Sky Crawlers is a powerful movie. But its production values aren’t the best part, for me. It’s the mood, the mood that the show kept consistent from start to finish.
When I first read about it, I thought it was some sort of glamorous Top Gun-esque flick with crazy dogfights. Nothing can be farther from the truth. It first plays out like a pilot slice-of-life, then important stuff happens, then it ends. It explains the nature of Kildren in trickles (there’s only one noticeable LOL Oshii exposition scene), until it hits you in the head (don’t forget to stay after the credits). There are dogfights, and beautifully-animated ones at that, but they’re not grandiose, merely empty games that occur daily. You’ll understand when you see it.
Kannami has little to no personality, but he’s more compelling than most anime characters I’ve seen. It’s because he’s portrayed as a person, not just some genetically-engineered pilot. He smokes, laughs after getting praised, gets laid with hawt wimmenz, indulges the banal questions of old women on tour, exercises his hips with kiddie rides, and goes bowling. He’s more than an ace with memories that aren’t entirely his–the trivial things help shape him and turn him into a real person right before my eyes.
It got me asking, what do ace pilots do out of their machines, anyway? How do they entertain themselves, forgetting their dangerous occupation off their piloting duties? Kannami’s case is a textbook example, but it’s a way of dealing with the fact that he could die next sortie. Did Char have anything else to do out of combat aside from scheming against the Zabis? (in the novels, he does get laid by Gihren’s secretary no less) Was Johnny Ridden perpetually cursing his luck by being overshadowed by the Red Comet? Ozma listens to Fire Bomber and bakes bad cake, he’s a start.
I want real people, people who have something they do besides being badass aces. Hanging a personal belonging in front of your cockpit helps (as well as increase the chances of death in succeeding episodes), but it’s just a little step. Piloting has been trivialized in anime, and I want something that reminds me how close they are to death, every single time they leave the hangar.
A custom paintjob and a fancy nickname might make you an ace, but it takes much more than that to become a real person.