I did catch part of this at Fanime!, not realizing that “The Princess and the Pilot” (“To Aru Hikūshi e no Tsuioku”, “Recollections for a Certain Pilot”) was NOT “The Pilot’s Love Song”, even though both have the same general idea (and some theorize it is set in the same universe). I had to track it down later on, as I saw the bottom half and I needed the first part to understand what it was all about. You can try and piece things together from the second half and you could get the whole thing wrong. When I had a lumpy chance to see it (I caught it on a site that broke it up into four segments), I went for it.
It is an alternate universe, although the planes imply something late 30s to early 40s (if we used our calendar). What skews the ideas are these massive aircraft, which have a series of double propeller engines that generate 1.21 gigawatts of power to keep them aloft. The ships are huge, about the size of Delaware, yet these comparatively puny engines have them sailing along, singing a song. And how fast do they move? It looks like a tree could outrun them. Anyway, the country of San Maltilia is hosting a party for Prince Carlo, the next ruler of the Levamme Empire. He is awaiting the presentation of Lady Juana del Moral, who would be next in line for the throne. Her father, King Diego (whom my daughter thought looked like Gary Busey. Don’t be sticking a seashell in her ear, now!) wants this to go well, as these upcoming nuptials will strengthen relationships between these two nations, and make the del Morels a more powerful family.
She agrees to marry him, but they will not wed until the insurgency from Amatsukami is crushed. And Prince Carlo will do it himself! He promises that all will be right in one year. Well, one year comes and goes and he appears to be no closer to Total Victory today than 13 months earlier. One night, as Lady Juana cannot sleep, she steps onto her balcony…only to see Shinden attack planes from Amatsukami zooming in. Well, since San Maltilda was so arrogant to feel that they could not be attacked, the enemy come right down the gullet, unopposed, and bombs the castle into rubble. And for good measure, they strafe it as well. Someone is going to be taught a lesson. Now, we scamper away.
Although Lady Juana is untouched in the attack, her personal servants are either killed or badly wounded. Oh, and King Gary Busey is very much dead. It is felt by the surviving support staff that she now needs to be with her betrothed as soon as possible, so she is to be ferried out there with nothing to draw attention to her. No fighter escort, no Delaware-class armada, no battalion of brave soldiers. It’s just a plane and a pilot. But who will be her pilot? That pilot is Charles Karino. Now, he is not anyone’s first, last or other choice. You see, he is a burrito…I mean, a bestado. His dad was a Levamme and mom was an Amatsukami, so no one wants him AT ALL and if he could be as noble as to die in a back alley with the rest of the filth, a lot of folks would appreciate that. It’s just that he is the bestest of the best, head and shoulders and cowlings and pontoons above the native born pure-bloods. They all do that Popeye thing of muttering under their breath as he passes by, but just loud enough that he hears it. Look, even his commanding officer gives him the third degree. You feel that they would prefer a rabid monkey over this guy, but monkeys aren’t the best of pilots (too easily distracted).
Well, he’s a mercenary after all (as if the grand and glorious Levamme air force would officially permit such a lout to actually join them) and he is going to get well paid for his efforts…unless he dies a fiery death in the vast ocean that separates Juana from Carlo. He will be taking out the latest recon plane, the Santa Cruz (“What’s flying, dude? Maui no ka oi!”). And with the express intent to avoid enemy encounters at all costs. It will take about four days to get from San Maltilda to near Levamme (meeting up with Prince Carlo’s ship which is 12,000 km away. Bring a change of underwear), so they will have to sleep on the water (the plane is equipped with pontoons and the like). He is also told NOT to speak to the princess at all. After all, it is bad enough that this wretched piece of scum and villainy is escorting her, but no one wants his skanky germs befouling her royal persona. Oh, since the plane has hydrogen cells, it doesn’t need fuel per se, just a chance to use sea water to recharge.
The movie then evolves into one big road picture (OK, sea lane or air lane, whatever you want to tag it), as they learn about each other a bit better. It’s just that it comes off a smudge superficial, with all the excitement of a bus trip from Firebaugh to Elko. Yes, they are beset by the enemy, but Charles manages to outfly them and secure the safety of the princess. We learn the secret that they actually share and what true freedom means and entails. It’s just that it’s all so slight. My daughter came up with a better plot twist (Prince Carlo really is a rat; he sent the planes to attack the castle and wants Lady Juana to be dead, in order to make his twisted plans succeed) that was something more than what was given to us.
I was expecting more of a tale. It certainly is a gorgeous-looking film, especially when we get to the Great Waterfall. This is a land/sea formation that stretches for thousands of miles and is a massive waterfall in the middle of the ocean (and I don’t think your geology friends can come up with a world formation scenario that could even explain how that could come about). It actually felt like this was a film made in order to make a sequel. There needed to be something more and we got less. I know, it’s an old adage to ‘leave ‘em wanting more’, but it’s that things were bare or skint or hinted at but not converted upon, leaving an incomplete sensation.
There’s nothing really wrong with the film, with the exception of the dichotomy of the officers are better than the enlisted men, the natives are better than the burrito and you can’t see what’s ahead of you if you constantly look down your nose. It almost is de rigueur that those of elite or royal or privileged backgrounds treat the underlings like banana peels. I also wish that there was a tad more friction between the two of them. I don’t needed open insurrection (think “Six Days, Seven Nights”) but something more akin to “It Happened One Night”. It’s a pleasant enough film, but it needed a bit more resistance than was given. And the coda at the end is what leads me to think there might be Part II for this tale.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (It’s the hairstyles)
Plot 6 (A bit fade away)
Pacing 7 (Good dogfights, but some slack points)
Effectiveness 6 (Lost, as some things got telegraphed)
Conclusion 4 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 0 (A similar show would be “Honey and Clover”)
Overall 3 stars