Star Blazers: The Quest for Iscandar - Reviews

Alt titles: Space Battleship Yamato: The Quest for Iscandar, Uchuu Senkan Yamato

ThatAnimeSnob's avatar
Sep 13, 2012


Notice: This review covers all seasons and movies of the franchise. Reading it is like reading about all of them.

Battleship Yamato (known as Star Blazers in the American dub) is an early work of Leiji Matsumoto and the first example of what a good animated series can be all about. As basic and silly as it may seem today, this series happened to be amongst the most mature titles of its era and opened the way for others to pick up the style and work on it. Anime back then were really childish and crude but this one tried its best to be serious with scientific explanations trying to reason all the weird technology in the series; even the means the animators used were top notch at that time. Thus you need to have an open mind if you want to properly enjoy it for what it is or you may find yourselves asking stupid questions such as how can you enjoy the first Star Trek series when the later ones have better visuals.

Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 2/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 1/2

The setting is a space adventure regarding journeys to alien planets, plus lots of repetitive mass destruction scenes of fleets and Earth. The animation begins very poorly to today’s standards; inconsistent proportions, plain colors, crude movements and a dozen follow-up scene mistakes per episode will make most young viewers to laugh at it. Still, reading the story behind the scenes I can simply salute them for coming up with such nice tricks to create new ways of expression while experimenting with special effects. They were practically given a tight budget and just a week to create an episode to be aimed at a few hundred children and perhaps their parents. For such crummy rewards, they did wonders. The production values are also slowly improving with each new installation; giving more details to ships and less body deformities. Just like the Star Trek franchise, they build on the main idea along the way and further flavor the presentation.

Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 3/4, Sound Effects 2/3

The voices have a spark in them half the time but are usually too heavy on idealism and they may sound ridiculous to the more modern audience who didn’t grow up in warring times. The dialogues can be extremely irritating since the good guys keep shoveling us with awfully idealistic monologues about hope, justice, humanity and a load of other crap no sane viewer can stand for long. The bad guys keep talking about how reassured of their great forces they are when in practice, they never win a battle. Give us a break you guys! I guess it felt cooler than corny back then, just like Star Wars felt more serious and awesome a few decades ago. Times do change…

In a similar way, the music themes are laughable for their over the top melodramatic feeling. The main song is remade a bit better in the next seasons, but the lyrics don't match with the goal of the story. They are no longer going to Iscandar! They are otherwise nice sounding ballads that fit the whole feeling of the show.

Analysis: Premise 1/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 1/2, Conclusion 1/2

The first season was made in 1974, and the story was about aliens who attack the Earth with radioactive comets during 2199. The Earth fleet goes to the offence by recreating its ancient flagship, this time as a super powerful spaceship. Its mission is to stop the bombardment and find a radiation cleaner device within one year, offered by a mysterious woman in a far away planet.

It is a very clichéd story and you most likely have already seen a billion series with a similar premise. It even ends in a predictably melo way; which is what the people back then expected instead of surprises. Each episode is a scene about what the good guys do in the ship, a scene about what the bad guys scheme, and then we get a battle between them. Which is not that different than what is going on in a typical mecha show.

The story is also nothing more than a fairy tale version of the Second World War. The alien invaders are the Americans, the radioactive comets are the atomic bombs, the Humans are the (kind?) Japanese people and the Yamato is their famous battleship (and symbolically their pride) that rose to take revenge and save their lands from foreign oppression. And what a surprise! The humans/Japanese people always seem to be right and win in all the battles! As for that alien woman with the radioactive cleaner device, she is an excuse to have a happy ending in our story. If only reality was that kind …

But as I said, back then it felt far more realistic and serious that the stuff that preceded it and it was technically made to cheer up the post-war Japanese people. Heck, some can argue that most stories of modern anime are still not as serious as Yamato’s space opera genre, where you get a lot of character interaction and world building. There are even some interesting revelations towards the last episodes that make the otherwise generic story a bit interesting and unpredictable. For the first time the villains show a few emotions and they don’t plan to just take over the universe but simply to immigrate to Earth because their planet is dying. Makes it good next to, let’s say, the dinosaurs in Getter Robo who despite being in a similar situation they were never allowed to be anything other than cardboards without the slightest colorization or drama.

