For a series that’s been around since 1979, Star Blazers has a comparatively short history on home video, having been released by just two different companies and on two formats, VHS and DVD.
Claude Hill’s Westchester Films, the company that engineered the importation and transformation of the three Yamato TV series for American television, formed its own in-house video label in the late 1980s to make it available to fans on VHS. They were the first to roll out Star Blazers Series 1 and 2 in 1988, two episodes per tape for $14.95. This was the timeframe in which the titles were conceived by Star Blazers superfan Rob Fenelon:
“The first name that came to mind was for the second series. The one thing that overwhelmed all else was the appropriate title: The Comet Empire. The first series needed something lyrical. It took a little bit of time to combine what I knew of Claude Hill’s love of space exploration with the original Argo‘s quest for the golden fleece, to come up with Quest for Iscandar. I couldn’t come up with a single title that would sum up all the the many and varied things that were happening in the third series. So I got lazy and rode with the chaos, and came up with a plural title: The Bolar Wars.”
Series 3 was added to the lineup in 1990 and continued in the same vein, expanding the entire line to a whopping 38 volumes. These were offered via mail order, along with posters and a t-shirt, in Kidmark’s “Star Blazers Bulletin” (below). There was also a Star Blazers fan club which gave fans a discount on these products.
Brian Cirulnick, artist and director of the Desslok’s Revenge fan film, was hired by Claude Hill of Westchester to design and draw the box art (shown below), which would be appear on the front of each volume. The character art was based on a poster in the Be Forever Yamato Roman Album, and the background was a large image of the Uruk City Satellite from Final Yamato. Star Blazers fans who weren’t familiar with the Yamato movies only recognized Wildstar and Nova (though she was in an unfamiliar costume). All the rest bespoke undiscovered country.
Yoshinobu Nishizaki, Yamato‘s creator, purchased all rights back from Westchester in 1992 and established the American office of his production company, Voyager Entertainment, as the new worldwide rights holder for Star Blazers. He provided this office with the video masters for all 77 Star Blazers episodes and the five Yamato movies, and new releases followed just a year later.
|Voyager’s VHS flyers, circa 1993. Click on each image to view an enlargement.|
Under the Voyager name, tapes were made available in two forms: three box sets containing 6 volumes apiece (shown above left) and individual tapes that followed the Kidmark format with 2 episodes per tape (though one was added at the end to bring the number up to 39). The box sets were priced far more economically, so the individual tapes were eventually discontinued. Furthermore, new packaging was created so that each series could have its own identifying sleeve (below).
These tapes, along with those of the five Yamato movies, kept fans fed until August 2000, when Voyager released its very first DVD (shown below) in cooperation with a British authoring studio. The art by Brian Cirulnick made a reappearance on the sleeve, and the disc contained the first 5 episodes with a rudimentary menu and no extra features.
Knowing fans would be looking for more, Voyager ended its relationship with the British studio and hired Star Blazers superfan Tim Eldred to supervise the second volume. Tim was given the mission of finding every possible way to enhance the package, and he drew upon all the resources at his disposal to do just that. Thus were the Star Blazers DVDs set on their new course.
It was during the production of the second series in 2002 that this website first went online with Tim Eldred as its content manager. In fact, he wrote these very words in a cloying but futile attempt to describe it all from a third-person perspective.
Series 1 DVD set, 2001
Voyager released the rest of Series 1 throughout the year 2001, culminating with a box set (shown at left) in November. This included a revised and upgraded edition of Volume 1. Custom menus and special features were developed for each disc, which provided an overview to everything seen in the series from the background of the Earth/Gamilon War all the way to the homecoming after the final episode.
New artwork for the individual sleeves was created by Tim Eldred, modeled in part on the Toshihiro Kawamoto art created for Bandai’s 1998 release of Series 1. A Viewer’s Guide was created as a bonus for the box set, a 24-page booklet (shown at right) which covered the show’s development and production.
Click here to view a gallery of the sleeves from this series.
Series 2 DVD set, 2002
The second series followed the same release pattern as the first, with volumes appearing bimonthly starting in January 2002 and ending with a box set in November. The menu system and bonus features built on everything that was learned in the first series to become more comprehensive, providing an even more detailed overview of everything seen in the anime.
Work actually began during the previous year when Amy Howard Wilson (the voice of Nova) provided a connection to three of her fellow voice actors and laid the groundwork for the first ever on-camera interviews with the main cast. They were featured in a miniseries called “The Faces Behind the Voices” (see flyer below).
Another 24-page booklet was created for the box set (shown at right) which presented interviews with the Japanese production staff. Art for the sleeves was reproduced from Toshiyuki Kubooka’s work for the 1992 Yamato 2 LD box.
