Episode 23: Soldiers of Love
by Kathy Clarkson and Anton Mei Brandt
This episode picks up right where we left off last time, in the midst of a heated battle. The Space Cavalry in their mobile armor are engaged with the Gatlantean Needle Slaves and they swarm over Yamato, impaled in Dessler’s flagship.
[AMB]: This episode kickstarts the seventh and final chapter: Nova / New Star. Preceding it came the usual promo campaign and a slew of interviews. But just prior to this, at the end of each screening for 2202’s 6th chapter, a one-of-a-kind teaser played for unsuspecting fans. It depicted a wounded Yamato, limping its way toward the White Comet with voice-overs from a fair share of characters who would bite the dust. It ended with an ominous line from Zordar, bidding the “Soldiers of Love” a final “farewell.” This episode begins his fulfillment of that promise, but with a much different result from what could be expected. This teaser is not featured on the Chapter 6 BD release.
For cinemagoers, this would also be the last time the opening plays since Episodes 23-26 were presented as one package. Before we reach the end of these commentaries, I’d like to ask you, Kathy, how you’d rank the openings and endings? As well as how you all feel about 2202’s rendition of the iconic Yamato theme?
[KC]: As an older American I am most familiar with the dubbed English theme, and to be honest I don’t really know how different the 2202 rendition is compared to 2199 or the Japanese theme from the late 1970s. I do prefer the Japanese theme overall. As for the endings, of course there is nothing better than Abelt Dessler himself, Koichi Yamadera, singing Great Harmony. The creators of the show and Yamadera-san himself have been very clear that he is not singing in character, but I still like to pretend that he is.
[AMB]: Very understandable! The original opening didn’t change much (if at all) over the early years, only receiving a 1983 addendum that starts with Isao Sasaki’s voice echoing in space before truly kicking off. These versions were both re-recorded for 2199 with the aim to recreate the feeling of the originals.
For 2202, we at first got the Osaka Shion Orchestral version conducted by Akira Miyagawa. The orchestral version not only fit the cold world we were met with for those first 10 episodes, but it was also done at the behest of director Nobuyoshi Habara who wanted to differentiate his work from 2199. He did something similar for the Yamato Resurrection’s Director’s Cut by exchanging the Alfee’s Yamato theme with an instrumental version. After Episode 10 of 2202 however, a new vocal version of Isao Sasaki’s iconic Yamato theme was composed and orchestrated by Akira. It featured a faster tempo, the first time the song’s second half was featured in Yamato’s animated works, and new instruments such as the harp. It just so happens to be my favorite take on the opening.
When it comes to the endings, I’ll provide my own ranking: (1) From Yamato with Love (2) Great Harmony (3) Crimson Red (4) Yoranka (Lullaby) (5) Mirror of the Moon (6) You, Petal.
When I spoke to the Japanese community about this topic two years ago, the responses I got seemed to mostly agree. Most important reasons for the picks were: (1) Nostalgia and meaning, (2) Yamadera and lyrics, (3) Instrumentation and excitement as a successor to The Rival, (4) Peaceful melancholy, (5) A Disney-style successor to Yamato 2’s ending song, (6) Emotionally resonant, but lowest on the list because the rest were more impressive. This is by no means an objective assessment.
In a dark corridor blaring with alarm klaxons and littered with the bodies of fallen androids, Officer Yuki Mori sits with a dying Garmillas soldier. She holds his hand as he calls out for his mother and then passes away to Mori’s obvious distress.
[KC]: Quick random artistic observation here. I like the contrast between the loud riot of color that’s happening outside of the ships and the quiet, dark and shadowy look of things inside.
[AMB]: The sequence has a few visual ties as well, coincidental or not. Yuki comforting the dying Lt. Alphon (in a similarly quiet and distressed situation near the end of Be Forever Yamato) and Yurisha tending to Ito on the prison planet in 2199. This does two things. First, it adapts a Be Forever scene that can no longer happen since… Keyman (original name for Lt. Alphon) can’t be her love interest.
Secondly, it brings to mind what Yurisha told Yuki in 2199’s episode 24, that they are counterparts of one another. Like Melda/Akira and Yabu/Gantz. This spiritual connection was partially recontextualised in Ark of the Stars to mean that they’re from the same genetic pool, shown through Meria/Kiryu and explained by Lerelai. And then further complicated by Head Writer Fukui’s deep dive into the science of spirituality and bonds in 2202.
But even more interesting than that tidbit are these two facts: (A) Abelt ejected all living personnel, and surrounding Yuki are only androids. (B) When we cut from the soldier to a wide shot of Yuki crouched above him, his body has vanished. A soldier who looks suspiciously similar to Lt. Norran from 2199…
[KC]: It does look like Fukui is doing more positive PR for Abelt Dessler here than Miezella Celestella ever did. And I did not catch that on previous viewings! Do we want to say that it was indeed a specter? This show has not shied away from the supernatural at all, going so far as to “haunt” Yamato with more than one ghost in the past.
[AMB]: Specter. Phantom. Brain spook. Take your pick!
Miru’s voice can suddenly be heard; he is still on the bridge with the Desslers. But before the story transitions there we see Yuki straighten; she hears the voice, too. They must be nearby.
[AMB]: Wait… that makes a lot of sense. Originally I just figured Yuki was experiencing PTSD from the ghostly soldier she saw, but of course she can hear them. Or maybe it’s both. She doesn’t seem too happy.
“What’s wrong? Why won’t you shoot?” Miru asks Klaus Keyman, A.K.A. Ranhart Dessler. Presumably only moments have gone by since Miru tried to get Klaus to finish the job of killing the injured Abelt Dessler, a job Miru started. But there have been too many moments as far as Miru is concerned.
“I’m telling you I’ll save Garmillas and Earth,” Miru reminds Keyman of the choice he’s been offered.
[AMB]: The BGM here is Dessler’s ambition, a track used sparsely for good reason. It’s a variation of Dessler’s Bolero, originally from Yamato III, and is used in moments depicting Dessler’s aforementioned ambition. In Episode 15, it was his plan to use Teresa as a bargaining chip against Gatlantis to ensure Garmillas’ safety. In Episode 17, it was his deal made with Miru to save Garmillas. And now, another Dessler is given a deal – with Abelt’s assistance – to save both Earth and Garmillas. Higher stakes and higher gains are presented each time this plays, a bolero of ambition.
We get a closer shot of Miru, mentally whisked away to the telepathic chamber inside the White Comet as the voice of the current Zordar inquisitively asks him what he’s doing. Suddenly, Miru’s back in his body.
“I want to see for myself,” the younger clone replies. “Your memories… before shouldering a thousand years of despair. If people’s fragile feelings so easily change to pursue their short-term interests.” He seems to come out of his reverie and/or conversation with his older self and focuses again on Ranhart. Raising his weapon, his voice loud and clear, he tells them; “I was born/created to be Emperor. My words are the words of Zordar.”
[AMB]: The dialogue’s already getting heavy, so let’s dive in. First off, the Zordar types seem to use their telepathy via astral projection. Though their bodies can move freely in the universe, they are capable of bouncing back and forth mentally as long as they have connections set up. The telepathy chamber, other Zordar types, living dead bodies…
Then there’s the situation itself. Zordar was not aware of Miru’s intentions here, nor does his voice seem to indicate he supports this move. Ultimately, the older Zordar – Gairen – will convince Zordar to let the next generation, their future, choose for himself. Like many children, Miru’s perspective is permanently stained by that of his elders. So, before letting their feelings and memories further affect his own judgement, he wants to present a devil’s choice of his own to observe the results. Will it follow the same pattern as it always has? Will Miru see hope where he otherwise wouldn’t, had he inherited all of Zordar’s suffering in this instant? That’s really what he’s saying here, that he wants to see this play out without any outside interference so he can guide Gatlantis as the next heir and Emperor. As we’ll soon find out, this was always his elders’ plan.
The two Desslers both narrow their eyes at him in disapproval – if not defiance – as Miru urges one last time, a smirk on his face.
“Now, young Dessler… choose your future.”
Behind Ranhart, Abelt Dessler regains his feet, the gunshot wound having dropped him to his knees in the previous episode.
“Shoot, Ranhart,” he says. Ranhart looks surprised and deeply unhappy as his uncle continues. “Miru is not lying. You ought to know that. If you’re a man of the Dessler family, don’t hesitate! No matter what you must sacrifice, obtain what’s necessary.”
[AMB]: “Choose your future.” The trick here is that while a 10,000 year extension is a temporary relief, it ultimately doesn’t change mankind’s fate. Garmillas and Earth will have to live with the fact that they’ve doomed the rest of the Universe and that they will one day fizzle out, unable to change their situation. And if Ranhart commits to that choice? Then that’s the future mankind deserves. But why would Abelt go along with this? Because he wants to offer his life up for the next generation, as discussed in the last commentary. Taking Yamato or Ranhart’s lives will harm the universe more than it helps, unlike what he thinks can be said about his own life.
