This is review number one hundred and twenty. It had been a pretty busy end of the year. I’m glad I was able to squeeze in some time for anime. I’d be in full otaku mode as I review the Fall 2012 lineup though. It’s time for a movie though. I wanted to tackle some underrated movies. I notice that during each lineup release, a movie is also released so I try to watch them. I take pride in watching things people haven’t seen or heard of so I try to scour the deepest of the anime movie lists available.
The movie I’ll be reviewing is called “The Princess and The Pilot”. There’s nothing complex here. This movie is seriously just about a girl who is soon to be princess and a guy who is a pilot. It’s pretty simple. I always say simple is good but I say that with anime series. Can a simple movie be as good? Let’s read on.
The anime is about a man named Charles Karino who is tasked to deliver the soon to be princess of his kingdom, Fana del Moral, to the kingdom of her husband to be. This was to bring greater moral to their kingdom as they fight against the enemy state, Levam Kingdom. Charles is a skilled pilot and the mission is a secret one. No one knows about except people informed. The mission is easy enough until the info was leaked and now an army from Levam is out to shoot him down.
Taking the Pants Off
If I can sum up my thoughts for this movie, I guess I’d go with “safe”. This movie had an incredible premise, a workable concept and interesting characters but it chose to do nothing with it. It’s not bad. No, the movie was an “OK” movie but the way it squandered its potential makes you wish it was just plain bad. Anime movies are supposed to be grand. It’s supposed to awe you and wake up emotions inside you. The Princess and the Pilot had all the tools needed to do that. It can move, inspire you and make you be in awe but it chose to be safe, ordinary and OK. Anime movies should be more than OK, OK?
The anime tells of a war being waged by two neighboring countries. The war has escalated badly so in order to keep the country’s moral up, the prince decides to marry. The marriage was halted though because of the war. The prince sent a squad to fetch his bride but it was obliterated by the enemy. As a plan B of sorts, they decided to appoint the mission to the most skilled pilot in the country, Charles. This was a secret mission though. The officers weren’t fond of the idea at first because Charles is a “bestado”. He is born of a Levam mother and so he has faced racial discrimination all his life. Charles is to take the princess to an island so a ship can take her to the prince. This ship is supposed to be the “survivor” of the obliterated squad originally planned to escort her. Charles is never to be given credit but he’ll be rewarded handsomely. Along the way, the two characters bond and they get to know each other. Facing off against Levam enemy planes in his small airplane is tough but the two of them is determined to pull through.
There are only two characters in the anime. It is solely the princess and the pilot. The pilot is Charles who has faced racial discrimination all his life. The anime painted a pretty nice picture of how much people has mistreated him all his life. When he was kid up until he became a great pilot, people only see him as a bestado. There was even a powerful line from this bastard commander asking him who he mugged to become a great pilot. He answered that he watched planes all his life and picked up from it. Then the commander said “Ah, so you stole by your eyes. As expected of a sewer rat”. Ouch. Charles doesn’t mind though. He has become compliant and just brushes all of the racial stuff off. Growing up all his life, I can imagine that it was a way for him to survive. So for this man treated like a sewer rat all his life to be stuck in a plane with a rich girl soon to be princess for a good long trip, things are expected to be interesting.
Fana is a rich girl. She is always surrounded by guards and stuff like that. She has also become compliant of situations around her. To make other people happy, she follows the path handed to her. Fana is gentle and kind. I’d say, she is innocent after spending all her life being stuck in her home or protected by others. She wants to marry the prince though because she has grown to love him. When presented with the plan of being delivered in a plane by just one man, Fana just went along with it. The idea of this innocent girl taking a trip with a compliant pilot for a good long trip is bound to produce some interesting moments, right?
The anime has a theme of freedom. Charles has found comfort in the sky. Whenever he was being kicked in the ground or being called a sewer rat, he just looks up at the sky. He’s free there. He believes that everyone is equal when they fly in the sky. Fana has also wished for freedom. She has become so compliant that she never complains about her situation but the journey they took gave her new experiences that make her wish she was free. This two completely different people who lived in two completely different worlds is surprisingly the same. They both want freedom and as they take their journey, they slowly muster up the courage to chase after that freedom. It’s really well done. As the movie progresses, the theme of freedom get explored some more with the addition of flashbacks and surprising twists.
