by Anton Mei Brandt and Kathy Clarkson
Episode 12: Astonishing White Comet Empire, Yamato breakout!
Inside an echoing submerged space, black paint drips across a table. It stains the naked Touko Katsuragi’s previously white hair jet black. Referred to as “Sabera, the Silver Priestess” by an off-screen Zordar, she awakens and rises up like a marionette. The Emperor describes her as unique and irreplaceable, different from Gatlanteans. He then apologizes for “doing something so unrefined,” causing Touko to look down at her dark hair in confusion. Then she either hears or recounts her own voice responding to Zordar, telling him that whatever happens to her is fine as long as she’s in service to him, “her emperor.”
[AMB]: This place is how Katsuragi seems to view the submerged coffin underneath the Sabera cloning device we’ll see in Episode 17. A dream of her birth as a clone, the miscoloring of her hair most likely being what Zordar refers to as “unrefined.” Dyeing it black probably acts to help suppress her memories, seeing as it obscures her true appearance.
[KC]: Another example of adding purpose and depth to aspects of the previous series that were just character design choices.
[AMB]: Design choices for different takes of the same story as well! On another note, I was always impressed with the eerily drawn scene of her body rising up. It’s forever stuck in my mind whenever I do sit ups.
Zordar is alone on his throne, intently monitoring Touko’s dream with his eyes closed. She reaches out to him, mentally proclaiming herself to be the one and only Sabera, the one entrusted with controlling the Comet City Empire as its sole priestess. In contrast to her naked body, across from her stands white Sabera fully clothed, playing the throne room’s pipe organ. Sabera slowly starts to turn as if feeling Touko’s presence, only for Katsuragi to wake up in her bunk on Yamato, intently inspecting her black hair.
[AMB]: Zordar can do most tasks with eyes closed it seems, just another perk of having access to telepathy. Noticing his watchful eye, Touko seems both happy and proud to be of use to him.
[KC]: She should be. This time around the character has more significance than ever.
[AMB]: She even has her own theme, making its first appearance here. A violin rendition of the melody from Zordar’s theme, its lonesome act perfectly mirroring her character.
Touko is with Klaus Keyman in a quiet part of the ship, secretly discussing the reemergence of the Dessler Cannon. Stating that it’s similar to Yamato’s WMG in design, Keyman proceeds to stress his concerns about Gatlantis having usurped the technology, only to be interrupted. “Why tell me this?” she asks, only for Keyman to pull her in close. “Who else on this ship would I ask?” After a brief silence, she questions his intentions, but in response he just says “you started this.”
[AMB]: She’s in dire need of validation and he supplies it. We don’t know whether Keyman’s heard rumors of or seen Katsuragi speaking to herself about this, or maybe even if he knew about the Sabera clones from his time as a secret agent. What we do know is that he’s good at emotionally manipulating people; it’s part of how he managed to get Kodai to launch Yamato after all.
He tells her that if they’re open with each other they will each become “the one and only” person they can rely on aboard Yamato. Finally lowering her guard after repeating the “one and only” sentence from her dream, she grasps his gloved hand, saying “I wonder about that…” In the shadows, Akira Yamamoto is eavesdropping with a dissatisfied look.
[AMB]: The way Klaus manages to mirror Touko’s mantra is either the biggest cosmic coincidence or a clever emotional ploy on his part. Or maybe he actually means something he says for once.
[KC]: We haven’t talked about it a lot and I don’t want to go off on too much of a tangent, but the unfinished manga for 2199 is being published in English now, and I’m noticing that they seem to spend a lot more time than the series does on the romantic triangle between Kodai, Yuki and Yamamoto. Watching this scene between Keyman and Katsuragi and remembering their scene together in the previous episode, I wonder how much of their body language is a red herring, intended to set up the triangle of this space opera.
[AMB]: Based on what’s to come, I think it’s a mix of both. We’re probably meant to think he wants to keep her mouth shut about the Wave-Motion lattice, which while true isn’t why he’s there. Later though, he does start to actually confide in Touko, venting about his future feelings for Akira as if opening up to a new mother figure. The way in which relations like these help influence the plot as a whole and why will be further explored once Teresa has had her talk with Yamato’s crew, but observant viewers will find Gairen already throwing hints at us and Zordar back in Episode 10.
Speaking of 2199’s most prominent love triangle, for those wondering why it’s been less prominent in 2202 I point you to Ark of the Stars. In an early scene between Susumu and Akira, she sees her brother Akio’s face flash over Kodai’s. They have a seat and discuss how great it is to have had siblings even if they’re gone, Akira happily agreeing with her gaze set on him. My interpretation is that Akira finally realised at that moment why she has emotionally relied upon Kodai so much, and it’s because he reminded her of her brother Akio. Therefore, what she felt for him wasn’t the love of a partner, but a more familial kind of love. Their real siblings may be gone, but they still have their found family thanks to Yamato.
Keyman is stuck in deep thought inside the main elevator. When he moves to exit, Kodai steps in to take his place. They exchange puzzled looks, followed by affirming nods and a brief exchange as they pass each other by:
“How is it going?”
“Still just getting started.”
[AMB]: Klaus is juggling a lot of things right now, from Burrel’s task to confirm Teresa’s existence, the advancement of Gatlantis and Touko’s presence on Yamato, among many other things. Also, the “it” referred to here is an investigation into Touko, foreshadowed in this instance by their secretive behavior.
[KC]: Or he could just be trying to butter her up, sure.
