1974′s Space Battleship Yamato is one of the most epic, legendary anime series ever made. It’s also 26 episodes long. The 2010 live action film has to compress all of that into 138 minutes and also attempts to modernise the crew and interestingly, opts to include elements from the anime’s sequel series to boot.
It is ambitious and yet somewhat successful. I say somewhat because they have turned a space opera, a slow dramatic show that at times had me as close to tears as I’ve ever been since I saw Optimus Prime die in ’86, into a Hollywood style blockbuster.
How? why? well simple really, you can’t have anywhere near as many near destruction encounters as in the original. The Yamato doesn’t get heavily damaged and fixed again many times over, there just isn’t time. The pace of the film is understandably quick and there are many things that were cut out but I enjoyed the film and as a film it makes sense even if some f the changes may be a little hard to swallow.
What’s it about?
In the year 2199, mankind loses their final showdown in space against invaders from the Gamilas race. With human tech no match for the attackers, Captain Okita is forced to retreat to the radiation soaked Earth where humans live in underground cities after the surface was hit by radioactive meteors sent by Gamilas. Earth gets a ray of hope in the form of a capsule from Iskander, it contains a map and schematics for a wave motion engine capable of warping a ship through space and powering a canon powerful enough to destroy any Gamilus ship.
The defence force construct the Space Battleship Yamato using these plans, its mission, fight past the attackers from space and travel to Iskander and retrieve a device from the high-tech culture capable of purifying the Earth. Character wise it revolves around the hotshot ace pilot Susumu Kodai, the hard hitting love interest Yuki Mori and wise old Captain Okita and his passing of the torch to Kodai.
The whole cg look of the film’s effects seems to be lifted from the 2005 Batlestar Galactica so it isn’t the best cg you’ll have seen but then this is a Japanese movie and budget-wise can’t be expected to compete with Transformers for cg budgets and effects. The music is instrumental version of the legendary Yamato theme. I’m too old school and mis the words but duing the film the music is just modern remixes of the classic theme which is perfect as the original’s music was a masterpiece up there with Star Wars.
As for some of the more noticable character changes:
Dr Sado, the Yamato’s chief doctor and drunk in the series was a small balding drunk who was always entertaining as he hung around with his cat, the analyzer robot and a bottle of sake. In the film he becomes, well a woman who doesn’t get to do much other than stand around with her cat and a bottle of sake in homage. Not really the best of changes but in this day and age you probably couldn’t get away with the old doctor.
Analyzer goes from being a red human sized robot with perverted tendencies that hangs around with the doctor lusting after Yuki to a ummm, an artificial intelligence living in a tablet pc operated by Kodai for most of the film (but this redesign is totally redeemed near the end of the film with a super baddass upgrade).
Aihara was a guy who didn’t do much in the original series (but did more in later series), him becoming a she I can live with.
Yuki Mori has undergone some sort of personality transport and goes from lifestyle officer and nurse to fighter pilot… That said, it works for the film, if you hadn’t seen the original series you’d never know. If you have, it’s hard.
Saito is a character who was lifted out of the second season of Space Battleship Yamato, he’s less obnoxious than in the series and actually a good addition.
The commander of Gamilus, Desla is a key character of the main story in the anime, in the film, yeah not much time at all and his appearance… Well he was a blue humanoid before, he isn’t now…
Without giving too much away I’ll tell you that you can quite happily watch this film without having seen the original series, in some ways it may help. What I will also say, is that because of the way it skips large events and actually takes large chunks of Yamato 2′s ending. You can quite happily watch the series afterwards and be in for a thoroughly enjoyable story and you won’t be left thinking seen all this, you won’t have because so little of the original is in here. Is that a good thing, I don’t know, but all things considered, I just don’t think it’s possible to compress the whole story into one film and have the same impact. Instead we get a highly entertaining action packed version of Yamato which is either a great introduction, or a nice alternate telling of it for existing fans. Either way, this is one anime to live action conversion that is *gasp* actually a good film! I just hope it gets an official blu-ray release in the UK or more likely the USA.
You do not want to be on the receiving end of the Wave Motion Gun