[KC]: So maybe I’m drawing parallels where they were never intended, but I’m reminded here of the original series and the iconic confrontation at this point between the Leader of the Garmillas Empire and the Earthlings. “Shoot, Wildstar.” Desslok encourages his enemy to finish him off, but the dynamic then was very different from what’s going on here now.
[AMB]: It might not be too different, actually. At least in Farewell. In that movie, Dessler was disgraced, distraught and demoralised by the fact that he’d gone from the esteemed leader of an Empire to a petty slave of the conquering monster Zordar. He wanted to die then, and now as well. “I’ve fought long and hard. My battle is over, boy of Yamato” he says, unable to shoot Kodai. Similar shot composition too!
Ranhart turns to face his uncle, who looks deathly determined. Miru observes, with Zordar seeing this event through his eyes, a sadness in his gaze. They hold the Desslers at gunpoint, but are momentarily forgotten. Ranhart clenches his teeth and swallows his pride as Abelt straightens and squares his shoulders, ready to accept the death his nephew will have to bear to save their people. Ranhart is clearly still struggling emotionally with this choice, but he draws his sidearm and aims right at his uncle’s chest.
[AMB]: History repeats itself for Zordar. His father Gairen was once given the choice to sell out his people for the sake of his wife and child, only to be cheated and left for dead. Here, cruel irony inverts that, giving Ranhart the choice to kill what he loves for the sake of the greater good. Just like Zordar always does to Sabera. Other than that, I seem to recall Character Designer Nobuteru Yuuki working extensively on this episode. The artwork is definitely on point and reflects his original designs tremendously well. It’s an episode full of highly detailed and complex facial expressions and body language from start to finish.
Abelt closes his eyes and lowers his head as Ranhart calls out his uncle’s title, struggling as he does. He is fractions of a second away from pulling the trigger when a voice calls out; “Don’t!” The music quickly fades out. Kodai’s voice. Keyman is surprised. His friend looks pissed.
[AMB]: Moments before Abelt accepts death, he doesn’t even respond to the gun in front of him. Whether or not he kept a lid on his emotions there, we’ll never know. Likewise, we’ll never know what comes of Abelt’s ambitious ploy, seeing as Kodai came just in time to course-correct the future. The BGM agrees. And that trigger-finger animation? Flawless.
[KC]: I also like how Keyman chooses not to use his uncle’s name here because I don’t think he is making this choice out of any sense of formality or nationalism, but rather in anguished acceptance of and love for the man who made his young life pretty miserable – because of that title.
[AMB]: Great catch! These two haven’t really had the chance to sit down and talk things through outside of Fukui’s Drama CDs (produced exclusively for Amazon JP’s blu-ray releases).
“It’s the same test I was given before,” Kodai yells at him. “Whether you pull the trigger or not, you’re guaranteed to lose something important. You must not choose.”
Abelt turns back to respond with wounded eyes, as Kodai’s own eyes narrow. “The moment you choose… you’ve lost.”
[AMB]: The choice to fire the Wave-Motion Gun at the 11th planet, the Devil’s Choice at Stravase, the decision to fire the WMG at Goland’s fleet and Kato’s choice in Episode 18… after carefully pondering their meaning, this is the conclusion Kodai’s reached. If you engage with these choices at all, that’s when you lose. Once you’ve pulled the metaphorical trigger and tricked yourself into thinking you had to, that’s when you lose. In a way, this also follows up on the scene between Abelt and Kodai in Farewell, where the latter asks Kodai why he won’t shoot. Only now, the basis of the choice isn’t rooted in vengeance, but in ethics. Abelt finally gets the answer he asked for back then. Continously pulling the trigger is why Abelt keeps suffering. But he can change.
There is a tense moment as the battle outside can be heard raging on, then Keyman lowers his weapon with relief, much to Miru’s shock and dismay. This rapidly shifts to rage as both the adult Zordar and Miru collectively aim Miru’s weapon threateningly toward Kodai.
“What point is there in not making a choice?!” The both of them bellow.
[AMB]: Back during production of Episode 5, Masashi Ebara (Yamanami) and Daisuke Ono (Kodai) both performed their Andromeda/Yamato collision line in the same booth at the same time for dramatic effect. I have no doubt this was done for Kouki Uchiyama (Miru) and Hideaki Tezuka (Zordar)’s scene here. Intrigue, horror, shock and fear, the delivery nails all these points. It’s one of those original elements of this episode that truly sticks out long after my initial viewing, illustrating how deeply connected the Zordar clones are. Both figuratively and literally. And again, horrifying.
A shot rings out and we cut to Yuki heading up a corridor. She turns at the sound in alarm. Instantly, however, we are back on the bridge where Kodai dodges Miru’s shot, simultaneously drawing and firing his own blaster as he runs for cover.
Miru recoils, fearing that he’s been wounded but is more horrified when he realizes what Kodai was aiming at: the central control panel. As its explosion flings Miru across the room, the Needle Slaves outside go dead. While certain members of the Space Cavalry celebrate the success of the assault team, Nagakura emerges from within Yamato, one arm missing from her mobile armor. She is out of breath, concerned, and searching for Commander Saito. Her machine isn’t faring too well either.
[AMB]: Yuki, that’s your signal to get in position for a harrowing wound. Some original elements just need to happen for the story to remain Soldiers of Love, as 2202’s subtitle indicates. Speaking of, didn’t Kodai disable Dessler’s androids in the original as well? Since Keyman did that to the Gamiroids last episode, I was surprised to see Kodai being given the chance to fulfill the same mission task but on a larger scale, namely the Needle Slave control hub.
[KC]: Keyman definitely disabled them earlier still, when he helped Kodai and the others escape from Telezart. I believe you are right about the original; that’s why Talan came back and tried to get Dessler to leave.
[AMB]: Another original element worth pointing out is how Abelt was originally the one to shoot Miru first (to stop him from reporting to Zordar), leaving him to die on the bridge during Kodai’s infiltration. Later, Yuki arrived to tend to wounds Abelt sustained from internal shockwaves aboard the bridge, leading to Miru waking up from his presumed death to fire at the esteemed leader of Garmillas. Yuki was fatally wounded by shielding the wounded Dessler. Though he did finish Miru off immediately after.
In 2202, Abelt’s “first shot” was recontextualised in Episode 11, where he stole Miru’s gun and held him at gunpoint after backstabbing Zordar. Miru has repaid this by shooting Abelt with the very same gun. In a roundabout way, this fulfills the conditions for the original version of this scene. That said, Miru still has to suffer being knocked out one way or another, resulting in this moment. Evidently, Kodai’s refusal to kill his enemy comes as a great shock to Miru, enough to distract himself from the fact that he wasn’t actually shot.
On the bridge of Dessler’s flagship, Miru rises from rubble with Kodai behind him, his sidearm pressed into the back of Miru’s head. The Gatlantean lets out a short, humorless chuckle.
[AMB]: The first half of this episode has relatively little BGM, but it’s all for the sake of maintaining a tense and emotionally ambiguous atmosphere. Here, however, we have the return of Grief (Death of Okita). But why now? Because grief’s what Zordar feels about this situation, this perpetual loop of mankind’s champions choosing to pull the trigger at every opportunity that might gain them favors. And Kodai’s just about to admit to this, while presenting a solution.
“In the end that’s how it is,” he says. “Where you are aiming has changed, but that you will pull the trigger has not.”
Elsewhere in the room, Yuki has made her way to the voices she heard and is watching things unfold, listening intently while concealing her presence.
[AMB]: Referencing not only Kodai’s attempt to save Yuki at Stravase, Miru also appeals to mankind’s propensity toward violence when faced with a profitable alternative. Of how someone like Kodai, while preaching about the greater good, will still ultimately aim at the enemy to force submission. However, he’s initially surprised at these developments.
“That’s right,” Kodai confirms. “Humans have always chosen to pull the trigger. Telling ourselves it’s because we’ve had no other choice. Even if it means killing our own hearts, to live, and to let live.”
As the Desslers look on, Ranhart seems rather proud of Kodai’s speech, while Abelt remains his grim, stoic self.
[AMB]: Following Episode 22’s meaningful usage of camera pans next to dialogue, 23 does something similar. When Kodai says “Humans have always chosen to pull the trigger,” we are shown a group shot, with Klaus, Kodai and Miru all holding guns. “Telling ourselves it’s because we’ve had no other choice” is stated as the camera hangs on Keyman, alluding to his tumultuous climb from poverty to soldier, to the choice he was about to make. “Even if it means killing our own hearts,” the camera hangs on Abelt, evoking thoughts and feelings of his many desperate and hurtful attempts to save Iscandar, his planet, and his people (at the cost of losing favor with the woman he loves, Starsha). “To live, and to let live.” The scene finishes on Kodai, woefully acknowledging his adversary Miru and accepting his own actions at the 11th planet and Stravase, something he was previously unable to.
