STAR BLAZERS: Space Battleship Yamato 2205: A New Voyage

It’s always something of an event around these parts when a new SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO project drops. And so the past decade or so has been bountiful, after a long span of drought. All of which is to say that I finally got to watch the first of the two SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO 2205 films–the one subtitled TAKE OFF! And so, I wanted to share a bunch of impressions.

It seems clear from this first half that 2205 is going to be most concretely based upon the events of the 1980 television movie SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: THE NEW YOYAGE. But even with that, the story draws from other, later sources as well, including heavily from SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO III, the third television series. Here, we open with Abelt Deslar taking custody of the planet Galman from the Bolar Federation by force when they won’t simply cede the planet to him. But with Garmillas almost unable to sustain life, and the genetic needs of the Garmillas tied to their home soil, Galman is a perfect match. The fact that the people of Galman are held in slavery by the Bolar Federation causes them to view Deslar not as a conqueror, but a liberator.

This is a bit of a problem for Earth, however, in that it has a mutual-defense treaty with Garmillas since the end of 2199. But especially since the Earth has lost the Time-Fault which allowed them to produce automated spacecraft at a frightening pace, getting enmeshed in an intergalactic war between Garmillas and the Bolar Federation isn’t something that anybody wants. A delegation centered around the restored Space Battleship Yamato is about to set off for Iscandar on a diplomatic mission. Sanada and Yuki Mori have been given command of the Yamato’s support ships, a carrier and a defensive destroyer respectively. This means that there is plenty of room on Yamato for a new generation of crewmen, and 2205 draws characters from boty the original NEW VOYAGE and YAMATO III in filling those positions. Chief among them is Ryusuke Domon, who had been the de facto young lead of YAMATO III. Here, he’s got a bitterness towards Kodai that’s the result of his father dying (it might have been an accident or it might have been suicide) after the family’s small engineering firm went under once the Time-Fault was sacrificed in order to bring Kodai, Yuki and Yamato back from the higher dimension it had been left in at the very end of 2202. Like Kodai before him, Domon wants to size up the man responsible for his family member’s death, and he’s finagled his way on board the ship by falsifying his records.

Kodai, meanwhile, having been promoted to full captain of the Yamato in the past three years, is struggling with the burden of having been the subject of such a sacrifice–especially since he knows that the only reason that he and Yuki and the ship were stuck in Teresa’s weird realm in the first place was his refusal to return. What’s more, his relationship with Yuki is a bit strained as they are now the most famous couple on Earth, with paparazzi stalking them whenever they are in public. Yamato’s six month training voyage/envoy mission is seen by most as a publicity stunt to help quell the fears of the small population of earth, who are disquieted by the loss of military power and the prospect that the Earth will once again be drawn into an intergalactic conflict.

2205 does a good job of adding depth and character to the original stories, even while it’s remixing the details and adding greater depth. In particular, the number of female characters who get screen time is a definite plus. The one character I find myself feeling a little bit sorry for is Kitano, who had been central to the original NEW VOYAGE. While he’s still in 2205, most of his best material is given over to Domon–which makes a lot of narrative sense, but does sort of make Kitano an actor without a role. Anyway, it turns out that the Yamato’s security division is more on the ball than Domon expected–they have him pegged as an impostor right from the start. But Kodai can’t get out from under his own sense of guilty, and so rather than immediately booting him off the ship, the new Captain orders Domon to pilot the ship through its launch. Where in the original film, Kitano almost ran the Yamato aground because he was so nervous and stressed, here, Domon does it because he really isn’t quite certain whether he wants revenge on Kodai and the ship or not. Once Yamato and her escorts are on their way, though, Domon is taken into custody. The brass want to kick him off of the ship, but once again Kodai intervenes, and Domon ends up working in the Life Services area as kitchen help, as he once did in YAMATO III.

Domon is literally the black sheep of the ship, and the only friend he can make is Yabu, who is back from the Garmillas Empire. The one-time Yamato mutineer is back on board because his experiences living among the Garmillas may prove to be useful, and he’s got a military prototype that he’s trying to test and perfect. His Garmillas wife and children are all back home on Garmillas, though, so he’s also got nobody in his corner. The memories of the Yamato crewmen are long when it comes to mutiny, and so it is that Domon and Yabu find each other as they are otherwise bereft of friendship aboard the ship at this stressful time. This is a really good redemption arc for Yabu, who had been something of a throwaway character in the original series, but here displays much greater nuance thanks to the choices he made and the fact that his story didn’t end at the conclusion of 2199, but carried on.

