Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 – Episode Seven – Farewell to the Solar System
February 13, 2016 Leave a comment
After six episodes of tension, action, and the seemingly never-ending threat of Gamilas attack, episode seven offers a chance to slow down. Whereas previous episodes have tended to focus on the Yamato as a battleship, with lots of mechanical actions, procedure, and the introduction of main characters, this episode explores the crew as a whole, introducing new character dynamics, while reinforcing old ones.
This is a particularly important episode as it introduces a number of plot lines, possible schemes against the entire plan, and hints at other, more nefarious goings on. It also serves to illustrate the deep pool of emotion that is hiding just below the surface of what is by all accounts a happy and content crew who are more than willing to go on what is a dangerous, and rather lonely mission. This is primarily done by explaining that once the Yamato crosses the Heliopause – a theoretical boundary where the Sun’s solar wind is stopped by the interstellar medium (hello Wikipedia – the Yamato will be incapable of communicating with the Earth. As such every crew member has one last chance to contact their family, representing a point of no-return, beyond which the Yamato is on its own, and must continue to carry out its mission regardless of what happens. It also serves to highlight how isolated the Yamato is – they are off to save earth, but once they pass the Heliopause they wont know what has happened to earth until they return, possibly to a dead planet, or one on the very brink of collapse.
I particularly like the presentation in this episode; every character talks to their family in a different manner, some worrying about their wellbeing, others sitting in silence, incapable of fully interacting with a serious, but caring parent. Nobody is identical, and the way they interact with their families for such a brief period of time demonstrates that regardless of their actions when on duty, there are hidden feelings and emotions just waiting to break through. Tokugawa Hikozaemon the Yamato’s chief engineer talks lovingly to his son and grand-daughter, only to discover that they are hungry, and have resorted to finding food on the black market due to food shortages. Shima cannot talk to his mother because she is at the hospital visiting an aunt, and instead talks to his younger brother about carrying out his duties and making their dead father proud. As the clock counts down his mother returns, and he has enough time to see her frantic, teary face as the connection is cut off. Nanbu argues with his clearly wealthy parents about an arranged marriage, a tense, even brittle conversation that conveys a lot of care, but also an unbending will that threatens to drive them apart. And finally Kato talks to his father, a Buddhist priest who is clearly serious, but also caring in a very particular way, the silence between them says an awful lot about their inability to convey their love for one another, even at such a crucial moment. These four brief moments serve to show us how isolated the Yamato is, and how dire the plight of the earth remains, with food shortages, and we can assume even more riots. I particularly like these little scenes because they are very effective in conveying the emotions and feelings of these individuals, while also illustrating what they are fighting for.
Loneliness and isolation play a significant role in this episode, as numerous characters drift around the peripheries of Yamato’s line crossing party. Kodai and Yamamoto have no family left alive, and instead of taking part in the festivities choose to help with essential repairs. There is an element of seeking solace in each others company here, as neither particularly want to take part in the party, and are more than happy to be alone with their thoughts. In working together they grow steadily closer, and we begin to learn a little more about these central characters, particularly Yamamoto who was born on Mars, explaining her striking red eyes. I particularly love the way their conversation is framed with reflections in their space suits visor. Their interaction also adds an element of humour to the episode as the rest of the repair crew lead by Isami Enomoto make fun of their semi-romantic conversation. There are also subtleties in the way they interact, and in Mori’s wistful glance at the freedom they have in space, perhaps suggesting the wish to be frolicking with Kodai rather than stuck inside.
The feeling of loneliness is most keenly felt in Okita’s actions, as he seems to drift listlessly around his ship, going from one department to another seemingly at random. Rather than talk, he just moves on with a quick apology, as if he wants to say something, but cannot find the words. He is one of the oldest on board, a survivor of many battles, and has to live with the knowledge that he has sent innumerable younger mean (and I suppose women) to their deaths in the fight against Gamilas. His family is also dead, and his listless wanderings suggest that his is searching for come comfort, which he finds in the form of Tokugawa and a bottle of sake.
There are other character interactions in this episode that point to a more complicated political situation than we may have originally thought. The presence of Shinya Itou, the sly head of Yamato’s security division with Kaoru Niimi hints at plots and schemes hiding under the surface. His comments appear harmless, but there is real venom in them, and he is clearly plotting something. Niimi is also a curious character, especially since she has a Project Izumo mug with her name on it. This project was only mentioned in passing during episode two, but it was described as a project to resettle the earth’s population on another world. That it was abandoned in favour of the Yamato project not only suggests that Okita has a lot of influence, but that there are people who resent him for its failure. Niimi’s conversation with Kotetsu Serizawa at the very end of this episode about Earth’s last hope further suggests that there are more threats out there than simple attacks from Gamilas. But then this is what can make a space voyage so interesting, we need internal plots and schemes to demonstrate that while Gamilas is far from being benevolent, they aren’t the only ones capable of scheming and viciousness.
This is not to say that the entire episode was sad and lonely, far from it – if anything I would describe this as a happy episode, complete with comedy antics courtesy of a drunk Makoto in a maids uniform (tricked by another crew member), and dr Sakezo trying to share a drink with analyser. I particularly like Dr Sakezo’s character design, since it is the most old fashioned of the series, and clearly a throwback to the 1970s – a nice little touch to reference the original since his character design appears to be left unchanged. But, my favourite part of the episode has to be when Crimson Scarf (or The Scarlet Scarf depending on translation) comes on over a montage of the main crew in various states of joy, or contemplation. It is a classic with of Enka, a very sentimental piece of music that is a direct link to the original series, and for anybody who knows the original, something of an iconic song. Isao Sasaki’s vocals add a lot of emotion to a scene that really sums up the Yamato’s crew – some are lonely, others happy, many simply contemplating their place in the universe. A fitting way to end an episode that is about exactly that, a small ship in a vast universe, and one that has to work in harmony to survive.