Yukikaze (1984)

Creators

Kanbayashi Chōhei (writer).

Extent

Read in 2016.

I read the 2009 Haikasoru release, in Neil Nadelman’s translation, of the 2002 revised edition.

Commentary

The basic concept is very clever, to the extent that it can be interpreted as a non-biological uplift scenario where alien AI (whether abiotic and/or artificial) tries to coax a peer out of human technology by pretending to wage war for decades, away from the Earth. In this interpretation, the apparent failure to invade Earth was intentional, serving only to bring human technology into the greenhouse of Faery, to be raised by the JAM. The political cynicism is quite appealing and many of the details are very nicely written.

There are holes in the story. Why is it that no one is ever seen to look for remains of the dead JAM? Where are the exobiologists? If Faery fauna is so extremely good at absorbing moisture, why is there so much snow? Given that FAF training seems to be extremely effective for anybody, that its staff gets to play with hypertechnology, and that they're fighting an undecided nuclear war for the whole species, why does the FAF not attract more skilled volunteers? Andy Lander, the stereotypical MÖP, has some genuinely good questions that do not get answered because Kanbayashi seems interested mainly in PKD-style weirdness and ambiguity. Lynn Jackson doesn’t even ask good questions when she has the chance.

Chapter 5, the story of Amata Mamoru, is the best one. It sneaks in a little Kafka and a little Tolstoy or Kurosawa—cf. Ikiru (1952)—but it fails to explain why Amata wins his medal. Elsewhere, some of the female characters are very poorly written, the relationship between O'Donnell and Emery and the “defeat” of Marnie by having Fukai bite her breast being particularly embarrassing.

Kanbayashi is perennially popular among Japanese geeks. I wonder if the fairy motif in the arcade game Raiden (1990) comes from Yukikaze.

References here: Blindsight (2006).

fiction text