Mania Grade: A+
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- Audio Rating: A
- Video Rating: B
- Packaging Rating: A
- Menus Rating: A
- Extras Rating: C
- Age Rating: 3 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Voyager
- MSRP: 29.99
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Starblazers / Yamato
Starblazers Vol. #6
September 11, 2001
Release Date: September 11, 2001
Starblazers Vol. #6
What They Say
One by one, all the elaborate plans of General Lysis have been defeated by the sheer guts and ingenuity of the Star Force. Now they are in the homestretch of their long and desperate mission to Iscandar, to retrieve the Cosmo DNA machine from Queen Starsha. General Lysis and the combined might of the Gamilion war fleet stand in their way, and beyond them lies the awesome might of Desslok and the Planet Gamilion. Soon the Argo's journey will be over...one way or the other! Episodes 22-26.The Review!
Concern, concern, concern. That's what I was feeling when I opened the disk and popped it into the player. Volume 5 turned around the problems with volume 4, only to have massive compression problems in the last episode on the disk. How about this, the final volume of the first series?
While not up to the standards set by volumes 2 and 3 (and the first three episodes of volume 5), there aren't any noticeable compression problems, thankfully. The usual graininess of the previous disks seems slightly more present this time out, but not so much that the disk is unwatchable. This probably has more to do with the source materials used than anything else.
The audio retains the high marks it earned for most of the series. It's in mono, of course, but with none of the distortion or bad equalization issues that were present on volume 4. The quality of the voice cast also contributes to the high grade.
Another sweet cover, this time its a shot of Queen Starsha, the first series' Willowy Space Goddess, with the Yamato hovering in front of Iscandar. Of course, there are the usual continuity goofs with the background series 2 image and another inconsistent spine color scheme, and the screenshots have the same faded look as volume 5.
Menus are exactly the same as the previous disks. Nicely done.
Not much. An "interactive trip to Iscandar" which basically is a map that's been circulating around the 'net for some time that you can click on various points and see which events happened and what dates they took place on. Also there is an original art gallery that shows the events after the activation of the Cosmo DNA. After having the Yamato WWII sequence as an extra on disk 2, I had high hopes for Wildstar's cut "victory tastes like ashes" speech. Disappointing.
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Things come to a crescendo, yet end much quieter than expected. Matsumoto's mastery of character really comes to the forefront in these episodes, and the direction of the last episode shows you just how artistic even TV anime from the mid-70's can be. My content review is going to be quite a bit longer than usual, since a lot happens in these episodes.
Episode 22 picks up where the previous disk left off. The preparations for the final battle between the Star Force and General Lysis are over, now it's time to engage. Lysis' strategies are something to watch, very logical right up until the end. The only draw-back I can think of to this episode is that it suffers from time and plot compression. I have a feeling that in the original 52-episode outline, this battle would have taken place over at least two episodes, perhaps more. Sandor and IQ-9's solution to the drill missile problem (cutting some wires and tying them into a knot) is way too convenient. However, the touching funeral ceremony for the casualties of the battle (left surprisingly intact in the American version) more than makes up for both that and the editing of Lysis' death. It's also interesting to note that this is the final episode that features Captain Avatar on the bridge and in full command.
Episode 23 - lots of revelations. We find the Yamato, with Wildstar in command, at the edge of the Magellanic cloud, within spitting distance of Iscandar. Quicker than they say "gimme the Cosmo DNA," they are once again attacked by Gamilons. In several tense, dramatic character moments, with Wildstar full of self-doubt and wondering if he'd simply led the Yamato and Earth to their doom, the Star Force realize that the two planet images on the long-range sensors were Iscandar… and Gamilon. While they were heading towards Iscandar, they were flying straight towards the Gamilon homeworld. The double-planet subplot is an interesting bit of science thanks to Nishizaki. He took the Earth-moon relationship and expanded it to two inhabited planets of roughly the same size and mass but very different. The delicacy of the relationship between them will be expanded on in both episode 25 and the TV-feature "Yamato: The New Voyage."
