In the year 2199, Earth faces its greatest crisis. Due to unrelenting bombings by the alien race known as “Gamilas,” the planet can no longer sustain its inhabitants. In exactly one year, humanity is set to become extinct.
In desperation, the people of Earth establish the Earth Defense Force, their last defense against the power-hungry Gamilas Empire. However, humanity finds a glimmer of hope after receiving a message from the mysterious planet Iscandar, which offers them a device that would restore Earth to its former glory. With salvation in sight, the Earth Defense Force calls on the prolific Space Battleship Yamato and swiftly assembles a crew to make the 168,000 light-year trek to Iscandar and receive their aid.
Among the crew are young officers Susumu Kodai and Daisuke Shima, along with several other newly promoted leaders, all under the command of the distinguished Captain Juuzou Okita. Forced to learn how to handle the ship’s innovative technology while dealing with the onslaught of Gamilas fleets, the inexperienced cast of Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 must summon every inch of their resolve to survive the many hardships aboard the Yamato and complete their mission: to save humanity before it’s too late.
The basic plot series is that Earth came into contact with an alien race known as the Gamilas (or Garmillas) who eventually attack Earth, leaving it a barren husk devoid of plant-life and water, and forcing people to live underground. Eventually, Earth gets word of another alien race called the Iscandarans, thanks to an emissary in the form of Sasha (or Yurisha and then her sister Sasha in this version), who gives Earth the ability to travel across interstellar space and reach their planet, Iscandar, where they can give humans the ability to reverse the state of Earth back to its natural beauty. Using the “Dimensional Wave Motion Engine”, Earth builds the titular space battleship and fills it with the best soldiers and the brightest of humanity as their last hope for survival, flying throughout the solar system and beyond, fighting off Gamilas and facing hardships with the fate of all humanity on their shoulders.
The lead protagonist is Susumu Kodai, a young and talented officer whose brother Mamoru was killed in an early skirmish with the Gamilas. He starts off bratty and angry, but cools down and becomes a respected high-ranked member of the crew as the series progresses, which is a pretty standard story arc, but it’s well done here. Among the other lead cast of this rather large ensemble is Yuki Mori, who was previously just the often helpless love interest of Kodai but now has more of a stronger role in the narrative (while still being his love interest) and their commanding officer Juzo Okita, who in the original was quite swiftly bed-ridden but here is the commander for most of the journey. The Gamilas fare a little worse in the reboot, being far more obviously an analogy of Nazi Germany and wanting to destroy Earth because they won’t submit to the Gamilas’ rule, whereas in the original they were wiping it clean to move their own struggling people there. This was surprising to read, especially as the “evil aliens” are shown to have more of a human side in this version, a mix of people going to war to keep their children safe, not actually approving of the enslavement or wiping out of whole species alongside the more straightforward ones.
The phrase “modernizing” can cause a big worry, but I can happily say that it really works here. Little things are fun to discover, like how the original series had the ship being built using the frame of the wreck of the actual WWII battleship Yamato and it being changed to the general shape being used as camouflage in the desert that was once the sea in this version (this was mostly due to the actual Yamato wreck being found in pieces in ‘85) or how early episodes had Gamilas troops with Caucasian skin before switching to blue, which in this version is explained as the white troops being a race that had submitted to the main Gamilas’ rule and now work for them, which is fun and frankly unnecessary.