Good Luck, Yukikaze

Good Luck, YukikazeAuthor: Chōhei Kambayashi
Translator: Neil Nadelman
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421539010
Released: July 2011
Original release: 1999
Awards: Seiun Award

Good Luck, Yukikaze is Chōhei Kambayashi’s second Yukikaze novel as well as his second novel to be released in English. A sequel to Yukikaze—which was originally written in 1984 before later being revised—Good Luck, Yukikaze was published in Japan in 1999 after being serialized between 1992 and 1999. Like Yukikaze, Good Luck, Yukikaze was translated into English by Neil Nadelman and released by Haikasoru, Viz Media’s speculative fiction imprint. The English edition of the novel was published in 2011 and also includes a concluding essay with commentary by Maki Ohno. The Yukikaze novels are some of Kambayashi’s most well-known and respected works. Yukikaze wold earn Kambayashi a Seiun Award when it was first written and Good Luck, Yukikaze would receive the same honor after its publication as well. I found the first Yukikaze novel to be thought-provoking and so looked forward to reading its sequel. A third volume in the series also exists, Unbroken Arrow, however it has yet to be translated into English.

Despite humanity’s best efforts the war against the JAM, a mysterious alien force, has continued for more than three decades. Although the end of the fighting is nowhere in sight, some progress has been made, especially in regards to the technology, computers, and weapons that humans employ. But those advances could possibly lead to humanity’s obsolescence and are a threat to its existence. Rei Fukai was one of the best pilots in the Special Air Force, but he was left in a coma after his highly advanced fighter plane Yukikaze took the initiative and ejected him during battle against his will. Eventually he awakens, bu he continues to suffer from the immense psychological blow—Yukikaze was the only thing beyond himself that he trusted and he was betrayed and discarded; he struggles to come to terms with all that has happened to him. Meanwhile the war goes on, as does Rei’s personal battle against the JAM. Like it or not, he and Yukikaze have caught the invaders’ attention.

When I read Yukikaze it took a few chapters before the novel was able to completely engage me, and so I wasn’t initially concerned when Good Luck, Yukikaze failed to immediately grab my attention. I kept waiting and waiting for the moment when it would finally all come together for me, but that moment never seemed to arrive. In fact, I found myself growing more and more frustrated with Good Luck, Yukikaze as a novel the more that I read. If I hadn’t already had some investment in the story and characters from reading the previous novel, I’m not sure Good Luck, Yukikaze would have been something that I would have been interested in—at least as fiction. The problem was that, despite a few intense action scenes, very little actually happens in Good Luck, Yukikaze. The characters seem to spend most of their time talking in circles, over and over again, interrupting the flow of the narrative. I approached Good Luck, Yukikaze expecting a novel, not a philosophical treatise.

Even though Good Luck, Yukikaze can be a bit of a slog at times, and even though I didn’t particularly enjoy it as a fictional narrative, the tremendous ideas, concepts, psychologies, and philosophies that Kambayashi explores through the novel are undeniably fascinating and thought-provoking. Good Luck Yukikaze challenges the characters’ and readers’ understanding of the nature of reality and what it means to exist. In the novel, Kambayashi examines the often tumultuous relationship humanity has with the technology and it has created, and speculates on the direction that relationship is taking as humans struggle to maintain control and autonomy. Computers have become so incredibly advanced that the line between true consciousness and artificial intelligence is blurring. One of the central questions posed by Good Luck, Yukikaze is if it even matters if there is or isn’t a difference between the two, or if functionally it’s simply the next logical evolutionary step.


YukikazeAuthor: Chōhei Kambayashi
Translator: Neil Nadelman
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421532554
Released: January 2010
Original release: 1984
Awards: Seiun Award

Chōhei Kambayashi is an award-winning, well-respected, and popular author of science fiction in Japan. His novel Yukikaze is one of his best known works and has even been adapted into a short anime series. It is also his first book to be translated and released in English. Originally published in Japan in 1984, Yukikaze would go on to win a Seiun Award in 1985. Kambayashi revisited and slightly revised the novel in 2002 in preparation for the volume’s sequel Good Luck, Yukikaze. Neil Nadelman’s translation of Yukikaze, published by Viz Media’s speculative fiction imprint Haikasoru in 2010, is based on this 2002 edition. Haikasoru’s release of Yukikaze also includes two very interesting essays about the novel by Ran Ishidou and Ray Fuyuki. Haikasoru also released an English translation of Good Luck, Yukikaze. Kambayashi has written a third volume in the series, Unbroken Arrow, which has yet to be translated.

Rei Fukai is one of the best pilots that the Faery Air Force has, surviving numerous encounters with the JAM, an alien force threatening humanity’s very existence. It has been more than three decades since the JAM first appeared on Earth. They were quickly pushed back to the planet from where their invasion was launched, however the prolonged war against the JAM continues with no obvious way to secure a complete victory. Survival is Fukai’s primary order and goal. A member of an elite squadron associated with the Special Air Force, his mission is to collect and record massive amounts of data about the JAM and their tactical capabilities. He is to return with that information no matter what, even if that means leaving his comrades behind to die. Because of this, he and the others in his squadron have earned the reputation of being cold-hearted bastards. Outside of himself, the only thing that Fukai believes in, cares about, or trusts is the Yukikaze, the highly advanced fighter plane that he pilots.

Kambayashi addresses several themes in depth in Yukikaze: what humanity’s purpose is within the context of war, what it means to be human or inhuman, and perhaps most strikingly what the impact of the convergence of human intelligence and the technology it develops could be. Yukikaze is an engaging war story, with kinetic and hazardous air battles that have terrifying implications, but like all great science fiction the novel is also incredibly thought-provoking. The members of the Faery Air Force, and especially those in the Special Air Force, are primarily made up of criminals, those with anti-social tendencies, and other people who are unwanted or have no place back on Earth. They are treated more like expendable resources than they are like human beings. The war and the fighting is so far removed from those living on Earth that they are mostly oblivious to what is occurring on Faery. Protecting Earth is a thankless task for those engaged in the war, people who have very few ties to the planet left but who have no better options other than to fight.

Considering all of this, it isn’t that surprising that Fukai and some of the other pilots would prefer their planes to people. I’ll admit, as unsociable as Fukai can be, I did like the guy. It did take me a couple of chapters to really settle into Yukikaze, but by the end of the novel I was completely engaged. A large reason behind that was because of Fukai and his development as the novel progressed as well as the evolution of the Yukikaze. In the chaos of war, Fukai’s relationship to his fighter is one of the only stable things remaining in his life, but even that begins to change. The members of the Faery Air Force are often called inhuman and compared to machines. At the same time those machines are becoming more and more advanced, raising the question of whether humans are even necessary anymore. The war against the JAM that humanity is waging may not be the only battle of survival that it should be concerned about fighting. After an interesting but somewhat clunky beginning, I was actually quite impressed with the depth of Kambayashi’s ideas in Yukikaze. I look forward to reading its sequel.