*This review was done after watching both parts released by FUNimation

I’ll be upfront with everyone; I did not see the original Star Blazer series that debuted back in the late ’70s. I never heard of the title and didn’t know what many people were talking about when a conversation would start online about Battleship Yamato. So when offered the chance to review the series, I jumped on it, since I enjoy space opera series like Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star. Considering that an old but popular series was rebooted to look and feel more modern, I was excited at the overall prospect of viewing it. Sadly, I don’t have much to say whether this series holds up to the original. All I can talk about is how much this latest project entertained me (or not).

The synopsis for this series is fairly intricate, as we travel to the future where humans are contacted by an alien race called the Gamilans in 2191. Instead of creating a peaceful environment, the two were locked into combat, causing a war to begin. Gamilas used meteorites to crash onto the planet (called planet bombs) and destroy all those who inhabit it as they stayed safe on Pluto. During the eight years of this war, the Earth had been turned to a desolate wasteland, as the human race clings to survive and many space operations result in massive casualties. Humanity has to live underground, due to how uninhabitable the planet has become. The leaders of the Earth begin thinking of ways to survive, which include a possible plan to migrate the human race to another world (later called the Isumo Plan). But an alien from the planet Iscandar gives the Earth hope by bringing the technology to travel far beyond the Milky Way. Iscandar promised to help save the Earth, and so a crew was acquired to make a long journey to find the tools on their planet needed to save the Earth. The crew aboard the Yamato, led by Captain Okita, go on an interstellar trip, facing perils from the Garmillas forces as well as some shady characters who are part of the crew.

Since this series is a reboot, there are quite a few differences between it and the ’70s series. For starters, I found out that Akira Yamamoto was made into a woman, and has a more significant role in the reboot. I found that fascinating, and she quickly became a favorite of mine. But it wasn’t just Yamamoto. A lot more female characters were added to this series, which had me excited. Having a large crew (supposedly a much larger crew compared to the original series) added a dynamic of diversity and made the interpersonal interactions between characters much more enjoyable. Also, Captain Okita became ill on ship quicker and did not have the same impact in the previous series as he did in the reboot. I’d feel upset if Captain Okita didn’t have as much screen time, because he was a great calming force that kept the Yamato alive. Plus, Susumu Kodai was the one who took over for Captain Okita when he became too ill to command in the first series. That would’ve felt weird, considering it already seemed odd that Kodai was the leader in logistics, with very little experience. To have Kodai assume command would look silly, as if it was only because he was the main character. I much enjoyed seeing Shiro Sanada take command, who was a lot more complicated than just a “science” character. We got to see him grow and become a more sympathetic person, and I think that was the key to put him in command of Kodai throughout the series. Another considerable story difference was that the Iscandorian Queen Starsha had only one sister in the original series. In the reboot, Starsha had two sisters who helped create this illusion that made many believe Yuki Mori was Iscandorian (which became a huge plot point throughout the series). And those are only a few difference that caught my attention. There were other differences, ranging to the more obvious nod to who the Gamilans were imitating, Dessler’s motivations or lack thereof for attacking Earth, as well as the fate of Susumu’s brother after his battle against the Gamilans, all of which can be found here.

The biggest thing for those who are reading is how I felt about the series, since it’s my first introduction to the franchise. I don’t think I’ll be able to watch the original series based on how much I enjoyed this reboot. It does so many things that I think reboots should try to accomplish that I probably won’t go back (and I don’t mean because of the animation). To me, this reboot told a story that I don’t think I would have understood if I had watched the original Star Blazers series. Being able to stand alone is a massive testament for any reboot. And I’d go so far as to say that this recent iteration of Star Blazers has enough merit to last for a long time. I’d highly recommend this just as strongly as Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. That’s not to say I think the original is terrible (plus I haven’t seen it). But I believe that if you want to create more Star Blazer fans, show this reboot first.

The best way for me to describe the entire story in this release is that I was watching Star Trek the anime (and yes that’s a compliment). Unlike other space opera series, Star Blazers had a more rigid military tone that never seemed to die down as the crew continued and became closer. Many commands were reiterated, as if they were in a submarine, giving off a more realistic vibe than I’m used to in anime. I know this is a fictional story, but with how the lore was established, and how the characters reacted, this had a genuine element that makes me believe that commercial and military space travel will be exactly how it was depicted in this anime by 2199.

The main story was able to hold my interest, thanks to the trials and tribulations the crew went through. They had to learn as they went on how to travel through space, warp lightyears ahead, as well as finding places to resupply. This embargo was the first known adventure into deep space for the human race, and many issues came up, which made the story more engaging. The space battles between the Gamilans and humans were fun, albeit a bit slow. But Star Blazers was able to add more conflict than just dealing with an enemy. There was a coup d’etat within the Yamato to try an establish a new home for the human race. Instead of going to Iscandar to try and revert the Earth to its former glory, individuals who were attached to the Isumo Plan tried to hijack the Yamato, and created a more multi-layered story. It wasn’t just Dessler (ruler of Gamilas) who you wanted to see crushed. Itou (head of security for the Yamato) became a great foil to Kodai and the Yamato’s journey. His prejudice toward aliens and sharp wit made him a scary opponent as much as other aliens were, which was fun to watch.