[KC]: Abelt does also happen to be slowly bleeding to death, so maybe we’ll give him a pass on seeming utterly unaffected by the monologue.
[AMB]: It takes guts to stand after that. Literally. That said, Kodai’s words probably hit harder than any bullet ever will.
“I am sure we will continue pulling the trigger.” Kodai goes on. “The bill for that … will have to be paid someday. When it can be paid … by someone who can pay.”
Kodai lowers his weapon progressively further and further until he completely lets it fall to the floor. Miru goes from positively astonished to doubtful.
[KC]: I know this show and 2199 before it have always used the same sound effects as the original series, but still this gun clatter sound is another keen reminder of that old Dessler/Kodai showdown. So much homage is paid in these retellings to the stories they came from that I am just going to presume all of these call backs were intentional.
[AMB]: Kodai being unable to shoot is not only a callback to his part of the standoff in Farewell, but also Dessler’s, where the latter drops his gun before anyone has the chance to shoot, his willpower giving out. Kodai is not only filling his own shoes here, but also Abelt’s. And Dessler sees that in the youth’s eyes. Abelt and Klaus have both spent their entire lives running from responsibility, from giving their life for the greater good. It’s always been the lives of others. Of course, they’ve been spiritually, physically and emotionally inconvenienced, as has Kodai, but none of these three has tried giving their life as tribute until this day.
Then there’s the sound effects: While they do sound the same, they were remastered by Sound Director Tomonori Yoshida. Back during the production days of Yamato Resurrection’s Director’s Cut, which was to feature 5.1ch sound along with the original SFX, Yoshida kept pestering Yamato’s original sound designer, Mitsuru Kashiwabara, for the original sources. At first he’d refuse, saying that they weren’t compatible with a 5.1ch sound system. But Yoshida persisted, finally getting the 400 individual sound files in open reels. He then spent the next two years plowing through these effects, digitally restoring them for the movie. These now exist in a permanent studio archive.
Once 2199’s production kicked off, Director Yutaka Izubuchi wanted to use the old effects as a base, but not necessarily in their purest form. So Yoshida handed his copies over to Mutsuhiro Nishimura from Phase Sound Creation (an audio production company) to reinforce the bass and expand each track’s scope of realism. These are the effects we hear now in 2202, as well. You can read more about it here.
“I want to offer peace,” Kodai announces. “For that purpose, if necessary, I will surrender to you people.”
The dramatic music swells as Miru turns to him, seemingly deciding to find his response unbelievable … and begins to laugh. His dark chuckle expands to a full-blown, villainous cackle.
[AMB]: And that’s where the kinship between Abelt and Kodai in modern Yamato lies. Not just in forsaking vengeance, but in the utilitarian desire to offer their lives for the greater good. But Kodai doesn’t just submit and offer death, he offers unconditional peace and attempts diplomacy at the cost of pride and personal safety. All for the sake of proving to Miru that mankind can and will do better, that they can move past millennia of suffering caused by pulling the metaphorical trigger.
[KC]: In the English translation of the original Japanese series, Dessler points out during his iconic, transformative speech that he is more like Kodai than Zordar, but I don’t think those parallels have ever been demonstrated as well as they are here.
[AMB]: And what is Susumu met with? Miru’s first and only scornful Zordar laugh, complete with an echoing effect. Was it inherited from Zordar, triggered by what Miru now considers to be humanity’s hopeless resistance to its own nature? Or is it Zordar himself, astrally projecting his laugh through Miru in response to Kodai? My answer is the former. Zordar only seemed mournful of this sequence of events, saddened to see his son willingly putting so much faith and effort into what he considers a fait accompli; that mankind is destined for inflicting cruelty on one another. But what difference does it make? Can Miru even change that much from his predecessor if he’s a perfect copy who’ll eventually inherit all his memories? Is the laugh an indication that destiny is a cruel Goddess (Teresa)? The answer is both yes and no, as we’ll soon see.
Meanwhile, floating amidst the debris of the battle, no mobile armor in sight, is Commander Saito.
“Take that,” he says to no one visible. “Make me self-destruct, whatever you want. Even if it happens here, you’ll just be setting off a little firecracker in space.” Saito looks down at the two ships locked together, a calm quiet settling around them. After several seconds of rumination, he smiles. Then, the Yearning for Earth theme slowly creeps in.
“I’m sure you don’t get it. Dying isn’t the most difficult thing for people. Here, I won’t cause trouble for anyone.”
[AMB]: As someone traumatized by the events on the 11th planet and Stravase, Saito refuses to become a human bomb for Gatlantis to use as they please. He’s already dead and he’s come to terms with that, proudly telling the King of Gatlantis that humans are more than willing to die for others. Saito’s not only denying Zordar what he perceives to be pleasure at seeing him suffer, but his self-reflective speech also preludes his eventual self-sacrifice. Since it’s Farewell/Yamato 2, he has to die, and that’s easy if it’s for a good cause. But it’s not fair to just fizzle out like a firecracker.
“You idiot!” Nagakura snaps as she finds him there. “Don’t just die on your own!” With her one-armed mobile armor she gets a gentle hold on him. “This kind of lonely end, it’s just what they’d want!”
She draws him closer to her and he lashes out in anger, fearing for her safety. “You idiot! Get away! They’ll take you down with me!”
“If they can, then let them try!” Nagakura fires back.
[AMB]: Would Zordar detonate Saito just to end the life of the woman he loves? Of course not. Like Nagakura says, Saito’s attempt at self-isolation and acceptance of his own inevitable death is exactly what Zordar wants. It’s that kind of existential dread and determinism that they want to impose, to hardwire into the last remnants of mankind’s bravest souls. Not a material victory, (as we’ve previously discussed) but a spiritual victory.
“I won’t let you people (Gatlantis) destroy anything. Not Yamato, not the Earth, not the feelings of a single person.” She is sobbing now, openly. This causes Saito to quiet down, giving her time to properly express herself “Right, Commander? Even for someone like me, if I had to die alone … I’d be lonely. You can’t… You can’t die lonely. You have to do what you can, and die feeling satisfied.”
At this point her words begin to have an emotional effect on Saito. His own eyes tear up as she finishes.
“If you can’t die as a person, you’ve lost. You’re better than this, Commander! Don’t lose!”
The camera withdraws from the scene as everything fades to black.
[AMB]: Nagakura’s aversion toward giving in, even knowing the King of Gatlantis can hear her, is brave, foolhardy and inspiring. Oppressors win once you give in. Mankind won’t back down from this. The BGM here is Yearning for Earth, previously given to the Cosmo Marines and Hijikata in Ark of the Stars, becoming their defacto leitmotif. It’s played every now and then, the most notable moments being when Nagakura walked with Irii hand-in-hand on the 11th planet, when Hijikata and Saito discussed Kodai firing the WMG in Episode 7, and right here.
[KC]: This scene just gets more painful to watch with time. Powerful voice acting here.
[AMB]: Excruciatingly painful. And to them, it’s way rougher than facing the death of a loved one. It’s the horror of facing someone you love being willing to die without a fight, without trying. And without telling you. Nagakura expresses self-doubt, in her abilities as a soldier and as a friend of the Commander. But she refuses to let him go out alone, and that fear of the darkness waiting for them on the other side physically manifests inside her cockpit as she explains how terrifying dying alone in the vacuum of space would be. If you don’t give it your all, if you don’t fight until the end, you won’t be satisfied in death. And so, Saito decides to follow her advice, eventually coming to die for the woman he loves. Very poetic.
“Do you think you are the first?” Miru asks in the darkness. We’re back on the flagship, Miru addressing Kodai aggressively. “In every civilization, someone who thinks like you is guaranteed to appear. Do you know what response we’ve always given them?”
[AMB]: Pulling the trigger, I presume. It’s an inherent fact that still sustains Jeremy Bentham’s deterrence theory, and by proxy the nuclear deterrence theory of the 20th century: the fact that man will have an easier time deterring crime and violence by guaranteeing immediate repercussions. Kodai has dropped his gun and subjected himself to whatever hell Gatlantis might wish to put him through for a chance at peace. Like a nuclear power disarming right in front a still fully-equipped one. Yet he did it, back straight, with fire in his eyes.
Miru raises his weapon to point it at Kodai’s chest. Keyman tries to take aim at Zordar’s heir but is held back by Abelt’s cautionary hand on his shoulder. His other hand is still pressed against his gunshot wound.
“If you are his friend, do not shame him,” Dessler says. Keyman relents and lowers his weapon.
