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Anime / The Sky Crawlers

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The Sky Crawlers is a 2008 Japanese anime film, directed by Mamoru Oshii and an adaptation of Hiroshi Mori's novel series 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 Humans 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.

The novel series consists of six volumes that were published from 2001 to 2008. They have been licensed for a digital English release by Breakthrough Bandwagon Books.

  1. The Sky Crawlers
  2. None But Air
  3. Down to Heaven
  4. Flutter into Life
  5. Cradle the Sky
  6. Sky Eclipse

A Licensed Game, serving as a prequel to the movie, developed by Ace Combat creator Project Aces and Access Games, was released in 2008 in Japan by Bandai Namco Entertainment. 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 No Export for You. The game was adapted into a two-volume manga.


The film provides examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The planes look almost photorealistic, while the humans are drawn traditionally.
  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Kusanagi has an 8 year old daughter, but is still physically an adolescent herself. Mizuki tells Yuuichi that Kusanagi is her Cool Big Sis, implying she doesn't know the truth herself.
  • Ace Pilot: Five of them are noted, though two are the same person.
  • Alternate History / Alternate Universe: 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 War for Fun and Profit that doesn't put civilians, or governments for that matter, at risk.
  • Anachronic Order: The first novel volume, The Sky Crawlers, is actually the last story chronologically: all the other volumes take place before it.
  • Animal Motifs: The Teacher flies a plane marked with a black panther, and the heroes use dog breeds for their callsigns.
  • Anyone Can Die: 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 Toplessness from the Back shot too.
  • Bookends: After the beginning sequence and credits, the movie starts with Yuuichi landing in the base and reporting to Kusanagi. It ends the same way (in The Stinger 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Yuuchi is ultimately unable to defeat his "father" / genetic-original, The Teacher, so the cycle continues. He manages to avert a Downer Ending, however, by convincing Kusanagi that there is hope in the future, and she responds positively to his successor, indicating her changed outlook.
  • Blessed with Suck: 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 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.
  • Bland-Name Product: Pops-Cola and Treasure soft drinks (with logos that resemble Coca Cola and Pepsi), Green Label beer and Leopard cars. They are owned Mega Corps, the Polish Rostock and the Irish Lautern.
  • Broken Bird: Suito Kusanagi.
  • Cloning Blues: It must be pretty tough working out you're a clone, but even tougher watching dozens of clones succeed each other, unaware.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: Much of the film, leading to its polarizing status among viewers.
  • Cool Plane: Both Rostock and Lautern field push-prop aircraft (which were mostly at the prototype stage in the real-life World War II) in battle, though Lautern also offers tractor planes for its elite pilots. Rostock's Sanka line of fighters is notable in that it greatly resembles the real-life prototype of Japan's Kyushu J7W Shinden. On the opposing side, the Skyly flown by the Teacher is a largely original turbocharged tractor prop with some influence from late-model FW-190s.
  • Credits Gag: 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.
  • Days of Future Past: 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 The '70s 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 Cold War after WWII.
  • Death Is Dramatic: Pitilessly averted.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: 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.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: There are two scenes where Yûichi 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.
  • Diesel Punk
  • Do a Barrel Roll: Of course.
  • Dodge by Braking: Yuichi's signature move, which wins him several dogfights. Also the signature move of The Teacher, which turns out to be a plot point.
  • The Dreaded: "Watch out! It's the Teacher!"
  • Drives Like Crazy: 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 "Surprisingly Good English" to "passable but thickly accented" to "LAWL".
    • Some of the text, too. Daniel's Diner sells hot dogs and "humburgers."
  • Everybody Knew Already: Everyone seems to know the truth about Mizuki's origins despite Kusanagi's "little sister" cover story.
  • Everybody Smokes: It's not like they need to worry about lung cancer at a later age.
  • Expy:
    • Kusanagi IS Major Kusanagi of Ghost in the Shell, even having the same last name and looking almost exactly the same. Except that she's a teenager. And completely nuts.
    • Most of the planes are expies of real, World War 2-era airplanes. For instance, the main "hero" plane, the Sanka Mk. II, is based on the Kyushu J7W Shinden with elements from Northrop XP-56 and counter-rotating propellers thrown in for the cool effect.
  • Forever War: There had been a couple of tournaments and the current one lasted 4 years.