In terms of realism, the series tries to be intelligent since the Yamato is made after a real battleship and every planet it goes to is followed by a simple narration of how the climate is all about there (based on what they knew about the universe, back in the 70’s). Also, every special weapon both sides use has a simple explanation of how it works. In terms of plausibility though, the series sucks since there is no way a single spaceship can survive a hundred thousand bombardments and still win in every battle against millions of advanced spaceships without having a reassured way of repairing damages and reloading weapons after each battle. The good guys never seem to die or lose, no matter the odds. And damn, humanity appears to be getting almost wiped out every year yet miraculously manages to rebuild and flourish with the speed of light.

So far I mentioned only stuff that happen in the first season. What about the rest of the installments?

The second season (aka The Comet Empire) was made in 1978, and the story is about aliens attacking the Earth with a huge comet fortress. The Yamato takes a mission to find a mysterious woman in a far away planet that possesses the power to stop them. If you paid attention before, you will realize that IT IS THE SAME STORY ALL OVER AGAIN! Yeah, originality went for a walk but nobody minded back then. Still, the story is better than in the first season since humans and aliens have now internal conflicts around authority and honor, making the plot a bit more perplexing and unpredictable. Also, the battles are far more grand-scaled and less straight-forward. The same year they also made “In the name of Love”, a movie-retelling of this season, made up of the best scenes of the series, boosted with a lot more drama and death. The story is altered in a way to be a lot more straight-forward but also a lot more dramatic. All characters talk with a lot more passion (which is a plus) and almost all of them die (they survived in the canon story).

The third installment is actually two movies, “The New Voyage” in 1979 and it sequel “Be Forever Yamato” in 1980. The evil Desler starts feeling remorse for all he has done and even asks of the Yamato to help, after he finds out that his twin planets are being mined to death by the Black Nebula empire. Kodai, now captain of the Yamato, doesn’t think twice to return to planet Iscandar, as Mamoru, his brother, chose to stay there with Starsha on season one. Things start to get very grey and violent from here on as the dreaded high death count is back. Later on the Black Nebula invades Earth and conquers it rather easy, thanks to the Hyperion bomb than kills brain cells on a planetary scale. Kodai gathers the Yamato crew for yet another rescue-the-Earth mission. This is by far the best part of the whole Yamato franchise ever made; it has so many scenario developments and emotional moments than all of the previous movies and seasons put together. A few of them are the following: (do not read if you don’t want spoilers) Yuki is taken hostage and seduced by the enemy, Mamoru sacrifices, his daughter Sasha becomes an adult in only a year and digs her uncle Kodai, the Yamato is seemingly sent to the future and witnesses its death, and more and more… Man, it was a blast! A thing I didn’t like here that is kept as an annoyance even in later instalments is how every new opponent seems to appear out of thin air. There is no foreshadowing to excuse them being there before their introduction. Where was Black Nebula hiding all this time? What was it doing during the previous seasons? … Ok I am overthinking this.

The fourth installment is the third season (aka The Bolar Wars), made in 1980. Yet another empire that came out of nowhere is in the middle of a civil interstellar war. One of its planet-destroying missiles hits by accident the sun in our solar system, which will cause the sun to turn super nova in a year. The Yamato takes another mission to find a second Earth so that humanity can survive by migrating there, learn of what is going on with the war, and find a mysterious woman in a far away planet that possesses godly powers. Once again, you will realize that IT IS THE SAME STORY FOR THE THIRD TIME! Didn’t the scriptwriters get paid to write them? But yet again, the plot is even better; the aliens have their reasons for being good or bad and not all of them are thinking the same way. Also, the battles are even more grand-scaled and less linear.

