I’m still Superman.
So ends The Pilot’s Love Song, one of the more unusual anime of the Winter 2014 season. After the midway point is reached, the series takes on a much darker hue, stepping away from the everyday life at the Cadoques Academy and throwing the trainees into combat with the Sky Clan. The number of named characters begin falling to enemy fire, and in the midst of chaos, Kal-El finally learns the truth about Claire: that she is Nina Viento. However, as the Sky Clan’s intervention become more aggressive, only assistance from the Levamme forces saves Isla. Kal-El gradually realises that his feelings for Claire have eclipsed his hatred for Nina Viento, and after allying themselves with Levamme, Isla negotiates a settlement with the Sky Clan and is able to reach the End of the Sky to finish its mission. Kal-El and the surviving members of the Cadoques Academy, plus the citizens on Isla, return home, and Kal-El resolves to rescue Claire.
- The quote at the top of the page has nothing to do with The Pilot’s Love Song, but, in keeping with the fact that some reference was made to the Man of Steel in my previous posts, I’d include one final joke pertinent to Superman here.
- While the story might be paced a little unevenly, I did enjoy the air-to-air combat. The actual combat forces on Isla have automatic weapons, as opposed to the bolt-action rifles the students field, although the unexpected aggression from the Sky Clan make things quite difficult. As an earlier post indicates, I picked up Ace Combat: Assault Horizon last week for a cool 7.50 and have been going through the campaign.
- Mitsuo is shot down in episode seven, leaving Chiharu to blame herself for what happened. The impact is amplified by the fact that Chiharu and Mitsuo appeared to have been developing feelings for one another.
- Despite Isla’s defensive efforts, Sky Clan forces make it over the island and decimate its infrastructure. During the course of battle, other students at the Cadoques Academy are shot during in combat. I find that, in most anime (and shows, for that matter), once the first named character is killed, when more follow, the impact gradually becomes smaller.
- A plane with a seagull arrives late in one of the battles and single-handedly shoots down all of the forces maligning Kal-El. It was speculated that Charles Karino (of The Princess and The Pilot) is the pilot, being the one man who has that level of skill, although I have yet to see any definitive proof that shows this is indeed the case. However, I would like to believe that this is the case.
- The sudden number of deaths takes the series into darker territory: the last time I followed discussions about an anime with the deaths of main characters, it was Gundam 00.
- A major turning point is the story occurs after Claire reveals to Kal-El that she is Nina Viento. For the better part of the episodes following this revealation, Kal-El becomes a brooding wreck and can’t bring himself to face the world, until Ignacio Axis decides to beat it out of Kal-El. Ignacio swore revenge on the royal family after dissidents expelled his mother from the palace and she subsequently died one month after the exile.
- Subsequently, Kal-El and Ignacio fly together to stop the Sky Clan as Isla pushes deeper into the Holy Spring. Strictly speaking, I wasn’t particularly fond of Ignacio for his aloofness and distance even after his story was known, hinting at his relative lack of character development. In a show with strong character development, even the antagonists can sympathised with or understood (but they are not necessarily likable), although in The Pilot’s Love Song, the Sky Clan’s precise motivations beyond defending their turf is not known, and Ignacio becomes a flat character that I care very little for.
- Fortunately, Claire and Kal-El get enough character development so that their roles remain satisfactory. Of all the elements in The Pilot’s Love Song, Kal-El and Claire’s interactions with one another, as well as their internal conflicts surrounding their feelings for one another, are the absolute strongest points. After Kal-El demonstrates that he doesn’t care about Nina Viento’s actions or his revenge, Claire regains her ability to control the wind. Such a scene was worthwhile to watch.
- Isla is able to pass through the Holy Spring after Levamme assists them, and the Sky Clan decide to negotiate a peace settlement.
Despite offering a reasonable story and a brilliant world that looked to be filled with unique history and scenery, The Pilot’s Love Song suffers from a series of faults that arise from the anime’s short length: without enough episodes to evenly pace things, the first half starts out too slow, and the second half jumps right into the midst of things without taking the time to set the stage for what is to happen on screen. The motivations behind the Sky Clan or Levamme’s actions are never satisfactorily explored, leaving one to wonder what their intentions really are, and how Levamme fits in with their world. While The Pilot’s Love Song is technically about one man coming to terms with his past and present, the anime is quite similar to that of The Princess and The Pilot in that character development is placed ahead of world-building. Ordinarily, this is a more minor point, but in this universe, there is so much possibility for exploring lore and mythology. Something like this takes time, and as such, thirteen episodes is hardly sufficient to tell a rich, immersive story that strikes a fine balance between world-building and character growth.
