Dream Science matchup: Yamato vs. Arcadia

For years, a certain sector of SF fandom has occupied itself with puzzling out real-world explanations for what we see on our screens. Unsurprisingly, Yamato has been dissected many times over in various books and articles published by the “Dream-Science Laboratory,” also known as “Kusolab.”

Chief Researcher Rikao Yanagita has been publishing books and delivering lectures for decades, bringing a scientific perspective to what we see in anime and manga. He previously wrote a Yamato article called The Science of Warping, which can be read here.

The following article was published October 5, 2022

Space Battleship Yamato vs Arcadia!

Which of the two great battleships in the history of anime would win in a battle?

Text by Rikao Yanagita, Chief Researcher
Illustrations by Yutaka Kondo

(See the original article here)

When Space Battleship Yamato hit the market in the 1970s, the SF anime boom began. Galaxy Express 999 and Space Pirate Captain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto, who created the worldview of Yamato, were also made into anime one after another. I loved them all and watched them every week without fail. Since that time, I have always wondered, if the Space Battleship Yamato and Harlock’s Arcadia were to fight, which would be stronger?

Yamato is a space battleship converted from the battleship Yamato of the former Imperial Japanese Navy and equipped with a Wave-Motion Engine. In addition to its main and secondary guns and shipboard aircraft, it is equipped with an incredibly powerful weapon called the Wave-Motion Gun. It carries a crew of 114, including Captain Juzo Okita.

The purpose of its mission is to retrieve a radiation removal device from the planet Iscandar, 148,000 light-years away.

Meanwhile, the space pirate Captain Harlock and his 40 crew members are aboard the Arcadia. Designed and built by Harlock’s late best friend, Tochiro Oyama, the Arcadia‘s central computer is the embodiment of Harlock’s spirit. The Arcadia is equipped with main guns, rapid-fire cannons, and onboard aircraft, and sometimes has a huge knife-like horn protruding from its bow to strike enemy ships.

On Earth, where there is no sense of danger, the Arcadia is the only ship that dares to stand up to the Mazone invaders.

The two ships have different goals and positions, but who would be the stronger in a fight? Let’s simulate it with Dream-Science.

The Arcadia is a big ship

Actually, Yamato and Arcadia were built in completely different eras. Yamato left for Iscandar in 2199. The Arcadia fought the Mazone in 2977. That is a difference of 778 years. 778 years before the year 2022, the year in which I am writing this manuscript, was 1244.

That was 30 years before the Battle of Bun’ei, which means pitting Yamato and Arcadia against each other might be like pitting a wooden warship from the Kamakura period vs. a modern Aegis ship. But it’s not interesting to think of it in that way, so here we will ignore the difference in time periods and consider it as a battle of the two ships in an infinite universe.

The Arcadia is the larger of the two. Yamato, a converted version of the largest battleship in history, is also huge at 265.8 meters in length, but the Arcadia is a whopping 400 meters long, 1.5 times the length of Yamato.

Thus, their weight would also be different. Yamato weighs 62,000 tons. The weight of the Arcadia has never been disclosed, so we can only make a rough calculation due to the difference in its shape. However, if there is a 1.5-fold difference in overall length, it is not surprising that the weight would be about 3.4 times greater. In this case, the Arcadia would weigh 210,000 tons.

With such a difference in size, there must also be a difference in the power of the main guns. Yamato‘s main guns are three 46cm triple-barreled shock cannons. The Arcadia‘s main gun is two triple pulsar cannons with six barrels. Although Yamato has more guns, the Arcadia‘s main gun is also thought to be huge because of its larger hull. When measured on screen, their aperture is a whopping 1.5 meters, more than three times larger than a 46cm cannon!

If both beams have the same power, the one with the larger caliber would have an overwhelming advantage. If a pulsar cannon with three times the caliber penetrates Yamato‘s armor, the hole would have a larger cross-sectional area, 9 times larger than that of the smaller diameter.

What does Yamato do in such a pinch? Is the Wave-Motion Gun ready to fire…?

Black Tigers, launch!

No, wait, wait. Both Yamato and the Arcadia are experienced space battleships. They would not suddenly fire their main guns at each other or unleash their ultimate weapons without a word.

Both ships will probably launch their onboard aircraft at first for reconnaissance purposes. Yamato‘s main onboard aircraft is the Black Tiger fighter, equipped with a pulse laser cannon. The Arcadia‘s Space Wolf fighter is also equipped with a pulse laser cannon. A battle between these craft will be a pulse laser cannon shootout.

A laser travels at the speed of light (300,000 times faster than a normal bullet), so as long as you aim accurately when firing it, you will always hit the target. Also, the source of a laser’s power is the heat generated when it hits, so if the output exceeds a certain level, even the strongest material will melt or vaporize. In other words, the pulse laser gun is a one-hit kill.

