Space Battleship Yamato Archive

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Afternoon Anime: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 – Episode 22

After multi-episode battles, race wars, and prison riots, the twenty-second episode of Space Battleship Yamato 2199 offers a much needed pause so that the audience might catch up on the nuances of the war. Though, once again, the episode’s primary focus is on Gamilas, it devotes just enough time to the Yamato to set up the final conflict between humanity and the Gamilans.

The use of the Captain’s Log trope to introduce the episode is something of a cheap expository device, but I dare say it is necessary to spell out a few things that the series previously glossed over. Specifically, Admiral Ditz is indeed in charge of an insurrection against Desler. I will admit that his mission to liberate Gamilan prison planets seems like an odd way to sow dissent. Ditz’s quest will certainly yield loyal soldiers, but without a fleet of ships behind him, his actions seem largely symbolic. Then again, Ditz was supreme commander of the Gamilan fleet; thus he was ideally placed to fill the fleet with supporters who could execute simultaneous Red October style coups on his order.

The episode also spends some time further defining the relationship between Gamilas and Iscandar. Through Ditz, the audience learns that Iscandar is not simply an item of political desire for Gamilas, but an object of worship. Blue and white skinned Gamilans, alike, scrape and bow before the very mention of Iscandar. Desler’s plan to exploit this reverence sees him passing off a captured Yuki as Yurisha – the Third Princess of Iscandar. With Yuki at his side, Desler announces to his people that Yurisha has agreed to a union between the two sister planets. The gambit is not entirely surprising given the way in which the series’ iconography has framed the Gamilas/Iscandar relationship as one of 1930s Germany and Austria. However, the writing does take the “we are one people” conceit a step farther; Desler announces to all of Gamilas that Iscandarians and Gamilans were once a single species, which at some point in the distant past was bifurcated into the current binary.

Despite this return to the simplistic framing of Gamilans as Space Nazis, with Desler on a personal mission to bring civilization to the barbarian species of the cosmos, I still find myself intrigued with the Gamilan side of the story. Desler, is far more ambiguous than the series first let on. He’s certainly a tyrant, but is he a tyrant with good reason? Are there worse things than the Gamilan Empire?

It’s also worthwhile to ask how complicit Desler is in the persecution of his own people? It often seems like the Imperial Guard is to blame for the crimes against Gamilan civilians. Despite the aural similarity, to Japanese ears at least, between Albet Desler and Adolf Hitler, could the character be a closer analogue to Emperor Hirohito? Are his actions beholden unto the Gamilan military junta, rendering him little more than a ideological figure head? Or is he complicit in the atrocities of the empire? Let’s not forget that we’ve seen the Gamilan fleet bombarding a rebel planet into extinction. Are Desler’s finger prints on those actions?

The episode ends with Desler ordering the firing of what appears to be a wave motion weapon at the Yamato after it warps into the Gamilas/Iscandar solar system. I suppose the final four episodes will offer up a verdict on Desler and his government.

Stray thoughts:

The prevalence of saluting in this episode makes me wonder what happened to the old cross chest Terran Space Navy salute? Perhaps the writers thought it necessary to balance the Gamilan “heil five” with something more definitively Terran.

A girl-talk session with Yurisha, Ens. Yamamoto, and Melda Ditz sort of passes the Bechtel Test. They aren’t explicitly talking about men, but the topic of conversation hovers around non-gendered relationships before shifting to ice cream and star fighters.

Kodai rejects a plan from Lt. Nambu to rescue Yuki from Gamilas and hates himself for the decision. Both he and Okita are resolute that the Yamato’s mission is to Iscandar, not Gamilas. Presumably Nambu’s plan involved using the wave motion gun.


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Afternoon Anime – Space Battleship Yamato 2199: Episode 20

Episode 20, Under a Rainbow Sun, resumes the story that began in episode 19. We open on the Yamato and Domel’s battle group poised for a dramatic showdown within the Rainbow Nebula. As the battle unfolds, the audience is treated to a pretty fantastic episode. Yet the story still falls short of greatness due to an ending which, once again, demonstrates Yamatos fatal flaw: an unwillingness to employ the narrative courage incumbent upon a war story.

While it would be easy to dwell on the episode’s weak ending, the balance of the story finally sees the series raise the bar on telling an honest war story. Fighter pilots, both Terran and Gamilan, die in doves during a ranged battle which quickly devolves into a knife fight between capital ships. What’s remarkable is the way the writing establishes these disposable characters as empathetic figures before ruthlessly killing them off.

One such example sees a Yamato pilot unable to reconcile the fortunes of war, in that sometimes a soldier doesn’t see a lot of action, against an internal sense of cowardice. I recall seeing something similar in Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. Sometimes soldiers don’t get a chance to fight, yet they still have to watch their friends prove their valour, often dying in the process. This feeling of inadequacy instantly resonates with a viewer, thus making the pilot’s suicidal solo attack against a Gamilan carrier all the more meaningful. We knew nothing about this character before the episode. We won’t learn anything more about him now that he’s dead. However, he’ll likely be one of the series’ most memorable figures simply for the fact that the writer’s masterfully followed the maxim of showing rather than telling his limited arc.

Chaos quickly becomes the episode’s watch word as Domel’s fighters warp ahead of the carrier group to strike at the Yamato. This second wave of Gamilan fighters destroys the Yamato’s radar, allowing the space submarine to deploy the Zaltzi infiltration team. Recall from last week that Desler thinks Yuki is Iscandarian royalty. He has taken it upon himself to liberate her before destroying the Yamato.

