Friday, 8 December 2017

Anime Review: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Uchū Senkan Yamato Ni-ichi-kyū-kyū / 宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199) ... and two potentially huge projects in the making

At the age of seven I was the proud owner of my first double sided pencil case, magnetic covers and all. On its cover graced a magnificent grey and red starship called the Yamato. Back then I had no idea that this cool looking space-faring battleship was from 'a seminal series in the history of anime, marking a turn towards more complex serious works'. Fast forward to 2017 and I found myself finally watching the anime albeit a modern remake of the original TV series. So with the year winding down and hobby-related projects at a lazy standstill, I present you with an anime review of ... Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Uchū Senkan Yamato Ni-ichi-kyū-kyū / 宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199)

Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Uchū Senkan Yamato Ni-ichi-kyū-kyū / 宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199)

What is this anime about? Genre-wise Space Battleship Yamato 2199 can be categorised as a military science fiction television series. It revolves around the trials and tribulations of a starship crew as they travel to Iscandar, a planet located in the Large Magellanic Cloud some 168,000 light years away. The year is 2199 and Earth is on the brink of extinction due to constant planetary bombardment by aliens called Gamilas. Having learned of Earth's plight, another alien race Iscandarans send technological help enabling Yamato to reach their homeworld and retrieve humankind's last hope. 

Our heroes' first glimpse of the starship Yamato is that of a grounded wreck
But a new dawn is arising for mankind's last hope against the Gamilas
Space Battleship Yamato carries the ship registry alphanumeric BBY-01

Apart from the Yamato which is obviously the main draw, a diverse and interesting cast of characters also populate the sci-fi anime series. Combination of the two gives credence to the old adage the whole is greater than the sum of the parts because together they elevate the show to a higher level. It transcends the staid recipe of archetypal characters (e.g. ship captain and main antagonist) and a commonly used sci-fi plot of aliens invading Earth. In addition to good vehicle/character design, the writing, music and animation also contribute towards an anime that is well worth watching.       

Captain Okita Juuzu is an archetypal ship captain not unlike the old man of the sea in Greek mythology ...
... and Lord Dessler an archetypal villain who is calm, cool, collected and of course merciless
Space Battleship Yamato's crew in their colour coded uniforms ala Star Trek

If I were to describe Space Battleship Yamato 2199 using comparisons with existing sci-fi universes then I would say these series most resembles Star Trek. On the surface, this is evident in the crew's color coded uniforms which correspond their respective areas of responsibility. For example pink is the medical division, orange (engineering), red (tactical), blue (science), grey (security), dark grey (fighter pilots), green (navigation), etc. Even operationally the Yamato tends to mimic Federation Starship Procedure like the formation of away teams. And of all the Star Trek series, this anime most resembles Voyager in spirit with its concept of a lone starship many light years away from Earth.

Mori Yuki (left) and Kodai Susumu (right) form the main romance arc in the 26-episode series
Any romance worth its salt needs additional conflict which Yamamoto Akira provides as Kodai's secret admirer

Character development is sufficiently deep to make viewers care for the main characters and most of the supporting cast. As such the crew are no mere extras playing second fiddle to an inanimate object that is the Yamato. If that had been the case, this series would've found it hard to retain viewer interest beyond the first few episodes. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 also treats war in a serious and realistic manner. Let me explain. A reoccurring theme in military autobiographies is the description of dying soldiers calling out for their mothers. This little known detail is depicted accurately in the anime.

Supporting casts Sanada Shiro (left) and Niimi Kaoru (right) were reasonably fleshed out via their own backstories 

On a lighter note, humour and fan service is alive and well in Space Battleship Yamato 2199. Head of the Medical Division Dr. Sado Sakezo and field medic Harada Makoto (see below) provide a fair bit of comic relief. But they aren't the sole characters around which humorous situations occur. This is spread out among the other characters too. As for fan service, the female crew (dubbed the Yamato Girls) fulfill this role gratuitously enough for it to be vividly recollected long after the show has ended. Personally though, I find fan service to be harmless so it wasn't an issue with me. 

Slapstick humour seems to be a staple of anime in general ...
... as is gratuitous fan service courtesy of the Yamato Girls
From left: Ace pilot Akira, ship counselor Kaoru, operations officer Yuki, field medic Makoto, and cadet Misaki Yuria

If you delight in fleet-level space battles (as well as fighter dogfights for that matter) then you are in for a treat with Space Battleship Yamato 2199. Animation in this sci-fi series is top notch with the first 10 episodes animated by AIC (Anime International Co.) and the subsequent ones by Xebec. I like the art style of the whole series. And although the 26 episodes has more than its fair share of CGI but it's adroitly done so as to blend in with the regular animation.

Yamato is involved in a lot of 'against-the-odds' space battles
So it's no surprise Yamato sustains incredible amounts of damage throughout her journey
Yet she can certainly hold her own and dish out devastating damage in return
Complementing the starship's considerable firepower are its fighters both in planetary atmosphere ... 
... and in space; seen above is the starship's iconic Cosmo Zero fighter

Meanwhile, well animated digital instrumentation panels on the Yamato imbue an appropriate sense of futuristic high-tech gadgetry. In other words, the world in which the characters inhabit most of the time i.e. the Yamato is a believable one. Tackiness is kept at bay completely, well almost anyway.

As the Ship Affairs Division Officer, Yuki is exposed to her fair share of digital instrumentation panels
Colour scheme of the digital instrumentation panels comprised soft pastel hues
Roman alpha-numerals and Japanese characters are the written language of choice aboard the starship Yamato 
Panels display symbols that actually make scientific sense and aren't just flashy, nonsensical show pieces

There is perhaps only one exception. To me the way that Kodai fires Yamato's most powerful weapon (the wave motion gun) was reminiscent of a 70's perception of high tech. What he does (see below) is pull out a pistol-like handle, calls out 'target scope, open', visually aligns the target and then ... pulls a trigger. I can understand if this is the director's idea of an ode to the original series in 1972, a creative throwback if you will. Otherwise, this animated sequence is an awkward wince-inducing moment.

To fire Yamato's wave motion gun, Kodai goes into a decidedly 1970's low tech mode
For a ship capable of interstellar travel, whipping out a pistol-like handle and pulling the trigger is ... well ... tacky

Yamato is an extremely versatile starship that can withstand many different mediums of travel be it space, planetary atmosphere, liquid or even a dimensional rift. For such a large starship, it is surprisingly agile too. And despite experiencing major battle damage throughout its journey, the Yamato seems to find the resources and manpower to repair itself to almost new. While a sense of incredulity may be starting to creep into my words, it is in no way a slight to the series. Some suspension of disbelieve is always needed in a sci-fi series. After all, not too long ago the universal translator was a fanciful thingamajig in Star Trek but we now have Google Translate App (while the app isn't perfect by any means, it's certainly a step in the right direction).  

Yamato flies/sails through all types of medium; here she's caught in a dimensional rift
She is also seen sailing comfortably on an alien planet's liquid medium
Of course, the Yamato is in her element when traversing the vacuum of space

Any good sci-fi show is sure to inspire a hobby modeller to recreate what he or she saw. It's no different with Space Battleship Yamato 2199 which I give a rating of 8.5/10. There are two model kits that I've my eye on and they are both from Bandai. One is the Space Battleship Yamato 2199 Cosmo Reverse Version at 1/1000 scale. It's basically how the starship looks like on her journey back to Earth. The other is the Space Battleship Yamato 2199 United Nations Cosmo Force BBY-01 at 1/500 scale. It's a bigger and more detailed plastic model kit and represents the starship early on its voyage to the planet Iscandar. I would love to get my hands on both kits in the future. 

Bandai's 1/1000 scale Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Cosmo Reverse Version) plastic model kit
Bandai's 1/500 scale Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (United Nations Cosmo Force BBY-01) plastic model kit

[Spoiler Alert Begins] On this day over 180 years into the future, the Yamato returns home after a long and arduous journey. Well, it isn't that much of a spoiler as most viewers would've expected the Yamato to return. Essentially it's the journey to Iscandar and back to Earth that constitutes the great unknown and opportunities for good story telling. And in that the series succeeds. [Spoiler Alert Ends] In short, it's a must-watch for anime and/or military sci-fi fans.

Binge watching anime hasn't been a complete waste of time as it has allowed me to recharge my batteries. Hopefully this will translate into more finished projects soon. That's a promise. The next blog post will definitely maybe feature a finished miniature painting project. Pinky swear!

P.S. Please note that character names listed here are shown in the order of surname first followed by given name as is the norm for East/Southeast Asian naming conventions.


  1. I am already excited about this build! What a great post and fascinating read.

    1. Me too! I'll likely get some practice in with the 1/1000 scale version before moving on to the 1/500 version. And thanks for the kind words Michael. :)

  2. Wow, beautiful and impressive pics!

    1. In my humble opinion, this is an impressive anime in terms of animation.

  3. Makes me want to go and watch the series!

    1. Watch it you won't regret it. ^_^ There is already a second season i.e. Super Battleship Yamato 2202 but unfortunately I haven't been able to get my hands on the latest season's episodes.

  4. Replies
    1. That the anime is Michał. Thank you for reading this review. :)

  5. Well, you certainly got my attention, thanks for the review, I love that kind of stories, I may have to look for this one :)

    1. You have too Suber ^_^ This series is awesome. If you love sci-fi then you can't go wrong with this anime. :)

  6. Excellent I do like watching Manga from time to time. Will have to check this out.

    1. I hope you do. This is a great anime and I'm glad they are remaking the original series with so much better animation.


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