Cool things: Space Battleship Yamato

Saraba, chikyuu yo…

One weekend in 1986, when I was too sick to go to a friend’s birthday party, my folks cheered me up by getting me a couple of videos (both of which may well have been pirates, but we won’t go into that).  One was The Five Doctors (yes, Doctor Who will be featuring in one of these “cool things” posts, eventually), while the other was Space Cruiser, a badly-dubbed version of a Japanese anime movie.

I was entranced from a young age by the adventures of a spaceship built out of a WWII Japanese battleship and sent on a mission to another galaxy to retrieve a device from a far-off planet that could cleanse the dying Earth of the radiation that threatens to wipe out mankind within a year, facing the evil blue-skinned humanoid invaders along the way in pitched space battles… but as I grew up, it interested me less and less, and eventually I stopped watching it, or making the Yamato out of Lego (TM)…

Then one day in late 2003, when I was doing my Astrophysics MSc, a propos of nothing I looked it up on the Inter-thingy, and discovered just what I’d been missing: a whole series!  The film was just a compilation movie made in 1978 from a series made in 1974, and there was so much more to it (including episodes set in the Solar System, ahem).  Although I found out there was a dubbed American version called Star Blazers, I decided to get hold of the original, uncensored Japanese version, and so around the time of my 26th birthday (yes, go ahead and laugh… then again, how many of you watch old episodes of X-Men or ThunderCats?), my beloved okaasan got me a DVD from abroad.

The English subtitles were appalling (apparently translated badly from the Chinese subtitles, so two language barriers in one!), but it was still awesome: unlike the sort of cartoons we Westerners were shown as children, there was tragedy, death and destruction, partial nudity (hey, it’s Japan, whaddaya expect?), and a lot of raw emotion.  Of course, some of it had been spoiled for me because I’d been reading about it on a Star Blazers website (specifically what was cut out — surprisingly not that much apart from character deaths, a bit about the real Yamato and a very poignant speech about their pyrrhic victory in episode 24), but it still captivates me today, and I later got the second season.

Of course, things still move on… but in this case I mean I got hold of a fansubbed version online, courtesy of Central Anime (who now sadly appear to be defunct), since the show has never (and probably never will be) released in the West in its original, undubbed and uncensored form.  I showed the first season of this to my female friend (who always likes doing “boys’ stuff”, like playing Super Mario World), and she enjoyed it too, even if she preferred more romantic anime shows like Boys Be and Chobits.  Just a pity she moved out of London before we could watch the second season…

A final note: rewatching this show got me through that difficult last week living on Caledonian Road back in January, when even though I’d found a new place to live from February, and knew my housemate would let me sleep on his settee between households, I was still a hair’s breadth away from total collapse.  Just having something to look forward to apart from work and packing, during those dark, miserable days was enough…

Oh, and I’m well aware there’s a new, live action movie version, but here’s the original and the best: the big space battle from episode 22 of season 1 (I didn’t upload this, someone who ignored Central Anime’s pleas not to do so did it back in 2006):


3 thoughts on “Cool things: Space Battleship Yamato

  1. Pingback: Exploring emotions: Loneliness | Dave-ros Lives!

  2. Pingback: Cool Things: The Revenge | Dave-ros Lives!

  3. Pingback: Cool things: the Japanese language | Dave-ros Lives!

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