We're off to outer space, We're leaving Mother Earth, to save the human race...OUR STAR BLAZERS!
— Star Blazers theme
In 2199, the surface of the Earth has been bombarded into an uninhabitable radioactive wasteland by an alien race from the planet Gamilon. The Gamilon fleet (Gamilas in the Japanese original) is superior to humanity's few remaining warships, and the extinction of humanity is likely within a year. In the middle of a losing battle against the Gamilon fleet, a spaceship from the planet Iscandar arrives and crashes on Mars. Two space cadets investigate the wreck, and discover a beautiful woman, dead, with a message for Earth: if Earth can send a ship to Iscandar, Queen Starsha of Iscandar will give Earth technology that will neutralize the radioactive contamination on the planet, and save humanity.In response, humanity refits the wreck of the World War II battleship Yamato, lying at rest on the exposed surface where the ocean used to be, into a space battleship, using plans for a star drive included in Starsha's message. The Yamato then sets forth on a desperate quest to reach Iscandar and save humanity....Originally made in the early 70s, it was dubbed to English under the title Star Blazers, and aired in U.S. afternoon syndication during the late 70s. It was the first Japanese anime series to air in the U.S. that required every episode to be shown in its proper order. The show returned to American airwaves as part of SyFy's Anime block starting April 21, 2011.The original series was followed by two more seasons and several movies with new villains and malleable continuity.After decades of dispute, the Yamato franchise has been resurrected in a big way. A new film titled Space Battleship Yamato: Rebirth Chapter, was finally made and released to Japanese theaters on Dec 12, 2009. It ignored the events of Final Yamato and took place in 2220. Funimation has licensed it under Space Battleship Yamato: Resurrection.A live-action adaptation hit theatres in December 2010. Full-length trailer's here.Also, on April 27, 2012, a remake of the original series called Space Battleship Yamato 2199 began to air. It will be a 26 episode anime based on the first series and divided into 7 films for theatrical release.Compare to Space Carrier Blue Noah (aka Thunder Sub in English-speaking countries) for a thematically similar anime, with which it even shares a producer, Yoshinobu Nishizaki. The rumor goes that it was created because Nishizaki was at the time involved in a copyright dispute about Yamato with Leiji Matsumoto, and wanted to have a back-up property to capitalize on Yamato's runaway success should he lose the legal battle.
Provides examples of:
Adaptational Badass: in the 2010 movie, Analyzer is a belt-mounted PDA/"Mother Box" before being installed into his traditional robot body - except it's over 20 feet tall.
Adaptation Distillation / Adaptation Expansion: The anime does both: due the first series being cut from 39 episodes to 26, the manga plot about Captain Harlock was dropped, but parts that in the manga were only mentioned (like the battle against the Insect Men, the assault on Gamilas' base on Pluto and the battle at Gamilas itself) were actually shown, events from the manga were expanded, and most of the Comet Empire series is expanded from a part of the manga that covers only the first few episodes.
And the dubbed US version was pretty catchy, too...
Anyone Can Die: Pretty much everyone important as well as a lot of minor characters except the main character... and then he dies... and comes back in the sequel series as a cheap retcon.
The live action movie ups this to Kill 'em All territory. The landing party on Iskandar/Gamilas suffers a near Total Party Kill with only Yuki and Kodai being the only ones to escape, and by the time the Yamato returns to Earth there are only 36 crew left alive — and that's before the Captain dies, Dessler makes his final attack and Kodai does a Heroic Sacrifice.
Backup Twin: Sasha and Starsha appear to be identical twins. Yuki also looks suspiciously like them, apparently by coincidence; Starsha actually briefly mistakes Yuki for her sister when the Yamato arrives at Iscandar.
However, in 2199, it's heavily implied that Yuki actually is related to Sasha and Starsha.
Fighter pilot Saburo Kato sacrificed himself in a mission near the end of the second season, and had an identical twin show up to fill his role. (Since Kato's Star Blazers counterpart, Pete Conroy, never died, the replacement issue never came up.)
