I love airplanes, and I enjoy watching Horikita Maki-san (as long as it’s not in a romance), so there was no way I could pass on Miss Pilot. That said, except for knowing that Horikita-san is playing a character trying to become a pilot, we’ve got no idea what sort of series this will be. Is it going to be like Beginners? Will they sneak a romantic plot in which ultimately dominates, like in Pin to Kona? Will we really see Horikita-san trying to pilot planes, or will it all be ground-pounding melodrama?

Well, the opening gave me some hope on the last point, as we saw Shinozaki Katsutoyo (Iwaki Koichi) and Kunikida Konosuke (Saito Takumi) in the cockpit. Shinozaki is in charge of trainees, and he asks Kunikida what standards should be used to judge whether a person is fit to be a pilot. He also wonders whether it’s all right to judge a person by instinct.

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That was a weird conversation – I sure hope pilots are judged by a bit more than the instinct of the instructor. Their drinking habits, in particular, should be scrutinized. Oh, and what medications they might be on.

Anyway, as Kunikida brushed off the topic and got ready to bring the plane in for its approach to landing, I recalled another side benefit to a series about people who want to be pilots – English is the universal language for air traffic control, so I’m going to understand a bit more than I usually do.

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When we meet our main character Tezuka Haru (Horikita Maki), it’s Nov. 21, 2008, and she’s waiting tables at a restaurant. She’s been applying to all sorts of other jobs, but she just ends up getting piles of rejection letters back. I suppose we’re going to find out how she gets from this to being a pilot. For now, at least she seems to have a good memory and a quick mind for math – both important qualities.

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She takes literally all the applications she can get her hands on – including ones for a bridal salon and a factory. When the guy at the counter hands her one for All Nippon Airways (ANA), she says she’s already been rejected for cabin attendant, ground staff, and maintenance.

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He hands her the one for pilot as sort of a joke, and she laughs, pointing out that she’s never even been on an airplane (!). She takes it just in casel

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A little over two weeks later, she’s in a hall finding out that it takes four years of training to become a pilot.

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Shinozaki forces Kunikida to give a little speech, during which we also meet a pilot hopeful who left his cell phone on. The person who called that guy is a familiar face – Sakuraba Nanami-san playing Abeno Suzu. She seems to be against him becoming a pilot.

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Right as Kunikida was walking off stage after delivering his message, Tezuka stands up and asks if it’s all right for her to become a pilot when she’s never been on an airplane. His response is smooth and reassuring. She quickly follows with another one – whether it’s all right that she doesn’t like roller coasters (lol!), and he just tells her not to worry. Then another woman (Oda Chisato played by Aibu Saki-san) stands up and asks what qualities a pilot should have and, while saying how annoying this is under his breath, Kunikida answers passion and health. So far, Kunikida’s personality is pretty well-established and likeable.

Tezuka speaks with Oda outside, but Oda turns out to be cold and determined. You know the type. The one who views everyone else as competition. While Tezuka has a positive attitude, she’s so air-headed that it could get irritating without people like Oda and Kunikida around.

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Tezuka also meets Kishii Yasuji (Mamiya Shotaro) – the guy whose phone rang and whose girlfriend Suzu doesn’t want him to become a pilot even though it’s his dream (crappy girlfriend, in my opinion). I had to laugh when he whispered to Tezuka how much a pilot makes a year. It’s not that much when you take into consideration the crazy hours, stress, and the fact that responsibility for hundreds of lives are on your shoulders.

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Most people applying look like this: Miss Pilot Ep 01 015

And when asked standard interview questions, they give stock interview answers.

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Then there’s Tezuka. It’s not just that she’s an airhead, but she seems completely incapable of approaching things the way a normal person would. As a result, she ultimately gets the whole room laughing. I wonder if she’s considered becoming a comedian.

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Another confrontation between her and Oda ensues, in which Oda shows contempt but Tezuka is nothing but carefree. Tezuka takes what Oda says as advice . . .

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. . . and tries to apply it in her interviews for all the other positions she’s trying for . . .

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. . . but in a candid moment at the Miyata Factory, she admitted that she hasn’t been having much luck. She even mentioned getting laughed at during the pilot interview.

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At home, she checks every response, but they’re all rejections. She shreds them while lightly expressing her frustration. It sounds like she’s not letting it get her down, at least.

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To her surprise, just as she’s shredding the letter, she sees ANA accepted her (at least, through the first round)!