The pilots are having a closed-off meeting. Shinohara brings up the fact that in the last episode the enemy knew exactly where Yamato was at all times, inferring that someone like Professor Redrowz (a living dead body) must be stowed away onboard, being controlled as a spy by the enemy. Sawamura raises his concern that they’re under suspicion too, considering they were all working independently on the 11th planet. Tsurumi brings up that Touko should be suspicious as well, piquing Akira’s interest.
The meeting trails off, concerns being raised of how this could interfere with Yamato’s current task of surveying the White Comet. When Sawamura questions if there’s any proof that the White Comet is Gatlantis’ HQ, Akira repeats the word “proof” to herself, having come to some realization.
[AMB]: For an amateur sleuth, Akira sure is something. From spying on Keyman and Touko’s suspicious behavior only to then connect the dots from Tsurumi’s conversation, realizing that Klaus is probably just trying to unearth proof of Katsuragi being a spy herself. Akira then concludes that he’s not a spy, nor is he romantically involved with Touko, a relief on two fronts.
[KC]: Apologies in advance to all the Akira/Melda shippers.
On the bridge, Sanada has patched together an analysis of the White Comet’s appearance based on optical data. Shock and concern spread across the faces of every bridge member as they bear witness to the processed image, with Susumu stating the obvious in a trembling voice. “This… is the White Comet.” Keyman stares resolutely at it, the scene transitioning from his face to that of Abelt Dessler’s.
[AMB]: Kodai, the poor lad, still traumatised from his conversation with Zordar. So much so that an unfinished image of the comet chills him to the bone. You can even see Hijikata completely lose his spirit there for a split second.
[KC]: It’s a dramatic enough scene that you might ignore the clue they just dropped.
[AMB]: The blonde boys transition, right? Lots of themes of duality going on in this episode, between Gairen/Zordar, Keyman/Abelt and Touko/Sabera.
Talking over his smug face from afar is Goenitz, noting that Dessler’s betrayal must have surely been predicted by His Majesty. And while we’re treated to Talan and an officer on the Neu Deusula discussing something of importance as Dessler twirls his goblet, Sabera responds by proudly claiming that the emperor’s eyes reach Garmillas as well. She recounts what Zordar knows, about how Dessler’s emotions and desire to defeat Yamato got his own people caught in the crossfire during the events of the last war.
[AMB]: I can see why Abelt is at the top of Zordar’s list of interests, especially now that we have confirmation that he knows Dessler’s side of things from 2199. But just like the audience, I doubt Zordar knows “why” the New Baleras incident happened and that’s sure to bite him going forward.
[KC]: The villain always thinks they’ve covered all the bases and Dessler screws Zordar over every time. But in this retelling, Zordar has a lot more to worry about coming back to haunt him than just his despotic colleague.
[AMB]: Definitely. Even Dessler might come to find that he’s underestimated his cunning opponent, which we’ll experience throughout his developments with Miru.
Still concerned, Goenitz laments their lost communication with “Lord Miru,” questioning if this development is worth Dessler’s status as a “valuable sample.” We see Miru trapped in a cell surrounded by floating crystals. An unphased Zordar weighs in, claiming he’s unconcerned but that Dessler should be left to do as he likes for now. Tired of Yamato’s antics, Zordar says that they’ve gained enough energy from Telezart to warp.
[AMB]: Miru is actually referred to by Goenitz here as “Lord” or “Mr.” Miru, something completely omitted from the official translation. Miru’s one of the only characters referred to with Japanese honorifics by the Gatlanteans, barring Baruze. In this instance, Goenitz uses the “dono” honorific, signifying that Miru’s someone worthy of respect. It’s another subtle hint at his lineage, being the next Zordar.
Those crystals are also of interest, presumably scavenged from the remains of the Akerian space tunnel destroyed in Episode 11. Just like last episode, they seem to be blocking Miru’s ability to use his cosmo wave, similar to the crystals used to disrupt Teresa’s.
[KC]: Abelt, you clever boy.
With renewed vigor, Zordar proclaims that their destination is Earth, “that poor planet destined to be destroyed,” home to the ship called by Teresa. His followers all bow with great reverence, the Emperor staring down at Sabera. On board Yamato, the feeling of his gaze causes Touko to drop a glass container on the med bay floor.
[AMB]: I wonder what Zordar means about Earth being destined to be destroyed. Is it a proclamation of the judgement he’s to pass upon it? Or are there some higher forces at work here, like Teresa?
[KC]: I’m betting that even this more sophisticated Zordar is basically just here to blow up the Earth.
[AMB]: Perhaps, but the themes of destiny and karma are both heavily used in Episodes 11 – 14, with Teresa later going at great length about Yamato’s destiny in Episode 14. Or maybe it’s just an allusion to Aquarius being destined to flood Earth in Final Yamato. I honestly have no clue.
As Touko cleans up broken glass, Yamamoto walks in, prompting Touko to ask who she is. Stating her name, she scoffs at Katsuragi, denoting her inability as a spy to properly remember. At first taken aback, Touko quickly recovers, proceeding to play dumb. Then Akira decides to push her by telling a lie, that Keyman told her Touko was a spy. Touko reaches for a glass shard, only to be held at gunpoint by Akira who asks if she won’t deny her spy accusation. Katsuragi then simply states that Akira’s information must be correct if the Lieutenant (Klaus) said so, owing to how often Klaus and her have opened up to each other. Touko’s eyes flash silver as she flings her glass shard at Akira’s gun, disarming her.
[AMB]: Looks like Keyman isn’t the only one capable of emotional manipulation. Despite Akira’s confidence, the mere mention of Touko and Klaus having “opened up” to each other is enough to throw her off.
[KC]: Well at least they didn’t have a cat fight.
[AMB]: Referring to the one between Akira and Melda in 2199, I take it?
