Episode 10 Commentary

Crisis Relief! The Roar Of The Wave-Motion Gun

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

General Torbuk [aka Goland] is bored by the tedium of patrolling the seemingly empty space surrounding Planet Telezart. To entertain himself, he heads out for a little hunting excursion on a nearby planet. Stepping out of his horseshoe-crab-shaped landing craft, he calmly shoots a giant dinosaur-like creature as it charges toward him. One of his blond aides gets eaten by another dinosaur (it’s OK, Goland has plenty of extra blond aides with him, so he can spare a few), and he kills it in retribution.

He then cuts loose, killing every creature nearby. Just to emphasize his cruelty, he kills a baby dino as it tries to flee the area. This scene was deemed too violent for American TV, so it was completely removed from Star Blazers. Just as well, since the “dinosaurs” are of the bloated, parade-float-balloon variety, and merely look comical by today’s standards. Even their “roars” sound like a child’s squeak-toy.

Star Blazers opens the episode when Torbuk returns to his command ship. His hunting expedition has only whetted his appetite for destruction, so he orders the planet to be destroyed. Several capital ships, each carrying two huge missiles in front, launch their payloads at the planet, demonstrating their considerable power by completely obliterating it. This was a bit of posturing on Torbuk’s part. “Are you watching, Desslok? That’s how to defeat an enemy,” Torbuk says. Torbuk had appeared in previous episodes and didn’t seem to be too much of a threat. This scene demonstrates both the enormous power at his disposal and his will to use it.

Story note: It also demonstrates the curious point that the captains of the Comet Empire’s anti-matter missile ships seem unconcerned about reloading. They unleash their massive weapons at the whim of their C.O. and are left with giant, gaping holes where their prime weapons used to be; not smart if your mission demands constant readiness. (They were all packing two; couldn’t they have kept one on standby?) The obvious rejoinder to this observation is that supply ships must have been ready to haul in replacement missiles at a moment’s notice, but they remain off-camera.

On the Argo, Wildstar is growling with directionless frustration when Homer announces an incoming message from Trelaina. Venture rushes over and pushes him aside. Trelaina gives them a course correction, then starts to warn them of danger when the signal fades due to a jamming wave.

Production note: This episode was obviously a rough one for the staff. The characters are off-model most of the time and a lot of the animation is very limited when anyone moves at all. One explanation could have been the enormous workload of animating all the ships and asteroids in the second half, but it’s equally possible that the series in general was under the deadline gun and everyone had to work as quickly as possible.

Case in point: two shots of Homer’s console within a few seconds of each other look very different owing to cel layers being in the wrong order on the first. Backlighting for a readout on the left side should have been under the readout. Also, Homer’s hands are where Venture’s should be.

Desslok cancels out Torbuk’s jamming wave. Morta, a Comet Empire “adviser” (actually a spy), questions this decision. Desslok explains that the signal shouldn’t be jammed since it’s leading the Star Force right where he wants them. He suggests Morta put this in his daily “secret” report to Prince Zordar. In Yamato 2, Dessler’s comment to Miru was a bit more of an open challenge: to go ahead and report him to Zordar, but he will not change his decisions.

Communication between Trelaina and the Star Force is restored, and Venture is absolutely thrilled when she calls him “Mark.” His excitement demonstrates how lonely it can be in a ship with only one woman aboard. He immediately launches into personal questions, and without waiting for a reply he begins talking about himself only to get a well-deserved smack on the head from Wildstar. Trelaina’s message ends, and moments later Eager shouts out a warning of a nearby meteor shower, which Venture sees as a sign that Trelaina can be trusted. She had warned them of it.

News of the meteor shower is announced to the crew. Here we’re introduced to a new comic relief character, the nerdy, bespectacled Neville Royster. Despite being an engineer in a space ship, Royster seems to have a phobia of meteors. Conroy, full of bravado, makes a feeble joke about meteors only hitting dummies. (He’s the only one who laughs.)

In Yamato 2, the Royster character is called “Shinmai,” which means rookie or newbie (the literal translation would be “new guy”). Shinmai will often insist that people call him by his real name, Hyota Arakome. The joke here is that when his name is written in Japanese characters (called kanji), it can be read as either “Shinmai” or “Arakome.” A similar but unintentional issue exists for Aihara (Homer); his given name has been pronounced as both Yoshikazu and Giichi, which are alternate readings of the same kanji.

