Anime Review: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (aka Star Blazers 2199)

Note:  Hi.  I am trying something new to increase my number of posts and get more practice writing.  With a lot of streaming services out there offering anime, I have been watching quite a bit of it.  I seen shows that I haven’t seen in years, ones that I’ve heard of but never got around to watch and some that are new to me.  So, I will feature some of the ones I have watched and do a review going over the art style, storyline, dub (if it is dubbed) and overall feel.  I will also look at what I call the WTF factor; aspect of the anime that may raise and eyebrow or cause you to ask “WTF did I just watch?”  Our first subject is a remake of an anime that I have known about for years.

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Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (or Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199) is an 2012 Sci-Fi anime series by AIC and Xebec studios.  It is based on the original 1974 T.V. anime series Space Battleship Yamato, which was dubbed and edited for the West and renamed Star Blazers.  The series is 26 episodes long.  The series is dubbed by Funimation and is currently being serialized on their streaming service, Funimation Now, which new episodes being released on Thursday.  It is also on Crunchyroll with in Japanese with English Subtitles, with the series being released at the same rate as Funimation.

The series takes place in the year 2199.  The Earth is at war with a and advanced militaristic race called the Gamilons.  They had destroyed all of Earth defences and, using radioactive planet bombs, destroyed the surface of the earth, driving the survivors underground.  But not all is lost.  A message from the distant planet Iscandar offers help to restore the planet to life.  Included in the message was the plans for a ship that can traverse the great distance between the planets and fight off the Gamilons.  But the UN could only build one ship in time and, for reasons, build it to resemble and ancient Japanese battleship from World War 2, the Yamato.

With the ship build, its crew set out on the perilous journey through intergalactic space.  The crew includes Captain Okita, a man who puts his mission first before his own health; Tactical Officer Susumu Kodai,  a brash young pilot whose brother served under Okita and in whose memory he joins the mission; and  radio and sensor operator Yuki Mori, a woman missing her past.  Together with te rest of the crew they set out on the perilous journey to Iscandar.  Time is not on their side as they have to travel 168, 000 light years to Iscandar and back in only one year, or else the Earth will die.

Star Blazers (as the English dubbed is called, like with the original series) is a space opera, science fiction anime, similar to series like Robotech and the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise.  The series has a serious tone, with the threat of war and it’s consequences being a central theme.  The ship gets damaged, machine fail, space fighters run out of ammo and not everyone makes it back alive (though mostly faceless extras.)  The Yamato does have its all-powerful McGuffin plot device, the wave motion engine, which powers the ship and gives her the ability to fend of waves on Gamilon ships and make the long journey through space.

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Lt Kaoru Niimi is one of the female crew members added to the series.

The art style is excellent.  It looks modern, but is still harken back to the original anime’s designs.  The original series was directed by manga artist Leiji Matsumoto, famous for the Space Pirate Captain Harlock series, so you can see how the ship design for the Yamato (a WW2 battleship) influenced the ship design in Harlock (17th century pirate ship…in space!)  The remake keeps that design, updating so that the ship is larger and only made to look like the Yamato as camouflaged for before it was launched.  The crew of the Yamato is more varied than the original, with a third of the crew being female (Yuki was the only female crew member in the original) with most with speaking roles being all new characters, with only the character of Akira Yamamoto  being gender-bent into a woman in this version.  The Gamilons, the Nazi-esque enemies in the series also were updated, with only those with blue skin being the “pure , true Gamilons, with the others of different skin tones and features, bring races subservient to the Gamilons but still as loyal.

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Pure Gamilons are blue-skinned.

The writing also gives us a better look at the Gamilons.  There are more scenes showing their leader Dessler, interacting with his subordinates.  While most of them are arrogant and looking to please Lord Dessler to advance their own careers, we see some of them in a more sympathetic light.  Some are fathers and husbands, some make the hard choice between duty and family.  Some even express their understanding on why the Earth and Gamilons are at war, causing some of the Yamato crew to realize Earth is not without blood on their hands.  But over all, the Gamilons are still a conquering race, driven by their own self-importance to consider the cost of their actions.

Still there are a lot of similarities’ with the original series.  In fact, there are episodes that are pretty much retellings of ones from the original series.  The fourth episode, “Grave Marker on an Icefield” follows a similar plot to the original series’ “Space Destroyer Yukikaze Sleeps in the Ice Field” or ‘Paladin Rest in a vast icefield” in the Starblazers version.  The major differences are the inclusion of the female medic, Makoto Harada on the mission (the original only had Kodai, Mori and the robot Analyzer) and the introduction of the robot Gamilon troops (one of which plays a big part in a later, orignal episode.  Truthfully, it has been over 35 years since I’ve seen an episode of the original Starblazers, so this is all new to me again, but is seems there is a good balance between honouring the original and telling a new story.

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The uniforms for the female crew members tend to flatter their form. Apparently, in the Medical wing, pants are optional.

WTF Factor: Low.  Now, with cartoons imported from Japan, there will be some cultural differences.  Different aspect of their culture, like holidays and beliefs will pop up and that is to be expected.  Space battleship Yamato 2199 doesn’t really have this issue (at least not with what I’ve seen so far as of episode 14).  Despite the addition of more females to the cast there has not been much of a romantic sub, those both Yamamoto and Mori showing interest in Kodai.  And there hasn’t been much in the way of fan service in this version (the original had a plot of Analyzer being in love with Yuki Mor, flipping her skirt and even confessing his love (this was cut from the Star Blazers version).  While there is a scene with Yamamoto and Yuki Mori in the communal bath (again, a common thing in Japanese culture), any nudity is avoided and the most salacious thing we get is a bit of lower side boob from Yuki.  If anything can be called fan service, it is that all the female characters wear body suits.  While the male uniforms have tunics and pants, the women are all in tight, form-fitting body suits with the only exceptions being Makoto’s nurse uniform with a skirt (or is it a long tunic?) and stockings and Yamamoto’s bomber jacket and flight suit.  Still this is not played up for fan service, with the only exception I can think of is a shot of Yuki descending a ladder behind Kodai in episode 14 (and I think she was flirting with him.)

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Ass shot!

Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is a great science fiction anime that hold up well for a Western audience.  Older folks like me who watch the series will get a kic out of this new version.  For those new to the series, I think you will find it an intriguing anime with a memorable storyline.  The series is done in Japan, but there is already a sequel retelling the second season of the original being streamed in Japan.  Here is hoping we see that sometime in the near future.

Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is currently on the Funimation and Crunchyroll streaming services with 14 episodes released and new ones released every Thursday.

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Yet the front side being open is okay?