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Our first review of SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO... jesus. It sounds awesome. ARGH!!!!!!!

Hey folks, Harry here and I'm just plum sick to my stomach over this film. This was THE title I most wanted for BNAT. Privately, I referred to me getting this title meaning that BNAT was my birthday, to not getting it being A really great BNAT for everyone, and me sobbing quietly in the corner wanting desperately to see SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO for my birthday. I kid. I'm dying for BNAT. But - it is incredibly difficult to nab titles like this so early, so... I have to wait like every other YAMATO geek. Excuse me, I must cry. OH - and watch out for spoilers!

Hi, Harry! It's rare that I happen to be in the right place at the right time to submit something, but this is definitely that time. Saw "SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO" on opening day in Ikebukuro Japan: Apologies if I ramble on a bit, more than a little sleep-deprived, but want to get this story in as soon as possible, as I'm headed home in a few short hours. I should point out that, as a long-time fan of the series, this review will be very much skewed towards the favorable: The fact that I really, really liked most of this film, and the unique circumstances in which I saw it make that inevitable. (Your entertainment value may vary.) ********* Like many stateside STAR BLAZERS fans, the series of trailers pretty much blew my mind from the get-go. A few of the things the filmmakers most definitely got right: 1.) The costumes. Such a simple, viable adaptation of the originals, retaining the basic look in a "real-world" fashion which makes sense. (There was a prop display and an *enormous* Yamato with moving cannons rigged to fire off a smoke-and-lasers light show from its Wave Motion Gun set up at the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) headquarters, which featured many of the actual movie jackets. I want one! Looked for days here, but no luck.) 2.) The sets. Again, remarkably faithful to the source material, retro yet functional, very much what you'd expect of a WWII-era refit. 3.) The Yamato. Ditto. 4.) The cast. (POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD) If you're a fan of Star Blazers, you'll accept pretty much everyone in their role, a few of the standouts include ... Toshiro Yanagiba as Shiro Sanada/Sandor: Pitch-perfect in every scene, especially the one lifted directly from Arrividerci Yamato. Hiroyuki Ikeuchi as Hajime Saitō/Sgt. Knox: Doesn't quite look the part, but he brings so much raw energy and vitality to the role, a joy to watch whenever he's on-screen. Toshiyuki Nishida as Hikozaemon Tokugawa/Orion: Lacks the beard and has more hair on top than his anime counterpart, but yeah, that's our man. Shares a drinking scene with Wildstar/Kodai and Dr. Sado/Dr. Sane about a third of the way into the film, which is a hoot. And speaking of which ... Reiko Takashima as Dr. Sado/Dr. Sane: That's right, Dr. Sane is younger than me. And hot. And despite my initial trepidation at the sex change, I absolutely buy her in the role, especially as she usually seen cradling her cat in one arm and a bottle of sake in the other! So many winning performances, from Naoto Ogata as Daisuke Shima/Mark Venture (As supportive a friend as anyone could want!) to Tsutomu Yamazaki as Jūzō Okita/Captain Avatar (Who will throw your sorry ass in the brig one minute and charm you with a grudging salute on his deathbed the next!) to star Takuya Kimura as Susumu Kodai/Derek Wildstar, who just bloody HAS THAT PERFECT WILDSTAR HAIR!!!! Nearly everyone in the cast had at least a moment or two to shine, with the possible exception of Aihara/Homer (another casualty of the "Starbuck" bug) and Ota/Eager, who I didn't even realize was there until the second viewing. 