OUT Magazine: “Yamato Cocktail” Columns

Column 1

To be Called an Excellent Captain: the Meaning of the Captain in Yamato

Kodai does not become the commanding officer of Yamato this time [in Be Forever] either.

It’s miserable and depressing…but though it is not specified, the biggest reason may be that Kodai is still too young. And it also implies that a commission to become Yamato‘s Captain is hard to get.

The first commander, Captain Okita, was already an officer above reproach. In Farewell to Yamato, Hijikata served as the second-generation captain, revealing himself to be unrattled by small setbacks, with a considerable talent for big-game counterattack with fangs bared. But in Yamato 2 and The New Voyage, Kodai served quite well as temporary captain. “Then why not,” was the first thought came to my mind.

Therefore, what is the standard of excellence required of a captain? Let’s examine that.

Let’s start at the beginning of Series 1, with the conversation between Captain Okita and Kodai’s older brother Mamoru at the battle of Pluto.

At this time, Captain Okita says, “A man bears the humiliation of today for the sake of tomorrow.”

Mamoru’s response is, “I am a man who fights on, even to the death.”

Mamoru does not follow the word of Captain Okita, and instead plunges his ship into the midst of the Gamilas fleet only to be shot down. The difference here between Okita and Mamoru is what makes a real captain.

Namely, the difference between tactics and strategy. This is something to which Mamoru had given insufficient thought. For the sake of his fellow Earthmen, a victory over the undefeated Gamilas was absolutely necessary. A successful counterattack might show everyone how to fight back properly in the future. Even if Earth is destined for ruin, its extinction might be slowed just a little by throwing down the enemy. But this is just a preoccupation with short-term thinking.

At this point, Okita only thought of Yamato as a spaceship being built so a few emigrants could escape from Earth. Of course, since it did not seem that Mamoru knew about the Yamato plan, it was natural for him to think that way.

Additionally, in Farewell to Yamato, when the stigma of revolt was lifted from Kodai and the others who left Earth without permission, the EDF commander was surrounded by officers who only thought in the short-term. Although he allowed Saito and the Space Cavalry to secretly join the crew, he did so in case a threat like that of the Comet Empire materialized.

Or the battle at the planet Balan; while Geru was only thinking of power, Domel, the commander known as the Wolf of Space, used a triple-layered psychological attack to create unrest in the minds of Yamato‘s crew. Then he used the seemingly-unmoveable sun to crash into the ship. These are all tactics, but it takes a strategem to make the most of them and win the battle in the end.

Kodai, now calmer and more caring for others, gives fairly good commands. He can think of something brilliant in each battle but is still too energetic and lacks a vision of the overall big picture. That is why Hijikata or Yamanami takes command at the first battle, the most important moment, then leads Yamato to the higher ground.

But Now Kodai has reached a certain age, so I would like him to be the Captain most of all. Not only at the very end, just to die. If this doesn’t come to pass, it will seem that Kodai goes unrewarded, I guess. What do you think?

Column 2

Various Spaceships, Which is Coolest?

A spaceship that flies in vacuum can take any shape as long as it works.

The Discovery of 2001:A Space Odyssey was quite persuasive. Before that, they were mostly streamlined rocket-type vessels. Since Discovery, the trend in SF movies is detailed mechanical bumps everywhere.

I have to admit that Star Wars ships, representing machines with mechanical details, look fascinating. But it looks too dry. And though I know many fans love it, somehow I cannot put myself into it.

That is the point where Yamato is different. It has a grand, dignified style, although there is no scientific rationality behind it. (Since there is no gravity in space, it is nonsense to distinguish top and bottom.) And it does not matter anyway. It’s good enough that Yamato goes into space.

Because it is a true warship designed for combat on the open sea, it is easy to apply it to a battle in space in terms of its command and control system. And when making a drama, borrowing actual items creates reality for the crew members, such as when they climb a ladder. In short, a believable look and feel is important.

The round sphere shape of Vogt’s Beagle is tasteless. A sphere is the most logical shape with the least volume and fits in space without the concept of top or bottom, but it looks boring. The only important question is if it works well or not, and there is nothing fancy about it.

Contary to that, the Enterprise of Star Trek is quite well-made. It is a ship for space and the “now we’ll have an adventure” feel is inherent in it. Typical of spaceships in SF, some parts are streamlined and logical overall. (Although having the engine supported by thin/flat pylons doesn’t seem very sturdy.)

If you pursue this feel much deeper you come to the Arcadia in Captain Harlock. As if ignoring all logic by saying “so what?”, it looks like a collection of superfluous parts. That shows an adoration for fantasy. The mechanisms of Leiji Matsumoto overflow with this. Especially the decoration at the aft; useless, but I love it.

Its tasteful shape reminds me of Giganto from Future Boy Conan. (I know some of you think it is not a spaceship, but Giganto was meant to be used outside the atmosphere.) It is like imagining a ship from 100 years ago in a time 200 years ahead, quite interesting.

Another pick is White Base of Mobile Suit Gundam. It’s odd for it to have the wooden horse shape but it is O.K. since it has fought quite well.

I wonder which is the strongest.

The weakest is Giganto, I am certain. I don’t say this because it was crashed by the one-man-attack-force that is Conan, but because when the much smaller Falco hit it, Giganto‘s armor plating was broken.

Anyway, an overall estimation concludes that Yamato is the strongest when comparing the power of the vessel, the quality of the crew, and the capability of the captain. There is no match for the victories against space-scale civilizations utilizing warp and the Wave-Motion gun, I suppose.

