by Kathy Clarkson and Anton Mei Brandt
Episode 9: Zordar – The Devil’s Choice
Yamato is acting as a shield against the Destructive Liberation force, countering their attacks by launching a barrage of missiles to meet theirs. The leader of this new group of aggressors, their “priest”, laments having to fight Yamato. He believes the ship which incited their force to rebel in the first place is protecting Dessler remnants, vowing that all ships opposing their cause shall be sunk. The chain of retaliatory fire continues with some missiles hitting dangerously close to the civilian transports, giving Vice Captain Sanada a hard time.
[AMB]: Whether you choose to believe the priest or not as a first time viewer, the irony behind Yamato’s actions here is stark if he’s right. But even if they are Dessler remnants, they’re people risking their lives to protect refugees from both Earth and Garmillas, while this priest is raining hellfire on all opposition.
[KC]: So these guys are a new problem, having left Garmillas when Abelt dropped his evil base on his own capital city. Unsurprisingly, they don’t seem to be that concerned about their fellow citizens now that they have a bunch of guns and bombs. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out this priest character’s name is Gaidel. He was a general in Yamato III, although there he was more than a bit of a fanatic for Dessler. And he had a similar character design. It would be neat if this was a play on that.
[AMB]: Not sure I’d say New Baleras itself was an inherently evil base. Even Welte Talan agrees with me on that one. And Gaidel may not be here as a character this time, but here’s a reminder that his voice actor performs Gaileen in 2202! On a visual note, I love the way Yamato’s missiles branch out like two wings, it really helps to show how the ship itself is a destructive angel. It protects the refugees below, but its wings are weapons. This visual metaphor will be important in a few minutes.
In the midst of the chaos, Yuki is doing her best to get every civilian aboard the transport vessels, reassuring them of safe passage to Earth with her. Despite this charade being orchestrated by Keyman’s friends, Kazette’s sub-commander voices his intent of not taking off before all refugees are safe on board. The bridge of the Garmillan command ship is then informed by a radar operator of enemy “reinforcements” hiding in the clouds above. These are not just ships, they’re interplanetary ballistic missiles, or “anti-planet” missiles from the last war. Kazette is visually distraught by this fact, questioning how a group of rebels could have gotten their hands on such WMD’s.
[AMB]: Good question, how did they acquire anti-planet missiles in general peacetime? Are they backed by someone? Did they steal them? Or did they stumble upon some in storage? In any case, Kazette’s group is shocked.
[KC]: There is a lot more going on politically with Garmillas than we have gotten in the past. I’m not sure where this faction fits into the mix, but it’s interesting to be seeing more of the Great Garmillas Empire than just Dessler flying around with a bunch of soldiers.
[AMB]: They’re most likely a zealous group of freedom fighters dissatisfied with the slow bureaucratic shift from dictatorship to democracy back on Garmillas, and in their view Dessler’s remnants are puppeteering this new faux-democracy. The fact that our first real view on the political side of things comes from two opposing smaller factions controlled by unreliable narrators is a neat writing trick to get the audience thinking about it.
Inside the Akerian projection room, Zordar is busy projecting his views at Kodai. Destruction, revolution and war, they’re all facts of life which every civilization has to face. It’s a meaningless cycle which ends with self-annihilation. Zordar thinks it’s laughable that this cycle is encouraged by reasons like “for their country,” or “for their family,” or “for their beliefs.” It’s unbearable to watch the cruelty of humans, who rob and kill one another for love. But the Emperor will change this. Through a process of enveloping all humans in Gatlantis’ brand of “true love,” humans will attain true happiness and peace.
“We are Gatlanteans. Manufactured lives,” he tells Kodai.
[AMB]: The extreme closeups on Zordar’s face in this scene say a lot about how uncomfortable and oppressive this situation is for Kodai. Especially those where we see his terrifying, unblinking eyes. Their nature as manufactured beings has been shown extensively, but hearing it from the Emperor himself feels more reliable. Or does it…? And what might this true love mean? And who hurt this tall ogre of a man?
[KC]: I love this. No more random guy with a cape who wants to destroy Earth because it’s there. This reasoning may come up often in space opera, but only because it’s a great story platform, as we are about to witness.
[AMB]: The reasoning isn’t unheard of, but the motivation sure is unique. It’s a slow-cooking broth, but over the course of the show Zordar’s angle will be explored to its greatest depths. Can we also just appreciate the fact that, nine episodes in, our main antagonist decides to phone the protagonist and talk him into submission? Breaking someone’s jaw with a hefty punch is exciting, blowing up their planet is mean, but crushing someone’s spirit takes cunning and sheer tenacious reasoning.
[KC]: Now, now. We all have our biases and I don’t want to lay it all out right here, but Zordar is not the only character in history to have faced at least similar circumstances and responded in kind.
[AMB]: I’d also like to note that Zordar’s goal in the original show wasn’t to destroy Earth, but to conquer it because of its beauty. Not that it makes it any better, I still prefer this version of him by miles and miles.
[KC]: I think that makes it worse, actually.
On Yamato, Aihara is hailed by their Garmillan allies. Apparently chances are high that the enemy will use their anti-planet missiles, which is particularly bad due to the unstable nature of this planet. For the moment, no fire is exchanged and the Liberation Front is on standby, causing Sanada to take the initiative. But before he can order Nanbu to open fire, a wounded Hijikata is carried to the bridge by Saito. The former Commander yells at them to stand down, stating that the burning wreckage of the WMD’s would rain down upon the refugees. He then swiftly takes command, ordering Yamato to speed up toward their adversaries, acting as bait.
