To end the reality revealing power of Mamoru Oshii October, it’s time to look at one of his most modern releases. Innocence was released in the early 2000’s, so this film beats it by a bit by coming out in 2008. One thing I have to say before getting into this final film, everything Mamoru Oshii has worked on hasn’t lost its luster. From an art and animation stand point, each film still looks gorgeous and even better when updated to modern HD. Gosh, we could talk about politics too. Oshii doesn’t play with fantastical situations unless there is meaning behind them. You know, just like everything else he does. The Sky Crawlers is one of them by taking fantastic elements and making them seem ordinary. In a good way, of course.
Moving forward, beware spoilers.
The Sky Crawlers takes place in an alternative reality where the world is at peace. As you would expect, it comes at a great cost. War is company funded and treated more like a game from the normal civilian perspective. I suppose that could be a good thing for those people. It might even sound good before I get into details. Living in peace, not having to worry about fighting? Well, there is a gimmick to this. Someone still has to fight for the peace to happen. Human kind has created the Kildren. Humans genetically engineered to never age and given the task, by privatized corporations, to fight and earn points for the safety of all. Technological slaves, they have no memory beyond training and fighting. Fun times, gah.
Introduced to lead the audience into the story, Yuichi Kannami lands his plane at the Area 262 base. Immediately on arrival, the head mechanic shows him an alternative plane that he will be flying in pristine condition in the hanger. Why? She doesn’t answer or keep eye contact with Yuichi. Confused, he meets his fellow pilots/crew mates and his Commanding Officer, Suito Kusanagi. She refuses to give complete answers to any part of this strangeness either. Honestly, she doesn’t have to. Commanding Officers have some power after all. Still, this relationship right here is at the core of the mystery of this movie. When this changes, the story changes as well. Also, Kusanagi does have a mystery child which adds even more insight to this messed up thing.
Most of this film is Yuichi living out his life. Taking part in missions which involve some wonderful dog fights that still look great, getting involved in bigger missions for points while meeting other Kildren, but more time is spend on double dates with his roommate Naofumi Tokino. A guy that has accepted his place in between and just wants to enjoy himself. The two eat meat pies at the local diner to check points, spend time at the local brothel with a cute girl that know him for some reason, and more. Of course, the distant Kusanagi starts hanging around Yuichi more as well. First, it’s group dates at a bowling alley for beer, then she pilots his plane while he’s away, and finally the safe house location where everything in this story’s plot is revealed. Beware.
One of the film’s main themes/story lines is examining how eternal childhood affects the pilots in question. I mean, these pilots look like they shouldn’t be piloting anything. Yet, here they are being military officers planning flight campaigns, having sex, and drinking beer. That one scene when Yuichi and Naofumi riding a thing meant for actual kids in a grocery store, the whole situation feels wrong for the right reasons. They are kept down by the adult world because of the hidden assignment that they are given. Fight for us no matter what. Guests show up at the base to inspect it and they feel off. Especially when pitying a pilot that just died on a mission. A reaction Kusanagi rejects because she is just as smart as they are, but in a lower place in society. The encapsulation of all of this is the actual adult pilate named the Teacher, is the ultimate pilot to overcome. He’s the reason why the movie happens
That kid aspect ties into the next thematic element of the film, the mystery. The Sky Crawlers is an insanely circular film. It is about Kildren figuring out they are locked in this endless cycle of having their clones, without memories, being sent out to fight, and how they deal with the situation. As I said before, Naofumi decides to not say anything about it and lives the best sort of life that he can while he can. The more relaxed angle compared to Kusanagi who shouts at adults, drinks all the time, and is thinking about killing herself while dating Yuichi. Both very understandable considering that there are not any clear way outs for now of where they are. The film doesn’t end with one, just the cycle starting over again. It comes with that realization that nothing will change and the cycle will just continue again if nothing changes.
This film is slow and has somewhat awkward dialogue, but all of Mamoru Oshii’s films are like that. For instance, the reveal of what is happening helps the beginning make much more sense in context. Everyone around Yuichi knows about what is going on and do not want to get sentimentally attached. That is why the chief mechanical doesn’t keep eye contact with him or say a lot. She doesn’t want to get attached. Similar to how the people running the diner only smile and give him food. It’s pretty clear that everyone one except Yuichi is in on what is going on. That awkward atmosphere is captured wonderfully. The one pause where a team mate folds a newspaper in a specific way is there as well, but that plays into the mystery too. It’s a very well thought out film in this regard.
Everything is brought home by how the visuals time into all the story elements. The characters look like a lot of Mamoru Oshii’s usual character designs but shrunken down. So, some country of origin to each person and that awkwardness of kids looking like adults to give that juxposition to the whole theming of the movie. It’s a very realistic looking movie as you would expect at this point, right? I feel like every location in the film feel right because they are somewhat familiar and lived in. Finally, the CG. Oh wow is the airplane CG just so photo realistic. Supposedly, each plane is based on real ones except moved around to look different. The flight scenes and dog fights up in the sky couldn’t feel more realistic then they do. I do think there is some syncing issues between traditional animation and cg, but it still looks great.
Over all, this film is a good for me. Only for the length by itself perhaps. I can’t help but think that it is a little too long and adds too many characters into it. Characters that don’t add too much to the film, honestly. I really do like Midori, the female ace, but she doesn’t add much to the film over all over then added an additional perspective The second half feels too bloated. Supposedly, this film was created from five light novels and it feels like it. I wish that the writing of this film could be a bit more stream lined because I feel like we saw all the world building that we need to get everything out of this situation in the first half. So yeah, a good rating. I still recommend it because this film is very intelligent in the ideas it presents to the audience. So not the best place to say it, but thanks for following me on doing Mamoru Oshii October.