YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE Bond: Sean Connery - 1 tusk Along with the franchise itself, Connery begins showing his age and his performance in general isn't as exciting as any of the previous four films. And with a rather substandard story (more later) I can see why Connery phoned it in for this movie and hung up the tux afterwards.
Girl: Akiko Wakabayashi as Aki - 1 tusk As is beginning to be the norm, there are several Bond girls, with at least one good and one bad. Here, there's a bit of a twist with Aki, the "main" Bond girl, dying before the end.
Gadgets: Little Nellie - 1 tusk A relatively gadget-lite entry into the franchise, but Little Nellie, a souped up mini-copter gets a rather suspense-free scene when Bond takes her up to scout out the volcanoes and then takes on four enemy helicopters. The projection screening in this movie was weak overall, especially in the car chase scenes, and that makes this particular scene hard to view. It also had a bit of the "From Russia" problems where they explain all the weapons he has and then five minutes later, Bond is up in the air using them one by one. Really no need for the unnecessary exposition.
Opening Theme: "You Only Live Twice" performed by Nancy Sinatra - 1 tusk While completely fitting for the movie, this theme is much softer and not as brassy and bold as the two previous entries. This does not rank high on my list of Bond themes.
Villain: Donald Pleasence as Ernst Stavro Blofeld - 2 tusks Although Mike Myers has forever put his mark on this portrayal, this Blofeld stands out in my mind as the best. I wish they had kept him for continuity in the next two movies.
Pre-title opening sequence - 1 tusk While I prefer the mini-adventures of the last two, here we establish a real interesting threat that will playout in the rest of the movie. The eater of spacecrafts was a great mystery and fits in nicely with the Cold War era. However, the opening falls apart when they introduce Bond and then pretend to kill him off without much of an interesting set up.
Story: It's very regretful that they made this movie next instead of the intended On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I've not read the books, but I know that in the You Only Live Twice novel, Bond is dealing with the death of his wife. When he subsequently has to pose as being married, it's difficult for him. In the movie, this angst is gone with the exception of Bond's brief grief over the loss of Aki.
Following Thunderball, the Bond producers could go in two directions. They could try to top themselves, or they could try to bring the stories back down to a slightly smaller scale and focus more on the character of James Bond. They chose the former and missed great opportunities to have Bond go through some real emotional turmoil. Had they done OHMSS next with that in mind, they might have been able to convince Connery to stay for one more really good follow up in YOLT. As it is, they're switched and YOLT starts to fall apart.
For example, I never really got why they "killed" off Bond in the opening. They explain that it's to keep his enemies off his back, but he's not able to use his newfound anonymity very long. Even without the knowledge of who he is specifically, people try to kill him. So, what was the point?
The ninja training was cool, but should have been expanded. Sounds like the book really deals with this much more in depth. But then, why is he being paired up with a wife? It makes no sense in the context of the story in the movie. What advantage does he have with that marital status? None that I can tell.
From here on out, the Bond movies aren't the cohesive, complete package they have been. Now it's about picking and choosing what's good and then just focusing on those things.