How does this week’s episode of Yamato 2199 connect with this week’s anniversary of a famous historical event?
Hit the jump and find out!
It’s fall 1968, and NASA is in deep trouble. They’d hoped to launch the first manned Saturn V into orbit to test the Lunar Module. But… the Lunar Module was running late and won’t be ready until the spring of 1969. There’s also indications that the Soviet Union is about to try something spectacular. The United States is in danger of losing momentum in the Space Race, and the goal of reaching the moon “within this decade” is threatened.
Worse yet, the Saturn V has only flown twice and one of those was a near disaster. The Apollo spacecraft itself has only flown once with a crew.
Faced with this… NASA makes a bold decision – Apollo 8 will fly manned, and it will fly where no man had gone before: into Lunar orbit. It’s a tremendous gamble. If the coin flip lands one way, they’ll have proved the hardware can go to the moon, that NASA can operate there, and that men can return safely. It will be an incredible coup. If the mission fails, it will be more than a black eye – even if it doesn’t end up cancelled, the program will almost certainly fail to meet its deadline.
On Dec 21st 1968, Apollo 8 was launched on one of the boldest missions NASA ever attempted.
This week, the crew of the Yamato faces a similar situation… No human being has ever ventured so far from Earth. Ahead of them lies the complete unknown. If they succeed, Earth will survive. If they fail, humanity will perish.
Searching for photographs of Apollo 8, I came across this picture of the crew suited up and heading out to board their spacecraft. The significant thing here is that inside those suits, they’re already isolated. They no longer breathe Earth’s atmosphere, and won’t do so again for another six days. Assuming they complete their mission and survive…
In this week’s episode, the crew faces a similar situation. As they cross the boundaries of the solar system, they will lose communications with Earth. They’ll be isolated and terribly alone.
But what do you do if you’re the first human beings to venture outside the Solar System? If you’re the crew of the Yamato, you throw a party and celebrate the occasion! Which isn’t actually as silly as it sounds… A party is always good for morale, and having happy times to look back on serves as powerful motivation when times are tough.
When I served aboard SSBN-655 (USS Henry L. Stimson) we were isolated from the outside world for sixty to ninety days… and we used to throw a Halfway Night party. A day where the rules were relaxed and we got up to all kinds of shenanigans. Getting ready for Halfway Day kept us distracted for a couple of weeks… and would be the talk of the crew for a couple of weeks after. It was great for getting our minds off of the isolation and keeping morale up.
But the episode isn’t all about the party… Captain Okita also decides that members of the crew who choose to do so will be given a last chance to talk to their families back on Earth before communications are cut off.
There’s happy news…
And bad tidings…
In fact, all through the episode there are a ton of character moments… Giving us backstories and motivations not just for the main characters, but for many secondary and background characters too. That’s one of the best parts of this series, in between all the action and politics there’s so much done with the characters.
This is my third or fourth watch of 2199 and the job they did in that respect still impresses me. And it’s not just characters, there are seeds in these moments that will serve as a foundation for future plotlines.
It’s one of my favorite episodes of the entire series.
This scene also brought back memories. It wasn’t at all uncommon for guys to swap duty so someone could get off the boat for a holiday, an anniversary, a birthday… The first night back in port, guys would swap duty for an hour or so he guys who had to stay onboard could use the payphones at the head of the pier to talk to loved ones. This is also a huge character moment, reinforcing that Kodai and Yamamoto both have nobody left on Earth.
Captain Okita takes a long lonely tour of the ship… Not only does he have the lonely burden of command, he too is alone and has nobody on Earth to speak too. Engineer Tokugawa seeks him out, and they share a drink and reminisce over their long careers and times they’ve served together. But it’s not all comrades-in-arms sharing warm memories. They also speak of their terrible burdens, and their guilt for surviving when so many have died. They talk of their responsibilities to give others hope for their future and atone for taking that hope from so many others.
There’s also a revelation about Mori’s past – and earlier in the episode, a reminder that she’s a dead ringer for the Iscandarians who brought the plans for Yamato’s drive system to Earth.
The episode ends with a montage of the crew cleaning up and returning to their normal duties, accompanied by a powerful rendition of Makka no Scarf/The Scarlet Scarf (lyrics), Yamato‘s beautiful ED theme.
Anyhow, to tie the ending back to the beginning…
History records that on Dec 27 1968, the Apollo 8 crew returned safely after an amazing and successful mission.
But the episode’s end reminds us that Yamato‘s mission is just beginning. Many dangers still lie ahead, and there will be terrible consequences if they fail.
Strap in folks, we’re barely a quarter of the way through the series and there’s still adventure and danger ahead! Thanks for reading, and please drop a comment on what you think of this episode and the series!
Yamato 2199 group watch:
– Mechanical Anime Reviews: Space Battleship Yamato 2199: Episode 7: The Deep Breath