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”

  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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  • Bam
    (Friday, Nov 27. 2015 02:36 AM)
    @Masky: lots of game designers aspire for realism. Now this can be done for cosmetic purposes like face textures and lighting, practical with physic engines and movement, or contextual like believable character reactions and dialogue. Now some games thrive in being ridiculous and fantastic, but some want to create a realistic setting to further the emotional impact. Nothing wrong with that.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Nov 27. 2015 02:32 AM)
    @ratsgnoF: and happy Thanksgiving to you as well.
  • Masky
    (Thursday, Nov 26. 2015 07:43 PM)
    Anyway seriously though, I’d say it does actually make sense in context xD Since none of monsters are actually that threatening.
  • Masky
    (Thursday, Nov 26. 2015 07:42 PM)
    .-. I have no words, mainly because whenever anyone uses word “Realism” in context of video game, I want to say rude words xD
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Thursday, Nov 26. 2015 07:40 PM)
    I think he gave it a passing glance and felt it wasn’t his thing, I remember he also felt that he thought the idea of sparing the monsters wasn’t believable or realistic given that he felt if you were realistically placed in that situation yourself, the real thing to do would be to fight back out of fear.
  • Masky
    (Thursday, Nov 26. 2015 07:37 PM)
    Did he actually play the game though? I mean, did he actually discover it himself or did he just heard the spoilers?
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Thursday, Nov 26. 2015 07:35 PM)
    I had a talk with a friend about undertale and he wasn’t a fan, he prefers other types of rpgs, the choice element also made him uncomfortable and that he felt the game was too punishing.
  • Masky
    (Thursday, Nov 26. 2015 07:34 PM)
    @Kaiser: Puzzle elements, outside of sparing everyone, seem to be mainly just parodying video game puzzles. Like, only place where you actually have to solve actual puzzles is in Hotland, before that pretty much every puzzle is automatically solved, really easy or has some silly twist to it. Like the puzzle you can skip by pressing a switch in tree trunk. Can’t say I’m too fond of puzzles either, but I liked how game was making fun of them
  • Masky
    (Thursday, Nov 26. 2015 07:32 PM)
    Speaking of awful sense of humor and things that dorks like, just wanted to say that turns out I was right about Jitsu wa watashi wa in that main couple does get together before chapter 100(forgot what exactly, some where in 80-90 range I think). But they are such huge dorks that they do everything ridiculously slowly because they are that embarrassed, so they have had like just one date(in chapter 100). Not that I expect anyone to remember what the heck I’m talking about xD
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Thursday, Nov 26. 2015 07:32 PM)
    The battle system grew on me a bit, but I didn’t like the puzzle elements it offered, the actual gameplay looked kind of dull also. Some of the characters were likeable enough, Papyrus, Asogore, the flower guy being my favourite though the plot didn’t really get interesting until the end.

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