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Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199: The Complete Series UK Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read
Yamato 2199 follows the old saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ but also has the saying of ‘can always use a coat of paint.’

An update of a classic is fortunately still a classic.

What They Say:
Earth is on the verge of complete annihilation. Threatened by an intergalactic superpower known as Gamilas, humankinds 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 has a HD Dolby Surround 5.1 release in English and a 2.0 in Japanese for the series– I alternated discs between watching the first 2 in English and the second two in Japanese with no issues in either language, the dub and sub are both quite strong and whilst there is a noticeable difference between the two audio tracks in depth it wasn’t to the point of needing to adjust the volume. There were no other issues regarding sound quality, echoing, synching with subtitles, etc – the quality is high overall. With the show set in the future and the main references to classic sci-fi (Star Wars/Trek etc) the audio also has a good job with combining the technical sound effects whether in the Yamato or in battle (and the other languages used in the show even if made up) makes this one that feels very nostalgic yet modern and authentic at the same time.

Originally airing in 2013 (though aired in theatres in 2012), the animation really holds up well even in more recent reviews I’ve seen like Tanya The Evil, it is flowing, colourful, crystal clear and whilst there are some CGI moments most of the designs seem to soak into the screen (considering made by Xebec and AIC who have a history of these series it isn’t a real surprise). There was no issues with delays with the pausing, subtitles, sound synching, etc and with the designs of the alien characters to be more humanoid, the range of colour schemes works well with this and isn’t offputting despite the space opera motif.

There was no packing for this test release.

The menu is pretty standard with a traditional way that a lot of Blu-Rays do, you see clips from the show in the background with some orchestral music played, whilst your selections are on a small menu box below – we have Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on discs 2, 3 and 4, extras. Like most Blu-Rays, there is a pop-up menu you can select whilst watching if you need to return to the main menu or change the language which doesn’t slow down the show and like most blu-rays, the choices flow quickly and almost instaneously without delay. Standard but perfect menu.

There are quite a lot of extras spread out through the discs, starting on Disc 2 we have a commentary on episode 9, featuring Sarah Wienenhaft (English VA of Misaki), Sonny Strait (English VA of Analyser), Phil Parsons (English VA of Sanada) and Brandon Mcinnes (Allen), we get a lot of voice especially from the older members about the original show, specifically when it did air in the west as Star Blazers, and many of them surprised by this new style of animation and storytelling as many of them did not know it was anime at the time. We get the usual talks about the characters, the plot, the jokes about the robot relationship (With many obvious references to Star Wars throughout) but it is mostly about how the original had an impact and how it has manifested into working on the remake in the dub.

We have a segment known as the Newest Frontier which is done on two parts, on Discs 2 and 4. The first part gets a lot of people live action style and we see what they think of working on the show and again, with a lot of them being fans of the original this helps seeing their mindset. We have Christopher Welkamp (Kodai) talking about how different it was for a cartoon at the time when aired in the 70s, Paul Fruge’ II (Funimation Brand Manager) mentioning that it was aired during the peak Star Wars/Star Trek airing so sci-fi was a big thing at that time, Mallorie Rodak (Yuki) also considers one of them may have influenced the other as well – with discussion on relationships and characters abound as well.

The second part has Pauml return with Chris Roger (VA of Desler), Godswill Ugwa (Social Media Co-ordinator), Sonny Strait and Ricco Fujardo (Shima), again a lot of talk on the sci-fi themes and how the original meant to a lot of them, but also as this is the half where Desler is more involved we get a lot of characterization from him and his role in the show along with Shima and what has changed on board the Yamato by now.

We have a second commentary on episode 16, featuring Jerry Jewell (ADR Director), Michaela Krantz (VA of Mimi), Ricco Fujardo (VA of Shima) and Justin Cook (VA of Ito) – here, they talk about what was similar and what was different from the original and a lot about how it has classic drama tropes but also classic anime ones and seeing if they work well together.

We have the illustrating the Space Battleship Yamato which is a step by step drawing progression of the ship, some promo videos and two clean variations of the updated but still classic opening animation (and that amazing song).

Remakes are a tough business to go by – whilst shows have been retread to make a version to get fans to feel happy once a series has finished (Full Metal Alchemist, Fruits Basket) a remake of a classic series is a harder beast, especially one like Star Blazers – a rare series that aired in the west, originally created in 1974, it influenced many people (Hideaki Anno being one of them), won awards, was a gateway to many Westerners to anime and you wondered if it could be bettered.

But sometimes, the nostalgia CAN be improved on, thanks to technological updates, better budget and combining keeping the original story for the most part, and with some changes and updates which don’t hinder it.

Yamato 2199 is one of those series.

The show, both the original and the modern version, are considered space operas – a narrative story that is told in space, fitting the mould of movies like Star Wars and series like Star Trek. Whilst there are changes to the original, the story on the whole is very similar, with new characters or characters given more development throughout that didn’t so in said original.