Click here to view a gallery of the sleeves from this series.
Click here to read about the interview sessions with Ken Meseroll (Wildstar) and Eddie Allen (Desslok)
Series 3 DVD set, 2003
The Bolar Wars was released just as its predecessors had been, fulfilling all expectations with a box set, another 24-page booklet (below right) about the development of the series, sleeve art reproduced from the 1994 LD box, and bonus features covering everything seen in the show. There was an addendum to “The Faces Behind the Voices” that put voice actors Peter Fernandez and Corrine Orr on camera to discuss their work. There were also numerous deleted scenes, some of which were fully subtitled. But the real bonus this time was the remastering of each episode.
Because Series 3 was imported from Japan in 1985 (several years after the first two), different production standards were applied while preparing it for American television. It was decided to eliminate Japanese captions by enlarging the video picture to crop them out, thereby compromising both image quality and the artistic composition of many scenes. Other edits were made by freezing a single frame of video to cover a scene that would otherwise fall outside the language barrier. Additionally, no new opening title was created for Series 3, and the titles from Series 2 were re-used instead. Conversely, TV standards had relaxed somewhat by 1985, and most scenes containing intense situations were untouched. All these and more editing “artifacts” can be seen on Voyager Entertainment’s VHS edition.
In the time since that release, however, a fresh set of video masters arrived in the form of the laserdisc Perfect Collection, and modern technology allowed them to replace the VHS masters, which were originally struck from grainy workprints. The result was the best-looking edition of The Bolar Wars that has so far been released to the English-speaking world.
Click here to view a gallery of the sleeves from this series.
Now that Blu-Ray has emerged as the next viable home video format, it is possible that completely new editions of Star Blazers will appear in the future. When that happens, of course, this website will be the first to announce the exciting news.
Special thanks to John Robberstad and Brian Cirulnick
I think it’s worth noting the Australian releases from Madman Entertainment. They released the three series separately in quite deluxe packaging, then released it again, I believe, with all the series in one less deluxe pack a few years later. Both now out of print and very desirable.
I have those three sets (got them at the bargain price of $24 each during a sale). Been watching Comet Empire while exercising in the leadup to heading to Japan to see 2202‘s first chapter.
Can anyone recommend a good platform to sell the full 39 volume VHS set (above 38 volumes are mentioned) that is mentioned at the top of the page? I am looking to sell them, but I am rather out of touch since I followed Star Blazers when I was young. Thanks for any help you can provide!
Ebay is always your best bet, though you could offer them via the Cosmo DNA Facebook page and see what happens.
Are the DVD’s still in print? Given the price and how long ago it was, I’m guessing not. But I really like the style of the DVD covers, they feel like retro 80’s-90’s packaging.
Long gone, man. Sorry. I wish it were otherwise.
Yeah I bought the very last copies Amazon had . All three series and all the movies on dvd . I couldn’t believe it and was worried that with only one left it would turn out to be an inventory mistake but I did get them all in good condition . I already had collected everything on vhs years earlier but when I got a 50 inch plasma tv vhs didn’t look as good. I may sell them on vhs as a complete set at some point because I don’t need two sets and I know how frustrating it is to want them and have them be unavailable . If I do decide I’ll try to post something on here and sell them on eBay . Remember vhs is better than not having them at all . They are great tv and the movies animation is unbelievable . Keep looking and I’ll let you know .
I bought the 18 DVD set of all 3 seasons and was a little disappointed that all the episodes were just spliced together. I had wanted to watch each episode seperately. I guess the only way Iʼll get to do that is if I rip the DVDs and re-edit them myself.
Is there any way to get updated American version of starblazers cartoon.Could you please give a number or site that i can get it.
You can find it streaming on Funimation: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 and Space Battleship Yamato 2202. Both subtitled and dubbed. Also available on Blu-ray.
The Blu-rays are also DVD combo packs so its a great buy at a reasonable rate
to get some sweet episodes in both formats — I bought both 2199 and 2202
on amazon and binged nicely — eps come in both subs and dubs included
Interesting that, at the time that Westchester launched its VHS in 1988, Brazil also launched a VHS with the first two episodes of the 2nd season, through the Hipervídeo label (linked to the dubbing studio Herbert Richers, which made the localization for Brazilian Portuguese of the series) and, interestingly, using the same image forged for the American cover, just changing to an improvised logo of the name that the series became known in the country, “Patrulha Estelar” (Star Patrol) and with the back cover no less improvised, such as errors like “ARGON” or “Whitestar” and images of the 1st season (which has a legend here, whose dubbing is supposedly lost and few claim that they saw few episodes during the experimental phase of the broadcaster that aired the complete series in the country, the extinct Rede Manchete), and was never shown again , except for episodes from season 2 onwards, with season 3 acquired directly from Japan and premiered even before the United States), which, unfortunately, failed and did not exceed three s first episodes.
