Farewell to Yamato Commentary, Part 1

Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato: In The Name of Love

Analysis by Arthur Painter with additional commentary by Tim Eldred

Watch this movie with subtitles Part 1 / Part 2.

Space Battleship Yamato had a long journey. I’m not talking about the trip to Iscandar, but the journey from a failed TV series to a successful compilation movie to its “Final” movie, Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato: In The Name Of Love. It is also known by its previous international title, Arrivederci Yamato. To Star Blazers fans like me, this movie was practically unknown. I didn’t discover it until the early 90s, several years after Star Blazers was off the air. I had been rediscovering my love of the show through video tapes, saw this “new” movie on the shelf and jumped at the opportunity to see it. And the video was a Star Blazers movie — it was dubbed into English with a different voice cast but used the Star Blazers character names (Wildstar, Nova, Desslok, etc). However, it referred to the ship as Yamato instead of Argo, except for one scene where Desslok slipped and called it Argo. It was decent, but not great. It wasn’t until a few months later that Voyager Entertainment offered the subtitled version of the movie, which, to my surprise, included a half hour more footage than the dub.

Production note: “Farewell” was officially adopted as the title when the movie was dubbed for a 1988 international marketing campaign. Evidence strongly points to the dub being produced by Streamline Pictures or someone close to them. That version was later released on VHS by Voyager Entertainment in the US and Linguaphone in Japan. Click here to see details in our Farewell to Yamato videography.

To those familiar only with Star Blazers, this movie would seem to be an adaptation of the second series, The Comet Empire. Actually, the opposite is true. Farewell came first, which makes the second series the adaptation. The second series is my favorite of the Yamato/Star Blazers franchise. While this movie is held in wide regard, I have to admit I have a lukewarm feeling toward it. Many of the elements I loved about the second series — the confrontations between the Yamato and Andromeda, the Space Marine’s turbulent integration into the Star Force, the revelations about Trelaina and her romance with Mark Venture, the political machinations of the Comet Empire, and Desslok’s miraculous change in allegiances; those are mostly missing here. This says a lot about the creators; the movie was 2.5 hrs, and they still had enough ideas to flesh out a 26-episode series!

This movie was released in 1978, the year after the first Star Wars (though in Japan they both arrived in the same summer). The Yamato writers had a brainstorming session in Hawaii where they watched both Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s easy to see a direct line of inspiration between Star Wars, whose heroes had to face off against the Death Star, to Farewell to Yamato, in which its heroes face off against a similar huge fortress. A “Death Comet,” if you will.

The movie starts quietly, panning through several views of space, as the narrator talks about the wonders and mysteries of the universe. This is similar to the opening of the Space Battleship Yamato movie, and this type of intro stuck throughout the franchise — similar scenes and narrations open all subsequent series and movies.

Then the narrator goes silent and we’re left with a scene of a dark, starry field. You have to look closely here to see a pulsing light crossing the screen. Then, the distant light turns and comes barreling strait at the camera, revealing the villains of the piece, the Comet Empire. We’re not introduced to the faces behind the Empire yet. Instead we are informed of their conquering ways by the Narrator while being shown images of the Comet’s fleet attacking a planet. The Comet’s next target is Earth.

These scenes are accompanied by one of my favorite Hiroshi Miyagawa compositions, called “White Comet.” If you’ve seen Star Blazers Series 2, you’ve heard this music. It’s the haunting, menacing piece played entirely on pipe organ.

We then switch to an update on Earth, where again we hear some familiar music, this time the sounds of Kazuko Kawashima singing “The Universe Spreading To Infinity.” Earth seems to have completely recovered from the war with Gamilas. Not only has the planet been restored, but activities within the Solar System have resumed as well. Escorting the 15th supply fleet is a small destroyer commanded by Susumu Kodai [Derek Wildstar]. The only other familiar face on the bridge is Aihara [Homer]. The rest of the bridge staff are unknown. Kodai’s ship will finally return to Earth on September 5th, the anniversary of the date the Yamato returned from Iscandar.

Next we catch up with Earth Defense Headquarters, which is now operating above ground in a rebuilt Tokyo, which also goes by the name “Megalopolis.” I guess the same engineers on board the Yamato who kept rebuilding the third bridge also worked on the city, seeing as how it grew so fast. Here we see two more familiar faces: EDF Commander Todo [Singleton] and Yuki [Nova]. The Commander’s dialogue informs us that Kodai and Yuki are to be married in 3 days’ time.

Later, the Prime Minister of Earth gives a brief speech to a massive crowd gathered to watch the launching of EDF’s new flagship, Andromeda. While it retains the basic naval battleship form of Yamato (superstructure, triple barrel turrets), it has a more sleek and modern design. It seems to be more lightly-armed than Yamato with the exception of one area: its twin Wave-Motion Guns. The Prime Minister assures the crowd that Andromeda will lead the Earth in protecting peace in the universe. While this is a laudable goal, the Andromeda‘s first act after launching is to nearly collide with Kodai’s incoming ship, which has to veer out of the way to avoid getting hit. This sets the tone of the current Earth government; they are powerful and mighty and without a thought for anyone else.

Yuki meets Kodai at the spaceport. As they travel through the rebuilt city, Kodai seems rather silent and reserved. Later, as Yuki flits around picking out furniture for the home they will soon be sharing, Kodai maintains his somber mood.

The next scene reunites the rest of the Yamato crew, who gather at sunset at a place called “Hero’s Hill” to honor Captain Okita [Avatar]. A statue has been built in his honor. Dr. Sado [Dr. Sane] leads the crew in a tribute. This is the first time we see Sado with Mi-kun [Mimi], his yellow tabby. Mi-kun had a brief scene in Episode 10 of the first series. The feline has a liking for sake and has apparently been trained to sit up and do a “Yamato salute.”

