Final Yamato Commentary, Part 2

Back up to part 1

Doctor Sado and Yuki enter the bridge, where the doctor examines a body (Nanbu?) and quickly diagnosis the problem as radiation exposure. But they are all wearing their protective helmets, so they are just unconscious, but should survive. But then, Yuki spots Kodai lying on the floor, not wearing a helmet. She lets out a horrifying screech, followed by sobbing as she cradles his body.

Yuki was trained as a nurse, so you would expect her to do a thorough examination, but she’s too overwhelmed with emotion. Her wails are enough to wake Sanada, allowing him to witness her next act — she pulls Kodai’s gun from its holster and points it at her neck. Before she can pull the trigger, Sanada uses all his strength to knock her down. Her suicide attempt thwarted, she collapses into a sobbing mess.

I remember talking with a Star Blazers fan who disliked Yuki/Nova. Her most notable character trait, he argued, was her devotion to Kodai/Wildstar. It didn’t matter what crisis she was facing, her thoughts were almost always of him and nothing else. We get to hear her thoughts (literally) more than anyone else on the show, and without fail, she’s almost always thinking of him. The original Japanese Yamato scripts seemed a little bit more balanced than Star Blazers in this regard, since some of her Wildstar-centric thoughts were due to changes made to the American script. But here, in raw Japanese, we see a Yuki that borders on parody.

Yuki had been portrayed as an intelligent, capable woman, one that performs such disparate tasks as radar, environmental analysis, food service, nursing, and laundry(!). She has been on Yamato from the start (and, as a matter of fact, was assigned to the ship before Kodai or Shima.) She has faced death and loss many times before and always showed great courage and dignity. Yet here, she’s driven to hysteria at the mere thought of being without her man. From her first appearance in this movie, her only role is to worry about Kodai, and with his death, she no longer has that.

As we examine the various interviews and essays over the years (culminating with those in the Final Yamato Time Machine articles) and focus on comments about Yuki, it becomes apparent that her character was strong and independent in the beginning, but became increasingly subservient as the saga progressed to the point where she spontaneously decides she cannot live without Kodai. The short explanation for this would be the continuous evolution of Kodai and Yuki as anime’s most romantic couple, which turned them into wish-fulfillment characters for young female fans. Nothing wrong with that in theory, but we can’t overlook the fact that the writers (while progressive by Japanese standards) were all of the Showa era, in which male and female roles were still viewed in very traditional fashion.

Thus, it was probably inevitable that Yuki would be seen first and foremost as a classic Yamato Nadeshiko, whose job it is to support her man with unflinching devotion. Therefore, her identity is entirely a product of her relationship to her man. Of course, it didn’t take long for that sort of characterization to become an anachronism, especially when compared with the far more progressive sensibilities seen in Yamato 2199. This is one reason “classic Yuki” becomes harder for us to identify with as the saga goes on.

Earth is now 15 days from flooding, and EDF command orders an evacuation from Earth to nearby colonies. As the colony ships and their Space Navy defenders depart, Shima plays a round of soccer with his little brother Jiro (renamed Jordy Venture in Star Blazers), who is wearing a uniform styled like Yamato crew uniforms. Jiro is worried, of course, but Shima promises that the threat of Aquarius will pass, and they will play soccer on Earth again.

Two points here: the existence of colonies in the solar system is not necessarily a new thing. We at least saw military bases and mining facilities in earlier stories. But it’s definitely the first time we’re made aware that they’re large enough to support a big population. Given the number of times Earth has been threatened by one thing or another, it’s entirely logical that building Gundam-style space colonies would become a priority.

Secondly, the design of Jiro’s “crew T-shirt” is a callback to real T-shirts that were manufactured in 1978 based on the work of fashion designer Yukiko Hanai.

Kodai wakes in his hospital bed to a teary but relieved Yuki. Yuki calls his survival a miracle. But when Kodai asks about the rest of the crew, she turns away silently, tacitly confirming that there were many casualties.

So, not only did Yuki nearly kill herself over Kodai’s death, but he wasn’t even dead! As we’ll find out later she’s not the only medical professional who has trouble telling live bodies from dead ones.

The September 1982 issue of My Anime published some exclusive artwork to highlight certain scenes in the script, including one (cut from the movie) of Kodai being coaxed out of a fever-dream by Yuki’s presence. Get a look at the article here.

EDF HQ is informed that signals from Pluto have been interrupted, and that a large invasion fleet has entered the solar system. The evac ships have no defense escort, so Todo orders all available EDF ships to the area at once.