Column 3

Theory of the Ideal Yamato Villain!?

Though Yamato has experience many battles in the past, I would like to recall the most impressive ones in order to hypothesize the image of an ideal villain.

First, from Part 1.

Shulz was the commander of the Gamilas advance base on Pluto, and Ganz was the adjutant who was always at his side. From Earth’s perspective, they were the first bad guys to be introduced and did the most direct harm, and until they were killed by a body blow from Yamato in the asteroid zone it was clear that they tried to perform their military duty faithfully. So I am a bit hesitant to call them villains.

Next there was Geru, who was commander of the Balan base until he was supplanted by the muscular “Mr. Universe”-style General Domel. Both were killed in the suicide attack on Yamato at the Rainbow Star Cluster. Geru was the type to be intimidated by larger men, so it was General Domel who emerged from this relationship as the real villain. He uses all the means at his disposal to defeat the heroes, however nasty. And he angered his enemies, also an essential element.

And at the very last, after attacking at full power with all he had, he still refused to admit his loss and thought of something else. He chose the way of self-destruction to derail his enemy’s destiny. A villain’s purpose is to destroy order, so he should be most destructive at the very end with his best (or worst) effort.

Next comes Emperor Dessler, the biggest enemy of Part 1 and mastermind of the attack on Earth. The first thing that comes to mind is his cruelest trait, to kill his men when they fall out of favor. And yet, he is still charismatic and earns the respect of his subordinates. Furthermore, no matter how many times he dies, he revives again to torment the heroes.

Next there is Emperor Zordar of the Comet Empire, from Farewell to Yamato.

He seems way beyond Dessler in terms of his desire for destruction and conquest, but somehow too generous and possibly too professional in conducting war and issuing commands. He saved Dessler, but did not care about Sabera’s conspiracy. Besides, his biggest enemy, Teresa, should have been defeated outright but was preserved in not-very-harsh conditions. So he seemed to me only a mild and gentle middle-aged man with a big laugh.

In The New Voyage and now Be Forever Yamato, there is Great Emperor Skaldart of the Dark Nebula Empire.

Needless to say, some characters such as Deda and Meldars died in The New Voyage, and those in Be Forever Yamato are likely to be no more important than Shulz or Domel at best. Among them, only Alphon has a different style or the daring emotion to love Yuki. It’s charming, but he is not a major enemy.

Therefore, the cold-blooded conqueror of Part 1, the obsessed avenger of Farewell and Yamato 2, as well as the fighter destined to triumph even over the enemies in The New Voyage, Dessler seems to emerge as the best image of an ideal villain.

But there is still Great Emperor Skaldart to consider.

Because there is still a chance that he could be shown as a villain who exceeds Dessler, I will withhold judgment for the time being.

Column 4

Analyzer and His Companionship: Clunky Looks and Comedy Relief are More Attractive

There are various robots appearing in anime, comics and SF movies. But only one proposed marriage to the heroine, and that was Analyzer.

I thought of Analyzer’s attitude toward Yuki as quite obscene, then there was that love scene (?), quite a surprise. [Editor’s note: this is in reference to Analyzer’s admission of love while flying with Yuki over the Bee planet.]

Beginning with Grag the future man, (from Edmond Hamilton’s Captain Future series, created prior to World War II) a robot with a human complex is an essential sidekick character, and we can find many of them. Speaking of that complex, there was an episode in which Grag worries that he is not a human being, becomes neurotic, and goes to receive psychoanalysis (?). It was an American story, after all.

Anyway, such robots act as parodies of human beings when they reach levels of high performance (almost human). Analyzer does not seem like a robot at all when he gets drunk and falls in love with a human girl.

As for Sake, it is an essential factor in Leiji Matsumoto manga. In his Sexaroid series, there is a strange Kyushu robot (it speaks with a Kyushu dialect somehow) that drinks Sake. They seem to exclusively drink robot alcohol (?) since alcohol for humans would stick and cause rust. I wonder what material they are made of.

C-3PO and R2-D2, the unique combo from Star Wars, are also interesting. I can’t say much in particular for the fragility of C-3PO. It seems to only work as a self-defense function. They also seem to be high-performance robots with feelings similar to that of humans. But it is not known whether or not they can drink alcohol.

Also, there are many comedy relief robots such as Wawa from Captain Harlock, Ro-pet from Combattler-V, Takko-chan from Voltes V, and Kairo of Daimos. It might be difficult to make robots with complicated automated functions, rather than giant robots manipulated by humans.

Now I remember more of them such as Haro from Gundam or Borot from Marude Dameo by Kenji Morita. (And now you can guess my age.) Haro can sense human brain waves and Borot writes letters to communicate since he cannot talk. Synthetic voices can be generated by computers now, but handwriting on a sketchbook (rather than typing) must be highly-advanced technology.

[Editor’s note: Marude Dameo started as a manga in 1964 and became a live-action TV series in 1966; see the opening title here.)

After all, there really isn’t a robot with the charm of Analyzer. I wonder what kind of person made it. The concept of a retro-look is smart enough. Compared to Analyzer, Koindar appeared in Yamato 2 as the most advanced model, but lacked the taste and the quality of its predecessor. [Editor’s note: “Koindar” was the original name of Dr. Sane’s medical robot, “Ms. Efficiency.”]

And finally, in the last scene of Farewell to Yamato, it would have been appropriate to include Analyzer in the sepia-toned illusion of Yamato‘s crew.

THE END

Special thanks to Sword Takeda for translation assistance.

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