At the end of every episode of Miss Pilot, they show a little teaser with the trainees heading to America to learn to fly on light aircraft, but we’re a long way off from that. Last time, they were working as ground staff. This time, it’s maintenance.
Now, the bright side of this is that I can be totally satisfied with a show as long as they show me enough footage of a 747, and especially if they open the engine casing up. That’s high entertainment for someone like me, who wanted to be an aircraft designer as a kid.
The problem here is that I already detect an episode where there’s going to be a lack of tension. So far, this series looks more like a docudrama about what it takes to make an airline work (an ad for ANA, if you will) rather than a story about main character Tezuka Haru (Horikita Maki). It can only be a story about Tezuka if they put substantial obstacles in her path and, so far, that’s not happened.
Of course, the brusque way the maintenance crew brushes the pilot trainees aside, seeing them as useless and in the way, makes it look like this is going to be a tough episode for the main characters. And yet, those maintenance workers don’t have any power to prevent these trainees from becoming pilots – will failures on the part of the trainees really lead them to fail?
The trainees are told to inspect parts, which is definitely tedious work. On the other hand, quality control is totally necessary since lives will be on the line. Yes, checking a screw for defects seems excessive at first – until you realize that they might have to put that screw in the engine (where the temperatures get insanely high) or on the landing gear (which is subjected to a very sudden stress on touchdown).
There’s some whining about “why do we have to do this”, just like in the previous episode, but it already sounds hollow. After all, they totally depend on the planes working, and their lives depend on these parts, too. I would hope that they also have a love of aircraft, in which case every aspect of the machine should spark a sense of fascination.
As usual, Tezuka is the one who is totally bright and excited about it, but even that is getting a bit old, since all it does is take any sense of conflict out of the drama.
Well, not any sense of conflict – you see, one of the trainees – Kishii Yasuji (Mamiya Shotaro) is falling for her bright personality even though he already has a girlfriend (Abeno Suzu played by Sakuraba Nanami).
Best case scenario for this drama right now? That Abeno Suzu actively tries to get Tezuka kicked out of the trainee program. Will the writers take the plot in that direction? Probably not – because that would suddenly inject a huge amount of tension they haven’t prepared the audience for. Still, it would make the show more interesting.
When I say interesting, I mean for the general viewer. For me, as long as they keep opening up those engines . . .
. . . and as long as the maintenance crew keeps shouting at the newbies because they don’t know one part from another and one tool from another . . .
. . . I think I’ll be all right.
Kunikida (Saito Takumi) hopes that this will all help them work as a team – something they might not have expected to have to do as pilots (though that expectation would have been incorrect).
Oda Chisato (Aibu Saki) wants the maintenance guys to stop treating the trainees so badly, but Kunikida makes it clear that she’s the one not understanding the situation. This is life-or-death work, and the maintenance guys have the passion commensurate with that responsibility – that’s why they get so angry when people are messing around. There can be no tolerance for a lax attitude.
After that, an exchange between Kunikida and Suzuki Noriko (Nanao) suggests that this stage is where the program gets people dropping out because of how boring the work is. Not getting kicked out, mind you (unless there’s an ambiguity in the translation).
Suzu is rightfully suspicious of Yasuji, and makes friends with the female trainees to make sure she can detect if he’s straying. Of course, even though he is, he insists that he isn’t. Suzu also mentions that there’s an expectation that people will be dropping out at this stage.
Yasuji feels a bit guilty and tries to reinforce how devoted he is to Suzu.
After a standard scene between the sisters in all but blood . . .
. . . they give us a great view of an engine . . .
. . . and Oda proves that she’s up to the task after spending the night studying. But is this the teamwork Kunikida was looking for?
I didn’t realize they had plane retirement ceremonies, but I suppose it makes sense – especially for a venerable 747-400.
The ceremony provides some opportunity for interesting interactions . . .
. . . especially between Kunikida and Tezuka, as Tezuka insists that she wants everyone on the team to become a pilot, and for there to be no dropouts. Well, since there doesn’t seem to be any obstacle in her way, I suppose this does give her a bit more of a challenge, as some of the others definitely have a bad attitude.
Looks like she starts her counseling duties right away, trying to figure out how to make the trainees into a team.
Yamada Kazuo (Fujii Ryusei) is going to be a special problem, as he’s totally focused on Suzuki instead of his own work and can’t even keep the screws sorted out.
The trainees are worn out after spending most of the day standing around as the maintenance crew did all the work. Kunikida can tell that they’re psyches are frayed after the experience.
Some of them are expressing their frustration openly now.
Kotori (Koyanagi Yu) has the right attitude, but gets angry at the complaining trainees.
Kunikida sees this and pulls the trainees aside . . .
. . . showing them a case where a crash occurred because someone forgot to take off some masking tape from the pitot tube, which is essential for the cockpit instruments. While playing Flight Simulator, I’ve had a situation where the pitot tube got iced over and I had bad numbers on the instruments, so this is no exaggeration.
Oh, and it’s worth remembering that even the Space Shuttle Challenger – a massively more complicated vehicle that experiences much more heat, pressure, and stress – ultimately exploded because a single O-ring (a very common part) was not designed for freezing weather and broke. They should have either used an O-ring meant for cold weather, or the shuttle shouldn’t have been launched in those conditions. It’s an illusion and mistake to believe that great tragedies have great or obvious causes – the more complicated something is, the more likely a small or subtle cause will lead to its destruction.
And on that note, I think I’ll leave the rest of the show for your enjoyment. Clearly, the question is whether the trainees all get the message, do things properly, and learn to work as a team. I can tell you that they don’t change immediately after that lecture from Kunikida, so what could straighten them out?
Some of them clearly don’t have a love of airplanes, and I really wonder what drove them to become pilots. The writers are going to have to give us more background on them if we’re really supposed to care what happens to them.
They did give us a bit of that on Kotori – he wanted to become a 747 mechanic as a kid. So that at least explains his enthusiasm – the rest of them had been accusing him of just sucking up to win points.
Overall, I thought this episode was better than the last one. That was partly because the maintenance crew genuinely did things the best that they could, while I felt that the ground staff under Suzuki didn’t try as hard as they could – going for the ‘second best’ option so that Tezuka could go the extra mile. There was a legitimate question about whether the trainees were really suited to be pilots.
But mainly, it was a better episode because I enjoyed the shots of the plane. What can I say? I’m a junkie for this sort of thing.
I think it’s fair to judge this drama against Beginners!, and on that rubric I think it’s more serious, but falling short in pace. Even with a solid story like there was this time, it moved very slowly, and I could easily have left it running while grabbing a bite to eat without missing anything important.
I hope that, with the trainees now resolved to stop complaining, we can see them work through more significant challenges.