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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
  • Released By: Bandai Visual
  • MSRP: Ą26040
  • Running time: 180
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 1080p
  • Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
  • Series: Yukikaze

Yukikaze Box Set

By Chris Beveridge     February 13, 2008
Release Date: January 25, 2008


Yukikaze Box Set
© Bandai Visual


What They Say
All five episodes of the series on two dual layered BD50 discs from an upconverted source.

The Review!
Fighting a war that mankind has forgotten on a world far away, the military men deeply involved with the first real alien encounter find themselves in a strange and dangerous situation.

Audio:
Bandai Visual has done this release up right by bringing over the English mix that Bandai Entertainment had produced in addition to the original Japanese mix. In something of a surprise, especially in comparison to previous Japanese Blu-ray releases that have been bilingual, both tracks have been given a TrueHD 5.1 audio encoding. The variable rate is pretty solid throughout and the end result is rather striking in many scenes. The original US DVD release from Bandai Entertainment was a rarity in that they provided a second disc in a limited edition release with the soundtrack encoded in DTS. The mix for this OVA series was one that wowed me back then and it’s quite good now as well, though it feels a touch weaker than I remember. The combat sequences are where it’s given the most impact of course but there are a number of other scenes with dialogue and ambient effects that convey a good overall sound field.

Video:
Originally starting its release in 2002, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio and upscaled to 1080i. With older shows this is likely the main way that it will be handled and I have to admit the results are pretty good, though not phenomenal. There are some noticeable differences, though some are likely just due to differences in hardware since the original viewing. Done in windowbox form, the look of the show is incredibly clean and smooth with very solid backgrounds. What is most striking for me is that with the green sky backgrounds that are so prominent, the gradients that are visible are smoother than before. They blend better and don’t have as much of a blocky feel or move about with noise as the camera pans across the scene. When it shifts to other backgrounds, the darker ones look great and interiors hold up very well. When it takes us to Earth and we get the beautiful blue sea moving by fast, it’s definitely a treat. The upscaling of the source material combined with a very high bitrate, averaging around 37mbps via AVC, really reaffirms that there can be a noticeable difference with material like this. It may be more dependent on screen size though.

Packaging:
Bandai Visual Japan has done a good job with this box set by providing some rather fun limited edition goodies with it, one of which won’t make it in the US release later this year. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what it is that the Japanese do that make their box sets just feel so much better. The material, the weight or something else, when you have one in your hand it just doesn’t feel cheap or shoddy. The main panel for this features a great looking illustration of the two leads against a stark white background with the logo and Blu-ray mention along the side. Lots of logos along the top but it’s a clean look overall. The other panel gives its space over to Yukikaze itself with a half length shot from the top of the ship with the Fairy Air Force logo above it. Contrasting the other panel, this one is done with a black background and has the series name along the bottom in white stencil. The spine carries over the tale end of Yukikaze and is the only place where the original Japanese name can be found.

Inside the heavy chipboard case are three Blu-ray cases which are just as striking as the box artwork. The first volume has a close-up shot of Rei while the second volume has Jack. The third volume is given over to Yukikaze as it features three different shots of Yukikaze in flight, be it against a gray background, a blue one or a green one. It has a very different feel in comparison to the other two that suits it well as an overall piece. The back covers for the first two volumes is done in a simple black background which has the image of Yukikaze over it similar to the back side of the box itself. The individual episodes for each volume are listed and the technical grid is pretty clean and it does list that it’s a 1080i release. The back of the third volume has a few full color shots from the show and lists the extras that are available on that volume. Similar to the other two volumes, it clearly lists the differences in the discs technical specs. No show related inserts are included with the individual volumes, but each volume does contain a Dolby TrueHD card featuring Yukikaze.

Inside the box there is a small full color booklet that provides a directors comment piece on each of the episodes, various technical schematics, details on the show in general and a few interviews with the creative staff. It’s a really good looking piece that’s full of interesting supplemental material for fans of the show that will be translated for the US release eventually.

