Assigned the mission of a lifetime, one pilot is entrusted to the most important thing in the world.
What They Say:
The war between the Levamme Empire and the Amatsukami Imperium has been raging for years. In the midst of this struggle, the prince of the Levamme Empire declares his love for Juana del Moral and vows to end the war in one year as part of his marriage proposal. When the Amatsukami catch wind of this, they assault the del Moral residence, targeting Juana’s life.
As a last-ditch effort to bring the prince his bride, the San Maltilia Airforce employs a mercenary of mixed blood – a bestado – to fly Juana to the prince in secret. The pilot, Charles, accepts the mission… but traversing an ocean alone, and into enemy territory, proves a much more dangerous ordeal than anyone could have anticipated.
The audio presentation for this release is a step above the TV series material in a way as we get the original Japanese language in stereo using the PCM uncompressed format as well as a Japanese 5.1 mix using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. Most films come in this dual presentation style to accommodate different systems and we checked this film out in its 5.1 mix. The feature is one that has a lot of fairly standard dialogue pieces to it and some good quiet scenes that allows the dialogue to come across very well with the incidental music along the way and there’s a good natural and warm feeling to it. The aerial scenes are really nicely done in terms of overall placement and the sounds of the engines and the guns and just the swooshes that come from all of the flight. Though it doesn’t stand out in a strong way, it’s a very solid mix that serves the material quite well with no problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally in theaters in the fall of 2011, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Madhouse, the film has a very striking look to it because of all the blues that it uses and that’s quite important with a film like this. With the skies and the sea, the quality and richness of it, and holding to a strong and solid look, makes it come alive in some wonderful ways. The transfer spends a lot of its time in the high thirties when it comes to the bitrate and the solid color areas are just vibrant and appealing throughout. The darker colors hold up very well, especially the deep blues at night, but there are other areas as well that come across wonderfully. Detail is strong and clean with no problems with line noise or cross coloration. This is a great looking transfer overall and definitely what the feature needed.
The packaging for this premium edition release mirrors past NIS America releases which continues to be a fantastic thing. The front of the oversized box provides a solid profile pairing of the two leads with the inclusion of several of the aircraft below them. It’s filled with lots of whites and blues as it has the skies and sea with a lot of variance to it and it’s all rich and highly appealing, both in the design and how it catches the eye in general. The back panel gives us just a shot of the princess in full length with her aircraft flying behind her, all of it again wrapped in so many blues and whites that really stands out.
Inside the box, we get a gorgeous and rich hardcover book that features numerous interviews with the staff that are definitely worth reading. There’s always interesting bits when it comes to the director, character design and more, but this release gets fleshed out a bit more with a Japanese writer and critic who talks about the film but also some good time with the original novel author and his feelings on it all. There’s a good selection of character artwork and conceptual designs that are talked about and a small but good selection of background artwork. We also get some of the promotional artwork images, pieces of which make up this release overall. The case for the disc, a thin clear thinpak style case, has more artwork and a heavy dose of blue as well. The front cover gives us the core pair once more while the back is a bit traditional with its layout of the premise in short form, a few shots from the show and an accurate and well laid out technical grid.
The menu design for this release is pretty nice as we get another piece of the puzzle where it’s filled with more blues and whites. The layout has the navigation along the upper left and it’s a thin and simple style to it that is easy to navigate and blends well with the show itself. The artwork along the right is spot on and has some great detail and color to it that spices things up a bit more. The menu is easy to navigate and the few submenus you have to dig into load quickly and without any problems.
The extras for this release are pretty light but not unexpected as we essentially get just the original Japanese previews and commercials for the film.
