It’s finally time for the pilot trainees in Miss Pilot to earn their wings, and they’re going to do it in the United States! Now, that could be a good or a bad thing, depending on how horrible the American characters are (whether they’re cartoon characters based on a strange Japanese notion of what Americans are like or halfway realistic human beings). My final assessment of this episode will probably largely hinge on how cringe-worthy the portrayal of my country and its people is (though there are admittedly people in this country that make me cringe, so it might not be unrealistic even if I don’t like it).

But before we get to any of that, we have to get the trainees awake.

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Three guesses which wanna-be pilot requires some extra effort to get out of bed.

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The next scene is a bundle of the half-baked relationships we’ve seen in this series. They just go through the relationship chart one arrow at a time, mostly reinforcing what we already know about everyone . . .

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. . . except that Kunikida (Saito Takumi) seems to be trying to start some new arrows at the last minute. Or is he just trying to make Suzuki Rinko (Nanao) jealous?

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Well, it’s no good – Suzuki already knows her real rival is Tezuka Haru (Horikita Maki), though she doesn’t really blame Tezuka – her warning is entirely for Kunikida. Good thing she doesn’t know Oda Chisato (Aibu Saki) likes Kunikida or that could be . . . omigod, I’ve started to go all soap opera on this series. No more relationship talk!

Let’s just line them all up and get them on a plane, shall we?

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And after that flight, they emerged in . . . Grand Forks, North Dakota. I’m not too sure what North Dakota’s claim to aviation history is – the only thing I know about the state is its location, capital, and the fact that it is currently booming thanks to massive shale oil drilling. And I hold a degree in U.S. History. Well, I guess they have a pilot training school there at the University of North Dakota.

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Do they really get this whole place to themselves!? If that’s the case, no wonder ANA trains their people in North Dakota! Considering the greeks above the doorway, though . . . .

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A lot of this part is just them remarking how big everything is. Yes, I know that stuff in America is spacious, but it’s like they just emerged from Lilliput or something! The surprised comment about the spinning ceiling fan sort of caught me off-guard – don’t tell me they don’t have those in Japan!?

Kunikida tells them all to get a grip and explains the ordeal they’re about to go through.

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They each only get two chances to pass the test, at which point they’ll be sent back to Japan and dropped from the pilot program. That’s quite harsh, considering the investment in time and money ANA has already put into them, but the company does retain them – they’ll be sent to a different department. Good thing they got some practice at being ground staff and mechanics, then . . . .

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Kunikida won’t be staying with them, but they do have a cook/helper – the most intimidating African-American the casting director could find (Bob Sapp-san playing Roy). I’m willing to pass on that for the humor value, but it’s rather a stereotype (Japan entertainment seems to be lacking in black males of an Obama-like build. Actually . . . it’s sort of lacking in black males who aren’t kickboxers). One other thing I know about North Dakota, by the way – not many African-Americans there. They make up 1.2% of the population compared to 1.0% for Asians (keep in mind that both Africa and Asia are continents and therefore comparable). So . . . yeah, they’d have been about as likely to have an Asian cook and forty-seven times more likely to have a cook of German descent.

Oda and Tezuka both have trouble sleeping, but they have very different tactics to get through this nerve-wracking first night.

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In class, the instructor says they’re going to be practicing stall recoveries. That . . . sort of seems like a difficult first thing – are they intentionally trying to scare the recruits? No – I think he meant they were going to talk about stall recoveries.

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The information presented seemed accurate to someone like me, with a passing interest in flight, though it sure seemed like Oda was just trying to win points with her question.

Tezuka seems genuinely puzzled by the naming of the training areas, and here the instructor did not give a proper answer. It’s important for pilot trainees to know about the phonetic alphabet (alfa/alpha, bravo, charlie, delta, etc.) because of their extensive use in aviation to clarify communications. He should definitely have said that the naming of the training areas was based on the phonetic alphabet and, contrary to Oda’s rebuke, it’s quite important.

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They then have to take a written exam before beginning flight training – in English, of course (I’m loving this).