  • Ghost City: Krakow looks like this, with empty streets and no streetlights in sight, though some windows are lighted. It's purely for stylistic reasons, however.
  • Going By The Match Book
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Kusanagi did this a long time ago.
  • Growing Up Sucks / Not Growing Up Sucks: Played both ways. Perpetual adolescence is great when it helps you stay sane and alive in a Forever War, 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 Cannon Fodder, 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.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: 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.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: So golden you might not realize they're hookers until it's made explicit well into the movie.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: 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 Pink Mist.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: 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.
  • Mildly Military: 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.
  • Offing the Offspring: The Teacher does this every time he kills a clone derived from himself.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several verbal variations, both literal and figurative, whenever the Rostock pilots confront The Teacher. 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.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: Kusanagi has a big music box in her office that plays the film's main tune, possibly as a Shout-Out to the director's previous work, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence. It becomes ominous when it plays during Yûichi's realization that something is thoroughly wrong with his existence.
  • Sacrificial Lion: 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.
  • Scenery Porn: Most of the movie.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: See Downer Ending above
  • Shown Their Work: 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 Art Major Physics. 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The story is on the cynical end; it has been directed by Mamoru Oshii, anyway, and the original author intended it to be like this, too.
  • The Stinger: The movie ends with another pilot arriving — basically Yuuchi with a new name and memories).
  • The Stoic: Kannami. Pretty much nothing can faze him, and whatever emotions he has, he keeps unseen.
  • Suicide Pact: 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.
  • Surprisingly Good English: 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.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The Teacher is introduced by shooting up an ejected pilot. This is also how the Teacher finishes the final battle. The fact that he didn't do this to Kusanagi is a plot point.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: "This is my battle."
  • This Loser Is You: 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.
  • Translation Convention: 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.
  • United Europe: The European Confederation, mentioned a few times in the passing, where the film takes place - Ireland and Poland, to be exact.
  • The Un-Smile: Yûichi gives one to a nosy tourist videotaping him.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The only kind of war that happens anymore.
  • Wham Line: "I will kill - my father."

The videogame contains examples of:

  • Ace Custom:
  • Ace Pilot: Perhaps a given when considering its heritage of The Sky Crawlers and Ace Combat. Aside from Lynx/Cheetah, Yamasaki, Kaida, Ukumori, and Orishina are also aces in their own right.
  • Airstrike Impossible: While there are no tunnel runs, one mission requires flying low through a canyon to make a precisely-timed attack on a Lautern hydroelectric dam at the exact same time three of your wingmen attack other dams, and in the classic fashion of such missions, flying too high will fail the mission.
  • A.K.A.-47: Several of the planes are very closely modeled on real WWII-era fighters.
    • The Suiga is very closely modeled on the F4U Corsair.
    • The Sanka Mk II is nearly a dead ringer for the J7W Shinden.
    • The Shougu is closely modeled on the F8F Bearcat.
    • The Seiei is nearly identical to the Do 335 Pfeil.
    • Lautern's Tulip strongly resembles a downscaled P-51 Mustang.
    • Lautern's Fortune is basically a Gloster Meteor with pusher props instead of jets.
    • Lautern's Vice is based on the Bf 110.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: Many of the available planes each company uses have clear equivalents with their competitor.
    • Rostock's Senryu and Lautern's Vice fill similar roles as heavy fighters or light bombers and are among the few planes to carry large bombs and torpedoes.
    • Rostock's Shougu and Lautern's Tulip are both advanced, lightweight, highly agile fighters.
    • Rostock's Sanka Mk II and Lautern's Skyly D are their next generation high-performance fighters, though Rostock's focus is on maneuverability and Lautern's is on speed. Additionally, they're the only aircraft known to receive periodic updates to their airframes, with the successor models, the Sanka Mk B and the Skyly J2 featuring prominently in the film.
    • Rostock's Suiga and Lautern's Fortune fill similar roles as their general-purpose mid-range fighters.
    • Rostock's Seiei and Lautern's Incident are both relatively fragile, high-speed, low-agility twin-engine interceptors.
    • Only Lautern's Fission and Rostock's Itsuha lack clear counterparts, with the Fission being a very low-end mass-production fighter with high stability and not much else, and the Itsuha being a high-end experimental fighter that sacrifices pretty much everything for maneuverability.
