Strategic Invasion of the Imperial City!
By Arthur Painter (with notes from Tim Eldred)
Production note: this penultimate episode is as action-heavy as any single half-hour of anime can be. Of course, it has the advantage of following Farewell to Yamato and reusing some of its most frenetic scenes, but fewer than you might think. Choosing which ones to use and stitching them seamlessly into the new action was the job of storyboard artist Takeshi Shirato. Shirato is the single most experienced Yamato veteran today, having served in virtually every artistic capacity from Series 1 all the way to Yamato Resurrection. Read more about him here.
This is an extra-long episode. Like the Battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster episode in Series 1, the Japanese version did not include the standard opening theme. Instead, the episode starts cold with production credits over the opening sequence. Star Blazers cut away every time a credit appeared, or simply froze on a static shot instead. There were at least a half dozen such edits in the first two minutes, unavoidable since the Japanese screen text was not removeable. (Actually, the extended length was a godsend to the editors of Star Blazers, since they had to cut more scenes from this episode than any other.)
The Argo is underwater, submerged beneath the huge Comet Empire fortress, which is floating off the coast of “Great Island” (Japan). Wildstar prepares his men to attack the “Comet…Emmmm-pire!” (Ken Meseroll really had to stretch out the line to match the lip-sync.) As we were told last episode, the Argo only has torpedoes at its disposal.
After the torps are readied, Wildstar orders the Black Tigers to attack Gatlantis City. The fighters damage a building or two, but it’s apparent they are not going to take it down this way. Still, the audacity of the attack offends the Comet Empire’s “royal court.” To the Tigers’ credit, they score a lucky hit on one of the city’s power stations.
Both Desslok and Gideon passed along the advice to strike the Comet Empire from underneath, which really isn’t all that helpful considering the sheer size of the fortress. Wildstar opts to attack the very bottom, sending four torpedoes to the south pole of the half-sphere underbelly. It doesn’t do a great deal of damage, but serves to get the attention of Zordar. He’s suspicious right from the start: “Why did they attack there? Where did they get the idea?”
Invidia wonders out loud, “Why didn’t Desslok defeat [the Star Force]?” Considering all she did to interfere with Desslok’s campaign against them, there’s a note of irony in this comment. Invidia’s character in Yamato 2, Sabella, refers to the Yamato as “annoying” in the original.
Zordar chooses to fight in space, and the fortress lifts off. As it pulls out of the water, the equatorial belt spins, creating a gaseous shield around the city that takes out several Black Tigers. Others get blown away by anti-aircraft fire. Yamato 2 contains a clip of a fighter pilot’s blood-curdling scream right before his plane disintegrates. Conroy orders his squadron to disengage.
The fortress lifts off (with a brief pause for the Yamato 2 episode title) and the Argo pursues, reusing footage of the ship’s ocean liftoff from Farewell to Yamato. (It’s a classic scene, so this is not a complaint.) As the Argo gives chase, they are cheered on by EDF Commander Singleton and the crowds around Megalopolis, including Jordy Venture.
Production Note: The hemisphere ring of the city fortress fires missiles and lasers; in this episode of Yamato 2, Kodai refers to it as a gatling gun. It was called the Enemy Vacan [Vulcan] gun in the original Japanese script.
Once they’re in space, the Comet Empire counter-attacks, both with equatorial belt cannons and disc-shaped “Itar II” fighter planes. The Black Tigers take on the fighters. The Argo takes several hits to its foredeck, including rounds that strike medium shock cannon #1 (the cannon closest to the bridge tower) and the second bridge (where Yamato 2 shows some of the crew getting blasted). The ship moves in underneath the Comet Empire where the belt guns can’t reach them. But the Star Force continues to look for the vulnerable point. There are no obvious weak spots underneath. They aren’t given much of a chance to look, since huge anti-ship guns emerge and open fire.