The initial release of this show has been done in a limited edition form which has a flimsy paper box inside the plastic wrap. It’s done all in black with technical schematic of Yukiakze on both sides of it along with the FAF logo. The back cove features a breakdown in two boxes of what you can find inside. Inside the box is the FAF Technical Orders book which is about 225 pages total. The first twenty six pages are done in color which features some great illustrations of the cast and settings. The remainder of the book is a great technical piece which features a ton of schematics, character breakdowns and a look at the various settings. It’s a treasure trove of material for fans of the show and has a very good feel to it. The second item inside this box is another box that contains a 1/200th scale model of the Yukikaze which is very well detailed and just looks great. It’s an appealing item to me and one of the reasons in addition to the hope for TrueHD cards that I got the import.

Menu:
The menu design for the OVA series is pretty minimal and the disc goes right into the show after it does the standard warnings based on the language selection you make (Japanese/English). The pop-up menu is done in a gray, silver and blue design that works well in a cold feeling that lists the episode selection and the basic language setup options. The full main menu utilizes the pop-up menu as its base and has a simple top section which is a black background with the Japanese language Yukikaze logo across it. It’s simple, almost elegant, while still retaining that cool and cold feeling that fits with the theme of the show. With the way the disc loads up based on language preference, we didn’t bother with player presets and just selected it on load since selecting English from the top gives us English dialogue.

Extras:
The extras are all on the third volume and are a bit different on the technical side as they feature just the original PCM track in stereo. It’s not a surprise nor is it that they’re 1080i upscaled pieces. The first piece is a five minute experimental movie video while the other is a new piece that runs for twenty-eight minutes and was produced for this new release. Neither of them are subtitled, which has me concerned for the eventual US release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When Yukikaze was first released on DVD, it was something of a love fest in terms of its technical presentation. The disc gave me some audio in the DTS format, great looking visuals and a set design that just appealed greatly to me. What hampered the enjoyment with the series was the release schedule which was subjected to the way it came out of Japan. We had started watching the five episode series at the start of 2004 and didn't finish it until the end summer of 2006. While that can work with feature length movies, it's far more painful when it comes to a five part OVA series, even if the episodes are slightly longer at times. So sitting down with this release and taking in all five episodes over two days was quite a lot of fun and it helped to flesh things out in a better and more cohesive manner. Below we have our original thoughts on the episodes as we saw them.

Episodes 1-2
Ever since I saw the trailer for this series back on some Japanese disc I had imported years and years ago, I had been very intrigued by it since it spoke to my inner fan. With my first introduction to real anime being the Macross movie and the amount of loving attention given to the aircraft in that, it’s something that I’ve come to follow to some degree in the years since. Yukikaze is one of the two big OVA series being released at this time that plays up to that and the first to make it over to these shores.

While the aircraft are important to the story, the human characters are where it is. The world setup is intriguing; it’s been thirty-three years since an alien race known only as JAM invaded the Earth through a portal located at the Ross Ice Shelf in the Antarctic. Though they caused quite a lot of trouble in the region, they were successfully beat back through the portal to a world humans labeled Fairy. In an effort to keep them there and take the war back to them, bases were set up and eventually sprung into a massive city with various forward bases scattered across this strange new world. With it being a war, little has been given over to exploring the world but rather just fighting against these unknown aliens, aliens nobody has yet to see either apparently.

In the time since, the world has lost interest in the JAM to the point where most people believe it was made up. Things have gotten so bad that the nations under the UN that used to contribute some of their best pilots for the missions have ended up sending not only their worst, but a number of maladjusted people and a number of criminals as well. Though they all fight on the other side, often so that they can get better jobs when they return to their home countries or to earn the foreign currency, but they aren’t the cream of the crop anymore.

For the opening two episodes here, the story is focused on 2nd Lieutenant Rei Fukai and his friend and superior officer Major Jack Bukhar. The two have been there for some time and both are jaded in their own ways, both are quiet men but Fukai even more so. With him, you get the feeling of every word having a real meaning to him and not just idle conversation. Fukai’s role as the pilot of the Yukikaze has him out in combat fairly often, and his interactions with the craft are intriguing, as it feels like there’s some level of AI embedded in the craft. The two at times almost seem to speak to each other as controls shift back and forth between them.

