The Producer Speaks, November 2015

Ship’s Log is the official Yamato Crew Premium Fan Club magazine, published 3 to 4 times a year. Issue #11, published in July 2015, broke the news of a second new Yamato series with a producer interview. (See the article here.) Issue #12 was published on November 27 and continued that conversation.

As before, the participants are Executive Producer Shoji Nishizaki and Supervising Producer Hirotaka Furukawa. Whereas in the previous interview the new project was referred to as a “second season,” here it was uniformly called a “second series,” using the literal English term.

Last time, our Producer Speaks Special Report was a great sensation, shocking even those who doubted its authenticity with confirmation that a “second series” is in progress…and this time we delve into the “second series” to the limit of confidential information. Everything said here is an official statement and this report is true.

Interviewer: The first “Producer Premium Meeting” was held the other day in Nagoya. How did it go? Was it an onslaught of questions and demands for autographs?

Nishizaki: I was glad that so many people came. I occasionally go drinking with fans in Tokyo, and this was a significant meeting since there are so few opportunities to meet with people elsewhere. There were also people who came all the way from Tokyo, and it was a fun night in which they met other people for the first time. So to those who cannot readily come to Tokyo, I say “thanks for coming to Nagoya!” It was surprising to see fans gather around the venue before the meeting started.

Interviewer: What kind of conversations did you have?

Nishizaki: Everyone told me their honest feelings about Yamato. Also, I could confirm that everyone loves the characters. Kodai is still popular, after all. His popularity was higher than I imagined. Kodai, Shima, and then Saito.

Interviewer: What were the questions? People here at the home office also accepted questions for you to answer at the meeting.

Nishizaki: There were a lot of questions about the “second series.” What the story would be about and which characters would appear. It was concentrated on those points. When it was announced in the last issue that a “second series” would be based on Farewell to Yamato and Yamato 2, they were eager to hear more details. What happens and how does it end? How will Teresa and Zordar come out? Will Dessler reappear? There were a lot.

Interviewer: Confirmation. Will Teresa and Zordar appear in the “second series”?

Nishizaki: The fight with Garmillas is over and Earth has regained peace, but a new threat is approaching. It is Gatlantis, which was revealed in 2199, and Zordar naturally appears. That part and Teresa talking about the unknown threat is the same as in the original series. But, as was the case with 2199, it will not be a complete copy of the original. It is expanding as various proposals add new elements, and it will have a fresh feeling. Everyone is amazed and pleased with the proposed plans. Interesting opinions have come up, and some things are shocking even to me.

Interviewer: I think there will be a lot of changes to the original story from Farewell and Yamato 2, and fans are currently discussing such points as “Will the Wave-Motion Gun be used? What about the seal”? Is there anything you can tell us about that?

Nishizaki: If the Wave-Motion Gun and the warp were left out, it wouldn’t be Yamato, would it? (Laughs) Both are symbols of Yamato. Therefore…well, it’s that kind of thing. (Laughs) We’ve also thought a lot about it, and it will become the first climax of the “second series.”

Interviewer: Then is it also likely that the Earth fleet will appear, equipped with Wave-Motion Guns?

Nishizaki: Like the Andromeda? You can be confident that it will come up. (Laughs) Andromeda was a popular mecha from the old days, so of course it will appear. But it won’t just be for visual sensibility or the commercial aspects. There is a deeper meaning. It’s good to have revived after the fight against Garmillas, and one reason for it to appear would be as a “symbol of Earth” to raise spirits and forget the hard times. That’s how it was portrayed in the original series. The story begins because Kodai has doubts about Earth.

Interviewer: What’s the current progress of the “second series”?

Furukawa: The script for Episode 2 was finished a while ago. Episodes 1 and 2 will be screened as Chapter 1 of the “second series” in the same way as 2199. Therefore, our target is to finish the script for Chapter 1 and consolidate the various concepts by the end of 2015, and that goal is being achieved.

Interviewer: What’s the atmosphere at the plot meetings? Can you talk about the things that are discussed?

Furukawa: The first thing is the overall composition of the story. Nothing else can start without that. Of course, the point of “what to do with the Wave-Motion Gun” was discussed early on. We also had to think about the fundamental national ideas of Gatlantis and the principles of Zordar, along with organizing the historical concepts of Teresa and the Telezart civilization. After they were decided we could starting working out characters and mecha. That includes new characters that will appear in the “second series.” We think about their names and perform scientific historical research on the environment of each planet. Based on those decisions, new ideas emerge for the next time.

Nishizaki: It’s funny, even after a 3-4 hour meeting, we all go out to eat and we end up talking about ideas there, so when we change our meeting locations we go to the limit and adjourn right before the last trains. I’m glad that everyone enjoys being involved in Yamato, and not even three or four hours of talking is enough. (Laughs)

Interviewer: What will eventually happen with the staffing? Wouldn’t it be good to get the same staff that made 2199?

Furukawa: Please wait a little longer for that announcement. I think a lot of staff members from 2199 will participate, but even the main staff will have some changes. When you produce a sequel to a movie or animation in Japan, most are done by the staff of the previous work. But when sequels are made overseas, staff changes are routinely carried out. To make a good work, we always want to go into production with the best members. But for scheduling reasons, I think some people who are already involved with other works won’t be able to participate in the “second series.”

The main staff that participates in an animation work may be involved for several years, including at least a year of lead time, so when it’s an important position it becomes difficult to participate in parallel with other works. Some people are already involved in other works, and wouldn’t be able to accept a request to participate even if they wanted to. In that sense, it cannot be the same staff continuing from 2199.

Interviewer: Certainly with the Alien series, each work has a different staff. As a result, each work is unique. It’s also true of Mission Impossible. All five of them had a different staff, including Christopher McQuarrie who took up the megaphone for the first time on the fifth one, and will take charge of the Hollywood version of Yamato.