At the end of each episode, the series reminds you of how many days the Earth has till it perishes. The tone is set as you know that the Earth is in danger after aliens from the planet Garmilas have forced most of Earth to hide underground, and the last hope is a weapon known as a Wave Motion Core. Our lead, Susumu Kodai, he is the younger brother of Mamoru Kodai, the captain of the ship that retrieved it but unfortunately perished which Susumu knows from the legendary Captain Okita who surveyed the mission, also meeting the beautiful Yuki Mori, who will become much more relevant as the show goes on. Long story short, he and his best friend Daisuke Shima discover the wreck of an ancient battleship, which using the Core they create a spaceship, knowing as the ‘Yamato’. The two of them, with Okita as the captain, are given the mission of going to the planet Iscandar, to retrieve something that will restore the Earth.

The crew is huge, so apologies for not going through all of them though some of them will definitely make an impact (Akira, the accountant turned pilot being one of my favourites), the initial episodes are basically seeing what the Yamato can do, testing their wave motion gun, warping, etc – and it is a beast. We also have the R2-D2 expy in Analyzer shaking things up for fun, but the focus tends to be on Yuki and Susumu, with Susumu needing to step out of his brother’s shadow as much as making memories for him. We however do get soon our first and later main antagonist in Desler, the leader of the Garmilans, and takes interest of the Yamato hearing about its capabilities…

Whilst we see Akira more in action (and the debut of the character Yuria, a radio DJ/officer who again becomes more relevant later on), Desler begins to become more into focus after the Yamato foils their plans one too many times – though some of his officers tend to get overzealous and are defeated by the Yamato, whilst others seem to intend to try and work with the Yamato if the situation needs it. One in particular I like is Melda, who at first, clashes with Akira as Akira’s brother died at the hands of the Gamilions, so when Melda is trapped on the Yamato it seems like she is a prisoner, but turns out she has human DNA despite her blue alien like skin, and has reasons against humans as much as Akira does against aliens especially when Okita reveals the truth that has been hidden away – leads to Melda saving Akira from near death as they get an ally of sorts, leading later to a surprising friendship between Melda and Akira.

One episode has a focus with the crew using their own memories against them, and this is where the Yuki/Susumu relationship starts to take a turn more for the romantic as the show is as much human drama as it is space drama. The big twist happens in the last quarter of the show when the reveal of a capsule containing a princess of Iscandar named Yurisha (who was shown right at the very start during Susumu’s searching) who looked just like Yuki who was being season as a possible traitor for siding with some of the other factions – however whilst trapped, we see that Yuria has been possessed by her (from comic relief to important side character). Yurisha becomes important as she questions Okita’s logic and morals when he is prepared for an attack by one of the generals…and when some of the operatives sneak aboard the Yamato, they mistake Yuki for Yurisha…which prompts the real Yurisha to awaken…

The final arc is basically rescuing Yuki, with Susumi and Yurisha on their tail as we get the return of Melda who is also looking to rescue someone (her father) and we learn about the planet where Yuki is taken and make a shocking discovery….

It finally becomes the Yamato up against Desler, some tragedy and some miracles happening to see if the Yamato could complete their journey…

There is a lot going on throughout, and didn’t want to go too much into spoiler territory. Of course, if you are familiar with the original series, a lot here will still be similar. Sure, there are differences but a lot of them are just for flavour (the Yamato being bigger, the crew being larger, how more involved Okita is, etc) and doesn’t detract from the original or updated story. As the timeline is very tight as not just the ending narration remind you every episode of how many days are left before the Earth dies, Okita himself we discover is dying from cancer so you also see him retire to his bed when he is particularly ill, but it is clear he wants to get this final mission done as his last and biggest hurrah. He keeps it under wraps (with only the fun Dr. Sado knowing, another character I will mention as he is a great source of both comic relief and surprising intelligence) and is a father to his men, especially Susumu who you’d think might have been some initial tension considering what happened to his brother, but the trust between the two is paramount throughout.

Susumu himself matures a lot over the course of the show, and with his brother’s death connecting himself with Okida, his role as acting captain throughout gets more and more developed with Okita’s illness combined with his feelings with Yuki (who herself gets a ton of development especially with the later arc) and whilst there are ton of characters, ones like Shima, Sanada and Akira are ones who go to the side a bit but are brought back at the forefront when needed and makes you remember them well. And with the villain Desler they have a cocky but intelligent opposition, which also has alien characters that you can sympathise with (Melda in particular). The finale with the Yuki kidnap and the true reveal brings things full circle and you really feel the emotions these characters go through.

This is why the show is considered a space opera as it combined high impact action sequences combined with divine story telling. The original had this as well, but this is a time I will say (and probably get booed in the comments by) that the remake is a better version than the original. It takes what made the original great but improves it with little things (animation, music, more fleshed out with some of the roles). The only thing that might be weaker is the fact because there are so many characters and so many roles it is hard to track everyone, but to that all I say is go watch it and see everyone in action; I trust you won’t be disappointed.

In Summary:
Yamato 2199 follows the old saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ but also has the saying of ‘can always use a coat of paint.’ And the coat just enhances rather than damages what was already there. Better budget, animation combined with a few changes which actually improve it (Okita being more involved really helps) Yamato 2199 in 40 years will be considered the classic. For us in the now, it’s a top space opera show that really needs to be enjoyed by both old and new fans. Highly recommended.

Episode Commentaries, Behind the Scenes of Space Battleship Yamato: 2199, Promo Videos, The Creation of the Yamato, Clean Openings

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

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: February 24th, 2020
MSRP: £39.99
Running Time: 660 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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