Friday, December 9, 2011

Yamato and the perils of Captain Avatar, continued


I've been rushing home with you to tune into the cartoon we called "Star Blazers" in the early 1980s, fascinated not only by its story, its solutions to the evolution of early animation, and its place in creating North American interest in anime (which is like a brand new world for me), but by its symbolic significance in the Japanese consciousness and the relationship of the United States (and the world!) with Japan.

I found the following under our friend Wikipedia's definition of "Japanese Battleship Yamato" ---the program's original name, almost three years before "Star Wars" hit the silver screen.

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Yamato (大和?), named after the ancient Japanese Yamato Province, was the lead ship of the Yamato class of battleships that served with the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. She and her sister ship, Musashi, were the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed, displacing 72,800 tonnes at full load and armed with nine 46 cm (18.1 inch) main guns. Neither, however, survived the war.


Decades after the war, Yamato was memorialised in various forms by the Japanese.

Historically, the word "Yamato" was used as a poetic name for Japan; thus, its name became a metaphor for the end of the Japanese empire.

In April 1968, a memorial tower was erected on Cape Inutabu in Japan's Kagoshima Prefecture to commemorate the lives lost in Operation Ten-Go.

In October 1974, Leiji Matsumoto created a new television series, Space Battleship Yamato, about rebuilding the battleship as a starship and its interstellar quest to save Earth. The series was a huge success, spawning five feature films and two more TV series; as post war Japanese tried to redefine the purpose of their lives, Yamato became a symbol of heroism and of their desire to regain a sense of masculinity after their country's defeat in the war.

Brought to the United States as Star Blazers, the animated series proved popular and established a foundation for anime in the North American entertainment market.

The motif in Space Battleship Yamato was repeated in Silent Service, a popular manga and anime that explores issues of nuclear weapons and the Japan-US relationship. The crew of the main plot device, a nuclear powered super submarine, mutinied and renamed their vessel to Yamato, an allusion to the World War II battleship and the ideals it symbolise.

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Well, for fun, I want to tell you about some of my favorite difficulties faced by Captain Avatar, fictional watchful eye of the ship we call the Argo here in America. Because reading a plot resolution in some blog is no comparison to enjoying the play-out and its surprises yourself, I'm going to talk about the conflicts, then list the resolutions after the break! That way, you can decide if you want the spoiler---and you can match wits with the good captain, yourself!

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