If the death of so many Terran fighter pilots didn’t signal a raising of the stakes for the episode, then the Zaltzi infiltrators shooting, and seemingly killing, security officer Hoshina, whose actions were key in stopping Lts Niimi and Ito from executing their coup against Captain Okita, certainly indicates that all former bets are off.

Witnessing Hoshina’s apparent death and XO Sanada taking charge of damage control teams from the infamous Third Bridge, I thought I knew the face of the shape of things to come. The Third Bridge is to Yamato as being an Ensign in a red shirt is to Star Trek: TOS. Despite the ill portent, Okita destroys Domel’s fleet. The Gamilan commander is left with no choice but to detach the command section of his dreadnaught and grapple it on to the Yamato’s third bridge. With plans to detonate the remainder of his command, Domel hails the Yamato and offers his praise to Captain Okita. Though Okita attempts to convince the Domel to stand down, he refuses out of respect for the memories of his fallen soldiers.

The poignancy of Domel’s sacrifice is almost enough to distract a viewer from the Gamilan bridge officers meeting death with a modified Nazi salute. Still, when Domel pushes the button, ushering in a silent explosion in space, I thought it was the end of Sanada and countless other redshirts. Dare I say, it would have made perfect sense for Sanada to die in this episode.

Instead the Yamato sailed out of the nebula, third bridge intact. It turns out that Sanada fixed the wave motion shield just in time to insulate the ship against Domel’s suicide.

How fucking convenient.

Seriously. Why? How many times is Sanada going to dodge the bullet? If the writers are going to go out of their way to make the deaths of no-name characters feel meaningful, why not pull the trigger on one of the senior officers?

Glaring as this shortcoming may be, the episode still gets the job done. It is a vast improvement on the series’ consistent reticence to make the good guys bleed. Imperfect as it may be, I’ll call this one a win.

Stray Thoughts

Hoshina getting shot propels Yurisha to abandon Misaki’s body and emerge from the automatic navigation room; therein even Kodai mistakes her for Yuki. I wonder if the series will offer a real explanation on why these characters have such a similar appearance.

Sanada springs Niimi from the brig to help him fix the Yamato when the Gamilans plug the barrel of the wave motion gun with an explosive drill. Are her past sins forgiven?


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Afternoon Anime – Space Battleship Yamato 2199: Episode 19

Full disclosure: at the time of this post, I have already watched episode 20 of SBY 2199. After some initial misgivings over the quality of episode 19, I intended to review the two episodes in a single post. A subsequent re-watch of both episodes led me to believe that nineteen, though somewhat slower paced that other episodes, is worthy of its own entry. Bearing this in mind, I shall do my best not to let foreknowledge of the series taint my review of the chapter under discussion.

In terms of moving the plot, They’re Coming, does very little. My initial conclusion on the episode was that nothing happened. The Yamato, now 90 days ahead of Gamilas’ main fleet, aims to keep its advantage by plotting a course through a dangerous nebula. Domel, restored to command with Desler secure in his leadership of the empire, anticipates Oktia’s maneuver and leads a small flotilla of carriers to intercept them. Both sides launch fighters, and the story ends on a cliff-hanger.

“Great, more wanking,” I thought. On the surface, this episode seems to revel in the sort of stalling that the audience had to endure as foreplay to the Battle of Balun. Yet on the second watch, I caught myself marvelling at just how engaged I was with the Gamilan side of the story. It’s clear now that there is more to the Gamilans than over-the-top Nazi caricatures. Make no mistake, those aspects of the Gamilan national ethos are still in play. But this episode presents a depth and originality to Desler and his people that has otherwise been absent within the series. One scene in particular digs deep on the idea of Gamilan identity.

Remember a few episodes back when Celestra employed a psychic attack against the Yamato? In the aftermath of that botched mission, Desler learned that there is an Iscandarian aboard the Yamato. He, like seemingly everybody else on the Yamato, mistakenly assumed it to be Lt. Mori. In order to maintain the status quo with Iscandar, Desler orders Domel to recover Yuki before destroying the Terran ship. To do so, Domel employs a strike team of pale skinned second-class Gamilans from the planet Zaltz.

Where we’ve seen other second-class Gamilans acting a reticent agents for the empire, these particular soldiers are even more patriotic than some of their blue-skinned counterparts, despite racial scorn that the latter heaps upon the former. When one of Domel’s officers voices his doubts about the loyalty of Zaltzi-Gamilans, they respond by singing the Gamilan national anthem.

Lyrics:

Our noble home

Planet where the blue flowers blossom

Sing a song of joy

May god’s grace always be with us

Ghale Gamilon

Hail to the victory of our home

These Zaltzi see being Gamilan as an identity that transcends their original nationality. Granted, the distinctions are arbitrary given that we know even a blue skinned Gamilan is physiologically identical to a terrestrial human – thus reminding us of the series’ anti-war conceit in that we are all the same within the vastness of the cosmos. I’ll also concede that this probe into identity is probably nothing more than a shallow commentary on the fallacy of the master race i.e. there is no “master race” just delusional people who buy into the words of a demagogue. Still, this sequence is done with slightly more aplomb than we’ve seen from the series to date. Furthermore, SBY’s tendency to telegraph future events means that there is probably a reason we’re getting this insight into the social structure of the Gamilan empire. Perhaps a Gamilan civil war isn’t off the table for the third act.

