Episode 6 Commentary

Space Destroyer Paladin Sleeps in the Ice Field

By Arthur Painter (with notes from Tim Eldred)

Watch this episode now at these sources: Original version subtitled

10 October 2199

Production note: The very accomplished anime/manga artist Yasuhiko Yoshikazu joined the production team as of this episode. During his tenure, he would storyboard 13 of the 26 episodes. He is a master with figure drawing and expressions, and his influence is particularly strong in the action scenes on Titan which show an energy and fluidity that hasn’t been seen in the series until now. Fully tuned into the emotional resonance of the script, he pushed the limits of TV animation at the time and made this a true “breakout” episode that lived up to its full potential. Read an interview with “Yas” about his Yamato experiences here.

This episode starts with Colonel Ganz reporting the loss of the floating continent on Jupiter at the hands of the Star Force’s Wave-Motion Gun. General Krypt is a bit incredulous, but Ganz answers that he’s reporting exactly what happened. In Space Battleship Yamato, Ganz’s monitor goes blank for a few seconds while Krypt reports to Desslok. Star Blazers skips the wait and cuts immediately to Krypt’s glowering face now redisplayed in close-up, telling Ganz that Leader Desslok only wants to hear of victories. Even though Krypt politely says “Please, keep that in mind!”, his intimidating demeanor makes the threat clear. We see precisely what the threat is in later episodes of Yamato, as Desslok summarily executes officers who fail him.

Meanwhile, the Star Force is in the middle of their daily crisis. The Energy Transmission Unit (called the Energy Transfer Pipe in Yamato), the same thing that burned out after the warp, has overheated and melted due to the shock of firing the Wave-Motion Gun. For some unexplained reason, this causes the Argo to temporarily lose gravity. Some of the crew seem to rather enjoy it.

Wildstar, on the other hand, is just coming from the hangar, which is in total chaos with fighters floating around (multiple Cosmo Zeroes, to be exact–as if they plan on crashing a few), and is having a hard time simply walking down the hallway. The gravity seems to get restored at this point and is presumably why Derek loses his balance and smacks into a wall. He also seems to be wearing baseball pants in this scene, though he’s actually in boots that were painted white instead of black.

According to Sandor, they’ve run out of an element called “Titanite” (“Cosmonite” in Yamato) that the Star Force needs to repair the engine properly. Titanite can be found on Titan, a moon of Saturn. Since they’re relatively close to Saturn, Avatar orders Venture to change course to the satellite. There’s no explanation for where they got their previous supply of Titanite, but it could conceivably have been obtained on a previous excursion into the solar system.

There are a few alternate scenes here that were left out of Star Blazers showing close-ups of Orion and Avatar. Orion is sweating profusely, no doubt worried about what the trip to Titan is doing to his engine.

Space Battleship Yamato spends a bit of time talking about both Saturn and Titan (the Yamato narrator describes Saturn’s ring as looking like the brim of a hat!), while Star Blazers just gives the basics of Titan, courtesy of Captain Avatar. Titan is described in the Star Blazers universe as “having an environment similar to Earth’s, although it’s very cold.” At the time it was written, not much was known about the satellite, other than it’s one of the few moons with a substantial atmosphere. The real Titan is nothing like what we see here. Its sky is opaque and ruddy colored. While the surface does have a large amount of water ice, there are also many slushy seas and rivers (and even rain) of methane.

Production note: Up until the storyboard was about half-finished, Titan (Saturn’s 6th moon) was confused with Europa (Jupiter’s 2nd moon). Even the background designs by Leiji Matsumoto were conceived as being on Europa. Yasuhiko caught the error and corrected it in his work.

Ganz and Bain analyze the ship on “video-scope” and they see it’s low on power. While Bain rightly suggests that this is the ideal time to attack, Ganz is afraid of another embarrassing defeat and balks at the idea, fearing it may be a trick. You can’t help but feel a bit of sympathy for Ganz. He desperately wants to please Desslok, which leads to him being overly cautious here, passing up the perfect chance to attack.