The fifth instalment is another movie, “Final Yamato” made in 1983. Our galaxy collides with another galaxy and causes intergalactic havoc. Planet Aquarius, which gave life on Earth countless years ago, is causing floods and a dying civilization intends to warp the planet to Earth and inhabit it after all its people have drowned. On the good side, the scenario is based on the Panspermia theory and on ancient Babylonian myths about the arrival of aliens and the creation of life in ancient times. For once, all those weird cosmic phenomena and humanoid aliens throughout the universe have a reasonable explanation. On the bad side, the scenario is a chaotic pile of incoherent ideas and forced events. Nothing makes sense, given the length of the movie. What’s with the galactic collision? Why do the aliens need to warp an entire planet when they could easily conquer Earth with conventional ways? The only survivor of a dying planet was conveniently the prince of the aliens? Desler only appears in the nick of time? A goddess that causes us harm out of love? OKITA IS STILL ALIVE ???!!! People come and go, appear and disappear, live and die so fast that you don’t feel a thing about them.

The sixth installment was made many years ago, part of preparing the rebooting the franchise. Resurrection (made in 2009) finds our galaxy being slowly eaten away by a sentient black hole. Humanity tries to immigrate to another far away planet before it is too late but encounters the hostility of an alliance of alien cultures, who are made to believe humans are invaders. The Yamato is remade as part of yet another rescue mission, to stop the attacks on the transport ships and to find out why they are all so hostile towards them. There was enough mean to create a nice full season out of this but unfortunately they just rushed through everything and thus the overall feeling feels lazy and undeveloped. There is a sort of revelation towards the end regarding the mystery of the black hole but it just came out of nowhere and there wasn’t proper build up to care about anything.

In all, the story began in a very simple and corny way, gradually improved through the three seasons, reached a great height in Be Forever Yamato, and simply lost its passion to keep trying to be good.

Analysis: Presence 1/2, Personality 1/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 1/2, Catharsis 1/2

Well, compared to today… they plain suck! They are all character archetypes, without personality coloring by today’s standards. The description below can pretty much count in all the seasons and movies of the series.

- Human males are the epitome of yasashi (kind hearted) Japanese people. You know, always kind, gentle, strong-willed… and with a permanent dorky expression on their face.
- Human women are… just there. Frail, kind, beautiful, always in love with the main characters. Generally, they are very few in numbers, have very undermined posts and have very minor roles. They hardly count as fan service or emotional support. Heck, at some point they even disappear from the ship’s crew entirely.
- Alien males are just… blue-skinned humans. Seriously, they even share the same DNA as humans. Couldn’t the animators make them more exotic or something? And as far as personality goes, they behave just like megalomaniac, imperialistic, military people. They have German names and salute like Nazis. You can imagine on which people they were based upon.
- Alien women are the Deus ex Machina solution in the story. There is always a beautiful alien babe in some far away planet that is bent on aiding Earth with an ultra powerful way.

As far as interesting characters go:
- The good guys are completely boring. Weak presence, no personality, no development, not much background story and no catharsis since they were already perfect people without any worries other than saving Earth.
- The alien leader Desler is interesting for being a paranoid megalomaniac. He even matures a lot in the following seasons. Hooray for the villains!
- And there is also Analyzer, a comic relief robot that seems to do all the work that the dorky heroes are too stupid to do themselves. Plus, it makes a lot of sexual teasing. How I wish there were more characters like Analyzer; it is a robot and yet acts more like a human than the stale and picture-perfect “robotic” humans he aids.

Again, I am sure the cast felt far more creditable back then exactly because it felt so ideal. Those times were far more black and white than they are today. But surely, for a genre that allows the director to colorize and develop its cast along the way, they don’t feel like much. They do become more colorful in later installments but never enough to be deemed very interesting.


