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THE SKY CRAWLERS (Sukai kurora) (Japan)

  Publicity Stills of
"The Sky Crawlers"
(Courtesy of Encore Films)

In Japanese with English & Chinese Subtitles
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Cast: Rinko Kukichi, Ryo Kase, Chiaki Kuriyama, Shosuke Tanihara
RunTime: 2 hrs 2 mins
Released By: Encore Films & GV
Rating: PG
Official Website: www.encorefilms.com/skycrawlers

Opening Day: 27 November 2008


Mamoru Oshii, the world-famous Japanese filmmaker, whose works include Ghost in the Shell (1995) and Innocence (2004), will direct a new feature animation film, The Sky Crawlers. The film is based on a popular five-part novel by a best-seller writer, Hiroshi Mori.

The story unfolds in another 'possible' modern age. The main characters are youngsters called "Kildren", who are destined to live eternally in their adolescence. The Kildren are conscious that every day could be the last, because they fight a 'war as entertainment', organized and operated by adults. But as they embrace the reality they are faced with, they live their day-to-day lives to the full.

Movie Review:

For a movie about a group of fighter pilots involved in warfare, the latest animated feature by celebrated Japanese director Mamoru Oshii isn’t terribly exciting. While one would be expecting adrenaline filled action sequences pumped up by pulse thumping music from such a genre, this movie’s highlight certainly isn’t that. What you get instead is a soul searching drama that deserves your time and effort. After all, Oshii is the same visionary filmmaker who gave the world the apocalyptic Ghost In The Shell (1995) and Avalon (2001). So when something so thought provoking comes along in the form of a Japanese anime, we do not find ourselves disappointed at all. In fact, this anticipated film once again proves the director’s ability to rouse those deep thoughts of yours.

Based on a series of novels by Hiroshi Mori, this adaptation features a group of youngsters known as 'Kildren' co existing in a fighter plane organization. 'Kildren' are humanoids that live eternally in teenage years, and in this case, they will continue living forever until they are shot down in an air battle. You see, these 'Kildren' have been specially designed by adults for peacetime entertainment in air shows, and in this situation they are faced with, these genetically designed beings can only live their lives to the fullest as each day passes.

The film is set in an alternate time and space where skies look bluer and grasslands look greener. The dreamier and more appealing state of things will please viewers with an eye for aesthetics. Incorporating traditional hand drawn 2D backgrounds and stunningly rendered 3D fighter planes, the scenes look so real, you feel like stretching your hand out to touch them. Before you think that this may end up feeling like an air force recruitment advertisement, you’ll be surprised that the animation has a gravely cold air to it, which brings a sense of melancholy. This stunning animation has won the film the Future Film Festival Award at the 65th Venice International Film Festival.

Besides the visuals, also listen out for the heartbreaking score by Kenji Kawai (L: Change the World) and the perfect sound design where you’d take notice of the thrusting from the plane’s propellers, the dropping of the bowling pins in the alley. And if you listen hard enough, you may even hear the characters’ heartbreaks.

With pleasing visuals and the gratifying audio production values in place, the message behind this restrained film takes it one notch higher. There are many thought stimulating moments in this 122 minute picture. If you knew you may be dying tomorrow, does it matter whether you grew up at all? If you have been taking the same path every day, do seeing different things along the way make it worth living for? And in a country similar to ours, are there really children who do not become adults? Rinko Kukichi (Babel), Ryo Kase (Tokyo!) and Chiaki Kuriyama (Kill Bill: Vol. 1) provide somber voices to the central characters of the story to apt effect.

Given the philosophical and heavy context of the film, it may not be your ideal choice to a weekend getaway movie. But if you are ready to take the effort to think about what life is really worth really living for, then go take the flight with these sky crawlers.

Movie Rating:

(A thoughtful anime film well worth your time)

Review by John Li


. Evangelion 1.0: You Are Not Alone (2007)

. L Change the World (2007)

. Vexille (2007)

. Paprika (2006)

. Brave Story (2006)

. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)

. Tales from Earthsea DVD (2006)

. Dororo DVD (2007)

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