In Yamato 2, the weak point (a hatch allowing access to the fortress’ interior) is discovered by Shinmai [Royster] down in the second bridge. As he’s crunching the numbers through his computer, he’s shaken by a nearby explosion. He calms his nerves by grooming himself in a mirror, remembering his Grandma’s admonition to always appear neat. (He’s rather vain for such a nerdy character, a trait we saw in an earlier episode.) Just when the computer comes up with the answer, Royster is blown off his feet by an explosion. Badly injured, he crawls over to the computer and radios the answer up to Sanada [Sandor]. Then the console explodes, killing him.
Sanada is momentarily overcome after hearing the death of his subordinate. Kodai [Wildstar] sends Yuki [Nova] down to help the crew of the 2nd bridge. Meanwhile, Kodai has the ship’s camera point in the direction Shinmai indicated. Once they’re looking in the right spot, Star Blazers rejoins the scene. Sandor sees the planes exiting through a hatch disguised as a crater.
As Wildstar plans his assault, Knox and three marines appear on the bridge to volunteer. It’s never stated outright, but these are the only Marines left. There were only about 20 survivors from the Brumis base, and they have been painfully whittled down to these four. Wildstar warns them it will be dangerous, which Knox just shrugs off with a flip comment. Sandor insists on going along to determine where to do the most damage once they’re inside.
Story note: at this point, there has been two major plot change from Farewell to Yamato: Dessler [Desslok] and Yuki [Nova] are both still alive. But fans who watched this episode in its broadcast premiere had no way of knowing whether or not more death scenes would be altered. Now that everyone who went into the Comet Empire fortress in the movie had lined up to do the same in the TV series, the tension would have been climbing rapidly among Japanese viewers.
In short order, a second wave of fighters is launched: Hardy’s squadron. Wildstar and his escort soon engage the enemy fighters. Hardy [Yamamoto] meets his end here when his fighter is hit and starts burning up. He salutes Wildstar as he crashes into the side of the fortress. This scene was lifted directly from Farewell to Yamato, complete with elbow sticking out of the cockpit, and was removed from Star Blazers. (Hardy fans will be glad to note his character survives in the Yamato 2 version of the Playstation game. After his fighter crashes, he’s seen rising away in his ejected seat. See a clip on YouTube here.)
Production note: most of the scenes in this battle sequence were animated for Farewell to Yamato by Yoshinori Kanada, master of high-energy anime kinetics. Read our tribute to him here.
Dash, meanwhile, gets the main guns to blast open the “crater-door” for Wildstar and his group. Last episode, we were told that the main guns were unusable. Here, they seem to work just fine. The three forward turrets are fired, despite the fact that one of the cannons (medium shock cannon # 1) was nearly blasted out of its mounting earlier.
Once inside the fortress, they encounter resistance from enemy fighters. Although they’re in a fairly spacious area, it’s not ideal for a dogfight. Derek leads his fighters to the landing strip, taking fire from troops lining the area as they touch down. In Yamato 2 a fighter smashes into the barrier at the end of the strip, taking out several enemy troops. Wildstar leaps out of his Superstar’s cockpit and performs some cool action-hero moves to return fire. Other pilots jump from their planes to defend the landing strip, taking out a few enemy gunners. Wildstar leads Sandor, Knox, and the three Marines into the fortress’ inner depths.
“That’s their idea of an invasion force?” scoffs Gorce, watching Wildstar’s group on his monitors. Dyar wants to seal off the energy center, but Invidia doesn’t see the need. They’ll just inform the guards in that section. Gorce is going to report the situation to Zordar, but Invidia stops him, insisting that the three of them can deal with the intruders.
The six-man invasion force manages to evade detection. In fact, they seem to have wandered into an unmanned section of the fortress. (Perhaps much of the Comet City’s personnel were in the fleet that perished at Saturn, leaving only a skeleton crew behind?) While following Sandor’s energy-reading device, they wander into an ambush. Floodlights come on and multiple shots are fired, but the “main character shield” protects our three heroes (at least for now). Knox’s fellow nameless Marines, however, get cut down. Star Blazers removed their deaths, so their fate is left to the viewer’s imagination.