After realizing the relationship between the two planets, the Gamilons use a magnetic weapon to drag the Yamato into (yes, into) Gamilon - a hollow planet featuring all sorts of nasties like sulfuric acid oceans and rain, extremely active volcanoes (all this nearly ten years before the Voyager missions to Jupiter and Io, mind you), and banks of weaponry ready to blow the Yamato out of the sky. It's here that we learn the truth about the war between Gamilon and Earth. Unlike many other anime from the period, it wasn't simply a war for territory, it was a war for the very survival of the Gamilon people. Both Gamilon and Iscandar are doomed planets. Gamilon, due to its unusually active geology, is slowly tearing itself apart. The poisoned acid oceans are only one symptom of the larger problem. Iscandar is doomed for other reasons which we find out in episode 25. Gamilon has been trying to exterminate humanity so they can make Earth their new homeworld.
Episode 23 brings everything to a head. The sulfuric acid of the sea and rain is beginning to melt the ship (and guess what! Bridge #3 is the first thing to go!). Wildstar confers with Captain Avatar, who suggests submerging the ship (it can withstand the acid for approximately ten minutes) and fire the Wave Motion gun at the base of the most active undersea volcano they can find in that time. The Yamato does this and all hell literally breaks loose. The chain reaction begins having a devastating effect on Gamilon, and on Desslok, who finally snaps.
There is an interesting change here from the Japanese to the American version. In the Japanese, General Krypt (Hiss in Japanese), begs Desslok to make peace with the Yamato before Gamilon dies. In the American version, his speech is actually improved. He declares that it is like they're fighting a ghost ship. After all, how can a single old Earth battleship defeat the might of Gamilon? The Yamato has a power they cannot ever understand, and continuing the fight will only result in Gamilon's destruction. Desslok's subsequent shooting of Krypt, however is covered up.
Finally, all is silent as the Gamilon artillery fire has stopped. Many on the Yamato have died in the struggle (surprisingly, the scene of Wildstar finding bodies of gunners was left intact), and the ship needs major repair work before they can embark on the trip home. Wildstar and Nova return to the bridge, and they leave the ruins of Gamilon. In the Japanese version, Wildstar showed his disgust with himself for what he'd done. In trying to reach Iscandar, they have succeeded in doing what the Gamilons have tried to do to Earth - destroy it beyond the point of it being inhabitable. Victory, he declared, tastes like ashes.
Episode 25 - the Yamato finally makes it to Iscandar, and several sub-arcs are resolved. Iscandar is a beautiful world with wide oceans and green trees, much like Earth before the planet bombs. They meet Starsha, who mistakes Nova for her sister Astra, who died back in episode 1. As various crew members tour the planet, something seems strange. Although they've met Starsha, where are the other Iscandarians?
Wildstar and Nova accompany Starsha to a gravesite, where she lays Astra to rest (glossed over in the American version). The two Earthlings finally ask where everyone else is. Starsha indicates the vast miles-long graveyard. Most of the Iscandar people had fallen to a mysterious plague. However, there is still another person they must meet, an Earth man. Much to Wildstar's amazement, it is his brother Alex, presumed dead after the battle of Pluto in episode 1 (interesting side note, had series 1 gone the planned 52 episodes, The Yamato would have been helped out on several occasions by a large space battleship emblazoned with a skull and crossbones. Its captain, eye-patched, scarred, and brooding, would call himself Harlock. Eventually it would have been revealed that Captain Harlock was, in fact, Alex Wildstar). After an emotional, tear-filled reunion, Starsha confides in Nova that Alex, then a POW, was being brought to Gamilon but the ship he was being held captive in crashed on Iscandar. He floated ashore and she nursed him back to health. Now, finally, he is ready to make the trip back to Earth. Unfortunately, she has fallen in love with him.
