The crew of the classic anime series Space Battleship Yamato, known in the United States as Star Blazers, is set for a new big screen adventure. But instead of their familiar two-dimensional, hand drawn appearance, this new film, which started shooting in Japan last week, will sport a real life, flesh and blood crew.
The film, budgeted at over two billion yen or $22 million American, is being directed by Takashi Yamazaki, the director best known to Western fans of Asian action cinema for the time travel action film Returner. Popstar-turned-actor Takuya Kimura is leading the cast as Susumu Kodai, the character known as Derek Wildstar to American audiences. Reports state that this live action version will make some changes to the original animated version. Two characters – Aihara (known as Homer to English-speaking audiences) and Dr. Sado (Dr. Sane) – are getting sex changes in the transition, becoming females.
Premiering on Japanese TV in 1974, Space Battleship Yamato told the story of the crew of a starship racing across the galaxy to retrieve a cure for the radioactive fallout from an alien invasion’s bombardment that is slowly poisoning the Earth. It was brought over to America in 1977, where it was embraced by an audience already excited by the space opera of Star Wars. Two more television series and several animated films followed.
A live action Space Battleship Yamato/ Star Blazers adaptation was close to being a reality a little over a decade ago. The project was in development at Disney through most of the 1990s, with a script having been written by Tab Murphy. You can read our less than glowing review of it here. And while the script took several liberties with the story that would probably not go well over with fans of the original, the project was ultimately shelved after studio head Michael Eisner departed.
The film is set for a December 2010 release in Japan, but as of now, there is no word if any US distributor picking up the film for release here. I would think, though, that there would be a viable enough audience between anime fans and those, like myself, who remember the original series from its syndicated runs years ago to support at least a DVD release if not some limited theatrical distribution.