Yamato 2202 Director Interview, May 2016

From Yamato Crew Premium Fan Club magazine Ship’s Log #14, June 27, 2016.

”I absolutely won’t let Space Battleship Yamato 2202 suffer, so please watch it to the end.” – Nobuyoshi Habara


Born on June 21, 1963. An animator from Hiroshima Prefecture, a director at Xebec studio. After graduation from Hiroshima Prefectural Daimon High School, he joined Reed production and made his animation debut on Magical Princess Minky Momo (1982). He did mecha design for Mad Machine (1982, unaired) and was responsible for mecha animation on Special Powered Armor Troop Dorvack (1983). After that, he took charge of art direction for Super Beast Machine God Dancougar (1985) and character design for Revenge of Machine Robo Chronos (1986).

He took on his first directing challenge on the 1988 OVA Leina: Wolf Sword Legend. He drew storyboards for the live-action movie Saya Zamurai (2011) He directed DNAngel, Fafner, Steam Detectives, and was an animation director on the Yamato Resurrection Director’s Cut (2012). He directed episodes 9 and 19 of Space Battleship Yamato 2199.

See a much longer list of his credits at Anime News Network here.

Interviewer: First of all, congratulations on your appointment as director of Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love.

Habara: Thank you very much. I’m giving it my all, so please look forward to it.

Interviewer: You recently participated in an informal meeting at Yakitori Yamato restaurant. Was it difficult after the announcement of Yamato 2202?

Habara: No, no, I was happy to talk there. I originally started out as an anime fan and a Yamato fan. It was fun to drink and talk with everyone. A lot of people who like Yamato gathered together, and it was wonderful to get all fired up. I was also happy to go back to spending time as just a Yamato fan. I’ve gone drinking with a lot of Yamato fans in the anime industry, and we all talk Yamato until morning. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Then I’ll be happy if I can ask you to tell stories as a Yamato fan today. Since you participated in Yamato Resurrection, you’ve been involved with Yamato for a considerable period.

Habara: Since Resurrection came out in 2009 and I participated in the production, it’s been almost eight years. Well…it sure passes quickly. (Laughs)

Interviewer: You participated in “mechanic direction” for Resurrection, didn’t you?

Habara: Yes, I did a considerable portion of the storyboards for mecha scenes. I made changes to the storyboards at an early stage at the direction of Yoshinobu Nishizaki, and drew and redrew. Some of what I drew was finally adopted for the opening scene. Director Nishizaki also asked me to draw for many of the non-mecha scenes. I think Director Nishizaki had various scenes ordered based on his ability to see through the creator’s area of expertise.

Interviewer: What are some of your memories from the production of Yamato Resurrection?

Habara: Memories…there are a lot of them. At first, I was surprised by what a different world it was from the rest of the anime industry. The production methods were different from what I was used to, so I was surprised. “So this is how you do it…”

Up until then, I thought making animation was very rational. First you write the script and everyone agrees on it, then you draw storyboards and then the work shifts to animation. Everyone agrees that that’s the usual way the work progresses. But Yamato was different in that respect. I thought, “I’m advancing to here, but it’s been overturned! It stopped!” (Laughs) Such changes happen because, of course, you try to make it better.

Anyway, I was surprised at first. Director Nishizaki had very strong feelings about Yamato. Even when production was well underway, sudden changes were decided upon in order to get closer to his feelings and ideals. In fact, even on the past works I heard stories about how policies were changed at the last minute to pursue higher quality, and to incorporate those feelings into the form of the work…it was very difficult, but also very rewarding.

I also had some great clashes with Director Nishizaki. Since a lot of the staff on Yamato Resurrection had been involved on previous Yamato works, I was the a member of the youngest generation. Thirty years had passed since I entered the anime industry, but I was still in the junior class. Makoto Kobayashi was a little older, and had already participated in Yamato 2520, and had been engaged in the preliminary stage of Resurrection in 1992.

But in my case it was my first time working on Yamato, and my over-excitement marked me as a newbie. However, I got along well despite the arguing. It’s a really good memory.

Interviewer: Word of the Director’s Cut emerged just after Resurrection was released to the public…

Habara: That’s right. I went to work on something else after Resurrection, and I wasn’t involved with the Director’s Cut at first. However, production of the Director’s Cut suddenly stopped when Director Nishizaki died of an unexpected accident, and its status was up in the air. After a while, Xebec took over the production, so I participated in it once again. It was right around the time of the 3/11 earthquake.

Interviewer: You participated in the Director’s Cut as an “animation director.” What was the actual nature of the work?

