28 August 2011

FWS Movie Review: Space Battleship Yamato (2010)

Space Battleship Yamato is a 2010 Japanese military science fiction film based on the 1970's Anime series, Space Cruiser Yamato and known in the west as Starblazers. The film was directed by Takashi Yamazaki and starred Takuya Kimura as Susmu Kodai and model/singer/actor  Meisa Kuroki as Yuki Mori, and veteran actor Tstomu Yamazaki as Captain Okita. The flim was a mix of the first two seasons of Yamato, along with two of the OVA films, especially Farewell to the Space Battleship Yamato (1978), however most reviewers have connected the style of the film to the remake of Battlestar Galactica. The film as been released on DVD/Blu-Ray in Japanese, but not for American markets, subtitled verisons for the film have made it on youtube.  



To be honest, this was the best that we fans of Yamato/Starblazers could have hoped for. The crew and cast put a great deal of heart and soul into making this film right, while tastefully updating it for the 21st century. When you see Yamato lift-off from the barren sea floor, and take flight, with the music pumping, your heart fills with emotion...hell, I got fucking tears in my eyes...that's means this movie passed the emotion test for me, a lifelong Yamato fan.
Adding to the emotions is what this film does better than the original, the crisis back on Earth feels more real than in the original production, the last calls home is heartbreaking, and the pain of Kodai at the loss of his brother during the Battle of Mars (Pluto in the Anime) ripples through the subtext of the character.
The sense of realism is extended to the interior of the old battleship with cramped quarters, grey metal walls, and people dying left and right. Of the several characters that were fulled developed, like three, Yuki (Nova) and Kodai (Wildstar) have the best lines, storyline, and are the most changed from their Anime originals. Yuki Mori goes from RN/Brigdehand to hot-shot space fighter pilot, and Kodai goes from Mars based soldier, to a burned out, emotional wrecked ex-fighter ace that hunts for metal on the radioactive surface of Earth. My favorite character of the movie was the space marine (called paratroopers in the subtitles) commander Saito, who original was in the series about the war with the Comet Empire, but steals ever scene he's in.
Along with the more fleshed out characters is the excellent level of SFX, music, and production value of Yamato...but I found it was the little things liked the most, the correct sounds, the look of the Yamato and the fighters, the Earth battered by radiation...Bottom line, the first thirty minutes of Space Battleship Yamato is the best portion of the film...then it starts to vear off into left field...   


As with all things, were there is good, there is bad, and even in a film with as much love and effort, Yamato still managed to get somethings wrong. The bad of this film is that after thirty minutes, the ability for the film to puke my heartstrings worn off, and I was left to evaluate this movie based on it being an MSF picture. The film should have borrowed more from Battlestar Galactica, the limited battle scenes fall flat, due to the intensity evaporating the moment it gets started...often it seems no one, especially the pilot, known how to defend the ship or aid-in during when the Yamato is getting pounded. This extends to the tactically limited imagination of the bridge crew, with thinking that the Wave Motion Cannon is the only answer to a problem, which, oddly, is the same in the Anime series.
Some elements, especially concerning Kodai's brother are ham-fisted and the theme of sacrifice is beaten-over-the-head of viewer. Another element that is bad, is the fighters and their lasers, the sound of these lasers is just bad, and the entire scene reminds me too much of Star Wars...sigh. Then there is Kodai's Cosmo-Zero, in one scene he uses these little arms, and ability to semi-transformer to rescue a downed-pilot...and it is lame. 
I found the entire film, mostly to be hallow...especially the end, where the film runs out of steam and the rewrite of the original gets too much for the viewer.   

The biggest changes from the original beloved Anime series is the main enemy, the Gamilus (Gamilons) are now some sort of insect-like species that are linked via some sort of group-think, their ships and fighters are nothing like the originals, in fact their fighter looks like a fat tick.
The plain fact is that the original Gamilus were unworkable in a live-action film, they were just too human, but these Gamilus are much akin to the robots from Sucker Punch. It seems that rewrite of Yamato got carried away, especially when it came to the concept of the Gamilus and Iscandar being linked...in the movie they are the same frakking planet! Gone is finding Kodai's brother and the beautiful Queen Starsha. The end of the film is also an ugly element, it is like watching the Quest to Iscandar then switching over to the Comet Empire as the ending for your experience.  

