Episode 24 Commentary

The Secret Of Planet Gardiana

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

The Argo emerges from a warp and approaches what looks like a planet-sized black marble. Queen Mariposa [Princess Ruda] explains that this is not their destination, planet Gardiana [Shalbart], but merely the gateway. She clasps her hands together and starts to glow. The black sphere fades into a nimbus of bright blue and pink clouds, revealing a portal to a subspace dimension.

Behind the Argo, a Galman fleet warps in, led by Desslok [Dessler] in his new giant flagship. Last episode, this fleet was dispatched to reinforce Gustav’s forces, but arrived too late to take part in the battle. Since then, they have been discreetly stalking the Argo. Fortunately for Desslok, Mariposa doesn’t close the dimensional gateway behind her, an oversight which allows his forces to follow.

Story note: Desslok’s new flagship is huge; a size comparison chart prepared for the animators established its length as 1350 meters. Since the Galman capital ships mostly average around 500m, it should have been drawn a lot bigger compared to its escorts in this episode. Incidentally, it is still dwarfed by Zordar’s Dreadnaught from Series 2, which clocked in almost ten times longer at 12200m.

Inside the subspace pocket, the Argo approaches planet Gardiana. During its low-level flyby, the Argo passes by many scenic wonders, some man-made, some natural: forests, mountains, streams, flowering fields, temples…and nude bathers. The bathers are only seen in a very distant, obscure view, but they were still a surprise to see in the Star Blazers edit.

The Argo lands in a body of water near a village. The crew may not have been briefed that their current mission is only to return Queen Mariposa to her home planet, because several of them begin cheering that they’ve found a new Earth.

A small boat comes out to greet them. The world’s caretaker, Elder Ossa-Meyer, explains that Mariposa had left some time ago to investigate the galaxy outside. She was captured by the Bolars and her people were unable to retrieve her. To celebrate her homecoming, the Argo‘s crew is treated to a lavish meal at the Royal Palace.

In the midst of the celebration, Jason Jetter [Ryuske Domon] shares some disturbing thoughts with Wildstar [Kodai]: this world would make a perfect home for humanity, and since the natives appear to possess little in the way of technology, they could take it by force. Wildstar admits he entertained these same thoughts, but he refuses to become like the world-conquerors they’ve fought in the past. Jason responds that his integrity will be cold comfort when the Earth becomes extinct.

This moral dilemma is dismissed almost as quickly as it’s brought up, but it has deep roots stretching back to the core of the first Yamato series. The Gamilons [Gamilas], led by Desslok, were faced with the same problem the Star Force is dealing with now — to find a new homeworld. Desslok opted to conquer Earth. Wildstar witnessed first-hand the cost of this decision and the misery it caused on both sides of the conflict. His experiences lead him to quickly dismiss any thoughts of conquest.

Additional note by superfan Andrea Controzzi: Indeed, it is a very deep moral dilemma. They could even ask the natives to share their world, but from experience in the New World (America) we know that humanity is not likely to respect indigenous people. Yet, this is not a matter of colonizing a new land, butĀ of survival. Kodai is probably not entitled to choose for the whole of humanity by himself. [End of note.]

Desslok’s fleet approaches Gardiana, and lurking behind them is a large Bolar fleet. After all the trouble the citizens of Gardiana went to to hide their planet, Queen Mariposa has practically invited an invasion by leaving the gateway open!

Wildstar receives a call from Desslok on his handheld communicator. The Galman Emperor asks if this is the legendary planet Gardiana. Wildstar confirms it, but says that its reputed military strength is just a myth. However, there is a more pressing concern–the Bolar fleet has arrived.

Bolar ships commanded by Golsakov engage the Galman fleet while a contingent of troop carriers heads for the planet itself. Wildstar warns the palace of the incoming attack. Flash [Ageha] is charged with protecting Queen Mariposa while the rest of the Cosmo Tigers get airborne. The Argo, berthed in the harbor, isn’t able to stop all of the troop carriers, which swoop over the palace and release flight-pack soldiers. Gardiana’s civilians are totally unprepared and just stare as the invaders float down from the sky and open fire.

