From Mamoru Oshii, the world-acclaimed director of Ghost in the Shell comes an award-winning story of an exciting but endless war with heroes too young to understand the meaning of their battles. A group of eternally youn... more »g fighter pilots known as Kildren experience the sudden loss of innocence as they battle the enemy in astonishing dogfights above the clouds. With his only childhood memory consisting of intense flight training, the fearless teenage pilot Yuichi's dogfights coexist with his struggle to find his missing past. When his beautiful, young female commander Suito is reluctant to discuss the fate of the pilot that Yuichi is replacing - or the strangely perfect condition of that pilot's former aircraft - Yuichi's curiosity becomes heightened.« less
"I went and saw The Sky Crawlers at Toronto's 08 Film Festival, and wasn't surprised when most of the audience seemed to walk away feeling a bit unaffected by the movie. The film's director Mamoru Oshii has a cinematic style that is nothing if not an acquired taste -- one that domestic theaters are reticent to acquire.
Any person who has addicted themselves to the traditional Aristotelian story structure will find themselves feeling lost and aimless by the middle of Act 2 in Sky Crawlers and most of Oshii's films. If there even is an Act 2 in the first place. The big bang opening action sequence between the fighter pilots in Sky Crawlers is about as formulaic as Oshii is willing to get with any of his movies. After that, he transitions from speed-of-light action to speed-of-life storytelling where his characters and their dialoug all have the same pacing and meandering of real life. That means, if you're used to Hollywood's colorful characters bloated with one-liners and a plot that runs straight for the end-zone, than you'll probably find Oshii's films to be slow. Maybe even boring.
It also means that you're probably not his audience.
Oshii's primary audience seems to be himself, as most of his characters seem to be alter-egos helping him resolve his own philosophical conflicts and questions about society. His secondary audience is anybody trying to do the same for themselves. I don't mind watching Oshii talk to himself in his movies since the dialog is so intelligent and unpretentious. For the most part the characters say what they mean, and mean what they say. They can't afford to do otherwise, because we are finding them at dark, introspective moments in their lives which is usually when a person is pruned of all pretense. This is precisely why I find Oshii's cinematic language so refreshing. Despite his graphically lush visuals, his movies manage to have a closer kinship to literature than cinema. Listening may be more important than looking in his films. For example, the characters in Sky Crawlers speak Japanese on the ground, but switch to English when at war. This effect seems to be commentary on how American occupation has shifted the habits of Japan's youth, which according to Oshii, has become more violent.
There are times when I fount myself worried about the fate of this film. Oshii offered a very sincere "message to the youth" before the release of this film, indicating that he does want young people to appreciate the movie. And yet the sobering nature of the film may struggle in penetrating the narcissistic shell of the people he hoped to reach. Oshii's work is smart and the crowd that he hopes to touch is usually smart-a**. Two different things.
If nothing else, this movie will find a home with an intelligent crowd that is already familiar with his approach to film. I'm glad that this movie was picked up for DVD release by Sony. Oshii's discipline and intelligence is a prize import for American film viewers."
4 ½ Stars: Mamoru Oshii's Best Film Since the Original "Ghos
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 05/28/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"From the award-winning director of the critically acclaimed anime film "Ghost in the Shell", Momuru Oshii, comes another award-winning tale of heroes that have eternal youth, waging a battle they can barely understand. Based on the novel by Mori Hiroshi and adapted for the screen by Chihiro Ito, Oshii's newest film captures powerful thought-provoking commentary about the evils of war and the price of peace, in a world where corporations wage war and young warriors can be legally murdered. "Sky Crawlers" is a dramatic film that has gorgeous animation and displays fantastic dogfights; and along all this massive commercial appeal and science fiction undertone, the film maintains a soul.
There is a war between Lautern and Rostock corporations, and the very real wars are staged within a "theater area". "Kildrens" are fighter pilots bio-engineered to stay young and never to reach adulthood--they are trained to wage furious dogfights above the clouds. A young pilot, Yuichi Kannami only has his childhood memory made up of intense dogfights, and the teenage pilot struggles with the fragmented feelings of a lost past. When his beautiful commanding officer Suito Kusanagi (voiced by Rinko Kikuchi) refuses to disclose information on the fate of the pilot that Yuichi is replacing, added to the fact that the new plane he is now using is in such pristine condition, Yuichi's curiosity threatens to take hold of him.
