The Princess And The Pilot – Review
I understand that stereotypically speaking a shounen-main-character has to be miraculously talented but what frigging talent enabled him to learn flying by watching planes…?! Flying isn’t really the kind of thing where you can have a learning-process while being a few thousand feet up in the air and from the ground you can’t learn flying by watching a pilot, can you?
The Princess and the Pilot Review – The Art Of Somehow Getting Away Again And Again
It’s strange to watch two movies one after another which are kinda similar. Hotarubi as well as Princess/Pilot are about a girl and a guy sorting out what their relationship is about. But where Hotarubi is the short focused story about emotions, Princess/Pilot wants to talk about racism, responsibility, war and decadence as well. Princess/Pilot has nearly two hours to try talking about all these things and of course it misses its chance to really talk about much of it. Princess/Pilot is good enough on the surface but it gives no reason why one should care about anything of it. And its ending is just atrocious, I think. It’s not only bad but ruined the entire movie for me. Not only is the end rather inconclusive the ending credits have a nice description of what the two main-characters do in the future and it ends with something like “And they died… but nobody knows how.”. Okay, so this movie apparently wants to have a sequel or someone had a very stupid idea about how to handle the ending.
Running Time: 100 minutes
Synopsis: As a beautiful daughter of the noble family del Moral, Fana was proposed by Prince Carlo, who is the crown prince of their country Levamme. However, since Levamme is at war with Amatsuvian, the marriage had to wait until the war ends. Meanwhile, as a bestado, the lowest caste in Levamme, Charles had always dreamed of flying and eventually became the ace pilot of the air force. Although he was often mistreated, a glorious chance came about when the Amatsuvian bombarded del Moral’s home in order to get rid of the future empress. Charles was then entrusted with the top secret mission of delivering the princess to the prince.
Okay, so the very special main-character also gets a very special plane… so it’s basically like what any other shounen-series would do. What is surprising about this special plane is that it isn’t special at all, I mean, there’s only one little moment of Charles saying “Oh thank God that I have this super-special plane.”. If it’s that unimportant for him to have a very special plane then why did this scene exist to make this point clear…?
A Princess and a Pilot, stuff happens, a story about love, war, oceans and whatnot. This movie has a fairly simple story. You have Fana, the princess, who has to move from point A to point B with the help of Charles, the pilot. Problem is: Between point A and point B are enemy-ships trying to kill the two. That’s the basic story. It’s done by Madhouse, a fairly good studio and directed by Jun Shishido (who worked on some good series but the only series that he directed and which was acceptable was Hajime no Ippo: New Challenger). So there’s a simple story, an acceptable director and a fairly good animation-studio. You’d think that this movie would be able to do things right for the most part. But in the end the whole thing was rather underwhelming.
Let’s start with the story which isn’t the worst part of the movie and actually quite enjoyable for the basic stuff it’s doing. It’s fairly clear what the story intends to do in each moment and for that it’s entertaining to a minor degree while you’re watching it. The first thing to be noticed about the story, though, is that it’s rushed. It’s not so much that things happen too fast or that the plot forgets to mention an important plot-point. This movie just has no breathing-space for world-building to happen. Of course a movie always struggles with its time-restraints but this movie has literally no world-building at all. Some weird countries fighting each other, names of places – it’s the whole “fantasy”-package of a meaningless setting. The “enemy” apparently also has samurais (who are inconsistently honourable apparently) and has a name reminding me of Amaterasu. Well, you know where this is headed: It’s of course an alternate history fantasy-WWII-setting but with kings and queens and Last Exile Steampunk and… racism. Because Charles is a bestardo or something and everyone has to ridicule the shit out of him for that (except close friends who die off-screen and Fana). And this is another thing: The story takes its basic elements of how it wants to tell the story – and repeats them again and again. I think there are at least three scenes of Fana and Charles talking and then he or she notice the enemy and his face gets all grim and he says: “It’s the enemy…” And if a minor character appears and sees Charles that person always (!) somehow knows that Charles is a bestardo and he has to indulge in racism therefore. In the end much of what happens in this movie blurs together because it just seems so repetitive and dull.
