This is the second-to-last episode of Miss Pilot and there’s still one thing that this drama needs to do – convince me that Tezuka Haru (Horikita Maki) is someone I want piloting a plane. So far, I haven’t seen any indication that she would be level-headed in a crisis – pretty much the main requirement for a pilot. Will these last two episodes change that?

At the very least, I hope after the focus last time was largely on how she dealt with her mother’s illness, that this time we see her struggling with the fact that she’s already quite far behind the other trainees.

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Kunikida (Saito Takumi) lays down the situation. All the trainees except Tezuka are through with training and have to pass the final test. Tezuka gets an extra week to prepare, but it’s not much. I’m a bit puzzled by the way he frames this as a one-chance-only test, since you’d think that after all the money and time spent training these pilots, they’d give them a second chance if for some reason there was a chance for improvement.

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Anyway, this makes them all very tense and worried that all their efforts might come to naught if they fail . . .

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. . . so Kunikida decides to give them a taste of the carrot instead of just the stick (I wonder who decided that carrots were an enticing reward?).

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While everyone else might be focused on their pilot training, Chisato (Aibu Saki) doesn’t have to worry about that anymore, and seems to be doing fine in her current work. That leaves her free for other pursuits – namely, chasing after Kunikida.

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Frankly, I’m going to be disappointed if they don’t end up together.

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The beginning of this episode is quite slow. I didn’t mind Tezuka’s visit to her mother . . .

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. . . but did have trouble when they suddenly brought up Kunikida’s own experiences when he was a trainee and drew parallels between his partner back then – Genta – and Tezuka. I feel like they should have mentioned this far earlier in the series, not when things should be getting tense in preparation for the climax.

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Thankfully we get back to the simulator, where Kunikida is trying to prepare Tezuka to handle an engine failure situation. Considering the 767 only has two engines, this is tricky, though the plane is designed to fly a substantial distance on just one engine.

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Finally there’s some tension as Kunikida gets upset with Tezuka when she throttles down ahead of landing – partly because she’s conditioned to do so, but also because she’s concerned she’s going too fast. This also reminds Kunikida of Genta, so he becomes tense and sharp. Even Tezuka notices there’s something extra bothering him.

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So that was an interesting scene, but then we got one of those Suzu-being-jealous scenes which irritate me to no end. Suzu (Sakuraba Nanami) basically wants to know how close Tezuka and Taiji (Mamiya Shotaro) are. Suzu somehow decides that Tezuka likes Kunikida even though Tezuka doesn’t show it at all, and even the viewer hasn’t been given any reason to believe there’s anything serious there on Tezuka’s part.

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Far from being concerned with starting a relationship, Tezuka is trying her best to do a Chisato imitation.

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Chisato herself checks up on her to make sure she’s not slacking, and they decide to study together since Chisato also has her own qualification test.

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Then Chisato tells Tezuka to forget what she had said about liking Kunikida. But . . .  but . . . this makes no sense! Thankfully, Tezuka responds by saying that she thinks Chisato and Kunikida would be good together – a relief, since I’m worried that the writers might suddenly pop a Tezuka-Kunikida relationship on us even though that’s been entirely one-sided so far.

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For Kunikida’s part, this whole episode seems to be about him brooding about his lost pal.

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The other four trainees take their final exam . . .

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. . . and they all return to report that they’ve passed. Since the episode didn’t leave us with more than a minute of suspense and it occurred fairly early in the hour, I hope no one considers this much of a spoiler.

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We get the Rinko-being-jealous scene next.

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Kunikida is quite touchy when Tezuka is described as a ‘problem student’ by his bosses . . .

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. . . and because he knows he’s going a bit far, looking at Tezuka as if she was Genta, he tries to maintain some distance with her by not helping her directly.

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Chisato tries to get Kunikida to instruct Tezuka, noting that he largely removed the wall between himself and the other trainees, but hasn’t done the same with Tezuka.

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I don’t know . . . this episode rather lost me, especially when Kunikida asks to have someone else put in charge of training Tezuka. This whole Genta thing is popping up too suddenly – like the writers just threw in this backstory because they had to come up with something. I admit that just seeing Tezuka trying to study and pass her final exam wouldn’t have made for much of a story without something else going on off to the side. I just wish they had set this up a bit better with some flashbacks earlier in the series to give us a better idea how Kunikida looked at Tezuka. That side of him has been a mystery all this time, and there was no reason to hide the fact that he saw Tezuka as another Genta from the audience. In fact, it could have been the fountain of all sorts of good story elements that were left untapped.

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The previous episode was good despite being slow because it was heart-felt. This one . . . I just wasn’t feeling it in the same way, so it dragged painfully.

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I was most annoyed, though, by how they kept having characters tell us that Tezuka had grown a lot – Chisato said it, Kunikida said it, and then Taiji said it. Is there a reason why the writers had so many characters repeat the same line except that they were worried they hadn’t conveyed the fact by Tezuka’s actions?

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I think the writers understood they had very little time to make Tezuka look like a credible pilot, and that’s why they tried to make the turn in a very heavy-handed way by saying she had changed over and over again and also by making sure we barely saw her do anything at all except studying for her test. That’s not bad – at least they recognized the problem – but it would have been nice if, somewhere along the way, Tezuka had done more than squeak by.

Obviously, the best part from my peculiar point of view was all the cockpit scenes, and nothing did more to make Tezuka look like a pilot than seeing her at work.

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I’ll expand on it more in the final review for the next episode, but what crippled this series more than anything else was the fact that the writers only showed us character backstory when they absolutely had to – otherwise, they hid it like some state secret. As a result, not only did the viewer had trouble caring about the characters, but the story had very few places to turn. It is in this respect more than any other that it fell short of Beginners – otherwise, it was a superior drama of the same genre.