The three men use the Comet Empire’s waste disposal system to reach their destination area. Despite the loss of his men and their current circumstances, Knox jokes about the enemy being able to smell them coming.
The Comet Empire doesn’t rely on just troops. They have automated defenses as well, as our heroes discover when they trip an alarm. Fortunately, they are given enough of a warning to duck behind a corner, although Sandor gets one of his bionic legs shot off. Knox engages the enemy troops coming in through the door, while the other two quickly decide on a plan of action. Sandor will stay behind as a rear guard while Knox and Wildstar continue the mission.
Story note: here is a significant change from Farewell: Sanada [Sandor] is unable to proceed with Kodai [Wildstar] and Saito [Knox] to the energy control center. The fans watching on TV probably breathed a sigh of relief here, since Sanada walked to his death in the movie.
Invidia is horrified to learn that the energy control center has been breached. Once again, she attempts to handle things without Zordar’s knowledge. But this time he appears and demands to know what she thinks she’s doing. For once, she doesn’t have an answer.
Sandor is interrupted from his one-man battle to advise Knox (by radio) on setting the explosives. Sandor’s holding action hasn’t been all one-sided, judging by the blood running down his face. In Yamato 2, he once again proves that his talent isn’t restricted to the sciences, adding at least two more kills to his record in this sequence.
Having been given advice on where to place the bombs, all Wildstar and Knox have to do is cross a long, narrow catwalk to the energy core. Before they can do that, armed guards pour into the overhead balconies and start firing down on the pair. They duck behind cover, but now face the problem of crossing the catwalk.
Knox tells Wildstar that he will cross over by himself. Wildstar is horrified at the thought, but Knox insists. “I never got the chance to thank you for saving me and my men on Brumis. It’s hard for me to say things.” It’s a touching scene, even more so when you realize all the Marines the Star Force saved are gone and the last one is now saying goodbye. Knox didn’t volunteer for the Star Force’s mission, but he’s offering his life to complete it.
Knox charges, dodging and returning fire, while Wildstar covers him (taking out two of the enemy in Yamato 2). Knox makes it across and urges Wildstar to escape. Knox insists that he’ll escape in another plane, but it’s obviously a lie. Tears in his eyes, Wildstar dashes out the way he came. A pair of troops appears in front of him. In Yamato 2, he mows them down, running past them before their bodies hit the floor. (Another classic scene preserved from Farewell.)
Wildstar makes it back to Sandor, who has continued to build up a body count on his own. They make their way back to the landing strip, where Conroy appears to be the only one left fighting. All three climb in the last remaining Astro Fighter. (So much for Knox’s mention of another plane.) Conroy, blood running down his face and grunting in pain, climbs in the pilot’s seat and launches.
Knox is obviously injured as he plants the last charge. Then troops are suddenly running toward him. Knox is now on the floor. He lifts his head and presses the detonator. The entire area goes up in a giant explosion.
Yamato 2 fills in all the missing pieces of this sequence. Saito fires his gun in one hand while planting bombs with the other. He takes several lethal hits, but stubbornly remains on his feet. After he plants the last charge, a shot knocks him to the floor. The troops rush in. Uttering one final insult to his enemies, he presses the detonator.
The explosions blow up a huge portion of the fortress. Upon seeing it, Wildstar closes his eyes, overwhelmed by a sudden onslaught of grief over Knox’s loss. Moments later, Conroy skids the fighter into the Argo‘s landing bay. Wildstar thanks Conroy for getting them back safely. Star Blazers cuts to the next scene, but Yamato 2 lingers for a few more seconds…Kodai and Sanada discover Kato [Conroy] died from his injuries as they landed. But he went out with a smile of victory.
