The Comet Appears; Remodeling the Argo!
By Arthur Painter (with notes from Tim Eldred)
10-11 October, 2201
This episode of Space Battleship Yamato 2 opens with a brief summary of last episode, followed by a few short clips of the Argo landing in an above-ground dock. Later scenes show the Argo is housed underground, so either the dock has a functioning (and huge!) service elevator or it was moved later. I have this image in my mind of the helmsman tossing the Argo‘s keys to a valet.
Production note: Because Series 1 was perpetually behind schedule, there was never time to create on-screen episode titles. But they were a standard for Series 2, which meant that each one of them had to be edited out for Star Blazers. On the other hand, one of the MVP’s of Series 1 returned to the fold with this episode: it was the first to be storyboarded by anime/manga master Yasuhiko Yoshikazu. Fast and prolific, he boarded 13 episodes of Series 1, the entirety of Farewell to Yamato, and half the episodes of Yamato 2 before moving on to his next job, character design for Mobile Suit Gundam. Thus, he may have drawn more Yamato than any other single artist (not including the animators).
Nova [Yuki] meets Derek [Kodai] at the spaceport to begin a week-long leave. She notices his bandaged hand from dealing with the electrical fires on board the Argo last episode. He brushes it off as nothing, but she insists they go see Dr. Sane [Dr Sado].
Production note: Yamato‘s tour of duty with the fleet was referred to as “one year,” but Kodai had a line in Yamato 2 saying, “whenever I come back to Earth I’m surprised at how much it’s recovered.” This was because the scene was lifted straight out of Farewell to Yamato with no dialogue changes; Kodai’s naval escort had returned every three months.
At Central Hospital (shown with caption in Yamato 2), Dr. Sane agrees with Derek that it’s “just a scratch.” IQ-9 [Analyzer] wheels in and proclaims that Nova’s concern was just a ruse to allow her to spend a little more time with Derek. Dr. Sane gives Nova the rest of the day off, but mentions the ceremony they’re having that night to honor Captain Avatar [Captain Okita]. He says Avatar would have understood if they wanted to be alone instead.
Over lunch, Nova reminisces about their journey to Iscandar and “all those funny, adventurous star blazers.” This is the only time, other than the narration in Series 1, that the term “star blazers” was used. As for what a “star blazer” is, I can only guess it’s a portmanteau of “star trailblazer.” (For the record, Star Blazers is two words, not one.) Nova misses the excitement of the Iscandar mission, prompting Derek to ask if she’s happy. She responds with a perky yet unconvincing, “Of course!”
The next scene takes place at Hero’s Hill and was lifted directly from Farewell to Yamato with little modification except for the adding of a caption. At sundown, Dr. Sane sits at the base of a statue of Captain Avatar and drinks sake (recast as spring water for Star Blazers) with Mimi [Mi-kun], his yellow-striped tabby. The pair are soon joined by the rest of the Star Force veterans. There looks to be no more than a couple dozen people at the ceremony, the only survivors of the Iscandar mission. The movie version of Series 1 gave a survivor’s tally at the end: out of 114 crew, 67 returned and 47 were killed in action. A brief scene of the crew laying wreaths on the grave marker listed as “Jyozu Okita” (Avatar’s Japanese name) was omitted from Star Blazers for obvious reasons.
Wildstar and Nova are the last to arrive, for which they receive a tongue-lashing from Dr. Sane, despite the fact that earlier he seemed willing to let them off. After a few brief words from him, the crew salutes. He gives a traditional military salute, while everyone else (including Mimi!) uses the “Star Force” fist-over-heart salute.
Story note: In Series 1, the return to Earth and the death of Captain Okita happened on September 5, 2199, but the anniversary of his death was changed to October 10 in Series 2.
After sunset, the party is still going strong. Andromeda flies overhead glittering like a gaudy jewel, the wind of its wake blowing through the memorial site. This scene, like the last, was lifted directly from Farewell To Yamato, and has the same meaning: the Star Force and its great sacrifices have been eclipsed by the “new EDF.” The Star Force represents the past, Andromeda the bright, shiny future. As in the movie, one of the Yamato crew (I think it was Nanbu/Dash) isn’t happy about Andromeda buzzing their ceremony and shouts out “idiots!” as it passes. Star Blazers simply omitted the line.
Additional note from Matt Murray: It’s also possible that it’s Kodai who stands and shouts at the Andromeda, since in the next shot we see him sit down.
Wildstar tells Dr. Sane of his concern that Earth has become too complacent, and that danger may be looming. This conversation draws a lot of attention from the others, prompting Wildstar to tell them about the new enemy he encountered near Saturn. Dr. Sane looks up at the statue of Avatar and wonders if his spirit is trying to warn them of a new threat.
The Yamato 2 dialogue is even more pessimistic, with Kodai lamenting that the great sacrifices of the crew have been forgotten in this reborn Earth, and describes the people as materialistic. This may be a reflection of the attitudes of Japan’s WWII veterans. As the nation focused on post-war recovery, the sacrifices of the war generation were relegated to the past, further burdened by the shame of being on the losing side.
