Be Forever Yamato Commentary, Part 3

Back up to Part 2

Coming out into the open, Yamato finds itself faced with several Goruba-type mechanized planets (as seen in The New Voyage), led by a commander named Grotas. Yamato gets pasted by dozens of high-impact energy beams. The shock cannons respond in kind, but their energy is absorbed by the autoplanet’s armor.

Sanada suggests using the Wave-Motion cartridges. Within moments, combat crew are wheeling carts of shells over to the main cannons. Analyzer sets them into automatic hoists. The hoists lift the shells up to the gun house, which are then loaded into the cannon’s gun chambers. This is similar to how naval battleship guns operate.

Meanwhile, the ship continues to face a withering assault. Several bulkheads collapse and injured crewmen are rushed to the infirmary. In the med bay, Dr. Sado is operating on a crewmember, apparently without anesthesia. The only “pain relief” is Dr. Sado yelling at the patient to shut up and lay down. I was once told that “sado” is the Japanese loan-word for “sadist.” That’s appropriate for scenes such as this (and also supports some of the more horrifying implications of his veterinary practice).

Translation note: Sado’s given name is “Sakezo,” which means “brewing.” As in “booze.”

Captain Yamanami has the ship hide behind one of the Goruba autoplanets. This does not stop Commander Grotas from ordering his forces to shoot through their own ship with massive torpedoes. Yamato readies “anti-missiles” in response. These new weapons are launched from the deck, shooting straight up and then arcing downward, forming a defensive umbrella that wipes out the torpedoes.

The ship emerges from hiding and the Wave-Motion cartridges are fired. The gunners (who are joined in the gunhouse by Nanbu) all have to wear protective gear, giving some sense of how powerful these weapons are. The shots are actual shells rather than the blue twisting energy beams, and an empty casing is ejected from the chamber after firing.

Six shells fly right into the fortress’ giant torpedo tubes and explode, completely demolishing Grotas’ autoplanet. Another shot or two, and the whole group of autoplanets is destroyed in a chain reaction. Sanada is shocked. The W-M cartridges contain 1% of the Wave-Motion Gun’s energy. They are powerful, but not that powerful. Sanada theorizes the W-M energy may have reacted with the enemy’s power source.

Afterward, Kodai and Sasha spend a few quiet moments on a deck (inside the ship this time), where he apologizes for calling her Yuki. They spend the rest of the conversation talking about her, which seems to make Sasha uncomfortable. In Kodai’s mind, he’s accepted that Yuki is dead; in his heart, he feels she is still alive.

On Earth, Yuki is acting as a servant to Alphon. He asks her why she hasn’t escaped and joined the rebellion. He knows she is an elite soldier and suspects that she’s trying to get information about the bomb. He offers her a deal: he will give her what she’s looking for in return for her “love.” Yuki wants the information, but is repulsed at what she’ll have to do in return. She asks for time to decide. Alphon seems personally hurt by her rejection.

Production note: It was in this sequence where an unnamed animation staffer decided to add his own “extra” scene when he staged a kiss between them. See what it looked like here.

Back on Yamato, the radar room team announces they have discovered a channel through the nebula. As the ship heads for it, a special new scanner is used. On the underside of the bow, a panel slides back and a sonar-like scanning array emerges, which seems to operate only for a few seconds. Shima tries his best to avoid the asteroids littering the channel. Kodai gets out of his seat to check with Ohta [Eager], then walks over to Mio’s station. The ship suddenly shudders from a collision, knocking Mio right on top of Kodai. They share an awkward moment, which she seems to enjoy.

Down in the engine room, smoke is drifting through the air and Tokugawa, tool in hand, works to replace a bad circuit. Yamazaki yells at him to hurry, and Tokugawa yells back. Tokugawa is definitely not the put-upon rookie from The New Voyage anymore.

An asteroid smashes into the superstructure and the radar is knocked out. The front video panel is turned on, but Shima finds it nearly useless for navigation. In her mind’s eye, Mio sees an asteroid about to collide with the bridge, and alerts the crew. Shima doubts her word, but Sanada insists that he listen to her. They dodge the asteroid she successfully predicted, and Nanbu says she must be clairvoyant. This display of psychic power recalls Starsha’s extra-galactic communication during Series 1. These powers may also explain how Sasha was able to learn so quickly.

During this segment, the red emergency lights are turned on in the bridge. On the DVD, we only see this briefly, but in the original theatrical version, there are several additional seconds of footage.

When the ship finally makes it through the channel, their surroundings change from darkness to light, revealing a brilliant nebula filled with color.

