OLD BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
The original version of Space Battleship Yamato is legendary in Japan, not simply for being the first Japanese animated space opera, made in 1974. It is vibrating with ideals that were still very prominent at the time. Your opinion of them can greatly affect enjoyment, since most of it can be perceived as Japan trying to demonize the very fascism it was supporting in the Second World War by playing the victim card, while at the same time still presenting itself as a military power that fights for the good of humanity. Although the remake came out at a time when the war was a distant memory, Japan is still trying to increase its military strength for supposed self defensive purposes, without ever getting over its fascination with war and the navy. If it had gotten over it, stuff like Kantai Collection wouldn’t be so damn popular.
EFFECT ON MODERN AUDIENCES
I was curious to see what effects the new version would have on the anime fans of today, compared to the ones from the 70s. And turns out it had close to no effect, since very few cared about it, and even fewer place it in their favourites. An explanation is that the series is in OVA format, meaning that wasn’t airing weekly on television, and thus went unnoticed by most. It was also animated by a studio that not many care about, and it is based on a 70s series, thus it was very hard for new viewers to like its retro feel. Although these were big enough reasons, I believe it also had to do with the debunking of space exploration programs and the advent of online videogames. Anime fans of today care very little about the actual space; they are head over heels with cyber space, and anything that has to do with gamers, videogames, smart phones, and pretty much anything that is freaking Sword Art Online. We finally get a decent space opera and you damn otakus don’t give a crap about it, because you are busy fapping to light novel garbage about schools and incest.
But regardless of liking space operas, or not having taste, nobody can deny the unexpected brilliance of this production. Going by the numbers, this show should have been a complete flop. It was animated by AIC and Xebec, both of which are notorious for their bad production values and below average shows. It was directed by the guy who made Rahxephon, an amazing concept with a completely dull presentation. And it is a remake, which means it will always be seen as inferior to the original for every little thing it changed. Despite all these elements working against it, the end result was amazing, from high production values, to staying close to the original, without losing the magic of what was making it good.
But if you want to bitch about differences, you can easily do so, since it isn’t a simple paint job like Dragon Ball Kai. I mean, it obviously looks a hundred times more polished and detailed, and doesn’t have the various animation errors of the original, such as drawing most of the crew as blobs in order to save time, or messing up the skin color of the aliens. The biggest visual difference is that it doesn’t use the Leiji artstyle, which is a trademark of everything the original creator has produced over the decades. It can take awhile to get used to it if you are familiar with it, and expected the same.
On the other hand, it is much easier for newer viewers to like the way the characters look now, since the older style looks quite eerie to appeal to the new generation. The new artstyle is far more generic, and boy does it look moe half the time, but it’s not that hard to get accustomed to it. The script and the characters are always the most important. There was for example a short series called Ozma, that came out fairly close to Yamato. It was completely Leiji-styled but that didn’t save it from being a complete waste of time.
So let’s not waste any more time on meaningless pretty colors, and move to the script, which is a rather simple alien invasion story, further simplified by making the enemies being essentially blue skinned space Nazis. And following the anime logic of the 70s, it doesn’t matter how many ships or giant robots the bad guys have, since the single ship or giant robot the good earth people use, can beat them all with its impenetrable plot armor that withstands explosions capable of wiping out galaxies. It is corny and silly, filled with naïve patriotism, honor, justice, and lots of other stuff that pass more like propaganda than theme exploration today.
To its defense, it bothers to flesh out the cast and the setting. There is a lot of downtime between major battles, and most of it is offered on getting to know the characters on both sides of the conflict. It’s nothing complicating but they all have a sad story, that is not solely running on victimizing. And unlike what almost every anime is doing today, it doesn’t turn the females into horny sluts. There still is fan service but it’s mostly suggestive, based on camera angles and skin tight uniforms, rather than bumping on each other while being naked all the time. You can show these gals respect, even if they look like waifu material.
Furthermore, many of them are dynamic and equally capable as the male characters. This is another major difference with the original, which was not showing many women because it was taking up a lot more time to draw, and the genderless blobs they had in the background could fool the audience to see them only as males. The few females that were left in the original were there for the sake of platonic romance, or deus ex machinas, that would reward the brave males for finding them.
A big difference in the story, has to do with the aliens. In the original the only known planets which could support life, as of that time, were Earth and Gamilas. In the new version, there are hundreds of planets, and many of them are already colonized by humans, or taken over by the aliens. Although this makes the setting far more lively and complex, it also takes away the feeling of gloom the original had. Over there, Gamilas was a dying planet, forcing the aliens to wage war on Earth, as their only means of survival. And the earth people were constantly bombarded by meteors and had to move underground, since the surface of the planed was poisoned by radiation. It was a kill or be killed situation that was making both sides tragic. In the new version, no such thing happens, since Earth is just a backwater planet, a minor conquest for the aliens, and just one of the many planets humans have colonized. It is not vital for anyone’s survival, thus making the whole conflict to feel like a skirmish instead of an all-out war that can only end with the complete destruction of one of the two civilizations.
The reason this happened, is because the new version took elements from later seasons of the original, which magically had far more habitable planets and civilizations. As gloomy as the first season was, it had dry personalities and no variety in what it’s all about. The characters began having internal conflicts and acted more natural in later seasons, when the setting had gained the variety of Star Trek, and the theme was not simply survival but also freedom from oppressive alien overlords. By using all these elements right away, it feels like one season of the new version was more than enough to cover the material of all three seasons of the original. And this is why I am not gonna jump from joy in case they make a continuation. They might as well remake Blue Noah, which is a different series with the same plot.
Nevertheless, it is one of the best remakes ever made. Although the story is nothing much to look forward to, it is a great spectacle that respects the original, and improves it without ever turning into something completely different, like in the case of Gatchaman Crowds. It easily ranks as one of the best anime that came out in recent years, even if it went unnoticed by most because it wasn’t about a fat loser playing videogames in Accel World.