Space Battleship Yamato
Four Stars (out of five). 2012. Released by Universal. Running time 131 minutes. Rated PG-13. Equipped with subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. Special features include several behind the scenes documentaries. This was reviewed on DVD on November 28, 2012.

Back in the 1970s there was an animated series from Japan that aired in syndication over here in the US of A, called Star Blazers (this was the title used in the US; in Japan itís known by its original title of Space Battleship Yamato). It aired every afternoon after school, and I caught as much of it as I could. Simply put, the show was an epic saga that told the tale of the people of Earth battling the evil space invaders from the planet Gamilon. The aliens had polluted Earth with excess radiation, turning it into a vast wasteland. But just when things look the bleakest, hope comes in the form of Queen Starsha of the planet Iscandar, who offers the Earthers aid, but the catch is they have to come to her to get it.

The World War Two era Imperial Navy battleship Yamato is rebuilt into a space faring vessel (itís also renamed in the Star Blazers series as the Argo, avoiding the ire of many WW2 veterans and others here in the States). The ship design is a classic--basically a World War 2 battleship thatís been refitted into a spaceship, firing lasers instead of shells in pitched battles that resembled the confrontations of the old wet navy capital ships in both of the World Wars of the twentieth century. It was an exciting show, coming at just the right time, the heady days of the late í70s, just after Star Wars exploded in pop society.

Space Battleship Yamato is the live action version of the first season of the Japanese series. It follows the basic storyline, with the Yamato being refitted as a spaceship in order to make the journey to Iscandar. Thereís also a heavy emphasis on the fighter squadrons aboard the ship, along with the fighter jocks who fly them. The film opens with an exhilarating battle sequence that seamlessly encompasses CGI and live actors. The entire film has some great effects like this, and theyíre not used as eye candy (though they quite easily fill that need) but rather they propel the story forward. The story itself has the proper amount of angst among the characters, without becoming a full-fledged soap opera.

The only problem is the pacing of the film. There are sections where the movie feels like it slows to a crawl, but diehard Yamato fans may prefer this because it offers them more face time with the characters. Itís refreshing to see a project like this be faithfully remade, right down to the arrow design on their uniforms, without the need to update or "improve" it. And the film is thrilling and very imaginative. I watched this in its original Japanese with English subtitles. While the subtitles still work with the English soundtrack, it doesnít precisely match whatís being said. If youíre an anime fan, or just an SF fan in general, you owe it to yourself to give this a shot. Itís a lot of fun. --SF

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Space Battleship Yamato: Movie (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)