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''The Sky Crawlers'' is a 2008 Japanese anime film, directed by MamoruOshii and an adaptation of Hiroshi Mori's novel of the same name. It is a melancholy take on war and those who fight it, but with several significant twists. For one, the world is at peace; it's companies doing the fighting, in order to sate the people's taste for war so that actual conflict does not take place. To fight their endless battles they use {{Artificial Human}}s called Kildren that are stuck in a perpetual adolescence of forgotten memories.

The film follows the pilot Yuuichi as he joins a new squadron of Kildren, and becomes intrigued by his cold, enigmatic and possibly insane commander, Kusanagi, who seems to know a lot more about the reality of the war than anybody else on the base. The story is as much about the pilots' downtime and their search for meaning as it is about the stunning aerial combat scenes.

If that doesn't sound appealing, keep in mind that this film is absolutely gorgeous. Broad pans and lingering shots are used just about any time combat isn't going on, which is most of the time.

A LicensedGame, developed by Creator/AccessGames, was released in 2008 in Japan by Creator/NamcoBandai. It was released 2010 outside Japan with the title ''The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces'', which came as a surprise for fans as it seemed a prime candidate for NoExportForYou. Plotwise, it's a prequel.
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!!The film provides examples of:
* AbsurdlyYouthfulMother: Kusanagi has an 8 year old daughter, but is still physically an adolescent herself. Mizuki tells Yuuichi that Kusanagi is her CoolBigSis, implying she doesn't know the truth herself.
* AcePilot: Five of them are noted, though two are the same person.
* AlternateHistory / AlternateUniverse: It's not established in what year the story is set in (the 1980s-2000s presumably), but it features oldschool-looking airplanes side by side with ''monochrome'' flat-screen [=TVs=], and apparently conventional war has been completely eliminated in favour of WarForFunAndProfit that doesn't put civilians, or governments for that matter, at risk.
* AnimalMotifs: The Teacher flies a plane marked with a black panther, and the heroes use dog breeds for their callsigns.
* AnyoneCanDie: And a few weeks later they'll rejoin your squadron with the same twitches, tics and habits (folding a paper, breaking a match), but new memories.
* {{Bifauxnen}}: The hooker who sleeps with Yuuchi. Has a ToplessnessFromTheBack shot too.
* BookEnds: After the beginning sequence and credits,the movie starts with Yuuichi landing in the base and reporting to Kusanagi. [[spoiler: It ends the same way (in TheStinger post-credits) with Yuuichi under yet another new name and set of memories. The only difference is that this time Kusanagi responds positively to his arrival.]]
* BlessedWithSuck: Kusanagi's reward for being one of the few Kildren to survive aerial combat? Promotion to squadron commander. Where she gets to send her men out to die [[spoiler: and experience the death of the man she loves]] over, and over, and over... They also let her keep her daughter, though that's tinged with suck too; Mizuki's growing up but her mother never will.
* BrandX: Pops-Cola and Treasure soft drinks (with logos that resemble Coca Cola and Pepsi), Green Label beer and Leopard cars. They are owned MegaCorp s,the Poliash Rostock and the Irish Lautern.
* BrokenBird: Suito Kusanagi.
* CelebrityVoiceActor: Suito Kusanagi is voiced by live-action actress [[Film/{{Babel}} Rinko Kikuchi]].
* CloningBlues: [[spoiler: It must be pretty tough working out you're a clone, but even tougher watching dozens of clones succeed each other, unaware.]]
* ConspicuousCG: The planes look almost photorealistic, while the humans are drawn traditionally.
* ContemplateOurNavels: Much of the film, leading to its LoveItOrHateIt status among viewers.
* CoolPlane: Lots of them.
* CreditsGag: A very subtle blink-and-you'll-miss-it one at the end of the opening credits: the final credit casts a shadow just as an airplane would as the POV approaches the runway.
* DaysOfFuturePast: Aesthetically and technologically (for the most part) the setting resembles the 1940s, with piston-powered planes and machine guns... but then you have cars from TheSeventies and flatscreen monitors and televisions. Embodied particularly in the the aircraft, which are based on the ultimate generation of piston-engined fighters that died stillborn at the dawn of the jet age. Justified in that this air war is actually a form of glorified gladiatorial combat. Jets would be prohibitively expensive and wouldn't make for spectacular dogfights. Jets are banned in the short ColdWar after WWII.
* DeathIsDramatic: Pitilessly averted.
