Image source: Bandai Visual on YouTube
In the latest installment of Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Warriors of Love, our hero, Susumu Kodai, is forced to answer the ultimate question: Save the one he loves or save as many people as he can.
With refugees from the eleventh planet of Earth’s solar system in tow, the Yamato continues on its mission to save the Universe. However, the refugees are soon transferred to three Earthbound ships. When all seems to be going according to plan, though, two separate traps are sprung on the Yamato. One by the alien race “Garmillas” and the other by he alien race “Gatlantis.”
When we last left the crew of the Yamato we were posed the question is Earth worth saving. It’s a very broad and existential question with no simple answer. In the latest installment of the series, though, we’re taken from broad to personal when our hero Susumu Kodai has to answer exactly who or what he’d save and the repercussions that arise from his decisions. And this dilemma is given to us through a discussion of what love means.
The conversation about love surprisingly doesn’t happen between Susumu and his love interest Yuki Mori—or even between Susumu and his crewmates. It’s in fact between Susumu and the leader of the Gatlantis, Zwordar. It’s a very interesting discussion because we’re under the assumption love is an emotion that drives us to do great things. Yet, Zwordar points out to Susumu love pushes humans to fight wars, it make us fear losing the one we love, and that love is an extension of our ego.
In other words, Zwordar suggests love isn’t a benevolent emotion, but rather a malevolent one. It’s a different take on the idea of love and makes a good juxtaposition to Susumu’s values: When someone needs help he, and by proxy the Yamato, will be there to save them. That’s Susumu’s form of love.
However, when faced with the idea love can cause more harm than good, Susumu is forced to question his own values. Thus, when Zwordar finishes lecturing Susumu about love he compels Susumu to make the impossible decision: save Yuki (whom he loves) and let innocent refugees die, or sacrifice her to save the lives of the refugees.
It’s a situation that often comes up in stories with incorruptible heroes. Yet, with Susumu there’s no simple answer because he’s not as incorruptible as we’d like to believe. He still has follies of any person and, on rare occasions, is a hypocrite. For instance, for as much as Susumu says he’s opposed the mass production of and won’t use the Motion Wave Cannon, he ultimately does earlier in this installment. Thus, with Zwordar maneuvering Susumu into a difficult position we’re seeing what truly matter to him.
Image source: Bandai Visual on YouTube
Here’s where things become tricky, though. While on the surface it appears there’re only two options for Susumu, in actuality there are several avenues in which the dilemma can be resolved. Consider it like this: Although Susumu has all the information at first, if he reveals any or all of it the final decision no longer rests solely on him, other characters can take charge of the situation. For example, one of the ships with refugees could willingly volunteer to sacrifice its crew and passenger complement. It’s even possible for Yuki to take control of the situation and make her own decision if she lives or dies—after all, Yuki is no damsel in distress in this scenario. So, what appears to be a binary choice in actuality isn’t.
And that’s exactly how the drama unfolds. It goes from a binary decision by Susumu to one where Yuki asserts her agency. It’s a situation where Yuki recognizes Susumu will forever be haunted by his choice. So, rather than letting him suffer a lifetime of guilt, she essentially absolves him of responsibility by sacrificing herself and jumping off the ship she’s on. Now, that doesn’t mean Susumu wouldn’t be grief stricken—in fact, his reaction to Yuki’s decision is shock and disbelief. But, inevitably, he’s able to save her and the refugees. So, by having Yuki make the final decision rather than Susumu, it disproves Zwordar’s ideals because he fails to understand love is also about self-sacrifice. And by her living through the experience, he learns that other people can help make a third option. He just has to do the best he can and trust in others to pick up the slack.
Susumu being forced to make this impossible decision is great for his character development. As acting captain of the Yamato, he’ll certainly face many more situations where he has to make difficult choices. But, with this under his belt, perhaps those situations won’t weigh on his conscience as much.
Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Warriors of Love — Jun Ai Hen was released in Japanese theaters on October 14, 2017. There is currently no word on a Western release.