what i was (not) forced to watch this week #6 & #7: space battleship yamato & farewell, space battleship yamato
So basically, Space Battleship Yamato is more or less the same thing as Battlestar Galactica. They’re both about mankind on the run through space, both changed the sexes of some of the characters in the remakes, both have some awkward pacing at the end, and so on. There are of course, some big differences, like how BSG has weird Mormon subtext while Yamato has weird World War 2 subtext.
The first thing that struck me about Yamato is that they don’t make anime like this any more. Obviously, I can mean this in the hurr hurr lolipedo moeshit is the cancer that is killing anime way, but I mean this more in the production sense. Despite being nearly 40 years old, and even in the television series (you don’t even need the movies to see good animation), there is some pretty great art for things like spaceships and alien worlds that animators these days no longer have the skills to draw. That said, the animators in ye olde days didn’t have the skills to draw panties and whatnot like their successors do.
There’s also something implied there which I hope you caught. That’s right: there is totally fanservice in this show. It’s not something that was the creation of Eva and its infernal moe spawn. Nope, Yuki randomly gets naked when they warp, or Analyzer flips her skirt. There just isn’t anything like the ship, despite its race against time, decides that that they need to make a side trip to the hot springs that just-so-happen to exist on Pluto or something.
The uh, zeroth thing that I (and probably most people) notice about Yamato is the weird WW2 subtext. At first, the subtext seems like it’s a replaying of World War 2, but this time the glorious Yamato race is going to triumph. The Yamato isn’t going to suffer an inglorious end this time as a result of being rendered completely obsolete due to fundamental changes in naval warfare! We might’ve gotten nuked, but this time we’ll still win anyway! This gets complicated very quickly, however once the Gamilons show up and we see that they are really thinly-veiled space Nazis. I mean, they all have names like “Dommel” or “Hiss”. This also gets extra weird when you the show tries to humanize the Gamilons through events like having Dommel telling Okita that he too is fighting for the survival of his civilization.
I have two basic complaints about Yamato. The first one is minor: it’s not as AWESOME as it really should be. There are a few times in the beginning where there will be scenes like the tortured captain deciding that they have to leave some men to die, but despite ample opportunities for helmsmen to spin around in their chairs to yell that the readings are off the scale, they are much more matter of fact about it. That said, the music was at least suitably AWESOME.
The more important complaint is that the show is pretty badly paced. Interestingly, the show doesn’t appear badly paced at first. At the end of every episode, there’s a countdown of the days remaining before Earth becomes completely irradiated from the Gamilon’s nuclear weapons (just like the survivor count at the beginning of each episode of BSG amirite?) with the narrator making some sort of plea like “There are only 235 days remaining before all life on Earth is extinguished. Hurry, Yamato. The fate of the Earth is slipping away.” This provides a sense of urgency that every episode matters. However—and I’d say that this is a spoiler warning if not for the fact that spoiler warnings for something this old are kind of silly—the show spends 25 episodes and about 8 of the 12 months on the Yamato’s journey to Iscandar to retrieve the Cosmo Cleaner to save the Earth, and then spends about 10 minutes in the final episode on the journey back to Earth. Now, those 25 episodes are generally pretty good (I particularly liked the story arc where Dommel tries to track the Yamato by setting up a communication satellite to link the Yamato back to Earth), but the show ended on such a complete anti-climax that killed a lot of the tension that the show had previously thrived on.
I haven’t seen the recent live-action movie with Takuya Kimura yet, but I did feel while watching the show that it could really benefit from the sort of updating that both Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica received recently from their recent remakes. This really has less to do with any kind of inherent “flaws” in the show, and rather more like cleaning up little niggling loose threads and perhaps more importantly, de-hokey-ifying no longer “futuristic” aesthetics. I mean seriously, space bell bottoms? That said, the danger of a remake is the remake would be without things like the aforementioned animation talent, as well as many of the legendary voice actors like Kei Tomiyama.
Other random stuff: Farewell, Space Battleship Yamato frequently gets mentioned in terms of how it was “bigger than Star Wars” in Japan. That’s actually kind of misleading. While Yamato is one of the top-grossing non-Ghibli, non Pokemon anime movies ever (alongside One Piece Strong World and Evangelion 2.0), it made more than Star Wars because Star Wars wasn’t really that big of a deal. By the time that The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi came out, Star Wars was a much bigger deal and both of those made almost twice as much money each as Farewell, Space Battleship Yamato did. And on a related note, I have no idea whatsoever how to handle ticket price inflation with Japanese box office data due to the fact that the Yen has actually massively delfated since the 1970s.
Also, according to Wikipedia, Disney had optioned the rights to a live-action remake of Star Blazers in the 1990s, and keeping with the WW2 theme, they would raise the USS Arizona instead of the Yamato.
Also, Anaylzer is the best character in the show not close.