Space Battleship Yamato (Uchuu Senkan Yamato) Episode 18: Space Yams Give Sanada Flashbacks

Episode 18: “Floating Fortress Island! Suicidal Assault Team of Two!”

(Episode 17 review is here.)

“Science is overrated!”

Wow. I was just two days short of 2 years old when this episode first aired (Feb 2, 1975). I’m almost 40 now, which means that the original run of Yamato is 38 years old. You guys, we’re watching a 38 year old show. Let’s pause for a moment to consider the enormity between now and then, all the changes in culture, the world, humanity itself. It’s staggering. In the 38 years since Yamato first launched, the personal computer revolution happened, cell phones happened, the Internet happened. Disco came and went. The 80’s came and went. Cable television happened. MTV came and went. Grunge came and went. 9/11 happened. Hems rose and fell like ocean waves. Smoking became uncool. Heroes went “out of date”. The world of now is almost unrecognizable to the world of then.

Our television signals reach space on about a 50 year delay. In theory, in another decade, the first television transmissions of Uchuu Senkan Yamato will be reaching into space. If humanity had bothered to put any serious effort into our space programs, theoretical colonists on Mars or in orbit around Jupiter could be settling down to enjoy the adventures of our intrepid crew. Their children would see Yamato for the very first time.

Everything old is new again; is anything we’re producing today able to stand up to a 38 year gap? It’s something to think about…

And now, speaking of flashbacks, on to the ep!

The usual recap, and I’m really kind of surprised that Domel has lasted this long and that we’ve seen so little of Desslar in the last several episodes. I kind of thought he’d be more of a one-episode kind of guy…

The Yamato has noticed something that looks kind of like a giant green yam floating in space. It’s probably a Gamilas ship, though. In an interesting reversal, Okita asks Kodai if he’s sent a scout plane; earlier in the series, it would have been an order, and now it’s a question. (hmm) Kodai has done so.

Ooh, nasty! The Cosmo Tiger’s windshield cracks and shatters, and we see a closeup of the poor bastard pilot’s face just beginning to pop before the show quickly cuts away to an external of the fighter literally shredding apart. The crew reviews the camera footage of the accident, and attempts to figure out what the heck caused it, concluding that a “magnetron wave” was the culprit. Okita, who is clearly feeling his oats after the operation, is now leaving major issues to the younger command staff to resolve; he tells Sanada to figure out a solution to the problem.

Sanada’s initial solution is a “seamless fighter”, which he says has already been built (okay). Because Kodai is Kodai, he wants to tag along in the fighter – wait, Sanada and Kodai are gonna fly the thing? That’s a terrible idea, you guys. Terrible! Sanada questions if Kodai thinks he’s incompetent, but Kodai’s reason for wanting to go is more sentimental; those were two of his underlings that just got decompressed, dangit.

Hey, they totally fibbed! I can see at least three seams on that “seamless fighter” as it launches! Sanada is moody as they fly between the drifting parts of the Yamato’s former fighter. The Magnetron Wave pushes at the seamless fighter, but they are able to get close enough for Kodai to do a scan. Experimentally, they try shooting at one of the holes in the object – which Kodai describes as a pumice stone in space – but a shutter closes, blocking their shot from getting into the object.

Sanada decides that the only way to stop the object is to leave the seamless plane and enter the object directly. (okay) So they, uhm, go right up to one of the emitters, peel the seamless fighter’s windshield back (okay) and get buffered by the wave. Somehow this doesn’t kill them. The inside of the emitter is a tunnel of organic looking blue and green material, and they crawl up it to enter the space yam.

The “computer circuits” inside the space yam.

The inside is seriously creepy; blue and orange lights and more of the same kind of tunnel are accompanied by a loud, regular human heart beat. Brrrrr. More like the Bydo Empire than the Gamilas Empire if you ask me. Our heroes hide from a weird crablike creature that scuttles by, and suddenly, Sanada decides to tell Kodai a secret – he used to be Mamoru (that’s Kodai’s older brother, now deceased)’s classmate at the academy. They were BFFs there! Mamoru’s shown playing soccer, and Sanada is playing with a chemistry set (neeeeeeerd). But they both share big mugs of beer, and hey, isn’t that a positive image? Nerds and jocks can TOTALLY get along, you guys! After their graduation, Sanada worked on engineering for the Yukikaze (Mamoru’s ship) and it was already in bad shape before it left for the battle at Pluto; there was little he could do to improve it. He tells Kodai that he feels guilty for Mamoru’s death, and more, that seeing Kodai constantly reminds him of his lost friend.

Figure Kodai’s gonna cry and maybe punch him? But no! He does neither! Just says that the past is the past, and after all, he has guilt about his brother too… oh, and then one of the crab things sneaks up behind Kodai and almost gets him, before Sanada pushes him out of the way and blows it up with a quick shot from his pistol.

Another sad case for…

Apparently sneaking around the inside of creepy space yams makes Sanada REALLY nostalgic, because he gets another flashback, this time to his family taking a trip to an amusement park on the Moon (which probably doesn’t have whalers – or black jack and hookers – but you never know) And wow, that’s harsh- somehow Sanada managed to kill his own sister on an amusement park ride. I have no idea how, but there’s some kind of crash, the amusement coaster shreds open, and the poor little girl is flung out into open air. I’m thinking major lawsuit at the least here! There’s a weird smile on his face while he’s telling this story, too; I’m starting to really wonder about this guy.