[KC]: Yeah, we see a bit of this in the preview for this episode, and I wondered if that was going to be Akira’s thing; to fight with all the alien ladies. She basically is two for two at this point.
Seizing the opportunity, the spy moves at great speed to pin Akira to the wall, suckerpunching her stomach and covering her mouth to stymie a scream. Staring into Akira’s eyes, Touko belittles her cute trick question from earlier, asking if she’s taken a liking to Klaus. Unable to answer since she’s being choked out, Akira’s eyes widen in panic. Before Touko can begin a lecture on how emotions like Akira’s will lead to despair, Keyman shows up with his pistol drawn.
[AMB]: Foreshadowed by the uncanny way she rose up in her dream, Touko’s got a lot of strength packed in that body, and combat skills to boot. If we also add her maternal character traits to the mix, one could view this scene as her gauging whether or not Akira is a good enough partner for Klaus, which is oddly endearing. Though of course with some anti-love propaganda, since she knows what it’s like to suffer from love.
[KC]: Interesting take, but much of the romance in this show (outside of Kodai and Yuki) is so subtle it’s practically nonexistent.
[AMB]: I oddly prefer the slow building romance of both 2199 and 2202, makes it more grounded and less distracting. That direction is probably meant to reflect the cultural zeitgeist in Japan, a country where public displays of affection are frowned upon and intimacy is a very private thing. It makes couples like Yuria/Hoshina and Klaus/Akira very endearing and innocently sweet to many.
[KC]: I guess I’m more used to Western space opera, where the romance is as melodramatic as everything else. In both 2199 and 2202, unless we’re talking about the main characters, you really have to dig for throwaway dialogue and single-frame glances.
Touko quickly rotates, using Akira as a shield. Seeing Klaus struck with emotion gives her the opportunity to toss Akira at him, knocking both to the floor and rushing out the door. Keyman takes a few shots, but the protective glass of the med bay protects her.
[AMB]: Aside from how sweet it is to see Keyman showing concern for his fellow pilot, I’d like to bring up how smooth and sleek the character animation is this episode. 2202 in general has been keeping a high standard, with this as one of the biggest highlights. It’s owed mostly to the efforts of two people: Chizuru Kobayashi and Iwao Teraoka.
Kobayashi was the character AD (animation director) for 2199’s Episode 25, which featured some of the most accurate on-screen portrayals of Nobuteru Yuuki’s Yamato character designs. Teraoka, previously provided key art for Gundam UC as the AD for its last two unforgettable episodes. Everything from the White Comet’s gravity waves to the emotions conveyed by Sabera and Zordar is exceptional thanks to them. Episode Director Takanori Yano also deserves praise, a relatively unknown figure in the industry who’s mostly worked on one-off episodes in the past from Bungou Stray Dogs and Nobuyoshi Habara’s Fafner Exodus (S2).
Realizing that the gig is up thanks to Akira’s actions, Keyman contacts Kodai who then declares a state of emergency. B-rank equipment is authorized and all bulkheads are to be sealed, since the suspected spy is on the run. Back on the bridge, Aihara is in disbelief over this development and Hijikata urges the crew to remain cautious due to Touko most likely being a living dead body, capable of blowing up.
Now on the run, Touko sees familiar visions flashing by. A young Zordar with a young Sabera sitting on the White Comet Throne, Klaus holding Touko close from earlier, and Zordar strangling Sabera. All the while repeating the mantra of her being “the one and only,” the Silver Priestess managing the Comet City Empire.
[AMB]: The BGM choice (an unreleased version of “First Contact” from 2199) and the claustrophobic shaky cam shots of Touko’s escape attempt brings to mind a scene from the Habara-directed Episode 9 of 2199, where the Garmilloid named Alter attempts the very same thing. I wonder if this was intentional.
[KC]: I certainly would not be surprised.
[AMB]: Next, that image of young Zordar with the original Sabera. It sparked many discussions but can now safely be assumed to be one of the original Sabera’s earliest memories. Just like the white Sabera, she’s depicted with pointy ears like that of the Jirel space witches. Touko however, like the original’s older self, has rounded ears. Might this be a physical trait the Zemulian witches grow out of? Might then the white Sabera clones be based on the original’s younger self, relatively free from heartache?
Once she snaps out of it she realises that she’s been surrounded by the Cosmo Marines, stopped dead in her tracks by a closing door. They throw what appears to be mustard gas at her, then Nagakura and Kurata enter wearing gas masks. Touko steals Kurata’s mask after knocking him out. She then proceeds to fight Nagakura hand to hand, cracking her gas mask. She falls into Saito’s arms, barely conscious but clearly flustered. He reports on Katsuragi’s escape from the scene into the air vents, but she evades Sanada’s keen eyes on the monitoring systems.
[AMB]: From the moment he loses his gas mask, poor Kurata can be heard violently coughing his lungs out in the background. And not only is Katsuragi a certified badass, but Nagakura too! Both are highly-trained operatives after all, with Sabera delivering devastating blows with speed and elegance while Shiori utilizes a blend of close quarters combat (CQC) and boxing techniques.
Can I also say that Touko throwing people into the arms of their desired partners twice now is coincidentally great? A certified space Cupid. Space Bear did have the chance to fire back before the spy got away, but why he didn’t should be self-explanatory at this point. (Always assume Zordar is looking out from his eyes.)
On the bridge, Ohta yells out that the White Comet has vanished. Susumu can’t process the situation, looking out into space in disbelief. The entire ship starts to shake in response to a gravitational interference wave. The White Comet emerges right in front of Yamato! Kodai is momentarily lost in the hypnotic whirl of its nucleus, but is snapped out of it by Hijikata. Shima tries steering the ship away, but it’s all for naught as it starts sinking into the White Comet’s fog, the familiar laugh of Zordar echoing in response.
