Yamato vs. 999 and the Makeup of a Journey

By necessity, a journey involves “movement.” However, the act of moving from one place (or dimension or time) to another by itself does not constitute a journey. Characters in Dragon Ball Z travel across the Earth and even to other planets, but the more humble adventures of young Goku in Dragon Ball feel far fitting to be called “journeys.” The more the individual stops carry significance, the more a tale of travel becomes a journey. However, the longer each significant stop is, the less it becomes a journey as well.

The details of how a journey narrative unfolds—and the meanings carried by it—can come from what elements are in the characters’ control, and which ones aren’t. From this perspective, it is interesting to compare two of the greatest “journey anime”: Space Battleship and Galaxy Express 999.

 

 

Space Battleship Yamato

Galaxy Express 999

Between these two series, we can see two major archetypes: the journey of necessity, and the journey of discovery. Both series are about reaching a destination and overcoming death (the Yamato flies to obtain a device that can save humanity from radiation, Tetsurou boards the Galaxy Express 999 to obtain an immortal robot body). However, Yamato’s journey is more about what imperils the heroes, while 999 is about discovering new worlds and seeing how life differs from place to place.

As a result, while both series don’t spend long amounts of time in any one location, the reasons for the brevity of their respective planetary locales are substantially different. Because the Yamato is in a race against time, there is a constant sense of urgency. They’re being pursued by the enemy, all while the fate of the human race rests in their hands. How long they stay anywhere depends on how long it takes them to get out.

In contrast, the length of each stop for the 999 is determined by the day cycle of a planet. This provides both narrative variety and something to chew on (e.g. what does it mean to live day to day on a planet where days are only a few hours?), but in terms of the mechanics, it essentially means that the characters’ schedules, the amount of time they spend on each planet, is dictated by the 999.

In Yamato, the characters must pull their vessel along, and the length of stay is their responsibility. In 999, the characters are pulled along, and their responsibility is doing as much as they can within a time frame. These differences transform the similar developments that the protagonists of each anime go through. By the time both Kodai and Tetsurou emerge from their journeys, they are wiser and more mature, but the former reaches adulthood through constant conflict, while the latter achieves the same through experiencing new perspectives.

Between the journey of necessity and the journey of discovery is the journey where discovery is necessary, but when I try to think of examples the first thing that pops into my head is ironically not really an anime that takes its viewers on a journey at all. Instead, what comes to mind is the series Mahoromatic, which is about a former military robot that becomes a maid in order to spend the rest of her short remaining life atoning for her previous role. Much like Yamato, each episode ends with a count of the days Mahoro has left. Despite Mahoromatic mostly revolving around a static home and environment, Mahoro’s desire to discover what it’s like to live as a human as her life winds down conjures up the well-worn cliché that “life is a journey.”

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From Cutie Honey to Keijo!!!!!!!!: The Rise of Big Butts in Anime History

NOTE: This post is NOT SAFE FOR WORK

yamato2199-moriyuki-characterlineart

Introduction

For as long as there has been fanservice in anime, there has been an emphasis on rear ends. Few things are more associated with anime (for better or worse) than the panty shot, and the form-fitting suits in works such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell have helped to bring posteriors to prominence. However, I believe that buttocks have not remained static over the course of anime’s history and that, over the past 10-15 years, we have reached a point where big butts are “in.” The purpose of this post is to show this gradual change in tastes while also positing some possible reasons that this change has taken place.

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Space Battleship Yamato 2199 and More in Super Robot Wars V

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, a new Super Robot Wars game is coming out in 2017. As is tradition, a number of new series are debuting, including Brave Express Might Gaine, Cross Ange, and what looks to be more Full Metal Panic! now based on either the new upcoming anime or its light novel source material. However, the biggest surprise of all has to be the debut of Space Battleship Yamato into the storied giant robot crossover video game series.

The main surprise, of course, is that Space Battleship Yamato 2199 isn’t a giant robot series. While other entries have in the past stretched the definition of giant robots, from Heroman to Juushin Liger, and others have source material in games other other media (notably the Hatsune Miku Fei-Yen), Yamato is the first to just flat out not be a robot series.

While this is the sort of exception that can get fans in a tizzy (“Is nothing sacred?!”), I think Yamato more or less gets a free pass as one of the most influential science fiction anime of all time. Its original staff was comprised of some of the luminaries of mecha anime (Yasuhiko Yoshikazu, Ishiguro Noboru, and more), and the idea of the “space opera” has had a long reach throughout Japanese pop culture history.

With this news, a new hashtag has appeared on Japanese Twitter:

It’s resulted in some iinteresting entries.

The other big surprise is that Super Robot Wars V will come with subtitles in Chinese, Korean, and English. However, due to licensing, the chance of a true English release is kind of slim.

What do you think should be in Super Robot Wars? How far can the definition of mecha be stretched?

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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.

205 Days Left Until Earth’s Destruction: Space Battleship Yamato Episodes 9-14

“Why it was just different lighting all along!”

Another 6 episodes of Space Battleship Yamato and man, those slow episodes from early on seem like a thing of the past. The biggest step forward by far though is the introduction of Lord Desslar. I mean, he was introduced before in around episode 3 or 4, but at that point he was just Some Guy, and it’s not until episode 11 that I began to see why Desslar is so beloved, and why many consider him to be such a tremendously good villain. His plans to destroy the Yamato amount to more than just “totally shoot it until it blows up.” He has multiple contingencies and works to create situations where you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Also, watching him open up a trap door underneath an uncouth soldier with no respect for the enemy and saying, “We don’t need such barbaric thinking in the Gamilus Empire” defines his character so very well. Highly intelligent and ruthless, but with a sense of honor befitting his title as ruler of Gamilus.

Desslar is just smooth.

But this isn’t the Desslar fan club. This is a Yamato review. And there’s plenty of characters to talk about. Kodai and Okita in particular get some powerful development. The revelation of Okita’s (space) radiation sickness and the quiet loneliness of his existence begins to show the real depth of the Yamato captain. Knowing that Kodai used to hate fighting shows how much the death of his family at the hands of Gamilus has driven him to take revenge. Just seeing every character say good bye to their families before leaving the Solar System, and all of them feeling that the 5 minutes allotted to each person was simply not enough time, that episode was probably the one that affected me the most so far.

Keep at it Yamato. You are deserving your reputation.

PS: Why is Yuki the only girl on board. They did not think this through very well, aside from the possibility that they need to keep the women at home to give birth and raise children for the sake of humanity’s future.

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.