S3 E16 - Japanese Battleships
Outro S3 E16
Ohayō gozaimasu, my survivor friends. Hope you are all doing well. Konnichiwa.
That’s right, the thread that we are weaving, like a deranged spider on psychedelics, through our commentary today is a Japanese one.
Why? Because the two pieces of content I’m going to talk about are Japanese in origin.
But before that, some housekeeping…
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OK then let’s get back to those two Japanese shows I wanted to opine on this week.
The first one is a live action movie I watched from 2010 called Space Battleship Yamato. This was a live action rendition of the anime of Space Battleship Yamato.
Let me back up. There have been a bunch of movies and T.V. series in the Battleship Yamato franchise. The original show was an animated series produced in Japan starting in 1974.
Apparently the original anime series was a formative piece of content for some people. I did not watch this growing up, and this was my first experience with it. I think I was too old when it got released in the US in the 1980’s. Ironically I worked in Japan early in my career, also in the 1980’s.
So, although I have a familiarity with Japanese culture, I am playing catch up on Space Battleship Yamato.
So I will lean on this quote from Wikipedia:
“Space Battleship Yamato is one of the most influential anime series in Japan. Its turn toward serious themes and complex storylines influenced future works in the medium, including Gundam, Evangelion, and Macross, in addition to video games such as Space Invaders.”
The movie was not terrible, but I think it was intended for people who already knew the storyline. What I did find interesting was the whole battleship theme.
In World War Two the Japanese built two large battleships one of which battleship Yamato. Yamato is a prefecture in Japan, similar to a state in the US, so think ‘battleship Missouri’.
(Note: this is different from Admiral Yamamoto who was the guy in charge of the attack on Pearl Harbor.)
They made two of this size battleship. The reason was that they knew they couldn’t keep up with the US in number of ships so they decided to build a ship so big that it could engage multiple other, smaller ships, simultaneously.
It was a big ship, with lots of big guns and over 3,000 sailors. It was a very robust expression of the militaristic Japanese culture before and during WWII.
WWII ultimately was not a war of battleships. WWII was a war of aircraft carriers and combined forces. Yamato didn’t see much action.
Until the end of the war, when the Americans got to Okinawa. Okinawa was the first real Japanese home-island soil threatened.
The admiralty sent the Yamato on a one-way mission. It had enough fuel to get to Okinawa with instructions to beach there and basically a create sea fort to defend the island.
But Yamato was sunk by American subs and planes before it got there.
Because of this action a romantic/heroic mythos was created of the mighty battleship steaming off to die.
So – back to the Anime.
The Anime uses this ‘last hope’ heroic desperation as its main theme.
Earth is attacked by aliens and humans are driven underground to survive. Some other, helpful, aliens give humans technology to build a spaceship.
Humans secretly build the spaceship in the wreck of the Yamato.
This is possible because the oceans have been boiled away and the Yamato wreck is high and dry.
It is an interesting premise and it works very well in the Anime. The movie I watched kin of skims over the origin story, but maybe it was lost in the translation.
The actual wreck of the Yamato was found in the 1980’s. It sits in two pieces in 1,120 feet of water at the bottom of the Pacific.
Not high and not dry.
There have been many versions of this since the original anime series in the 1970’s. It was translated into “Star Blazers” for an America audience and was popular. There have been movies and reboots.
You can dig around online and find many of them to watch.
So there you go. Formative anime with a side of Japanese nationalism.
The next thing I watched, last week, was a Japanese series called Alice in Borderland, on Netflix. This is a very interesting show. I watched my way through the first season.
It is based on a manga of the same name.
At first It felt a lot like a Japanese version of Squid Game. And it is a bit like that with the characters forced to play games for their lives. But, Alice has an element of the Apocalypse with the characters being trapped in an abandoned Tokyo.
I know that this is somehow an allegory for the Lewis Carroll story. Not the Disney movie or the Johnny Depp movie. The original Alice in Wonderland written by Carroll in the 1860’s.
I confess I have not read the original. Maybe I should. Many of the ‘Golden Age’ science fiction writers cite Alice in Wonderland as a formative work, along with the original Wizard of Oz. Proto-science fiction.
This series I watched on Netflix is apparently an allegory for the original, although I had a hard time finding the binding points. There are rules, and playing cards, and characters that you can see are analogous to characters in Alice and Wonderland.
The series is dubbed in English and sometimes the characters say absolutely ridiculous things that I think are the result of a rushed screenplay for the English dub.
The direction is interesting. Some of the camera work is heavy handed. Like someone watched too much Kurosawa or Tarantino. These overly constructed framing shots. But then at times it seems like a bad spring break movie with lots of lingering closeups on girls’ backsides.
I was all set to go on a rant about how misogynist the patriarchal Japanese culture is but then they surprised me in the second to last episode, but doing something with a character that caught me by surprise. Something that in an American movie would be just another day at the office, but in the Japanese culture was sympathetic and good.
It is, like any good show of this type about apocalypse. What happens when you put the outcasts and the normal people together in a situation like this? How do they respond? How do they keep their humanity and survive?
It’s worth the watch. I may have to rewatch season one to see what I missed.
So – Sayonara – If you’re looking for some Japanese themed diversion dial up Battleship Yamato and/or Alice in Borderland on your shortwave.
Hope you are all enjoying your lives and everything is fruitful and prosperous for you.
Thank you for spending you time with me.