As the beautiful red sunset fades into the deep blue of night, the Yamato reunion is still going strong. Everyone’s attention is drawn skyward when the Andromeda, with all running lights on, returns to port. In a nice bit of symbolism; we see Okita’s statue in the foreground as the giant new battleship looms ever closer in the background. The meaning is clear, and consistent with the previous Andromeda scene, that as great as the Captain and his accomplishments were, it can’t compare with all the shiny new EDF toys. One of the Yamato crew isn’t happy about the Andromeda buzzing their ceremony and shouts out an expletive as it passes.

Kodai and Shima [Venture] join Sanada [Sandor] and Analyzer [IQ-9] in the lab, where Sanada pulls up an image of a mysterious White Comet that seems to be heading for Earth. From the image on Sanada’s monitor, it looks like the Comet isn’t even in the Milky Way yet, so realistically it should be thousands of light years away and shouldn’t reach Earth for hundreds of centuries. Nothing is said of this, of course, and no explanation is given for why it’s treated as an imminent threat. They also listen to a recording of a faint radio message from distant space, apparently a warning of some danger. The trio thinks the two items are related.

Sanada and Kodai attend the defense council meeting, where the subject is raised of a possible danger posed by the White Comet, but the council can’t conceive of a danger that the Andromeda can’t handle. Todo makes the point that it may not just be Earth that is in need of protection. The council would prefer to wait until the danger is more defined. Kodai, who has observed in silence, finally speaks up. He throws the words of the Earth Prime Minister back at them, saying if Earth is to be a “guardian of peace in the universe” they must be a leader and take on this threat, even if it doesn’t directly affect Earth. He is then angrily denounced by a council member.

Afterward, the Yamato crew meets in the old underground Earth Defense HQ to complain about the council’s decision. Their meeting is interrupted by Todo. He’s usually the friendly face of the EDF, and even seemed rather fatherly in the earlier scene with Yuki, but now he’s all business. He flat out tells them that the Yamato and its crew are to be reassigned: the crew will be scattered throughout the Earth Defense bases, and the ship itself will become a museum.

After he leaves, the crew quickly decide on a plan of action. They will take the ship. They are inspired by Kodai’s speech, with two notable exceptions: Shima, who balks at the idea of going against orders, and Yuki, who realizes their wedding has been put on hold. She forces a smile and tells Kodai she will pack his things.

Soon, the old Yamato crew boards the space battleship. Shima is noticeably absent, which seems to make Aihara angry (perhaps an antecedent of the mutual dislike the two develop in The Comet Empire TV series). The Yamato crew’s actions do not escape the notice of the EDF command, especially Commander Todo’s unnamed adjunct [General Stone], who describes their activities as treasonous. To his horror, he sees the rebellion start to grow: Hajime Saito [Sgt. Knox] and his elite Space Cavalry [Space Marine] unit have decided to join the Yamato.

Saito announces his presence by walking onto the bridge. Kodai isn’t especially thrilled to see him. Dr Sado seems to know Saito, and tries to sell Kodai on his abilities as a fighter. Kodai reluctantly allows Saito and his men to stay, and suggests they can help with clean up duty. Saito refuses this “offer,” admitting he’s a proud man and, flicking his toothpick on the ground, says he’s going to his cabin until he’s needed.

Todo’s aide contacts the crew to order everyone off the ship lest they be charged with treason. Kodai pipes the EDF Officer’s message throughout the ship, then gives everyone the choice to stay or go. Everyone stays, and the gangway is drawn in. A relief portrait of Captain Okita is placed behind the command podium and with that, Yamato is prepared for take-off.

The ship is housed in an underwater drydock. This is probably the same dock we saw way back in the first episode when Okita’s flagship returned from the Pluto battle to land in an underground hangar in the dry seabed. Now that the oceans have been restored, this dock must be flooded to allow Yamato to exit into the ocean. With no Shima, Kodai himself takes the helm. Since Kodai was trained for a combat position, I have to wonder where he learned Navigation duties. Some cross-training was necessary I suppose, due to the limited crew, but surely this most important of Nav positions would be better off in the hands of Ohta [Eager] or one of the other members of the Nav group. Perhaps because Yuki wasn’t present Ohta’s position at the radar post was deemed more important. There seemed to be some redundancy between Ohta and Yuki’s positions — they both shouted out incoming threats — so if one is out it’s probably even more vital to have the other there.

As the ship is rising to the surface, Shima reveals his presence. He offers a brief apology to Kodai, then takes the helm. What follows is a great iconic shot of Yamato rising out of the water. Like breaking free from the dried seabed back in episode 2, this is a kind of symbolic resurrection. The space battleship is rising from the very same waters that once entombed it, refusing to stay in its watery grave.

As the ship passes the moon, it is intercepted by a fighter squadron. After a few tense moments, it’s revealed to be Yamato‘s former Black Tiger squadron, now flying new fighter models and bearing a new name, the Cosmo Tigers. We’re introduced to three squad leaders. First is Kato [Conroy], who was regularly seen in the first series. Second squad is led by Yamamoto [Hardy], the long-haired pilot last seen when he crashed into the hangar right before Yamato‘s first warp. The third squad is commanded by Jiro Tsurami, a character who will never be seen again after this introduction.

Story note: The Cosmo Tiger squads are visually differentiated by color accents on their fighters. First squad is red, second squad is yellow.

Continue to Part 2