Maiyumi reviews number 100 on her list, The Sky Crawlers – be warned it does contain minor spoilers.
Sky Crawlers (2008) directed by Mamoru Oshii, centers around fighter pilot Yuichi Kannami. The film begins with planes in the air shooting at each other while the credits roll. This is a good start to the film, establishing the conflict the characters will face (war) while telling the audience who the director and producer are etc. As most people (including myself I admit) skip the credits and it keeps the viewer interested.
The story begins as Kannami arrives at the airfield and where we are introduced to the other members of this airfield along with our protagonist. Including the head female mechanic and her dog, the other fighter pilots and the boss Kusanagi (one of the few women on base).
Now at the beginning I was fixed on the animation, the planes themselves are a different style of animation to the characters, which blend with each other well, I do like the choice of animation when the planes are up in the air or just stationary at the air field.
As Kannami arrives it doesn’t take long for him to be inquisitive about the previous pilot to his plane. This stirs some interest for the audience, as all the other characters seem to change the subject when the question comes up. The only one who gives him an answer is his boss, Kusanagi, who promptly tells Kannami that he doesn’t need to know. Now the main character doesn’t strike me as confident as he doesn’t pursue the subject but brings it up again much later on.
I did find the character progression through the film to be a bit slow, I didn’t expect much at the beginning as that is when the story is being introduced to the audience, however later on I didn’t see the characters use much of their emotional spectrum. When Kannami and one of the other fighter pilots end up at this diner, it seemed nice as I was expecting to see some bonding between the characters, however this encounter said more for the friend as he then introduced Kannami to a couple of escorts (which they both end up in bed with).
There were a couple of time during the film I found that the character had some development, when Kannami and Kusanagi stay at the bases guest house they have dinner and begin talking to each other, with this part sex between the character was implied; as Kusanagi was saying to Kannami “Would you like to stay here with me?” and referring to the previous pilot who at this point it is established he was a former lover of Kusanagi’s. She then beings to undo her clothing, not in a sexual way, but in a more ‘just got home from work and tired’ sort of way and all this at the kitchen table. I really enjoyed this scene as I felt it was one of the few scenes where I felt both characters really shared something.
Kusanagi is Kannami’s love interest however the love between them is subtle, they don’t openly express their feelings for each other at all, but it is expressed in other ways, for example not shooting Kusanagi when she asks Kannami to do so, as she shot and killed the previous pilot.
There was one part of information I did find confusing at the beginning of the film, it’s cleared up nearer the end however this left me uncertain for most of the film; and it was because the pilots were Kildren. Now Kildren are a type of person who doesn’t grow old, they continue to look like teenagers until they are killed in battle. Through out the film there are a few comments, about ‘dealing with children’ or them not being adults. Later on in the film a female fighter pilot is introduced when the airfield are relocated temporarily. Now this pilot seems to be having an identity crisis (which no one really pays attention to) she is talking to Kannami when she basically tells the audience what exactly a Kildren is and why there are no adult pilots. Kildren are used in battle as they only die when they are killed, they don’t grow old so there is no need for retirement and more time to perfect their skills. Which is why when the main enemy is revealed, it is surprising for the pilots to learn that the ‘Teacher’ (the un-killable pilot) is an adult.
Now with the ‘Teacher’ a small detail did seem to annoy me, his trademark on his plane is a black jaguar, which to me doesn’t make much sense. I understand with Japanese culture, someone who you could benefit to learn something from them, you could call them sensei, which translated would be teacher, but why the jaguar? Towards the end of the film Kannami goes after Teacher, and calls him father, now this surprised me, as I couldn’t recall when this bit of information was discovered, now this may be my own fault as at this point my attention was fading.
One of the negatives I found with this film was that the story does take its time, the film itself is about 2 hours long, so it has plenty of time, but it the story progression seems really slow. I found that my attention was fading in and out during the film. Approximately 25 minutes into the film, the only elements established are the characters names and roles, the curiosity of this previous pilot and the fact that there is some sort of war going on. Now during this point of the film I was a bit skeptical about if there was a war, or some sort of conflict; as yes there were battles in the air however on ground I wasn’t given the impression that there was a war going on, the airfield itself was small with only a handful of pilots, no one is seen using the artillery weapons. However the film is about the fighter pilots so I would assume including other war elements would be distracting the audience from the fighter pilots. When there was a threat to the airbase (a few enemy planes were spotted heading towards the air field by the main character) you don’t see any actual battle, when Kannami arrives the battle is over, no ones dead and the boss is just pissed she wasn’t warned sooner.
After I had finished watching the film my impressions were that it was too long, they could have told that story in a shorter amount of time, and I felt during the film I was waiting for something to happen. 2 hours was too long, perhaps 1.30 hours would have been better. I also failed to see why they characters being Kildren mattered, it would have had the same effect if the characters were simply young, in their early 20’s perhaps. The film itself is good for those who like films where the audience can make their own conclusions, rather than having the narrative tell the audience how to feel or tell them exactly what the characters are feeling or the reasons for their actions. If you prefer films where a lot goes on, its fast pace with action, I wouldn’t recommend it, especially for younger viewers who need action to keep their attention. However if you do have a couple of hours to spare then by all means watch Sky Crawlers, it is an interesting film.
The story was good and thought provoking, however the pace made the film drag on. Perhaps if the film was about 1 hour and 20 -30 minutes, I would give it a higher rating.
Top Scene: When Kannami and Kusanagi went bowling, it was the best scene where both characters both showed that they were letting their guard down, and beginning to show that they mean something to each other. Which is only reinforced as they end up having sex in the car.
As a side note, the list where I found the top 100-anime films, keeps changing so I will be doing my best to review 100 anime films. So if the films reviewed are not in the current correct order that will be because the rankings have changed! The list can be found here.