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REVIEW: Sky Crawlers


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jsevakis
Former ANN Editor in Chief


Joined: 28 Jul 2003
Posts: 1684
Location: Los Angeles, CA
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 7:32 am Reply with quote
crilix wrote:
As such, it can be unjustly damaging to the film's creators, particularly someone like Oshii Mamoru. The analysis seems all too fitting for all the shit Sevakis is going through right now as an industry insider. I'll try not to fall into a rage fest just yet as I have yet to see the film though.


With all due respect, you don't know what I may or may not be "going through." Be that as it may, I don't really think that any artistic work is worse off for having a public discussion of its interpretation. Quite the opposite. Yes, my voice may be louder than others, but honestly this only means that I can start discussions. I can't control others' opinions, or really even contribute to discussion in any meaningful way after the fact.

I would hope that respect for me wouldn't color others' interpretations, and from what I've seen I somehow doubt that anybody would capitulate to my views simply out of that (or for that matter, that anybody respects me to that degree). Film and art critics, respected or otherwise, have voiced opinions on interpretations from the beginning of time, and these are shared in the hopes of starting a valuable discourse of ideas, not to be "the last word" in the interpretation of a work.

All I know is that when I write an article I am honored to have it spur intelligent discussion. I can't imagine much other reaction by an artist or director to such a thing. Then again, you sound like you're ready to jump on anyone who has their opinion be more visible than others. If such a thing causes you to rage, surely you must spend all of your time raging?
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GATSU



Joined: 03 Jan 2002
Posts: 15371
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 7:36 am Reply with quote
jsevakis:
Quote:
Just so I'm not taking more credit than I deserve, the idea of the film being a pointed, perhaps interventionist depiction of hikikomori and those stuck in a perpetual adolescence comes directly from the press kit, and from Oshii's notes.


D'oh! I see... Still, I stand by my argument that there's nothing really hikikomori about the characters. It seems more like he's making fun of the the Adult World than the sub-culture afraid to live in it. Basically, the only vibe I get out of Sky Crawlers is that of a more subtle and subdued version of Fight Club.
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crilix



Joined: 16 Nov 2005
Posts: 208
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 7:41 am Reply with quote
jsevakis wrote:
Then again, you sound like you're ready to jump on anyone who has their opinion be more visible than others. If such a thing causes you to rage, surely you must spend all of your time raging?
Actually, I'm far more eager to jump on Oshii if what you say someday turns out to be true, but I don't think that's the case. You can be rude only to a certain degree before the hand that feeds you closes four of its fingers, and I think Oshii is smarter than that.
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jsevakis
Former ANN Editor in Chief


Joined: 28 Jul 2003
Posts: 1684
Location: Los Angeles, CA
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 7:46 am Reply with quote
GATSU wrote:
jsevakis:
Quote:
Just so I'm not taking more credit than I deserve, the idea of the film being a pointed, perhaps interventionist depiction of hikikomori and those stuck in a perpetual adolescence comes directly from the press kit, and from Oshii's notes.


D'oh! I see... Still, I stand by my argument that there's nothing really hikikomori about the characters. It seems more like he's making fun of the the Adult World than the sub-culture afraid to live in it. Basically, the only vibe I get out of Sky Crawlers is that of a more subtle and subdued version of Fight Club.


Interesting that you bring up Fight Club, because that could almost be described as this film's opposite. Fear might be one of the roots of the hikikomori issue, but the larger issue is intentionally avoiding coming out of a safe circle of existence. I don't see the characters themselves as the subjects of Oshii's criticism, they are the avatars. Think of them as the characters in a dating sim, with Yuichi being the emotionless avatar for the user. The world is the virtual reality of the user, and this admittedly cool world is the world they inhabit. Over and over and over. It's from the point of view of being IN the escapist world.

I'll fully admit that reading Oshii's notes beforehand definitely colored my views on the film, to the point where watching the film became an exercise in seeing how the film exercises its expressed purpose. It's interesting to hear the interpretation of someone whose experience was less guided by such notes.
crilix wrote:
Actually, I'm far more eager to jump on Oshii if what you say someday turns out to be true, but I don't think that's the case. You can be rude only to a certain degree before the hand that feeds you closes four of its fingers, and I think Oshii is smarter than that.

I don't think anybody but someone like Oshii (or maybe Dezaki) could get away with a film like this, honestly. Only somebody who's made as much of a mark in this industry for so long, and yet is known for not really being a team player as Oshii is, could both be taken seriously in his indictments of the industry, and its dependence on a core audience that often rejects new ideas and experimentation.

