Japan, 2008, animated, 121 min.
The Sky Crawlers, from master director Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell), is scheduled to be released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on both Blu-ray High-Def and DVD this Tuesday.
Since I wrote fairly extensively about the film in my original review, I'll just provide a brief synopsis here and focus more on the DVD package.
In an alternate reality, war as we know it has been replaced by corporate-sponsored combat between rival air forces. The pilots are known as Kildren, adolescent youths who never age and who seem to exist only to engage in combat.
The story's central character is Yuichi and we meet him as he is assigned to a new base and plane. The base commander is Suito, another Kildren, and a rather strange, intimate relationship develops between the two of them. Yuichi also develops another relationship with Fooco, a prostitute and a normal human. She and one of her co-workers are kind of fighter pilot groupies.
There are a number of mysteries played out over the course of the film. What happened to Jinroh Kurita, the pilot whose plane Yuichi is assigned? And why is there so often a sense of deja vu while at the same time actual memories tend to be very limited? These make the film quite intriguing.
But for me the biggest draw of the film are the aerial scenes, particularly the dogfights. The animation is a combination of 2-D (the characters and backgrounds) and 3-D (the airplanes). So the non-flight scenes are largely standard animation, while the flight scenes are nearly photo-realistic.
And let me tell you, the aerial scenes are totally awesome! I felt like I was watching actual combat footage. A truly incredible achievement by Oshii and his team.
There are two special features on the discs of both formats and an extra one on the Blu-ray version. (See disc info below for specifics.) Not having a Blu-ray player yet, my screener was the standard DVD. The research featurette is devoted to location scouting, primarily in Europe including a Polish airfield. Though it did not really drag, I personally felt that it could've been trimmed a little bit.
The other featurette is concerned mainly with sound effects, music and the dubbing of the Japanese language version of the film. (The disc also has a very good English language version that adds to the replay value of an already great film.)The only real fault I found with the extras was that people are not identified. I'd never seen Oshii before, and it was easy to quickly figure out who he was. I also recognized Rinko Kikuchi (Babel), who provides the voice for Commander Suito Kusanagi and Chiaki Kuriyama (Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and Exte: Hair Extensions), who voiced another character. For me, it would've been nice if all the principal individuals had been ID'd. On the other hand, I will acknowledge that since both featurettes are subtitled, doing so might've run the risk of visual overload.
The bottom line is that The Sky Crawlers is a fantastic film that will delight devoted fans of anime and newcomers alike. The transfer, even on standard DVD, is first-rate and drop-dead gorgeous. I've seen the film three times: last fall in a theater and recently twice on DVD (both the Japanese and English language versions). It totally holds up for repeat viewings.
Check it out for yourself by watching the Blu-ray & DVD trailer here. And keep your eyes peeled for the quote from my original review of the film. It appears roughly 1/3rd of the way through the trailer.