Random Curiosity

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Blast From The Past: Yukikaze – OVA

  First off, what is Blast From The Past?

With every anime season, there are an innumerable amount of new anime premieres. Most are your standard fare series, but there are quite a few OVAs and movies etc. that are sprinkled in as well. Also, some are distributed straight to DVD/Blu-ray’s, others shown on TV, some shown only in theaters. Combine all of this with the fact that anime has been in existence long before Random Curiosity even existed, and it’s no surprise that some shows have never been covered here. As such, this Blast From The Past segment is an attempt to present some of these series that have “fallen into the void” so to speak. As for the format itself, it’s pretty much going to be an altered version of the normal series introductions at the beginning of each season. There will be a quick excerpt about the series (when it was aired, the production studio, notable voice actors, etc.), followed by a quick impressions and discussion portion about the series, a gist summary section, and some screen shots of the first episode or two of the series. Note that these segments will be as SPOILER-FREE, so viewers interested in watching the show after reading this segment will still be able to enjoy the series.

And without further ado, I present to you:

Yukikaze

“For this operation… it’s the same as usual. Just come back in one piece. That’s an order!”

  About the Series:

  • Production Studios: Gonzo (Main), Bandai Visual/Entertainment
  • Air Dates: August 2002 to August 2005. (Straight to DVD OVA)
  • Episodes/Duration Per: 5 episodes x 37 average minutes per.
  • Premise: In the near future, a pillar appears suddenly over the south pole. A dimensional portal, the pillar serves as the entry point for aliens known as the “JAM,” who invade Earth. The United Nations quickly formulates a defense force and pushes back the invaders back to their home planet, code-named “Fairy.” Following this, the U.N. sends the Fairy Air Force to lead a counter offensive to the JAM home planet. Playing major parts are Lt. Fukai Rei (Sakai Masato), the pilot of “Yukikaze,” an advanced fighter jet with an AI and his superior and friend Major James “Jack” Buckhar (Nakata Jouji), who find that the JAM are anything but what they seem to be.
  •   Impressions/Discussion:

    A five part OVA released from 2002 to 2005, Yukikaze is a good example of a show that has fallen through the cracks for one reason or another. Perhaps it was because it was a straight to DVD release. Maybe it was because the plot seemed a bit too similar to typical science fiction shows at the time. Regardless of the reason, the bottom line is this: Yukikaze is an exceptionally unique series that deserves a lot more recognition. And well, that’s exactly why it’s a perfect series to start this segment with.

    Moving right in, Yukikaze’s forte is its uniquity. From the plot to the way the story is presented, to the aircraft and the music, there’s an air about this series that just gushes “I am different”. And that’s because it is.

    For one, there’s the premise. We’ve all heard of the “humans successfully counter alien invasion” cliché before. You’ve seen it in a variety of sci-fi television series and as the basis of a multitude of Hollywood films and anime. It’s a tried and true method that earns money and has thus been around for a long time. But with time comes the need for new ideas, new twists on now “outdated” premises. And Yukikaze does this, throwing the age old sci-fi cliché on its back and presenting a premise that sounds similar, but is entirely different.

    How so? Well, to say the least, series with an alien invasion premise always present similar aspects. It’s always some kind of apocalyptic world where everything either decimated or grim and it’s always a scenario where all hope resides in few humans are still living or capable of repelling the threat. What Yukikaze gives however, is a world where the alien—the “JAM”—invasion was successfully stopped before the start of the series. In fact, the aliens—whom are typically overpowering and virtually impossible to defeat in typical sci-fi—are already disposed of before the start of the series. Heck, they’re regarded as such a small threat that most of the Earth just goes on without giving a darn. To top it all off, humans in the Yukikaze universe are actually using the same interdimensional portal used by the JAM to invade Earth to invade their home world instead. And well, I can’t say I remember many examples of shows where the story revolves around humans invading the alien’s planet, rather than focusing on the human struggle to defend Earth. Granted, there are the typical human vs. alien struggles present in this story, but they’re from a perspective completely opposite of the norm.

