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[The Pilot
AKA: Toaru Hikuushi e no Kouta, とある飛空士への恋歌 (Japanese)
Genre: Aviation adventure / romance / drama
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Licensed by Nippon Ichi Software America
Content Rating: 13+ (violence, animated blood, very brief female fan service)
Related Series: The Princess and The Pilot (Same Universe)
Also Recommended: Castle in the Sky, Last Exile, Simoun, Porco Rosso, Strike Witches, The Wind Rises. PLEASE watch any of these instead! Please!
Notes: Based on the light novel series of the same name written by Koroku Inumura and illustrated by Haruyuki Morisawa. It is the second in the author's Hikuushi series.

The Pilot's Love Song


Along with his stepsister Ariel, Kal-El Albus enters the Aerial Division of Cadoques High, hoping to fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot. The nation of Balsteros, which has recently overthrown its monarchy to become a republic, aims to attain the mythical "End of the Sky" by traveling along a floating continent called "Isla: The Floating Island", on which the Academy is located. While there, Kal-el falls in love with a bland and demure rich girl named Claire Cruz, who carries a secret of her own that may doom their love and blah blah blah WHO CARES?!


Tim: Might as well go first, since I believe I recommended this as a synchro originally in the first place. The Pilot's Love Song is like those rubber band paper airplanes you made in science class as a kid. You start it up, watch it fly for a few seconds, and then watch it crash.

Watching The Pilot's Love Song is like doing that, except the crash lasts for about five and a half hours longer.

Stig: Could I have been forgiven if I thought this show had some potential? Even after the first episode? Possibly, but even then, the warning klaxons had started howling like a maniac, and it doesn't get any less loud from there. Supposedly based on works set in the same universe as The Princess and the Pilot, I can only assume that movie made away with all the good stuff, because this show makes no damn sense at any second during its 13 episodes, and proceeds to make sure the art and animation, plus writing and direction follows suit. It really hurts.

Nic: I wanted to believe that this story was salvageable. I wanted to believe that so badly. In spite of the fact that the teenage cast seemed as bland as those found in the majority of horror movies, in spite of its uninteresting setting, and in spite of its pitiful attempts at spite of everything, I kept telling myself that it wasn't actually "that bad" and that I might have some fun with it. But just as one can seriously shoot yourself in the foot by second-guessing while, say, taking a test, doing so here was a major mistake on my part.

First off, not helping The Pilot's Love Song is a cast of characters who, more than just being bland, we feel we'd rather jettison off like dead weight from a full ship to keep it afloat. They're not particularly evil; in fact, many of them will die heroically during the show in an overwrought attempt at bringing some dramatic tension to it, but the whole thing plays off more like some kind of patriotic PSA dramatization. One of them even had the nerve to look a little too much like a certain backstabbing, perverted asshole from a certain other show, as reviewed by Stig and Tim. Thankfully, while he did share some of the same traits, he wasn't quite as bad. Just mostly.

Tim: I've said it before, but I'm willing to forgive a lot of shortcomings in a story if it has likable, well-written interesting, or at least interesting (if even interestingly bad) characters. Although initially I disliked walking tsundere childhood friend cliche character Ariel, by the end of the series I was about ready to jettison Kal into the sun. In addition to being a boring character, he's also whiny, stupid, unable to see ahead of his own face, and later shows that he can out-douche even Ariel herself with his horribly selfish desires just to see a girl he likes, to the point of literally GOING TO WAR just to see her again. I'm not joking!

Stig: But let us not get too far ahead of ourselves, because there are far more dumbasses in this show than just Kal-El and his "sister". Most of the crew in the unit they join are made up of teenagers, or what the creator of this "marvel" of a world thinks teenagers are. Most prominent is probably Claire Cruz, a person of some importance who also carries a secret that will make most of you go "Oh, come ON!" It's all disturbingly much like Odin, come to think of it. Oh, God, it all makes sense now.

Nic: Dare I say it, but I think that The Pilot's Love Song is the show that has finally and completely driven me away from highschool-based anime. It's a fantasy series, so you'd hope that it wasn't simply a show about bland and brainless teenagers having petty drama and generally being incompetent. Well, it's a fantasy series awkwardly transposed into a high school setting, and where far more time is spent in the high school flight school dorms than actually in the air. So yes, it ends up being a show about bland and brainless teenagers doing exactly what I described. Thrilling, absolutely thrilling.

