Wednesday, January 07, 2004

New Yamato

When I was young the absolute greatest most awesomely unflapably cool thing on the whole 6 stations that made up the TV universe in Zuni Virginia was STAR BLAZERS

This animated series, which involved a future space war being fought by the crew of a refitted WW2 Battleship is best summed up by my imperfect memory of the opening sollioquy for the first season episodes.

In the year 2199 Earth is under severe attack by the planet Gamelon. Gamelon forces bomb earth with radioactive planet bombs, and in one earth year the radiation will reach the underground cities and all life on earth will be extinct.

But there is hope! Queen Starsha of Iscandar has offered Cosmo DNA to the people of Earth to clean the deadly radiation. A group of Starblazers called the Star Force leaves for Iscandar. But can the Argo and its crew travel 148,000 light years and back in just ONE EARTH YEAR!!??

Not if the Gamelons can stop them....

Now this show was by modern standards poorly animated, crudely drawn, and its science ranged from pretty good to dubious (especially the third season and the movies) but it had, arguably, the hands down best soundtrack of any Sci-Fi TV show. And an excellent soundtrack by any standard.

The story was great too. The first episode followed the desperate defeat of the outclassed Earth fleet as it makes a forlorn attempt to take out the Gamelon planet-bomb base on Pluto. The fleet is all but destroyed, indeed it is saved from destruction only by the suicidal delaying action of a single torpedo boat, the Paladin, under one Alex Wildstar, who, with his neato name, snappy intro, heroic stand and courageous dialog is sure to be the protagonist....untill his ship is destroyed....allowing the crippled fleet to escape.

(9 years old....and somebody just DIED on a cartoon....Whaaa!!?!)

The same episode has a beautiful alien princess crash-land on mars with a message from a heretofore unknown Alien power, Iscandar, which, being no friend of the Gamelons, is offering Earth a device to cleanse it of radiation, but the Earthers must come and get it, so designs for an FTL drive are included, The beautiful alien princess learns the first episodes science lesson (The atmosphere of Mars is fatal to humanoid life) and her body is retrieved by the brother of the aformentioned torpedo boat captain. It is this guy who is one of the main characters.

The rest of the series involves refurbishing the Battleship Yamato (preserved on the seafloor where the American navy left it) as it is the only quickly usable hull that can accomodate the alien FTL drive, and, of course the voyage to Iscandar, all with the strict 1 year time limit hanging over the crew (each episode ended with the ever smaller number of days left). The crew face everything from stress induced insanity, radiation sickness, hostile, friendly, and bitterly neutral aliens, monsters, black holes and acid seas.

For a sci-fi kids show the portrayal of war is frighteningly realistic. At one point a major character is diagnosed with terminal cancer, the crew suffers horrific losses, and a few crewmen can't handle the stress....yet the overiding feel of the series is actually optimistic. The welcome discovery that the Earths first contact with aliens (the Gamelons) is not necessarily representative of the galaxy, and the humanity of the show do not leave one with the bitter taste that many of todays more cynical shows do. .....(fogie alert)

As a child, I would run the 1/2 mile from the road up to my house so I could see this show (which, if I ran hard enough would just be coming on as I flew through the door).

The show was actually a Japanese show from 1974 titled Space Cruiser Yamato that had bombed when first shown but had been such a hit in syndication that two sequels were made.

The dubbing of the American version was pretty decent (and used a large cast) and the outstanding original soundtrack was retained.

Yamato 2 (Starblazers Season 2) involved the survivors from the Iscandar mission some years later after Earth is rebuilt ,crewmembers are planning to get married all is well....and a desperate cry for help from another star reminds some on earth of the debt they owe. Not as cool looking, this series, influenced by StarWars has less alien looking alien ships, but the story, soundtrack and pacing are excellent.

The third sequel was a travesty that will not be spoken of here....

What, you may ask, triggered this wave of nostalgia blogging??

Well, it now looks like a remake or sequel is in the works. I am hopeful (though cautious) that this is going to live up to the original. Much of recent Anime has had a high suck factor, but this is Yamato which is a near and dear to the hearts of many in Japan as it is to those of us who watched the show here. I am really looking forward to this.

As I get more info I will post....

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