Episode 16 Commentary

The Day of Desslok

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 warps towards the center of the Milky Way. Destination: the homeworld of the Galman Empire.

The ship had a super-charger installed in its Wave-Motion Engine during the movie Be Forever Yamato, and this now allows them to jump most of the way to the Galman homeworld in one continuous warp. While warps are good for big jumps, it has limited effectiveness near stars. Warping only gets them so close, so they travel the rest of the way in cruising mode.

Story note: the previous episode ended with 207 days until the end of the human race. It takes 1-2 weeks for ship to be repaired and for Wildstar to recover from his injuries. The ship continuously warps toward the center of the galaxy, about 30,000 light years from the solar system. They arrive 23 days after the events of Episode 15.

During the last leg of the journey, Wildstar remembers the man who invited them here, Galman Emperor and long-time foe, Desslok. This leads to a lengthy flashback sequence, starting with a summary of the Argo‘s first mission and leading all the way up to the end of The New Voyage. The Star Blazers script describes the goal of the Iscandar mission as “to destroy the radioactive unit that was creating such havoc [on Earth],” which is a rather odd summary.

The flashback sequences are interesting for three reasons. First, you can do a side-by-side comparison of the scripting and acting between the English voice casts. In the original series, Ken Meseroll [Wildstar], Eddie Allen [Desslok], Amy Wilson [Nova], et al., shied away from voice work that was overly broad or relied on exaggerated, unnatural vocal affectations. This, combined with some clever scripting, made Star Blazers a rare commodity: a show that didn’t talk down to its intended audience of school-age kids.

Script-wise, the dialogue for Desslok’s conversion scene from the Comet Empire lacks much of the original’s dramatic flair. For example, Desslok’s advice to attack the Comet Empire “top and bottom” is changed to “[your battle at Gamilon] was risky! In the extreme!”

Second, you can see brief clips that were edited out of the original show. One thing I like about the third series is seeing random crew members injured or killed. It’s a small thing, but it conveys the danger of these big battle scenes. When a gun turret is blown up, it doesn’t just destroy part of the ship, actual crews in the gunhouse are endangered. There is a human cost to all these big flashy explosions.

The first time I saw this episode, it confirmed to me that many such clips existed in the first two series but were removed from Star Blazers in order to conform to American standards. To me, this is perhaps the most puzzling thing about the third series: while the actors’ performances were made “safe for kids,” the animation itself was not as sanitized.

Third, there’s a brief translation of a few scenes from The New Voyage, which was otherwise never dubbed into English. The American script doesn’t stray too far from the original, but the background of the story is altered via narration. It’s stated that the enemy were remnants of the Comet Empire, not the Dark Nebula Empire. Since The New Voyage was never imported to the US, it was more expedient to refer to villains that are already familiar to American viewers rather than introduce new ones. Since the focus is on Desslok and Wildstar, it’s not like the Dark Nebula plays a large role in the clip anyway.

Derek’s wistful reminiscence is interrupted by three Star Force rookies: Beaver Bando, Flash Contrail, and Jason Jetter. They wish to register their complaints about having an audience with Desslok. They cannot forget all the recent damage and casualties caused by his forces. And the problem goes deeper than just their current mission and friends lost; everyone on board had lived through the planet bombs.

Sandor points out that Desslok’s actions were at least partially justified because his own planet was dying. Sandor’s rejoinder is interrupted by Flash–even if he accepts this rationale for attempted genocide, why are his forces starting up again? Wildstar replies that he wants to know the answer to that as well. End of discussion. With this, the metaphorical couch is lifted up and the death of millions of people is swept under it, never to be spoken of again.

When the Star Force comes within sight of Galman, they are shocked to see a binary planet system like Gamilon and Iscandar. The similarities extend to the coloring, with Galman being green and its twin, blue. There a lesser shock for the rest of us; in the first scene looking out, the Argo‘s bridge windows are upside-down.

