SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: RESURRECTION
Author: Ed Godziszewski
Official Site: yamato2009
SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: RESURRECTION (Uchu Senkan Yamato: Fukkatsu Hen)
Executive Producers: Shoji Nishizaki, Yoshinobu Nishizaki, Toshiaki Nakazawa
Director: Yoshinobu Nishizaki
Original Story: Yoshinobu Nishizaki
Original Concept: Shintaro Ishihara
Script: Buryu Ishihara, Atsuhiro Tomioka. Yoshinobu Nishizaki
Music: Naoto Otomo, Hiroshi Miyagawa
Theme Song: The Alfee
Susumu Kodai: Koichi Yamadera
Yuki Kodai: Noriko Yume
Miyuki “Miho” Kodai: Ayumi Fujimura
Gorui: Masatoh Ibu
Shiro Sanada: Takeshi Aono
Dr. Sakezou Sado: Ichiro Nagai
Narrator: Michio Hazama
Distribution: Toho Co., Ltd., Emotion
Released: December 12, 2009 (Japan)
Running Time: 131 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains plot details for a new movie.
2220 A.D.: Seventeen years have passed since the space battleship Yamato was destroyed while saving Earth from the flood waters of Planet Aquarius. Earth has enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity, and the surviving crew of Yamato have gone their separate ways. Susumu Kodai and Yuki Mori married and had a daughter named Miho, who is now 15 years old and works as a nurse with Dr Sado in an animal shelter. Without warning, Earth’s peace is shattered as a seemingly impossible phenomenon threatens Earth… a black hole moving through space on a precise course for Earth. Despite all of its technology, the human race faces certain extinction. There is only one option… mass migration to another planet. The inhabitants of the Amare system offer humanity refuge on one of their home planet’s moons.
The first wave of civilian transports departs for the Amare system. With Kodai not yet back from a deep space cargo mission, Yuki volunteers as a commander in the military escort. Without warning, an unknown fleet of ships ambushes the fleet. Hopelessly unprepared for this battle, the fleet performs an emergency warp to escape. Yuki’s ship is dealt a near-death blow at the moment it jumps into hyperspace. When her ship emerges from warp, Yuki cannot be found.
Upon his return home, Kodai is met with a cold shoulder from Miho, who blames her father for abandoning his family. Before Kodai can say anything, he receives an urgent summons from Minister Sanada, former science officer of Yamato. A second fleet of civilian transports has also been massacred by unknown forces, so Sanada appeals to Kodai to escort the third fleet as captain of Yamato… the ship has been salvaged from the frozen remains of Aquarius and outfitted with new, advanced technology. Kodai accepts the mission, at the same time determined to discover his wife’s whereabouts and reconcile with Miho, who holds him responsible for her mother’s fate. A mere 3 months remains before the black hole reaches Earth.
As the third fleet attempts a tricky warp maneuver, the transports are again attacked, but with Yamato spearheading the defense, the fleet escapes to Amare. The attackers reveal themselves to be members of the Star Union, an alliance of many systems presided over by the ruthless SUS. Accusing the humans of violating their peace with an invasion, the SUS orders the Star Union to wipe out the intruders. As a member of the Star Union, Amare faces an untenable position… turn away the Earth people and ensure humanity’s extinction, or invite their own annihilation by defying the SUS. Likewise, if Kodai orders Yamato to attack the SUS, they will certainly launch an attack against Amare, but if Yamato does not act, 300 million Earth immigrants will have no place to go. And all the while, the cascading black hole relentlessly homes in on Earth and its huge remaining population.
SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: RESURRECTION marks the return of the YAMATO saga to the big screen after nearly 30 years. Arguably the biggest animation franchise at the time that Japanese animation made its mark on the world, YAMATO has been conspicuous by its absence for all these years. Never mind that the ship was destroyed in FINAL YAMATO (Uchu Senkan Yamato Kanketsu Hen, 1983)… Yamato has been rebuilt before, and besides, no one and no thing is ever REALLY dead in science fiction. The lack of new YAMATO stories during this time was probably for the best– you just can’t keep threatening earth with calamity, then destroying and reviving the ship every year– not without eventually losing even the most devoted fans. After FINAL YAMATO, the series needed a break, and a long one.
