Yukikaze Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, May 25, 2006
Release Date: Monday, April 17, 2006
What They Say
Unbeknownst to the general population a war against aliens is going on. Rei Fukai, a pilot in the elite Special Air Force (SAF) unit, flies the Yukikaze, an advanced fighter with an almost sentient computer system. One day, Yukikaze designates what appears to be a friendly fighter jet to be hostile and rei shoots it down. The alien's true nature is still unknown and suddenly, it seems they may have already infiltrated the SAF. Yukikaze may be the only weapon that humanity has to bring an end to this war.
For their tenth anniversary, Gonzo began production on one of the most extravagant OVA series in a long time.
Having heard the Japanese audio for these episodes before, I opted for the English 5.1 track for my main review, sampling the others. With the nature of the show and its detailed effects, particularly for the air battles, this disc sounds pretty amazing at times, with all the channels being used for best effect. The English dub was produced by Animaze, and for the most part sounds good. I thought that Steve Saley managed to nail the sombre tones of Rei almost perfectly, with Dan Warren's James fitting the show really well too. Some of the supporting characters sounded a little stilted at times, but overall it's great how well the dub flows considering how accurate it is to the literal translation.
I also feel the need to mention how much I love the ending theme, it's so catchy and just fits the mood of the show perfectly for me.
With a production as lavish as this you need good video, and Beez do not disappoint. The show looks excellent on DVD, with the colours being nicely vibrant, exemplified by the green hue that surrounds the show. Even the CG doesn't suffer from many problems like aliasing that you often see, and is extremely well integrated (which is great when you consider how far back the show dates in technological terms). I didn't notice any aliasing, blocking or other artefacts during regular playback.
Subtitles are white in a Tahoma-like font, and I didn't' notice any major grammatical or spelling errors while watching.
Packaged in a clear keepcase, the cover for this show is really nice, featuring the Yukikaze in action and flying high. The show's logo is well-placed to obscure as little of the art as possible. The back cover features the usual description of the show with some screenshots and an image of Rei, while the usual technical strip adorns the bottom portion. The inside cover just features a brief summary of each of the episodes on the disc.
The main menu features a nice animation, and stays animated with different images of the Yukikaze in the top half while selections are at the bottom. Unfortunately no music plays on this menu. Sub-menus all follow a similar theme, and access times are really quick. I really liked the menus on this disc.
The key feature here is the Making Of documentary, which is split into four subsections of "Making Report" (discussing with the staff various aspects behind the show's creation), "Gonzo Digimation " CG Studio" talking about the CG side of the show, "Dubbing" which features a look at the original Japanese recording of the show, and finally "interviews", which include the director. All in all it runs over 25 minutes and is a really nice extra to give an added bit of interest. We also get some Japanese TV commercials for good measure!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Yukikaze has had a long road to its completion. The first episode was originally released in Japan back in the summer of 2002, with a long and arduous release schedule that didn't see the final episode released until three years later almost to the day (the final volume hit over a year after the penultimate episode). The constant delays didn't help its US release either, with over a year between the first and second volume over there as well. So it's nice, for once, that Beez waited until they did so they can produce an onslaught of what is one of the most lavish OVAs I've seen in a long time.
The series has an interesting story and is told at a somewhat strange pace. Often it feels almost like a dream, with the cuts between different parts of the narrative and the overall pace of the show in points. Sometimes it moves slowly and others it goes at a blistering pace. For some shows this is a bit of a killer, as it may not be sure what it wants to be, but Yukikaze handles it with an air of finesse that you don't really see very often.
The story itself is an interesting tale of alien invasion with a slightly different approach. 33 years ago, an alien force named "The JAM" opened an inter-dimensional gate in Antarctica to invade Earth. While things weren't looking all that good, the unified Earth forces formed the Special Air Force to push the JAM back through to their planet called Fairy. But things didn't exactly go smoothly, and the portal still exists, with the JAM still out there. Although the rest of the world has lost interest in the JAM almost to the point of not believing in their existence, the war goes on. And sure enough we pick the story up with some amazing flight scenes aboard Yukikaze, an aircraft fighter with an almost sentient computer system that's piloted by Rei Fukai. When Rei and his co-pilot encounter another aircraft that looks like one of them, Yukikaze tells Rei to fire, which doesn't exactly sit well with his superiors. But he tells them that Yukikaze said the aircraft was actually one of the JAM, and so the mysterious "personality" of Yukikaze is revealed.
While Rei's superior officer, James Bukhar, tries to help him through the things that are going on, Rei is sent on a few more missions but one of them leads to an almost fatal encounter with the JAM, when he's taken hostage. He may get away but it shows that the threat is still very real. The SAF decides to start sending unmanned aircraft to fight the JAM, but all doesn't go to plan with Yukikaze because it's linked to Rei in some way, and he seems to be controlling it even when not piloting it. There are other forces at work as well, and it's hard to tell just what the SAF is really plotting in the ongoing fight against the JAM.
After watching Yukikaze, it's pretty easy to right it off as little more than eye candy with no substance, and frankly that's probably what a lot of people will do. This isn't a show for everyone, for sure, but if you care to actually look beneath the surface of the show that throws gorgeous visuals at you, you might realise that there's a lot to like about the story too.
Certainly, the premise does seem somewhat generic, with humans having formed a special force to fight against an alien threat, that seemed to win only to have their enemies constantly looming all the time. But there's more to it, particularly with the mysteries surrounding what exactly the Yukikaze is and how it is linked with Rei and for what purpose. A lot of my interest in the story came more from what we're not told in this volume than what we were, because there are a lot of hooks and hints thrown out that will hopefully be answered over the remaining course of the series. I want to know exactly what is going on with the SAF, what the true intentions of the JAM are, and of course I want to know all about Yukikaze and Rei.
The two central characters, Rei and James, make for a different core cast than what we traditionally see in anime these days, but that's another thing I found appealing. James, as superior officer, takes on a somewhat protective, father type role, trying to help Rei through his hard times and struggles, while also dealing with the military situation. Their relationship is quite refreshing, and it's nice to see James stick up for Rei on several occasions and always be looking out for his best interests. Rei himself doesn't have a great deal to say, indeed much of what we learn throughout this volume is given to us through the dialogue of characters other than Rei, but he has an air of mystery about him, from the way he is to the JAM when he's held captive to how he is back on the military base, that had me somewhat enchanted as I watched the show.
Much of what I liked about Yukikaze was built around the atmosphere of it all. It feels like its happening on a grand scale thanks to the impressive visuals, while the colour tones and general feel add a sombre tone to proceedings. The narrative is at times a little disjointed and certainly there's a minimal approach to it, but for me it just added to the allure of the show. When you add the nice music (and awesome end song from RTB), you're left with a good package.
Yukikaze isn't a show for everyone. While the visuals are unquestionably sublime, the slow pace of the narrative and the need to actually delve deeper in to what is presented to you may put some people off. But if you look beyond the surface, there's an interesting story to be found with an unusual set of characters that, when combined with the show's general atmosphere and feel, might just leave you craving for more.
Japanese Language (2.0 / 5.1 / DTS),English Language (2.0 / 5.1),English Subtitles,Making Of Feature,Original Japanese Trailers
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Beez
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2