Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Space Battleship Yamato For Dummies

Editor's note: this piece was written in 2009, before we'd seen SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO RESURRECTION and the live-action SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO film and before we had any idea SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO 2199 was on the horizon, let alone SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO 2202. However, we feel in the interests of bringing SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO knowledge to a wider, perhaps unknowing world, that this article still serves a valuable purpose. 

As we all know, after 16 years there's a new SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO film coming out. On Dec. 12, the film SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO RESURRECTION premieres in Japanese theaters, and even across the Pacific we can feel the excitement. Whether you ran home from school to catch the latest episode of "Star Blazers" in 1979 or you discovered the series on DVD last week, we are all breathlessly awaiting the new adventures of the blue and red space battleship and its intrepid crew.

What's that you say? You've never seen "Star Blazers" -- OR SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO? Well, don't worry. We here at Let's Anime feel your pain. That's why we've created this handy list of crib notes that will allow you to hold forth on YAMATO and YAMATO-related concepts at any gathering of anime fans you may find yourself in. Now you can fool the pros and make everybody think you too wasted your youth watching cartoons on TV when you could have been outside - you know, playing sports! THIS GUIDE IS FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. Warning: contains spoilers for 30 year old cartoons.

Yamato - Imperial Japanese battleship destroyed in World War Two and rebuilt in 2199 as a super space battleship in order to journey to Iscandar and retrieve the Cosmo Cleaner D from Queen Starsha in order to remove the radioactivity that is slowly destroying all life on Earth. Also involved with the destruction of the Comet Empire, mysterious planet destroying activities in the Greater Magellanic Cloud, an invasion of Earth from the Dark Nebula, certain events involving the interstellar war between the Galman Empire and the Bolar Commonwealth, and the diversion of the innundation of Earth by the water planet Aquarius. All this is helpfully transcribed in record albums, storybooks, video tapes, DVDs, model kits, toys, and other historical documents.

Kodai Susumu / Derek Wildstar - determined, hot-headed young deputy captain of the Yamato, this wild young hellraiser soon settles down and by the third time the Yamato's had to save Earth, he's become the boring captain the new young guys rebel against. Before they die. Finally consummates his marriage to long-suffering girlfriend Yuki Mori in the last reel of FINAL YAMATO, depending on which version you're watching.

Younger Yamato crewmen must know where their reproductive organs are at all times.
Captain Okita / Avatar - Captain of the Yamato, this grizzled space veteran leads the way to Iscandar, inspiring his subordinates and saving the Earth. He is such an inspiration that Kodai even talks to his ghost on a few occasions, which is a good trick since we learn in FINAL YAMATO that Captain Okita didn't actually die at the end of the trip to Iscandar, but was secretly put into suspended animation and revived for the purposes of making the script to FINAL YAMATO a little stupider.

Shima Daisuke / Venture - Yamato navigator and general second banana. Occasionally gets into disputes with Kodai. Worries about his kid brother, falls in love with Trelaina/Teresa, and is killed in FINAL YAMATO for the purposes of making the script a little stupider.

Yuki Mori / Nova - Yamato's chief nurse, all-space radar operator, required female character, and very patient fiance of Susumu Kodai. Is the only female on board the Yamato, except when she isn't. Deflowered in a bizarre sequence excised from later prints of "Final Yamato".

True love waits.
Time Radar - interesting device on board the Yamato which allows operators to look back in time and see previously occuring events, including Tokugawa using a corner of the engine room as a urinal.

Tokugawa / Orion - Yamato's chief engineer. Totally does not care where he takes a whiz. His son, also named Tokugawa, becomes assistant engineer, but does not share his father's lack of regard for proper toilet training.

Sanada / Sandor - his arms and legs are bombs.

Argo - we can't put a show on American television named after a WWII battleship from a country we were fighting! What's another name for a ship? Um... "SS Minnow". "Titanic". "Edmund Fitzgerald." No wait, "Andrea Doria". "PT 109". No, those won't do. What's that ship those Greeks were on in "Jason And The Argonauts"? Give me a minute, it'll come to me.

