The New Voyage Commentary, Part 2

Back up to part 1

The Great Magellanic Cloud: Dessler is told they are nearly at their destination. He is specific about the last time he was here: 18 months and 23 days ago. This segues into a flashback of the battle of Gamilas. This battle took place 04/23/2200. 18 months and 23 days gives us the date of 11/15/2201, which is hard to fit into the Yamato 2 storyline. Yamato 2‘s first episode took place from Oct 7 to Oct 10 of 2201, which means the entirety of the trip to Telezart and fight with the Comet Empire would have to fit in a few days to match Dessler’s dialogue. But maybe he’s referring to a Gamilas calendar.

Dessler’s thoughts drift to Starsha, revealing that he harbors strong feelings for the Queen of Iscandar.

Production note: In this flashback scene, the famous painting of Starsha by Leiji Matsumoto reappears on screen after a long absence. The original painting went missing for many years afterward. According to Matsumoto, it was “on loan” to Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki and was never returned. However, a high-resolution art print of it was published in the Yamato Resurrection Complete Box (2010), so evidently the original has been found again.

Dessler is relieved to be “home” again, until they approach closer. Then he sees strange ships in the inner crust of Gamilas. Someone else got here first. There is a mining operation under way, with a tanker and a small defensive escort.

Deleted scene: a small ship with two long, mechanical arms picks up a capsule of mined molten rock and loads it on the tanker.

From Dessler’s reaction, he considers the strip-mining of his planet to be sacrilege. He orders his forces to follow him and attack. Although the defensive escort moves to retaliate, not a single Gamilas ship appears to be lost in the engagement.

During the battle, the animators tried a new effect: a live-action explosion appears behind animated debris. It’s a bit jarring, and I can see why they never tried it again.

Production note: When the film was first broadcast in 1979, the sea of Mothertown briefly appeared as a background in this sequence. The error was fixed when the film was rerun in August 1980.

The movie cuts away from the battle to reveal the enemy for the first time: the Dark Nebula Empire, led by Commander Deda. They look a bit more alien than the races we’ve seen before. They have pale green-gray skin, no hair, and long, narrow eyes. Their eyes are all blue except for their black pupils. Deda is told of the battle on Gamilas. His flagship Pleiades moves out to join the battle.

Production note: In the Hideaki Yamamoto script draft Deda was named Vargas and his ship did not yet have a name. Other enemy names also hadn’t been finalized. Meldars (his commanding officer) was named Gabochin, and the Dark Nebula Empire itself was called Uralia. All these names were holdovers from story develoment, and were changed in the final draft.

Voice actor role call: Deda was voiced by Kosei Tomita, who previously played General Zabaibal in Farewell and Series 2. Meldars was voiced by Koji Nakata, famous for the British sfx puppet series Thunderbirds and Ninja Kamui Gaiden.

Pleiades is disk-shaped, like the smaller defense ships at Gamilas, with a large command tower in the middle. Oh, and it’s mostly black. This is rather important symbolism. In Japan, the term “black ships” (kurofune) is shorthand for the threat of western technology. It refers to U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry’s ships, both in terms of the color of the ships themselves and the black coal smoke that rose from their funnels. In 1853, Perry demanded that Japan, which was a closed country at the time, open up trade with the U.S. under threat of force. Speculating that the Dark Nebula Empire is a stand-in for the United States is even more interesting when you notice that their military is dressed like super-heroes: skin-tight unitards with capes. Capes!

At Gamilas, the battle continues to rage. Some DNE beams hit their own mining operation, starting a chain reaction that consumes the entire planet. Dessler and his forces escape with mere moments to spare before the planet explodes, and are somehow unaffected by the massive shockwave that would result from such a large explosion. Dessler is driven to his knees by his home planet’s destruction, calling it a “cruel ending.”

Gamilas and Iscandar were a binary planet system, and with its twin gone, Iscandar is flung off into deep space. Dessler orders his forces to pursue.

Elsewhere, the Dark Nebula forces have the same idea. Commander Deda’s superior, General Meldars, orders him to chase down Iscandar. They need the ore of Gamilas and Iscandar to provide energy for their wars.

Earth’s solar system: near Mars, training of the Yamato cadets continues. Kodai leaves Kitano in command of the bridge while he joins Sakamoto and the Cosmo Tigers for training maneuvers in the asteroid field.

Deleted scene: Kodai launches with the Cosmo Tigers, piloting his own Cosmo Zero. On the battleship, Yamazaki tries to keep the cadets in line and the engine’s energy levels up. One Engine Room cadet fears he won’t make it through the day at this pace. Tokugawa responds that he can expect worse to come with Kodai in charge.

The Tigers enter a thick cluster in the asteroid field and weave in and out between the rocks, firing their guns. Sakamoto begins to have fun and it almost kills him. He’s busy shooting asteroids in front of him, missing one that’s about to collide with him from behind. Kodai shouts out a warning before destroying it himself. He barks at Sakamoto to pay attention, then orders the fighters to withdraw; Yamato is coming into range.