[AMB]: Space shows always get the best backdrops. Where else do you see scary stormy purple gaseous clouds surrounded by dozens of warships? Storytelling wise, I appreciate how the differences in leadership is shown between Sanada and Hijikata. Our scientist forgets about the potential casualties of his tactical judgement and the veteran commander prioritizes the safety of civilians over their own swift success. Ryu may call himself a loser, but he’s got one of the biggest bleeding hearts in the show.
[KC]: There is good reason why he and Okita were the friends that they were to each other.
[AMB]: Do you think young Hijikata was more similar to Kodai or Shima?
[KC]: I am going to say he was the Shima.
Kodai is still shocked at the previous revelation, but Zordar pays this no mind as he keeps going. Gatlanteans were built to fight, created with a human image in mind. But the civilization that created them is now extinct, a civilization which looked down upon their race, responsible for their namesake. Susumu tries asking if the Gatlanteans are responsible for the demise of their creators, but is ignored. The Emperor continues as the camera pans over Teresa’s painting, stating that Gatlanteans aren’t capable of reproduction, a fact which enables them to be free from the complex bonds of love. He then makes yet another vow, that Gatlantis will bring true harmony to the universe. By his will.
[AMB]: By his will, huh? This confirms another suspicion one might gain throughout the show, that Zordar’s will is above the rest in Gatlantean hierarchy. At least according to him.
[KC]: I mean, have you seen the guy’s throne?
[AMB]: Point taken. My initial theory following Zordar’s revelation was that his creators were the long-lost race of Akerius. This didn’t turn out to be the case, but his creators are closer in kinship than one might expect. Another idea was that the race that used to exist before they formed Teresa was Akerius, who created the white comet and the Gatlanteans to moniter the universe. Another miss, but once again closer to the truth than you may think. But I still believe Teresa used to be the Akerians.
While Yamato struggles to act as bait outside, Zordar presses on. Addressing Kodai as a warrior of Yamato, the ship called by Teresa, he then second-guesses himself, questioning how this ship could have been called by Her Grace. The frightened young man has trouble comprehending the meaning behind Zordar’s jab as the Emperor laughs somberly in response. “How pitiful.” Staring the Earthling down, he states that, “you’ve been moved by the poison called emotion, having gone astray from your path without knowing anything about love itself.” Susumu takes this to refer to himself, thinking about Yuki as she finishes prepping the refugee transports.
[AMB]: It bears repeating, but the way Zordar burns his oppressive eyes and raw ideology into poor Kodai’s soul is just agonizing to watch. After all he’s been through, after all his sacrifices, he’s told that he’s a pitiful excuse of a chosen warrior, unable to rationalize his actions. The somber laugh by Zordar’s VA Hideaki Tezuka is bone-chilling as well, conveying to me at least that he can relate to the passionate justice of Kodai. But he knows full well that it’s a futile show of resistance against the cruel world which he, Zordar, has experienced. In short, it doesn’t feel like he’s just all talk. He’s threatening.
[KC]: I like that this Zordar is a lot more present in his own conflict. Abelt was a villain, but this guy is a supervillain. Wait, is that giving Kodai too much credit? Maybe, but Zordar deserves the title. And he’s just getting started.
[AMB] The greatest villains act as more experienced reflections of our protagonists. Willing to do what they feel must be done, often at a heavy cost. Zordar might fit this description quite well.
In an attempt to break the man in front of him, Zordar states that for love people will die, planets perish and the universe will go to ruin. Precisely what Kodai has done with Yamato. Susumu asks him “why?” and in response Zordar tells him that the boy has lost many important things up until now. Which is why he fears losing the one he loves more than anyone else.
[AMB]: In this scene Zordar actually addresses Kodai by his full name “Susumu Kodai” while staring him down. Not only does he know of his history, he knows his full name. Scary stuff. And that line about the universe going to ruin? It’s burned into my mind forever. Whenever friends ask me the rhetorical question “what is love?” I just calmly deliver Zordar’s proclamation. Speaking of love, his reference to Yuki’s potential demise is quite effective, with both Kodai and us as an audience. Especially with how his threat matches the final notes of the music.
[KC]: Told you. Supervillain.
[AMB]: The “why?” question that’s cut short in this scene is most certainly “why do you know all this?” or perhaps “why’s that?” In any case, Kodai is dumbstruck by the accuracy of this alien leader. Speaking of which, what Zordar refers to with “what you’ve done with your ship” isn’t incorrect. Yamato has killed people, partaken in the destruction of planets and helped bring the universe closer to ruin. All for the sake of their small backwater planet. Hearing this laid out so coldly must surely strike a chord with Kodai.
[KC]: Zordar knows everything about him, including psychologically. Because of the supervillain thing.
[AMB]: Speaking of his telepathic ability, do you think it’s based on Teresa’s cosmo wave? I’d wager it is.
The anti-planet missiles have stopped at an altitude of 500 meters, effectively holding the planet hostage. Sanada wagers that the Zoelguut-class ship in the middle is responsible for directing the missiles to the most appropriate places, acting as a control center. He thinks they should leave the planet before it’s too late, but before he say so Hijikata urges the crew to do what they can until the refugees are safe. Just then, Miki Saijo informs them that the refugees are about to depart, giving Yamato full effectiveness in combat. On Ryu’s orders they prep the Wave-Motion Shield and ready the guns, pushing toward the Zoelguut.
[AMB]: Hijikata is quite the daredevil. Seeing him finally shine as a ship commander really helps hammer home how he and Okita truly were alike, both bleeding hearts hiding behind stoicism.
Back in the Akerian ruins, the conversation continues. Zordar tells Kodai that surely he must have already realized what true salvation for humans means. Sympathizing with Susumu, he says it must be painful to live carrying that fear of loss. But if he clings to Gatlantis’ kind of love, Zordar will help him deal with this fear. The unblinking stare of the great Emperor stuns Kodai to silence.