Wildstar, Nova, and IQ-9 take off in a recon ship to find the Titanite. There’s a brief scene where IQ reaches around the seat to grope Nova, but it’s left out of Star Blazers. Meanwhile, Sandor sets up quite an operation planetside, where he’s collecting “environmental samples.” Deploying what looks like about two dozen cargo ships, he uses lasers, buzzsaws and cranes to cut out large blocks of ice from the surface and load them into storage compartments. There appears to be some life on Titan; plants and mushrooms frozen in the blocks of ice. The Argo must have some secret warehouse area to be able to store all of Sandor’s cargo ships, plus about 50 or so Black Tiger fighters and a seemingly endless supply of recon ships.

Nearby, a Gamilon patrol ship lands and two soldiers emerge, spying on Wildstar’s group from the ridge above. Ganz orders the soldiers to capture them. Evidently, this part of Titan has a breathable atmosphere, since the soldiers do perfectly well with exposed faces. (Wildstar and Nova, on the other hand, have their helmets sealed. Actually, their exposed necks would freeze solid, a problem addressed in later episodes by adding a white covering over the neck.)

Production note: Before this episode, the Type 100 recon plane was shown to be a 2-seater, but it was modified for three seats in order to carry IQ-9. The profile of the craft was further morphed to include space for the loading of Titanite.

Soon, two tanks approach the Titanite excavation. Star Blazers has extra dialogue when the tanks leave the patrol ship, indicating that one of them was a remote controlled drone. (A sure tipoff that it’s going to be totaled in a few minutes.) IQ-9 reports the vehicles’ approach moments before they appear on the ridge. One of the tanks fires on the recon ship, completely demolishing it. Its destruction isn’t shown in Star Blazers, which is actually a smart edit since it reappears later in one piece.

Making it clear that they want to capture the humans, the tanks fire near the trio, sending ice spraying at them. Wildstar leaves Nova under the care of IQ-9 and runs off in another direction, drawing one of the tanks’ attention by firing his handgun. Seeing some ice formations nearby, Wildstar sprints over to them for cover. Again, there is dialogue from one of the Gamilons about the drone tank. It is sent after Wildstar, while the other goes after “the woman and the robot.”

Wildstar manages to climb to the top of the ice formations. When the tank drives nearby, Wildstar leaps on top of it. Fortunately, Gamilons don’t bother to seal the hatches on their tanks, allowing Wildstar to open it with little effort. In Star Blazers, there’s a thought from Derek about the tank being an empty drone as he shoots the controls, but Yamato shows the startled tank driver look up, and we hear a scream after Wildstar’s shot.

His first foe taken care of, Wildstar looks to see the other tank approaching Nova and IQ, who run for their lives as the tank comes barreling after them. When Nova trips, IQ stands his ground to protect her. Moments later, he lifts the tank completely off the ground, then tosses it a dozen meters or so. I don’t see how this is possible. Sure, gravity will be lighter, but not by that much, and the relative masses of IQ and the tank will be the same. Wildstar doesn’t believe what he’s just seen any more than I do. “I’d do anything to protect Nova” is IQ’s only explanation for this feat.

But the tank driver isn’t finished yet; he crawls out of the tank and disarms Wildstar. The Gamilon then declares the Earthers are his prisoners. While Star Blazers has the Gamilon conveniently speak English, Yamato had him speak “Gamilusian,” which was made up in the recording studio, and Analyzer (IQ) had to translate his commands to his teammates.

Production note: The Gamilas commander has a name in the original script: Yaretara. This was actually wordplay for “Yarareta,” Japanese for “I’m defeated.” (This method of naming characters is actually quite common in anime.) In the original episode, he speaks Gamilas words to Kodai, saying “Ruma kukansa tsuba.” This, too, was wordplay of a sort. The script featured three symbols to represent Gamilas language: a cross, a triangle, and a circle. Of course, they didn’t have a sound, so rather than make something up, the words Batsu (cross), sankaku (triangle), and maru (circle) were pronounced in reverse. Hence, “Ruma kukansa tsuba.”

