Episode 1

The camera pans over the slumbering figure of a tanned young man. New pilot Shinkai Hajime is fast asleep at a beach in Honolulu when the sound of an overhead plane makes him realise that he is late for work. Barefoot, he runs across the sand and the hot ground dressed in Boy Band-esque white pants. This sets up a frequently repeated situation in future episodes where Shinkai is running for something – either running desperately late for work or running to catch up with someone. We receive an impression of a rather young and disorganised youth.

Onboard a plane, someone described in the credits as the "Chief Purser" named Ota Kenzaburo role-plays as a difficult customer for the purpose of training new flight attendants, among them the perky Fukaura Urara. Unfortunately, Fukaura's handling of the situation would, in Ota's opinion, make the customer lose face.

Shinkai barrels on board during the training session and we see that Fukaura is immediately attracted to the boyishly good-looking young pilot - the rest of the flight attendants exchange smiles as well. Shinkai praises Ota for his convincing portrayal of a difficult passenger but declares impulsively that if a passenger is smoking on board, he should be told not to do so as he is only one of many persons on board. Again, this sets up another piece of his character - which is that he is a direct and somewhat naïve young man who has a tendency to say just what he thinks.

The Chief flight attendant Togashi Noriko (played by Kuroki Hitomi who was Takeshi Kaneshiro's love interest in Golden Bowl) inquires as to the whereabouts of the captain and Shinkai realises with a start that he has left Captain Mizushima behind at the hotel. He rushes back frantically to find Captain Mizushima waiting patiently out the front of the hotel, looking more amused than annoyed at his pupil who has only been working for less than a month.

During the flight, Mizushima suddenly experiences violent pain in his back and is unable to land the plane - asking Shinkai to do so instead. Shinkai nearly misses the timing to lower gears until Mizushima tells him lower the gears. Although he manages to land the plane, he does so with a rather violent jolt causing the novice Fukaura to shriek in fear and the customers to also exclaim in fright. Mechanic Ogawa Ayumi (played by Shibasaki Kou) also notes the landing from the ground at Narita Airport (成田), a customary frown on her face. At any rate, the jolt appears to have a quasi-chiropractic effect on Mizushima who miraculously recovers from a state where he appeared to be on the verge of dying - to one where he can walk out of the cockpit unaided. This is television folks!

A crackle sounds from the radio and the straight-forward Ogawa abjures Shinkai to take better care of the plane. Shinkai disembarks and demands to know who just hailed him in the cockpit. We then meet Abe Takayuki aka Cute Engineer and the scowly Ogawa who is introduced as Abe's subordinate and a mechanic who will be working with Shinkai. The diminutive Ogawa glares at him and tells him that his landing sucked. [Note: I'd like to know if in Japanese she really said something which is the colloquial equivalent of "sucked" or if she simply said that it was very 'bad'. The Chinese subtitles read 遜斃]. Shinkai looks shocked and offended. Cue Unresolved Sexual Tension, Japanese style

Shinkai takes Mizushima's and his own flight bags to the dispatch room, where another co-pilot Azumi Ryujiro stops him with a grin and says "Hi, star of our year, what have you done this time? You're wanted in the checkroom." This is the Operation Audit Room.

The chief captain and operation audit supervisor, Captain Koda aka Cyborg reprimands Shinkai for not even reaching a semi-professional standard in his landing. Koda sneers at Mizushima and also at Shinkai, basically employing that the pupil of a useless pilot is also useless. It's quite easy to hate Koda in these early episodes.

While Shinkai is extremely annoyed at the attacks on himself, he is much more offended by the attack on his mentor and teacher and demands to know whether Koda has ever been ill himself. Koda aka Cyborg retorts that if he were ever sick on duty – he would resign. Cue Bushido aviation style. Koda - you would have made a great kamikaze pilot man. Koda is like this though – quite over the top in his notion of duty and safety. To be honest though, as a passenger I would feel quite reassured to know that such a harsh man was in charge of my safety. There ARE certain things that shouldn't be taken lightly and having experienced horrible bumpy landings, I wish all pilots were as conscientious as Koda.

