Released by: Madman Entertainment.
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
For thirty years the Fairy Air Force has been fighting on the otherside of the hyperspace gate. Fighting an enigmatic enemy only known as the JAM who have never been seen but launch regular fighter plane attacks against the FAF. While there have been successes in the fighting, including the original push of forcing the JAM back through the gateway, it has now become a bloody stalemate. Rei Fukai is a pilot in the Special Air Forces component of the FAF who spends most of his time observing the fighting in a reconnaissance role. He pilots a special semi-sentient top of the line plane (called Yukikaze) and is himself almost autistic in his inability to relate with other people. There are only two people he trusts and talks to, one is his commanding officer James Bukhar and the other is his plane.
When Rei spots and shoots down what looks like a friendly plane, based partly on the identification given by his plane, a large can of worms opens up in the conflict with the JAM. If Rei is right and it was a JAM fighter then they have begun immitating FAF forces sufficiently well that close study must have taken place. Has the FAF been infiltrated? Or is Rei simply going quietly mad in his seemingly unhealthy relationship with his plane? Not to mention why are the JAM so interested in Rei and Yukikaze?
It is a nicely more textured and involved story than the cover suggests. While the two episodes presented here do contain a goodly amount of stunningly rendered aerial combat with things blowing up this never gets in the way of the more intrieguing questions being posed. The only complaint I really have is that the director has chosen to share the characters confusion with the audience through the use of some fairly abrupt editing plus the choice of order in which to reveal things. This does cause you to spend some time having to mentally backtrack the plot a bit to interpret what you have just seen. That can be a little off-putting at times but the visual eye candy otherwise presented makes it an easy pill to swallow.
The other minor drawback is that the visuals are 4:3. With complicated aerial dogfights going on having the wider visual frame 16:9 permits probably would have been a great advantage. It certainly was for another Gonzo produced series, Last Exile, which spent a lot of time in aerial maneuvering. In all other respects the animation is highly detailed and smoothly integrated between the 3D amd 2D elements being used. I've seen the series described as anime 'Top Gun' and it certainly isn't a bad description. With a plethora of finely rendered military hardware on display and a healthy amount of attention given to military protocol as a part of the plot there is a martial feel to matters that makes the two superficially similar.
But what makes Yukikaze more satisfying for me is the lack of low grade drama in terms of standard romantic triangles. Instead we get a more complicated affair where it may well be that the Rei and the plane are closer to each other than any regular marriage... A sidenote worth knowing with this series is that Yukikaze was the name given to an Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer that survived many of the climactic and well known battles of World War II. As a result of this it became known as the 'unsinkable' Yukikaze and it goes some way towards explaining why the plane so often comes through conflicts as well as it does. (It being, perhaps, the spirit of the original destroyer reincarnated.)
It is an intrieguing and skillfully executed first two episodes. If you remember the older 80's OVAs that had a strong science fiction bent to them then this will feel like a return to form for you. For everyone else there is a nice balance of plot driven story and action sequences to keep you happy. Well worth a look.