I’ve said all the good things about the anime. Now let’s take a metal bat and bash it. Here’s the problem with the anime. It’s too simple but it had a fairly complex premise. In the span of one hour and forty minutes, the anime was only focused on the Princess and the Pilot. Their entire trip was the main focus of the anime. It’s a damn shame because the story is about a war. There should be other focuses too like the prince who is facing the wrath of the enemy country or a side story about Charles’ comrades who was planned to be decoys in the secret mission knowing full well the danger of their task. There should be a story about the other side of the coin. We didn’t get to see the state of the country suffering war nor did we get to see any characters from the Levam Kingdom. The story was strictly just about their trip from point A to point B. Obvious pitfalls about this plot would be that it’s too predictable and the characters would be bland. Yes, even though they have a rich background at their disposal, the characters are bland.
There are so many ways to go about the anime but they chose to be safe. I do understand that if you mix in political elements then it would muddy up the story. I’ve seen it done where a complicated backdrop of a war got in the way of a good plot (Last Exile, anybody?) This was a movie though. It should feel grand; it should awe you and make you be immersed in it as you watch it. This movie felt hollow and it was missing that special something to make it complete. There was no intrigue, no workable conflict and it lacks a good cast. The sad part is that the movie could’ve rectified all of those problems I mentioned if they tried.
This movie was also missing a villain. It needed a bad guy to make the anime interesting. We saw an entire battalion of Levam ships go after the characters. My hair stood up at just how much the Levam army wanted the characters dead but there was no one leading the pack. There was no character to symbolize the enemy country and show frustration when the characters escape his dastardly plan. It was a waste because a powerful villain with the strong convictions representing the other country clashing with the convictions of the princess who love her country and the pilot born of a Levam mother mistreated by his own country could’ve been a very powerful moment for the movie. I think back on “Lupin: Castle of Cagliostro” where the story is simple, predictable and the characters were bland as well but it had a mustachio for a bad guy that was the perfect villain that it elevated the anime. A villain could’ve saved this movie as well.
I do appreciate its simpleness and the gradual transformation of the characters. It was nice to see their journey and there were some moments that had me at the edge of my seat. It was almost there. I seriously believe that anime could’ve been an outstanding piece of work. Almost. It just needed a bit more push in the right direction. There were no massive flaws in the anime though. Every element was done right and every scene was done by the book. Like I said before, it was “OK” and OK can buy you a cup of coffee and send you home happy. It had the potential to be outstanding though and outstanding can buy you a turkey dinner if you understand my attempt at analogy.
Sight and Sound
The animation was pretty nice. This was the area where the movie excelled. It was able to mix some nice CG with simple animation and the result is pretty outstanding. The design of the airplanes and warships was impressive. They were pretty accurate and the way they move in the sky is pretty brilliant. The scene at the later parts of the anime where the Santa Cruz dances in the sky was probably the most incredible moment in the anime. The way the plane soars was impressive and the camera angles were smart. The plane moves fast at time but there was never a moment where a scene was hard to follow. It was all clear and easy to follow.
The view in the sky is also one of the best parts of the anime. The background during their travel was pretty breath taking. The mix of CG in the background with simple animation gave us some scenery porn worthy moments. There were a lot of standouts like the big waterfall where the water was done in CG while the rocks were simple animation. The view above the clouds and the way the clouds are created is also a nice touch in the anime. The simple lighting effects really gave each cloud a character. If only they could talk then they would’ve added some spice to the anime (sarcastic laugh). The rock formations at the later parts of the anime were also a nice touch. The clear blue waters and the CG rocks mix well together.
The anime had no OP. The ED song was “Toki no Tsubasa” by Seiko Niizuma. This is a slow melancholic song accompanied by a gentle piano piece. Seiko’s voice was an absolute stand out. It was powerful and the way she hits the high notes was pretty impressive. It finishes with a nice violin arrangement. I am seriously in love with song and the singer. People need to hear Seiko Niizuma’s voice. The soundtrack of the anime is pretty simplistic. There was some intense music during the fight scenes and a pretty nostalgic piano piece during some of the heartfelt moments of the anime.
5/10 “It’s simple. Perhaps too simple.”
This is a solid movie despite the lack of some needed intrigue. The movie is good if you want to just enjoy a simple story. It’s not amazing though but the movie wasn’t boring either. I’d recommend it.