Rescuing Rescue Wings: Underrated Star of the Season

I note with great dismay that the popularity of Yomigaeru Sora: Rescue Wings isn’t quite as high as the quality of the show would suggest. In fact, a quick search on blogsuki turns up five posts, all blogging the first episode only. After catching up to episode seven, released by yu fansubs (who have done a great job btw), I am totally convinced that this is the best anime series of the current season. Fate/ Stay Night doesn’t even come within miles of RW’s greatness. A while back, I proclaimed Ergo Proxy the best this season. Not anymore. It’s now second best. Thus, I am appalled by the lack of exposure RW is getting. To rectify this injustice, I’m going to write a proper article on why RW is a must-watch.

Btw, I’m a slave of the military so I actually know these military terms, rank structures, command chains etc which perhaps allows me to understand the show a bit better. Though the Self-Defence Force (SDF), Japan’s “army”, is a rather alien organisation, I’m sure it isn’t all that different from my masters.

RW is about non-violent military operations, realistic (at least 200x more than normal anime) romance between two adults separated by distance, and most of all, the importance and fragility of human life.

First, here’s a short synopsis of the story. Captain (3rd Class) Uchida Kazuhiro is a fresh graduate out of pilot school. He had always wanted to be a fighter pilot (what else? Would anyone want to be a cargo plane pilot?) but was not selected. Instead, he was posted to the Komatsu Air Rescue Unit to be a helicopter pilot, to rescue victims of disasters and accidents. Of course, CPT Uchida isn’t too motivated by that. Having to move out of his hometown of Okayama and leave his family and girlfriend, Hasegawa Megumi (VA: NOTO MAMIKO woooooooot), the first episode sees him moving into his new apartment. Logistical problems arise and he suffers both physically and mentally. Here in Komatsu, he will have to overcome his n00bness, inexperience, demanding superiors, loneliness while trying to come to terms with the fact he cannot save everyone. Yes, you read that right. Lots of deaths in this series. These aren’t meaningless ones too. I cried quite a bit, which is VERY rare. I didn’t even feel anything when watching KGNE, supposedly the master tearjerker. Enough of the introduction, let us get into the details of why Yomigaeru Sora is pure genius.

The very realistic emotions of all the characters make for a refreshing watch. All the characters are human, displaying normal emotions when placed in stressful situations. I have seen situations like these in real life or through the news, especially after the Asian Tsunami disasters during which I was posted into the military news unit I’m currently at. When a character dies, you don’t see everyone forgetting about him. You really feel the pain their families go through, the relief when someone is saved, the anguish of a failed rescue. There’s also the realism in the problems of living alone in a new area, meeting new people, being away from friends and family and being stuck in a job you aren’t good at nor wanted.

The realistic character designs play a part in the realism (count the times I use this word.). I really look down on people who complain with “I can’t stand these dated 90s style animation.” WTF are they saying? Must all anime characters have green hair, Y cup boobies, pupils twice the size of their faces and speak with whiny, high-pitched voices? Do they seriously think that is what makes an anime modern? Some people just cannot accept that there are different styles to design. Anyway, rant over, back to the topic. Sometimes, you can’t really tell the characters apart when they are wearing their gear. And yes, they wear uniforms to be UNIFORM, unlike Tactical Roar, where uniforms are a fetish.

The beauty of the show, Megumi, looks distinctly average. Her figure is that of a normal woman, meatier than her anime counterparts and thus unappealing to some viewers. The CGI isn’t top notch but it doesn’t play much of a role in the show. Just a few helis and F-15s here and there, they aren’t involved in dogfights or whatever, so CGI can be ignored. It’s also nice to see the portrayal of such machines as difficult to pilot, requiring skill, experience and guts, justifying why pilots are so highly regarded. 14 year old girls are NOT able to fly fighter planes. At least where I come from, that’s the case. The animation is pretty good – fluid, with barely any facial and bodily distortions. The CGI does not blend in perfectly, but that’s like a freckle on Sawachika Eri’s face.

The protagonist, CPT Uchida, is not lame wimp, nor is he a gungho hero. He’s a guy with a dream that couldn’t be fulfilled, much like most adults. He feels the disappointment of that, but is a nice guy so decides to go with the flow (like most of us) and do the right thing, that is, rescuing people. But his colleagues all can see that he isn’t properly motivated, and slag him off for it even though on the surface he tries hard. Any normal viewer would be able to relate to this character and his thought processes and anxieties.

