Mar 28
Robodaz

Available from HobbyLink Japan here.

Broken Promises, Renewed Hopes.

As I said in my Adndromeda review: “Remaking anything is a bit of a risk.

Remaking one of the seminal moments of any point in history is fraught with real danger.

Remaking something that stands alone artistically, culturally and something over which two titans of the animation industry were willing to shed blood is just asking for trouble.

And yet, both Yamato 2199 and Yamato 2202 seem to have wormed their way through the tangled maze of popular consciousness and do the impossible in many ways.”

The Last, Lost Hope

Since I built the Movie FX Andromeda, I have wondered at the ongoing success of the Yamato franchise over the year.

To reiterate what I said previously:

“Whether you know it as Space Battleship Yamato, Star Blazers, Starship Intrepid, Star Patrol or any of its other titles ’round the world, ‘Yamato’ (its collected TV series, films, and comics) is perhaps one, if not the most important, piece of popular culture to come out of Japan during the golden age of anime in the 1970s. The first animation to win a Seiun Award and the first Japanese series (arguably) to achieve superstar status outside Japan (though not the first to be sure), Yamato became the Gold Standard, and a training ground for young minds who would themselves go on to become creators in their own right.

‘What if?’ is, as the saying goes, ‘a game for scholars’, but… Who knows where we would be without this futuristic turn to the past. I do not suggest that without Yamato there would not be that great turn towards the realistic which anime (especially SF anime) took in the late ’70s. However, when you listen with your own ears to people like Anno Hideaki, Miyazaki Hayao, Otomo Katsuhiro, Sonoda Kenichi, Kawamori Shoji, Tomino Yoshiyuki, and Syd Mead (among many other creators) crediting Yamato with influencing their own work, you start to question just what ‘the future’ of anime, manga and visual futurism in general would have been without this battered old warship, cast into an almost Homerian space epic.”

That seems to be the key. The Yamato itself.

Image result for ijn yamato

The IJN Yamato Named Sip of her class during the Second World War, and along with her Sister Ship, Musashi, were the largest, most heavily-armed battleships to put to sea at that time – mounting 18 inch main guns, the likes of which had not been seen on any other ship, Axis or Allied.

Though her keel was laid down in 1937, she was not ready for the Pearl Harbor Operation, and until the end of the war was being shuttled from base to base in response to threats that often did not appear, or which simply faded away.

Perhaps this was intentional.

By 1943, Yamamoto Isoroku directed his combined fleet from the Yamato, yet even during the Battle of Midway in 1942, kept his leviathan warship close to his carriers, for by this time all knew which way the wind was blowing for the Main Battleship. With the Bismark falling foul of a string bag biplane, and Yamamoto’s own master stroke at Pearl (which failed possibly only because the all important US carriers were at sea drill on the day) it was increasingly clear that even a ship like the Yamato was little more than a symbol.

What did it matter if an 18″ gun could fire beyond the horizon, if a carrier could sit even further off and deploy bombers which could overwhelm any ship given superiority in the air?

Yamamoto had seen this at Pearl, but fully knew that by end of Midway, the balance had swung.

In early days of the war the Zeros has run rings ’round F4F Hellcats, but in later 1942, F4U Corsairs, upgraded Hellcats and P-38 Lightnings were gaining the upper hand, and in greater numbers.

Midway might have been a close call, but having lost the battle, Yamamoto knew Japan had lost the war – it was just a matter of time.

Image result for Battle of midway japanese fleet

Yet, though the Yamato did not fire a shot in anger with her great guns till 1944, she remained, according to friends and family who knew her, or are descended from those who did, something of an icon for the Japanese people, who still thought of war in terms of scale: meaning that to the average person, the sheer size of the ship to the folks around the port of Kure where she was often moored, implied something utterly indomitable.

And to make it worse, the one time she was committed fully to battle (though she had been part of the abortive Battle of Leyte Gulf) in Operation Ten Go, the spirit of Japan (for the ship had been named for the Yamato region, and the people who had ‘become’ the modern Japanese) was to be little more than a forlorn hope – to be driven aground on the shores of Okinawa and wreak as much damage as possible before being overwhelmed.

It was as if the nation was to die with the ship.

Even there, the plan failed, for the US had broken the Japanese naval code long before, and long before the Ten Go fleet reached Okinawa, they were ambushed by hundreds of US Bombers and other aircraft.

The Father of Manga-ka, Matsumoto Leiji, was on that day flying top cover for the fleet, with his squadron and was not only involved in the short fight which took place, but was one of the few people who saw – and felt – the Pride of Japan explode, as her magazines blew when the wounded ship capsized in such a powerful blast that it threw out a four mile high column of smoke.

A view of the ocean stretching to the horizon with the silhouette of a distant small warship visible to the left. To the right an enormous mushroom cloud rises high into the sky.

The Dream Did Not Die

Yet, as we know, the Yamato remained one of those immortal angels in the lower depths whose end was mingled with many lost souls as well as the fragments of the nation whose honor it carried. Joining legends like HMS Hood, The Bismarck, and the dear old USS Arizona, the Yamato was transformed: going beyond politics, propaganda and the poisons of war.

Only natural then that, when Matsumoto Leiji was brought in to revise the series which would become Space Battleship Yamato, he would bring something of that legend to the project. The boy who had sat at the knee of his father listening to the tales of those terrible, glorious days became a man whose memories drew out a sort of national memory, and gave the world a symbol of hope which, whilst cast in the fashion of a warship defined the very hope of salvation: The Space Battleship Yamato!

Image result for 宇宙戦艦ヤマト

Unbox

Like the Andromeda ships, this kit comes with the ability to add lighting units. However, unlike the former, larger ships, the kit does not come with all the lighting needed.

I am puzzled that, whilst the kit does include the units for the main gun and bridges, Bandai could not see its way to adding the larger unit for the main engine. I suppose I see the point, as it would have brought the RRP up to 10,000 yen, but how many people would buy this ship (which is not so very different from the 2199 1/1000 version) without wanting to light her up properly?

These look like fragile little things, and are placed just where logic tells a chap would grip the superstructure when switching the lights on or off.

Interim Conclusions

All in all, this is a very well thought out design – even including a tiny Shimakaze destroyer in the same scale – and I am interested to see how the lighting features work in such a compact kit.

Dr. Robodaz.

 

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