Final Yamato Commentary, Part 3

Back up to part 2

The identity of the aliens that rescued the Dengilians is not revealed, but Lugal’s story implies that his Earth-based ancestors were Sumerian. The name of the fortress Uruk derives from the Sumerian city of Uruk, one of the oldest cities in history. The early Aquarius flood has roots in myths of the great deluge, commonly known from the Bible’s book of Genesis and the Sumerian’s own Gilgamesh epic. Flood myths are echoed all over the world, from such disparate sources as the Greeks, the Mayans, and the Ojibwa.

One example can be found in the Sumerian poetry that precedes the Yamato 2199 movie, Ark of the Stars. Get a look at it here.

References to ancient legends are also implied by the Aquarius planet, which shares its name with a major constellation. The name Aquarius is Latin for Water-bearer, and the legends regarding Aquarius stretch back to ancient Babylon, where the constellation was identified with the god Ea, who was often depicted as holding an overflowing vase. The constellation was associated with flooding in Babylon and Egypt.

The historical sequence is loaded with “Scanimation” effects, which makes this a good place to explain what “Scanimation” actually was. First seen (briefly) in Be Forever, it was an early experiment to combine film and video. There is a heavy layer of moving mist over these scenes that is used here to set them apart, but the same technique is used in many other scenes to represent smoke, fog, haze, and other environmental effects. Working in tandem with one of Japan’s foremost video production groups, the Final Yamato staff pioneered an entirely new process that would later become commonplace when software replaced hands-on analog film editing and applications such as Adobe After Effects put an entire special effects studio inside a computer. But of course, it didn’t always work out as well as everyone hoped in 1983. More on this later.

As Aquarius warps, Yamato warps as well. Seconds after the ship arrives at their location, Aquarius materializes before them. No enemy is in sight yet (and they would be on the other side of the planet anyway), so the Earth ship descends into the planet. On its approach, four missile like objects are launched from the dome on the foredeck, probably atmospheric probes. (Somewhere along the way, they also launch some Tigers to do recon.)

As they get closer to the surface, they observe the strange sight of floating islands, hovering above the oceans, water cascading over the edges. The Aquarius scenes are really amazing: sparkling waters, blue skies, pink clouds, glittering ice rings — an irresistible view of heaven. After splashing down in a lake in the middle of a floating island, there are several more pans across the landscape. No fauna to speak of, but plenty of flora, from cypress and pine tree lookalikes, to flowering plants. While there are no people around, there are ancient, stony temples, indications that the planet was once inhabited.

Kodai looks out the window. There is no trace of the enemy, nor of any kind of warp mechanism. Then the skies and landscape seem to change, becoming darker and more barren, as a disembodied voice calls out, “I am Aquarius.” The voice is followed by an image of a long-haired woman, floating on the horizon. The spirit of Aquarius explains that the water planet creates hardships as well as life. But the hardships are also a way to bring growth, to force civilizations to grow and evolve. “Trials can take the form of a blessing,” she explains. Aquarius also reveals what de Zahl just learned — Earthlings and Dengilians share a common ancestry. She fades, telling them their foes are not on the planet. As she disappears, the landscape reverts to its former glory.

Kodai’s take on the Dengilians is that they “developed through egotism.” If there is one way to motivate Yamato‘s crew, it’s to learn that their foes are imperial tyrants.

The Cosmo Tiger patrol has spotted a machine that is a likely energy source. It is guarded, too. Several fighters, followed by larger ships, close in on Yamato. De Zahl commands his forces from a red and black flagship, which looks rather like an extra-large fighter. He orders an attack with electro missiles.

As Yamato prepares for battle, Sanada rushes onto the bridge, reporting that his hyper-radiation missile defense is finally ready. Yamato takes flight, avoiding the electro missiles.

De Zahl’s fleet follows Yamato out into space. When a volley of hyper-radiation missiles is launched, Sanada activates his defense system, which successfully destroys all the missiles

Sanada’s defense system looks like a sonar array that descends from the ventral bow section of the hull. It’s similar in appearance and location to the sonar used in Be Forever and Yamato III. It emits a lighting-like energy beam that bends and strikes near its target, creating a small energy burst that destroys an entire group of missiles.

