Episode 6 Commentary

Heavy Fighting! The Space Marines!

By Arthur Painter (with notes from Tim Eldred)

Watch this episode now at these sources: Star Blazers on Hulu | Star Blazers on YouTube | Original version subtitled

11 November, 2201

This episode of Space Battleship Yamato 2 begins with a prologue not seen in Star Blazers, with maps and character introductions. Then we’re informed that Comet Empire General Naska is starting an attack on our Solar System’s Planet 11. Naska was only a name mentioned in the movie Farewell to Yamato and was seen briefly in previous episodes, but now he’s been given a prominent role. The prologue ends with some new animation of Comet Empire “Space Scorpions” (the horseshoe crab-style fighters) beginning their attack.

Production note: in the various production materials published over the years, the name of this fighter is given as “Desbateta.” While some enjoy converting this to “Death Potato” (Or “Death Verteter” according to Yamato Fact File), it’s much more likely that this was a misspelling of “Devastator.” And speaking of odd names, Naska was finally given a first name in a 2010 issue of Yamato Fact File. Ready for it? “Cosmodart.” OK, moving on…

The Star Force, having finally escaped from the Earth Defense Forces, is now free to investigate the mysterious message from space. But when they receive a distress call from the Brumus Space Marine base, they decide they can’t ignore it despite their rogue status.

If you look very closely at the initial shot of the Argo‘s bridge, you’ll notice an animation error. The shot is the often-seen overview from above the captain’s podium, but the cel of the characters is misplaced on the background, leaving heads and bodies floating several feet above their consoles.

In Series 1, we were introduced to our Solar System’s 10th planet. Now we learn that not only is (or was) there a 10th planet, but an 11th as well. Unlike Star Blazers, Space Battleship Yamato doesn’t furnish these extra planets with proper names, calling them simply “Planet 10” and “Planet 11.” The name the Star Blazers creative team chose for Planet 10, Minerva, stuck to the tradition of naming planets after mythological gods, and the same is true here; Brumus is the Latin name for Dionysos/Bacchus, the god of alcohol rituals. (Special thanks to B.L. Cox for that discovery.)

When Yamato 2 and Star Blazers first aired, only 9 planets were recognized by the International Astronomical Union. Since that time, Pluto has been demoted to “dwarf planet” status, so now there are only 8. If you include Pluto and the other dwarf planets (Eris, Ceres, Haumea, Makemake), there are 14, none of which quite match Brumus. As we’ll soon see, it’s a very unique place.

As the Star Force rushes to the rescue, the narrator rattles off a few facts about the fictional planet. Discovered at the end of the 20th Century, it was once inhabited. The former natives left behind giant statues and remnants of buildings that look somewhat like old Greek or Roman palaces. The ancient inhabitants of Planet 11 are a mystery that has thus far not been explored, although we might be able to surmise that they were the Denguilians from the movie Final Yamato.

Perhaps the point is that, even in the 23rd Century, there are still mysteries to be solved. In Yamato 2, the narrator says Planet 11 is very cold and has no air or water, so it’s an unlikely place to find traces of a once-thriving civilization. In addition to being a xeno-archeological wonder, rare minerals were found there, so a Space Marine base was built to secure the planet.

Story note: In Farewell to Yamato, the Space Cavalry were an elite force that reported directly to the EDF Commander. In Yamato 2, by contrast, they are depicted as rowdy and unrefined, assigned as the frontier guard of a base as far from Earth as possible.

Upon arriving in the Brumus area, the Argo encounters the Space Scorpions and fends them off with the Pulse Laser guns. At the Brumus base, the beleaguered marines are holed up under intense fire from airborne attacks. Several marines are shown hit by an explosion in the Japanese version. The marine’s acting leader is Sergeant Knox. I always assumed his name was spelled Knox (as in Fort Knox), but in Westchester Films’ press kit it’s actually spelled “Nox”. Official Voyager reference guides have since supplied him the name of “Webb ‘Hard’ Knox.”

The role of the gruff and tough marine was played by Chris Latta. Latta had a brief but memorable voice acting career before his untimely death in 1994, most notably as raspy-voiced characters Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe and Starscream from Transformers, among others. (If you ever watch the 80s Transformers cartoon, the voice Latta does for the character Wheeljack is identical to Knox.) The Japanese version of the character, Captain Hajime Saito, also had a well-known voice actor: Isao Sasaki. Among his many other claims to fame, Sasaki is the singer of Yamato‘s opening and ending themes.