    And well, it’s this perspective that further highlights the uniquity of the series. See, the series focuses on the view of fighter pilot Fukai Rei, his commanding officer James Buckhar, and an author on Earth. You’ll probably note that there are many anime where we see the viewpoints of various members of a military faction, but the key distinction is that a majority of those anime involve vehicles or mech unique to their respective series. Few and far between are series where we see the views of people piloting vehicles derived from real-life equivalents and it’s this aspect that gives the series a realistic touch, as well as rare viewpoints that allow for interesting developments and ways of telling the story. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    See, the best part about the perspectives in this series is the fact that the creators have intentionally shafted dialogue in favor of letting you view events directly from the eyes of the person involved. Don’t me wrong, it’s not that there’s no dialogue, it’s just that there’s much less than a typical anime series. You’re probably wondering how a series can get through with no real dialogue, but the fact of the matter is: Yukikaze manages to succeed without it, and that’s one major reason why it’s worth a watch. We see aerial combat against the JAM directly from the pilot’s view. We see the sweat and tension of the commanding officers. We see how the author views the conflict and the lengths she goes to in order to try and demonstrate the threat that the JAM poses. We see the nonchalant attitude of people back on Earth in the face of an enemy that should be garnering more attention than it should. And well, the end result is an experience few anime offer. Really, it’s just hard to describe the amount of insight we’re able to get into the world and the psychological mindset of the main characters due to this style. What’s more is that this comes without having mentioned the fact that Fukai Rei pilots the Yukikaze, an advanced fighter jet with a combat AI and the deep philosophical elements that revolve around this aspect and the war with the JAM.

    To top everything off, there’s also the great animation. Yes, it looks a bit dated due to the DVD format and the 4:3 aspect ratio, but the big thing is that the CGI mixes perfectly with the hand drawn art. Considering how integral the viewing experience is to the appreciation of the series, this is one notion that really surprised me, considering studio Gonzo’s propensity to have awkward clashes between the two aspects. In addition, there’s an amazing amount of detail in the sleek and beautiful aircraft designs, which bring to life elements that’d normally be skipped in a budgeted animation. I mean, we see the wing flaps move, the trail of light and sound following a landing and take-off… there literally no expense spared in making the aircraft as realistic as possible.

    To complement the experience further, there’s also the soundtrack by Dougen Shiono and Satsohi Mashiba. For the most part, the soundtrack is a good example of a minimal music style, which revolves around similar and/or repetitive rhythms. This might not float everyone’s boat, but the fact is that regardless of your view regarding the style, it works extremely well with the atmosphere and events of Yukikaze. Not only does it provide the OVA with a unique theme, but the minimalism ensures that the music’s simple and doesn’t overpower on the actual event and experience of the show. Combine that with the contrasting chaotic feel of the opening theme “Engage” and the calm, but old-fashioned ending “RTB” (short for the military moniker for “Return to Base”) and well, we get a fairly great soundtrack as well. Sadly though, the two composers have not released any other work before or since.

      The Gist: (And so, overall…)

    To say the least, I’d love to recommend this series to everyone. It looks like one of those typical sci-fi cliches, but is anything but. In fact, I won’t hesitate to say that Yukikaze’s one of the most unique series I’ve ever watched and a series that’s underrated and deserves more recognition. But at the end of the day, I know that there are some aspects of the series that will most likely make the series more of an acquired taste for some, as well as aspects that cater to only those interested in specific niches. For one, a fair amount of the series revolves around what you see and realize yourself. You don’t necessarily get a lot of the answers thrown out at you immediately and some answers are left to the imagination. If you’re not the type that like series with purposely ambiguous elements or whose answers are subtly given rather than overtly said, you’re probably not going to enjoy this series as much. Those who love science fiction, action, or aircraft on the other hand, will probably end up enjoying the series no matter what.

    Also, for those of you who prefer reading, know that the series is based off of a science fiction novel by Kambayashi Chohei. His novel has been translated and released by Haikasoru in two parts: “Yukikaze” and “Good Luck, Yukikaze“.

      Screenshots: (Preserved in their original 4:3 ratio)

    Yukikaze   OVA   01 Yukikaze   OVA   02 Yukikaze   OVA   03
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    May 23, 2012 at 12:52 pm
    29 comments »
    • May 23, 2012 at 1:04 pmmuffinking

      I’ve actually been hoping something like this would find it’s way to RC — I love reading impressions on the new shows, but I always wanted to see some posts on older stuff that aired before RC’s time. That being said, I really look forward to the posts to come!