[AMB]: Klaus wants to save his friend, but Abelt knows that by shooting Miru to end this conflict, he’d go against the moral and ethical principles which Kodai so passionately represents. In other words, it would shame Kodai. During this entire sequence, Abelt never lets his gaze fall from Kodai’s bravery, not even when cautioning his nephew. That’s how much this moment means to him; this moment where someone else who has loved and lost is standing up for everyone inside and outside this room. Abelt has finally found his equal, and he won’t let his nephew shame him at this important moment.
“Even so,” Kodai tells Miru. “Even so, one side has to start things off. To choose the path of not pulling the trigger.”
[AMB]: Miru’s threats don’t work on Kodai. He has steeled himself. And if he dies for his cause? If it’s his destiny to do so? Then he’ll willingly take that bullet, which sadly mirrors Abelt’s previous decision; its shot composition as well. But unlike for Abelt, the outcome here will be different. Because Kodai’s learned how to truly love others, and be loved by others. Then we have “Even so…,” a phrase brought to attention in the last commentary. So short, so sweet, yet so immensely powerful. It’s even more powerful to me than Dusty Attenborough’s “So what?” catchphrase from Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
The camera dives into Miru’s eyes, connecting us to Emperor Zordar listening to this conversation from his telepathy chamber.
“You won’t pull the trigger, you say?” Zordar muses. “If that worked in this world …” he recalls the image of his dead wife and infant clone; his child. “Who would suffer? The decision has been made.” The camera pushes in through Zordar’s eyes to Miru’s face. Zordar is projecting again out of Miru. “Pay with your blood!” He cries out in both of his voices at once, firing a single shot.
[AMB]: Zordar still stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the potential merits of Kodai’s proposition. His father Gairen’s most meaningful decision was still robbed from him. As the Zemulian storytellers implied, the bad karma resulting from it affected his son to the point where he can no longer see merit to other walks of life, drenched in the painful memories he inherited. The original Miru had neither a trigger to pull nor a trigger he wanted to pull, yet both he and his mother Sabera died with no recourse. And so, his clone (current Zordar) attempts to repeat history, aided by his own clone son Miru. Yes, it’s that convoluted.
Kodai still stands before him at point blank range, but at that moment another figure rushes between them, taking the full blast. Abelt and Ranhart Dessler watch grimly and Kodai stares in horror as Yuki collapses before them, her helmet visor shattered.
[AMB]: But Zordar and Miru fail. Just like at Stravase, Yuki aids her partner, enabling his morality by denying him any opportunity to flinch or to make a devil’s choice. In the past, Gairen forsook his own people to save Sabera and Miru, but was betrayed. Kodai refused to make a choice in the first place. But instead of being shot like Abelt, and instead of dying like “all the others like him,” he comes out unscathed. It’s never happened before, an anomalous result. And it’s because someone else who loved him refused to let Kodai die. Someone gives her life to protect his beautiful ideals. “Dying is easy,” as Saito said.
At the end of all this, we find a common denominator between Abelt and Gairen (the first Zordar). Both were so selfish in their love that their partners were never given a chance to choose their future; neither Sabera nor Starsha. And for that, they’ve kept taking the lives of others, and they’ve kept suffering, pawning off their responsibilities to the next generation (Ranhart and current Zordar). In a way, this also mirrors Celestella’s death in 2199, where she jumps out and is shot as a result of her tremendous love – Only for Yuki to shield her, getting shot. Now that I think about it, that might have been a call back to Farewell, given that entire episode was based on Dessler’s second “death” in the original Yamato and his final death in Farewell.
[KC]: The self-references just keep on coming! Since the writers seem to be committed to a definitive change in how Abelt approaches things, and we know that this time around Starsha doesn’t secretly have Kodai’s brother stashed somewhere, I am holding out hope that 2205 sees a rekindling of that romance with a less tragic outcome. I suppose it depends on how much Japan still loves him as the noble, lonely warrior.
[AMB]: Starsha gave up Mamoru to save Earth, yet he chose to save Yuki for Susumu. If circumstances were different, I have no doubt he and Abelt would have gotten along splendidly, both pawning off greater responsibilities to others for the sake of people they love (Starsha/Susumu). “I leave the ship/planet to you, Captain Okita/Nephew Ranhart.”
Starsha right now… is lonely. In the last war, she lost Sasha (one of her two sisters), Mamoru (her impromptu partner) and Abelt (the man she left to suffer without support or comfort). And now Yurisha has become Iscandar’s ambassador at Garmillas. Seeing as Starsha was pregnant with who we can assume to be Sasha from Be Forever (the daughter of her and Mamoru), she at least has some light in her life. If only Abelt can be given the chance to make up for his mistakes, and to become Sasha’s stepfather at Starsha’s side, perhaps he can finally know inner peace. He’s earned it.
“But she can’t be named Sasha,” some might say, “that name’s already been used for one of her sisters!” But that doesn’t mean she won’t pay tribute to her beloved sister by naming her daughter after Sasha, just as she presumably did in the original stories. In fact, that’s likely been the plan since way back in 2199.
As time itself slows down around Kodai, he falls to the ground, repeatedly calling Yuki’s name. He holds her frail body, shaken.
“Why?” he asks, his voice trembling with emotion.
Yuki opens her eyes and looks at him.
“Kodai-san…” She’s delirious.
[AMB]: Not only is he asking her why she just did what she did, but he’s asking her to answer why he has to suffer the same heartache as in 2199. First there was Yuki’s reverse amnesia, and now she’s shot right in front of him as Dessler stands witness. It’s just like in 2199 Episode 25. It took a one-of-a-kind miracle, the love of his brother, to save her last time. This time, that miracle’s been spent.
Abelt sees a repeat of their tragedy, which he has now witnessed twice. Zordar sees a new kind of tragedy, unknown to him. It’s a moment that gives each party a chance to contemplate. Was it right of Abelt to let Kodai live in Episode 25 if it would lead to this? Was it right of Zordar to let Miru’s devil’s choice play out, muddling his perspective? And is there even any meaning to Kodai’s suffering? Even after taking a bullet for him, Yuki still calls him Kodai-san to pay him respect. His heart sinks when he hears this.
“Yuki, why?,” Kodai responds.
“I don’t know… I don’t know why, but…” She smiles, eyes glazed. “I’m… glad…”
Her eyes fall closed and now it is Miru who stares down at Yuki with horror, asking; “Why? She’s supposed to have lost her memories. She doesn’t know him, and yet…” he furrows his brow. “It’s almost as if she’s in love with him.”
[AMB]: Current BGM is Tears, utilising the Great Love leitmotif to convey the pain of losing your love. In Farewell, it played at the scene of Yuki’s death (from the same wounds) aboard Yamato’s bridge where she chose to assist the crew rather than fading out in a hospital bed. Even the shot composition of Kodai holding her matches the original and 2199 Episode 25. But why doesn’t Yuki know why she took a bullet for Kodai? Why does she still move as if she loves him? Experiencing some manner of emotion or empathy at the sight of this, Miru shuts his eyes briefly to recoup. And when he opens them again his gaze is calm as he speaks to Emperor Zordar.
“Once, you said…that feelings are no more than electrical signals running through the brain.” With closed eyes, Zordar stands solemnly in his chamber, fists clenched, hanging his head. Miru continues citing the Emperor.
“To call that a heart or soul, and place value on them…is only an act people engage in to comfort themselves.” The scene transitions from his eyes to Miru’s, perfectly aligned.
[AMB]: In this moment, Miru confronts his father with words from some undisclosed time ago. It all sounds befittingly stale and robotic, like Zordar’s outer shell. However, they conflict with what Miru’s experiencing right now. And if emotions are just electrical signals running through Yuki’s brain, why is she acting out of love for someone she can’t remember? There’s something else there that the Zordar types either didn’t know, or that Zordar has chosen to keep from Miru. The human soul, capable of emotionally affecting even Miru. Zordar at first refuses to witness the scene with Miru, closing his eyes. But then he swallows his pride and accepts it. His eyes open.
“There is still something we can’t perceive, and humans have it.” His eyes fade back into Zordar’s.
In his throne room, Zordar lets out a soft sigh of frustration and looks back at his own progenitor, Gairen, who reminds him; “To inherit the memories of all past generations. That is the fate of the Type-Zordar, which is given a high-functioning brain. Let’s hear it. These may be the words we have waited for over a thousand years to hear.”
[AMB]: Miru’s epiphany about the human soul is something the Type Zordars before him have neglected. But, as Gairen states, while the Zordars are fated to inherit their predecessor’s feelings and memories, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will come to the same conclusions – leading to this strange moment where Miru’s path diverges from his elders. Zordar realizes that this is what’s happening. Gairen calms him, telling his son to accept the course of the future – set by their actual future, Miru.
We once again fade out, this time from Gairen’s masked face to Miru’s.