Things are not happy back on Garmillas. A great relocation is under way, as huge arcs ferry the entirety of the Garmillas population off of their doomed homeworld and towards the waiting planet of Galman. Not everybody wants to go, however, and especially the junior grade citizens, such as Yabu’s family, stressfully await their chance to board an ark. But the evacuation is thrown into chaos when a new menace strikes from the stars. A series of tripod-style probes smash into the crust of Garmillas and begin drilling downward into its unstable volcanic core. The remaining Garmillas fleet does its best to combat these invaders, but they are plated with armor that resists the strongest energy-based attacks. Deslar, commanding from the fliptop carrier that has become his flagship, arrives in time to join the struggle, but despite the appearance of his fleet, the attackers cannot be stopped. As Garmillas begins to break up, a repentant Deslar is driven to risk his life and that of his crewmen in order to save as many Garmillas lives as is possible. In the end, however, Garmillas is utterly annihilated, exploding into a million fragments.

The news that Garmillas has been destroyed ripples through the cast, impacting on everybody–in particular Yabu, who doesn’t know if his family is alive or dead. A number of refugee ships have taken refuge upon Iscandar, but there is conflict between Starsha, her sister Yurisha and Garmillas envoy Melda Dietz as to what is to be done about them. Additionally, Iscandar itself is in motion. At first, this seems to be a disruption of the planet’s origin now that its twin has exploded, but we eventually learn that it is being deliberately relocated by the enemy that destroyed Garmillas. This enemy identifies itself only as Dezarium, but they care pretty clearly a version of the Dark Nebula Empire from NEW VOYAGE and BE FOREVER YAMATO. For their own purposes, they want Iscandar, and they have no use for any Garmillas refugees that might be hanging around (who they liken to “unwanted noise”) And so their forces attack the Garmillas ships arrayed upon and around Iscandar. Deslar is happy enough to have someone to vent his displeasure upon. But before the battle can be completely closed, Iscandar warps away, making a Gestam Jump through space that brings it closer to Earth.

This presents a big problem for the Earth Defense Command, as they really do not want to drag Earth into the middle of whatever conflict is going on. So while Yamato’s fleet is approaching the Jump Gate that will convey it to Iscandar, the top Brass is resolute that no Earth vessel can get involved. After preventing Yabu from attempting to steal a shuttle and fly on his own through the gate in a vain attempt to locate his family, Domon is able to inspire the younger crew members of his graduating class to come together and take action. Where the older generation is ethically compromised, they will force action. They fake a fire in the engine room that will both given them a pretext for getting Captain Yamanami, Lieutenant General Kotetsu Serizawa and Garmillas Ambassador Loren Varel to evacuate to one of the escort ships while also giving them access to Yamato’s thrusters, which they use to plan to force the ship through the Jump Gate, figuring that once it’s on the other side, the crew will have no other choice but to take action.

However, once again, Domon has underestimated Yamato’s internal security in the person of Toru Hoshina, who is on to the plot almost from the jump. The plot foiled, the instigators are brought to the bridge to explain themselves to Captain Kodai. In one of the best moments in any of this new wave of Yamato projects, Kodai tells Domon, “Why didn’t you come talk to me? I’ve done this before!” and proceeds to follow through on the young crewmembers’ desire to go to the aid of Garmillas and Iscandar.

Which is some good news for the beleaguered Deslar, who is holding his ground valiantly but is clearly no match for the military forces that are being arrayed against him the Garmillas refugees, and Iscandar. You would think that Iscandar would have some sort of self-defense system in place–would almost have to have one given the state of the Yamato universe–but if they do, nobody turns it on here. Instead, the episode and thus the film climaxes with Yamato and her two escort vessels screaming through the atmosphere of Iscandar to join in the battle. And that’s where things leave off until this months’ recently released follow-up film, STARSHA.

I have to say, whereas 2202 got lost along the way and fell completely apart, so far 2205 is a canny improvement over the source material. Some of that comes down to having more room to explore the characters and situations–the original NEW VOYAGE was only 90 minutes in length, a run time that just this chapter of 2205 exceeds. The new characters are often sketched quickly, but they are sketches well, and they represent a strong addition to the cast. The world-building here continues to be strong as well, as the team behind the new production gives greater thought to the socio-political background of each of the main powers involved, and nobody is simply painted as being just white hats or black hats. And given the previewed title of the next new Yamato project on the horizon (BE FOREVER YAMATO: REBEL 3199) and a few cryptic bits of dialogue among the Dezarium, I think I have a sense as to where things are going next, and it’s all very exciting.

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