Episode 7

On the flight back to Narita from Dalian, Naito Jane angsts that they should be eating more vegetables to ensure that their cholesterol levels are acceptable to enable them to pass their health examinations.

Upon arrival, Shinkai phones Ogawa to ascertain whether he she is still mad at him for sleeping during their last "date". In a hilarious scene where he is talking on his mobile phone, he searches through the mechanic's lounge, walks through the corridors and peers into the hangar looking for her.

The blue-overalled mechanics (all male) stare at him curiously as he searches for the elusive Ogawa who tells him that she's at home.

She then rejects all of his invitations for the rest of the week. When he accuses her of still being angry with him, she tells him that she has examinations in the following week – as does he.

Shinkai complains about the endless tests at the moment Ogawa's sister enters the room and Ogawa scolds him and then hangs up on him abruptly as she clearly does not want her sister to overhear her talking to Shinkai. Ogawa's sister is no fool however and wonders whether it isn't time for her to let Shinkai know about their parents.

The next day Shinkai arrives at work barely on time. Naito Jane ane accuses him of drinking the night before and demands: “What if they find something wrong with your liver function? And even if you pass the medical, you might find yourself up against a really strict captain on your observed flight."

Azumi too speculates that Shinkai might be in trouble as Koda seems to be "fond" of him. As Shinkai starts arguing with Azumi, a greying pilot arrives and reprimands them for making a noise. Everyone including Naito Jane stands to attention. The man notices the smell of cigarette smoke, and advises Shinkai to stop.

As he walks on Shinkai asks Jane who he is, and is told that he is "the Great Captain Yamagami", who is one of the top pilots in terms of number of hours flown and the prime minister's chartered plane is always piloted by him.

To Shinkai's consternation, the doctor finds a small lump in his throat, guessing that it may be due to too much smoking.

What is it with Japanese dramas and smoking? I feel like I am getting lung cancer or emphysema just watching them light up all the time. Takuya Kimura is particularly bad - he smokes in all of the dramas in which I have seen him. You hear that Kimura-san? Stop! You're a father of two now, you made your wife quit smoking - it's your turn!

She sends a sample for testing and there is a rather droll moment when Shinkai thinks she is joking and then goggles at the page when he realises she has stamped “Grounded” on his file.

Shinkai decides to forego cigarettes for the time being and there is a rather amusing encounter with his loopy Korean neighbour who gives him black vinegar to heal his throat.

To his relief, two days later he is given a clean bill of health – the way he sinks to the ground and thanks the powers that be is quite hilarious. When Naito Jane offers him cigarettes later he virtuously rejects them. It's a pity that this self control doesn't last very long. :P

Shinkai is to act as co-pilot on a flight to Bangkok with the Great Captain Yamagami. Although Captain Yamagami is in his fifties, he has the body of a thirty five year old and his years of service are unequalled. Shinkai also discovers that Koda will be accompanying them on their flight to examine their performance for their flying exam – the test which determines they will be permitted to continue flying.

Togashi comments to Koda that he must have worked a long time to be experienced enough to Captain Yamagami's superviser, given that Captain Yamagami was his mentor before. She also asks Koda not to be too strict with Shinkai. She then also tries to ask Koda to let her know what was on his mind previously ie why did he ask her out for a 'date'. He refuses to tell her.

Shinkai arrives in the cockpit first and his relief at being able to touch the flying instruments again is palpable.

When Ogawa hails him on the intercom, she mocks him about the fact that he was temporarily suspended and claims he is afraid that Koda will fail him.

She steps out from under the plane to where he can see her. Shinkai peers out the window and looks at her as he speaks and he is so nice to her in this scene, asking her about her own exam and is clearly sympathetic. He diffidently suggests that if they both pass, they should go and celebrate together.

I am not sure why but Ogawa turns mean on him again and says that this could never happen. When he asks why, she tells him that this is because Koda will inevitably fail him and then she hangs up on him, leaving him frustrated and attempting to continue to hail her. Koda and Captain Yamagami walk in at that moment and he has to stop.

