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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Princess and the Pilot: Premium Edition (Blu-ray)
The Princess and the Pilot: Premium Edition (Blu-ray)
NIS America, Inc. // Unrated // May 14, 2013 // Region A
List Price: $44.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted June 7, 2013 | E-mail the Author
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The Princess and the Pilot Blu-ray Review

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The Princess and the Pilot is a co-production anime film created from major powerhouses TMS Entertainment and the Madhouse animation studio. The feature length stand-alone story for the film is based upon a light novel written by author Koroku Inumura, and it has been adapted by first time film director Jun Shishido and screenwriter Satoko Okudera. This dramatic feature is one of romance, adventure, and faraway places and it takes viewers on a generally lighthearted journey. The final production of The Princess and the Pilot was released into Japanese cinemas in 2011 and is now available on Blu-ray in North America by acclaimed anime distributor NIS America, who has released the film in prestigious Premium Edition packaging.

The plot of the film is fairly simplistic, and doesn't stray too far from the basic premise during the course of the storyline. There is a princess named Fana del Moral who is in need of some transportation by a skilled pilot so that she can become the heir to her empire. Danger looms following an attack on her kingdom, and so those around her want her to traverse the ocean journey in safety and the aim to hire a pilot to help protect her from danger. The young man chosen for the assignment is Private Charles Karino, who is actually looked down upon by almost everyone around him. He faces discrimination from others because he has a mixed heritage between kingdoms. Yet he is one of the best pilots around, and they enlist him to ultimately protect the princess Fana.

Over the course of the journey, Fana and Charles begin to learn about each other and each eventually grows some kind of special connection to one another that is both filled with a friendship and romance that brews in their hearts. The pair wasn't even supposed to speak amongst each other over the mission (Charles is specifically told not to speak to Fana) but somehow their closeness grows even fonder and warmer over the course of the epic journey.

Along the wild ride to protect Fana from enemy ships and planes, Charles faces his greatest mission as a pilot and faces down some serious mechanical malfunctions. Fana helps them survive as well, and surprises with some cool heroism. The two work together to traverse extremely dangerous trails and the journey is made while discovering each other and the connected past they share to one another too.

Animation-wise, this is a stellar looking film. Everything impresses on this front. From the delicate and unique character designs to the mechanical illustrations utilized for the ships; something about this film clicked perfectly in the animation stage of production. It's not necessarily that surprising given the animation studio Madhouse has crafted many truly remarkable productions, including anime films Metropolis, Memories and anime series Cardcaptor Sakura and Trigun. Hidenori Matsubara and Katsuya Yamada have crafted outstanding art for the production, and the animators brought it to fruition successfully.

First-time feature film director Jun Shishido does a good job of remembering to focus on characters as a director. The framing and pacing is often well-done so that the important elements in scenes was to focus on the relationship between Fana and Charles. While it sometimes felt like Shishido could use fine-tuning in directing, it's clear the ambitious production approach Shishido brought to the storytelling was a good fit for this film.

While generally successful in directing the film's most important dramatic moments as well as  action-heavy sequences of flight combat, the film suffers somewhat from its too leisurely designed pacing. The film feels a bit too long and could have used better editing, which unfortunately is a disappointing quality to the entire effort, and which brings down this production somewhat. This is a good film but the editing affected the overall quality.

The Princess and the Pilot may not be one of the best anime films out there, but it's a good production with a nice story; one which is well worth audiences discovering. The overall production effort is such high quality in most areas but the film's directing and editing is somewhat inconsistent, although it's quite nice to see an anime effort which is concerned primarily with characters rather than action whenever it is possible to. Anime fans will be pleased to discover another worthwhile film that has an interesting story, good characters, plentiful amounts of heart, and stellar animation (despite a few shortcomings).

The Blu-ray:


The 1080p AVC encoded High Definition presented on this Blu-ray disc is technically amazing. The bit-rate is usually almost unbelievably high and tends to stay around mid-to-high 30 mbps, which provides the film with a top-notch transfer that retains the stylistic look of the film with much gusto. The transfer isn't quite as spectacular as some viewers may have hoped to find as stylistically this is a film with a toned down layer of softness inherent to the animation and it's probably utilized to provide a somewhat dream-like and nostalgic quality to the animation: the filmmakers succeed in that regard, but it makes the experience less visually magnificent even while the technical quality of the encoding and the breathing room given to the transfer is an impressive feat. Color reproduction and detail is well preserved and the film looks as good as audiences should ever expect for The Princess and the Pilot to appear on Blu-ray. This is an incredibly well produced disc when considered for its technical merit.


The audio presentation doesn't disappoint in the slightest. This is a disc that truly excels with the high definition audio presentation. The Princess and the Pilot has been presented with a lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track as well as a uncompressed PCM 2.0 track. Either option will surely delight lossless audio fans.

If you have the option to listen to the film with its 5.1 DTS-HD-MA track, that's absolutely the way to experience this film. While most of the film is centered upon the dialogue reproduction (which the disc handles well), some scenes really work as action set-pieces and the surrounds become effectively utilized in these moments. The bass and surround usage works extremely well during these moments and the lossless audio does a marvelous job as a companion to an impressive video presentation. The surround presentation for this dialogue heavy film can be surprisingly immersive and atmospheric when it wants to be.

Additional Screenshots:

Click on an image to view the Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution


On the Blu-ray disc itself, the only supplemental materials included are a handful of Japanese commercials and theatrical previews promoting The Princess and the Pilot. However, this is certainly not the entirety of the supplemental aspect. This NIS America release continues the tradition of being released first with Premium Edition packaging that contains a art-book and deluxe packaging.

The included art-book is entitled "The Princess and the Pilot: Flight Log". Inside of this book you will find several interviews and reflections on the film by anime critic Ryusuke Hikawa, screenwriter Satoko Okudera, director Jun Shishido, character designer Hidenori Matsubara (who has included notes alongside several character sketches and illustrations), the original author of the work; Koroku Inumura, Mechanical designer Katsuya Yamada (who has also provided notes on designs next to sketches demonstrating the design work.

Lastly, a sampling of art backgrounds used in the film are displayed as well as a few colorful illustrations showing artwork created for The Princess and the Pilot.

Final Thoughts:

The Princess and the Pilot isn't a perfect film. However, it's at times a charming, romantic, and adventurous tale of two kindred spirits on a journey that is occasionally quite moving. I wished the film was just a little bit shorter and more focused, but the end-result was still a quality film.

The PQ/AQ is ridiculously good and the included Premium Edition packaging and included book (with sketches, art, and interviews) is easily amongst the most impressive I have seen to date for one of these NIS America releases. This is an amazingly well put-together release. It's a good enough film with one of the best presentations I have seen given to any anime film, ever. So make your purchasing decisions accordingly.


Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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