* DefrostingIceQueen: Despite her statements about needing to "kill that child" before she grows up, Suito defrosts a little whenever Mizuki's around, as Yuuichi realizes when he notices her surreptitiously giving Mizuki's hand an affectionate squeeze when she thinks no one is paying attention.
* [[DidTheyOrDidntThey Did They Or Didn't They]]: There are two scenes where Yűichi and Kusanagi are together that may or may not have ended in sex, but the camera always fades to black before any kind of confirmation, let alone acknowledgement afterwards.
* DieselPunk
* DoABarrelRoll: Of course.
* DodgeByBraking: Yuichi's signature move, which wins him several dogfights. [[spoiler: Also the signature move of The Teacher, which turns out to be a plot point.]]
* [[spoiler: DownerEnding: The protagonist is ultimately unable to defeat his "father" / original clone, The Teacher, so the cycle continues.]]
* TheDreaded: ''"Oh shit! It's the Teacher!"''
* DrivesLikeCrazy: Kusanagi, apparently. No big deal is made out of it, but she drives very fast on a narrow twisty road built on a cliff side. (American viewers will think she drives extremely fast, astute American viewers will realize it's a metric speedometer.)
* {{Engrish}}: The quality of English dialogue in the Japanese version of the film ranges from "SurprisinglyGoodEnglish" to "passable but thickly accented" to "[[{{Narm}} LAWL]]".
* EverybodyKnewAlready: Everyone seems to know the truth about Mizuki's origins despite Kusanagi's "little sister" cover story.
* EverybodySmokes: It's not like they need to worry about lung cancer at a later age.
* {{Expy}}: Kusanagi IS Major Kusanagi of ''GhostInTheShell'', even having the same last name and looking almost exactly the same. Except that she's a teenager. And completely nuts.
** Also, most of the planes are expies of real, WorldWar2-era airplanes. For instance, the main "hero" plane, the Sanka Mk. II, is based on the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyushu_J7W Kyushu J7W Shinden]] with elements from Northrop XP-56.
* ForeverWar: There had been a couple of tournaments and the current one lasted 4 years.
* GhostCity: Krakow looks like this, with empty streets and no streetlights in sight, though some windows are lighted. It's purely for stylistic reasons, however.
* GoingByTheMatchBook:
* GoMadFromTheRevelation: Kusanagi did this a long time ago.
* GrowingUpSucks / NotGrowingUpSucks: Played both ways. Perpetual adolescence is great when it helps you stay sane and alive in a ForeverWar, if only because you lack the perspective to doubt yourself or truly understand your mortality. It's not so great when it causes people to view you as little more than tragically romantic CannonFodder, or denies you the chance to be a proper mother to your child. It's even implied that maturity is what gives The Teacher his insuperable advantage.
* HeroicSacrifice: Pretty much every time they face The Teacher, for a given value of Heroic. But one pilot sacrificing him or herself so the other(s) can flee is usually the only way to prevent him from massacring them all.
* HookerWithAHeartOfGold: So golden you might not realize they're hookers until it's made explicit well into the movie.
* LudicrousGibs: While ''most'' deaths are not that bloody, the opening credits show a pilot that has already bailed out getting hit with an aircraft gun. Crosses over into whole-body PinkMist.
* [[spoiler: LukeIAmYourFather: The protagonist is a clone of The Teacher. Also, it's implied that The Teacher was once Kusanagi's lover and is the father of her daughter.]]
* MildlyMilitary: They do wear uniforms, but they use names or job titles instead of ranks and they aren't big on "mickey mouse" or saluting. Kusanagi's habit of sleeping with her subordinates would be a ''really'' big no-no.
* [[spoiler:OffingTheOffspring: The Teacher does this every time he kills a clone derived from himself.]]
* OhCrap: Several verbal variations, both literal and figurative, whenever the Rostock pilots confront The Teacher. [[spoiler: And a purely visual one for Yuuichi when he realizes he's fallen for The Teacher's "snap stall/reversal" signature move and is about to die.]]
* OminousMusicBoxTune: Kusanagi has a big music box in her office that plays the film's main tune, possibly as a ShoutOut to the director's previous work, ''GhostInTheShell: Innocence''. It becomes ominous when it plays during Yűichi's realization that something is thoroughly wrong with his existence.
* SacrificialLion: All of them. It's their job. But as Kusanagi observes, sacrifices have to be genuine or they lose their power. Unfortunately for them Kildren just happen to make ideal sacrificial lion material.
* SceneryPorn: Most of the movie.