Ogawa and a colleague report at the training centre for their test. As the Bangkok flight departs, Ogawa enters the flight simulator to read the computer display, analyse the situation, and suggest what steps should be taken to remedy it.

In the aircraft, Yamagami hands the control of the ship over to Shinkai. He praises him for his performance up to then. When asked his opinion, Koda refuses, saying that his assessment will be given at the end of the flight. Yamagami tells Shinkai not to worry, as Koda too was once a rookie.

"You knew Koda-san when he was young?" Shinkai asks. Yamagami tells Shinkai that Koda previously trained under him. Shinkai suddenly notices a huge cumulus cloud in their path on the radar. It is too late to avoid entering it and the switch on the seat belt sign. As the craft enters the cloud, the entire plane shakes violently. As the juddering continues and the cabin crew (with the exception of Fukaura attempt to maintain a calm, smiling demeanour. Shinkai attempts to maintain control of the craft but the altitude begins to drop. He reaches for the lever in an effort to raise altitude, and finds Yamagami's hand is already on the lever. Yamagami tells the cabin crew not to leave their seats. Shinkai tries to veer left but Yamagami stops him.

Shinkai is clearly feeling very powerless and uncertain of what to do next. Yamagami switches off the autopilot and starts steering the plane to the right. Shinkai is forced to let go of the controls. As the plane leaves the cloud behind, Shinkai apologises to Yamagami, who tells him gently that one should always be on the lookout for cumulus clouds, and that he was not to worry about it as these things do happen. He again hands the control of the ship to Shinkai, who can't help glancing back at Koda. Shinkai remembers that he must inform the passengers, but Yamagami has already picked up the intercom.

Back at Narita, Ogawa’s test is over. The results will be sent to maintenance headquarters. The plane arrives at Bangkok airport. Koda tells the pilots his assessment of their performance. Shinkai is advised that he was careless on several occasions and that he should not let it happen again.

In a shocking move, he tells Yamagami that he seems to have lost the qualities necessary in a captain. This shocks Shinkai and angers Captain Yamagami. Shinkai protests that the captain had been perfect, but Koda points out that he had forgotten the "two men concept". "A high-tech plane cannot be flown by one man," Koda explains. "Captain Yamagami did everything on his own, even when he should have given his co-pilot directions. This is a sign that he is losing the ability to command and lead."

Koda observes that when things went wrong, Captain Yamagami did not work with Shinkai as a team but simply switched off automated equipment or took over. Captain Yamagami speaks with him accusingly, referring to the mysterious frequently mentioned but till now unexplained incident 12 years earlier. He asks why Koda has changed so much. Is he still unable to get away from what happened 12 years ago? Koda retorts that the past has nothing to do with it; he is only doing his duty.

Yamagami leaves the cockpit and Shinkai notices that Koda is clearly experiencing a great deal of sorrow in relation to his decision. Shinkai goes after Yamagami but he has already disembarked. As Koda comes out of the cockpit, Shinkai protests that the only reason Captain Yamagami had to take over was because of defects in his ability and judgment. Not realising that Togashi can hear them, Shinkai tells Koda that hinting that Yamagami should give up flying was going too far. Koda answers that nothing Shinkai says will change his assessment.

"But he used to be your tutor!" Shinkai accuses, and when Koda says personal feelings don't come into it, he says "Then why did you look the way you did just now? I've never seen you like that. What did he mean about your not being able to get away from your past?"

"Don't interfere in what's not your business," replies Koda. "You think the direct approach solves everything. Life isn't that easy," he adds.

Shinkai interrogates Koda and asks him to explain this previous incident.

Koda of course explains nothing and storms away in a cyborgy rage.

Later that evening, Shinkai sees Captain Yamagami drinking alone. He dares not approach him though and merely makes a gesture of respect and goes to his own room. Togashi who clearly knows him well though approaches to give him comfort. Yamagami addresses her affectionately as "Nori-chan".

