Posted by psgels on 5 March 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews


Mamoru Oshii has become famous for his typical style of very convoluted dialogue. For the Sky Crawlers though, he went into a completely different direction from all of his other works. There are no endless dialogues here, the storyline isn’t really that complex, the action scenes don’t last forever: they’re short and to the point, the character-designs are very simple and down to earth and the pacing throughout the entire movie is very quiet. And yet it works like hell.

Basically, the Sky Crawlers tells the story of a bunch of people who are stationed at a small airbase somewhere in Europe in the middle of some war. The movie’s biggest focus is on its storytelling, because my god, the realism! Amidst the dogfights, there is a huge amount of attention to detail spent on how the characters interact with each other. The characters here really feel much more like regular people than in most other anime. Most of the drama in the movie is kept very subtle and meaningful. And that really is the biggest strength of this movie: it’s two hours long, with a story that could also be done in 20 minutes, but because of the incredibly slow pacing it really was able to show off its characters, their strengths and weaknesses in a very quiet and subtle way.

So yeah, obviously you don’t want to watch The Sky Crawlers if you’re looking for an energetic action-flick, although the action scenes that take place whenever the characters fly their planes definitely look beautiful. The CG is really well done, and integrates really well with the 2D art so that it hardly ever feels out of place.

If I had to mention down-sides of the movie, then there are two things that spring to my mind: first of all, there hardly is any background on the characters. Only the lead characters have some (very good, by the way), but the rest of the characters are all just a bunch of random pilots who happen to be in the same airbase. This of course can also be seen as a good thing: you get to know exactly as much about them if you were to meet them in real life. Of course they have their secrets, but they sure as hell aren’t going to blurt them out to any Tom, Dick or Harry.

The other flaw is most of a personal disappointment of me: there really isn’t that much innovation in this movie. It’s probably something really new for Mamoru himself, but I’ve seen the subtle storytelling done before and better. It’s of course really good for this movie to chose this approach, but I felt I saw nearly every aspect in this movie in another anime already before. Kenji Kawai’s soundtrack also pretty much sounded like all of his other soundtracks, and it didn’t really stand out as anything fresh or new from him.

Still, that definitely doesn’t take away that this is a very solid movie. It’s not Mamoru’s best work, but nevertheless consistently good and enjoyable if you like your drama to be subtle.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10

8 Responses

  1. Kraker2k says:

    I can’t get myself to watch this film, the characters look very doll like so it gives an unrealistic feel but then they have such detailed movement that it reminds you of a real person. It bring it into the uncanny valley for me.

    Plus the faces on everyone remind me of the new Naruto series. Eeek.

  2. Patrick says:

    With a tittle like Sky Crawlers, I was expecting an action pack anime. After the exciting aerial dog fight opening scene, the pace of the anime changes and it feels like watching a completely different movie. At first, it seems like boy meet girl, boy discovers and interacts with his new environment, etc.. just your typical anime with better visual candy, nothing exciting and special. However, in the background there is a subtle hint of unease and prior relationship between the main characters. The mystery of how they were related to each other and the unraveling of their relationship mark the turning point for this anime. As the main character question how his past relates to his present the viewer discovers along with him his life, his existence and his world. It is all tie together very subtly. One frustrating aspect of this movie is it focus only on the main characters, but leave out many important information about their world, about how they were born and why these wars were conducted between corporations and not governments. In the end, I felt that the movie leave out many more questions than it answers. I hope they make a series. As long as you don’t expect a lot of actions, it is an excellent anime, well deserving a rating of 8/10.

  3. Windspirit says:

    “Kenji Kawaii”
    >> MY EYES THEY ARE BURNING

  4. AlexS says:

    The film is very good, but ultimately I felt something was missing.

    The animation is excellent (some of the best CG I’ve seen), the character design not to my taste, but I could go over it. The storytelling was subtle (I liked the moods and general behavior of the characters). Contrary to other commenters, I thought the right amount of info was provided on the other characters and about the world. Anything else than what was given would have been superfluous and distracting.

    My bone is that the plot is not satisfying, a bit like watching a Matrix movie in which Neo refuses to take the red pill. I understand why the protagonist would not take the red pill, but I understand less well why the Kasanagi girl continued to behave as was expected of her, even though she took the red pill.

