The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

The Sky Crawlers

Title: The Sky Crawlers
Genre: Drama
Company: Production I.G.
Format: Movie, 121 minutes.
Date: 2 Aug 2008

Synopsis: Kannami Yuichi is a fighter pilot who is newly transferred to Urisu Base to replace a pilot who died in battle. Yuichi strangely does not age like normal people would, and the base commanding officer Kusanagi Suito seems to have the same ability. They are revealed to be Kildren, a group of ageless adolescent pilots who are genetically-created to engage in endless dogfights between two companies, Rostock and Lautern.

The Highlights
Originality: Extraordinary but delivery has flaws.
Pace: Painstakingly and, more importantly, unnecessarily slow.
Collaboration: Oshii Mamoru and Kawai Kenji have done better in their previous works.
Visuals: As expected, breathtaking.

The Sky Crawlers has had a lot of hype surrounding it prior to its debut because it is a highly anticipated collaboration between director Oshii Mamoru and music composer Kawai Kenji. Their last work is the critically acclaimed movie Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence which has set a benchmark for visual spectacle and complex story lines for anime movies. With this in mind, I’ve held high hopes that The Sky Crawlers would blow me away as much as Innocence did. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite manage to do so despite having great potential.

The movie opens up with a fierce dogfight that embodies the breathtaking visual effects that should be expected throughout the movie. The action scenes are exhilarating, and every emotion conveyed in the messages between pilots in the heat of battle – be it relief, anxiety or absolute fear – can be felt wholeheartedly. The battles are undeniably incredible, but amidst the chaos of firing turret guns and fiery mid-air explosions, I am left pondering the purpose of dogfight warfare in relations to the plot: the Kildren itself. There is a lack of cohesion between the idea of Kildren and the warfare, and it seems that the theme of battle is only there to accommodate to the idea, rather than to be that “answer” to address the issue of the Kildren.

Another issue I have with The Sky Crawlers is the pace of the story. I understand that slow pacing is favorable for emotional scenes, but the painstakingly slow pacing does the opposite for the movie by killing the momentum built up by the drama. This is made worse by the excessive amount of lengthy still shots that drag out some scenes unnecessarily. As a result, the truly climatic scenes become draggy and less powerful than they should be.

Despite its flaws, there is one factor that redeems the movie, and that is the original plot. The observations of daily life during the first half of the movie didn’t strike me with any sort of importance, until the mystery behind the Kildren is revealed. Upon the revelation, the observations quickly struck me back with raw emotions, making the Kildren’s fates all that more bittersweet. In addition, the growing relationship between Suito and Yuichi further elaborates on the different standpoint each Kildren has to their fate, be it hateful or indifferent.

Frankly speaking, The Sky Crawlers is a movie that fails to be truly great even though it has great potential. It also exemplifies the notion that too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily better. Any collaboration between Oshii and Kawai does excite me, but their work in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is a lot better than what they’ve done here.

I went to watch this movie with high spirits and left a tad disappointed.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: AC

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