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35
3.6 out of 5 stars
The Sky Crawlers [Blu-ray] [2008]
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2009
Once again, director Mamoru Oshii takes a lush, visually arresting drama and infuses it with a profound yet understated cautionary tale about life in the modern world. 'The Sky Crawlers' tells the story of a group of Kildren - teenagers who never get any older and live their lives on call as fighter pilots in a seemingly endless war. The main character, Yuichi, arrives at a new post to find that his predecessor was killed in mysterious circumstances, and his female commanding officer Suito Kusanagi reacts very strangely to his appearance. What unfolds is a complex mystery surrounding the nature of the Kildren and their part in the war, and the relationship between Yuichi, Suito, and a dangerous enemy ace pilot known as Teacher.

The quality of animation is quite stunning, seamlessly blending traditional styles and computer-generated scenes, with a slight dream-like glow to it all. The characters were given a simplified, almost doll-like design which for once doesn't seem like a throwaway quirk and actually helps to suggest the eerie calm and vagueness of their personalities. Kenji Kawai again provides a breathtaking soundtrack with a gentle theme that keeps evolving for the duration, through several variations on harp and synthesizer, complementing and at times driving the mood of sadness and abandonment that is central to the film.

The aerial combat does happen to hold a few moments of excitement, most notably in the crushing denouement, but overall the aircraft scenes are not there for the action but for the portrayal of emotional distance and to highlight the elaborate, regimented way the Kildren's battles are carried out. Flight through the clear and open skies can be a thing of beauty, but the Kildren are cold to it - as they are to everything - and the experience is reduced to a daily routine as tools of war.

I found that the main message of 'The Sky Crawlers' is twofold. In the film it is hinted that it is possible for Kildren to grow up, but most of them don't; adulthood here is first a state of mind which then leads to a state of body. The teenagers carry out their duties unquestioningly, they do not connect with each other, they experience love only as scheduled recreational sex, they barely remember what happens from day to day and have no real passion for anything in the world. The core tragedy of this generation, in Oshii's view, does not lie in rebellion or violence or lack of education, but in comfortable, empty lives with no drive to adventure or improvement or appreciation of detail, lives emotionally removed from the flow of time and pathetically masked by the artificial accessories of smoking and drinking. The philosophical tensions behind all this are vented beautifully in the actions of Suito and Yuichi, revealed as the film goes on, and in the questions posed by Midori, a female soldier from another base who Yuichi meets during a mission.

The second message is broader, playing off of the first, and that comes as an exposition of the truth behind the war - I feel it's too much of a spoiler to recount that here, though other reviews and even the packaging of the film will give it away somewhat. Essentially, it presents a future that Oshii no doubt feels could one day be a reality... if it's not already allegorically true today. Completing this picture of a world doomed to repetition behind a veneer of convenience and perfect blue skies, the film's setting is simultaneously enchanting and chilling.

A wonderful and rare movie, up there with Oshii's best - 'Ghost In The Shell', 'Innocence', 'Avalon' - and littered with little nods to his other work, such as the characters' names, the music box, and of course the dog. Patience and quiet are essential for enjoyment of this slow and subtle work; if you're after an out-and-out dogfighting extravaganza or a snappy blockbuster, definitely look elsewhere.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A slow and haunting anime that juxtaposes a strangely bland world of unheroic, routine warfare with occasional spectacular action and personal tragedy. You spend quite bit of the time waiting for something to happen, some of the time being appalled when it does and worrying about the characters.

You probably won't obviously enjoy watching it, and wonder why you don't just switch it off. But you probably won't and probably won't throw it away afterwards either (I did - and then had to retrieve it). It sits in my small library awaiting its second showing.

You must see the very last part of the film that happens after the credits (as outtakes are sometimes shown in other films). If the penny hasn't quite dropped by the time the credits roll this little sequence makes things clear: appallingly clear.

The film has the germ of a masterpiece in it - if not quite realised this time perhaps. The animation couldn't carry the emotional content particularly well. Unlike most manga/anime it would probably translate into a good live action film - and being mostly claustrophobic could work on a fairly limited budget too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 2013
This film is quite the slow burner, it is a film that revels in the space between events as a result dialogue is often sparse, but the incredibly thought out and perfectly executed timing of what is said provides an exceptionally atmospheric film because of this you must be patient to get the most out of this film, you have to let yourself be totally absorbed in every car door sound or in every unlocking of a front door. The more attention you put into this film the more of an experience that you will get out of it.

