Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Feb 16th 2004
Sentou Yousei Yukikaze
DVD 1: Danger Zone
The humans have fought back a wretched alien menace that came through a hole in the frozen north after a long and bloody battle that was largely kept secret from the rest of the world. Humanity has continued life as normal after the war, but a looming threat remains; the portal is still open, leading to the alien home planet, dubbed ‘Fairy’ by the government. Enter Rei, an ace pilot who flies the only aircraft with a hyperintelligent AI system known as Yukikaze. Yukikaze is capable of bringing down alien craft with frightening efficiency; when the system targets a human fighter, things start getting complicated.
When the fearsome flaming Balrog opens his jagged maw and bellows at Gandalf the Grey in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, we trembled in our seats at the amazing and believable flights of fancy today's computers are capable of creating. Yukikaze (renamed from the decidedly fruity ‘Battle Fairy Yukikaze’, which sounds like an ill-conceived sequel to A Tiny Snow Fairy Sugar) was touted from day one as Bandai Emotion's amazing, mind-blowing 20th anniversary OVA project. The animation was supposed to be like nothing we've ever seen before. Now that the show has been released, this amazing animation we're supposed to be marveling at is, mostly, a bunch of fighter jets flying around shooting missiles at each other. Forgive me for saying so, but you can walk outside and see fighter jets. I fail to see how I'm supposed to be totally blown away by ‘amazingly realistic’ CG planes. Winged demon creatures or flying dragon things, sure. Planes? Come on, you can do better than that.
The show is dreadfully serious. Frankly, it's pretty dull. All of the dialogue is very straight-laced and serious. There are long pauses between sentences and even when two characters are speaking on a friendly level, they're very formal. The plot moves along slowly; the characters are set up but not necessarily explained, and there are several flashbacks to events that don't tie in to the story so far. This clandestine and confusing storytelling method is more frustrating than entertaining, and the show's sedate pace bogs the whole thing down. Unless you're a fighter jet fan or absolutely loved every minute of Macross and can't wait for Macross Zero to come out, you'll probably wind up snoozing through this.
The bulk of the episodes included on this DVD deal with the relationship between moody pilot Rei and his longtime “friend” Major Bukhar. The two don't seem especially close. In fact, they aren't really set up as having a significant relationship, but we see a lot of the two of them exchanging somber words with one another. Every 7 minutes or so we get another dogfighting sequence. These sequences are somewhat exciting and fun to watch, but there's a real sense of melancholy detachment in this series and it pervades throughout the entire thing. Not every show has to be more fun than a bucket full of weasels, but this thing is downright dreary.
Of course, this is Gonzo, and while their quality is usually up and down, they clearly dumped a whole truckload of money in to this thing. The show is visually lush and decadent; considering the subject matter, it's a puzzle why they chose this material to spend so much money on. The flight scenes are animated wonderfully, as are the individual characters, who are designed competently but aren't anything to get excited over. There seems to be an art bible somewhere in Gonzo's studio that dictates how characters in military shows have to look; witness this and Zaion and then compare them to the Gonzo shows that aren't military dramas and you'll see what I mean. There's a whole lot of flash and glitz and special effects and parallax scrolling backgrounds and fancy flying, but since the plot can't sell this thing, it's all a little empty.
The dub is as somber as the show itself, which is appropriate but not necessarily pleasant. The voices are all performed in a monotone, and the entire male side of the cast could have been voiced by the same person. There aren't many female characters, but the ones that do show up from time to time feel stilted and awkward. The Japanese isn't much better and there doesn't seem to be much ‘acting’ going on. A lot of these performances seem phoned in.
If you're crazy about aircraft, Yukikaze is an absolute must. The flight sequences and aircraft are animated with unbelievable panache. If you're not crazy about aircraft, prepare to be bored. There just isn't a lot to this show aside from a lot of monotone dialogue and flashy animation. The story moves along at a snail's pace. It's an admirable effort and clearly a technical achievement, but it takes a great story for something to be truly memorable.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : A+
Art : A+
Music : B
+ Amazing animation, great fun for airplane fanatics
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