Anime Movie Review: The Princess and the Pilot

The Princess and the Pilot is a sweet film about a noble girl betrothed to a prince and the pilot who has to ferry her through enemy territory to get her to safety. Taking place in an oceanic world inspired by the 1940s, the movie has an unusually modern setting for a star-crossed love story involving class systems and royalty.

It begins with Prince Carlo proposing to Lady Juana del Morel. He’s a good-looking young man who seems quite taken with her, and promises to end the war between the nation of Lavamme and the Amatsukami Empire within a year so he can safely marry her. However, a year passes and the war has not ended. Worse, the enemy has learned of the nuptials and targets her island home and bombs it intending to kill her.

Though she survives the bombing, her father does not, and it’s determined that it’s too dangerous for her to remain on the island. A fleet is dispatched from the mainland to bring her to Prince Carlo, but unknown to the public, the fleet is destroyed en route. The portion of the Lavamme Air Force stationed on the island hatches a plan to get her past the enemy blockade, where she can rendezvous with the sole remaining ship of the 8th Naval fleet. It will make for a good story, with the lone survivor returning victorious with the princess safely on board.

The problem is getting her there.

That job is given to Charles Karino, a biracial pilot ostracized for his mixed blood. He is half-Amatsukami. However, he is given the job because he’s clearly the best and the men in charge aren’t so blinded by racism that they are willing to risk Juana’s life. Charles is instructed how to behave himself in front of Juana, because under ordinary circumstances he’s not someone who would ever come in sight of her, and they will be traveling together in close proximity, in a two-seater reconnaissance plane called the Santa Cruz.

The Amatsukami have had technical superiority in the air with their Shinden fighter aircraft, but the newly designed Santa Cruz just might be fast enough to evade them if they can manage three days of travel relatively undetected. To aid their escape, the remainder of the island’s air force intends to serve as a decoy while they slip out.

The journey that follows slowly unravels the trappings of Juana’s life. Though her maids send her off trussed up with more padding than a kid in a car seat, she quickly loses most of that (and all her luggage to boot) on the first night when they have to unexpectedly hide from patrols out looking for them. But as Juana loses her material things, she also gains a sense of self she did not have before. Watching her grow from a caged bird into a partner capable of aiding in her own escape is one of the joys of the movie.

For his part, Charles is used to his lot in life. He likes flying because race and class doesn’t exist once he’s in the air, but on the ground he accepts the mistreatment that comes his way even when he has friends willing to stand up for him.

That doesn’t change much even when Juana is horrified that Charles is not the one who is going to be given a hero’s welcome and he will not be accompanying her to the capital after dropping her off with the navy. He’s not even going to be allowed to come on board the ship with her because of his status as a besado.

Though it’s clear there is a potential attraction between the leads, The Princess and the Pilot does not shoot for the typical Hollywood ending. It is a happy ending in its own way, but probably more of a realistic one.

Given this is a story involving fighter planes, I do have to mention that the dogfight scenes are easily among the best I’ve seen in anime. I’m not sure that some of what Charles pulls off is entirely realistic, but the animation does such a good job in making the audience buy into the fact Charles is the best in Lavamme.

The Blu-Ray also comes with a bonus art book detailing the character and mechanical designs for the movie, as well as comments from the director and the author of the original book Toaru Hikuushi e no Tsuioku.

Anyone curious about the fates of Juana and Charles post-movie can find hints about them in the TV series The Pilot’s Love Song (previously reviewed here) which is set in the same world.


The Princess and the Pilot was reviewed on Blu-Ray in the original Japanese with subtitles. The movie is also streamining at Crunchyroll (free to non-members after June 21st).


laurietomLaurie Tom is a fantasy and science fiction writer based in southern California. Since she was a kid she has considered books, video games, and anime in roughly equal portions to be her primary source of entertainment. Laurie is a previous grand prize winner of Writers of the Future and since then her work has been published in venues such as Galaxy’s Edge, Crossed Genres, and Solaris Rising: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction.

Anime Review: The Pilot’s Love Song

written by Laurie Tom

The Pilot’s Love Song recently wrapped up its run as part of the winter 2014 anime season. Based on the novel series Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta by Koroku Inumura, The Pilot’s Love Song is an unlikely combination of high school romance and 1930s/40s style aircraft set in a made up world with floating islands and a girl who can command the wind.