- I was hopeful that Fana Levamme and Charles Karino would make an appearance in The Pilot’s Love Song, although their presence is only indirect, through letters and spoken orders. I suppose that catching a cameo appearance of either character was a little too much to hope for.
- A flashback shows the last meeting in the series between Claire and Kal-El, a heartfelt moment that exemplifies how Kal-El has matured since arriving on Isla. The core message in The Pilot’s Love Song seems to be that love is a sufficiently powerful mechanism that overcomes revenge and hatred, allowing for forgiveness to be found. With this in mind, The Pilot’s Love Song does excel with depicting the dynamics between Claire and Kal-El.
- While I tend to focus on the simpler or more obvious elements in anime, some viewers are inclined to delve into discussions about symbolism and social issues. Of note were the talks on gender differences brought on by the events in episode ten: I’m a proponent of equality, but I don’t go out of my way to complain about moments in a show because they depict behaviours that hail back to an older time when the equality gap was wider. Why is this? I’m no expert on the field and won’t be able to provide much meaningful discussion on the matter.
- The Edge of the Sky is quite literally thus, an energy field that separates their flat world from whatever lies beyond. The fact that this world is flat would account for some of the unusual geological features that were seen in The Princess and The Pilot, although the notion that a world can be flat would suggest that it was created by magic, rather than any astronomical forces that I’m rather more familiar with.
- After twelve episodes have elapsed, blood and tears were spilt, and Isla finally reaches its destination at the End of the Sky. Disregarding the symbolism that others have found, I see a moment of great emotion for the remaining pilots, who have finally reached their objective and are now warmly sending off their home to the unknown.
- The Pilot’s Love Song ends exactly where it began, with Arial crying into her father’s arms. Kal-El delivers a rather moving speech that captures the audience’s approval: while he walked onto the stage to hostility, his words of simple determination changes their mind.
- There isn’t anything quite like the feeling of coming home to familiarity and sleep on one’s own bed after a long adventure. In reality, jet lag is usually a problem, and I recommend beating it by lifting weights. However, in this universe, with their world being flat, I wonder how day and night cycles would work: it’s possible that the entire plane rotates about an axis, such that the entire world is day or night at any given point in time.
- In the final scenes, Ariel appears much more mature than she did earlier in the episode. There is a possibility that Ariel might have held feelings for Kal-El; her comment that “some love songs aren’t meant to be sung” hints at this, although whether or not this is actually the case is probably a moot point, now that the series is over.
- Kal-El is given a proper aircraft to pilot in the second incursion against the Sky Clan to retake Claire. While all of Kal-El’s classmates at the Cadoques Academy have dispersed and are pursuing other aims, Kal-El returns as a full-time pilot and now fights together with the pilot of the “seagull” aircraft, as well as the military staff that were responsible for overseeing the Isla mission.
- There are several good science-fiction/adventure type anime that are either airing or will air in the near future (then again, there are a lot of shows in summer 2014 worth watching); I will follow these with great interest. At present, for the Spring 2014 season, I’m still in the midst of choosing which shows I definitely wish to watch. By the end of April, I should have a much more solid idea and begin putting out blog posts once more.
While constraints in The Pilot’s Love Song are quite obvious, the thematic elements surrounding love and forgiveness were solid; Kal-El emerges from the series as a changed man after falling in love with Claire. No longer consumed by hatred and revenge, he has moved on and has his sights set on being together with Claire again. After thirteen episodes, what I got was a strong, although familiar and decidedly optimistic love story that I ended up enjoying. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this, although individuals looking for an anime with more world-building will be disappointed. Thus, The Pilot’s Love Song might be worth checking out for the love story component; although a little familiar, it is nonetheless integrated nicely into their universe. From a technical aspect, the landscapes and air combat was reasonably well done, adding to the atmospherics within the anime. The Pilot’s Love Song closes with a character expressing intent to stop Kal-El’s mission, and Kal-El engaging the Sky Clan in his journey to rescue Claire. This could be prime material for future work, although as it stands, the series has provided reasonable closure and as such, I won’t be too disappointed if this is the only incarnation of The Pilot’s Love Song.