Space Battleship Yamato — Final Thoughts

Space Battleship Yamato Review

After watching Super Dimensional Fortress Macross some time ago, I wanted to eventually add Space Battleship Yamato to the list of classic anime titles to watch and NOT the Americanized, edited Star Blazers. It took some time but after seeing references to Yamato in things like the Negima! manga and the Keroro Gunsou anime (among others), I decided that maybe I needed to move the title up the “to watch” list. I’m glad I did.

Despite the fact that the anime was done in the 70’s, it hasn’t aged too badly. Don’t get me wrong, when you look at Yamato compared to something flashy and new like Macross Frontier, Yamato looks ugly. That’s to be expected because of the cell animation vs. the CGI animation. So when I talk about art and animation, I am taking into account the age of the series. As such, I can say that the animation at times is quite good. I think back to the battle sequence in episode 22. The amount of work that went into animating the attack on Yamato by the Gamilus forces is clear, as is the production team’s desire to have a World War II tribute. It really is quite impressive and I can’t help but think that with today’s CGI technology, scenes like that (done properly) would really have jaws in the ground.

05 YamatoStory-wise, things aren’t bad but aren’t great either. The premise is an interesting one with Earth being bombarded by radioactive asteroids and turned into a wasteland by an unknown, alien force. Earth’s fleet is wiped out by this alien force and Earth is prepared to send an ark into space so that some people may survive. To hide what they are doing from the aliens, they build the ship beneath the ruins of the World War II battleship Yamato, designing their ship to look like the original Yamato. When Starsha of Iscandar sends warp technology as well as the tech to create the ultra-powerful Wave Motion Gun to Earth so that they may retrieve a device to clean up the planet, Yamato‘s mission changes. Once Yamato launches, they learn the aliens attacking them are from Gamilus and there are lots of Gamilon bases between Earth and Iscandar. With Yamato only having one year to get to Iscandar, obtain the device, and get back, the clock is running before humanity is wiped out.

03 YamatoBeing that this is a lone ship verses and entire empire, the series has the weaknesses of making the Gamilus people kind of dumb at times. However, at times there are clever bits of strategy such as when Yamato battles the Gamilus base on Pluto. Most of the time though, the writers have to rely on various forms and degrees of deus ex machina to get Yamato out of a tight pinch. Most of the time I found this tolerable, but there were other times when it went over the line and became a bit much.

03 fleeing tankThings move slow with the story in the beginning. I kept going, “lets get on with it!” Even after Yamato finally makes it out of the galaxy, there were way to many conflicts with the Gamilus forces, done in the name of “got to have conflict.” I’m sure to the kids, these battles were great because that kind of conflict is easy to understand vs. character conflicts. To be fair, the writers did do an episode where a character had great difficulty dealing with things but unfortunately, this episode was his only one of substance (not being a cast regular) and that weakened the character conflict element. There was another episode with Susumu copping an attitude, but considering he’s not a great character to begin with, I didn’t care (beyond wishing he had been served greater punishment).

AgapeAnother weakness of the series is the “magical repairs” and other “magical” things that are done. Yamato might take a beating and within the same episode, repair crews have fixed everything in a rapid amount of time. “Need to mine a special ore for the construction of vital parts on Yamato? No problem. We can mine it, process it, refine it, and mold it into a new part in less than an hour, guaranteed or your money back.” Because of this, it cheapens the series as no matter what happens to Yamato, it will be fixed immediately and that includes weapons! I think the series would have been a bit more interesting if the crew had to deal with trying to get their ship fixed and in one piece to Iscandar than in the many (sometimes dopey) battles as witless Gamilus forces attempt to destroy Yamato.

The cast of characters are merely average, save for Yuki, Analyzer, and Sado-sensei. Captain Okita is not all that inspiring, Susumu is just a hot-head who doesn’t think a great deal, Daisuke is a nice guy but has little to do beyond steering Yamato, Sanada is “fill in the hole” character and Tokugawa is the mostly forgotten chief engineer. Analyzer is interesting because (1) he’s in love with Yuki (actually, it seems like the robot wants to boff her) and (2) despite being a robot, he seems to have more personality than the rest of the crew. Sado-sensei is interesting because he’s a sodding drunk and somehow the ship’s doctor. As such, he (along with Analyzer) provide comic relief.

Yuki is the all-purpose babe and after episode 11, she’s the only chick on the ship. If there’s a “woman’s job” on the ship that needs doing, she does it. Yuki did the following jobs (as best as I can remember).

  • Nurse
  • Radar Operator
  • Generic Bridge Operator
  • Moral Officer
  • Tour Guide
  • Botanist
  • Explorer
  • Pilot
  • Miner
  • Coffee Server
  • Fashion Model
  • Therapist
  • Hero

Seriously, you can’t do that much stuff and not be interesting, eh? ^_~ With that much experience under her belt, she should have been made captain, not Okita. The only negative thing against her being captain is the couple of times she spewed out the moral equivalency crap, which simply means she and the rest of the humans should die for Gamilus to live. Whatever, Yuki. Fortunately, there were only two such outburst on her part.

Bottom line:

Space Battleship Yamato has weaknesses in writing and some characters but it holds up pretty well on the whole. Were it licensed in the U.S., I would give this a rent to be sure.

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4 Responses to “Space Battleship Yamato — Final Thoughts”

  1. Yeah, first Yamato series is pretty weak on the writing. It was made in a time when anime (or “terebi manga”) was trying to shake off being “just for kids.” It was made as a kid’s show, but the writers wanted desperately to make it a more adult oriented show. This is the same type of thing Gundam suffered from.

    But by the second series, they pretty much get stuff right. The second series is really good. Lots of subplots and shit.

  2. AstroNerdBoy says:

    I’ve only seen the first episode of Yamato 2 so far (decided to watch some other stuff first) but I do look forward to seeing where they take things in the 2nd series.

  3. […] That isn’t to say there aren’t changes, which brings me to the second aspect I think original fans will love.  Yuki isn’t the only chick on board. Indeed, the writers have Sado-sensei with a proper nurse instead of making Yuki be said nurse. Further, there’s another young woman on board, playing a new character, but I didn’t catch her name.  However, I will be interested in seeing where she goes with things. There’s a third female in the wings, who’s role and name aren’t stated yet, but there too, I look forward to seeing how this new character pans out.  Finally, there are the generic female crew members for background shots, which I appreciated as well.  I really couldn’t stand that Yuki was the only female, doing the work of thirteen people. […]

  4. […] because as regular blog readers know, I’ve started blogging his anime from the 1970’s, Space Battleship Yamato. Ray also interviews the president of Comiket, one of the powers at Kodansha (manga publisher), one […]

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