  • Alternate History / Alternate Universe: 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 War for Fun and Profit 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 Japanese-sounding names instead of European ones (they are bought and renamed by the companies), like 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".
  • Anyone Can Die: Innocent Aces has a staggering body count to the point that it's easier to list who doesn't die - Cheetah, the very last two Kildren to join your ranks, your first commanding officer, and your second commanding officer's liason.
  • Armored Coffins: Anyone who is shot down will die. Apparently Rostock and Lautern can't be bothered to splurge on parachutes for their pilots because nobody ever bails out when they're shot down, or even attempts it.
  • Artistic License – Physics: In-game, it is possible to perform advanced maneuvers, such as the Kulbit, which is by definition, a loop tighter than could be performed by purely aerodynamic forces, despite the fact that all aircraft in the game are propeller-driven, and thus don't have anything like the thrust vectoring these maneuvers require in real life.
  • Battleship Raid: In the penultimate mission, Cheetah and his two remaining wingmen are tasked with shooting down Wolfram, the colossal war-airship they had previously defended when their commanding officer pulls as Face–Heel Turn and attempts to steal it. The fight has to be done in three phases, each of which has a large number of anti-air guns trying to shoot you down, and the hull of the airship is too heavily armored to do direct damage it. In the first phase, the four massive searchlight-directed cannons on its tailfins must be silenced. In the second, Cheetah must brave the intense winds created by the colossal drive fans on Wolfram's envelope, evade its aerial mines, and shoot its exhaust ports to destroy its engines so it can't flee. In the final phase, Wolfram reveals another, faster firing and more accurate searchlight-directed cannon in its nose and Lautern aircraft arrive to defend it. Once this cannon is destroyed, Wolfram finally goes down.
  • Berserk Button: Belittling Yamasaki pisses off Kaida to no end. As a result, Kaida does not get along with Ukumori.
  • Blood Knight: All of the Kildren to some extent or another, as they're literally bred for air combat and they tend to enjoy flying and dogfighting, but Orishina stands out for how desperately she wants to fight Cheetah again after their mock battle. She isn't interested in quantity of combat, she wants a quality fight and is unsatisfied with mere mooks once she's had a taste of battle with an ace of Cheetah's caliber. It also seems to be a shared quirk of her entire line of Kildren, as she and her successor provide both the opening and closing narrations about how they're just fine with their world's ubiquitous War for Fun and Profit because it gives them a chance to fly.
  • Bookends: The opening and closing cutscenes are nearly shot-for-shot recreations of each other, with Orishina/Kusanagi narrating "There are those who need war, and those who supply it" in the exact same voice, and with various Kildren filling in for the human members of the squadron in the ending cutscene.
  • Bottomless Magazines:
    • Unlike Ace Combat, which the game is developed from, machine guns have infinite ammo, no matter the difficulty setting and are instead prevented from firing continuously via overheating.
    • While SP weapon ammo isn't literally infinite, it far exceeds what is seen on wing stations, with the sole exception of rockets on the Incident, which has six four-rocket tubes when equipped with rocket launchers, and does in fact have exactly 24 rockets.
  • Central Theme: War never changes, and presented in a more exaggerated way than Fallout. Not only do the causes and brutality never change, but in The Sky Crawlers war quite literally never changes. It keeps happening in the same skies, fought with the same planes, in spite of the same protests, and thanks to Kildren, even the people literally remain the same.
  • Charge Meter: In the form of the Tactical Maneuver Command system (or TMCs). Since the game has no missiles to speak of, 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.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Mozume is a slimy figure, promoting the use of expendable Kildren, antagonizing Kaida and Orishina, seemingly trying to drive conflict within the squadron, and seeking to draw out the ongoing War for Fun and Profit, rather than allow one side to become dominant. He, along with Ukumori eventually attempt to defect to Lautern to even out the conflict after Cheetah has put Rostock at a decisive advantage.
  • Crippling Overspecialization:
    • The Senryu and Vice both suffer from this, as they're more akin to light bombers than fighters. They carry great amounts of powerful air-to-ground weapons and have thick armor and considerable speed and stability, but their mobility suffers greatly for this and they're poorly suited to dogfighting.
    • The Senryu SS is basically Character Exaggeration of the base model Senryu - it's even more armored, even less agile to the point that no amount of tuning can make it remotely competitive in a turning fight, and its two guns fire even slower than the base Senryu's two guns, such that it has trouble fighting, even when using Tactical Maneuver Commands.
