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 UK release comes with two Japanese tracks, a 5.1 and a stereo. There’s no English dub, only subtitles.
The acting in the Japanese is good, though since she’s not a child I’d have preferred the princess to have a more adult sounding voice. The tones of voice change as the characters do, particularly the princess as she finds her confidence.
Much of the film consists of the sound of an engine and two people talking, and the volume levels of those are correct (though obviously not realistic, as the engine would be much louder than the voices in real life). The orchestral soundtrack fits both the mood and the approximate period of technology.
The animation is high quality, with a flawless mixing of 3D and drawn art, and a precise style fitting the film’s grown-up characters. There are some lovely colours here, particularly useful in illustrating sudden changes of mood such as the violent attack on the princess’ previously peaceful home.
Given the story’s heavy reliance on a single plane as setting, prop, plot device and character, it was essential that they get the animation of it right, which they did: not just its look, but the way it moves through the air, the way its machinery works, it’s all very well observed. The dogfight and aerial combat scenes are fantastically done too, conveying the three-dimensional strategies involved and the sense of scale.
The DVD is let down a little by the encoding, which has some quite noticeable artifacts during the night-time scenes. It hasn’t suffered from interlacing mistakes or colour distortion though, so it’s not a fatal flaw. The film is still good looking.
The menus are basic, with just a couple of soundtracks to pick and few extras. There’s also a scene selection.
The only included extras are trailers and TV spots.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The princess of a small kingdom attached to the Levamme empire is betrothed to the prince of the empire. The prince promises to defeat his enemies within a year so they can be wed in peace, but a year passes and the war only gets worse. With an attack on her palace, the imperial navy decide to bring her to the prince where she’ll be safe. Amid any number of decoys and sacrifices, the princess is sent across the ocean in a small two-seater seaplane with a single pilot.
At the beginning of the story, the princess is annoyingly passive. She practically reads from an autocue when meeting the prince for the first time, and meekly does everything she’s told. But alone for days with a strange man, adrift at sea and under attack, she gradually opens up and becomes honest with herself.
The pilot is passive in a different way. He’s grown up at the bottom of the pile, as a half-breed of the two warring empires, and found that turning the other cheek is the simplest way of avoiding more trouble, so he takes continual abuse from practically everyone. As a mercenary rather than a soldier, his role is to get the job done and get paid, but this job is different than most: this time he’s being paid to save a life rather than to kill.
To call this a romance would be to do it a disservice. It’s a journey of discovery, albeit short, during which the two are separated from the strictures of society they’ve been used to and forced to rely on themselves and each other to survive. They can’t even see each other – the princess has the rear-facing gunner’s seat – and a single mistake or moment’s bad luck could kill them both so they have no choice but to talk honestly, for possibly the first time in their lives.
Something this film conveys very well is that the enemy soldiers are themselves brave, hardworking, even noble – and yet must be killed without mercy because that’s the only way for the two of them to survive against such overwhelming odds. Neither side is good or evil, but that isn’t enough for everyone to be friends. The film has a 12 certificate in the UK, since it doesn’t show gore or nudity, but there’s a couple of scenes that may be disturbing.
The world they’re flying through is interesting as well, though in this film we see only a small part of it. Note that this film is tangentially connected to the recent series The Pilot’s Love Song, with which it shares many themes, but the events of that happen several countries away so you don’t need to have seen one before the other.
The English release of this film has clearly been done a bit cheaply, with subtitles only and few extras, but the film itself is definitely recommended. It builds an interesting world, has good character development and reaches a satisfying conclusion, in a reasonably short film.
Japanese 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Trailers, TV Spots
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: E
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: October 20th, 2014
Running Time: 95 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung RF711 laptop, Iiyama Prolite B2403WS monitor, Koss PortaPro headphones, VLC.