Ultimately, masters with Brazilian Portuguese dubbing deteriorate over time and the few precarious records are of people who recorded transmissions from the time of the exhibition, between 1983 and 1986 and, with the end of Westchester and the creation of Voyager Entertainment, in 1992, the franchise was forgotten here and no product was ever released, where I hope this can change with the arrival of Funimation and an eventual release of the remakes and the reuse of the name Patrulha Estelar.
Thanks for your informative post! If you have enough information and images gathered together, I’d be happy to publish a full article on the subject. Star Blazers in other countries is a very rare topic.
It has an engaged group of fans that disseminates the legacy of the franchise in Brazil: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2329940367321513
I put together an episode list and came up with an impromptu logo of the Brazilian version of Star Blazers, Patrulha Estelar, based on the classic 1979 logo: https://brunoalvieira.blogspot.com/2016/04/lista-completa-de-episodios-patrulha-estelar.html
Here is an article that summarizes the history of the franchise in Brazil (it is in Portuguese but I recommend using a translator): https://www.jbox.com.br/materias/patrulha-estelar/
Here is a ripping of the Brazilian’s VHS of Star Blazers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4OtGXsOkMM
Here a video with the list of the Brazilian voices of the characters of the classic series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0h8LCxRDZg
I recently picked up a copy of the Season 1 “box set”, and it’s quite a bit different from the one shown here. First, it’s not even a box. It’s 6 individual cases taped together with a paper slip that looks like the cover of the box set stuck to the front. Next, Parts I, and III through VI have new box art, which according to the back, was done in 2008-2010. The UPC codes are unchanged Part II still has the original box art for some reason. I contacted the ebay seller I got the set from, and they informed me that in “about 2011 or so”, Voyager International switched to just taping the cases together instead of a proper box. Additionally, there do appear to be some proper box sets with the revised artwork floating around on ebay, identifiable by their all black spines (barring Part II). I don’t believe the set is a bootleg, as all the discs are pressed (not DVD-Rs), and say “STAR BLAZERS PART X” (where X is the Part) on the inner rim, and the discs appear to my computer as having identical UUIDs as the originals. Here’s a link to some pictures: https://imgur.com/gallery/EbDK2qH
I can provide higher quality scans if needed
Do the color sleeves look printed or color-photocopied? The US Voyager office closed in late 2012/early 2013. I created that box art over ten years earlier. It’s possible they ran out of boxes before they ran out of discs, but I was no longer in contact after 2012.
The color sleeves do look printed, as they’re on that nice, glossy paper, but Part IV almost looks like it was double printed or something around the UPC code. It’s weirdly thicker than the other volumes. The discs themselves are more of a mixed bag, with Parts I-III looking completely normal, Parts IV and VI looking a bit low quality, and Part V almost looking like a photocopied label, as the colors are all wrong. The BBFC triangle is grey! I also found proof that the Star Blazers web store was selling at least the redesigned Part I in January 2011 https://web.archive.org/web/20110105154319/http://www.starblazers.com/category.php?page_id=29&featured_product=51
I also found this copy of Series 2 Part I that has redesigned art, with a copyright date of 2010: https://imgur.com/gallery/YRcz8hf
I plan on picking Series 2 and 3 from the same seller soon, so I’ll include pictures if they’re also updated
I’m still curious why Series 1 Part II never got a redesign…
The sleeve for series 1 part 1 was originally created before I signed on to the project, and part 2 was being worked on. My art first appeared on the sleeve for part 3. At the end of the project, they asked me to revisit part 1 and create new art for that so they would be unified. We all agreed there was no need to redo part 2.
I’m not seeing a difference in the sleeve designs for series 2 part 1, and I never revisited that one. What are you seeing?
Compare these 2 images https://imgur.com/gallery/Ein0vOQ
both are for Series 2 Part I, but the backs are different. The “2001” design is white, and the “2010” design is black
Here’s another example, comparing the 2001 and 2009 sleeves for Series 1 Part III: https://imgur.com/gallery/l9xse4d
While the art you did is identical, the border around it is different. Instead of white and green, it’s dark blue. This is all probably a super minor thing, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
Ah, I remember now. Voyager needed to go back to press for more sleeves and we couldn’t reuse the previous graphics files so I redid them. The plan was to continue upgrading them one by one as needed, but I don’t think they all got done.
So who do I have to bribe to get upgraded Blu-Rays of all 3 seasons with the extras from the DVDs intact (and upgraded to 1080p)?