33 years ago, humanity realized it was not alone in the universe when Antarctic researchers came under swift and massive attack by an alien force known as the JAM that invaded Earth through a dimensional portal that had suddenly appeared on the ice continent. In response, the United Nations launched a massive counter-attack and after a series of bloody battles, managed to push the enemy back to the other side of the portal, which led to a planet named "Faery" by the humans. Earth was saved. However, the battle still rages on. On Earth, the UN created the Earth Defense Organization to patrol the Antarctic coastline. On Faery, the EDO expeditionary force that pursued the JAM through the portal was designated the Faery Air Force (FAF) and established multiple bases on the alien world, serving as the first line of defense for humanity.2nd Lieutenant Rei Fukai of the FAF pilots the Super Sylph B-503 fighter, nicknamed "Yukikaze", an advanced armed tactical reconnaissance plane equipped with a near-sentient AI computer system. He belongs to the Special Air Force (SAF), the FAF's strategic recon wing. His duty is simple: observe and record data from battles between the FAF and the JAM. Do not attempt to interfere. Do not attempt to help. Should the JAM ever threaten to destroy him & Yukikaze, there is only one imperative: to abandon his comrades and ensure that the data is passed on. It's a task that only the most hardened of hearts can accomplish... a task that begins to blur the distinction between human and machine.Such is the premise of Sentou Yousei Yukikaze (戦闘妖精・雪風, lit. Battle Fairy Yukikaze), a science fiction novel written by Chōhei Kambayashi & originally published in 1984. It is actually a collection of short stories that ran in Hayakawa's SF Magazine beginning in 1979. A sequel novel titled Good Luck, Yukikaze was published in 1999 (like its predecessor, this was also a collection of short stories that began in 1992). Kambayashi revised the original novel to make it more consistent with the sequel and this updated version was published in 2002.Also beginning in 2002, the franchise began to expand. A five-episode OVA series loosely based on the two novels was produced by GONZO and Bandai Visual. It was released in Japan from August 28, 2002 to August 25, 2005 and was produced in commemoration of Bandai Visual's 20th anniversary. It was also later aired in Japan on the anime television network Animax, who later aired it in its English language networks across Southeast Asia and other networks worldwide. These OVAs are the version of the story most familiar with non-Japanese audiences. An English dub was produced by Bandai Entertainment in 2006.A few months before the final episode aired, a spinoff OVA was released called Sentou Yousei Shoujo: Tasukete, Mave-chan!translation Battle Fairy Girl: Help, Mave-chan!. It has nothing to do with the main plot and is about Anthropomorphic Personifications of the aircraft at an anime convention.Around the same time the OVAs were being released, a brief 6-chapter manga written by Yumi Tada was also published. The manga goes into a little more detail on Rei's backstory, though the canonicity of it may be questionable. There was also an Xbox game created in December 2003 called Sentou Yousei Yukikaze: Yousei no Mau Soratranslation : Battle Fairy Yukikaze: The Skies Where Fairies Dance and played as a flight sim in the vein of Ace Combat, but to no one's surprise, it was not successful due to the Xbox's unpopularity in Japan. It received a PC port in 2004.The original novel is considered a groundbreaking work of literature within Japan: some have even compared it to Starship Troopers in terms of how it affected the Japanese hard sci-fi genre. Sentou Yousei Yukikaze and Good Luck, Yukikaze both won the prestigious Seiun Award in 1985 & 2000, respectively. Kambayashi himself was ranked #3 of Best Japanese Sci-Fi Writers of All Time in a 2006 poll conducted by Hayakawa's SF Magazine.For the longest time, the books were out of reach for almost everyone outside of Japan. It wasn't until 2010 that publishing house Haika Soru released an English translation of the first novel (titled simply Yukikaze). The second novel was translated in 2011.David Drake (yes, thatDavid Drake) read the first novel and loved it if his endorsement on the cover is anything to go by.There is a third book called Unbroken Arrow and was published in 2009 in Japan. To date, it has not received an English translation.But Haika Soru has hinted that they may commission a translation should sales of the first two novels pick up.◊A live-action film adaptation of the series is currently in development and is set to star Tom Cruise. In July 2013, Dan Mazeau, the screenwriter for Wrath of the Titans joined the project.
Tropes found in this series (folders arranged in rough chronological order of release):
Acronym and Abbreviation Overload: As expected for a hard sci-fi military series. Both the DVDs & the first novel contain glossaries to help the audience keep track of what the dozens of acronyms that appear in series mean.
Adaptation Distillation: The anime almost entirely excises everything related to the political & military tensions between the FAF & the UN. Except for a brief moment in Operation 04 when Rei doubts they'll be able to land on the Japanese Navy's carrier, this is never brought up in the show. It is an essential plot point in the novels and devotes no fewer than three chapters to explore the implications of this situation.
Adaptational Heroism: Colonel Rombert in the anime. He stages a mutiny to fool the JAM into wasting their time attacking Faery Base and buy time for the FAF fleet to escape. The civilians he slaughter appear to be holographic projections created by Yukikaze. In the end, he shoots himself in the arm and reveals he's a JAM as the orange sludge begins creeping out of his blood, showing that despite this he still remains loyal to humanity. His sacrifice is portrayed as a great and selfless act. In Good Luck, Yukikaze, he is not a JAM, but he stages the coup to destabilize the FAF in order to take control of the JAM with the help of their human clones. He executes several innocent System Corps. technicians through use of the BAX-4 Powered Armor while maneuvering his agents into place. It's also questionable whether he actually means to take over the JAM, considering that every other word out of his mouth is a lie. His entire mission was authorized by General Linneberg of Intelligence in order to make contact with the JAM and learn more about them, even if it meant destroying the entire FAF. His status at the end of the novel is unknown; when last we saw him, he was fleeing from the JAM clones after betraying them.
Played unsettlingly straight in Operation 02, where the TS-X1 unmanned fighter baits the JAM to fire missiles at itself, then pulls a Wronski Feint by letting those missiles hit another plane, killing 4 pilots. No, it did not go haywire: its orders were to protect Yukikaze, which was unarmed because of a training exercise, and it was doing exactly what it was programmed to do.
In the novels, the SAF Tactical Computer (STC) also declares in no uncertain terms to Jack Booker that it considers the JAM to be the enemy. On the other hand, it also killed Lt. Amata to prevent Yukikaze from crashing into his snow grader. Much later, the SAF Strategic Computer (SSC) runs an analysis, and decides that it's ultimate priority is defending itself, and that protecting the personnel and equipment of the SAF and FAF fulfills that role. Earlier, it did not respond to a truce offer from the JAM because it wanted to know why the JAM was making such an offer. The SSC's hesitance proved fortuitous, as shortly after the JAM decided to declare war on the entire FAF.