The Battlestar: Both the Yamato itself (which is one of the earliest, in 1974), and more obvious by the Lexington-class Battleship/Carrier hybrid.
Maybe the fact that some later ships carry TWO wave motion guns?
Or how about that the Argo was eventually upgraded to a six-shot Wave Motion speed loader cartridge in Resurrection?
"Blind Idiot" Translation: The closing credits to the dub refer to the original Japanese version as "Space Cruiser Yamato". "Cruiser" in Japanese is "jun'youkan", whereas "senkan" refers to a battleship, hence "Space Battleship Yamato" is the correct translation of the Japanese title.
Canon Discontinuity: Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato which led to a remake of the whole Comet Empire arc in the second series.
The Bolar Wars to some extent as the story in the movie Final Yamato took place in 2203 (events in Space Battleship Yamato III took place in 2205). Final Yamato does make references to the Bolar and Galman conflict so it's still evident that a truncated version of the events in Yamato III still occured.
Strangely, this was mostly excised in the dub, making it come across as more warlike than the original. In the dub, Starsha is portrayed as regretting not telling Earth that Iscandar and Gamilon were twin planets, which happened to also be true in the Japanese version as well.
Creative Differences: Yoshinobu Nishizaki and Leiji Matsumoto both claim they are the sole creators of Space Battleship Yamato. (The court system has sided with Nishizaki.) Both have made their own separate Yamato projects*
the short-lived Yamato 2520OVAs from Nihizaki's camp, and Matsumoto's Great Yamato manga
between 1983 and their settlement in the 2000s.
Cultural Translation (or Woolseyism or Macekre, depending on who you ask): In "Star Blazers", the scenes showing Wildstar's backstory go out of their way to avoid mentioning that he lived in Japan. His home is called "Great Island" and sushi (clearly shown on screen and looking like nothing else besides sushi) is called "chocolate cake".
In Japan, the name Yamato carried certain cultural connotations that would be hard to instill in a Western audience. As a result, the ancient battleship is still the Yamato, but before leaving Mother Earth, it receives an in-universe rechristening. From there on, the ship is known as the Argo, a name based in ancient Greek legend.
Dead Guy Junior: Starsha's sister Sasha dies in the first episodes getting her message to Earth. In New Voyage and Be Forever Yamato, we find out that Starsha and Kodai's brother Mamoru named their daughter "Sasha".
Deus ex Machina: A literal one at the end of the first Comico licensed comic book series. The machine is the gigantic space-mask at the beginning of each volume, Arishna is the god(dess) whose machine it is. It (apparently) enables her to kill every person of the same race as Zordar, which is practically in itself a deus ex machina, or at least an Ass Pull.
First the original English dub of the movie, called Space Cruiser Yamato (or sometimes just Space Cruiser), which is fairly obscure. The most glaring change here was the renaming of Daisuke Shima to "Shane O'Toole" and making him a Token Minority Irishman.
In a Kick the Dog moment, the Comet Empire pauses on their invasion route to blow up a planet inhabited mainly by dinosaurs. Strangely, the weapons used to do this are never actually used against Earth.
The dub into English was rather hilarious in this respect, because they left the original Japanese characters in there, so you'd get something like this (the specific numbers are made up, but the effect still happens):
Narrator: Hurry, Star Force! There are only 103 days left!
Audience: Wait! At the bottom, in Arabic numbers, it says 187!
Explain Explain Oh Crap: in the live-action movie, Kodai as acting captain asks Nanbu if the blocked wave motion gun has enough energy to fire.
Both Crusade and the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise were essentially the first season of Yamato transplanted into their respective continuities.
On the other hand, the 2010 live-action movie clearly takes inspiration from Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) in multiple ways, from Gender Flipping multiple characters, to taking more cynical spins on their original premises (e.g. Captain Okita's revelation that he made up "Iscandar" and the radiation-cleaning technology, just because humanity needed hope — and because the fact the message capsule removed the radiation from around Kodai when it landed gave him hope.) The effect of the ship emerging from warp also looks exactly like the "kawoosh" from Stargate.