Knox is holding his men together despite the pounding they’re taking. A marine called Mac confirms he sent an SOS. Star Blazers cuts to the next scene, but in Yamato 2 we see the console next to “Mac” explode. Saito [Knox] pulls himself out of rubble and goes over to help the injured soldier, encouraging him not to give up. “Mac” no longer seems capable of responding.

General Naska, overseeing the attack from his command ship, anticipates that Brumus will soon fall. He’s informed by an aide that the Star Force is approaching from the Pluto sector. (Or, in the aide’s odd accent, “Pluto seck-tah!”) Naska relishes the chance to show up Desslok by destroying his hated enemy. Several large battleships break off from his group to engage the Argo.

The pilots launch in their new Astro Fighters. In Star Blazers, the dialogue seems to indicate that they are preparing to fend off another attack, while in Yamato 2 they are launching to pursue the retreating enemy fighters, which explains why we don’t see them in the next part of the battle. Nova reports the enemy battleships (mistakenly referred to as “planes”) are approaching.

Prior to this, Wildstar had been so focused on the Argo‘s hurried launch and subsequent escape from the EDF he wasn’t briefed on their Shock Cannons’ new capabilities. When the enemy ships come within 10.5 megameters (Mm), Sandor informs him that the Argo‘s heavy guns have been upgraded from 7.5 Mm to 10 Mm. The two forward turrets are quickly aimed and fired. Within minutes, three Comet Empire battleships are reduced to burning wreckage. Nova reports there are two more ships nearby, but Derek is willing to let them be for now. The Brumus base must take priority.

Production note: In addition to their new range, the main guns seem to be firing a new grade of energy beam as well. In Series 1 the beam usually had a yellow/green tint; now it is usually blue. This was part of the style change for Farewell to Yamato and remained the standard for the rest of the saga.

I have to admit, even as an adult, one of the biggest thrills of watching this show is seeing these space battles. The animators took great care in showing wonderfully detailed explosions. These aren’t mere cartoony “bang effects” and wispy puffs of smoke, we’re shown ships erupting section by section in bright, colorful displays. The animators take pride in showing various and unique explosion effects. For example, note the second destroyer: the Shock Cannon beams burn completely through it. For a moment nothing happens, then there is a shimmering glow around the ship before it blossoms into a huge ball of fire.

The Comet Empire Scorpion fighters continue to bombard the Brumus base, hitting a section that causes an oxygen leak. Star Blazers shows one marine making it to safety, but Yamato 2 shows us another that isn’t so lucky. The blast door seals moments before he reaches it. He pleads to be let in, then starts gasping for air and collapses. As he falls, liquid from the escaping gas condenses around his body and freezes. He’s completely frozen within seconds of hitting the floor.

Knox is told that another section of the base is losing atmosphere and there are marines in danger. One of his men urges him to seal off the area, but the Sarge insists on rescuing them. He heads out with several of his men, who he recruits by declaring them “volunteers.”

Several Comet Empire ships fly near the base, open up their cargo doors, and drop tanks equipped with thrusters to slow their descent to the surface.

Knox, now wearing a sealed marine helmet, rushes into the endangered section of the base and orders an evacuation. A marine calls Knox’s attention to the approaching robot tank platoon. How this marine knows these are robot tanks is anyone’s guess. (And no, they weren’t robots in Yamato 2.) Knox is happy to see them, assuring his men they can handle “rolling tin cans.”

Moments later, the tanks begin their attack and the base guns return fire. In one instance, several shots hit the ground in front of a tank, creating what looks like a splash of water, frozen in ice. Despite the Yamato 2 narrator saying there’s no water on the planet, perhaps there’s some ice in the ground that melts when hit by the cannon fire, then refreezes in mid-explosion?

“Sarge, we can’t take much more of this,” one marine says as the tanks continue to advance. Knox acts like this is a good thing, saying, “now we’ve got them where we want them.” He and ten men head out with their rocket launchers, called “Bopper Guns,” and stage a counterattack. One soldier is shown getting hit by an explosion in Yamato 2.

Naska is informed that the Argo is still approaching, and very much a threat. Here we get a nice creative shot from the point of view of Naska’s ship. With the Argo not much more than a dot on the horizon, we see a brief flash of light from it, then two Shock Cannon blasts head right for the camera. Naska’s command carrier must have been just out of effective firing range, because the energy flashes off the ship without causing any damage. Naska orders his three battleship escorts to return fire and we’re treated to another display of destruction as the Argo easily defeats them.