“The body is no more than a container,” Miru says. An image of Telezart is shown, with Teresa superimposed over it.
“A soul. There is something which can only be called that, and it is tying people together with a strength akin to gravity. There’s no doubt.”
The image of Teresa evaporates with a flash and a loud noise, bringing us back to Miru aboard the Nue Deusular II, eyes flaring with passion.
[AMB]: In Mahayana Buddhism, there is a concept referred to as the “Eight Consciousnesses,” or “aṣṭa vijñānakāyāḥ.” The first consciousness, the base, is called “Ālayavijñāna” (阿頼耶識/Arayashiki in Japanese), meaning the “All-encompassing foundation consciousness,” or “base” consciousness. What this means is that the base consciousness of man is the body, and it’s through our bodies that the other seven consciousnesses are formed or evolved from. Still with me? It’s okay if you aren’t.
What Miru’s talking about here is how our bodies act as containers for separate consciousnesses, such as the soul. Body, mind and soul. Up to this point, Miru’s been led to believe that humans are just composed of body and mind, that memories and feelings are no different from digital components of a mental landscape. But it is here that he comes to the realisation that mankind must have a soul for something like Yuki’s love to shine through memory loss and bodily harm. Where did he learn this? Telezart, where his soul was called upon by Teresa. He felt her presence, her voice calling out to him. And ever since, he’s subconsciously known that he’s a unique identity, a unique individual. More than just a clone of his predecessors, he is “Miru.” The one who sees the truth.
Oh, and souls weighed down by a power as strong as gravity? While not necessarily a reference to Universal Century Gundam’s Newtype concept and of how mankind’s souls are bound to the Earth’s gravity like chains, the phrasing and general ideas presented here does evoke thoughts of Gundam. No surprise, seeing as Head Writer Fukui has written at least three works of fiction for the Gundam franchise. He seems set to write more once his long voyage in the world of Yamato settles down a bit.
To quote Sunrise producer Naoyuki Ogata from a recent interview about the upcoming Hathaway’s Flash movies, “Gundam Unicorn isn’t over yet. We have to tell the story of the Republic of Zeon’s dissolution in the year 0100 of the Universal Century before we can move on. However, Harutoshi Fukui (who wrote the novel for Unicorn) is currently traveling in another universe (laughs).”
“Emperor, were you not aware? Though we inherit the memories, each generation of Zordar has been slightly different in nature. We of Gatlantis are also humans with individual souls.” As he speaks, the camera pans over each generation of Zordar from back to front, in order of Gairen > Zordar > Miru along a vertical line.
[AMB]: While posed as a general question, Miru’s actually questioning how his clone father couldn’t be aware of the human soul after all this time. How, in his clouded judgement, he led Miru and the other Gatlanteans beneath him astray from the inherent beauty of the human soul; the proof that Gatlanteans are more than just humanoid mimics of humanity. They’re as human as the heirs of Akerius, is Miru’s claim. His proof is nothing more than the resonance he feels in his heart at the sight of tragedy and love. Just like Zordar has differed from his father Gairen in actions and ideals, so too will Miru. From hope (Gairen) > to despair (Zordar) > back to hope (Miru).
“Our lives are tied together by bonds, with which we weave love.” Miru’s voice is now strong and resounding, his conviction unflinching as he stares into the camera. The flames still burn on the bridge as Miru relaxes his posture, his gaze falling to observe Kodai and Yuki’s anguish.
“I want to find out your reasons. There is too much we do not know.” He shuts his eyes, contemplating. “About humans.”
And they flash back open as the new Emperor turns to the Dessler family. “About ourselves.”
They stare back at him, listening intently.
“It is too soon to make a decision.”
Klaus is caught off-guard, like he wants to say something in response. But chooses not to.
[AMB]: Telling both Zordar and the audience that love is a result of the bonds we make, Miru stares down the wells of our souls through the camera. Very meta. Following that, he observes Kodai’s suffering, perhaps likening it to his elders’ experiences. Then, as the Emperor Zordar theme progressively creeps in, Miru presents no devil’s choice to Klaus. In fact, he admonishes both himself and Abelt’s nephew for so rashly accepting what they had considered to be inevitable outcomes, such as Garmillas’ doomed fate and humanity’s cycle of despair, both being cultural memes inherited from their parental figures Abelt and Zordar. Perhaps there can be another way… as Yuki and Kodai have proven.
“If we can redo things…” Miru’s gaze once again falls to Yuki and Kodai. “If we can free ourselves from a thousand years of despair, and turn our eyes toward a different future…”
Zordar’s apathetic complexion is shown as he awaits his son’s inevitable proclamation.
“We, too…” Miru walks up to the couple in front of him, unholstering his gun. “I, too…” He offers his weapon handle to Kodai, gun aimed at himself. His voice softens, empathy seeping out. “…will choose the path of not pulling the trigger.”
[AMB]: The weapon given to him by Zordar, confiscated by Abelt, returned to him on the condition that he “follows his own path,” then used to hurt both Klaus and his uncle… the same weapon which enabled him to persecute and hurt others for a grander design; he offers it up to his spiritual enemy after recognizing the true value of love and the human soul. For himself, for his father, for the Desslers and for Kodai and his partner Yuki, he offers peace of his own volition. Taking the risk of ensuing tragedy, taking a leap like Yuki’s done countless times. Pinocchio (Miru) became a real boy.
Kodai looks up at the young man, unsure of how to respond. Their eyes meet for a few seconds; understanding reached at last. And then, the music cuts out abruptly as the sound of gunfire forces its way into the scene. Miru cringes in pain; Emperor Zordar grunts in horror as his eyes flash open, and Katsuragi snaps awake from her coma. With sorrow in her voice she can only bring herself to say one thing.
In the telepathic communications room behind Zordar, Gairen grips his head and cries out in despair, his tortured scream echoing.
Miru has been shot.
[KC]: And there it is. Kodai and Yuki’s positions are reversed, and of course it’s Miru instead of Dessler offering up the weapon to them, but either way it seems that it is always fated to be Miru who ends up dead on the floor in this pivotal scene.
[AMB]: The impeccable direction of this scene, along with the sensitive humanisation of the Zordar types and Touko is what grips my heart the strongest. As the Emperor Zordar BGM reaches its crescendo, hope is yanked away by gunfire. Miru’s hopes and dreams were mercilessly stolen from him, just like for Gairen as the original Zordar. This is why Zordar has a more guttural reaction, feeling the pain which the original Miru felt when he was murdered at the hands of the Zemulians. This is the first time his son dies, a Miru like he once was, so it’s more shocking to him than anything.
Meanwhile, Gairen feels the agonizing pain of having to re-experience the death of his child Miru. And for Touko the shock is strong enough to break through her coma. It’s a repeat of history for every Gatlantean involved. The best performance here is by far Hidekatsu Shibata’s delivery as Gairen. The emotional resonance reaches soaring heights, seeing as he’s previously refrained from showing too much emotion.
This scene was used in teasers, purposefully misleading the audience as to “why” he gripped his head in pain. The teasers accompanied it with the sound of Golem being activated, tricking us into thinking his head gear was the activation switch. We were fooled.
On the flagship, the gun that Miru was offering to Kodai slips from his nerveless fingers and clatters to the floor, all other sound fading away. A pool of blood stains the side of his tunic and a small amount trickles out of his mouth. He coughs once, perhaps in an attempt to speak, then falls lifeless to the ground.
[AMB]: Shot in the back by soldiers soon to be revealed, it seems a lung must have been punctured. His reaction to it reminds me of a story Christopher Lee once told on the set of Return of the King (2003), of what it’s like to be stabbed in the back. You don’t scream in pain like you do in the movies apparently, you just kind of cough as you gasp for air, unable to speak.
Kodai gasps in horror and chokes back his own cry of despair, his gaze shifting to meet the sound of footsteps approaching. A group of guards runs in, asking after their Supreme Leader; the guards that Talan offered to send to assist Abelt Dessler last episode. The ones now responsible for killing Emperor Zordar’s younger clone.
“Are you safe?” a soldier asks with urgency.
[AMB]: These Garmillans are the same soldiers serving under Heydom Gimleh. Which makes sense, seeing as most of Talan’s fleet is composed of blue imperial guard ships organized by the former leader of the Imperial Guard. This further plays into the importance of Gimleh and his men going into 2205, and their importance to Abelt’s future prospects as leader of Garmillas. Some things just never change.
[KC]: Ohhh, Talan. I wanted you to be more important to the plot in this version, but I didn’t mean for you to become indirectly responsible for everything going wrong at the end. All you ever wanted to do was protect Dessler from Dessler.
[AMB]: Bonds and love, my friend. Talan was concerned for his leader, so he chose to disobey his direct order to not intervene. It was insubordinate, but an act of love from a devoted follower. Had Abelt talked things through with Talan without being emotionally distant and without shooing him away in a hurry, things might have ended differently. He might have stood by Abelt’s side in this moment.