    • The Itsuha takes it the exact opposite way - it's fast and extremely agile, but it has tiny SP weapon loads, nearly non-existent stability, and poor defense, making it hard to actually point where you want and extremely fragile if it starts taking fire. Ukumori's Itsuha takes this even further.
  • Developers' Foresight: There is a quite substantial amount of dialog in mission 12 for if you stick around and try to fight Orishina in the Senryu SS, a task which has absolutely nothing to do with your mission and for the Senryu SS is supremely ill-suited. Orishina figures out Cheetah is piloting the Senryu and the Lautern pilots express their humiliation at being unable to shoot down a lone recon plane. In the intended gameplay, this shouldn't ever come up, as the objective is simply to fly across the windy map as fast as you can without being shot down and trying to dogfight enemies is counterproductive to this goal.
  • Disk One Nuke:
    • The Shotgun is powerful and makes it easy to hit when you're not used to aiming, but it has limited ammo, and once you get better at aiming the guns or just start getting the aim assist parts, it becomes more or less obsolete as an SP weapon.
    • The Suiga, the starting plane, has solid and well-balanced stats and easy access to the Shotgun, and is one of only two planes in the game that can carry the powerful and versatile Explosive Bullets.
  • Duel Boss: Three times throughout the game, you're required to shoot down former wingmen in single combat.
  • Dwindling Party: Over the course of the game, your initial wingmen die off one by one, and by the end, all your wingmen are Kildren, eventually none of whom are even the initial Kildren who joined Cougar Team back in the second mission. However, when a Kildren is lost, they're usually replaced by a clone within a few missions, so you never completely run out of wingmen.
  • Earn Your Title: After saving your wingmen from enemy fighters when the squadron gets ambushed by Lautern Tulips after a reconnaissance mission that the whole squadron has to fly Senryus for, everyone agrees that "Lynx" isn't a badass enough callsign for you and they rename you "Cheetah".
  • Enemy Chatter: Much like the Ace Combat games it's developed from, the enemy's radio transmissions can be heard and helps build the atmosphere during a mission.
  • Expy: Kaida is very similar to Alvin H. "Chopper" Davenport, sharing a laid-back attitude, sense of humor, and musical interest.
  • Face Death with Dignity: For all of his abrasiveness and general unpleasantness, Ukumori applies his social Darwinist principles to himself as well and once he's shot down, accepts that he deserves his fate.
  • Face–Heel Turn: For given values of "Face" and "Heel", several characters defect from Rostock to Lautern over the course of the game. Cheetah shoots down everyone who tries. Between the game and the film, Cheetah himself defects to Lautern.
    • Ukumori and Mozume defect to Lautern to try to restore balance to the war after Cheetah's tipped the scales too far in Rostock's favor, and a pair of other kildren go along with Ukumori, one because he looks up to Ukumori, and the other because Ukumori threatened him. Mozume and Ukumori are shot down before they can link up with other Lautern forces, while the other two kildren can be optionally shot down or spared.
    • Orishina defects to Lautern not out of any concern with the state of the war, but solely so she can fight Cheetah again.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Nothing is revealed about Lynx/Cheetah beyond that he's male and an extraordinary ace. At the end of the game, a picture of him with a very nondescript face can be seen, but that's about it.
  • Foreshadowing: There are an astounding number of hints for people who have seen the film that Lynx/Cheetah eventually becomes the Teacher, such as his nose art, overwhelming skill, and that his second callsign is a near-anagram of Teacher.
  • Fragile Speedster:
    • The Tulip, Shougu, and Itsuha are fast and extremely agile, but have poor defenses. The Itsuha takes it the furthest, having the greatest base maneuverability of any plane in the game, but trading off stability in addition to defense.
    • The various Ace Customs piloted by your wingmen that you can acquire have nearly all traded armor and stability for speed and maneuverability.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The player starts as Lynx, a new pilot in Rostock's Cougar Squadron headed by their top Ace, Mutsuga "Cougar" Yamasaki, and eventually becomes known to his allies as Cheetah and feared by his enemies as the Black Cat, and after the game, becomes the dreaded Teacher from the film.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: The player character seems to be the only one capable of performing some of the more extreme flight maneuvers, especially those enabled by Tactical Maneuver Commands. The peerless level of skill carries over to the movie.