Since the novel series is untranslated I’m not sure how far the anime went through, but I would guess The Pilot’s Love Song probably contains the first book or two. This means while there is the feeling of a season ending, it’s definitely not a series ending. This is not uncommon in anime adapted from manga and novels, since much like American TV shows, production teams try not to lock themselves into a series in case it doesn’t catch on. Unlike American TV shows, Japan generally waits to see what Blu-Ray/DVD sales look like before ordering the next season. If The Pilot’s Love Song performs well in Japan, we will probably see another season in a year, give or take. In the meantime it makes me wish more Japanese novels were translated into English because I really want to read them!

The titular pilot is the unfortunately named Kal-el Albus (thankfully he goes by Kal most of the time because his name is not a reference to Superman in anything other than spelling), the only son of an airplane mechanic who also has three daughters. Kal and Ari, the youngest daughter, join Cadoques High School on the floating island of Isla as pilot trainees. Isla plans to sail on a religious pilgrimage to the fabled End of the Sky, taking with it a city full of people, squadrons of aerial knights, a flying dreadnaught, and of course the school to train new fighter pilots along the way.

In the very first episode, Kal meets a girl called Claire, who turns out to be a fellow student, but unlike him, who resides in the commoners’ dorm, Claire lives among the nobles. Still, she takes a liking to him as well, and they get along fabulously.

However, without spoiling things, neither of them are who they initially appear, and that the audience discovers who they are before they discover each other’s identities is a nice sort of tension because compared to them, Romeo and Juliet had it easy.

The story is a slow burn, choosing to build up the world and the school life before introducing any danger. Considering this is a series involving guns and aircraft, there is surprisingly little dogfighting until about halfway through, and the action scenes are more to serve the growth of the characters than being action for action’s sake.

When the fighting finally starts happening, it’s very clear that the students are ill-prepared and under-equipped. Despite being the equivalent of high school students in our world, they are soldiers on Isla, and the series does not forget that in combat, people die, and some familiar faces won’t make it through the series, even if they’re teenagers.

Though likely impractical, the airplane designs are fun to look at. The Isla planes don’t quite have the look of the fighters in WWII, though they’re metal and more advanced than WWI. Radio technology hasn’t been invented yet, preventing pilots from communicating save from occasionally screaming at each other (which probably shouldn’t work), hand signals, or having the gunner in their two-seater aircraft use the telegraph.

Oddly enough, considering that machine guns were mounted on airplanes midway through WWI in our world, the planes on Isla rely on gunners in a second seat behind the pilot, usually sporting a bolt action rifle, which makes them look hideously primitive when the enemies come out who are armed with single seater aircraft that have mounted machine guns.

Though it doesn’t make much sense, it does allow for better drama. All the pilots pair off for training in school, so by the time they get into any fighting, each of the named students has a partner to worry and care about, and when they’re in the sky they only have their partner to rely on. It gives characters someone to talk to and an immediacy that doesn’t happen between solo pilots of different craft.

The Pilot’s Love Song also gets bonus points from me for the combat uniforms. Though the boys and girls wear different school uniforms with clear analogs to the Japanese school system, when they suit up to fly the uniforms are identical for both genders. The only difference between uniforms is the scarf, which is not used to tell gender apart, but whether the pilot is a noble or a commoner.

Though I enjoyed this show, it’s such an odd combination of genres that I’m not sure I can easily recommend it. Probably the best thing for the curious is to watch one of the promo trailers and see both halves of the show. The one for the Japanese Blu-Ray/DVD release is a nice compilation of clips set to the opening theme. It showcases the four main characters and skipping to 0:52 brings up shots from the later combat scenes.

If you are entertained by both romance and early 20th century airplanes, you will probably dive right in and be perfectly comfortable, but at it’s heart, The Pilot’s Love Song is really about the love story.

Number of Episodes: 13

Pluses: old school aviation, nice mechanical detail, sweet love story

Minuses: pacing is uneven, dogfights don’t show up until halfway through, show ends on a season ending rather than a series ending

The Pilot’s Love Song is currently streaming at CrunchyRoll and is available subtitled. NIS America has licensed this for eventual retail distribution in the US.


laurietomLaurie Tom is a fantasy and science fiction writer based in southern California. Since she was a kid she has considered books, video games, and anime in roughly equal portions to be her primary source of entertainment. Laurie is a previous grand prize winner of Writers of the Future and since then her work has been published inGalaxy’s Edge, Penumbra, and Solaris Rising: The New Solaris Book of Science Fiction.