Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 – Episode Thirteen – The Wolf From Another Dimension
March 26, 2016 Leave a comment
This episode is a particular favourite of mine for a number of reasons; firstly, it is a wonderful example of the tensions of naval warfare transplanted in space, an episode that features a submarine, and all the issues that go along with it; secondly, it represents the first time that the Yamato’s crew have had to deal with a situation without the help of Captain Okita. Throughout the series so far Okita has been the stalwart commander, somebody who is relied upon to make important decisions at the right moments, often barely escaping calamity, and saving the Yamato from what looks like certain oblivion. He is the captain, the hero who everybody looks too during these moments – just look at previous episodes when his decision to use the Wave Motion Canon to blast through a solar flare, or wait until Kodai and the fighters had successfully discovered the Gamilas base on Pluto. While the Yamato is crewed by a highly trained, and talented crew, ultimately it has been Okita’s decisions, and the crews willingness to follow through with, trusting in his judgement, that have allowed them to survive.
This episode represents the first time that the Yamato’s crew have had to deal with the situation on their own. There are a number of questions regarding Okita’s health, something that has reared its head during previous episodes when he has clutched his chest, and looked less than well. We have to assume that his age, and battle experience have taken their toll, a fact reinforced during the early episodes when Ryu Hijikata tries to persuade him to leave the mission alone and rest. In a way his health problems, and insistence that he follow through with the mission to rescue earth are intertwined. Okita has already talked about his great regret at his inability to refuse the order to attack Gamilas on first contact, perhaps viewing that indecision as the reason for earths near annihilation, and as such blaming himself for the planets current state. By stubbornly choosing to captain the Yamato, despite the clear problems that lie ahead, Okita may be searching for his own redemption, a chance to make up for his lack of resolve in the past, and the knowledge that despite everything, he ahs survived, while all those young men who have served alongside him have ultimately died pathetic, lonely, and unnecessary deaths.
While he is being operated on, the Yamato’s officers must make do, and ultimately demonstrate that while they are intelligent, they lack the combat knowledge and intuition of a true field commander. Sanada for example is clearly something of a genius, somebody who can analyse data and come up with theories based on very little, and often be proved right. He also has a lot of experience, and has known many who have served with Okita, but he also lacks a certain instinct that allows him to take risks knowing that, even if they may seem ridiculous, they may ultimately be for the best. Kaoru Niimi is similar in this respect, trusting too much to the data on her screens, that her plan, while initially solid backfires is clearly a shock to her, especially as she begins to realise that failure puts the lives of the Yamato’s crew at risk. Kodai on the other hand is reckless, headstrong, and often a bit on the dense side – but, he forges ahead, pushing his way through obstacles in much the same way that Okita does. It is a classic type of character found in any number of WWII films, the maverick who will willingly put his life at risk if it offers the opportunity of success. Kodai’s gamble to use sonar buoys to track the submarines movements is inspired, and essential in their successful escape. He takes his own path knowing the consequences, but is willing to take that chance in order to achieve his goals, demonstrating a the same maverick streak that allows Okita to make what may initially seem silly decisions that ultimately result in success.
At the centre of these interactions and decisions lies one of my favourite aspects of Yamato 2199, its inter-dimensional submarine. As I believe I have mentioned before, I love the series approach to space combat – rather than treating it in the same way too many other science fiction stories set in space, with combat that can often appear almost, floaty, Yamato 2199 adds heft to its combat with unique spin on naval warfare in space. By introducing a submarine, the series injects real tension into Okita’s sudden collapse, as the crew have to deal with an enemy that they cannot even detect, much less see. This reminds me of films like Das Boat, as the German Uboats crew deal with the constant pressures of submersible combat, waiting for destroyers to leave them for dead, or running the Straits of Gibraltar blockade in the hope of making it into the Mediterranean. Many of the best WWII films often focus on naval warfare, either dealing with the crew of a destroyer or a submarine and the ever present threat of death from the unseen. The sense of tension is palpable as the crew struggle to at first comprehend their threat, and then come up with a successful countermeasure to this new, unknown, and deadly threat. The submarines crew are less concerned of course, partly because of their position and the knowledge that they cannot be seen, but they never evil, although by indulging in the thrill of the hunt there is a certain cruelty to their actions. His approach to combat seems somewhat similar to Der Alte, the submarine commander in Das Boat, a loner who revels in the thrill of the hunt, while knowing the danger that such a game entails. As his crew play with the Yamato, the music soars into action, once again putting me in mind of Das Boat, as the Grey Wolves go on the hunt, charging through storm and spray, chasing their quarry down and dispatching it with brutal efficiency. That the Yamato ultimately escapes isn’t an issue to Wolf Frakken, as it just sweetens the hunt, and the Yamato now represents an even greater prize.
This episode serves as a perfect example to illustrate Yamato 2199’s approach to space warfare. I have pointed out in previous posts that space warfare in this series often resembles naval warfare, with ships lining up and firing full broadsides, but this episode neatly demonstrates its interesting, and somewhat unique approach. If we were to watch other science fiction set in space, be they anime, or otherwise, space warfare can often be a frenetic, and perhaps even over the top experience. The latest Star Wars for example features a dizzying array of laser beams, missiles, and fighter craft bouncing across the screen. It is energetic and kinetic, and rather enjoyable, but Yamato 2199 offers what can be more thoughtful combat, although it is no less exciting and tense. During this episode, the absence of Okita, the experienced and resourceful commander who has successfully steered the Yamato through multiple tight spots puts an extra burden on the crew. Many, like Niimi, begin to understand the consequences of their actions, and see the reality of space warfare for the first time. Kodai on the other hand embraces the uncertainty, and knowing full well that his actions could have disastrous consequences, not least his own death, is willing to take the risk and try something different, something that the enemy commander may not expect. The very idea of a subspace submarine, a ship that can dive between dimensions, and yet remains a spaceship is really a stroke of genius, and adds further complexity to the series approach to space warfare. As a final thought, this episode also added further complexity to many characters, including Niimi and Sanada and their connection to Kodai and his older brother. Furthermore, Domel has been introduced as a ruthless, but caring commander who will use everything at his disposal to achieve his goals.