[AMB]: There’s something truly frightening behind the way Zordar very casually says (essentially) “we’ll help euthanize your pitiful race and the rest of mankind if the fear of loss gets too hard on ya.” But he does speak about this topic as if he’s seen the effects himself first hand. And with those stark eyes of his? I don’t doubt him one second.
[KC]: I have said it before and I will keep saying it. This Zordar is scary.
With the Garmillas ships off the ground, Yamato’s counterattack begins, starting with the Zoelguut-class ship. Once the refugee ships’ course is confirmed however, Yamato will switch targets to the anti-planet missiles. They rain hellfire upon the commanding ship, but in retaliation the priest drops one of his anti-planet missiles at the ships, stating this to be their “judgement.” In a throwback to Yamato‘s original launch scene, it is enveloped in a cloud of fire. Yuki and the refugees fear for its fate, but Yamato emerges unscathed and pushes onward toward the Zoelguut, not letting up its attack.
[AMB]: The previous darkness under Ryu’s eyes is now exchanged with a bright light, showing how he’s not going to run away anymore. Last episode he told Saito as much, and now he’s proving his resolve. The visuals here are straight from a big budget disaster movie, one where it feels like a lot is at stake.
[KC]: Three ships of civilian refugees and the fate of the galaxy?
[AMB]: Touché. I’m not very sure of the priest’s mental state anymore. Or maybe he just feels cornered.
[KC]: I was not very sure of his mental state from his introduction.
The fire above the unstable planet has caused it to begin collapsing. In the Akerian projection room, the connection to Zordar is starting to destabilize. Zordar relishes how the cycle of destruction and war for the sake of love is happening just outside their meeting place. In his eyes, it would seem humans indeed need Gatlantis’ guidance, with a love that is not led astray by an individual’s biased affections, a love in harmony with the laws of the universe.
[AMB]: The Liberation Front fighting for freedom. Dessler remnants fighting to protect the past. And Yamato protects both the past and the present. They’re all fighting for love in their own way, leaving destruction and death in their wake. This mindset will swallow me whole!
[KC]: It does seem to be an endless and inevitable cycle.
[AMB]: I wonder if Redrauz can feel any of this? The way the Emperor’s appearance has started to flicker from Redrauz’ human appearance to Zordar’s Gatlantean one is very off-putting, but he seems to pay it no mind.
Yamato’s bout with the Liberation Front ends with a surprise proclamation from the priest: “Freedom from oppression! The self-rule and independence of all peoples! Justice is on our side!” They face Yamato’s assault head on, knocking it out of balance. Unfortunately for them, Yamato’s Wave-Motion Shield is unharmed, and the ship has turned into just the right position to deliver a full barrage.
They fire round after round into the bow of the Zoelguut. Knowing full well what fate awaits their slowly sinking adversary, Hijikata orders Shima to kick the engines to max-speed. The priest then delivers one final message to Kazette’s group, telling them that “This is a noble battle to end unjust oppression by Garmillas! We must not fear death! Death!” And with that, he drops the rest of the anti-planet missiles to the surface.
[AMB]: I can’t fault that priest for his tenacity. No half-baked conviction there. And Hijikata keeps bringing some ballsy moves to the playing field, fully utilizing Yamato’s tactical range.
[KC]: Captains of Yamato have a tendency to do well against maniacally determined Garmillas.
[AMB]: Göer is sorely missed.
[KC]: By who?
[AMB]: In universe? Probably no one. But to me he was always a fun recurring character who really helped light up the mood.
The collapse of Stravaze is now inevitable, Zordar says. Hijikata orders Shima to park Yamato at the lowest altitude possible, giving Kodai a place to escape to. Keyman finally returns to the bridge following his sketchy behavior in the last episode. Tokugawa orders the engine room on standby so Yamato can leave whenever necessary. Ryu then orders the Garmillas ships to leave while Yamato holds position to collect the rest of their crew.
Their Garmillas allies send their regards. Kazette reaffirms his disbelief in the radical nature of the rebels, worriedly telling his subordinate that they need to confirm “his” safety (referring to Klaus). Meanwhile, Touko is listening in on Yamato’s bridge chatter inside the radio room with a quizzical look on her face.
[AMB]: Both Keyman and Touko are Yamato’s biggest wild card characters at this point. They’re both sketchy and hard to read. I don’t think Klaus is a bad guy, but based on the way he carried himself in this scene he seems remorseful over what he’s done. Major kudos to both Ryu and Kazette here, Ryu for his daring and compassionate plan and Kazette for showing his concern over this whole affair.
[KC]: I don’t know how many kudos we should give to Kazette for being concerned about a plan that he was complicit in, but Klaus is definitely here to be the likable royal. In the original series we got to see a different side of Dessler; ridiculed and imprisoned by Sabera over her fear of his motives. Dare I say that I wasn’t the only one who then found him a bit more sympathetic and likable? But that story can’t happen here, so instead we get the reluctant saboteur.
[AMB]: If I remember correctly, you stood up for Kazette last episode when I brought it up, so what changed? And Yamato 2 Sabera was a fun obstacle! I always interpreted that as pure jealousy on her part, not wanting some outsider to get credit for dealing with the puny task of eliminating one ship. So Dessler got screwed over and the only one who continuously stood up for him was Grandpa Zordar.
[KC]: Actually I remember saying that he was a two-faced jerk, so nothing has changed. But I am with you on OG Zordar coming off as a kindly old grandfather. Who also wanted to blow up the Earth.