[AMB]: Seeing the size of the White Comet compared to Yamato’s tiny frame together with that terrifying pipe organ BGM is a moment we never expected to get this early in the story, the slow pull out really putting its size into perspective. Hearing Zordar’s new VA pulling off the Zordar laugh once again makes me giddy too.
Sound design in Yamato is just as important as the visuals or music, sometimes heavily anchoring us to the experience. In this instance, we can hear one of sound director Yoshida’s recreations of an SFX from among my favorites in original Yamato as they take notice of the missing comet. It’s loud and impactful, drowning out all other sounds whenever it plays.
Attempting to break away, Yamato kicks its engines into full power but is unable to resist the gravitational pull from the comet’s center. Gaseous tendrils emit lightning as they whip and tear at Yamato, targeting it as if controlled by the comet itself. Sanada is baffled by how Gatlantis can control so much hyper-gravity. Nanbu exclaims that this must be Gatlantis’ HQ while they try firing at the cloud, their beam weaponry dissipating harmlessly. According to Sanada it’s similar to a solar flare, absorbing their Wave-Motion beams and shields.
[AMB]: The hand drawn touch to the waves was a pleasant surprise, adding a sort of harmonious element to the chaos of the White Comet. As does the blue waves of floating energy surrounding it, reminding me of aurora borealis. The design and action of these tendrils is a direct tribute to the work of legendary animator Yoshinori Kanada, well known for his touch with “living liquid” effects. Read about him here.
Still on the run, Touko has fallen to the ground, seemingly affected by Sabera playing the White Comet’s pipe organ. “A familiar feeling,” Katsuragi muses to herself as the gravitational waves grow larger and more aggressive in response to Sabera’s music, prompting her to wonder who’s playing the music. Goenitz and Razera commend the Silver Priestess’s skills with the pipe organ control panel, asserting that no one else is capable of doing this.
[AMB]: With that, I came to a realization: whenever the white Sabera plays the pipe organ, Touko resonates with her. The closer they are, the stronger the connection. This is why she keeps looking at her right hand whenever it happens, because she can feel the sensation of controlling the Ark of Destruction.
[KC]: The space opera version of psychic twins or The Corsican Brothers, a novella written by Alexandre Dumas, a French author from the 1800s. A Person of Color, he’s one of the most widely read authors in the world, better known for The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. The Corsican Brothers is an adventure involving conjoined twins who have been separated and can feel the physical pain inflicted on the other but not themselves.
An increasingly disoriented Touko repeats to herself that she’s the one and only Sifar Sabera, distinguishing herself from the Gatlantean race which “reproduces through cloning.” Meanwhile, the white Sabera vocally expresses her discontent with Yamato leading Zordar’s heart astray, bringing misfortune to “their” Gatlantis. This seems to increase the ferocity of the gravitational waves, smashing at Yamato, electrocuting parts of its interior. Katsuragi asks Zordar if she’s trying to kill her, something he picks up via telepathy – without responding. After a brief pause, he turns his eyes from Touko to focus on Sabera, who’s unwittingly established a cosmo wave connection with her.
[AMB]: The Gatlantean clone revelation has already been discussed and is more prevalent in the next episode. Instead, let’s talk about how Sabera not only controls the White Comet’s warp, but everything about it through the pipe organ. It’s beyond cool and makes me think the Akerians have good taste in music.
[KC]: So, SO much more to this version of the character.
[AMB]: To elaborate on the musical connection, it was also hinted at in Ark of the Stars. Near the end of the movie the Ark’s control panel (with similar design to the White Comet’s) seemed to play a new variation of Teresa’s theme when the Ark’s true form was revealed, indicated by musical notes floating around as it played. Fun fact, lots of hints as to the apparent connection between Teresa and Akerius were also spoken by Kiryuu when she shared some of the information she absorbed from the panel.
Asking our resident spy who she is, Touko says that she is Sabera. A fierce telepathic discussion commences, where white Sabera reaffirms that she is the real Sabera, the arbitrator who’s needed for the White Comet to awaken, only for Touko to finish her sentence with “following the orders of the emperor who controls it.” While lost in thought, white Sabera keeps a tight grip on her trembling hand, sweating in fear and confusion.
[AMB]: Following up on the importance of storyboarding, the shot where white Sabera stares at her hand uses the same shot composition as the earlier scene where Touko drops the glass container. This shows us how these two are undoubtedly the same person at their core, following the same cycle of realising who they truly are, awakening their memories.
[KC]: I definitely never expected to be this interested in or this sympathetic toward this character.
[AMB]: Sabera, Sabera or Sabera?
In their mental landscape, Sabera’s projection is surrounded by a blue light, Touko with a red light. After repeating “for the Emperor,” Sabera is asked, “who are you”? And like before, she repeats the question to herself, still trembling. The talk comes to a close with both of them proclaiming at the same time to be “Sabera, the one and only.” And with that, the gravitational waves start to weaken, falling back into the comet’s white cloud. Seizing the opportunity, Kodai orders Shima to start pulling out.
[AMB]: Unbeknownst to Yamato, their spy is the sole reason they’re pulling through here.
[KC]: Not like this is the first time Yamato was saved by accident.
[AMB]: Indeed! Resident space Goddess Teresa has a thing or two to say about that later on. Speaking of that though, in both reboot series, which event would you consider the biggest lucky break for the ship? The military review at Balun in 2199 is probably my pick.
