Yukikaze Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Yukikaze

Yukikaze Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     January 04, 2004
Release Date: February 17, 2004


Yukikaze Vol. #1
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Unbeknownst to the general population, an alien force opened an inter-dimensional gate in Antarctica over 30 years ago in an attempt to invade the Earth. The unified forces of Earth formed an elite military unit under command of the United Nations to combat the aliens and to push them back towards their own dimension. But the war still rages on. Rei Fukai is an elite pilot of the Special Air Force (SAF) and designated pilot of the Yukikaze, an advanced fighter armed with a sentient computer control system. When fear of alien infiltration within the SAF spreads, the Yukikaze may be the only weapon humanity has to bring an end to this war.

Episodes
1. Operation 1
2. Operation 2

The Review!
A war fought by the rejects of the world against an enemy from another planet to defend a disbelieving humanity. This isn’t typical.

Audio:
With a solid 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, the Japanese audio track for Yukikaze is highly versatile and engaging, but typically only during the actual aerial combat moments. There’s some well placed directionality in other segments but it’s very minimal overall. The bulk of the real exciting mix moments comes during the fights and it’s excellent. This is the kind of show that really pays attention to the details like sound when it comes to producing it and there are so many great aural moments with the jets throughout it.

Video:
Originally starting its release in 2002, Yukikaze looks stunning. The bulk of the show takes place in dark hued green skies of the alien world or in deep dark interior buildings and rooms. There isn’t a lot of bright moments here outside of a few areas on Earth that give us a wide variety of colors, but the dark moments are beautifully rendered. The green skies are vivid and eerie at the same time while the interior scenes maintain their black levels. With no noticeable aliasing or cross coloration, this was a real pleasure to watch.

Packaging:
With the jets being as much a character as anyone else in this show, it’s not surprising that the Yukikaze is given the first cover with it in the middle of an aerial fight, green clouds passing over the rocky terrain below. The back cover provides a few angled shots from the show and a collage of pieces for the backdrop. There are a couple paragraphs of summary the get the basic premise across and the usual set of production credits. The discs features are clearly listed, though the font is a bit thin for my aging eyes. As this is a screener copy, no insert is included in this release.

Menu:
The menu goes for the obvious approach with placing you visually inside the cockpit of the Yukikaze as it races down the canyons from the first episode with some of the instrumental music playing along to it while also having the controls bounce to the motion. The menu is nicely laid out and simple to access with everything where it should be and with only brief transitional animations.

Extras:
This volume has a good chunk of interesting extras. From the Japanese release, we get the thirty minute Making Of report, which has the creators going from the JASDF bases and getting their hands-on experience with the planes as well as recording sessions and other events at the Gonzo Digimation studios. A lot of time is spent with the two lead voice actors as well which provides some interesting insights as to how they’ve approached the characters. I really enjoyed watching the two of them perform together. Also included, and very useful for fleshing out things, is the Mission Briefing section, which details things about the series that come from the original work and aren’t quite as clear in the show (yet?). The Glossary is just that, providing something like eighteen pages worth of information on various abbreviations and more. The technical data files section gives the hardcore plane otaku all the specs on the various jets shown during these episodes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ever since I saw the trailer for this series back on some Japanese disc I had imported awhile ago, I had been very intrigued by it since it spoke to some of 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 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’s 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.

Yukikaze is one of the few series that I’ve found that after watching it I have a hard time really explaining not only what it is but why it seems to work for me. With a cast of adults set in a military theme, a lot of the things seen in many other series in recent years aren’t here, such as the cocky rookie or the top of his class kid or even the weary older pilots. With the focus on just Fukai and Bukhar, it’s more a tale of these two men than an action adventure with aliens exploding all over and so forth. That’s not to say there aren’t some great sequences of that however, as Yukikaze delivers them in great splendor and detail. But this is something I don’t know that I would have gotten into ten or fifteen years ago.

In Summary:
Yukikaze is an intriguing blend of material but with no clear sense of where it’s going for the viewer. There’s a great mix of some of the latest animation CG techniques that are stunning, combined with the usual slick and always evolving Gonzo style. The story has a lot of elements set up and numerous directions to go and each of them looks like it would be fascinating. With the two lead characters, I’m eager to see where they intend to go.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Yukikaze Making Report,Mission Briefing,Technical Data Files,Yukikaze Glossary

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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