Later, Wildstar walks through the underground dock where the Argo is housed next to Andromeda. He walks over to the flagship and announces himself to the guards. I always assumed Wildstar chose to go see the captain on his own, but in Yamato 2 Kodai states that he was summoned. Soon, he is standing in the presence of Captain Gideon, who appears to be in the middle of a meeting with Sandor. Despite the distinctive, raspy voice (in Star Blazers at least), Wildstar doesn’t recognize Gideon until he meets his eyes. Gideon was one of his teachers at the “Space Fighter Training School.”
Gideon isn’t interested in reminiscing and demands to know why the Argo didn’t give way to Andromeda last episode. Wildstar replies that as a returning ship, the Argo had the right-of-way, citing Captain Avatar himself as a supporter of this policy. Plus, their radio was out, which gave them additional priority. Gideon contends that respect for rank is important, and the flagship always has right-of-way. Gideon even gives Wildstar a not-so-subtle warning: “If you’re planning to remain in the Space Service, you’d better become aware of rank.”
This gets Wildstar’s dander up, and he replies in a barely-controlled tone “I know rank is important, Captain Gideon. It didn’t occur to me that the captain of the Earth Defense Fleet would base his space navigation on the rules of rank instead of plain common sense.” Gideon warns Wildstar about confronting his senior officers in this manner. Wildstar stands in silence. Gideon dismisses him, adding “Well, Wildstar, you’ll learn the hard way.”
Star Blazers gives Wildstar more leverage due to the fact that the Argo‘s radio was out during last episode’s confrontation with Andromeda, a fact that is repeated in the English dialogue. This was not the case in Yamato 2, where Kodai asserts that he had the right-of-way due to his support ships being damaged. Unfortunately, he was negligent in his duty to inform Andromeda of this fact. As Hijikata puts it, Kodai simply “demanded privilege” without merit. For someone who accuses other people of being selfish, Kodai should have thought of Andromeda‘s crew as he was barreling toward them. These differences in the dialogue flip my opinion of the matter: in Star Blazers, I’m inclined to side with Wildstar, while in Yamato 2, I see Kodai in the wrong.
Sandor gives Wildstar a brief tour of Andromeda, which Wildstar says looks “comfortable.” (If only he were that tactful when talking to his superiors!) Sandor agrees, adding “almost too comfortable.” The new Wave-Motion Engine is smaller, but the energy output is doubled and maintenance is handled with the push of a button. The main guns’ range is said to be the same as the Argo‘s Wave-Motion Gun. There are no seats for the gunners, everything is automated. Despite being an engineer, Sandor is wary of putting all this power in the hands of machines. When Wildstar asks why they’ve created “such a mechanical monster,” Sandor replies that it was the decision of the government. The common belief among its members is that the success of the Iscandar mission was due to technology rather than the Star Force. They “like these gadgets,” Sandor notes. “They’re easier to manage than people.”
Yamato 2 included a long pan across the computerized controls as Sanada describes how everything is automated. He calls Andromeda a combat machine, not a battleship, a soul-less mechanism which represents the philosophy of the EDF.
Sandor’s attitude toward the advancement of all this technology mirrors his feelings in Episode 18 of Series 1. In that episode, as he’s disabling a Gamilon fortress, he observes that “we create these machines, and here they have the power to destroy us.” This episode bolsters his caution about the dangers of technology. The scene also underscores previous scenes with Andromeda; The Star Force no longer holds a sacred place in the EDF, it’s been supplanted. The Argo is of no more importance than an old sunken wreck.
Additional note from Matt Murray: Listen at the beginning of this scene and you’ll hear a bit of that “unknown language” in which Homer claimed the mysterious message to have been spoken: it’s Japanese. Star Blazers simply kept the original audio for the broken-up message, probably assuming no one would catch on (and in the early ’80s, they probably didn’t).
Sandor takes Wildstar to the lab to discuss some of his recent findings. An indistinct message was received by both the Argo and Sandor’s team. He plays back some of what was recorded. Also, a huge White Comet has been spotted heading right for Earth. It’s not behaving like a natural comet, and “it’s emitting some kind of power ray” that may have been responsible for the blackout. Sandor theorizes that the power emission was used to either send or block the message. He is concerned enough that he plans to notify the Defense Council about it.
Story note: In Yamato 2, Sanada says the White Comet is located 1,000 parsecs from the solar system, or 500,000 space kilometers. One parsec is 3.26 light years, so 1,000 parsecs equals 3,260 light years. That is actually too short a distance, since our Galaxy is 100,000 l.y. across and the Comet Empire is still in intergalactic space.
Additional note from Matt Murray: If Yamato 2 grossly underestimated the Comet Empire’s distance from Earth, Star Blazers went even farther off, with Sandor placing the comet at a mere 500 megameters, or 500,000 kilometers (slighter greater than the distance to the moon), from the Solar system. Considering that it seems to radiate its own light and is ultimately revealed as half the size of Earth, it’s probably already visible to the naked eye at night.