On the bridge, Kitano gives the order to prep the main guns for firing. Nanbu repeats the order to the gunners, then tells Kitano this should have been done already. The cadet gunners in the second cannon experience some trouble aiming properly, prompting a sharp rebuke from Nanbu.

Story note: Taking larger continuity into account, it’s likely that gunners Sakimaki and Nishina have just joined the crew, since their first appearance in Series 3 depicts them lording it over fresh recruits in another such battle exercise.

Kitano, perhaps to make up for the delayed order earlier, issues the command to fire as soon as his gunnery board is green. Nanbu shouts to wait, but it’s too late. The three forward turrets fire. The shock cannon beams head right for the Cosmo Tigers, forcing them to scatter.

Production note: Kodai berates Kitano with the line, “This is no joke, Kitano!” In a previous draft of the script, his line was a dire threat: “Your heart will fill with fear, Kitano!” This would have been quite out of character, though, so the intention was probably something like, “Don’t scare us like that!”

By the time the “Yamato Solar System Tour” reaches Jupiter, training is over. Kitano and Sakamoto stand before Kodai. Kitano is up first, taken to task for firing while the fighters were in range. “If the gunners were better shots, we’d have lost several aircraft,” Kodai says. Kitano apologizes. Sakamoto is next. Kodai admits he’s a great pilot, but he’s careless. Sakamoto bridles under the criticism and starts to defend himself, but Kodai tells him his antics would have made him dangerous to his own men in a real firefight. Kodai has special punishment in mind for the two: they are to run around the ship in their underwear.

The “march of the underwear” is a big hit with the rest of the crew. Dr. Sado and Analyzer remind the cheering spectators that they could be next. Analyzer pushes a trio out of the hallway just as the runners go by. After they pass, he turns to look at Sakamoto and Kitano. Does this mean Analyzer has a thing for guys’ underwear too?

Iscandar: the planet is experiencing wild weather patterns as a result of its new trajectory. Huge storms, choppy seas and chunks of ice blow through the sky. Iscandar is moving away from its sun, Sanzar, and is starting to cool off, eventually to become a solid ball of ice. Several buildings in Mothertown fall, but the main citadel remains standing.

The weather patterns interfere with communications, but Dessler finally gets through to Starsha and Mamoru Kodai. He offers them a place aboard their ship as both a friend and neighbor. Starsha admits she never expected an offer like that from him, but she refuses. Her reasons seem much the same as the ones she gave for remaining on the planet before: it is her home and she will not abandon it, no matter what.

Production notes: In Yamato continuity, the last time we saw Mamoru and Starsha was in Series 1, episode 25, broadcast March 23, 1975. The New Voyage was broadcast four years and four months later. In all that time, apparently Mamoru never abandoned his EDF peacoat. (Though he was given a different outfit in a deleted scene.)

Starsha’s original voice actress in Series 1 was Michiko Hirai, but changed to Miyuki Ueda this time, who previously played Teresa in Farewell. She was an active performer, having played the heroines in all three parts of the “Romantic Robot Trilogy:” Combattler V, Voltes V, and Daimos. She returned to play Starsha in Be Forever and revived the role one more time for the 2010 live-action Yamato movie.

Mamoru asks Dessler to tell his brother he had a happy life with Starsha. This is a strange request, since as far as Mamoru knows, Dessler still has a blood-oath against Yamato. Mamoru should have no way of knowing what transpired between Earth, Dessler, and the Comet Empire. Perhaps Starsha’s mysterious “all-knowing” power (as seen in Series 1, episode 15) allowed her to detect Dessler’s change of heart.

Part of Dessler’s plea for Starsha and Mamoru to make a quick escape is because Iscandar’s speed will cause it to warp soon. After Starsha’s refusal, a large section of the planet erupts, causing it to accelerate and enter the beginning stages of warp. Dessler orders his forces to follow. More surprisingly, he commands that information about the situation be sent to Earth. Specifically to Kodai.

The narrator calls warping “beyond human comprehension.” I agree, because I don’t understand the physics of a warping planet, and the script offers very little in the way of explanation.

Film critic Roger Ebert wrote an article about suspension of disbelief, where he compared it to a magic trick. You know the magician is performing some sleight of hand, but good magicians are so adept at it, you wind up being entertained even though you know it’s trickery. But if a magician asks you to close your eyes while he does his trick, it’s usually a sign that he’s not very good. This is how I feel about this situation, that Iscandar is somehow a magic planet that does impossible tricks, and we’re asked to just close our eyes and accept it.

Animation gets a bit more leeway as far as suspension of disbelief is concerned, but it should still be consistent with the tone of the show, or storytelling suffers. (The Simpsons had a wonderful take on the “it’s just a cartoon” argument: after Bart and Lisa finished watching an incomprehensible cartoon, they complain about its lack of realism. Homer responds, “No one expects cartoons to be realistic!” As he sits back on his couch, smugly satisfied with himself, another Homer Simpson walks by outside the window.)

