The power of a story is something that I think is taken for granted by a lot of us — especially since a great many of us will simply buy a book or a movie ticket and immerse ourselves just to escape for a while. But sometimes, we come across something that’s truly epic — and inspires us deeply.
As I continue working on my first novel, I think it’s important to share some of the stories that have inspired me over the decades. And the kinds of stories that inspired Unification. If you, dear reader, will allow me to share some of what inspires me, you’ll begin to know what drive my desire to tell a story of my own. Or stories.
Maybe it’s my own vanity. That’s okay. But we all started somewhere. For me, it was a silly old 1970s anime called Star Blazers. Very few people know how much I loved this show when I was in the third grade. And you know who you are.
Star Blazers: One Year to Save the Planet!
It’s a story that’s set in the year 2199, and the earth has been relentlessly bombed the earth to the brink of extinction. Radioactive asteroids were hurled to the earth by the evil Gamilons so that they might terraform the earth for their own needs. Humanity would be wiped out within a year.
By the time the story begins, an epic battle is underway between the earth ships and a Gamilon fleet — all as a decoy so that a small ship from Iscandar can give plans for the earth people to build a faster-than-light ship that could bring home a device that would restore the earth and erase the radioactivity.
Earth has one year to live. Then humanity would be extinct.
Throughout the entire series of 26 episodes, my eight-year-old mind was filled with images of perseverance, desperation, and the one thing that drives every part of my own existence: Hope.
Sure, some of it was enormously silly. But the elements that inspire me to this day are the way that the ship herself — the ancient battleship Yamato, rebuilt from the inside out as a gigantic space battleship — becomes the heart and soul of the story.
In the Americanized Star Blazers story, it becomes the “Argo.” And this massive ship has a weapon like no other — something called the wave motion gun. This is a gun that’s positioned on the bow of the ship that could wipe out whole fleets in one blast. Even a space continent.
This weapon wasn’t like Voltron, where the ultimate weapon would be formed every episode — it would be used sparingly, and only when it was an absolute last resort. It was the perfect image of meekness — controlled POWER. used when necessary, and only then.
In the end, the Star Force saved the earth, and all of humanity.
Remade for the 21st century
In a rare moment when lightning does strike twice, the Space Battleship Yamato story was remade just a few years ago, and it is simply brilliant. The story has been elevated and improved on enormously, and the ending is absolutely marvelous. I’ve rewatched it several times, and I have yet to have a dry eye when I do.
This is a beautiful story of humanity, desperation, saving life, and ultimately, hope. Even with a dark premise, the light of hope and life reigns supreme. Responsibility, strength, and knowing when to throw that death-killing punch is a constant theme, as is the need for all of us to take heed of the BEST of us.
I’ve loved this story for the better part of four decades — so much so, that one character of Unification: Rise of the Thunderblade has a name taken from Star Blazers, and turned backwards. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, you will. This is just one of the nods to my favorite space opera in my book.
It was the first time I saw a story in cartoons that was long-format storytelling — an arc that would last 26 episodes; nearly 13 hours. And every week, we’d hear the countdown:
Hurry, Star Force! Earth only has 320 days remaining!
Never underestimate the power of a great story. And if you haven’t seen Star Blazers, or its remake, Space Battleship Yamato 2199, the remake — which is absolutely brilliant — is on iTunes now. And it’s on the Funimation app.