The schemes of Commander Schultz have borne wicked fruit, sending the Yamato careening into the seas of Pluto. Humanity’s last hope now rests beneath a frozen tundra, while elsewhere, the fighter squadron surges forth on a mission now doomed to failure. Will this be the end of the Yamato’s grand voyage, and will the earth be resigned to its awful fate? Is this our punishment for choosing vengeance over salvation!?
That would certainly make for an unexpected conclusion, but for now, I have my doubts about the Yamato’s alleged destruction. Playing dead under Pluto’s surface should provide a perfect opportunity for repairs and new strategies, while the fighter squadron is presumably far too nimble for Schultz’s mirror tricks to work. However the battle develops, I expect Yamato to maintain its confidence of execution and mythic tone as we spar with Gamila’s advanced guard. Let’s return to the (currently submerged) deck of the Yamato!
The further I get into this show, the more appropriate this opening song feels. This truly feels like a mid-century epic film, something like The Searchers or Lawrence of Arabia, complete with the sense of scale, grandeur, and self-seriousness that implies. Yamato 2199 is an unabashedly retro narrative experience, and what better way to get into the headspace for a story like that than this bombastic, old-fashioned song?
The capsizing is just as dramatic the second time. Love this wide angle shot that finishes the sequence, with the sinking Yamato like a lone tombstone, highlighted against the icy terrain and endless stars above
Schulz immediately tempers his subordinates’ expectations, noting that their superior will report this victory as if it was his own. The Gamilans have so far not offered much reason to inspire loyalty in their colony states
At last, we get to see the Gamilan home planet! Its look is precisely what all their Gamilaforming would imply: a sickly green-yellow, brimming with oversized exotic plants and those phallic monuments they so love. This show hasn’t so far dove any deeper into the feminine/masculine dichotomy presented by its general imagery, but I’ll be interested in seeing if that thread goes anywhere. It’s certainly a motif that resonates with this property’s general mid-century scifi aesthetic, typified by films like Barbarella
To the Gamilans, earth exists within “the Galactic hinterlands’ Zol system.” Invading our planet is an afterthought within their larger agenda. I like that! It naturally pushes back against our earth-centric assumptions; we consider the Gamilans our nemeses, but to them, we’re barely a blip on the radar
I also like the mixture of natural growth and runic symbology in the Gamilans’ architecture. Their aesthetic motifs seem to mirror and grow out of the spirals of their local vegetation
Schultz takes the bold step of circumventing his commanding officer, and reporting to Dessler directly. It might get him killed, but not doing this would just resign him to a permanent backwater dwarf planet
“Foolish Terons. Had they simply surrendered, they could live on, like we do.” So that explains a bit of Schultz’s position. And apparently humans collectively chose death over servitude
Yamamoto is just happily humming to herself as they fly to battle. It’s adorable, and also a welcome splash of incidental personality. So much of this show is directly narrative-driven that there isn’t much time for establishing character texture; sequences like this are important for making sure the cast feel like quirky, distinct individuals, rather than just cogs that serve various narrative functions
The Yamato has taken some heavy hits; the hangar bay seems flooded, and they’d had to seal several areas. This sequence makes me appreciate the dramatic usefulness of the Yamato’s fundamental size; the ship can “take a beating” in a way we can parse as meaningful without coming anywhere close to being defeated entirely
One of the engine crew articulates a thought that must be on everyone’s mind: “if the Yamato can be taken down even before we leave the solar system, how could we ever hope to reach Iskandar?”
Meanwhile, the ever-reliable Sanada has figured out the satellite relay trick. You can always count on Sanada
The fighters’ journey to their target is a fascinating fusion of old and new. The pilots all have their own little pre-fight rituals, like personal mantras or tension-dispelling banter, but their voice-activated consoles all parse these rituals as unreadable commands
More great backgrounds as the Gamilan defenders take off. These low-angle wide shots effectively emphasize the scale of this battle, capturing the vast desolation of Pluto
And as always, conveying the fundamentally awesome nature of space travel is a high priority. Before the fight, Yamamoto turns to see light shimmering in the sky over this foreign planet – something most shows wouldn’t consider worthy of notice, but which Yamato understands as an essential reflection of space’s fundamental allure
Kodai and Yamamoto break through some kind of energy shield, emerging above the Gamilan base
Gorgeous explosion animation here, with a real sense of volume to the way the clouds slowly expand and change color. It’s a grounded approach to effects animation that effectively integrates with this show’s sturdy, unexaggerated designs and animation
And a couple beautiful pans as their concealment system disintegrates, like a soap bubble slowly burning away
Schultz is understandably displeased to see the Yamato resurface
“Our report was merely a bit early… nothing more.” I actually kinda feel for the guy. He’s utterly trapped within his own situation, and when he makes one bold action to hopefully escape this assignment, it ends his career. Now he’s lost all the measured confidence from before, and is embracing the same desperate optimism as his subordinates
Some really nice shots on the bridge as they prepare for the next reflected cannon shot. The shadows across Niimi’s face make for an appropriately dramatic announcement, and I like how the following cut holds low to the ground, keeping us tightly within the bridge crews’ own perspective, and also creating a sense of discord with all the foreground objects between her and Sanada
There’s a real art to moving a camera across a bridge in order to convey the drama of a ship under attack. Not enough movement and it doesn’t feel like there’s really a conflict, too much and the artifice of the camera’s eye becomes obvious, pulling the audience out of the immediate conflict
And the actual takedown of the cannon is excellent as well. A graceful series of cuts across different points of impact, culminating in that slow pan up a billowing storm front of fire
Some more gorgeous explosion animation as the Yamato fully opens fire on the collapsing base. It’d be easy to create a sense of dissonance between these traditionally animated explosions and the CG ships, but the composite here is excellent. As each explosion lands, bright light saturates the composition, and the shot blurs a bit. These effects successfully emulate the sense of impact and heat from the explosions, but also quietly smooth over the distinction between the 2D and 3D elements of the composition. A very smart trick!
And that iconic shot of the Yamato, half obscured in space, half highlighted against the fiery explosion. “Yamato being partially outlined against a glowing celestial body” seems to be this franchise’s signature shot
Schultz’ ship escapes, thanks to his subordinates’ brave sacrifices. Schultz and his men aren’t evil people; they’re proud and dedicated soldiers, trapped in a no-win situation
“Retreat is not a word in the Gamilas dictionary.” Desler is not pleased
Our intrepid heroes have done it again! Struck down by the insidious machinations of Commander Schultz, they rose once more to heroically blow the shit out of the Gamilans’ base. As we learned from our trips to the Gamilan homeworld, Earth wasn’t really an active concern for the actual Gamilan nobility – but now that our FTL ship has been discovered, I imagine more seasoned opponents will be approaching soon. Plot movements aside, this was yet another polished and exciting slice of space opera excellence, merging its diverse visual styles with impressive grace, and once more exulting in the fundamental majesty of space flight. With our solar system at last behind them, I’m eager to see what fantastical sights are in store for our heroes next!