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