Pilot Candidate: Working Together (vol. 3)
& The Test (vol. 4) (2002)

Review by Dindrane

Written by Yukiru Sugisaki
Directed by Mitsuro Hongo
Art Director: Toshihisa Koyama


Dindrane's Anime Warnings:

Rating: 13+ for minor profanity, violence, and tobacco use

Anamorphic: N/A, made for TV

My Advice: Borrow them.

Pilot Candidate, while also a comedy of sorts, is solidly in the Mecha camp of Anime. Through a strange sequence of events, Zero, Our Hero, has found himself in training to be a pilot of giant space-mecha known as "Ingrids." Since only boys can be pilots, it seems that only girls can be the support partner, the one who monitors the Ingrid's status and the pilot's vital signs, as well as providing tactical advice and encouragement. As pairs succeed, they both progress up the ladder toward graduation and success. In these two discs, Zero's particular speed comes in handy when each pilot candidate is paired with an older student, each pair battling another pilot pair as part of their training. Zero is paired with the wunderkind Erts Cocteau, a telepath. But will their partnership last? And what will happen to Zero if it doesn't and he has to taste real battle early?

The plot of Pilot Candidate is satisfactorily complex, but given that these discs represent the end of the series, not all plot elements are tied up as nicely as they are introduced, and many are never explained at all. Azuma's inexplicable cat ears are never explained, and while this is a minor matter, the rivalry between Hiead and Zero escalates out of control without reason and then is just...over. It's never clear why Azuma covers for her fellow Repairer, nor is it clear what Zero's odd dream in Episode 09 is all about--the series doesn't give it time to bear fruit. Finally, we never really learn what's up with the visions Zero has of the mysterious blue-haired woman, a detail given to be quite important. While it's possible that the Japanese producers intend another sequel series in time, as it stands, Pilot Candidate is simply not a completed product.

The characters at least are interesting. Azuma and Zero make an interesting team of Repairer and Pilot, and Zero's fellow candidates are also fun to watch. Their varied personalities are suitably expressed by the voice actors and drawn by the artists. Zero falls squarely into the "clueless, but gifted" male Anime hero category, and avoids being as annoying as Tenchi can be at times. These characters, for the most part, dodge the trend to possess major mental issues or have odd fixations--refreshing, I must say.

The features of the Pilot Candidate discs are unusual. Each disc has a "Voice Actor's Academy" where a given passage is presented to viewers, then allowing us to practice reading lines in time with the animation, a task much harder than you might think. The "Director's Interview" is really a series of several interviews with the director, the CGI Supervisor, and the 3D Director. While we don't actually get to see Mitsuru Hongo's face (he talks using an oven mitt), it's still quite nice to hear what he and the other people have to say about the series. Letting the creators speak always seems to be a good feature for a DVD, either in an audio commentary track, or in these featurettes.

Basically, Pilot Candidate is trying to be something like Gundam, Nadesico, or Evangelion--in attempting to be any of these other titles, it never really succeeds at being itself. The plot wobbles between action, comedy, and surrealism without ever really finding a balance within any of these types. If you know someone who has these discs, then science-fiction fans might spend an agreeable enough afternoon watching the series--just don't expect any real resolution of, well, anything really.

Buy vol. 3 from Amazon! Buy vol. 4 from Amazon!

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