Yamato sails into a group of minor planets. De Zahl’s forces switch to energy weapons, which start dealing out pretty severe damage. Yamato‘s main guns have no effect. Okita opts to switch to the Wave-Motion Gun. The Wave Gun blast clears the area in front of Yamato, wiping out both planetoids and enemy ships. De Zahl narrowly escapes the obliteration of his fleet.

I find it a little bit puzzling that Okita is unconcerned with wiping dozens of small planets off the star map. In the past, he regretted destroying the floating continent, and opted not to use the Wave Gun at Pluto. In both of those cases, he must have been concerned with harming any life forms, but knew these planets were lifeless rocks.

Prince de Zahl reports his defeat to his father. Emperor Lugal cuts him off and orders the Neutrino screen activated. Generators hum to life and form a barrier around the fortress. De Zahl cannot stop his incoming ship in time and is destroyed by the screen — his punishment for another failure. Yamato follows close behind. Sanada recognizes the energy barrier as a neutrino shield and warns that the shield “could melt the ship.” As Yamato does a quick 180 and zooms away, building up to light speed, Lugal orders a neutrino beam fired at the ship.

The ship tries to outrun the energy, but the engine can’t “build up pressure” fast enough and is leaking Wave-Motion energy. As the beam overtakes them, the crew braces themselves. To their surprise, they find themselves still alive. The pink neutrino beam energy is washing over the ship without touching it. Sanada has an instant analysis: the Wave-Motion energy leaking from the engine is protecting them. Okita immediately seizes on this development. He orders the ship turned back toward Uruk, energy to be “leaked” from the wave gun muzzle, and for Shima to land the ship on the fortress.

Here is another example of “Scanimation” at work. To give the neutrino beam a unique look in this sequence, finished animation was shot and scanned into a video processor (hence the name “scanimation”) where the color values could be manipulated. There was nothing special about this technology in 1983; every color TV had similar capability. What was new about it was the application to 35mm film, which meant the real breakthrough was getting an image off a film negative, enhancing it, and then outputting it back onto film. This is the part that didn’t always go to plan, as we’ll see later on.

Yamato barrels toward the fortress, the wave energy forming a frothy, glittery foam from the wave gun’s maw. The ship bursts through the neutrino shield and lands on the island city of Uruk, crashing through several low lying buildings before skidding to a halt. To put it more colorfully, Shima just used a 62,000 ton space battleship to spin a donut in Lugal’s front yard! But this does not hamper Lugal’s plans. He commands the 20th warp of Aquarius to begin, insisting they can hold off Yamato.

Amazing how the third bridge didn’t get scraped off when the ship crash-dives into Uruk, isn’t it? Also, anyone notice how similar Uruk is to Iwo Jima? Oh, and, are there any non-combatants on it? If so, where are they in all of the chaos?

Kodai orders the main guns to target the tower that’s emanating the warp beam. However, an energy screen protects it. Several fighters attack Yamato. The pulse lasers respond, but the sheer amount of enemy fighters appears overwhelming.

In the tower, Lugal commands that the warp be completed while he personally leads his troops in an old-fashioned cavalry charge on mechanical horses. (Lugal’s ride is white with a red horn, making it a kind of mechanical space unicorn.) As they charge down the mountain, a group of small one-man flying platforms soars overhead to provide air cover. Lugal’s charge is accompanied by what sounds like a Spanish guitar, invoking images of Spanish caballeros.

Why doesn’t Yamato use her pulse lasers on the Dengil cavalry charge?

The mechanical steeds have great leaping power, allowing them to storm over the deck of the battleship. Kodai, Shima, and dozens of rank-and-file crew take positions on the deck to fend off the attack with grenades and cosmo guns. Most of the attackers charge forward blindly and are easily cut down, but Lugal displays much more agility, leaping around on his mount and cutting down Yamato defenders with ease. From inside the ship, the Dengilian boy stares in amazement at Lugal.

Aquarius begins to shift color as it enters warp. On the deck, Shima gets clipped in the side by a beam. He takes out the flying platform that shot him, but he’s badly injured. He keeps his wound hidden as Kodai issues orders to both him and Kato. Kodai will defend against the attack with this Cosmo Zero. Shima will attempt to lift Yamato so the Cosmo Tigers can get airborne. Kato will prepare his team for launch.

