Classic character profiles, 2017

Showa 40 Man is a magazine with a very specific focus: men who were born in the year 1965, also known in Japan as “Showa year 40.” As it happens, men of this age were the first Yamato target audience, so it should come as no surprise that it would occasionally include Yamato coverage. It’s quite common for the magazine to feature several articles based on a single theme, which is what lead to the character profiles presented here.

Covers for issues 42 and 46, both published in 2017. Themes: “Our Dark Heroes” and “Men You Can Rely On.”

The first profile comes from Showa 40 Man Vol. 42, published March 2017. The cover topic for this issue was “Our Dark Heroes,” with profiles of twelve anime, manga, and tokusatsu characters along with some real-world personalities such as sumo and pro wrestlers. Among the fantasy candidates were Devilman, Hakkaider, Tiger Mask, and Dessler – whose evolution from villain to hero is what classifies him as a “dark hero.” (On a related note, anime director Rin Taro gave his thoughts on Captain Harlock.)

A friendship that rose beyond enemy and ally


He appeared as the commander of an enemy nation and was once thought to be dead, but he was alive. Leader Dessler transformed from a hateful enemy to a beloved dark hero. We will consider his appeal.

By Ryosuke Kobayashi

Photo Caption: Dessler was rescued by the White Comet Empire. “Leader Dessler! You’re alive!” The person who heard Kodai’s voice said this answer was correct!

Headline at far left: “Great Gamilas is eternal. The glory of my Gamilas is immortal!”

Dessler was dark at first, but not a hero. He was just a villain, embarking on an invasion to emigrate to Earth.

In the year 2199, a mysterious space fleet attacks with planet bombs, and Earth is on the verge of extinction. In order to save Earth, Yamato travels 148,000 light years to distant Iscandar, where the Gamilas Empire stands in the way. And the man who controls this interstellar regime is Leader Dessler.

He is an impressive and cool-headed dictator, a man who mercilessly purges those whose behavior he disdains. As well as being a fearsome dictator in this story, Dessler is shown to have a warrior’s pride in some scenes. In the end, he is defeated by Yamato and shares the fate of his ship by being dispersed.

Then there is a big turning point where Dessler is no longer merely an enemy. This occurs in the movie Farewell to Yamato. It is a scene of single combat against Susumu Kodai on board Dessler’s ship when challenging Yamato for the last time. Dessler had survived the battle of Gamilas and challenges Yamato again. But when he realizes his defeat, he tells Kodai about the weak point of the powerful new enemy, the White Comet Empire that is bent on invading Earth.

However, there are two versions of this famous Space Battleship Yamato scene. One is the exchange in Farewell to Yamato. The heart of Dessler’s ship is destroyed, and his subordinate Talan has died. Dessler speaks his thoughts directly to Kodai…

Yamato was strong. Okita was a fine captain. But I am a man who does not forget humiliation. Yamato is the opponent I must defeat…! Kodai, are you a match for me this time?”

Then Dessler lowers his eyes and smiles knowingly.

“It’s become…satisfactory.”

Even though they aim their guns at each other, Dessler’s strength drains out of him.

“The rebuilding of Gamilas and vengeance upon Yamato were my greatest wishes. I accepted the humility of becaming dependent upon the Comet Empire. I believed that my day would come. But this is satisfactory. I’ve fought enough. My fight is over.”

Kodai walks up to him and calls him “Leader.” [Soto] He must have respected Dessler’s attitude. Finally, Dessler says, “Tell those on board Yamato that even though I was with the Comet Empire, my heart is much closer to all of you. Fight them, Kodai!”

“Leader Dessler!”

“With Yamato, there are many ways to fight. Very well, Kodai.”

Dessler walks backward, step by step. His finger seems to be searching for a switch.

“Aim for the central vortex of the Comet Empire.”

“The central vortex?”

Yamato can win this battle. I wish you success!”

When Dessler presses the switch, the wall behind opens and his body is sucked out into space.

Quote at far right: “Compared with them, my heart is…much closer to you of Earth.”

By modifying the ending of the TV version, “No one dies”

What do you hear in the voices of Masato Ibu and Kei Tomiyama as Dessler and Susumu Kodai? After the opponent recognizes the strength of his hated enemy Yamato and gives his advice, Dessler sacrifices his life.

The scene of Dessler drifting in space goes on for almost a minute. No lines, just the death of an enemy general. Did it need to be shown for that long? I think this reflected the thoughts of Dessler’s creators, sharing a feeling of sorrow over parting.

These thoughts are fulfilled simply and wonderfully in the TV series Yamato 2. Two months after Farewell‘s premiere, this series started with almost the same concepts.

