JFF Movie Reviews - Space Battleship Yamato

For many older fans of Japanese animation, 1974's Space Battleship Yamato was the first and most enduring series which was heavily edited and subsequently screened in many western countries under the guise of "Star Blazers". Before Star Wars, Yamato paved the way with a grand sweeping space opera which was rehashed for years to come, finally culminating in 2010's live-action blockbuster which will be screening at this years Japanese Film Festival thanks to the Japan Foundation.

The year is 2199. Earth is besieged by a ruthless onslaught of nuclear attacks by an alien race, the Gamila's. To escape the radioactive wasteland above, humans have retreated underground and all but resigned themselves to eventual annihilation. In a last ditch effort the United Nations Space Administration launch their greatest weapon, Space Battleship Yamato, hoping to find a cure for their  dying planet.

After learning that Yamato was shot in 2 months and on a budget of around $24 million, it would be easy to think that it would be a low budget, b-grade sci-fi flick. You'd be wrong. This film is every part the blockbuster that you could wish for. The actors are top flight, the director experienced and the effects astounding.

The first thing that stands out is Kimura Takuya's (SMAP, Hero) presence, a household name in Japan due to his position in the best selling musical supergroup SMAP. Considering that American stars of his calibre don't appear for less than the films budget, it is amazing that Yamato impresses as much as it does. As our main hero, Kodai, Takuya is both convincing and moving. His connection to Meisa Kuroki (Crows Zero, Sword of Alexander) really stands out and convincingly highlights the love/hate relationship between Kodai and Kuroki's character, the fiery Yuki Mori. Japanese Academy Award winning actor Tsutomu Yamazaki (Departures, The Funeral) delivers the most poignant of performances as the ship captain, Juzo Okita. His stoic and charismatic leadership helps to make Yamato feel like a science fiction film with the sensibilities of a Japanese war drama, resulting in an exercise in earnestness.

With his links to SFX group Shirogumi, director Takashi Yamazaki manages to deliver some top notch action sequences which are reminiscent of the most recent incarnation of Battlestar Galactica. Unsteady camera shots of frenetic dogfights abound and add a sense of urgency to our fair battleship's adventure. The effects are so close to being on par with JJ Abram's 150 million dollar Star Trek that its hard to justify such a gigantic budget. Just like with Abram's Star Trek reboot, Yamazaki manages to create a universe and a cast of characters that are instantly recognisable and relatable to seasoned fans and those new to the series. Although not entirely fleshed out, the wide cast of characters are all given individual personalities that closely resemble that of their animated roots. This helps to give the new, flashy Yamato film a lived in feeling. A sense that this perhaps isn't so new, but an ongoing journey.

Space Battleship Yamato is one of the stand out titles at this years Japanese Film Festival brought to us by the Japan Foundation. A true blockbuster in every sense of the word, sadly that also includes the jarring Aerosmith song as a closing theme.

If you missed it at the cinema, Space Battleship Yamato is available on Blu Ray and DVD now from Madman.


  1. can't wait to see it! thanks for the tip.

  2. No problem! It really is a good fun movie and would be fantastic to see on the big screen. Enjoy!


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