By Arthur Painter with notes from Franco Carmona and Tim Eldred
On length: For years, the 70mm version of Final once held the world record for the longest animated film in history at a jaw-dropping 163 minutes – that is until The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, clocking in at 164 minutes, came out in 2010.
On translation: though the name of the enemy in this story is rendered “Dinguil” in the subtitles of the US release, the spelling “Dengil” is a better match for the Japanese pronunciation. “Lugarl” is rendered as “Lugal” here for the same reason.
The introductory narration reveals a wandering planet called Aquarius. Aquarius weaves a long path through the galaxy, dumping water onto the planets it passes. These waters carry with them the possibility of life. For untold millennia, the water planet has been drifting through the heavens like an interstellar Johnny Appleseed. Billions of years ago, it passed by the still-forming Earth and flooded it, creating the first oceans and seeding it with the first germs of life.
The customary narrator of past Yamato productions was Captain Okita’s voice actor Goro Naya, but for Final Yamato, Exec Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki brought in some real star power with the highly-respected Japanese screen actor Tatsuya Nakadai, who had prominent roles in many Akira Kurosawa films. This was only the second time he took on anime voice-acting roles, preceded by 1973’s Belladonna of Sadness, directed by future Space Battleship Yamato alum Eiichi Yamamoto. In an interesting twist of fate, Nakadai would go on to portray the elder version of the main character in 2005’s Men of Yamato.
The music has a more sedate feel than previous Yamato stories. I assume this is Kentaro Henada’s influence, who worked with Hiroshi Miyagawa on the soundtrack. To my ears, it sounds more somber than Miyagawa’s earlier work, which had a more pop sound.
The narrator sets the year as 2203, which is a bit difficult to squeeze into the Yamato timeline. We are firmly in post Yamato III territory, as evidenced by the mention of both the Galman-Gamilas empire and the Bolar Federation. Looking back at the last few adventures, both The New Voyage and Be Forever Yamato take place in 2202, with an estimated gap of a few months between them. Yamato III took place some months after Be Forever and unfolded over the course of about 250 days. While there isn’t a detailed schedule for any of these later adventures (like there is with Series 1), we should at least be in the very latter part of 2203 by the start of this movie. The 2203 date for Final Yamato is further cemented into place by the 2009 movie Yamato Resurrection. (To further complicate things, according to supplemental materials, Yamato III was supposed to take place in 2205, although the series itself never mentioned a specific year.)
After years of what seemed like nothing more than a typo, an explanation for the choice of 2203 finally emerged in a comment by Yoshinobu Nishizaki in Animage #52, published October 1982. The comment, in full: “In Yamato III, the year was 2205. But if [this story] happens in 2206, Kodai will be too old. After all, I don’t want to make the hero 20 years old. That’s the reason we’re backing up to the year 2203. I really must ask you to forgive me for this. (Laughs)” If this makes you feel a little bit insane, relax. You’re in good company.
In the center of the galaxy, a mysterious red galaxy “from another dimension” warps into our universe and collides with the Milky Way.
Galactic collisions (non-dimensional ones, that is) are not that uncommon, but they usually take millions of years to occur, and are not as dynamic as they appear in the movie. Given the wide distribution of matter within galaxies, they don’t tend to literally collide so much as merge. (In fact, our galaxy is expected to collide with the Andromeda galaxy in roughly 4.5 billion years.) However, since this red galaxy jumped in through some kind of warp rift, this allows for quite a number of planetary collisions. Most of the destruction occurs in the center of the Milky Way, which is where the Galman-Gamilas Empire and the Bolar States are located.
Speaking of inter-dimensional jibber-jabber, I have a deep, dark, feeling that the invader galaxy’s coming was the doing of the S.U.S (from Resurrection). My theory does seem viable, correct?
Yamato heads straight for the seat of the Galman-Gamilas Empire. Coming within communication range, Aihara [Homer] receives no reply to his hails. When they arrive, they see the domed shell of Dessler’s capital city is in ruins, and his citadel broken. A quick memorial follows, with Kodai [Wildstar] throwing a bouquet of white flowers down to the surface. A few rounds of shock cannon blasts are fired in honor of his “friend and enemy.”
Dessler’s ruined city is a design by Yutaka Izubuchi taken directly from Yamato III, and in fact the only landscape in the movie that was reused from a prior story. The others are the Cosmo Hound and a few little-seen crew members.
Yuki [Nova] is not on board for this mission. Analyzer [IQ-9] is filling in at her radar station.
Abruptly, the sky goes red as energy from the cascading galaxy rapidly approaches. One second Yamato‘s crew is holding the ceremony, then, in less than a minute of screen time, they are blasting away into space, in danger of being subsumed by the red galaxy. Kodai orders Shima to warp. Shima balks at the thought because they don’t have a course plotted — they don’t know where they’d end up. Kodai insists it’s their only chance. Shima doesn’t argue any further and Yamato warps away.
The fate of the Galman-Gamilas homeworld is left unclear at this point.
