Space Battleship Yamato is one of the most important titles in anime history. The presence of a serious, ongoing storyline, at the time rare for anime, changed the industry forever and influenced many of anime's greatest creators, and many young fans who would later go on to make their own mark in the industry. However, much like an earlier series, Lupin III, the transition to mature storytelling in anime didn't initially catch on. Yamato was a failure upon its original release, overshadowed by other series aired at the time. With the steadily growing popularity of the series through reruns, the original series was condensed into a summary film released in theaters, in a highly successful attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Star Wars. The success of the Yamato film shaped the industry for years to come, paving the way for the most popular anime of the late 70s and 80s, such as Macross, Gundam, and other Leiji Matsumoto anime like Galaxy Express and Captain Harlock. The success of the film even extended overseas, where the TV series was picked up and adapted for American television as Star Blazers, a respected and reasonably faithful dub that retained all of the mature themes of the original.
However, we're not here to talk about the original series and its influence on the medium as a whole. The subject matter here is the film originally intended to be the grand finale of the Yamato series. Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato. It is, an incredible film, yet a film that has been reduced to a footnote in the history of the franchise. Reason being, soon after its release, it was rendered non-canon by a TV sequel, one that aimed to be a little less bleak. This doesn't mean the movie is bad, far from it, in fact it may very well be the greatest Leiji Matsumoto anime ever. The industry just wasn't ready for a movie like this.
Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato is much more than just a typical space opera. It's a tragedy. A war film detailing the last stand of the Yamato and its crew. Despite its mature, bleak tone, it presents a clear message, one we should always remember as we live our lives. For Farewell is a tale of the lengths humanity will go to survive. The will to live, and the unbreakable human spirit. Even when the Wave Motion Gun doesn't solve every problem the Yamato faces, the crew doesn't waver for a moment. They are going to carry out their duty, at all costs. For the sake of humanity. Even when the situation is at its most hopeless, they soldier on, knowing that each and every one of them may have to sacrifice their lives.
The art is.. well, it's not great. It only looks slightly better than the TV series, which may come as a surprise if you're used to the big budget animation seen in other films around the same time like The Castle of Cagliostro. At the very least, it's never ugly, or off model. The sound is great, with an incredible end credits theme titled "From Yamato With Love". Many tracks are shared with the TV series, not a problem since the original soundtrack is also very good.
If you're a fan of anime sci-fi, this film is absolutely essential. I would recommend watching the original 26 episode TV series prior to viewing Farewell. The summary film is good, but you won't feel the full impact of Farewell without experiencing the full story.
While Farewell may seem like nothing more than a footnote, given its relatively average score, long running time, and status as a non-canonical version of the events of the second season of the Yamato TV series, it's an incredible film in its own right. An absolute classic.