From MAMORU OSHII, the world-acclaimed director of Ghost in the Shell comes an award-winning story of an exciting but endless war with heroes too young to understand the meaning of their battles. A group of eternally young fighter pilots known as Kildren experience the sudden loss of innocence as they battle the enemy in astonishing dogfights above the clouds. With his only childhood memory consisting of intense flight training, the fearless teenage pilot Yuichi's dogfights coexist with his struggle to find his missing past. When his beautiful, young female commander Suito is reluctant to discuss the fate of the pilot that Yuichi is replacing - or the strangely perfect condition of that pilot's former aircraft - Yuichi's curiosity becomes heightened.
Mamoru Oshii's The Sky Crawlers
(2008) plays like a mixture of Top Gun
and Serial Experiments Lain
. Although teenage fighter pilot Yuichi lacks Tom Cruise's good looks, he's the ace of his unit at the Rostock Corporation, performing elaborate maneuvers and bringing down enemy planes. Yuichi and his fellow pilots are mysterious beings known as "Kildren:" they never age, but remain teenagers their entire lives. When commander Suito learns that the Kildren are products of a mysterious genetic experiment, she begins to suspect that she and the pilots are used, discarded, and replaced, like so many spare parts. Yuichi doesn't just resemble Jinroh, the former pilot of his plane (and Suito's lover); he's the reincarnation of Jinroh. These revelations would pack more punch if the characters weren't such nonentities. Yuichi and the other pilots express so little emotion, they make Keanu Reeves seem like a dynamic presence. Oshii uses computer animation for the elaborate aerial dogfights, although the realistically rendered, three-dimensional aircraft never mesh with the flat, two-dimensional characters. Sky Crawlers
had a decidedly mixed reaction in Japan, and its limited theatrical release in the U.S. failed to generate much excitement. It's a disappointing effort from the creator of the watershed Ghost in the Shell
. (Rated PG-13: Violence, sexual situations, alcohol and tobacco use) --Charles Solomon