Space Battleship Yamato / Star Blazers (1974 / 1979)
As I mentioned in my review of VOLTRON last week, I was primarily a four-cartoon kid: G.I. Joe and Transformers in the afternoon, Scooby-Doo on weekends, and STAR BLAZERS in the morning. I loved everything about STAR BLAZERS: I loved the story, the characters, the animation, the music, the end of episode countdown, and most of all, I loved the ship.
I knew it as the Argo, of course, only learning it was really called the Yamato years later when I saw a VHS for sale of one of the subsequent movies. That’s when I learned it was based on a Japanese property. As a kid, I didn’t really care about any of that. I was more concerned with convincing my parents to take me to the toy store in Saugus or wherever that advertised having all the Star Blazers and anime toys. The idea that I could get a model of the Argo …
Well, I never got one. I still want one. Never been able to track one down at an affordable price, but someday I’ll be somewhere and see a toy store and they’ll have a Yamato model and I’ll be yet another guy recovering his childhood through buying something.
We are blessed to have had many incredible spaceships in animation, TV, and the movies over the past half-decade, but of all of them, it’s the Argo/Yamato that has always been the coolest to me. It was probably the first thing that attracted me to STAR BLAZERS back in the day, this old World War II warship that’s been refitted into a deep space battleship. It was cooler than the Enterprise, than Luke’s X-Wing, even Han’s Millennium Falcon. There just wasn’t anything to compare to the Argo. In fact, it wasn’t until The Cannonball Run introduced me to the Lamborghini Countach that any machine was as cool at the Argo.
If all STAR BLAZERS had been was the ship, however, I wouldn’t have stuck around. No, I was enthralled with this story of an Earth devastated by Atomic bombs and of a crew that was attempting to travel to Iscandar at the end of the universe so an alien princess could have save the Earth. I liked the characters of the Argo’s crew. I liked the villains. I got all excited when the Argo fired up the Wave Motion Gun, which the producers were smart enough to not use every single episode.
First and foremost, however, it’s the characters that made coming back every episode a good time. STAR BLAZERS focuses on the duo of Derek Wildstar and Mark Venture – Wildstar is the bigger hothead of the two, while Venture is more practical. Wildstar holds a grudge against Captain Avatar, who he blames for the death of his brother on a pre-voyage to Iscandar mission. Avatar dresses like a sea captain, Nova is the emotional female, Orion fixes things, Dr. Sane is always drunk, and IQ-9 is … well IQ-9 is kinda silly but I suppose the producers thought something was needed for the kids.
The crew heads out across space, their ship not yet fully tested. They should wait, of course, but there isn’t time and so they take off for Iscandar, hoping the ships works.
Standing in their way is Desslok, the leader of Gamilon. He sends all manner of attacks against the Yamato and Earth and he does it all with a slimy cool. He’s a fantastic villain, completely ruthless and brimming with bravado. Gamilon makes a fantastic enemy force, since they’ve got a ton of cool looking spaceships, too.
The Argo/Yamato faces all manner of threats on their journey, with each episode tossing up some new threat for the crew to overcome. They enter into Jupiter, they face the threat of Gamilon’s Reflex Gun, Gamilon’s space mines, the Magentron Wave, and the magnificent Battle of Gamilon. We learn about the history of what happened on Earth, what happened with Wildstar’s brother, and see Captain Avatar’s health slowly fail him. The Americanized version of this show has been muted for kids, diminishing the use of sex and violence in favor of adventure.
I enjoyed all of it. Well, almost. The ending is a bit rushed (the return home takes a single episode, while the journey out took 25) but that’s a small complaint in the midst of all this space opera goodness. STAR BLAZERS still holds up incredibly well.