Meanwhile, Fukaura is being reprimanded by Togashi for having screamed during the rough landing. When Togashi tries to encourage her by telling her that she'll soon get used to things, Fukaura declares that unlike Togashi, she does not mean to remain as a flight attendant for long - only until she marries. She walks off, leaving a speechless Togashi standing behind her.

Fukaura catches Shinkai as he comes out of the Audit Room. As a contrast to Ogawa, the man-hunting Fukaura tells Shinkai that his landing was great but Shinkai looks into her eyes and declares that she is lying.

I quite liked this as it also establishes that Shinkai is a man who does not crave flattery. Although he could have the adulation of Fukaura, he recognises her lies for what they are and looks past her superficial attractiveness.

She is quite honest though in her brazen attempts to ask him out. Fukaura suggests a "Good Job" gathering, but Shinkai says that he isn’t very good at partying.

She explains brazenly that she had meant just the two of them, but Shinkai isn't listening. He rejects her and walks past her, caught up in his own thoughts.

Fukaura is warned by Harada Miwako and the other, unmarried older CAs, not to try and get a head start with him.

Shinkai attempts to seek guidance and perhaps sympathy from Togashi. Togashi although much more approachable than Koda tells him over dinner that the cabin shook a little and some of the passengers were shaken. She bluntly points out that even being new does not absolve him from blame if his performance is not up to scratch and that a pilot must be able to remain calm during an emergency. Togashi then also defends Koda's cyborginess - cue Unresolved Love Story with History - Japanese style. Togashi looks a little more troubled though when Shinkai lets her know about Koda’s criticism of Captain Mizushima.

In the airline hangar, Abe tells Ogawa that she should not speak in that manner to a pilot as pilots are the stars of the world of flying, and mechanics are only stagehands and backstage workers. Ogawa tells him seriously that she does not think that there should be any “back stage workers". He suggests that they go for a drink because she needs to lighten up instead of looking angry all the time. She tells him quite endearingly that she’s not mad – she just looks like that. He says it’s a pity as she has a cute face .....

When Shinkai returns to his apartment, he is greeted by his kooky neighbour as someone named "Sho-Chan". His neighbour is a young woman named Pak Mee Sook and despite the fact that Shinkai protests that he is NOT Sho Chan, his neighbour flies into his arms and then dashes off in a huff muttering something in Korean.

On his next flight, Shinkai flies to France with Captain Naito Jane. The playful Naito Jane claims that he doesn't like Shinkai as Shinkai does not participate in the 'matchmaking sessions" with the flight attendants. It's all fooling around though as the two pilots actually appear to have a very good relationship and get along very well.

In the pre-flight inspection conducted by the pilots of the aircraft, Shinkai discovers a feather in one engine. In order to prevent KFC d'Avion, he demands that Ogawa Ayumi rechecks to see if a bird is in the engine.

Ostensibly it is for safety reasons but it is quite possible that he is just being a meanie to get back at her for her criticism of his bad landing.

Ogawa Ayumi is annoyed, tells him that she has checked and that it is quite common to find feathers in an engine.

Naito Jane declares that Ayumi is "cute" and that Shinkai too strict with such a lovable young girl. He tries to talk him out of his demands, but in vain. Abe intervenes, apologising for Ogawa's bad manner and assures that that he has also checked the engine.

Shinkai insists though, sneering at Ogawa that the pilots make the final decision as to whether the plane flies or not. He also makes a motherhood speech about safety and preservation of human life which infuriates Ogawa who makes an impassioned declaration that she more than any other person is fully conscious of the importance of safety.

She also tells him that the technical staff also risk their own lives and safety to try to ensure the safety of the planes. To be honest I am not entirely sure of that translation as it is possible that she says that she would “stake her life” on the maintenance work. Then again, perhaps maintenance work is very dangerous.

She says that she will re-check the engine and in tearful humiliation runs away. I'm not sure, but I could have sworn Naito Jane calls Shinkai "kisama"... Eep..