Stravaze is slowly being swallowed by its own sea of lava, but Zordar is unfazed. He can feel it, the feelings of these humans, feelings such as the egoism that overflows from the illness known as emotion. And with an iron-willed resolve, he reaffirms that this miserable cycle must come to an end – by “his” Gatlantis, with Teresa’s grace. As if struck with a revelation, Kodai sees something in the painting of Teresa. Below her is a spiral, not unlike the white comet. So he asks Zordar what their connection to Teresa is, but all he gets is a smile. A smile and a challenge, for he will show Susumu precisely what his love is capable of saving and what it kills.
[AMB]: Another new leitmotif is introduced to the BGM, Emperor Zordar. It’s a soft, lulling kind of tune that starts off with an aura of culture and history to it but descends into chaotic sadness, ending with the brooding sound of the White Comet theme. It’s a powerful new piece created specifically for Zordar. (Whose predecessor had no such theme.)
[KC]: Well, the last Zordar was really just an extension, or rather the face, of his empire. This Zordar is most assuredly his own person.
[AMB]: I really enjoy the ominous and omnipotent way Zordar delivers his speeches, sometimes walking a thin line between being metaphorical and displaying almost prophetic powers. But that’s most likely just what he wants us to think. That part about feeling emotions could be an allusion to him being empathic, but it’s also definitely a reference his telepathy.
As for the visual correlation between the painting’s spiral and the white comet, I believe Teresa (or as I’ve surmised before, former Akerius) created the White Comet, and I’ll explain my reasoning with a spoiler. In Ark we find out that Akerius built “Arks” and spread them across the universe to moniter it in their absence, each Ark having a particular function. Gatlantis was in search of the Ark of Tranquility, but they failed to apprehend it. The White Comet, or “The Ark of Destruction” as it’s really called, is one they did manage to get their hands on. And this was the show’s first visual hint at that fact. Very neat!
[KC]: I do really like that they’re choosing to expand on the concept of the ancient civilizations and the technology they left behind. Reminds me of Stargate SG-1.
[AMB]: My first correlation was with the Halo series’ Forerunners, but then again the “long gone ancient civilization” isn’t an uncommon storytelling tool in space opera. In the words of Chancellor Palpatine, “A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one!”
[KC]: He has them in his own franchise.
Through the red swirling eyes of Professor Redrauz, Zordar projects images of the refugee ships for Kodai so that he’ll see which one is carrying Yuki. According to Zordar, he’s infiltrated each of the three ships with “revenants” created from corpses, living dead bodies capable of combusting at will. Redrauz’ body is no exception, as it starts glowing in demonstration.
[AMB]: So not only do the living dead bodies react to danger by exploding, they can be flipped to blow up whenever Zordar wills it. Wonderful.
[KC]: His threat level is off the charts. Who builds people that can be anywhere and explode on command? Supervillains.
[AMB]: He not only builds, he reconfigures corpses against their will. And I must say that the ghastly blue light surrounding Redrauz isn’t just visually appealing, it looks to be blue, the hottest kind of flame.
Zordar promises Kodai that he’ll spare one of these three ships, and the choice is Kodai’s. If Kodai refuses to choose, all three ships will have their engines blown up and they’ll all perish along with Stravaze. Susumu starts breaking down, having trouble accepting this turn of events. Zordar leaves him with one last parting sentence.
“Follow the love in which you believe, and choose.” The blue light starts to penetrate through his body, causing Redrauz to blow up in Kodai’s face. Had Saito not jumped in at the last second to save him, that is.
[AMB]: This might be the weirdest thing to comment on but… you see those flashes of light which start breaking apart Redrauz’ body? The first thing they reminded me of was how the CG team behind the live-action adaptation of Casper the Friendly Ghost portrayed the demise of its main antagonist, Carrigan. A similar effect is used on Ash Ketchum in the first Pokemon movie. These both came out in the 20th century (1995 & 1998). For that matter, it’s not too far off from Lalah Sun’s death in the first Gundam series.
But let’s get to more interesting stuff. Zordar’s conundrum has an easy answer, a self-fulfilling prophecy meant to break Kodai’s spirit. But why is he doing this? My first guess was to show Kodai how it feels being forced to choose, because Zordar’s probably been in a situation which created the foundation for his hatred of love. We’ll see if this theory strikes true later. On another note, Zordar is quite theatrical, probably making sure Saito jumped in to save Kodai at the last second.
[KC]: It certainly wouldn’t do for Zordar to set up a test for Kodai and then kill him before the poor kid could even take it.
[AMB]: I don’t believe he’d do that. He cares little about displays of power compared to displays of his moral and ideological superiority. Assassination would only make his proclamation of gifting true love ring hollow. My view is that he relates to Kodai on an emotional level, and in order to assert that his crusade is righteous, he wants to show Kodai the pain of choosing and losing continuously. That’s a much more effective and permanent way to subdue an enemy.
Saito makes sure that Kodai isn’t hurt, telling him that Ryu sent him. Curious about Redrauz, he wonders at what just happened, but Kodai’s too stuck in his own thoughts – he has a choice to make. He runs to the Type-100, rushing toward the refugee ships. Paralyzed with fear over what he’s about to commit, Kodai is hailed by Saito and Nagakura. They ask what’s wrong and he informs the two Cosmo Marines over the radio of the challenge imposed upon him.
“I will choose. That’s their rule”.
[AMB]: The mental fortitude required of this lad is unimaginable. During the last war, he was an immature boy who had trouble connecting with people. Now that he’s made the connections he values most, he’s being forced to aid in the death of hundreds of civilians for the sake of his loved one. You can see in his expression that this is the last thing he wanted to deal with on this journey. And I understand that sentiment.
[KC]: Zordar may have a genuine interest in teaching Kodai a lesson, but he also wants to break him.
[AMB]: Perhaps the two goals are the same?