It helps to have a very likeable female lead with the sweetest voice (Noto Mamiko’s). CPT Uchida’s lover, Megumi, is also chasing a dream. But in Tokyo, as an editor of a publishing company. She’s only a low level employee now, but working hard. The long distance romance between the two is a realistic one. They both feel insecure about the physical distance apart and any communication is difficult thanks to their busy work schedules. The romance bit actually takes up about the same amount of time as the rescuing operations, so fans of the romance genre, please watch this. Megumi may be the dream girl for many of us, she does have her imperfections, just like any human being.

Colonel Hongou is the best pilot in the unit and is sort of CPT Uchida’s mentor/tormentor. Of course, he is typically well-intentioned but tactless, quiet but when he speaks, he spews venom like the black spitting cobra. I cringe when CPT Uchida gets a scolding, because COL Hongou is always right even though CPT Uchida does try. Ah, realistic scolding. The sort that makes you guilty yet angry. The Colonel obviously has a painful past as well. He reminds me of Roy Revan from Solty Rei, but Hongou’s much cooler of course.

The supporting cast, besides Colonel Hongou, have not had much screen time yet, but they have served their purpose well so far. They support the main cast very well, and add the relevant ambience to various key scenes.

Now we get to the best part of the show. In every disaster, people get injured and die. RW portrays this supremely well, without having to resort to shock gore tactics. In fact, there is little to no gore in this series. Through skilful scene cuts and camera angles, RW gives the viewers suspense and the room for imagination, which is sometimes far better than an in-your-face approach. The joy of the rescued, rescuers and the family was so intense, I found myself sobbing alongside them. Conversely, their sadness was just as real. Through them, we learn the value of human lives and that no matter how much effort was spent on the search operations, it isn’t ever wasted even if it’s fruitless. Even if it was a nameless random character, the amount of grief felt just cannot be compared to other series. The greenhorn CPT Uchida also suffers from near mental breakdown from the consequences of his inexperience. It’s really not an anime where a death happens and everyone cries and screams but resumes joy and laughter in 15 minutes. Finally, death comes swift and sudden, almost randomly picking its target. We all know that from the real world, but the anime world always has time for warnings to prepare viewers. Not knowing whether a character lives or dies, is such a powerful tool for making viewers stomach-churningly worried and subsequently addicted to RW. And there are no healing magics, no super invincible Renji bodies, no hidden ninetailed foxes to recover your chakra. Death is death.

Surprisingly, the music is very well done. The OP, Ashita wo Tomenaide by Misato Aki, is pretty catchy and easy to listen to. I didn’t like the over-sentimental ED, Emblem by JAM Project though. But the true gems lie in the insert songs. In episode seven, there were two fantastic insert songs. One for the love and one for the deaths. To reveal any more would cause spoiling, so I shan’t elaborate. Let’s just say that, realism again plays a part. The songs were even weaved into the story, which ups the power of the music here. The background music isn’t much. It’s suitably soft when it comes to death scenes but most of the time, it’s the sound of waves and heli rotors. Which is realistic (still counting?). The thing is, I expect even more new songs to be featured. Amazing music.

Whew, that was quite a long explanation of why RW is great right? I hope you guys give it a try. I have watched 400+ anime series, but this, so far, ranks up there with the very best. But I suppose there will be people who don’t like realistic anime, preferring panty-showing magical under-aged school girls or chubby farting filler ninjas. However, I urge all anime lovers to ingest a balanced diet. Add some rare Vitamin R and E, realism and emotions, with a weekly dose of RW. In other words, please watch it. I’ll throw in this freebie!

Noto Mamiko in a heli pilot’s flightsuit. OOh.

12 Responses to “Rescuing Rescue Wings: Underrated Star of the Season”

  • I agree with you, Rescue Wings isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Looks like realistic and well-made shows don’t interest the anime crowd. Or they’re just too ashamed to say they like something else than shonens or harem shows.

    By the way, I also give my thanks to yu fansubs, who are the only ones to sub this, and offer us quality releases.

  • Agreed. It’s definitely not getting the attention it deserves. I suppose anime serves as escapist entertainment for many folks, (if they want realism they can just watch live action shows!) but Rescue Wings is hitting a sweet spot for me. It’s engaging and emotionally fulfilling, in ways that many anime titles that I enjoy equally just don’t hit. And the characters are just so damn relatable. Keep blogging! I’m only up to ep 3 but I look forward to reading your posts.

