Space Battleship Yamato: Anime vs. Live-Action

A live-action Space Battleship Yamato film was released in Japan in 2010, and FUNimation Entertainment acquired the North American license to distribute it. FUNimation released the film as a DVD and a Blu-ray/DVD combo on April 29, 2014.

My husband bought the Blu-ray/DVD combo release as a Mother’s Day present for me, and I was very interested to see how similar and different this live-action version would be in comparison to the original anime source material.

Both the anime and live-action are set in the year 2199, and both see the Gamilas attacking the Earth with radioactive meteorites. Because of the radioactivity, mankind is forced to move underground. In both versions, humanity has at most one year left before the radiation seeps underground.

Both have the desperate battle near Mars, and both see all of Earth’s ships destroyed except for the one led by Captain Okita. Both versions also see Mamoru Kodai die in battle. The one major difference here is the fact that Sanada is on Captain Okita’s ship in the live-action version, even though he wasn’t a crew member in the original anime. However, with this particular change, the live-action film was able to acknowledge that Mamoru and Sanada knew each other when Sanada says something to Mamoru before he sacrifices himself. Another difference is that during the battle, we see Captain Okita clutching near his heart during this first battle. In the anime, it wasn’t until some point after the Yamato took off that the audience was clued in to the fact that Okita had some kind of illness.

However, things start changing a little more after this point. We get to see the underground city at this point, and in the live-action movie, it has much more of a dystopian look than the underground in the anime did. Even though this is a significant change, I have to say that I believe the live-action depiction is more realistic than the pristine city that was seen in the anime.

We meet Susumu Kodai, who is on Earth instead of Mars, and he’s hunting for scrap metal. In the anime, Susumu and Daisuke Shima were stationed together on Mars. We learn later in the live-action film that Susumu had been in the military before, but had left. Later in the film, Susumu re-enlists.

Susumu is out hunting for scrap metal near where the Yamato is buried. We see that Analyzer is a smartphone-type device that he has, although we see later there is a robot to corresponds with the device. In the original anime, Analyzer was a robot. As Susumu is hunting for scrap, something crashes down to earth near him, knocking off his helmet. When Susumu awakens, he finds the message capsule and takes it to the military. In the original anime, this scene takes place on Mars, and both Susumu and Daisuke are there. In addition to the capsule, they also find the body of Astra from Iscandar.

Susumu is taken in and treated for radiation exposure, and they’re surprised at how well he’s doing because he should have died from how much radiation he’d been exposed to. Susumu has the same confrontation with Okita about his brother as he does in the anime, except in the live-action movie, Yuki Mori decks him and the space marines take him away.

In the live-action movie, we learn Yuki is one of the fighter pilots. In the original anime, Yuki was on radar on the bridge and also helped Dr. Sado as a nurse. In the live-action movie, Yuki is much more badass than her anime counterpart.

Dr. Sado, the doctor on the Yamato, is a female in this version. However, they still kept the bottle of sake and the cat that were associated with Dr. Sado in the anime. In addition to Dr. Sado, Yoshikazu Aihara also became a woman and took on the job roles of both Aihara and Kenjiro Ohta. Changing these two characters to being female was obviously done to make the film look a little less sexist, since in the original anime, Yuki was essentially the token female member of the crew. And I also understand combining the role of two characters into one when it comes to Aihara. But I don’t quite understand exactly why the doctor’s gender was changed, especially since the other traits of the character remained the same.

In the original anime, the message capsule included a message from Queen Stasha of Iscandar, plans for the wave motion engine, and information on how to get to Iscandar. In the live-action version, the only things in the message capsule are the plans for the wave motion engine and the information on how to get to Iscandar.

In the portion of the story where the crew members make their final call to their families on Earth, we learn that Daisuke has a young son named Jiro. In the original anime, Jiro was Daisuke’s younger brother. We also learn that the way Susumu’s parents died is also different between the anime and live-action versions of the franchise.

In the original anime, the crew of the Yamato is able to capture a Gamilas ship and they try to interrogate the pilot. It’s at this point in the anime where we see that the enemy are blue-skinned humanoid aliens. In the live-action film, they are able to capture a Gamilas ship, but we see the Gamilas are different. While they may still have blue involved, they’re not humanoid. When Desler (who is renamed Desla in the live-action film) appears here, he is shown more as blue light manifesting itself. This also shows that the Gamilas have a hive mind. The captured Gamilas also possesses Saito, the leader of the space marines, but Susumu is able to knock the Gamilas out of him.

When they reach Iscandar, there’s a difference here as well. In the anime, Iscandar and Gamilas were twin planets. While they may not be twin planets in the live-action version, there’s still a connection between the two of them. I’m not going to say what that is here, because that would end up providing a major “spoiler.” However, I will say that there is no Queen Stasha in the live-action film.

After leaving Iscandar, the ending of the film does not correspond with how the first Space Battleship Yamato anime film ended. Instead, the ending incorporates the ending of the Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato anime film. There was a major homage to the original in the way the scene with Sanada and Saito plays out, especially the stance that Saito takes as he’s taking on the enemy. About the only thing that was missing from this live-action version of the ending of Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato was the conversation that Susumu and Desler have over an injured Yuki.

After watching the live-action Space Battleship Yamato film, I have to say that it’s one of the better live-action adaptations that I’ve personally seen of something that was originally animated. Admittedly, I haven’t seen a lot of these adaptations, though, so that may not be necessarily saying much. However, I can say that I’d be willing to sit down and watch this live-action adaptation again, and that it’s definitely much more worth it than Dragonball Evolution ever was.

Even though there were changes, both significant and not-so-significant, that were made in this live-action adaptation, I thought the filmmakers were still able to retain much of the spirit and character of the original anime. Not only that, the filmmakers had some nice touches that served as a kind of homage to the original anime source material. It’s a film that not only appeals to the original fanbase, it could also appeal to viewers who aren’t familiar with the original source material.

Additional posts about Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers:

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