Here is the modified exchange:

The two cross paths on board Dessler’s ship. What’s different from the movie version is that Kodai is injured and collapses.

“Kodai-kun! Kodai-kun, you’re going to be all right…”

Yuki Mori tosses aside the gun that Kodai had aimed at Dessler, and hugs Kodai. He is on his back, defenseless. He is ready to be shot and to die. Recognizing this as love, Dessler lowers his gun so as not to interfere.

“Now I’ve seen it. You who risk your lives for the fate of your Earth. What is it you are showing me right now? Until now, I have only committed destruction and violence for Gamilas, but I have lived in search of beauty. I was lonely. I could see no one who I loved. I have certainly defeated Yamato. But now I am ashamed that I lent myself to the Comet Empire. Compared to them, devoted to invasion and plunder, my heart is…my heart is much closer to the humans of Earth. My grudge against Yamato has faded away.”

It is like a soliloquy delivered from a stage that goes far beyond the movie. After he says, “Talan, we’re going,” Dessler’s words continue.

“Kodai, do you remember the battle of Gamilas? You fired into the underground volcano chain and hit the city from overhead. Above…and below. Hehehe. They were fragile.”

Dessler gives hints against the White Comet and this time he leaves the ship with Talan, who also survived.

He leaves with the words, “Farewell. I’ll see you again someday.”

Dessler stands on his ship, which is about to sink. “Shoot, Kodai,” he says. It may be that he wanted Kodai to be the one to bring about his death.

In the movie, Yuki is shot by the White Comet Empire’s agent Miru and Dessler apologizes for it. “She was your lover…forgive me, Kodai.” The words are full of humanity, suggesting that his heart is indeed closer to humans of Earth.

The scene from the movie version is modified with plenty of good taste in the remake. Say what you will about the TV version, but Dessler’s coolness has become immovable. When the production of Farewell was announced, requests flooded in from fans, TV stations, and toy makers, so it was decided before the release of the movie to make a TV anime version. Wasn’t its biggest proposition to change the story from “everyone dies in the end” to “nobody dies”? In the TV version, Dessler abandons his grudge against Yamato and survives. Kodai and Yuki also live and return to Earth because of Teresa’s sacrifice.

It’s not surprising that some wanted a refund on the tears they had shed in the movie theater, but the TV version was also a very good work with improvements, including the Dessler scenes. This modification allowed Yamato‘s story to continue afterward. Dessler’s achievement led to The New Voyage.

Dessler’s death was shown from various angles; the front, from the side, and going away. Rather than seeming
gratuitous, the thought of “We’re sorry we killed you” comes through from the production side.

A story for fans that put Dessler in the lead role

Four months after the end of the TV version, Yamato restarted with The New Voyage on Fuji TV. It wasn’t a movie or a TV series, it was broadcast as a one-shot longform TV drama. The production team filled it with love for the former enemy Dessler.

At the climax of the story, responding to a threat by the Dark Nebula Empire to attack Iscandar, Dessler plunges his battle carrier into the muzzle of the enemy’s mothership Autoplanet Goruba.

“Kodai!” he cries out, “shoot me!”

All of Dessler’s appeal his expressed here, his proud way of life and his love for Starsha.

But in the end, Dessler does not lose his life in this work. He goes off somewhere, declaring that he is going to rebuild Gamilas no matter how long it takes. Later, in Yamato III and Final Yamato, Dessler is no longer an enemy, playing various roles as an ally on Yamato‘s side.

It is said that Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki, the man who made Yamato, called himself a Gamilas producer instead of a general producer. In later years, he planned an anime called Dessler’s War that featured Dessler as the main character, but it did not go into production. [Read an account of this intriguing project here.]

For Showa 40 men [born in 1965], the impression of Farewell to Yamato is still strong. The dark hero called Dessler was loved by his creator much more than we thought.

Great Emperor Zordar, pure evil in contrast to Dessler

“I am the absolute ruler of space. Every star, every living being, every drop of blood is mine. Subject to my will.”

That line condenses all the characteristics of Zordar. Whereas Dessler is concerned for the future of his own planet, Zordar considers himself the ruler of space with tyranny and arrogance. However, compared to the movie version, he is shown treating Dessler with respect in the TV anime version.

The second character profile comes to us from Showa 40 Man Vol. 46, published in November 2017. The topic for this issue was “The Men You Can Rely On.” Similar to the “Dark Hero” coverage, it examined the elder male heroes of anime, manga, and real life. It included profiles on Condor Joe from Gatchaman, Jigen from Lupin III, characters from Star of the Giants, Kamen Rider, Getter Robo, and more. (Even Brian May of Queen got a nod.) The Yamato character in this lineup was science whiz Shiro Sanada.

