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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 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.

A Licensed Game, developed by Access Games, was released in 2008 in Japan by Bandai Namco. 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. Plotwise, it's a prequel.


The film provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Book-Ends: 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.
  • 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.
  • Brand X: Pops-Cola and Treasure soft drinks (with logos that resemble Coca Cola and Pepsi), Green Label beer and Leopard cars. They are owned Mega-Corp s,the Poliash 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.
  • Conspicuous CG: The planes look almost photorealistic, while the humans are drawn traditionally.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: Much of the film, leading to its polarizing status among viewers.
  • Cool Plane: Lots of them.
  • 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.
  • Downer Ending: The protagonist is ultimately unable to defeat his "father" / genetic-original, The Teacher, so the cycle continues.
  • 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 vs. 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:

  • 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 oriental-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".
  • Charge Meter: 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: Look at the nose art of the player character's plane...
  • 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.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Your character eventually becomes The Teacher from the movie.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Orishina
  • 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.
  • Tempting Fate: In the first mission, Ban muses on the short lifespan of fighter pilots. Three missions later, guess who gets shot down?