Story note: with the Argo resting in the water, the hangar bay hatch would be unusable, so the Cosmo Tigers would have had to launch via the rear catapults. After being used to launch surveillance satellites to planet Phantom, this would have been the catapults’ only time to shine in the entire series, and it happened off-camera.

The fighting makes its way into the Royal Palace. The Star Force puts up a vigorous defense using their cosmoguns and hand-to-hand combat. In the midst of all the violence, the elder boldly stands up and commands an end to the fighting. Only Jason Jetter’s quick actions save him from getting cut down by Bolar gunfire. Wildstar asks him why his people aren’t mounting a counter-offensive. The elder answers that they have given up on warfare. Wildstar says that they will all be killed. “So be it,” is the reply.

What should be an exciting action sequence is hampered by some of the choppiest animation this side of Series 1, full of awkward poses and spastic movements.

Out in space, the Bolar fleet approaches the Galman forces in one large group (perhaps because they just emerged from the gateway). This presents the perfect opportunity for Desslok to unleash his new mega-weapon, the Excelsior gun. The gun’s Japanese name is the “Hyper Dessler Cannon,” which I can only imagine sounds more impressive to its original audience. Like his old Desslok Cannon, the firing controls are styled like a mock-up of a gun, but the first sight of this mechanism appears laughably small and flimsy.

Desslok fires the gun, and the wide beam takes out the entire Bolar fleet. Just one zap, and they’re gone. Like last episode’s climactic battle, the good guys are faced with a huge armada that is defeated with little effort. With the series drawing to a close, the enemy had to be dealt with quickly in order to get on with the story, which results in disappointing battles like this one. The Bolar Federation had been set up as a vast, powerful empire, but now they appear to be little more than a paper tiger.

Story note: there is a certain poetic justice in this being the first time in the entire saga that one of Desslok’s uber-weapons actually accomplishes what it was designed for. Prior to this, every one of them either fell short or was circumvented by clever manuevering. (Good thing, too, otherwise the story would have ended prematurely.) The single exception was a bonus scene added to the end of the Playstation game based on The Comet Empire, in which he took out Sabella [Invidia] after she thought she had escaped certain death.

The Cosmo Tigers take care of the troop carriers, followed by a lingering look at the battle’s aftermath: the green, flowering fields are now gray, smoke-filled landscapes, littered with charred ruins and burning vehicles. In a makeshift hospital, Dr. Sane [Sado] runs from patient to patient. But this grim reminder of the cost of war is undercut by a forced bit of comedy featuring Dr. Sane and his sake (or “medicine”) bottle.

After all the injured are accounted for, Queen Mariposa asks Wildstar’s staff to accompany her to the “Royal Graveyard.” Using her mysterious powers, Mariposa opens the doors to a giant crypt, activates the elevators, and turns on the lights, all with a wave of her hand. (So basically, her powers make her a glorified remote door opener.) The Graveyard tomb contains an armory filled with weapons of all shapes and sizes. Proton missiles and Hyperon bombs (the latter seen in Be Forever Yamato) are among the weapons Sandor [Sanada] identifies on sight.

Wildstar asks why they didn’t defend themselves when they have these weapons at their disposal. The elder explains that Gardiana ruled the galaxy by force in the ancient past. Many worlds and cultures became dependent on them. Eventually, a kind of religion grew out of their rule and their followers looked to Gardiana for salvation. Realizing the people were longing for a peace that weapons couldn’t provide, all the planet’s armaments were locked up and Gardiana became a secluded nation of pacifists. Their adherence to their peaceful ideals is so strong that even if they are attacked, they will not fight. By taking such a strong stand, they hope to leave an indelible impression upon others. Even if they are destroyed, the seeds of their philosophy will live on, and other “Gardianas” will appear and spread across the galaxy.

Additional note by superfan Andrea Controzzi: I think this confirms the Shalbart people are the space Christians (against violence and worshiping a god-like figure which promises peace and justice to oppressed people) and Ruda/Mariposa is a mix between Jesus and Mary. They are even targets of huge empires, like the first Christians were victims of the Roman Empire. [End of note.]