ARRIVEDERCI YAMATO - another title for "Farewell Space Battleship Yamato Soldiers Of Love", a film in which the Yamato is completely destroyed. This didn't stop the Yamato from returning in a TV series sequel "Yamato 2", which you saw as the Comet Empire series, and in which the Yamato was not destroyed.

Arufon - Dark Nebula lieutanant assigned to seduce Yuki Mori and find out the location of the secret Earth Defense Command base in the film BE FOREVER YAMATO. Does he succeed? Hey, at least he's in there trying, unlike some other guys we could mention who are too busy saving Earth to pay any attention to their supposed fiances.

BE FOREVER YAMATO - seemingly endless film in which the Yamato must travel across time and space beyond the Dark Nebula to deactivate a bomb which is somehow instantly triggered across five hundred thousand light years, from a command post on a fake Earth that may or may not be populated by machine people. Stick around for the amazing "Warp Dimension" trick if you catch this one in a theater.

Beemera - aptly named planet populated by bee people. Hint: don't try the honey.

Later, that same bee...
Black Tigers - space fighter planes carried on board the Yamato, these distinctive black and yellow ships can operate in outer space or in atmosphere. Apparently there is an unlimited supply of these planes.

Comet Empire - properly named "Gatlantis", this huge intergalactic colony vessel is the home of a green-skinned race of space invaders ruled by Emperor Zordar, who in the American version is demoted to "Prince" and whose consort Sabera ("Invidia") is given a nice Oedipal twist and becomes his daughter. When you blow up the Comet Empire a super space battleship comes out of the wreckage, and then you have to blow THAT up. If you're in the movie, you must sacrifice yourself and the Yamato, but if you're in the TV series then the mysterious Teresa from planet Telezart will use her awesome space powers to save the universe, which she could have done at any time, really, but nobody wants to watch a TV series of the Yamato getting its decks painted.

Operators are standing by. Call now!
Cosmo Cleaner D - aka "Cosmo DNA", this machine can remove the radioactivity caused by years of Gamilon planet bombing, and thereby save Earth. A team of "Star Blazers" called the Star Force undertakes the perilous mission. But can they travel to Iscandar, 148,000 light years and back, in just one Earth year?! I bet they can.

Analyzer / IQ-9 - a genius robot with the mind of an 8 year old boy.

Programmed for sexual harassment, apparently
Dr. Sado / Dr. Sane - potato-head chief medical officer on board the Yamato. A heavy drinker and always drunk, but a super excellent medical doctor. So they say.

Ota / Eager - Star Force crewmember in charge of looking at the radar screen and saying "Missiles approaching!" in his hayseed voice whenever enemy missiles are in fact approaching the Argo.

Cosmo Zero - also known as the "Super Star" fighter, this sleek high-tech space fighter plane piloted by Susumu Kodai when he feels the need... the need for speed. The number of Cosmo Zero planes carried on board the Yamato varies widely according to which studio is animating this week's story.

"Derek Wildstar" - why yes, we DID write the American version of this show in the late 1970s, why do you ask?

Leiji Matsumoto - manga artist and WWII buff whose attention to detail and obsession with the Pacific War made SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO much more interesting than it would have been originally. Other works include GALAXY EXPRESS 999, SPACE PIRATE CAPTAIN HARLOCK, and, uh, SEXAROID.

Yoshinobu Nishizaki - producer of YAMATO whose other works include BLUE NOAH and ODIN and various weapons and narcotics violations.

BLUE NOAH - Nishizaki-produced anime series about a space battleship defending Earth against invading aliens. Any resemblance between it and YAMATO is purely coincidental. Known in the United States and worldwide as "Thunder Sub" and also the name of the Earth Defense Command flagship in SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO REBIRTH.

Wave Motion Gun - super powerful weapon that fires from the nose of the Yamato, just where the Imperial chrysanthemum was on the original WWII Yamato, thereby symbolizing the godlike power of the Divine Emperor destroying the enemies of Japan. I mean, the Earth.

Planet Bombs - Slightly more destructive than "plant bombs".