Banshee-IV is taken over by the JAM and must be destroyed. In the anime, the FAF nukes it. In the novel, it crashes thanks to Tom John's sabotage. In the manga, Rei destroys it by launching missiles at it after escaping.
Banshee-III leads the evacuation back to Earth in the anime's finale. In the novels, it suddenly and inexplicably explodes at the end of Good Luck, Yukikaze. The explosion is most likely due to JAM sabotage, and its destruction happens right as the FAF descends into a disastrous Civil War.
Alien Sky: This one's green and has two suns. The novel also talks about the "Bloody Road", a trail of red gas that is erupting out of one of the suns that really does look like its namesake and is easily visible in the night sky.
Anti-Hero: Rei, though instead of being dark and edgy he's just deeply antisocial.
Attack Drone: The Faery Air Force makes abundant use of these. One of the themes of the story is whether or not war can be fought entirely with machines and AIs instead of with humans. In the novels, the FAF and Systems Corps are eagerly pushing for massed UCAV deployment, which the SAF resists as it would also entail converting all 13 Super Sylphs into drone planes.
Author Appeal: The manga's creator, Yumi Tada, was responsible for the character designs in the anime and was also a story consultant for it. It was her input that increased the Ho Yay between Rei & Booker as well as Rei's Adaptational Angst Upgrade.
Body Surf: Yukikaze eventually uploads herself out of the Super Sylph and into an FRX-99 frame.
Cargo Ship: Even partially lampshaded and deconstructed in-universe.
Cool Plane: Just about every plane in the series, but especially the titular Yukikaze.
Cool Guns: The FAF's standard-issue weapons are apparently the Glock 17 pistol and P90 personal defense weapon in the anime. The novels don't mention actual brand names, but Rei has two bullpup SMGs stashed in Yukikaze as survival guns that fire .221 caliber bullets. The only detail the novels reveal about the FAF pistols is that they have a 13-round capacity and use 9mm bullets, which may make them the Browning Hi-Power, or something completely fictional.
Death by Adaptation: Tomahawk John dies in both the book and anime, but for different reasons. In the OVA, he realizes he is a JAM clone and chooses to die on the doomed Banshee-IV airship. In the novel, he also dies on Banshee-IV, but it's because he is ambushed by the JAM and has his mechanical heart torn out of his body.
Dirty Coward: How Rei, and by extension, all the SAF pilots, are viewed by many FAF pilots. The sentiment is understandable: Super Sylphs are far faster and just as heavily armed as the standard jets the FAF uses and could definitely turn the tide of battle around. But their rules of engagement require them to do nothing and flee at the first sign of danger.
Elaborate Underground Base / Underground City: The SAF's hangars and facilites qualify, being underground (Operation 01 showcases a bit of what launching a Super Sylph entails, from underground hangar to runway). Operation 05 reveals there is an entire underground city to provide for the FAF personnel, complete with skyscrapers and a red-light district. The novel even adds there is an artificial sky.
Elite Army: Subverted. Boomerang Squadron of the SAF is comprised of 13 Super Sylphs, which are heavily modified variants of the Sylphid fighter jet designed to have incredible speed and sensor capabilities. In turn, they are manned by some of the best pilots in the entire FAF. But their mission is to never engage the JAM and only to dispassionately record everything they see.
Expy: The Super Sylph's novel and anime designs are evocative of the F-15S/MTD and the Su-27 Flanker family respectively.
Frickin' Laser Beams: The Free Electron Laser Unit attached to the Flip Knights. They see extensive use for the anime's final battle. The novel doesn't give a formal name to the lasers and averts the trope by detailing that the lasers have a near perfect accuracy rating (unless you can outrun the speed of light), are unaffected by weather conditions, and fire in 0.7 second bursts with the cannon having a 1.95 degree turn radius. The anime shows this to be quite true as the lasers fire a continuous beam in pulses.
Genius Loci: Faery. Even in-universe, it's speculated that the planet itself could be JAM.
Ghost Ship: The compromised Banshee-IV is definitely this.
Government Conspiracy: 30+ years after the attempted invasion, most people in the human world treat the JAM as a sort of urban legend/fiction. And as it turns out, the war against the JAM on Faery has basically turned into a human invasion of Faery for military and monetary gains, and is used by Earth nations to further their own individual interests. This is certainly the case in the anime; in the second novel this "Earth is invading Faery for resources" story is a lie that the JAM clones tell to Gavin Mayle to try to make him do a Face-Heel Turn. He doesn't believe it, so they murder him.
Great Offscreen War: The anime showed the opening shots of the JAM invasion 30 years ago, but other than that, we don't know much about what happened.
Forever War: It has been over 30 years of fighting between the FAF and the JAM, though the war has de-escalated into a medium-intensity conflict that largely consists of patrols shooting at each other day in and day out. Neither side has gained much of anything.
High-Speed Missile Dodge: All fighters attempt this, with results varying greatly. Yukikaze, unsurprisingly, has the best success, followed by the Copy Super Sylph and the rest of the JAM.
Intrepid Reporter: Lynn Jackson. Later in the plot, she uses all her connections to get passage on the Japanese aircraft carrier Admiral 56 to meet with Rei & Booker, and witnesses a dogfight between the JAM against Yukikaze and the Japanese Navy that came perilously close to sinking the ship she was on.
Just Plane Wrong: The FFR-31MR/D Super Sylph is a plausible design, not so much for some of the designs introduced later in the series.
Ironically in the novels, the Super Sylph design is derived from the F-15 STOL/MTD, an actual USAF experimental craft.
The creators specifically made Yukikaze as un-aerodynamic as possible to emphasize how advanced its technology was.
Partially Truth in Television - modern fighter aircraft are deliberately designed to be as unstable as possible as it enhances their maneuverability. Without the fly-by-wire computers, they would be utterly uncontrollable... on the other hand that doesn't suspend the need for an aerodynamic design, on the contrary to make full use of the enhanced maneuverability made possible by relaxed stability the aircraft has to be even more aerodynamic than traditional designs (compare F-16, Su-27, Rafale, Gripen, F-22 with F-35, F-4, F-105)
Kaiju Defense Force: The Japanese Navy appears in Operation 04/Chapter VII - Battle Spirit, supplying a carrier battlegroup to guard the Passageway, implying that Article 9 was revoked when the JAM invaded.
Loophole Abuse: In the supplementary materials, it's noted that the SAF was not allowed funding for a new recon fighter. The Super Sylph's funding was secured by claiming that it was a modified variant of the Sylphid, the FAF's frontline fighter... when in fact it was a completely new design. note This has real world precedent; the Tu-22M Backfire was sold as a variant of the Tu-22 Blinder; likewise the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is almost an entirely new aircraft, sharing less than 20% commonality with the legacy F/A-18 Hornet. This is less pronounced in the novel, where both the Sylph and Super Sylph designs are derived from the F-15S/MTD experimental aircraft.