The storytelling isn’t very compelling so the question is what the story wants to say and I think this again was a rather botched effort of the movie. When I read the synopsis I imagined it to be either about how evil war is, how great love is or how we all should be friends. Three different topics and with a rather simple story to lead through the movie I thought it would be about at least one of these things. In the end it was just a half-assed effort to talk about love and the issue of war and peace got resolved in the ending-credits. And I blame the repetitive storytelling for that because any attempt of saying anything wasn’t resolved in a meaningful scene but just got repeated another time. You have the racism against Charles but at no point there’s a meaningful conclusion to this issue. You have the discussion of freedom with flying as an allegory but there’s never any real conclusion. Obviously the movie didn’t have the time to face all these questions but this movie never actually tried in the first place, I think. Instead of talking about something and telling you a story it felt more like plot-elements got thrown at you during the movie that were loosely connected by the repetitive storytelling. And the final moments of the movie were the worst part of it. There where I hoped everything could come together and somehow save this movie from its own mistakes… it failed, it simply failed.
It’s strange for a movie which favours peace to leave remarks like this one undisputed. But giving no depth to the topics of the movie is one reason why this movie isn’t very good. Instead of talking about war this movie just shows you only people who like war and people who want to avoid it. Nothing more.
But first of all I want to talk about the worst aspect of this movie: The characterization. The movie was called “The Princess and the Pilot” so of course you’d think it’s all about those two characters talking and having a kind of chemistry-thingy going on. They never do that, though. Charles is the reserved, kind… guy and Fana… well, Fana actually has two personalities in this movie. On one hand she’s the distant silent princess who wants to marry this prince because he’s a suitable husband and powerful. The second part of her is this childish impudent girl getting all tomboyish if necessary by doing stuff and actually helping Charles. Are these two personalities brought together somehow? Yes, because there’s an explanation and people be amazed: Charles and Fana are childhood friends and they both have forgotten about it until the story demands from them to remember. Now that’s a true stroke of genius, right? Childhood friend, temporary amnesia – not like anybody uses these tropes a lot in animes or anything… But that’s not really what makes it so bad. The really bad part of the characterization is that Charles and Fana are rather one-note in their characterization which means that there’s no development and that they are entirely forgettable. That’s right, a movie about a princess and a pilot flying over an ocean while trying to flee from the enemy manages to make the two characters which are important – forgettable. There’s no chemistry between the two, they are not likeable and they have no background worth mentioning. Charles is bestardo which means people need to behave like assholes around him since racism is a thing cool people do in this movie’s universe and Fana feels imprisoned being a princess because she doesn’t know how to use doors or something. That’s their issues. Do they get resolved?
Well, Fana’s does. The ending credits tell us that she becomes a great empress who favours peace, ends the war and… oh god why would anybody use ending credits to close off important parts of the movie? So, obviously the movie doesn’t manage to talk about war, peace and how cruel life is but since in the far distant corners of the story it’s somehow relevant the ending credits explain to you that yes, everything’s fine. The day is saved off-screen by a footnote. Thank god for that. Well, not like I was anxious about it or anything because the world-building was rather superficial. And romance wasn’t part of the deal either because Charles and Fana decided heroically to mind their manners and realize what morale and duty wanted them to do. They were very mature about the whole thing but Charles got a bit carried away with spending his gold-dust as a way to say goodbye.
Well, it’s not a true goodbye because the ending-credits feature an ominous “But nobody knows how they both died…”-line which could be a hint for a sequel or it could be just the culmination of bad storytelling. Because you have the basic story, one-note characters without a development and a rather superficial setting and the reason all of this creates a rather boring experience is the lack of time. I said it felt rushed in some way and I think the reason for that is that this movie seems like (an unfinished) series condensed into a movie. All this movie did was moving from Point A to Point B, it didn’t tell you anything interesting along the way, it didn’t show you anything interesting along the way but it got there.
Princess and a Pilot is a movie with small ambitions but fails to meet them because it wastes its time on repetition instead of development which leads to an unsatisfying conclusion. The characters are all rather one-dimensional which is painfully obvious in the cases of the two main-characters who fail to entertain in their relationship which is supposed to be the centre of the movie. In the end the movie just goes through the motions of doing what it wants to achieve without caring about how it’s achieving that.