At dawn the next day, Yamagami looks out at the sun from his room balcony – wonderful view of Bangkok, by the way.

On the return flight to Narita the next day, Captain Yamagami tells the crew he is retiring. Koda sits in the passenger cabin and Shinkai and Captain Yamagami speak freely. Shinkai blames himself for what has happened but Captain Yamagami tells him that Koda made the right decision, that he abides by Koda's decision.

"Yesterday when we were caught in the cloud, I didn't trust you, I didn't trust the computers... I only trusted myself. But if something else had happened at the same time, I wouldn't have been able to cope with it alone. It would have led to a fatal error. High-tech planes can cope with multiple problems when the captain, the co-pilot and computer work as a team. I've never been able to reconcile myself to this high-tech thing... And when you get old you find it difficult to delegate. That's bad in a captain. But once you've experienced flying you can never bring yourself to give it up. Once you're dubbed a 'Great Captain', even the auditors find it hard to say anything to you. Koda-kun gave me the courage to bow out gracefully. Only he could have done it."

I am still not entirely clear of the above logic so am am assuming this is a Japanese honour/pride thing.

Shinkai finally learns the truth about Koda’s past. 12 years ago, Koda fell ill and another pilot took his place on the flight. There was an air crash and all on board died. Koda felt that if he had been the pilot, he would have been able to avoid this disaster. According to Captain Yamagami, he was so badly affected by this that at first he refused to walk enter a cockpit again. The incident was the reason why he is so strict in his own conduct and his expectations of others.

We also learn that at the time Koda was dating a young CA who was known to Yamagami. The two became estranged after the incident and that Captain Yamagami was the person who tried to help him by referring him to work at ANA. Koda become a changed man, severe towards all including himself. "I couldn't save him from himself. That's the only thing I regret" concludes Yamagami.

Shinkai suddenly recalls Koda's comment from the first episode – that if a pilot absent due to having flu, he might as well resign from the post. I still believe this is a little extreme, but the accident at least provides some context for why he has such a dour outlook on life.

At Narita, Ogawa is told that the test results are out. There is an announcement from the management that Yamagami will be ending his flying career with the incoming Bangkok flight. Everyone who is free is asked to assemble in the management centre and dispatch room.

The plane lands and Yamagami and Shinkai walk through an empty office lobby. They turn the corner and find everyone lined up to greet Yamagami with applause.

Shinkai is so cute, he walks behind Captain Yamagami through the guard of honour and sees Ogawa standing there. Through hand signals and mouthing words, Shinkai asks Ogawa if she has passed. She lets him know that she has passed.

To my disappointment she doesn't ask him the same question, but I do think it is very sweet that Shinkai remembers and that his first thought is to ask Ogawa about her results.

Shinkai sends Togashi in search of Koda as he carries the captain's bags outside to the waiting car.

Koda appears outside, standing alone and looking impossibly lonely and sad. He bows with profound respect and sorrow to Captain Yamagami with tears in his eyes outside the airport entrance. The scene would be very touching except that Captain Yamagami looks like he is wearing eyeliner.

Later that evening, Shinkai and Ogawa are standing somewhere by the river discussing the day's events. Shinkai expresses astonishment that Koda did not disclose Captain Yamagami's mistake and allowed him to have an honourable retirement. Clearly Koda is not the heartless automaton that he thought he was.

When Ogawa tells him that this is what she has been saying all along, Shinkai is irritated at the fact that she is acting like a know-it-all. In a manner suggesting one-up-manship, he asks her if she knew about Koda's past. After he tells her, he looks down and is staggered to see that she looks distraught.

Comments: Good episode although to be honest I wasn't that interested in Captain Yamagami. He was just a character that appeared at the beginning of the episode and left by the end. The episode was good as it gave an insight into Koda and also the Shinkai / Ogawa interaction was great as always. Naito Jane was particularly funny - but he is always hilarious.

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