Man Child: Rei could be seen as this. He'll either rebel against his superiors or angst if you try to keep him from flying and Yukikaze.
Mechanical Lifeforms: The JAM are suspected to be this in-universe. In the novel, the swarm of JAM that attacks Tom on Banshee-IV appears to be a collection of tiny insect-like creatures that feel metallic to the touch, and they can combine to become a bigger entity. In the anime's final episode, they create some kind of massive white dome around the Passageway that shatters like glass when Rei & the Flip Knights punch through it.
They're also suspected to be a sort of Hive Mind. We never find out.
Meaningful Name: Rei's first name means "A drop, a raindrop, a mote. Zero." (Yes, all this.) His surname, Fukai is derived from the word "deep." In fact, it's written with the same kanji as this noh mask. Whether it's intentional or not...
Also, theJAM: just their very presence alone can apparently generate enough ECM to render most advanced radar and sensors useless.
As well as Yukikaze's designation as the FFR-41 Mave/Maeve, as in the Irish Battle Fairy Queen of legend.
The Super Sylph unit Boomerang Squadron is called that because they always return from their missions.
Mid-Season Upgrade: Yukikaze transfers its AI from an FFR-31MR/D Super Sylph into the FRX-99 prototype (it was the FRX-00 i.e. the manned variant in the novels). Later, in Operation 04, the FFR-41 Mave receives new engines. This upgrade happened much earlier in the novel when Yukikaze was still a Super Sylph.
Mid Air Refueling: Tankers make appearences every now and then, and are often seen refueling the FAF Fighters. However, in the Anime, there's not much joking going on as in many of the cases the pilots are reeling from watching half of their formation getting sent to the ground in pieces.
Multinational Team: The FAF is made up of people from many different countries. From the characters we meet, Jack is British, Rei is Japanese, Tom John is a Canadian Native American, and Cooley & Foss are Americans. General Gibril Laitume's ethnicity is not specified, but his first name is the Arabic version of "Gabriel." That, coupled with his darker complexion in the anime indicates he may be of Middle Eastern descent. Ansel Rombert is probably German, and the novel also has a few other Japanese characters, such as 2nd Lt. Amata, 2nd Lt. Yagashira, & Akira Katsuragi from the Intelligence Forces. Finally, the second novel also has a French chef as a minor character.
No Social Skills: Rei, and by extension all the pilots of Boomerang Squadron. Their job really does demand a strong emotional detachment from the rest of the FAF's people, considering they end up watching fellow pilots die and are required not to react to it. The result is that even when off-duty, they say very little and emote even less.
Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Very strongly averted, especially for a Japanese series. Nuclear weapons are shown and explicitly identified as such regularly, and both sides have them.
Powered Armor: Suits of powered armor show up in the final episode of the anime as well as the final chapter of Good Luck, Yukikaze. The novel explains it as part of the Intelligence Forces' attempt to create an army on Faery. The novel also refers to it as the BAX-4 suit, which is inconsistent with the anime.
Psychic Link: Rei and Yukikaze seem to share one, somehow. It's never fully explained in the anime. Good Luck, Yukikaze reveals, however, that Rei's vital stats are being monitored by the SAF tactical computer, and it is sharing that information with Yukikaze.
Shown Their Work: The fighter planes' sounds, the jargon of fighter pilots and other military stuff is (almost) entirely authentic. (The sounds were actually recorded at a JASDF base with real planes flying around.) And while many plane designs are implausible (but really cool) the animators carefully animated all the little movements planes do as they fly.
The unrealistic designs are less of an issue with the novel version of the Sylph and Super Sylph, which is essentially a modified F-15S/MTD, a USAF/NASA experimental aircraft.
The Japanese Navy's F/A-27C backstory is taken almost entirely from that of the F-35, being a joint strike fighter program shared by several services (albeit the F/A-27 program managed to avoid the Development Hell the F-35 went through).
Kambayashi also did quite a bit of work to make sure that the aerial combat & flight scenes were depicted accurately in the novel. Neil Nadelman, the English translator, also worked on the OVA's translation and he even admitted on this Livejournal page that he mistranslated Burgadish's title as "Radar Intercept Officer" in the anime. He corrected it for the novel as "Electronic Warfare Officer."
Also, Jack's surname is rendered as Bukhar in the anime and Booker in the translated novels.
The designation for the new Yukikaze body frame. The FRX-99 Wraith, and finally FFR-41MR Mave. In the novels one of the FRX-99 units is nicknamed "Rafe" while Yukikaze is the FFR-41 Maeve. The "Rafe" nickname is explicitly pointed out by Rei as meaning "Counsel of the wolf" and that it was Booker who gave it the name.
The English dub goofed on Foss's name in Operation 02, referring to her as "Forth." Subsequent episodes corrected this, probably because Foss's name appears on computer screens properly spelled out.
Meanwhile, due to the peculiarities of the Japanese language, the writer's last name can be acceptably Romanized as either "Kambayashi" or "Kanbayashi."
Terse Talker: It's rare to hear Rei speak a sentence longer than ten words in the anime. He's more talkative in the novels, but at the same token the novels also note that the nature of the war on Faery ends up dehumanizing most of the FAF's personnel so they talk like this.
Theme Naming: The alien planet is named Faery; the FAF's various units, aircraft, airbases, etc. are named after fantastic/mythological creatures (FFR-31 Sylph/Sylphid, Banshee Flying Aircraft Carriers, F/A-2 Fawn/Faun/Fand, Kraken Sq., Ghoul Sq., Brownie Airbase, Faery Airbase, plus the Flip Knights).
Trading Bars for Stripes: The novel and the short manga adaptation explains that most of the FAF's personnel are criminals who have been sent to Faery by national governments that don't want to deal with them. In the early stages of the JAM conflict, the ratio of volunteers to non-volunteers was much higher, but by the time the novel takes place, non-volunteers now outnumber the volunteers of the FAF. Jack is suspected by many of his subordinates to be a criminal thanks to a nasty scar on his face. He's not. The scar came from a mundane accident years ago when a boomerang he made came back and smacked him in the face.
Triang Relations: Sort of, between Jack, Rei and Yukikaze. Much more prominent in the anime; the novel shows Jack is simply concerned for Rei's mental state, as getting attached to a machine is very unhealthy.
Twenty Minutes into the Future: It's never stated exactly when the OVA takes place, but given various visual clues (Lyn Jackson's Powerbook G3, a V-22, Atago-class DDGs, Ticonderoga-class CGs), it probably takes place sometime within the first decade or two of the 21st century. The novels are suggested to take place around the mid nineties, given that the FFR-41's Bureau Number begins with 96, for Fiscal Year 1996.