    In the end, the plot seemed to me like a beginners trial, trying to be too smart for his own good.

  5. Sybil says:

    Eh. I liked the movie very much. The storytelling was pretty slow at the first half of the movie, but I liked it as it slowly built up. The animation and artwork was pure eye candy. To me, the simple character designs didn’t bother me much. Overall, I give this 4/5.

  6. parallelogram says:

    I’m sorry but this anime is a joke. Towards the last quarter it has a ‘little’ bit of the convoluted dialogue as in the director’s previous Ghost in the Shell Innocence . A disappointing ending, certainly did not find it ‘thought provoking’. All in all a waste of time. Sure the animation/cg is good. 3/5

  7. thelion71 says:

    Just strange and weird! visually beautiful and the short aerial combat scenes are a pure work of art. I do have to say that i had a constant feeling that i had arrived ten minutes after the film had started and had missed some crucial part of the plot. I give this film 2/5.

  8. shigurui says:

    nice blog. But I have to say that you should probably rewatch this movie one more time to give it a proper review. When i first watched it I didnt get it either and felt something was missing, but when i read reviews online I realized that this is a noir film — there were multi-layered philosophical meanings synonymous with real current issues in japan hidden behind the concept e.g. why these children behave as they are even though they cant grow up and etc. That is the greatest strength Sky Crawlers has to offer and from what I can see in your review, you are missing the real point over there even though you have rated it highly as well.

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  • ninjarealist
    (Thursday, Nov 27. 2014 01:07 AM)
    @WyattX Ergo Proxy is sort of like that. It starts out really dark and the most light-hearted episodes come later on in the series. But it’s by no means a straight trajectory from dark to light. I for one am a sucker for shows that start out light and get dark and am glad it is trending right now. This has been a breakout season for that type of show.
  • WyattX
    (Wednesday, Nov 26. 2014 07:34 PM)
    Just watch it for how fracking trashy it is. “It’s so bad, it’s good” is a huge understatement. Go through the series in order for the full effect you’ll get when you watch the OVAs. Just pure gold.
  • WyattX
    (Wednesday, Nov 26. 2014 07:23 PM)
    I recommend you watch Princess Lover then watch the OVAs. The series itself is relatively normal (although crap) but the OVA are hentai. You get to see the hilarious jump from non-h to hentai as the main character turns into a hungry sex addict and tries to get into the heroine’s pants every five seconds when he HAD acted like a gentleman the entire series. LOL
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Nov 26. 2014 01:02 PM)
    Generally later on when alot of comedies need to wrap things up they try to force in a plot so they can get some kind of ending. I know, agree its generally terrible, some of the drama later in toradora for example made me want to detusk a walrus in frustration.
  • WyattX
    (Wednesday, Nov 26. 2014 09:27 AM)
    What is it with light comedies trying to turn melodramatic as the series gets stretched out? What if we did the reverse? Let’s say theoretically that it happened to Tsubasa Chronicle. It would start out melodramatic as usual, then devolve into a simple, light slapstick comedy and forget about the story. People would lose their minds.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Nov 26. 2014 07:44 AM)
    Here I take a second look at time of eve/eve no jiken: http://emma-hime.deviantart.com/art/Review-Time-of-eve-496663893
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Nov 26. 2014 03:06 AM)
    I’m not sure whether to watch the sequel or not.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Nov 26. 2014 03:04 AM)
    @Aidan: I try to avoid watching films where I can.
    Although you’ve got me to look back on my own review of guardians of the galaxy, the words I use in it don’t reflect the 4 out of 5 I gave it .
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Nov 26. 2014 03:04 AM)
    Started to notice pretty big plot holes too. like Gamora went to open the door to baddys chamber. But after opening it she shoots a hole in the roof and jumps straight into the bad guys chamber. So if you can get in that way then why did you send the others in a roundabout route instead of just blowing up the roof and getting there that way?
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Nov 26. 2014 02:49 AM)
    The comedy tends to only work once and it’s pretty weak. Like the “You are making me kick grass!” line. It’s not particularly funny, only random. The villain is just bland as hell. The characters are charming but not particularly deep.
    It’s a decent popcorn flick. But I am actually having second thoughts on getting it on DVD.

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