While the Saki was changed to spring water because we cant have people drinking booze on a kids show, the change seemed more in the spirit of the show. It said, that this, right here, is what we are fighting for - the thing we can no longer have, a final bit of home saved for very special occasions.
Gas Mask Mooks: Gamilon space suits, including Dessler when he wears one
The death of Kodai's brother Mamaru is retconned in the 2199 remake. In the original series, Mamaru refuses to retreat due to Honor Before Reason, since he can't live with the shame of retreating. This leads to his death being a arguably pointless one. In 2199, his death is played as a straight Heroic Sacrifice with him staying behind to ensure Okita's ship can withdraw safely.
Hey, It's That Voice! : Most of the other Star Blazers voice actors were never heard in anything else, and a few remain unidentified. The big exception is Sgt Knox who is voiced by Chris Latta (in what may be his very first voice acting role) who would later become legendary as the voice of Cobra Commander and Starscream. His voice for Knox sounds a bit like Steeler, another GI Joe character that he voiced.
The Japanese voice actor for Captain Avatar was Goro Naya, the voice actor for Inspector Zenigata from Lupin the Third.
Historical Hero Upgrade: A very conscious one, especially in the second episode, which notes the Yamato's lackluster record and complete failure in its final suicidal mission. Considering that the Yamato was seen as symbolic of Japan itself, and that the show was made only a generation after the war, it's likely the entire point of the series was the romantic notion that Japan, like the Yamato, could still someday achieve the honor and greatness it failed to in the past.
Approaches Values Dissonance in the live action 2010 movie, when Captain Okita gives a stirring speech about the original Yamato representing hope for a people under attack from a dire enemy. That must have been interesting news for Korean, Chinese and american audiences...
Honorifics: In the original Japanese version, "Leader Desslok" is referred to as "Dessler-sama", which can be best translated as "Lord Dessler".
Human Aliens: The Gamilons were indistinguishable from humans in early episodes, but during the first season (perhaps as a Shout Out to Yellow Submarine, of all things) their skin color was switched to blue. Dessler actually goes from pink to blue before our very eyes. The traditional joke is that Desslok had the original animators taken out and shot.
The Deingilian race from Final Yamato were descendants of humans who escaped from The Great Flood (caused by the water planet Aquarius) by a alien spaceship
All the unambiguously good aliens (Iscandarians, Teresa) look exactly like humans.
Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: The Yamato's attacks push the volcanic activity of Gamala up to a point that the planet explodes. When they arrive at Iscandar, the learn that the attacks on Earth were the Gamalans' last ditch attempt to establish a new home, as their own planet was dying. The attack merely sped up this destruction.
Misblamed: Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato is advertised as "the film that almost got Matsumoto lynched". Leiji Matsumoto was actually very much opposed to the Kill 'em All ending that Yoshinobu Nishizaki had insisted on.
Never Say "Die": Averted...except in episodes where it isn't. In general, the dub was inconsistent about this. One episode addresses that several crew members had died, however, in the final Iscandar episode, the poisonous gas used by the Gamilas/Gamilons is portrayed as "radioactive sleeping gas", implying that anyone infected would come out of it at some point, yet Kodai/Wildstar's (and the rest of the crew's*
The "Star Force" moniker only exists in the dub
) reaction to Yuki/Nova clearly indicates that she had died, although just before that, she had used the Cosmo Cleaner D/Cosmo DNA just in time for her to come out of it. Then later in the same episode, Captain Okita/Avatar is directly portrayed as dying from his already existing radiation poisoning before he has a chance to see the Earth restored.
New Powers as the Plot Demands: Sanada seems to invent amazing devices on the fly to get out nearly any situation. For example, Dessler's last attack in the final Season 1 episode, firing his Dessler Cannon at the Yamato, only to have the blast reflected by a coating based on Gamilon technology.. never before seen before that moment on the Yamato, and never mentioned again.
In fairness, by that point he had had months to tinker new stuff together without interruption. There's no reason we would have seen it until the ship was finally attacked. It's apparently forgotten in the second season, at least until you notice that Dessler's attempt at destroying the Yamato with the Dessler Cannon all involve either hitting something near (where the Yamato would be destroyed by the blast) or stripping away the coating with lots and lots of missiles.