United Nations Is a Superpower: Somewhat. After the JAM launched their invasion of Antarctica, a massive coalition of multinational armies counterattacked and drove the invaders back. Up to this day, the UN still oversees patrols over the Antarctic. One side effect of forming the coalition seems to be that Japan revoked Article 9 of their Constitution and now has at least a full-fledged Navy with an aircraft carrier battlegroup. Oh, and nuclear weapons too.
Van in Black: What Yukikaze and the SAF is, basically. Their job consisted mostly of monitoring the engagements between the actual FAF and JAM — at least it was until they got more directly involved.
The SAF ditches this in Operation 05, sending their Super Sylphs into combat with air-to-air loads, and showing them to be quite effective.
Advancing Wall of Doom: Chapter III of the first novel. Yukikaze detects... something on her specialized Frozen Eye radar that displays itself as a solid horizontal line despite that there is absolutely nothing the naked eye can see, and it also does not show up on standard radar or other sensors. When Rei takes heed of the warning and tries to fly away, the line starts chasing him and eventually envelops Rei & Yukikaze in a circle. Passing the "line" on the radar screen feels like slamming into a wall of iron and they end up teleported into an Alternate Dimension.
The Alcoholic: Lt. Amata. Justified, as he is constantly working in sub-zero temperatures. It gets him killed when he is too drunk to move his grader off the runway when Yukikaze is coming in for a landing.
An Arm and a Leg: Andy Lander loses his left hand when he tries to touch the ocean of orange sludge in the JAM alternate universe. It wasn't the sludge itself that did it; it was the hazy gas emitting from the sludge, which in his words, was vibrating like a buzzsaw.
Angst Coma: Rei goes into one at the end of the first novel after Yukikaze forcefully ejects him from her airframe so she can upload herself into the FRX-00 and destroy her old body. The second novel reveals it lasts for 93 days.
Anticlimax: Chapter II - Never Question The Value Of A Knight from the first novel builds up to a massive operation called "FTJ83", which is going to be the largest military operation the FAF has done against the JAM for years and will involve the complete sortie of all available fighters to destroy the JAM's largest forward operating base. When it's go time, the operation is completely described in a single paragraph.
Awful Truth: Gavin Mayle is transferred to the "retraining" unit, which the Intelligence Forces have ensured is being populated solely by JAM clones to isolate them. He slowly starts questioning whether he's a JAM clone because his last memories are of parachuting to the ground and making a hard landing, breaking his beacon and running out of food & water. Turns out to be a Subverted Trope, he's not. The real JAM clones were trying to turn him to their side by feeding him a bunch of lies. But when he refuses to play this game anymore and turns to leave, the clone of Lt. Lancome shoots him In the Back.
Blatant Lies: In the backstory, the SAF was able to secure funding for the Super Sylph because it was ostensibly a modified Sylphid. The actual aircraft was an entirely new design. This is actually Truth in Television since a number of real life combat aircraft "variants" were developed this way. See Loophole Abuse.
Bolivian Army Ending: Good Luck, Yukikaze ends with Ansel Rombert going MIA after starting his mutiny, Banshee-III exploding (heavily implied to be JAM sabotage), and the JAM launching an unbelievably large-scale electronic warfare attack that causes nearly all FAF AIs to perceive Faery Air Base as having been taken over by the JAM as well as start registering hundreds of false positives of JAM fighters which are actually FAF craft. The result is a Civil War that erupts in the FAF as nearly every plane from every FAF forward operating base starts gunning for HQ as well as making all SAF planes targets. Even worse, Booker brings up the possibility that the FAF pilots may be targeting the SAF not because of JAM deception, but because they're using this as an opportunity to settle scores with the Dirty Cowards they think the SAF are. Rei moves to sortie into this madhouse because he believes the JAM are waiting for him & Yukikaze to show themselves. Meanwhile, the SAF Strategic Computer is strongly predicting that an actual JAM fleet will show up after the carnage is over and wipe out the remaining survivors. After all, everything is going All According to Plan for them.
British Accents: Booker has a faint one. The third book reveals he's originally from Sheffield.
The people of Earth think the war against the JAM is not their issue to deal with. It has been going on for over 30 years in a location that nobody on Earth can even remotely imagine. Add to that that the FAF has almost no oversight at all, and it's no wonder why by this point, conspiracy theories abound on Earth that think the JAM don't even exist and that the FAF is planning a rebellion to overthrow the United Nations.
Chapter III - Mysterious Battle Zone has Rei playing babysitter to a Jerkass pundit from Earth who has come to Faery to do a story on the FAF. He starts off utterly convinced that the JAM war is fake and is a ploy to arm the FAF for their global revolution. He very quickly changes his mind once he actually encounters the JAM.
The Chains of Commanding: Jack is really worried about Rei's attachment to Yukikaze. He's tired of seeing so many pilots die in this war, and he fears Rei may do something stupid on the battlefield for Yukikaze's sake that would cost him his life.
Character Development: Rei undergoes major development after recovering from his Angst Coma. The nature of his entire relationship with Yukikaze is completely changed and he has trouble coping with that, though with some help from Edith Foss, he begins to get better. The result is that Rei gradually shakes off his previously machine-like demeanor and begins to relate to fellow humans on a more personal level. On rare occasions, he will even make sarcastic remarks and find things amusing.
Crippling Overspecialization: There's a reason they're called the Faery Air Force. The hostile terrain of the planet makes a ground force impractical, and so far as we know, there are no large bodies of water available to justify a naval presence. The FAF top brass is attempting to put together a ground force as of the second novel by way of Powered Armor, but Booker thinks this is a bad idea: he notes that the majority of the JAM's actions are based on matching the FAF's capabilities and that introducing a ground element to the war will result in unforeseen consequences.
Easy Logistics: Good Luck, Yukikaze explains that the FAF cannot defeat the JAM because they can't figure out exactly how the JAM are able to build their bases and aircraft in over 30 years of conflict. When a JAM base is destroyed, a new one pops up somewhere else practically out of thin air. The FAF has sent countless recon missions out to see how the JAM supply chain works, but in all their sorties, they have never been able to find evidence of even a single JAM transport aircraft or ground vehicle. Satellite surveillance doesn't help either, since spy sats are a priority target for the JAM and they shoot down every single one that is launched into Faery's atmosphere. The best explanation that the FAF analysts can come up with is that the JAM either use a network of underground tunnels or they are teleporting their forces around by using micro-wormholes similar to the Passageway. It's more than likely the latter.
Eldritch Location: The bizarre pocket universe Rei and Lander are transported to in "Mysterious Battle Zone." There is nothing there apart from a makeshift runway, a forest of strange crystalline trees, and an endless ocean of orange sludge. It is clearly a JAM environment, as a JAM aircraft attempts to interface with Yukikaze in this area. In addition, the trees are some type of antennae that emit a kind of radio interference that disables Lander's camcorder & voice recorder.
