The greatest anime remake ever?
1974’s Space Battleship Yamato is considered among the greatest Japanese animated series of all time, revolutionizing not only anime itself but its promotion and merchandising. Inspired by its melodramatic sci-fi storytelling, several Yamato “maniacs” (so named before “otaku” was in common use) joined the anime industry to make their own legendary creations, much as key Yamato staff members would eventually do. Released in the United States with relatively minor edits and a well-acted English dub under the name Star Blazers, its popularity helped establish our dedicated otaku infrastructure that lives on to this day.
That’s why when the opportunity presented itself to remake the series nearly 40 years later, everyone involved made sure to do justice to the original while modernizing it in all the necessary ways to ensure it would catch on with an otaku generation that wasn’t around in the 1970s and 1980s. They succeeded, resulting in one of the greatest anime of the decade. Visuals, sound, story, characters: this one’s got it all in top form.
Earth’s surface can no longer sustain terrestrial life thanks to years of war with an alien race, the Gamilas, who having effectively wiped out our militaries now rains bombardment uncontested from the edge of our solar system. Humanity, forced to move underground, faces gradual extinction as the resulting radiation spreads. Hopelessly outgunned, one glimmer of hope emerges: plans for constructing a special Dimensional Wave Motion Engine capable of faster than light travel sent by the alien princess Starsha of planet Iscandar, home to even more advanced technology capable of reversing all of the damage done to our planet.
But Iscandar is 168,000 light years away in each direction—336,000 in all—while there is only roughly one year remaining before human civilization perishes from the Gamilas siege. Time is short, and with resources depleted the fate of mankind rests upon the rookie crew of a solitary space battleship: Yamato. How can one ship hope to contend against the entire Gamilas fleet? Three magical words: Wave. Motion. Gun. The original anime superweapon is back with a vengeance to reclaim its title of best blower-upper ever.
For longtime fans, I note that Yamato 2199 throws several curveballs in its plotting to deviate from the classic tale. Aspects previously glossed over are now focal points, logical inconsistencies in the narrative are resolved, and a shocking number of actual scientific principles are brought up to keep things aligned with what we know about the cosmos today.
Plus, instead of there being just one woman aboard the entire ship (which was always weird, even back then), the cast is expanded so that roughly a third of the crew are now ladies. My favorite addition is the bespectacled Kaoru Niimi who works alongside science officer Spo—er, Shiro Sanada. Yes, I know everyone’s favorite is hotshot fighter pilot Akira Yamamoto, but she doesn’t technically count as an “addition”; the character existed in the original series, albeit as a guy! Hey, it worked for Battlestar Galactica.
I only wish I could have been telling you this five years ago, as the series was coming out in Japan, but despite Japan holding out in an attempt to make a vastly underestimated number of remaining diehard American Yamato fans import their pricy Blu-rays at least we’re getting it now thanks to Crunchyroll and Funimation. One episode a week is released both subtitled as well as dubbed in English as part of Funimation’s “SimulDub” initiative.
Speaking of dubs, don’t fret about the “Star Blazers” in the title: none of the American-ized name changes from back in the 1970s are present in Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199. He’s “Susumu Kodai,” not “Derek Wildstar.” The sequel series Yamato 2202 is currently underway in Japan, and perhaps the fact that there are no English subtitles on the very expensive Japanese Blu-rays for that like there were for 2199 is a sign that we’ll be seeing that stateside in the near future.