Then, the outcome of the battle will depend on the number of fighters. Which ship has more aircraft?

The number is unknown for both ships, but Yamato has about 40 Black Tiger aircraft. This number is estimated from the image captured by Gamilas’ radar during the decisive battle against the Gamilas fleet in the Rainbow Star Cluster. The total crew of Yamato was 114, so it is reasonable to assume that number was about right.

The Arcadia, on the other hand, is crewed by “Harlock and 40 companions.” Simple arithmetic shows that there are only 41 crew members. The number of fighter planes to be launched must be less than the number of crew members, so Yamato has an advantage.

But then, in Space Pirate Captain Harlock, during the final battle against Mazone, they left XO Yataran alone on the ship, and the remaining 40 crew members raided the enemy’s flagship with their onboard aircraft! This surprising tactic is possible because the Arcadia‘s central computer is inhabited by the spirit of Tochiro, and in an emergency, he will even take control of the ship and attack.

If this were the case, the number of on-board aircraft would be evenly matched. Thus, they can’t do much damage to each other. Eventually they’ll return to their home bases and the battle will finally be Yamato vs. Arcadia.

In the end, it’s the Wave-Motion Gun!

When it comes down to a battle between space battleships, it has already been mentioned that the Arcadia has the advantage in terms of main guns. Thus, the only thing left for Yamato is the Wave-Motion Gun.

In the remake Yamato 2199, Starsha severely criticized them for using the Wave-Motion Gun. In the first place, there is the humanitarian issue of whether it is appropriate to fire such a super-weapon at a ship carrying 40 human passengers. However, it would be a disaster if the Arcadia were to hit us while we talk it over. So, let’s put our hearts aside and be prepared to fire the Wave-Motion Gun (sorry, Starsha).

With just one hit from the Wave-Motion Gun, the Arcadia would be finished. It is not equipped with a matching super weapon. So what would they do?

In my opinion, Harlock would fight in a manner typical of pirate battleships. In other words, before Yamato can fire its Wave-Motion Gun, Harlock will charge and thrust his knifelike horn into it. The pirates might have a big advantage if they could get on board Yamato and challenge them in hand-to-hand combat!

Of course, the heroic Captain Okita of Yamato must be able see through their pirate tactics and order the firing of the Wave-Motion Gun. However, firing this super weapon takes time. According to on-screen measurements, it takes 1 minute and 50 seconds from the time they start preparations to the time they pull the trigger. One minute and 50 seconds! A long time for Yamato, but a short time for the Arcadia.

Would Arcadia be able to strike with the knife in that time? That depends on the speed of the Arcadia. In the final battle against Mazone, the ship reached Jupiter’s orbit the same day it left Earth. The shortest distance from Earth to Jupiter is 630 million km. To travel this distance in one day, it would have flown at a speed of 7,300 km per second. Based on the speed of sound on the ground, this would be Mach 21,000.

The distance that can be reached within 1 minute and 50 seconds at this speed is 400,000 km. How much distance is this for a space battleship and a pirate battleship to face each other? It is longer than the distance from the Earth to the Moon, (380,000 km) which seems quite far. But with a pulse laser, it would take only 1.3 seconds to reach them. It may be just right for the scale of space battles.

Thus, the outcome of this space battle would be like this…

If the Arcadia rushes forward at the same time as the Wave-Motion Gun begins to fire, and both ships are more than 400,000 km apart, the Wave-Motion Gun hits and Yamato wins!

If they were closer than 400,000 km, the Arcadia‘s knife would hit Yamato, and Harlock and the pirates would win after epic hand-to-hand combat!

It’s a terrifying close battle. You may or may not want them to fight…

But if you think about it, both are ships of men fighting for Earth. There is no reason at all for Yamato and the Arcadia to fight. However, as the author, I have been wondering about it for a long time, and it was fun to puzzle it out.


Rikao Yanagita
Chief Researcher, Dream-Science Laboratory

Born on Tanegashima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture. Dropped out of the University of Tokyo. He is the chief researcher of the Institute for Dream-Science, which scientifically examines the worlds of anime, manga, and folk tales. He has verified more than 1,000 cases so far.

His main publications include The Dream-Science Reader, Junior Dream-Science Reader, Pokemon Dream-Science Reader, and others in the series. In 2007, he started The Dream-Science Library News for school libraries nationwide. It continues to be distributed weekly, free of charge.

He also actively posts information on Twitter and YouTube as “KUSOLAB” and is a concurrent lecturer at the School of Science and Technology, Meiji University. His recent books include The Dream-Science Reader I, II, and III which are best-of collections of his previous works. All are published by Kadokawa.

Find them on Amazon.co.jp here.

Find more of Yanagida’s articles on Yahoo Japan here.

Visit the Dream-Science Laboratory website here.


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