An average episode consists of Kal alternatively being clueless and self-victimizing, Ariel yelling and calling him an idiot (which, to be fair, is accurate), and Clare being generically demure, with some unfunny antics from a supporting cast who that serves no real purpose besides padding. Of those classmates, the female characters are marginally less irritating, but that's probably because the show didn't give them enough personality to do so; though ostensibly of equal skill to their male counterparts, they're pretty much reduced to weeping, saying "please don't die" when their respective love interests go to war, and sitting in waiting. So much for empowerment.....

All three of us liked just about exactly one character in this whole show, whom (unsurprisingly) ended up getting killed up as part of a crappy plot device intended to make us care about the rest of these losers. A plot device made all the more ridiculous because while he COULD have escaped from his situation and didn't due to plot contrivances, various annoying side characters get into similar situations later and escape easily. Lazy, lazy, lazy writing abounds in this series.

But hey, like Tim said earlier, sometimes something good can help you forget the bad when watching a show. Like good art or animation. The Pilot's Love Song doesn't have that. Hideous coloring, ugly CG planes, constantly off-model animation (including a gem of a shot below), a cast sometimes hard to make out aside from hair colors due to their uniforms - it's a mess. Heck, they might as well have copied screenshots from Runescape for all the detail that that was present in the backgrounds. The series' best looking character is Nina Viento, and even then she looks more like a rejected Rozen Maiden doll, with an equally lifeless doll face to match. Someone give her a Guy Fawkes mask, stat.

Look at that. Just look at it! And realize that it looks so much worse in animation. We dare any of you to go to episode 12, take in that scene in its entirety and not guffaw when you see how awful it looks. This is the sort of thing that can compete with a certain infamous chase sequence from a show called Polyphonica. It's that bad!.

Mind you, this show is animated by TMS. Yes, the same TMS that once produced Akira, one of the most beautiful pieces of Japanese animation ever made. The studio that produces those Lupin III movies that still stun animation fans decades later. The animators of many of the most popular American cartoons shows of the 1980s and 1990s, including Animaniacs and Ducktales, among many others. Their Sonic X series looked and animated better than this, and that was a kids' show. Granted, some of the flybys did look nice, and their main ship, for all we get to see it, also has a rather nice and classy design. Half the time, though, the planes look as though they're hovering like helicopters or appear to be performing other physically impossible maneuvers, and at least one of us spent most of this show waxing nostalgic for Porco Rosso'sexcellent flight scenes as a way of forgetting how much of a mess this series' equivalents are.

Not helping The Pilot's Love Song is an obnoxious pair of songs that open and end each episode, often clashing with the material shown in each episode, each ending as abrupt as the next episode previewing lampooning just that. Self-awareness don't earn you any points in our book, PLS. That, and the series' rare attempts at humor that are so bad they make Adam Sandler look as classy and ingenuous as Mel Brooks. It's basically teenagers acting like lovesick douches (or upper class douches, depending.) And there's a character named Banderas. Joan Rodrigo Banderas. He's... very rugged and latino. We don't really know whether that was supposed to be a character joke, but we wouldn't put it past the show to do something like this.

Speaking of our resident faux-Latino, don't get us started on this show's pitiful attempts to use Spanish. If you've ever taken a single Spanish class, or, actually, if you've ever looked at a goddamned map, you'd know that the Spanish word for island is "Isla". The setting of this series is names "Isla: The Floating, Island", which just might beat Manos: The Hands of Fate as the most unintentionally funny misuse of language, ever. The rest of the setting isn't much more interesting, either; the show never explains what significance "End of the Sky" actually has, nor is it ever clear who the bad guys they fight even are. Meanwhile, the level of technology in this series makes even less goddamned sense than most steampunk universes; we have planes, but no electricity whatsoever and not one method of long-distance communication, aside from a telegraph that can inexplicably operate without a landline (they invented the internet before inventing the telephone?). This universe's inventors must truly be beholden to special interests.....

And the dialogue. Dear God, the DIALOGUE! The Pilot's Love Song loves to stall for time whenever it can, all to fill up the 13 episode runtime it has. It also loves to use childhood flashbacks (a pet peeve of both Stig and mine - Tim), characters running away from each other instead of just plain TALKING to each other (a pet peeve of mine - Stig), and just general moments where Kal and/or Ariel act like asses because the story demands them to. As bad as the plane battles are, we were grateful for them after a while because at least they made the two of them shut up for a while.

