Kinejun #728, February 1978

Reader’s Film Reviews: Space Battleship Yamato

Shinji Yamamoto (Student, age 17, Osaka, Japan)

While watching a Yamato rerun (on TV, of course), I noticed something for the first time. Namely, the characterization of the people on board Yamato. The various characterizations, including Captain Okita, are really similar to those in John Ford’s “Cavalry Trilogy,” especially in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

Okita is calm and collected, considerate of his men, and aware that this voyage is his last mission. He is a perfect match in character and personality with Captain John Wayne.

Kodai and Shima are pitted against each other in a battle of rivalry over Yuki Mori. The relationship between John Agar’s Lieutenant Cohill and Harry Carey Jr.’s Lieutenant Penell is the same.

I can’t find a direct analog to Victor McLaglen’s Sergeant Quincannon, but his heavy drinking suggests that he could be Dr. Sado. Also, owing to their mutual loner vibe, Sanada and Ben Johnson’s Sergeant Tyree, a former Confederate, are identical.

I don’t know if the authors were influenced by Yellow Ribbon from the beginning, but it clearly shows the cause of this show’s extraordinary popularity.

The factor that contributed to its success is “A home drama that sees the cavalry as a family.” (The 100 Best Westerns, by Takeshi Masubuchi).

The most appealing point is that it brilliantly copies Yellow Ribbon. Yes, Space Battleship Yamato is a really good home drama. However, the skill and fun of the battle scenes are rather sub-dimensional. This would explain the blandness of the compilation film version. Its failure was the result of relying solely on the fun of the battle scenes, while ignoring the painstaking “home drama” moments.

Even the names of the theme songs, Yellow Ribbon and The Scarlet Scarf, are meaningful.

[Translator’s note: this reader’s observation is probably subjective, but after a November 1977 interview revealed Leiji Matsumoto’s love of westerns, it has some ground to stand on.]

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