[KC]: Frakken is cool as hell and deserves his own show. That being said, I probably still have to go with my personal bias for His Majesty and pick the one that set him against Yamato at the start; the evening entertainment he planned during the empire’s millennial celebration.
Zordar has risen from his throne, intrigued. As he tries to reason with what’s happening, Gairen fills in what’s going on. The two Saberas are resonating, a result of Gairen and Zordar’s carelessness in letting two “pure copies” get so close to one another. White Sabera looks meek and helpless as they talk, with Touko desperately reaching out to Zordar telepathically. Gairen continues, stating that “unlike us,” two of them can’t bear to coexist at the same time. So with great reluctance, Zordar cuts his telepathic connection to a distraught Touko.
[AMB]: Rewatching this scene made me realize that not only are they spilling the beans on the two Saberas, but also on the nature of Gairen and Zordar. Just like we’ve cut between the Saberas, they cut between Gairen and Zordar as Gairen states that “they’re different from us.” It gives us the false idea that he’s referring to Gatlanteans in general when in fact he’s specifically referring to the Type Zordar clones, where two of them currently coexist at the same time and place (He and Zordar). Cheeky bastards.
[KC]: So while it is common practice to raise a younger version of yourself, only Zordar and Sabera have fully matured versions of themselves running around as well.
[AMB]: I’d dread to see their family reunion.
Zordar holds white Sabera close, telling her that she is truly one of a kind, the only human who can pass judgement on other humans. He pulls in closer, his orange emblem clashing with her knife, bringing her back to her senses. Zordar then relays his belief that she’s not the one obeying him, but that he’s following her command, “The last of all humans, Sifar Sabera.” With renewed vigor she turns to the command console, playing a grim and mellow rendition of the White Comet theme. Zordar leaves her with a pained expression, looking up at the video display of Yamato as it is once again ravaged by the waves.
[AMB]: That Dracula turn, though. This might be a good opportunity to bring up something a friend mentioned, that Zordar may have inspired the creation of Legend of Zelda’s main antagonist, Ganondorf. In one of the games he’s even got his own pipe organ theme.
Among the topics of discussion during Chapter 4’s release was what the right “to pass down judgment on humans as the last human being” meant. We now have the answer, to control the Ark of Destruction, activating it for the express purpose of wiping out any creature capable of feeling or expressing love. That is the judgement which she as a living flesh and blood human has the right to pass. This neatly ties into Zordar’s earlier comment about forcing something “so unrefined” on Sabera. More in-depth discussion to come in Episode 20.
[KC]: And to think that the last Sabera couldn’t even keep Dessler in a cell.
[AMB]: Even worse. After several episodes of Dessler’s imprisonment, Yamato 2’s Sabera ends up accidentally bailing him the first time they meet in person.
With the ship crumbling around her, a heartbroken Touko confirms that she can no longer hear her great Majesty’s voice. Klaus finally catches up, once again pulling a gun on her. She repeats his cover name “Klaus Keyman” to herself. She then tells him it’s best to shoot her before she’s captured and made to talk. But before he can make a decision, a gigantic gravitational wave rocks Yamato so violently that large chunks of debris from the roof of the ship come crashing down on Touko.
[AMB]: My original interpretation of the line “before I’m made to talk” was that she was worried about confessing things about Zordar, but now I think she’s actually looking out for Klaus here. She’s telling him that it’s in his best interest to shoot before they make her blab about the Wave-Motion lattice. Among other things, like his true identity.
[KC]: If she knows his real name … HAS she met him before? Do they have history? For some reason when I watched this show through the first time I presumed that Touko was just grown for this mission.
[AMB]: Her knowledge on that matter was just an assumption on my part, based on what white Sabera told us earlier about Zordar’s keen eye on Garmillas matters the past few years. It’s never stated though, no.
[KC]: This new series is definitely richer, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t raise its own questions. Hopefully 2205 will shed some light on things that have been happening outside of Yamato’s involvement.
Finally caught, Yamato begins plunging toward the White Comet’s interior despite their maximum output. What they’re met with inside the cloud are large fleets of enemy warships, perfectly lined up by the thousands, from Kalaklums to Gostoks and even a few Nazca carriers. Tokugawa then snaps out of the shock of seeing all this, asking why the enemy ships aren’t firing.
In the throne room, Zordar’s admirals are in awe of their fleet’s perfect formation, with Gairen explaining that the resonance between the two Saberas made everyone stand to attention.
[AMB]: Here we get to see the Gostok-class ships with antimatter missiles which were generated by siphoning energy from Teresa. These will play a large role starting next episode. And the scale here is absolutely horrifying. Yamato has barely scratched the surface (pun intended) and they’re met with mountains of warships covered in spooky mist, a mist which helps to both obfuscate distance while making us question what else lies lurks in the deep. Glad to see an old horror game design technique used! (Referring to Silent Hill 1 and 2 which both used their spooky fog as a way of getting around graphics limitations.)
Having had enough of this, Zordar orders Sabera to begin preparations for a phase transition dimension jump. But Sabera isn’t responding, prompting him to ask what’s wrong, calling out her name over and over. We transition from Sabera’s outstretched quivering arm to Touko’s, reaching out to Keyman’s bleeding face with a gentle touch. Having shielded her from the falling debris, Klaus is now wounded and bleeding as a result.
[AMB]: Phase transition dimension jump probably sounds fancy to the Gatlanteans, but in essence it’s just the same as saying “prep to warp.” Then again, being precise when stating orders to the living conduit that moves the White Comet does seem important.
[KC]: She used to pour drinks for Zordar. Now she powers the comet.
