Saturday, October 26, 2013

Afternoon Anime: Space Battleship Yamato 2199

Episode 14 of Space Battleship Yamato 2199, subtitled The Whisper of the Witch, is certainly better executed than the episode previous. It's also the weirdest entry of the series to date.

So far we've seen the Gamilans using biological, radioactive, and conventional weapons against Earth and the Yamato. This chapter takes it in a new direction with the use of a psychological weapon. We open on an elfin Gamilan, previously identified as another conquered species serving within the empire, taking point on a new attempt to destroy the Yamato. The writing does a great job of showing rather than telling the details as Kodai and Yuki return from a patrol to find the Yamato spinning out of control amid an apparent snowstorm in space.

After a docking sequence which tips its hat to Newtonian laws of motion, Kodai and Yuki quickly succumb to the Gamilan brain washing/mind control attack. This psychic assault manifests by trapping each individual crew member within one of their fondest memories. Contained within their minds, most of the crew are left passive, but a certain few are manipulated into mishandling the ship. Shima, for example, locks the auto pilot into making a warp jump to a waiting Gamilan battle group. Meanwhile, the perpetrator of the psychic attack is capable of manifesting as creepy talking dolls within the Yamato and the dreams of her crew.

Exploring Kodai and Yuki's memories, while interesting, isn't quite what I would call mission critical for the story. What it purposefully does is identify Kodai and Yuki as special within the remainder of the season. Granted, anybody who watched the original series already knew that Kodai is going to save the day. But now we're introducing Yuki into the saviour role as well, though probably the junior partner if we follow the breadcrumbs to their natural conclusion. Before fully succumbing to the psychic attack, Yuki locks down the Yamato's wave motion core, thus preventing a warp jump. But only Kodai proves strong enough to break the siren song and stop Yuki from reactivating the engines when she's manipulated into undoing her previous actions.

Insights into Yuki's history also work to correct some of the egregious laziness of the original series. Classic Yamato never bothered to explain why Yuki and Starsha looked nearly identical. My theory: the artists couldn't be bothered to draw two different female characters. To them, girls didn't watch space opera, as evidenced by Yuki's duties as ship's nurse. Say nothing for the fact that she was constantly subjected to Analyzer tossing up her skirt and grabbing her ass. Also, why was she wearing a skirt in the space navy?

Contemporary Yuki is more important to the ship's command structure as the Operations Officer. Not to mention that neither she nor any other female crew members are subjected to robosexual assault. Beyond that, her back story is being built around a military conspiracy fronted by Admiral Ryu Hijikata - yet another connection to the second season of the original Space Battleship Yamato. It's quite possible that Yuki is an Iscandarian who replaced the actual Yuki Mori on orders from Admiral Hijikata. Such an event would substantiate why the Gamilan "witch" claimed that Yuki shouldn't be on the Yamato. This journey through Yuki's mind proves as bizarre as a mid-series episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Both the Christian cross and the Gamilan modified swastika figure prominently within Yuki's dream. Scenes are intercut with single word kanji characters on black backgrounds. At one point the artistic style shifts into something which invokes a Samurai Jack sensibility. By the end of the episode it makes some sense, but I'd say at least 30% of it is either lost in translation or too high-concept for the likes of my comprehension.

Weirdness aside, all is well that ends well on the Yamato. But before the credits roll the story cuts back to Gamilas. We see a fat blue-skinned Gamilan surrounded by slave girls, cigars, and food. To date, we have never seen a Gamilan displaying such hedonistic tendencies. Remember that Dessler banished/killed one of his officers over a lack of manners. The fat Gamilan gets a call from a subordinate who confirms the wolf, arguably General Domel, and the vixen, Minister Celestella, are fixated on the Yamato. Sucking back the alien stogie, the mystery officer declares the time to be right. How ominous.

Does this portent a Gamilan civil war? Or perhaps he's just an ambitious commander with plans to press an unsanctioned attack against the Gatlantis Empire. Either way, some serious intrigues are afoot on planet Gamilas.


- Kodai's trip through dreamland shows a soldier who aspires to be like his dead older brother, rather than being haunted by his memory. It's a nice fit considering this Kodai is far less angry than the original series' iteration.

- Okita is still in sick bay with Lt. Commander not-Spock at the con. Sanada's contribution as defacto captain is almost null.

- The Gamilan's ability to dominate the Large Magellenic Cloud seems underwritten by a series of warp gates built by an ancient and now dead civilization. Count on these factoring into the Yamato's rapid return to Earth at the end of the series.
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