In order to uncover the "end of the sky," as spoken of in ancient mythology, Kal-el Albus is sent to Isla, an island in the sky. There he attends Cadoques High's Aerial Division, where he enjoys a carefree life with his schoolmates. That is...until a surprise attack by the air tribe drags Isla into a bloody war.
The skies is a vast and mysterious place. It’s unlimited and holds infinite potential for sky pirates and aviators of war. For a young pilot named Kal-el Albus, he’s looking for more than just flying the skies. He’s looking for revenge for the harsh life that he’s endured during a time period known as the ‘Wind Revolution’. But now as a young man, he embarks on a journey along with his sister Ariel to discover more than just riding the winds.
Taking place in the same world as the movie Toaru Hikushi E No Tsuioku, this show holds little similarity besides its initial setting. In other
words, it’s not a necessity to watch the film to understand or gain pleasure from this series. Yet, they do hold a similarity based on a concept – the reality of war. Because with war, there’s countless casualties, misunderstandings, and death that breeds hatred. Kal-el knows that from experience when he was just a kid. From a biographical viewpoint, it’s almost too harsh for a reality to sink it all in. Yet for him, he holds onto his promise to never forgive or forget.
Coming into this series will feel like an adventure at first. The setting has a steam punk-esque that illustrates itself with the usage of its vehicles. But by standards, they are powered by hydrogen and fuel rather than some super tech gadget that you would find in mecha theme series. There’s also battleships too and other weaponry designed for warfare. For what’s worth, we quickly find out that there are nations at war and our main characters gets caught up in the middle of it. More than that is the mystery regarding a phenomenon known as the ‘End of the Sky’. It raises many flags for questions relating to its secret, the truth behind the conflicts, and our curiosity of how all this ties together with the main characters.
Speaking of characters, this series spends a good majority of its time to let viewers to get know them. In particular, Kal-el is one that stands out more than just besides his name. Despite having a similar name to the man of steel Superman along with the skill to fly, Kal-el is far from invulnerable. We do get a sense of justice from him but sometimes, his pride and arrogance gets the best of him. In essence, he still has a lot more to learn of the world and himself. His new position as a cadet allows him to discover potential and the truth. Yet on many occasions, Kal-el finds himself in trouble with his life in danger and realizing his own insecurities. This doesn’t just solely fall with his hands but connects with other characters such as Claire Cruz. The duo shares a rather peculiar relationship that ranges from respect, friendship, and romance. Yet, it’s easy to tell that their love story is one that is set to self-destruct. For more than just tragic reasons, their relationship also holds deep secrets and hidden truths that Kal-el held scars for his whole life. Strictly speaking, a romance during a time of war is never a fantastic idea. Whether their feelings blooms or decays is like a flower that does not last forever.
But of course, no one’s immortal in this show either. No one lives forever and war brings that truth to its finest. Throughout the series, characters faces the reality of war. Namely the Sky Clan, the unit that most of the main and supporting characters are enlisted in, experiences firsthand why there is grief and despair when sent to the line of battle. There is no salvation in the line of duty. Whether killing others for survival or nationalism, there’s one thing the cadets all needs to know and that’s for fighting for what’s right. For most of characters, no one is safe despite their various reasons for entering in the war. The series doesn’t neglect to spare characters from certain death. This may catch some viewers in surprise as several major supporting characters meets their doom as result of fighting. But at the same time, this should bring about reality – that war is never without a price.
Theoretically speaking, there are several ways the series demonstrates its feelings through its course. The most obvious one is romance between Claire and Kal-El. It’s very different compared to the classic Clark Kent/Lois Lane from the Superman franchise. Rather, it feels rushed and sometimes lifeless because our main characters lacks compatibility. Young people fall in love yet their story has tragic holes in it by dark revelations and startling discoveries. Yet, the show doesn’t stop at that point with the romantic aspect as it expands to some of our supporting characters. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t handle its romance aspect in a manner deemed as everlasting. It doesn’t just matter with the class levels or relationship development. Rather, it comes off as an average love story based on mutual attraction and predictability; as in the traditional fan ships. The only part is that some ships are bound to sink, not in the way of the ‘friend zone’ but more as into heaven. However, it does bring back its point to illustrate the reality of warfare as love isn’t met to last during such crisis.
On the other hand, the appealing parental and sibling love between characters is one that we should smile upon. Kal-El has a family and even though not related by blood, they treat him with respect, dignity, and care. In many ways, it feels like they love him as their own child. Similarly, Kal-El and Ariel shares a close relationship despite their constant bickering. A prominent evidence comes from their time spent in the air. On one instance, Kal-El experiences a brink of despair similar to one in his past. Looking back now, this show’s relationship shines stronger when it focuses on commitment as opposed to becoming a couple by love.
At the same time, we get a tense feeling of vengeance coming from not only Kal-El but also a young boy named Ignacio Axis. With silver hair, a cold stare, and stoic personality, Ignacio is the classic lone wolf. We learn through flashbacks with his circumstances and motivations why he became the person as he is today. In a way, there’s a similarity between Kal-El and Ignacio based on their quest for revenge. They are driven by vengeance and their desire to achieve justice by their own standards. Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta (The Pilot’s Love Song) set these standards and attempts to give viewers a chance to see how they are resolved. In the end, their resolutions and ideas might be different from what the audience have in mind. I think by this show’s standards, it isn’t presented as a didactic story but rather for how chains of reactions leads to certain outcomes. Unfortunately, these outcomes are ambiguous and feels rushed with a lack of depth.
Because nations are at war, expect plenty of action both on land and in the air. The dogfights are coordinated with credible effort. From minute one, the show demonstrates that it can handle its exposition of war in fluid way. The dogfights are rapid with bullets raining from the sky but not in mindless action. Rather than just a full throttle spraying of bullets, we also get strategic movements, heroic sacrifices, and what it truly is like being a pilot. Similarly on land, there’s bloodshed and violence as action-oriented episodes presents every effort to demonstrate its cruel reality.
Even with a credible story however comes with that prevents this series from shining. For one thing, the story itself is predictable with cliches and a blend romance based on mutual attraction. Certain revelations and discoveries are presented in a quick fashion and anticlimactic despite its initial built-up. Although some of its flashback scenes paints a realistic format of cruel life, there’s little strength in their actual present stories. Main characters’ development suffers as result along with supporting characters including some which held potential development but seemingly tossed out of the show for good. There’s also a bit of disappointment relating to its setting. In essence, the setting the show takes place in embellishes itself with fantastic features for potential world building. Yet, the majority of the show chooses to focus on its character relationships and state of affairs with its main story. In retrospect, there’s a lack of depth in exploring what’s behind the scenes. Even some of the initial mysteries are pinned down when compared to our main characters’ thirst for revenge.
Artistic wise, the show demonstrates a high degree of fantastical features. It presents lush backgrounds with aesthetic designs with its aircrafts. Some of them holds a similar degree with historical vehicles while others (such as battleships) creates a feeling of intellectual depth. Some scenes also gives off a feeling of tranquility and almost a dream-like atmosphere such as romantic moments. The flashbacks also illustrates to show, rather than tell the audience of what our main characters has gone through during their childhood with a black and white world quality. Character design also makes sense on most parts although some characters’ ages doesn’t match their appearance. Luckily, the show omits fan service even with the adaption of the classic beach episode; for training purposes of course!
A fantasy series would also require a stellar soundtrack to match its high caliber degree of action. Luckily, it is consistent in terms of coordination. Dogfights in the air matches well with every movement with adamant integrity. The OST also demonstrates both an ethereal and vigorous way of presenting certain scenes to match the mood. On the other hand, some of the characters’ voices can be exasperating to the ears. Really, how long can you listen to Kal-El scream in agony at whatever he has trouble on mind? Or otherwise, Claire examining her own insecurities? It will take some time to get over their mannerisms. Luckily, the OP and ED song might be just what you need for their quality and delicacy.
Hatred, fear, oppression, revenge, love, regret. Those are just a few of qualities coming from war that the show brings together. Yet, there is some peace at mind with characters that demonstrates their heroism in the line of duty. This show focuses on aspects of that through human dynamics. The romance coming out of this show will come out as cliché by the classic ‘love at first sight’ circumstance. However, the parental/sibling bond is a strength that is hard to overlook. With impressive action sequences and a fantastic setting, expect warfare to come as reality painted by grim truths. Watching this show in the end will feel like taking a journey to a world, one which holds feelings in a fictional realm.
Just by looking at the title (Love Song of a Pilot), the description, and a preview, most people will get the impression that this is a heavy-hitting drama with a beautiful romance augmented by plenty of flying through the skies. I’m pretty sure that description up there also suggests Toaru Hikuushi no Koiuta will cover touching themes as well, such as how hate can be conquered by finding love. The setup is fairly enticing. You’re probably thinking this is a story that will hit your heart.
Lower your expectations, NOW. Trash the images my first paragraph produced. Reduce the dramatic impact you are expecting by about
50% and lower the charm of the romance you are picturing by about 80%. And were you expecting quirky, vibrant, enjoyable, and interesting characters that you could feel attached to? You are only kidding yourself. With all of the proper cuts applied and high expectations moved to the side, you have what Toaru Hikushii no Koiuta really is: an average drama story that had all the right tools to be excellent.
Story (5) Characters (5)
What is a drama’s primary responsibility? To make you cry and feel emotion, that’s what. How does Toaru Hikushi no Koiuta accomplish this? Well, I can say that the method it uses is one I find to be obnoxious: It spends six episodes focusing on a handful of uninteresting cadet characters goofing around until finally, by episode 7 or 8, it decides to start chopping off some heads. In other words, by the second half, war breaks out and about fifty percent of the characters die. Essentially the whole first half of goofing around is designed with the purpose of placing weight on the characters’ impending deaths, however this was accomplished fairly poorly due to the fact that the characters were so uninteresting that it was just unspectacular to see them dick off, cook food, and constantly mock each other. However, most of the characters do establish romantic ties (although very light ones) with each other. And although it seems like a cheap half-assed effort to throw some easy emotional weight onto some of these guys, the minor romances might just give you enough of a reason to care for the characters.
That’s basically it. The story brings up a handful of characters, kills a couple of them in battle, and makes an effort to hoard your sympathies by showing the survivors crying all over the place and mourning over their lost love ones. There’s nothing particularly excellent or enlightening about this story, its characters, or its emotion. It’s really just the typical second-class drama.
And where does the romance fit into all of this? Well, lucky for you romance fans, the first episode jumps right into it, and it is perhaps the only episode where you will get a look at some genuinely heartwarming moments between Kalel and Clair. You think it’s going to continue to be this sweet? No way. The romance just… I don’t know the words… loses its gas I guess? Kalel and Clair just begin to seem too close and too familiar with each other. The romance would have been more effective had Clair been more aloof like she was portrayed as in the first episode, and Kalel would have to work harder to get her. You think the anime would have gone that way considering how it underscores the class difference that separates these two lovers. There were just far too few genuinely charming moments between the two. Even a plot twist that could have brought this romantic relationship to a crazier level was not taken full advantage of.
Aside from all of these things, there are a few other elements to the story that aren’t necessarily important. If you hear any of this “holy spring” or “end of the sky” sh*t and can’t figure out what the hell any of it means, don’t stress over it. Understanding those concepts will do nothing to better your experience with this anime.
If you cry as easily as Ari (the redhead) does, this drama story might work for you. If you’re like me and are more on the insensitive side, this story will be a waste of time. The story, overall, turned out to be a LOT weaker than I expected. I had the willpower to finish this series only because I kept on expecting for something brilliant to suddenly happen. That’s because this anime’s themes and concepts WERE capable of brilliance. It is too bad that so many faulty decisions were made in the storytelling.
**No spoilers** The Pilot's Love Song is a mix of drama, romance and action, though I would say it leans toward primarily being a drama. The show starts with a relatively easygoing feeling, but gets much more serious by the halfway point and remains so until the end.
The main theme that this series focuses on is the reality of war, which includes the concepts of overcoming fear, accepting loss and the importance of forgiveness through love. There is a fairly decent-sized cast of side characters without being too overwhelming, and there are several romantic interests among them which helps to keep your interest even if
you're not super into the main relationship. Though their primary purpose is generally to further the drama, the action scenes are quite well-done and do a good job of making you feel like the characters are truly in danger.
On the negative, the story, at times, is a little confusing and the pacing feels a little off. Given that this is a short series at only 13 episodes, there was perhaps a little too much time spent both on the initial ramping-up to the main conflict and on the denouement after the main conflict.
There are also times you may find yourself questioning the decisions of the characters, or exactly what their motivations are, and, while that is often a good thing to some extent in storytelling, I felt that there could have been a little more gradual hinting given to the watcher so that some things didn't seem quite as sudden when they were revealed. Having said that, most things are tied up by the end, though it may leave some people feeling a little unfulfilled.
In summary, if you're the type of person who focuses a lot on logic, consistency and smooth storytelling, this series may not be for you. On the other hand, if you are more about the character relationships and the drama, while being able to suspend your disbelief regarding some inconsistencies or unexplained phenomenon, you will probably enjoy this show like I did.
Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta (The Pilot's Love Song) is a story that primarily focuses on the growth of the main character Kal-el, the adventure that he goes on, and his love story. Set in a fantasy-esque setting, the show tries to produce images like the "holy spring" or the "end of the sky". The story starts out with a day-to-day pilot school setting but later shifts to a battlefront setting.