* [[spoiler:ShootTheShaggyDog: See DownerEnding above]]
* ShownTheirWork: Among other things, the signs in Krakow are in accurate Polish.
** The crew actually traveled to Ireland and Poland to get a good visual feel of the place, and toured the local air force bases and hangars for reference. In the DVD bonus features they are shown photographing some house radiators and electric sockets so that they look accurate for the region the movie is supposed to be set in.
** The flying scenes are aerodynamically plausible and never resort to ArtMajorPhysics. Though, Teacher's Skyly J2 did a thrust vector move based on the Su-37.
** English actually is the international standard language for aviation.
** The weird looking oxygen masks are based on an actual Royal Air Force model from the thirties.
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism: The story is on the cynical end; it has been directed by MamoruOshii, anyway, and the original author intended it to be like this, too.
* TheStinger: [[spoiler:The movie ends with another pilot arriving -- basically Yuuchi with a new name and memories).]]
* TheStoic: Kannami. Pretty much nothing can faze him, and whatever emotions he has, he keeps unseen.
* SuicidePact: [[spoiler:It turns out that Kusanagi killed Yuuchi's predecessor; she suggests to Yuuchi that he kill her this time. He doesn't go for it.]]
* SurprisinglyGoodEnglish: All the cockpit chatter is done in decently understandable English, though with a couple grammatical errors.
** Unfortunately due to the muffling oxygen masks along with the howling wind and machine gun sounds, it's still barely comprehensible. Some subtitles would have been nice, no matter how good the language technically is.
*** Later releases subtitle the English conversations as well.
* ThereIsNoKillLikeOverkill: The Teacher is introduced by shooting up an ejected pilot. [[spoiler: This is also how the Teacher finishes the final battle. The fact that he didn't do this to Kusanagi is a plot point.]]
* ThisIsSomethingHesGotToDoHimself: [[spoiler:"This is my battle."]]
* ThisLoserIsYou: According to some interpretations, it is saying that the audience (i.e. apathetic Japanese Otaku) are Kildren, and this is the message.
** Alternatively, the audience are the shallow, dull tourists who express vague pity over the dead Kildren even as they take amusement in their meaningless battles. At least this is something that the director himself vaguely hinted at.
* TranslationConvention: Averted, if a bit strangely. The main cast speaks Japanese for most of the time, but speak English while in the air, and with tourists, and the few locals seen in Krakow speak passable, if accented Polish. The odd thing is that the whole movie is set in Europe, yet it's never questioned why there are so many Japanese military contractors around.
** The English dub averts this trope entirely by, of course, having the main cast speak in English all the time and re-dubbing the more {{Engrish}}-y lines with native English speakers.
* UnitedEurope: The European Confederation, mentioned a few times in the passing, where the film takes place - Ireland and Poland, to be exact.
* TheUnSmile: Yűichi gives one to a nosy tourist videotaping him.
* WarForFunAndProfit: The only kind of war that happens anymore.
* WhamLine: [[spoiler: "I will kill - my father."]]
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!!The videogame contains examples of:
* AlternateHistory / AlternateUniverse: Like in the movie, it's not established in what year the game is set in, but it features old school airplanes side by side with flat-screen [=TVs=], and apparently conventional war has been completely eliminated in favor of WarForFunAndProfit that doesn't put civilians, or governments for that matter, at risk. Also, it's obviously set in Earth, but the places the game have oriental-sounding names instead of European ones (they are bought and renamed by the companies), like [[spoiler:the final mission, which is set on Normandy and is instead called "Karasu Bay" and Mont Saint-Michel, a medieval castle, is called "Fort Togakuten"]].
* ChargeMeter: In the form of the Tactical Maneuver Command system (or TMCs). Since the game has no missiles to speak off, a special gauge fills up when you stick close to an enemy. When executed, it plays a small cutscene and positions your craft just right behind your enemy. However, just like missiles, there is the chance that your attacks can still be dodged despite this.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: [[spoiler: Look at the nose art of the player character's plane...]]
* LukeIAmYourFather: [[spoiler: Your character eventually becomes The Teacher from the movie.]]
* TheOnlyOneAllowedToDefeatYou: Orishina
* RedBaron: The player character. Starts out as "Lynx", gets promoted to "Cheetah" and finally attains legendary status when the enemy fighters nickname him "Black Cat" for his black panther head design in his plane's tail [[spoiler:which he still keeps in the movie, only with a full body version on the side]].
* TemptingFate: In the first mission, Ban muses on the short lifespan of fighter pilots. Three missions later, guess who gets shot down?
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