This same universe also contains a JAM copy of the TAB-14 forward operating base. This time, Rei escapes when he gets into Yukikaze and launches a missile at a swarm of the JAM insects.
To a larger extent, all of Faery. Rei & Jack are very disoriented when they return to Earth briefly because there is so much color & life on Earth. At one point in the first novel, Rei even likens Faery's atmosphere to that of being in a hallucinogenic haze.
Fictional Document: Lynn Jackson's novel, The Invader. The prologue is an excerpt from this book, detailing the background of the FAF and the war against the JAM.
Game Changer: The nature of the Forever War between the FAF & the JAM suddenly changes dramatically after the JAM begin realizing humans exist and take steps to respond to this new threat to them.
The Great Politics Mess-Up: Andy Lander is amazed to see on Faery Americans using Russian military equipment and vice versa. Granted, this still doesn't happen much even today among the actual American & Russian militaries.
Godzilla Threshold: How bad was the JAM invasion of Earth? We don't know the details, but in the chapter "Indian Summer" Rei casually mentions to Tom John that Japan possesses nukes. Just from that one line alone, we know the invasion had to be bad.
Grew Beyond Their Programming: Yukikaze really begins to do so after she transfers into the FRX-00. This is actually a very good thing, as it enables her to oppose the JAM even more effectively.
Human Aliens: Played with in an interesting way. When Rei & Booker touch down on the Admiral 56 carrier back on Earth, the crew of the ship think they may as well be spacemen. They also have difficulty communicating with the crew; their mannerisms have been altered so much by the war on Faery that their style of speaking is too terse and machine-like for the crew to follow. Booker is only able to start regaining some sense of normal diction after talking extensively with Lynn Jackson. Rei doesn't, and on another level, his frustration also comes from the fact that he hasn't spoken Japanese for so long that he can't get people who speak his native tongue to understand him.
When meeting with Lynn Jackson in Good Luck, Yukikaze, she starts pressing him for first-hand objective information on the JAM. Rei angrily tells her he can't give her a fair & balanced view on the JAM and declares that if that means he's not human, then he's fine with that. Jackson then says Rei must be a Faerian, and thus an alien.
I Did What I Had to Do: The SAF AI killing Lt. Amata is portrayed as this. If it hadn't done so, Yukikaze would have crashed into him and gotten destroyed as well. In the bigger picture, a Super Sylph, her pilot, and her EWO are worth far more than a snow grader and its driver.
Happens again in the next chapter, when Yukikaze takes remote control of the Fand II fighter when the JAM attack during the test flight. The extreme maneuvers she makes the Fand pull end up killing its pilot Hugh O'Donnell. In this case, Rei is the one defending Yukikaze for doing what she had to do to survive.
Irony: Chapter II - A Soldier's Leave of Good Luck, Yukikaze has Rei return to Japan on leave for a week, as his status with the FAF is in limbo between "retirement" and re-enlisting. While there, agents from the Japanese government come to his hotel room & try to pressure him into joining the Japanese military, and when he refuses, they move to subdue & kidnap him. He's saved by the timely intervention of an FAF intelligence agent who throws a flash grenade into the room and spirits him away with Lynn Jackson. He also wonders if the whole thing may have been a setup by the FAF to ensure he comes back to them, but decides it doesn't matter since he was going to anyway. Rei ruefully notes to himself he may be safer on Faery fighting the JAM.
It's All About Me: 2nd Lt. Yagashira of the SAF. Before he got transferred to the Special Air Force, his FAF squadmates already hated him. He would interrupt conversations to talk about completely unrelated things that he had an opinion about, he simply cannot understand why everyone wanted nothing to do with him, and most damningly his Leeroy Jenkins tendencies in combat tended to fail most of the time. The few times they succeed, he makes his whole squad know it was solely to further his Glory Hound status. When he gets transferred to SAF, his squadmates celebrate. And this is what he was like before he died for real and got replaced with a JAM copy.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite all the above, when he loses his hand in the JAM pocket dimension and is weakened from blood loss, he does not hesitate to tell Rei to leave him behind and escape when it becomes apparent the JAM are coming. When Rei doesn't, he refuses Rei's offer to help him walk and tells him to keep his hands on his machine gun and his eyes open for hostiles. When he returns to Earth, he writes a pretty even-handed article on the FAF that is largely free of bias.
Laser-Guided Karma: Lt. Mayle & the rest of his squadron truly despised 2nd. Lt. Yagashira. Mayle was actually responsible for Yagashira's death because he did not give him covering fire during a mission against the JAM. The JAM-created copy of Yagashira then sabotages Mayle's plane as well as the entire 505th squadron, and they take massive casualties against the JAM in the first chapter of Good Luck, Yukikaze.
Man Bites Man: Rei's suspicions about Nurse Marnie & Major Yazawa are confirmed when he tears open Marnie's shirt and bites her on the collar. Her blood doesn't taste anything like how human blood should taste.
Medal of Dishonor: Amata being awarded the Order of Mars completely changes how his peers treat him and destroys what little peace his terrible life had.
Mirror Chemistry: Rei speculates that the JAM human copies may be made of dextro-amino acids after their first attempt to feed him at the fake TAB-14 base tastes horrible, but the next meal made out of Burgadish is digestible. Nurse Marnie's blood also tastes completely different from human blood.
Nice to the Waiter: Averted. As discussed below, the FAF treats its manual laborers as less than trash.
Not So Different: Ansel Rombert treats the issue of JAM copy humans in the FAF seriously, but also notes it's a situation they can handle. He compares it to the fact that human spies from Earth have previously attempted to infiltrate the FAF, so the methods used to detect the Earth spies can also be used to root out the JAM agents.
Not So Stoic: Katsuragi's cool, professional demeanor breaks once he's trapped with Rei & Yukikaze in the Mysterious Battle Zone.
One World Order: Averted. While it may have seemed possible during the JAM invasion of Earth, now that they have been beaten back to Faery, the nations of the world have gone right back to fighting their regular wars against each other. Lynn Jackson & Jack Booker are part of the few voices that strongly believe the world must be united or else the JAM will easily conquer humanity.
Patriotic Fervor: Andy Lander is definitely full of this. Averted with Rei, who only feels irritation whenever he thinks about Japan.
Rank Inflation: A literal case of this. The first novel reveals that the lowest rank in the FAF is Second Lieutenant. Thus you have an air force with absolutely no enlisted men at all and fully half the personnel are Second Lieutenants. Ostensibly this is for propaganda purposes, but all it really does is make the Second Lieutenants do the duties that a normal military would assign to enlisted.
Retirony: The unfortunate protagonist of Chapter VI - All Systems Normal.
