Space Battleship Yamato (1977)

Space Battleship Yamato was produced by Academy Productions.

Space Battleship Yamato was produced by Academy Productions.

As stated last week in my opening to the Yamato retrospective, the series started a trend in anime.

While there were sci fi anime titles before, non really tried to go as far as SBY did during it’s original 26 episode run.

The story of a crew fighting against a whole army of aliens would soon inspire countless writers and animators over the next 40 years.

Space Battleship Yamato was a completion film based upon the show of the same name that originally aired in 1974. The film was directed by Toshio Masuda, produced by Yoshinobu Nishizaki, written by Elichi Yamamoto and Keisuke Fujikawa and was based upon story and characters created by Leiji Matsumoto and Yoshinobu Nishizaki.

The film takes place almost 200 years in the future, where Earth has colonized several of the planets in our solar system. However, humanity soon found out that there was life beyond our understanding and a war soon starts with a race called the Gamilions.

The Gamilions are a cruel technologically advanced race who quickly start destroying the Earth Defence Force’s fleet and take over all of Humanities colonies. The reasons for the attack come from their need for a new home.

Gamilius, their home world, is dying and earth is the closest planet with similar properties.

However, humanity doesn’t go down with out a fight and the Gamilions start bombarding the planet with asteroids forcing the surviving population underground. What’s left of earth is barren with no water or grass to be seen.

The film opens with the second battle of mars, as the remainder of the EDF fleet face off with the Gamilons. The battle quickly ends in the favour of the aliens as Captain Mamoru Kodai allows Vice Admiral Juzo Okita to escape and protect earth.

While this is happening another alien ship tries to make contact with earth.

The ship is shot down by the Gamilions and lands on Mars. Despite the planet being occupied by alien forces two young recruits, Daisuke Shima and the brother of Mamour, Susumu Kodai are stationed on the planet and soon investigate.

They discover the wrecked ship only to find the body of a dead alien, a tall blond hair creature whose clutching a device in her arms.

The two soon bring the device to the EDF and it’s discovered that the alien was there to help earth. On the device were plans to create a Wave Motion Engine and coordinates to the dead alien’s home world called Iscandar.

The device also tells them that they have the technology to save earth and turn earth into the green planet it was before.

With all of earth’s fleet destroyed the only resource that earth has are the remains of an old WWII Japanese Battleship called the Yamato.

Japan’s former prized battleship is then converted to a space cruiser. Soon after the ship leaves earth it becomes clear just how important there mission was.

Earth’s scientists soon discover that the planet only had one year left before all of it’s natural resources would dry-up and the planet would be destroyed beyond any repair.

Okita, Shima and Kodai join the rest of the Yamayo crew; Sado the sake drinking doctor, Tokugawa the near retired engineer, radar operator Yuki Mori and others take the ship on the journey to Iscandar.

Most of the crew on the Yamato.

Most of the crew on the Yamato.

However, the Gamilions lead by Abelt Dessler use their extensive resources to trap and destroy humanities last hope.

The problem with watching a compilation film is the fact that it’s more or less a chopped up version of the original product. This means that any idea of fluid story telling takes a back seat to getting everything important in.

This leads to the biggest issue with this film, for some titles nearly everything is important.

By this I mean, the film is close to two and a half hour long with little flow between scenes.

While the opening sequence is basically the same as the first episode from there the cuts soon begin.

Narration is added to help move the plot along, however certain parts of the plot are just rushed through.

The middle of the film, as you’d expect, is spent blasting through each of the major obstacles that the crew face, from destroying enemy bases to being ambushed while doing repairs.

These scenes fell like the director just wanted to move the plot from action scene to action scene while cutting character development where they had to.

The rest of the film, that being close to an hour and fifteen minutes is spent with the Yamato duelling the reamains of the Gamilion fleet and then fighting on their home world itself.

Another draw back for the movie is it’s constant use of three or four songs.

While Yamato has one of the coolest themes in history it’s a bit annoying to here the same theme over and over again through three different versions, two of which being instrumentals.

Additionally on both versions I’ve watched (that being VHS and streamed on YouTube) there were a number of audio issues, namely poor mixing of music and certain dialogue.

However, these issues don’t take away from the things that make Yamato great, that being its universe, ship design and message.

The world of Yamato share’s similarities to other science fiction titles but it ends up using these ideas to make a different story.

While Star Trek was defiantly an influence to the series, with terms such as warp being used, the look of the ship was so different from anything before it.

The images of Yamato moving through space is one of the more influential images in anime.

The image of Yamato moving through space is one of the more influential images in anime.

The idea of reusing a destroyed battleship was original and seemed very practical for a doomed race.

Additionally the ship’s interior featured lots of switches and levers as well as a heaping helping of reused technology with the outside of the ship changing very little.

Yamato seemed more like a “realistic” look on what a warship would be. This ship is extremely different from the seemingly Apple branded Enterprise featured in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek as everything was annalog with little in the form of touch screens or fancy technology.

However, what really makes the ship stand out was the Wave Motion Gun. While it would be the motivation for a Marcy Playground song later, the gun looked like nothing before or after.

Yamato featured a hole in the bow that housed the giant engine. If need, the powerful Wave Motion system could discharge energy through the hole, causing a beam of death that would destroy anything that it hit.

The gun took time and energy to use and it felt like it was an important part of the ship.

Every time it was used tactics officer Kodai had to put on gloves, measure the shot with his computerized sights and pull the trigger, then the battery would fire the impressive blast.

It was cool the first time to watch and continued to be one of the more interesting parts of the series.

Additionally the WME was used to warp the crew, making their trip considerably faster, however the warp itself was a risk. If the sequence failed the crew could be sent into another dimension or destroyed in the process.

Despite this if it was a success it seemed to take a lot out of the crew themselves as most of them would pass out during the warp.

The unique design of the ship make the show memorable from a glance however; the show wasn’t all about war.

For the better part of a year Dessler tries everything to stop the Yamato from reaching their goal, in doing that he destroyed his empire, and ultimately fails to gain anything. This is a bit heart breaking when you realize that both groups were trying to reach the same goal, saving their race.

Before the Zar empire there was Dessler. They both could be seen as Nazi like villains.

Before the Char from Gundam there was Dessler. They both could be seen as Nazi like villains.

For the entire series the Yamato crew didn’t understand why the Gamilon army was able to find them, that is until they find out that both Iscandar and Gamilas are in a synchronies orbit. In order to get to Iscandar they had to nearly destroy everything on Gamilas.

Kodai summed up the sacrifice best after seeing the destroyed Gamilas with the line, “Victory tastes like Ashes.”

The crew had to save earth but along the way they gave up some much, including chance for peace with their enemy.

In the end, Space Battleship Yamato has issues as a film. It’s editing is at times a mess and it has a number of technical issues but the characters, designs and story are what make the show great.

There’s a reason why this show was so popular all over the world, its one of the most creative and interesting works in anime and is a must watch for anime fans new and old.

Space Battleship Yamato was produced by Academy Productions. The films as well as the English dub, Star Blazers, is currently licensed by Manga Entertainment and is available to stream either through their YouTube or website.

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