The war between the Levamme Empire and the Amatsukami Imperium has been raging for years. In the midst of this struggle, the prince of the Levamme Empire declares his love for Fana del Moral and vows to end the war in one year, as part of his marriage proposal. When the Amatsukami catch wind of this, they assault the del Moral residence, targeting Fana’s life. As a last ditch effort to bring the prince his bride, the San Maltilia Airforce hires a mercenary of mixed blood—a bestado—to fly Fana to the Levamme capital in secret. The pilot, Charles, accepts the mission. However, but traversing over twelve thousand kilometers of ocean alone, into enemy territory, proves a much more dangerous ordeal than anyone could have anticipated, and the stakes elevate when the mission is leaked to the Amatsukami forces.
The last anime movie review I wrote was for the Hanasaku Iroha Home Sweet Home film back in October. My interest in The Princess and The Pilot was instigated partly by an error, where I had loaded an incorrect image for my initial thoughts on The Pilot’s Love Song. This talk, however, will deal with The Princess and The Pilot, a 2011 film that was adapted from a light novel of the same name. Because The Princess and The Pilot is set in the same universe as The Pilot’s Love Song, some elements do carry over, and admittedly, the combination of vast skies, propeller-driven aircraft and air-based battle cruisers did much to draw my interests. However, despite being somewhat dull individually, the dynamics between Fana and Charles soon replaces the initial inclination to see awesome dogfights: Fana and Charles develop a curious and short-lived relationship through conversation as they spend time together during the journey, providing moral support for one another as they complete what is essentially a flight from Japan to North America. During this journey, Fana and Charles open up to one another, extending beyond the latter’s mission objective of simply delivering her safely to the mainland. In any other anime, this setup would culminate in a romatic relationship. However, throughout the film, it is clear that their relationship remains strictly as that of a protector and symbol, signifying that both act for their nation’s good rather than their own interests. Both Fana and Charles are aware of their positions and duties, setting aside any (subtle) personal feelings to see this mission to the end. However, The Princess and The Pilot is able to include scenes that enhance the depth between the two, whether through flashbacks or more notably, Fana getting hammered on alcohol and proceeding to dance with Charles. The Princess and The Pilot continues to engage viewers through Fana and Charles’ interactions despite only having two characters and an outcome that is contrary to what might be expected from such a premise.
The Princess and The Pilot presents a world rich in lore and history, especially regarding the conflict between the Levamme Empire and the Amatsukami Imperium, although in the movie itself, these details are abstracted out such that the movie’s core remains. On one hand, it keeps the story very straightforward, but on the other, justification for why there is a war to begin with is never provided. That means the Amatsukami (portrayed as the antagonists) could very well be fighting for true justice while Levamme might be the aggressors. This ambiguity does have one advantage: it leaves the complex politics behind and allows the story to focus purely on Charles, suggesting that the pilots and soldiers in the armed forces are carrying out orders, and not to consider the politics behind their orders with too much effort. From the audio-visual perspective, The Princess and The Pilot is spectacular, capturing the appearance and feel of the kind of freedom associated with flight. Attention to detail in the aircraft and battleships add depth to every combat engagement: with slick camera tricks and convincing aircraft sounds, the combat sequences are riveting, even though the Santa Cruz is only equipped with a rear-facing machine gun for defensive roles.
- As I am wont to do with movies, thirty screenshots lie below, along with commentary. We begin by introducing Fana de Moral, the princess-to-be: despite being of royal descent, she is an elegant, polite, and compassionate lady by character, despising the fanatical racism her countrymen continue to believe in.
- After the prince of the state proposes to Fana, Amatsukami forces launch a night raid that wipes out her family, setting the film’s story in motion.
- Charles is briefed by his superiors; paired with the moments in the film’s opening, it is clear that racism runs strong in Levamme, but why this exists is never satisfactorily explored.
- Despite being of mixed heritage and therefore detested by many of his superiors and other soldiers, Charles does have a few friends who stand by him. Charles believes that in the skies, caste, race, nor social status become trivial, prompting him to take up a career as a pilot.
- The Santa Cruz is one of the fastest Lavamme aircraft available, being a modified Naval reconnaissance aircraft. In comparison to the standard Amatsukami fighter, the Shinden, the Santa Cruaz lacks the top speed and maneuverability, but Charles’ skill is more than enough to compensate for the differences in performance.