Oh Crap: Dessler gets one at the end of the first season, when the Yamato reflects back at him a shot from his Dessler Cannon.
Dessler gets back at the Yamato crew for that in the second season by merely warning them he's still alive.
He later provokes another one in episode 23: the Yamato is preparing to launch the last, desperate attack at the Comet Empire when a Gamilas bomber materializes before the ship, signaling that not only Dessler is back in battle but that he's using one of the more devastating tactics of the series, one that the Yamato survived the first time only due to sheer luck.
Dessler apparently loves causing Oh Crap faces: in the third season he provokes a series of them by asking his generals why they attacked the Yamato, a ship he SPECIFICALLY warned them not to attack as he's now an ally of Earth. Poor generals expected to be executed in some horrible fashion, by the look of their faces....
Painting the Medium: Halfway through the movie Be Forever Yamato, the film changes from 4:3 to widescreen just as the Yamato emerges from a Negative Space Wedgie into the mysterious home galaxy of the film's villains. (Promotion for the film only described this as "Warp Dimension".)
Peek-A-Bangs: Fighter pilot Yamamoto/Hardy goes into combat with one eye obscured. This is probably to be expected in a series by the creator of Captain Harlock.
Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Sasha Kodai, the half-human infant daughter of Mamoru and Starsha who appeared in the New Voyage special, physically aged into a teenager in the one year between then and the movie Be Forever, Yamato (thanks to Bizarre Alien Biology).
Yet, at the end of Farewell Yamato, ramming works completely correctly: a titanic fireball.
Real Time: Sort of. The Yamato/Argo has one year exactly to complete its mission — i.e., one season — and at the end of every episode, a countdown of how many days are left before the destruction of Earth is displayed.
A bigger example was that the number of episodes for the Bolar Wars was originally 52 episodes, but was reduced to 25.
Secret Test of Character: When they reach Iscandar, it's revealed that Queen Starsha actually had the means to send the Cosmo Cleaner D/Cosmo DNA to Earth (that is, without Earth having to come to Iscandar), but wanted to test humanity's worthiness to survive; an action she regrets.
This was a plot point in the Comet Empire series: the Empire's Wave Motion Gun-like ship outranged the Earth fleet, picking off ships without needing any other weaponry.
Suprisingly averted in the 2010 movie: the first time the WMG appears, it is fired at a Meteor Bomb beyond visual range and nails it dead-on. Then brought back once more in the finale when the WMG's muzzle is jammed about halfway through the film so Kodai flies the Yamato right up to the target before pulling the trigger, vaporizing both the Meteor Bomb and the Yamato.
Sexy Discretion Shot: In the live-action movie, Susumu and Yuki are seen falling to the floor kissing in slow motion as the ship goes to warp. We only retroactively realize this was a Sexy Discretion Shot at the end of the movie when we see Yuki with her son.
Apparently imposed by Word Of God in the middle of the first season. Several (unnamed) female crew members were seen in episode 10. Then producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki decided that Yuki was the only woman. The others were never seen again.
As the only woman on this ship, Yuki's duties include serving tomato juice to other (male) crewmembers and doing their laundry. Her title in the EDF may as well have been "Mom". Even worse, in the episode the showed her washing the uniforms, most of them suffered Clothing Damage later, mocking her efforts.
Averted in the Live-Action Adaptation, in which some main characters receive a Gender Flip, including Aihara and Dr. Sado and Yuki becomes a fighter pilot. There are also a number of women seen throughout the ship in various interior shots.
Tim Eldred's Star Blazers Web Comic (see below) lampshades how many unrelated jobs Nova was shown performing and says she is acclaimed as a brilliant jack-of-all-trades Rennaissance woman.
Averted in the 2199 remake, where several new (and named) female characters are introduced to perform jobs Yuki once did herself.
Space Is an Ocean / Space Sailing: Refurbished wet navy ships, complete with anchors and anti-fouling paint below the "waterline". Though it's a bit jarring to see a ship in the first episode*
Kodai Mamoru's vessel, which was NOT a refitted wet-navy ship
"sinking" into the distance well before the obligatory explosion.
