Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 – Episode Three – Escape from the Jupiter Sphere
January 16, 2016 Leave a comment
Now this was an interesting episode, introducing a number of new themes, while also building upon existing elements of the story. But first, let us talk about techno-babble, glorious, glorious techno-babble. So many sci-fi anime have a horrible tendency to try and explain absolutely everything, often using overly complex language and silly semi-philosophical phrases and ideas to explain their world’s technology and society. They can spend so much time explaining with heaps upon heaps of exposition that there is little time for any major character or story progression. Yamato 2199 does something a little different, there is still the ridiculous amount of explanation, but its all wrapped up in techno-babble, explaining how the ships engine creates black holes to warp, or to fire its main gun, without ever fully explaining how. And that doesn’t matter, we’ve had the explanation, we know that this ship has lots of technology and strange systems on board, and that’s fine. We are also treated to lots of nonsensical dialogue regarding angles, degrees, speed, and all sorts of other systems that clearly make the ship work but we are neither told, or expected know exactly how.
I do like it when an anime simply assumes that as the audience we can accept that a futuristic ship – albeit one that looks very similar to a WWII battleship – has all sorts of technology we cannot possibly understand. There is a certain mysticism to future technology that many anime, and for that matter live action films and drama seem to miss. I can accept that this ship has advanced technology that allows it to jump halfway across the galaxy in a mere second, simply because it is set in the future, I don’t have to worry about how it works, as long as I know it works within the stories narrative. The series staff, such as Enomoto Akihiro, and Izubuchi Yutaka (among others) have to be congratulated on creating an episode that allowed the almost, but not entirely meaningless dialogue to work perfectly with its visuals. Watching the Yamato go into warp, with the crew worrying about what might happen if they mess up, only to be frozen in place given the speed they are moving at is a wonderfully visual piece of story telling. It also serves to illustrate their general powerlessness within the vast void of space – for all of their technology, and understanding of the principles behind that technology, they are still frozen, and unable to react until the warp system stops automatically.
This is also a brilliant example of slowing down a process – it would have been so simple to have the crew simply press a button, or push a leaver and find the ship in warp. Instead, there is a relatively long build up process involving numerous people and sections of the ship, from the bridge to the engine room. It is a deliberately involved process that further emphasises the complexities of space travel in this universe, while also highlighting how new these individuals are to the technology they are using. The same is true of the process required to fire the Wave Motion Canon, a weapon of vast destructive power that I will return to in a bit. Everything about this process is deliberately timed to highlight the importance of the weapon in question and its immense power. Every other gun on the Yamato is simple to fire, with Anti-Aircraft lasers firing with great abandon, and main canons firing at regular intervals. These are powerful weapons, but the involved process required to fire the Wave Motion Canon is supposed to demonstrate to the audience the immense destructive capacity that such a weapon holds, and the various steps required to fire it safely. The resulting destruction of an entire floating island the size of Australia only serves to emphasise this power.
Two key themes were introduced in this episode – firstly, that Gamilas is not actively evil, and secondly, that the hope of humanity also doubles as a giant canon capable of destroying a planet. I mentioned in last weeks post that our first look at the Gamilas soldiers suggests a more complex picture than merely the evil conqueror, and episode three serves to reinforce that. We are introduced to the Pluto base’ commander looking at a holographic message of his daughter wishing he could return home for work, as well as the Jupiter forward base’ commanding stroking an alien cat. Both images serve to show us the human side of Gamilas, yes they have attacked earth, and are certainly invaders, but the question we are asked is: are they evil? I would say no they are not, they were certainly not to be pitied necessarily, but neither are they an entirely evil conquering force bent on genocide, although it certainly appears that way at first. Such simple scenes provide the aggressors in this conflict with a more human face, while also highlighting the general naivety of Yamato’s younger crew members. Yasuo Nanbu for example jumps for joy at the sight of the floating island being utterly obliterated by the Wave Motion Canon, exclaiming that now they can fight Gamilas with an advantage. His joy demonstrates how little he understands of war, and the power he has just witnessed, further highlighted when Okita talks about Yamato’s weapons existing for self-defense only, and not for war.
This third episode is particularly interesting precisely because it introduces us to the ‘enemy’, and the power that the Yamato holds. In doing so we as the audience can see that this is not quite as simple as a battle of good and evil, it is a little more grey around the edges. We also have a number of wonderfully classic sci-fi moments with techno babble, long, and involved processes to go to warp, and fire a very big canon. Also, with a simple statement from Okita about the purpose of Yamato’s weapons, characters such as Kodai who have lost loved ones to the Gamilas menace as they see it must come to terms with their own feelings and the knowledge that even when at war they still have their duties. As with everything about this series, there are elements here that remind me of classic Sci-fi series like Star Trek, even a number of BBC radio dramas – it is clearly tapping into a whole era of popular culture in America and the UK.