Not to mention a Forever War being fought in a land so far away that most of the world doesn't even care anymore about it, against an enemy that we have no clear understanding of and with no overarching strategy in mind. Are we talking about the war on Faery, or The War on Terror, especially the Afghanistan theater?
Shadow Archetype / I Hate Past Me: Lieutenant Akira Katsuragi is this to Rei in the second book after Rei undergoes his Character Development. In many respects, Katsuragi is almost a perfect reflection of how Rei was like in the first book, which is actually one major reason why he was assigned to Rei as his EWO. Interacting with Katsuragi tests Rei's patience, as he feels it's like looking into a mirror and seeing himself: Rei can't believe how cold and single-minded he used to be.
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: 2nd Lt. Amata's story turns out to be this. He already had a shit deal being a snowplow operator. Then he got the Order of Mars, which ruined his social life and alienated him from the few friends he had, which drove him to drink even harder. He has no home to return to on Earth, as he would either be thrown into prison or sent to a detox facility if he ever went back. In the end, he ends up operating his grader while drunk, which puts him in the path of Yukikaze while she's landing. The SAF AI then uses a CIWS Phalanx turret to blow him to smithereens so that Yukikaze doesn't crash into him.
Space Cold War: For 33 years, the JAM didn't even realize humans existed. They've been fighting against the computers the whole time and humans just happened to be caught in the middle in some kind of grand proxy war. This changes as of the first novel's final chapter, when the JAM finally notice that there are strange levo-amino acid-based lifeforms on the enemy side...
Status Quo Is God: The reason the war has gone for so long is because of a variety of things: the FAF is stretched thin and can only either defend the Passageway or launch an attack on a JAM base, rarely both at the same time. This is particularly difficult since attacks on JAM bases usually prompt them to launch a Zerg Rush at the Passageway from another direction, forcing the FAF to retreat and fight a defensive battle (this is exactly what happened with the FTJ83 operation in the first novel). There is intense political pressure for FAF commanders to "play it safe" and not do anything audacious, so the war largely consists of minor skirmishes and the occasional bombing raid. As the conflict went on, support from Earth started decreasing as well, further limiting the FAF's ability to project force. On the JAM side, it's because they weren't aware of humans, suggesting they may believe the real battle is to destroy our machines and computers. The status quo starts changing once the JAM move beyond this basic strategy.
Taking You with Me: Tomahawk John destroys Banshee-IV's coolant system after the JAM fatally wound him, ensuring that the compromised plane will crash and burn.
Tastes Like Chicken: Defied Trope. In Chapter VIII - Super Phoenix, Marnie tells Rei the soup he's having is chicken broth. He says it doesn't taste like chicken.
Technology Marches On: The first novel was written in 1984, with the second in 1999, and both were only translated around the 2010s. As a result, a lot of what was then cutting edge aviation technology - e.g. GPS, fly-by-wire controls, thrust vectoring control - is now viewed as ordinary. In the second novel, Rei uses what is described as "a multimedia terminal" to search for news articles on Earth. Today, that would probably be a laptop or a tablet. In addition, the science of "profacting" as described by Edith Foss sounds very similar to the modern data-mining industry, and TFacPro II may be based on real-life statistical analysis software such as Stata or SPSS.
On the other hand, averted with certain technological developments that are still far ahead of anything modern we can produce. Examples include the Flip Knights' anti-aircraft laser, hypervelocity anti-air missiles, and of course, the advanced AI systems, including Yukikaze herself.
Telepathy: The JAM are capable of this. The JAM consciousness that requests that Rei join them in the Mysterious Battle Zone contacts Rei in his mind and tries to persuade him to evade Yukikaze's suicide missile. He refuses. It's also suspected that Rombert's contact with the JAM to organize the clones was through telepathy, as there was absolutely no record of any comm transmissions made by or to him. We also see the JAM clones are capable of at least projecting illusions, which they use to Mind Rape Lt. Mayle in their attempt to turn him to their side.
Underestimating Badassery: Andy Lander is confident that the FAF is not needed, and that if the JAM decide to invade again, the Earth's militaries can handle them. Admiral Nagamu shares the same sentiment. Then we see in Chapter VII - Battle Spirit that a single JAM fighter can effortlessly shoot down 8 top-of-the-line Japanese Navy planes, and that only the technologically advanced FAF stands a real chance against them.
Ungrateful Bastard: Admiral Nagamu of the Japanese Navy in Chapter VII. He blames Yukikaze and her crew for luring the JAM to Earth and is doesn't even want to let them land on his carrier despite the fact they just saved it from being sunk. He only does so when Lynn Jackson points out assisting the FAF is required by international law.
The Unreveal: The meaning of the name JAM. The name was used to refer to the aliens during the initial invasion of Earth, but Good Luck, Yukikaze reveals that the original meaning of the name, if it ever even had any, is now lost.
We Are Struggling Together: The UN seriously distrusts the FAF. Several times Booker & Rei wonder if the more dangerous enemy to the FAF is not the JAM, but Earth.
The FAF is not immune to this either, what with the major Interservice Rivalry going on among its divisions. The SAF, the System Corps, and the Intelligence Forces are constantly trying to keep an eye on each other. Intelligence especially starts monitoring the SAF much more closely after Rei brings news back of JAM-created copy humans. This trope is lampshaded many times.
We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: The FAF's treatment of its snowplow operators is absolutely horrific. They stay in subzero temperatures clearing out snow on the runways when aircraft return from a sortie, but they are not allowed to keep the engine running if they're waiting for a plane to come back (which means no heater). It's stated that the FAF could automate the process, but the cost of setting up an automated system was deemed to be too expensive by the higher-ups when you have an endless supply of criminals that national governments on Earth are all too happy to send to Faery. The operators are paid a pittance, they are regularly sneered at by FAF officers, and they are also not allowed to drink alcohol on duty. The last bit is reasonable, but when they are forbidden from turning on the snowplow engines, that means that alcohol is one of the very few ways to keep warm in those conditions. The SAF tactical AI tried to defy this trope: it awarding Lt. Amata the Order of Mars was its way of attempting to make the FAF leadership realize how important the snow-clearing operation is to the war against the JAM, and to stop using manual labor or at least treat them better. It would actually prefer to have the snow-clearing process completely automated.
Wham Episode: Chapter VIII - Super Phoenix. Rei speaks with the JAM's human copies.
An even bigger one in the second book, Chapter VI - Strategic Reconnaisance Phase 2. The JAM finally make contact with Rei and demand he join them. He refuses.
Wham Line: Nearly everything the SAF tactical computer states to Booker when he interacts with it during the chapter "Faery - Winter". But one line in particular:
SAF AI: There is no direct evidence the JAM perceive humans.
You Didn't Ask: The SAF tactical computer declines to tell Booker that it, as well as Yukikaze, have already communicated with the JAM when he asks the STC what would be the best way to do so. It merely gives him its recommendations. It never even crossed Booker's mind that the STC could have possibly talked to the JAM, so naturally he doesn't ask.