Justified by the fact the ships are expected to land in and operate on water as well as space, and the fact that the titular ship is a wet-navy ship in the first place.
In 2199, Cosmo Force personnel use naval terminology constantly — orbitals are the "shores" of a planet, further out are the "seas" around it, and so forth.
Spiritual Successor / Ripoff / Captain Ersatz: Space Carrier Blue Noah, another Hishizaki's series that was reputedly created as a fall-back should he lose a copyright dispute with Matsumoto. It was reasonably popular in Japan, but failed to really take off, and with The Nish winning his lawsuit it wasn't developed further and fell into relative obscurity.
Stay in the Kitchen: At the start of the third season, it initially looks like the show is going to avert The Smurfette Principle by having a lot of females (mostly nurses). However, once it becomes apparent that the mission is not going to be just exploration but will also involve a lot of combat, all the women except one (guess which one!) are sent home on a transport ship that appears out of nowhere. It happens in the original Japanese version too. There's even a shot of all the women waving at the Yamato when it leaves.
Both live action and 2199 pointedly avert this.
Supernatural Aid: In the first episode, the Earth is told of a gift that will save the planet, and the season is then all about the journey they have to take to retrieve it.
And again in both the Movie and TV series versions of the Comet Empire story. The final, massive battleship of the Empire is defeated not by the then-crippled Yamato, but by Trelaina.
Talking Is a Free Action: Used egregiously in the final battle of Be Forever Yamato with the sudden death of Captain Yamanami and Kodai's Heroic BSOD over sacrificing Sasha to defeat the Dark Nebula Empire.
And in the 2010 movie with every last person save Kodai evacuating the Yamato while the Gamilas doomsday device is pointed at Earth.
Take Our Word for It: In the final episode of the first series (the Iskandar arc), we never actually see the Cosmo Cleaner D/Cosmo DNA being used to save the Earth. We're meant to assume that the device worked like it was supposed to, and that the Earth was saved, but considering that the original Japanese airing was in 1974, and no other installments came until a couple or so years later, one could originally never be sure it did work on Earth as effectively as it did on the ship when the Gamilas/Gamilons tried to use their "radioactive sleeping gas" on everyone. For all the Japanese viewers knew at the time, the device may have only worked partially, if not at all.
The English version ends with the narrator speaking over the closing shot of the ship above Earth, saying definitively to the accompaniment of triumphal music, "In the year 2200, the Star Force returned... and saved Earth." It's a very satisfying moment, and if it's not present in the original Japanese, then it counts as a Woolseyism.
Technology Porn: 2199, full stop, with the live-action movie as a distant runner-up. Original also kinda qualifies, but in a very stylized, Matsumoto-specific way, which doesn't look like this for many.
This Is Gonna Suck: Standard reaction of the Yamato crew to Deslar showing up in the second season.
Translation Convention / Translator Microbes / Aliens Speaking English (or something): except for one case early in the series where Analyzer has to translate the Gamilus language for his human friends, all the aliens speak Japanese (and, in the dub, English) both to the humans and to each other, even in the case of different races that you wouldn't expect them to have a common language.
Furthermore, in what could only be described as a really odd instance of The Queen's Latin, Star Blazers has many of the Galmans in the Bolar Wars series speak in a variety of accents from around the British Commonwealth, some of them pretty bad. (Of course, some of the American Accents are pretty goofy-sounding too.)
And how would Analyzer know how to speak Gamilon anyway?
Touched by Vorlons: the 2010 movie omits Starsha's message and has the capsule land on Earth instead (in the original series, it landed on Mars), so they reinforce their claim to remove the radiation by curing Kodai despite him being at ground zero of the crash. Dr. Sado is justifiably spooked.
This might be a Mythology Gag to the original series, where Yuki activating the untested Iscandar purifier by hand when Dessler was flooding the Yamato with radiation apparently lets her come Back from the Dead later on.