Kodai launches his zero from the catapult and begins clearing invaders off his deck. Shima arrives on the bridge in great pain, but he continues to hide his wound from the others. The hangar hatch is unable to open all the way due to Yamato‘s position on the ground. Using a combination of the rocket anchor, the sub engines, and ventral “compressed air valves” Shima manages to get the aft section of Yamato to lift enough for the hatch to open. The effort costs Shima dearly, and he winces in pain with every movement. He accomplishes his task though, and the Cosmo Tigers quickly launch.

One could point out that the Cosmo Tigers are perfectly capable of launching from the rear catapults on the upper stern (as seen in Be Forever), but one shouldn’t allow logic to get in the way of drama in a Yamato story.

The Dengilian boy leaves the ship to follow Lugal, who has retreated back to his fortress. The Cosmo Tiger launch has ruined his invasion.

Kodai and the Cosmo Tigers quickly disable the warp-casting tower with missiles, and a wave of relief sweeps over Yamato‘s crew. Shima relaxes, and his mind drifts back to the recent soccer game with Jiro.

But their joy is short-lived. Another pair of warp beams shoots toward Aquarius. Sanada figures out that there must be a back-up system, most likely in the shrine. He calculates that they have 20 minutes until the final warp.

Kodai and the Cosmo Tigers converge on the shrine tower, which is defended by AA guns. Several Tigers are lost, but Kodai and a small group manage to land their fighters near the entrance. Inside, they see the temple, with the mechanical horses standing inert on either side, and the large obsidian demon statue in front of them. Suddenly, laser fire bursts toward them from a balcony high above.

Fortunately, the Dengilians didn’t use trained snipers and their shots all miss. Kodai and his group get to cover behind the mechanical horses while another group of enemy soldiers opens fire from behind another line of horses. One of the Tiger pilots tells Kodai that they can handle things here, and he should continue on. Kodai crosses the room toward the enemy line and makes it into a nearby elevator unscathed. Just before the doors close, the Dengilian boy leaps in.

It’s worth pausing at this point to consider the Final Yamato laserdisc game, which came out two years after the movie and greatly expanded this part of the story for gameplay. Kodai has to make his way through an imaginative variety of obstacle courses to penetrate the interior of Uruk. Get a look at them here.

The boy proves to be an able guide, leading Kodai all the way to Lugal’s command room. The room has no one in it except the emperor himself. (In fact, other than the ambush in the temple, there doesn’t appear to be anyone else in the palace at all.) Lugal introduces himself as the emperor and spiritual leader of Dengil, which makes him sort of like Imperial Japan’s Emperor Hirohito. Kodai introduces himself as the combat chief of Yamato, a position that, to my knowledge, lacks any political power. Nonetheless, he offers a place on Earth to the Dengilians, calling their two peoples brothers. Lugal sneers at the offer, saying he doesn’t need sympathy or charity. The final warp will begin in one minute.

Lugal slowly draws his firearm and fires. But the boy, who had been watching from the doorway, leaps in and takes the shot. Fatally wounded, he looks up at Lugal, addressing him as “father.”

Kodai holds the boy’s dying body, and asks in disbelief how Lugal can have the same blood in his veins as humans. Lugal’s only answer is to turn on his heel and walk back to his throne. It descends into the floor and out of sight.

The boy asks whether his actions would earn him praise on Earth. Kodai assures him it would, and that he’s a brave boy. He dies, satisfied that he made the right choice. Kodai wails in grief. Outside the palace window, Aquarius warps away.

Lugal starts Uruk’s self-destruct sequence. As explosions begin to rip the land mass apart, Okita orders Yamato to lift off. Shima struggles to carry out the command, which alerts Yuki that he is seriously wounded. Okita orders Sanada to take his place, but Shima pleads to remain. He knows it’s too late to save himself anyway.

I can almost see Shima’s actions as a kind of sibling rivalry. Kodai managed to do his duty while injured; he’s determined to do the same, even at the cost of his life.

At the temple, the Cosmo Tigers blast off to safety. It takes Kodai some time to escape the temple, and he takes off just as the ground beneath him crumbles. Back on Yamato, Tokugawa cannot build up enough power in the engine to lift off, since they’ve lost too much energy. Nearby, Lugal’s temple lifts off from the land mass. Several round meteorite-like fragments burst out of the ground, but then change course, revealing they are actually ships. (In fact, they are the ancient ships used to evacuate Earthlings from the flood 10,000 years ago. The largest of these is named the Pre-Noah.)