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Points to the person who can name the plane:

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But there’s still a lack of seriousness in the ranks, and Oda is the only one who knows enough English to properly understand directions.

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They meet their three instructors – John, Keith, and Eric. Kunikida advises them to say “say again” if they don’t understand something, but on that note departs. The trainees are now in the hands of people they barely comprehend.

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The first instructor seems sold so far . . .

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. . . but the second one unprofessionally displays his homosexuality in a way that simply cannot happen – he’d lose his job very quickly. Why do the Japanese assume that a gay instructor would stare and fawn over the person he’s supposed to be working with while a straight instructor doesn’t seem to have any such trouble working with women? I’m going to give this the red card – definite obnoxious and unnecessary stereotyping with no real benefit in terms of humor.

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The instructor Tezuka gets – Eric – is also unprofessional in terms of his physical contact. However, I totally understand his frustration with Tezuka and his shouting at her – she can’t even understand “start the engine” and after she gives it some throttle, she immediately turns it off again, afraid.

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To every direction Eric gives, she responds with “say again”. Finally, she asks if she can go to the toilet! Total breakdown!

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She does ultimately take off, but not without Eric pleading with her to pull up – there’s definitely no excuse for her not knowing that simple command.

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It was a great scene, though, and one that few people except for Horikita-san could have pulled off – being criminally inept and charming at the same time.

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Kunikida is not happy with their performance (though all he did was sigh and munch on potato chips in the control tower).

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Speaking of stereotypes, was it necessary for their dinner to have American flags in it? Is that supposed to confirm that it’s really American food? Were the portions they kept exclaiming about not enough evidence?

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The Roy-related humor was rather pathetic. Though I do approve of his choice of vegetables, technically the ever-present stand-by in the United States is a gigantic bowl of salad with some very oily dressing, and I’m shocked that Roy didn’t serve the salad and french fries with the rest of the meal – that’s pretty standard, too. Seems like this scene was written by people who hadn’t actually eaten at an American restaurant (except a caricature of McDonald’s). That’s not to say that the food is healthy – it usually isn’t – but we still have some standards.

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As Tezuka continues messing up, unable to keep the plane in level flight . . .

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. . . instructor Eric decides that she needs the extra flight time, which means Oda gets less. As if that isn’t enough reason for Oda to hate Tezuka, there’s the bit where Kunikida is giving Tezuka special attention:

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Fuming at all of this, Oda decides to ask Kunikida to change her partner. When he asks her, she confirms that she wouldn’t allow Tezuka to fly the plane, given the choice.

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But then Kunikida asks whether Oda would be all right if Tezuka was dropped from the program and . . . well, that’s a horse of a different color.

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It’s up to Oda to whip Tezuka into shape, so she decides she needs a few drinks, after all.

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Can Oda do it? Well, you’re going to have to watch to see the results, but I can tell you that these were the best scenes in the show so far.

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Oda is a training genius, it turns out. But more importantly, the Oda-Tezuka sisterly relationship is probably the element in this drama that’s the most fun.

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This nighttime stadium scene totally reminds me of a similar scene in Hanazakari no Kimitachi e.

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So, will Tezuka be able to fly properly?

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Okay, so there was a lot that made me cringe in this episode. Good news? You can pretty much cut it all out and still have a full-length episode without missing anything good. All the troublesome parts were also brief.

The better parts – pretty much everything with Tezuka in an airplane or with Oda – were gold, especially when compared to most of what we’ve been sitting through in this series. The relationship stuff was mostly confined to the opening except for a hint of the Oda-Kunikida-Tezuka triangle, but even that was pretty weak.

Pacing was okay – perhaps a little on the slow side. It was 57 minutes of program time – probably 1h 20m of airtime – and I think that could have been crunched down to the normal hour block (44 minutes program time) if they had just dumped some of the unnecessary silliness. No offense to Fujii-kun, but his character Yamada is really getting on my nerves – there is no way I would want someone like that piloting any plane I’m on. Are they ever going to try to convince us that he’s actually becoming a pilot, or is he just supposed to be the clown who’s along for the ride (again, sorry Fujii-kun, but . . . yeah).

All right! Onward and upward!