Production note: Shinmai’s character design was based on assistant director Kazunori Tanahashi, who would be a part of every Yamato production to the end. Consult our making-of articles on the series to see him.

On Earth, EDF Commander Singleton gets an update on the Star Force. General Stone makes his usual derisive comments about the Star Force and discipline, which earns him a slight reprimand from the Commander. Stone announces they’ll start making preparations for an attack by the Comet Empire, which include canceling private space flights, but Singleton worries about causing undue alarm. Stone responds that the White Comet can’t be a secret for much longer. Yamato 2‘s version of Stone even suggests an alibi for canceling the flights; he’s going to say airline workers have gone on strike.

With that, we segue into a little diversion. At an observatory, a young woman reminds her absent-minded father to be at her wedding later that day. Moments later, the father, Professor Skyler [Japanese name: Kurata], is requested to report to EDF Command to meet with Singleton and Captain Gideon. When we return to the young bride, Serena [Momoyo], she is at her wedding ceremony with no father in sight (and he’s not even hiding inside the massive cake).

Additional note from Matt Murray: Professor Skyler’s description of the comet is even worse than that of the narrator, as he states, “That white comet isn’t acting like a normal comet. It should have started burning up when it entered our Solar system.” This is wrong in so many ways it’s hard to know where to start. First, normal comets exist as part of the Solar system. Second, they do not “burn up” when entering it, though they will begin discharging gases in the form of a tail as they grow nearer to the sun. And finally, the Comet Empire has not actually entered the Solar system at all at this point; it’s still outside the galaxy. It’s also odd (though this was equally true of Yamato) that it is constantly referred to as “the White Comet,” as if this distinguished it from other comets, when all comets ever observed have been white.

Story note: the EDF meeting concludes with Captain Gideon stating that more Andromeda-class ships will have to be built in order to fortify against the threat of the White Comet. The very next scene shows a new Andromeda on the assembly line, with many major components already in place – but this is all we ever see of it. Either it stayed off-camera in the fleet battle later in the series or it never got off the ground. Its fate remains undetermined to this day. (Hello, fanfic writers!)

When the newlyweds try to leave on their honeymoon, they’re told that all civilian flights have been canceled. Serena blurts out that it must be because of the White Comet. This comment receives a lot of attention from people within earshot. The airline agent tells her not to spread any unfounded rumors, but Serena insists that her father works for the EDF, so she knows what she’s talking about.

Her father arrives, apologizing to Serena for missing the wedding. “No excuse,” she sniffs, turning away from him. (Oh, that poor husband, he can see what he’s in for now!) The airline agent starts peppering Professor Skyler with questions about the White Comet. Skyler tells him, rather unconvincingly, that the White Comet is just a rumor.

It seems that they came up a bit short this episode and had to pad it out with this two-and-a-half-minute scene. Professor Skyler and his dippy daughter never make a follow up appearance. (And don’t make the mistake of thinking he comes back in Series 3; that professor’s name is Kurota.)

Back at the Argo, Venture nervously grabs the helm as they prepare to enter the meteor swarm. He says they’ll make it through, but he doesn’t sound very confident. Soon after encountering the meteors, he notices a drop in power. Sandor suggests going around the meteors, but Venture and Wildstar feel they’ll lose too much time. The Engine Room reports no problems, yet the Argo continues to show signs of power loss.

IQ-9 hands Sandor a report on the meteors: they are a type of “vacuum meteor” that absorbs propulsion energy. Venture’s body language reveals a growing doubt about their situation. Eager reports Comet Empire missile ships ahead, which launch a salvo at the Argo. In Yamato 2, these ships are identified as the remnants of the enemy fleet they encountered in previous episodes.

At Sandor’s suggestion, they use the revolving asteroid defense, last seen in Episode 9 of Series 1. Explosive shells filled with magnetic sensors are quickly loaded into the auxiliary shock cannons and fired in wide bursts. The sensors embed themselves into the passing meteors, then are pulled to the ship to form a defensive ring. (Actually, they first coat the ship from bow to stern for no readily apparent reason, since they are almost immediately reformed into the ring.)