During the flight, Naito Jane reproaches Shinkai for his treatment of such a cute girl – especially given that the re-checking confirmed that there was nothing out of the ordinary with the engine. Although Shinkai retorts that it is better than having an accident – he looks rather guilty.

Meanwhile, back on the ground at Narita, Ayumi is reprimanded by her supervisor for having spoken rudely to a pilot.

She then rides home from work on her very funky motorcycle. She meets up with her elder sister Ogawa Kaori. Kaori, a nurse, is a tall, slim girl with huge dark eyes – clearly much more calm and serene than her fiery and angry younger sister. The two appear to be very close despite their different personalities and it is clear that they have been living a difficult life ever since the death of their parents. Their parents previously ran a small rice shop and the sisters now appear to live in the back of the shop. As the two girls speak, they refer to the fact that their relatives think that it is time that Kaori got married, and are apparently always complaining about Ayumi's choice of career. Ayumi is philosophical about this and shrugs off the inevitable line of questioning. As a woman in a man's world, she is used to such questions.

On his return to Japan, Shinkai meets up with his mentor Captain Mizushima who apologises for having created so many problems for Shinkai. He informs Shinkai that given that his doctor has informed him that he has a hernia, his next flight to Los Angeles will be his last. Shinkai is determined to make it a wonderful flight for his mentor.

Captain Koda meets with Togashi to ascertain if she knows anything about Mizushima. He claims to respect her professionalism although there are very faint hints (only very faint because he is after all a cyborg) that they have a History. Presumably a Romantic History although it is very hard to think of Koda knowing what romance means.

He asks her about whether she or Shinkai knew anything about Captain Mizushima’s health condition, reminding her that if Mizushima had a health issue, he was obliged to report it. She responds that she hasn't heard anything, says complimentary things about Mizushima and tells Koda that Shinkai reminds her of Koda when he was younger. Not surprisingly, Koda is not impressed by this comparison so Togashi pulls a little face and wisely retreats. She does this a lot during the series.

Shinkai is still feeling guilty about his treatment of Ogawa Ayumi and although at home poring over the LA flight route, his thoughts return to her tearful face. Eventually he gives up and drives back to Narita Airport to the hangar in search of Ogawa. Standing on a walkway above the hangar, he looks out at the massive behind-the-scenes world of the mechanics for the first time. He is unable to locate Ogawa and Abe reminds him to wear a hard hat when he is in the hangar. He declines. Disappointed, Shinkai leaves and because he is hungry, decides to look for food.

He pulls up outside a restaurant and unexpectedly when he looks up, he encounters Ogawa sitting on her own at the sushi train feeding her face.

She's very cute and has a very unladylike way of stuffing food into her face which while by no means gross, is just kind of inelegant. Both of them look at each other for a long moment, look away again and then steal glances at one another.

She looks a bit surprised and scowls at him. He decides to go and sit beside her.

He apologises to her for the feather issue explaining that she had offended him with her comments about his sucky landing. She glares at him and wants to know if this is his attempt at flirting. He claims he isn't flirting although says that most girls don't seem to mind anyway which makes her make a dig at him about being a pilot - and presumably accustomed to the adulation of girls.

She ignores him again but he asks her why she chose to become a mechanic. When she tells him that she just wanted to make planes safe for people to fly, she looks at him challengingly, demanding if he thinks that that's an odd reason. He seems to disarm her when he says quite sincerely that he doesn't think that that is a strange reason at all.

She then asks why he became a pilot.

"You want to know?"
"Not really."
"The conversation ends if you put it that way."
he tells her.

She guesses very antagonistically that it was because of the high salary and so he could be surrounded by pretty flight attendants and receive adulation to satisfy his pride. Rather than being offended, Shinkai answers her very seriously explaining to her that he simply thought that it was a cool job to have and that when he was small, he visited a plane's cockpit and was impressed by the pilot and the cabin crew. He tells her that he enjoys working as a member of a team and thought that it was very cool to fly a plane. Although clearly disarmed by his response, Ogawa calls him or his explanation simple-minded. [In the English subtitles she calls him simple-minded. In the Chinese subtitles, Ogawa says: "Such a simple reason (還真是單純)". A Japanese speaker has told me that there the meaning is derogatory in Japanese.