Despite the roiling mess at the Milky Way’s galactic center, the colliding red galaxy is no longer the immediate threat. It’s never seen or mentioned in the film, but plenty of published material indicates that it slipped out of a dimensional fault and right back in again after doing its damage. And yes, that IS a pretty big plot point to leave out.
Shima’s first spoken lines in Final Yamato mark the debut of a new voice actor for the character, Isao Sasaki. Sasaki is new to the character of Shima, but he is no stranger to the Yamato series, having sung the theme song since the beginning. He’s also acted in Yamato before, voicing the character of Saito in Farewell to Yamato and Yamato 2.
Shima’s voice actor from the beginning of the saga was Shosei Nakamura, and since he was hospitalized at the time of Final Yamato‘s voice recording, Sasaki was chosen to step in.
The story moves to the murky “Anfua Fixed Star System”, just outside of Dengil, the 4th planet of the system. Through the brown-gray “space smog”, Aquarius appears. As the planet gets closer to Dengil, Aquarius’ water surges and forms a huge column that reaches out across the intervening space. When the water hits Dengil’s atmosphere, it spreads out and creates huge rainclouds. Dengil’s cities become inundated from the rain and surging oceans. A ship the size of a small island rises out of the water and escapes the deluge (look carefully, it’s easy to miss).
Yamato emerges from its warp near Dengil. Kodai is horrified by the destruction he sees unfolding before him. Fighting their way into the turbulent atmosphere, the Cosmo Hound is launched. The dauntless Hound crew — a mix of life services and combat group — starts bringing survivors on board, who are then ferried up to the ship. But as the Hound starts unloading its passengers and crew, Yamato gets smacked by a giant wave. The entire ship lurches to one side, dumping the Hound and all personnel overboard, save for Kodai (who had led the rescue personally) and one small, gray skinned boy.
In the last shot of the plummeting Cosmo Hound, you might notice that it’s the size of a jumbo jet compared to the tiny figures falling with it. For that matter, in the shot of it dropping off its platform, it’s not much smaller than Yamato itself should be. Technically speaking, it’s a mistake. And for that matter, Yamato looks substantially larger than the last time we saw it. Artistically speaking, it’s an aesthetic choice to give the ship greater on-screen presence, an approach that was previously taken with Be Forever. No known attempt has been made to extrapolate how big the ship would actually be if the dimensions in this film are correct, but it would probably be in the neighborhood of the 500-plus meter length of Yamato in the 2010 live-action movie.
Kodai runs to the bridge and orders the “lifeboat” deployed. Shima argues that they are losing control and must leave now. Kodai is furious at the idea of leaving people to drown, but finally admits it’s the only thing they can do. Shima starts Yamato on its journey back to Earth.
Sanada examines the gray-skinned boy Kodai rescued. (Like Yuki, Dr. Sado is not aboard ship.) Kodai reflects on his decision to attempt the rescue. He only saved this one boy, but at the cost of many lives. Sandor’s analysis concludes that, except for the skin color, the boy is human in every respect.
Sanada and Kodai seem shocked by this news, despite having met similar races numerous times before.
Sanada’s exam is interrupted by a report that they’ve picked up a planet composed mostly of water and moving at half the speed of light, heading for Earth. The Aquarius sighting is reported to Earth.
EDF headquarters treats the Aquarius sighting as if it has some urgency, even though the report concludes that it won’t be a threat for another 6,000 years. Todo, now sporting a new charcoal grey uniform, sends his congratulations to Kodai, then looks at Yuki, who seems to become lost at the very sound of Kodai’s name. Kodai and Yuki have been together for a few years at this point, but she acts like their relationship has never moved beyond a schoolgirl crush.
The huge Dengil Mobile Fortress Mother Ship, commanded by Lugal De Zahl, approaches Yamato. Declaring that anything in their way is an enemy, De Zahl gives the order to attack with “hyper radiation missiles.” About a dozen missiles are launched. The Dengilians don’t seem to be much for aiming, but rather they send out a spread of missiles in the general direction of their enemy. Only one missile hits the ship, striking the port side below the “water line.”
On contact, the missile emits a high-intensity burst of radiation and melts into the hull before exploding, releasing a noxious green energy that flows through the ship. Many of the crew that weren’t killed in the explosion or voided into space succumb to the radiation. Sanada advises Kodai to issue an order for all crew to wear “space suits” (i.e. “put on a helmet”). By the time the enemy launches a second wave of missiles, most of the crew have their helmets on.
Yamato responds to the second wave by launching the side missiles. It isn’t successful.
In earlier adventures, the side missiles (aka “counter-attack missiles”) worked by creating a barrier, like an energy web, to stop incoming missiles. Here, these missiles seem to be trying for a direct interception.
Kodai is just about to put on his helmet when the superstructure is hit near bridge 2. The shockwave from the explosion renders all aboard unconscious. Out of control, the ship begins to plummet toward a nearby planet (another world in the Unfa system). When it hits the surface, the impact knocks two levers into place, the ship hums back to life and the engine spools up, starting an automatic escape sequence back to Earth.