Production note: The picture format switches to wide-screen at this point, which was a carefully kept secret during the 1980 runup to the premiere. Called “Warp Dimension,” it was wholly new to Japanese cinema at the time, and an outgrowth of Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s fond desire to make a Yamato movie in ultra-widescreen 70mm. Since that was an idea ahead of its time (due to the technical limitations in theaters), part of a movie was done in “Cinerama Scope” instead.

The effect would certainly have been more effective on the big screen, where the picture became physically larger, but the opposite happens on TV when the image goes from full screen to letterbox. It will take a carefully-remastered BluRay release to amend that.

During the first voyage, the twin planets Gamilas and Iscandar were a balance: one was good, one was evil. Yin and Yang. Heaven and Hell. This concept is supersized in the Dark Nebula. After traveling through a dark, dangerous place, they reach the other side of the nebula and it looks like heaven. Bright, sparkly, full of fluffy clouds. The next few minutes are spent on a lavish view of this “galaxy of light” played over Hiroshi Miyagawa’s brilliant score. The music matches the scenery, conveying power and majesty, complete with a robust, angelic choir.

Early story drafts presented the idea of Yamato passing through a dimensional rift into another universe. That was never my impression, nor does it seem to match the narrator’s description. This Galaxy of Light is only the flip side of the dark galaxy. They are two galaxies sandwiched together. Since the dark side is facing Earth (plus the fact that it’s 400,000 light years away, over twice the distance to Iscandar), it hadn’t been discovered before.

They warp over to a nearby planet. To their great surprise, they find it’s Earth! Shima double-checks the warp course with his crew. There was no mistake, the warp was performed exactly as planned, yet they’ve found themselves back home. Shima trembles as he looks at the impossible planet before him. (In earlier drafts, the discovery of this “other-Earth” was to be a bit more gradual, with the initial scans of the area showing other planets of the Solar System.)

Examining survey images on the video panel, they find several familiar landmarks: the pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza (which either survived the Gamilas war, or were rebuilt as ruins afterward!), the Great Wall of China, the Statue of Liberty (which appears to be the tallest structure in the NYC area), the Arc de Triomphe, and EDF Headquarters in Megalopolis. The only things amiss are mushroom-like structures seen in the cities, most notably behind the EDF HQ building. Shima maintains a healthy level of skepticism, pointing out that there is no sign of any fighting or occupation forces. Captain Yamanami orders Kodai to form a recon group and gather more data.

A short time later, a small recon gunship is sent out. In true classic SF style, Kodai’s survey party consists mostly of bridge crew: himself, Nanbu, Aihara, Shima, Mio, Tokugawa, and Analyzer. Shima continues to believe this could not possibly be Earth.

After landing, three very tall people coming out of a nearby building to greet them: an attractive woman with cobalt blue hair, named Sada, and two silent guards. Sada, speaking with an erie, echo-drenched voice, welcomes them in the name of her Lord. She refuses to answer any questions, saying they will be answered by her Lord. They follow her inside.

They soon find themselves in a large hall. A trumpet fanfare plays, followed by some classical background music. This music is “in-story” (that is, it’s heard by the characters). The area is a museum, and several famous works of art are on display. But while the artwork is all from Earth, the style of the room and the picture frames indicate an alien design.

Analyzer contacts Yamato. With Aihara off-ship, Ohta receives Analyzer’s message and puts a live feed on the main video panel. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but it reminds me of a scene from Series 1, where Ohta received a message instead of Aihara.

The crew in the museum are soon joined by their host, Lord Skaldart, who arrives on a throne that rises from the floor. Like Alphon, he resembles Dessler, although with human skin tones. His voice is echo-laden (the same effect used for all Dark Nebulans) and his eyes are long, narrow, and surrounded with deep black shadows, revealing at least a partial alien heritage.

He addresses his guests as warriors of Yamato. He calls attention to the classical background music, pointing out that it’s centuries old. After a moment of shock and confusion, he gets to the big reveal: this is the Earth, 200 years in the future, after it had been engulfed by the Dark Nebula. Like any good host, he has prepared some entertainment and refreshments. Sada wheels out a tray of drinks for a short history presentation.

Story note: Ironically, if Yamato‘s warps didn’t have some way of canceling out the natural time dilation, they would have leapt hundreds of years forward in every galactic voyage.

On a 3D display, the crew watches their own history, starting with the Gamilas war, then their battle with the Comet Empire (although it shows scenes from Farewell to Yamato, which would be out of continuity), and finally their recent battles with the Dark Nebula. Then, amazingly, they see an event that has not come to pass: their own destruction at the hands of a Dark Nebula fleet. The screen freezes on a shot of the ship’s destruction, revealing the year of its demise, 2402.