On Yamato, there is no way to lift off. Okita suggests using downward thrust. The land mass of Uruk is weak and unstable, so they should be able to break through. Sanada comes over and assists Shima, guiding his hand to the correct controls and helping to activate them.

The thrusters on the bottom hull blast downward, which further weakens the ground beneath them, and the space battleship sinks through the crumbling land mass. After Yamato falls through, the main engine comes alive and the great ship blasts away as Uruk explodes.

When Kodai arrives on the bridge, he’s greeted by the sight of Shima, his chair reclined all the way back, being worked on by Dr. Sado. He runs over to his friend. What follows is the final moments of Shima’s life. He speaks of how Yamato is a good ship, admits his unspoken love for Yuki, and extracts a promise from Kodai to keep her happy.

Shima’s death is very maudlin, intended to invoke the maximum amount of drama. It’s not enough for him to die, he has to reveal a love triangle at the last minute. In Shima’s history, there was never any mention of a rivalry for Yuki’s love; there was no foundation, no build-up. If we follow the thread of his character throughout the saga, the great love of Shima’s life was Teresa. Their love was so great she brought him back to life and sacrificed herself for him. However, aside from a brief clip of her from the beginning of The New Voyage, there has never been a reference to Teresa again, even here in his dying thoughts. The combination of ignoring Teresa and confessing his love for Yuki mars what could have been a great scene. I find it a needless complication, a horrible, mawkish contrivance.

As readers of the Final Yamato Time Machine articles came to learn, pretty much the entire story had been revealed in print up to this point before the movie premiered in theaters. There was also a radio drama, broadcast in January 1983. A recording of that drama has not surfaced since then, but it’s possible that it revealed even more. Nevertheless, fans in the theater audience who kept up with magazine coverage would have known all the major plot points up to and including Shima’s death. From here onward, there had been only vague hints of what would come next.

Aquarius emerges from the warp. EDF command reports that it’s traveling at half the speed of light. It’s currently outside the solar system, but in 24 hours it will be at Earth.

The battered Yamato dewarps near the water planet and is contacted by EDF commander Todo. Despite the circumstances, Todo has faith Yamato and its crew, although he’s not sure what else the ship can do. Kodai thinks of the Dengilian device on Aquarius, and an angry, defiant look crosses his face. He has a plan.

Later, Kodai arrives in Okita’s quarters with a request: he wishes to land on Aquarius and collect some heavy water, a compound often used in nuclear reactors. Okita immediately knows what Kodai is planning: to detonate Yamato. Okita has come up with the same plan, but he could not think of a way to convince the crew to go along with it. Okita says the detonation of Yamato with the wave gun requires delicate timing and the auto destruct may not work, so someone will have to pull the trigger. Kodai wants it to be him, but Okita reminds him of his dying promise to Shima to keep Yuki happy. Get married, have kids… those are to be Kodai’s battles. Okita himself will detonate Yamato. As captain, it is his right. He asks Kodai to help make the crew understand this decision.

In various background sources (though not explicitly in any on-screen story), Captain Okita is described as a physicist. So, while his knowledge of nuclear physics may seem to come out of the blue here, it isn’t actually made up on the spot.

Yamato lands on Aquarius, drifting in the waters in the midst of a storm. Okita speaks to the crew and lays out the plan to prevent the Earth from flooding, which involves blowing up Yamato by “auto system.” There is no mention of staying on board to trigger the explosion. His dramatic speech is punctuated by thunder and lightning from the storm outside. The crew will be evacuated to the Fuyuzuki, and Okita’s final order is for them to lead happy lives. Immediately after his announcement, he walks out of the room. The crew is understandably upset, but Kodai, as Okita requested, makes them understand. The price for not taking this action would be the destruction of Earth, which is too high a price to pay.

For some interesting reason, odd uniform colors pop up in one shot of Okita addressing the crew: yellow on white and black on white. These would occasionally appear in Series 1, but only in passing and probably due to gaps in quality control, since they have no established department and never turned up in official materials. There are three possible explanations for their re-appearance here: a mistake, an in-joke, or these colors actually DO have a department that almost never got screen-time. Janitorial, perhaps?

