Oscar-nominated actress Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) and Letters From Iwo Jima star Ryo Kase will voice the two main characters in Mamoru Oshii's The Sky Crawlers, distributor Warner Brothers Japan announced today.

Actress Chiaki Kuriyama (Kill Bill) and Shosuke Tanimura will provide voices for supporting characters.

The announcement was made ahead of the film's official trailer and poster artwork, which hit cinemas this weekend. It is the first time Oshii (Ghost In The Shell) has not employed dedicated voice actors in his long animation career. 'I wanted a different quality to the voices. They have a unique presence,' said Oshii of his casting choices.

Based on Hiroshi Mori's eight million-copy selling five-part novel series of the same name, the story focuses on boy and girl teenaged pilots who are raised to engage in aerial battles over Europe for the entertainment of adults.

The film will employ 3D animation for the aerial dogfights and feature a love story, both a departure for Oshii. Kikuchi, who had previous voice experience on Genius Party, plays a female base commander while Kase is a young pilot.

In a rare case for the territory, Warner Brothers Japan held a special screening of the first reel of the film on March 25. Representatives requested the media not to reveal the cast until closer to the release of the full trailer.

The film's production consortium includes Oshii's longtime backer Production I.G, broadcaster Nippon Television Network (NTV) and Warner Brothers Japan, continuing its involvement with locally produced films.

Production I.G is also currently involved with the planned 3D live-action version of Ghost In The Shell with Steven Spielberg at DreamWorks, in a deal announced yesterday.

The Sky Crawlers is released on August 2.