- Fana falls into the ocean several times early on, and accidentally loses all her gear. Despite this, she’s remarkably resilient and provides a great deal of moral support to Charles.
- A long time ago, Charles’ mother was one of the servants at the royal residence, and Fana particularly enjoyed her company, although when her father found it, Charles and his mother were evicted from the residence.
- How many readers have seen Behind Enemy Lines, I wonder? Unlike Burnett and Stackhouse, Charles manages to evade the missiles. Despite having no apparent source of propulsion, the Amatsukami missiles home in on the Santa Cruz, and it is through a bit of skullduggery that Charles is able to survive, taking down an entire battle cruiser on his own after quietly apologising for his actions.
- Most aircraft of the WWII-era had machine guns built into their wings, and later on, heavier cannons. Modern aircraft are equipped with 20 or 30 mm Gatling guns: the McDonnell Douglas F4 Phantom was originally designed without an internal cannon, as military tacticians of the day believed that supersonic aircraft and missiles removed the need for air combat maneuvering. In practise, most aerial combat occured at subsonic speeds, and the F4’s lack of a cannon put it at a severe disadvantage at close quarters engagements.
- The F-4E phantom had a built in 20 mm M61 Vulcan, and since then, all modern aircraft have an internal cannons for subsonic engagements and close-air support. During WWII, most reconnaissance aircraft were modified fighters. By the Cold War, dedicated aircraft such as the Lockheed U-2 and the Lockheed SR-71 were deployed to collect intelligence on Soviet ICBM positions. The former was replaced by the latter after the U-2 proved to be too slow.
- I’m not even sure how such a geological feature could exist: an ocean-wide waterfall is spectacular, but given that waterfalls form from water flowing over a vertical drop, the implications are that there is a major elevation difference between the islands and mainland. If this is the case, the oceanic water must go somewhere and be channeled back to the surface somehow on the mainland side via geological features completely foreign to us.
- After a skirmish with Amatsukami forces, Charles is injured; Fana shows remarkable resourcefulness in disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. While signs of romance start cropping up here, the novel clarifies that both Charles and Fana suppress their emotions to ensure that the mission is complete.
- Fana is voiced by Seika Taketomi, who plays her role with a soft and cheerful deposition to capture how a naiveté princess might act.
- After downing something alcoholic (whiskey, rye, rum?), Fana dances with Charles under starlight, despite the latter’s protests at having no familiarity in dancing. I recall that a long time ago, the dance topic was cancelled in my physical education program owing to an imbalance in males and females: I am not a fan of modern dancing, but I would like to learn to Waltz and Foxtrot, as these more formal styles hail from a more civilised era.
- This is what I generally show up at a show for: thrilling aircraft combat sequences and explosions. The Santa Cruz feels like a sleeker version of the Vought F4U Corsair, an American carrier based aircraft that was known for its high speeds.
- In Charles’ hands, the Santa Cruz is able to outmaneuver and dodge the heavy fire from the battleships. Large caliber weapons are unsuitable for taking down small aircraft, and Naval vessels were equipped with anti-aircraft machine guns to defend from aircraft.
- The aircraft behind the Santa Cruz is a Shinden, which borrows elements from the Kyushu JW7, an experimental Japanese aircraft that only had two prototypes. At the film’s climax, Charles is challenged by an enemy ace pilot to a one-on-one duel, with the latter impressed with the former’s skills.
- Fana ends up taking a successful shot at the pursing aircraft after a harrowing dogfight where no rounds are exchanged to conserve ammunition. I imagine that these aircraft carry roughly 1500 to 1900 rounds, hence the significance of not wasting rounds needlessly.
- Fana is able to shoot off a portion of the Shinden’s left wing: despite these damages, the pilot is able to keep the aircraft in the air. Most aircraft are not built to fly after losing a wing, except maybe the A-10 Thunderbolt, which has legendary durability, attesting to the enemy combatant’s skills.
- Charles salutes his opponent for the duel out of respect. The rest of the image caption is below, so I’ll take the time to comment on the soundtrack, which suits the film very well but unfortunately, does not seem to exist in any form.
- The other pilot returns the salute and returns to the Amatsukami carrier. This scene was particularly enjoyable to watch, suggesting that the Amatsukami and Levamme forces are fighting because of orders from higher up the command chain. Of course, there’s no evidence to suggest this.
