Dear Sky Crawlers,
As I take in your lush and visually striking opening, I get the feeling you are going to be something unique from what I have usually seen, even amongst the many foreign, anime and animated features in my past.
It starts from the get go, a strange detached ambiance in what can only be described as a bizarre alternate reality where there isn’t any real war but it is staged between mock enemies nonetheless. This war is for the entertainment of the public at large. The only thing is it is for real? You can kill and be killed. When the main character Yuichi shows up for the first time, there has already been a large dollop of weird and the more the story is told, the stranger it gets. As I am drawn into this tale with some of the best rendered classic animation I have ever seen (particularly on Blu ray) something sneaks up on me shocks me no more than a third of the way into the story.
That something is that you feel like a vintage film, almost a full on noir that could have been black and white and set in the 40’s. You reek with style and ambiance that belies the fact that it is an Asian animated film. Your spacious story, dialog, abundance of amazing long shot cinematography and mixture of languid character scenes interspersed with truly harrowing aerial dogfights make you a marvel to behold. The stretches of meaningful silence between character dialog is so antithetical to animated work it seems almost decadent. Additionally, what sticks out from the introduction of Yuichi is that when the pilots are not up in the planes these young ‘Killdren’ are appropriately youthful but also inordinately blasé, ‘old souled’ and business like with their existence. It’s a thread that runs throughout and only make sense at the end and it is a unique and powerful story telling component. Genius!
If you stopped there it would be remarkable, but from this lush environment springs a slowly developing fascinating story that perplexes for a long time until the dénouement serves a chilling and thought provoking conclusion. When the impact of that conclusion arrives you are left pondering the implications whether you want to or not. Like some of my favorites in this vein, it doesn’t finish with a happy ending and it is far more open-ended than most folks find comfortable.
But great stories and great movies often do that. Yes, lets make no mistake; you are great, though not a palatable taste for many film fans. But as for me, I will suffer the melancholy alternate reality that is your nature to drink in your tales and personalities any chance I get.
Hand shake and tight one armed hug to you my friend.