1 of 1 episodes seen
I watched The Sky Crawlers for the first time last night. With Kenji Kawai and Production IG alongside him, it’s a film as thoughtful as it is beautiful. Set on an alternate Earth, the ageless Kildren (“kill-dolls”) are fighter pilots forever clashing amidst the clouds in a war that is at best extremely vague and at worst totally pointless. The story exists in a place that’s like Neverland gone bad, where the children’s only escape from the endless cycles of war is heavy drinking, sex and suicide: the sheer monotony of their lives is reflected in the film’s subdued colour palette, everything is so hazy and drained: an apt worldview for a doll. A doll isn’t alive. A doll doesn’t have memories. A doll is content with its place in the world because it knows no better.
There’s an urgency that underpins The Sky Crawlers. Is it okay to live a life like this? To feel so desensitised and free of passion? In both a very literal and metaphorical sense, it’s about people who can’t grow up, but has a message of perseverance for us too: “You must live until you can change something.” Throughout the film, Kusanagi carries a loaded gun, points it at her temple and threatens to kill herself. To put this into context, when you realise that 30,000 people in Japan kill themselves every year, the ideas behind The Sky Crawlers begin to make sense.
The Kildren are clones, and coming to terms with the fact that you’re not special, or unique, can be hard, but being human means accepting that reality and moving forwards anyway. “Just because it’s the same path doesn’t mean it always has the same scenery. Isn’t that… good enough?” For me, at least, it’s good enough. It’s like how I’m an anime blogger, and I’ve been doing this for years now. I could give up and nothing would change. People will still be writing about anime tomorrow and I’d be forgotten. Why should I bother? I’m not asking for your sympathy here, it’s just a fact.
This is what The Sky Crawlers is about. Facing the reality that you’re not doing anything different with your life, but taking the responsibility to push yourself forwards anyway, that is how I’m interpreting Yūichi’s last line, “I’m going to kill my father.” Although it means he’s almost certainly going to his death, he’s at least trying to step out of the cycle, cast aside his history and change his life. There’s a huge difference between dying in pursuit of change and dying without ever having tried anything. It beautifully transforms what’s ostensibly such a sad end into such a moment of rapture. It’s wonderful to struggle, to be imperfect, to change. Life would be so boring otherwise: don’t give up.
Suffice to say, The Sky Crawlers is an excellent film. As should be expected of Mamoru Oshii at this point, it’s another deliberately paced, deep drama punctuated with moments of exciting, visceral action. I couldn’t ask for any more from a film. It’s one of the best I’ve seen in years. read more
12 of 12 episodes seen
I want to say that that something is heart, but each episode's so lovingly animated that this time I can't really accuse Madhouse of not trying. Indeed, I kept up with X-Men for that reason: this is a fluid and excitingly drawn series that, in the end, just never convinces us that these characters are worth caring for.
Cyclops is the angsty pretty boy and Wolverine the wise-cracking bastard; that's all we get from them. This wouldn't be problem if the series didn't go out of its way to try the viewer's emotion, but there's just too much empty melodrama here, and as it gradually becomes clear that X-Men can't handle its characters, the series devolves into an increasingly hollow experience, where the more I just want to see stuff blow up, the more we're dragged through the likes of Xavier's dull dealings with old flames and bastard children.
Quite frankly, I felt empty after watching this, like I'd wasted my time. Never again, I say! read more
Tekkonkinkreet is also known as “Black and White”, and so named are the two main characters; both being delinquent street kids who live out of a rusty old used car in the concrete city-scape “Treasure Town”. Despite being mere children, their gang, the (stray) “Cats”, dominate the violent underbelly of Treasure Town’s yuppie society, their attentions feared by thugs, police and yakuza alike. As is immediately clear, Black and White aren’t normal kids at all; for a start, they can fly, but mostly, they are defined by their emotional eccentricities.
Black is just that; a black-hearted, blood thirsty thug who is constantly looking for a fight; his attraction to violence borders on sadism and often he can be seen with a giant crow perched on his shoulder, the meat-eating birds that feed off of human garbage aptly symbolizing his pessimistic views on life. His snot-nosed buddy White is the exact opposite; optimistic, innocent and constantly laughing, he has dreams of a future outside of Treasure Town; a vision of rolling blue seas and sparkling golden sand. Black and White live for each other; Black protects White from the city’s violent undercurrents, while White’s very existence anchors Black’s true departure into darkness.