Bilingual Bonus / Genius Bonus: For anyone who actually understands air force parlance, the series air combat scenes were developed with the help of the Japanese Air Self Defense Force, so a lot of the radio chatter is what you'd actually hear in an air combat situation.
Bizarre Alien Biology: We never get to see real JAMs other than their ships or their fake humans, some of whom weren't even aware that they were fake for a while.
Can't Catch Up: How the FAF views the conflict. Every advance they make is copied and countered by the JAM. this is because JAM have infiltrated the FAF.
Chekhov's Gun: A small one in Operation 02: engine trouble. Griffon Leader can't dogfight due to engine trouble with his FA-2; minutes later Yukikaze aborts its strafing run on TAB-15 and RTBs due to engine trouble. Later while dogfighting with JAM during DACT with TS-X1, the same engine trouble rears its head.
In Operation 03, Yukikaze activates its JAM sensor jammer, displaying what Jack identifies as a warning pattern. That's because Tom "Tomahawk" John is standing right next to it.
Savvy viewers will realize that the JAM-copy killed by the Military Police in the last episode is a copy of Richard Burgadish, who is supposed to be KIA all the way back in Episode 1.
Cloning Blues: Yukikaze clones herself by making a copy of herself into the FRX-99 prototype and then ordering it to destroy the original.
And then JAM makes a shadow copy of Rei to pilot Copy Sylph, however it fails to make an actual copy of Yukikaze.
Coming In Hot: In Operation 04, after Rei and Yukikaze travel to Earth and defeat the 3 JAM that followed him through the portal.
Operation 05 shows the aftermath of this, the burned-out hulk of a crashed AWACS that botched a landing on Banshee-III.
Conspicuous CG: Although to be fair it's some of the best ever seen in anime. It looks damn good years after its release.
Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story: The JAM are very careful in selecting the people that they make clones of. All their clones are of humans who are currently or have in the past been out of touch with FAF headquarters for significant periods of time, and thus HQ should have no reason to suspect them of being sleepers. These include Tomahawk John, Richard Burgadish, and Rei.
Cover Identity Anomaly: The Copy Rei & Super Sylph that appear at the end of Operation 04 has one big tipoff that it's a fake: the side of the copy Sylph indicates the copy's rank as "2nd Lieutenant." However, at this point in the series, the real Rei Fukai has already been promoted to 1st Lieutenant. Presumably, the JAM are working with the information they obtained in the first episode, which is now outdated.
Creative Sterility: The JAM are heavily implied to have this; any new advances in technology and tactics they make are copied from whatever the FAF comes up with. Averted in the novel where the JAM can independently develop new tech.
Fanservice: Given how gritty and dark the show is as a whole, it's slightly remarkable it has anything like this, and the closest we get is Captain Foss, the base doctor and psychiatrist, who shows some leg and bares her midriff.
Fighter Launching Sequence: There's one during Operation 01. The sequence shows Yukikaze being moved from her underground hangar to the airfield, with the actual launch taking place in a moment.
A more traditional sequence is seen in Operation 04, as the Admiral Isoroku scrambles its air wing to intercept the JAM fighters.
Another sequence, more untraditional, occurs in Operation 05, when whole squadrons of fighters launch out of Banshee-III after the fleet goes to full alert.
Gainax Ending: The show ends with Lyn Jackson seeing Rei's ghost next to Jack, although he himself is unaware of Rei's presence. After the credits end, we're treated to an extra scene where it seems the afterlife, for Rei, consists of being sent out on missions by Jack. Heck, you cannot even tell if he actually died, Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence or what! However, the Analysis page attempts to clear this up a bit.
Gecko Ending: The second novel ended on a massive Cliffhanger, so the anime had to come up with its own ending. The evacuation of Faery is something that did not happen in the novel. However, it still uses plenty of elements from the novel. Evacuating Faery was considered in the novel but rejected, Jack also tells Rei to come back alive at all costs when he's about to fly into a major furball against the JAM, & the mutiny against the FAF happens but for completely different reasons.
Yukikaze herself as well. Once she's in the FRX-00 airframe. This is due to her being called a monster by both Jack and Rei due to her new looks. It takes Rei manually inputting some codes to hard-reset the engine to break her out of it.
Living MacGuffin: Rei and Yukikaze become this as the JAM seem to have a strange fixation to capture them at all costs.
Love Hurts: Poor Jack. Whether you see his affection for Rei as platonic or romantic, it hurts all the same.
Ludicrous Precision: The JAM treat war like a giant mathematical equation and their interest in Rei and Yukikaze is because they're the variable that keeps the equation from balancing out, and while they tried to copy them, and were able to copy Rei to pilot Copy Sylph, they were unable to actually copy Yukikaze.
Earlier in Operation 04 the Japanese Navy attempts this, both with fighter-launched and ship-launched missiles, but quickly stops due to friendly fire risk and the MMM proving ineffective against the JAM's High-Speed Missile Dodge.
Mythology Gag: This track from the show's OST is called "Forest of Antenna", which is more than likely a reference to the first novel's third chapter Mysterious Battle Zone. Ironically, this chapter did not get animated.
Never Trust a Trailer: The Blu-ray release features a so-called "experimental video" which is a trailer for the sequel featuring new footage and narration by Nakata Jouji. The catch? There is no sequel. (In fact, there's never been any mention of the studio planning to make one).
No Party Like a Donner Party: The "soup" that Rei is given when he held in the JAM-copied FAF Tactical Air Base in Operation 01 turns out to be the liquified remains of his radar intercept officer, Richard Burgadish. He was fed the soup not out of cruelty, but because the JAM wanted to keep Rei alive but had nothing to feed him because the planet Fairy is not real. The only kind of organic matter available that would provide adequate nutrition for a human body was Burgadish's corpse.
Not Quite Human: The JAM copies look like humans in all aspects except they "bleed" yellow goo.
Nuclear Option: The FAF uses a short-range ballistic missile to destroy the compromised Banshee-IV airship, and considering the size of that vessel, a nuke most definitely would be the most efficient way to destroy it. In the final episode, all remaining FAF bases are destroyed with nukes after evacuation, and then three TNBs (tactical nuclear bombs) are used to collapse the hyperspace Passageway that connects Earth and Fairy. Contrast the FAF's careful and deliberate use of nuclear weaponry with...
Nuke 'em: ... the JAM, whose Super Sylph copy in the first episode shoots tactical nuclear missiles like it's going out of style. It uses no fewer than three in the span of five minutes!