Now, time travel stories can easily be confusing, and this is a prime example. 2402, the year Yamato is supposedly destroyed, would be the current year according to Skaldart. Yamato hasn’t been destroyed yet, but they have that record. So is the video from 2402’s future? Did the Nebulans from after Yamato‘s destruction inform their invasion force back in 2202 of its fate, therefore making it part of history before it happened? To quote Arnold Rimmer from the British SF comedy Red Dwarf: “It will be happened, it shall be going to be happening, it will be/was an event that could/will have been taken place in the future. Simple as that.”

I suppose the idea is that Yamato returns via the galaxy channel (which supposedly functions as a time-warp tunnel), which takes them back to 2202, where they are destroyed. Communication between the invasion forces on 2202 Earth allows 2402 Earth to know of the ship’s fate. If that’s the case, listing the year of Yamato‘s destruction as 2402 is a serious on-screen error.

Unlike me, Kodai isn’t confused, but angry and a little curious. If Skaldart’s people are Earth/Nebula hybrids 200 years after the war, then what about the hyperon bomb? There was no way they could have set it off or else Earth would be a barren, lifeless planet. Skaldart explains the bomb was no more than a bluff. Analyzer (perhaps unknown to his hosts) is broadcasting all this information to Yamato.

Skaldart insists that Yamato surrender. To fight will lead to their destruction. This is already history. Surrender will allow them to live in peace. Kodai refuses. Skaldart scoffs at the futility of fighting against history, his laughter echoing as his throne descends underground. The Yamato crew is now alone. For as much as he insisted on Yamato‘s surrender, that’s all he does. There are no troops or guards or any attempt to physically detain them.

Aihara takes a look around, then stashes his wine glass away. In the museum, Tokugawa is drawn to Rodin’s famous statue, The Thinker. On their way back to the ship, Mio lags behind the rest of the group. Saying she wants to stay, she runs off. Kodai chases after her, calling out “Sasha,” finally revealing her true name to the rest of the crew.

He catches up to her and wants to know what she’s thinking. Her first answer is that she’s half-alien, and the Earth of 2402 would be more suitable for her. Sensing that she’s hiding something, he prompts her to tell him the truth. She replies that when he goes back to Earth, he will have Yuki. There will be no room for her in his heart. And besides, he’s her uncle.

This is a rather weird turn. It was set up in the first scene the two were alone together, where she seemed a bit flirty. Later, they shared a look when she fell into his arms on the bridge, and in a third scene her body language expressed discomfort when he was talking about Yuki. Still, this is an awkward reveal: Sasha appears to have an incestuous crush on her uncle.

Story note: early story drafts were a bit clearer on this plot point, stating that Sasha was biologically incompatible with 2202 Earth and could not survive there.

On Earth, Alphon arrives home to a crying Yuki. She tells him she’s accepted his “offer.” From both her mental state and her continued physical repulsion to his touch, he deduces her true plan: after she gets the secret of the hyperon bomb, she’ll kill herself. She admits it, saying she’s willing to go to hell to gain the secret of the bomb. She falls to the floor, weeping.

This is reminiscent of the turning of Dessler. He was faced with this same woman, who displays a tremendous amount of courage and loyalty, and he is unsure of how to respond. Like Dessler, Alphon takes no hostile action. Turning away, he tells her to join the partisan army. If she can defeat him, he will tell her the secret of the bomb.

So the two lovers, Kodai and Yuki, both have replacement suitors. Both suitors come to the same conclusion: “there is no room in your heart for me.” Then they both decide to remove themselves from their presence. (In some fanfic somewhere, there should be a happy ending where Alphon and Sasha get together.) And even though Kodai and Yuki both say the other is dead, neither of them is completely convinced.

Back on Yamato, Kodai and his away-team meet with Captain Yamanami. Kodai wants to fight. Yamanami echos Skaldart’s warning that their history is already written. Kodai is passionate and resolute; he wants to fight against fate and make his own future. Yamanami is pleased by this answer and Yamato prepares for action.

Story note: This is the first and only time a scene has been set in the Captain’s dome since the death of Okita at the end of Series 1. In the years since then, it has evidently been such hallowed ground that no one has set foot there. Indeed, the placement of Okita’s likeness in the bridge seems intentionally chosen to block access via the wall conveyor, unless we just don’t see it shift aside for Yamanami’s convenience.

On the planet below, tears well up in Sasha’s eyes as she watches Yamato start forward. The spirit of Starsha appears before her, telling her that she is destined for a hard fate, but one she must see through. Starsha insists that she wave goodbye to Yamato. Sasha finds this extremely difficult, collapsing on her knees and weeping, but at her mother’s urging she gets back up and waves. This is a symbolic gesture to signify Sasha has accepted her fate. Starsha nods her approval and fades away.

Story note: The previous two Yamato movies were accompanied by live radio dramas, and Be Forever was the third. Its radio drama was broadcast just under two months before the movie premiere. In order not to give away the ending, this is where the radio version ended, making a long wait seem even longer. (Also of note: Alphon didn’t have his final name yet; in the radio drama he was still called Kiman.)