The plot is simply a means to that end, and quite frankly, isn’t so important. Treasure Town is being steam-rollered by an unscrupulous theme park franchise and hence, they need to get rid of the tourist-scaring delinquent kids. Unfortunately for them, Black sees the city as his town too, and his unrelenting intent on causing trouble begins what is a gradual decent into violent madness. The heart-rending characterisation extends to an entire cast of misfits, not least of all a scar-faced ex-yakuza struggling against the tide of violence to forge a better future for his pregnant girlfriend. Early in the movie, this same yakuza shows his professional streak when he gleefully removes the ears from one unlucky fellow.
The tragic and emotionally intense characterisation is well balanced by extended sequences of brutal and kinetic action, not least of all an Akira style opening scene that sees Black and White chasing a group of rival punks across colourful roof-tops and moving traffic. The gravity defying jumps, flips and kicks are well complimented by an emotive electronica score courtesy of British dance group Plaid. Of special note is that the music really captures the beautiful and surreal elements of Tekkonkinkreet, whimsical dreams of a flower-laden future totally at odds with Treasure Town’s overflowing urban metropolis.
A truly three dimensional effort; the excellent Tekkonkinkreet is a rewarding and exciting movie that offers bitter-sweet moments of friendship and family, morals and loyalty, set in an unrelentingly violent and cruel world dominated by industry and capitalism. Animated with beautiful perfection and stylized to the point of surrealism, it’s a great looking film that both exploits and cherishes the inherent contradictions of the human spirit. read more
13 of 13 episodes seen
Many desire immortality, yet the key to eternal life has forever eluded man. The story of “Baccano!” begins in 1711 when a group of sea-faring alchemists capture this most desired of gifts. Nearly all of them become immortal there and then, yet, as fate would have it; only one is granted the knowledge to recreate the potion. Of course, he quickly decides not to tell, wisely realising the folly in allowing such power to leak out into the public domain, but his brave decision quickly incites murder and ultimately, a struggle that’s raged for over 200 years. We join the story as it reaches its climax during prohibition-era North America; this was the absolute height of organised crime in the US, a violent and cruel time to live, or indeed, die.
Despite its frequent lapses into light comedy, squeamish readers should be warned that this is a deceptively violent (and often, sadistic) series. Without going into too much detail, lets just say that bones break, arms get sliced, faces explode and children are tortured. Of course, this refreshing lack of moral compunction inevitably climaxes in some breath-taking and unpredictable action scenes, including several sequences of beautifully animated hand-to-hand combat, fought on the windy carriage-roofs of a moving train. Just so you know, it turns out that knives, guns, grenades and even flame-throwers aren’t much of a match for blood-thirsty gymnasts. “Baccano!” is a lot like “Black Lagoon”; it has that same delirious hunger for gruesome carnage.
On its own, the action wouldn’t be enough, but as I’ve already mentioned, this is hardly a conventional series. Aside from the fact that the narrative will regularly interchange years and events in a matter of seconds, many of the characters provoke empathy and romance despite having splattered the brains of an adversary all over the wall minutes earlier. I loved the playful dialogue, and the character interactions are remarkably fun and natural; you believe in their fear, sadness or anger. You can see a love affair unfolding and it’s almost heart-breaking. By the end I was completely riveted by the story, lost in the characters.
There is so much to say about “Baccano!” but I’m afraid I’ll lose your concentration if I keep going. I’ve already had to completely scrap the first version of this review since it degenerated into a bloated rant. Obviously, I absolutely loved this series, and if I ever get around to writing a review of 2007, it will easily make my top 3 of the year. The best decision I made was to push through it over a quiet weekend; as expected, the jumbled jigsaw of a plot and all those unique characters are so much easier to remember this way. The only problem is that now I’m having trouble letting go, I’m still stuck in the world of immortals and trying to fathom out the few remaining mysteries. Hints are made at characters and storylines beyond the anime narrative and quite frankly, I’d die for a sequel. If you’re yet to watch “Baccano!”; I envy you. read more