Space Battleship Yamato 2199 – Episode 2

6 months ago 81

Hello all, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’ll be continuing a show I last watched four friggin’ years ago, as we explore the second episode of Space Battleship Yamato 2199. My initial essay on the first episode offers a pretty instructive look at where my head’s at as we enter the second. While Yamato’s reverence for war machines doesn’t really move me, its status as a cross-generational tale of Japanese identity is fascinating, and in any case it’s such a confident, well-executed production that it succeeds purely as an adventure narrative. And with the first episode concluding on our hero literally discovering the Yamato itself as a half-buried relic of the past, I imagine the show is perfectly aware of its own thematic baggage. Let’s see what we find in episode two!

Episode 2

And we’re where we left off, with our protagonist having just discovered the beached Yamato in a great desert. This show’s background design is excellent

Apparently the Gamilas are seeking the ship – perhaps because this is actually more sequel than remake? If this show is actually a stealth sequel to the original, I apologize in advance for any direct references flying right over my head

The Gamilas’ ships look a lot like American stealth bombers, just painted over in alien-tone greens

Meanwhile, their “carrier” evokes a more classic alien design, reminiscent of the archetypal flying saucer

I always love the effect of these laser strikes that sweep over the terrain, then hold for a beat before erupting in explosions. It feels more impactful that way, creating a moment of suspense within a simple attack

Seemingly without command, the Yamato fires back, destroying the carrier. It looks like some kind of wounded but still-deadly beast, incapacitated but ferocious

“It’s alive. This rusted old ship…” The Yamato is a symbol of Japan itself, or perhaps the idea of Japanese self-determination more specifically. Rusted but still able to fight, it feels like a natural rallying point for the post-war generation, a fragment of the once-invincible Japan keeping the spark of martial pride alive. Anime (well, good anime, at least) frequently explores the many ways WWII and the occupation impacted the Japanese psyche, with works like Patlabor contrasting multiple generations of citizens, and Katsuhiro Otomo’s work repeatedly foretelling the horror of a remilitarized Japan. Right now, the Yamato itself seems to represent the immediate “let’s return to our glory days” longing of the early post-war generation; I expect that’s an intentional effect, and assume the show will complicate that perspective as it continues

Meanwhile, on Pluto, we learn the Gamilan military is less unified than we might think. In the wake of the carrier’s failure to destroy Yamato, they decide to use long-range planetary bombs

Oh my god, this cat’s absurd face. I get a kick out of how the doctor and cat are drawn in far more stylized, Matsumoto-reminiscent styles, compared to the default bishonen protagonist. Modern anime designs are frequently pretty damn boring – though to be fair, Matsumoto’s own bishonen protagonists were often his least interesting designs

“To make matters worse, famine, riots, and poisonous spores from those strange plants are destroying the planet.” Always knew we’d go down to poisonous spores

There’s a sharp contrast between the captain’s old-fashioned sailor look and the modern suits of this conference. He’s as much of a relic as the Yamato, and I imagine the first episode was likely the last hurrah of his era

Also interesting how he denies any casualties during the bombing. He must feign invincibility, even when the evidence clearly contradicts him – another way in which he evokes the ethos of pre-war Japan

“The entire world’s hopes rest with the Yamato Plan”

Gamilan architecture is all smooth edges and quite beautiful, though just as phallic as the human architecture

Even those selected for this mission thought they were contributing to the “Izumo” escape plan

Yesterday, they received a message from “Starsha,” of the planet Iscandar. She sent her sister Yurisha to Earth, and later her other sister Sasha, with plans for an engine to get humanity to Iscandar, where they can receive a system to fix the earth’s pollution. Quite a scheme

You can really feel the Matsumoto fantasy grandeur in this epic quest, as they’re petitioned by a beautiful space lady to cross hundreds of thousands of light years

Our young leads, Kodai Susumu and Shima Daisuke, are handling tactics and navigation

The captain’s apparently in bad physical shape, and a friend urges him to reconsider, but he’s determined to lead this voyage

The white-haired girl’s brother died, so she’s giving herself a character development haircut

I’m generally a fan of these tearful goodbye sequences before big journeys. Showing what these crewmates are giving up is an effective way to quickly humanize them

I also really like how this war is already much more costly than most “anime wars.” Everyone here has missing family members, and everyone understands what it means to be going on this journey

Apparently there’s been rioting in response to the Yamato Plan’s unveiling, which, I mean, if my government announced “our global apocalypse will be fixed when we send a battleship a million jillion miles through space to get an air purifier from a space lady,” I’d probably be rioting too

Once again, the background art for their subterranean city is quite striking. I appreciate how frequently these ships are hand-drawn when they’re not actively in motion; their CG designs integrate far more naturally into space scenes, when they’re not being contrasted against lots of hand-drawn background details

The captain essentially gets his own style of shading – these full black shadows concealing his eyes are so distinctive

The engine’s “Wave Motion Core” looks very reminiscent of Giant Robo’s Shizuma Drive. Apparently it’s a classic anime MacGuffin look

Susumu meets with the head of the fighter squadron, who’s understandably suspicious of his authority after the death of his friend. Presumably the sister’s going to sneak into the squadron somehow, and prove herself before she gets revealed

And now we at last get the introduction of the blond woman: Yuki Mori, Operations Officer

Susumu doesn’t feel qualified for his position, which makes sense – apparently, all of the actual candidates for section leaders were killed during the previous day’s bombings. I was definitely wondering why these young, seemingly untested officers were being handed such crucial positions, and that’s a fine explanation for it

“The one who was to sit in your seat was another man that I killed.” The captain consistently emphasizes his own culpability in the deaths of those in his service. In spite of seemingly being a relic of pre-war Japan, his boasts of invincibility are only aimed at doubting outsiders (like when he said no men died in the bombing) – to his own subordinates, it’s “I killed them”

And at last, the bridge crew fully assemble

Aw, and they’re ultimately saved by a collective energy-sending effort by all of humanity. A nice flourish that emphasizes the multinational nature of this mission, emphatically dismissing the idea that this is a specifically Japanese triumph. Kinda reminds me of what Symphogear’s been doing lately

The Yamato’s launch sequence gives me that mild sort of amusement I often get from giant robot shows, when I know some sequence is supposed to be dazzling the audience because the music is going crazy, but I can’t personally connect to it at all. I just don’t find big machines inherently exciting! I like stories and people and ideas, I don’t care much about big machines. If your episode climax is going to be “look at this big machine,” then you have to accept that you are to some degree not a show for me

This is likely why my favorite space anime are things like Crest of the Stars, which is closer to Spice and Wolf in Space than it is to giant robot drama

And Done

That was a polished and confident followup! Yamato is moving along at a solid pace, and the art design remains sturdy throughout, if not particularly beautiful. In terms of storytelling, we’re treading in pretty classic space opera territory here, which isn’t surprising – Yamato was a foundational text that inspired works ranging from Gundam to Macross to Evangelion, so I’m sure we’ve got more iconic space drama ahead of us. The only real point of discord for me was that finale sequence, as it seemed to rely on an appreciation for military hardware that I quite simply don’t possess. Still, the show is certainly competently produced, and there’s plenty of time for more me-relevant drama to develop. I’m happy to be back onboard the Yamato, and eager to learn how it inspired a generation of animators!

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