Ok, let me guess. You see this post and probably ask yourself, “haven’t I seen this here before?” Yes. Yes, you have. I did an episodic sort of review collab with Derek a few years ago and even had some final thoughts on the last of those episodic reviews here. Still, that doesn’t count as a review, right? Ok, I’m just going to say that it doesn’t because this is my blog and I do what I want. I recently finished a watch along of the show with my dad and I couldn’t help but put some more fleshed out and more thoughts. This is the third time I’ve watched Yamato 2199 now and I’m still amazed by how many new things I’ve been finding. I just really like it, ok? It’s not my favorite space opera anime, but that field of competition is hard as far as I’m concerned. Don’t ask me to make a space opera favorite list. It’s not happening.
Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is a modern update of the original Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers series. In the year 2199, the Earth is functionally doomed. The Gamilians have met the humans inside our solar system and have almost completely wiped out Earth’s fleets. That’s not all though; the Earth has been planet boomed to the point where the surface is wiped out and humanity is sent underground to survive. Of course, that doesn’t solve their problems. The infections from the planet bombs only have a year before they make their way to the core of human society underground and kill everyone. It’s a terrible situation with not a lot of hope left for humanity itself.
Of course, that’s not how the story ends; only how it begins. Iscander has sent one of their own emissaries with a message of hope of how Earth can be cleansed and a wave motion core that will allow humanity to travel faster than light and thus outside of our galaxy. It landed on Mars. The message comes with a catch though. Make the long journey to Iscander in order to acquire the way to clean up Earth and save humanity. This is where the Yamato plan comes from. A battleship from World War 2, the Yamato, is recreated into a space battleship and is sent off into space to hopefully save the Earth in one year. It’s not an easy journey, because the Gamilians are out there and ready to cause them endless amounts of trouble.
When I said Yamato 2199 is an update of the original series, I mean that in a lot of ways. The first one is obviously the larger amount of female characters in the series. The original series had one, Yuki Mori. With all the main, side, and background characters, I couldn’t even tell you how many female characters appear on screen. It makes me so much happy to have so many strong and complex women on screen. The show also answers questions about if the Yamato plan was the only one that the Earth considered before launching it. The answer to that is no and it plays heavily into the story of the series in question. Lastly, some episodes are very modern in how they are produced and constructed. Some very Eva like in nature. Like a rotating door of influence right there.
Amongst the space travel, the long journey, the space battles, epic and older space structures, and the character drama, this is a show that examines war from a wide variety of directions. You have the very Nazi like Gamilians who are the people on top of the war and have a lot of power-hungry people who want to expand their power. The worst Gamilians are on top of everything in their life in terms of race and everything. They use what they call “secondary races” to do their bidding in galaxies where there isn’t enough of them. Like, it wasn’t Gamilians themselves who had an outpost that bombed Earth. It was “a secondary race” which pushes the drama further. Their leader Dessler humbly allows his proteges to do what they want while he pushes his agenda further as he gets more and more insane.
At the same time, that isn’t the only thing going on with the Gamilians. For a lot of them, the Yamato is a beacon of light and hope for another tomorrow. As the Yamato wins more and more larger scale battles, underneath the grim and dirt of the top of Gamilian society are those who seek to over turn Dessler and live in peace with the humans. Or at least live without the threat of being taken to a prison planet. At the same time, there is also bad ass Admirals like Domel who is a brilliant fleet admiral and lives and fight for the glory of the empire of Gamilas. He doesn’t care about the policies happening at home, he just wants a good fight. I am starting with the villains to show you how layered this show is. It’s not a simple good vs bad, defeat evil show. There is so much going on then that.
The crew of the Yamato is just as complex and intricate in the same sort of ways. To humanity, the voyage of the Yamato is the voyage of hope of human survival. To the crew, that issue is far more complex sometimes. On the ship are tons and tons of military officers from all walks of life who have been affected by the war with the Gamilians and other previous space wars. It’s easy to say that each person has lost someone and it effects them, but it’s not like that either. Some still have family to return home, others don’t. Some like Captain Okita and Engineer Tokugawa who have fought in wars for a long and have watched others die. The way they can only survive that debt of human lives is the keep fighting for as long as they can. It’s so touching and sentimental.