Kodai establishes communication with Yamato, much to Sanada’s relief. Ryu orders that they’re all to depart once Saito and Kodai are onboard, but Susumu first has an urgent message he wants to deliver to the Garmillas ships over an open channel. This is delivered through Aihara, to Ryu who then orders Keyman to get permission from the Garmillas. An unusually stoic and tired Klaus agrees, and Susumu begins to transmit his message.
He starts by addressing the refugees directly, stating that Yamato’s intention was to rescue all of them on the 11th planet and bring them safely back to Earth. But things took an unexpected turn, which he’s sorry for. On the verge of tears, he continues, lying to himself and the refugees, saying that Lieutenant Yuki Mori will accompany them all to Earth no matter what happens.
[AMB]: I can’t even begin to imagine how awful Kodai’s feeling right now, but the sorrowful performance by VA Ono Daisuke hits hard. You can even see the moment where he swallows his self-loathing and pride to deliver his final lie.
[KC]: It is definitely very moving.
[AMB]: After having rejected and denied Zordar’s claims, he plays right into his hands, choosing love. What else can he do? If he does nothing, all ships will crash and burn. Because not choosing is a choice in itself. And saving the refugees wasn’t an easy task to start with either, since Yamato basically had to win a planetary conflict all on its own against an entire fleet. I wonder how he’d choose if Yuki wasn’t on board any of these ships, if he would choose at all… and it was very unfair to show a panning shot over Yuki holding onto Irii while Kodai delivered his speech. Unfair!
[KC]: They are ramping everything up, including the feels.
After his heartfelt apology, Kodai turns to address Yuki herself, asking if she can hear him. Staring down with forlorn eyes, he says he has a lot to apologize for. He was scared of getting her involved in a dangerous journey where he could lose her. He always felt content whenever she was with him, making him happy. But that feeling caused him to think nothing or anyone else mattered by comparison, which would limit his ability to do the things that should come naturally to him as a person, as a Captain. He felt like he was going to lose himself on the current Earth, and the emotions associated with it. It scared him.
[AMB]: These are some complicated emotions and they’re very well put. The fear of becoming so content with the way the world is heading because you have the one you love by your side is a scary thought. To lose the passion and motivation to indulge in justice, to partake in justice. Just like the people on Earth seem to have forgotten, stuck with their Time Fault and the reconstruction of the Cosmo Fleet as a means of deterrence. Shima had grown so accustomed to today’s Earth that he was about to stay while the others left. This must have frightened Kodai to the core. His reasoning here is much more nuanced and relatable than, “you’re a woman Yuki, you could get hurt,” as in the original show.
[KC]: Everything has more levels to it. It’s great.
[AMB]: It’s a small detail, but I appreciate that you can see some of the refugees with sad and empathic expressions during the speech. They’re taking what he says to heart.
That’s why he tried getting away from her. Yet she still boarded Yamato, which made him happy. No logic involved, just a feeling of happiness. As Yuki hears this plea for forgiveness, she starts falling apart herself, realizing how much Kodai kept pent up inside. Susumu ends his transmission by declaring himself to be a hopelessly weak and selfish person, choosing to bear all responsibility for what’s about to happen, disassociating even this event from Yuki. Passing outside the window of Yuki’s transport ship, he tells her that he wants her to live, that he can’t bear losing her. And evoking a similar vibe to a certain deceased former dictator, he states that “no matter the sin, no matter how unbearable a sin it is, I’ll…!”
[AMB]: Being content with the way things were, the life he had on Earth with Yuki, he was scared of that feeling infecting his judgement. So by disassociating with Yuki, by letting her stay behind, he could conserve the positive feelings he associated with his own life, with Yuki as the bearer. However, the fact that she came aboard Yamato despite his open protests is what proved the most to him that Yuki was the woman he fell in love with, even if he couldn’t show her that because of his conflicting emotions. And this would be a good time to remind everyone that when this episode debuted in theaters, it was part of the Pure Love Chapter.
[KC]: There have always been parallels between Dessler and Kodai. It is interesting that they should reference it now.
[AMB]: Speaking of Dessler, the choice Kodai’s about to make reminds me a lot of Abelt. He was also in Kodai’s position once. He decided to dedicate his entire life for the sake of one woman (Starsha). He sacrificed much for her, but never wanted her to feel shame or blame for it. He took so many sins on his own back because Starsha never stopped him, she let it happen. It’s what eventually broke Abelt, moving him to drop a part of New Baleras onto his own planet in a last ditch effort to destroy Yamato. Then he could fulfill his task of unification and finally see Starsha after all those years. The difference here, however, is that Yuki understands what would happen to Kodai if he made such a choice. It would lead to a slippery slope, and the Kodai she loves would slowly be consumed by the sins he’ll accrue. So she moves to stop it.
[KC]: … Uhm … exactly how much are you inferring from that ridiculous mural Abelt had on the wall of his palace in 2199? Also, quit jumping ahead. I thought you wanted to gush about Zordar.
[AMB]: I didn’t even think of the mural, honestly. I mostly used Episodes 23 and 25 of 2199 to build my case. And of course I want to gush about Zordar, but this scene reminds me too much of my interpretation of Abelt in 2199, a view that might turn out to be shared by 2202. *cough cough*
[KC]: Just saying; we never get Starsha’s side of that picture, and the one you paint is a lot more romantic than the determination of a man enraged, if not insane, which is all we really see in 2199. Of course, I am a few episodes away from getting back on the Dessler bandwagon. But 2199 never intended to present a version of him that viewers could admire.
[AMB]: Through Episodes 23-25 of 2199, we can see Starsha’s feelings plain as day through her actions and the way she interacts with Dessler. She’s the only person who refers to him by his first name. There’s intimacy and concern, from her sadness upon hearing of Dessler’s supposed passing in 24 and the closeness during the end of their talk in 23. She has a carbon copy of Dessler’s mural in her palace. And she even tells the Earthlings in Episode 24 that their usage of the WMG helped spur on his madness. It destroyed what he built, while – in response to her wishes – he kept himself from using that same energy source for decades. The only reason he finally adapted it into the Dessler gun was to force her hand, to inform her of the Earthlings’ hypocrisy in transforming her gift into a weapon.