[AMB]: Another clever visual connection being made here is the focus on Sabera’s right hand, trembling because she can seemingly feel the warm touch of Klaus’ cheek through her connection to Touko, awakening the trauma of the original Sabera holding her dying child as we’ll see in Episode 20.
[KC]: AND she has angst. The awesomeness never ends.
Touko traces the blood on Keyman’s cheek, asking with a shaky voice why he saved her. He pushes a steel beam off of his back, openly confessing to the absurdity of his actions, then collapses on top of her. This imbues her with a familiar feeling, one she professes to have suffered together with Zordar a long time ago. The two Saberas are now perfectly synced up. A memory of their original version holding a green baby floods their collective subconscious as they both proclaim that “I” (they) could never break free from this warm kind of suffering, neither Sabera nor Zordar.
We’re now seeing this flashback image with full clarity. Interestingly, the original storyboard for this image included Zordar as the father.
[AMB]: This whole “one and only” business may be confusing to some, and I confess that it’s been really difficult to crack this episode in the past. But I think I’ve finally done it!
[KC]: Good, maybe you can explain it to me.
[AMB]: The reason why only one Sabera should exist at any point in time is because there’s only one original who they imprint upon these clones. I wouldn’t even call them clones, they’re a complete genetic and mental recreation. The Type Zordars are each their own individual, capable of learning and growing into their own being. But with Sabera, creating more than one copy is like putting the same soul or mentality into two bodies at once, creating an existential nightmare.
[KC]: Arguably they can exist independently without risking madness if they maintain light years of social distance. Did I really just work the pandemic into our commentary?
[AMB]: They sure can, but only as incomplete-… dammit, can’t escape the COVID-19 influence even here. Anyhow…
… near the end of the episode they’ve both awakened their suppressed memories, becoming one conscience again. From this point onward, both of them are Sifar Sabera, the one and only. They’re black and white respectively, one the yin to the other’s yang, just like the red and blue imagery their mental landscape suggested earlier. Separating their identities was all just an engineering trick to make them believe they were singularly unique, allowing them to power the comet while a trusted spy kept tabs on the Earthlings.
[KC]: I think space opera has done the “two souls, one body” trope an awful lot, but I am hard pressed to think of other “one soul, two bodies” scenarios that aren’t presented as romantic tropes where the two bodies are not the same person.
[AMB]: Even David Lynch delved into the trope with Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson in Twin Peaks, in a comparatively haunting way.
Zordar moves toward Sabera with heavy steps through the quaking throne room, calling her name. Gairen consoles Zordar, saying that this no longer has anything to do with him, merely a result of the resonance between the two Saberas. However, he warns, at this rate something undesirable will come as a result. Before Gairen can finish saying what that is, Zordar orders his officers to vacate the throne room, leaving him alone with the malfunctioning Sabera clone.
[AMB]: Knowing precisely what’s going to happen, Zordar cuts off Gairen and moves in to murder his wife one more time, the memory of her grace in the flesh being too much to bear. At risk of having his heart swayed from the great task he’s chosen for himself, he will keep repeating this cycle because he needs her for the Ark of Destruction to work, to move. Heavy stuff.
[KC]: I don’t want to have sympathy for him because he is murdering her. And yet …
[AMB]: The cuts between him, Gairen, his admirals, his fist and his grimace work wonders to convey Zordar’s discomfort and guilt over having to do what he deems necessary. But this is one task he can’t do with splendor and pride, so he orders everyone to leave. Can’t afford to let love affect his direct subordinates, after all.
“What is this? Is this love… that which has made me and Zordar suffer?” both Saberas collectively think to themselves, tears streaming down their faces. As Sabera is overcome with emotion, Zordar asks her why they must repeat this same cycle. Sabera cups his face with her hands, calling him “Your Majesty” as usual, only to trail off into referring to him as Zordar. Her tears keep streaming down, yet she smiles at him, something Zordar is incapable of doing in response.
Meanwhile Yamato is fast approaching what appears to be the White Comet’s core, covered in mist.
[AMB]: The camera keeps twisting and turning during this scene, unmoored to convey the cyclical madness that is Sabera’s life. And her expression as she cries her heart out with a smile on her face… that’s definitely the original Sabera’s memories flooding out with the tears.
He refers to her once again as just the Silver Priestess, but she calls herself Sifar Sabera, separate from the title. He ignores this, further describing what the Silver Priestess should be as “one who knows that love is what leads humans astray.” She confirms this to be true, saying that she knows what love is, and so does he. Zordar then fiercely pulls her arms up by her wrists, yelling “NO!”
[AMB]: You can see in his eyes that he’s experienced this many times, having grown numb to it. But despite this maybe being the 10th or 100th or 1000th time this happens, you can still feel his pain. He just strangles it.
[KC]: You chose that term on purpose, didn’t you?
[AMB]: I ain’t proud.
On Yamato’s bridge, Yuki finishes up a quick analysis on the object behind them. What they’re seeing is a planetary object 6.800 km in diameter, roughly the size of Mars. It bears what looks like a branding pattern of sorts, similar to tire markings. While Sanada is marveling at a planet traveling inside of a comet, Kodai muses on the possibility of this being the home of Gatlantis.
[AMB]: Ah, classic bait and switch. Originally, the city empire was situated atop a planetary crust bearing a similar appearance and size, causing many fans to fall for this fake reveal. But in reality, this is Zemulia, one of several planets seized by the Ark of Destruction. It’s Gatlantis home, just like Susumu speculates. Just… not anymore. The storyboard for this shot included several planets, but was probably deemed too much of a giveaway this early in the series.