Forced at gunpoint, they start marching when Wildstar spots an “Astro Automatic” handgun just under the ice a short distance away. Wildstar tells IQ again to watch Nova as he literally leaps into action. He stomps on the ground as he lands, freeing the gun from the ice. Dodging shots from the Gamilon, he grabs the gun and shoots.

In Yamato, Kodai hits him dead center, and the Gamilon falls to the ground. As he collapses, his gun goes off, hitting a shelf of ice. The Star Blazers version omitted the “personal violence” of the scene. Instead, they show (presumably) Derek’s shot hitting the ice shelf, followed by some other recycled scenes of ice falling and a comment from Nova that the ice slide has covered the Gamilon.

The Star Blazers version at least demonstrates why they didn’t take the body along with them. Since the crew were so curious about Gamilons (as we’ll see in a later episode), I don’t think they would have passed up a chance to examine a specimen. The body getting covered by ice provides a reason why they didn’t. With the Yamato version, you just have to assume they couldn’t be bothered.

Wondering what an abandoned Earth gun is doing on Titan, Wildstar looks for an insignia. He finds “Kodai Mamoru” written in kanji. Of course, that’s his brother’s name in Yamato. Wildstar recognizes this insignia as being his brother Alex’s mark. Looking up, he sees that the ice formations he used earlier are hiding the wreck of the Paladin, a.k.a. Missile Ship 17, his brother’s ship. Yamato shows our hero frantically shooting the gun at the Paladin, chipping away at the ice.

Production note: the music heard here (and during the liftoff from Titan) is the instrumental version of the end title, The Scarlet Scarf, used for the first time as an emotional underscore, and it suddenly emerges as strongly as any of the characters. Even English-speaking fans who didn’t know the lyrics could instantly recognize the theme of sorrow and loss as a core element of the story. Viewed as a single story arc about the loss of Alex Wildstar, these first 6 episodes earn all of their emotional credibility in this moment, and the series will move forward from here with a rock-solid foundation.

I’ve always found it puzzling that the Paladin was found on Titan. Its last battle was at Pluto, which is, at its closest approach to Saturn, about 3 billion km away. (Pluto would be on the other side of the sun in October 2199, so it would be several billion more km away.) Plus, the last we saw of the ship, it was shot full of holes and appeared to get “blowed up real good”. Not only is it now on Titan, but it appears relatively intact, save for some holes. I wish we received some more information about how it survived and ended here. It’s possible that the Gamilas deposited the wreckage here after capturing Mamoru Kodai [Alex Wildstar].

The Japanese name of the Paladin was Yukikaze, which means “Snow Wind,” thus it ended up at an appropriate place.

Repairs are quickly made, and soon the Argo is blasting off again. When Derek arrives on the bridge, he is told by the others to report to the Captain, most likely to be scolded for insubordination since he ignored orders earlier. Wildstar, braced for the worst, reports to the Captain’s quarters. Instead, Derek is surprised when Avatar asks about finding Alex’s gun. Reporting that the Paladin crashed on Titan, Derek somberly adds, “there were no survivors… sir.”

“You say no one, none?” Avatar asks, as he discretely sheds a tear.

The Argo Press Star Blazers comic book added a little background detail that wasn’t in either Star Blazers or Yamato. It’s mentioned that Avatar’s son, Adam, was on board the Paladin. This scene can be used to support that story element, as Avatar’s tear could result from the confirmation of Adam’s death. Personally, I never saw the appeal of linking Avatar and Wildstar’s tragedies even more closely together. IMO, if you review episode 1, the look of sadness that crosses Avatar’s face when informed that Wildstar’s ship is the only other one remaining indicates to me that his son was already lost at that point.

For the third episode in a row, the Argo is forced to undergo emergency repairs. This, to me, was a great element of the series. They didn’t have magical supertech that just worked. Things broke and needed maintenance, just like in real life. It also added a note of caution; they had a super-weapon in the Wave-Motion Gun, but they couldn’t just use it at any time as the shock of each firing could damage the ship.

“There are 359 days left.”

Continue to Episode 7

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *