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This anthology tells the aviation related stories of three troopers on the Axis side of World War II. The first one is of a disgraced German fighter pilot who is assigned to escort a bomber carrying his love and a fearsome secret cargo. The second story is of a Japanese kamikaze pilot of a guided rocket bomb who, denied his chance in a failed attack in which he survived, is determined to complete his mission despite the odds. Finally, two soldiers attempt to reach an air base to fulfill a promise despite the fact that it might have been rendered moot in the reality of war. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The cockpit was originally a manga created by Leiji Matsumoto (of captain Harlock fame) which consisted of WWII stories (mostly aerial ones) told from "the other side" (being that other side the axis). This movie consists of 3 stories animated and written by 3 different studios a la "memories", but with the setting being common to all: WWII.
The first segment deserves a review on it's own, so I'll leave that for later and focus on the 2nd and 3rd first: Now, the reason why this movie is so obscure is probably because of these two stories, which are simply awful. Both of them are viewed from the Japanese side of things and have one thing in common: the @**##%! Honor the Japanese have.
The 2nd one tells the story of a kamikaze pilot who must fulfil his destiny and the whole story is an excuse to show us how the Japanese are incredibly honorable, and how they carry out their missions no matter what, they'll never give up, and they'll never surrender, and bla, bla, bla. The whole thing reeks of the same stench found on "saving private Ryan" (which is the "let's make a movie with cheap sensibility that deep down ends up saying "WE are good, and THEY are bad" stench). Same goes for the third segment which is basically the same but which focuses on two soldiers trying to return to their base in a bike. Save for some interesting details (i.e. the cherry blossom plane concept is pretty cool) they're dull and unimaginative. The animation is acceptable but the character design is filled with deformed and cartoonish characters and expressions which completely rob any sense of "seriousness" the stories might have had.
After all this you might think the movie deserves it's "no one knows it" status, however there's a reason you need to see this movie, and that reason is the first story. This segment tells the story of a reluctant nazi pilot whose prowess will get him assigned to the most terrible mission ever conceived, both for it's objectives and for personal reasons. Now I don't want to spoil anything so I won't say more about the story, but suffice to say it's one of the most touching stories I've ever seen. The plot may seem a little too..."convenient" to some, in fact halfway through the segment you can guess what's gonna happen in the end, but it's the way the story is told and the fact that you dread what's gonna happen and there's nothing you or anyone can do to stop it that makes it so good.
Except for the dated look of the harlock-ish character design the technical aspect is superb, it's the only story without any cartoonish "feel" whatsoever of the three, the animation while just ok on the "ground" scenes is fantastically fluent and realistic in the aerial dogfight scenes. And the art as well as the backgrounds make an excellent work of creating a dark atmosphere which goes along with the serious story. Also of note is the excellent music which adds a melancholic punch to the mix.
How did this jewel end up in the same package with those other two pigs? I'll never know, but if you enjoy good cinema, there's a masterpiece to be found here and the price of admission is worth it just to see it.
Plus it's imbued in a sense of anti-belicism and humility that is sure to enrage (and embarrass) more than one reactionary ultra-patriotic American. :))
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