Bow torpedoes are used to take out the second cruiser. As surmised way back in episode 8 of Series 1, the torpedoes have homing systems which hit the cruiser despite its attempts to evade. The ship veers into the path of the third cruiser when hit, causing a collision that takes them both out and leaves Naska’s carrier as the only survivor. Literally trembling with horror, Naska orders a retreat. Gone is the brash and arrogant warrior who mocked Desslok’s obsession with the Star Force.

The marines continue to fight, but in addition to the tanks they are now being strafed by one surviving Scorpion. The Scorpion is quickly destroyed with the arrival of the Astro fighters. The fighters attack with impunity, reducing the tanks to burning scrap. This final part of the battle takes place among the ruins, where in addition to giant statues, we can see a structure that looks similar to Mesoamerican pyramids in Central America.

Knox and another marine, Corporal Kane [Hyo Todo], introduce themselves to the Star Force’s landing party. The character of Corporal Kane will have no other notable appearances, but allow me to indulge in some idle speculation. In Farewell to Yamato, the marines [Space Cavalry] accompanied the Yamato on secret orders from EDF Commander Todo. While that’s not the case in Yamato 2, the common name shared between the commander and cavalryman, Todo, may imply a link, albeit one that was never examined.

Sandor invites the marines onboard the Argo, warning them that it will be crowded.

Story note: Along with Knox, 20 Space Marines are taken aboard, bringing the total number of crew up to 115. In the final episode of Series 2, there are 18 survivors (not counting Venture). From this we can calculate that 96 of the grave markers at Hero’s Hill in The New Voyage result from the Comet Empire war.

Naska reports his defeat to Desslok. He’s been completely humbled, and contritely admits that Desslok was correct about the Star Force. Desslok is dismissive, leaving Naska to beg for him to put in a good word to Prince Zordar. “Of course I will,” replies Desslok insincerely as he cuts off communication. Desslok’s eyes narrow. “Once again… Star Force!”

The Argo‘s medical bay is full of activity with marine after marine being wheeled in, but Dr. Sane handles it with his usual humor: “Scratches and bruises to the right, bumps and lumps to the left!” Sgt. Knox walks in and immediately starts to hit on Nova, who’s assisting the medical team in her role as nurse. Dr. Sane comes to her rescue.

In a mocking tone, Knox claims to be wounded. Dr. Sane tells Nova to “give the brave soldier some attention.” Knox leans forward and closes his eyes, like he’s expecting a kiss. Instead, he gets a face full of disinfectant. His rage quickly subsides when he notices IQ-9, also assisting the medics, his “head” popping around like the lid on a percolating teapot. “You use robots in here?” Without looking up from his work, Dr. Sane replies “He’s a lot smarter than a lot of soldiers I know,” before shuffling off. Knox doesn’t seem to register the implied insult.

In Yamato 2, the spray Yuki put on Saito’s face was for athlete’s foot. When he screams that he doesn’t have athlete’s foot on his face, Dr. Sado replies that he’ll be fine. (And this should teach him to waste the medical staff’s time when they’re so busy.) When Saito notices Analyzer’s head popping around, he asks “What is he doing,” to which Sado retorts, “laughing at you.”

In the lab, Sandor announces his findings after studying pieces of the Comet Empire fighters. In Yamato 2, Sanada describes them as being made of “Chogokin,” a general term meaning “super alloy” that was familiar to anyone who watched super-robot anime in the 1970s. In both English and Japanese, however, the findings are the same: they are facing a whole new enemy.

Wildstar receives a call from Commander Singleton, who has been informed of the assault on Brumus. After being told the marines were attacked by a new enemy, the Commander congratulates the Star Force for “volunteering” for this mission. He formally welcomes them back under the EDF umbrella. No longer considered rebels, they are to investigate this mysterious enemy and report all findings to EDF command.

While his Marines are scarfing down food, Knox watches Brumus recede into the distance. They may have been defeated for now, but Knox vows they will be back.

When I was a kid, I remember being somewhat taken aback by the Marines. It was a complete 180; first I was cheering them on, then I hated them for being such jerks. Before this time, I don’t think I encountered a show that played so well on my feelings for characters. My reactions to the marines would flip again by the end of the series. Not only this, but Desslok was starting to become somewhat sympathetic. Sure, he was an implacable enemy of our heroes, but he didn’t deserve the mocking comments his allies made behind his back.

Continue to episode 7

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