      • May 23, 2012 at 1:24 pmZephyr

        Yeah, that’s the same feeling I got before I joined RC! Pretty much the reason why I decided to make this column. :D

    • May 23, 2012 at 2:17 pmBird

      This has to be one of my all time favorite anime series, I’ve spent a decent period of time trying to get fellow anime fans to watch it!! Glad to see that It didn’t slip everyone by. I’ll be eagerly anticipating your impressions on other excellent anime series that slipped thought the net.
      Thanks for the review! Time to break out the DVD once again methinks.

    • May 23, 2012 at 2:34 pmmutio

      ” In fact, I won’t hesitate to say that Yukikaze’s one of the most unique series I’ve ever watched and a series that’s underrated and deserves more recognition.”
      SO true..! I have to say, that I can barely get myself to watch those new shows these days. I just miss those old anime like Yukikaze so much. Or Eureka Seven, Full Metal Alchemist (first show), Last Exile, Blue Submarine No.6, Cowboy Bebop, Noir and so on and so on. Really miss those old times..

      • May 23, 2012 at 3:34 pmZephyr

        Oh man, so many nostalgic names there. I agree though, the 90′s were a hella awesome times. The days of Saturday morning cartoons etc. No wonder they’re bringing back Toonami eh? :D

    • May 23, 2012 at 3:29 pmthe more you know…

      thought you just made it up, but apparently uniquity is a word.
      heck, even spell check thinks i’m typing iniquity.

      • May 23, 2012 at 3:32 pmZephyr

        Haha, the more you know indeed. I was wondering what was up with spell check telling me that wasn’t a word and had to double check myself. XD

    • May 23, 2012 at 3:34 pmc2710

      Another new column in RC. Cool. Looks like RC is expanding since the new writers came in. Its columns like this and its objectivity that sets RC apart from other anime blogs that I’ve visited.

      Anyway, back to the post. Zephyr, I must say, after reading the post bout this OVA and its premise, I’m very much tempted to go look for it and watch it. I’m one of the few people who loves anime that requires an acquired taste so i think this should be my cup of tea

    • May 23, 2012 at 3:53 pmcshin9

      I noticed it wasn’t exactly 4:3 (1440×1080) but 1440×1072. Do you know any reason why they released it in that ratio?

      • May 23, 2012 at 4:04 pmZephyr

        Oh it ended up being 1072 because I cropped out a little extra on top of the black bars on the right sides. I believe the original content is actually 4:3 exactly, or at least close.

        EDIT: Re-upped in 1440×1080.

    • May 23, 2012 at 4:59 pmPhoenix

      I wish to watch this anime again. >_<
      Thank you so much for sharing it.. Have been looking for the model of Yukikaze since I first saw the series. ^_^;;

      • May 23, 2012 at 5:07 pmZephyr

        Alter’s releasing some new ALMECHA line Yukikaze fighters in September actually. :D

    • May 23, 2012 at 5:14 pmZen

      Well, there’s a unique show. Surprised that I’ve never heard of it, in fact. Might just go hunt it down and watch it if I have the time…

    • May 23, 2012 at 7:26 pmIntricateRadiance

      Is this going to be a weekly thing? If so, excuse me while I dance around for a bit. I’ve always been curious to see others’ opinions of shows that were never blogged or were before RC’s time. So this is nice to see, even though I’ve never heard of it. :) Thanks!

      • May 23, 2012 at 8:19 pmZephyr

        Um, mostly it’ll depend how my schedule works out. I’m still sorting out my summer plans at the moment… but what I know is it’ll probably end up being an irregular schedule kinda thing. If I find extra time it could come weekly, if I end up on the busy side, it would be more on the once every 2-3 week side.

    • May 23, 2012 at 7:30 pmDraznar

      Yukikaze has the strangest love triangle I’ve ever seen in an anime. Two Guys and an Airplane >_>.

      • May 23, 2012 at 8:20 pmZephyr

        But it’s an airplane with an AI that let’s you feel like you met the ideal partner of your dreams!