Additional note from Matt Murray: Listening to Royster’s line delivery in this scene (“Boy, now I’ve seen everything!”), it’s reasonable to speculate that he was voiced by the same actor who played Sandor, though the lack of identification of this actor makes any confirmation presently impossible. It also makes Royster’s eventual disappearance from the Star Blazers version even less explicable.

The ring successfully blocks the incoming missiles, but the Star Force find themselves with two more problems. First, the engine power drops even more. Second, the effect of magnetizing the meteors from the stream has created a whirlpool. With engine power so low, they’re helplessly caught in its pull. No one refers to it as a black hole, but that’s how it behaves.

Torbuk and his aide watch the Star Force’s plight. They are amused not only about the scene unfolding on their video panel, but by the fact that they will cause Desslok conniptions when they defeat the Star Force in his place. While Torbuk’s voice actor doesn’t sound as ridiculously put-on as his aide, he speaks with a nasal “high-brow” accent that makes him sound like a moustache-twirling cartoon villain. (He could pass as Snidely Whiplash’s brother; he even has the same green skin!)

The Argo emerges from the meteor swarm, coming face to face with the enemy fleet. Wildstar orders Wave-Motion Gun preparations to begin, only for Venture to point out that their energy levels are too low. Sandor advises Wildstar to go ahead with the firing. He hits a switch, and energy floods back to the engine. He promises an explanation later.

Next we get a brief Wave-Motion Gun lecture by Nova, complete with a floor video panel diagram. She seems to be addressing the new recruits, including the marines and Royster. While this scene is new, chronologically it must be a flashback, since Nova is on the first bridge throughout the meteor swarm sequence. Yamato 2 ended this clip with a flirtatious Saito [Knox] winking at Yuki [Nova], causing her to gasp and blush.

Torbuk has his Anti-matter Missile Ships line up, which were restocked with their huge prime weapons somewhere along the way.

For the first time in the series, the Wave-Motion Gun is prepared for firing. Torbuk’s fleet launches its missiles. The Wave-Motion Gun is fired, first dissolving the anti-matter missiles, then Torbuk’s entire fleet. Reusing footage from Farewell To Yamato, the original episode shows Goland’s death, where he releases a blood-curdling scream as he’s consumed by the Wave-Motion blast. Wildstar growls audibly as the gun is fired, as symbolic a release of tension as we could ask for.

Additional note from Matt Murray: While Torbuk’s death was deemed too violent for American audiences, they didn’t quite get rid of all of it. A single frame of his face remains in Star Blazers, surrounded by flame, visible just as his ship explodes.

On the command bridge, Sandor explains where the Wave-Motion Energy came from. When the Argo used the asteroid defense system on its trip to Iscandar, Sandor noticed the high energy absorption properties of the asteroids. For some reason it didn’t cause a problem back then, nor was it even mentioned. Since that time, Sandor modified the magnetic sensors to channel the absorbed energy back to the Argo. This continues his penchant for surprise secret defensive measures, like the magnetic coating that saved the ship at the end of Series 1. In other words, he’s a good guy to have in your corner.

Additional note from Matt Murray: This frankly feels like a case of Sandor just plain showing off. While he might have felt it prudent to wait until the ship had escaped the meteor storm before transmitting the lost power back to the ship (to avoid simply shedding it again in the meantime), there’s no real reason for him to have concealed his intentions from his shipmates until this point, other than to enjoy the thrill of blowing everyone’s minds.

Talan reports Torbuk’s defeat to Desslok. Desslok responds in his typical manner: he laughs hysterically, then sends the Star Force a congratulatory message. This is a callback to Series 1, episode 11, where he congratulated them for escaping a Gamilon trap. When the Argo receives his message, they think it’s some kind of prank. They are certain Desslok is dead, although they note that it fits his style.

Production note: the storyboard for this episode was done by Kenzo Koizumi, who was an animator on Series 1 and re-engineered the character designs for Series 2. He would go on to design more characters for The New Voyage and serve as its animation director.

Story note: It is estimated that this episode takes place on December 16, 2201. There are 100 days remaining until the White Comet reaches Earth.

Continue to episode 11

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