Farewell to Yamato Commentary, Part 4

Back up to Part 3

Yamato plunges beneath the Comet but soon discovers gun emplacements there as well. They open fire with several powerful beams, causing tremendous explosions on the ship. In the Medical Bay, Dr. Sado is performing surgery on a patient when Saito carries in several more injured crewmen. Sado orders a “Yamato Cocktail.” Saito seems impressed by a man who can work and drink in the middle of battle and goes to the next room to prepare it. He returns to find the ceiling has caved in, killing the doctor, his companions Mi-kun and Analyzer. (Sado’s death was even more tragic in the Playstation version of this scene, where little Mi-kun survives her master. She paws helplessly at his lifeless body, trying in vain to coax him to move.)

Explosions rip through the Engine Room. Chief Tokugawa [Orion] barks out orders to his men. Another explosion knocks him off his feet. Gravely injured, the old Chief radios up to the bridge that power has dropped, but the ship is still able to cruise. These are his last words.

Saito reports the Doctor’s death just before the “astro-compass,” the globe at the center of the bridge explodes. Another explosion catches Captain Hajikata. Mortally wounded, he points to an area of the fortress. One of the craters opens up to allow fighters out. That is its weak point. Hajikata now feels he can die with honor. He turns command over to Kodai before he expires.

Full of frustration and rage, Kodai orders a renewed attack. Saito and Sanada plan on coming along with him to invade the base. As the Cosmo Tigers, lead by Kodai, approach the Comet, they lose another familiar character. Pilot Yamamoto’s Tiger gets shot up, and is too damaged to continue. As it burns itself up, he salutes Kodai and crashes into the side of the fortress.

Production note: Yamamoto’s death scene is slightly compromised by a curious animation error in which his elbow momentarily pops out of the cockpit (which, incidentally, was corrected in the eventual Blu-ray release of the film). This did nothing to discourage his legions of Japanese fans, however, who still insist he is the coolest of all Yamato characters. This was enough to keep him alive in the Playstation game continuity for later adventures.

Yamato‘s guns blast open the enemy’s hangar doors, allowing Kodai and several other Tigers through. They quickly find the landing strip and invade the fortress. While some planes and soldiers remain at the airstrip to secure their escape crafts, Kodai and four others proceed on foot to look for the energy center. Two nameless troopers get picked off in short order, leaving Kodai, Sanada, and Saito to reach the Energy Center. Once there, Sanada and Saito decide to stay while Kodai returns to the ship. It’s a painful decision for Kodai, but he tears himself away and forces himself not to look back.

Scenes of Kodai’s escape are intercut with Saito and Sanada’s last stand. Sanada places the bombs while Saito covers him. Saito puts in an impressive showing, taking out several soldiers while enduring many hits himself. He’s critically wounded, but stubbornly remains on his feet.

Kodai makes it to the hangar, where Kato seems to be the only Yamato crew member still fighting, manning a ball turret on the back of a Tiger. If you look closely, you can see a burst from the enemy guards strike his turret, smashing the glass and dealing him a fatal blow. Kodai is oblivious to this, and says a few words to Kato as he gets into the cockpit. After a quick retreat back to Yamato‘s hangar bay, Kodai speaks again. It’s not until then that he realizes Kato can no longer hear him.

The Gatlantis energy core: upon hearing Sanada say he’s finished wiring the explosives, Saito lets his spirit go and his lifeless body falls to the ground. Sanada thanks him for his work. As soldiers run in, Sanada presses the trigger and deals a mortal blow to the Comet Fortress.

Kodai arrives on the bridge and orders an all-out attack. Yamato opens up with all its serviceable guns. The destruction is as awesome as it is beautiful, as building after building is smashed in righteous retribution for the lost crewmen. Moments later, however, the bottom half of Gatlantis cracks like an eggshell, and a gigantic battleship emerges from the wreck. Considering how much Yamato lost in fighting Gatlantis, it’s hard to imagine what it would take to bring this second warship down. To provide some size perspective, the primary battle turrets on this new dreadnought are as big as Yamato herself!

A giant gun underneath the fortress prepares for firing. It aims for Yamato, then shifts to target the Moon behind it. Its massive beam just misses Yamato, sending it drifting, then strikes the Moon and blows lunar debris into space. Yamato is pummeled brutally. Zordar evidently feels death is too merciful. Having crippled the ship, he taunts them. He proclaims himself the ruler of the entire universe. Unlike Dessler, there are no shades of gray with Zordar. He’s a pure villain, power-mad and tyrannical.

Production note: from here to the end of the film, we find the second of the two major sequences by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu. As with the Kodai/Dessler showdown, he did both the storyboards and the animation layout for the closing sequence on Yamato‘s bridge all the way to the end credits. He also evolved the character design into the range of his own personal style, which is why the look of Kodai and the others shifts away from the overall standard, which was set by art director Tomonori Kogawa. Thus, for all intents and purposes, “Yas” personally visualized the emotionally-charged finale of Farewell to Yamato. Nobody else could have done it better.

Kodai responds with fire and fury, yelling back that he’s wrong, that it’s the right of all living things to be free. After his outburst, he’s faced with the reality of his situation, gleefully pointed out by Zordar himself. Most of his crew are dead and his ship is crippled. As he’s done in the past, Kodai turns to the man who’s given him advice in times of trouble: Captain Okita. He looks to the command podium and the portrait of Okita seems to come alive, speaking to Kodai in a voice that only he can hear. Okita tells him there is one more weapon left to fight with: his life.

Snapping out of his reverie, Kodai asks for the number of survivors. Aihara tells him there are only 18. Kodai orders them all off the ship. Shima realizes what Kodai is planning and insists on staying, as do several others. Kodai tells them that he has his duty, and they have theirs. His duty is to die, while theirs is to live and ensure that Earth lives. Kodai is implicit that his death is not permanent, that he will live on. (What exactly he means by this is up to you, the viewer. Does he believe in an afterlife where he himself will live on, or is he more metaphoric, believing his sacrifice will ensure that life itself continues thriving?) He seems remarkably calm and sanguine about his fate. The others are less certain, but do as they’re ordered and leave the ship.

Once he’s alone, Kodai gathers up Yuki (whose body was left behind her station), and carries her up to the Captain’s chair, to sit beside him. Then he sets the ship on a collision course with Zordar’s dreadnought. As he starts his journey, he’s contacted by Teresa. She has been moved by his actions and has come to add her power to Yamato‘s.

As the ship approaches its final fate, Kodai thinks romantic thoughts about Yuki, about how they will be together now, and even compares their sacrifice to a wedding ceremony. He sees the bridge fill up with the spectral images of those who have inhabited the great ship, both those who have passed on (Okita, Hajikata, Saito, even Analyzer) and those who haven’t (Shima, Ohta, Aihara).

Kodai looks to Yuki and she looks back, appearing as alert and lively as ever. (A friend of mine thought this meant that Kodai had crossed over into death by this point, somewhere on way to the dreadnought. I suppose it’s possible, and this scene is certainly open to interpretation, but in my opinion there is no longer a clear dividing line between life and death for him. I interpret things much more simply, that the “ghosts,” including Yuki, are merely representations of the love and support Kodai feels from them.) Yamato sails off into the distance, disappearing to a point. In a bookend to the opening, we’re left staring at an empty sea of stars for a moment. Then, there’s a small flash of light in the distance, signifying the end of Yamato and the threat to Earth.

The End

Final thoughts:

I’m probably in the minority of Yamato fans when I say I’m not particularly fond of this ending. It’s not Kodai’s actions that I find distasteful so much as the sweet candy-coating it’s wrapped in: the smiling faces, the swelling music (playing one of Miyagawa’s most romantic themes, “Great Love”), and the unanimous support given by the souls of Yamato, both living and dead. Given that the ship being sacrificed is called Yamato, an ancient name for Japan, it strikes me as a form of jingoism, echoing WWII propaganda. And speaking of that great war, if the Comet Empire is supposed to be a fantasy analog of America, then this ending can be seen as a slightly more optimistic ending of WWII (for Japan anyway.) Earth/Japan is on the verge of utter defeat, but there is one last hope. Like its naval ship namesake at Okinawa, Yamato is sacrificed. But in this story it’s successful in destroying the hated enemy.

Background note: Arthur is not alone in this view; it was also expressed by older Japanese viewers at the time the movie was released. When the suicide run at the end brought back unwelcome memories of the Kamikazes, some veterans viewed it as an unpleasant invocation of war history–precisely what Leiji Matsumoto worked to avoid in Series 1. Apparently, in 1978 at least, it was possible to take Yamato out of Japan, but not to take Japan out of Yamato.

(One note about the music “Great Love” being played as the ship goes on it’s final journey: the conflating of “great love” with sacrifice brings to mind John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”)

Again, I seem to be in the minority. I almost feel apologetic in not raving about the bravery of Kodai in the ending. Perhaps some of that has to do with cultural upbringing, but I take comfort in the fact that I’m not the only one who who took issue. Leiji Matsumoto reportedly refused to work on the final scenes due to his own feelings on the subject. This seemed to be a bone of contention between Matsumoto and Nishizaki. Nishizaki valued death and sacrifice, while Matsumoto viewed these characters as his children and wanted to see them live on.

Background note: This schism was a product of the critical age difference between the two men. Director Noboru Ishiguro, who is the same age as Leiji Matsumoto, once noted that they both experienced consistent differences of opinion based on the fact that Nishizaki was slightly older than they were. Nishizaki was born in 1934, which meant he lived through Japan’s war with America during the very impressionable years of 7-11. Ishiguro and Matsumoto were born four years later, so they were only 3-7 during the war, barely old enough to remember it.

Matsumoto may have an even more personal reason for disliking the ending. His father was a squadron leader during the war. He has memories of his father being approached by the widows of the men he flew with, who would often ask him “Why didn’t you bring my husband home?” The elder Matsumoto’s only answer was “I’m sorry.” (This also informs the scene in TV Episode 1, where Kodai asks Okita why he didn’t bring his brother home, and Okita’s only response is “I’m sorry.”) Matsumoto patterned Okita after his father. The idea of Okita encouraging Kodai to sacrifice his own life may have been particularly distasteful to Matsumoto.

On a less idealistic level, I was also rather disappointed, at least initially, by the lack of a more dynamic ending. When I realized Yamato was going to ram Zordar’s ship, in my mind’s eye I anticipated seeing the two great ships crashing into each other in a great explosion. Instead, the ship just sails in the distance with only a small flash of light to mark its passing. In this case, the animators made a wise choice. If they had shown it the way I imagined, it would have been more about the special effects than the poetry of Kodai’s sacrifice.

Also, given the size difference between the two ships, it’s amazing that Yamato could have even made a dent in the dreadnought’s armor. Teresa lead the way, so it’s possible that she had more to do with the dreadnought’s demise. But if that’s true, why didn’t she sacrifice herself instead? Perhaps, like Okita, she saw the value of life as something far more powerful than the mere interaction of matter and antimatter.

The movie has an overabundance of ideas and characters. Most of the Comet Empire personnel are ciphers, and one of them is merely mentioned and not shown. Zordar has little personality beyond “evil,” almost certainly by design. After all, if our heroes are going to sacrifice themselves against someone, it may as well be a villain with no redeeming qualities. Teresa seems little more than a macguffin to start Yamato on its journey. They find her at the midpoint, then she disappears until the very end, says a few words, and drifts off again.

However, my issues are addressed by Series 2, a retelling of the movie with many ideas and characters fleshed out, with a similar but markedly different conclusion. Visit the Series 2 commentary for an episode-by-episode review.

One thought on “Farewell to Yamato Commentary, Part 4

  1. In the finale, Todo salutes the Yamato as it makes it’s final move, with EDF personnel following suit. Farewell, Yamato.

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