And that’s because of good old Shinozaki, who doesn’t want to board an airplane controlled by a liar. To Kunikida’s dismay, his mentor prefers honesty in his trainees, and we’ve certainly seen that Tezuka is 100% honest, even when I’d be better if she wasn’t.

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Shinozaki points out that he was Kunikida’s instructor, and Kunikida is always honest (and we’ve already seen that, too, though he’s a different kind of honest from Tezuka).

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Already, Suzuki Noriko (Nanao) suspects that Kunikida is interested in trainee Tezuka, based on his strong feelings about her. This turns into a very public spat between these two.

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We jump to May 11th 2009, with Tezuka in the simulator with Kunikida and Shinozaki.

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She seems appropriately flustered. Kunikida barks the instructions to her, but then Shinozaki start to check on her quick thinking, and we already know she’s good at math and memorizing.

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So, no problems with that aspect of her acumen.

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This initial experience with the simulator has her wide-eyed, and she seems to be gaining some love for the idea of becoming a pilot.

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Of course, the tough part of piloting is what to do when things go wrong. I hope to see some of that kind of training during the course of this series. But, so far, this is an excellent start.

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Having that little simulated baptism, she now looks at an airliner taking off with new eyes.

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Nice to see that she’s going to be taking the whole piloting idea seriously now. She even does a mini-prayer before opening the envelope . . .

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. . . and yes, she makes it onto the shortlist.

The June 4th 2009 meeting has the trainees facing an interesting task – in groups, they have to make paper airplanes. After fifteen minutes, they will have a flight distance competition.

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Fujii Ryusei-kun looks all grown-up in a suit! He plays Yamada Kazuo, who is in Tezuka’s group and proposes that they each make a paper airplane and then test to see which one goes the farthest.

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There’s another one of those over-serious, cynical (Oda-type) candidates in their group, though:

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Tezuka used to be able to fold paper airplanes when she was a kid, but she doesn’t remember how (I guess I might have overestimated her memory). Fellow group member Kotori Sho (Koyanagi Yu) helps her with the basics. Incidentally, Koyanagi-kun was also in Beginners! I wonder if he often ends up as a helpful fellow trainee in these sorts of dramas.

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Somehow, Tezuka just inspires others to help her out, and eventually the other two (even Mr.Hypercompetitive) also give her a hand.

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I think the actual result of the competition is spoiler-worthy, so I’ll leave it out. It doesn’t have a huge bearing on the story, though – it simply served to introduce some characters.

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Afterward, Tezuka despaired that she was just dragging everyone else down to Oda. Oda is acting more and more like her older sister and no longer seems as cold, though she’s still sharp-tongued.

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Tezuka confesses that her simulator experience has driven her to focus on piloting, to consider it her future.

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Both of their reactions during this scene were so cute.

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Oda gives Tezuka yet another dose of reality – pointing out that it’s not just a matter of determination, but also about responsibility for the lives of others. Responsibility hasn’t been a quality Tezuka has shown so far.

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As with everything else Oda says, she takes it seriously.

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And when she gets another letter from the factory where she had spoken so candidly, and they seem ready to accept her . . .

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. . . well, she’s got some deciding to do, doesn’t she?

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I’m not going to say anything more about what happens. We know she’s eventually going to get into piloting, right? So the only mystery left in the episode is: what leads her to turn away from the solid post at the factory to continue her training as a pilot? Or, does she try to do both at the same time? (is that possible? Do they get paid during the training period, or do they get part-time jobs?)

It’s a charming series so far. Of course, it’d be hard for me not to be charmed by Maki-san playing her typical positive can-do personality. The very first drama I watched was her version of Hanazakari no Kimitachi e, and that got me hooked. Her character here is not all that different from what I’d imagine a more grown-up Ashiya Mizuki would be like.

Kunikida is a solid character and Saito-san’s acting was great – it really helped out the episode a lot. Oda changed a lot just in the course of this episode, so I don’t have a solid understanding of that character yet. Otherwise, there’s not enough to go on with the rest of the characters.

So far, no major conflicts have been introduced except Tezuka’s struggle to become a pilot, so I don’t know anything more about the plot of the series going forward than I did before watching this first episode.

I’m definitely going to watch it no matter what because it looks like I’m going to see enough of the airplanes to be satisfied. Oh, and there’s Maki-san, too.