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Star Blazers Space Battleship Yamato 2199 Part 1 Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

The first leg in a long and hard journey.

What They Say:
Earth is on the verge of complete annihilation. Threatened by an intergalactic superpower known as Gamilas, humankind’s last hope for survival depends upon the generous assistance of another alien civilization – Iscandar. The Space Battleship Yamato – manned by a skilled, motivated crew and with advanced tech at its core – has only one year to seek out this planet and recover a device that could revitalize Earth. But Gamilan interference, dangerous cosmic phenomena, and conflict among the officers will test the whole of humanity’s resolve.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub is done in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show works a good range of material here with lots of action that has both big and small pieces, some good dialogue where it’s quietly intense or just a lot of yelling and everything in between, and a lot of good ambient sounds to help build the atmosphere for some of the more tense sequences. The mix is originally designed in stereo so it works across the forward soundstage very well while the 5.1 mix expands on that, giving it a bit more volume if not clarity and throwing a few more things to the rear channels to up the situations, primarily in terms of action. Dialogue itself throughout is clean and clear with no problems to be had with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes for this set are spread across two discs in a seven/six format with all of the extras on the second set. Animated by AIC for the first ten episodes and Xebec for the remainder, the series has a striking look in all the right ways as it adapts the original style in a modern sense – which helps it to stand out against the sea of similarity of today’s designers. The costume design looks great with rich colors while the ships look really slick whether we get more traditional moments or the CG designs. Similar can be said of world design with disturbing ruins, cities underground, and alien worlds that arell feel distinct and unique. The encoding brings it to life really well here with vibrant colors, strong darker colors, and no problems with noise or banding going on. It’s a smooth, solid, and absolutely delightful series to watch with how it’s presented here.

The packaging for this limited edition release will definitely delight a lot of fans. With a heavy chipboard box that uses a foil wrap on it, it’s bright and colorful as we get the visual of Susumu and Yuki on the front cover while the Yamato is behind them (and Earth behind it). The foil wrap presents a really neat explosive effect that lets it stand out well from multiple angles. The back of the box under the one-sheet features a larger visual of the original Yamato on the drybed in ruins which also looks really distinctive with the foil effect. Within the box we get the thicker than standard Blu-ray case that holds the discs for both formats and has a good cover with the main crew of the Yamato along the right while also including the ship and Earth once again as well. The back cover is traditional with a look at the summary of the premise, a few shots from the show, and a clear listing of the extras. The technical grid breaks everything down cleanly and clearly for both formats as well.

Also inside the box is a really slick hardcover book that features the character breakdowns for the main cast of characters with great color design to it and a look at a few of the ships toward the back. There’s also a spacer box to hold four beautiful postcards within it which can be used to hold the second set when it comes out later in the box.

The menu design for this release keeps things simple with it being a full-screen experience that has clips playing throughout it. It’s a good mix of character pieces and some world and ship elements so that you get a good taste for the overall design of it. The logo only stays on briefly at the start while the navigation itself is kept to the lower left with a mostly see-through background of white along with the text for the selections visible, allowing you to see through to the animation nicely both as the main menu design and as the pop-up menu during playback. Selections are quick and easy to hit and setup is a breeze since it’s one or the other and no mixing of subtitles.

The extras for this release aren’t too big overall but there are some good things to be had here, primarily for dub fans. While we do get a few of the Japanese promos in the mix, the ninth episode gets a dub from the English cast and we also get an eighteen-minute behind the scenes piece with some of the cast and production talking about bringing it to life with the dub and their experience with the property as a whole.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A remake of the original series from 194, Yamato 2199 or Starblazers 2199 as it’s known here since Voyager Entertainment will forever hold the rights to it, landed in 2012 and 2013 with a two-cour broadcast. The release of it at the time was problematic and with a mix of films that came out in Japan and just a terrible domestic home video program, and a lack of a connection to the original for me, the whole project was a kind of “something over there” thing for me that I didn’t quite get. I had seen parts of the original over the years but never in full and proper in either language form so I never had an affection for it. With this release we now finally get the newest incarnation that looks to be adapting the original in a really strong and creative way presented as it should be, bilingual and with a great encoding at a fantastic price, that will allow the more casual viewers like myself to finally engage with it.

What this series offers is something that has been increasingly hard to find over the years in a largely serious (if weak on actual science) science fiction. While I would have preferred a bit more The Expanse and less Star Wars to it, the show takes place eight years after an invasion of the solar system by the Gamilan’s from Gamilus, a race that has multiple theaters of war going on across various galaxies as they either outright eradicate opponents or subjugate them into lower class ranks within the hierarchy. Earth is on the path to eradication with planet bombs being sent toward it while the solar system itself is being worked over by Gamilan ships. Earth is a red and barren world where the remaining population has moved underground and are doing their best to survive even as everything becomes more and more bleak.

A glimmer of hope has arrived though from a world far away named Iscandar where they sent someone with a small amount of technology that has helped humanity to build an interstellar ship, something that hadn’t been done before. With the goal of reaching Iscandar for greater help in fighting against Gamilius and its ruler, Emperor Dessler, the focus becomes on the secretly built Yamato, working within the shell of the ancient sunken ship. It’s always been a powerful moment when the shackles are loosened and the ship takes to the stars, even if you’re not Japanese, because it’s given such a swell and in the series here has such a strong moment of showing humanity fighting back and succeeding. Similar to other shows of the era this was originally from, it begins the journey of a lot of light years to getting to Iscandar, dealing with other worlds, and starting to understand the races out there and those that have been subjugated. At least once it gets out of our solar system, which takes a little bit to do.

The show is very much an ensemble one that deals with both sides, though the invading side tends to get whittled down every now and then as Dessler thins the ranks as needed and the losses amid the war continue. But getting to understand events within the Gamilan empire and what the subjugated are like definitely helps to make it more engaging as you understand them. With the human side, it’s ostensibly focused on Susumu and his friend Daisuke as they end up taking command level positions under the captain of the Yamato when a lot of the crew is lost initially. The longtime friends provide some unique skills and gifts to the fight and through them we see more of the stories of others, like Yuki or Captain Okita as well as those that pilot, work security, and the always fun medical side which retains the classic design well for the character.

This remake is something that works very well in bringing what came before to life without radically changing it. The pacing is solid here as we get some standalone tales in addition to the larger mission, we get smaller character focuses but also the sweeping mood of the subjugated races. And the space battles feel a lot more old school than how things are done now. The best part is there are no festival episodes, space idols, or other things that permeates just about every series these days it feels like. And while I know it wasn’t going to change I will say I’m hugely disappointed that the costume designs didn’t get updated for the Yamato crew. I know it’s honoring the original and sticking to the fanservice for the viewers, but I really wish the women had gotten the same style outfits as the guys instead of the skin tight suits. I love the costume design overall of the series and I have no problem saying I love the fanservice elements of these uniforms but I wish they hadn’t gone that route and made it a lot more accessible because of it.

In Summary:
Other than some glancing exposure to the original way, way, back when, the limited availability of this franchise through Voyager over the years kept me from even wanting to know much about it. With Funimation involved in bringing this to a wider audience with them it’s able to reveal to more people, myself included, just how excellent this is. While there are issues I have with it there’s also just a lot of enjoyment of something that was airing not long after I was born and never got to really experience. Funimation’s release is top-notch here with a great package, a strong encode, a welcome dub that captures the series right, and just a great show in general that has me hopeful it delivers with what’s next.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, The Newest Frontier: Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199, Episode Nine Commentary, Promos

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: July 31st, 2018
MSRP: $84.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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