Based on the novel by Koroku Inumura which was published back in 2008, The Princess and the Pilot is a 2011 movie from Madhouse directed by Jun Shishido. Light novel adaptations are pretty common these days but they tend to focus more on the light novel series rather than some of the standalone ones. Those, when they do get adapted, tend to be done more as movies or stretched out into a longer series that gets to be a bit harder to sustain. With The Princess and the Pilot, we get a fairly traditional and predictable movie here, but one that’s handled by some strong pacing, engaging visuals and solid animation values throughout. And that helps it rise from a fairly average piece to something that’s just stretching to be something more.
The story takes place in an alternate world where it’s something similar to the early 20th century in terms of flight and mechanics, but has some deviations as well with the way it has massive air carriers and a new wave of faster planes that are coming into service. Within this world, there is of course war, and we get a look at it in the present in a very abstract way overall as it’s very disconnected from the larger battles, the way it impacts people and more. Instead, we’re initially introduces to the Princess, Juana, who has been courted by the heir to the Levamme Empire’s throne. While you can’t say she’s eager for it, she’s accepted it and is doing her duty that she’s been groomed for what seems like an age. He husband to be doesn’t come across as evil, nefarious or anything else, but a decent man who wants to make her happy. Of course, he says he won’t marry her until the war is over and that he’ll see it done within a year.
Naturally, that doesn’t quite happen and after a year a plan is put into motion to secretly escort Juana into her future husbands country. This involves traversing some twelve thousand kilometers between the two places though and much of it is patrolled by the enemy as it’s mostly over islands and the seas. In order to pull it off, a massive distraction is orchestrated and the princess is sent off with the best of the pilots that Levam has, a young man named Charles Karino. He’s given the fastest and most advanced plane active in the service to pull it off, but also some real threats since he’s considered lower than trash because of his dual heritage that’s explored briefly at the start, and because he is just a mercenary. With so few options, his life is one that worked out well as he has a very natural talent for piloting, one that puts all the military flyers to shame, hence him getting this gig.
Putting the two together in a small plane and adding the tension of the mission itself makes for some decent material, but it’s the pacing that surprised me. As it went on, I was surprised that thirty minutes of the film had gone by in doing the introductions and getting the mission started as it felt like a lot less than that. It was very easy to get engaged with the material, even if it is pretty standard fare, because the execution of it worked so well. The mission is one that you can see how it will go, how the two will get closer in their own way and that it will take a few twists as it goes. The question comes in with how will they handle it overall, will there be a change or not in either of their fortunes when the final scenes play out, and the show definitely worked for me in that regard as you couldn’t be quite sure just how far they’d take it. There’s a certain restraint to the story here when it comes to the characters and that definitely made it a lot more plausible.
What really helped this film for me in a lot of ways was just the production itself. Madhouse does some very beautiful work here, especially in the color design department, and there’s a striking richness to the colors throughout. The seas and skies are hugely important in making it just as much of a character as the majority of the film involves them either in flight over the sea or having landed on it to rest, so it’s a water water everywhere kind of thing. And it just adds so much as the locales are beautiful, the detail is rich and the characters look so natural in it that it all fits together well. The characters are just as detailed and the fluidity of the animation is great. Some of the aircraft tend to stand out a bit because of their mechanical and CG designs, but that tends to work in its favor because of the “unnatural” aspect of them against such a lush natural landscape.
Admittedly, if you’ve been around the story telling game for a few years, you can read the premise of The Princess and the Pilot and know how about 95% of it will play out. That’s true of a lot of stories though and it’s the characters and settings that will make it engaging or not. Though there’s a certain lightness to the characters here that is filled in fairly well as it progresses, the film as a whole is a work that really is quite engaging. The story has a great polish to it, beautiful execution in terms of bringing it to life and it hits all the right notes when it comes to the visuals and animation. With a ninety-nine minute run time, it felt like it was over a lot quicker than that, which is unfortunate since I wanted to see more of where these characters would actually end up. It’s pretty engaging with what it does and left me very pleased by it on just about every level.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA Language, English Subtitles, Commercials, Japanese Previews
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: NIS America
Release Date: May 14th, 2013
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.