Series: Star Blazers Complete Collection
STAR BLAZERS was one of those shows which lived primarily as a spark of recognition to me. I have vague memories of seeing episodes here and there as I was growing up, but it wasn’t a show that I had any investment in. Having said that it does represent the kind of television that pulls me right back to my formative viewing years, and has always been high on the list of classic shows that I’d one day like to revisit… and thanks to the release of the complete series on DVD, I’ve now done exactly that.
There are only a couple of (self imposed) rules that govern the review content that I post here on elroyonline. One of those rules is that if I’m going to review something, I watch it in its entirety! My ability to follow my own rules — that one in particular — will be severely tested over the next few weeks as the majority of stuff I have lined up consists of compete series collections. In the case of Star Blazers, that meant three seasons, spanning seventeen discs and seventy eight episodes. All up that’s around 1800 minutes of dodgy 70’s Japanese animation!
It’s impossible for me to do an actual review of ALL of the content in this release, so bare with me while I talk in broad terms about. And I’m going to start by picking it apart and pointing out its flaws, until it can’t take it any more and runs into its bedroom, slams the door behind it, throws itself on its bed and relentlessly sobs into its pillow.
I know I bang on about the English dubs whenever I discuss any foreign media, especially anime. It is almost always better to watch with the original Japanese audio and read the subtitles, but in the case of Star Blazers you aren’t given that choice. The fault for this appears to be some kind of whacky licensing shenanigans undertaken during the late 70’s/early 80’s. At which time the original Japanese series (Space Battleship Yamato) was dubbed and edited for for us dumb westerners. My main complaint about the English dub isn’t so much with the voice acting — the performers do the best with what they’ve been given — but with the painfully obvious inconsistencies in the dialogue. Characters constantly contradict themselves, or use someone’s name a dozen times before asking the character their name. They’re mostly little things, but they all add up after a while and are a symptom of the greater problem, and that is that whoever created the translated script didn’t seem to be paying too much attention to the greater story-lines.
Another disappointing aspect of the dub is that between season two and season three, the producers lost contact with some of the voice artists. So familiar characters suddenly have a thick accent and completely unfamiliar tenor in the third season.
Much of the animation is horrible too, but it’s fair to say that it is of its time. Being surrounded by animation these days, it’s easy to forget the labour intensive methods that were used to create these classic animated shows, but even still Star Blazers has some pretty dodgy stuff: frames slip about during scenes, or one cell in a walk cycle will be miss-coloured (so a characters boot will flash white as they run along).
Having said all that — and trust me, I could say a lot more — Star Blazers is actually a damn good show! Sure it starts off pretty simplistic, with two dimensional characters and convenient solutions to complex problems, but there’s actually quite a bit going on that is remarkably mature and unexpected. Over the course of the three seasons, the series deals with some interesting subject matter, like loyalty, sexual harassment, isolation, death and mourning, human (alien) rights, compassion. These issues are handled extremely well, and I found myself making comparisons to Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica — of which there are MANY parallels — over the course of these DVDs.
If you can get past the technical issues and the fudged translation you’re likely to find yourself enjoying the sophisticated science fiction below the surface. If you’re already a fan of this series, or have fond memories of watching it after school (or on Saturday mornings), then this is THE release to get your hands on! Every one of the DVDs has something extra on it!