They’re Coming might not be the most action heavy episode of the series, but is the first time that the series has convinced me to care about Gamilan identity as a diverse thing. I’ll go so far as to say that I wouldn’t mind watching a short run series set on Gamilas. Though the Gamilans may have began, both in the original series and in this one, as a send-up of Nazi Germany, they  now seems more genuine to an external sense of self.

Stay tuned for episode 20, where things blow up.

Stray thoughts:

-  Standing on the deck of the space submarine, Desler looks down on Gamilas and asks, “What point is there in clinging to this planet.” Desler might have begun as a thinly veiled Space Hitler, but I think it’s fair to say that the character is evolving away from that.

- Yurisha Iscandar, still in possession of Misaki’s body, marvels at the technological horror of the Wave Motion Gun. In a conversation with Captain Okita, she condemns humanity as no different than Gamilas in its love of destruction. Despite the strategically placed copy of War and Peace on Okita’s desk, she might not be far off the mark.


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Afternoon Anime: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 – Episode 18

I am getting thoroughly bored of being right in my predictions about Space Battleship Yamato 2199. There’s a first; I’m sick of being right. Witness this particular episode as the second movement in the Yamato two-step of story-telling. In the first motion, the series telegraphs that something big is going to happen over the course of an episode or two. Then, lo and behold, something big happens in the exact way that any half-witted viewer would have seen coming. I ask you, where is the fun in a series that operates this way?

For anybody who didn’t read my last SBY 2199 post, I interpreted all of Field Marshall Zoellek’s hubris and bombast as a signal indicating that Dessler is actually alive. Guess what happened in this episode. Go on, I dare you. Did you guess that Dessler’s death was a hoax?

If Dessler wasn’t going to die and stay dead, what was the point in the last few episodes’ worth of world building on the Gamilan side of the equation? Misdirection is all well and good in a television series, but outright lying to the audience demands some greater purpose. I don’t see a purpose here. All I see is a long-con gimmick designed to make telling the third act a little easier on the writers. To illustrate this point, I’ll have to take you through the even poorer story telling of the episode’s first half.

Episode eighteen begins with a recon mission through the Balun gate. By rights, the pilot sent on this mission is a red shirt. In fact, I don’t think Ensign Shinohara was a named character prior to this episode. He was just a guy with a very non-military haircut. The writers further allude to Shinohara’s red shirt nature with a few other bits of dialogue. Captain Okita specifically comments on how dangerous his recon mission is going to be. Ensign Yamamoto gives Shinohara a lecture on how out of character it is for him to volunteer for the recon flight. Yamamoto also reminds Shinohara that his duty, as a recon pilot, is to return to the Yamato with the required data. In this case, that data is the location of the warp gate to the Greater Magellenic Cloud. Every drop of storytelling wisdom I’ve ever consumed in my years as a writer and critic says that Shinohara is about to give his life for the cause. Then it happens. The writers backfill on Shinohara. If we learned anything in episode seventeen, it’s that  once a named character gets a back story, they’re functionally bullet proof for the short-term future.

In the words of Homer Simpson, “Quit boring everyone.”

Detailed scans from Shinohara’s mission reveal that there are nearly 10,000 Gamilan ships orbiting Balun – for some reason, Zoellek made a naval review his first order of business as Gamilan high commander. Despite this knowledge, Captain Okita orders the Yamato through the gate. Cue awesome battle music and pew-pew lasers. Only before the grace of Zoellek’s incompetence, which sees the Gamian fleet fighting in a gangly parade formation around Balun, does the Yamato survive an encounter with seemingly every ship in the Gamilan navy. Okita’s send-off to this massive fleet is nothing less than the destruction of Balun itself. Using the wave motion gun, Okita blasts the reactor at Balun’s core, disabling the all warp gates in the system. The shot also destroys – or so it seems – the Greater Magellenic Cloud warp gate just as the Yamato passes through it. Hooray for the good guys, right? No not so much.

The entire sequence feels like a tacky way of dealing with the fact that the Gamilans, by rights, should have leveled the Earth and Yamato ages ago. With a military of their size, they are no mere allegory for Nazi Germany. In a Second World War context, Gamilas’ strength seems more akin to the combined military might of America, the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, and Nazi Germany. Rather than exploring that power in a meaningful way i.e. a full-on Gamilian civil war or even an invasion of the Gamilan Empire from the vanguard of the White Comet Empire – who if you will recall were introduced earlier in this series – the writers have stranded the majority of the Gamilan fleet at Balun. Certainly, they could use their ship-based jump drives to get back to Gamilas and Iscandar, but the Yamato now has a considerable head start on any counter attack.

When we cut to the core of the issue, this entire episode feels like an homage to cheap solutions for otherwise interesting problems. Shinohara should have died on his recon mission. Everybody knows that unless your name is Starbuck, fighter pilots are red shirts with more swagger. Keeping him alive only serves to further cheapen SBY 2199 as a war story. Zoellek’s review of the entire Gamilan navy is just stupid. Not even a half-baked military commander puts all their forces in one place at one time for the sake of a review. Therein, Dessler’s return was predictable and lacked the shock and awe that came with his apparent death all those episodes ago.

SBY 2199 needs to grow up, kill some characters who aren’t Gamilans, and do something, anything, more interesting than telegraphing to the audience.

Stray Thoughts

- Domel was sentenced to death. Did that happen yet?

