Grim_Noir Finds “Space Battleship Yamato” Flying Under The Radar

Space Battleship Yamato movie poster

I would like to propose the hashtag #OccupyStarBlazers.

For a year now, Dark Forces have been engaged in a conspiracy. I’m not talking about the current economic crisis or a sinister plot for World Domination. The conspiracy I’m referencing is the kind of money-grubbing circle jerk that can only make lawyers happy: At least three separate groups in America feel it is in their best interests to prevent the distribution of the Japanese live-action Space Battleship Yamato movie (the original anime was localized here in the U.S. as Star Blazers).  As usual in an ugly custody battle, it is the kids caught in the middle who suffer…

On October 6, 1974, in the forlorn days between the cancellation of the original Star Trek and before Star Wars was on anybody’s radar, producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki and artist Leiji Matsumoto would launch a sweeping epic that would not only fetishize the beloved ship and its sci-fi armaments, but also concentrate on the reasons why people fight in wars: Love, Friends, Family, Honor and Sacrifice. As Space Battleship Yamato (and its various localizations) gained distribution, the breadth of its storyline would teach the world a fresh term: “Space Opera.”

The new flick cleaves pretty closely to the premise of the original series: Set in the year 2199, the Earth is being bombarded by meteor-sized radiation bombs which not only push the human population underground but are slowly terraforming our planet to make it habitable for the alien enemy, the Gamilas. The Gamilas possess superior firepower and are kicking the Earth Defense Forces’ butts.

Cosmo Tiger

As the story begins, the Gamilas main fleet have made it as close as Mars. Captain Okita (veteran actor Yamazaki Tsutomu) has been routed and limps back to Earth in the last remaining starship after the battle. As all hope is crushed, the elite 1% make plans to flee Earth using a battleship sunk during World War II and currently stuck in the dried up desert that used to be the Pacific Ocean. The battleship, the Yamato, is secretly being rehabbed into a space-worthy vessel from underground (so the Gamilas won’t target it).

This plan is interrupted when a capsule from deep space slips past the Gamilas blockade and crashes to Earth with high-tech schematics and the promise of a radiation-scrubber that will cure the Earth of the ravages of five years of irradiation…if someone can come to the planet Iskandar, in the
Large Magellanic Cloud, and get it.

So, an even-more-upgraded Yamato, equipped with an Iskandarian warp drive and an untested weapon called a “Wave Motion Cannon,” departs with a ragtag crew of E.D.F. remnants, ex-military types, scientists and engineers. The Gamilas are nipping at their heels every step of the way and a death clock is hanging over their heads: If the Yamato does not make it to Iskandar and back in 73 days, there will be nothing left alive on or below the Earth when they return. Worst of all, once they clear the booster station around Pluto, real-time visual & audio communication with Earth will be lost until the return trip. They will be on their own, with no idea what is happening at home.

Space Battleship Yamato under attack

To say more about the plot would just be spoilers, but the story’s genetics show distant relations to Star Trek, the new Battlestar Galactica, Halo, and even Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War. Director Takashi Yamazaki (“Returner”) weaves character development and huge battle scenes with a journeyman’s hand. Actor/singer Takuya Kimura brings an almost James Dean intensity to his portrayal of Susumu Kodai. Which, I guess, would make Meisa Kuroki his Natalie Wood, if Natalie Wood could throw a punch and fly a fighter jet.

Visually, Studio Toho spent BIG BUCKS (even by Hollywood standards) on the sets and special effects for this movie and every cent is up on the screen for the viewer to giddily enjoy. Adding to the high, the famous Yamato/Star Blazers theme dances in and out of the soundtrack.

Newcomers to the franchise will not be lost, but those of us who have followed the series may feel like we are watching events in fast forward, slowing briefly to view the emotional beats and major beatdowns. Not surprising, since this script compresses and reimagines the first two seasons of the anime into a two hour and fifteen minute extravaganza.

The movie isn’t perfect, but like the Occupy movement I mentioned earlier, it drives a discussion that wasn’t being had previously. It makes one see the possibilities of a live-action television series for the Yamato, while simultaneously allowing you to enjoy the picture for its own merits. And that discourse is lost to America without distribution. And that’s a shame because there is a lot of history and vision tied into Space Battleship Yamato.

Perhaps anyone who does care about the fate of Space Battleship Yamato‘s distribution in America should camp out in protest, not in any physical site, but, rather, at a cyber site that legally imports region-free DVDs and BDs from countries that have settled their distribution issues.

Think of it as voting with your dollars for a good cause.

The crew of the Space Battleship Yamato

* GRIM_NOIR is: A) Mad, B) Bad, C) Dangerous to Know, D) Now with 50% More “Follow” @Grim_Noir on Twitter

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