5.) The music. If you're an advocate of the late Hiroshi Miyagawa's score for the original series, you'll be delighted to know that the main theme is used frequently, and damn near instantaneously, in a variety of new and vibrant arrangements: The "Iskandall" track from "Symphonic Suite Yamato" is also reprised, as is the "Sashia" ("Starsha") track, complete with the lush, cosmic back-up vocals we all know and love. 6.) Reverence to the source material. Note that I said "reverence" and not "slavish adherence": This is a film that, in many ways, plays fast-and-loose with the Yamato/Star Blazers canon (No pun intended!) though nearly every bit of business feels familiar, if occasionally sweetened-and-condensed. *POTENTIAL MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD* Long-time fans will recognize many, many nods and visual homages to both the original series and Arrividerci Yamato, especially early in the film, and during the key death scenes. (There are more than a few.) I'm taking the scene where Kodai/Wildstar and Yuki/Nova first kiss as an oblique reference to the infamous ending of Final Yamato, and the scene towards the end where Wildstar/Kodai pulls the trigger on a plugged Wave Motion Gun as being lifted/inspired from Final Yamato as well, though admittedly those analogues might be a bit of a reach. Oh, and the ghosts of your dead will appear upon your bridge and nod approvingly at the appropriate moment. I'm just saying. 7.) Well-reasoned alterations to the source material. Nova as a gorgeous, tough-as-nails fighter pilot capable of decking anyone who crosses her? Yup. Did I mention gorgeous? Yup. Did I mention that she gets her spacesuit blown off at one point? (That part's a little hard to explain.) Stripped-down, streamlined storyline without an on-screen countdown clock? Hm. I really miss the clock. Maybe that one's not so well-reasoned. Analyzer/IQ-9 as a PDA? Okay, fine. Oh, wait, that's the original anime character's voice actor? Okay! Oh, wait, that's another visual homage to the original series? Kewl! Oh, wait, what th-?!! HOLY~!!!! (You'll see.) Kodai's tweaked backstory? Works remarkably well. Gets everyone where they need to be, advances the plot, makes for a few cute scenes, an early one with Dr. Sado/Sane in particular, in addition to the drinking scene cited above. (Had I mentioned that Reiko Takashima is younger than me? And hot?) It also sets up his "Hero's Journey" quite effectively. There's one specific, recursive moment in the movies's narrative which puts Wildstar/Kodai in Okita/Avatar's shoes as our contentious, disillusioned hero steps up to the plate, and another later on which echoes his brother Mamoru/Alex's selfless act in the opening space battle: Yes, the theme of character maturation has always been in the story's subtext, but the execution here is unexpectedly deft. (I'd neglected to praise actor Shinichi Tsutsumi, who plays Mamoru Kodai/Alex Wildstar earlier in the review only because his screen time is so limited. He's quite charming in what amounts to a bit part. And he has that hat/coat thing going on.) Where this film will be most controversial to the fan base is in its depiction of the Gamelons and Starsha, both of which (Whom?) have been radically re-imagined and re-contextualized, as many of us suspected from their conspicuous absence from all of the trailers. For die-hard fans, how much you enjoy this film will probably end up being in direct proportion to how well you're able to adjust to the revised hero/villain intermix formula: It tends to shift the focus somewhat, placing the emphasis more on our heroes, much as the Star Blazers dub shifted things away from the ship itself and more towards the Star Force. As an indirect result though, there are fewer space/fleet battles -- and less Yamato -- than many might prefer or expect, though you do get the classic 4-point-perspective flyby shot, the Wave Motion Gun is fired early and often (up to a very specific and recognizable plot point!) and the third bridge is indeed taken out of action, though perhaps not quite in the manner you might expect. Oh, and there are a few razzle-dazzle Black Tiger dogfights, and a ground assault which will leave fans of Arrividerci Yamato and Yamato 2 with a definite sense of deja-vu. Key events from the first two series have definitely been mixed, matched, and reinterpreted, with varying degrees of success. (I will say that Meisa Kuroki (Yuki/Nova) looks pretty damn fine with her hair blowing in slow motion. That is all.) Bottom line, from the massive opening space battle to the end credit coda over Steven Tyler's "Love Lives", my own "148,000 light-years and back" has proven to be quite the trip, and "Space Battleship Yamato" a movie well worth watching more than once. In my opinion, anyway. If you use this, credit me as Moonlight Mike.
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