Near Saturn, the slaughter begins. Lugal’s fleet opens fire on the passenger ships, destroying them with ease. The defense fleet arrives immediately afterward. Lugal launches his torpedo boats. Simultaneously, the EDF fleet commander issues the order for all ships to fire their Wave-Motion guns. As the Wave energy surges toward his fleet, Lugal commands his ships to warp, successfully avoiding destruction.

Before the EDF ships can respond, the torpedo boats launch their payloads of hyper-radiation missiles. Soon, the entire battlefield is filled with burning EDF ships. The Dengil fleet de-warps and flies through the battle area, victorious.

The EDF gets reports that the enemy has taken Mars and are now approaching the moon. At this critical point, Yuki walks up to the commander to deliver Kodai’s resignation. He’s taking the loss of his men hard, and “accepts responsibility” by quitting. Also, he’s sulking and refusing to talk.

Like Yuki’s suicide attempt, I find this to be a horrible mischaracterization. Kodai has been responsible for the deaths of his men before, most notably at the end of Yamato 2, where he fell to his knees before a portrait of Okita and admitted that most of his crew died due to his decisions. But in that instance, Kodai still had a job to do, and he tried to do it to the best of his ability. Here, it’s all overwrought angst. Kodai was already upset at the loss of his men in the rescue attempt, for which he does bear some responsibility, but the surprise attack? What could he have done? He fired the defensive missiles, he put out a call for a space suit dress code when he realized the danger… he did what he could to protect the lives of his men. He’s not responsible for the deaths of his crew; the Dengilians were. He wasn’t reckless or negligent; they were ambushed. Instead of spurring him on to fight, he just gives up. I just can’t see a seasoned leader of men wracked with this kind of guilt.

Readers of the Final Yamato Time Machine articles saw many attempts by Yoshinobu Nishizaki to rationalize Kodai’s demoralization, describing it as an example of his “humanism” (which was a trending term at the time), a trait that makes him unfit as a captain. On more than one occasion, Nishizaki pointed out that a captain must be prepared to make tough decisions and go on fighting even if it means the loss of lives. Basically, it was a way to revert Kodai back to his Series 1 status and open the door for Captain Okita’s return. As well-intentioned as this sounds, it was done by sweeping away all the maturity Kodai gained in the intervening stories. There were probably better ways to accomplish this plot twist without making viewers feel cheated.

Todo writes a name on a piece of paper and hands it to Yuki, with the instructions to call this person. Yuki is astonished at what she reads on the paper.

A Dengil carrier launches a large wave of fighters toward Earth, which proceeds to bomb and strafe the EDF spaceports, destroying every space-worthy fighting craft. Kodai watches as this enemy – his enemy – carries out the attack with impunity. His anger prompts him to action, only to be checked by the realization he no longer has anyone to lead, having resigned his commission. After accomplishing its task, the carrier retreats to the Pluto area.

The enemy carrier has a different design than the carriers in previous stories, which were based on nautical aircraft carriers. The Dengilian carriers have a more vertical layout. The fighters launch by spiraling down a long chute to build up kinetic energy. It looks kind of fun, actually.

Later, Kodai steps out into the open, where fires are still raging, and walks toward a still-smoking tower. In a large subterranean factory underneath the tower, Yamato is undergoing repairs. Kodai has recovered mentally enough for him to decide to board Yamato again. He sits in his old combat command chair, pleading out loud for the opportunity to fight on Yamato again, even if it’s only as a deckhand. He’s surprised to hear a familiar voice answer him, asking whether he really wishes that so strongly. He looks back at the portrait of Okita, hanging at the wall.

The “insert song” that plays during Kodai’s meditation is Kodai and Yamato, sung by Isao Sasaki. It’s a meditative piece from Kodai’s point of view in which he questions the nature of his relationship to the ship he’s been growing up on since 2199.

The crew assembles on the deck for Commander Todo’s farewell address, and to let them know that their new captain has arrived. The identity of their commander is revealed by a booming voice from the PA system: it is Juzo Okita, the space battleship’s first captain. Everyone is surprised to hear this voice, even Kodai, despite hearing it just moments earlier. I guess Okita was just being a prankster by speaking to him on the bridge in the previous scene without revealing himself, which seems rather odd in retrospect.

The bridge crew rushes into the command bridge and finds they were not suffering a mass hallucination: Juzo Okita is standing before them, in the flesh. He assures them that he is not a ghost, and proceeds to bark out orders to each of his officers, who hasten to carry them out. Kodai is the last to be addressed, and is told to resume his post as combat chief.

