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Battle Fairy Yukikaze was everything I had been waiting for, and more.
Review by Matthew Anderson
5 Part OVA
Running Time: 75 minutes (two episodes)
Rated: PG-13 (Language, Violence)
In the near future, an alien race called the JAM attacked the Earth. Using a dimensional portal, these constantly adapting aliens swept across the world like a plague. Fortunately, the United Nations was able to act quickly and drive them back to their home world, Fairy. Now, the UN has established a foothold on planet Fairy in order to defeat the JAM once and for all.
Lt. Rei Fukai is a pilot in Boomerang Squadron. His mission is to observe and provide combat data for the regular air force. He pilots an advanced fighter called a Super Sylph, equipped with an onboard A.I named Yukikaze. Rei trusts Yukikaze more than anyone else. This includes his friend and commanding officer James Bukhar. James is very concern about how Yukikaze and Rei are becoming more and more interconnected. The onboard AI is also starting to show signs of sentience, and a strong sense of self protection.
That is not the only problem. The JAM are starting to copy and mimic UN aircraft. To make things worse they seem very interested in Rei and Yukikaze. The enemy employs many tricks, including copying a military base and personnel, to see what the two of them will do.
If Rei and Yukikaze are to survive, they must go beyond what they know and understand. Even if it means defying the UN and Rei's friend to do so.
DVD VISION TEST
VIDEO: Great video quality. There are no pixels, color bleeds or rainbows to be found. There is a little edge enhancement, but you only notice it if you go looking for it.
AUDIO: This DVD has 4 tracks. The English 5.1 is the best of the 4, with a rich, full bodied quality, and plenty of surround sound. The Japanese 5.1 is also very good, but it is softer than the English track. The English 2.0 sounds good, but is quieter in volume, and not as full bodied as the 5.1. I can't really tell the difference between the Japanese 2.0 and the English 2.0.
EDITS: None. Everything is exactly the way you
would see it in Japan. Bandai has the right idea.
EXTRAS: A making of video, a glossary, a very informative set of "Mission Briefings", and for all you fighter fans, technical specs on each and every aircraft.
STORY: There are 3 script writers, led by Series Supervisor and writer Hiroshi Yamaguchi. The story is nothing new, but at least it is interesting. The true nature of the JAM, and what crazy thing Yukikaze and Rei are going to do next keep you interested. That and the combat sequences.
However the characterization is severely lacking. There is not a lot of depth to the characters. There are several subplots, but most of them don't seem to be going anywhere.
ACTING: The cast on both sides does a fine job. Masato Sakai is perfect as the sullen and moody Rei. He very rarely raises his voice, like it's hard for him to speak. Johji Nakata has the got great "older" man voice, and he plays James as a passionate, yet worried senior officer.
Steve Staley plays Rei Fukai very much like Ryu Soma in Argentosoma. He gives a very controlled delivery, which matches the cool demeanor of his character.
Dan Worren plays James Bukhar like a older and wiser Roy Fokker (which he voiced in "Robotech"). There is no mistaking his voice, and I think it was an excellent choice of actors. This is what Roy would have done if he had survived the first Robotech War.
The rest of the cast is very good, but so many of the characters come and go, you don't get much of a chance to form a solid opinion.
FAN SERVICE: This is a mecha heads wet dream. There are tons of way cool aircraft, each one beautifully designed by Mechanical Designers Ikuto Yamashita and Seiji Klo.
As far as anime babes are concerned, you get sexy therapist Edith Foss in a halter top and a long skirt with a slit up to her thigh. I don't care what Tom Cruise said, if all therapists looked like her, I would go every day.
Ever since I saw a trailer for Yukikaze in Japanese Newtype, I knew I would love this series. When Bandai announced that it was going to be released, I have been waiting to review it. As soon as the screener copy arrived, my DVD player was humming.
Visually, Yukikaze was everything I had expected. Compared to what they did with Blue Sub 6, Gonzo has made a quantum leap. The CG animation of the fighters was awesome. The motion was fluid, and highly detailed. The backgrounds were also phenomenal. The canyon chase in episode one really caught my attention, with its fast pacing, and detailed rendering of the canyons, planes, and even the rain. Traditional animation was seamlessly integrated with the CG. I wish I had a big screen television. Better yet, they should release this series in the IMAX format it's that good.
I love the designs of the planes. These planes would fit right in with the ones from "Macross Plus". Put the YF-21 against a Super Sylph and see who would actually win. Another thing I really liked was how Yukikaze reminded me of Thunderbirds. The entire base has these gigantic platforms, with rows after rows of fighters. The mechanisms to get these planes into place is long and complicated, just like that classic TV show.
I was quite impressed with the amount of research they did with this series. The battle scenes were incredibly realistic. According to the making of video, the Gonzo staff got a very in-depth indoctrination from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force. From the heads-up displays, to the ways the planes climbed and banked, the animators utilized everything they learned about air combat from the JASDF in this anime. At times, I felt like I was watching a documentary instead of a work of fiction.
As far as the story goes, it's not exactly the newest story you will ever see. In many ways Yukikaze is a mix of "Macross Plus" and "Area 88". Like the desert in Africa, the planet Fairy is as a remote assignment as you are going to get. By reading the liner notes, you learn that majority of the military members are either disciplinary problems or criminals.
Sound familar Area 88 fans?
From there, you move into "Macross Plus" territory with airplanes that are dead ringers for the Valkyries in Shoji Kawamori's masterpiece. Throw in the AI computer planes (ala Sharon Apple and the Ghost Fighter), and you have everything you need. They even do the whole "camera lens" view of the world that Macross Plus made famous.
There is not a lot of characterization in this movie. You really don't learn much about the characters. What motivates them, their past, their hopes and dreams, little of that is covered. Plus, many of the supporting characters disappear as soon as they are introduced. The emphasis seems to be on the relationships between the characters, and not the characters themselves.
Speaking of relationships, there is quite a bit of "gay subtext" between Rei and James. I mean how can you miss it. The long, looks between the two men, the double meanings in their emotion packed speeches, their beautiful shojo looks, the thing with the wine bottle, the list goes on and on.
I am sure that the homoerotic tone is due to the involvement of Shojo manga writer Yumi Tada. Acting as one of the writers and character designer, her Shojo roots shine through. These pretty, occasionally shirtless, man-boys would fit right at home with the hotties from "Sayuki". With the exception of Edith Foss, all the women on Faire are very severe looking, like they should be extras in "Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS".
The music for Yukikaze is really bad. It's either so low key, you fall asleep during the slow parts, or totally wrong for the tone of the series. The opening theme is a train wreck of a tune, sounding like someone was mashing on a piano while on speed, or trying to recreate a really bad opening animation for a 16 bit video game. The ending theme isn't any better. While the country/folksy sound of "RTB" by Monsieur Kamayatsu is not a bad song by itself, something along the lines of the hard rock tones of the Geneshaft theme would have been better for this series. I think that Satoshi Mishiba and Dougen Shiono of The Kani need music lessons, or at least some testosterone.
Battle Fairy Yukikaze was everything I had been waiting for, and more. If you are a mecha head, shojo fan, or Gonzo fan, you will not be disappointed.
Fly me to this danger zone again!
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