I think I'm a kid again in deciding to watch the Space Cruiser Yamato take to outer space in new missions from where it last left off some many, many years ago. Of late the interest in this Japanese Star Trek equivalent was piqued due to the fact that there will be a live action film due end of this year, starring Takuya Kimura as Kodai and Meisa Kuroki as Yuki. One cannot let a good space ship down of course, and until then, we have to make do with this continuing film of the space opera, which I liken to be something like Star Trek's The Next Generation.
Set in the Year 2220, Earth gets threatened by a black hole heading into the Milky Way and swallowing everything in its path, so the humans have decided to prevent an extinction, and to ditch the planet since a new surrogate one has been found in another star system. Civilian shuttle arks have been built for the mass emigration, but two waves have been attacked at the mid way mark and lives lost when an alien conspiracy is abound to want to ensure mankind is destroyed. So if you happen to be the former Science Officer aboard the Yamato, and now the Secretary of Science for Earth, you're inclined to get one of your ex-colleagues who's now a top notch maverick and hands-on Captain in his own right, Kodai (Koichi Yamadera), to lead the next mission. Kodai of course has his own agenda to want to do this, as his wife Yuki is assumed to have perished in the earlier mission, and daughter Miyuki (Ayumi Fujimura) is pinning the blame on Dad.
And what good is an awesome captain if he's not given the best possible ship in the fleet? The Yamato gets rebuilt (hence the title) because of the philosophy of never letting a good ship be forgotten and die off. After all, the Starship Enterprise has had its many variations and improvements over the years, and this new Yamato comes with an improved weapons system updated to face its current threat, such as a full complement of fighters and bombers on board, and a new transwave motion gun that can fire up to 6 charges before a recharge is required (and thus leaving the ship vulnerable). The ship can take plenty, and I mean plenty of damage, and long range warp drive also looks good on screen. I guarantee goosebumps when the Yamato gets launched into its first mission escorting civilian vessels to get to Planet Amare's moon, accompanied by its theme song for dramatic impact.
Like Star Trek TNG, this film provides that base introduction to the ship's new crew under the guidance of a new captain, though some of the old crew like Doctor Sado and the red robot Analyzer still feature in bit roles but outside of the battleship. It takes a while for the new crew to gel, each being a specialist in their field, and some have duo vocations. The story plays on the fact that the Yamato (just like the Enterprise) is a morale-boosting ship, and truly for fans, it's likely you'll feel that way as it takes on its multiple threats in its mission, one being the battle against the confrontational aliens bent on stopping the emigration programme, and another being caught in political intrigue as the Planet Amare, a member of the Star Union led by the war-like SUS, gets issued with a threat for it being friendly to a non-Union planet. And not to forget that black hole approach toward Planet Earth, which gives rise to a quick last minute reflection on environmental damage and the human failure to appreciate what Mother Earth has given us, and our continued exploitation and raping of the planet.
Being an animated film, it had the surprising feeling that it's quite pro-war. Disagreements get solved using force, and the Yamato being an essential part of the war-effort when driving away aggressors, in line with the adage that to maintain the peace it must be prepared for war and willing to dish out massive damage to enemies not willing to give the human race a fighting chance for survival. But before you go into a frenzy, do note that there's a large military influence in the source material, so there. The battle sequences are some of the best, almost resembling a Star Wars on Steroids, with planes and cannons going into overdrive, filling the screen in a sensory assault. While the design of the Yamato is largely unchanged, the alien ship designs are something to gawk at as well.
For those who cannot wait for the live action film, then perhaps this animated one will be able to whet your appetite for the time being, and prepare the groundwork for the next generation Yamato crew to take over with new adventures.