What sort of finale will Miss Pilot have? Will Tezuka Haru (Horikita Maki) really be put in a serious in-flight emergency like the previews at the end of the previous episode led us to believe? If this episode is going to be a successful conclusion to this drama, it has to bring a lot of tension into some sort of climactic event that will prove to us that Tezuka is really a pilot. She started to look like one in episode 10 (finally!), but I still need more evidence.

I’ve avoided saying it through this entire series but I can’t help myself now that it’s the last episode – she does look cute in the uniform:

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Anyway, they all find out where they’ll be flying for their first on-the-job training flights. Considering Yamada Kazuo (Fujii Ryusei) mixes up RJFK (Kagoshima) with KJFK (New York’s JFK International), I’m not sure he’s ready. Incidentally, all major Japanese airports have the R prefix, and all major American ones get the K prefix, and not knowing that is . . . well, it still beats me how Yamada managed to pass, so I think ANA might want to tighten up its standards.

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The Kunikida team all greet dispatcher Chisato (Aibu Saki) as full-fledged pilots . . .

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. . . after taking 1304 days to get here according to Moroboshi (Shounozaki Ken).

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It’s their last dinner in the trainee house, as the new crop of hopefuls are already on their way. Their boxes are already packed, and from here on it’s unlikely that they’ll see much of each other, flying all over the place as they will be. Rather than being the Kunikida team, they’re all going to be working under different captains until they log enough time to become captains themselves.

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Chisato musters up the courage to ask Kunikida (Saito Takumi) if he’d like to go out for a drink, but he turns her down, saying that he needs to prepare for his flight. I trust that he will take her up on the offer at the end of the episode – I would be sorely disappointed otherwise.

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We see a montage of the newbie pilots messing up – not preparing for their flights properly and not strapping themselves in because they’re so paralyzed with nervousness . . .

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. . . then turn to Tezuka, who is still trying to find the captain for her flight. He’s got a very unfortunate mustache, but thankfully Shinozaki (Iwaki Koichi) informs her that the mustached pilot called in sick. I think you know where this is going.

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But then I get a surprise. I thought for sure that Kunikida would be the replacement, but it turns out to be Shinozaki! As a result, Tezuka has a much easier time dealing with her captain than the other pilots did. During a talk before the flight, he tells her that he wanted to fly with her for his final flight.

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I’m sure he really wanted to fly with Chisato, but then again, he did hand-pick Tezuka for the program. It’s a mark of the weakness in this program that he says more and talks more openly to Tezuka than to Chisato, but I’ll get to that in my wrap-up of the series at the end of this review.

Tezuka also meets her instructor – the guy who’ll be going over what she still needs to improve on with her, since the captain has other responsibilities. But the person she really wants to see is Chisato, to tell her buddy that Shinozaki – Chisato’s father – is planning to make this his last flight.

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Chisato feels that Tezuka shouldn’t have told her, though, since it was Shinozaki’s wish that it should be kept a secret. Chisato watches Tezuka’s plane takeoff, thinking that she’s made a mistake about Kunikida.

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So, she once again wants to take back words that she said – seems to be a pattern with her – but what she ends up doing is let slip that this is Shinozaki’s last flight. These secrets really do get around, don’t they?

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So, as Shinozaki is having a drink to celebrate his early retirement . . .

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. . . Kunikida shows up, indignant. But why is he so angry on Chisato’s behalf? I didn’t quite understand his logic, but that might be because Chisato never gave any hint at being upset about Shinozaki – she was more upset about all sorts of other things.

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Back to Tezuka, we see her and the rest graduating from the on-the-job training (that was quick!) and confirmed as co-pilots. I guess they were still the Kunikida team up to this point, since Kunikida gives them the end-of-team talk here.

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Tezuka’s debut flight is on Christmas Eve, and she’s flying with Kunikida as captain (aha! I knew it would happen!).

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There’s a lot of relationship talk concerning relationships that don’t exist . . .

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. . . and then at their computers, Kunikida is unnerved about the way Tezuka is staring at him.

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Because we already knew it, I’m not going to treat this as a spoiler, but Tezuka confesses to Kunikida here . . .

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. . . that she really doesn’t like him. Not that she hates him, but she’s not interested in any relationship with him. She says she gave it some thought and decided that she just respected him as a person.

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Well, that’s good, ’cause it would have been real odd if she suddenly developed an interest in him now after showing no sign of it for ten episodes. It’s a relief, though, since you never know what writers will do these days.

Kunikida’s reaction afterward is great – one of the best non-cockpit scenes of the drama.

Tezuka decides to have a talk with her father, giving him a ticket for her début flight.

