This is review number three hundred and twenty six. This anime is part of the Winter 2014 lineup. It’s called Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta or The Pilot’s Love Song. It’s a thirteen episode anime about a boy and his class fighting in planes or something like that. It’s a pretty great show but I have some complaints. Let’s read on.
Kal-el is among the chosen people to journey in the floating island called Isla. Upon the discovery of the Holy Springs, people believe the End of the Sky exists as legends would tell. A chance to explore the rest of the world is at hand, with the floating island taken back into the End of the Sky. The journey will be rough though, and a lot of sacrifices must be made. Can Kal-el, nurturing a grudge, be able to grow as a great individual in this once in a lifetime journey to the great beyond?
Taking the Pants Off
Right off the bat, the immense world Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta is trying to established feels like it’s a light novel anime. I’ve seen tons of convoluted anime, derived from an even more convoluted light novel, to know that this anime is not going to end well. Seriously, how many light novel anime have I reviewed? This particular anime isn’t along the lines of those harem filled shows with perfect main characters though. This one is along the lines of Fractale, which tells of a straightforward story with a massive cast, that boasts a beautiful fantasy narrative. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of light novel anime that also doesn’t end that well. I’m sorry. I’m hating on this anime before I even properly review it. Can you blame me, after I’ve seen Mahouka? I hate that show. Light novel anime like these though, despite its unsatisfying endings, often have the best anime experience you can ever get from the medium. Even Fractale, with its clunky progression, still had a wonderful premise that immerses you into a world the author envisions with their colorful imagination. It’s always been the strongest appeal of light novel anime, to take the audience to a place far away with a story that will just captivate them. Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta delivers the same appeal. It has a colorful story, an outstanding cast and beautiful themes that deliver an emotional impact on anyone viewing it. Honestly, I was ready to give this anime a perfect score. The execution is masterful and the convoluted story is presented in a really wonderful manner, but things went downhill towards the end. The ending ruined a light novel anime I would’ve happily given a perfect score. Despite that, I think the journey into watching the anime is something I’m sure a lot of people will enjoy.
The show follows a boy named Kal-el Albus who is one of the student pilots aboard the Isla. The giant floating rock will travel the world and discover the things that lie out of reach before. A previous pilot once discovered the Holy Springs, something told in the myths and legends of their country, and it’s believed that if the Holy Spring exists then so does the rest of the things in the myth. They must now fulfill the prophecy that told the Isla must reach the End of the Sky and reunite with it. Of course, no one knows what lies beyond the Holy Springs. It might not even exist but a few selected people are chosen to go on that journey to find out. Kal-el Albus is one of them, and he is trained to be a fighter pilot. He has his own personal demons to face though, and the various people he meets in Isla help him grow into a dependable person. Basically, it’s your typical coming of age story, about an angsty boy learning to face his problems like a man. It’s layered with a lot of convoluted topics though, like the prophecy of Saint Aldista, which complicates this simple coming of age story. I’ve seen a lot of light novel attempt to properly execute the convoluted narrative and fail miserably at it. Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta feels like it’s ready to do just that, except it doesn’t. Things are beautifully presented and the convoluted story is barely felt. Sure, you can still feel the anime overload itself with a lot of elements but it also focuses on a lot of strong components that make the narrative standout. To control the clusterf*ck of the story, the show is told in three chapters.
The first chapter is about Kal-el boarding Isla and attending the pilot school there. He meets his classmates and all the necessary people that are important to the plot. This chapter highlights the classmates bonding together, with each character given ample time to stand out and have a distinct role in the story. It focuses on the arrogance of the noble class, and the friendlier approach of the common class where Kal-el is at. It also features Kal-el falling in love with one of his classmates, while another is seen on the side completely loathing him. All of this is established in the first chapter, while also establishing the journey of Isla towards the Holy Springs. The current goal is to reach the place with no problem, since one of the commanders has already flown a plane there once. As the story progresses, the bond of the classmates grow stronger, where even the arrogant nobles become likeable, as they share a common goal of becoming real pilots. They are taught the basics of being a pilot, which includes flying the dual pilot airplane and learning how to aim and shoot. It’s not yet explained why they need to prepare for battle, but the story just wants you to focus on the wonderful time the characters are having. It’s deliberate and properly fleshed out, while it slowly sets up the events of chapter two.