Sabera begs Zordar to stop all of this, stating that she’s already told him before what comes next. He should know what she means, that what he’s trying to destroy isn’t the universe but something of his own. Repeatedly during this revelation Zordar tells her to stop, and before she can find the strength to finish her last sentence he begins to strangle her. Zordar’s eyes start to water as the sad expression on Sabera’s face turns to panic. On Yamato, Touko reaches out to Zordar one last time before losing consciousness.
[AMB]: This is a deeply personal conversation, one which requires future context to make much sense of… but in essence, she’s telling him to please end his tragic war on love itself, and that she knows he’s out to permanently quell the sadness in his own heart rather than the universe. But no matter how much he represses their memories, they’ll always come back because they’re inside his heart, inside his mind. Hence why he seeks a very permanent end to it.
[KC]: This is a familiar theme; the villain, holding onto some great personal loss, chooses to destroy the world rather than deal with their grief and move on. I think I was more sympathetic toward Willow Rosenberg than I am to Emperor Abs, wife choker.
[AMB]: Perfectly reasonable. Though I would argue that Zordar, like contemporary Thanos, really believes that what he’s doing is ultimately beneficial to all. In reality he’s just setting up a well-oiled gas chamber disguised as a love crisis center, hoping that his son will create a brave new world from this one’s ashes. And as we’ll find out later, his actions may very well be motivated by fear of seeing his race and only family (Miru, Sabera and Gairen), suffering at the hands of love.
Due to Sabera being knocked out, the gravitational pull emitted by the pipe organ is nullified, freeing Yamato. It passes through ranks of Gatlantean ships until it can safely warp away. Sanada tries to reason why the forces inside the comet didn’t fire at them, blissfully unaware of what transpired between the two Saberas. Hijikata suggests it might have been because they’re seen by Gatlantis as insignificant, a thought which visibly affects Kodai.
[AMB]: So they learned that Gatlantis has an absurdly large army in its reserves, then mistakenly learned they have a planetary-sized HQ with no desire to bother with Yamato. The White Comet just rose from a universal threat to a cosmic-horror-level existential threat to these guys.
[KC]: And yet this show manages to remain blissfully free of tentacles.
[AMB]: With the obligatory exception of Ark!
[KC]: Damn, you’re right. I just lost Sanity Points.
Gairen walks in on the aftermath of Zordar’s confrontation with Sabera, bearing witness to an asphyxiated corpse. “Gairen, produce a new priestess” Zordar coldly commands before walking away. Astonished, Gairen asks himself how many copies of Sabera there must have been at this point, reflecting on how they keep reawakening memories of the original in spite of the limitations they’ve imposed on the copying of memories.
[AMB]: Without neither a nod nor a vocal confirmation, Gairen moves to do as told, fully understanding the weight his son carries. It’s even possible that Gairen, as the original Zordar, was the one who began this cycle. The pain in his voice is heard loud and clear.
[KC]: Hang on, you’re saying maybe there have only been these two Zordars so far, ever? And it’s the copy who has decided to end it all? So the original Zordar is not interested in ending the Akerian Experiment, but is going along with it?
[AMB]: That is my belief, based on the “1000 years ago” flashback from Episode 20 where we see the same Gairen and Zordar as in 2202. The Zordar family line is very curious due to the fact that they inherit all memories of their previous incarnations, but not necessarily the associated emotions, allowing them to make their own judgments based on personal experiences. Learning about someone else’s life rather than living it.
With Zordar, Gairen gets to raise the son he once lost, and Zordar inherits his father’s loss. Same with Miru for Zordar. Since the original experience of loss wasn’t his, he’s less emotionally attached – yet still bound by love. Miru likewise needs to experience his father’s pain, so Zordar attaches him to Dessler as a rite of passage.
Detailed discussion forthcoming when it becomes more relevant.
The aftermath onboard Yamato is similarly grim in tone, with Touko being carried away and a patched-up Keyman watching, supported by Saito [Zordar’s eyes]. On the bridge, Hijikata informs the crew that he’s told command of the situation and that they should push on with their quest to free Telezart before the massive Gatlantis can steal its power. While at first troubled, Kodai regains his resolve, staring out at the vastness of space and the challenges ahead.
[AMB]: I wonder if Kodai would have been able to carry the same fearlessness in his voice as Hijikata, had the old man not been here with them.
Originally presenting more questions than answers, this episode took a deep dive into the psychology of our Sabera duo while elaborating on the Zordar boys in subtle ways, even making some time to deal with the budding romances onboard Yamato. It’s definitely in my top five episodes of 2202. What did you think about it, Kathy?
[KC]: Of course, nothing can shake my Blue Bias, but I must say that for characters I previously disregarded entirely, this is really compelling stuff.
Related reading: naturally, the voice actors for Zordar and Sabera had some things to say about this episode. Find a pair of 2018 interviews with them here and here.
Theatrical release: Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love Chapter 4: Destiny Chapter contained episodes 11-14. It premiered in Japanese theaters January 27, 2018.
Japanese video: Theater-exclusive Blu-ray January 27, 2018. Standard Blu-ray & DVD February 23, 2018
First Japanese TV broadcast: December 21, 2018
American debut: July 25, 2018 (streaming) March 15, 2019 (home video)
The end title Crimson Red is performed by Yuya Hoshino.
Click here for a complete BGM collection for Episode 12.
Episode Director: Takanori Yano
Storyboard: Iwao Teraoka
Animation Directors: Mitsuru Ishihara, Chizuru Kobayashi, Akihito Maeda
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
As much as I dislike how Gatlanteans were portrayed this time around, 2202’s adaptation of Sabera was arguably the best thing to come from Gatlantis. They changed what was essentially an annoying and egoistic mistress who nearly single handily dug the original Comet Empire’s grave, to a mysterious and tragic figure that is also quite relatable. The idea of having multiple clones of her with near identical personality traits and of course memories is quite intriguing, especially when two of them aka Touko Katsuragi and Sabera Silver Priestess version unknown interact and having an identity crisis.
