This time, it’s off to Japan for the recent live-action big budget blockbuster remake of an old Anime classic, “Space Battleship Yamato”. If you are as big an Anime fan as this lil’ Catgirl, then you’ve already heard about this one, and have probably been waiting for it as eagerly as me… well, it’s finally out on Hong Kong Region 3 DVD (and even Blu-Ray) with those ever so handy English subtitles we all cross our fingers and hope for.
The story? Well, if you aren’t familiar with the old Anime, then here it goes: “In the future, the human race stands on the brink of extinction at the hands of unknown and unstoppable alien invaders the Gamilas. Enduring ceaseless bombardment from deep space has left mankind trapped on a radiation-soaked, nigh-uninhabitable Earth. But one hope remains, the message of a device supposedly capable of cleansing the poisoned Earth sent by a benevolent alien race, located on the distant planet of Iscandar somewhere far beyond our galaxy.
Earth’s only remaining hope is the last giant star-cruising battleship in her possession, the resurrected WW2 Japanese battleship Yamato, now refitted with a warp engine and armed with the Wave Motion cannon capable of incredible mass destruction, the first help from far off Iskandar. To accomplish this seemingly impossible task, the Yamato is hastily launched with a ragtag crew of personnel, including angst-ridden fighter pilot Susumu Kodai (Takuya Kimura), Captain Okita (Tsutomu Yamazaki), and sexy fighter pilot Yuki (Meisa Kuroki). With them, the Yamato must race against time and battle it’s way across enemy controlled space to find Iskandar, save the dying Earth, and ultimately defeat the evil Gamilas once and for all.”
Yep…. that’s pretty much the way I remember the plot of the old TV show. So will such a classic Anime successfully translate from the animated small screen to the big budget movie screen? Guess your truly will just have to take a look and find out. 🙂
So…. If you’ve seen the Trailer for this one already, you can pretty much see the film-makers went all out to dazzle us with all the epic space battle stuff…. Like your space battles to play like WW2 naval warfare with big dreadnoughts and warships slugging it out while swarms of fighters zoom around blasting away at everything? Then this just about ought to be right up your alley, movie wise. Sadly… I wish I could say all was as perfect as we fans might want.
Much of what is included here is very well done… and at the fraction of the cost of a comparable Hollywood Blockbuster effort, mind you. But I think, for me anyway, what is most disappointing was the many unavoidable compromises that had to be made to cram the entirety of a 25 episode TV series into a single film. It’s an action film… and that means having to lavish much of your screen time to those epic looking battle sequences and action elements but at the expense of the other thing that made “Yamato, the Anime” so compelling. The characters and the complex storyline that made up the original. We are introduced to many of those characters here… but unfortunately we don’t get the chance to learn much about any of them and their background or history. Often, a character is introduced with some real connection to our main Hero, Kodai only to be killed off quickly before you get any sense of how important they might actually be to him. Now… given that this film only runs about 2½ hours or so, you really can’t expect too darn much character stuff to get fit in…. but it’s those very melodramatic and complex relationships that drive Anime stories. Without them, much of “Yamato” feels a bit empty.
Also… from a personal standpoint, I didn’t find the “re-imagining” of the Gamilas as some weird hive mind energy crystal aliens all that appealing a change either from their original incarnations. Ok, ok…. I’m glad they weren’t the simple “blue skinned Nazi-looking guys” from the old cartoon series, but certainly “Avatar” and “Star Wars” have shown us that realistic looking CG humanoids are possible with current effects. So why wasn’t that done? I simply know that I, personally, would have preferred an alien threat in the film that had an actual “face” to just another body snatching energy critter presented for it’s Special Effects “wow” factor. Just my opinion, but there you have it.
But does this mean they didn’t get anything right? Certainly not. I’ve already said that the space battle stuff looks and feels great, but there are many other things that definitely give you the “feel” of that old Anime story. The costuming for example. Very bright and definitely styled after the 70’s military inspired uniforms from the old series, they nonetheless look “realistic” and fit the theme of the story well without looking odd or cliché. The central themes of the plot and it’s obsession with melodrama and sacrifice for the greater good are all still right there. All in all, I’m thinking this film actually should have been planned as two films instead of one. The first film should have contented itself with the dangerous voyage to Iskandar while the crew bonded as a group and then continued in a second movie detailing their return to Earth against all odds. This idea, while not only giving the studio a chance to cash in twice on ticket sales, would probably let the needed character development take place as the story unfolded slower, making the tragic death of so many of them that much more meaningful to an audience.
Judged on it’s own, this one isn’t all that bad a movie…. but it could have been a so much more “epic” one. People love a good “fight against impossible odds” plot…. and, as one might notice, most of those SciFi films and TV that followed the original “Yamato”, like “Battlestar Galactica” owe more than a bit of it’s allure and appeal to this old anime with it’s similar ideas and themes. The acting and characters might be “cardboard” stock stereotypes for the most part but, even so, your Favorite Catgirl can definitely recommend this one for a watch if such Space Opera stories are your favorites, and I still give it a firm 3 “Meows” out of 5. Try it…. you might just really like it a lot. Just don’t expect it to be exactly like that old “cartoon” you remember from when you were a child….
The DVD from Hong Kong is a definite bargain. Done without any real extras, it nonetheless comes with the original Japanese language audio as well as two different Chinese language dubs, Chinese and English subtitles and is presented in a beautiful widescreen format. I’m told the run-time was edited…. and about 15 minutes or so of footage is gone, but I didn’t see any obvious problems created by that, and I’m thinking that the few scenes cut wouldn’t have affected my overall views on this one in the least, although I’m suspecting that was where some of that “extra character development” I so missed might just have been.
This one has also been reviewed by one of our good friends at the ol’ “Litterbox”, elpeevio, at his own lil’ Film Blog, “Things Fall Apart”. So for another peek at the goings on, you can read his thoughts on this one HERE.
Trailer? You actually think this wee Catgirl would forget about that? Never, Gentle Visitors…. and here it is.