What They Say:
The saga to save Earth continues as the Yamato reaches the fringes of the Milky Way and enters deep space. Hoping the enemy won’t pursue past the galaxy’s edge, the vast emptiness ahead offers both relief and unnerving mystery. But the Gamilans won’t allow the lull to last long. Lord Desler is out for blood and will stop at nothing to prevent humanity’s arrival at Iscandar.
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 Xebec for the run here, 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 release comes in a slightly thicker than standard sized Blu-ray case to hold the four discs of the two formats. It also comes with an o-card that replicates the case artwork nicely where it feels a bit more vibrant and engaging. The front cover gives us a familiar collage style piece with the Gamilas side along the top and the Earth crew below with the Yamato separating them. It has some classic science fiction elements to it that definitely pulls it all together well. The back cover goes with a really nice visual of the Yamato taking up most of the space while just below we get a brief but solid summary of the premise and a breakdown of the extras. There are just three shots from the show but they’re bigger which works out well. The technical grid breaks down both formats well in an easy to read and accurate way. There are no show related inserts included with the release but we do get a great two-panel spread showing one of the space battles with the Yamato taking up lots of space in a good way.
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 sixteenth 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. There’s also a two-minute piece that shows the design evolution of the ship in illustrated form that’s neat to see.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first half of this series definitely clicked well for me with how it worked, bringing to life the property in a way that the original couldn’t for me for a range of reasons. Even with a shift in animation studio along the way, with Xebec handling this half of the series entirely, 2199 delivers exactly where it needs to and maintains a high-quality feeling throughout. I love science fiction and it still feels like there’s so little of it in this form these days that even a remake of something can end up feeling incredibly fresh and new. The familiarity helps but I burned through this half of the season just enjoying every moment of it as it dealt with events and showcased the bigger picture.
A good chunk of this season is, admittedly, the journey element itself as the Yamato continues on toward Iscandar. This may be part of the usual structure but it’s useful to expand on some of the characters with what they’re dealing with as well as just showcasing more elements of the science fiction side and the worlds along the way. Some of these standalone pieces may not feel like they have a lot of bigger impact but they’re welcome, such as the opening episode where we get Kodai and Yuki coming back to the Yamato only to find it spinning, 2001-style, with nobody aboard. It has all the proper haunted house in space elements to it and bringing these two closer in this form as they make their way through it trying to figure out what happened just delivers perfectly on this kind of experience.
Another story plot point that works nicely is when the Yamato ends up on the world Beemela in an attempt to do repairs and get more provisions. This, and other exploration stories, work to build the larger world that makes it more fully realized. While at times these side excursions may not feel like much there’s a lot to like in the experience and what it pulls together for the bigger picture. I really liked seeing them doing exploring and experiencing new worlds or the gateway that they discover access to that lets them see more of what’s out there and what they’re really facing. And, most importantly for me, is seeing more of what’s going on with Gamilas side of things. With so many working hard to take down the Yamato and Dresler orchestrating things himself, there’s a growing sense of just how striking some divisions may be in the upper echelons of power that are going to be revealed.
Everything does continue to build well and I love the focus on the massing of forces by Gamilas and the way that the Yamato takes advantage of it to really throw chaos into it while making a bolder escape. But this also comes alongside new understanding of the relationship between Gamilas and Iscandar. That they’re sister worlds and the view of Iscandar is almost holy/aspirational is intriguing and certainly colors what’s going on. The first looks at Iscandar in this later section is also delightful as we get the Yamato delegation going there in hopes of real help to deal with what Earth is facing. There’s a lot of little things that are brought into it, especially with how Earth even learned about Iscandar initially and the loss because of the actions there, but I just loved watching how tense everything got as they waited word about whether they’d get help or not. It’s all part of that not exactly downbeat journey back home but one that’s weighed down by a lot of things that were happening, losses along the way, and just the impact of what happened in setting all of this in motion with the state of Earth itself. Seeing Kodai’s journey alone from the start to here is pretty well done.
Starblazers/Yamato has always been this huge black hole for me since it wasn’t a project that was all that accessible due to its North American licensing issues. This incarnation is a proper remake that takes advantage of all the modern elements and delivers a fantastic story from start to finish with all the emotional highs and lows. The journey here takes us through a lot of great locations, involves some intriguing characters, delivers one hell of a big action sequence and lots more than just that, and ties it all up with a strong ending. Funimation’s release is strong throughout with some great extras for fans but also with a wonderful encoding that lets the quality of the production shine through. Very recommended.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 16 Commentary, The New Frontier Continued: Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199, Illustrating Space Battleship Yamato, Promo Videos, Textless Opening Songs, Trailers
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 6th, 2018
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.