The changes from Anime to live-action
  • Dr. Sado changes from a overweight man to a thin women, but the cat is there.
  • Yuki is completely changed, from a nurse/radar operator to a hot-stick Blacktiger fighter pilot
  • Saito and his space marines were original from second season and from a Earth colony, but here are called Paratroopers and use modified G36C instead of lasers.
  • Cosmo Zero, the C&C fighter of Kodi as some transformer-like abilities.
  • Analyzer (IQ9) is a hip-pocket computer now, and then, oddly, becomes a R2D2-like robot with machine-guns at the battle of Gamilon. Odd.
  • The Cosmo DNA machine, recovered on Iscandar, is now some sort of spirit that enters into Yuki during the battle on Gamilon. Odd...again.
  • The origin message from Iscandar did not include a cure for the recovery of Earth, but Captain Okita added it in to motivate the crew.
  • The Gamilus are now some sort of insect, with a groupthink ability.
  • The new Gamilus seem to use organic-based technology.
  • The underground cities of Earth are much darker than the Anime verison.
  • More women onboard the Yamato, than just Yuki.
  • The uniforms are similar on top, but regular military pants...sorry no bell-bottoms this time.
  • The movie combines elements of original Space Cruiser Yamato movie and Arrivederci Yamato.
  • Susumu Kodai is not in the EDF, instead is collecting metal on the barren surfaces of the Earth when the film starts, but he was a hot shit pilot when the war started.
  • Most of the stories along the way to Iscandar are thrown out, and most of the events onIscandar are thrown out as well
  • It seems to take only a few warps to reach Iscandar
  • The Yamato seems to be gone far less time than the year it took in the original Anime series
  • Sanada and Shima are far less than main characters than in the Anime, but Kato's role was expanded to being a lead.
  • The battle of Plato (where the Gamilons have their main base) is now the battle of Mars, and Yuki is present.
  • The probe-ship from Iscandar crash-lands on Earth not Mars, and it is pilot less.
  • There seemingly is no battle for the Sol system or the origin of the meteorites, like the second battle of Pluto in the Anime.
  • The EDF is planning on evacing Earth if the Yamato mission fails.
  • Desslok or Desler may or may not be the name of the Gamilus leader or the real name of the race.. 

Should you buy/rent/watch Space Battleship Yamato?

Despite being one of the biggest Yamato/Starblazers fans I know, adding Space Battleship Yamato is not on my list. The film is uneven, and while it as some of the right element, I found the film runs out of steam after the launch of Yamato. This, to me, is a rental, or even watch it youtube... 


I am not normal this guy, but since the Japanese won't ship Space Battleship Yamato over here, this is the link someone that uploaded the movie (with subtitles) on youtube:


  1. Hi, William!!

    I've never seen the Anime Space Battleship Yamato. I looked at some of the movie on youtube- looks interesting. Didn't have time to watch all of it.

    I was thinking about Yamato's might Wave Motion Gun. (I watched that scene, all right!!) That is one of the few examples of a spinal mount weapon in media SF. A spinal mount weapon is a weapon that is literally the spine of a combat spacecraft- rather than mounting a weapon on a spacecraft, you built a spacecraft around the weapon. This is often done with powerful weapons like Mass Accelerator Cannons and particle beam weapons that are so big, they become an integral part of the spaceship's structure. The weapon is mounted along the long axis of the spaceship, and may double as a structural component.

    Spinal mount weapons take up a considerable amount of space on the ship, are her most powerful weapon (or amongst the craft's most powerful weapons), and often consume vast amounts of power. The gun is not mounted on the ship- the ship was built around the gun, the gun is the ship's spine, and the point of the ship is to fly into battle and blast the enemy out of the stars.

    This is another place where Starfleet's schizophrenic attempt to be a military force and exploration/science organization just doesn't work- the goals of scientific study and exploration and space warfare just don't mesh. A space warship doesn't have space for scientific labs or probes- it is filled with a giant gun. You don't send a crew of hundreds of valuable scientists- you send a crew insane enough to fly a giant flying gun into battle and wait for it to recharge while a bunch of xenos coming soaring in to unleash an X-ray laser bombardment. A scientific vessel will have well armed security teams and some self-defense weapons, but a space battleship will have a mass accelerator cannon along her whole spine. It is too bad we don't see this often in media SF.

    Christopher Phoenix

  2. By the way, kinetic energy weapons are officially awesome. I'm not talking handheld rifles here (unless they are hyper-velocity). I am talking about gauss guns mounted on spaceships that shoot rounds at least a few kilometers a second.

    Rick Robinson's First Law of Space Combat states that "Any object impacting at 3 km/sec delivers kinetic energy equal to its mass in TNT". The formula for kinetic energy is KE=(1/2)M*V^2, as long as we are not talking about speeds where relativistic effects become important, in which case the correct equation is (1/ sqr. root of 1-(V/C)^2 - 1)*MC^2. (Yeah, I like physics.) Just ignore the convoluted way I tried to express an equation on this comment- just head on over to Wikipedia or Atomic Rockets to get all the equations you need.

    Lets do some math. Lets say I have a Mass Accelerator Cannon that fires a 20kg projectile at 5000000 meters per second- 1.6% the speed of light. According the equation for kinetic energy, the projectile will deliver kinetic energy equal to 2.5*10^14 joules. That is equivalent to a 60 kiloton nuclear warhead!! The Little Boy atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in on August 6, 1945 exploded with the energy of about 15 kilotons of TNT, so a mass accelerator cannon shot is equivalent to 4 Hiroshima bombs. The nuclear weapons currently in the arsenal of the United States range in yield from 0.3 kT to 1.2 mT equivalent. Of course, the projectile would probably punch straight through a spacecraft and exit out the other side with most of its kinetic energy. But then it could punch straight through another spacecraft...

    In the Halo universe, the MAC gun on an orbital defense platform fires a 3000 ton round at 40% light-speed, or 120000000m/s. This is no longer a strict hyper-velocity weapon- it is a relativistic weapon. Most of the fun with relativistic weapons starts above 90% light-speed, but the MAC gun shoots a slug fast enough I have to use the special relativity equation. It turns out that the MAC gun round will deliver 22.316 zettajoules (a zettajoule is 10^21 joules) to the target. Annual global energy consumption is approximately 0.5 zettajoules, for comparison. This is equivalent to 5.33 teratons- a teraton is 10^21 tons of TNT. This is a somewhat less than the impact energy of the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 when it hit Jupiter, but close. Tremble in fear, lowly aliens!!! Your measly plasma weapons will never stand up to the power of Kinetic Energy!!!!

    Of course, that is the really big Orbital Defense Station's MAC gun. The MAC gun the ships carry is smaller. I'm too tired to calculate its KE right now. I hope I didn't make any silly math errors- I've checked them, but if they are wrong I'll make another comment to post corrections

    Once you reach high enough speeds, simple slugs of metal release more energy per ton than a nuclear warhead simply due to their kinetic energy. Adding a nuclear warhead is unnecessary because the lump of metal has enough relative velocity to the target to impact with the force of several atomic bombs going off. This means that rapid-firing magnetic guns and powerful Mass Accelerator Cannons are deadly in space, now matter what Trekkies think spaceship weapons should look like. Note also that hypervelocity impacts tend to release their energy like a bomb going off. An asteroid impact (or mass driver bombardment) would create massive explosions like nuclear weapons.

    Forget a wave motion gun- I want a MAC gun on my spaceship!!

    Christopher Phoenix

  3. I am working on the post on why Star Trek is not MSF, and you rise the point I do...Starfleet attempts to have its starships be flexible, science, warfare, families, and so on...but it does none of them well.
    The first time I read the numbers on the MAC guns from HALO, I was shocked, and honestly, it's ability to kill targets is unlike anything I've read in the real-science space battles.
    The WMC of Yamato is one of those items, like the Reflex Cannons of the SDF-1 and SDF-3 from Robotech are badly overused and tired. I never liked how relient the Starforce and the RDF were on their "super uber weapons". As a friend of mine once said, "you have to hit me with it first."

  4. Hi, William!!

    Starfleet's schizophrenic attempt to be both a scientific, exploratory, military, and diplomatic organization insures Starfleet ships won't fulfill any role well.. I remember seeing children on the Enterprise in Star Trek Generations- but it makes no sense for a military spaceship to have children on board!! It doesn't really make much sense to have children in space, for that matter- they would be exposed to radiation during crucial periods in their development.

