The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Toaru Hikūshi e no Tsuioku

Title: Toaru Hikūshi e no Tsuioku aka The Princess and the Pilot
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: Movie; 99 minutes.
Date: 1 Oct 2011

Synopsis: Charles Karino is a “bestado”, a member of the lowest caste in the country of Levamme and is thus subjected to continuous discrimination since childhood. Yearning to soar in the skies and be forever free, he works his way up against all odds to become an ace pilot in the air force. One day, he was assigned with an all-important top secret mission: to personally escort Princess Fana, a daughter from the noble del Moral family, to Prince Carlo, the crown prince of Levamme. The mission proves to be perilous, as they have to cross waters and territories heavily overseen by forces of Amatsuvian, a country Levamme is currently at war with.

The Highlights
Production values: Above average; good aerial combat action sequences.
Seiyuu: Amateurish voice work for Fana by Taketomi Seika.
Charles and Fana: Poor chemistry between them; Charles’ story lacks exposition.
Verdict: Too run-of-the-mill and forgettable, albeit visually well-executed.

Some people may already be aware of this, but I am an ardent Madhouse Studios fan. The production studio has churned out great movies, some of which are my all-time favorites such as Redline and Millennium Actress, the latter being the latest title I watched. Toaru Hikūshi e no Tsuioku is the latest and somewhat anticipated addition to the lineup, and as a fan of the studio, it is only natural for me to see what it’s all about. If there are two words for me to describe it, it would be “hardly impressive”: nothing about it particularly stands out, and although it isn’t terrible based on its own merits, it’s a pale production compared to what has been done by the studio before.

The setup for Hikūshi is very familiar: male lead Charles is of the lowest status in society, whereas female lead Fana belongs to the highest echelon. A couple from two extremes of the wealth-gap spectrum, it’s a classic tale of two individuals from two different worlds coming together because of their inherent common dream of wanting to be free from societal shackles. Such a classic setup has been done many times before, but the story would still work if there is chemistry between the two. Sadly, there isn’t: their relationship is generally static and the moments of intimacy between them lack emotional depth. Both also severely lack character development: Charles’ persistent maltreatments just lacks purpose in the movie except to render him a pitiful protagonist, and Fana’s “damsel in distress” background story is all too banal.

Though the characterization is disappointing, Hikūshi makes up for it with the action sequences. As a movie about aviation and warfare, aerial action is pretty much expected, and it certainly delivers. With a decent production budget, it has some visceral dogfights that are fluidly animated and beautifully realized. From the impeccable aerial maneuvers to the blazing machine guns, the intensity doesn’t let up once the action starts. As an action movie, it fares pretty well and it remains thoroughly spread from start to finish, with the climax being a one-on-one face-off.

But as decent as the action may be, Hikūshi is eventually a mundane flick. The visuals and production values are solid and the combat sequences are well-executed, but they can only do so much when the characters are very weak and the premises are run-of-the-mill. At most, it’s something passable for someone who has 90-plus minutes of free time to spare and is a fan of vintage aircrafts. But as one who has seen the studio produce much greater titles, I am hardly impressed and I can’t see myself rewatching it upon first viewing. It’s certainly not the strongest of Madhouse‘s productions and I personally want to see it produce more bold or exceptional titles; it can do so and it has done so from time to time.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: AC

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