The soldiers tell Dessler to hurry; that the reinforcement fleet is arriving. They run right over Miru, whose blood is spreading rapidly onto the floor beneath him. Keyman stares down at him sorrowfully while Kodai continues to sob.
“What…what folly,” Dessler states, seeming on the verge of grief himself.
[AMB]: Another young, ambitious man lying by himself on Abelt’s bridge, bleeding to death. This was how Abelt ended up at the end of 2199, caused by his own selfishness at the time. Miru, the youth he’d helped raise throughout the second half of 2202 has now perished. And soon, Keyman will too. Whether or not Abelt chooses to become Sasha’s stepfather come 2205, the cruel ends faced by his pupils in this series will surely haunt him.
In Zordar’s throne room the Emperor stands alone, staring into the ground, his hands balled into fists. We don’t see his face, but how he feels is made perfectly clear. Throughout this and the last scene, a haunting, ethereal version of The Universe Expands into Infinity continues to play as we see that Miru’s body has been brought to Yamato, for Katsuragi. She kneels before him as Captain Hijikata looks on with pilots Yamamoto and Shinohara. Her tears may be for the body in front of her, but all she can think of is the mother and child struck down a thousand years before, and the cruel irony of fate.
[AMB]: Mournful, Katsuragi bears witness to her son’s cold and lifeless body. A repeat of history. Her tears fall solemnly on his face as she holds his cheek, confronting the harsh reality in front of her. The BGM, originating from Ark and originally accompanying Earth’s loss of hope, it perfectly fits the hopelessness the Earthlings must now feel. Hijikata, feeling lost and disillusioned, has taken off his Captain’s hat to pay his respects to Miru. And next to the boy lies a space coffin, waiting patiently to eject him into the dark void of the cosmos. What. A. Scene.
And to give you an idea of exactly how much story is packed into what we’ve just seen, at this point we are only halfway through the episode. Take a look at where the scroll bar is on your browser page.
The music is still going as we move from the dark bay area to a brightly lit lift where Hijikata puts his hat back on.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance that God himself may have bestowed on us,” he thinks. “And we’ve wasted it. This battle can only play out to its set conclusion now.”
[AMB]: Still carrying the torch of Ishizuka Unshou following his passing, Voice Actor Naoki Kusumi has completely entered the role of Hijikata. He’s gruff, hard-boiled and ready to face whatever comes next. But still contemplative, musing like an old disgruntled action hero. And his words ring true. This was a God-given opportunity, but mankind found a way to waste it. A loving attempt to save a beloved leader resulted in the death of someone just wishing for peace. And for all the soldiers knew, Miru wasn’t giving Kodai his gun, he was aiming it. They did what they needed to do, not only to save Abelt, but Kodai too. And so this war can only end with one side beating the other, with great losses to come.
In the medical bay, Yuki once again lies in a bed, unconscious. Kodai is beside her, holding her hand, inspecting the engagement ring she’d once again chosen to wear before boarding the Nue Deusuler II. As the moment plays out, a distraught Dr. Sado looks on. He tries to reach out to Susumu, but stops himself mid-sentence. His back slumps, and looking defeated he turns away from the scene. Kodai regains his composure, a goal in mind.
[AMB]: For Dr. Sado, this is a repeat of history as well. Yamato’s Captain is gearing up to die for the sake of the crew as Yuki lies unconscious from a gunshot wound, swaying between life and death. This is not how their second voyage was supposed to go. This is not what Sado signed up for. And the doctor’s nagging feeling will become fully apparent come Episode 25. But at least Yuki chose to give the engagement a chance again, right? Heh… oh boy.
Katsuragi sits alone in her cell when Kodai suddenly enters.
“If we had only met him under different circumstances,” he tells her.
“We can’t choose how bonds connect us,” she responds. Kodai takes a moment to think before responding.
[AMB]: “If only.” “What if.” So often do our instincts lead us to appease the suffering of others by wishing there was a different way, a world where events transpired differently. But like Katsuragi says in deterministic fashion, submitting to Teresa’s wisdom; how bonds connect us cannot be chosen. And those bonds, along with the choices we make, will lead us to different places. As the storytellers said in Episode 20, Zordar was cursed with bad karma for his actions. This seems to have passed down to his son – current Zordar – and Miru, the future Zordar who is now dead and gone. Perhaps that’s part of why Zordar’s so disillusioned with mankind’s vain attempts at breaking the wheel of fate.
“I want your help,” Kodai tells her, giving her time to respond. Seeing as she won’t, he continues. “I won’t speak platitudes. This battle won’t end until one side is annihilated. Even so, to connect the hope that the young Zordar gave us to the next stage, we must act now.”
Katsuragi has been staring down at her feet, but now she raises her eyes to meet his.
[AMB]: Her expression throughout this scene is listless, soulless, devoid of emotion. She looks dead inside. Yet, when Kodai proclaims that he wishes to not let the hope “young Zordar” (Miru) gave them go to waste, she’s finally brought out of her slump. Perhaps she sees young Zordar in Kodai, a look of hope in the face of adversity shining through. There is a way, or so Kodai claims (without saying it), for this to end without complete annihilation. It’s reckless and will require huge sacrifices. But there is a way.
Meanwhile, the flagship of Dessler’s reinforcement fleet waits near his flagship as a more familiar, militaristic tune plays. Standing outside with no space gear, Abelt faces his equally unprotected nephew across a gulf of space, but the two men have never been closer.
[AMB]: The red ship seen in the background, along with the one Abelt stands on are Gelvadez-class battle carriers. As readers will remember from previous shows and commentaries, the trademark red command carrier design will give rise to what will become Abelt’s Deusuler III flagship in 2205, with some extensive modifications. The BGM is Dessler’s Bolero in its pure form, making its first and last appearance since the Telezart episodes. The scene itself serves as both an homage and an adaptation of the final scene in The New Voyage where Dessler and Kodai say their goodbyes. But this time someone else has taken Kodai’s place.
“You’re going, then?” Dessler asks, wearing a concerned expression.
“This is a battle for this world, for the future of humanity,” Keyman responds. “I can’t overlook it…”
Dessler’s eyes widen a bit at this fact. Klaus takes a moment to observe his reaction, then narrows his eyes and proceeds.
[AMB]: Keen viewers can spot a distinct change in tone of voice and mannerisms from Keyman, a sense of strength and pride in his lineage. He’s decided to shoulder the weight of the world, just like his uncle. But…
“I want to leave the future of Garmillas to you,” Klaus continues.
Abelt seems filled with a sense of duty, of pride and appreciation. He listens on.
“On a new planet, with a heart that’s learned the futility of fighting. Please, guide our people.”
The music swells as a jet of air from the surrounding space flutters Dessler’s cape dramatically. He takes a moment to think things through, then nods.
[AMB]: While Klaus deals with the utilitarian side of things as repentance for their family’s sins, Abelt will bear the responsibility of fulfilling his given task of saving their race. Surely, he sees his brother Mattheus come to life through Ranhart. Shockingly so.
[KC]: Congratulations, Abelt, you did it! Your cape has defied all known laws of physics. You are a Real Dessler!
[AMB]: He really is! And of all the things the creators decided to tackle this season, we have the cape-fluttering scene from New Voyage, depicted with flying colors. As previously mentioned, the White Comet’s debris has remained in this sector following Yamanami’s assault on its gravity core, meaning it can’t warp. This means that this area of space still seems to retain some form of atmospheric current or residue from the fog, capable of creating wind (and somehow sustaining Garmillans without the need of space suits). The big encounter took place to ensure this scene could play out in all its campy glory. Another New Voyage moment, check.
Speaking of which, what’s the tally for that now? We’ve had Dessler’s love of Starsha revealed, the three-way battle where Earth and Garmillas team up against an enemy seeking to pillage a planet, artificial humans taking the spotlight, Sasha’s existence hinted at, the cape scene, part of Dessler’s New Voyage arc given to Berger in Ark… so many elements from that story have already been told or adapted, one way or the other. It’s no wonder the next New Voyage will be truly “new,” wouldn’t you say?
[KC]: Absolutely! They certainly seem to have laid the groundwork for adding more depth and interesting new angles to that tale, and since it was always the most Dessler-centric one, I was kind of hoping that when the creators said 2202 would be the last retelling of an original story that they didn’t really mean it the way it sounded. Based on the reaction of many fans on social media, at least the English speaking ones that I encountered, when the creators said that 2202 would be the last retelling of the old works, those fans presumed everything moving forward would be completely original as opposed to an original take on the post-Gatlantis stories.
[AMB]: We seem to be getting both, thankfully!
