Episode 18 Commentary

The Angry Sun

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

Production note: this episode shows a lot of production strain with many hastily-drawn scenes, especially in the character art, and a higher-than-average volume of clumsy animation. On the plus side, there’s also a higher-than-average volume of unusual music tracks, many unpublished (though as of this writing a remedy looms on the horizon with the Yamato Sound Almanac CD series). What’s hardest to reconcile, however, is the pseudo-science saturating the script, almost none of which matches the demands reality would place on the story being told. For one thing, one of the opening shots shows two side-by-side Saturns in the solar system. That basically sets the tone for what is soon to come. (One is painted to look like Jupiter, but we all know that would be crazy.)

Story note: 29 days have passed since the last episode. The number was not indicated in the original Japanese script, and was decided immediately before voice recording. It is estimated to be April 18, 2206. It is 176 days (or about 6 months) since launch.

After the opening story-so-far segment (not seen in Star Blazers), we join the Galman science fleet as they wait at a rendezvous point near Saturn. On the command ship, Star Force members Homer [Aihara] and Beaver [Bando] are shocked to see Sol has expanded to 2.5 times its normal size. The American script drops the decimal point and claims the sun is 25 times larger, which is a difference in diameter of about 31 million kilometers. While the Star Blazers figure may seem like a lot, in about 5 billion years the sun will start to burn up the last of its hydrogen fuel core and expand into a red giant 250 times its current size. It should be noted that this series mentions time and again that the sun will go nova (explode) due to “an increase in fusion” brought on by a Galman proton missile. In reality, the sun doesn’t have enough mass to go nova, no matter how many giant missiles fall into it.

The science ships are met by an Earth patrol cruiser. Commander Singleton [Todo] and his grand-daughter Wendy [Akiko] are brought aboard the Galman ship commanded by Technology Major Kranshaw [Frausky]. When Sandor [Sanada] compliments Galman science, Kranshaw’s chest literally swells with pride.

While they discuss the mission plan, Wendy and Homer steal away to a quiet secluded spot. The couple’s romance was encouraged by Wildstar from the beginning [Episode 3], and Homer’s assignment to this mission was, in part, to allow them to see one another again. Under the light of Saturn, they express their wishes for the sun to be restored so they can start planning their future together. Wendy reveals she picked a flower on the day they met that she keeps pressed in a book. Homer has one too, the very one that she picked for him on that day.

Sandor takes one of the ships to the asteroid belt, while Kranshaw leads the rest to Venus orbit. Meanwhile, Wildstar [Kodai] and Nova [Yuki] watch the mission on video with Desslok [Dessler] at the Galman homeworld. In Yamato III, Wildstar and Nova hope the Galmans are successful in controlling the sun. The Star Blazers script substitutes this dialogue with out-of-place comments where they admire Kranshaw’s ship and compare its design to the Argo.

Production note: the background set for this sequence was another of the many palace interiors designed by Yutaka Izubuchi. Desslok’s table and chairs look particularly dangerous with spikes jutting out at odd angles. It goes without saying that everyone must walk carefully through this room.

Desslok boasts about the skill and knowledge of Kranshaw and the wonders of Galman science. He is expecting complete and utter success. The great regard Desslok and Kranshaw have for their empire’s scientific and technological prowess is a nod to Galmans’ real-world inspiration, Germany, which has been a leader in the sciences since its founding.

The sun operation begins with Kranshaw’s ships firing thousands of shield pods. These pods form an energy barrier around the entirety of the sun that only allows the normal amount of light and heat to escape. The effect on Earth is nearly immediate and temperatures begin to cool. The average citizens are aware that the Galmans are the source of this miracle. In Yamato III, the Galman Empire is referred to as the Galman-Gamilas Empire. You might expect the name Gamilas (aka Gamilon) to evoke fear or hatred amongst Earth’s population, but one man sincerely thanks them.

Story note: in a scene that demonstrates how little science backs this episode, the shield pods are shown to completely surround the sun in a matter of seconds. Just to bring in a little reality checking, we’re talking about a sphere with a circumference of several million miles. Even without doing the math, it’s pretty obvious that the total volume of pods required to surround that area, especially gathered as tightly as they’re shown in this episode, must be exponentially greater than the ships that carried them here.

It’s unfortunate that the Galmans couldn’t stop here. This barrier wouldn’t stop the sun’s runaway fusion, but it could make the Earth livable for a longer period of time. Perhaps the pods have a limited duration.

Sandor’s vessel meets up with specialized “magnetic pole ships” in the asteroid field. These ships cover themselves with asteroids, presumably using something similar to the Argo‘s “polarity reactors.” After about a hundred ships have been loaded with the rocks, they begin their journey. When they get to the Mars area they are warped to the Venus orbit, and then continue toward the sun.

Venus appears to be very close to the red sun, closer than it should be. It is also blue instead of pale yellow, which could be due to oceans created by terraforming. It’s believed that Venus once had oceans, but a runaway greenhouse effect heated up the atmosphere and boiled away all the water. The water vapor then dissolved into its hydrogen and oxygen components (photodissociation), and the hydrogen was swept away by the solar wind. But even if Venus were successfully terraformed by the early 23rd century, the expanded sun should have undone all that work and made it a barren, poisonous steambath once more.

