Anime Film Review: Space Battleship Yamato: The Movie

When Space Battleship Yamato originally aired on Japanese television in 1974, it didn’t fare very well in the ratings. However, a decision was made to condense the story down to a feature-length film and release it to movie theaters. When the film screened in theaters in 1977, it became a hit and gave a jump-start to the Space Battleship Yamato franchise.

Space Battleship Yamato: The Movie
Directed by: Leiji Matsumoto
Written by: Eiichi Yamamoto
Starring: Kei Tomiyama, Yoko Asagami, and Shusei Nakamura
Run Time: 145 minutes

Space Battleship Yamato: The Movie is essentially a “warp speed” version of the story from the original Space Battleship Yamato television anime series. The film version only includes the most relevant events of the series, so the film would fit into a roughly two hour and 15 minute runtime.

For the most part, it can be hard to tell what changes were made if you aren’t familiar with the original series. However, the main exception to this is when the crew of the Yamato are on the planet Iscandar. Yuki Mori, the main female character, is uninjured when the crew first arrives on the planet; however, in the final scene that takes place on Iscandar, the audience sees that she is wearing a sling on her arm, and nothing was seen onscreen to show that Yuki sustained any injuries. The scene where Yuki sustained the injury was removed from the film, so a viewer who hasn’t seen the original series will be left wondering what happened to Yuki’s arm.

Outside of that continuity issue, I think that a decent job was done of paring down the original Space Battleship Yamato series into a feature film. While I admit to being a little disappointed that there are some scenes that I liked from seeing Star Blazers (the English dub version of Space Battleship Yamato) that didn’t make it into the film, I understand that those scenes weren’t important for the story that the film is trying to tell.

When it comes to the DVD that Voyager released for Space Battleship Yamato: The Movie, the film can only be viewed with Japanese audio with English subtitles; this is due to the fact that English dub has not been produced for the film. There are also several bonus features on the DVD in addition to the film.

The first extra is the original theatrical trailer for Space Battleship Yamato: The Movie, which includes English subtitles. Next is a feature labeled as “Alternate Animation Footage.” It is explained that when the film aired on Japanese television, the section that takes place on Iscandar was replaced with a much shorter sequence in order to get the film down to two hours. In this alternate footage, Stasha is never physically with the crew of the Yamato, and she tells them that she is dying. In this alternate version, Susumu Kodai’s brother, who had been presumed dead, is not on Iscandar. This alternate footage puts the television version of the film into its own kind of “alternate timeline” for the series. This segment ran about seven to eight minutes, and it was subtitled. Personally, I really didn’t like this sequence; as a viewer, I felt rather “detached” from Stasha, and it doesn’t have the payoff for the viewer that the original arrival on Iscandar has.

Another bonus feature on the disc is the original program book that was handed out at the movie theaters that screened Space Battleship Yamato: The Movie; the booklet includes writeups and pictures of the characters. On the DVD, you can choose to see translated versions of the text, as well as views of some of the pages that are closer in. The most interesting thing to me in here was the fact that an explanation for how the Yamato could have been converted so quickly to make the trip to Iscandar is given; this is something I had always wondered, since it was never explained in the series.

There is also a “Yamato Promotion History,” which includes a text feature titled “The Yamato Story.” There are 14 pages of text, as well as a section of posters and graphics. Like the original program booklet, the posters and graphics can also be seen in better detail.

The DVD release of Space Battleship Yamato: The Movie is a must-have for fans of Space Battleship Yamato or Star Blazers. It can also serve as a good introduction to Space Battleship Yamato for new fans.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of the Space Battleship Yamato: The Movie DVD that my husband and I purchased.

Additional posts about Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers:

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