Iscandar warping and pinballing around the galaxy doesn’t make any sense to me, nor is there any attempt to justify it. OK, granted, we’re dealing with a fictional universe with some wonky physics, but never to the level required for a warping planet. We’ve seen ships warp, but we also know the basics about how they do it: specialized engines that require “a great deal of precision and power.” The consequences of warping without perfect coordination are said to be catastrophic.

Now, there’s an addendum: planets can just warp on their own.

Iscandar isn’t a ship. It doesn’t have an engine. It’s a planet, and though our real-life science is well below creating faster than light engines, we’ve pretty much figured out how planets behave. They don’t travel faster-than-light. Maybe there’s an in-story explanation. Earth got its FTL Wave-Motion Engine from Iscandar. Maybe there actually is an engine on Iscandar, a failsafe designed to warp the planet in case of a situation like this. (After all, Gamilas was expected to explode sooner or later.)

It’s also possible that, as Iscandarian scientists were developing Wave-Motion tech, one of their tests changed the properties of the planet itself. It’s…I dunno…slightly shifted out of phase with reality, allowing it to warp when it reaches a certain sub-light velocity. (It might be fun to tie in this experiment-gone-awry to the extinction of the Iscandarians and their quickened aging. This could also explain why Iscandar looked transparent in some of the animation.)

Perhaps it’s related to those minerals the Dark Nebula Empire is after. If so, that’s never made explicit in the dialogue. If warping requires some special mineral or metal to work, it’s never been mentioned. Furthermore, it would have to be a material available to Earth or they wouldn’t have been able to build a Wave-Motion Engine in the first place. Maybe Iscandarium is the same thing as Cosmonite [Titanite in Star Blazers]?

Maybe there are “warp fissures” in space that teleport whatever falls into them?

As Ebert notes, suspension of disbelief isn’t a given, it has to be earned. I shouldn’t have to massage the story with my own theories in order for it to make sense.

Reading through various story drafts, it appears several of them suggested tachyon particles are released in the Gamilas explosion and the volcanic activity on Iscandar. I wish this explanation was put forth in the movie itself.

Deleted scene: On Earth, Dessler’s message is received at EDF headquarters. The commander’s aide [General Stone] informs him of this strange development.

On Yamato, Aihara receives the same message, to the astonishment of the crew. Sanada has a brief flashback to the scene of Mamoru running off with Starsha (a scene he wasn’t actually present for.) After the flashback, Sanada urges Kodai to go to his aid.

Production note: At this point, Kitano asks, “He was your friend, Sanada, wasn’t he?” This begs the question of how much trivia about these war heroes happens to be floating around in Space Fighter Training School. Or maybe one of the questions on their final exam reads: “Name the captain of former EDF missile destroyer Yukikaze who now lives on Iscandar and was a friend of Yamato chief engineer Shiro Sanada.”

Deleted scene: Kodai walks off the bridge, ignoring Yuki when she calls after him. In Kodai’s cabin, he and Yuki have a discussion about whether they should help his brother. Kodai feels it would be selfish of him to use his command for personal gain. Yuki counters that all of Earth owes Starsha a debt, so they need to help her in any way they can. Aihara interrupts their discussion when he calls Kodai back to the bridge.

Commander Todo [Singleton] appears on the main video panel to discuss Dessler’s message. Kodai believes they can trust it. Kodai says it would take seven days of continuous warp to get to Iscandar. (Wow, a trip that took almost a whole year is now down to a week! But then, Iscandar isn’t in the same place any more.) Todo tells them to leave at once. Kodai is reluctant to undertake the mission, pointing out that they are staffed with trainees, and Yamato is Earth’s only protection. Todo says they owe a debt to Starsha and are honor-bound to help her.

After Todo breaks contact, Kodai again expresses concern about the cadets. Kitano speaks for all the trainees, saying they are Yamato‘s crew and will carry out their captain’s orders.

As the ship starts off on its new course, there’s an animation gaffe where Jupiter and one of its moons are superimposed over it.

The new crew prepares for its first warp. Down in the engine room, Tokugawa and a new cadet strap themselves in their seats. Tokugawa warns his comrade that warping will render him unconscious. “What happens if I don’t wake up?” asks the cadet. “Then I won’t have to listen to your moaning,” Tokugawa replies. It’s nice to see the young Tokugawa getting comfortable enough in his position to joke like this.

The ship warps successfully.

Production notes: previously, the effects design for a warp made it look as if all of space was distorting, but now it looks something like shiny aluminum foil covers the ships before they fade off. This was the first attempt to evolve the effect, which took another leap forward in Be Forever. This is also the last time we hear the soundtrack with the tense, high-pitched piano tones.

The script draft by Hideaki Yamamoto had an additional exchange between Tokugawa and the cadet. They come out of warp and the cadet sighs with relief. Tokugawa tells him, “Don’t be too relieved. They said we’ll do this three times a day.” Welcome to life aboard Space Battleship Yamato, newbie.

Continue to part 3

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