Anime Review: The Princess and the Pilot Premium Edition

vol1_bdThe Princess and the Pilot Premium Edition
Studio: MADHOUSE animation and TMS Entertainment
Publisher: NIS America
Genre: Action/Romance/Drama
Runtime: 99 Minutes (1 Blu-Ray disc)
Release Date: 05/14/2013

The Princess and the Pilot is a 2011 feature film based off a Japanese light novel, our equivalent of the young adult novel, set in a fantasy world with a basis off of World War II technology with a healthy dose of flying battleships and planes that run on hydrogen fuel cells. It reminded me very much of the setting from Valkyria Chronicles for the PS3 with that feeling and even some of the themes carry over, like duty and giving everything you have despite your station in life. NIS America has given the film the collector’s edition treatment like many of the anime series I’ve reviewed before it, but how well does the collector’s edition work for just a film? Let’s take a look.
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The film centers around two main characters, a split-heritage ground crewman who also happens to be an ace pilot named Charles Karino and a princess to be who is just trying to do the best for her country, Juana del Moral. Charles is facing severe racism as a bestado, a half-blood of the Levamme Empire and their attackers in the war, the Amatsukami Imperium. Despite this, or rather overcoming this abuse, he’s turned himself into the best damned pilot that the Levamme Empire has at its disposal even if they won’t let him fly in anything but mock battles and the other pilots force him to take care of the crap they don’t want to as he’s considered a mercenary and unwanted. The Amatsukami Imperium has found out about a marriage between Juana and Levamme’s Prince and has decided to take action and try to orchestrate an assassination to take out Juana. It fails, but getting nervous, the military decides it needs to get Juana out off the island she’s on and to the mainland, and they need the best pilot they have to get her out past enemy lines and to a waiting battleship that will fly her there.

So they recruit Charles for the mission promising him all sorts of wealth to do it as long as he makes as little contact with the Princess as possible and gets her there fast. They arrange for a two-seater plane with a rear gun and a sort of turbo boost system that makes it one of the fastest out there but it’s not built for combat. It’s a water plane that converts sea-water for fuel while they wait in the water at night. When Juana shows she’s very formal and they take off and things quickly devolve from there as Juana admits that the Prince may have sent a communication through military comms about her leaving, which means the enemy is on to them and the major distraction offensive that was going to get her out of there was all for nothing. The little to no contact quickly gets tossed out the window as the two have to work together to spot enemy planes and get out of a number of tight scrapes while the two try to get the plane to the rendezvous point.

screenWhile there’s hinted romance between the two that will never truly come to fruition, it feels more like a kind of bonding between the two as things progress and she gets less formal and he talks to her about only ever truly feeling free in the sky and we find out more about the two of them as things progress. The fact they’ve managed to make a film about two people traveling across an ocean with a giant waterfall at the center engaging outside of the aerial action and scenery is impressive and it never really feels like it drags at any point. The two characters are interesting and watching the two of them develop into something more than they were throughout the film is neat to see.

The film quality on the Blu-Ray is excellent and the sound is fantastic. The direction of the animation and quality here is great considering how much action in the film is centered around a two-seater cockpit and is still great to watch. There is some CG used for some of the sequences but it fits in well with the rest of the animation and doesn’t detract at all like it used to in animated films. Like all of the other releases from NIS America this one is Japanese only with English subtitles, so no dubbing here. There are a few trailers on the disc but no major extras of note. Most of anything is in the included packaging with this edition of the film.

bookThis edition comes with a box cover adorned with artwork related to the film like the other NIS America releases. Inside is a slim case that hold the Blu-ray disc and the usual 32 page artbook. The book itself has several interviews with people involved with the film including the set designer and director for the film. There’s a great section that goes into the character design and it was great to see all the detail in some of the outfits the two characters wear as well as the development drawings for the other characters. They also cover some of the set design for the planes on both sides as well as the airships and some of the interiors. There’s a section on some of the rather stunning backdrops used in the film and then a smaller than usual section for artwork showcasing the two main leads in the film. There are some neat notations around the design pages for each character and even the sets explaining why they went the route they did and some of their other design choices.

Overall it’s a good package although I feel it’s a bit overpriced. Anime series from NIS America usually retail for around 60 bucks and this is running in the 30-40 buck range for a single film with the artbook. If you’re looking at quantity this doesn’t win out especially as there is only a Blu-Ray disc and no DVD included like some of their other anime releases. Quality wise it’s right in line with their other releases. On the other hand I’ve seen Blu-ray going up in price lately and for being anime and a premium edition at that this is right in line with that. This isn’t meant to fit easily on a DVD shelf, so if you’re looking at storage issues, they might have a standard edition later like they have with some of their other releases.

I did enjoy the film and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes the coming-of-age pseudo romance that’s often tied into the young adult genre and even then the action sequences are pretty well done to keep anyone less interested in that angle tuned into it. While I would have liked a DVD to go along with it I’m content with the Blu-ray and I think it’s worth the money for the extra artbook if only for the extra insight into how the film was developed.



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