- Yurisha Iscandar is now in full possession of Misaki’s body. All signs point to the need for an old priest and a young priest to get rid of her. All of the Yamato’s senior officers seem fine with this. Really? Nobody objects to this?

 

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Afternoon Anime: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 – Episode 17

I think I’ve finally figured out what SBY 2199 is missing: moral courage. This series constantly flirts with greatness, but never quite seems to deliver it on a consistent basis. For every stand-out episode, there are three more that feel like place holders. Prior to Out of the Forest of Memory, I couldn’t find a way to explain this phenomenon. Now I think I’ve finally struck upon a suitable explanation. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 lacks the moral courage required of a war story, and this is the episode that proves it.

The episode’s almost exclusive focus is on activating a subspace gate that will transport the Yamato 30,000 light years closer to Iscandar. Therein, Kodai, Yuki, and Sanada board the derelict gate’s control satellite. Since a simple repair job would make for a boring episode, we’re treated to flashbacks of an almost love triangle between Sanada, Niimi, and Kodai’s older brother, Mamoru. The exposition strikes as little more than backfilling for Sanada.

Any intelligent viewer should then ask why the story is backfilling on Sanada. What’s the point of establishing a best bro’s relationship between Mamoru Kodai and Shiro Sanada if not to torture Susumu Kodai with the loss of another link to his family? So when the story reveals that the only way for Sanada to activate the subspace gate is at the cost of his own life – thereby demonstrating some cosmically shitty design on the part of the race who built the gate; wherein turning the damn thing on requires the death of the initial operator – it presents a poignant demonstration of the cost of war.

Sanada’s backstory is also apropos of the series’ running theme that a solider has to have the courage to know when to disobey orders. Both Captain Okita and Lt. Commander Sanada dwell upon this maxim in the episode. Okita does so when he reveals to the crew that the Yamato’s resident Iscandarian is not Yuki but the biological core of the ship’s automated navigation system. I do believe that I saw this appropriation of Homeworld coming a few posts back.

While Okita finds the courage to disregard orders, Sanada recalls for Kodai his inability to do the same. With death from radiation poisoning at hand, Sanada’s confesses that he knew the Battle of Pluto, which we witnessed in the series’ first episode, was nothing more than a decoy operation. Sanada let Mamoru Kodai go to his death thinking that he was making a valiant last stand, rather than being thrown under the bus by the UNCF. Kodai, however, doesn’t care about Sanada’s dedication to orders. Rather he appropriately sees Sanada’s looming death as the loss of a connection to a family completely killed off during the war.

Every rule of writing screams that Sanada should die in this episode. Kodai practically begs for last second knowledge of his brother in the face of Sanada’s inevitable demise. When subspace gate activates and Yuki’s scanner registers lethal levels of radiation in the control room, it should be another kick in the stomach for Kodai. Instead, Sanada climbs out of some conveniently placed water and points to handwavium as the reason for his survival.

Weak sauce, SBY 2199. It is, in fact, the weakest of all sauces. Sanada’s an otherwise boring character who adds little to the show save for severity which is best described as Mr. Spock meets Mr. Potatohead. This episode was a perfect chance to kill him off at his most human. Instead of exploring how war demands sacrifices on the battlefield, we get saddled with Kodai feeling a new sense of little brotherly affection for the Yamato’s XO. Pair this with the fact that it seems increasingly likely that Dessler isn’t nearly as dead as everybody in the Gamilan high command thinks (I have no evidence other than a shocking amount of hubris from the acting Gamilan commander), and the stakes of this war story seem quite cheap.

I suppose there’s some small comfort to be found in the fact that the Yamato’s destination once it exits the warp gate is none other than Balun. Balun, a heavily fortified Gamilan transit hub. Balun, the planet where the chief usurping Gamilan just ordered his fleet.

Yet you’ll forgive me if I don’t get too excited. Remember that the last time the Yamato saw a firefight the inevitable consequences were undercut with a plot contrivance.

Find your spine, Space Batttleship Yamato 2199. Otherwise this is going to be one very unremarkable endgame.

Stray Thoughts:

- Domel is convicted of Dessler’s assassination. The scene feels lifted from General Zod’s trial in the Richard Donner’s first Superman movie.

- At the end of the episode Misaki announces herself as Yurisha Iscandar. I think we all saw that one coming.


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Afternoon Anime: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 – Episode 16

Once again, I find myself of two minds regarding an episode of Space Battleship Yamato 2199. Despite some initial silliness, I appreciate how much this series has grown up from the camp and historical revision that underwrote the original product. Moreover, it’s a great example of what military science fiction can do when it isn’t dependent upon the problematic tropes of military SF as exemplified in the works of David Weber and friends. Yet with each passing episode, SBY 2199 compares more easily to the weak parts of Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica, and worse, Star Trek Voyager. Allow me to explain.

Episode 16, A Choice for the Future, sees Lieutenants Ito and Niimi springing their mutiny against Captain Oktia and Commander Sanada.  In doing so, the series demonstrates a considerable commitment to long form story telling. Prior to this point, almost every episode of the series has seen its plot individual plot peppered with exposition that served no immediate purpose. This episode ties each and every one of those loose threads together. It reveals Ito and Niimi as the agents of a faction within the UNCF who wanted to use the Yamato as a means of setting up a refugee colony for humanity. The discovery of Beemela-4 at a time when the Yamato is well behind schedule on its mission to Iscandar is all the pretext Niimi and Ito need to sieze the ship and return it to Earth.

