Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 – Episode Ten – Graveyard of the Universe
March 5, 2016 Leave a comment
This week’s episode served to complicate the relationship between Gamilas and Earth by questioning the status quo and suggesting that far from a simple story of aggressors and defenders. It has been hinted throughout Yamato 2199’s first half, but in this episode we are able to get a clearer picture of the multi-faceted Gamilas society, and in the process questioning the simplistic image that many aboard the Yamato have of this empire and people. This is the sort of episode I love to see in a good science-fiction/space series, one that highlights how complicated any conflict is, and how easily one side can demonise the other in order to justify their own actions.
I have mentioned this before in a previous piece, but creating a simplistic conflict between two opposing sides is easy – just create a simple binary between good and evil. Star Wars is one of the better examples I can think of, with its use of fascist imagery to depict The Empire, and more recent The New Order, as opposed to the good, but vastly outnumbered rebels with their earth coloured clothing, and much simpler command structure and way of life. Yamato 2199 does something a little similar, with Gamilas as the alien aggressors in their almost evil looking green ships complete with sharp angles, and what look like serrated blades along their hulls. The Yamato on the other hand is ordered, and very human in nature – it is a WWII battleship converted for space after all – and as the ship we are following and rooting for, is set as the polar opposite of Gamilas and everything it stands for. But, as the series ahs progressed, this simplistic view has lowly begun to erode. Gamilas is still an aggressive dictatorship, the introduction of Desler and his approach to governing says as much, but it is a very complicated empire that clearly incorporates many different people and views on the conquest of other systems.
We have seen different images of Gamilas up till now – the conquerors and aggressors, the caring father, and the loyal subordinates. Importantly, these images of a more caring Gamilas all come from second-class Gamilas citizens; those from conquered worlds who have chosen to assimilate and become part of the Gamilas Empire, rather than be obliterated. The introduction of Melda Deitz, a ‘true’ Gamilas citizen, and the daughter of Gul Deitz, a top official briefly introduced in episode eight. As such she offers a very different perspective on the Gamilas Empire, while also offering the first real interaction the Yamato’s crew have had with a Gamilas citizen in person, rather than at the end of a cannon. Nanbu, the voice of all those who would rather think of Gamillans as evil monsters with weird looking faces, tentacles, and hundreds of eyes, the stuff of nightmares. Instead they are shown a beautiful woman with blue skin, blue eyes, and striking red hair, somebody who, aside from the different coloured skin looks exactly the same as they do. I really like the looks of disbelief on the crew face as she removes her flight helmet, a nice little moment that demonstrates how easily an enemy, especially one that has never been seen in the flesh can be demonised.
Melda’s conversation with Kodai is another interesting element of this episode. Firstly she talks about other ‘inferior’ races that resemble humans, or ‘Terrans’ as she calls them have been absorbed by the Gamilas Empire, and thus serve as Second-Class Gamillans. This immediately illustrates the class-based system of the Gamilas Empire, and demonstrates Melda’s privileged upbringing. Now this is all very interesting, but it has second statement that is especially important. She immediately talks about being unable to trust somebody who brings a gun to negotiations, followed by a very simple, but incredibly important statement about Terrans enjoying war so much that they attacked without any prior warning. When Yamamoto angrily exclaims that Gamilas started everything, she retorts that as a member of an established military family with great power and privilege she is telling the truth. Who do we believe though? Everything up till this point has suggested that Gamilas is the evil aggressor, attacking earth, and causing its slow destruction with Planet Bombs. Our introduction to Desler, leader of Gamilas, paints him as an autocratic ruler who thinks nothing of sacrificing a few ships to achieve his goals, and the imagery used in connection to Gamilas has a decidedly fascist component. And yet, at this moment in the series we have never seen the first attack, and simply assumed that it was Gamilas who attacked without warning prior to the series starting. And yet, it is hard to believe that an individual like Melda would lie about such an event, which begs the question, what really happened? Okita’s silence during this whole exchanged, coupled with his downward look, hiding behind the brim of his captains hat suggests that there is far more to this conflict that meets the eye, and that as an old, highly decorated, and experienced captain, he knows an awful lot more about the truth behind the events leading up to earths slow decline than he is letting on.
Kodai’s calm demeanour during this whole exchange, coupled with his willingness to put his gun on the table, handle facing Melda, demonstrates a maturity, and a willingness to listen to her proposal that many in the crew as yet lack. Both the Yamato, and the Gamilas ship Melda is from are stuck in a dimensional fault, and only through corporation can they hope to escape. Kodai realises this and is wiling to listen to Melda’s proposition, understanding that even though they are meant to be enemies, there are times when cooperation is essential in order to survive. Okita’s simple comment that they must trust each other if they are to escape the fault not only shows his maturity, but also a willingness to work with those considered an enemy. It is also followed with the more old-fashioned comment that the temporary alliance between the Yamato, and the Gamilas ship is a ‘promise between men’. The ‘evil’ side of Gamilas (for want of a better word) sadly rears its head again in the form of intelligence officer Paren Nerge who would willingly sacrifice Melda to destroy the Yamato, and Gremto Goer, the slimy and inept commander who destroys Melda’s original ship because they were between him and the Yamato. While Melda presents a very different face of Gamilas, Goer and Nerge simply reinforce the image of an uncaring and evil empire that will happily sacrifice ships to achieve its goals.
One of the biggest changes in this episode however, was a more complicated of Yamamoto, who like Kodai lost an older brother to a Gamilas attack, but, whereas he can sit down and talk to Melda in a calm and considered way, burns with an inner rage that cannot be easily subdued. Her immediate reaction to Nerge’s betrayal is to assume that Melda is the culprit, drawing her gun, but incapable of shooting her. Even though Melda comes out on top in the ensuing tussle, and grabs Yamamoto’s gun, she does not shoot, and instead hands it back. This simple gesture, the act of placing her life in Yamamoto’s hands is an important one, and demonstrates that despite their different upbringings and cultures, Melda is not the evil murderer that Yamamoto envisions all Gamillans as being. Even though they are enemies, the Yamato’s bridge crew still salute the destroyed Gamilas ship that towed them to safety, acknowledging a honourable adversary that, despite interference, did not go back on their word. Now that the ship is gone, Melda is entirely at the mercy of Yamato’s crew, and her simple gesture of sincerity to Yamamoto may prove essential in building trust with those in authority, and demonstrating that despite everything, Gamilas is not the evil demon many of the crew may wish it to be.
As a final thought, while the relationship between Earth and Gamilas was further complicated in this episode, there were also a number of questions raised about the ships automatic navigation system, and Yuria Misaki. During a brief, but still fascinating scene, Misaki is standing in front of the open automatic navigation room, and a figure baring a startling resemblance to Starsha Iscander, and even Mori Yuki cradles Misaki’s face in her hands. Given the semi-mystical nature of the Yamato, and Iscander it is hard to believe that the events following on from this scene were anything other than the result of something, or someone involved in the automatic navigation systems aboard the ship. It also raises questions about who Mori Yuki, and Yuria Misaki are, especially in the knowledge that Mori Yuki has no memories of her past. As with past episode, this one proceeds to add further complexity to the series, suggesting a much more complicated picture than we might have originally envisoned.