354 Days Left Until Earth’s Destruction: Space Battleship Yamato 1-8

I have finally begun watching one of the most enduring classics of anime, Space Battleship Yamato, localized in the US as Star Blazers. It is the epic tale of an old World War II battleship which has been revived as a space-faring vessel.  Its purpose: to traverse 148,000 light years to the planet Iscandar in order to obtain a device which can save the Earth from a radioactive death, and it has a little over a year to obtain the device and make it back to Earth.  Meanwhile, the dreaded Gamilus Empire, the ones responsible for turning the Earth into a wasteland in the first place, are doing everything they can to stop the Yamato.

Space Battleship Yamato, like all of Matsumoto Leiji’s works, feels like it comes straight out of the 1970s, and, well, it did. The show displays a sheer sense of wonder and imagination as to what awaits humanity.  Combined with the harsh setting of desperately trying to save a dying Earth, an Earth ravaged by war and destruction, and it begins to invoke the teachings of famed astronomer Carl Sagan, who warned that if humans do not go past the sentient “adolescence” of technology that we are all doomed to die.

Yamato is the first anime to build a true fanbase, and it is very, very easy to see why this show captivated so many people in Japan and the rest of the world. It’s a race against time, with the weight of humanity itself on the shoulders of the crew of the Yamato.  Nothing can be considered filler because there is no way to reset everything back to a status quo. No matter how many repairs are made, the 366-day countdown to Earth’s demise draws closer to zero.  The show has a large cast of likable characters, from the wise captain Okita to the beautiful Yuki, from the smarmy robot Analyzer to the daring Kodai, it is remarkably easy to slip into the world of Yamato as a sort of wish-fulfillment scenario, where the viewer is also a part of the quest to Iscandar.

One humorous aspect of the show is the way it overuses the word “space” as a descriptor. The Yamato travels in space knots.  It’ll be five hundred space seconds before they reach the next point. Oh no, space tanks!  Space space space space space. I’ll chalk it up to being from the 70s.  In this respect, it’s not much different from, say, Star Trek or Star Wars.  Another thing is the amount of fanservice Yuki provides.  Nothing wrong with fanservice, I just find it odd that no one ever told me about it.  It might just be that it all got removed from Star Blazers, so no one ever even knew about the Yuki panty shots.

I’m definitely going to keep watching.  For the historian and anime fan in me, Yamato is vitally important, but those pale in comparison to the way it appeals to the basic humanity in me and the desire to go forth into the universe with a noble cause at heart.

3 thoughts on “354 Days Left Until Earth’s Destruction: Space Battleship Yamato 1-8

  1. I’m impressed here. Not a lot of anime fans even bother watching the classics, but here you are. *pachipachi* Enjoy Yamato. It’s one of the best epic space journeys I’ve seen. I totally cried, laughed, and smiled over this journey. One of my favorite aspects of the show is the countdown at the end of every episode. And the opening song. :) Hehehen. It really made you feel the urgency to save the earth in a year.

    Yamato is quite important, although other titles like Mobile Suit Gundam will totally swing this series over and togethery, they will bring the SF otakus out.

    There is this book I read about Akihabara (the one related to the Bienalle convention years ago) and they spoke how these dreamy space journeys made Japanese kids dream of a fantastic future, only to realize that they are nowhere near to getting that dream, hence they congregated at the only place that represented a part of this dream, the technology hub that is Akiba. And from there, they lived their fantasy. Interesting, isn’t it?

    Enjoy your Yamato journey. <3 <3 I look forward to seeing your anime education. <3


  2. I firmly believe that the crushing realization that the world of the future, “the year 2000” as promised in pretty much all science fiction (the flying cars, interplanetary travel, and all that other stuff on The Jetsons) was just a big fat lie did more to disillusion people to science, technology, and higher education that most people give credit. Japanese otaku no doubt felt the same once no super space fortress crash landed on Macross Island after all, though in the end THEIR idea of the robot maid is far more sinister than Rosie from The Jetsons ever was.

    I think most instances of Analyzer flipping up Yuki’s skirt were cut out of Star Blazers, so that might be why you don’t hear fans talk about it as much. Fans these days seem to know what the relatively minor changes are–it appears that Knox did not get out just behind them and Dr Sane wasn’t drinking spring water after all–but getting subtitled uncut episodes of Yamato was quite difficult for several years until very recently. I think most of them enjoy Star Blazers a bit more than Yamato, but I don’t think it’s the same as how the Robotech people prefer it to Macross. Rather, I think most US fans just think the dub voices are as good if not better than their Japanese counterparts, particularly with regards to Desslar/Desslok. It’s not entirely a matter of “this is what we’re nostalgic for,” though that plays a part. I think it’s pretty much like the difference between Liquid Snake in Japanese and English, though I do wish I at least had the option to play all the MGS games with Japanese audio and English text.

    Fans of Yamato, both longtime and new, are encouraged to pick up issue 4 of Otaku USA (the one with Naruto on the cover), where in addition to some big ol’ features on the good ol’ Uchuu Senkan, noted Yamato/Star Blazers superfan Tim Eldred (from starblazers.com) got to interview the director Noboru Ishiguro. I can’t take credit for that one. I was just there to make the recording.


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