Farewell, Solar System! From the Galaxy, With Love!
By Arthur Painter (with notes from Tim Eldred)
Watch this episode now at these sources: Original version subtitled
23 November 2199
Production notes: This episode is noteworthy for not containing a single battle or action scene, trading all that in for a pure character portrait. The fact that it rivets your attention as well as any previous episode is just one more thing that put Yamato on a plateau above the standard kiddie fare of its time. Fittingly, this episode remains a fan favorite even today.
The storyboard for this episode was by Fumio Ikeno, a veteran of Osamu Tezuka’s Mushi Productions. He previously worked with animation director Noboru Ishiguro on Wansa-Kun and Mountain Mouse Rocky Chuck (both produced by Yoshinobu Nishizaki) and served as storyboard supervisor on Girl of the Alps Heidi, Yamato‘s fiercest competitor in the ratings.
Three weeks have passed since last episode. Space Battleship Yamato starts with an extended action montage, showing clips from just about every episode so far. While Star Blazers makes a secret of Gamilon and Iscandar being twin planets, the Yamato narrator states it openly during this episode’s preamble.
The Star Force receives a radio call from Commander Charles Singleton, although he’s merely known in Star Blazers as “Earth Commander” (Japanese name: Heikuro Todo). Captain Avatar tells him that the Argo is in good condition, having repaired the extensive damage from the Pluto battle, but will soon be out of communication range. The Commander reports that although news of the Pluto base’s destruction has helped morale, radiation is still spreading and has apparently seeped into the upper reaches of the underground cities, leaving parts of buildings derelict and overgrown with bizarrely mutated plants.
While Star Blazers states they are about to leave the Solar System, the original dialogue affirms that they’ve already physically left it. What they are actually doing now is preparing to leave communication range of Sol.
Story note: the Star Force was meant to leave the heliosphere in 20 days. In fact, it took 48 days, which puts them substantially behind schedule.
Additional note from Matt Murray: In episode 17, Venture states that leaving the Solar system took a mere ten days (and then just another ten to leave the Milky Way itself), yet this episode closes with a title card indicating that Earth now has 315 days left, seeming to confirm the 48-day figure.
Later in the port observation deck, Avatar tells the assembled crew that since they’ve already encountered delays, they will have to make up lost time with a warp, and after that they will no longer be able to contact Earth. Before they take this step, he will allow each crewmember to spend 5 minutes talking to their families. Avatar stresses that life is very difficult on Earth, so boosting their families’ morale is important.
It’s interesting to note there are several women in this scene. The women all disappear after this episode, reportedly because Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki decided to make Yuki/Nova the only female aboard ship. As to where they’ve gone, the only semi-serious answer we’re given from the Yamato production team (but not in-story) is that they’re in the sleep tubes. If that’s true, it’s sad for the poor couple that just got engaged. Apparently, dating within the Star Force is permitted (which clears the way for Derek and Nova).
Production note: this episode is also a standout for three distinct cameo appearances. One of them appears here, a chubby Japanese-looking guy with messy hair, glasses, and a moustache. It’s too much of a standout NOT to be a cameo of someone on the production team, but his identity has yet to be discovered. The same is not true of the other two cameos, however. Stay tuned…
There’s an eye-rolling comment from someone who asks, “what’s a space warp?” despite the fact that it was a pretty big deal six episodes ago. I can only guess he’s been in cryogenic sleep the whole time. In Yamato, the reaction is to the magnitude of the jump they’re all about to make.
There’s a party in the observation room, and fun is had by all but Derek Wildstar. Avatar notices him leave the party, looking depressed. In Yamato, the Captain observes in silence, but in Star Blazers we hear his thoughts, reminding viewers that Derek has no family left.
Mark Venture enters the Communications Room to make his call. He soon sees his little brother Jordy assembling a model of the Argo. (It’s amazing that Jordy can do such delicate work with those stubby little fingers!)
Story note: the appearance of a Yamato plastic model kit in the show itself was essentially a throwaway detail, but brings up some interesting points. First, despite various supply shortages the underground cities evidently still had the ability to manufacture new plastic models for kids. (Given the global reach currently enjoyed by Bandai, it’s not difficult to picture them still in business in 2199.)