The times are potentially changing for those in the aerial division of this war, as one company has managed to have one of their unmanned fighter craft to be tested in the region. If successful, it’d replace almost all of them pretty quickly and potentially bring better results. Fukai ends up speeding up the possibility of this during one mission where the IFF indicator labels a potential hostile as an unknown and then as an enemy even though the craft appears to be the same as Fukai’s. Trusting the Yukikaze over his navigator and even his own eyes, he goes after the craft and takes it down.

The situation leads him to being grounded while an investigation goes on, but with no wreckage to be found it raises new questions. Have the JAM begun to make fighters in the same style so as to create confusion, as no pilots or aircraft are missing, or have they actually infiltrated the Fairy Air Force Base so well that all their secrets are now open to the enemy. Fukai’s removal from operations sends him on something of a downward spiral, particularly after one earlier incident had him under the control of the JAM. His condition seems to be deteriorating but all he can think about is how the Yukikaze is his life and how that it’s the only thing he can trust.

Much of what makes up Yukikaze is confusing yet not. There’s an air of despondence to the show, brought about partially by the environment where it’s so dark and green, that it is little wonder that you see nobody smiling here at all and that moods are somber, even for a wartime military base. It’s an atmosphere that feeds on itself and creates only more of the same. With a lead character like Fukai, dialogue becomes much more minimal and you get reliant on being told what’s going on by other characters in seeming moments of exposition. Bukhar hands this role well, and with a great voice actor and performance behind it, he builds the tale well.

Episodes 3-4
These two OVA episodes are just as striking visually and in terms of mood as the first two were and the entire atmosphere and feel of the show continues to be a huge draw for me. With so many series still revolving around happy bouncy themes or lighter natures in general, something that's intentionally moody and not really about relationships is a draw. After Rei's encounter with the JAM in the previous volume, a first for humanity that seems to be vastly underplayed since his return, the way the JAM are acting and dealing with the FAF is not what it's been in the past. They've shifted to a more subtle approach where their aircraft are now mimicking the FAF's more and there are claims of sabotage and possibility infiltration within the command structure. Rei may have inadvertently given something away during his time with them though it's not outright said.

The sabotage angle is followed up in the first episode where one of the massive Banshee flying aircraft carriers, one of the two that protects a good portion of FAF airspace, has fallen under JAM control and is sweeping away from the protection zone which will leave much of their airspace in jeopardy. Rei gets sent out there with one of the engineer's whose intimately familiar with a lot of the technology involved only to find the thing completely empty of human life which leads to a greater mystery as the JAM manipulate what's on board there. The parallel story that runs to this one involves a writer on Earth who has done massive research on the entire war and written a book about it only to have it classified as fiction, which leads to more people simply not believing the JAM are real. The contrasts in the two worlds where one has a small group of people fighting desperately at times to ensure humanity survives and a world with the rest of humanity who doesn't even believe in the threat is fascinating.

This gets touched upon a lot more in the second episode as the FAF begin their plans for a new massive attack against the JAM forces as their methods are changing once again. Rei and Jack find themselves being kept out of the picture though as they're assigned to test out some new engine capabilities by taking their fighter through the Passageway back to Earth. This moves the focus back there for a bit which really emphasizes the differences again as a pair of JAM fighters hitch a ride through the Passageway as well and are essentially invincible on Earth against the craft that are kept there to defend the place. This times back into the writer again who has come to the Antarctic to do more research about what's going on.

These two episodes don't really provide a lot in terms of answers or revelations but they do push the overall storyline forward as we get to see more of what's happening on Fairy and the politics that are seeping into both sides of it. The fleshing out of various aspects naturally raises more questions than it does provide answers but much like the setup and layout of the first two episodes, it is simply fascinating to see something this atmospheric done here and in this style. Science fiction dramas typically aren't this mellow for most of the time or this laid back. Even when there are action moments, it's done from such a distance that it doesn't let you connect completely but just enough.

