Yamato 2199: Anime SF geekiness at its best

A space battleship fights alien enemies and travels 30,000 light years in a quest to save Earth

If there’s one thing that could make an SF anime fan squeal, it is a classic like Space Battleship Yamato. Released in the 1970s, the anime is considered to be as influential in Japan’s as Star Wars or Star Trek, and it even became popular in the West as the anime was dubbed as Star Blazers.

With Space Battleship Yamato 2199, released in 2013, we get a much deserved remake of the sci-fi classic with a big budget, fantastic visuals, and great action.

The story

The anime follows the titular Space Battleship Yamato as it goes on its solo mission to save Earth, which is now scorched beyond recognition by alien attacks. These attacks from the Gamilans – the aliens – render most of Earth’s surface uninhabitable. Humanity is driven to utter chaos and forced to live underground, with not more than a year before total extinction. Can humanity be saved?

The answer comes from another mysterious alien race: the planet Iscandar wants to save Earth from the Gamilans, but first, they will have to travel thousands of light years to the Large Magellanic Clouds to meet with the Iscandar. Thankfully, they have given humans the secret of space travel through “Dimensional Wave Motion” technology, and a United Nations spaceship is designed to fulfil this purpose.

Yamato will be the first spaceship to not only leave the solar system, but also the entire galaxy as it undertakes its perilous voyage to Iscandar while fighting hostile Gamilans.

Star Blazing a trail

One of the things that affect your viewing of any sci-fi series is suspension of disbelief. A NASA scientist, Kevin Grazier, talked about his experience as a science advisor for the TV show Battlestar Galactica. The show-runners sent a screenplay to Kevin to get his inputs on whether it was realistic.

As he read the screenplay, he grew more excited. The story involved something very dramatic, like a spaceship fighting it’s enemies while heating up and entering an atmosphere.

He sent a response saying:

“The scenario presented here is completely unrealistic and does not match the science BUT because of a super high awesomeness factor, GO AHEAD WITH IT!!!”

If something is unrealistic, is it at least awesome?

Yamato 2199 is one of these shows. What it lacks in realism, it compensates through sheer awesomeness. Yes, the premise is ridiculous. Yes, the villains are cheesy. Yes, the Yamato is shielded by the bulkiest, heaviest plot armour in anime history.

But it is awesome.

There are scenes where the action is fantastic and epic. Nothing gets you more excited than watching the Yamato streaking through thousands of enemy spaceships, guns blazing, single handedly defeating all of them. Sounds over the top? You bet.

But is it awesome? You bet.

Yamato and World War 2

Spacebattleship Yamato (top) and an illustration of the real life WW2 battleship Yamato (bottom)

The show has it’s roots in World War 2. The intricate and lovingly detailed design of spacecrafts in the show is heavily inspired from World War 2 era battleships and aircraft.

The spaceship Yamato itself is based on a WW2 Imperial Japanese battleship called, you guessed it, the Yamato. In World War 2, Japan was a colonial power allied with Nazi Germany, invading and massacring thousands of Chinese and Korean people. In Yamato 2199, the space battleship Yamato fights for saving humankind from the Nazi-like Gamilans.

This disconnect perhaps gives the show an air of revisionism. In a more ideal world, Japan would have fought against Nazi tyranny, and would have avoided being tyrants themselves. Perhaps shows like Yamato 2199 allows some Japanese to feel more more proud about their past without a nagging feeling of guilt.

Or, more optimistically, Yamato 2199 encourages people to make the right choices, if history were to repeat itself.

Conclusion

If you want want a starting point to delve into the world of space opera anime, then Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is an excellent start.

Despite the cheesy nature of the show with seemingly stereotypical villians, it does give ordinary Gamilans sympathy. You may see a Gamilan fighting bravely for his side and even paying respect to the Yamato’s captain for being a capable soldier, or a Gamilan spaceship collaborating with the Yamato so that both could to escape a deadly situation in space. These moments make Yamato truly unique.

Perhaps if we do meet aliens, they might not be so different from us after all.

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