Yamato launches from its underground bay, emerging from its tunnel and out into the ocean. The launch sequence matches the artistry of previous launches throughout the saga, again showcasing a mastery of water effects.

Thanks to several animation errors (and stock footage from Farewell), several of Yamato‘s gunbarrel stripes are zilch. At different times.

Once the ship is in space, Captain Okita gives the bridge a brief mission summary/pep talk. Immediately after he leaves, Kodai begins issuing his own instructions, then remembers he’s not in command. As Yamato passes the moon, they are joined by an escort of nine EDF destroyers, led by Captain Mizutani.

When Yamato meets up with the EDF destroyers, there are nine of them available. However, one of the the original script drafts called for eight destroyers and one battle cruiser. Apparently, when the real Yamato sailed during Operation Ten-Go, she had a nine-ship flotilla following her to Okinawa. The real Ten-Go fleet had eight destroyers and one light cruiser, along with the real Yamato herself. Their names? Yahagi (the light cruiser), Asashimo, Isokaze, Hamakaze, Suzutsuki, Kasumi, Fuyuzuki (aka Fuyutsuki) (SPOILER ALERT – this ship’s in-film counterpart is the one that rescues Yamato‘s crew), Hatsushimo, and Yukikaze (does that last one sound familiar?). Incidentally, the literal translation of those names are all in the category of weather and/or wind conditions.

On the way out to Pluto, Dr. Sado, Kodai, and Yuki meet with Captain Okita in his quarters. The explanation of Okita’s resurrection is simple – upon his return from Iscandar, EDF physicians found his brain was still alive, and were able to successfully bring him back to full health. Dr. Sado wasn’t even aware of this until a month ago.

As explanations go, I find it less than satisfying. The death of Okita was one of the most intense and emotional touchstones in the entire Yamato saga, and I’m rather disappointed to see it undone with a perfunctory explanation. I can’t help but be reminded of a quote from a classic Simpsons episode: “He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was then taken to a better hospital where his condition was upgraded to ‘alive’.”

In the Argo Press Star Blazers comics, writer Bruce Lewis posited another reason for Okita’s return: the Cosmo DNA machine was activated shortly after his death, and that had something to do with bringing him back. Bringing back dead characters is always a bit risky, because if there’s not a suitable explanation or a good story behind their return, you’re jeopardizing the audience’s trust. In one of the most notorious examples, the prime-time soap Dallas wrote off an entire season as a dream in order to undo a character death. I’m glad Okita’s resurrection wasn’t that ridiculous, but now the question is: OK, you brought him back, now what?

As the EDF ships approach the enemy fleet at Pluto, Dr. Sado retires to his quarters for a meal, which is interrupted by a stowaway — the Dengilian boy. How and why he’s here is a mystery. I guess in all the drama, no one remembered he was on board.

When Yamato comes within range of the enemy fleet, the Cosmo Tigers launch (now sporting an untiger-like deep green paint job), led by Kodai in his Cosmo Zero. Their mission is to prevent the enemy torpedo boats from firing their hyper-radiation missiles. They are only partially successful. Several torpedo boats break through and destroy a number of EDF destroyers. When missiles are directed at Yamato, Captain Mizutani commands the remaining destroyers to shield the ship. The Dengil Boy watches the battle unfold on the med screen monitors, and is shocked by what he sees.

During this battle, the canopy of Kodai’s Zero is punctured and his left arm bleeds from a large gash. He is forced to pull out, but experiences no ill effects from having both his cockpit and uniform (which must function as a kind of pressure suit) compromised.

The enemy planes retreat, and the EDF fleet enters recovery mode. Medical ships are sent out to recover survivors from the wreckage. This turns out to be a ruse: at a command from Lugal, fighters sweep in and strafe the medical ships and rescue personnel.

When the fighters retreat again, an infuriated Kodai asks Okita for permission to pursue them. Okita points out that Kodai is injured, but Kodai just looks at his unbandaged, bleeding wound and says “I’ve been treated.” With a nod from Okita, Kodai runs out to a new model Zero (different than the “01” Zero he flew earlier). He’s about to take off when he realizes Yuki is in the back seat. She insists on coming with him, unfazed when Kodai points out they may not return. As she demonstrated earlier, she cannot live without him, so she’s coming too. Yamato‘s radar will see to itself, I guess.