As it stands, the intrigue is quite enjoyable, but it is wrapped up a little too neatly for my taste. The plot goes from mutiny to counter-mutiny in less than twenty minutes. For all the slow burn that the writers offered in terms of setting up this coup d’etat, I expected more to come of it. There wasn’t even any indication that Shima, who had been woo’d by Niimi in the last episode, ever entertained doing anything but supporting Okita and Sanada. By episode’s end everything is set up to return to the status quo. Though I suppose the writers could toss us a curve ball and have episode 17 begin with Ito and Niimi getting tossed out an airlock. If it goes down the path of a court marshal then we’ve officially entered the BSG danger zone. Recall how Ron Moore and David Eick were happy to spin their wheels on intrigue because there was no way to have a battle with Cylons in every episode.

Which brings us to the Yamato itself. The writers turned it into Voyager. That is to say all the damage the ship endured in episode 15, including the destruction of three main guns turrets, is repaired at the start of this episode. I seem to recall the Yamato looking like space garbage at the end of The Point of No Return? Now the biggest problem aboard ship is a lack of working showers. Seriously? Of all the places the writers could have went, they went there. What is the point of blowing the hell out of the ship when there’s a reset button lurking in the wings? Writing like that cheapens the whole experience; it reminds me of a certain British science fiction series that has grown a little too fond of Deus ex Machina.

Then, to make life even easier for the crew, Kodai returns from an away mission to Beemela-4 with a brand new wave motion core, which just so happens to have a map of the warp gate system that the Gamilans have been using. There goes the motivation for Niimi’s and Ito’s insurrection. Now the Yamato can use the gate network to show up on Iscandar’s front door with time to spare.

Even though the episode is far from perfect, it does embody the challenges of telling a decent space opera. If it’s all space battles and pew-pew-pew the narrative becomes vapid and pointless. If it’s all talking, then it’s The West Wing in space. Finding the balance between these two extremes can be a challenge, more so when each episode is only 20 minutes long. So as much as I think this particular chapter of SBY 2199 misses the mark in some areas, I respect it for what it is trying to do.

Stay Thoughts:

- Everything that happens in this episode happens on the Yamato. Hopefully the next episode focuses on the looming Gamilan civil war.

- Ito outs Yuki as an Iscandarian to the bridge crew, and nobody really seems to mind.

- Misaki is demonstrating some clear signs of possession/narcolepsy, and nobody really seems to care.

- Niimi gets a little too excited about the prospect of settling on Beemela-4, tipping her hand to Sanada. Confronted by her commanding officer, she confesses her treasonous plans. As in all things, Sanada responds with stoicism. Wouldn’t it be great if the next episode opened with Sanada smashing up his quarters because Niimi betrayed him?


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Afternoon Anime: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 – Episode 15

Aptly titled The Point of No Return this episode witnesses the shit hiting the proverbial fan. We open on Gimleh, Director of Gamilas’ secret police, putting down a rebellion on an otherwise non-descript planet. Actually, “putting down” is something of an inaccurate euphemism for Gimleh’s actions. More precisely, he burns the planet to a cinder, killing its native and blue-skinned Gamilan population. While obviously an “evil for the sake of evil” action, it does plant two seeds in terms of where the season’s remaining episodes are going to go. The first is that this particular rebellion, and others occuring off-screen, are the result of the Yamato pushing deeper into Gamilan space. This makes some sense considering the Gamilan Empire is built upon the backs of vanquished civilizations. Said reminder leads us to the second theme, the Gamilans are stupendously powerful and they probably could have swatted the Yamato ages ago had anybody felt the need.

The Gamilans have limitless ships, bases for resupply, and control over a system of warp gates allowing instantaneous travel across vast distances. Meanwhile, the Yamato can’t even keep its food replicators working, forcing the crew on to bread and water rations. Subject to constant force recon attacks from Domel’s battle group, the Yamato’s crew begin to show some signs of fraying at the edges. Their behaviors are a little reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica’s season one premiere 33, though I doubt the relationship is an intentional one. With crew morale plummeting, Acting Captain Sanada sets course for Beemela 4 a seemingly hospitable planet that the Iscandarians just so happened to note in their abridged version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Large Magellenic Cloud. And with his decision, everything starts to go wrong.

Lt. Ito, the Yamato’s security chief, begins positioning his pieces for some pending act of treachery. He begins by demanding information about Yuki from Lt. Niimi. When Niimi asks Ito why he wants to know about the ship’s operations officer, he responds with a not-at-all suspicious “you don’t need to know.” He then tells Niimi to stay away from Sanada, despite the fact that he is her direct superior. Things get even weirder when Niimi starts cozying up to Shima. In an utterly confusing scene, Nimmi tells Shima that he’s the most valuable part of the crew, applying all the subtlety of a porn star who can’t afford to pay the pizza delivery man. Is Niimi in on Ito’s plan? Or is she just looking to blow off some steam with the navigator?

Whatever Ito and Niimi are planning, their machinations get put on pause when the warp to Beemela lands the Yamato in the middle of Domel’s battle group. Go figure that after conducting days of reconnaissance Domel would figure out where the Yamato was going. Chalk up another point for Lt. Commander Sanada’s command skills.

What Domel doesn’t know is that far away from the battle at Beemela 4, Desler, supreme leader of the Gamilas Empire, has been assassinated.

