The Princess and the Pilot

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Lady Fana Del Moral has been promised to Prince Carlos, and on meeting her he is so struck by her beauty he cannot wait to wed. Nonetheless, he asks that she wait a year for their marriage so that he can fight in the ongoing war against their rival nation. When a year has passed and the war has shown no signs of abating, top pilot Charles is recruited to ensure Fana’s safe passage to Carlos through a sky full of danger.

Charles is a good man who has been treated badly all his life for his lower class “sewer rat” status. Upon meeting Fana, he instantly recognises her from a time when he worked in the gardens of her estate as a child and she sweetly consoled him after he was bullied and beaten yet again for his lower position in society. Fana to begin with is a quiet and obedient lady, and Charles is professional and honourable, so at first all their interactions are polite and restrained, which means it takes longer for the emotional investment to build. The real turning point of the film occurs when Charles and Fana are put increasingly in danger from enemy planes and have to land on a nearby island, and Fana transforms from a demure lady to a more extroverted and active character.

The narrative smoothly balances the tense action moments in the sky with quieter, more intimate interactions between the two when the plane has to land. Although the animation can be on the more static two dimensional side, the plane scenes are impressive with giant looming bodies ominously appearing from the sky. Charles is often forced to make daring and risky manoeuvres while Fana tries to help, and her innocence and his honour and heroism combined with the appearance of the planes created a very Studio Ghibli vibe at times.

"What do you mean we can't be together? I cut my hair for you!"
“What do you mean we can’t be together? I cut my hair for you!”

The Princess and the Pilot takes a little time to really get into the swing of things, but I enjoyed this movie and would definitely recommend it if you’re a Studio Ghibli fan and enjoy sweet, chaste love stories. It would have been an even more satisfying ending if more had been made of Fana and Charles’ respective characters and emotions – Fana in particular feels quite two dimensional for too much of the movie. I was also disappointed that the elements of racism against Charles, and the overarching war narrative were not resolved – it is possible that these were addressed in greater detail by the original novel by Koroku Inumura. However, what Charles and Fana mean to each other and what they give each other is still communicated well enough to make the ending a beautiful tribute to two young people torn between obligation or following their heart.

 

Eden of the East

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Saki doesn’t know what to think when she sees a naked man outside the White House while on a tour of America. Neither does he, for he doesn’t remember what he’s doing there…or anything else about his life.

So begins Eden of the East, a mystery thriller that doesn’t waste any time getting to the heart of the action. Akira Takizawa had woken up with only two objects to his name, a gun and a phone. Through the phone he learns that he is one of twelve chosen people with 8 billion yen to his name that he can spend by making requests through the phone to a female voice named Juiz. The condition? The twelve people gifted with this phone have been tasked with “saving” Japan from the political corruption that has taken place. They can use the phone however they want, but any expenses deemed unnecessarily selfish will result in their elimination. Whoever is considered the winner will be spared, whilst the other eleven will be eliminated, so the pressure is on. Every phonecall ends with the phrase “Noblesse Oblige, I pray that you will continue to be a saviour”. As noblesse oblige comes from the French phrase “nobility obliges”, the unrelenting reminder that Takizawa can only escape his situation through victory emphasises the stakes at every turn.

Saki's been warned about stranger danger...but she never expected this
Saki’s been warned about stranger danger…but she never expected this

Although Eden of the East won’t win any awards for original ideas, it offers a strong, fast paced narrative, with likeable characters. The basic formula reminded me of Doctor Who, with a young, innocent woman thrown into the frenetic life of a mysterious and charismatic lead. Whilst Takizawa’s appeal extends beyond his intriguing life (you don’t give 10 billion yen to just anybody) as he ponders the weight of what to do with his remaining 8 billion yen, Saki’s purpose seems merely to be to represent the kind of goodness and innocence that Takizawa needs to protect and preserve if he is to save Japan.

Saki’s friends similarly seem to represent an exasperation with the current state of Japan – most self employed or unemployed such as “Underpants”, a hikikomori who has lived indoors for years and earned his nickname from refusing to wear any trousers. Underpants helps to hammer home the message of Eden of the East, he is a talented and intelligent hacker whose skillset was never appreciated by Japan, resulting in his recluse status.

Eden of the East shows how valuable NEETS can be
Eden of the East shows how valuable NEETS can be

Eden of the East gets off to an exciting start and offers some great social commentary to chew on along the way about the treatment of people by public and private corporations, but lets itself down with a disappointing pay-off and not enough time spent fleshing out characters. Saki in particular had the potential to be developed into something interesting and her innocence explored further – one scene early on in which she is invited to a second job interview after missing the first but is treated appallingly by everyone there pulls at the heart strings, especially in light of the show’s coverage of NEETS as overlooked and mistreated by products of society’s corruption, but her character is largely forgotten as Takizawa’s storyline takes over.

With an intricately and beautifully animated city expanse and a fast paced storyline, Eden of the East promises big things. It doesn’t quite deliver, but the ride is so fun and crazy that you might not mind.

Michiko & Hatchin

Any port in a storm right? At least, that’s what orphan Hana thinks when the beautiful and mysterious Michiko Malandro crashes (literally) into her life on a green moped. Faced with a choice between staying with her cold adoptive parents and their cruel offspring or boldly stepping into the unknown, Hana takes her chances on a new life.

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So begins Michiko & Hatchin, a tale of two young women doing their best to survive in a dog eat dog world. Michiko is already on the run from the law, so the pair can never stay in one place for long. Wherever they go they meet with turf wars, gunfire and gang hierarchies as they search for faces from the past in the hopes of finding answers and a brighter future.

This anime is a colourful, sophisticated affair that handles action scenes with playful pizazz, danger with gritty realism and emotional moments with understated and mature honesty. With stylish visuals and a vibey Latina soundtrack, our heroines tumble from one adventure to the next against a background of desert paradises. As the title would suggest, Michiko and Hana and their developing relationship form the heart of this anime. Michiko’s unpredictability and Hana’s need for stability create clashes and conflicts which are skilfully depicted. Hana in particular is impressively presented as a girl on the brink of adolescence, already mature for her age but needing a parent figure in her life which Michiko struggles to be.

If you want to break away from the high school anime tropes of perky introduction sequences, over the top humour and fanservice, check out Michiko & Hatchin.