Momuru Oshii once again succeeds in bringing his audience to a world where wars are waged without the innocent casualties, but it still results in the loss of innocence and the price of peace may still be too high a price to pay. Oshii brings powerful commentary about the necessities of war, that misery may be necessary to sustain peace so that society can have the illusion of order. The way the film is structured is excellent as Oshii slowly but methodically brings us to understand this surreal world. It is curious that the time and place is almost unspecified, but I think it would be safe to assume that this is a futuristic world, a near dystopian post apocalyptic future because of the advances in bio-engineering. However, it is also quite curious that this world would use "propeller-driven" aircraft with designs that looked very advance; it is an odd mixing of future and past tech, this was intentionally meant to emulate this world's past history of bloody wars and that nuclear weapons should be kept out of the picture.
This world uses young warriors to fight their wars, and these pilots are ones with no family and little memories of their past. The film revolves around the relationship between Kusanagi and Kannami, the mysteries of their past life that carries a lot of effective dramatic elements that is the film's main showstopper. Questions such as; when can human experiences prove more than enough? Just how much can one strong individual bear before they can begin to break down? Oshii brings a very dark vision as to how this world can use these human beings to almost fight forever, whose existence can only be ended when they are killed. Oshii brings a true emotional experience, as the viewer is slowly brought to the lives of Kusanagi and Kannami. The direction is powerful and enthralling enough to keep the viewer absorbed in its human drama. I cannot reveal anymore without spoiling the film, but I can tell you this much, the twist and turns in the film's structure are touching, surprisingly outstanding in the manner that it plays the plot's key elements.
The characters in "Sky Crawlers" feel very real, and you can easily make an attachment to them. The most interesting character of all would have to be Suito Kusanagi (curiously carries a strong resemblance to the major in Ghost in the Shell), and most of the film's burden falls on her. Mitsuya (voiced by Chiaki Kuriyama) didn't show up until the film's third act, but the significance of her character is beautifully played by Oshii. The animation is a blend of 3-D graphics and it seems to me that the only 2-D animation rendered may be the characters. Some may feel the simplicity on the characters' rendition may be a little out of place but I rather liked the fact that the animation helmed by Nishikubo Toshihiko was kept grounded and a little restrained. I would not like an overload of special effects to overshadow exactly what the film is trying to say. Yes, the film is an emotionally driven melodrama, with nicely placed sequences of dogfights ONLY to keep it interesting; but the aerial battles aren't the film's main draw. Those looking for fast-paced action are better off looking elsewhere.
The film isn't perfect though, as it doesn't really draw upon the stakes as to why this war is being fought. The corporations lacked (ahem) development, and the life outside the lives of our squadron are only hinted at and never truly fleshed out. Besides some minor plot limitations imposed by itself, the film does remain strong in its brilliant simplicity. I liked the mysterious "Teacher" in a plane with a "black jaguar" in its nose, I was reminded of the "Red Baron" in World War One--a supposedly ace pilot that any encounter with him may mean certain death. It added a certain different air of mystery, although some parts felt a little forced; but it doesn`t really hurt the movie. This is also NOT your children's anime film, as besides its darkly thought-provoking premise, there are hinted at sex and mild nudity. This film is rightfully rated PG-13.
"Sky Crawlers" may have a somewhat bizarre title, but believe me when I say that this anime film is very much worth a spin. Much like Oshii's "Ghost in the Shell", the film manages to find a soul, with a well-structured story that hits all the right spots. Remarkably simple, and astonishingly thought-provoking, the film manages to instill our emotions. During these times, it makes us wonder what exactly are the young men and women are sacrificing to safeguard peace and order. Just how exactly can war affect an individual? Would each kill affect their soul? When is enough is enough?
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Stars]
Absolutely stunning visuals, awesome sound and love the Oshi
Dennis A. Amith (kndy) | California | 05/30/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In 2001, the best-selling novel "THE SKY CRAWLERS" by Hiroshi Mori was written and published. The novel would feature several books released between 2004 and 2008 which include "None But the Air", "Down to Heaven", "Flutter Into Life", "Cradle the Sky" and "Sky Eclipse".
In 2008, the novel was adapted to an animated film by critically acclaimed director Mamoru Oshii ("Ghost in the Shell", "Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence", "Angel's Egg", "Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer", "Jin-Roh" and many more well known titles) and features music from well known composer Kenji Kawai and of course, the acclaimed animation studio Production I.G.
Instead of going with popular and experienced anime voice talent for the main character roles, Oshii went with Japanese top acting talents in film such as Academy Award nominated actress Rinko Kikuchi ("Babel", "Naisu no Mori: The First Contact"), Ryo Kase ("Hachimitsu to Clover", "Naisu no Mori: The First Contact", "Tokyo!", etc.) and Chiaki Kuriyama ("Kill Bill Vol. 1, "Azumi 2: Death or Love", "Battle Royale", etc.).