Back aboard the ship, Alex has a reunion with Avatar and his old schoolmate, Sandor. During the confusion that Alex's resurrection brings, Sparks, the engineer who had worried about everyone on Earth already being dead, deserts the ship and kidnaps Nova. He radios Wildstar and tells him that he and his group plan on colonizing Iscandar and carrying on the human race. However, the explosions on Gamilon have shifted Iscandar's continental shelf, and the place they intend to settle was about to be destroyed. Nova is rescued, but unfortunately Sparks and the rest of his group die (not shown, but definitely made clear). Alex Wildstar chooses to stay behind with Starsha.
Episode 26 - anime as art. The Star Force has made up for much of its lost time without any Gamilons to fight, and have been constantly space-warping back to Earth, while Sandor's crew have been working round-the-clock to complete the Cosmo DNA. Now, one space warp remains, and the mission will be over. Watching them from the shadows is Desslok, escaped from Gamilon with a flagship and a handful of men. He fires his new weapon - the famous Desslok Gun. However, just before he is to hit the Yamato, it warps into the solar system. Desslok immediately orders his ship to warp as well. The result is his ship emerging from hyperspace so close to the Yamato that they collide with the bigger ship. Desslok and his men board the ship and release "radioactive sleeping gas" (guess what, it wasn't "sleeping" gas) into the ship. He and Wildstar come face-to-face at last, the Gamilon leader amazed that the Star Force has been led by one so young. Nova rushes to the room where the Cosmo DNA is located, begging Sandor to help her. The two activate the machine and clear the radiation from the ship. Seeing his advantage gone, Desslok leaves (stating they "can't breathe this air," but in later series the writers seem to forget this little fact). Nova, however, has inhaled a lethal amount of the gas and falls.
The direction in the second half of the episode is something to see, giving the proceedings a Rin Taro-esque feel.
Captain Avatar, weak from the radiation sickness he has been carrying the whole series, tells Wildstar not to loose hope, that Nova will get better. Wildstar goes to sickbay, collects the unconscious Nova (in the original, her face was covered by a sheet, so you tell me how unconscious she was), and takes her to the bridge, wordlessly confessing his love for her, before crying out in anguish, "Please God, make her wake up!" He brings her to the bridge and shows her the Earth, before breaking down into tears.
Desslok, now back aboard his flagship, fires the Desslok gun one last time, but is foiled by Sandor's new gadget-of-the-week, a reflective shield that was used in only this episode. The energy surge reflects back to the Gamilon ship, destroying it, and Desslok dies in the flames. Or so we are led to believe. Stay tuned for series 2!
Finally, Captain Avatar takes one last look at the Earth, happy to see her one more time, and dies.
Back on the bridge, Nova wakes up just as the Captain dies and the Yamato begins to make planetfall.
Final disk thoughts
Disk 6 brings us back to where we were presentation-wise at the end of disk 3. No real major issues to complain about. I'm glad VEI has pulled out what few stops they have for this last disk. Anything less would have been a crime.
Final series thoughts
Star Blazers isn't for everybody. Many will be turned off by the cut-and-dub-only presentation of the disks, even though it fared much better in translation than other TV series that came both before and after. Others will complain about the old animation, even though it has good production values for a show of its time and budget. Still, others will site the "clichéd" characters, even though Yamato invented the clichés (and the Star Blazers dub introduced the cool, almost effeminate, villain).
The series presentation itself isn't without its faults. Disk 1, 99% VHS master, lack of openings, endings, and previews between episodes, less-than-stellar picture on more than one disk, very little in the way of extras. But the series itself more than makes up for any lack in the presentation department. As I have said in the past, Yamato is simply one of the greatest anime ever made. And the adaptors who made Star Blazers treated it with the respect it deserved by translating and adapting, as opposed to wholesale re-writing, and casting a dub crew that can still stand alongside other critically acclaimed dub casts like the Bebop crew and hold their own.
Yamato, and its Star Blazers adaptation, is a classic, and should be treated as such.
Sony 23" Trinitron TV, Sony DVP S360 player, "Jury-rigger special" audio set-up, KLH speakers.