The Mysterious Revival of Captain Okita

I thought he was dead, but he’s alive! The reason Captain Okita came back to life is so unexpected!

by Rikao Yanagita
Senior Researcher, Dream-Science Laboratory

Published November 19, 2021 by Yahoo News. See the original article here.

Hi, I’m Rikao Yanagida from the Institute of Fantasy Science. I enjoy discussing manga, anime, and tokusatsu shows from the perspective of science fiction.

In manga, anime, and tokusatsu it is not uncommon for a character who was supposed to be dead to turn out to be alive. For example, in the ending of Ultraman, it was a “promise” that Hayata, who was supposedly killed by a monster, would appear waving his hand cheerfully and saying, “Hey!” In that case, viewers knew that Hayata was still alive, and that was why they could watch the program with peace of mind.

However, there are sometimes unexpected moments in which characters the viewers thought were dead reappear after a long time. Of course, we are happy when our favorite characters are still alive. But when a character reappears unexpectedly, it’s a surprise. Here, I’d like to introduce a character who surprised me immensely.

Illustration by Yutaka Kondo. Sado: “Looks like he’s dying.” Okita: “It’s too early to tell…”

Captain Okita is still alive!

The final episode of Space Battleship Yamato, which shines in the history of Japanese anime, was very moving. The 296,000 light-year round trip to Iscandar is finally coming to an end. From the window of the captain’s quarters, we can see the Earth. Our home planet is getting bigger and bigger.

Captain Juzo Okita says, “Earth…everything is so nostalgic…” He looks lovingly at the photo he took with his son and daughter-in-law. Eventually, he lowers it and passes away peacefully.

At the same time, the crew of Yamato, unaware of the captain’s death, is excited about approaching Earth. The ship’s doctor, Sakezo Sado, is unable to inform them of the captain’s death. With the young people on board, filled with joy and hope, Yamato returns to Mother Earth. The end.

It’s a heartbreaking ending, even when I write it down like this.

In the movie Farewell to Yamato and the TV version Yamato 2 that were released afterward, there was a bronze statue of Captain Okita. Under the statue on “Hero’s Hill,” Yamato‘s crew drinks together. The magnitude of the captain’s accomplishments and the depth of human hopes were palpable.

However, several years later (three years in the story) Captain Okita suddenly came back to life in the fifth movie, Final Yamato. His first words are broadcast to the crew hurrying to get ready for launch.

“This is Juzo Okita, the first captain of Yamato! Prepare the ship for launch! All hands to your stations!”

How surprised the crew must have been; a man who had died several years ago and even had a bronze statue erected was speaking to them. Susumu Kodai and his crew hurriedly assembled, and Captain Okita appeared.

“Don’t worry. As you can see, I’m alive and well. I’ll explain later!”

No, it’s not that I’m worried, it’s just that it’s so awkward. Please explain it properly.

The explanation was given after Yamato had left the atmosphere and entered cruising mode. In the presence of Captain Okita, Dr. Sado said to Kodai and the others, “It was a misdiagnosis on my part.”

He made a misdiagnosis? Dr. Sado made a mistake in judging life and death? According to law, only a doctor can determine a person’s death. Doctors diagnose a person as dead when all of the following three criteria are met:

(1) Stopped heartbeat
(2) Cessation of breathing
(3) Loss of light reflex in the pupils

What exactly did Dr. Sado do wrong? If you review the scene in question, you see that as soon as Dr. Sado enters the captain’s quarters, he tightens his expression and salutes on the spot! He hadn’t checked any of the above three criteria. He just looked at Okita from the doorway! This was already a problem before the misdiagnosis.

According to the film, Captain Okita was still alive when Yamato returned to Earth. So, on the orders of the Director of the Earth Defense Force, a special medical team was immediately formed. Emergency surgery was performed, and the captain spent a long time recuperating afterwards.

I’m very happy for him. But the Earth Defense Forces were fully aware of his survival, weren’t they? And yet, they erected a bronze statue on Hero’s Hill? This is a surprising revival of Captain Okita.

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