Those of you, sharp-minded readers that you are, probably noticed the "love song" part of the title, and yes, the show is indeed a love a sense. The first episode, post-departure, is more or less dedicated to the meeting of Kal and Claire, and the two fall in love almost immediately because they're stupid (and because Regional Anime Regulation #476A mandates that all female characters of any importance fall in love with the resident bland and immature male lead.) Yet, they have little time to do the whole courtship thing, because Claire is really Nina Viento, the same pseudo-religious icon that once was partially responsible for the death of Kal's parents. Which is to say not at all, really, but she was still scouted by the priesthood of said rebels, and Kal's parents were basically killed in an uprising. Kal was still adopted by Ari's parents and given a happy childhood, but he certainly hasn't forgotten Nina Viento, a name he can only say in the whiniest of seething tones. So Claire is obviously distressed once she realizes Kal is the son of the father she didn't really have any part in killing outside of taking down his ship with her wind magic, which she ponders as she dons the blue wig and becomes Nina Viento in maybe the only goddamned hilarious scene in the whole show. How screwed up is that?!

As a side note, Nina Viento's wig apparently has the power to change her eye color, deepen her voice, and make her breasts larger, in addition to making her personality completely creepy and crazy. Once upon a time, there was an episode of The Simpsons where Snake Jailbird's hair was made into a wig that made anybody who wore it completely evil; I believe that wig has found its long-lost cousin.

Tim: You know, I almost feel kind of bad now for trashing Dragon Crisis as much as I did. As bad as that show was, at least that show had more likable characters, a concrete (though bad) plot, and a somewhat amusing, hammy villain. The Pilot's Love Song isn't even fun to mock - it's just a chore. And I'd rather do real chores than ever watch this show again. I had more fun shoveling snow during the 2014 winter storm than I did watching this anime.

Stig: There have been many, many reasons why I've absolutely detested a show. Violence Jack had its cast of women and misogynists, while ICE was a colossally pretentious waste of misandric time. Those shows made me angry for clearly defined reasons. Thing is; Pilot's Love Song doesn't share many of either's traits, yet it makes me fume with the same near-irrational hatred that I felt towards Kono Aozora. This show sends its cast looking for a place floating in the sky, but it doesn't really explain why? It just runs this large, grandiose (in a sense) farewell scene and expects us to get all choked up about it. Most of the cast are a bunch of immature assholes, and while I wouldn't say I necessarily wanted to see them dead, nothing was done to make us care about them or their mission. Much less the whole segment where Kal asks a whole nation to go to war just so that he can get together with his ladyfriend. In one scene around halfway into the show, Kal closes himself inside his room over something and just sits there brooding for DAYS. Finally, the others had enough of that, and one of the characters proceeded to break down his door, drag him outside and proceed to kick the living crap out of him, and we loved every single moment of it; which really says it all, doesn't it? It's not immediately apparent, but there's just something exceptionally detestable about most of these people, much like in Kono Aozora, and this show even has the nerve to want us to want a second season? What a laugh.

Nic: My brain just about melted after sitting through this crap, and all I can say at this point is that thanks to one of Tim's mid-synchro jokes, I now have a secret fantasy of Porco Rosso's title character coming into the show and kicking the ass of everyone and anyone involved. It's a whole lot more entertaining to me than the actual series.

This show needed its pilot's license revoked before even taking off. Overall, a very annoying show with terrible characters and a poorly told story. Don't bother.Stig Høgset, Tim Jones and Nicoletta Christina Browne

Recommended Audience: As a series that involves aerial dogfighting, there's naturally a lot of deaths, even among the main cast, but the show is also surprisingly violent and frank with its portrayal of people getting shot to pieces in machine gun fire. Blood is notable in a lot of scenes, and there's a few deaths of non-redshirt soldiers. Teenagers and up would by okay to watch this. If they wanted to, that is. But you don't. Please trust us on this.

Version(s) Viewed: stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (13/13)
The Pilot's Love Song © 2014 Inumura Koroku / Shogakukan / Toaruhikuushihenokoiuta Production Committee
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