Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199: Episode 1 – “Messenger of Iscandar”

Earlier this week, FUNimation Entertainment had announced that it would be streaming an English dub of Space Battleship Yamato 2199 under the title of Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199. While I was happy to hear that this reboot of one of my favorite anime from my childhood was finally available after waiting for four years, I didn’t want to rush to start paying for a FUNimation account just to be able to see it.

But the very next day, it was announced that Crunchyroll had added the series with the original Japanese audio with English subtitles. I was ecstatic. I finally got a chance to see the first episode on Crunchyroll this morning, and I decided that I wanted to write blog posts comparing the original series with this reboot as I watched the episodes of Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 to give my opinions on it “in the moment,” rather than waiting until finishing the entire series.

Since some of my readers may only be familiar with this property through seeing the English dub of the original series (which was renamed to Star Blazers, and saw the name of the ship changed, as well as all of the characters’ names changed), I will be referring to characters under their Japanese name, and adding “(aka)” designations for the English name in order to help these readers understand who or what I am referring to.

And for readers who are unfamiliar with the premise of this story, here is a brief rundown:

The series is set in the year 2199. Earth has been under attack by an alien race called the Gamilas (aka Gamilons), through the use of Planet Bombs (radioactive meteorite bombs) that have rendered the planet’s surface uninhabitable. Humanity has had to move into underground cities, but the radioactivity is slowly seeping down to where humans are. At the beginning of the series, there’s only one year remaining before all life on Earth becomes extinct. One day, a mysterious message capsule is retrieved after a pod crash lands on Mars, which includes an offer of help from Queen Stasha (aka Starsha) of planet Iscandar. If humanity can get to her planet, she has a device called the Cosmo-Cleaner D (aka Cosmo DNA) that can cleanse the Earth of the radiation damage. Included in the capsule are plans for a Wave Motion Engine, a faster-than-light engine that will allow humans to make it to Iscandar, retrieve the device, and return home before the year is up. An old Japanese World War II battleship, the Yamato, is turned into a spaceship and equipped with the Wave Motion Engine, as well as a Wave Motion Gun (in the English dub of the original series, it is acknowledged that the battleship that is retrofitted is the Yamato, but when the spaceship is completed, it is renamed the Argo). A crew is assembled, and the mission to retrieve the Cosmo-Cleaner D begins.

Plot

Much of the actual plot of the first episode of the original series. The biggest difference, though, is that Space Battleship Yamato 2199 clears up one of the biggest fallacies of the series. In the original, the arrival of Sasha’s (aka Astra) pod was unexpected, and the capsule she had with her was seen as a mysterious object. In the reboot, Sasha’s arrival and the capsule were anticipated, and is the reason why the battle at Pluto between the humans and the Gamilas is taking place; it’s part of what is dubbed as “Operation M.”

In the original series, it seemed like the amount of time between the retrieval of the capsule and the launching of the Yamato was unrealistically quick. But in the reboot, it’s clear that the refurbishing of the ship has been underway and that the project has been going on since before the start of the series.

Character Design

For the characters that are seen in the first episode, the vast majority of them are very recognizable when compared to their original counterparts. However, there are two exceptions: Mamoru Kodai (aka Alex Wildstar) and Daisuke Shima (aka Mark Venture). From the scenes they appeared in, I knew who they were supposed to be before their names were mentioned. However, if not for that context, I would have had no idea who they were supposed to be right at first.

Character Notes

Yuki Mori (aka Nova) already has a different role compared to the first episode of the original series. In the original series, we first see her working as a nurse for Dr. Sado (aka Dr. Sane), and it’s only later in the series where she’s in a capacity of being part of the bridge crew as a radar specialist. In this reboot, Yuki is already part of the staff at United Earth Headquarters, and it will make more sense for her to be part of the bridge crew once the mission gets underway. Another big difference for Yuki is her personality. In this reboot, Yuki starts out as a more unemotional character; in the original, at this point she already showed much more of a personality. I expect that Yuki will become less unemotional as the reboot continues, and I’m interested in seeing how this character evolution will happen.

I was also pleased to see a character who wasn’t originally introduced until the second series making an appearance in this first episode. This would be Captain Hijikata (aka Captain Gideon). It turns out he’s good friends with Captain Okita (aka Captain Avatar), and it’s already mentioned here that he was Susumu Kodai’s (aka Derek Wildstar) teacher. As a fan of the original series, I thought introducing Captain Hijikata at this point was a nice touch.

So far, Dr. Sado seems to be lot less goofy in the reboot compared to the original. But, speaking of the doctor, we finally get to see a version that acknowledges that he drinks sake, not “spring water”!

By the end of the first episode, there is no sign of Analyzer (aka IQ-9). Considering that he was one of the goofier elements of the original series, and was primarily around for comic relief, he may have been cut from the reboot. I’ll see as the series goes on as to whether or not he will make an appearance.

Music

As a fan of the original, I was very pleased to hear the classic background music appearing. I think they may have been re-recorded for the reboot, but they were all themes I recognized. It’s not terribly surprising to me that the decision was made to utilize the background music, since much of the original music from the series is iconic and associated with the franchise.

Animation

In addition to some of the changes in the character designs and the more modern feel of the animation, the reboot also utilizes some CG. In the first episode, this is most noticeable with the spaceships and the Planet Bombs.

Countdown

In the original series, each episode ended with a countdown of how many days left before all life on Earth became extinct. I was very happy to see that the countdown was incorporated at the end of the preview for the next episode.

Overall Impression

After watching the first episode, I am impressed with this reboot. While there are some changes, enough of what was shown here is recognizable to fans of the original series that it keeps them interested in the reboot. The changes that were made are making sense so far, and are enhancing the story.

This is the way a reboot should be done: changes are made so it’s not simply a retelling of the original source material, but enough is still recognizable for the nostalgia audience to get them interested in the new version. Because, ultimately, for a reboot to succeed, it has to attract both a new audience and the nostalgia audience.

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