The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Space Battleship Yamato 2199

Title: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 aka Uchu Senkan Yamato 2199
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Xebec/AIC
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 7 Apr 2013 – 29 Sep 2013

Synopsis: Mankind has entered a war with an ambivalent alien race known as the Gamilas. Due to mankind’s inferior technology, Earth has been bombarded with radioactive meteorite bombs that have poisoned the planet’s surface. Forced to live underground, mankind faces extinction until a mysterious capsule from a different alien race lead by Queen Starsha promises them salvation. Using blueprints found in the capsule, mankind retrofits the WWII battleship Yamato into a space cruiser to travel the stars and meet up with Starsha. The only problem is that they must penetrate deep into Gamilas’ territory to succeed.

The Highlights
Visuals: 2D animation looks great, but the 3D elements are rough.
Music: Dated, but will hit nostalgia chords for those who have them.
Cast: Sizable ensemble of interesting personalities.
Story: Grand in both scope and ambition.

Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is a 2013 remake of Space Battleship Yamato, a television series from the 70s that is one of the most influential anime ever created. Better known as Star Blazers in the West, Yamato tells a story that is nearly peerless in scope and ambition, with characters and settings that reach across the stars. Though there are times newer adaptations completely miss the point of the original, Yamato 2199 tells a story so well realized that there’s little question why the original is considered timeless.

The core of Yamato 2199 is its massive cast of believable, well developed characters. Everyone from the deckhands to the ship’s eccentric doctor are given personalities, back stories and reasons for their personal ambitions. Even the antagonists are given their fair shake of development. Ostensibly, the show seems like a weekly exercise of the human protagonists foiling the plans of evil aliens. As the show develops, it becomes clear that the antagonists are really just people with different world views that guide their aggression against the Yamato. The cast spans the spectrum of white knights to rat like scum with a mix of all spread across each faction. The real meat of the show comes not from the epic laser shows between battleships, but the interpersonal dramas and circumstances guiding the characters to such drastic outcomes.

In a sense, this decentralized focus can be seen as a weakness because so many characters take air time away from a single, central piece of drama. In most shows, the setting is a nice layer of icing to enhance the main narrative about one character’s journey. In Yamato, the world building is the real experience and the characters are the mediums that give the various human perspectives on it. While the main protagonist Kodai Susumu gets plenty of interesting story moments, he is really very much one drop in a vast sea of events that occur in Yamato, and as a result one of the final pieces of the story falls flat.

Visually, the show is exceptionally realized when it comes to the 2D animation, but feels a tad off-putting when it comes to the 3D. Copy-pasted CGI space ships firing lasers would have been fine if the recoil animations for when they are hit weren’t so phony. The music feels a tad dated at times, but the pieces are more often than not effective.

The story of Yamato actually boils down to a fairly simple narrative that is made rich by the complexity of its characters. The question of “what happens?” is nowhere near as important as the human explanation of “why?” Though not all the individual character arcs reach a truly satisfying conclusion, it is astounding that a show so epic in scope and vision can be given such a genuine human touch that resonates with people from the 70s to today.

The Rating: 8
8/10

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

 

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