There are other ways the war is examined to. Our protagonist Susumu Kodai is the last living Kodai member and carries with him a lot of anger from the war. His best friend is Daisuke Shima who laost his dad in the war but still has family. The two start in a similar place, but slowly drift away from each other in how they deal with this conflict. Kodai eases up about it while Daisuke drifts in his hatred until it leaves him. We could also talk about Akira who doesn’t have any family either and is from Mars and Yuki Mori who isn’t weighed down by much because her memory only goes back one year. I could keep going on and on, but there is just so much character work and such to talk about in a short amount of time. Just know that the Yamato plan wasn’t completely agreed upon by all those involved and there are those who just want to run away from the conflict entirely. Can’t really blame them considering everything.
A major topic of discussion in the series Wave Motion cannon. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is a space series with all sorts of cool space phenomenon and technology that makes no sense in real life, but I completely love all of it. I can’t help but admit that this another reason why I really dig this series. Star Trek is kind of in my blood. Yamato 2199 takes the space as an ocean thing to the maximum level. Like, there is alternative dimensional submarine that treats the dimension like water and uses a dimensional periscope and torpedoes to fight its enemies. Their crew is awesome. The wave motion cannon fits alongside those traits of super cool but dangerous technology. It’s the equivalent of a nuke in this series. It carries energy from different dimensions and uses that blast to destroy everything in its way and I mean everything. It would be easy to just destroy everything and win.
Yet that is another internal conflict for the show itself. Should the Yamato be firing it all the time? It’s a massive moral question that seemingly doesn’t have a right answer at first. You know, until the end and even then, it’s kind of questionable. Firing the canon all the time would save Yamato crew lives and make the voyage easier. At the same time, senselessly destroying everything doesn’t do anything but closes doors. Okita is in charge and the canon is only used in creative ways and defense. It is the Yamato’s equivalent of a Starship’s deflector dish. Not to mention that the negative uses of the canon are seen eventually with a dead-end society after a cycle of hate. Not destroying everything opens up more doors then could be imagined in mostly positive ways. Like, meeting Melda Dietz is one of them. She’s possibly my favorite character and she comes from Gamilius.
I feel like I can keep going on and on, because there are so many things that I’ve probably left out. That’s the best thing about this show though. Each episode, while having their own sort of tale or so many complication moments in a short amount of time, has a direction and adds more complexity and intrigue to the narrative of the show itself. It’s really easy to have so many things going on and have it all be some kind of mess. The fact that there is a story line to build thing on and main characters to explore first. Every single, small moment in Yamato 2199 adds something to the story. A girl of an officer that died in early episode appears pretty often. Character relationships form in the background of the Yamato. It’s how the Yamato feels like an actual living and breathing ship with only 22-ish minutes an episode. It’s a series where I find it hard to say there are flaws besides how humbled episodes can be sometimes.
The visuals of the story add to this. I love how much time and energy is put into animating these characters for just sitting and talking in side of a space ship for so many scenes. The show never gets boring on that front because of that and the pacing. Plus, I think this show has some of the best ship and technology cg I’ve seen. The ships and fighters are cg, but in combination with the sound design really feel like things are being blown and killed when hit with shells or laser cannons. The fighters and dog fights are pretty great as well. In space, there are somehow a lot of weight to the fighters flying around and shooting each other down. It’s not with any sort of realistic space physics at all, but I don’t care. Just give me more.
So over all, I think you know I love this show already. It’s complex, thoughtful, wonderful, full of cool and strange space stuff, has a serious and wonderful story, has a great cast of complicated characters, and it all works together in one very well written, thought out, and well written package. I don’t think it’s in my top five anime series of all time because Crest/Banner of the Stars beats it out of the space opera slot by a millimeter. It is in my top ten though. This is one of those reboots that is perfect for what it does. Updates the story, updates the visuals, and everything else in a way that elevates the source material/series in ways that go beyond explanation. Hell yeah it’s a solid anime. It couldn’t be anything but solid. High recommended because I think there is something for everything here. A tale for all ages.