The social commentary on this film is also of note for being penetrating and powerful, more so for how matter of fact it is presented and then washed away with a glass of wine as if to say it is horrible and even pointing it out and making it obvious doesn't change anything because the world is just how it is, how it always has been and how it will always be.

The pilots are eternally young but not in a happy, fun Peter Pan type way, this is more eternally depressed teen. This idea plays a pivotal role in explaining the world in which the Sky Crawlers live and their relations to one another especially with regards to the role of memories.

It is worth watching this film at least twice because of the knowledge of the world that you gain in the first play through which will help to reveal all of the subtly planted clues that are missed during an ignorant first viewing, which makes it all the more unfortunate that so many people will be put off by the pace of the film because if your mind is not in it the words `achingly slow, where is the bin' might come to mind frequently enough that you never get to the end. Still that is their loss I think because while it may not be the type of film that you will watch often it is one that is good to have in your collection and whenever you do get it down to watch you won't be disappointed you did, no matter how few and far between those viewings are.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 11 February 2014
...with moments of extreme violence.

The overall premise of The Sky Crawlers is that war has become a kind of sport rather than the other way around (anyone for a game of Rollerball?). The draw of violence and the buzz of anticipated violence is all that keeps society pacified, as they watch other people destroying each other on a screen somewhere. The problem then is finding a supply of volunteers to fight and die in a spectacle for the masses to watch - long live the gladiator. So the fighters are bred for the task - kildren.

Oshii's love of flying machines is obvious here, the flying scenes are breathtaking if somewhat improbable at times (some of the manoeuvres bend the laws of aerodynamics rather a lot and would require planes so over-built that they'd probably not fly (I'm talking of high-G/high-alpha manoeuvres) or at least not fly far! Even so, for dramatic effect the flying sequences are excellent. These are interspersed with often extremely slow sections set around the airfield, comprising most of the dialogue and exposition, and with the occasional surprisingly long silences. Other scenes take place in cities, command bunkers and rain-swept hillsides that are created in considerable detail. This film does not lack detail, and the animation rendering is top-end graphic novel material, and this lavishness of setting, for me, overcomes the lack of pace that the film exhibits. It is a slow-burning plot and you have to find the virtues of the film in its characterisation, its faceless enemy 'Teacher', and the way it slowly but surely makes its point.

The musical score is by Kenji Kawaii, and has one of the most wonderful opening themes I've ever heard, a strange cross between Japanese music and that of the English classical romanticists (Elgar/Vaughan Williams), well, if he'd dropped the percussion! It perfectly complements the idea of flight and lulls us into a sense of peacefulness broken only by a pilot bailing out from his aircraft and being strafed and killed by 'Teacher' as he falls.

The storytelling may put some people off, especially if they're looking for a full-on action film. The story unfolds very slowly and deliberately and to stay with the film you have to enjoy the details and the atmosphere in the quieter sections, and get carried away on that aspect of the storytelling and scene-setting. It is somewhat true to reminiscences of aerial warfare published by fighter pilots of World War 2, in that there are long periods of stillness and boredom interspersed with moments of mind-numbing terror. The film takes a lot of risks in duplicating this aspect of reality in full and, as I said, you have to live with it or accept that you won't get on with the film at all.

I like the film a great deal but accept that I will only really watch it when I know I'm in the mood for it, but at times like that, it will be perfect.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An anime movie [an animated film made in Japan, just in case you didn't know what that means] that tells of some rather unusual airforce pilots.

In a world where two forces are at war, young pilot Yiuchi arrives by plane at the base where he's been assigned. He's a kildren. A type of person who stays forever young and can only die in battle. And doesn't have much at all in the way of memories prior to his arrival at the base.

He's replacing a pilot who died. And nobody, least of all the enigmatic lady in charge of the squadron, will tell him much about what happened to his predecessor.

As war goes on, he tries to find out what did. And more about why things are the way that they are.

The film runs for one hundred and twenty one minutes [approx]. And whilst something of this nature could be an exciting action drama, it's very different in tone. Aerial combat sequences only come along every so often and try to be as realistic as they can, capturing the speed and confusion and danger of such battles. It's far more concerned with the drama of the main characters.

