I can’t say that Netflix taking series that I’ve been wanting to watch and releasing them two seasons later is the best thing that has happened to anime by a wide margin. Especially when today’s anime market mostly focuses on releasing anime episodes hours after they appear on television in Japan. Alongside it’s long running Studio Bones brother by the name of My Hero Academia, I wanted to watch this show week to week as well. I think you can tell that this, I enjoyed this show by watching it over a shorter period of time at the pace of one episode a day then I would have watching one episode a week. Yes, I am not a binge watcher. My idea of binge watching is watching a lot of series over a period of multiple hours. With this method, I had enough time to reflect to myself about what happened in certain episodes, so I feel like each episode kept their own identity in my mind while also never having to wait very long before getting into the next episode. I suggest that everyone should try this at some point, because it’s been working a lot for me recently.
Dragon Pilot is one of the most creative anime series that I’ve watched since maybe Devilman Crybaby? I know that people flying on dragons and getting attached to their dragon partners is a pretty popular concept in fantasy series. I can reference fantasy novels like Dragon Lance and Dragon Riders of Pern, which are absolutely fantastic, to attest to that. What about piloting inside of a dragon? What about having all of that happen in a modern-day military setting where the dragons are usually disguised as modern airplanes during flight? What about we include that the pilots can only be females chosen by the dragons themselves so that we could have a bit of commentary on females in the workplace as well. What I am saying with a lot of giddiness is that Dragon Pilot takes something that could have been incredibly basic and pushes it a lot further then you would expect. Plus Ultra!
That being said, Dragon’s Pilot cast is made from a lot of simple, but relatable characters. This is a twelve-episode series and the fact that this show does more than a decent job of giving most of the cast an arc to grow on. Our main protagonist is Hisone and she is a recent high school graduate whose been chosen for a Dragon Pilot. Now, she is the kind of character that says everything that is on the top of her mind without any filler. Well, she was at the beginning at least. Her change is rather gradual, but she becomes a much more thoughtful person as the show goes on. The other four pilots and Maomao are the same way. Each of the pilots has a character flaw that makes them far from the perfect person to be apart of the military or make friends with one another, but all of that changes over the course of the show. Then we get all sorts of military officers and then high school shrine maidens to perform an ancient ritual during the second half of the show. All these characters are very simple characters with relatable motivations, but they all feel so realistic as their perceptions and feelings towards other people are well characterized and change in believable ways. What I am saying is that the character writing in Dragon Pilot is good. Nothing complex, but they don’t have to be to get this show to work.
What makes this show even more relatable is the commentary of women in the work place. I suppose the girls in skimpy pilot suits doesn’t help here, not that Dragon Pilot ever objectifies the girls in anyway. There is some casual sexism in this show. I don’t feel like I am the right person to talk about any of this, but I’ve seen plenty of this at places I’ve used to work at. Men would talk about women in very suggestive sorts of ways and I will not protect myself by saying I am innocent. Maybe I never said anything or just added a nod here and there, but I never stopped it. In my eyes, that makes me feel just as guilty as they are because I let an action happen. It felt like it was expected in some ways because the people involved were more alpha male types while I am the shy beta type that tries not to get any attention drawn to him. Watching this show brought back a lot of those moments in my mind and I can’t help but feel ashamed about how I saw and how I will have to put more thought into what I do and how I act from this point on.
There are other aspects that go into this work force commentary which feels more Japanese in concept to me. You know the whole concept of work vs love and how the Japanese choose to have careers instead of getting married and having kids? I mean, the birth rate in Japan is obscenely low. Maybe this is also commentary toward men because their values are more traditional and conservative because blame should go on both sides of the street here. Anyway, the dragon pilots only have the choice of either falling in love with their dragons and piloting forever or falling in love with somebody else and losing the ability to pilot a dragon because of technobabble. Yeah, the commentary is not subtle here but that’s how Mari Okada’s works end up. Not that that is a bad thing. Oh yes, a solution does appear at the end of the show.
Ok, let’s talk about some cool and not as important stuff. You know, the visuals. Dragon Pilot’s visuals are functional at best. There are a lot of repeated cuts of dragons putting on armor or their disguise which are used over and over through out the show. The flight scenes are just alright and do give the since of flight that is necessary for the series I think I’ve gotten used to how awesome looking the dog fights are in Yamato 2199 and 2202 and modern Gundam shows like thunderbolt, which are what I consider the gold standard of flight scenes in anime at this moment. But that’s ok, everything else is fine and gives off the messages that the show wants to tell through it’s visuals. The large amount of varied settings in the air and on the ground give this world a lot of depth. Dragon Pilot’s character designs are fantastic, because you can tell what the dragon pilot’s personalities are just by looking at them. It’s all just solid stuff.
If there was a major weakness in Dragon Pilot, it would be the dragons themselves. Yeah, I am kind of stretching this one out admittedly. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought up books like Dragon Riders of Pern, because I’m used to at least hearing what the dragons are thinking. Dragon Pilot does give at least Masotan some personality, but most of the dragon character stuff comes from the dragon pilots and even then, we can’t tell that they are that intelligent. I mean, they are treated like animals or pets. Nothing wrong with that, some inner monologue from the dragons would have helped me out. That’s it from me, really. I have no large complaints when it comes to this show. Dragon Pilot was more then just a simple joy to watch, because it had a lot of meaning behind it. If you haven’t watched this show yet, I highly suggest that you find the time to do so. It’s on Netflix so it’s available to watch worldwide.