It occurred to me recently that it’s been entirely too long since we’ve had a good anime dogfight. We get countless titles featuring giant robots, magical girls, samurai and bread, and yet not nearly enough with planes. So along comes Yukikaze. I like sci-fi, I like planes blowing each other up – this could be really good. And it would be, were if not for the fact that it’s duller than dishwater.
One of Yukikaze’s biggest problems is that the characters are as interesting and likeable as a patch of mud. The pilot of the titular Yukikaze, Rei, is your typical quiet, moody type, while his commander, Jack, is your typical big-brother type. Both have received almost zero background or development, and both are miserable sods (Jack slightly less so, as he does display a sense of humour). It’s somewhat telling that the most interesting character is Yukikaze itself, despite having not actually said anything.
The story continues to march on at a very deliberate (read: slow) pace, as much of the focus seems to lie in creating the right atmosphere. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite achieve this either; as Rei and technician Tomahawk explore an abandoned aerial carrier, there’s no real sense of unease or fear, even when the JAM’s big secret is uncovered. Worse, the entire second episode comes off as little more than an excuse to land the guys on Earth for the sole purpose of meeting a journalist. Sure, there are elements of politics and a bit more background on the world that has forgotten about the war, but they come across as rushed and poorly planned. It’s almost like he characters are being whisked from point A to point B to make plot point F happen – it all feels rather disjointed.
If you want to look a bit deeper, there are a number of themes and subtexts to be found below the surface. There’s something about humanity’s over-reliance on machines, for example, which rings true to a certain extent of today’s technological world – the more we use technology, the more we struggle to cope without it. There’s also a sense of futility of fighting a war for a world that doesn’t even fully believe in it and again, there is a certain relevance to current affairs. The trouble is that you really need to keep an eye out for the little details that build the bigger picture, and many will be put off by the slow pace. Although it’s not as shallow as it initially appears, it’s also not as deep as it would like you to think either.
On the upside, it does look gorgeous. The alien world of Fairy has eerie green skies and twin suns that give it an unfamiliar and unwelcoming feel (and the contrast is made all the clearer during the brief return to Earth). The machines are nicely designed and well realized, looking both realistic and futuristic at the same time, and when there are dogfights they are spectacular. There are also some really cool moments, such as when Rei surprises the Earth forces with Yukikaze’s maneuverability, but such moments seem few and far between in this volume.
Great visuals don’t make a great anime, and Yukikaze is let down by uninteresting characters and a slow-moving plot, as well as a lack of any sort of charm to make it memorable. With only one episode to go, it still seems like there’s a lot ground to be covered and many more questions to be answered, and it’s going to need something special to fit it all in.