While it’s true that Mamoru Oshii’s _The Sky Crawlers_ is punctuated by jaw-droppingly beautiful scenes of aerial combat, the true pleasure is all the meditative stuff between sorties. Plenty of anime have dealt with the futility of war, but few have done so as effectively as _Sky Crawlers_ as the film’s Kildren (essentially ‘kill-doll’) pilots – genetically engineered clones designed from the ground up to wage war – tear each other apart to appease a populace seeking the cathartic release provided by armed conflict…not as a means of solving national disputes, but as sport.
There’s a mystery here, about the fate of one such Kildren, and an ace pilot nobody seems to be able to vanquish – but watching the pilots struggle to come to terms with the futility of their existence is the real draw. Anyone familiar with Oshii’s existential polemics won’t be surprised by this, but newcomers be warned – this is not wall-to-wall action. It demands – and rewards – your patience.