Robotech Fans Wish They Had Yamato 2199

I recently finished Space Battleship Yamato 2199, the outstanding remake of the original Space Battleship Yamato. It’s a series deserving of an elaborate, detailed review to explain all of the thing they did to update the series and why the work, but this isn’t that review. Maybe it’ll come in the future, but what I’d rather talk about is a small revelation I had after I finished the series: Yamato 2199 is basically what Robotech fans wish they got.

The long-standing Robotech fandom is notorious for an obsession with minutiae. Every little detail in the series is scrutinized. Things are renamed to sound more “high-tech.” Every mistake in script and animation in the source anime (Macross, Southern Cross, Mospeada) is either ignored, retconned, or mentally transformed into something which makes technical “sense.” A whole slew of supplementary material exists to explain in a satisfying way to an audience who enjoys harder science fiction some of the sillier moments that come from the original anime.

While Yamato 2199 doesn’t go quite that far, it does accomplish a lot to smooth over some of the narrative and hazy science fictional bumps which littered the original version. Case in point, the ridiculous-sounding device that the crew of the Yamato must travel to Iscandar to pick up to save the Earth, “Cosmo Cleaner-D,” is rechristened the “Cosmo Reverse System,” and is given a technical explanation as to how it’s supposed to work. Moments in the original Yamato which were more for dramatic flair than anything else keep the drama but also add sounder technical elements. Aspects of the show barely touched upon originally receive elaboration in Yamato 2199, and where the old series at times looked like it was still trying to find what it really wanted to do, the new series has the benefit of hindsight to cleanly and efficiently aim for its narrative and thematic goals.

As far as I can tell, what Robotech fans really want is just Robotech as it was back in the 1980s with minor adjustments, and this is what really makes Yamato 2199 the ideal template for Robotech fans. Yamato 2199 is about 90-95% the same as the original in tone and feel, even though it is updated for the modern era to take into account social developments in the past 40 years and the character designs are a little more modernized. It’s this formula which something like The Shadow Chronicles does not appear to achieve, though it also helps to have a substantially higher budget and cleaner animation like Yamato 2199 does, to accomplish its goals.

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4 thoughts on “Robotech Fans Wish They Had Yamato 2199

  1. This was a really good show! I have weirdly confused feelings about it though. A lot of it was SUPER GREAT (inter-dimensional submarines!!!) but there were some parts of the series I felt were less well-written than others. The whole ship mutiny arc at about the halfway point felt weirdly paced with a lot of decisions by the cast that felt rushed or out of character, and the fact that the ending was pretty much the ending of Clannad in space made me laugh a bit. The good parts were really, really good though, and I guess the not-so-good parts can be excused as typical anime rushed pacing.

    I actually think some of my favorite episodes in the series were actually the one-offs in the first half. Especially the hallucination episode, that was right out of Rahxephon (which makes sense considering the director of Rahxephon also directed this series.) And I appreciated how the creators of 2199 chose to make the series more consistent plotting-wise while simultaneously keeping much of what made the original so memorable.

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  2. Good article. Yamato 2199 is probably the best example of a remake done right: It keeps the best elements of the original and improves on the weak points (more female characters, a more complex story, etc.).

    I was thinking recently that SDF Macross would benefit of a remake project. Even if the story and characters are still well remembered, the animation is dated. As Yamato, it doesn’t require deep changes but needs a refresh and the main story could benefit of a tightening (from 36 to 26 episodes).

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  3. I’d like to a Yamato 2199 style remake of Robotech too, but I doubt Harmony Gold is willing to put in the money given how half-hour long action cartoons have failed in the past few years.

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  4. Curses! This review set me off on a SBY binge… well ok, I had snarfed the live version movie a few months back and never got to it until…. One thing stands out for me: The live movie REALLY likes the orchestral soundtrack moments, it does Yamato Rising right.. . But 2199 has a redo of the the original “Gunka” theme song which is just plain … odd. There was always an undercurrent of weird politics around the SBY remakes. I mean, it’s not like it’s the Space Battleship Aryan Spirit or anything.. Or perhaps I read too much into it..

    YA! MA! TO!!!!

    More on Gunka here http://www.hellodamage.com/top/2011/08/27/gunka-gunka-gunka/
    /M

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