The Princess and the Pilot is an anime film animated by Madhouse (the insanely talented studio who have previously animated shows such as Claymore and Gungrave.) The movie is based on Koroku Inumura’s light novels, which have also spawned a cartoon series named The Pilot’s Love Song. At the time of writing the movie is available to purchase on DVD, Blu-Ray and digitally for around fourteen to eighteen pounds. Illiterate anime viewers should note that the movie does not have an English dub, so subtitle reading is mandatory. I’m sure that’s a non-issue for purists who prefer to experience anime in its native tongue, but it may irk some viewers who find that focusing on the foot of the screen can detract from fully appreciating the wonderful artwork on display.
Watching this movie reminded me a little of the anime series Last Exile, as both properties share a similar look in addition to their aeronautical themed plots. The Princess and the Pilot’s world is an interesting hodgepodge of aesthetics that combine Victorian flair with World War II fighter planes and more advanced steam punk-esque airships. Fana deru Moraru is the titular princess who is betrothed to a dashing prince from a foreign land. When hostile forces, presently at war with the prince’s kingdom, bombard Fana’s estate it is decided that she should relocate over to her fiancé’s more secure country.
The perilous three-day journey involves sneaking the beautiful monarch over enemy waters on a two-seater reconnaissance jet. Tasked with accomplishing the mission is Charles Karino, an ace airman who is admired for his piloting skills despite being the victim of discrimination (stemming from his mixed lineage, which includes a parent from the rival Levamme Empire.) The risky trip gets all the more dangerous when its revealed that the covert operation has been leaked, resulting in the opposition’s army intensifying their patrols over the region. Will Charles’ command over the speedy Santa Cruz plane suffice to deliver his regal passenger unharmed? Time will tell.
I was pleasantly surprised by how The Princess and the Pilot played out. From reading the movie’s synopsis I was expecting a cliché tale were an oafish soldier and uptight royal are forced together, bicker constantly, only to then fall in love. Thankfully, although romance does blossom between the leads, the script spares us from the aforementioned hackneyed tropes. In spite of a rough upbringing Charles is a courteous gentleman whilst Fana is a polite and diplomatic lady. Sadly the same cannot be said of her entourage, who are openly racists and unreasonable (in one comical scene they insist that Fana’s bevy of luggage get loaded onto the Santa Cruz, even though the excess weight would impair the plane’s acceleration.)
Perhaps I’m being overgenerous, but my rating for The Princess and the Pilot is five stars. The storytelling is rather simplistic, alternating from action by day and relationship building at dusk, but I still managed to enjoy it after latching onto the chemistry simmering between the leads. Although I’m not the sentimental type, Charles and Fana are such a cute couple that I was rooting for them to get a Hollywood happy ending (however far fetched and cheesy it would have been.) Charles may be the hero of the piece, but Fana is by no means a useless sheltered damsel – as evidenced in various scenes were she showcases her worth. Overall I think the movie has something for everyone. Gents should appreciate the thrilling dogfights whilst the ladies have romance to get googly eyed over. I would recommend the film as a good family feature, although sadly youngsters may be unable to revel in its spectacle due to the omission of an English dub.