Shoji Nishizaki

Nishizaki: Even Star Wars changed its staff every time. But don’t worry, because it will still reach great heights! If we compared the staff decisions to music…there are many first-class artists who can fill a concert hall to capacity on their own, and we’d like to gather them together to form a band. (Laughs) They will no doubt deliver a wonderful concert and a great album. For the “second series,” considering the staff we’ve gathered together, I’d like for you to wait and have faith.

Furukawa: In fact, more main staff members have almost been chosen than you might imagine, so rest assured that preparation is progressing steadily under the surface of the water. I think there will be a sudden announcement out of the blue, as with the Yamato Resurrection Director’s Cut or 2199. Despite “rumors” you may hear to the contrary, startup preparations have already been completed.

Interviewer: Then how about the music?

Nishizaki: We’ll be using “that song” properly. (Laughs) But it hasn’t yet been decided what feeling to give it, so it doesn’t fall short of expectations. By all means, I personally want to use From Yamato With Love, but what does everyone else think?

Furukawa: I think that is part of the media strategy that will change significantly. 2199 was certainly successful, but we’re not satisfied. As we said in the last interview, I believe it’s possible to push the promotional points still more powerfully.

Interviewer: In reference to what, specifically?

Hirotaka Furukawa

Furukawa: The media picked up Yamato shortly before Farewell was released [in 1978], and created a big boom. Just before summer vacation, Farewell was introduced in newspapers, magazines, and every medium. Starting with children’s programs in the morning, pictures from the trailer made the news every day, and I think all Yamato fans remember the summer of 1978 like a concerto. It would be ideal to expand Yamato promotion all over Japan. Not just to Yamato fans and anime fans, but in ways that would permeate into the general public.

Nishizaki: It was also involved with costumes and fashion. Ms. Sachiko Hanai was asked to do costume design for Farewell, and we asked Mihara Yasuhiro to do costume design for Resurrection. We’re also making an offer to a very prominent fashion designer this time. We’re currently in talks. I think there are also pros and cons in appointing big stars as voice actors, but wouldn’t that also be an interesting dynamic?

Interviewer: What about the live-action Yamato being produced in Hollywood?

Nishizaki: Christopher McQuarrie, who directed Mission Impossible Rogue Nation this summer, is currently writing the script. He came to Japan and talked with us when Rogue Nation had its Japanese premiere in Shinjuku on August 3.

Interviewer: That got a lot of media coverage, too. You even appeared in some photos. (Laughs)

Nishizaki: It seems so. I talked a lot with Mr. McQuarrie in the waiting room before the curtain. He has loved Yamato since he was a child, and is very motivated for this project. We had a long talk about Yamato and his voltage increased. As a result, he was late to the stage, and his entire schedule was delayed because of it. (Laughs)

Interviewer: So that’s why he was late to the curtain.

Nishizaki: Yes, we talked eagerly about Yamato. We both have a passion for Yamato and for film. It’s exactly the same neighborhood as all the fans.

Furukawa: I talked with the CFO of Skydance Productions in Los Angeles the other day, and Rogue Nation was a great success. The plan is to secure a big budget for the Hollywood version of Yamato, and I think it’s well-equipped to become an extravagant work.

Interviewer: The internationally-famous Japanese guitarist Miyavi played the Mission Impossible theme in his own style at the Japan premiere, and the crowd loved it. Whether for the Hollywood version or the “second series,” I think it’s fun when various artists play Yamato music.

Nishizaki: I think so, too. Getting Taro Hakase to play the theme song for Ark of the Stars is the sort of thing I cherish when I produce animation. I think it’s vital to have the music and the fashion bring an expression that cannot be captured in anything but in the framework of anime.

I mentioned From Yamato With Love before. Prior to that, it was natural for only anime theme singers to perform such a song. Other ideas weren’t even imagined. It was my father’s innovation to ask Mr. Kenji Sawada to sing it, who was very popular at the time, and the theme song made it into the top ten. It was a very effective media strategy. After that, it became customary to get major artists for the ending themes of feature films. This accomplishment could be called one of the great Yoshinobu Nishizaki achievements. So I’m thinking about asking an unexpected person next time. It will be a big topic if it comes to fruition, and I believe it will be a trigger for more people to learn about Yamato.

Centerspread from the magazine: Becoming New [Beginning] by Yoichi Fukano

Furukawa: By the time the next magazine is published, many more things will be decided about the Hollywood version of Yamato and the “second series,” so I think everyone will be pleased with the report. Meanwhile, a new year will begin, and at that time I believe it will be no problem starting the countdown to launch. 50 or 100 or 300…I’ll leave it to your imagination to guess how many seconds before starting the countdown. “X-day” has already been decided.

Interviewer: I’ve got goosebumps. Now I’m really looking forward to the impact of “X-Day.” By the way, a lot of people want the next Producer Premiere Meeting to be held in Tokyo. How about it?

Nishizaki: Then, we’d make it a year-end party? Should we reserve Yakitori Yamato for it?

Interviewer: That’s good. But if it’s held there, I don’t think everyone can fit inside…

Nishizaki: Then maybe we ought to do it twice. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Some fans will want to join both, won’t they? (Laughs)

The End

Postscript: the first “Producer’s Premium Meeting” was an event held for fan club members on September 26 in Nagoya. It followed in the footsteps of Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s many personal meetups with Yamato fans back in the early years. As of this writing, the second meeting was announced for December 19 at Yakitori Yamato (a specialty restaurant owned by Shoji Nishizaki) in Sengawa, Tokyo.

Issue #13 of Ship’s Log is currently scheduled to be published in March, 2016. If all goes well, the next producer interview will be part of our April 2016 update.

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