We’re introduced to a Desslok we’ve rarely seen before. He’s quiet and contemplative. He’s looking forward to seeing the Star Force again. After the Argo docks, Desslok takes Derek to his palace (in a white limousine that gains and loses a Gamilon emblem in every alternate scene), which is a large towering spire in the style of Starsha’s temple on Iscandar. Not only does the palace seem to be a tribute to the Queen of Iscandar, he reveals that he named Galman’s twin planet “Starsha.”

Later, Desslok is even more sentimental. While mooning over Starsha (literally; he imagines her face in the Galman moon), he hears the sound of Nova’s footsteps approaching. Desslok refers to her as the catalyst of his epiphany to end his war on the Star Force. This is followed by another flashback to Series 2. The dialogue is substantially different from the original Star Blazers dub. In this version, Desslok refers to his love for Starsha.

Wildstar congratulates Desslok for building an empire. In Yamato III, Kodai mentions that it’s Dessler’s birthday, and specifically says it is the first anniversary of the founding of the Galman Empire. This leads Wildstar to ask how Desslok managed to build up such a vast empire in a short amount of time. Desslok recounts his discovery of the planet Galman.

Production note: here the story drifts back to show us something we haven’t seen yet–what the Gamilon survivors were up to while the Star Force fought the Dark Nebulans in Be Forever Yamato. The sequence was designed and directed by Yoshinori Kanada (who we’ve talked about at length in other places) and delivers all the hallmarks of his style: energetic staging, oddly asymmetrical machinery, and a unique sense of timing. In later years, Kanada would refer to this sequence as his proudest contribution to Yamato III.

After aimless wandering, Desslok’s surviving fleet found itself in the center of the Milky Way. After the events of The New Voyage, the Gamilon fleet appears to consist of Desslok’s command battle-carrier (not the red version, which was pretty beat up the last time we saw it) and about six destroyers. They came upon a binary planet system that reminded them of Gamilon and Iscandar and decided to inspect it. They discovered it to be Galman, the ancestral home of the Gamilons.

At some point in the distant past, a group of Galman explorers traveled far from their home and settled on Gamilon. Eventually, they lost contact with their homeworld. But the rediscovery of the Gamilons’ ancestral home wasn’t a happy reunion, for they found it overrun by the Bolar Federation. Desslok’s meager forces launched a fierce attack and managed to free the planet. Now joined by their ancestral cousins, the newly-formed Galman Empire has begun to forge its own path to conquest. In Yamato III, the home planet was renamed “Galman-Gamilas.”

Story note: in addition to seeing the original-generation Gamilon mecha back in action, we also welcome back a familiar face in this flashback sequence–General Talan. As Desslok’s right-hand man in Series 2, he distinguished himself on many occasions. This was his first appearance in Series 3. When Keeling was introduced earlier as Desslok’s chief of staff, some fans wondered if Talan would appear at all, but no explanation was given for his late arrival.

Later, Wildstar and other Star Force crewmembers watch a parade in Desslok’s honor. The pageant is a display of military vehicles. It starts out small with flying soldiers, followed by tanks, planes, and finally, capital ships (most of which were encountered by the Star Force in recent episodes). Derek watches with a growing sense of unease. Vast military forces and Desslok’s ambition make for a dangerous combination.

Nearly half of this episode (about 9 and a half minutes) was devoted to clips from previous stories, which gave the animators an opportunity to catch their breath. Much of the new animation consists of long slow pans across ships or establishing shots of backgrounds.

Desslok’s popularity had swelled to the point where an entire episode could be devoted to him, but given that the series order had been cut from 52 to 25, this one didn’t accomplish very much. It was all to remind us who Desslok is and why we think he’s so cool. I wish more progress had been made toward the overall plot.

Story note: The first anniversary of the founding of Galman-Gamilas coincides with Desslok’s birthday, which is estimated to take place on March 19, 2206 AD. It is 146 days, or 5 months since the Star Force left Earth.

There are only 183 days left.

Continue to Episode 17

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.