Second, the first ever real-world Bandai model kit was released the same month this episode aired, which could put this in the category of product placement. You can imagine fans seeing young Jirou Shima building his Yamato and immediately wanting one of their own.
Third, it says something about Japan’s penchant for commemorating important icons with merchandising. Jirou’s a young Japanese boy, so of course he’s going to build a model kit of the single most important vessel in Earth’s entire history. It’s merely a coincidence that his big brother is on the prime crew. I sincerely doubt that anyone on the production staff gave it this much thought when they came up with the idea, but it’s rather significant in hindsight.
Jordy is happy to see his big brother and calls his parents over. Mark tries to keep the conversation light (“Looks like you lost some weight, Dad”), but when he asks Jordy about the model, Mark learns he’s making it to cheer up his friends who are sick from radiation poisoning. Jordy tries to make them feel better by telling them that the Star Force will soon return with the Cosmo DNA “to make them well again.” Jordy adds, “That’s true, isn’t it?” Mark tells him it is, but he’s not a good enough actor to suppress a brief look of worry.
Production note: Venture and Wildstar don’t interact in this episode, but the original plot was to feature a huge clash between them over their respective family issues. Yuki was to step in and mediate, thereby getting drawn into a personal relationship with them both.
A short time later, Venture tells Orion and Conroy about Jordy’s Argo model. “There’ll be some new engineers comin’ along soon,” Orion says with a laugh. But based on very recent information, Jordy is destined for quite a different path.
The first bridge is empty of personnel except for Derek, who’s sitting at his station whistling The Scarlet Scarf.
Production note: that’s a Japanese voice actor doing the whistling. It was preserved in the Star Blazers dubbing.
He runs off after IQ-9 approaches. In the hallway, he sees two of his combat group personnel talking. Note that before they were interrupted by Derek, one of the men said “Did you see Lance?” This may be a reference to one of the combat personnel that went on the Pluto mission. In Space Battleship Yamato, the Lance character (Nemoto) was killed in action. His death was omitted from Star Blazers, so this could be another indication that he survived.
Captain Avatar walks around the Engine Room, looking out of place. Orion’s as-yet-unnamed assistant (later known as Sparks) notices him and asks if he can help. Avatar seems somewhat embarrassed and rebuffs Sparks’ offer.
Conroy is the next to seek out Wildstar and urge him to get in line for the comm room. He finds him sulking alone in the hangar deck and is rebuffed. Look closely for a cel-paint blooper in this scene. Wildstar is sitting in a Type 100 Recon Plane painted in Cosmo Zero colors.
Wildstar then makes his way over to the Galley where he observes the cook, Mel “Slops” Mulligan, politely but firmly telling Captain Avatar that he’s in the way. Here’s our second cameo of the episode: the cook character was unnamed in Yamato but Leiji Matsumoto based him on his then-assistant, Kaoru Shintani. Of all the minor characters, I’m surprised that he was assigned a name in the Star Blazers Perfect Album since this is his one and only appearance in the series. Longtime anime fans will recognize Shintani’s name as the creator of Area 88.
As we segue to the next scene, there are a few seconds of incidental music that is original to Star Blazers. Evidently someone felt a bridge was needed to the next scene, but this one is rather atonal compared to the original score.
Orion compliments his daughter’s home and then, worried, asks to see his granddaughter. After being assured by his daughter (who also has an Irish lilt to her voice) that she’s fine, little Kathleen appears. Orion was a bit nicer here than in Yamato. In the original version, he was actually critical of the decor in his son’s place, and Aiko (Kathleen) scolds her grandpa for being too loud!
Story note: we learn later in the saga that Orion had a son who joins the crew in The New Voyage. This would make Orion a father of two, but Patrick Orion Jr. understandably gets no mention here since he wasn’t invented yet.
Avatar wanders up to his quarters, looks briefly at a picture of his son (a different picture than we saw in episode 3), and wonders how Wildstar is doing. Wildstar is keeping himself busy by working out. Where does he hide all those muscles when he’s in uniform?
Production note: the rough, scratchy style of the animation in this scene is an artifact of action anime from the late 1960s and early 70s. It was descended from the ‘Gekiga’ style established in men’s manga and became a hallmark of Toei Productions. It essentially faded away from anime by the early 80s.
