Oshii sets next feature

TOKYO — Toon auteur Mamoru Oshii’s next pic will be futuristic gladiator tale “The Sky Crawlers,” based on the eponymous sci-fi novels by Hiroshi Mori.

Toon will be co-produced by toon house Production I.G — Oshii’s long-time collaborator — and the NTV web, with Warner Bros. distribbing in Japan.

Skedded for release in 2008, “The Sky Crawlers” will center on Japanese teens stuck in perpetual adolescence and trained since birth to fight in wars that are really a form of amusement.

Settings will include Ireland and Poland — the latter also the locale for Oshii’s live-action pic “Avalon.” Oshii plans to use 3-D for air combat and other scenes, a departure for the hitherto 2-D helmer.

Oshii said Wednesday the pic is “something I want to communicate to young people, while denying that it will be messagey in the usual ways.”

Also, instead of the deep-think philosophizing about the future of humanity fans have become used to from such Oshii toons as “Ghost in the Shell” and “Innocence,” Oshii said he wants the new pic to be a love story, adding, “I think it will be a turning point for me.”

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