As of late, it would appear I have been getting paired with nothing but war story Anime, (see my last review of Now and Then, Here and There). But anything is better than having me watch Grave of the Fireflies, so I am not about to complain. What I write here today is a very different story from my last review, and whereas NTHT left a half-assed taste in my mouth, I can feel a little more proud when I tell you all about 2007’s The Sky Crawlers.
Directed by Mamoru Oshii of Ghost In the Shell fame and character designs by Tetsuya Nishio who has also worked on a great deal of Ghost In the Shell and Naruto films
I would tell you more but it seems Tetsuya Nishio’s chief job and portfolio is key animation. It was originally based on the novels by Hiroshi Mori, who so far, have yet to be released in English. The Sky Crawlers, however, was released by SONY pictures for the English language.
The Sky Crawlers follows Yūichi Kannami, a young pilot transferring in area 262, which may or may not be a part of Europe. Kannami is there to fill in for a few pilots who were shot down by the Teacher, this universe’s version of the red baron, it would seem. There he discovers that the previous owner of his plane is not around, and no one, especially his superior Suito Kusanagi (which is an awesome last name, by the way) a young woman with piercing, almost hostile eyes. Right around this time we begin to hear the term “Kildren” which is apparently what most if not all pilots actually are. Much of the plot film involves the mystery behind this pilot “Jinro” his relationship with Kusanagi, and the nature of the kildren.
Skycrawler’s biggest weakness would be its setting. As it turns out, two manufacturing companies, Rostock and Lautern, contract fighter pilots to fight each other to relieve the world’s tension and need for conflict. It makes sense I suppose, but the ethical barriers one has to cross to do such a thing is what I like to call contrived Japanese storytelling, (yes it sounds racist, it kind of is, so get used to it). More specifically it refers to someone trying to create story without a single care as to its implications, requirements or consequences, something I both love and loathe. Love, because it can lead to unrestrained, spirited creativity and twists of old stories, for instance in Fate/Stay Night or A Certain Magical Index. Loathe, because it usually just leads to stirring up some sort Japanese nationalism or landing some average dude within a harem,
Samurai Girls I am looking at you.For three-fourths of The Sky Crawlers, we have no idea what is going on, what are Kildren or why won’t anyone answer Kannami’s questions? That last one actually got kind of funny for me as the film progressed.
Character designs were kind of hit or miss for me. With certain lifelessness to character faces that can be hard to get over; the fact that most characters don’t show much in the way emotions does not help either. In contrast the airplanes were done in the best looking CG I have yet to see, they have an aesthetic resemblance to old WWII fighter planes, and look extremely polished, as in quite shiny. Of what little I could tell, it didn’t seem like they had pulled any impossible stunts using the planes either, so the dogfights looked pretty realistic. What’s more, they were silver, and I love everything silver (except for the Silver Surfer, who is just lame, and no, I am not debating that).
Pros: Beautifully rendered CG’s of airplanes will captivate any fans of planes. The dog fights will entertain anyone looking for action, and the mystery, for anyone willing to put up with all the unknowns will keep you glued to the screen.
Cons: The characters are not quite as beautiful as the planes. A great deal of events are left quite ambiguous, as to what happened, so most people will not understand what is going on. The ending may disappoint some people looking for full resolution. Dogfights are not the main focus of the film, so action fans won’t likely be won over expecting nothing but.
The Sky Crawlers is more mystery film than action film, its visuals are both great at best and average at worst. The plot can be somewhat vague at points and the fight scenes a bit lacking in quantity, but what action it does have, it performs excellently. So I am confident in recommending The Sky Crawlers to anyone but the most hardcore action junkies.
I usually don’t listen to English dubs, but the dubbing was solid enough that I didn’t mind watching three-fourths of the movie in English, the only real problem being that the voice actors don’t seem too sure on how to pronounce Kannami’s name. Hell, I am pretty sure I heard them hesitate at least once over it.