The Magnetron Wave is starting to peel bits of the Yamato’s armor off; it’s not Shima’s fault – this time – the space yam is actually following the ship (okay) so they are being affected by its energies. The explorers have reached the heart of the space yam, noting that apart from a few robots, the thing is totally unmanned. I bet Mother Brain’s waiting for them at the center… Well, not quite. But it’s a big pulsating red mass of semi-organic tissue. Sanada explains that the organic-looking patterns of the wall are actually computer circuits (okay) and that’s what led him to realize there was a heart at the center.

Bits of the Yamato continue to break off, and even if they were to warp now, there isn’t more than a 55% chance of success. And obviously they can’t use the Wave Motion Gun because, uhm… well. Kodai and Sanada already left, I guess? But Okita tells Shima to get ready for a warp anyway, over Yuki’s surprised objections…

Sanada is just ranting crazy now, while they set up the bomb on the heart; “Robots hurting people… Science should contribute to humanity, and humanity is superior to science! Science is my enemy to defeat!” Dude, now you see why they don’t take you on more away missions. Kodai just stands watch and is probably really happy he’s got that gun in his hands. You know, just in case Sanada causes another ‘accident’.

And then, I swear, the Mother Brain or whatever the hell is at the heart of this thing starts LAUGHING AT THEM. Laughing in a creepy, warbly woman’s voice. The floor of the chamber begins to sway and buckle like a bad waterbed, and red tentacles (you know there’d be tentacles at some point) start attacking the men on their way to receptacles in the walls. They manage to snag up Sanada in their brain-bundling while the Yamato prepares to just warp the hell outta there. Kodai, briefly knocked out by a pulse of magnetron wave, wakes up to discover Sanada has mysteriously changed physical orientation between shots, going from head up to head down. Guess Mother Yam Brain decided she liked it better the other way…

And then Sanada tells Kodai to cut off his arms and legs. He says “I’m like a lizard, cutting off its leg or tail to survive and defeat the enemy in the end!” Uh, banzai wackmobile time here, seriously. Chill out and think a second, Man of Making Science My Bitch. Did Spock ever tell Kirk to amputate him to solve a problem?

Holy shit. Okay, so Kodai protests that he doesn’t have a knife, even if Sanada wanted him to do that. But Sanada says that his arms and legs are artificial and he should just unscrew them. Wooooow.

A-ha, I was wondering about that. Apparently the accident that killed his sister also severed Sanada’s arms and legs, so they were replaced with bionic limbs. I was gonna say, given the scope of that accident, there’s no way he could have walked away unscathed either. So even though his body is a miracle of science, he hates it.

Kodai is now obliged to carry Sanada’s limbless torso back with him toward the ship. Oh my GOD. This episode just gets odder and odder; as they get back to the outside of the emitter, Sanada tells Kodai to leave him behind. You know he won’t, all starships need a Making Science Bend Over And Take It Officer, so…

So, uhm, apparently in addition to providing mobility, Sanada turned his limbs into explosives. Yes, really. Leaving them behind, he can detonate them and destroy the space yam’s brain. (okay) He has a deadman’s switch in his arm. The look on Kodai’s face is still eloquent 38 years after the original airing. “Sanada, you’re…” But Sanada swears he’s not suicidal! Then there’s some mumble I don’t quite track about how he hopes the explosion will trigger the emitter’s shutter – how this will help him when he’s still inside the thing when it blows I have no idea. “You might be able to find one of my bones,” he adds reassuringly.

I just WHAT. Kodai and I both have NO IDEA how to react to this. Kodai obeys Sanada’s wishes, and reenters the “seamless” ship, still hanging out there parked right next to the yam, then takes off. On the Yamato, Okita consults some kind of obscure Future Space Compass and tells Shima to warp, causing Yuki to adorably gasp and cover her face. Okita looks stunned when Kodai radios in.

Seriously. THAT SMILE.

Sanada blows uhm, himself up, and I’m totally expecting his torso to whack into the front of the Seamless Fighter and slide off the hood (because this show would totally go there). It doesn’t look like anyone could have survived roasted space yam, but somehow Kodai hears Sanada yelling and picks him up off the surface,¬† his suit charred and burned (okay). The smile he has then should give EVERYONE watching this show a moment of serious pause.

Meanwhile, on Balan, at Gamilas base, Domel watches a radar screen of the Yamato getting past their precious space yam. He … gets out a cigarette, and Gale meekly attempts to light it for him, but his lighter doesn’t work. I guess this was as good for Domel as it was for Sanada, or, or something. Holy crap what am I even seeing here. So Domel just managed to both salute Yamato’s epic manliness and insult Gale’s at the same time. Domel walks off, with a big satisfied grin on his face.

Kodai is up at the WTF Just Happened Dome, staring out into space and probably trying to come to grips with the PTSD that having a friend with Sudden Explosive Robot Limbs just gave him. Sanada sneaks up on him and taps his shoulder (!) with his shiny new arms. He’s a whole man again! And they’re wrapping up with the ‘as long as you remember your brother in your heart, he will always be alive’ speech, which to me is really a far second to HOLY SHIT YOU HAVE BIONIC LIMBS, MAN!

260 days remain for Earth unless everyone suddenly replaces all their limbs with explosive bionics!