VIDEO AND AUDIO:
"THE SKY CRAWLERS" is one of the most impressive looking anime that I have seen to come from Japan in terms of bringing realism and animation together. The opening sequence is just enough to surprise anyone of how beautiful director Mamoru Oshii strives in outdoing the look and feel of his last film.
"GHOST IN THE SHELL: INNOCENCE" looked gorgeous but "THE SKY CRAWLERS" which is featured in 1080p High Definition (aspect ratio 1:78:1) features awesome cloud effects, water effects, sunlight, shading and just everything you can think of Production I.G. can do to make it feel like you are watching real footage. In one scene where the planes fly high overhead, you can see water crashing into the rocky cliffs and it looks so breathtakingly real, I was very impressed of how 3D was utilized in the film.
I also found the background art and overall artistic look of the locations, an office or bedroom looked in the film. From the posters on the wall, details on the wood of table, details of the many trees. It's one thing to have vibrancy in colors which "THE SKY CRAWLERS" definitely has but to have this level of incredible detail was amazing.
If there was one thing that did surprise me is with the gorgeous 3D and the magnificent backgrounds, the character designs looked simple and clean but without the massive shading or detail that the film showcases in the background and for some, that simpleness may not be accepted when everything else looks beautiful.
I would imagine that the direction for the character design was to put emphasis on the pilot's surroundings and the various location shots but nevertheless, aside from the character designs, everything else looks incredible.
The picture quality of the film is nice and colorful and I don't recall seeing any compression artifacts, nor did I see any dust or scratches. If anything, the picture quality was very well done.
But what I found incredible on this Blu-ray is the audio quality. "THE SKY CRAWLERS" is featured in Japanese, English and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (also, in Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1). For the making of this film, director Mamoru Oshii and Production I.G. worked with the folks at Skywalker Sound acclaimed for their expertise in audio. So, aside from the audio directionals on different channels which you would expect from the air battles and aircraft zipping around the air, audio is not limited to action scenes. In fact, you will be immersed in sound as you can hear the wind, crickets, birds and various sounds from the distance come alive all around you.
The audio is quite immersive and I don't think I have heard an anime film (aside from the recent "Akira" Blu-ray release) that would utilize audio so effectively. The lossless track for "THE SKY CRAWLERS" is well done!
Picture and audio quality definitely earn high marks for this Blu-ray release. As for subtitles, "THE SKY CRAWLERS" is featured in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish.
"THE SKY CRAWLERS" has a total of three informative special features which are all featured in High Definition with subtitles in English, Spanish and Portuguese. The special features included are:
* "Animation Research for The Sky Crawlers" Featurette - (30:52) A very informative special feature showcasing Mamoru Oshii and the Production I.G. staff in the Czech Republic. Director Mamoru Oshii explains why he does a lot of research when it comes to looking for locations on which to utilize in "THE SKY CRAWLERS". Oshii is quite thorough as he looks at various aircraft, inspecting them, looking at things in the walls, various pipes, crates, switch panels and anything he can utilize in the film in a similar condition and making sure his photographers are there to take a picture of those objects. Also, featuring Oshii looking at soldier uniforms, buildings, school rooms and having his staff experience bowling. Also, shopping in a mall area and purchasing dozens of fashion books. A very interesting behind-the-scenes look at how meticulous Oshii is about getting certain details of machinery to clothing styles and incorporating it into "THE SKY CRAWLERS". * "The Sound Design and Animation of the Sky Crawlers" Featurette -(32:16) Director Mamoru Oshii and the Production I.G. staff fly to California to visit Skywalker Ranch. It is the first time that Oshii utilizes the acclaimed studio for audio but a very good behind-the-scenes look at how Oshii directs the crew of how he wants audio utilized and being impressed with what Skywalker Ranch has been able to give him. This is very interesting to watch because in past interviews with Oshii, he has a very pro Japanese stance in the way films should be made, so for him to mention how Skywalker Ranch works on a lot of Hollywood films and then he, himself utilizing the popular sound studio was interesting. Also, interesting is how he interacts with his staff and the voice talent and the amount of work his whole staff went through in the process of making the film. Very informative and enjoyable to watch! * Sky's the Limit: An Interview with Director Mamoru Oshii - (15:18) Director Mamoru Oshii talks about the characters and working on this film. Although the duration is around 15 minutes long, the interview portions are featured sporadically with anime cuts from the film in between each interview portion. Nevertheless, any featurette that helps the viewer learn the mindset of Oshii is a major plus.
