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The Sky Crawlers – Review May 26, 2009

Posted by Cello in Anime Reviews.


Finally, the wait is over. The Sky Crawlers is available on home video today! Sky Crawlers sees the return of Mamoru Oshii to the director’s seat after Ghost in the Shell 2, and this time around he puts aside his experimental meanderings about the deeper meaning of life and decided to go more mains stream with Sky Crawlers. Based on the book series by acclaimed mystery writer and researcher Mori Hiroshi, “Sky Crawlers” is set in the near future and focuses on the life of a fighter plane pilot. Much of this technical praise I will be giving could be said of, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Steam Boy, which took place in the air as well, yet that one was a commercial failure due to overly convoluted and stilted story telling. The narrative of The Sky Crawlers may be cool and deliberately paced for a film with designs on a gigantic canvas, but that dovetails beautifully with the story Oshii is trying to tell.

This sci fi anime involves genetically altered fighter pilots caught in an international war which is never fully articulated. The main character Yuichi Kannami tries to uncovers discrepencies about his predecessor and the constant feeling of deja vu. He becomes involved with a superior officer Kusanagi (Rinko Kikuchi) who appears to have been romantically linked with his predecessor and his disapperance. It begins with a gripping dogfight scene of a terrified pilot being shot down by an incredibly skilled enemy in a plane marked with a black panther insignia. Don’t let that opening scene fool you though as The film is, shall we say, deliberately paced. This means that the film, despite being a war picture, is not action oriented nor is there a tremendous sense of danger. The Sky Crawlers is instead meditative, enigmatic, and philosphical.


The Sky Crawlers is a story of life, love and death. It does not have much ups and downs nor an exact climax in the story. The mood and ambience of the film itself as well as the relationships and emotions rather than the plot tells the story. In a state of perpetual adolescence, the characters in the film live to fight and pilot the fighter planes, and die for the entertainment and attention of the world’s citizens. Director Oshii has constructed a curious epic that is evocative of history, while starkly original in tone and execution.

Oshi said he has a message to tell young people today and through The Sky Crawlers he asks what does it mean to be an adult. The Sky Crawler’s world is like our modern state – we have no hunger, no revolution, no war, no worry for food nor shelter, we are rich yet we hear about stories of meaningless voilence and suicides. Unlike Ghost in the Shell 2, Sky Crawlers does not loose itself in the mythos that usually surrounds Oshii`s films.  This anime film is a stunning visual piece of work that is well balanced out showing the drama that surrounds war. This is social science fiction, and tonally controlled storytelling at its finest.



1. clementgx - May 26, 2009

Great review! I loved it =). I have to agree that the slow pacing of the movie is sometimes a negative in this story. When I was watching some parts of the movie, it makes me think “hmm… I wonder when will this scene end…”. Maybe it’s just that there are some parts which are unnecessarily draggy. Oh and nice video that you have posted! It is a great AMV =).

2. Bartleby - May 27, 2009

Excellent review! I agree about the slow pacing, but having seen Oshii’s other stuff, this might as well have been a rollercoaster in comparison. I actually think it might be his best work, although Im very fond of Avalon.

Good point about Steamboy. That film was also visually rich, but wow, did it drag. I fell asleep several times in the theater during the first viewing and later on dvd it still seemed inert to me.

Also, I didnt mention it in my review, and I don’t see it brought up many places, but was there any significance to the dead pilot being named Jin Roh? I’m assuming this is not in the same universe as that one?

Cello - May 27, 2009

Im glad we could connect on a number of viewpoints~! As far as the JinRoh reference, its the same director so its probably just s friendly nod to his past film work, or maybe JinRoh is a common name? These are just assumptions though, I don’t think theres any deeper meaning.

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