Wildstar and Sandor turn their attention to the Argo‘s renovations. There are a few shots of the Argo‘s upgrade here that were removed from Star Blazers, most likely for screen-time. The main shock cannons’ range has been increased by 50% and the hangar is being modified to store the new torpedo boat. Sandor (with Orion now present) shows Wildstar a new piece of equipment called a “time radar” that will be able to replay past events within an area.
Production note: The Time Radar was actually a very early idea for Series 1 which made it into print versions of the story, but was never utilized in the anime.
At this point, Yamato 2 had a brief demonstration of the time radar, showing Tokugawa [Orion] relieving himself against a dock wall a few hours earlier. Sandor is reticent to mention the next planned “improvement”; the Argo is going to be updated to a centralized computer system like Andromeda‘s. Wildstar goes ballistic. Sandor explains that the EDF didn’t listen to his protests. “They’ll listen to me,” Wildstar growls.
Wildstar storms through the offices of EDF Headquarters, followed by General Stone who warns him to back off. Storming into Commander Singleton’s office, Wildstar demands to know why they “want to make the Argo into a copy of the Andromeda.” Singleton seems to have anticipated this, responding with a resigned “Oh, so that’s it.” Derek talks about the Argo‘s significance, belligerently “reminding” Singleton that the Argo was Avatar’s last command.
Wildstar is obviously ignoring Gideon’s warning about challenging his senior officers, but Singleton keeps his calm. General Stone, also maintaining a calm demeanor, argues the EDF’s points. All ships in the EDF have to exchange crews and parts. If the Argo is to remain on active duty, it must have a standardized system. Stone even suggests that if the Argo isn’t upgraded, it might be “retired as an antique,” which is exactly what was planned in Farewell to Yamato. Wildstar agrees that the Argo should be upgraded, but argues, “that doesn’t mean turning it into a machine.” The Commander is unmoved.
Stone suggests that Wildstar will probably like the changes once they’re done. Stone’s reasoning is a bit different in Yamato 2. Instead of having to exchange parts and crew, he argues that Yamato was built hastily in secret, and points to the “obsolete” smokestack missile launcher as an example of its haphazard design. General Stone is featured prominently in the next few episodes. It’s kind of surprising that Yamato 2 doesn’t even give him a name.
The argument comes to a sudden conclusion when the lights go out. The entire city becomes engulfed in chaos. Cars and trains using the monotubes crash into each other. In a scene that never fails to amuse me, a swarm of people tumble to the bottom of an escalator when it suddenly stops. At EDF headquarters, Singleton and Stone are told that the entire Eastern seaboard is out, as well as energy transmission stations on Venus, the Moon, and Mars.
A recurring theme in this episode is the advancement of technology. This even affects IQ-9, a piece of technology himself, when he fails to provide light for Dr. Sane’s operating room. He admits he “feels like a failure” when the sleek new robot, Miss Efficiency, is able to quickly step in. Like the Argo, IQ-9 is in danger of becoming obsolete.
Also of note is a moment when Nova stops to worry about Derek. In Yamato 2, her thoughts are of Yamato, not her “Kodai-kun.” Scenes like this were a source of annoyance for a fellow Star Blazers fan I once knew. He didn’t like Nova because the only thing she seemed to care about was Derek. In Star Blazers, we hear her thoughts more than any other character, and almost without fail she’s thinking about Derek. Iscandar mission about to fail? “Oh no! Derek!” A mysterious enemy has fried all of Earth’s energy stations? “Oh no! Derek!” The power has failed in the middle of an operation and the patient may die? “Oh no! Derek!” Despite the constant harassment she endures from Analyzer, she seems a bit more noble in the Japanese script, where she’s often thinking of the mission more than her man.
In Yamato 2, Kodai tries to make several calls (from his hover-car) to Sanada at the repair dock, only to discover communications are out. Star Blazers joins this scene when Derek is driving down the darkened streets until debris in the road forces him to stop. He then spots a Comet Empire plane, the same type he saw near Saturn. Cue the pipe organ.
At the Comet Empire, General Naska gives Prince Zordar a video report of the chaos on Earth due to the blackout. Zordar is delighted. Leader Desslok warns him that Earth is safe as long as the Star Force is around, which invites a scoff from Princess Invidia. Desslok announces his plans to head for Telezart. He assures them that the Star Force will decipher Trelaina’s message and head there, so he plans to lie in wait. Zordar is agreeable to this, and assigns Torbuk’s forces to Desslok. After Desslok leaves, Invidia tells the Prince he is giving the Gamilon too much power. Zordar merely smiles, and replies “That is why I gave him…Torbuk!”
Desslok, leading a small group of Gamilon ships, seems delighted that he will have the opportunity to face his foes again. What’s more, he’s got a shiny new flagship of his own, a heavier version of the command ship he lost at the end of Series 1. Just one of the many reminders that plenty of Gamilon firepower avoided the fate of the home planet.