His philosophy of seeing war as a necessity, having lived that reality his entire life, ends up bringing down an innocent woman he helped save, with him staring transfixed at his gun repeating his mantra for comfort. It’s not admirable, but it does make me feel sympathy for him. His final words, “I’ll bring peace to the universe”, with the memory of meeting Starsha for the first time, isn’t just for show. It’s a hidden nuance for those that delve deeper.
[KC]: His pure love for Starsha has always been a fundamental part of his makeup, but don’t let me stop you from explaining to me how great a character Abelt Dessler is.
Yuki tries to contact Kodai with her radio, but he won’t respond. So she turns to Nagakura over a different frequency, desperately begging her and Saito to tell her what happened in the ruins. At that same moment, Susumu addresses Zordar himself in an effort to deliver his choice, inferring that the “King of Gatlantis” can hear him. But before he can do so, he spots his partner in full protective gear walking out of her transport vessel, facing the burning abyss.
[AMB]: Susumu seems to show some reverence to Zordar here by referring to him as “King of Gatlantis,” perhaps in a show of open submission and a subtle request to please pick his choice. And I remember the first time I saw Yuki stepping outside. It was something along the lines of “Oh God no, this can’t end well.”
[KC]: When Kodai and Yuki are involved, how often does it end well?
[AMB]: Hm… they did have a relaxing car ride in Episode 2, at least!
Yamato’s bridge crew takes notice immediately, with Hijikata in shock. Yuki takes off her helmet, facing the harsh wind currents. She smiles, telling herself that she won’t let Kodai make a choice he’ll regret. Closing her eyes as Kodai screams her name, she lets herself be caught by the wind, plumetting down toward the core of the unstable planet.
[AMB]: Now this is a show of true love, or should I say “Pure love”? Please clap. No seriously, this is the purest form of love the show has given us yet. Defying the downward spiral presented by Zordar, she eliminates the moral obstacle facing Kodai, namely herself. Not because she wants to die, or because she wants to make a point, but because she doesn’t want her loved one to live with a sin she could have prevented, a sin which could corrupt his fragile heart and conscience. It’s the greatest sacrifice one could make as a partner, at least the most loving one. Just the idea would scare anyone, but she does it with a smile. It’s an answer to the question posed by Yoshinobu Nishizaki himself in Farewell to Yamato: how far would you go to protect the one you love?
[KC]: A show of strength and defiance from the kind of love that Zordar seeks to destroy. This demonstration of pure love, as you say, was also what tipped the scales for Dessler at the end of Yamato 2. But here we are only at Episode 9 and we’re already seeing it on a much grander scale.
[AMB]: And we can’t stop bringing up Dessler. Either we’re stuck in the past or the show’s doing its best to subconsciously invoke images of the blue leader. Or both.
[KC]: They do like hinting.
Yuki’s fall is seen by the bridge crew, Zordar, Kodai and heard by Touko. Susumu screams her name, declaring loudly to Zordar that he refuses to choose as he pursues her falling body. Shima calls out to his friend and Sanada’s paralysed. Touko is quite surprised herself, murmuring how Yuki’s act was to prevent Kodai from making a choice. This turn of events infuriates Zordar, who rages that changes to his rules are unacceptable.
With Stravaze already on the verge of collapse, he flips the switch for all three Gatlantean bombs on the escort ships, destroying their engines and sending them crashing toward the molten lava. Katsuragi, still in the radio room, overhears the chaos that ensues as a sad, fearful expression overtakes her. The magnetic field of the planet has begun to break down, and the refugees she’s bonded with are on their way to death.
[AMB]: For those unaware of the context of what’s happening, Yuki’s jump must have come as quite a shock. Poor Ryu, his adoptive daughter just went to join the flames. The BGM used here is a grim rendition of Great Love, used only once in Yamato 2 when Teresa gives up her life force to Shima. It’s a powerful track taking full advantage of the violin, plucking at your heartstrings. This, accompanied by the dark imagery of three ships full of refugees having their engines blown up by unaware zombies as red warning lights flicker on and off is… something that leaves quite the impact.
[KC]: I have to say, I was pretty impacted.
[AMB]: For those of us who’ve seen the rest of 2202, we all know why Zordar is so infuriated. It’s not only because of his ego. Rather, it’s because things did not progress as he set them up, as he himself experienced many centuries ago. And Touko can’t grasp this either, for somewhere deep inside she feels the same pain as Zordar – pain in the wake of seeing a new alternative to the devil’s choice Zordar himself experienced, suddenly shaking his entire world view. His interest in these Earthlings came at a heavy price, and maybe this partially proves to him that Teresa might have made a good call with Yamato’s crew.
[KC]: There is a lot more going on than there was last time, I will tell you that.
The Gatlantean Emperor calmly tells Kodai that this is a result of his own choice, the choice of not choosing, influenced by his human ego. Lives that could have been saved are now doomed. It feels all too empty, according to the Emperor who rests his tired head on his hand, refusing to watch the disaster. Kodai isn’t having any of it though. He ignores Zordar and keeps pushing into the collapsing core of Stravaze to save Yuki, his ship starting to break apart in the process. But he reaches her, leaving his cockpit in order to float out to her lifeless body inside the blue vortex.
[AMB]: The refugee ships shown slowly descending toward the molten ground is painful to watch, painful enough to make even Zordar close his eyes, if only temporarily. It’s so empty and meaningless, all these sacrifices. But Susumu still wants to respond to the love shown to him, pushing his ship right into the collapsing core of Stravaze all the way into nowhere, just to see Yuki again. Knowing full well that she might not even still be alive.