Also Zordar’s treatment of both Saberas is quite fascinating as they are essentially copies of Sifar Sabera which bring up the question whether he actually sees them as his resurrected wife or rather a shallow replacement that is expendable. As much as he denies his emotions, it’s clear that he at least shows some struggle to kill one copy after another.
Touko, or should I say ‘human Sabera’s interactions with Klaus seems to be odd for me. I wasn’t under the impression that she treated him like a surrogate son but more like a potential lover??? I don’t know… Analyzing romantic relationships aren’t my strongest suit…
Also dammit Akira! “You’re a spy aren’t you?” is the number one WORSE way to start interrogating a suspected infiltrator! For crying out loud, she almost gotten herself killed and compromised Keyman and Kodai’s surveillance on her! Her approach was so dumb… (sigh)
And then we come to yet another million fleet scene… While I’m still not a fan of the mass produced Gatlantean battleships. The slow revelation of the hundreds of thousands of Calaklums, Gostoks and Nascas hiding inside the clouds of Gatlantis was a great shocking revelation to Yamato’s crew which shows the massive scope of the threat that Earth and Garmillas were facing. And it was just only the tip of a very large iceberg. I’m also betting that after Yamato reported to Earth regarding this close encounter is when the Earth Federation decided to mass produce the D-class battleships and eventually the AAA-class in the form of the BBB automated ships.
In retrospective of Star Wars’ Rise of Skywalker Sith/Final Order Fleet reveal which was so rushed, Yamato 2202 did it way better and was cooler as the Gatlantean home fleet reveal had a variety of three different types of ships and the build up to that scene had a better impact and pace for the viewers to absorb. Although I wish there were Medulusas that were in those gorgeous fleet scenes… (sigh)
Also a few questions that I would like to ask:
1.Is Zordar and Sabera’s baby actually a naturally born offspring of both parents? Or is the baby just another Zordar-type clone?
2. Sabera isn’t exactly is a human, so the title that Zordar calls her as “The last of all humans” is kind of confusing. Doesn’t he mean humanoid life forms or is it the last of the Zemulians aka the race that created Gatlantis?
Zworder and Sabera’s baby is basically the first Mill. So it is a clone of Zworder. The difference here is that he chose to raise him with a mate, something gatlanteans aren’t supposed to do.
The original Sabera was a Zemulian, one of the many humanoid (or human-like) races that were spread across the galaxy by the Aquarians. The term “last human” is used more for effect, or maybe as a refference to her being the last of her kind.
Sabera’s interractions with Keyman started making a lot more sense to me once I realised that Gaileen could very well be the Zordar who got together with Sabera in the first place, choosing to raise a new clone after her death (current Zordar), retiring to becoming Gaileen. This means that the Zordar Sabera “loves”, is in reality her son, but at the same time he’s inherited the memories of his father as Zordar, her partner. Keyman has the noble aura of young Zordar as seen later in the show, but the similarities in appearance and guile as Mil, her son. This creates a disconnect that she at first interprets as a bond between lovers, hence her asking the question “what is this warmth?” as her memories of her son start to awaken. It’s very disturbing.
And yes, Klaus should have definitely given Akira the “don’t bother with her” talk that he gives to Kodai next episode.
And I agree on your RoS point. Considering the fact that Zordar had over a 1000 years to prepare, it’s not unreasonable or ridiculous to see a mighty fleet like that. And unlike Palpatine’s army, Gatlantians don’t seem to require sustenance. We do get to see some Medalusas in episode 21 as Gatlantis starts to exhaust some of their frontline ships, but they’re so few it kind of makes sense for them to not be visible there. Especially since their Flame Strike Cannons are better fitted for long range use.
1. It’s another clone. Sabera has the capacity to give birth (as heard next episode) but the Gatlantians can’t reproduce.
2. Sabera is human, just as human as Celestella was in 2199. The cloning device used to remake her doesn’t just “clone” her, it recreates her completely (as seen in episode 17). It’s a large memory device capable of completely recreating another human being, as Gaileen puts it. It’s what makes her different from the Gatlantians. Anyhow, what Zordar means with “last human”, is that at the end of this journey to wipe the galaxy clean of love, Sabera will be the last human left. She’s the one and only (to be) last human, allowed to pass judgement (control the Ark of Destruction) on humans.
Since they produce more than one Sabera, one wonders if perhaps there are more than just these two running around the Empire. The Sabera seen in Ark of the Stars does not act exactly like either of these two. Perhaps Zordar has a small number of her that he sends of to various theaters to act as his representatives to the more mongrel-like Gatlantians that he has out raiding other star empires, looking for technologies and seeing if he can find any real threats (like wave motion guns) to the universe. He could still use her eyes and such to keep tabs on everyone, and yet keep the riff-raff away from Gatlantis itself.
Interesting theory! I definitely think it’s unlikely, but I won’t deny the possibility!
I don’t know whether there was a direct inspiration, but the first supervillain with a pipe organ theme was Fantomas. Here is Michel Magne’s original soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqG4z3RM_Yo
Close, but not quite! Hiroshi Miyagawa was originally inspired by the 1954 Disney adaptation of 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea, where Captain Nemo plays the organ on-screen.
Here’s the scene in question: https://youtu.be/iyQFnzcLE5A
Read more about it here: https://ourstarblazers.com/vault/242/