It's no secret that most of the prominent anime creators have been increasingly frustrated by the lack of self-expression being allowed in anime these days. (Several big names have quietly started trying to produce their own projects, away from the big media companies.) I am really interested in seeing how some Japanese otaku react to this film, because I can't imagine they wouldn't take some offense to it.
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GATSU



Joined: 03 Jan 2002
Posts: 15371
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 8:01 am Reply with quote
jsevakis: I understand the analogy, but the place and the characters don't seem very escapist to me. It's true that there are few worries, but that's because everything's been decided for the staff. In the end, though, it still amounts to the same type of drudgery and repetition you might expect in the "real" world. So I'm not exactly sure what Oshii's definition of "escape" really means. In some ways, his conclusion might end up having some unintended connotations in light of that Akiba knifing incident...Personally, I think Otomo did a better job of exploring the same ideas in his Memories short. But maybe that's just me.

Speaking of Oshii, you might wanna mention those live-action flicks from Bandai in a future column of "Buried Treasure", as I think they've been discontinued. Crying or Very sad
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jsevakis
Former ANN Editor in Chief


Joined: 28 Jul 2003
Posts: 1684
Location: Los Angeles, CA
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 8:08 am Reply with quote
That's exactly it, though: the escapism itself has BECOME drudgery. Just as watching, say, Mär or Girls Bravo has become drudgery for us. We've seen the EXACT SAME THING with different names and colors parade in front of us for years, and this film is anger directed at both the addiction to such repetition as a comfort zone, as well as what once was a craft that has become dedicated to supplying it.

Can I ask what thematical similarities you saw in Cannon Fodder?
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GATSU



Joined: 03 Jan 2002
Posts: 15371
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 8:53 am Reply with quote
But I don't really feel that getting bored with your job and your friends is the same thing as getting bored with your hobby-unless you've deluded yourself into believing that you're obligated to watch anime on a frequent basis as a job, because you have some sort of imaginary relationship with it. I mean, that's what you call an Uber-Hikikomori right there. Laughing

As for Cannon Fodder vs. Sky Crawlers, both are anime revolving around societies fighting pointless and non-existent wars. I just feel Cannon Fodder did it better, because it examined the domestic lives of the characters, as well as the infrastructure of the War State. However, when it comes to exploring what makes the place tick, Sky Crawlers seems to cop out on the viewer. It seems more obsessed with hammering home the point about how worthless the lives of the characters are than about exploring the possibility of the characters learning from one another and growing in the process.

SC also ignores the possibility of being able to distill these experiences into a broader world-view. For example, there are those scenes where they say a road looks different on second viewing. But those moments are generally ignored in favor of a pre-determined certainty by the director that there is no real hope for the leads. In Cannon Fodder, however, you can clearly see a generational change and development in the child characters which suggests a possibility of eventual escape.

If you look at anime in that same way, yes, it's going through a "more of the same" phase; but there's a lot of potential new blood willing to carve out new paths for the genre. Look at Satoshi Kon and Mamoru Hosoda, for example. And hell, how many generic shows from the 60s and 70s were created and discarded to get to the Gigantors and Yamatos of those decades? You just have to be more selective-that's all.

However, outside of live-action, Oshii doesn't seem to be willing to break out of his own rut. He hasn't taken any chances since the first GITS, and he keeps copying and pasting its style in all his subsequent anime films. What was once "deep" has now become cheapened in a way not dissimilar to what I'm assuming Spielberg fans have been feeling since A.I. Anyway, that's my two cents.
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DuelLadyS



Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 1705
Location: WA state
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 9:16 am Reply with quote
I find it a bit ironic that this film is described as a parallel to the drugery of anime and its fans... becuase I've had the Pinky Street figures of the 2 main characters on pre order for awhile now.

Guess they don't hate the same ol' routine enough to avoid the same ol' merchandise opportunities. Laughing
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Veers



Joined: 31 Oct 2008
Posts: 1197
Location: Texas
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 10:22 am Reply with quote
Hmm, this review piqued my interest, but at the same time it was such a thought-provoking read that I almost feel like I don't need to bother watching the film and could better spend the time on introspection.
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Zin5ki



Joined: 06 Jan 2008
Posts: 6680
Location: London, UK
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 10:53 am Reply with quote
An intriguing review. I'm not sufficiently well-versed in film studies to comment upon the distinction between analysis and opinion, but this came across as almost solely the former to me. I usually expect more attributes pertaining to the reviewer's personal reactions to a screenplay to be included in articles such as this, viz. their emotional reaction, the level to which they were entertained and so on.