Aside from the status quo slowly being established and developed, the anime also features one strong plot point in the first chapter. It has various flashbacks of the Wind Revolution, and the important people that played a part in it. This is actually my favorite part of the anime as it seemingly weaves a great narrative despite an already messy main story, and still properly executes a minor plot point. The plot point explores the characters some more from Kal-el’s past to the various characters playing a role in the revolution. It follows Kal-el losing his parents from the revolution to the Albus patriarch taking him in. It’s full of emotional elements as you witness things from Kal-el’s point of view. The Wind Revolution is interesting because it tells it in black and white from Kal-el’s side of the story, while the audience knows full well the reason of the revolution and the necessary events to liberate the country. Kal-el is full of hate and it really gives the story a strong emotional component. This plot point is beautifully setup, because the following chapters are just full of heart breaking scenes, some of which stems directly from the Wind Revolution.
For the second chapter, someone asks this question:
And you just know something bad is about to happen. The second chapter is about the Sky Clan, a mysterious group of people that doesn’t want Isla to make it past the Holy Springs. The first chapter helps you connect with the characters and the bonds they cherish. It wanted the audience to indulge in the youthful happiness the students are experiencing, and it’s necessary because the second chapter messes it all up. Let’s just say that the first chapter is brimming with positivity, while the second chapter takes that all away from the characters. It’s in pretty heart breaking fashion as well. I admire the anime for actually making me care, putting great effort in the first chapter. The journey past the Holy Springs is filled with a lot of sad things, that it was worth sitting through all the happy dialogue of the first chapter. This chapter also featured a lot of fighting, with planes from both sides exploding in the air. This is also where the animation felt a bit lacking because it isn’t as polished as you’d expect. While the narrative is strong, the battles just aren’t that satisfying. I do think the battles are just a plot device, since we never even meet the Sky Clan and just planes of different design instead, but it could’ve achieved a lot more with a precise battle instead. Shooting down airplanes just don’t look exciting and there is no finesse in the battles. It’s just rough looking through and through. It’s especially annoying because Isla is presented with a difficult situation battling the Sky Clan yet the battles just felt rushed and unimpressive. It’s a good thing the characters and their heartbreaking story really carried the second chapter, making it the most memorable despite being underwhelming in a lot of places.
The third chapter is basically just a rushed way to end the series. This is basically the thing that ultimately ruined the show for me. After building up a strong and emotional narrative, the anime just gave up in chapter three. The Sky Clan decided to back off with one condition, and Isla had no choice but to accept. Afterwards, a new plot point arises and it just lacked build up and proper storytelling. The new plot point is introduced in the last two episodes, and it was just a slap dash way to reach a forced happy ending. I personally wanted another season, since the story rightfully ends before the anime finished airing but it seems to have kneecapped any chance of a second season when it dumped out a convoluted new plot point for no reason. Trying to cover the anime’s episode length, a lot of the climax scenes just felt rushed and shallow, despite the thorough build up it had in the previous episodes. You can just feel that the anime is forcing a lot of the scenes and it sucks because the ending should’ve meant a lot more. It lacked the emotional element that made the two previous chapters amazing. The climax of the second chapter should’ve been a really memorable scene, but the show just presented it haphazardly without giving any special care to it. I personally hate it because this anime made me cry, the first two chapters had scenes that made this cynic reviewer tear up. The execution is beyond masterful, and yet it ended in a pathetic whimper that has no shred of the awesomeness it had before. It desperately tried to reach the light novel’s ending without the careful execution it carefully had in the first two chapters. The end result is the same unsatisfying and underwhelming experience I have actually gotten accustomed to with light novel anime like this one. Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta hurts a lot more because I actually wanted it to succeed. There is absolutely no reason to hate this show except for its lackluster and forced ending. The narrative before it is outstanding and the emotional elements are beyond masterful. Damn, it doesn’t deserve to end like that.