"THE SKY CRAWLERS" is indeed a beautiful film that showcases top notch anime visuals utilizing 3D CG and beautiful background artwork. The film features an incredible lossless audio track that is definitely going to impress audiophiles who have desired more quality anime releases with top notch Japanese/English audio quality.
With that being said, I have to say that "THE SKY CRAWLERS" is another masterpiece from the critically acclaimed anime director and the film is nothing short of stunning and fantastic. With that being said, Oishii films are appreciated by fans who are willing to be open to cerebral storylines or storylines with a philosophical meaning behind it.
Like many of his film's, I have to watch it several times to appreciate the film in various levels. "Ghost In the Shell 2: Innocence" was visually captivating but the amount of detail that went into the creation of "THE SKY CRAWLERS" is amazing. The amount of detail incorporated to the audio is just amazing. You hear the basset hound barking in certain parts of the film that made me pause and wonder if the dog barking was coming from a neighbor, even the crickets.
Obviously, Oishii working with Skywalker Sound was definitely a magnificent partnership because the audio truly made this film come alive. It matched the quality set by Production I.G. in the beautiful 3D and artistic backgrounds and you really feel immersed in the detail and the storyline.
Also, it was a very bold move to go with Japanese film actors instead of experience anime voice talent. Even with the interviews on the special features, actress Rinko Kikuchi and actor Ryo Kase were unsure how they did in the film but were assured by the staff that they would take care of the rest. The talent felt they could have done more, so that uneasy feeling that they had, I think that Director Oshii wanted that. To make the film sound real, unclear emotions to be real and not to be well-acted. Definitely interesting choices made in the creation of this film.
With everything that I said being so positive about the film's video and audio quality, I do have to say that "THE SKY CRAWLERS" is a film that moves slowly. This is not a film to watch late at night if you are tired, this is a film that you may need to watch twice to understand certain scenes that you may have missed earlier in the film. Oishii chooses not to reveal much about the Kildren, he chooses to focus on the main characters.
This leaves us with many questions of "Why are they like this?", "Why were they created?"... A lot of questions asking "why?" and unfortunately, the film doesn't go into detail about the why's, it explorers these people who were created this way and live this way and now question that way of life and not having really any control of their destiny or do they?
Overall, "THE SKY CRAWLERS" is a fine film and the Blu-ray release definitely makes you much more appreciative of Mamoru Oshii's work. And most importantly, advice from Oshii from the special features, make sure you watch the film entirely as their is an imporant scene that takes place after the credits.
"THE SKY CRAWLERS" is highly recommended!"
The most depressingly beautiful airplane anime ever made
lain4ever | Los Angeles, CA | 07/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Director Mamoru Oshii has pushed the envelope once again with his newest film, "The Sky Crawlers."
This movie is a complex, but stunning film about teenagers trapped in a melancholy world of repetitive 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 Japanese life of 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. Although he has hardly any memory of his past, he offers his love interest, Suito Kusanagi, the 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 emotional exchanges throughout the film. While American audiences may be easily turned off, this is a true masterpiece by Mamoru Oshii."
An amazing movie
Lucy Kusanagi | 07/23/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I originally read the review for this movie, I ignored it. The American summary makes it sound like an action packed shooter that, quite frankly, I had no interest in. But then I read that it was directed by Oshii, and my interest was peaked.
I have never disliked a single piece of work by Oshii, from Angel's Egg, through both Ghost in the Shell movies, and most especially Jin-Roh. I love the way he tells his stories, and how he draws out the characters to make them more than just plot driven vehicles.
And Sky Crawlers is no exception. It is a beautiful masterpiece of a movie that had me in shocked tears by the end. It isn't about airplanes shooting each other out of the sky, and it isn't truly about the war. And, for anyone who is looking for two hours of amazing flying fights, this isn't your movie.
While the fights in this movie are gorgeous and spectacular, they are not the point, and they certainly do not take up two hours worth of time. They are placed calmly and timely, and accentuate the storyline like a few drops of cream in a finely brewed tea.
The characters come alive, their suffering, their purpose, their torture. And, in the end, it leaves me wanting more, but knowing that I have already seen more. That the characters are old friends, and this was a fond memory in a photo album that I flipped through on a warm summer's day. These were people I got to know, jokes we laughed at, tears we cried.
And that's what the movie really is about; the people.
While I don't know anything about the soundtrack being different on the American version than it is on the Japanese release (something I am going to look into immediately after I publish this review), I do know that, even as it stands, it is still another beautiful piece by Kenji Kawai."