Unfortunate Names: Philippine fans of Star Blazers snickered when they first heard the original Japanese name of the lead character. "Susumu" sounds exactly like a playful way of saying "Susu mo," which means your nipple. Though he was much more oftenly called by his family name, Kodai, for some reason the subbtitles of the subbed release kept calling him by his first name, making certain dramatic moments Narm. (You hear "Kodai! Kodaaaaiiiii!" while you see "Susumu! Susumuuuuuuu!")
At the end of the first season, Dessler's one was reflected back at him. After coming back, he'd always be VERY careful at using his Wave Motion Gun against the Yamato, taking care to neutralize or prevent the deploying of the WMG reflector before firing.
In the second season we have three different incidents of Wave Motion Guns utterly failing in their job:
First was the Comet Empire's vanguard fleet flagship firing her Magna Flame Cannon while inside Saturn's ring, only for the energy beam to explode against the rings' particles, giving Earth's fleet the time to reach their weapons' range and annihilate the vanguard fleet.
Then the Earth Defense Force fired ALL their Wave Motion Guns at the Empire's comet fortress, but failed to cause any damage.
Third was the Yamato finding herself attacked again by Dessler and charging the gun, only for Dessler to mine the space before the muzzle and get a good laugh as the Yamato couldn't fire without being destroyed by her own weapon.
What Could Have Been: Before Leiji Matsumoto joined the project, the Yamato wasn't even in it, instead there was a ship made from a hollowed out asteroid called the Icarus. The show was originally pitched as essentially "Lord of the FliesIN SPACE!", with the crew suffering a catastrophic breakdown in discipline during their voyage through deep space. Virtually the only thing both versions had in common was that both involved a quest to find a planet called Iscandar. Fortunately, many of the concepts Matsumoto threw out when he took over were later used to make Infinite Ryvius.
The short-lived Star Blazers comic book by Argo Press makes an homage to this by giving the Earth Defense Force an asteroid base called Icarus.
Also, the first season was originally supposed to be 39 episodes instead of 26. The extra 13 episodes would have been used to introduced a new series character named Captain Harlock.
Harlock still appears in the manga version, implied to be Mamoru Kodai.
...and he's in most of the promotional materials produced from the early drafts of the script, the first novelisation and it's in both manga versions - Matsumoto's and the "official" tie-in version... and there's no implication about it - it's outright stated, and he's treated as a major character! In said novelisation there's an even bigger shock that didn't make the final cut: Captain Okita is his father... though anyone who's seen Matsumoto's manga version of the WW 2 Arcadia of my Youth flashback might have had a suspicion or two, given the character design for the elderly Harlock in the framing story...
World of Ham: Orders aren't just given, they must be SHOUTED for maximum drama.
Star Blazers even has one bizarre Woolseyism in which a funeral for dead crew-members is translated into a funeral for dead enemies, to show the respect that both sides have even as they try to slaughter one another. It would have worked if you wouldn't have been able to see the obviously human bodies inside the caskets.
Xenafication: Yuki/Nova in the 2010 live action film, where she becomes the leader of the Black Tiger fighter squadron.
You Do NOT Want To Know: This is how they Hand Wave having to explain how the Yamato's galley facilities can create literally almost any kind of food from seemingly nothing.
You Have Failed Me: In addition to using a Trap Door to dispose of men who laugh at their own jokes, Dessler is known to shoot subordinates ( Vice President Hisu in the first season and Admiral Vandeburg in the second season) with a gun that is only shown smoking after the act. An exact inversion of Family Friendly Firearms: in a series where Family Friendly lasers actually would be expected, this guy seems to prefer old-fashioned guns.
In the third series, Dessler pulls this once with a general behind schedule in winning his war, before announcing he still has two chances to redeem himself. Later he's implied to have executed a group of subordinates for winning a war they had explicit orders to not fight, namely capturing the Yamato, as they don't reappear after the very pissed Dessler found out.
You Shall Not Pass: In the 2010 Live Action Adaptation, Kodai fits this when he fires the jammed Wave Motion Gun to destroy the last Meteor Bomb. Because the barrel is jammed, the ship blows up, along with Kodai who stayed behind to keep the bomb from falling.