The Sky Crawlers (PG-13)
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This came out in 2008, but I didn't manage to see it until 2017.
So... there are these two corporations, Rostock and Lautern, that are at war with each other, though it took me awhile to figure out that they actually were companies, and not countries. And it was even longer before the reason for the war was revealed. Anyway, the movie begins with an aerial battle... and I should mention that the planes are CGI and the people are traditionally animated. After the battle, a pilot named Yūichi Kannami is assigned to a base called Area 262. He meets the chief mechanic there, Towa Sasakura. And he meets a few pilots, including his roommate and flying partner, Naofumi Tokino. Also the base commander, Suito Kusanagi. And... Kannami becomes curious about the previous pilot of the plane to which he's been assigned, someone named Kurita Jinroh. He's a bit surprised not to meet Jinroh, because he says it's customary for a plane's new pilot to meet the old one, unless the old one had been killed. But he doesn't get any answers at first, not even whether Jinroh is still alive or not. Meanwhile, he soon gets accustomed to life on the base. And Tokino takes him to a local diner, as well as introducing him to a woman named Fūko, who is apparently a friend of Tokino's own date, Kusumi. They go to what appears to be a mansion, but I kind of got the impression it might be a brothel. I'm really not sure.
Anyway... the movie really takes its time doling out tidbits of information about the world in which it's set. For one thing, the pilots are all "Kildren," and I really don't want to spoil everything about what that means. But I guess it won't hurt to say that part of it is that they're like... teenagers who never become adults. (It's not unusual for anime to have teenage pilots of mechas, so it wasn't hard for me to accept teenagers as pilots of fighter planes.) And later in the movie, the 262 join up with other Rostock groups for a major assault against a Lautern base. At that point, they meet a pilot named Midori Mitsuya, who ends up returning with them to Area 262, after the operation. And she eventually reveals to Kannami how troubled she is by certain aspects of the war, and the nature of Kildren. But I don't want to spoil all that. I will say that Kusanagi had previously expressed concerns of her own, of a similar nature, though she wasn't as emotional about it as Mitsuya. Oh, and I should also mention that throughout the film, there are references to an ace pilot from Lautern, called "the Teacher," who was seemingly impossible to defeat in battle, and who was also supposedly an adult, a fact that all the Kildren pilots find inconceivable.
Well, I don't know what else to say, really. I've left out a lot of details, to avoid spoiling too much. But I must say, I found it very frustrating to have so little idea what was going on, for most of the movie. It was all rather confusing and odd, but while I was curious to learn more, I maybe wasn't quite intrigued. In fact I'd almost say I was bored, for a lot of the time. I do think that eventually it becomes more interesting, the more you learn. It eventually turns into a bit of a mindscrew, which I guess made the movie better than it otherwise would have been, but even so... it's more sort of tragic than anything else. Just a really weird variety of tragic. Other than that... I'll say the battle sequences were pretty awesome. And I'll mention that there's a post-credits scene you should stick around for. And I'm glad I finally saw the movie, though I don't think I'd ever feel the need to watch it a second time.