The Sky Crawlers: Must We Crawl Under That Sky?
March 25, 2009
Before I offer my interpretation, a brief review for those has not seen this yet. There are two aspects of the film that you should keep in mind.
1. In a sense, experience of Sky Crawlers is like watching a novel. Majority of the film consists of scenes where not much actually happens or is said, but attention to details are so subtle and deliberate, one could almost imagine these pictures narrating for the reader. For example, while the major Kasanagi seems to initially show no interest in her new pilot (Kannami), there are things that we notice, like her deep stares behind his back, picking up his cigarette butts when he’s not looking, and visiting his room to feel his bed sheet, which all hints to feelings deeper than simple curiosity for a new pilot. It inspires questions, such as “what’s Kasanagi’s relationship with Kannami?”, and “why is everyone trying to avoid talking about the dead pilot Kannami is replacing”, which are all mysteries that are crucial to fully appreciating The Sky Crawlers.
2. Another point is that the film’s direction is very slow and moody in a typical Oshii style. On one hand this atmospheric direction beautifully links to the repetitious and mundane life of kildren (children who do not age) on thematic level. On the other, the film may prove TOO slow and moody. There exists huge emotional distance between us and the characters so it’s very easy for one to not care for all those subtle details that are essential to understanding The Sky Crawlers. This is where Oshii once again lives up to his reputation for producing self-indulgent works so approach it with caution, or lots of caffeine.
As for what Sky Crawlers was ultimately trying to say, you will find opinions ranging from “it’s yet another anti-war film!” to “it’s a critique of anime industry and otakus!”. I will say this: the film spoke about a group of youth far larger than just anime subculture, and most definitely wasn’t focused on the horrors of war. The following quotes on Jungian concept of “Eternal Boy” describes well many issues faced by both kildrens and young adults of our modern society (thanks to Wabisabi for info):
- The suffering of normal young people consists partly in the fact that inwardly they are very efficient, intelligent and grown-up, but outwardly, they are not given the possibility of using these capacities. They are held back by society, with the result that they are bored.
- After they loses the ecstatic, romantic élan of youth, there is danger of an unantiodrama into a completely cynical attitude toward women, life, work in general, and money.
- They live only ‘on condition’; secretly they flirt with the idea of suicide. At every step of their lives, they think they will try something or other, and that if it does not work, they will kill themselves.
Kildrens spend their time repeating the same activities. Reading the same newspaper, the same beer, the same meaningless promiscuity and accepting the society’s demands by risking their life in this ‘war’. One might say much of our young adults in modern society has become kildrens themselves. Sky is blue and vast, but they do not fly and soar through that vast expanse of freedom. Instead they crawl. They strut and fret, caught under the repetitions of meaningless activities, forever running away from The Teacher. But for once Oshii is optimistic and provides hope, and that hope lies within the characters. Look at Tokino, Mitsuya, Jinrou, Kusanagi and Kannami, and look at the different choices they have made. We don’t always have to crawl under that sky.