Old-School Dogfight: Much of the combat between the FAF and JAM takes place using short-ranged heatseeking missiles and guns. Operations 01 and 04 provide justifications: JAM are masters of the High-Speed Missile Dodge and can put out enough jamming to Interface Screw a destroyer's radar, which is more powerful than the seeker head of a long-range radar guided missile, so the only reliable way to score a kill is to mix it up in the merge.
When Rei confirms to the SAF that JAM are making human replicas.
The JAM somehow pull off one of these just before they slam into the ground in Operation 02.
Some of the FAF pilots in the final episode definitely display this attitude when they see the white dome blocking the Passageway that is built purely out of JAM bodies.
Point Defenseless: When the JAM Type-2s engage the Japanese Navy fleet in Operation 4, one destroyer puts up a barrage of fire from the Phalanx CIWS that hits exactly nothing. The Type-2 flew below the gun's point of aim, just a few feet above sea level.
Rule of Drama: Which should really be impossible given that modern, never mind future mounts, have enough depression (-25 degrees) to be used against small surface craft basically right next to the ship making this a fairly straight example.
Given that the Type-2 was putting out enough ECM to Interface Screw the destroyer's radar, it's probable that it also affected the CIWS.
The trope is averted however in the final battle. Huge gunship autocannons do an excellent job picking off a massive number of JAM fighters for most of the fight. Too bad that at that point, there are literally billions of them...
Product Placement: Lyn Jackson uses a Powerbook G3. Jack's computer is an ancient Macintosh Classic.
Rule of Cool: The designing team specifically stated that they threw all aerodynamic principles out of the window to make the planes, especially Yukikaze, look cooler.
The Super Sylph design still seems aerodynamically plausible.
Hey, if the X-02 and Falken from the Ace Combat series ended up to be proven aerodynamically plausible, the FFR-31 MR/D Super Sylph and FRX-99 / FRX-00 / FFR-41 MAVE should be reasonably fine.
Sinister Geometry: The JAM aircraft are made up of all hard angles and vibrate constantly when they're emitting ECM. The Type-1 craft look like a cross between a manta ray and a Wraith fighter while the Type-2 more closely resembles a bat. The only soft curves in any JAM craft are found in the AWACS-style aircraft they deploy in the final episode.
The Stinger: End of Operation 02. Lydia receives a report that the strafing run that Yukikaze did earlier in the episode, although initially blamed for a malfunctioning AI, actually uncovered traces of sabotage in the planes parked in that airbase, foreshadowing JAM's infiltration of FAF and Yukikaze's very accurate JAM-sensing "mind".
Taking The Missile: An unusual variant of this trope: the Copy Rei/Copy Super Sylph intercepts Yukikaze's missile to prevent Yukikaze from destroying itself, showing just how far the JAM are willing to go to take Rei and Yukikaze alive.
They Look Like Us Now: The JAM initially copy Earth's technology (e.g. weapons and aircraft) before later copying humans themselves.
Trouble Magnet Gambit: Cooley sending both Rei and Copy Tom together on a mission, on purpose. Jack doesn't like it, at all.
Whole Episode Flashback: It's not until the end when you realize it's Jack who has been narrating the events of Operation 05, and perhaps the whole series, to Lyn Jackson, the sci-fi writer.
Why Don't You Just Blow Up The Passageway?: It's revealed in the final episode that the FAF could have easily destroyed the hyperspace portal at any time and fulfilled their mandate to protect Earth from the JAM. However, the prospect of colonizing an alien world was simply too great an opportunity to pass up. Makes one wonder if Humans Are the Real Monsters...
Worf Had The Flu: Rei and Yukikaze vs the TS-X1 during the test run. They couldn't operate to their full potential as Captain Foss was in the copilot seat. Should be noted that Foss is a therapist, and not used to the extreme G forces pilots are constantly subjected to. The Systems Corps officer supervising also notes that even if Foss wasn't with them, manned fighters cannot pull stresses in excess of 9Gs without killing the pilot. The unmanned TS-X1 has no pilot to worry about, and thus has a significantly higher performance threshold.
The Worm That Walks: In the end, the entire "planet" of Fairy turns out to be built out of trillions and trillions of JAM.
Zeerust: On one hand, the FAF are shown to be able to build advanced fighters and AI ahead of what's available today. On the other hand Jack's computer is a Macintosh Classic, Captain Foss uses an ancient laptop with MS Word 3 to type her report, Lyn Jackson uses a Powerbook G3, and Rei uses a simple typewriter while on desk duty. Possibly justified with Lyn Jackson as some writers are known to use old typewriters for their novels, even if they own a modern computer. It could also mean a longing for days past, before the war against Fairy, or she just really likes it.
Or, more prosaically, the FAF keeps the old crap for the Soldiers at the Rear to free up budget for the new fighters - there are mentions in the supplementary materials that the Super Sylphs were quite expensive.
Anachronic Order: The manga constantly jumps back and forth between the present day and flashbacks.
Artificial Limbs: Tom John's right leg is metal. This leg and his plutonium-powered heart are the only parts of his body that the JAM attack.
Because I'm Good At It: Rei's justification for being a criminal is because he got fired from his other jobs for speaking his mind. At least the jewel thief gang accepts him as one of their own.
Berserk Button: A very mild one, but after winning a game of cards, Jack found that one of his prizes was one of the players' wedding ring. Even though he says he divorced his wife a long time ago, Jack gave the ring back to the guy and firmly told him never to bet that ring again.
Dark and Troubled Past: Rei's father attempted to kill him and (a boy who was presumably) his brother before he committed suicide by hanging himself in their house. Rei happened to wake up with an electric cord around his neck and his brother laying dead next to him before finding his father's body. He was only a child when this happened, which drove him to be very cold and unresponsive to people. As an adult, Rei served as a getaway driver for a gang of jewel thieves until he got apprehended by police and sent to Faery.
Tomahawk John's heart was severely damaged when he was stabbed with a knife. Details are scarce, but it appears he was the instigator of that altercation. In the end, John's family had to sell all their houses to afford his artificial heart. Except for his mother, they seemed to do so quite reluctantly, with even a male relative referring to John's heart as "wicked." On Faery, John refuses to defend himself when a pilot harasses him, saying he swore never to hurt someone again. He also makes a vague comment to Rei that he used to treat everyone as his enemy.
Jack Booker's son Jaime died in an unspecified accident while he was deployed as a fighter pilot. His wife Alicia resented him for putting his career over his family, and it is strongly hinted they got divorced. While Jack is visiting his daughter, an older female relative (probably his mother or his mother-in-law) tells him that Alicia is seeing a doctor now, and begs him to give up piloting. Clearly, he did not.
Tragic Keepsake: The only thing Rei kept of his father was his watch. He was very distraught when his adoptive family threw it away to help overcome the past. It wasn't thrown away. Rei found it while rifling for some money in his stepdad's drawer. He eventually lost it during a heist when his robbery gang had to burn a building down to destroy evidence and he dropped it.