Like most children of the 80’s, I grew up with a lot of classic anime that made its way over to the states. Hits such as Voltron, Robotech, and Tranzor Z are just some of the ones I remember. Those who grew up in the 70’s are bound to had seen even older classics such as Kimba the White Lion, Speed Racer, and Leiji Matsumoto’s Star Blazers aka Space Battleship Yamato. In 2010, Japan decided to bring this 1974 manga and anime to life through live action in one of the most biggest blockbuster films made there. Our friends at Eleven Arts are bringing this hit film over to the U.S., and were kind enough to send us a DVD screener for review.
Directed by Takashi Yamazaki, the story takes place in the year 2199 where a mysterious alien race known as the Gamilas have bombed and attacked the Earth for the past five years, making the surface irradiated and uninhabitable. Thanks to this, mankind is forced to live underground to survive while only having enough resources to live another year. When a former pilot for the EDF (Earth Defense Force) pilot named Susumu Kodai (Takuya Kimura) is out exploring the planet’s surface, he’s struck by an alien message capsule sent from the planet Iskandar that reveals they have technology that can erase the radiation and save the Earth. Mankind pins all their hopes and dreams on the battleship Yamato and her crew, as they set off to Iskandar to recover the power needed to save the world, while fighting their way through many battles and obstacles along the way.
I have only seen some of Star Blazers when it first released on DVD back in the early 2000’s, but despite being toned down for american audiences like most of the anime back then (death scenes, blood, and some violence removed) it was still a pretty good story-driven show. I felt Takuya Kimura did an excellent job as the hot-headed Kodai who eventually learns to keep his cool and step up to the plate when things get rough for the crew. The rest of the cast perfectly fit their roles as well, especially Meisa Kuroki as the kind but strong Yuki, and Tsutomu Yamazaki as the battle-hardened and wise Captain Okita. While watching, you can tell a lot of care went into the production of the film, as the story, acting and special effects rival even some of our big budget space franchises such as the recently rebooted Star Trek films and Battlestar Galactica series.
The only downsides I can think of with the film, is that it does try to cram a lot of the series into nearly two and a half hours, making it feel rushed in some parts while moving at a snail’s pace in others. Also those unfamiliar with the manga or anime will probably feel a bit lost while watching, but are sure to find the movie still entertains for the most part.
While it does suffer from some pacing problems, and those who know little or nothing of the source material may find themselves a little lost while watching, Space Battleship Yamato is still an exciting, fun and entertaining film that anyone who enjoys sci-fi drama and action will enjoy. I can only hope Eleven Arts will bring over another recently remade Leiji Matsumoto classic soon, the Space Pirate Captain Harlock movie.
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