Lord Skaldart, with Sada by his side, watches Yamato depart. He declares that he will bury them, perhaps a reference to Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev’s famous remark to the U.S.: “We will bury you.”

Yuki joins Commander Todo and the partisan army in their underground bunker HQ on the outskirts of Megalopolis. They are astonished to see her alive, and their wonder instantly elevates her status as an elite soldier.

On the bridge, Ohta detects several large battleships, led by the flagship Glaudez. As the attack begins, Tokugawa runs in to tell Yamazaki of something that had been bothering him ever since the museum: The Thinker rests his head on his right arm, but the version on “future-Earth” rests on his left arm. It’s a forgery. Tokugawa shows the Chief a sketch drawing of the figure, perhaps one he made himself. (Which, incidentally, is also wrong, since the original statue has both arms on the left leg. But we’ll just look past that for the sake of story.)

We’re never given much background on Tokugawa, but it’s intriguing to wonder if he has a strong interest in art. When he was first introduced, he made a vow to his late father to persevere and become a great engine room worker. Perhaps we can infer that young Tasuke wanted to become an artist, a vocation that might not have been supported by his tech-minded father. Upon the elder Tokugawa’s death, Tasuke might have decided to put aside his artistic ambitions and go into the “family business” of engineering.

Sanada runs in holding the wine glass smuggled out by Aihara. It was handled by Sada, but there are no fingerprints on it. He’s reached the conclusion that they could not be descendants of Earth. The crew quickly concurs that the Nebulans were trying to trick them into surrendering. But if the future Earth was a lie, it means the hyperon bomb is not a bluff after all. They still have to deactivate the trigger. The ship is immediately turned back toward the planet. It should be noted that while the bridge crew were unraveling the Nebulans’ deception, the attack on the ship continued without any response from the command crew.

On Earth, Yuki has joined a contingent of Cavalry who dig their way under the bomb’s force field. She looks laughably out of place. Instead of an olive-drab soldier’s uniform, she’s wearing a sporty white outfit–not exactly clothing for either a stealth mission or digging. Remarkably, it remains spotless throughout. She and the Cavalry break through the surface inside the barrier and a firefight ensues. Rope ladders are shot up to the bomb and the partisans reach the upper level where the trigger is evidently located.

Story note: Here was another point where the PS2 game enriched the story. Yuki was joined by two companions: Kitano, the temporary helmsman from The New Voyage, and a marine named Yoshinoma. Both are witness to what comes next. See stills from the game (and more) here.

Several Cavalrymen get cut down right beside Yuki. A door closes behind her, sealing off any hope of escape or reinforcement. Emerging through the smoke in front of her is Alphon. The two stand across from each other just as Kodai and Dessler had in previous stories. Echoing Dessler, Alphon pulls a gun on Yuki and dares her to fire. “You can’t, can you?” he challenges.

Suddenly, Alphon is pierced by laser fire through his chest, and another shot grazes his head, both fired by an injured Cavalryman. Alphon kills the wounded man before collapsing to the floor. (In the PS2 game, it’s Yoshinoma who fires on Alphon, but he lives to tell the tale.)

More deliberate parallels: in the movie Farewell to Yamato, an injured Dessler had a showdown with Kodai that was interrupted when a third party opened fire. Dessler quickly put down the shooter, just like Alphon does here. Dessler then revealed the key to defeat the Comet Empire, just like Alphon gives Yuki the key to disarm the neutron bomb.

Yuki is shocked at the sight of circuitry when she examines Alphon’s wound, exclaiming that he’s a robot. He clarifies that he is a cyborg (cybernetic organism). Earth doesn’t have any mineral resources for the Dark Nebulans to exploit, like Iscandarium or Gamilasium. Nor did they attack just for revenge. What they want is bodies.

Alphon explains that his people had robots to perform all their manual labor and their bodies wasted away from inactivity. (Another echo of Leiji Matsumoto’s original intent to demonize over-reliance on technology.) Their heads are now their only organic parts. Despite Alphon’s claim that his people are levels above humans in intelligence, I guess they weren’t very good at genetics or cloning, so they turned to Earth to provide them with bodies they could use.

He has one dying request, which Yuki grants–he wants to rest his head in her lap. (This seems rather creepy, but since Yuki had agreed to be his lover, I guess she figures she’s getting off easy. Also, she doesn’t seem concerned with getting blood on her white outfit.) Before he dies, he explains how to disarm the bomb. It must be deactivated in two parts. The trigger must be dismantled on Earth and the control room on their home planet needs to be deactivated. Right before he expires, he gives Yuki the deactivation plans.

Continue to Part 4, the Conclusion

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