[KC]: I mean, this is a beautiful moment for space opera, but he definitely should not be allowed to command the ship after this.
[AMB]: Rationally, no. Technically, he should have lost his position the moment he urged his crew to mutiny against Earth. But Yamato needs a captain who can go beyond reason, searching for an ideal future without falling prey to numbers and predictions. Had he taken Yamato itself down there though, I’d have to agree with you.
According to Miki Saijou, Kodai’s life signs can be traced, but they’re currently in a place where there’s no physical mass. In other words, a void space where they’re physically stuck. Sanada orders Analyzer to calculate the projected route of descent for the Garmillas ships and Kodai so that they can find a point where the two groups will intersect. If they insert a planetary-scale mass at the corruption of the planet where its own mass is being sucked in, it should be enough to force Kodai and the rest out of nonexistence.
[AMB]: In allegorical terms, it’s like pushing a very sensitive block of concrete out of a very flimsy pudding using another block of sensitive concrete. “Sensitive” is the right word to use, considering any slight miscalculations might push both groups even further into the gravitational epicenter and trap them inside it. Or, in Sanada’s space mumbo-jumbo terms: Inserting a planetary-scale mass at the corruption of the planet will (with the help of the counter-mass energy conversion) stop the gravity storm, ejecting Kodai and Yuki. The risk is that (as Tokugawa puts it) it could instead suck them deeper into the gravitational epicenter.
[KC]: Sure; Reverse the Polarity.
Hijikata agrees with Sanada’s plan, citing that they failed to give the Gatlanteans their business cards at the 11th planet. And that if “the King of Gatlantis is watching,” they’ll teach him a lesson about human perseverance. Analyzer confirms the analysis is complete, sending Ryu the data. In a show of mental strength, Hijikata orders that the Wave-Motion Gun be prepped for use, aiming the gun himself (using a mechanism only previously seen at the end of Final Yamato). Before firing, he addresses the deceased Captain Okita, telling him that he’s about to borrow it (the WMG and Yamato by extension).
Meanwhile, Kodai has caught Yuki’s body and dragged it into the cockpit with him, holding her tight as they brace for what’s to come. Hijikata fires the WMG straight at the inner core of Stravaze. Production note: the original storyboards for this episode include a shot of the beam striking the collapsing planet. Evidently, it was decided that showing this would belabor the obvious. And absolutely EVERYONE was befuddled by the blue “tunnel of love” until it was finally explained in the final episode.
[AMB]: That damn business card line always gets me. Such a lyrical metaphorical jab saying “we’re here and we mean business.” Yet another Japanese cultural nod. Then there’s Ryu’s guilt over borrowing the destructive capabilities of his best friend’s ship, a weapon once sealed at that friend’s insistence. Heavy stuff. There’s even a few seconds where all other noise is cancelled out by the sound of the WMG, really putting emphasis on its immense power and the sway it has over life and death in this moment.
[KC]: I mean, they are using it, but they’re not actually hitting anybody with it, right?
[AMB]: According to Tokugawa, there’s a huge risk that the gun will trap Kodai and the refugees, and the act itself is made at the permanent cost of a planet. If we keep in mind what Yurisha told us of how Wave-Motion Energy is itself the memories and feelings of planets and people it’s… kind of sick.
The 3D work in the Yamato remakes keeps impressing me, even with the smaller things. For example, the WMG-panel in front of the Captain’s seat has so much nuance and finesse to its visual design and it’s so polished it’s hard to question the effective use of CG here. The panel stands out much more than if it were hand-drawn.
Yuki and Kodai inside the Type-100 are floating in the colorful blue vortex inside the core of Stravaze in complete silence. Small petals of what seem to be Wave-Motion Energy are released from the dying planet, covering their surroundings. A remorseful and solemn Susumu stares at the sight transfixed, then turns toward the unmoving Mori with pride in his eyes. Saying her name, he brushes her hair aside, now with a sad expression. But to his surprise, she wakes up. Unable to hold the tears in, Kodai starts to cry, but turns slightly away in shame. Then he turns back with a relieved smile. A slight blush colors Yuki’s face, her eyes shimmering like stars. She calls him a dummy.
[KC]: I actually thought she was calling him a dummy for coming after her.
[AMB]: That’s not a bad interpretation. My view was that she wanted him to know that it’s okay to cry in front of her, to release his pent up frustrations. But I think your view is equally valid, and perhaps more likely.
Music note: connoisseurs of Yamato’s vast OST will probably have some more reasons to love this scene aside from its execution. The track playing in the background, called Eternal Life (alternately called I Remember You), is originally played at two points in Farewell to Yamato. The second point was the scene where Kodai holds Yuki’s body as he begs her for forgiveness, for not being there for her. Of course, this dialogue partially already happened when he addressed the refugee ships, but the genes of the scene are still here, giving us our first hint at whether or not the creators of 2202 will or won’t push for the Farewell ending.
The backdrop of a fighter cockpit with just the two of them isn’t unheard of either, being reminiscent of a scene in Final Yamato. This composition is over 40 years old now, but the timing of it is so solid it makes you think it was written for this scene alone. That’s a testament to the pure genius and craftsmanship of sound designer Tomohiro Yoshida!
[KC]: I remember there was a lot of speculation when the images were released.
[AMB]: I miss that time.
[KC]: There’s always 2205.
[AMB]: It’s an incredibly intimate scene, just the two of them along with some beautiful music, quirks in body language delivering a myriad of emotions. Nine episodes in and they’re finally given the opportunity to rest, alone, in their own world. And somehow they both seem content with whatever happens next, having both proven their pure love for one another in ways others can’t even begin to imagine.
