Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
Space Battleship Yamato: The Making of An Anime Legend is a roughly one hour and 45 minute documentary about the Space Battleship Yamato and Star Blazers phenomenon. The documentary was written and directed by Tim Eldred, and was produced in 2005 for the 25th anniversary of Star Blazers. Ken Meseroll, who provided the voice of Derek Wildstar in Star Blazers, provides the narration for the documentary.
The documentary starts in 1973, when Yoshinobu Nishizaki came up with the idea for a science fiction anime property. From there, it talks about the evolution of the concept, especially after input from Leiji Matsumoto. Then, the documentary covers the disappointing television ratings that Space Battleship Yamato had initially received, although it turned out that underground fan clubs began to grow.
Then, the documentary goes on to explain how in 1977, after the success of Star Wars, there was more interest in science fiction properties, and how this ultimately helped to bring a new "lease on life" for the Space Battleship Yamato franchise. From there, it goes into the Yamato phenomenon in Japan, and also talks about the success Star Blazers had in America.
Overall, it was a pretty decent documentary, although I am a little disappointed in the last section of it. Basically, the last bit of the documentary really glosses over what happened over the past 20 years for the franchise. Yamato 2520, the sequel Nishizaki attempted to produce in the mid-1990s was never mentioned. Also, there was no mention of the conflicts between Nishizaki and Matsumoto, some of which started while Yamato was still in production. So the documentary tends to portray a more "positive" story about the production of the series, as well as what has happened to the property over the past 20 years. Outside of this, though, I thought the documentary was rather informative about the property, especially during its heyday.
There are a few special features on the DVD, but the back of the box is a little misleading. On the back, it claims that some of the extras included are movie trailers and scenes deleted from Star Blazers. However, these items only appear as part of the actual documentary; you cannot access them through the "Extras" menu.
In the extras menu, you can see the opening and closing titles for the various television series. However, it should be noted that the openings for Star Blazers are from the DVD releases, so some of the titles are revised from the original broadcast version.
The "original pilot film" is also included as an extra. It runs about eight-and-a-half minutes in length, and this was what was used to sell the series in Japan. This pilot film, which includes introduction of the concept, as well as brief introductions for the main Earth characters, was never aired. Some of the artwork is drastically different from what actually appeared in the series; this is most evident with the message capsule Sasha is holding after she crash lands on Mars.
The final extra included on the DVD are some old Yamato toy commercials. These include a playset and figures, a Yamato toy and Gamilus ships, the Yamato's fighter planes and Analyzer, and bikes that are designed to have what looks like the Wave Motion Gun attached to the front of it. Also on the DVD is a section that promotes the official American website for Star Blazers.
This is a decent DVD release, but it's not great. The strongest part was definitely the documentary, even with its flaws. I also wish the extras had been a little better. But this DVD is worth getting if you are a fan of Space Battleship Yamato and/or Star Blazers, so you can acquire more information about the history of the franchise.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD that my husband and I purchased.