Bumping this thread. Coz, y'know, if ever a thread deserved to be bumped...
Finished watching an absolutely SUPERB show tonight. Regular readers will know I'm a champion of anime in the West, and recently I've been watching a few shows to unwind of an evening.
The show in question, though, is YUKIKAZE, a real jin-yoo-wine one-off if ever there was one.
It's a curious beast, being based on the Japanese sci-fi novel 'Good Luck, Battle Fairy Yukikaze'. Now, you may not know this, but Japan does sci-fi on such a grand and high-quality scale that it might as well be a national export, and as such this show is a BIG deal.
The story centres around a hush-hush war being fought off-world between humanity and a mysterious enemy known only as The Jam. Mankind has established a forward base on the Jam's homeworld, the planet Fairy.
-- okay - let's do this now. The evil aliens are called The Jam, and they live on planet Fairy. Go ahead. Giggle. Laugh. Guffaw till milk blows outta yer noses. Get it out of your systems. Done that? Good. I'll carry on. --
ANYWAY - stationed on Fairy are war buddies James Bukhar and Ray Fukai. James spends his time making boomerangs and doing command level stuff on the base, in between his violent fits of moping emo-ism. Ray, on the other hand, is the pilot of the Yukikaze, an artificially intelligent fighter jet. As the story progresses, the war with The Jam enters its final phase, and The Jam step up their efforts to undermine and destroy the human forces from within. It all gets a bit wibbly wobbly!
So what is this show? Is it all action? Suspense? Sci fi? A war story? Well, the great thing about Yukikaze is, it works on all these levels and pulls those threads together into one cohesive, tightly paced and plotted story.
The depiction of war (mostly aerial combat) on an alien planet is quite unusual in its execution, and the various dogfights between the Fairy Air Force and The Jam are excitingly staged. Visually, it's fair to say that the animation is a step below some fo the more popular CG anime movies like Appleseed and Tekken Blood Vengeance, but still, this is a good looking show. When we're in the thick of it, there are some quite startling explosions and vertiginous camera angles that convey a real sense of air combat. When we're back on terra firma, and the cel animation takes over, things are still really well handled. There are some very sophisticated cuts, camera angles and establishing scenes that punt the visual storytelling into the upper realms of what's possible with animation. Thankfully, the mesh between CG and cel is really good for the most part.
But best of all, the whole show feels very mature and sophisticated in its execution. There's some classy, understated but very welcome exploration of the bonds that exist between Ray and James, and indeed ray and the Yukikaze itself (which is very much present as a third leading character). We're also treated to an alien menace that feels TRULY alien - a rare thing in sci-fi of an form these days.
Notably, there are almost none of the well worn traditional anime tropes that seem to put non-fans off the art form, and the unusual 5 episode format means that the story is, by necessity, quite concisely told. A few aspects of the novel's back-story get swept under the carpet, unfortunately but, nevertheless, there's lots here to enjoy. The visual spectacle of the Banshee airborne carriers, for example, along with the final battle between the FAF and The Jam (replete with an apocalyptic number of missile contrails) as well as those awesome, awesome dogfights will remain in the memory long after watching.
Sadly, it's a tough show to find now. Bandai, who distributed the show in North America, aren't producing anime in the West anymore, and I do believe the DVD box set is out of print. If you see it and you're remotely interested, snap it up, is my advice. It's easily one of my favourite short OVA series - and I own TONNES of this stuff. Oh yeah!
Remember kids - HdE knows good anime, and isn't afraid to write about it.
The planet is called 'Fairy'! Tee hee!