  • Geo Effects: Clouds provided limited cover from radar lock-on, and strong crosswinds and updrafts can push your plane dramatically off (or on) course.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: In the showdown with Ukumori, Ukumori makes it quite clear that he's jealous of Cheetah's accomplishments and the credit Cheetah's received and believes that it should instead be his, and attempts to prove it by trying to shoot down Cheetah.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Yamasaki goes down shielding Ukumori from enemy gunfire. Ukumori, being an Ungrateful Bastard, mocks him for it.
  • High-Altitude Battle: While all battles naturally take place quite far off the ground, the third mission in particular has a battle above the clouds and a massive updraft to make sure you can reach those altitudes quickly. Once up there, Orishina is amazed at how beautiful the sky is way up there.
  • Infinity -1 Sword: Lautern's Skyly D can be unlocked in a single playthrough and, especially with tuning parts, is nearly as good as or equal to the Sanka Mk B, as tuning causes both to start running into multiple stat caps that prevent one from outclassing the other.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The plane descriptions specifically call the Sanka Mk B, the hardest plane to unlock, the ultimate fighter. To their credit, it is extremely capable in all parameters and only rivaled by a tuned Skyly D or Sanka II C in performance.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: The starting Suiga is a well-rounded, versatile fighter with no glaring weaknesses, but also no exceptional strengths. The Fortune seems to be its Lautern equivalent in performance, and similarly has well-rounded capabilities, while not having any outstandingly good or bad parameters.
  • Joke Weapon:
    • The Senryu SS (Special Specs). Based on a plane that the entire squadron already lamented the poor handling of in a recon mission early in the game, the Special Specs variant model trades what little maneuverability the Senryu had as well as its already limited firepower, for raw speed and armor. A late-game mission requires the player to fly it as a transport for a VIP. Naturally, during the mission, you're ambushed by various Lautern aircraft while in the worst-handling, slowest-shooting plane in the game. It attempts to be a Lethal Joke Weapon with its Rapid Guns and staggering 870 rounds for them, but they can't make up for its awful handling, and several other planes act as better platforms for the weapon. Making matters worse, the mission that forces its use, also forbids the use of SP weapons, so the one time it must be used and its Rapid Guns would be appreciated, they can't be used.
    • Lautern's ubiquitous Fission fighter is easily the weakest plane in the game that doesn't simply suffer from Crippling Overspecialization. It's slow, handles poorly, and is quite fragile, and mostly exists to be easily killed by the player.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father:
    • Your character eventually becomes The Teacher from the movie.
    • Orishina is the predecessor to Kusanagi, who is another clone from the same genetic material.
  • More Dakka:
    • Rapid Guns are exactly what they sound like, and Anti-Ground Guns are functionally the same weapon, except fixed at a roughly 20 degree downwards angle.
    • All planes are armed with at least two machine guns, and most planes have more than that, and many of them have five or more.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Orishina decides that she must fight Cheetah again after how much she enjoyed their mock battle when they tested the Sanka Mk II and refuses to let anyone else take him down. Even after she defects to Lautern in hopes of getting another round with Cheetah, she shoots her own forces when they get in the way of their duel.
  • Overheating: Continuously firing machine guns (but not gun-type subweapons) will cause them to overheat and have to cool down slowly. Letting go of the trigger before this point will cool them down much faster. A tuning part can completely eliminate this.
  • Protection Mission:
    • A midgame mission has Cheetah Team defending a Rostock seaplane that was forced to make a landing in a river from Lautern attack until it's repaired enough to be able to take off.
    • Later in the game, Cheetah Team must defend Rostock's under-construction secret weapon, a massive armored airship named "Wolfram" from Lautern ground forces and bombers.
  • Red Baron: 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 which he still keeps in the movie, only with a full body version on the side.
  • Reporting Names: Lautern's fighters are only ever referred to by their Rostock reporting names, which are always English words. Their Lautern names are unknown.
  • Significant Anagram: Cheetah is an imperfect anagram of Teacher (if written as pronounced in non-rhotic dialects, it becomes clearernote ). This is yet another hint of who Cheetah eventually becomes.
  • Silent Protagonist: Lynx/Cheetah never speaks a word on screen.
