Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 – Episode Seventeen – Out of The Forest of Memory
April 23, 2016 Leave a comment
Over the last few episodes we have seen a more complicated picture of Gamilas, and the Yamato appear. One that presents more nuanced visions of these two sides, and emphasises how easily a simple picture of good and bad can unfairly label entire people as one or the other. In fact, this is arguably one of Yamato 2199’s main themes, as it seeks to build a more complex picture of space, and the various societies that we as the audience come into contact with. In doing so, not only does the series demonstrate that while Gamilas is a militarised, totalitarian society, there are also those who remember when it was not, and do not agree with the direction it is taking. Furthermore, the series problematises the idea that Earth are the purely innocent party by offering us glimpses of earth as an aggressive, and equally militaristic planet that ultimately fired without provocation and caused the interplanetary war. Admittedly, that war would have likely happened anyway, given Gamilas’ ‘submit or die’ approach to conquest, but it does illustrate how easily the façade of victimhood can be exploited by one country or people in order to justify their actions.
Another aspect of recent episodes has been its focus on certain rogue elements aboard the Yamato, and their attempts to sabotage the Yamato plan in favour of one that would relocate earths population to a new planet, rather than trying to save their current one. Their plan, while an interesting concept, appears to be fundamentally flawed, while also serving as a convenient excuse for an individual like Itou to throw his weight around, and emphasises his utterly contempt for anybody who isn’t a ‘pure’ human. In many respects, Itou seems very similar to Herm Zoellik – both dislike other races, and show nothing but contempt for those they consider inferior or weak. Proof that there are always those who would take advantage of perceived weakness to strengthen their own position, regardless of which side they are on. But, while previous episodes have largely focussed on the problems aboard the Yamato, this week gave us a greater insight into the political manoeuvring and double dealing that is an integral part of Gamilas political culture. Such political dealings have resulted in Domel, a ruthless, but also honourable, and thoughtful commander, who also happens to be one of the most powerful men on Gamilas (militarily speaking) accused of assassinating Desler. While it is obvious to the audience that a character like Domel could not possibly have plotted Desler’s death, the machinations of Zoellik (and we should assume it was Zoellik), perhaps with the help of others within the upper echelons of the Gamilas military, have resulted in this powerful individual condemned to death.
On fascinating aspect of what is a relatively brief five minutes focussing on Gamilas, is the brief glimpse we are given of the impact that such a militaristic, and authoritarian society has had on ordinary citizens. Domel’s wife has already been arrested and accused of being part of an anti-government group – that the wife of a powerful military leader can be arrested in such a way and loaded on a transport for what must be some form of prison planet emphasises the fragile nature of power on Gamilas. As we watch, a family tries to escape, only to be shot down on the spot; we do not know what they were accused of, in many ways that information is irrelevant, but the scene emphasises the ease with which anybody considered dangerous, irrespective of their actual power, can be accused, and imprisoned under such government. This in turn creates a culture of absolute fear, one that forces those who would disagree to hold their tongues, to go along with every order without question, or face the consequences. The futility of Erisa’s (Domel’s wife) actions as she tries to stop the guards shooting the fleering family further reinforce how powerless ordinary citizens are in the face of a highlight militarised society, where the military can do what they like without repercussions. But, it does help to highlight how wrong it would be to accuse every Gamilas citizen of being inhuman and evil – yes Gamilas may have attacked earth, and controls a vast swathe of the galaxy through its absolute military might, but many of the citizens are not to blame for such devastation. The presence of Melda, the pilot who was rescued by the Yamato a number of episodes ago, also helps to demonstrate how attitudes towards can change when the reality of your situation are laid bare to see.
But, this is only one small part of the episode, as it largely focusses on the Yamato, and specifically perceived mistakes made in the past. Okita has mentioned before that it was his indecision, and an inability to ignore the order to premtively fire on the Gamilas fleet that ultimately lead to the deaths of so many sailors, and indirectly lead to the planet bombs. While it would be unfair to suggest that Okita was to blame for all of those events, especially given the nature of the military within Yamato 2199, his perceived weakness was the inability to ignore stupid orders. He tells Kodai exactly that, to ignore orders that he believes to be stupid, dangerous, and counterproductive, something Kodai takes to heart, and results in rescuing the Yamato on a number of occasions. During this episode it was the turn of Shiro Sanada to regret choices made in the past, specifically regarding Mamoru Kodai. He knew that Mamoru Kodai and the entire fleet were little more than a diversion, expendable lives in the eyes of the high command, to be used so that earth could secure the Wave Motion Technology from Iscander. And yet, despite Kodai being his best friend, he was incapable of telling him information that had been classified as top secret.
This is another important theme throughout Yamato 2199, the guilt felt by an older generation who were either directly, or indirectly responsible for current problems. As such, they believe it to be their responsibility to help the younger generation find their way in the world, and particularly to save the Earth for future generations to come, regardless of the personal cost. Sanada even appears to consider allowing himself to die from exposure to Beta radiation as they start up a nearby warp gate, perhaps in order to pay for his past mistakes. A foolish attitude given his immense knowledge, and the importance of the Yamato’s mission, but one that helps to demonstrate the feelings of guilt that he, Okita, and Tokugawa, the chief engineer feels, and their willingness to right those wrongs, even if it costs them their lives. The episode also serves to illustrate the Yamato’s precarious position, not least because of the revelations that they actually do not know where Iscander is, and are simply following the memories of princess Yurisha who is currently in a coma. It also demonstrates the fragility of earth, and how desperate earth’s leaders must be to send off an advanced battleship with little more than memories to guide it to what they hope is earth’s salvation. Ultimately the episode helps to highlight the fragile nature of Yamato and Gamilas, and how easily things can come tumbling down if they are allowed to. The strength of belief holds the Yamato together, even if that belief is helped with a few untruths, while Gamilas is held together through absolute fear.