OT: Space Battleship Yamato
For once this blog will not be featuring a article about the adventures of the Doctor or the forthcoming return of the Torchwood team. Instead this post is going to go a bit off-topic and i’m going to talk about another Sci-Fi franchise very close to my heart. In Japan, there was a old 70’s anime series that revolved around the adventures of a group adventurers off saving the world. This series was called Uchuu Senkan Yamato or translated as Space Battleship Yamato. The series was released over in the United States as Starblazers and featured in many ways, the staple of edits made for children television (for example, Death is never handled. If a character is killed in a episode, most normally a american edit is made stating that the character survived. the most notable is that a character cannot say “i’ll kill you!” instead it is translated into “i’ll destroy you!”).
The series is incredibly loved in Japan. In many ways, the Yamato herself is iconic to Japan as the USS Enterprise is to the United States or the Blue Police Box is to the British. The Show is loved by the Japanese to an incredible extent. In 1978, a animated theater version of the first series was released, a film that achieved the feat of knocking the first Star Wars off the #1 position in the film charts. When the Live Action film was released (i’ll talk about the new film later), it knocked the recent Harry Potter movie off the top spot as well. The series ran for 3 seasons, a feat not often achieved by anime shows who only usually last one series and also spawned 4 movies and a tv special. Both Yamato and another Sci Fi Japanese Legend called Mobile Suit Gundam are often seen as the beginning of Japanese Science Fiction that would eventually pave the way for such shows like Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, Cowboy BeBop and so on. Mostly though, the true strength in the Yamato’s appeal lies not in the storylines (as often fun as they are) the characters or the animation (which since it was mostly made in the 70’s is a bit dated by today’s standards). The true hero and appeal of the storyline is the Yamato herself. For those who don’t know the full store, its as follows.
The Yamato was a battleship, built during the Second World War and was sank in the latter parts of the pacific war. Fast forward to the end of the 22nd century. The Earth is facing destruction from radioactive bombs that have sterilised the planet and humanity has been forced to hide underground to survive. However, not even that is enough and the radiation is seeping through. Therefore in 1 years time, the human race will cease to be. However, a message reaches the people of Earth that the people of the planet Iscandar, located in a different galaxy, knows of their plight and offers their help. With the plans for a Faster than Light Warp drive, the Yamato is reborn as a Space Battleship and begins a mission to reach the planet Iscandar and make it back to Earth within one year. This is just the basic plotline of the first series, not counting the two others or the other various films. Space Battleship Yamato is also one of the first shows brought over to the United States that had a very strong story arc. Episodes had to be viewed in a specific order and each episode always ended with a countdown (normally in the style of “Hurry Yamato, Hurry! there are only 364 days left!”). The ever present countdown formed a story narrative. that kept viewers along the same storyline.
The Yamato herself is a character just as much as the main characters themselves. Its the story of how a battleship, once built for a war now finds new life carrying the hopes and the fate of the Human race. Of course there’s other elements in the show as well, a romance story, action scenes and of course, the ever present fan service. But there’s something very noble about the show and a unique charm in it. The original show was produced at a time when Japan was still recovering from the events of the Second World War. Anime had already shown itself to be a artform through which the people of Japan would be able to come to terms with the events. The Yamato being reborn and rebuilt for a new purpose is very much like the Japan of that time, slowly learning to come to terms with what happened and looking forward to a bright future.
Its also worth mentioning the new live action film that was released last year. The Live action version of the film covers mostly the events of the first series (however it also includes some elements of the second Yamato film, Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato: From Yamato with Love) and it was obviously artistically inspired by the recent Star Trek reboot film and also the updated Battlestar Galactica series. But the Yamato still remains the same, seeing the old girl beginning to fly again was a very special treat and one i enjoyed very much. It was a long wait to see the film but was definately more than worth the wait. Much like the Battlestar Galactica series, some characters had their genders switched but of all, the film was still the same as the old anime series that i had viewed so many years ago.
The story doesn’t stop there either, Yamato never lies dormant for long. She always rises again. Even though the anime series came to a end with the film Final Yamato (which still currently holds the record as the longest animated film to date), the story of animated Yamato continued in 2009 with Space Battleship Yamato Rebirth! The film ends with the note of End of Part 1, obviously hinting at a sequel (a feat which is more difficult for the live action film since that film ends very differently to the first series).
So given how Space Battleship Yamato is so different, why do i enjoy it so much? well the answer is incredibly simple and the same reason i enjoy Doctor Who or the Green Lantern comic books. Its just good simple honest fun with the use of imagination. I enjoy Yamato because its so simple and yet it works so magnificently. Its also a testament to the Japanese and Leji Matsumoto specifically who could take a World War 2 battleship and turn it into a symbol of hope, humanity and adventure.