Historical Value 3/3: A cult title for all the above reasons I mention.
Rewatchability 1/3: Maybe just for the battles. There is no much of a story or characters to bother with.
Memorability 1/4: A very generic series you need to remember for historical reasons and not for the cast or the story.


A very generic story, with a very generic plot and a very generic cast makes most of the series a very boring watch.

On the good side, the series is full of good sci-fi ideas that prevent the story from becoming a typical “brainless invaders vs idealistic humans.” For instance, the aliens use radioactive meteors from a base on Pluto, instead of sending their army there. It makes it far more original and realistic this way. They possess reflective satellites than make their laser beams to bounce around planets. They even possess tractor beams and teleportation waves that sent enemy ships on corroding seas of acid. The Yamato has light-speed technology, wave particle engines and cannons, magnetic shield ring and laser reflection coating, all provided with a simple explanation. This parade of basic strategies and special powers makes every battle far more interesting than, lets say, most mecha series where all they do is throw energy beams at each other. And yes, I do know it caused millions of people to shed tears but I still find it very weak if I compare it by today’s standards. It may still beat most modern anime in tragedy but it simply presents things very superficially and melodramatic to the point you prefer the formula as it was in less serious mecha shows because the lack of realism was excusing stuff better.

The second season has better animation, more perplexing story, and a bit more colorful characters making it a bit more enjoyable. And not to forget to mention the new weaponry. The aliens have more terrifying weapons than the previous ones, making them far more sinister. They possess a planet-destroyer comet, moon-destroyer missiles, teleportation beams, laser reflection barriers and can even resurrect the dead! You don’t find such variety in most series.

I personally consider the retelling of “In the name of Love” to be sappy. It was made just to give a quick and dramatic ending to an otherwise ongoing series. There are many interesting events in the series that you will miss if you don’t watch it. So, I recommend to watch this movie if you found the second season to be terribly old and uninteresting. It is a fine conclusion for all of you who don’t intend to watch the third season.

The New Voyage and Be Forever Yamato are full of space battles, and dramatic dialogues. They have a very fast pace and are quite enjoyable if you are a retro freak.

The third season has even better animation, even more perplexing story, and far more colorful characters. And guess what; we get even more terrifying new weaponry. The aliens are even more sinister than the ones in the second season. They possess planet-destroyer missiles, subspace submarines and black hole bombs! You don’t find such variety in most series.

“Final Yamato” and “Resurrection” are by far the most childish parts of the Yamato franchise. They have many good scenario ideas and yet they are all wasted by terrible presentation and Deus ex Machina situations. Enough with the corny “I love you” routine between Kodai and Yuki. It got boring after the 1.000th time! And enough about the destruction of the Earth every 6 months! And of the Yamato mysteriously surviving a hundred hits when all other ships blow up with a single strike. And the ending! How terribly melo it was! At least there were several well-made space battles that war-otakus will love.

The forefather of anime space operas. He is really old and senile but it is he that all the rest look upon for ideas. If only the tv series was as fast paced and action based as the movies, it would still be a title most otakus would keep around. But seriously, for those of you who were waiting for a good conclusion to a cult title in Kanketsu hen, this is far from satisfying.


Uchuu Kuubo Blue Noah. Another series with a ship bent on saving Earth from aliens.
The Captain Harlock saga, the Ginga Tetsudou 999 saga, Shin Taketori Monogatari: 1000-nen Joou, Arcadia of my youth & The Galaxy Railways. Famous series, made by the same cartoonist, Leiji Matsumoto. You will notice that his characters are identical in all his works.
The first Star Trek & Dr. Who seasons. Cult sci-fi series. They pretty much have the same retro appeal.
Macross. A semi-serious mecha series and semi-space opera with a similar story.
Banner of the Stars. An intergalactic romance / war that transcends species.
The Legend of the Galactic Heroes. The epitome of space operas.

5/10 story
7/10 animation
7/10 sound
5/10 characters
5.5/10 overall
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