That’s right, the big bad guy, the character that academics and pop culture experts alike have likened unto Adolf Hitler, is dead. It’s not even a great dramatic et tu brutus moment. His ship suffers the SBY equivalent of a warp core breach. One big-badda-boom later and Desler is no more – or so it seems. Despite obvious hints toward Gamilan intrigues I wasn’t expecting the writers to take Desler off the board. He and Kodai need to have a dramatic show down. Desler has to lead Gamilas’ defence against the White Comet Empire in season two. Removing him now, even if this is some ploy on Desler’s part to expose the traitors in his government, completely changes the game for the rest of this season. Not to mention that if Desler can die, so can anybody else. Ladies and gentlemen, we have our Sheppard Book moment.

Nevertheless, Domel presses the attack against the Yamato. Lt. Commander dumb ass Sanada very nearly makes another blunder before Captain Oktia takes the bridge and countermands an order that would have saw the Yamato’s fighters cut down like dogs. Instead, Okita orders Shima to fly straight through the enemy lines, despite the fact that there are hundreds of Gamilan destroyers, some seemingly flying formation with the Yamato. Though sinking a dozen or so Gamilan ships, the Yamato proves no match for the sheer numbers of Domel’s fleet. With the engines failing and two gun turrets destroyed, Okita seems resigned to death. Then, when all seems lost, the Gamilan guns go quiet and their ships begin warping out of the area.

On the bridge of Domel’s flagship, Desler’s subaltern calls in an immediate retreat back to the home world. Ah yes, I remember this trope when Robotech did it back in the 80s. Khyron’s forces were about to destroy the SDF-1 until Breetai used a recall device to forcibly end the conflict. Nice to see anime writers sticking with the classics, however much of a mundane and Deus Ex Machina it may be.

The episode ends with the Yamato limping through space, and all hands aboard surprised to be alive.

I’ll give the writers credit for making me feel just as much in the dark about events within the Gamilan Empire as the Yamato’s crew. Even though I got to see Desler’s ship explode, I’m none the wiser in terms of how this is going to play out for the empire or Earth. I assume the political intrigue will allow facilitate the Yamato getting to Iscandar. I previously speculated that there might be some rogue faction of second-class Gamilans who will join with the Yamato against the seat of imperial power. With Desler out of the way I suppose that option has become more probable than less.

I’m more curious to see if the series pulls a Voyager with the Yamato. After the beating it took, the Yamato should hardly be space worthy. I’ll be more than a little disappointed if those damages are hand waved away over the course of an episode. Since the Yamato is operating without support from Earth, I’d like to see the consequences of that reality played up in the coming episodes.

Stray Thoughts

Has the brunette who did the radio show in episode 9 been possessed by an Iscandarian ghost? Maybe I missed a subtitle but something really confusing is happening there.

Ensign Yamamoto is angry for the sake of angry, or possibly because she loves Kodai and is jealous of a burgeoning relationship between Kodai and Yuki. Either way, it’s a weak bit of character development.

What sort of PR engine is necessary to keep the Gamilas empire in-line if their fleets are roasting entire planets? At some point you have to invoke Princess Leia’s snark to Grand Moff Tarkin.


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Afternoon Anime: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 – Episode 14

Episode 14 of Space Battleship Yamato 2199, subtitled The Whisper of the Witch, is certainly better executed than the episode previous. It’s also the weirdest entry of the series to date.

So far we’ve seen the Gamilans using biological, radioactive, and conventional weapons against Earth and the Yamato. This chapter takes it in a new direction with the use of a psychological weapon. We open on an elfin Gamilan, previously identified as another conquered species serving within the empire, taking point on a new attempt to destroy the Yamato. The writing does a great job of showing rather than telling the details as Kodai and Yuki return from a patrol to find the Yamato spinning out of control amid an apparent snowstorm in space.

After a docking sequence which tips its hat to Newtonian laws of motion, Kodai and Yuki quickly succumb to the Gamilan brain washing/mind control attack. This psychic assault manifests by trapping each individual crew member within one of their fondest memories. Contained within their minds, most of the crew are left passive, but a certain few are manipulated into mishandling the ship. Shima, for example, locks the auto pilot into making a warp jump to a waiting Gamilan battle group. Meanwhile, the perpetrator of the psychic attack is capable of manifesting as creepy talking dolls within the Yamato and the dreams of her crew.

Exploring Kodai and Yuki’s memories, while interesting, isn’t quite what I would call mission critical for the story. What it purposefully does is identify Kodai and Yuki as special within the remainder of the season. Granted, anybody who watched the original series already knew that Kodai is going to save the day. But now we’re introducing Yuki into the saviour role as well, though probably the junior partner if we follow the breadcrumbs to their natural conclusion. Before fully succumbing to the psychic attack, Yuki locks down the Yamato’s wave motion core, thus preventing a warp jump. But only Kodai proves strong enough to break the siren song and stop Yuki from reactivating the engines when she’s manipulated into undoing her previous actions.

Insights into Yuki’s history also work to correct some of the egregious laziness of the original series. Classic Yamato never bothered to explain why Yuki and Starsha looked nearly identical. My theory: the artists couldn’t be bothered to draw two different female characters. To them, girls didn’t watch space opera, as evidenced by Yuki’s duties as ship’s nurse. Say nothing for the fact that she was constantly subjected to Analyzer tossing up her skirt and grabbing her ass. Also, why was she wearing a skirt in the space navy?