The view shifts and we see that Dessler’s core ship is docked on the Gelvadez reinforcement carrier and Yamato is still embedded in the Gatlantean monstrosity that used to house it.
“Tell Kodai for me,” Dessler says, “that My Nue Deusuler will protect Yamato from the Transit Wave-Motion Gun’s energy radiation. Keep on going as you were.” He then takes off in his core ship, his two escort carriers following.
[AMB]: As previously seen, the Nue Deusuler II was built by Gatlantis to surpass previous limitations, such as the inability to fire its Wave-Motion gun in precarious conditions. Gatlantean technology now allows it to fire the Dessler gun without tearing the ship apart. Using it as a conduit, Yamato will be able to fire the Transit WMG without trouble, though it will destroy the Nue Deusuler II. Former enemies break bread with one another as they reject gifts and propositions from the allegorical devil; Zordar. Had Kodai simply killed Dessler back on Telezart, things wouldn’t have played out this way. Keep that in mind as we trudge on.
On Yamato’s bridge, Hijikata and Kodai salute Dessler’s departure with full respect. On Abelt’s bridge, he sees their ship off on the main monitor, bearing a contemplative look.
“Why did we fight?” He wonders aloud. The camera rotates around behind him. “Why did we not try to love one another?”
[AMB]: This line is clearly paying homage to the iconic realisation expressed by Kodai at the end of the original Space Battleship Yamato series. “Why did we not try to love one another?” But on its own? In this scene, Abelt’s most assuredly not only reflecting upon key moments from his entire life, but also addressing a question he posed to himself back in Episode 16: “At that time… what was I trying to destroy?” Upon realising that his answer is a deeper set of questions, he feels mournful. If loving both enemy and friend was all it took to reach understanding, why is it that men like him keep putting it off until it’s too late? For what reason did Abelt and Yamato fight? These are questions raised to everyone, ones worth finding the answers to yourselves.
But Abelt in this scene, above all else, is brought back to an event we from episode 25 of 2199 that we touched on earlier. After the Jirellan space witch Celestella’s been shot by Abelt aboard Yamato– an unfortunate consequence of her telepathically connecting to the emotionally constipated Abelt – Yuki cries about how the war wasn’t necessary, how Earth and Garmillas “could have loved each other”. Finding it difficult to face neither her nor the consequences of his actions, he repeats a mantra to himself; that war is necessary for the sake of the one he loves; Starsha. Lost in thought staring at his gun, he’s shot in the shoulder by Celestella; who survived. Having felt the depth of his pain after connecting to Abelt, she seems to both realise and emphatise with his subconscious desire to die after absorbing his despair, and so attempts to take both his and her own life. “Let’s end it”, she says, smiling with tears in her eyes. Abelt’s soldiers retaliate against the witch, but not before Yuki dashes in to shield Celestella, getting shot to death along with her. Seem familiar? This episode, Yuki was shot after shielding Kodai. Abelt’s soldiers killed Miru to in a mistaken effort to save their leader. Different place, same mistakes. If only they could have loved each other…
[KC]: Oh, Abelt. You win all of the points. I mean, last time Dessler only told them where to aim, and technically they already knew. Now you are giving them the weapon to do it AND you are going to openly speculate about an alternate lifetime where everybody’s friends, while you look all sad and handsome? I can’t wait to see where they take you and your new outlook in 2205, Your Majesty. I am rooting for you and Starsha.
[AMB]: As am I… though, to give his Farewell counterpart some credit, his advice there was both strategically and thematically important. There, it’s the White Comet’s swirling nucleus that’s their Achilles’ heel, fitting for a mechanical yet living symbol of dehumanising industrialisation and terror. The fear roused by Gatlantis’ appearance is enough to give rise to dejection in dissenters, giving off the false idea that Gatlantis is impervious to damage. When actually its terrifying outward appearance is its greatest weakness.
On Yamato, alarms blare in the Engine Room. Keyman races up to find Nagakura waiting by the Wave-Motion Engine. He asks her what’s wrong when the pressurized door opens and Saito comes out like he’s just been to the sauna. Kodai is next on the scene to ask what happened.
“Nothing,” Saito replies. “I just took a little bath.”
[AMB]: Saito’s steaming hot. With radiation, that is. Which is why the alarm went off and why both Kodai and Keyman ran here to see what’s going on. Whether or not Saito wanted Nagakura here to see this, she seems to have stood outside to show some compassionate support for him. Imagine seeing the one you adore most killing himself for you, though delayed in effect. She’s an iron lady of love.
[KC]: Well, they are Marines.
“What’s this about? Why?” Kodai presses the issue, turning to Nagakura for answers. Keyman spots her tearful glance at Saito, only for her to turn away. And suddenly, he understands.
“No!” Keyman gasps, followed by a distraught question from Kodai. “You were one of Gatlantis’s…” He trails off, unable to finish the thought.
[AMB]: It’s sometimes easy to forget what we – the audience – know that the characters don’t. While Keyman made his suspicions of Saito known last episode, he isn’t certain until just now, painfully so. Kodai had never doubted any of the marines, so to him this comes as a huge shock. This scene is frigid, devoid of music. All we see is Nagakura’s tearful lament as she accepts the weight of what she’s helped Saito do. Insubordinate, but out of love, just like Talan for Dessler.
[KC]: Very harmonic, I’d say.
Saito spells out the obvious, his eyes dark. “This is about the only way, right?” Saito reasons. “To cut a puppet’s strings.”
“How long were you in there?” Keyman asks him. Saito grins, his voice deepens as he responds. “I’ll last long enough for one battle.”
It is the stoic Keyman who this time lets out a stifled sound of bitter regret. Kodai hangs his head.
[AMB]: One tragedy after the next for these two. For Kodai, he’s just potentially lost his partner for good this time, as well as any probable chance for peace with Gatlantis. For Klaus, not only peace was lost, but the great burden of saving the universe was thrust on his shoulders as he urged his uncle to save Garmillas in his place. Yuki took a bullet for Kodai while Abelt has taken a metaphorical bullet for Klaus. Saito’s now a ticking bomb in a way that won’t hurt anyone else. Physically, that is. It’s also here that we see Kodai’s grief manifest like Zordar’s for the first time. He has a look that says, “I don’t have it in me to feel surprised anymore.” Nihilism is starting to swallow him whole. And Nagakura still can’t bear to look at Saito.
Suddenly, a different set of alarms goes off as Aihara reports the unfolding situation. “There is an urgent call from Garmillas forces near Mars. The Warp Interference Field is gone and the Comet Empire is on its way…to Earth!” Kodai’s face sours at this news.
[AMB]: But he doesn’t seem surprised. Once again, it’s one thing after the other for these guys. But that said, he has to uphold his end of the bargain he just made with Touko, to risk his entire being to stop Gatlantis. If they’ve shown up on Earth’s radar, then that’s Yamato’s cue to warp. And for more tragedy to ensue.
Blue skies and calm waters surround the capital city of Earth when the Comet arrives, dominating the atmosphere. The closer it gets, the bigger it appears, eventually blocking out the sun and all surrounding light. The White Comet theme booms.
[AMB]: Keep in mind that the White Comet isn’t anywhere close to Earth right now. Its size just dwarfs anything else around it. The way it moves in front of the Sun to completely enshroud Earth in fear, to inspire them to surrender as its iconic leitmotif synchronises with the ungodly sounds it produces… powerful stuff. And remember, the theme is actually an in-story sound in 2202, presumably heard by every citizen on Earth.
“Earthlings, I have good news for you,” the booming voice of Goenitz calls out. “We of Gatlantis will not destroy Earth.”
We move to U.N.C.F. HQ as Todo and Serizawa valiantly stare at the looming threat. “In light of your value, you and your entire planet will become a part of our Comet City Empire. The Time Fault is wasted on you people. Only once it has been integrated with the Ark of Destruction can its power be used effectively.”
[AMB]: In Farewell, Baruze urged Earth to surrender. In Yamato 2, it was Razera. In 2202, it’s Goenitz. Each version had a different courtly figure from Gatlantis deliver a unique variant of this speech, though this one is definitely the most despair-inducing. Hideyuki Umezu’s bass-filled voice makes this scene work. I also have to respect how Serizawa and Todo finally look like they’re on the same page, both standing up to the might of the White Comet as a unit.
Having heard Serizawa speak from his heart in Episode 21, Todo’s worries have been assuaged. Unfortunately, while Miru’s idea of studying humanity further had merit, his motives have been bastardized by the increasingly despairing Zordar. Gatlantis will study humanity, but not as free citizens. They will subjugate Earth, merging the Ark of Destruction with the Time Fault in an unholy union. Oh Teresa, where are you when we need you the most?
Emerging from the White Comet’s fog is Admiral Baruze’s white Apocalix-class carrier, followed by two black variants. We get a slow panning shot of the three ships as they make their way toward Earth, dozens of other ships advancing far ahead of them.