A presence you can rely upon in an emergency

How Shiro Sanada fights

While there are flashy heroes who stand on the front line, there are also those in the rear who use their wisdom to lead a fight to victory. In Space Battleship Yamato, “the man you can rely on” is Shiro Sanada, a shadowy hero who meets every crisis with scientific wisdom.

By Kenji Adachi

Main photo caption: Space Battleship Yamato’s chief technical officer, he majored in science and technology at the space soldier training institute and was a technical officer with top-class results. As the person in charge of Yamato’s overall mechanics, he is familiar with all aspects of ship navigation, weapon use, and adjustment of aircraft. He is always calm and has a strong sense of justice. He was a classmate with Susumu Kodai’s brother Mamoru.

Headline at far left: Using science as a weapon, he is a reliable brain who confronts the dangers of conventional wisdom.

Am I alone as a writer in feeling that for some reason the color blue is perfect for characters who are positioned as the so-called backup supporter of the hero? Even in live-action sentai hero things, the traditional combination is red for the main character and blue for the secondary. There are various opinions about the origins for this, but I think the rule also applies to the national SF anime Space Battleship Yamato.

However, there are two candidates for secondary character in Yamato. Captain Juuzo Okita is a special case, but no one disagrees that Susumu Kodai is the main character. Properly, the image color of his uniform as the combat chief is red. When we examine who comes next, there is his classmate chief navigator Daisuke Shima and then chief technical officer Shiro Sanada, who is known as the “brain” of Yamato; both important people about whom we can say, “Yamato wouldn’t move without them.” But which of them is the true secondary character? Here, I would like to apply the “red and blue rule.” Shima fans, please understand that I’d like to take another shot at this on a later day.

So now I’m going to delve into the appeal of Shiro Sanada, the coolest guy on Yamato’s crew.

The coolness of Kodai’s scientist big brother

I have to say that when I look back at my memory of watching the original 1974 TV broadcast in real time, my first impression of Sanada was not very good.

Not to say that he was a bad person, he was just the type who rattled off complex terminology without difficulty, and he felt sort of cold to me. From the perspective of Kodai and Shima, who were still rebellious boys, he seemed like a slightly harsh senior. He seemed like the overbearing type that often appeared in old hero anime.

But these were just my personal feelings. When Sanada casually explained the principles of warping in Episode 4, some viewers were fascinated and might naturally have been inspired to become scientists. In fact, from that moment on, the true essence of “go to Sanada when you’re in trouble” was demonstrated when he could solve any technical problem in no time.

There was a typical example in Episode 9. After winning the fierce battle on Pluto, Yamato went to the asteroid belt, forced to slow down while repairing some damage. In preparation for a raid by Gamilas’ remaining fleet, Sanada drafts an asteroid ship plan. He spearheads it with the permission of Captain Okita, driving antigravity reactors into countless rocks floating around the ship. The rocks are pulled in and attached to the hull of the ship, covering Yamato with a protective shell and successfully camouflaging it from enemies.

In fact, this concept was developed before the broadcast. For viewers who don’t know this secret story, the idea of a “rock covered space battleship” was revived as an unexpected defense. This trick was so boldly carried out that it seemed to be the work of a magician, and Sanada pulled it off like it was routine without a single change to his expression. Even compared to general SF anime at the time, he had a unique presence.

Usually, Sanada’s role is to stay on Yamato’s first bridge and monitor the condition of the ship. When roving around the ship, he often wears a headset as seen here. His sharp eyes, which overlook not even the smallest thing, are striking.

Sanada wears prosthetic limbs in place of the arms and legs he lost in an accident at an early age. In case of emergencies, there are powerful bombs built into them. This saves Yamato in Episode 18.

The path of a scientist driven by vengeance

Sanada is often thought of as a sterling example of a scientist, but he has a surprising psychology. It is said that his childhood dream was to be a painter, but it was vengeance that drove the young Sanada to the path of science.

When he was a boy in elementary school, he went with his family to an amusement park on the moon where he experienced an accident on a rocket car and lost his beloved older sister. He suffered serious injury, such as the amputation of both legs, and was filled with dread over the irresponsible use of science. “Will machines kill human beings?” Thus he became a scientific demon, saying, “For me, science is an enemy to conquer.”

