20 May 2010
Less than 10 minutes into this film, and after a horrific dogfight between three fighters, our male lead Yuichi arrives to the sound of a basset hound barking.
Well it wouldn't be a Mamoru Oshii directed film without one!
And so we are introduced to The Sky Crawlers, a 2008 Production I.G./ Nippon Television Network co-adaptation of a light novel by Hiroshi Mori, and the latest UK release from Manga Entertainment.
The film introduces us to Yuichi and the members of a fighter squadron who, we later find out, are less than they seem – known as “Kildren” by the public these genetically enhanced humans are rendered immortal, and used simply as child soldiers in an endless war between two major corporations, with the public watching on in the same way as we would watch a football match.
Guess it beats big brother.
Yet all the while Yuichi faces a number of questions - What happened to Yuichi's predecessor, and why does everyone try to avoid the subject? Who is the mysterious rival pilot “The Teacher” and what is their connection to the elusive commander, Kusunagi (no relation – but knowing Oshii...)
The film is a cut above the norm, with lovingly (almost bordering on obsessive) detail lavished on both the backgrounds and the aircraft used in the film with Yuichis fighter, based on the WW2 Japanese experimental interceptor fighter the Shinden Kai, looking particularly lovely.
Yet I find myself coming back to two niggling flaws in the films -
- Throughout the film the characters switch between English when piloting their planes, and Japanese on the ground – what's with that?
- Why is it, considering the time and effort to create background art that even Miyazaki would be proud of, that the characters themselves look half finished, almost like they were added at the last minute?
At the end of the day if, unlike me, you’re a die-hard fan of Mamoru Oshii, or have a thirst for aerial combat films, a’la Top Gun or (for all you vintage film fans) The Battle of Britain, then there should be more than enough of both in sky crawlers to keep you entertained.