Space Battleship Yamato 2202

When I looked at Space Battleship Yamato 2199, I was over-the-moon with how good it was. It was faithful to the original anime, yet it still did plenty of new stuff to excite and surprise. It was, frankly, one of the best remakes of something I’ve ever seen. Every episode was a delight to watch, and I smashed my way through episodes with abandon. It was like eating your favourite ice-cream x10.

Space Battleship Yamato 2202, however, I can’t be as enthusiastic about. Indeed, it’s taken me about three or four times longer to watch it than its predecessor. I’d go days, sometimes even a week, and just not want to watch the next episode which was extremely disappointing for me to dwell on.

It’s actually hard to put my finger on what I didn’t like about Space Battleship Yamato 2202 because, for sure, there are really good moments in the series. Like its predecessor, there are some scenes where the idea being played out, the voice acting, the visuals, and the music just combine and you feel something genuinely deep. I teared up during some scenes. There’s also a ton of epic space battles – absolutely dwarfing what came in the previous series – for fans of that kind of stuff, like myself.

But on the flip-side of the coin, there’s a ton of stuff where I just had no idea what was going on. Characters will roll on and start spouting pop psychology type phrases that just leave you shaking your head… or there’ll be a space battle that seems to have a point but halfway through you’re asking yourself what the point was… or strange new concepts will be introduced in the blink of an eye as if we’re supposed to know what they are and don’t need any background information… or when the series does decide to do exposition, it’s so complex, I’d lose track of it within seconds. Seriously, there were many times watching Space Battleship Yamato 2202 where I honestly felt like I had brain damage. It was going in one ear and out the other and seemed like such bad storytelling to me.

Perhaps it would have helped if I’d watched Star Blazers: The Comet Empire during the past 10 or even 20 years. It’s been so long since I’ve seen the main source material for this series, that the whole thing felt pretty new to me. I remembered “the comet empire” from the original anime, and the crazed organ music that would play when it was on-screen (reproduced in this remake quite well), but that’s about all. Unlike the first series of Star Blazers, which is burned into my mind, and made watching Space Battleship Yamato 2199 an absolute snack, this time around I was in unchartered waters from the start. Not that you should have to know a previous anime to appreciate a new one, I might add.

As the dust settled on watching the final episode tonight (and just on that, please, what the hell was it all about?), I thought to myself that the smartest thing I could probably do is re-start the series and watch it again. I’m not going to, however, because I know how punishing it was to watch it the first time, and I frankly have a dozen other things I’d rather see instead. But I do have the sense that if I watched it again I might pick up some more information, some more nuance, and get a better feel for the series. I want to believe there’s something more than what I picked up on this time around.

All of that said, I know I’m not alone on thinking the series was a disappointment. I try not to read reviews and things while I’m still watching a series, but around the 20th episode, when I was really starting to lose hope, I allowed myself to read a Reddit thread, (basically to check I wasn’t going crazy), where I found people saying many of the same things I was thinking. I know one thread doesn’t make for how the whole fandom feels (because on that note, I have absolutely no idea what the consensus is), but it’s always interesting when you come to a review or a thread on a forum or whatever, and people are saying exactly what you’ve been thinking. Particularly when it comes to a show like this where I absolutely adored the first series, I was seriously questioning whether there was something wrong with me, not the second series, for me to be so out-of-touch with it all. I still don’t know the actual answer to that, but as best I can make out, this second series has a lot of ideas and just fails to execute them in a way that makes them really understandable – or enjoyable – for the audience.

Compared to the utter simplicity of the first series, basically, “We need to go to a planet far away, get a special device, and fly back to earth in year’s time…” I’m honestly not lying when I say that I couldn’t begin to tell you what the gist of Space Battleship Yamato 2202 is supposed to be. Something about love? Something about the timeless nature of the bonds we have with our fellow humans? These are certainly themes in the series but, overall, can I sketch the story in a line or two? Uh, no, I can’t.

This is one for “the fans” but I’m a fan and I was all at sea so… yeah. Approach with caution, folks.

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