The characters are decent. They aren’t really great standouts because they functioned within the show’s narrative, but they were so effective that it ultimately made the show special. Kal-el is your typical angsty character with a problem that’s been hanging over his head for a long time now. Kal-el has always hated how his life turned out, but he slowly realizes things are better for him now thanks to the experience he has in Isla. The flashbacks about the Wind Revolution made you care for him though, as you witness him go through so much, but also smile at the beautiful fate he was given. His relationship with his sister is also nicely presented. They don’t really look impressive alone but you relate to them more when they’re together always bickering, yet still caring deeply for each other. This special relationship is also enforced with this girl named Claire Cruz, a shy girl that wants to be a pilot like Kal-el. Claire and Kal-el doesn’t have a bright relationship together since it feels a bit forced. I think the scene in the first episode is a good example when, for no good reason, Kal-el meets a girl and they suddenly had a thing going. Their relationship does have a good development though since the narrative really made Claire and Kal-el interesting. Going into the second chapter, it was their blossoming love story that was a huge highlight. It was also a focus in the third chapter, and actually provided the bad ending the anime had. Their love just really didn’t feel right at first, and it ultimately ruined the show’s great potential. Of course, the show’s length is the biggest factor in the show’s demise but their romance also played a part in it. Satisfying this love story also rushed Kal-el’s coming of age story that was the centerpiece of the anime.
It was the relationships that really made this anime special. The bond of Kal-el and his sister made their journey to the End of the Sky special since the show smartly layers more things to flesh it out. This was the same approach done to the other characters. They are one dimensional characters but their relationship made them special. The show featured them as cute couples at first, coming from the same town or country and even growing up together. As the first chapter progresses with its cute and happy moments, the relationships become a lot more special until it develops to its absolute peak. Even a character that has seven or so dialogue in the entire show somehow become memorable because of how the relationships are established. With the characters at their absolute best, the second chapter comes in and drags them out of the stage. It was absolutely beautiful and, it’s ingenious since you didn’t expect some of them to exit stage so early. Some of them can even make you cry, not because they leave but because they’re leaving someone special behind. It was the heart wrenching element that made it so masterful. I don’t care for the characters but the ideas that they fulfilled their role as pilot to protect their relationships really get to me. It came to a point where even seeing them on the opening credits can make me tear up.
This show could’ve been a lot more awesome if it had a proper villain to present. The Sky Clan always remains faceless, as you only see their planes attack. It makes the battle a bit too hollow and lacking, because it just feels like the characters isn’t fighting for their lives. It doesn’t have to be an actual character. They just need to have faces, or even just physical bodies that you can despise when you see them unmercifully shoot down the characters. The battles should feel thrilling and tense because you fear for the pilots, but that aspect of the story is cut out. In fact, even the Levamme Empire that appears at the later parts didn’t have a proper introduction to them. It feels like they should’ve had a long chapter of their own instead of condensing everything to the third chapter. I remember a seagull plane helping Kal-el in the battlefield and the pilot is never revealed. He appears, Kal-el wonders why the pilot helped him, and then just went away. It’s obviously a part of the story the anime omitted because of the problematic episode length, but it’s annoying that the pilot isn’t even introduced. Not even a face to recognize him/her at all. Actually, even the officials of Isla participating in the battles lacked development. They had the opportunity to tell the scary story of the battlefield, and act more political by giving no second thought to sacrifice the students. While they did a couple of these things, it’s not enough to really make them special. The battle aspects, and the characters in it, are so badly developed that it limits the potential of the anime.
This show basically became problematic because it just didn’t have enough episodes to tell the story in a more precise manner. Of course, TMS studio also set it up for failure when it decided to force the ending. I actually don’t mind how it takes out bits of the story, like the name of the seagull plane pilot, but it still needed twelve more episodes to properly tell the story. The third chapter felt so condensed that it really ruined the show for me. Some important scenes should’ve been given more care after the masterful build up before it. I admire the show for even tackling on such a convoluted light novel in the first place though. In terms of bringing out the original material’s beauty, the anime succeeded on that part. The beauty of the light novel and the emotional elements are so nicely presented I was seriously ready to give this anime a perfect score. I’d have to give props to the script writer. He filtered the light novel and presented all the good bits of it in a respectable manner. I’ve seen light novel like this flop miserably, but the first chapter is handled marvelously. Shinichi Inotsume is a talented script writer. He also provided screenplay for Zettai Karen Children and Hayate the Combat Butler so he does have range and an obvious talent. The success of this anime depends entirely on the director though, and this was handled by the director of Rinner no Lagrange. The only thing I remember from that show is that the director insists that there should be no romance, and provided girl on girl play instead. It was insulting, and Toshimasa Suzuki got the chance to direct this show as well. He lacks vision to be a director, as he had the opportunity to show off his talent in the battles and he ultimately left it dull. I don’t like directors that have a dull vision. I can tell BroCon’s director did the best it can despite my horribly low score of it. Toshimasa just doesn’t seem to even try, and I bet he just wants to be another cog in the machine. Hey, we can’t all be Hayao Miyazaki but that doesn’t mean we just go through the motions. The director’s job is to create a vision of the great script. Watching this anime tells me he lacks it, shame on him. TMS is finally tired of adapting Monkey Punch works, and taking on this convoluted light novel is a step in the right direction. They should pour more effort in the animation though, and hire more talented people for gawdsake. Hopefully they deliver more satisfying shows like this one, and it is one more reason to catch up to the current lineups.