More of the crew got to grow and develop (like Sanada, as mentioned), which showed how much of a family the crew of the Yamato were. I’d be bored if the series turned into a story solely revolving around Kodai and Mori and how they eventually fell in love. Sure, it was compelling to see the two defy the odds stacked against them. But I’d need more to keep me interested, and characters like Sanada, Yamamoto, Shima, and Kaoru did just that. It added another layer of enjoyment to see what motivates them and created a more complex and riveting story.

I thought this interstellar war between the Gamilans and humans was an all too perfect narrative about how the world is today. Both races had similar ideas about how to live peacefully, but things got lost in translation, and soon bloodshed broke out. I found it fascinating how we were first led to believe that the humans were attacked by Gamilas. Then we later find out that it was the human race that began this mess by firing first at the Gamilas fleet. It was a tough scene to swallow, knowing that the people you wanted to root for were foolish about how they handled diplomacy. But that revelation didn’t change how you felt about Gamilans, particularly when you see how Dessler was trying to unify the universe (like Alexander the Great tried to do). His intentions seemed noble at the start, trying to unite everyone peacefully. It’s tough to keep those in line without some fear, and Dessler’s actions to prevent other planets and races in line were deplorable. It was easy to hope that the Yamato would end up stopping Dessler’s reign.

Just like Gundam, Star Blazers did a great job depicting both sides, making neither look perfect. The humans had their arrogance and short temper to blame for all the hardships they’ve dealt with, giving out a great “you reap what you sow” vibe. And the Gamilans, turning into an alien nation equivalent to an oppressive political party, made things look a lot more grey than black and white. Instead of rooting for a faction, you begin rooting for characters that exemplify the kind of morals you have. Just like in real life, no side is clean; there’s blood on everyone’s hands. And while it’s sometimes tough to support the side you are ultimately on, it’s more important to rally behind the individuals, which Star Blazers hands to you in spades.

Despite bringing Yuki Mori back to life using the device Iscandar promised could save the Earth, I was rather pleased with how everything played out. Not only were battles fun to watch, but I thought the story’s progression was natural and never felt rushed. I liked how there were distinct arcs, such as leaving the Milky way, stopping the Isumo Plan’s supporters, reaching Gamilas/Iscandar, and eliminating Dessler. It was succinct and gave viewers stopping points that lasted longer than one episode. It felt like it was a natural story that continued to have drama and conflict at every turn. I was worried that after the Yamato stopped Gamilas’ reign of terror things would slow down and become more of a drag. But ingeniously, more conflict showed upped such as the humans pleading their case to have Iscandar give up the device to save the Earth. Dessler returning to try and stop the Yamato in hyperspace was riveting. Yuki Mori nearly dying from a gunshot wound kept me on the edge of my seat. While there were down moments throughout, I didn’t feel bored while watching everything unfold.

I enjoyed the English cast of the series that was chock-full of actors and actresses that don’t usually get lead roles in anime. Christopher Wekamp did a great job as Susumu Kodai. He did a phenomenal job expressing a ton of emotion when Kodai lost his brother, as well as when he thought he lost Mori. Mallory Rodak once again impressed with her performance as Yuki Mori; she has a knack of nailing the more regal sounding characters. I thought she did an admirable job bringing to life the “Ice Princess.” And while I’d like if Brain Mathis (Captain Okita) gave off a little more gruffness/intensity with Okita, he sounded nearly perfect for the role. He had the sound of a battle-tested veteran down pat, and I cannot stress how much this made the series better. Other notable performances were given from Jeannie Tirado (Akira Yamamoto), Michelle Krantz (Kaoru Niimi), Mike McFarland (Saburo Kato), Phil Parsons (Shiro Sanada), Justin Cook (Shinya Ito), and Chris Rager (Abelt Dessler). There wasn’t a weak link or weak performance throughout the entire series.

FUNimation did a great job with the release. The box they used for the limited edition release looks marvelous. It comes with an art book showing many of the characters as well as sketches of the Yamato. Four outstanding art cards were included, too, which stood out compared to previous art cards they’ve distributed. Plus, along with episode commentaries, FUNimation included two videos in which members of the cast talk about how much they loved Star Blazers, something I’m sure many fans will enjoy.

It’s hard for me to find anything that bothered me about Star Blazers Space Battleship Yamato 2199. It’s a space odyssey with great technical effects and and realism. The story was consistently engaging, with the different issues that would come up (fighting enemies, coup d’état, failed diplomatic meetings, saving Yuki Mori, etc.). And above all, the animation looked amazing, giving justice to a franchise that I think should be more widespread. There was a rumor that Toonami considered airing this reboot, which was later squashed. I’d be happy to see happen in the future. Space has always been the place for fans of Toonami, and while it can be slower than other space series, I think the level of storytelling and character development would be greatly appreciated. I’m definitely a fan, and cannot wait to check out more of this iconic franchise.

Rating: 9.5/10 (both parts combined)

Pros: Enjoyed the more rigid military tone not often seen; more diverse and in-depth cast of characters; wonderful elements of drama in an interesting story; the extras included in the release; an amazing English cast.

Cons: Using plot armor to bring Yuki Mori back from the dead; a little more fanservice than I thought I’d see.

C.J Maffris is the senior staff writer at Toonamifaithful.com. Feel free to follow C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris