Mar 1, 2012
Tales of forbidden love are common, yet we are constantly drawn to them and empathizing with their characters. Perhaps it is borne from a desire to experience something so simple yet beautiful. Or perhaps it is to remind ourselves of how lucky we are to be able to love without having the world turn against us. "Toaru Hikuushi e no Tsuioku", or "The Princess and the Pilot", can do both of those.

It was originally published as a single volume light novel in 2008 and was considered a runaway success. Although Inumura Koroku was already writing a different novel series at the time, this novel became his breakthrough and most well-known work. Inumura left such an impression on his readers that the novel reached tenth place in the annual "Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi!", or "This Light Novel is Amazing!", poll conducted on the Internet. It spawned a subsequent "Hikuushi" series which encompasses two additional spin-off series of the same "Toaru Hikuushi e no" title.

There are a number of predictable formulas for characters involved in forbidden love. In this case, we are introduced to mercenary pilot Charles Karino and Juana del Moral, fiancée of the crown prince of a powerful empire. Their story and the conflict that is in their hearts are set within a greater conflict: relentless warfare between two neighboring empires. The conditions also beg of the question of whether it is right to sacrifice a world's peaceful future for the selfish desires of two people. The juxtaposition of these two elements presents a love story that is timeless and refreshing. While it is something we've read before in stories like "Romeo and Juliet", the tale does not fall into the trap of creating a predictable ending, but rather an inevitable one. In fact, when the reader begins to understand the fate of the two characters, he or she can still be impressed by the way their relationship is developed.

With the story focused on only two noteworthy characters, it can be easy to assume that watching their interaction will boring. On the other hand, one can easily empathize with the strong feelings of the characters. Each time pilot and princess are torn between duty and personal affection, even the reader feels can feel torn as to which decision they should make. One can sense that the two are close in their hearts, yet a gap as wide as an ocean separates their conscience. As both characters begin to open up to the feelings of each other, we become more invested in their relationship.

Madhouse presents its viewers with an artistic presentation that is both appropriate and experimental. Heavy use of the color blue is obvious from the theatrical poster alone as it represents the vastness of both the sky and the ocean. It does not, however, drown out the other colors that are also presented, and certain environmental details make this anime movie as realistic as possible. Madhouse also presents a sound mechanical design for aircraft technology in the film. Aerial combat is presented with great detail in the movement of each airplane as if one were watching a World War II reel, complemented by a rich portfolio of sounds that realistically replicates an propeller airplane's engine.

While the film's soundtrack may not be very memorable, Niizuma Seiko presents us a touching theme song with lyrics that reflect the longing of both characters. As an ending theme, it provides an appropriate closure for a story with mild pacing. Conflicts in the plot came at the appropriate times and keep the viewer interested through a film that could easily have bored viewers if done improperly because of its length.

"The Princess and the Pilot" is a simple story set in a rich universe that shines through the human interaction that is neither exaggerated nor lacking. While it can be enjoyed as a standalone work, reading the novel will also present a richer understanding of the distance that separates Charles and Juana and the affection that binds them.
Reviewer’s Rating: 8
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