When Kodai’s Zero nears the enemy fleet, it becomes a target for two enemy fighters. Kodai is now noticeably weakening from his arm wound, but he manages to outmaneuver and shoot them down. But the effort costs him, and he can no longer hide his discomfort from Yuki. Kodai insists that he’s all right as long as she’s with him.

Ota detects enemy ships 9000 space-km away. This is merely a decoy. Kodai manages to fight off unconsciousness to find the real main fleet 4000 space-km away, refueling at a giant mobile supply base. Kodai starts to radio in the coordinates, but begins passing out, so Yuki has to finish reading off the location. Yamato hits the target, and the huge refueling base explodes. Lugal barely escapes the conflagration.

4000 space-km is now within range of Yamato‘s main guns, which marks quite an update from the first series, where they had about a 10 space-km range. (Ota indicates the main guns have about a 7200 space-km range, but this may be for the Wave-Motion cartridges rather than the standard shock cannon blast.) The Wave-Motion cartridges are shown traveling in an arc pattern, like naval artillery.

There is a thick cluster of asteroids shown in this battle. It’s never remarked upon in dialogue, but they may be the remains of planet 10.

Kodai and Yuki’s flight back to the ship is accompanied by a romantic song titled The Love of Two (sung from Yuki’s point of view) and a montage of their scenes from prior movies. Presumably, Yuki or an autopilot has the helm since Kodai is passed out.

This is one place in the film where you truly get a sense of the weight and longevity of Yamato as Yuki remembers scenes from the past. It’s easy to forget this after multiple viewings, but the first time you watch this sequence (after watching the rest of the saga, of course) you feel the same history Yuki does. One can only imagine how nostalgic it would have felt for the loyal Japanese fans who had experienced Yamato in real time.

Kodai and Yuki’s joint recon mission is intended to solidify the idea that they need each other, that they are fated to be together. In addition, it shows the courage and sacrifice that Kodai is willing to take. I don’t find it very effective in either case. Kodai’s insistence on performing his job while impaired and requiring help shows a lack of good judgement. Yes, he’s a hero, and he’s brave, but, coming on the heels of his resignation, it reads more as a form of penance, to make up for his failures. This makes it more about him than the mission. It just proves that a man in his condition — mentally as well as physically — shouldn’t be in a position of authority. This scene damages Yuki’s character as well, because we’re left to wonder why she admires him.

“The Pluto War is over”, declares the narrator. Yamato meets the battleship Fuyuzuki, which takes the wounded back to Earth.

As the crew readies the ship for another outing, Shima and Tokugawa think about absent family members. First, Tokugawa talks to his a picture of his departed dad that he keeps near his workstation. Tokugawa insists that Yamato is immortal. He imagines his father’s response, telling him not to make a mistake. Even in the afterlife, the elder Tokugawa fears his son is going to mess everything up. Meanwhile, Shima writes a letter to Jiro, predicting that their recent soccer game will be their last memory together. Shima’s attitude contrasts with Tokugawa’s hopefulness. He’s so pessimistic, he doubts Jiro will even see his letter.

Yamato had unloaded its wounded, but they kept the Dengilian boy aboard. He hangs around with Yuki as she packs a suitcase. The boy asks her why Earth people will sacrifice their lives for one another. Yuki’s answer is that on Earth people try to make one another happy. The boy sullenly replies that his people only do what makes themselves happy. Yuki is shocked when the boy refers to his people as Dengil.

Meanwhile, Emperor Lugal prays before a statue of a demonic-looking god king, asking for strength for his son. Prince Lugal de Zahl (Lugal the 2nd) is on his hands and knees, begging forgiveness for his defeat. Emperor Lugal recites the history of their people to the young Prince. The Dengilians originally came from Earth. Their ancient civilization was nearly wiped out 10,000 years ago when the floodwaters of Aquarius drenched the planet. Unknown aliens rescued many people and took them to space.

Eventually, these ancient humans overthrew their benefactors, then conquered Planet Dengil. Now that Dengil itself has been destroyed by Aquarius, Lugal claims it is their destiny to conquer Earth. Lugal is sure Yamato will reappear before Aquarius’ 20th warp; if de Zahl can defeat it, he will have proven himself worthy to be Emperor. De Zahl is inspired by this knowledge as Aquarius enters warp number 19.

Continue to part 3

2 thoughts on “Final Yamato Commentary, Part 2

  1. It seemed to me that Kodai was suffering “battle fatigue” by the time of this story. Whether that fatigue was due to PTSD or bi-polarity isn’t fully analyzed, but Yuki sticks with him because she recognizes that he’s not functioning at 100%.

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