Sight and Sound
Haruyuki Morisawa’s design is pretty simple. From his illustrations, he seems to rely on simple designs with subtle details. It’s elevated by the beautiful color palette he uses on his works. Again, like any good designer, it’s the small details that make his design unique. Majority of his drawings involve characters with their hair waving in the wind, with the sky as a backdrop, and the clothes show movement while the color palette makes the whole thing sophisticated. In terms of actual designs, it’s very simplistic with a more Japanese-centric base for a lot of them. It does add a bit of exotic flair to the fantasy novels that way. The basic body structure is made special by the beautiful smiling faces of his characters. Can you believe he design the characters of Queen’s Blade as well? Boy, why aren’t his perverted designs in this show? He does amazing body composition and great details on boobs and asses. None of this is in the anime though but I just wanted to say his superb color palette and great body structure makes him an incredible designer. In the anime, they look pretty simple as well. There’s really no big feature to talk about since they all look stereotypical. There is range with the large cast but no one really stands out design wise. In fact, the simple looking characters just remind me of the same character design in Fractale. Yeah, that’s about it. I do love the airplane designs though. It’s not much but the rotating wings and the dual seat has a wonderful fantasy element to it. Seeing them dance around in the sky brings a smile to my face, for some odd reason. It’s badly rendered in CG though, but I also love the big aircrafts. Hell, even the floating Isla looks majestic, and I bet a more visual minded studio can make them look more outstanding, considering the imagination it took to create these awesome things.
Animation is pretty bad. It still looks presentable enough to tell a proper story, but it lacked any real standout animation that makes any scene memorable. Simple scenes like talking and eating are decent, but even the facial expressions lack proper animation and the sky battles are boring and bland. You have f*cking planes flying in the sky shooting down each other, how the hell can you make that boring? Why would you? It sounds so freaking awesome that it’s annoying the director didn’t take advantage of its awesomeness. The animation is so subpar that even death scenes lack flair, planes exploding lacks excitement and people hugging looks awkward. You can feel the fantasy element dying to come out though, and you can tell the visuals could’ve delivered that. It didn’t. The animation is so uninspiring that even kissing scenes look dull and characters crying just don’t look convincing. It screams low budget crap through and through.
The anime’s OP song is “azurite” by petit milady. This song is performed by Nina Viento and Ariel Albus, and it’s a pretty wonderful one. The lyrics tend to be a bit long but it’s full of empowering words. It’s a song specifically designed for the anime and it’s really incredible. It’s about someone cherishing their new found freedom and face what lies beyond the clouds. The singer’s voices are pretty decent but the song definitely carries itself. The OP sequence also makes this ten times more awesome. It’s a small summary of the anime, with the important events slipped in the montage, and a careful presentation of the characters and the emotional component that makes this show outstanding. If you’re in doubt watching this, then the OP is a great way to start to see if the anime suits your taste. The anime’s ED song is “Kaze ga Shitteru” by Akai Kouen. It’s an amazing power ballad about someone supporting the one they love, who in turn is protecting them with all their might. It’s a powerful song made more emphatic by the sad instrumentals and Akai’s voice, which feels uplifting. The ED sequence features a far better animation than the actual anime about the love story featured in the show. It’s adorable especially if you’re a fan of the lovers in the anime.
6/10 “The story is top notch but the animation isn’t and the decision to rush the ending ruins what should’ve been a masterful anime.”
I’m not kidding about giving this anime a perfect score. I urge you to watch episodes one to eleven because I would personally rate it a score of 9 just because the story is so damn wonderful. Notice that it only took two episodes to knock the score down to a six. The characters are outstanding, the story is well paced and exciting, and the anime experience is incredible before the last two episodes. If you love a great story in your anime then you’ll love this show. If you love shows with a large cast that is all properly utilized then you’ll enjoy this anime. If you love thrilling love stories then you’ll like the one in this anime. If it wasn’t for the rushed last two episodes, this anime could’ve been amazing. Despite this, I still recommend it.