Eventually, Sanda entered the space soldier training institute with the aim of becoming a technical engineer, and when he met Susumu Kodai’s older brother Mamoru the two became best friends. When Gamilas attacked, he was in charge of maintenance on Mamoru’s ship Yukikaze, which was to sortie out to the front line. Sanada suspected that the fleet was no longer powerful enough to withstand the attack, and that the best they could do was act as a shield for Okita’s flagship. When Sanada’s concern became a reality, and he suspected that his own lack of expertise was responsible for the loss of Mamoru’s ship, he was tormented by regret.

Then the younger brother Susumu appeared, standing in for his brother Mamoru in the seat he would have occupied on the first bridge. Every time Sanada saw him, the past weighed heavily in his heart. Nevertheless, he served alongside Susumu as a senior officer while keeping his cool, so it has to be acknowledged that he’s a strong person.

Sidebar: Another profile of Sanada

When talking about Sanada, we can’t leave out Be Forever Yamato. There, we learn that Sanada raised Sasha, the daughter of Mamoru Kodai and Starsha, under the name “Mio Sanada.” She remains in the core of the enemy’s main fortress, which must be destroyed by a shot from the Wave-Motion Gun. When Susumu Kodai hesitates, Sanada yells, “Get out of the way! I’ll fire!” He openly reveals his own conflict after serving as a father for one year. It demonstrates that the warmhearted blood of Yamato’s crew flows through him.

Headline at far right: “Could this happen?” Razor-sharp foresight saves Yamato.

A bond of trust between Sanada and Kodai

On Sanada’s first mission off the ship, to destroy the Gamilas island fortress in Episode 18, he divulges his past to Susumu Kodai. After entering the fortress, Sanada’s limbs are restrained by tentacles in a sudden attack. Therefore, he escapes by removing the prosthetic limbs that replaced the arms and legs he previously lost in an accident. The limbs contain bombs in case of emergency, (which is very Sanada-like) that can destroy the fortress.

Kodai carries Sanada back to the entrance of the fortress. Sanada says that if he goes outside he can’t use the remote detonation switch, so he will remain at the entrance. But, he asserts, “I have no intention to die here.” Sanada was banking on the prospect of an automatic shutter mechanism that he had confirmed upon entry. If all goes well, he will survive and wait for Kodai to retrieve him. With confidence derived from the calculating mind of a scientist, he places his trust in Kodai, who is as important to him as a best friend. Fortunately, Sanada’s plan is successful and the two return safely to Yamato. It was a moment when Yamato’s front line and rear line defenses were both bound together in a firm bond.

After that, the fight against Gamilas became increasingly intense and Sanada fulfilled his duty to support Yamato from the inside with a lot of experience. His former feeling of revenge for the past faded away and he became a man of justice who unflinchingly confronted the unknown with the power of science.

Left: Sanada usually stays on the ship and takes the key role of logistics support, but he sometimes went into action with Kodai. His calm was reliable for sneaking into dangerous enemy fortresses and caves.

Center: In the climax of Farewell to Yamato, Sanada infiltrates the imperial city with Kodai and Saito to destroy it. In the end, he is protected by Saito, igniting a bomb in exchange for his own life and completing his mission.

Right: Sanada decides to stay with Saito to destroy the imperial city. “I thought of you as my younger brother,” he tells Kodai. He then shakes off Kodai’s plea for them to escape together.

There are many others! Qualities of “the reliable men” who boarded Yamato


Shima and Kodai were both students at the space soldier training institute. Both were assigned to the Mars training base, where they discovered the message from Iscandar together. His combination with Kodai is striking right from the beginning of the series. He seems more conscientious than Kodai, who is insensitive toward the heroine Yuki Mori. He leads Yamato’s navigation group and wants to hurry forward while avoiding battle as much as possible, which brings him into conflict with Kodai. He exhibits the calm of an honor student, similar to Sanada.


The veteran chief engineer who manages Yamato’s heart, the Wave-Motion Engine. He is a fellow soldier of his old friend Captain Okita. Among the young members of Yamato’s crew, he is like a gentle father figure. Along with Sanada, he’s a strong right arm.


A moodmaker who can be said to heal both the bodies and minds of Yamato’s crew. It seems like he only drinks booze, but if something happens he turns into a great doctor with excellent intuition. He was lonely on the voyage to Iscandar, but in Farewell he brings along his pet cat Mi-kun.


The Captain of the Space Cavalry who boards Yamato in Farewell. He is a passionate, hot-blooded man who brings the roughness of a ground fighter into the naval atmosphere of the ship. In the end, he protects Sanada, who plants a bomb in the imperial city center. He meets his end standing as firm as a stone pillar.

Find more Yamato content from Showa 40 Man here (2013), here (2017), and here (2018).

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