“For one year now, Earth has been at peace. The Gamilons no longer threaten the galaxy. But unknown to Earth, a new danger lurks in the darkness of outer space! A seemingly-harmless great white comet streaks across the sky. A comet so deadly that it threatens the universe as it conquers and devours every satellite and every planet it approaches! But it is not a natural comet! It’s the Comet Empire, a huge, complex construction made to resemble a comet! — Narrator
Only a day has gone by since our last episode, at least in the United States, but there were changes galore in this next installment of STAR BLAZERS. To truly understand them, we’re going to have to look back a bit and delve into the Japanese history of the show. But the most immediate change is a new title sequence, featuring a new and updated version of the STAR BLAZERS theme song and new visuals that teased events that would unfold over the coming weeks. Even in the eyes of a novice viewer, one got the sense that a shift had taken place.
What had happened was that several years had gone by in Japan. After the original 26-episode SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO series ended its run, it was kept alive by fan clubs and infrequent reruns, all of which began to build up excitement about the series. Then, when STAR WARS set off a worldwide hunger for science fiction programming, the YAMATO team created a two-and-a-half hour compilation movie, distilling the entire first series down to a single theatrical event. And it was a monster hit. So much so that there was demand for a sequel.
That sequel, FAREWELL TO SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: THE COMBATANTS OF LOVE! was a follow up feature film, and dramatized the final mission of the fabled battleship. Or so it was intended. But so popular was YAMATO at this point that, even before the film had finished its first run, a sequel television series, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO 2, adapted its story to television screens. But in doing so, the production team made numerous adaptations and alterations to it, mostly revolving around which characters lived. FAREWELL was intended to be the final YAMATO production, and so almost all of the characters and even the ship itself were annihilated by the end. But that couldn’t be allowed to stand while there was the potential to continue the YAMATO saga further–and so, YAMATO 2 made adjustments intended to give the franchise a future.
All of this success meant that YAMATO 2 had a more extravagant budget than the original series a few years previous. And because the production was under the gun from the beginning, it often reused theatrical footage originally created for FAREWELL, which was much sharper and lusher than the more limited television animation that surrounded it. All of this meant that there was suddenly a quantum leap in the look of STAR BLAZERS from one episode to the next. Character design, mechanics, animation, even soundtrack were all positively affected.
Unfortunately, this opening episode isn’t all that great. Because they justifiably wanted to showcase the Argo right away in their first episode (rather than building up to the emergence of the legendary ship as in the feature film) the production team sacrificed a lot of the meaning from that moment. Rather than once again being a slumbering giant, the Argo was now just another fleet warhorse, reduced to tedious escort duty at the far reaches of the solar system.
The episode opens with the Narrator telling us that the Earth is now at peace, but that new danger still exists in the cosmos. As the pipe organ music swells with that signature tune, we are introduced to the Comet Empire, a colossal war machine bent on conquering the Earth. Comet Empire Prince Zordar, the main new villain, eyes his prey with interest, impressed that humanity has been able to restore Earth in such a short time. He’s attended to by Princess Invidia, his daughter, which is a good change from the original. In YAMATO 2, Invidia is actually Zordar’s consort, but making her his daughter changes the relationships in interesting ways that the show makes good use of. Zordar’s main lieutenants General Dire and General Gorce are confident that their superior technology and military machine will succeed where Gamilon failed.
But they’re taken aback by the appearance of Gamilon Leader Desslok, who has come at the request of Prince Zordar. (Not a word is said about Desslok having been vaporized yesterday, and it’ll be a week or two before his survival is explained.) Desslok warns them not to underestimate the Earth and the Star Force, prompting Invidia to taunt him, “You mean the Star Force that destroyed Gamilon single-handed? That Star Force?” Desslok insists that as long as he lives, Gamilon lives, and he pledges his services to the Comet Empire in destroying the Star Force. And what of the Star Force? The Argo is on its way back to Earth after a year on remote patrol duty at the edge of the solar system. The ship is under the command of Derek Wildstar, and of the original crew, only Homer still seems to be on board–he ribs Wildstar by asking him if he wants Homer to send a message to Nova back on Earth that they’ll be landing in three days
On Earth, Nova is working at the Central Hospital where IQ-9 shows up to inform her about the Argo’s impending arrival (and, in the original YAMATO 2, to grope her ass, a lecherous action excised from STAR BLAZERS.) The Human Race has returned to the surface once more, and the future is looking bright.
But as the Argo escorts the rest of the patrol fleet to Earth, they are suddenly attacked by unknown fighter planes that defy identification. These ships are fast enough to befuddle the Argo’s outdated radar equipment and they succeed in damaging the trailing ship in the fleet. As the Argo takes fire, in typical hotheaded fashion, Wildstar leaves the bridge and sorties out in his own fighter to engage the enemy. But they are so fast and maneuverable that he cannot score a hit on them. As the invaders withdraw, Wildstar is summoned back to the Argo by another mystery: all of the ship’s systems are being overloaded by a sudden surge of power.
On the front lines, Comet Empire Generals Terpis and Naska congratulate themselves on the success of their first foray in testing the Earth’s defenses. They take credit for the energy surge affecting the Argo, but in YAMATO 2 it’s not actually their doing at all, as we shall see. “I wonder if that great Leader Desslok is laughing“, remarks Terpis. “There’s a man who has a great opinion of himself!”
Back on Earth in the Defense Headquarters, the energy surge is affecting the electronic equipment as well. Sandor, on station at the Energy Department, tells his men to physically pull out the wires and connections broadcasting the energy wave. Even IQ-9 is affected by the transmission. On board the Argo, once the wave subsides and Homer has managed to put out the fire in is communications console, he gathers up tapes that recorded an incoming transmission that came in along with the disruptive energy surge. Wildstar intends to take them back to Sandor on Earth for analysis. But for now, the Argo’s communications array is down, the main circuits having been pulled.
In the Comet Empire, General Terpis reports to Zordar that the message broadcast towards the Earth came from Trelaina of Telezart. Zordar is unfazed but Invidia is concerned–she tells us that Trelaina has found the secret of anti-matter, which makes her dangerous. Desslok predicts that should they decipher Trelaina’s message, the Star Force will head for Telezart, where they can be ambushed. Zordar agrees to leave the Star Force to him.
Meanwhile, as the Argo approaches Earth, they find that their landing vector is on a collision course with the Andromeda, the super-cool new Earth fleet flagship boasting twin Wave-Motion Gun apertures. Unable to contact one another thanks to the Argo’s radio being non-functional, Wildstar and the Andromeda’s Captain Gideon play chicken with one another, both men refusing to alter their course. The two ships almost collide in space (“We lost two coats of paint” hisses Homer with a combination of relief and terror) but neither Captain blinks. As the Argo descends towards a landing on Earth, the narrator closes out the episode by telling us that the mysterious message the Argo recorded in space will have a tremendous effect on the future of the Star Force.