Remaking a classic is a pretty dicey proposition. Remaking a benchmark title is madness. Thankfully, the creators of Spaceship Battleship Yamato 2199 threw caution to the wind and faced the challenge head on. The result is a loving tribute to the 1974 anime that’s faithful without slavishly rehashing it.
Story wise, things are identical. An alien race, known as the Garmillans, have pummeled the Earth with radioactive bombs. The effects appear irreversible until a second alien race arrives from the planet Iscandar with a miracle cure. The catch? The cure is only available on Isacandar. To get it, the Earth needs to send a ship across space. And not just any ship–an old WWII battleship remade and outfitted with Iscandarian technology. Sounds simple right? Travel several hundred light years to an unknown world with a superior enemy trying to stop you. Oh, yeah–do it in just one year. If you don’t bzzzt. Time’s up. Point of no return.
You’d think keeping so much of the original would hurt the series–make it predictable. It doesn’t. Yamato 2199‘s writers–and probably its storyboard director, Hideaki Anno of Evangelion fame–do a fabulous job reimagining the series. Each of the show’s 26 episodes feels fresh yet familiar. Yes, key events can differ, but never radically so.
As for the leads–all the old favorites are back, beautifully reimagined by Yoshinobu Nishizaki. Yamato Captain, Okita, Susumu Kodai, Yuki Mori, Shiro Sanada, Daisuke Shima, Dr. Sanada, are all on board. The cast has a few new female additions, notably 2nd Lieutenant Akira Yamamoto, a brash pilot with a chip on her shoulder, Kaoru Niimi, a new science officer, and Yuria Misaki, a warrant officer who also runs a shipboard radio program. Likewise, the Garmillon ranks have a couple of fresh characters to play with. Their inclusion adds depth to the show, providing interesting points of view separate from the main characters without detracting from them.
The Yamato itself has never looked better. Crisp, clean lines, more realistic perspectives, and fluid animation will delight Yamato fans old and new. And the battles? Breathtaking in a way not possible in 1974.
How will modern anime fans feel about a new-looking, old-feeling throwback? Time will tell. Yamato 2199 lacks cutesy romances and harem situations. It doesn’t do super deformed often or blatantly. It avoids comic relief and adorable mascots. And you won’t find a whiff of brooding angst. What you get is an epic tour-de-force. A story of gargantuan heroism and courage unlike anything else in anime. Yamato hasshin!!!!