Japanese films have a habit of creating twisted and odd concepts out of the ordinary. This animated film is a good example.
To appease a society accustomed to war and aggression, private companies hire fighter pilots to engage in actual combat operations. They are called the “Kildren”, adolescents who fight in a staged war that people can read about in the paper.
If you are patient enough, you will be rewarded with a thought-provoking and engaging story. The clues are subtle, left in conversations and day to day lives of its characters.
The animation is detailed and superb, combining 2D and CGI. The world of this alternate history is peaceful yet dark, painting a quaint picture with a foreboding atmosphere. The dogfights are few but realistic.
It’s not your typical anime film, so you may have to leave all your expectations at the door. The pace is very slow and nothing much happens in the first half of the film. The story came in late and concluded early. Despite its premise, there are only a few action scenes.
Most of the time the characters are expressionless with blank stares, making them creepy and unrelatable. There’s plenty of angst here to feel their pain, but the characters don’t give enough of a reason for the audience to be invested in Kildren.
Nonetheless, if you are prepared to sit through this animated film, it will leave you with something to think about. Sky Crawlers is not just about war. It’s about the futility of war and a society willing to sacrifice its young.
Sky Crawlers is an unconventional anime with a thought-provoking story and an interesting premise if you're willing to meet it halfway.