The “Wave-Motion petals” covering the void space neatly tie in with what Yurisha explained about WM Energy in 2199, that it’s the embodiment of a planet’s memories and feelings. It’s what surrounds us at the invisible core of Stravaze. The ending song for this batch of episodes, You, Petal, could be a reference to these petals.
The light from the WMG starts to reach them, the blue backdrop turning to white. Kodai then poses a question Yuki’s heard many times over. He asks if she wants to marry him. With a slight chuckle she asks how many times he’s going to make her say yes, to which he simply smiles and embraces her. She asks him to never let go of her again.
[AMB]: In the future, whenever someone asks me why there are so many Yuki figurines, I’ll just refer to 2202 Episode 9, part B. Not because I necessarily condone the excess in contrast to the lack of other figurines, but because it should help make people understand the cultural value she holds for all fans old and new in Japan. A true “Yamato nadeshiko,” or in English terms, “the personification of an idealized Japanese woman.”
[KC]: I usually just say that they fetishize her.
[AMB]: I won’t deny their marketing department has a tendency to do that.
The voice work in this show continues to impress me, with Hokou Kuwashima’s lovestruck delivery of Yuki’s lines bringing a sense of warmth that I’ve missed since the start of the show. In the face of their potential demise at the hands of the scary white light, like passing through a tunnel to the other side, they pay it no mind, focusing only on one another as they confess their love again. The old guard may still be in charge of Yamato’s production, but their youthful portrayal of these two hallmark characters isn’t dulled by their sensibilities. On their behalf, I sure promise to never let go of Yuki.
Akira Yamamoto approaches in her Cosmo Tiger, confirming their safety to Yamato’s bridge. They both light up in awe and joy, realizing that they’ve made it. Yamato approaches with Touko staring out from the observation deck in disbelief. In response to her newly-awakened feelings, Zordar telepathically communicates with Touko, addressing her by the name of “Sabera,” projecting an image previously seen by Katsuragi. It depicts a grown woman resembling her, holding a child. Zordar accompanies this vision with a message.
“Sabera. Must we repeat the same mistake again?”
[AMB]: There’s a moment here where Kodai and Yuki seem to believe they’ve passed on to the other side, greeted by darkness, only for Akira to flash her searchlight, greeting them with the joyous revelation that they’re still alive. This was only made possible because of Yuki’s sacrifice, because Kodai followed her. It was what gave Sanada his idea and Hijikata his courage to show Zordar the tenacity of human beings and their willingness to stick to their love. No matter the risk.
[KC]: It’s very sappy, but I’ll allow it.
[AMB]: As for the Touko scene, I guess the cat’s out of the bag. She is another Sabera, confirming why she bears such a strong physical resemblance to “Silver Sabera,” even going so far as sharing the same VA. The way she’s shown standing in the middle of the Cosmo Navy logo might be a visual hint that she’s starting to grow a connection to Yamato’s brand of love? Who knows.
That mysterious vision makes its second appearance, this time clearer. Depicting the original Sabera carrying a child of great importance, it confirms the reawakening of Touko’s motherly instincts. But as Zordar asks, does she really want to repeat what happened in the past? Is it worth the risk to involve yourself with familial love, knowing the emotional baggage you’ll have to carry? There’s no malice in his voice when he asks this, only compassion. And we’ll see why in future episodes.
[KC]: This is probably the biggest departure from an original character that the show takes. I really like what they are doing with her this time.
By now, Susumu Kodai has completely passed out, wrecked by the day’s events. Yuki stares longingly at his sleeping face. And in the distance, we can see the three Garmillas transport vessels drifting in space, safe and secure.
[AMB]: Seeing the three refugee ships in the distance made my heart skip a beat. Love can truly conquer all. Now how about you guys send some engineers to help repair their engines? Unless that’s already been dealt with, considering we don’t know how long they had to search for Yuki and Kodai.
[KC]: I legit cheered.
[AMB]: The love felt in Yuki’s expression there at the end as her eyes flicker is heartwarming, and a well-earned finish for such a stressful event. Get someone who looks at you like Yuki looks at Kodai here and you’ll have the best partner this Earth can give you. She’s so proud and happy with him.
[AMB]: And with that Episode 9 comes to a close! Our first real deep-dive into Gatlantis, Emperor Zordar and the mysterious nature of Touko Katsuragi. Embodying the theme of “Pure Love” to its greatest heights, this episode feels like the conclusion of this chapter, but there’s one more episode, isn’t there?
[KC]: Yes, and it looks as if this Sabera and this blue, blonde royal have a very different dynamic!
[AMB]: That’s no exaggeration!
Theatrical release: Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love Chapter 3: Pure Love Chapter contained episodes 7-10. It premiered in Japanese theaters October 14, 2017.
Japanese video: Theater-exclusive Blu-ray October 14, 2017. Standard Blu-ray & DVD November 24, 2017
First Japanese TV broadcast: November 30, 2018
American debut: July 4, 2018 (streaming) March 15, 2019 (home video)
The end title You, Petal is performed by Shino Arima.
Click here for a complete BGM collection for Episode 9.
Episode Director: Hiroshi Ito
Storyboard: Takao Kato and Nobuyoshi Habara
Art Director: Akihisa Maeda
Animation Director: Koji Watanabe
Writer: Harutoshi Fukui
Scriptwriter: Hideki Oka
Director: Nobuyoshi Habara, Xebec Studio
Assistant Director: Makoto Kobayashi
Art Director: Yoshio Tanioka
CG Animation Director: Yuuto Uwabo, Sublimation Studio
Music: Akira Miyagawa, Hiroshi Miyagawa
Executive Producer: Shoji Nishizaki