Remember 30 years ago when the aliens invaded Antarctica and then seemingly disappeared again? Well, they didn’t! Here is the true story about the war that continues to this day with elite aircraft and the alien menace that seemingly can’t be stopped.
Rei Fukai is a pilot of Yukikaze, a sophisticated sentient fighter plane warring against the Jamm; aliens intent on invading Earth. With Rei’s craft making more and more irrational decisions, he gets shot down and crash lands into a neighbouring airbase. However, back at Rei’s base they are trialing a new unmanned fighter and Rei and his archaic Yukikaze are considered expendable anyway. It turns out though that Rei has crashed amongst a Jamm illusion and they try to make him believe he is safe. They need the codes to repair the plane so as he can get home, but Rei discovers the truth and becomes the first to see the Jamm and escape.
Our second episode sees Rei recovering after being shot down in Yukikaze on his way back to base. When he recovers it seems Yukikaze and he are of a telepathic mindset as Yukikaze has been rebuilt better than ever before incorporating the newest technology. While trialling the new plane they are attacked by the Jamm and Rei’s skill with Yukikaze prove human pilots are still better than the new unmanned fighters.
The action sequences in Yukikaze are truly nothing short of breathtaking. I cannot recall a better produced series of action sequences within the confines of an animé series, and that’s no joke. These are simply stunning with an amazing mix of computer animation and traditional merging seamlessly with one another. All aircraft are 3D with 2D skins and are exacting designs based roughly on aircraft of today before being given a wholly futuristic look. And they look superb.
While I found the storyline amongst the human camp a little lacking, I also got the feeling there are dark pasts being hinted at with the intention for revelation later on in the series. This is certainly not a new theme among animé series', so there’s certainly hope for it. Regardless of this factor, the actions sequences are wholly authentic and so extraordinary they can carry the series for now. There’s also an amazing new turn for animé and animation in general; the modern camera technique. Allow me to elucidate…
In animation, we design the speed of the image for 25 frames per second. This is hardly insider information, most everyone knows this. Slow motion is the natural nemesis of animators everywhere. It takes more drawings (and therefore more work) and is way more boring to illustrate. Sure it looks good if managed effectively (which is rare when hand drawn) but it’s a huge effort to attempt, both time and skill wise. This is why we don’t see a lot of slow motion animation and if we do, it is in those herky-jerky double frames which are creating the illusion of slow-motion from the regular amount of cels (frames are still called cels although most is digital today). In pure 3D environments like Shrek slow-motion is no more difficult than regular CG animation, as indeed are most tricks in the computer because the mathematics of the programs do all the grunt work that used to take forever. This is why Princess Fiona can hold her ‘Matrix’ pose while the ‘camera’ revolves around her.
However, explosions are still not done by computer because the math is still so unpredictable for any given explosion. Take the scene in the original (and best) Matrix while we’re talking about it; the elevator door explosion that goes from fast to slow to fast again. All computer. The explosion is filmed (in high speed, creating more images, making slow-motion) elsewhere and mapped in because computers can’t do them yet. In Yukikaze some explosions have been treated the same way, except all hand-drawn at various speeds. And, it looks seamless and exactly as we have become accustomed to in real film.
There is a new program that can convert ‘real life’ to a hand drawn effect and perhaps this has been done here, but if so, it doesn’t look like that. It’s genuine looking while also looking hand-drawn, and that is another massive strength of this series. Awesome stuff. I don’t care how they did it, it kicks arse.
Pristine and immaculate are two good words to use here. There’s not a fault in sight and even the female psychiatrist wearing a halter top and long split skirt under her white lab coat is acceptable to some degree. The CG stuff is astounding (have I mentioned that?) and succeeds immeasurably more where other CG imports have failed so dismally (see Initial D if you wanna compare).
The colour palette on display herein is also extraordinary. Every shot sings with vibrancy and life and heavily detailed colour creating the depth of shot so necessary to a series set amidst the clouds. Brilliant and beautifully envisioned. An easy ten only because I can’t give more.
A sweeping Dolby Digital 5.1 surround setup here for English and Japanese tracks, plus the original Japanese DTS 5.1! All sound superb with constant roaming throughout the surrounds and a subwoofer feed that is equal to the task. Explosions and sound-booming barrier-breaking will rock your house to the floorboards and shake your kitchen to ruin. Awesome stuff and all recorded live with the co-operation of the Japanese Air Force (more about this in the extras).
Music is scored by Osamu Mishiba and this is okay at times and suited to the piece, though for the rest of the time it is classic animé sentimentality and does grate a bit. Dialogue delivery gets a little wooden occasionally, though this seems restricted to the English version. The subtitles are quick to keep up in the Japanese mixes too if you, like I, do not speak Japanese, although there are some variations from the English dialogue versions. This isn’t unusual for animé though as the main gist is still captured eloquently enough.
If you’re into the planes, this one is a wet dream. While the story is a bit stilted and halting, the series does start to level out by the end of the second episode (only two included, unfortunately). The colour and animation is a brilliant mixture and dynamically directed and edited to fully enhance the experience of aerial dogfights with superfast technology.
As far as animé action goes I’ve not yet seen better and was wholly impressed by the overall animation. If the story picks itself up a little the rest of the series could well be worth further investigation as well. Here we are witnessing the visual future of animé as it goes beyond everyday animation into some new, fantastic realm.