We see the celebratory launching pad for the Andromeda-class battleships, ravaged and burning. Several D-class dreadnoughts lay scattered in the ocean, a lone Garmillas defense laser left to defend the installation against incoming invaders. With one shot, it takes down three Calaklum battleships.
[AMB]: Hopeless. That’s the only word needed to describe this situation. It was just as hopeless in the original works, so no surprise there, but at least Earth’s putting up a fight this time, like the opening scene of Be Forever Yamato. It’s very poignant to have the location where the Earth-Garmillas alliance celebrated their union become its last vestige of their planetary defense. Now it’s battered and burning under heavy clouds of smoke. The symbol of Earth’s recovery now meets its end.
As the Calaklum ships drop toward the ocean, Baruze’s fleet arrives. One of the black Apocalix carriers launches a squadron of Deathvatators against the U.N.C.F. launching platform. They unanimously fire their missiles at the installation, obliterating it in tune to the pipe organ theme’s final notes; raining death and destruction. And then, the organ goes silent. A mushroom cloud fills the scene.
[AMB]: The Gatlantean vessels that arrived prior to Baruze seem to be Kukulkans from afar, though I can’t be quite sure. Another interesting tidbit is that the black Apocalix carriers carry black Deathvatators, indicating that they’re some elite force. Or mass-production models, take your pick.
Also, when the White Comet obscured the sunlight with its massive body, some traces of red remained around Earth. At first I thought some sunlight made it through, but I actually think it’s the red fire of destruction, attacks being carried out across Earth. While the Time Fault is Gatlantis’ main objective, Earth as a whole still needs to be subjugated. As Goenitz speaks, a more subdued version of the White Comet pipe organ theme plays, mirroring how the Earth invasion is presented musically in Farewell.
With Earth’s final defenses taken care of, Baruze’s fleet moves in position above the capital. The view from the ground is that of gigantic ships clouding even the White Comet’s blue light, these massive hunks of metal causing tremors wherever they go. Glass windows are left shaking, the ground rumbles. Spaceship engines overpower any other noise, the Apocalix on its own covering the city. Earthlings and Garmillans all look up in horror and awe as Goenitz’s appeal to surrender continues, no longer transmitted to just the U.N.C.F. H.Q.
“This planet will never again see the light of the sun. The land and the sea will dry up without supporting any life. Henceforth, our charity will be your sole sustenance.”
[AMB]: There’s some fun environmental details in this scene, from glass buildings trembling in the face of Gatlantis’ battleships to traffic being stuck and some people taking out their phones to record the event. The apocalypse (Apocalix?) may be here but that won’t stop the people from taking out their phones. It’s a scene that, while effective in a home cinema setting, was uniquely dreadful to witness at the theatre. There, the intense soundscape truly made you feel overwhelmed, all hope for the future bleeding away. It probably evoked the exact same feelings the 1978 audience felt in Farewell.
Look closely at the single shot of a windowed building when the ship passes over, casting a reflection (above left). It’s very subtle, but every single pane of glass is vibrating independently, as it would in real life. In animation terms, that means a separate moving image had to be mapped onto the surface of each window; an enormous amount of labor for a shot that lasts a few seconds. Now THAT’S a commitment to quality.
A mother holds her child tight. An old man’s mouth is agape in fear. A family watches a news broadcast when the power goes out. Buildings go dark throughout the city as Gatlantean ships deactive the power grid.
“Revere the Emperor. If you want to live, be loyal. Only those who have demonstrated their capability will be allowed to live on as slaves.”
[KC]: Well, on the bright side, he’s not going to destroy the planet anymore, so…things are looking up?
[AMB]: Neither sunlight nor electricity is to be found in this dark future. Neither hope nor faith. Only subjugation, and only for those deemed worthy to act as living experiments for Gatlantis. Experiments to improve humanity, to assess what to keep for the next generation and how to best keep up Gatlantean rule in the meantime. But again, only those deemed necessary, loyal and superb enough as samples will be allowed to live on. A true dystopia, devoid of any real future.
People on the street watch the situation unfold and listen in fear of what’s to come. Garmillan men can’t avert their eyes. An Earthling couple holds each other tight, refusing to let go. A man with glasses stands alone, unsure of what to do or what to say. Then, a young child grabs his hand and asks him with a broad smile; “What happened to Yamato?” The man turns his gaze to the child as the Yamato theme starts creeping in. The boy continues. “When Yamato comes, they’ll take those guys out for us, right? Right?”
The adult with the child has no answer, but the word starts to spread through the crowd; Yamato.
[AMB]: It wouldn’t be Soldiers of Love without this scene. While everyone else sinks into despair, this lone child brings up the obvious question. “What about Yamato?” It may seem hopeless, like there’s no way to win, no way to survive. But then again, wasn’t it Yamato who overcame that hopeless scenario in 2199? The ship that helped bridge peace between Earth and Garmillas? Yes it was. And this time the effect is magnified. The BGM for this scene is Yamato under the setting sun, first heard at the end of 2199 Episode 1. The ship of hope; Yamato.
Some people salute resolutely toward the sky. Others organize to find out whatever they can about Yamato, crowding around phones whether they’re Garmillans or Earthlings.
“Haven’t they already sunk?” Someone asks.
“No, that name (Yamato) wasn’t listed among the destroyed fleets.”
Then, a lone old man cracks a wide smile, his eyes hidden. The scene only reveals his black moustache and grey hair.
“That’s right. We still have Yamato!”
As the crowd chatter continues something else comes over them; hope. The Yamato theme peaks.
[AMB]: Unity in the face of adversity; that’s Yamato. And so, it’s also humanity. A lone middle aged man vocalizes the audience’s united thought, that we have Yamato. The composition of the shot makes you wonder who he’s supposed to be. When the question was posed directly to Director Nobuyoshi Habara, he explained that this was originally going to be Executive Producer Shoji Nishizaki. Back in 1978, Yoshinobu Nishizaki himself was drawn into this exact scene, and Habara wanted to do his son the same honor. However, Shoji declined, not wanting to make a spectacle of himself. So instead, Habara went with an unidentifiable “everyman” figure who could literally be a member of the viewing audience.
At U.N.C.F. Headquarters, Commander Todo empathically utters the name of the ship synonymous with Earth’s salvation in the last war; “Yamato!”
The theme music rises to a crescendo and we get a closeup of Captain Okita’s Memorial on Hero’s Hill.
[AMB]: Todo seems overtaken with regret for what he’s allowed to happen in the post-war years, and for neglecting to keep Okita’s promise to Starsha. This realization takes us to Okita’s statue, his eye no longer hidden in shadow. Practically, it’s because of the White Comet’s overwhelming light. But from a purely mythological perspective, one could view this as Okita’s spirit waking up to stare mankind’s oppressors right in the eye; staring down the White Comet. Even in death, Captain Juzo Okita is a certified inspirational badass.
We close with the widest shot yet; Planet Earth, dwarfed by the Comet. The music has now faded out. The Comet unleashes an otherwordly, crashing screech as the picture fades to black.
[AMB]: From Okita’s spirit blazing through the eyes of his statue to the dread-inducing light and sound of the White Comet; that’s quite the juxtaposition. His life and spirit was exchanged for Earth’s salvation in the previous series, so I like to think he’s actually here, glaring defiantly at Zordar. But whether or not he actually is, it doesn’t matter, as long as his character inspires us. Sometimes, you just have to have faith, even in the face of such overwhelming adversity. Overcoming great odds, that’s Yamato. And guarding Earth’s spirit in their wake? That’s Okita. What a magnificent beginning of the end!
[KC]: I came into this series expecting to be disappointed with Dessler’s part in it and relatively indifferent to the rest of the plot. I could not have been more wrong, and that wrongness culminates in this episode. I have already watched it more than once. I know that there are still cool things to come. But damn. This episode was superb.
[AMB]: I have one more thing to say about the music. In the cinematic version of Chapter 7 there was only one ending song From Yamato with Love, sung by Kenji Sawada. On the blu-ray releases, Episode 23 featured the return of Crimson Red by Hoshino Yuya, marking Dessler’s exit from 2202. The next few ending songs will follow a similar pattern, each coinciding with a different exit (like Kato’s) or a different theme (like harmony).
Theatrical release: Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love Chapter 7: New Star Chapter contained episodes 23-26. It premiered in Japanese theaters March 1, 2019.
Japanese video: Theater-exclusive Blu-ray March 1, 2019. Standard Blu-ray & DVD April 26, 2019
First Japanese TV broadcast: March 8, 2019
American debut: April 6, 2019 (streaming) November 26, 2019 (home video)
Click here for a complete BGM collection for Episode 23.
Episode Director: Kentaro Tokiwa
Storyboard: Yuichi Nihei
Chief Animation Director: Akihisa 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