What’s The Order?: Space Battleship Yamato

What’s The Order? is a series of guides about the watching order of anime franchises. I talk about the various possible ways to watch a franchise. I may or may not include other media, such as manga, light novels, or games. This is merely a suggestion and which way you choose is up to you.

“First of all, who am I?”

This is a question I ask you. Think about this question: Do you like older anime, such as Mobile Suit Gundam, Lupin the Third, Captain Harlock, or Macross?

If you answered “yes,” then you have the opportunity to watch most of the Yamato franchise. Much of the series was made between 1974 to 1983. Mobile Suit Gundam started in 1979, so I think that series can be used as a gauge for what one can expect in terms of animation.

If you answer “no,” then you still have the opportunity to watch this series. The original series was remade into Space Battleship Yamato 2199 in 2013. This series will appeal to many modern anime fans that do not like the older anime art style (although it retains much of the music). As a bonus, it is much better than the original series.

star blazers original Yamato 2199
Left: the original Space Battleship Yamato (1974), also known as Star Blazers. Right: remake, Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (2013).

A franchise shaped by scarcity

Space Battleship Yamato was originally going to be a 39 episode series, but it was cut down to 26 episodes due to ratings. Why is that relevant? Well, the series in its early days was not very popular. The fact that it was shortened by 13 episodes goes to show that.

When the movies were coming around, the first was actually just a summary of the TV series. Similar examples include the summary movies Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth. The logic behind this was to allow the series to be presented in a theater for movie-going audiences.

The first movie was released in 1977, two years after the ending of the original TV series. This movie was followed with a second movie, released in the same year, called Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato. See that name? Right away, one can tell what this movie was going to be: the ending to the story. When it came out, that is exactly what audiences were presented with.

Fortunately for Nishizaki Yoshinobu, the creator of series, Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato was incredibly successful. Unfortunately, it had one glaring flaw: as an ending to the story, it was so conclusive that anymore Yamato material could never be produced after it. So, what happened? Quite simply, Nishizaki said, in my own words, Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato never happened; it is an unofficial ending and the official continuation is Space Battleship Yamato 2.

What does that mean for us? Well, first of all, there are now two timelines. Second, you have two potential endings for the series to choose from.

That would be the case in 2011. However, in 2013, things changed: Space Battleship Yamato 2199 was released. Is SBY2199 that different? Well, not really. (Click here if you want to read some of the differences). At least, not yet. It is hard to say if it truly is a different timeline. There are many subtle differences that could imply there will be differences later on. By “subtle,” I mean, “does not change the story within the context of that series too significantly”; however, some of these differences can allow the creators to easily take the series in new territory.

Three timelines: Classic, Classic Alternative, and 2199

This is not an official designation, but my own. Classic is the three TV series, the three TV movies, and Resurrection; Classic Alternative is the theatrical Yamato movies made between the original TV series and the second TV series; and 2199 is the modern conception, which so far includes the remake and the upcoming movie.

There is also a fourth potential timeline in the form of Yamato 2520. Yamato 2520 is set 300 hundred years after the end of the Classic timeline. There are two issues with Yamato 2520, however. First, it was never completed. Second, it would probably fit more into the Classic timeline, but it has continuity issues.

Here is a table that splits the three.

Classic timeline

Classic Alternative timeline

  1. Space Battleship Yamato (TV series #1; 1974-1975)
  2. Space Battleship Yamato 2 (TV series #2; 1978-1979)
  3. Yamato: The New Voyage (TV movie; 1979)
  4. Be Forever Yamato (TV movie; 1980)
  5. Space Battleship Yamato 3 (TV series #3; 1980-1981)
  6. Final Yamato (TV movie; 1983)
  1. Space Battleship Yamato (film; 1977)

  2. Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato (film; 1977)

2199 timeline

  1. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (TV series; 2013)
  2. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (movie; 2014)

And here is my attempt at visualizing this.

image

Not perfectly made, as some more savvy people will notice!

You said there are only subtle differences between SBY and SBY2199, right? Can I watch SBY2199, skip SBY, and watch Farewell?

The 2199 timeline changes the original story a bit. The differences within the context of that series are not huge, but they do provide an opportunity for the producers to change what happens after the war against the Gamilas. However, the differences between the two are small enough that I think someone does not really have to watch the original if they want to go into the Classic timeline. Or, even the Classic Alternative timeline. Because SBY2199 is close enough to the original, I think it is perfectly reasonable for someone to watch SBY2199 and then watch Farewell.

It is also one of my favorite movies, so I highly recommend you see it.

A final note

Each series is a product of its time. While the 2199 timeline does immense justice to the Classic, it was still made in 2013. For example, Sasha of the original series wore a purple dress that covered her whole body, but she wears a skin-tight suit that shows skin in the 2013 version (see below). On the other hand, Yuki was very “lady-like,” but she is more tomboyish (not completely) in the 2199 timeline. I do not appreciate the costume change to Sasha, but I do love that Yuki is not as ladylike. In fact, I think Yuki in 2199 is fantastic.

Left: Sasha Iscandar in the original Space Battleship Yamato (1974) series. Right: Sasha Iscandar in the remake Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (2013). Oh, how tastes have changed!
yukimori tumblr_m8unedtXVT1qbesk0o1_500
Left: Yuki Mori in the original Space Battleship Yamato (1974) series. Right: Yuki Mori in the remake Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (2013). I personally prefer the new design.

Having said that, watching SBY2199 feels like watching SBY in HD. Imagine if Rebuild of Evangelion kept the original story, it were a 26-episode series with the same production quality, and it improved upon every flaw of the original. That is how SBY2199 felt to me. It basically fixed everything that was wrong with the original while still feeling like it.

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4 thoughts on “What’s The Order?: Space Battleship Yamato

  1. tamerlane

    Haha I didn’t realize they just straight up denied the canonicity of the original Yamato movie lol. I think it would be interesting to see the development of series movies from glorified recaps to original productions with greater latitude for experimentation (Mamoru Hosoda’s most distinct film being a One Piece film, for instance).With both this and Gundam not getting popular until after their summary films, maybe the market for scifi anime was much smaller in the 70s.

    Reply
  2. Shion

    Thanks! Finally a timeline guide that makes sense. I HATED how everybody was either talking about Yamato A, Yamato B or C.

    THIS MAKES SENSE!

    Reply
  3. chrysostom57

    I haven’t seen a lot of anime (at least by MAL standards – I’m at 26 days) and lately new series I’ve been recommended have been disappointing, so I decided to go back to the classics. I just finished the ’74 series and loved it. Thanks for the viewing guide! I expect 2199 will be an instant all time favorite, but I’d like to watch the rest of the original timeline(s) first… and before that, I want to finish Gundam 0079 and Macross. Rumor says the second season of Yamato is in development for the 2199 treatment – if true, I need to hurry up. 🙂 And by hurry up, I mean do less work and watch more anime.

    Reply

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