Space Battleship Yamato 2199 – Episode 3

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’ll be rejoining the crew of the Yamato, as they fly off in search of humanity’s last hope. Last episode established both our crew and our mission: to voyage to distant Iskandar, where they will receive technology that can save the polluted earth. At the same time, the Yamato must evade the grasp of the Gamilans, an alien race at war with humanity at large. It’s an ambitious plan, a task that feels more derivative of a high fantasy quest than a scifi mission, complete with a beautiful princess who bears forbidden knowledge. That fantastical tone makes for a fairly stark contrast with the show’s nostalgic love of mid-century military hardware, which in turn makes me wonder if the show is intentionally stoking that contrast, and where it might be going with all this. But either way, it’s still succeeding purely as a polished fantasy adventure, so I’m sure I’ll have a lovely time. Let’s dive into episode three!

Episode 3

The sequence of the Yamato rising out of the ground is elevated through some solid debris animation. This show is integrating its CG elements fairly naturally – and now that the ship is in space, it’ll be even easier to create a cohesive visual look

And at last, we get the show’s actual OP. I assume this song and these shots are a callback to the original Space Battleship Yamato. They certainly feel unabashedly “retro” – the song is a stirring martial anthem with big band accompaniment, while the visuals are a series of simple pans across the CG ship. It’s an OP reminiscent of the ‘70s or early ‘80s, with only the art design updated to modern standards

As expected, the Yamato looks great contrasted against the black void and celestial bodies of space. The clean curves of CG models work much better in an environment that doesn’t contrast them against uneven, organic objects

Evocative lighting and good use of soft focus, too. This sequence feels like an appropriate combination of foreboding and epic

“Ship off our starboard bow. It’s a friendly.” The way this show gleefully leans into space as simply a recreation of a traditional ocean also adds to its fantasy appeal. War in space generally doesn’t seem “dignified” in the way more traditional forms of combat tend to be framed; by acting as if space is a two dimensional membrane they’re sailing on, Yamato attempts to recall some of the alleged grandeur of premodern combat

“What does an inferior race, who cannot even leave their own solar system, plan to do with a single ship?” That phrasing strikes me as particularly charged in the context of Yamato; the tiny, provincial empire of our solar system seems like an easy metaphor for the tiny, provincial empire of Japan. Once again, I’m left to wonder how Yamato will complicate these traditionally nationalist signifiers

As I’ve been getting more into anime history, it’s been fascinating to get a broader picture of the art form as a political vehicle across generations. Many of anime’s early champions were staunch leftists, critiquing militarism and leading strikes for worker rights, which influenced many of the formative anime of the ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s a little dispiriting to think that in the modern era, the politics of popular anime have gotten both more selfish and more regressive, culminating in stuff like the reactionary light novel boom. I can’t imagine the author of Mushoku Tensei conceiving of a class consciousness that extends further than his own boner

Having their meeting room floor act as a projection screen is a neat way to keep the cast in screen while ensuring we see what they see

Humanity’s clever engineers immediately turn their new super-engine into a gun. That’s humanity for you

“The micro black holes created by super gravity creating Hawking radiation.” Ah, so that’s how it works

“Sasha is asleep on Mars, isn’t she? All alone.” Matsumoto stuff really does find a gorgeous, melancholy romance in space. It’s no surprise he inspired so many of anime’s greatest creators

“Chief, can we really bend space-time itself?” “No idea! Sometimes you just gotta try.” Very encouraging

The crew gears up for the engine test, which will presumably get the Gamilans’ attention real quick. A nice montage of the various crew gearing up for the test – like with their goodbyes, a moment like this helps us see them at their most vulnerable, thus humanizing the crew as a whole

Oh man, the execution of their movement through hyperspace is fantastic. I love the use of this dart suspended in the air, and how the “flames” around their ship give the sensation that they’re essentially in freefall. Just a marvelous execution of this core fantasy concept, one that’s frequently overlooked as not inherently exciting. With good execution, even the fundamentals of fantasy can be awe-inspiring

“Yamato’s caught in Jupiter’s gravity field!” Like all great space dramas, Yamato understands that space is an impossibly unfriendly place, and that we can only survive within it through the most precise fusion of technological protection – and frequently, even that is not enough

There’s a floating continent hidden within the storms of Jupiter! Yeah, this is some delightfully epic fantasy storytelling here, using just enough scifi grit to ground its fantastical concepts

The Yamato essentially runs aground on this continent’s “shoreline,” and even fires an anchor to secure itself. More neat ways to lean into the ocean-like nature of space in this world

We get a brief but valuable moment of humanity for the Gamilan commander, as he watches a message from his daughter

Yep, the jump got the Gamilans’ attention. The local commander Laleta has been ordered to destroy the Yamato

I love the look of Laleta’s base, and of all this strange local foliage. Starting to wonder if One Piece was also in part inspired by Matsumoto’s classic works of “island adventures in space,” like this and Galaxy Express 999. As long as your imagination can keep populating them with new ideas, hopping between strange islands can propel a narrative for a very long time

Apparently the entire continent was brought here by the Gamilans – the same invasive plants that are polluting earth are present here, creating an ideal Gamilan environment

Ooh, I love the back and forth across the bridge as the enemies approach. There’s an energetic sense of progression to them debating what forms of weaponry they can safely use, which not only creates a sense of dramatic tension, but also helps build up the bridge crew as a variably talented unit. Ensemble storytelling is a tough trick that requires constant management of a lot of sub-narratives, and Yamato is doing a very fine job of it

Three enemy ships down, and a fourth in retreat. Yamato Strong

This floating continent also gives me some Laputa vibes. I’m guessing watching this series is really gonna help me connect some dots in terms of early anime inspiration

The buildup to the Wave Motion Gun’s firing is appropriately momentous. The crew first argue about the very idea of firing this new weapon, before we get an extended sequence of the ship shutting down in order to prep for the energy transfer. I’m not a big “mechanical movements are their own reward” kind of person, but I can still appreciate the inherent drama of this procession

I like how Kaido’s aiming device is essentially a gun itself. Ship warfare can naturally depersonalize violence, but this object makes the violent intent of their actions clear

Oh my god, they blew up the whole fucking continent. Firing exercise successful, I would say

“Our objective isn’t to exterminate the enemy. The Yamato’s weaponry exists solely for self-defense.” Ultimately, this weapon is terrifying even to the captain. We must always be conscious of our own terrible strength

“If this is a trial, we need only show the correct path through our actions.” That’s a heavy burden, captain

And Done

Alright, I’m sold now. I wasn’t sure after the second episode, but this episode’s mixture of wondrously creative fantasy and somber reflections on martial power totally had my number. I was delighted by the Yamato’s journey to Jupiter’s Hidden Continent, and hope we have many equally inventive vignettes awaiting us. I was also consistently impressed by how well this episode conveyed the majesty and terror of the Yamato’s signature power – both its hyperspace jump and cannon firing were gripping sequences, really hammering in the significance of this new power. All that, plus some clear aesthetic precursors to future anime classics, and even a dash of contemplation on the terror of war. This was a very generous episode!

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