[Synopsis]: 8 years ago, earth made its first contact with alien life – a race of humanoid beings known as Gamilans. Humanity’s attempts at achieving peace were answered with ruthless and unrelenting attacks. In the modern day, humanity lives in underground cities in order to survive the long-range Gamilan planet bombs which have dried up the land and polluted Earth’s atmosphere. On the brink of destruction, Earth receives aid from another alien race who grant them the technology to leave their galaxy and make a journey of 336,000 light years to the distant planet of Iscandar in order to cleanse Earth’s inhospitable conditions. With only a year remaining before humanity’s destruction, the space battleship Yamato departs Earth, helmed by Okita Juuzou (Sugou, Takayuki) and Earth’s finest crew. Will the Yamato complete its epic journey in a fierce battle against time and the Gamilan threat?
Typical of the space opera genre, Uchuu Senkan Yamato features a large variety of characters from the iconic main crew members of the Yamato to the militaristic and political Gamilans and an assortment of other races. From the first episode it becomes quite evident that many of the introduced characters such as Kodai and Okita are bursting with personality and while characters like Mori Yuki may lack the same level of characterization, Kodai’s shipmates are certainly a diverse and entertaining bunch. Though the crew of the Yamato is the focus of the show, a great deal of attention is also given to the Gamilan’s despite their villainous exterior. This insight both complicates the enemy and makes their interactions far more interesting while furthering the themes of the show that the two races aren’t terribly different from one another.
The crew of the Yamato is full of personality and though they are all united by the goal of reaching Iscandar and saving Earth there is a fair amount of variance between each of them. Okita is a wonderfully classic depiction of a weathered ship captain – a man who will fight to his last breath for his crew and cause and a decisive tactician. There is a surprising amount of characterization early on which can mostly be attributed to the line-crossing ceremony early on wherein the crew has one last correspondence with their friends and family on earth before traveling too far away. This gave a great deal of insight into the supporting cast of the Yamato, both detailing the context of their individual journeys and making each character appear distinct in their motivations and personalities. The crew as a whole has a strong sense of comradery and most everyone feels as if they deserve to be there – there aren’t any out of place archetypes or strange character designs for the most part. The crew was definitely a strength of the show.
Whatever issues the cast of Uchuu Senkan Yamato may have, barring Mori Yuki who felt overly bland despite her central character status, rest with the characterization of the Gamilans. The problem that arises is, despite sufficient insight into their political games, interactions, and individual motivations, the Gamilans as a whole end up feeling nearly comically evil at times. The show attempts to portray a complicated and diverse antagonistic force however with half of the Gamilan generals and commanders firing upon their own ships, blowing up planets, and conspiring to back stab each other it all comes off a bit too malevolently. There are of course exceptions to this and a handful of Gamilan characters are certainly complex and entertaining but the fault lies with the ultimate depiction of their race. The lack of an adequate explanation concerning Abelt Dessler and his motivations further impairs this weak part of the show. The Gamilans are definitely entertaining however their one-dimensional portrayal and lack of a coherent goal beyond the destruction of the Yamato damages an otherwise compelling cast of characters.
Likely Uchuu Senkan Yamato’s most flawless strong point is its art and animation. Not only does it adapt a great many older designs and concepts into a wonderfully modern aesthetic but its visuals in general were great and never featured quality drops. Two things I want to praise specifically are the show’s explosions and its space battles. The manner in which ships explode, spin out of control, and break apart is downright magnificent and it was thrilling to see every time. The space battles and dogfights were particularly good because of the modesty of their depiction. The battles didn’t lose themselves amidst the potential visual gore of an all-out light show but instead remained easy to track and understood. The coherence of each battle as it unfolded added greater meaning and tension to each exchange and agent within the scene rather than drowning it all against a backdrop of eye-candy explosions and lasers.