Kodai’s plan involved loading heavy water, which is deuterium. Okita’s plan clarifies that they’re actually loading tritiated water, which is super-heavy water, and much more potent. The ship’s warehouses are filled to the brim with the greenish liquid, pumped from the tower generator they found on their first visit, and Yamato blasts off.

Tokugawa gets very intense as they lift off. He is determined to get their volatile cargo to its destination safely. However, as they pass the Aquarius rings, the surviving Dengilian fleet approaches. Kodai calls for actions stations, but Okita belays the order, explaining that the tritium makes their ship a potential H-bomb. He orders Yamato to warp as soon as possible. But Kodai realizes “as soon as possible” will not be soon enough.

Lugal is about to issue the command to attack, but is stopped when several of his ships explode. The familiar “blue flashlight” ship and pumping strings and percussion herald the arrival of Dessler, along with a small fleet. He appears on Yamato‘s screen and explains that he had been away during Galman’s destruction. He is holding one of the white flowers Yamato left in tribute. He thanks them for the flower and puts it on his uniform. He is aware of Earth’s plight and insists on taking care of the Dengilian forces.

With that, he charges up his Dessler cannon and incinerates Lugal and his forces. He urges Kodai on. (Dessler doesn’t acknowledge Okita, whom he had never met personally.) With no Shima, it’s Kodai himself who launches Yamato into its last warp.

An appearance by Dessler is always welcome, but his quick defeat of the Dengilian forces is a bit of a letdown. The Dengilians came on as a powerful force of evil, only to have their last battle be a sideshow to the main event. It also mirrors the end of Yamato III — Dessler steps in and takes care of the bad guys so Yamato can get on with saving Earth. I wonder if there’s anything left of the Galman-Gamilas Empire, seeing as its leader has time to help out the Earth like this.

However, according to some info spilled over in a contemporary text piece titled Dessler’s Story by Tsutomu Kadoi, based on one of Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s concepts, there are still some elements of the Galman-Gamilas Empire out there, and the ships tagging along with Dessler are in fact, just the cream the Galman-Gamilas navy (or what’s left of it). It’s not really clear if this is canon or not, so it’s up to you.

Despite looking an awful lot like Dessler’s Series 2 command cruiser, I have my doubts that it’s the same. First, Dessler does state that it has a “Hyper Dessler Gun” similar to the one on his flagship from Series 3. Second, Dessler’s Series 2 battleship was in less-than usable condition the last time we saw it, and was abandoned. However, the EDF might have recovered it and returned it to Dessler off-screen.

It’s interesting to note here that in all the preproduction drafts of Final Yamato, Dessler and Lugal were to kill each other at this point – which would have made this clash far more dramatic, but probably traumatizing for Dessler fans. Instead, he seemed to get a reprieve late in the game from Yoshinobu Nishizaki, who always said Dessler was his favorite character. It’s also possible that Nishizaki already had Dessler’s War in the back of his mind in case he decided not to abandon the saga after all.

Continue to part 4

3 thoughts on “Final Yamato Commentary, Part 3

    • Actually the movie doesn’t explain how bad his injury was (the variabiliy in design doesn’t help), but I think he died more because exhaustion than his injury (as Tochirô in Captain Harlock: Waga Seishun no Arcadia – Mugen Kidô SSX). In old storyboards, it seems he was shot on the head, which is more explicit with a prompt death).

      Thank you very much for this long commentary, about Shima’s death I think the same, not only because It’s my favourite character, but I regret Teresa’s vanishing after Yamato 2. What I liked in threesome Kodai/Yuki/Shima was that there was never a love triangle between them before Final Yamato. Kodai and Yuki are lovers, and they consider Shima as a good friend, then like a brother and a possible uncle for their future children. This last-minute-revelation in the movie was a real disappointment to me and ever I really like this scene in Final Yamato, it’s mostly Kodai’s reaction after he understands his best friend is dead.

      Sorry about my English if there are a few errors, I’m a big Yamato fan from Switzerland (French spoken part) where Star Blazers was never broadcasted.

      • In a future where radiation sickness can be cured, they could have easily saved Venture. But I guess his death added drama to the story. still he deserved a better send off than that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *