Episode 3 Commentary

Earth’s Crisis Awakens the Argo!

By Arthur Painter (with notes from Tim Eldred)

Production note: This episode opens with an unusually long “story so far” intro, most likely the result of a script that came in short. Usually it goes the other way and material needs to be cut in order to achieve the correct running length.

The majestic Andromeda theme plays as the eponymous flagship takes off. Several kids watch in admiration as it heads for space. While the EDF might think the Star Force is outdated, these kids don’t share that opinion. While they admit that Andromeda is impressive, “the Star Force is stronger. They’re the ones that beat Gamilon.”

The Star Blazers writers invented the term “Star Force” so they could emphasize the crew over the ship. Rather than an elite unit like the Green Berets, “Star Force” seems to exclusively refer to the Argo‘s crew. That makes dialogue in this scene sound strange to me, where the kids compare the Andromeda (a ship) to the Star Force (a crew).

While we’re on the subject of names, the decision of the Star Blazers production team to rename the Yamato to Argo has the fortunate consequence of creating a bond with Andromeda. Both names hail from Greek Mythology. (Andromeda was the name of a beautiful princess and wife of the hero Perseus.) Unlike Argo, Andromeda was actually the name of the ship in the Japanese version, where, despite the fact that the ship was likely built and staffed by Japanese nationals, it was given a non-Japanese name. Andromeda is also the name of both a constellation and a galaxy. In fact, Yamato 2 tells us that the Comet Empire is approaching Earth after having conquered the Andromeda Galaxy. Wherever the name “Andromeda” appears, it means trouble for our heroes.

In Sandor’s lab, he plays for Wildstar, Venture, and Nova the recording received from distant space. Through the constant static and drop-outs, they can hear a woman’s voice, sounding like she’s warning of some danger. Two episodes ago, it was said that the woman was speaking in an unknown language. Either we’re supposed to ignore that earlier comment, or her message came with its own Rosetta Stone. It reminds Derek of when Starsha’s messages were jammed by Gamilon. He is sure this message is linked to both the black-outs and the White Comet. Sandor plans on talking to the defense council about this, but he doesn’t hold out much hope of them acting upon it.

Production note: Look closely at the panning shot that opens this sequence. When it arrives on the characters, they are about half the size they should be. An error like this is usually the result of a disconnect between the animator and the background artist. This time, it was probably a misunderstanding about the scale of the room.

At the Defense council meeting, Wildstar and Sandor observe as the mysterious message is discussed. As Sandor predicted, the council doesn’t believe it deserves serious attention, with one councilman waving off the “garbled radio message” as “some prank.” Commander Singleton points out that even if it’s not a threat to Earth, it sounds like someone in need of help. Another councilman jokingly responds that “we can’t go around saving every damsel in distress.” Wildstar, as we’ve come to expect over the last few episodes, stands up and angrily denounces the council. He reminds them that Starsha had helped Earth when it was in need, and now they have a chance to “pay it forward” and help someone else. The council sternly silences Wildstar.

While the Star Blazers version of this scene retains the general tone, the dialogue is different in Yamato 2. One councilman says if the White Comet does turn out to be a threat, their new Wave-Motion-Gun-equipped ships can knock it out of the sky. As he’s saying this, he makes a little pantomime with his hands. The Star Blazers script instead has him talking about the radio message, which makes his hand gestures seem out of place.

Wildstar, Sandor, and Venture discuss the situation in private. Wildstar is worried about facing an enemy strong enough to destroy Earth’s energy systems, and decides this is the time for action, not talk. They will let the old Star Force members know of their plans to take off in the Argo, knowing that they will be risking their careers if they choose to join the illicit mission. Venture is hesitant. If they’re caught, they could be court-martialed.

Derek remains silent as he drives along city streets in his hover-car, ignoring Nova’s attempts to get him to open up. They leave the city and head out on a road that takes them through some grassy fields. Then the road and grassy field comes to an end, but the car continues on, passing over rough, barren terrain. As nice as some areas of Earth may look, there are apparently still some scars from the Gamilon Planet Bombs.