Yet another thing the show’s visuals did an excellent job in validating the Gamilan threat. Though some of the initial enemies may appear one-dimensional or even bumbling their tactics and armaments are anything but – each exchange with the Gamilan’s seemingly putting the Yamato in a very legitimate state of danger. The Yamato appeared realistically disadvantaged by the superiority of the Gamilan’ technology and suffered blows and causalities because of this disparity. These legitimate threats to the ship made the action scenes far more engaging and though one rarely fears that the Yamato itself will be destroyed, there is a justifiable fear for the well-being of its crew and its utilities as the show conjures up concern for each regularly. You really feel each hit the Yamato receives.
Uchuu Senkan Yamato launches right into its subject matter with its first episode, dropping the viewer into a space battle as Okita commands a fleet of Earth’s ships in order to repel Gamilan attackers. Given the strength of its visuals in this area this was a perfect way to start into the narrative of the show. Not only are the first few episodes quite exciting but they very concisely establish the premise of the show and the dire state of things going forward. Though we aren’t fully introduced to the crew of the Yamoto until it departs Earth, Kodai, his brother Mamoru, Shima, and Sanada are all interesting from the get-go which reinforces the strong opening hook of the show.
One might think that, given the subject matter of making an incredibly long trek towards a distant planet and being constrained to a single vessel with a static cast of characters, Uchuu Senkan Yamato would unfold fairly episodically with intermittent insight into the overarching story however the show is very procedural. Constantly is it busying itself with important details, mission milestones, and new developments which emphasizes the epic qualities of the narrative wonderfully. From beginning to end the viewer is privy to a monumental journey as the crew travels from planet to planet, battles their Gamilan assailants, and copes with the unexpected obstacles that arise. The pacing of the show is very steady and consistent.
The plot of the show is quite entertaining and for the greater part of the show is more or less devoid of immediate problems outside of the characterization of the Gamilans. While not outright hamfisted, the show’s use of foreshadowing is a little over-obvious and while it often gives way to dramatic irony, some of the later revelations lack the same punch they may have had if a more conservative approach was used.
Uchuu Senkan Yamato’s narrative weak points start to show as it nears its conclusion. Though the manner in which the show concludes is perfectly intelligible and entertaining, its later episodes are ripe with unnecessary uses of deus ex machina, certain characters are woefully over-involved in ways that strain the viewer’s suspense of disbelief, and Abelt Dessler and the motivations of the Gamilan forces remain under-explored in the end. The ending of the show certainly avoids being bad however all of its proceeding weak points come to a head at once and a great deal of coincidence is involved in the proceedings needlessly so which cheapens the conclusion.
The soundtrack of Uchuu Senkan Yamato reinforces the grandeur of the narrative in much the same way the show’s visuals do. Though dated, the original themes of the 1970’s show fit wonderfully given modern arrangements and give the show an air of nostalgia, palpable even to those who have never seen the original. The main theme of the Yamato is heroic and boisterous and the Gamilan anthem is prideful and imposing – both tracks as impressive and immersive as the other.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
Uchuu Senkan Yamato was, at its core, was entertaining and fun above all else. Though it suffers very minor issues throughout and more meaningful issues near the end it remains both visually stunning and immediately pleasurable to watch. Though its characters aren’t all that intricate, the show offers a large variety of them and the comradery of the Yamato’s crew alongside the interactions between the Gamilans kept the show engaging all throughout.
I gave Uchuu Senkan Yamato a 7 because it was visually striking and significantly entertaining throughout its run. It suffered occasionally from one-dimensional antagonists and the plot contrivances that appear late into the story affect the story negatively and in unnecessary ways, marring its conclusion.
I would recommend Uchuu Senkan Yamato to anyone who enjoy Sci-Fi space epics as its subject matter is very much focused in these areas. Those in search of a journey-focused, procedural narrative would do well to pick up this show as rarely breaks from the plot at hand. Lovers of space battles and space warfare I think would enjoy Uchuu Senkan Yamato immensely though its grandeur is perhaps more subtle than other shows within its genre – it balances its action scenes wonderfully and has an aptitude for destruction.