Production note: The original image of Planet Gardiana [Shalbart] came from the first Space Battleship Yamato novelization by Arashi Ishizu, based on a story draft by Aritsune Toyota. That version of The Quest for Iscandar featured a third planet, separate from the Gamilas and Iscandar, named Bolzon. Its inhabitants wore medieval dress and had abandoned their once-great military power. In hindsight, it’s easy to imagine this as the basis for Shalbart.

But the Star Force is on a mission, and high ideals will not save the Earth. Fortunately, the elder offers something that can: the “Hydro Cosmogen,” a huge gun–or maybe “device” might be a better word–that is capable of restoring the sun.

“Hydro Cosmogen” is another name that probably doesn’t have the same ring in English as it does in Japanese. But in this case, the name is just downright confusing. “Hydro” means “fluid” and is usually used in reference to water. “Cosmo” means “cosmic,” and “-gen” means “that which creates.” (The word “hydrogen” actually means “creates water” because it forms water when combined with oxygen.) So what does a “hydro cosmogen” do? Does it create “cosmic water,” or maybe generate hydrogen for stars to burn? Regardless of etymology, just know that the Hydro Cosmogen is a magic space gun that fixes stars.

Star Blazers gives it an even more unwieldy name: The Hydro Cosmo Penultimate Cannon. (If this is the penultimate gun, what would the ultimate gun be? The Wave-Motion Gun?)

Additional note by superfan Andrea Controzzi: The Hydro Cosmogen is probably meant to restore the normal fusion level inside the Sun. If we have to find an explanation for what happened when the proton missile hit the Sun in Episode 1, it most likely sparked helium fusion, which was meant to happen after the hydrogen was consumed. This prematurely turned the Sun into a red giant. The Hydro Cosmogen is so called because it probably reverts the helium to hydrogen to restore the hydrogen-only fusion inside the core. This would “reset” the Sun’s life expectancy and give 4.5 billion more years of life to our Solar system! Truly a godly gift.

It also takes an impossible amount of energy to achieve that with a single shot. Even the Wave-Motion Gun energy it uses would be insignificant compared to real requirements, so we have to assume it has its own energy pack, to be triggered with WMG energy acting as a primer. [End of note.]

But with the joy of receiving the Space Watergun there comes a bit of sadness. Flash must say goodbye to Mariposa. She has her duties on Gardiana and can’t stay with the Star Force. The couple’s parting is written, animated, and scored with flourishes that attempt to add some emotional gravitas, but this can’t overcome the fact that these two characters have spent maybe a total of 5 minutes of screen time together, and approximately 4 minutes and 55 seconds of that time was of Flash staring at Mariposa in silence. We’ve barely gotten to know Flash, a character who’s been around since the beginning, much less this mysterious woman they picked up two episodes ago. Queen Mariposa is a plot device, not a character.

Queen Gardiana suddenly appears at the throne. Mariposa walks to her and the two bodies merge into one. The elder narrates her transformation into the new Queen Gardiana. She will live on eternally in the hearts of her followers. The armory-temple background fades away, replaced by a swiftly-moving star field. I’m not entirely clear, but this seems to indicate that she no longer has a corporeal form and now drifts among the heavens.

Wildstar returns to the Argo and tells Desslok the story of Gardiana. He asks if he plans to attack, but Desslok claims the Emperor of Galman does not attack defenseless planets. Wildstar sounds a bit skeptical. “You really wouldn’t?” Desslok insists he “would never stoop so low.” He wishes the Star Force success and bids adieu.

The Cosmogen is now aboard. The Star Force prepares for its journey home.

Planet Gardiana comes across as a very rural, very quaint, and very European place. The people, their style of dress, and the landscape look like they were ripped right from The Sound of Music or Heidi of the Alps. This is probably not a coincidence. I always had the impression that Gardiana was modeled on Switzerland. Their pacifism reflects Switzerland’s status as a neutral nation, one that has not been in a state of war since 1812–outstanding, considering Europe’s history–and often tries to mediate disputes between warring factions.

Story note: It is 238 days since launch, estimated to be August 3, 2206. There are 46 days left for the human race. (Or 39, according to the Star Blazers narrator.)

Continue to Episode 25

 

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