Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is one of my favorite series of the year. For the most part, it’s just a damn good space opera, with good pacing, tight writing, great characters, thrilling action … and a beach episode! Despite all that, however, the episode that has stuck with me the most is when the series ventures off the beaten path a bit and delivers one of those tried-and-true mindfuck episodes.
It’s a simple setup: Kodai and Yuki are on their way back to the Yamato after a reconnaissance mission. When they get back to the ship, however, they find it totally empty. It’s quiet and dark. They draw their guns, ready to attack whoever is out to get them. Then a whisper. Suddenly, Kodai and Yuki are separated, lost to a mental trap that uses their own memories against them. Their enemy is doubt; their nemesis is fear and uncertainty. Their attacker wishes to crush their will bit by bit until Kodai and Yuki bend and break.
This is not an uncommon story in anime, of course. There is an episode that unfolds along the same lines in an anime Yamato 2199 director Yutaka Izubuchi helmed earlier in his career, RahXephon, where protagonist Ayato Kamina is swallowed up in his mecha and confronts his fears and hidden desires in the form of an extended hallucination. A bunch of you can probably think of plenty of other episodes like this you’ve seen in various other series. Personally, I fuckin’ LOVE this type of episode, where everything unfolds like a waking dream and all the terror wells up from within. This type of story particularly encourages directors to be visually creative to ratchet up the tension and raise doubt wherever possible. In this Yamato 2199 episode, for instance, I love the use of shadows to show that the person leading the mental assault is always present in some way, just around the corner where the mind cannot reach.
A good mindfuck is like chicken soup for the soul.