The Dengil seem to prefer massed torpedo attacks with their Hyper-Radiation Missiles. Interestingly, this strategy was employed by the IJN in World War II (them being the world’s foremost torpedo experts at the time), with mixed results.
I’m unclear whether this escape mechanism is some kind of failsafe that worked the way it was supposed to, or if it was just dumb luck that triggered it. It seems like an odd failsafe considering the kind of battles Yamato finds itself in.
At EDF HQ, a small panic sets in when it’s discovered that they’ve lost contact with Yamato. This greatly worries Yuki, but Todo does his best to put her mind at ease.
Lurking behind Aquarius is Uruk, an “urban fortress”, which was the landmass seen lifting off from Dengil when it was flooded. It’s basically an island with a city on top, kind of a cross between Jupiter’s “floating continent” and the Comet Empire’s fortress city Gatlantis.
The introductory shot of Uruk, an extended pullback that would span miles in real life, is a careful series of cross-dissolves between intricate paintings composed to match each other at the extreme ends. When the camera zoomed out as far as it could from the first, it dissolved to the second and kept going. Such a shot is common in the digital/CG world, but in 1983 this was one of the most difficult techniques you could attempt with cel animation to achieve an epic big-screen feel. That, along with the abundant “scanimation” effects throughout the film, were at the absolute cutting edge of anime at the time. What’s “scanimation?” Keep reading.
Trivia on Uruk: according to Yamato Fact File size charts, Uruk is the largest warship in Yamato canon. See a comparison chart here.
Lugal de Zahl reports to his commander that Dengil had exploded in the wake of the flooding. Uruk and its forces are now left without a home base and a limited supply of energy. Fortunately, the leader explains, Aquarius has all the energy they require. Furthermore, they have discovered Earth 30,000 light years away. They plan on warping Aquarius to Earth to flood it, kill off the existing population, then claim it as their new homeland. Lugal de Zahl is placed in charge of keeping the population of Earth in the solar system.
For the record, the Dengil have the ugliest salute in the history of all salutes. Ever.
The plan to take over Earth strongly echoes that of the Gamilas in Series 1: make the planet untenable for its current occupants, then take it over after they’ve been wiped out. The unspoken part of that plan is how the planet can be made livable again. In the case of Series 1, Dessler could have been counting on access to the Cosmo DNA (and Starsha’s good will toward living things). But here, since we’ve already seen that the Dengilians can’t survive on a flooded planet, we don’t have an easy answer. Therefore, we should probably just assume that Uruk would stay in Earth orbit for however long it took for the floodwaters to recede – perhaps even for several generations.
After de Zahl’s fleet departs, the Dengil leader outlines the plan to warp Aquarius. There are “anti-gravity waves” contained in the rocks of Aquarius that will allow Uruk to charge the entire planet with energy and warp it. It can only jump 150 light years at a time, and Uruk requires a full 24 hour recharge in between jumps. But using this method will allow them to reach Earth in only 20 days. The plan is put into immediate action, and soon, Uruk’s “hyper-SMITE system” (my term) warps Aquarius away, followed by Uruk itself.
You may well ask, if the Dengillians had the technology to forcibly warp Aquarius, why didn’t they do so before Planet Dengil was flooded and destroyed? But then, we wouldn’t have much of a movie, would we?
On Earth, the Commander holds a briefing on the dangers of the approaching Aquarius. The EDF must have detected Aquarius’ warp and realized it may be soon be a threat. Otherwise, it’s hard to understand why they are worried about a cataclysm that won’t arrive for another 6,000 years.
The briefing is interrupted by Dr. Sado. He is chastised by an officer for entering a restricted area, but the doctor brushes it off by just saying he and the commander are good friends. As it happens, Dr. Sado has also come to talk about Aquarius. He brings over an ancient Babylonian tablet, which tells of the coming of Aquarius four billion years ago.
It’s assumed that water originated on Earth, but this long-neglected ancient text and Kodai’s report of the disaster on Dengil are apparently enough to reconsider any long-standing theories. “Science does not always obey the laws of common sense,” Dr. Sado says. This seems to be a bit of hand-waving by the writers to smooth over some of the dubious science in the movie.
The origin of water on Earth is still a mystery to today’s science. Any water that formed with the planet would have boiled away, so more water would have to have arrived long after the planet cooled. The two main sources theorized today are comets and asteroids. After analyzing several comets, and finding they tend to contain dueterium (“heavy water”) rather than plain H20, asteroids are assumed to be the source.
Yuki walks out onto a balcony and wonders where her “Kodai-kun” is. As if in answer to her thoughts, Yamato dewarps near Pluto and cruises to Earth. EDF comms receive no reply to their hails. Yamato docks in an ocean harbor. Dr. Sado and Yuki are among the first people on board.
Despite the foreboding silence, no one who enters thinks to put on any protective gear, nor do they do this after seeing the bodies strewn throughout the ship.
Let’s do the writers a favor and assume an environment-check occurred off-camera.