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The way she was so formal about it, he thought she was going to tell him that she was getting married! Her response is that she can’t do more than one thing at a time, and I think that’s a great description of the way she handled being a pilot trainee – she literally didn’t have an eye for any other complicated endeavor.

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Chisato has yet another talk with Kunikida, who was probably still experiencing dismay at being rejected by Tezuka before he had even started trying to pursue her. This . . . is getting a bit tedious. When are we going to get to that emergency? We’re already through half the episode, so it can’t be that bad a problem if they’re not even going to spend a decent about of time on it.

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Well, Tezuka gets ready for the flight . . .

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. . . and I guess I’ll leave the exact nature of the problem they encounter a surprise. There’s not much by way of spoilers in this one otherwise.

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It does put a smile on my face, seeing her at the controls.

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Well, it puts a smile on my face just seeing the cockpit. Here’s the autopilot:

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At the very minimum, the rest of the episode should make it clear why we still need pilots, and can’t rely solely on automation.

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In terms of tension in this climactic flight, I was entirely unimpressed. The emergency that we were promised in the preview was instead a situation that must happen quite frequently every December, and their solution was rather unexciting on top of that.

The flight scene did serve to prove that Tezuka had turned into a pilot, though, so this final episode wasn’t a total loss.

And what about this series? Well, for all the time it spent on the thin attempts at romantic relationships between the characters, the resolution of those was nonexistent, making all of that time pure filler – they weren’t intent on going anywhere with those at all.

I’ve made the comparison between this drama and Beginners before, because they are structurally the same story though the particular elements are different, so let’s look at how it fell short of Beginners first, and then check out the ways it fared better.

First, Beginners was much better about providing interesting character backgrounds to the cast so that they had things to overcome in each episode not only from their training, but also from personal struggles. In this drama, the only characters that had real personal struggles were Tezuka and Chisato, and Chisato’s were all amorphous. They never bothered to even make up a reason why she froze when confronted with oncoming traffic – it would have been so easy to flashback to an earlier experience, but they didn’t. The writers also didn’t flesh out anything between Chisato and her father at all. So, while Chisato had struggles, they didn’t feel real.

The rest of the characters had even less to work with, so all Fujii-kun could do while playing Yamada was be ridiculous while chasing after Rinko. There was lots of time spent on the Taiji-Suzu bickering, but since all that relationship seemed to entail was Suzu accusing Taiji of cheating and Taiji only being interested in the girl he couldn’t have, both characters looked totally one dimensional. Why did Yamada or Taiji want to become pilots in the first place? We have only the vaguest notion. Beginners was somewhat better about giving its characters proper motivation.

Oh, and there’s no point talking about the other two trainees because they were practically blank slates – stock characters.

Strangely, we didn’t even find out much about Kunikida, even though he was possibly the most interesting and fun character in the entire series because it was interesting to watch him interact with the trainees.

So characterization and the conflicts that come with it were lacking, and that, along with the romantic subplots that went nowhere, contributed in large part to the extremely slow pace of the series.

There were bright sides, though. As far as dramas go, this was a aviation nut’s dream. They did much more with the premise – even getting the trainees to speak English – than Beginners did. In Beginners, they were supposed to be training to be police, but hardly ever got outside the classroom or track. By contrast, Miss Pilot featured the trainees going through a very realistic and logical sequence, featuring a number of different types of planes.

The settings were always brought alive by a huge number of extras. Consider just the plane scenes at the end of this episode. Everything about the series bore evidence of a lavish budget, and that’s always a plus when taking on a premise like this. No viewer could complain that they didn’t do enough to set the stage for the story.

Horikita Maki-san has a lot of experience playing characters like Tezuka Haru, and it showed in this drama. Few people could have pulled off the effervescent personality of Tezuka without being annoying, and Horikita-san is one of those few. Saito Takumi-san really had the best acting work in this series, playing the subtly nuanced Kunikida. I haven’t seen much of Saito-san’s work before, but I’ll give future dramas with him in it extra consideration for review. Aibu Saki-san was all right as Chisato, but the role didn’t pose many challenges. There was good sisterly chemistry between her and Horikita-san, though. Iwaki Koichi-san was charming as Shinozaki, but I would expect nothing less from a veteran.

Other than those four, I don’t think the characters really allowed the actors to shine.

Was this a drama worth watching? Well, if you’re a fan of Horikita-san or Saito-san, definitely. If you love airplanes or the idea of piloting and lament the lack of dramas in the aviation arena, then yes. If you’re still young and want a drama that will inspire you to pursue the dreams that everyone tells you are impossible . . . maybe. Just don’t look for anything exciting or with great depth – this drama is little more than a recruitment tool for All Nippon Airways.

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