- The mission draws to a close here, and Charles sets the Santa Cruz gently down over top of what appear to be coral reefs; this is clearly a warm location. From here, a Levemme convoy is supposed to extract Fana from this point and deliver her the remainder of the distance to the capital.
- These large structures are somewhat reminiscent of the stromatolites in Australia: formed by the binding of sediments to biofilms, fossilised stromatolites provide remarkable insights into prehistoric life. Modern stromatolites are found in hypersaline environments.
- The twelve-thousand kilometer flight in The Princess and The Pilot pales in comparison to Amelia Earhart’s 1937 flight: she completed roughly thirty-five thousand of the total forty-seven thousand kilometer journey before her aircraft was lost at sea. The most widely accepted theories are that Earhart was forced to bail after running out of fuel, although other theories do exist.
- The rationale behind the Levamme military taking over is so that they can take credit for the successful mission, bringing to mind a story from long ago, when I was a member of my old high school’s yearbook team. Having been on the team for three years, I had amassed a vast knowledge of the yearbook-making software and continued to push the yearbook forward even when the number of team members had dwindled owing to other commitments. In my graduating year, I was be the only member to remain with the team for the entire year and help push things along, but at an awards assembly, someone I had never heard of took credit for putting in the most effort to the yearbook.
- It would seem that one of the advisers on the yearbook team disapproved of this decision, and I would subsequently be credited for performing the work, although the medal I was given was not inscribed with my name at the time, suggesting at how hastily this final decision was made. Returning back to The Princess and The Pilot, the Levamme officer in charge of overseeing the transaction bears some resemblance to some of the Western characters from Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohaniheto, an anime I finished somewhere back in November after picking it up seven years ago in high school: after the first episode, I never got around to finishing it until 2013.
- I have a feeling that Charles’ payment is a form of disrespect from the Levamme, given that it is in the form of a gold dust, rather than hard currency such as coins or paper money: modern banknotes have existed since the late 17th century (and Tang China is probably one of the earliest civilisations to make use of paper money during the 7th century). Of course, there could be other reasons behind why Charles is given a gold dust rather than more traditional currency, but this is never explored.
- The crew on the battle-crusier cheer Charles on for his actions in the final moments of the film, as Charles performs one last dance for Fana before returning to the islands.
- According to the movie’s epilogue, Fana marries the crown prince and as an empress, is able to bring peace to the Levamme and Amatsukami Empires.
- After completing his mission, Charles’ records were destroyed, and his adventure never became known to the remainder of the nations until long after this era had concluded: even after records surrounding Operation Black-Tailed Gull were found, Charles is never mentioned in any of them. It’s a somewhat open-ended in that regard, and serves as a cold reminder that sometimes, the greatest heroes are those who do things behind the scenes to keep things working but are not credited for their contributions.
After the hundred minutes of movie have elapsed, I can conclude that The Princess and The Pilot is a solid movie that definitely merits checking out for its simple tale of duty set in a fantastical world. With a story driven by a singular goal, The Princess and The Pilot can be enjoyed by viewers who are seeking a familiar (yet different) story involving marvelous aircraft: while viewers may be disappointed at the lack of history or explanation, overall, the journey itself is rather enjoyable. As a standalone story, the film is reasonably entertaining over the course of its run, balancing exposition with combat sequences. I was prompted to check this movie out after mistakenly using its poster for a talk on The Pilot’s Love Song, which is set in the same world and is currently airing. While I have yet to see any mention of the Levamme and Amatsukami in The Pilot’s Love Song, there is mention of a massive waterfall spanning their world, with a distant land lying just out of reach. Of course, how well these two stories tie together is largely irrelevant, since they could be set decades apart, long after old empires crumble and new nations are built. Now that I’m largely caught up, the next post will be a short talk on “Yasashii Boukyaku”, the ending song for The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi: this hauntingly beautiful song evokes heartbreak every time I hear it, and I’m thinking there isn’t a better day to talk about such things than Valentine’s Day. After Valentine’s Day, I will also get the mid-season talk for Saki: Zenkoku-hen rolling. I’m talking about everything up to episode six in this post, since I never found time to do a talk on the second episode. Halfway-point reviews will also be posted for SoniAni: Super Sonico The Animation and The Pilot’s Love Song.