With all the advancements in film technology that have occurred since Yamato last flew a mission, the idea of bringing it back to the big screen had fans of the original intrigued about the possibilities. The original films and TV series were made when technique was limited and the animation almost primitive by today’s standards. And, every bit as important, with passing of series composer Hiroshi Miyagawa, what would the producers do for a musical score? Miyagawa’s distinctive sounds are almost as completely identified with YAMATO as Akira Ifukube’s themes have been with Godzilla. How would YAMATO make the transition to the 21st century?
The answer… mostly with splendid results. From the viewpoint of the story, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: RESURRECTION delivers more of the same elements which made the original series so attractive. Foregoing today’s tiring trend of reboots (which are just remakes, no matter what movie execs want to say), YAMATO: RESURRECTION dares to continue the original saga. Allowing 17 years to have elapsed since the events of FINAL YAMATO helps in that regard. It is enough time for almost everything to have changed, people and technology, so in effect you can have your cake and eat it too. You can keep whatever elements you want from the original series and still go off in almost any direction with new things.
YAMATO’s staples of apocalyptic scenarios, exciting battles, romance, and melodrama are back in full force. The menace of the cascading black hole is a superb idea, especially when its scientific impossibility is admitted early in the film. No hopelessly contrived explanations are offered. Known science cannot explain it, yet it is happening nonetheless. This offers absolutely Earth no hope to combat the menace and avert disaster, which is about as apocalyptic as you can get. When you are facing another race or super technology, there is always a weakness to be found, some advantage that can be identified and exploited. But something that shouldn’t exist… all the scientific data in existence, all the psychological evaluation of an enemy’s tactics or mindset, none of that will offer a solution. Doomsday seems inevitable.
The romantic aspect of YAMATO is actually toned down considerably in this film when compared to previous installments. The relationship between Kodai and Yuki is touched on only briefly, and it does give Kodai a personal mission to find out what really happened to his wife, but that is the extent of the romance. With all the other things packed into this story, it is probably for the best.
YAMATO’s brand of melodrama, with all its moral posturing and emphasis on honor and sacrifice, remains true to the original series, which may prove to be the biggest obstacle to acceptance by today’s audiences who are new to the saga. When Star Union members begin to revolt against the iron hand of the SUS, shamelessly invoking honor as a justification for sacrificing their lives, more than a few people in the audience snicker at such dialogue. But YAMATO: RESURRECTION remains true to it roots as a morality play in space, even if it leaves part of the audience behind in the process.
Nevertheless, the script is not without its shortcomings. As a story point, the conflict between Miho and her father is barely developed, and it comes to a head in a rescue scene that screams of contrivance. Unfortunately, the script falls victim to the trap of the over-talkative villain who carelessly lets slip a key piece of information, a mistake that is compounded by the fact that there is no reason for him to even be talking to his adversaries in the first place (other than to spill the beans about things the Earth people could never find out on their own). And following the tired convention of ‘everything new has to be powered up’, the already impossibly powerful wave motion gun is made even more powerful, which of course is used at the climax (if this is a spoiler, then you probably didn’t know Anakin would become Darth Vader in REVENGE OF THE SITH either). It would be a welcome change if Yamato could avert a crisis without resorting to the wave motion gun every time.
The very last scene also seems problematic. When the credits start to roll, the film doesn’t feel properly concluded. It is just over abruptly. You think, ‘Ok, the action is finished,’ but the viewer is left with the nagging feeling that something more should happen. It is only after the credits are finished and the final title card comes on the screen that you understand why (SPOILER ALERT) “The End – Yamato Resurrection-Part 1″.
