Review for Star Blazers Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Part One
When I watched Star Blazers – Space Battleship Yamato 2199 a few weeks ago, it came as quite the surprise. Coming off the back of Heroic Age, I wasn’t expecting much from another space opera in such short order, especially one that was a remake of a 1974 TV series. But in the end, the Star Blazers remake blew me away, a show which was to its original series what nuBSG was to the original Battlestar Galactica; a brilliantly effective and up to date reimagining. A show like that is bound to be a success, and as we know, successful anime beget sequels, usually rushed sequels made to cash in on the success of the originals. But this time it isn’t quite rushed, Star Blazers was made in 2012, and the sequel, which Manga now bring us wasn’t made until 2017. What’s more, it isn’t a hastily cobbled together cash in; it’s actually a remake itself, of the original 1979 sequel to the first Star Blazers. If the producers can do just as effective a job in updating the story, Star Blazers – Space Battleship Yamato 2202 should be very interesting indeed. At the very least, it won’t be Galactica ’80!
Three years previously, the Space Battleship Yamato was launched from a ruined Earth, as a last ditch attempt to save the planet from the evil Gamilans, who were intent on destroying humanity. It meant journeying across the stars to another galaxy to the world of Iscandar, in the hope of getting the technology to restore the Earth, and in the process, the crew of the Yamato discovered the truth about the Gamilans as well. To complete their mission, they made use of the prohibited Wave Motion weaponry, and as one of his last acts in command, Captain Okita promised that the weapon would never be used again.
Now, the joint Earth Gamilan Alliance faces a new, darker threat, the Gatlanteans. Earth has a brand new fleet, and breaking the promise, they turn the Wave Motion weaponry against the Gatlantis fleet. That was a mistake, as now Emperor of Gatlantis Zworder has turned his full attention to Earth.
The first thirteen episodes of Space Battleship Yamato 2202 are presented in Part 1 across two Blu-rays by Manga Entertainment.
1. AD2202 – Revive, Space Battleship Yamato
2. Tension – Reach the Embassy on the Moon
3. Shock – Legacy of the Cosmo Reverse
4. Departure to the Unknown!
5. Clash! Yamato vs. Andromeda
6. Battle to the Death – The 11th Planet Rescue Mission
7. The Beam of Light Flashes! Radiance of the Wave Motion Gun
8. The Trap at Planet Stravaze!
9. Zworder, the Devil’s Alternative
10. Bewitching – The Space Fireflies Beckon a Crisis
11. Desler’s Challenge!
12. The Shocking White Comet Empire – The Yamato Rams Through!
13. The Terezart Landing Operation – Crush the Enemy Missile Fleet!
Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2202 gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, and it’s up to Funimation’s usual standards. The image is clear and sharp, colour fidelity is excellent, detail levels are impressive, and the animation is smooth with no signs of compression or aliasing. However, digital banding is apparent in certain scenes, but given the space opera genre, and the plethora of dark scenes with bright light sources, the banding could have been a lot more prevalent than it is. Star Blazers is a fantastic anime. You get the impression from the character and ship designs that this is very much the seventies original, updated for the modern age with cutting edge effects, and dynamic direction, and with the vision of space adequately reflecting 40 years of advances in astronomy. Speaking of which, five years separated 2199 and its sequel, and one thing I did notice was more of a CG pristine sheen to the character designs, which on a couple of occasions looked excessively digital rather than organic.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English, and 2.0 Stereo Japanese with subtitles and signs locked during playback. It’s a quality production, with the requisite investment in sci-fi effects, bangs and whistles. The music too really suits the space opera genre, while the show gets a host of splendid theme songs (once again, no song lyric subtitles). I went with, and was very happy with the Japanese version of the show.
The discs boot to animated menus.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Funimation NOW.
There is a commentary on episode 2 with Christopher Wehkamp (Kodai), Damon Mills (Klaus Keyman), Mallorie Rodak (Yukimori), and Phil Parsons (Sanada).
I’m usually quick to dispense with the Funimation extras, but I certainly enjoyed watching the featurette on disc 2. The Interview with Ken Meseroll and Christopher Wehkamp bring together the English dub voice actors for Susumu Kodai in both the current version, and the original one from the seventies (where the character was called Derek Wildstar). It’s a nice bit of nostalgia, and a compare and contrast, and the only thing missing were some clips from that original version. This lasts 16:26.