They lapse into silence again until Ogawa reaches for some food, prompting Shinkai to meditate very thoughtfully about various characters in a Japanese anime programme and whether the mother character (a boat) as the only inedible character would have felt like an outcast. The discussion is hilariously cute as Shinkai appears extremely serious in his concern that Boat felt like an outcast.

Ogawa doesn't appear to know how to respond and then mutters into her plate that the father – Wave – was also inedible. Shinkai appears relieved that the mother was not an outcast after all, eliciting an involuntary laugh from the normally scowly Ogawa.

“In Sazaesan, there was an Ikura-chan, right?”

“So what?” Ogawa counters, glancing up at him, wondering where the hell he was going with this.

“In Sazaesan, there was Sazae (shell), Katsuo (bonito) and Wakame (seaweed), all things that we can eat, but …” as he continues, Ogawa gives him another extremely odd look. “… just wondering why the mother – Fune (boat), was something we can’t eat”. He looks genuinely reflective.

Ogawa’s eyes flick up at him again, clearly trying hard not to turn and look at him. Her lips are twitching uncontrollably at the direction of the conversation and the gravity with which Shinkai is considering a popular Japanese anime programme. A list of the characters is here.

“She was an outcast.” Shinkai says emphatically.

Ogawa slowly turns her head and slants a look at Shinkai who says. “Uh … I just … thought … I guess it doesn’t matter….” he trails off, wondering why he was rambling on about such a silly topic.

Ogawa glances down at her plate as Shinkai reaches for a plate of scallops. Her lips quiver again but she speaks seriously.

“Namihei.” she says without looking at him.

“Huh?” he asks, glancing at her.

She still doesn't ’t look at him, looking down at the table as she speaks. “The father was Namihei (wave) …. ”

He stares down at her in surprise

“….. and we can’t eat that.” she says, her eyes flickering to the side as if she feels a little foolish in engaging in this discussion.

“Oh yeah.” Shinkai says, also remembering. “Then she’s not an outcast.” he said with genuine pleasure in his voice, glancing at Ogawa as he says it.

She glances back up at him as he nods. “You are right - Namihei – can’t eat that.”

An involuntary laugh escapes her and her whole face changes as she laughs, the sullenness falling away as her mouth curves into a big smile.

“Namihei and Fune …” he lists but then glances back at her sharply.

“Did you just laugh????” he asks her in slightly whimsical amusement tempered with disbelief.

It's cute to see Ogawa immediately retreat back into her scowly persona. In the carpark, you can see Shinkai looking over Ogawa's motorcycle with interest – although he himself drives a very funky Toyota four-wheel drive. He tries to tell her that he doesn't think that they live in two different worlds and that his conversation with her has reinforced that it is the same world and that it is both air crew and ground crew who fly a plane. She accuses him of flirting with her and then rides off on her motorcycle.

On his way home Hajime calls at his father Ryoji's boathouse (also the family home). Ryoji, a former deep-sea tuna fishing boat fisherman now takes anglers off the coast in his boat.

Shinkai doesn't appear to be on the best of terms with his father Shinkai Ryoji, a taciturn old man who doesn't talk to his son.

It would appear that he was against Shinkai becoming a pilot and will not speak to him except through Hajime's younger brother Makoto. Hajime gives Makoto a pineapple brought back from Hawaii. When he uses the term "ship" to describe a plane, his father tells him that a ship should only be used to refer to a seafaring vessel. Shinkai goes to his old room and stares reminiscently of an old photo of himself as a small boy in the cockpit with pilots.

The following day, Shinkai meets Captain Mizushima for his final flight from Narita to Los Angeles. Captain Koda is there waiting for them, advising them in his cyborgy way that he will be accompanying them on the flight – and that he’ll be watching them. Cue dramatic music and close-up of impassive cyborg face.

