Monday, May 4, 2015

The Sky Crawlers

The Sky Crawlers; animated drama, Japan, 2008; D: Mamoru Oshii, S: Ryo Kase, Rinko Kikuchi, Shosuke Tanihara

Kannami is a young war pilot who works for a company and uses a military airbase to combat war planes in far away destinations. He does not know why and does not care. There are a few other pilots at the airbase, while his boss is Mrs. Kusanagi. Kannami is bored, and spends his peaceful times at a diner, bowling or sleeping with women. After a while, Kusanagi snaps and reveals him the secret: he is Kildren, one of several clones who are created artifically just to fight and die in endless aerial battles, since the society needs wars to keep going, yet at the same time there is no need for mobilisation of civilians nor war destruction, since all the battles happen in the sky and by clones. Kusanagi wants Kannami to shoot her, but he refuses. He flies off to a next battle mission. After long absence, a new pilot shows up in his place.

Mamoru Oshii's anime "The Sky Crawlers" should have been a short film. The storyline and narrative in this edition simply do not support an overlong running time of 120 minutes. Actually, it is startling that the whole first 90 minutes of the film is just an assembly of empty walks - boring, tedious and dry sequences of pilot Kannami walking around the military base, talking with other pilots, going to a diner, just staring... - and that a plot finally sets in only in the last 30 minutes. That concept in the last quarter of the film is quite strong, though: it presents a world where clones are bred just to go fight and kill each other in artificially prolonged, never-ending wars to feed the aggression hungry viewers. This concept of perpetual war works surprisingly fine: on one hand, the idea is that the masses see the killings and get a sense of perverted war excitement, and yet, they do not have to worry of getting harm themselves, since the clones are there to die. It is practical: there is no destruction of the facilities, since only the clones kill each other, yet the war is still going on. Unfortunately, it is a pity that this concept was not elaborated further. There is no point in the first 90 minutes of the film, everything could have been said in those last half an hour, which would have made the film far more compact and dynamic, instead of boring and exhaustingly slow. Also, the characters are strangely passive, and only Mrs. Kusanagi (brilliant Rinko Kikuchi) stands out. Unfortunately, "Sky Crawlers" caused the viewers to decipher and fill in the dots of the story in far greater extent than it did to the sole screenwriters to exploit all the rich possibilities of the concept and the situation in which the hero found himself. Despite a thought provoking premise, it is very "underused".


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