Genres: Action, Drama, Space, Sci-Fi;
Personal Rating: 8/10;
Space Battleship Yamato was an anime that defined the 70s, attaining the status of “The Star Wars of Japan”. However, the fact that it was from the 70s also means a lot of people wouldn’t have the chance to watch it, as many would put it aside because of its aged artwork and animation. This is why Space Battleship Yamato 2199 was extremely hyped by both new fans and old fans, as it’d remake the first season of the series with good animation, giving the new generations a chance to watch it. In the end, how did it hold up? I haven’t watched the original anime, so I will refrain from judging 2199 as a remake.
The story takes place in the far future, where aliens called Gamilas are trying to invade Earth by bombarding the planet with meteors. All hope seemed lost for humanity, until two young officers managed to get a transmission from a planet faraway called Iscandar. In this transmission, it was said that there was still hope for the planet, and if humanity managed to reach Iscandar, they’d be given a device that could restore the Earth to its previous state. With this new ray of hope, humans leave it up to their newest spaceship: Space Battleship Yamato and its crew, to make an epic journey of over 160.000 light years and retrieve this device. It will be a journey full of hope for humans, and also full of despair. Along the way, Yamato will have to face countless enemies from the invading alien empire that wasn’t to destroy humanity’s only hope.
The plot is simple and straightforward, and allows for the themes to be explored quite nicely. The first thing that many people would think is that all the focus would be on the human’s side, and that the aliens would just be an evil invading group, but that’s not how it worked: not only were the aliens very well developed and fleshed out, the possibility of befriending said aliens instead of necessarily becoming enemies with them is explored in a really interesting fashion. While I wouldn’t call their morality necessarily “gray”, it allows for the audience to at least understand their point-of-view, and not just consider it a random enemy that humans have to defeat. The conflict is indeed very well explored, as both sides have enough screen time for the audience to understand where they come from, though that won’t stop you from rooting for humanity. Besides the enemy aliens, the Yamato crew also has to deal with problems from the inside, humans who aren’t completely convinced about the existence of Iscandar, and thus would rather find a new planet for humanity to live.
The structure of the anime is very good for the most part, as it is linear and doesn’t mess around, though some episodes did feel a bit “filler”. These episodes did develop some characters though, and they did contribute to the story with themes of their own, so they aren’t useless by any means. The confrontations with the Gamilas are very well done, and Yamato shows not only spaceships exploding, but also what’s happening inside, as well as the commanders ordering the crew around. This gives us an insight about how their battle strategies work, and what they’re thinking. The story feels focused, and is not only entertaining, but also extremely interesting, because of how slowly it delivers information throughout its duration, making you question several things. The final thing worth mentioning is how “nostalgic” it feels when some characters speak of the Earth from years before it was attacked. They want to save the Earth not only for themselves, but for future generations to be able to feel how they did in the past, and this goal is very nicely explored throughout the show.
The artwork and animation are extremely good, they feel recent and fresh, though I do have a complaint when it comes to this: the CGI in a certain episode looked REALLY awful, I don’t even know how that happened… besides that, there were few problems in this regard, and the character designs were really varied and appealing. The spaceship models were kinda generic, with the exception of the Yamato, which looks FANTASTIC. During the battles, you’ll be awed at how great they look, as the animation is especially good in those. The opening theme is epic and describes the journey very well in its lyrics, being extremely appropriate for Yamato. The ending song isn’t as memorable, but is still good in its own right. The rest of the soundtrack consists of very memorable tracks that still play in my mind once in a while, and they’re good both in and outside the anime. The sound effects are also really good, from the spaceships shooting to the explosions, everything sounds right. Overall, the production values were really good, and I feel like this really made an impact about my appreciation of the show.
And then we have the character cast. Now, the cast is really huge in Yamato, as there are a lot of humans in the Yamato, plus all of the enemy alien commanders. These characters felt real, despite some of them lacking development, and most of them got fleshed out enough for the audience to care about them. Kodai Susumu was one of the young officers who detected the first transmission of Iscandar, he saw most of his family die in a bombardment that the aliens did several years ago, making him despise the Gamilas. He also lost his brother when he went on a mission to Pluto and never returned. The other officer is Shima Daisuke, who also went through a similar situation and lost his father on the first contact with the aliens. Commanding the Yamato is Juuzou Okita, a veteran with a rather peculiar battle style. He teaches the young officers a lot of things, including how a soldier sometimes has to go against orders if he feels he’s doing the right thing. The interactions between the characters are also very well done, and through dialogue we get to know their insecurities and problems, including the traumas some of them have due to the Gamila’s attacks.
Another thing that makes the characters much more humane is how they constantly think about the loved ones they left on Earth. Either because they look at pictures of them or because they still have fond memories, they want to see them again, they want to be with them, and that further gives them motivation to return in one piece. These moments not only help fleshing out the characters, but it also improves immersion, as you’ll see the Yamato crew as more than just “actors on a stage”. On the alien’s side, some enemies are really bland and predictable, especially in the first episodes, but that changes in the second half, where enemy commanders have honor and respect for the Yamato and their accomplishments. There’s also the leader of the empire, Aberdt Desler, who seems like a dictator who rules with an iron fist at first, but is later much better fleshed out, as well as his reasons and goals. It’s a really strong character cast in the end, and even though it wasn’t possible to flesh out everyone in 26 episodes, the director did a great job with the screen time available.
I’d say I had a really great time with Yamato. The first episodes felt a bit slow, but after the story started to develop, I got addicted to the show and watched 16 episodes in a row, as I really wanted to know what’d happen next. Whether it was the epic battles, the sad moments, the cheerful moments, I felt what the characters were feeling, and felt happy when they succeeded. Yamato definitely has a very high entertainment value, not only because of its epic premise, but also because of how it develops; how it doesn’t treat the audience as stupid and manages to be subtle in character development, and heck even the small amounts of fan service it has are subtle. It’s a really great anime, and I want to express my thanks to the staff, as I probably wouldn’t have ever enjoyed this amazing story without the remake, since I hadn’t heard of it before. I’m also extremely hyped for the movie that aired back in December of last year, which has yet to receive a translation. If you’re a sucker for shows where humanity is put to the test at every corner, this is definitely the anime for you, as it uses this premise very well and takes it beyond what one would normally expect. However, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re expecting a really deep and complex anime, because Yamato isn’t any of that. It’s an epic journey among the stars, full of hope and dreams for mankind.