Desslar / Desslok- This blue space dictator is a sex machine to all the chicks. When he's not executing subordinates for laughing at their own jokes he's waging interplanetary war, surviving being blown into the vacuum of space, teaming up with the Comet Empire strictly for revenge and then switching sides, and watching his home planet get blown to bits. Though he spends most of his time pining away for Queen Starsha, he's not above gettin' busy with other space ladies on occasion. Just don't ask him for child support.

Ask to see his "Desslar Gun."

Gamilas / Gamilon -this volcanic hollow planet is a twin planet of Iscandar, an altogether more appealing world. Both are in the solar system of Sanzar in the Greater Magellanic Cloud, one hundred and eighty-six thousand light years from Earth. Once ruled by Desslar, Gamilas was destroyed in a mining accident involving non-union workers from the Dark Nebula, and Iscandar was destroyed after being blown out of its orbit by the same explosion. Not a good day for Desslar, really.

Talan - the moustache man. Desslar's second in command, trusted confidant, and general all around go-to guy. Talan's moustache is admired by all.

Psychological profile of Talan by "Kaoru Sotorin"

Garuman / Galman - the ancestral home of the Gamilas peoples, this planet near the Galactic Center was conquered by the Bolar Commonwealth. And then one day Desslar showed up and conquered it right back.

Skee-Ball - Desslar's favorite carnival game.

Starsha - queen of Iscandar, this impossibly skinny woman is not only the last survivor of her planet, but must deal with guiding the Star Force to Iscandar so that they can get the Cosmo Cleaner D out of her basement, while at the same time fending off the increasingly insistent romantic advances of Desslar, the dictator of the planet next door. He's only going to buy that "I'm doing my hair" excuse so many times! Eventually falls in love with Susumu Kodai's brother, an altogether more pleasant fellow.

Iscandar -this largely aquatic, peaceful planet is home to Queen Starsha and not much else, all of her subjects having died of a mysterious space disease. She sends her sister Sasha/Astra to Earth with the plans for the Wave Motion Engine so that the Yamato can come to Iscandar and retrieve the Cosmo Cleaner D. Involved in a complicated orbital arrangement with Gamilas. Destroyed by Queen Starsha to keep it from being exploited by the Dark Nebula.

Sasha - daughter of Susumu Kodai's brother Mamoru and Queen Starsha of Iscandar, she's first seen as an infant in the climax of YAMATO THE NEW VOYAGE. Two years later in the film BE FOREVER YAMATO she's a 16 year old girl, using her mysterious space powers to invent the concept of "moe".

Star Blazers - American version of SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, comprised of a 1979 release of the first two YAMATO television series and a 1985 re-syndication of the show with an added 25 episodes taken from the third SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO series, dubbed by a completely different cast.

Star Dipwads - parody dub of ARRIVEDERCI YAMATO produced in 1989 by two Georgia teenagers. Rewritten plot involves cornbread that makes your stomach explode, a Comet Empire composed entirely of copulating sheep, and repeated use of the "Klondike Bar" jingle. Sequels: THE MAKING OF STAR DIPWADS, A STAR DIPWADS CHRISTMAS, and STAR DIPWADS II: THE METAL YEARS.

Earth Defense Command - organization in charge of commanding the defense of Earth. Also the name of the 1980s era Yamato/anime fan club operated from the Dallas Texas area, charged with defending fanzines and video tapes. The EDC maintains a gigantic fleet of space battleships which are all destroyed whenever Earth is threatened, paving the way for an inspiring last-minute save courtesy the Yamato.

Aquarius - planet made up of mostly water which tools around the universe raining on other planets. Occasionally there is too much rain and planets get completely destroyed. Sometimes evil races of outer space people use their enormous colony ships to warp Aquarius into the path of other planets and deliberately drown them just for kicks, as seen in the fine documentary film FINAL YAMATO.

Teresa / Trelaina - rail-thin last survivor of planet Telezart, her mysterious space powers enabled her to "master the secret of anti-matter." She used this power to end a civil war on her planet. Unfortunately she did this by killing everybody else on the planet. Her lonely space vigil is interrupted by the arrival of the Comet Empire and it's her warning to Earth that spurs the Yamato into action! She and Shima have a long-distance relationship, and like most long distance relationships it ends soon after they meet.

Teach me more of this Earth custom known as "clothing." Also, "sandwiches."

Captain Saito / Sergeant Knox - commander of the Space Marines, a rough-tough gang of two fisted fightin' men who love to fight and stuff. Rescued from a Comet Empire advance force by the Yamato, the Space Marines show their gratitude by fighting with Yamato crewmen until they can be deposited on planet Telezart where they can fight Comet Empire tanks. Fight fight fight.

Domel / Lysis - Gamilas general with a huge chin, called in to finally take care of that blue and red space battleship once and for all. His complicated plan involves fleets of space carriers, teleportation devices, and a missile with a giant drill on the front. He and his huge chin are blown to bits in a fairly meaningless attack on the third bridge.

Third Bridge - this curious structural appendage to the hull of the Yamato was added to give the design something interesting looking on the lower half. It's constantly being blown to bits, so if you happen to find yourself assigned to the Yamato, make sure your duties keep you out of the Third Bridge. In the new film it's painted blue, apparently to confuse attackers.

FINAL YAMATO - Otherwise known as "Space Battleship Yamato -the Concluding Chapter", this 1983 film was the absolute last outing for the Yamato, never gonna be another YAMATO, nossir. Except for YAMATO 2520.

the Yamato we pretend doesn't exist

YAMATO 2520 - we don't talk about this one.

The Yamato Bike

Yamato Bike - this amazing child's bike was sold in the wake of the 1978 success of ARRIVEDERCI YAMATO to impressionable youngsters who, judging from the kid in this ad, completely failed to appreciate how awesome this bike was and how lucky they were to be able to own one for their very own, instead of being arrested for stealing the Yamato Bike on display at the Showa Era home exhibit at Tokyo Decks in Odaiba. Not that that happened.

exhibit "A"

Well, we hope this guide has been helpful to you and your self-esteem in regards to knowledge of SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO. As to why your self-esteem should be tied up in trivia about a space cartoon... that's another story. YAMATO - TAKE OFF!!

-Dave Merrill

I guess this about wraps things up, seeing as how this is Yamato wrapping paper

Thanks for reading Let's Anime! If you enjoyed it and want to show your appreciation for what we do here as part of the Mister Kitty Dot Org world, please consider joining our Patreon!


Anonymous said...

My local F.Y.E has a Star Blazers boxset for only 9.99. I'm still wondering if I should buy it or not.

d.merrill said...

Ten bucks?! Signs point to YES.

Unknown said...

You've been saving up for this one, haven't you?

Chris Sobieniak said...

Sad I don't have an FYE in my neck of the woods or I'd be doing that too. Of course being a film collector/hoarder, I'm kinda interested in one or two episodes on 16mm if or when I find them popping up on eBay (too bad they tend to sell for high prices).

Laura Wilson said...

This was pretty much the best article ever, thank you. That picture of Kodai and Okita in their little man panties made me laugh til it hurt.

Tim Eldred said...

Where the heck did you find that last picture??? That's a piece of history--a custom-printed bag from the first anime specialty store in human history! (It was later renamed 'Animec.')

d.merrill said...

That Yamato wrapping paper came wrapped around something a pen pal sent me years ago. I guess it was bought at "Animec" or whatever turned into "Animec". Never throw anything away, kids!

Anonymous said...


August Ragone said...

Awesome! I've been trying to educate the kids who aren't aware of SB or YAMATO, when they say that this new live-action "Space Battleship" movie is Japan's response to the recent BSG and Trek revisions. Much to teach them... this will help!


Helen McCarthy said...

Superb article. Thanks! I still maintain that Tezuka moe predated Yamato moe by around 30 years, but given the friendship between Tezuka and Matsumoto (plus the fact that Matsumoto was a huge Tezuka fan as a child) there's sure to be a developmental link between the two.

Is that picture of Kodai and Okita taken from a paper doll book? Classic paper-doll pose, and of course they were usually clad only in undies, ready for dressing.

I miss paper dolls.

Third Eye said...

Ahaha, awesome review, but you missed the Bolar Empire as a meek rip off of the soviets we all have to fight with our former ruthless and cowardly remotely bombing enemies (the gamericans, I presume)...

Anonymous said...

Hmm, the humans are wise to their future...