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.