  • The Social Darwinist: Ukumori believes that the strong live and the weak get killed by the strong. This goes as far as belittling Yamasaki, who saved his life, because Yamasaki died in the process. Naturally, he also believes that he is part of "the strong", though he does eventually accept that he wasn't as strong as he thought when Cheetah shoots him down.
  • Spiritual Successor: In nearly every respect, save for the title and lack of jet aircraft and guided missiles, Innocent Aces is an Ace Combat game, made by the same developers and published by the same company and using basically the same tropes. Furthermore, many aspects of the game would cross back to the parent series.
    • Many later Ace Combat games would feature piston-engined fighters with similar flight models to those used in Innocent Aces, and when used in Ace Combat Infinity, the game would adopt a HUD very similar to that used by Innocent Aces.
    • The game introduced the 100 enemy Brutal Bonus Level "Ace of Aces" that would later be seen in parent series games like Ace Combat: Joint Assault and Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy.
    • The Tactical Maneuver Command system would return to the parent series in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy. However, the maneuvers that can be performed using this system would first make their appearance as counter-maneuvers in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon's much-maligned Dogfight Mode.
    • The "Explosive Bullets" (EPB) subweapon is essentially an unguided predecessor to the "Short-range Aerial Suppression Missile" (SASM) and the "Rapid Guns" (RPG) subweapon is a predecessor to the "(Machine) Gun Pods" (GPD or MGP) seen in most Ace Combat titles since Innocent Aces's release in 2008.
    • The wind and cloud mechanics Project Aces experimented with in Innocent Aces would be greatly expanded upon for their return in Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.
  • Tempting Fate: In the first mission, Ban muses on the short lifespan of fighter pilots. Three missions later, guess who gets shot down?
  • Undying Loyalty: Kaida was deeply loyal to Captain Yamasaki and continues to call Yamasaki his captain, even after Cheetah becomes captain of the squadron. After Ukumori belittles Yamasaki and the now-dead (normal) human members of the squadron one too many times, Kaida takes a shot at Ukumori and Mozume orders Cheetah to shoot Kaida down.
  • Upgrade vs. Prototype Fight: While not a mandatory part of the game, it can certainly be arranged by bringing the Sanka Mk II to the final battle and facing off against Orishina's Sanka Mk II C, an upgraded custom version of the Sanka Mk II. Alternatively, the roles can by reversed by bringing the Sanka Mk B, a later model of Sanka fighter, to go against Orishina's improved older model.
  • Unusual Euphemism: At one point, Kaida tells Ukumori to "go strum a guitar," meaning something to the effect of "go screw yourself."
  • Villainous Breakdown: When Cheetah shoots down the aerial warship Wolfram, Mozume loses it and starts ranting about how, even if no one alive can beat Cheetah, time will eventually claim him.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The game summarizes it as "There are those who need war, and those who provide it", essentially reducing the entire concept of having wars to a matter of supply and demand - if someone demands war, someone else can make a profit supplying it.
  • Weapon of Choice:
    • Yamasaki and Kaida fly customized Suigas, while the other initial members of Cougar Team fly normal Suigas.
    • Most of the first group of Kildren to join Cougar Team fly Seieis, with Orishina's being customized.
    • Orishina almost instantly falls in love with the Sanka Mk II and makes a modified one her plane of choice.
    • Ukumori always flies his prototype Itsuha unless mission parameters demand otherwise.
    • Kildren after the first batch tend to prefer Shougus.
    • While Lynx/Cheetah is not generally plane locked (though a few missions require flying certain planes), he starts with a Suiga, and the ending cinematic implies that he prefers it. Between his Suiga and the fact that he flies a Skyly in the film, it also implies that his favorite subweapons are likely the Shotgun and Explosive Bullets, which are shared by the Suiga and Skyly, and other than character-specific variants of certain planes, these are the only planes that carry these weapons.
  • Wham Line: If all the Foreshadowing went over your head, the ending cutscene has Orishina's replacement, Kusanagi, greet Cheetah/Lynx, in front of a Suiga with their signature livery, as follows: "Please accept my regards Teacher", removing any ambiguity that the player character is the antagonist of the film.
  • Worthy Adversary: Orishina considers Cheetah one after their mock battle. Trouble is, this means that she also considers everyone else to be unworthy and she becomes increasingly disinterested in her actual job and bitter towards her squadmates, as she wants absolutely nothing other than to fight Cheetah again.