The marriage of YAMATO with modern CG-enhanced animation is a pleasure to behold. Wisely the producers stuck to the look of traditional 2D animation, but supplemented by all the bells and whistles that are available today. Character design is basically unchanged, offering much appreciated continuity with the original series. The slate of new crew members is a mixed bag, from an annoying pair of twins who are the new Engineering Room wizards, an offbeat female doctor who also fancies herself a fighter pilot, to new bridge personnel seemingly destined to be the next generation of main characters. Visually the only disappointment in character design is the new look uniforms for some of the crew, eschewing the classic arrow motif.
Not surprisingly, it is spaceship movement and battling that benefits the most from modern technology. Spaceships are rendered in much greater detail and their movement is much smoother than has been seen before. The Earth fleet sports some impressive new fighter craft in tandem with the more traditional battleship designs. The animators choose to minimize all the hyper editing that plagues so much of today’s filmmaking, actually allowing the audience to comprehend and enjoy what is happening on screen. They seem to understand that it’s more exciting to immerse viewers in the action rather than make them dizzy with 40 cuts per minute. Explosions and energy beams benefit tremendously from computer graphic enhancement, adding dynamic visuals while still allowing an animated feeling to be maintained. The animators resist taking CG enhancement into the 3D realm, although when Yamato breaks free from Aquarius, the ice shards flying off of the ship have too much of a 3D texture, shifting the image to a different kind of reality for a moment.
The weakest visual element in the film is the design of the enemy fleets. YAMATO history is populated with dozens of sleek and exciting spaceship designs, so these new ship designs are a rather jarring and unimaginative change of pace. Most of the enemy fleets are rife with blocky lines, more reminiscent of stone buildings rather than flying ships.
Computer enhancement works its greatest magic in scenes of outer space, especially those of black holes. The beauty and imagination of these scenes are nothing less than spectacular.
The answer seems to be that they didn’t know what to do, so they tried a little of everything. The first 60% of the film is scored almost completely with stock themes from Miyagawa’s previous scores. And much like Ifukube’s music, it proves so appropriate and utilitarian that it fits the film like a glove. Hardly a note of music seems out of place, and the effect is wonderful. The exception is a new vocal recording of the YAMATO theme played when the ship takes off from Aquarius… an up tempo ‘modern’ pop version of the song is used. No doubt a nod to the younger crowd, but it sounds woefully out of place.
Once the Yamato arrives on Amare, the score shifts gears in a perplexing direction. Miyagawa’s themes are almost completely abandoned, but rather than using new music, instead Western classic music is used, such as a Beethoven piano sonata. Fine music in and of itself, but it seems totally out of place in the film, especially when it follows wall-to wall Miyagawa. It is a very perplexing choice for which the film suffers. If the producers were worried about using an old villain theme for the SUS that would cause confusion for the audience, a viable alternative still existed in the Miyagawa repertoire. The 2000 album SYMPHONIC SUITE GREAT YAMATO contained ‘Theme of Darqueen’, a suitably villainous piece that had not been used previously, and would have fit very well. The final act of the film plays like it was scored with a temp track instead, which is a huge letdown.
SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: RESURRECTION brings the famed space battleship back to the big screen in all its former glory, setting the stage for a live action version which will hit screen in Japan later this year. 2010 promises to be a banner year for Yamato fans, new and old.
For more information on SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: RESURRECTION please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan:
And be sure to check out SFJ’s multi-chapter overview of the SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO/STAR BLAZERS franchise, written by Tim Eldred of Starblazers.com:
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 1: The Anime Classic That Nearly Wasn’t
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 2: From Valley to Peak
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 3: ARRIVEDERCI YAMATO Goodbye Dark Ages, Hello Global Village
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 4: We’re Off to Outer Space
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 5: THE NEW VOYAGES Plural
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 6: BE FOREVER YAMATO…and the Kitchen Sink
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 7: SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO III: The Ground Shifts
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 8: FINAL YAMATO: The Legacy Begins
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 9: Dessler’s War and More: SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO IN THE 80s
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 10: The Rollercoaster: SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO in the 90s
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 11: The Leiji Matsumoto Renaissance, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO in the 21st Century