Nova enters the comm room to check on Orion. After apologizing for taking so long, he starts to leave but she asks him to stay. It’s her turn and she’s a bit nervous. Making contact with her home, the first thing Nova sees is a handsome young man wearing a startlingly fat necktie, actually a photo being held up by her mom. Mrs. Forrester is obviously worried, but distracting herself by trying a suitable son-in-law. She’s lined up at least a dozen candidates so far.
Production note: look closely here for cameo number 3. Another photo in mom’s hand is of animation director Noboru Ishiguro.
When Nova tries to talk about more sensible things, Mrs. Forrester gets right back to the dating game. Nova is only going to be gone for a year, her mom argues, and she needs to think about starting a family. Her dad asks her if she found someone she likes in the Star Force. At this point, Orion tries to excuse himself, which unfortunately leads mom to the wrong conclusion. She tells Nova in no uncertain terms that “that old man” is unacceptable. Orion has the good grace to just laugh.
You have to love how pragmatic Nova’s mother is. She’s not just trying to find a husband for her daughter, she’s saving the human race! “You should marry a young man! It’s more important than ever! […] You and the children you will have, they can save the Earth!”
In a deleted scene, Dr. Sane makes his call to his loved one. It’s Mimi, his cat, who will go on to be the Star Force’s unofficial mascot in Series 2. Sado [Sane] apologizes to Mi [Mimi] for not being able to buy him any gifts. (Note that Mi may be a male cat in Yamato). The poor cat is more interested in stretching and grooming himself, in what looks to be a huge warehouse filled with sake bottles. He’s apparently been a victim of Sado’s veterinary practice judging by the bandages on his underside. The Doctor, as is often the case, is getting soused in this scene.
Production note: this scene gave Leiji Matsumoto a chance to say goodbye to his own cat, who he regrettably neglected while dealing with Yamato‘s enormous workload. By the time he noticed, the poor thing had wasted away from malnutrition. When this episode aired, Matsumoto turned up the volume on his TV and opened all his windows so that Dr. Sado’s “Goodbye Mi-kun” would be heard everywhere.
Nova, trying to get ahold of Derek all day, finally catches up to him. He reluctantly enters the comm room and stares belligerently at the staticky screen, arms folded and legs crossed. Nova asks him if there’s a problem, and his voice is thick with emotion when he blurts out, “There’s no one for me to talk to on Earth!” Taken aback, she apologizes and leaves. This snaps Derek out of his slump a little, as he seems very concerned with the way Nova ran off. It also gives Derek an emotional range that wasn’t in the original series.
Later, Derek knocks on Avatar’s door. He’s been expected. Avatar shares a bottle of sake with him, which Star Blazers renames “spring water.” In Space Battleship Yamato, the look on Kodai’s face after gulping down a shot makes it clear it’s not water! He asks for another.
In Yamato, the scene cuts away to the observation deck where other crewmembers are nearing the end of their festivities. When we return to the captain’s quarters time has obviously passed; they’ve gone through a bottle or two and now have their shoes off, a classic Japanese sign that they’re relaxed and informal. (Star Blazers skipped the cutaway to make it one scene in which no one is obviously drunk.) Avatar declares that it’s time for them to say goodbye to their home, shouting his farewell to the stars. Wildstar seems a bit reluctant (or maybe he’s not drunk enough), but gets into the spirit and starts shouting along.
In Yamato the Scarlet Scarf ending theme starts up here, complete with vocals and viewers got the full meaning of it in a flash. Star Blazers played a unique hummed version concluding with the English words “We will return again/we will return.” In the subsequent musical montage a few scenes were removed from Star Blazers, one showing a crew member raising his glass, and another of Sane and IQ sitting on the clear “floor window” in the observation deck with a bottle of sake.
There’s a nice scene of Derek at his bridge station. Nova comes over and stands behind him. They share a brief look, then both gaze out the window. No words are exchanged, but to me it always seemed like they’re a little bit closer now.
As Homer announces that they’ve lost all communication with Earth, Avatar’s voice comes on the loudspeaker to tell the Star Force that the party is (literally) over.
Then we have a brief epilogue with Desslok wearing his special gloves with fingernails drawn on. The Earth insects have dared to enter his domain, and will now face the full might of Gamilon! He’s so determined, he’s even about to change color.
“There are 315 days left”