Contemporary Yuki is more important to the ship’s command structure as the Operations Officer. Not to mention that neither she nor any other female crew members are subjected to robosexual assault. Beyond that, her back story is being built around a military conspiracy fronted by Admiral Ryu Hijikata – yet another connection to the second season of the original Space Battleship Yamato. It’s quite possible that Yuki is an Iscandarian who replaced the actual Yuki Mori on orders from Admiral Hijikata. Such an event would substantiate why the Gamilan “witch” claimed that Yuki shouldn’t be on the Yamato. This journey through Yuki’s mind proves as bizarre as a mid-series episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Both the Christian cross and the Gamilan modified swastika figure prominently within Yuki’s dream. Scenes are intercut with single word kanji characters on black backgrounds. At one point the artistic style shifts into something which invokes a Samurai Jack sensibility. By the end of the episode it makes some sense, but I’d say at least 30% of it is either lost in translation or too high-concept for the likes of my comprehension.

Weirdness aside, all is well that ends well on the Yamato. But before the credits roll the story cuts back to Gamilas. We see a fat blue-skinned Gamilan surrounded by slave girls, cigars, and food. To date, we have never seen a Gamilan displaying such hedonistic tendencies. Remember that Dessler banished/killed one of his officers over a lack of manners. The fat Gamilan gets a call from a subordinate who confirms the wolf, arguably General Domel, and the vixen, Minister Celestella, are fixated on the Yamato. Sucking back the alien stogie, the mystery officer declares the time to be right. How ominous.

Does this portent a Gamilan civil war? Or perhaps he’s just an ambitious commander with plans to press an unsanctioned attack against the Gatlantis Empire. Either way, some serious intrigues are afoot on planet Gamilas.

Stray thoughts

- Kodai’s trip through dreamland shows a soldier who aspires to be like his dead older brother, rather than being haunted by his memory. It’s a nice fit considering this Kodai is far less angry than the original series’ iteration.

- Okita is still in sick bay with Lt. Commander not-Spock at the con. Sanada’s contribution as defacto captain is almost null.

- The Gamilan’s ability to dominate the Large Magellenic Cloud seems underwritten by a series of warp gates built by an ancient and now dead civilization. Count on these factoring into the Yamato’s rapid return to Earth at the end of the series.


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Afternoon Anime: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 Episode 13

Entertaining as it is to finally see the Yamato firing its guns in anger, I think the thirteenth episode of Space Battleship Yamato 2199 might have overplayed its hand just a bit. It’s not terrible, mind you. But for a series that has gone out of its way to avoid being goofy, this episode is a clear step in the wrong direction.

The Wolf From Another Dimension picks up almost exactly where the previous episode left off. The Yamato is under attack from a seemingly invisible Gamilan ship. Said ship proves to be a space submarine. That’s right, I said space submarine.

I can imagine any number of ways the writers could have brought the submarine concept into a space opera. The most sensible seems to be something along the lines of the SSV Normandy from Mass Effect. Create a ship that produces no heat signature and skin it in a non-reflective material: instant space submarine. Instead, the Gamilan space sub hides out in “the bottom of another dimension.”

Okay. . .so that time when the Yamato was stuck in a dimensional rift wasn’t a one-off? It was conceptual groundwork for the Gamilans using that layer of space as a platform for attack. Fine, whatever.

I’ll concede that even the best space opera merits a certain latitude in terms of its employed tropes. And if I’m going to gives the series a pass on its catalyst – an alien civilization sending a “bootstrap” data package capable of reinventing physics as humanity understands it – I should forgive a dimensional submarine. And I probably would if it wasn’t for the rest of the episode making me think there was a wholesale smarter way to work with this particular chapter of the story.

With the Yamato hiding Millennium Falcon-style from the Gamilan submarine, Captain Okita passes out. This leaves Lt. Commander Sanada in command while Dr. Sato performs emergency surgery on the Captain. During his stint at the conn, the XO proves painfully sentimental and morbidly stupid. To escape the sub, Sanada’s immediate underling, Lt. Niimi, recommends sending out a hyperspace ping to try and track the Gamilan ship. Kodai points out that such an action would give away the Yamato’s position. Putting the tactic in tactical officer, Kodai instead volunteers to pilot a support shuttle which would deploy a series of hyperspace probes. This would allow the Yamato to track the submarine’s torpedoes as they come out of the lower dimension. Against all military and naval logic, Sanada dismisses Kodai’s idea and orders the ping. Rather than challenging the XO, Kodai recalls Captain Okita’s words about disobeying orders for the greater good – those words we heard last episode – and goes off to deploy the beacons on his own.

In turn, Kodai’s faux-insubordinate actions let the Yamato destroy the submarine’s periscope drone. The sub then limps off to fight another day.

The problem here is two-fold.

First, Sanada is an idiot. Even if The Hunt for Red October was the limit of my knowledge of naval warfare – it’s not – I would know you never go to active sonar unless you want the enemy to know where you are. His decision would have made sense if it was part of an extra-smart plan; therein Kodai’s insubordination would have brought the ship into greater jeopardy. But no. The final scene reveals that Sanada used the ping because he was afraid to send Kodai into a dangerous situation. Apparently, there’s some history between Sanada and Kodai’s dead older brother, Mamoru.

The other half of the problem is Kodai basing his decision to drop the hyperspace buoys on Captain Okita’s “a soldier can’t put orders above his conscience” speech. Too soon, writers, too soon and too low stakes. Okita rejected orders on moral grounds when he was directed to fire unprovoked upon a heretofore unknown alien civilization. Kodai didn’t even refuse Sanada’s orders to the point of being relieved of duty. He simply rationalized an impulsive, though correct, decision based on an out of context anecdote from the captain.

At the very least, we now have some brickwork laid on getting Sanada out of the chain of command when Captain Okita falls too ill to command the Yamato. This episode clearly demonstrates that the XO, for all his Spock-like personality, doesn’t have the fortitude to order someone to their (probable) death. I imagine he will either do something self-sacrificing to keep Kodai alive long enough to take the big chair, or he’ll just meekly stand aside and let command pass to Kodai.

So there’s another episode down. It’s not the best we’ve seen from the series, but it’s not the worst either. Certainly though, The Wolf From Another Dimension offers the most squandered potential and easy-way-out writing I’ve seen from the show to date.

And if you haven’t already, make sure to check out the kickstarter for my upcoming audio project.


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Afternoon Anime: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 Episode 12

Remember when I said the series is painting Kodai as a good officer en route to command? After watching episode 12, What Lies Beyond, I can’t tell if I’m right or wrong on that point.

The chapter opens with Shima and Kodai bickering during a morning briefing. Still seething from the previous episode’s revelation about the origins of the war, Shima uses Kodai’s seemingly cavalier attitude toward the mission as an excuse to rehash the Melda Ditz debate. Rather than de-escalating the situation, Kodai fully engages in Shima’s pissing contest. Captain Okita brings the spectacle to an unceremonious end, assigning both men to janitorial duty until they learn how to act like officers.

With Kodai and Shima bookending the episode, the more interesting plot threads weave together on planet Gamilas. NB: The subtitles are calling the capital of the Gamilas Empire, Baleras. The all knowing Wikipedia, in both English and Japanese, shows no record of the planet’s name being retconed in SBY 2199. For the sake of consistency within this series of posts, I’m going to keep calling the Gamilan homeworld Gamilas until somebody provides me with a compelling reason to change my ways.

General Domel, who we met in episode 12 amid a battle with ships from the Comet/Gatlantis Empire, arrives on Gamilas to receive a medal from Desler, personally. Though the ceremony itself proves nothing more than a PR stunt to masquerade a deeper plot; Desler brought Domel back from the “front lines of the empire’s defense” to destroy the Yamato. Why he couldn’t send a space-telegram is beyond my reckoning.

On a side note, I don’t recall the original series ever mentioning the Comet Empire in the first season. How interesting that they are being brought in now. I wonder if a second season is already in the works where the Earth-Gamilas war will be framed as the thing which enabled the White Comet’s invasion into the Milky Way.

Speculation aside, the episode gives a bit more shading into the state of affairs within the imperial capital. To start, there’s an obvious, and somewhat tiring, tripling down on the Nazi imagery. We get it, they’re space Nazis. The pomp and circumstance of Domel’s award ceremony would have done Joeseph Gobbels proud. More interesting is Desler’s “hotline” conversation with Iscandar, calling the world “the heart and soul of his nation.” His follow-up plans to unify the two worlds are a clear invocation of the German-Austrian Anschluss.

Thankfully, a point of real substance emerges from all the world building. This manifests as Gamilan citizens being deported to a prison planet in the aftermath of an act of domestic terrorism. Even General Domel voices concerns about the Gamilan Secret Police’s efficacy; are they exiling criminals, or just rounding up citizens ad hoc to send a message to the rest of the planet? Honestly, I’m not quite sure how to read the subtext of this event. It would be a little too on the nose to play the holocaust card at this point. Especially in light of Melda Ditz’s statement that those who surrender to the empire are allowed to serve within it. I don’t see how genocide would fit into that formula. What would prove interesting is an active internal resistance to Desler and the established Gamilan order. In that case, the Yamato could transform the dissidents from a resistance to fifth columnists.

In terms of series’ earlier tendencies toward simple dichotomies, episode 12 does work quite well to undermine the “evil empire” nature of the Gamilans. Where previously there was only politicking within the Gamilan high command, we now see unrest in the empire at large. However, this could go to a very ugly place if the Yamato turns into a full-on liberator. The original series ends with Kodai nuking Gamilas and all its poor innocent bystanders. Said war crime is sine qua non for this story. All of Yamato 2199′s hints at being a meaningful allegory go out the window if Kodai doesn’t commit his war crime and own it as exactly that.

The episode ends on the Yamato with Kodai and Shima making peace with each other. Their fist bumping reconciliation is overshadowed by some profound, if expected, wartime philosophy from the Yamato’s senior crew. Lt. Commander Tokugawa talks some sense into Shima, pointing out that regardless of who fired first, the war between Earth and Gamilas, just like the war between America and Japan, was going to happen. Meanwhile, Captain Okita has a heart-to-heart with Kodai about the need for soldiers to make humane decisions during battle. In part, the scene is Okita rationalizing his refusal to fire blindly on the Gamilans at first contact. It also strikes as necessary lip service for any war story. At some point somebody has to talk about balancing orders and ethics; it wouldn’t be space opera, otherwise. On a deeper level, this scene is Okita giving Kodai tacit approval for the way he handled things with Melda, notwithstanding the janitorial punishment for a lack of decorum on the bridge.

Only a Gamilan space submarine, presumably under General Domel’s command, torpedoing the Yamato precludes a big happy ending. Next time on Space Battleship Yamato 2199, it’s that episode of Star Trek that was based on The Enemy Below.