Commander Singleton explains the details of the operation to the Earth President (and the audience). Proton missiles equipped with “solar nuclear fusion plasma control units” will be shot into the sun. The proton missiles will also open pathways so the asteroid ships can pass through the shield. The asteroid ships will plunge into the sun to absorb excess plasma. (Meteorites and asteroids were mentioned to have energy absorbing properties during a Yamato 2 episode. We can assume that holds true here as well.) The Earth President is just as confused by this explanation as I am, and so when he’s asked for any suggestions, he “suggests” that “the project be successful.”

Story note: It’s basically assumed that the countless asteroids and other irregular bodies floating around in our solar system are remnants from the formation that for whatever reason didn’t bunch together and compress into planets. Even with this high number, it is estimated that the total mass of the asteroid belt is only about 4% that of our moon, which is infinitesimal next to the mass of the sun at this stage of the story. It’s just one of those pesky details you have to set aside to accept what you’re watching.

On the Galman homeworld, Desslok gulps down some wine and says “This is the final stage.” It sounds like the American actor slurred his lines a little to make him sound drunk.

It all goes well for a few moments and then, like the previous attempt to control the sun in Episode 8, it fails spectacularly. The star flares and flexes as if if it were angry (hence the episode title) and burns through the energy shield. Kranshaw orders a retreat, then forces his crew off the ship at gunpoint (using one of those unique Gamilon grip guns first seen in Series 1). As soon as Kranshaw is alone on his ship, he turns it back to the sun. Sandor pleads with him to escape, but Kranshaw refuses. His pride and honor cannot abide the shame of failure. His ship disintegrates in the heat of the sun.

Story note: for anyone not yet aware, this is the moment where The Bolar Wars Extended begins and takes the story of Series 3 in a different direction. Read all about it here. The webcomics are still in production, and will resume at this website in early 2013.

Desslok seems even more upset by Kranshaw’s failure than Wildstar or Nova. Like Kranshaw, it’s a matter of pride. Desslok is offended of the very notion of his Galman science failing. This contrasts with Wildstar, who seems to have expected it. His attitude is a reflection of the struggles he’s seen in his short lifetime. The fight to survive will not be easy, nor should he expect it to be. For the Star Force, it’s back to plan A–find another planet to settle on.

Production note: when Desslok concludes their conversation, he sweeps his cape and walks sullenly away‚ directly toward the corner of the room. This was obviously not intentional, simply another sign of a rushed episode. In this particular case, the animation was not properly coordinated with the background design. It is somewhat amusing, however, to imagine the Great Emperor sentencing himself to go stand in a corner.

While heading back to the Argo, Wildstar and Nova worry about Desslok’s ambition to rule the galaxy and the suffering it will bring. They come upon a public gathering of Gardiana worshipers. Derek and Nova take the opportunity to ask a few questions about Gardiana, particularly if she’s a real person. The worshipper answers that she once ruled the galaxy, and they pray for her to return and end war. Suddenly, a warning is shouted that the police are coming and the worshipers scatter.

Story note: given the well-established plot point that Gardiana worship is strictly prohibited, these worshippers are showing a lot of brass conducting their ritual in plain view of the surrounding buildings of the capital city–especially with a giant goddess floating overhead, staring straight down at them. No wonder they don’t get much accomplished before being forced to scatter.

The story jumps ahead by two weeks (according to the Yamato III script), when Sandor’s team returns to Galman. Wildstar contacts Desslok from the Argo‘s bridge for his goodbye. He has a question for the Emperor: why does he suppress Gardiana worship? “Galman doesn’t need two gods,” Desslok quips. The issue isn’t pressed further, because Desslok has news to aid them in their search. Galman surveys have found an Earth-like planet 10,000 light years away, called Phantom. Ever hopeful (and paying little heed to nomenclature), the Argo heads there immediately, setting up the adventure for next episode.

Story note: The science fleet’s return trip to Planet Galman is abbreviated. It evidently has the ability to make the 30,000 light year trip to Earth and back in three weeks, though here the science is also wonky. Even with a week to prepare for the work of controlling the sun, the fleet still needed two weeks to reach Earth.

Galman hubris is on full display in this episode. Kranshaw’s pride didn’t allow him to survive his failure, and Desslok’s pride is leading to a growing sense of unease from his allies, the Star Force. Wildstar had delivered a warning about this to Desslok at the end of last episode, but he hasn’t taken it to heart. There is a sense of foreboding, summed up in the dictum “pride goeth before a fall.” It also falls in line with the underlying Yamato philosophy that technology, no matter how advanced, cannot replace spirit and effort. Again and again, technology is shown to provide easy answers, but ultimately leads to failure. Hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance are the keys to success.

There are only 153 days left.

Continue to Episode 19

2 thoughts on “Episode 18 Commentary

  1. The “second Saturn” on the scene is actually Jupiter, that has his own ring system, a scientific fact correctly depicted in that scene. More difficult to digest the unrealistic proximity between the two giant planets.

  2. The appearance of Venus in the episode actually matches quite well the images sent to Earth by the space probe Mariner 10, that shows an identical pattern of white-and-blue clouds. But that outcome was due to a small trick: the images was taken in ultraviolet light rather than in visible light, because at such wavelenghts the cloud pattern is more clearly visible than in visible light. These images of a blue Venus became so popular that many publications have presented them as the “real” appearance of the planet to our eyes. In reality, Venus is white-yellow with only pale details on his surface.

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