Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2202 Part One (Eps 1-13) (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 326 minutes approx.
Release Date: July 13th
As the title helpfully explains, this second series of the rebooted adaptation of the classic space opera Space Battleship Yamato is set three years after the first adventure. In that time a lot has happened – humans and Garmilians have made peace and are now allies, and the earth is the process of being rebuilt as an inhabitable planet.
Meanwhile, the crew of the infamous battleship Yamato have all gone their own ways following the previous mission, with the craft itself in dock and out of commission. With the Earth Federation now militarised, the Yamato has been replaced by more powerful and advanced Andromeda battleships, though they pale to might of the forbidden Wave Motion technology still on board the Yamato.
Susumu Kodai and Yuki Mori, are now engaged and based on Earth, where they reunite with their old crewmates to mark the anniversary of the passing of Captain Juzo Okita. Prior to this, when they were all on their separate missions, everyone experienced the same thing – a vision of a loved one telling them to return to the Yamato and save them – except Yuki.
This message was sent by Teresa a telepathic being from the planet Terezart, which is under attack from the Gatlantis Empire, a malevolent race with a vastly distorted idea of what love is. When the Earth Defence refuse to accept the request, Kodai and the others break the Yamato free from dock and take on the mission themselves, defying orders from above and forced to fight their way out to travel to Terezart.
Like its predecessor, Space Battleship Yamato 2202 was released theatrically in Japan as a weekly 26-part series, and simultaneously via streaming services, which sounds costly but the production values are spectacular. As if we needed reminding of this the opening is essentially a 20-minute battle sequence to demonstrate the power of the Andromeda, very much starting as it means to go on, whilst reintroduce some of the returning cast and establishing their new roles.
Based on the 1978 movie Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato: Warriors of Love which was expanded upon for a TV sequel Space Battleship Yamato II in the same year, this release is split into two instalments instead of one like before, and with a convoluted plot to follow, there will be a lot for viewers to remember for when part two arrives. Ending at the point it does, it leaves quite an itch for the rest of the story to come.
However, after the adrenaline rush of the opener it does become apparent rather quickly that the 26-episode count is not going to be wasted, evident by the fact it is not until we reach chapter four that the crew of the Yamato steal back their beloved battleship. So, whilst the first episode kicks off with a bang, expect the pace and excitement level to undulate as the human (and non-human) drama is played out, of which there is plenty.
In giving the threat of the Gatlantians some scope, the Yamato encounters them early into their journey before they reach Terezart, when they find a planet named Brumis under attack. An audacious rescue missions of a group of surviving civilians offers some thrills as well as the addition to the already heaving crew of a couple of skilled soldiers to provide added muscle for the ground attacks.
On the other side, the Gatlantis Emperor Zwordar sends a spy to the Yamato who, in a frustratingly weak piece of writing somehow escapes being found out despite committing a heinous act that leaves Kodai in danger. They are found out eventually and admittedly, their backstory is fascinating, but the lack of logic in how they remained undiscovered for so long will have viewers shouting at their TVs I’m sure.
Another example of the writing not being as smart as it thinks it is involves an ultimatum Kodai receives from Zwordar where he has to choose between saving the life of one person aboard the Yamato, or hundreds of civilians being taken back to earth. I won’t spoil the outcome but this isn’t thought out very well, concluding in a deus ex machina fashion which again undermines the drama it is supposed to engender.
You will need to suspend your disbelief quite a lot regarding what happens here but that is a prerequisite for any sci-fi story; then again, if we’ve learned anything from anime the Japanese have a habit of abusing this privilege. For instance, the Gatlantians have so far shown themselves to be a merciless, barbaric race with an unconvincing motive for their actions yet have a fertile backstory which needs further exploration to make them more compelling as villains.
Lack of logic and overly complex writing would be enough to mark any series down, and with expectations almost guaranteed to be high from following a well-received series like Space Battleship Yamato 2199, the onus is surely not to make such a mistake. But, in its defence, the negatives so far are outweighed by the positives, and when it gets things right, there are many great moments engrossing enough to make us forgive the flaws.
The other trump card at play is the visuals, which maintain the same high standards as the first series, and dare I say, with some slight improvements. As before, this is a true spectacle of sci-fi bombast in the dynamic battle sequences bolstered by CG replication of cinematic camera techniques, and eye pleasing artwork of detailed beauty and awe-inspiring splendour best seen in HD.
Since we are only halfway through Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2202 with this volume, it is unfair to make direct comparisons to its predecessor, which also had a bit of a rocky start, suggesting the second half will be its saving grace. So far, despite some head scratching decisions in the scripting department, this sequel is holding its end up very well in continuing the legacy of the seminal Yamato franchise.
Japanese Language Dolby TrueHD 2.0
English Language Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Episode 02 Commentary
Interviews with Ken Meseroll & Christopher Wehkamp
Special Theatrical Trailer
Textless Opening Songs – “Uchu Senkan Yamato 2202” Vers. 1-3
Textless Closing Songs:
“Yamato yori ai o komete”
“Tsuki no Kagami”
Rating – ****
Man In Black