  • Thanks for the comments! I actually sacrficed my anime watching time today :( to finish this post. Damn I must be more concise…

  • I haven’t watched eps 4-7 yet, but I really enjoyed 1-3. I agree that series this has gone unnoticed! I look forward to your write ups about it!

  • Sounds interesting. I’ll probably go dl the first episode if there are still some seeders >.

  • Okay, I just finished reading the entry in its entirety (my previous post was based off the first paragraph or so). I found your comments to be interesting but I disagree to a certain extent. I was able to pick up your subtle admiration of the realism of the show and your lament at how rare it is to find such an attribute in anime. In defense of standard anime, I would simply like to add that people watch anime because of its rather unrealistic portrayal of events. What anime lovers revere are not the characters with “green hair, Y cup boobies, pupils twice the size of their faces and speak with whiny, high-pitched voices” or the completely unrealistic setting, but rather the use of realistic emotions in an unrealistic setting. I’ll use Neon Genesis Evangelion as an example. No one (at least I hope no one) actually believes 14-year old kids can pilot enormous bio-mechs and fight a slew of angels to save the world from an Armageddon of sorts and that was not why NGE has been immortalized in anime history. The greatness of the show is derived from its portrayal of realistic emotions that result from pre-pubescent children trying to save the world while piloting large bio-mechs.
    Basically, a certain level of unrealism is expected by all anime watchers and those who do want to watch realistic events in realistic settings with realistic people go and watch realistic shows like E.R. or something…
    Hahah…sorry for being so verbose, sigh…well, I’m going back to watching another episode with “panty-showing magical under-aged school girls or chubby farting filler ninjas.”

  • Of course, Chairman Zhuang. The reason why I’m raving so much on RW’s reaslism is because such shows are rare. As we all know, common things are devalued. Naruto wasn’t flamed when it was still in the opening stages and unheard of. So people slam unrealistic anime because that is “common” and tiresome.

    Anime itself is a medium. It does not have to be unrealistic, but unrealism is one of the its strengths because it can, with a low budget, do what live action movies cannot without a big budget. The biggest strength of anime as a medium , however, is the lack of acting required. The characters are not actors, but characters themselves, so there is no room for bad acting. This is why anime pwns live action anytime. All the emotions conveyed in this series will not be as well-portrayed if poor actors were used. Good actors generally cost more than the entire production budget to hire.

    I understand most anime are escapades of some sort. The key word here is “most”. Change is always refreshing.

  • Ok, I see what you are saying. Don’t get me wrong, I just felt that maybe the reason this show isn’t as popular as you feel it should be is simply because of the realistic feel of the show. But really these injectures are simply based off your review and my reading of the other rather limited selection of blogs on the show. I have yet to watch the first episode and since it has been 7 weeks since the first episode and the show isn’t extremely popular (I also have tons of stuff in queue), I’ll probably just wait for a batch torrent. I am excited to watch RW since I have always enjoyed realism in an anime series. Hell, what do I know? I still like Fate/Stay Night. lol

  • Hmm you have to pass this to me when we meet. Also, why is it that suddenly I see Noto Mamiko everywhere?


  • Because she’s hot with a very sexy voice. Her unique airy voice never ceases to make me like any character she voices. Never mind that she voices only likeable characters.

  • the eternal problem of verisimilitude: do you make a text resemble other texts like it, as Chairman Zhang suggests, or do you make it look like what it is representing? (there’s no correct answer to this question, by the way).

    i agree entirely with you on RW: it’s excellent. great characters, great character development, downbeat and understated. it reminds me a lot of Planetes but with naturalistic character designs (or Patlabor without the mechas). and yu are doing a great job with the subs, both in terms of quality and speed. my theory is that this will be a sleeper like Planetes was (well, that was a sleeper with me, anyway): assuming the quality of the whole season reflects the quality of the first 7 eps, ppl will discover it when it appears on end-of-year best-of lists.

  • I agreed that this series is a sleeper and well worth catching up on (even if I think that ergo proxy is better in the fantasy category). This is a series that shows that anime can compete with live programming for gripping, human stories. I don’t have to be embarrased about recommending it to non-anime watchers. Here’s hoping this great series goes on for a while.

    Check out the website I’m including for a story of real life at sea helicopter rescue off the Aleutian Chain.

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