    • May 23, 2012 at 7:38 pmSherylfan

      Man I envy people who get to watch these OVA’s/movies when completed. I followed the show from the start and waiting for releases were grueling. Biggest reason I’m waiting to watch eva remake when finished. I remember the kara no kyou kai and macross zero releases were terrible waits as I was hooked too.

      Anyway hope you people that decide to give this show a chance enjoy it as much as I did. Definitely one of my fav sci-fi anime. Props to RC and digging up this old gem and blogging it.

    • May 23, 2012 at 7:53 pmEstefi

      lol macross? :S

      • May 23, 2012 at 8:25 pmZephyr

        Not quite. No singing, no real romance eh. Just a pure focus on aerial dogfights and the psychological viewpoints of the people involved. I guess there’s some similarity in some aspects, but yeah there’s not much, XD. Definitely way more serious too.

    • May 23, 2012 at 9:44 pmMrTerrorist

      I remember this. I think this was the 1st Bromance anime i watched. BTW, who did the character design for this show? It looks similar to the guy who did the Front Mission – Dog Life & Dog Style manga.

      (Warning!:Front Mission – Dog Life & Dog Style is not for the faint of heart since it shows the dark side of humanity in war and has gruesome and violent scenes!)

      • May 23, 2012 at 9:49 pmZephyr

        According to ANN, it’s Kouichi Hashimoto, Masahiro Aizawa, and Yumi Tada for character design.

      • May 23, 2012 at 10:15 pmHagiri

        Any Front Mission fan should read this.
        So I’ll be checking this out~

    • May 23, 2012 at 11:13 pmAizen

      Why the long face? :(

    • May 24, 2012 at 6:05 amLZ

      I really liked the book, may watch this

    • May 24, 2012 at 12:01 pmAster

      Without looking at the title i though for a second this is going to be a review/post about Ace Combat.

      • May 24, 2012 at 3:22 pmZephyr

        Lol I can see why you’d think that.

    • May 24, 2012 at 6:01 pmSQA

      The problems Yukikaze ran into aren’t that hard to explain:

      1) Took a very long time to release. Long enough that the US release was separated out by I think around 2 years. For 5 episodes. This isn’t a Gundam OVA, so there wasn’t a built in fan base State side.

      2) One of the first Light Novel/Novel conversions in the new style of animation, i.e. post-1999. This made it very “talky”. But Fansubbers weren’t very good at handling that. Let’s just say no one really knew what was actually going on in this series for a rather long time. It’d be no different than watching a bad translation of Bakemonogatari, you’re just confused the entire time.

      3) The name always ended up being an early turn off. In the age before Wikipedia, it really sounded like a Mahou Shojo show. (“Wind-blown Snow Fairy” doesn’t scream hard-core sci-fi series)

      Still, it’s a good show worth the time. It’s also one of the early DVD releases with a 5.1 DTS track in the States.

    • September 18, 2012 at 7:41 pmRamer

      I have to say, I’m late to the party, but this is the most active discussion I’ve seen of Yukikaze on the Internet… ever.

      I enjoyed the book (well, the first one, haven’t read the second one yet) more than the anime, but what I truly find shocking about Yukikaze is how closely the war against the JAM parallels the United States’ current struggle in Afghanistan… and the book was released in the 1980s.

      The war against the JAM is a conventional military, the Fairy Air Force, fighting a threat that is so vague, distant, and weak, and in a location that is so far, isolated, and remote that the rest of Earth has more or less forgotten about it (or tries to pretend doesn’t exist). The JAM are a poorly understood enemy force that seems incapable of doing real damage, but also seems to have limitless numbers and no real way to defeat them. The FAF is not interested in learning more about the JAM, merely in throwing more bodies at the meat grinder against them for… some reason… and to top it off, when they do make efforts to study the JAM, the intel is largely useless anyway. Back in the homefront, politicians debate just what is the point of the invasion of Fairy without having a real way to back out of it because they have no idea what the ultimate objective of the war is supposed to be.

      Now, replace all instances of JAM with “Taliban” and Fairy Air Force with “U.S. Armed Forces.”

      In fairness, I suppose one could say the same thing about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which was taking place at the same time the book was being written.