Almost immediately, the show attempts to dive into the romantic zone. It tries to go for the classic "love at first sight" complete with romantic scenery and music instead of a gradual development between the
two main love interests. If you're into romanticized scenes such as a "couple moment" where the girl is "flying" through the air with her arms spread wide from the backseat of a bike in a titanic-like image, then the beginning of this story may be a good watch for you. However, be warned that there will never be full conclusion where the two ride into the romantic sunset hand in hand and live happily ever after. Anyhow, the characters Kal-el and Claire quickly become infatuated with each other. Kal-el gets obsessive whenever he thinks about her. Conveniently enough throughout the story, they become stranded alone with each other in various scenarios for dramatic effect. As for the other students in their class, most of them come in convenient parings, though not all these love stories will end happily, or the way that most people would want them to.
The pasts of the main characters in the story are revealed through long flashbacks instead of current events. I rather liked the background stories for the four main characters. Each of their back-stories are fairly well developed and it becomes evident why each of them behaves the way that they do. Unfortunately, none of these characters ever get a chance to fully understand one another.
The main character, Kal-el Albus, is the former crown prince of the Ballesteros Empire; his family was removed from power during a time of revolution. A major theme in the story revolves around Kal-el's hate for the public figure called Nina Viento. Even though he was taken in and loved by a warm and welcoming new family, he still desires revenge on the girl that took everything away from him. A point that the show tries to get across is the importance of forgiveness. People seem to be pretty forgiving here in the face of love.
As mentioned before, the story goes from happy training/school days scenes to a full blown "war" against the fabled sky clan. There is an immediate change in pace and the remainder of the story comes out a bit rushed. The aerial fights weren't bad to observe, however, some flying angles got a little dizzy to look at. If you have a slight motion sickness like I do, you might feel a bit of a headache going through some of those scenes. Still, it certainly is a treat for those who have a love for airplanes and/or the Air Force. During the "war", the story tries really hard to bring out the feels. The amount of emotion that you feel during those scenes depends on how easily you get emotional over the deaths of minor characters. But for some of the deaths, the death flags were raised high up in the air and waved around in circles. I imagine it'd be a pretty terrifying experience watching your friends and classmates dying all around you. Just picture the raw fear that the characters would experience. Whether or not some of the deaths were "uncalled" for, we get a good glimpse at the devastating reality of war. There is an emphasis on "guts" and the "courage" to sacrifice yourself for other people's sake. In the end, the ones who experience the most pain are the ones who are left behind. In this story the military also gives out purple heart-like badges to the families of the deceased. It's all the military can really do for the families out of gratitude, but no gesture can truly express the emotions felt on both sides.
It's a bit of a head-scratcher how they were so willing to send students off into actual battle in that condition. The least they can do is supply them with actual planes instead of the training planes they had to use. Those planes didn't even have covers, so casualties became almost inevitable. Why did they venture into enemy territory with so many students in the first place?
It can be noted that in this world, there is a literal end to the sky. The whole reason behind all the sacrifices was to complete their expedition to the end of the sky, watch their floating island get destroyed.... have an adventure... take some pictures... maybe eat a snack after... Their motives for the entire trip becomes pretty questionable given the high casualty rate.
In the end there are still many questions that are left unanswered. The "legendary sky clan is still shrouded in mystery even though we get to sneak a glance at their technologically advanced city. The Holy Levamme Empire is only portrayed as "mysterious allies" with an ambiguous reference to a silver fox plane. There is a possibility that it is directly tied with the novelist's other pilot novel. We are also never told the reason behind Nina Viento's temporary loss of power, whether it was because she was emotionally unstable or that it was only for the sake of drama.
Many of the events came off feeling predictable. Some of the characters seem to just disappear. For example, what happened to Wolfgang's partner who always called him "aniki"? What happened to rest of the course 1 students besides Fausto? Either they all mysteriously died after the fighting, I missed something important, or they are apparently so insignificant they don't even get mentioned in the slightest. There were scenes where characters die off so quickly it leaves you mentally unprepared. Instead of crying or feeling sorrow, you would just think "Wait a second, did that person really just die? Rip...." The main characters in contrary are shrouded in plot armor and conveniently escape and live. The different situations where Kal-el could have died were above and beyond. There were many other things that just went by unexplained such as a one-time mention of a notion to overthrow the revolutionary government towards the end. Oh well, it's up to you to imagine what that will lead to I guess..?
The soundtrack throughout the show was good. Right of the bat, some "grand" themed ost plays as the characters leave for the floating island of Isla. I rather liked the Op song. It was nice to listen to. The art was decent but the animation wasn't always consistent. As a side note, I can't say that I'm a fan of the computer art designed plane base.
The ending felt okay for me. There is a lack of a conclusive ending, but as with a lot of the rest of the story, that is up to your own interpretation. The plot for most part is pretty straightforward, and while the show was enjoyable at times, there were other times where I would tilt my head and wonder if the show couldn't have used its potential a little better.