    A ship can't be an exploration craft, scientific laboratory, and military craft all at the same time and succeed at doing any role well. This is an example of a "Brain Bug", and idea that starts small but grow and grows too a ridiculous size in the fans minds, becoming an incoherent, confused tumorous mass wrapped around your spinal column. It makes the victim extremely vulnerable too- suggestion.

    In TOS, we see that the a starship is a versatile craft, capable of exploration and survey missions, military missions, and scientific missions. At times of trouble, a starship could carry out unusual tasks, like delivering vital medicine, etc. She was still a battlecruiser, however, and Starfleets main mission was obvious- penetrate deep space, contact alien civilizations, expand the boundaries of the Federation, and defend Federation interests. The Federation was aggressively expanding through space, and the Constitution class vessels served to defend the Federation's interests.

    Jump ahead to TNG, however, and now starships try to be scientific craft, explore space, carry out warfare (although TNG had pacifist themes), and raise families, of all things. Starfleet seems pretty bloated, as well, torn between scientific and military roles. At times Starfleet officers claim that tactical knowledge is no longer necessary. This has gone away from Gene Roddenberry's original vision. He said that nothing would happen on Enterprise that wouldn't happen on a modern day aircraft carrier. Well, you don't raise families on aircraft carriers, as far as I know.

    That is the world of Media SF for you- no one stops to consider if something makes sense.

    Christopher Phoenix

    1. The big reason this happened in TNG was because Gene Roddenberry was a mess of a man by 1987; as (eventually disgruntled) scriptwriter Melinda Snodgrass said at a convention, he was 'very old, very sick, and likely to die before the show ends' (which of course did happen.) Roddenberry had no idea how to do TV, much less write a script, anymore, and also had no idea what real people are like, either (plus his sexism got the better of him when he devised Deanna Troi originally; she was to have three breasts just like the character mentioned in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and the background character seen in the original version of Total Recall.) Why he ever thought that he could be a showrunner of this new show, I'll never know.

      Roddenberry should've been credited for developing the characters and the premise of TNG, and paid for that, but other than that, he shouldn't have been allowed to take control of the show, at all, or influence it (as much as I've come to accept the idea of kids being on a starship in TNG and on a space station in DS9.)

  5. On MAC cannons- hey, the power of a MAC cannon may seem shocking to us today, but what would an artillery officer in the 18th century though of modern day nuclear weapons and cruise missiles? A civilization capable of expanding through interstellar space would be capable of harnessing the power of a star- what is called a Kardashev Type-2 civilization. A MAC cannon releases a little less energy than the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 did when it hit Jupiter. Perhaps a Type-2 would harness enough energy to power a weapon with such destructive power- especially if powerful alien ships are attacking!!

    Most hard SF, like Atomic Rockets, is based on near future technologies. Rail-guns, inefficient lasers, nuclear rockets, etc might be available to us in the coming century. A space warship built with near future technology would not be very powerful compared to what a far future civilization could do. Rocketpunk Manifesto talks about a "plausible midfuture" set in the future just beyond the near future where plausible, conservative space technologies enable us to explore the Solar System. Ion drives, solar sails, nuclear rockets, colony domes, space habitats, space stations, space elevators abound, but their are no FTL drives, gamma ray boomsticks, curious drive systems with incredibly high accelerations, etc. Beyond the "plausible midfuture" based on very conservative ideas with no tolerance for fantastic tech, i.e. the "far future", you could find any technology that doesn't violate physical laws will someday be created, and that some technology might just appear to be magical to us.

    I find that you can break SF tech down into three categories. Class 3 violate physical laws and is probably based on fluffy technobabble. Class 2 don't violate physical laws but are simply beyond our engineering capability for a long time to come. Class 1, "plausible midfuture" tech, is composed of only reasonable extrapolations of modern day technology. Class 1 does not permit anything that does not violate the known laws of physics- only stuff like ion drives or colony domes that is based on research today.

    My point is that beyond the "plausible midfuture", things like warped space or MAC cannons are possible. An interstellar civilization is beyond the plausible midfuture, so "real science space battles" 500 years in the future could make plausible midfuture speculation look like a battle between to native tribes with leaky canoes, wooden paddles, and sticks to hit the crew of another canoe with.

    I've noticed our real "super-uber-weapons" (atomic bombs) were only used twice in all of history, so probably "super-uber-weapons" of the future won't be used often either. Probably most battles will be fought with more mundane weapons either in space or planet-side.

    Christopher Phoenix