The disparity between the two worlds is shown on several occasions as we shift from the bright blue Earth or its white Antarctic scenes back to the dull and oppressive greens on Fairy. The mood created on Fairy is so overwhelming at times and is so well displayed here as it interacts with the fighters, the characters and the buildings that it really is its own character. There are some scenes that are just so striking, such as when Rei returns from the Banshee mission and sits inside the cockpit as the rain falls on it. Even on Earth there are some stunning moments such as when he and Jack make an evasive move to avoid the Earth fighters and drop to the ocean. It's very hard to turn away from this show since its visuals are simply so engaging.

Episodes 5
The opening to the episode does go back to that slow feel which is good as it takes a few minutes to get back into the groove of this world with its eerie and muted colors. Since the discovery of the cloned humans and the kinds of programs that the JAM are running to try and understand humanity, the intelligence division has decided to do exactly what the enemy has done and worked to create an unknowing infiltrator into the JAM to try and discover what's really going on. The knowledge that some of the men and women among the FAF aren't really human is something to be dealt with later and a plan is set into motion for that, but not until the created traitor has made his move against humanity and worked with the JAM to attack the main base and city where they reside on this world.

The show moves into its final arc by dealing with the acts of the traitor which leads to a full scale retreat of humanity from Fairy. But as expected, the JAM aren't going to let them go easily since what it really wants is what the FAF is the most afraid of, Yukikaze. Not specifically Yukikaze but of it and Fukai together. The two have become something far more than just man and machine during their duration of duty on Fairy, they've actually managed to evolve into something more and adapt from each other. Yukikaze tends to exhibit more of this than Fukai who is more resigned and calm but the combination of the two turns into a powerful weapon that the JAM are the most interested in.

With the intent of escaping through the Passageway and sealing it off forever, the bulk of this episode is truly just one long combat/chase sequence in the air as the fleet attempts to divert the JAM and get away. The combination of unmanned drones and live pilots across the escort guards proves to be an interesting mix as the JAM eventually catch up to them and begin to work them over, showcasing one of the inherent dangers of using radar and technology over the basic human eye. A lot of this episode is probably something that a lot of people won't care for as it's a huge amount of technology flying around lavishing destruction upon destruction. There's some great simple political style dialogue among the military folks at the beginning where the revelations are made and career officials find themselves having epiphanies about their role in all of it.

But so much of it is presented in this bit of aerial maneuvering that is simply beautiful to me. This kind of animation is something that I was heavily drawn to back when Robotech came out and then the Macross movie I'd seen in raw. The attention to detail, the movements, it's all something that I've been interested in during the twenty plus years of being into anime that something like Yukikaze is now rare but exhilarating to see when done. In this regard, Yukikaze pleases in spades and then some. During so much of this episode I was simply on the edge of my seat enthralled by what I was seeing. And in taking the story into account with the final bits of revelation provided here, it's something that really pushes to watch the entire thing in one or two sittings.

In Summary:
Going into Yukikaze in this form was certainly different from the original approach. In terms of the story, I found it to be a much more compelling and fluid piece of work that in the end was a lot more enjoyable. The original viewing certainly had a lot of visual wow factor for me, both in the animation and the style overall, but with this mini marathon session it just came together so much better. My only concern with this particular release was really whether there'd be a discernable difference in the quality of the presentation since it's 4:3 material upscaled at the source to 1080i. As talked about in the video section, I think it's really going to be dependent on things like screen size and sensitivity to things like gradients. For me, the benefits are strong enough for me to want to own it (and to import it at the higher cost even) especially when coupled with lossless audio. In this form, as a complete set with all the bells and whistles that I want for the core presentation, Yukikaze succeeds beautifully. I can't imagine it looking better and for me that's exactly what I want out of any release.

Features
Japanese 5.1 TrueHD Language,English 5.1 TrueHD Language,Japanese Subtitles,English Subtitles,20 page booklet, 200 page book with creation materials,Die-cast model

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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