one wing. She’d have done better by pulling the pintle off the tailgun mount and letting the whole rig fly backwards into his cockpit.

Can you see me now?

Can you see me now?

The animation, by studio Madhouse, is not up to KyoAni standards, but neither is it 90’s cartoon level. Character art is OK. Flying art is good. From a performance standpoint, the characters themselves are mostly cardboard. The aristos are the worst caricature of prejudice. The bastid Pilot remains stoic in the face of prejudice. The Princess is the only one to grow. She starts out as a silent cipher, with three maids and seven suitcases of minimum wardrobe, and ends up as a tough flying partner, one who hacks off her hair when it gets in the way, and runs around in a halter and rolled up trousers, rebuilding airplanes on desert islands. On the way, she shoots down an enemy fighter. Hooray for her, but she’s the only one.

This old thing? It's my islandwear.

This old thing? It’s by Islandwear.

It runs 104 minutes on Crunchyroll, including a good ten minutes of credits. It’s worth watching, if you like flying films, and you can always fast forward through the character development.

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