They drive to the opening of one of the underground cities. As they descend via elevator, Derek remembers that people used to live here only a year ago. We see that many of the buildings, particularly the upper reaches, are cracked and starting to fall apart. Walking through the derelict streets, Derek speaks about how “people forget the terrible things they’ve lived through.”

Yamato 2 treats us to a flashback of the ship’s return to Earth, starting with Series 1 footage and transitioning to new animation, showing Yamato pulling into the underground dock and being greeted by crowds of people cheering, “Ya! Ma! To!”

Back in the present, Derek speaks about how happy the people were upon their return, and that they may have to move back here if the worst happens. Being deliberately indirect about his plans, he speaks of the need to take action to make the future better. Derek sounded very sure about taking the ship when he was with Venture and Sandor, but with Nova he seems uncertain. He wants assurance that he’s doing the right thing. Nova agrees that he should do what he needs to do. She then quickly excuses herself and runs off, telling him she’ll be back in a minute. Out of sight, she starts to weep. She doesn’t want him to leave, but can’t ask him to stay.

At the end of Series 1, Okita’s parting advice with Kodai had to do with learning how to love other people. Prior to that, he had witnessed Starsha’s love for others when she gave Earth the Cosmo DNA. In contrast, the massive destruction Kodai witnessed at Gamilas was the direct result of a society that wasn’t altruistic, that sought to take from others by force. Kodai lamented that the Gamilas people didn’t ask for help. His line in this scene, “Without peace on Earth or in the universe, we’ll never be happy,” and his wish to investigate the fearful message from space is a result of these lessons. To be concerned only with yourself will lead to destruction for Earth as it did for Gamilas.

Desslok’s flagship arrives at the Great Magellanic Cloud, the mini-galaxy containing Gamilon and Iscandar. Desslok notes that the last time he was here the Star Force won, but declares “not again.” Talan appears in his new role as Desslok’s aide, taking up the position Krypt held in the first series. He seems to have had some cosmetic surgery: his hair is darker, his mustache bushier, his body buffer, and his jawline manlier.

Production note: Talan’s original character design from Series 1 was used for his brief appearance in Farewell to Yamato, and his makeover for Series 2 (by character designer Kenzo Koizumi) was so radically different that Japanese fans initially speculated that he was the older and more physically-fit brother of the “first” Talan. The creators of Yamato 2199 later seized on this idea and made it official.

Talan informs Desslok that the remains of the Gamilon territorial fleet have assembled. In Farewell to Yamato, Desslok and Talan were the only Gamilons left, but in Yamato 2 Gamilons prove to be as hard to kill as cockroaches. It’s difficult to get an accurate count of how many ships survived, but I would think at least a few dozen. Most appear to be the green destroyers, but we see some tri-deck carriers and battle carriers (both last seen in the Battle of the Rainbow Cluster) as well. There is even a brief appearance of the same type of ship commanded by Ganz [Shulz] in Series 1.

Production notes: The muster of the Gamilon fleet beautifully showcases the new standard of animation craftsmanship for Yamato 2. Whereas airbrush highlights were a luxury in Series 1, here they are used everywhere. This was partially out of the need to match the look of footage lifted from Farewell to Yamato, but it also represented an advancement of the craft itself.

Next, the Gamilon officers announce themselves via monitor. Because of some creative choices made by the Star Blazers staff, this sequence has long been subjected to some misguided speculation. It was also somewhat confusing in Japanese, so we’ll try to set the record straight.

One by one, the officers are:

Arkadeen of the Tanshibal Battle Area (above left). The original name on his model sheet was Graf Shupa, but in Yamato 2 he announced himself as Bareld. The design for this character was recycled and renamed Gustav for Yamato III.

Jorgens of the Algonia Star Garrison Forces (above right). His onscreen name in Yamato 2 was Das Urgens. This scene was his one and only appearance.

Garotte of the Attack Torpedo Forces (above left). His original model sheet was labeled Frakken, but his onscreen name in Yamato 2 was Shi Frage. Just to further confuse Star Blazers viewers, another officer (not seen here) will get the name Garotte in an upcoming episode.

