Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 – Episode Eleven – A World I Once Saw
March 12, 2016 Leave a comment
The implications of Melda’s comments about who attacked first from episode ten are being felt throughout the ship in this episode. The result is a crew that remains angry at Gamilas, but also uncertain about what they are really doing, and why they hate a people they have never met until recently. The discovery that Gamillans are nearly identical to humans on a genetic level, with the only difference being blue skin further complicates matters. This simple, but important discovery throws a spanner in the works, because, rather than fighting unfeeling demons, strange, evil looking monsters of people’s nightmares, the Yamato and her crew are instead fighting blue humans. As I have mentioned before, it is easy to demonise the enemy; in fact, it is a tactic that has been used throughout the centuries as a way of demonstrating to a population that your cause is the right one. If you look at anti-German propaganda during WWI for example, Germany is often portrayed using highly racist imagery, as a giant ape with a German helmet and holding a club, or as some sort barbarian, ready to rip the heart out of Europe. The same is true of the Japanese during WWII; they are evil, oriental vampires, with massive glasses, stupid looking teeth, and tiny bodies. In both cases the enemy, through the use of racial stereotypes, and crude imagery is demonised and demeaned.
The sentiments of Yamato’s crew, while never quite reaching the level of these posters, uses a similar approach; in their minds Gamilas is a planet colonised by unfeeling, inhuman demons. By believing this to be the case it is then easier to do their duty and fight back, knowing that even if they utterly obliterate a base of two, nothing of value will be lost. Such a viewpoint also helps to explain why Nanbu is so eager to use the Wave Motion Canon to destroy Gamilas, and any planet that they inhabit. If he also views Gamilas as a demonic world, then the destruction of a few planets in the name of justice is entirely reasonable. The presence of Melda, a beautiful woman who is identical to a human in all but her skin colour throws a massive spanner in the works. The image of the unfeeling demons no longer applies, although over the course of the episode a number of characters, particularly Shima still stubbornly hold onto it. It is made worse by Kodai’s attitude, and willingness to believe in Melda, and see her as somebody he can trust, despite losing his older brother to a Gamilas attack. The shear rage we see in Shima’s eyes when Kodai says he trusts her is tangible, he cannot believe that his best friend, somebody who he shares a painful loss with can readily trust somebody he wants to look mutated and evil.
This episode also reinforces Melda’s comment about the real aggressors in the conflict, with Susumu Yamazaki telling Shima that everything Melda says is true, and that earth were the ones to fire the first shot. Naturally in his rage and disbelief Shima refuses to accept such a situation, seeking solace in the notion that Yamazaki is somehow trying to destroy his fathers honour as the first causality of a war brought upon earth by an evil aggressor. But, as we see through flashbacks, Okita, seemingly powerless in the face of a higher authority is incapable of stopping the first earth fleet from opening fire on a currently peaceful Gamilas fleet. The attitude of Kotetsu Serizawa when addressing Okita suggests a complete lack of empathy, and a ‘shoot first, as questions later’ mentality that can cause so much trouble (and I might add, often appears to be the approach of police in America). So, Earth really was the original aggressors, and it is the attitude that a good defence of to be aggressive that ultimately results in the devastation of earth. While Serizawa, acting inline with central commands wishes is ultimately responsible for earths devastation, some responsibility must be put on Okita’s shoulders. Despite his authority and leadership ability, plus the trust of his crew and fleet, Okita simply stood by and allowed events to unfold before him. This is a weight he clearly carries with him, and something that, given current events, may lead him to finally tell the crew the truth about first contact.
Admittedly, neither side come out very well in this conflict, Melda freely admits that the Gamilas approach to conquest is – submit and by assimilated, or be destroyed – so the earth is merely suffering the consequences of an empire that doesn’t take half-measures. It is an aggressive empire that quickly, and ruthlessly destroy all who oppose it, so even if it wasn’t the original aggressors in the conflict, it hardly comes out smelling of roses. But, the earth, or more specifically, central command and the earth military elite hardly come out looking good either. The freely attacked a powerful army without any knowledge of what they are up against – no thought was given to negotiations, even compromises, it was strike first, work out what to do later. That the earth is now on the verge of destruction is entirely on the shoulders of those like Serizawa, who took command away from an experienced, and pragmatic leader like Okita. In this Yamato 2199 demonstrates that major conflicts only create strife and victims, some perhaps more visible than others. That Kodai, unlike Shima, is willing to trust Melda and treat her in a humanly fashion, knowing that, despite everything, it was not her who killed his brother is a testament to his growth and newfound maturity. He is beginning to understand the complexities of war, and while he may continue to profess his hatred towards Gamilas, he does not hate individual Gamillans, an important distinction. Yamamoto also demonstrated considerable growth during the episode, and through a brief dogfight and subsequent rescue by Melda, is willing to accept that, like Kodai, Melda did not kill her brother, and holding her responsible cannot change matters. It’s a subtle, but important change, and leaves Shima looking decidedly immature and childish, holding onto his anger and resentment, while trying to hide from the truth. As a final thought, the introduction of Domel, a brilliant, and clearly well respected general, who also seems to be far more understanding than certain other high ranked Gamilas officers adds a further element of complexity to Gamilas society.