I take exception in this case though. To be blunt, I tend not to agree with Justin's verdicts as far as such sorts of opinion go. This review worked to the end of preparing my expectations with respect to the film's thematic content instead of its subjective quality. Though my decision to watch this film when available was made some time ago, I'm now more aware of the need to get into the 'mood' for an Oshii film beforehand, and for that I give thanks.
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chronium



Joined: 25 Apr 2005
Posts: 289
Location: Canada
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 11:39 am Reply with quote
While I can see where Justin is coming from but i have to disagree with him on the simple fact that Oshii is so vague in Sky Crawler's that he can be talking about anything. Child soldiers, the war in iraq, reality tv, etc.
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Oronae



Joined: 05 Oct 2006
Posts: 165
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 12:00 pm Reply with quote
jsevakis wrote:
(Several big names have quietly started trying to produce their own projects, away from the big media companies.)


Examples? The only one I can think of offhand is Mamoru Nagano's Gothicmade, and I'd hardly call Nagano a big name.
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tinyRedLeaf



Joined: 22 Dec 2008
Posts: 1
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 12:10 pm Reply with quote
bridgetosolace wrote:
Simultaneously a very intelligent but kind of failed review. This comes off more as a film analysis than a review, which is a negative.

A review is supposed to set up the basic set-up of the story, but you at least seem to go far beyond that.


I also agree that it's a bit of a failed review, but unlike Bridget, I feel that way because you've given away too much of the plot. Compare this review with several others on the Internet, and you'll instantly see what I mean.

Nonetheless, it's a very good effort, and you do offer very insightful analysis. Smile

Part of what made The Sky Crawlers so fascinating is that it has been set up as a mystery. Who was Jinroh? Where has he gone? What was his relationship to Suito? Who is the Teacher? How does Suito know him? You've kind of ruined the ending for potential audiences by revealing too much of the details that lead up to the inevitable conclusion. These details will be fairly obvious to an observant viewer, but I should also add this caveat: Viewers who are not familiar with Oshii's directorial style are very likely to find this movie an excruciatingly tedious bore.

I have not read Oshii's notes, and I'm glad I didn't, because they'd have prejudiced my own interpretation of the movie. To be honest, I felt severely let down after my first viewing of the film, but on my subsequent two viewings, I began to realise why the movie was constructed the way it was. Suffice to say, I can appreciate why The Sky Crawlers won the Jose Luis Guarner Critic Award — there is not a single wasted scene in the film, which I can roughly divide into six or seven acts.

My advice to potential viewers: Don't go in expecting to watch a war or romance movie. Oshii has never made films for mainstream audiences, and The Sky Crawlers is not an exception. Instead, treat it as a whodunit mystery, and you'll enjoy it a lot more. That wouldn't actually deviate very far from the source material. Hiroshi MORI, the author of the novels on which this movie is based, is well known for being a sci-fi mystery writer, and to screenplay-writer Chihiro Ito's credit, some of those mystery elements were retained in the film.

Praise aside, Oshii continues to deserve criticisms for making self-indulgent films. His movies, as always, tend to appeal to the head rather than to the heart. I enjoy the intellectual workout, but I'd rather have a movie with characters I can relate to emotionally.

It's not surprising that my favourite character in The Sky Crawlers turns out to be Mitsuya (Chiaki Kuriyama of Kill Bill fame), a supporting character who appears only in later half of the movie but ends up playing a vital role. She is by far the most human of the Kildren, and hence easily the most likeable person in the story.

It's hard to say the same for the other characters. Take note though: the story is really all about Suito Kusanagi, but told from Yuuichi Kannami's perspective. The plot will make a whole lot more sense once you've realised this. Wink
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Ishmoo



Joined: 11 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 12:24 pm Reply with quote
dtm42 wrote:

However, I do find it extraordinarily hypocritical (is that the right word?) of Oshii to lambast Anime and those who watch it, by making an Anime film. Seems kind of contrary to his stated goals; if he dislikes the culture so much, why is he further helping it by making a movie that Anime fans will see?

Not having seen the film myself, I can only speculate here, but don't you think part of the underlying theme might reflect a good deal of self reproach as well? Perhaps he is also sick to death of himself and his part in the decay of the industry. Either way, it's an issue worth exploring.
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Beryl7



Joined: 02 Nov 2007
Posts: 73
PostPosted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 12:51 pm Reply with quote
Beautiful, beautiful review, Mr. Sevakis. I love your work.

I have not yet had the opportunity to see the film, so I have no place to give a what would appear to be a pseudo-intellectual opinion on this piece. I've been very curious about it, though, and look forward to seeing it myself.
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