Maizer of the Galk Battle Area (above right). The name on his model sheet was Waltheim, but his spoken name in Yamato 2 was Maizel Nomdoram. But here’s the rub: in Star Blazers, it’s easy to confuse the spoken name with Lysis, and the voice sounds very similar. This has been misconstrued more than once. But the character design is most assuredly NOT Lysis, and despite the heavy editing of Star Blazers, General Lysis did NOT survive to take part in this muster. But the confusion doesn’t stop there. This was another character design recycled for Yamato III and renamed Helmeyer. (Major Nayzmayo in Star Blazers.) Thus, this single character wins the trophy for most name changes (5!) throughout the saga.

Desslok broadcasts a speech to the assembled soldiers. He acknowledges that it has been a long, bitter year, and that he personally has had to live with a sense of defeat. But now they shall have their revenge on the Star Force and regain the honor of Gamilon. He sets his fleet on a destination to Planet Telezart, the home of Trelaina, where the radio message originated.

Derek walks onto the deserted bridge of the Argo. He’s there for a few moments when the instruments become active, heralding the arrival of Sandor and Orion [Takugawa]. The modifications to the Wave-Motion Engine have been completed, and Orion has already stowed his gear on board. Homer Glitchman [Giichi Aihara], Christopher Eager [Kenjiro Ohta], and Dash Jordan [Yasuo Nanbu] rush in, officially throwing in their lot with Wildstar. Venture is conspicuous in his absence, but Orion tries to reassure Derek that he probably just had personal issues to deal with and will be along shortly.

Desslok’s task force arrives at Telezart. Viewing it on his monitor, he chuckles. “Star Force, we’re ready.”

Back at the Comet Empire, Zordar receives a report of Desslok’s arrival at Telezart. The “Zorbal” ground forces have landed, and General Torbuk is reinforcing Desslok’s fleet. All these forces waiting for the Star Force don’t impress Invidia, who describes it as “using a sledgehammer to swat a fly.” Zordar ignores her snarky comment and requests an update from Dyar about the situation on Earth. The general reports advance fleets are now under the command of Tirpitz, with General Naska’s group ready to begin his attack. Prince Zordar orders the fortress’ engines to full power. “The Comet Empire doesn’t want to be late for this show!”

Much like the confusion over the name “Tirpitz” (later renamed Bleek), the name Zorbal could refer either to the tank commander on Telezart or his unit. “Zabaibal” was the commander’s name in Yamato 2, changed to Scorch in Star Blazers. It’s possible that the Star Blazers writers hadn’t decided on the final names for these characters yet. Tirpitz, incidentally, was the name of a German World War I battleship.

We next get a brief glimpse of the Comet Empire’s Engine room controls, as the Magna-Flame Engine output is increased. Magna-Flame, a term created for Star Blazers, is apparently the Comet Empire equivalent of Wave-Motion.

On the Argo‘s bridge, the officers are now in their Star Force uniforms, readying their stations. IQ-9 and Dr. Sane place a symbolic bas relief portrait of Captain Avatar behind his station, over the chair elevator track. This lump-in-the-throat moment would have been even lumpier for Japanese viewers who had seen Farewell to Yamato and thought they knew exactly how things were going to end.

Story note: Working backward from the launch date, the reconstruction of the Argo is completed on November 2, 2201.

Additional note from superfan Matt Murray: It’s possible that the final scene in this episode constitutes a flash-forward, since Dr. Sane appears on the bridge when Avatar’s portrait is hung, but the doctor doesn’t actually find out about the impending theft of the ship until midway through the next episode.

Continue to episode 4

3 thoughts on “Episode 3 Commentary

  1. Regarding the comments made by the kids at the beginning of the episode, the author found it strange that the kids would compare a ship (Andromeda) to a crew (the Star Force). But we’re told in episode 2 that nearly all the functions of Andromeda are performed by computer, whereas the functions of the Argo are performed by the Star Force. So I understand the comparison.

  2. The Tirpitz was a WWII Battleship (not WWI). The second ship in the Bismarck-class super-battleships, was the most powerful Nazi battleship ever constructed and the largest and heaviest Axis battleship of the war. Despite this, the ship saw little action in the war and was sunk without doing much in the conflict.

  3. The largest and heaviest battleships of WW II belonged to an Axis power, aye, but their class name was Yamato.

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