And being philosophical with it. The narrative does try to make points about life and existence. Going through life the same old way all the time. Or trying to find something more.

This offers some interesting food for thought if you're in the mood for that kind of a movie.

It does adopt a deliberately slow pace though. Which can either seem intriguing as it creates mood and style. Or may frustrate you making you wonder what's going on and when something might happen.

The setting is unique. Drawing some influences from World War Two style aircraft, but adding a lot of different touches of it's own to make it wholly individual.

It's not really a film for children thanks to some moments of a mildly adult nature.

The flight sequences are done in 3d and do look very impressive. The ground sequences in 2d and do have a unique style. It suits the mood of the film well, especially the colour scheme. Although it can look a little drab - perhaps deliberately so - at points.

Certain plot elements do become clear as things go along. Leading to a pretty clever ending. And although it may seem that it's rather abrupt, do watch to the very very end of the credits. Because all will then become clear.

Not a good jumping on point for anyone who wants to get into anime. And frankly it's one of those movies that you will either love or hate. Personally I don't regret having given it a chance.

It does have two very memorable features as well. A hauntingly beautiful theme tune. And a gorgeous animated dog.

The disc has subtitles in both Japanese and English, and language tracks in Japanese and English. Thus you can watch it dubbed or subtitled as you prefer. Be aware that if you go for the latter option some of the dialogue in the Japanese track is actually in English, and the subtitles don't come up when this happens. Most particularly during the aerial combat sequences. These aren't the easiest of things to hear - but that's down to the attempt to make it as realistic as possible - so you will need to concentrate at these points and listen hard. But if you do then you shouldn't have any problems.

There are no trailers at the start of the disc so leave it running and it will go into the main menu screen.

Extras are three trailers for the film, each of varying length.

And a fifteen minute long [approx] interview with the director. A lot of this is taken up with clips from the trailers, but the interview section are interesting and worth a look. This feature also offers some production drawings and a few glimpses of the production of the film as well.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2011
This is a film for people smart enough to concentrate and cope with dark ideas.

Those reviewers who say that it's slow and 'blank' miss the point, which is precisely to contrast the flat grey empty life on earth with the soaring bright blue action (life - but also meaningless death) in the skies.

The detail is astounding, not least the many Polish motifs and the shifting colours on the aircraft. What a feat of imagination and design. Can't praise it enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 September 2012
I bought this anime only after seeing the trailer, which was quite exciting. In short, the story is about a regime of young pilots who do not age and are always on patrol, engaging in dogfights with WW2 Japanese fighter planes.

The animation is very good, a great job indeed as far as the aircraft and flying artwork is concerned.
But the flow of the movie is very slow (apart from the flying sections). I focuses on the everyday life of the pilots -which is rather dull- and other issues around the characters. Some people, including me, like this kind of "stalling" in a movie. But for me this only gets interesting if there is an important meaning or purpose for the stalling. In this case there isn't, hence the medium rating.

Overall it was an easy going movie with very good animation, enjoyable at late night. But it definately won`t satisfy higher expectations for characters or plot, particularly in this genre of WW2 pilots!
Not bad to have, but not a must too.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2010
The Sky Crawlers is from the same great Manga director Mamoru Oshii that gave us "Ghost In The Shell". The story of Sky Crawlers is most excellent and can be very sad and hard hitting at times. Our young heros are forced into war but are too young to die and don't really understand the meaning of their battles. The dogfights look amazing and with it's strong story and fantastic animation you can see why it won many awards. For those people that do have a Wii here is the product link to The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces (Wii).

The Languages for this Blu-ray are Japanese and English.
The Subtiles are only in English.

Overall this is one of the best Manga cartoons I have seen and there is also an interesting interview with Mamoru Oshii.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 September 2012
Thoughtful film that raises the issues of
growing up and the changing relationships that should happen
Also the function of war
However the overall film is drab and lacks vitality
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2014
Amazing animation, it all looks very mysterious at first, in an alternate reality stuck in an evolutionary dead end. Why are these depressed children being programmed to fight a corporate war in the air? The answers are all there and the concept certainly made me think of the likely parallels in our own world. Great portrayal of piston engine fighter aircraft and the evocative roar and percussion that stir the blood.
Highly recommended
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