Zordar stands in the doorway of his escape craft. Invidia and Dyar beg to come along. Star Blazers altered the dialogue, having him agree on the grounds that he can use them for minor tasks, but Yamato 2‘s Zordar has finally had enough. He pronounces them unworthy of saving and leaves them behind. Sabella [Invidia] pounds on the door and pleads in vain to be let in.
The Playstation game gave her a much more fitting end. She escaped in her own craft with Genitz [Dyar]. (Razella [Gorce] got left behind in the fortress, trapped under wreckage.) Before she gets too far, she receives a warning about another ship approaching. It’s Dessler. His flagship has docked with Gamilon Tri-deck Carrier # 1, which provides power to his prime weapon. He wastes no time in powering it up and blowing Sabella away. He states that he never forgets to pay back the indignities he’s suffered. Its a wonderful little denouement that I wish had found its way into the anime.
Wildstar and Sandor arrive on the bridge, where we’re treated to the most egregious rewrite in Star Blazers. Dash tells Wildstar that “Knox got out right behind you.” It’s an obvious lie, but I have to admit it I swallowed it when I was younger. I feel I have to explain this, since I’m apparently the only one in all of fandom to be fooled.
Throughout the saga, we had seen several characters die, like Captains Avatar and Gideon, and Sparks, and we saw several Astro Fighters–always shown to be piloted– blown up. Memorial services were held for those who were lost. So, given that they had shown all this death before, if they said Knox wasn’t dead, he must not be dead. Frankly, I didn’t give it much thought back then.
In the early 90s I started collecting the VHS tapes. When I rewatched Knox’s sequence, I was blown away. I didn’t remember him dying! Then I heard Dash’s infamous line and realized “oh, that’s why.” Of course, the fact that Dash’s line is so contrary to common sense allows us to reinterpret its meaning. Yes, Knox “got out right behind” Wildstar, but Dash didn’t say in how many pieces!
Additional note from Matt Murray: It’s long been my opinion that allowing Knox to survive was a last-minute decision, if only because of the clumsy nature of its handling. Back in Series 1, Lysis’ survival involved some extensive reworking, including rewinding the film and flipping some earlier shots left-to-right to illustrate his escape. While I prefer the original Yamato version, it was pretty well done. However, nothing about Knox’s last stand seems to indicate his survival. Though the rather violent scenes of him being repeatedly shot were removed, we still see him plant explosives and immediately detonate them, precluding any possibility of escape. Wildstar looks back at the explosion and his pained reaction says it all: he knows Knox died completing his mission. Minutes later, he’s told that Knox miraculously escaped “just behind him,” and doesn’t even react to this joyful news.
Why no recycled shots of Knox flying back in another Astro fighter? Episode 9 had numerous scenes wherein he had commandeered Hardy’s fighter, including one where he wipes his forehead in a broad expression of relief. Yet all we get is an unconvincing verbal explanation, which feels like an afterthought. It seems likely that there might have been some internal debate during the editing process over which way the scene would go (Star Blazers episodes often showed drastic mood swings in terms of what was considered too violent), and the choice to keep him alive could have been made after the edit, which showed nothing of the sort, had already been finalized.
Production note: Time was almost certainly a factor in this decision as well; compared with Series 1, there was much less production time available for the conversion of Yamato 2 before it went on the air as Star Blazers. Thus, a patch-job like the one used to rewrite Lysis’ death scene was probably not feasible.
Wildstar orders an all-out assault on the fortress, and we’re treated to nicely rendered scenes of destruction lifted from Farewell. Every serviceable weapon is fired. Even the pulse lasers and counter-attack missiles are opened up. When the shock cannons are fired, some of the barrels are bent out of place and thus don’t discharge. The shock cannon energy is also pale yellow instead of blue-white, since that was their color in the movie.
Then, the Comet Empire cracks like an eggshell, giving birth to a giant battleship. The Star Force gave it all they had, but it wasn’t enough. Zordar is ready to finish the fight.