The Special Theatrical Trailer lasts 1:02.
Finally there are three textless openings and four textless closings.
Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2202 takes the greatest hits of 2199, but then turns the volume up so high that it distorts. This really is a ‘more of the same’ series, a show that puts its characters and the audience through it all again. If you loved the first series, then you should love this, it only makes sense. There’s an overwhelming alien threat, and a call offering hope from distant space, and the crew of the Yamato are all that there is to respond to that call, although they’ll have to fight through unspeakable odds to succeed. It’s a traditional sequel in that regard, which once again fails to ask why you wouldn’t just put the first series back in the player rather than watch a second one, if they are both so similar. Regardless of its comparative defects, Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2202 is at least watchable and entertaining.
As this show begins, three years have passed, and Earth has recovered with amazing speed, and has put together a space fleet armed with the Wave Motion weaponry, breaking the promise that Captain Okita made to Starsha of Iscander at the end of the first series. They are strong enough to have formed an alliance with their former foes of Gamilas and are working together on reconstruction. It’s a joint fleet that is decimated by the Gatlantis fleet when it attacks. At the same time, the former crew of the Yamato receive a telepathic call from an enigmatic figure named Teresa, summoning them to the planet Terezart, asking for help against the Gatlanteans who have besieged the planet.
At this point, Susumu Kodai is ambivalent about Earth’s path forward, certainly doesn’t agree with the idea of using Wave Motion weaponry, and has regrets about ever using it himself. But when the call comes in, he’s the only candidate to serve as acting Captain of the Yamato on the mission to Terezart, even though it means gathering the old crew in secret and stealing the ship, when the Earth command refuses them permission to fly. So far so Star Trek III, but once the gravity of the situation becomes apparent, they get a retroactive order to proceed.
The Gatlanteans are worse than the Gamilans, more numerous, stronger, more advanced, and they are genetically engineered as soldiers to begin with. If they’re captured, they suicide by becoming living bombs, and they can also use the enemy dead, revenants to fight. They can only reproduce through cloning, and if the Emperor, Zworder has an issue with one of his subjects, he just kills them and orders a new clone. If the Gamilans were unfathomable, and impossible to deal with in the first series, the Gatlanteans are at a whole other level of inscrutability.
The show unfolds in much the same way, with the crew of the Yamato facing various challenges on their way to Terezart, with several encounters with the Gatlanteans, and Kodai’s self-confidence is constantly tested. There’s a bit of soap opera as well, with Kodai and Yuki having issues despite being in a happily ever after place at the end of the first season, while the ship gets a regular Gamilan crewmember in Keyman, although he has an agenda as well.
As it’s in an episode title, it’s not much of a spoiler to mention that that the show does rely on a few classics, with the return of Desler a key moment, with his thirst for vengeance unabated, even if he’s now working for the Gatlanteans. But what really makes it harder to appreciate this sequel series is the way it turns everything up to eleven. It follows George Lucas’ mantra of faster and more intense, and it has its Rise of Skywalker moment as well. In one episode the Gatlantean fleet invades the solar system, and it does so in a fleet of over 2 million ships. 2 Million Ships! Against that, not only the Yamato, but the whole fleet is powerless. All they had to do was to attack the Earth from all directions and it was all over. But instead, they line up at the edge of the solar system forming up into some sort of Supernova cannon, aimed at the Earth, which they could then destroy in one shot. And as they are all so conveniently lined up, the Yamato can use its Wave Motion Cannon and take them all out in one shot.
It’s moments like this that really strain the show’s credibility, and this isn’t an isolated incident in this series. It’s a story that relies a little too much on cuteness and serendipity for it to work, and as a result, despite the crazier odds, the show lacks the sense of drama that 2199 delivered so well.
Having said that, Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2202 is at least entertaining. It may coast on a lot of the goodwill established by the first series, but you can still remain invested in the characters and stay hooked on their adventures. It might not have the ‘one episode more’ compulsion that 2199 did, but at no point did I feel like dropping the series. It is good, space opera fun, although more Buck Rogers than Battlestar at this point. Even if Part 2 can’t improve on this first part, it’s still a worthwhile revisit to this story universe and an enjoyable watch.