Although the initial take-off goes well, they discover that the LA airport has been closed due to an airport fire. Shinkai suggests re-routing the plane to Ontario or San Francisco but the captain rejects this idea and says that they must return to Narita. This causes considerable unhappiness among the passengers, particularly an extremely testy, choleric middle-aged Japanese businessman who shouts that if he doesn’t make his meeting with investors in Los Angeles, his business will go bankrupt. Very unreasonably he insists that the flight continue to Los Angeles, throwing Togashi to the floor and slugging poor Ota when he is told that this is impossible. OK I have seen this happen in real life and in real life this guy would have been arrested upon arrival - it's a fairly serious offence to hit someone particularly a flight attendant in international air space!!! On the flight I was on, the police were waiting on the ground to arrest the culprit upon arrival.

When the flight crew receives word of the disturbance in the cabin, Shinkai wishes to leave the cabin to assist Ota in containing the unruly passenger. Koda the Cyborg tells him that he must not do this and that a pilot must never elave the cockpit. Shinkai leaves anyway. Off the top of my head, I cannot recollect if we get another close-up of impassive Cyborgy face.

Shinkai explains to the unruly passenger that the plane only has enough fuel for a one-way flight and that they cannot risk not having a place to land when the fuel runs out.

This speech is given against dramatically swelling music. The first time I heard it, I was still having difficulties reading the Chinese subtitles and felt that the music was melodramatically inappropriate. By the end of the series though, I really love that music - Departure by Naoki Sato - and feel quite inspired whenever I hear it.

The only problem is, the version of "Departure" used for this scene is really bad. I guess it was only episode 1 and they hadn't hired the entire orchestra yet but I had freaky flashbacks to highschool bands. They definitely should have used the version of Departure that is on the soundtrack!!!! We also receive a cool behind the scenes look of the Narita crew preparing an alternate aeroplane to go to Los Angeles – the standby pilots, the ground crew towing out another plane etc.

The passenger miraculously quietens down. Shinkai returns to the cabin where Koda has taken his spot in his absence. Captain Mizushima brings the plane down in Narita and the airline personnel immediately scramble to find spaces for all their passengers on the next Narita-San Francisco flight. The now repentant passenger offers himself up for arrest, but Ota urges him to catch the next San Franciso flight - if he takes it, he’ll have just enough time the next morning to fly down to Los Angeles and make his meeting. OK, I can believe many implausible things but this man turned violent! He's a bully! He needs to be brought to justice damnit. Yes, Koala justice is a vengeful one …..

In the cockpit, Shinkai feels bad that Mizushima’s final flight was so disappointing. Mizushima smiles and tells his disciple that it was a good flight as all the passengers disembarked safe and sound. He tells Shinkai that one day he will be a fine captain and gives him one of his captain's epaulettes from his shoulder.

Shinkai enters the lobby where he engages in witty flirtatious UST-laden banter with Ayumi who provocatively tells him that the landing was lovely - knowing full-well that it was Mizushimi flying and not Shinkai. [In the English subtitles, Shinkai tells her sarcastically that she really has an "interesting" personality. In the Chinese version, he says that's a person who really likes to 挖苦 - basically the equivalent of someone who likes to hit where it hurts / scoop out the bitterness. No idea which if any is right].

Their cute banter is interrupted by Cyborg who instructs Shinkai to come to his office. Shinkai foolishly insists that Koda say whatever he has to say right there in the lobby. Koda tells him that he’s suspended without pay for one week as a punishment for LCWOLFC - aka Leaving Cabin Without Leave From Cyborg. Although annoyed, Shinkai manages to control his temper until Cyborg provokes him by saying that he has heard that Captain Mizushima was quitting and that he was relived to hear that such an imperfect pilot was leaving.

Koda walks off and an infuriated Shinkai demands that Koda stops. When he doesn't, he runs up behind him and grabs him by the lapel. They glare at each other dramatically.

Comments: What a great first episode. All of the characters are introduced, the background is sketched out, we receive a very good feeling for the type of character that Shinkai is, we hate Koda on sight although realise that like an onion he probably has layers. Although have a possible stereotypical romance relationship (Koda / Togashi ie Pilot / CA), we also have an unconventional sparkage between pilot and mechanic. I also love Ogawa Ayumi's lack of convention.

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