The movie is a complex, but stunning film about teenagers trapped in a world of aerial combat.
The movie opens up at a snail’s pace, with isolated, depressed male pilots known as Kildren, with no other amusement other than eating at the meat pie diner and having sex in the mansion with other women.
In their planes, they fight enemy planes from a country known only as the Loutan. However, most of their existence is a boring world, in which they never grow old. All they know is that they are children, who could never possibly gain access into the adult world. The only threat to their existence is the unknown airplane above the clouds, known only as “The Teacher.”
Perhaps it’s a somewhat excessive visual representation of the life of Japanese otaku, young men who trap themselves in their home, fearful of the criticism from the adults in the faceless corporate world. The characters have the most depressing and nonchalant dialogue ever heard in an anime. However, director Mamoru Oshii makes it all work.
The film is a deadpan “Catch-22”-styled story, in which the main character, Yuichi, is trying to figure out exactly who he is. He’s only heard rumors that his love interest, Suito Kusanagi, shot her previous boyfriend in the head. Although Yuichi has hardly any memory of his past, he offers his girlfriend a new hope for change in their depressing life as Kildren.
Admittedly, the aerial dogfight in the end of the film is an impossibly excessive and violent end. However, given that the concept of the film is out of this world in the first place, it all works beautifully. Although some anime fans might find the film boring at first, “The Sky Crawlers” has plenty of earth-shaking emotional sequences, in which Kusanagi desperately plays with a gun in her hand on a particularly depressing night out.
This is one of the best anime films I have ever seen, filled with some spectacular dogfights with surreal imagery. But although there is plenty of action, the dogfights pale in comparison to the heartbreaking emotions throughout the film. While American audiences may be easily turned off, this is a true masterpiece by Mamoru Oshii.
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