Habara: First, I took instructions from Makoto Kobayashi as the acting director. We looked at scenes that were cut from the Resurrection theatrical version and brought back scenes we felt were “absolutely necessary.” Like the scene where Dr. Yoshiharu Sasaki treats Satoru Kamijo, and the scene in the captain’s room just before returning to Earth from Amal. Furthermore, I renewed some shots that had been taken out at the storyboard stage and were not animated, like the new one where Jun Kobayashi receives a Black Tiger uniform. I drew a lot of other small scenes in addition to that.

(Read all about the making of the Director’s Cut here.)

Interviewer: The tempo of some scenes also changed quite a bit.

Habara: Yes, Director Nishizaki liked the film very much and it was very important to him. Since he loved every nook and cranny of the completed film, cutting any of it was regrettable, but it couldn’t be helped. Even with the theatrical version, he’d be hesitant when we’d say, “We should cut this here”, and it seemed like he couldn’t boldly make the cuts. So there were places where we had to cut it a certain way in order to increase the tempo. “I’m sure Director Nishizaki would have wanted it to have this kind of tempo…”

While I worked on it, I thought about how he would have made it if he were there. We watched Yamato from the old days to get a better understanding in order to liven up a scene, and I carefully revised parts that I felt were necessary to raise the tempo. However, if we raised it too much, the taste would be too modern, so it was hard work to change the tempo and still preserve the atmosphere of the “theatrical version.”

Interviewer: Previously, the editorial staff of Ship’s Log magazine produced a book that compared the theatrical edition with the Director’s Cut (the Difference Book that was a bonus item with the blu-ray), and I didn’t think it had changed very much. I was surprised by the attention to detail that you wouldn’t even notice unless you played both of them side by side.

Habara: It’s easy to see in the battle scene before the “flyby warp” where Kodai gives orders and says “Yamato will take the central enemy.” Just before that we have a line from Omura. That part had a pretty bold change, and I’ll be grateful if you compare them.

Interviewer: With regards to the Director’s Cut, were there any specific production instructions left behind?

Habara: Very little. But Mokoto Kobayashi had talked deeply with Director Nishizaki before he died, and pushed the production forward with that as a reference. The scene of Earth sinking at the end is one such typical scene. When we worked on that, I had the feeling that Director Nishizaki would have said, “That’s right, this is it!”

Interviewer: The sound effects were also completely changed, right?

Habara: The theatrical version had “real system”-type sound effects, and as you would expect…it changed the characteristics of Yamato. When I got involved with the Director’s Cut, I hoped it would be possible to correct that and use sounds from the original works. At the same time, I wanted to use more of the original music as well. There was a lot of classical music used in the middle part. I wanted to change that form and use music from the original.

Finding out if we could actually use those two points was very difficult, but it was cleared after great effort by many people, so we were able to do it. If we hadn’t cleared up the problems of using sound effects and music at that point, it’s possible that Yamato 2199 might have had a very different form. Tomohiro Yoshida worked very hard as the sound supervisor, and we were grateful that it could be realized with the help of (original sound supervisor) Mitsuru Kashiwabara.

Interviewer: The music and sound effects of Yamato are engraved on the fans at the genetic level, and they bring a great feeling of “security.” Well, you participated in Yamato 2199 after that. Were you part of it from the beginning?

Habara: No, because Resurrection and 2199 were organized by completely different production systems, I didn’t plan to participate at first. As I mentioned earlier, I was on another project between Resurrection and the Director’s Cut. Since that was going to be about a year, I thought I wouldn’t be able to work on 2199, but it was a quirk of fate that I was able to do it anyway. It was to be a remake of the first Space Battleship Yamato, so I wanted to work in it by all means. I was very glad.

Interviewer: Episode 9, The Clockwork Prisoner, was your first.

Habara: Yes. Originally, there was already a storyboard for Episode 9. But because it was done at a time when there were no models, there were a lot of discrepancies between the storyboard and the designs. At the start, I was asked to mainly just correct those parts, but once I got started my brush ran carelessly and…a lot of my own color appeared. (Laughs)

Interviewer: In terms of the story, it took quite a different direction from the original Yamato.

Habara: When I thought about what the situation would be like inside the ship, since it’s traveling while Earth is in crisis, I thought there would be planned power outages, like there were just after the earthquake. Because of that extraordinary experience, the lighting inside the ship during Episode 9 was rather dark. I also enjoyed working on it because Sadayuki Murai’s script was wonderful. It was a more modern version of the original Episode 16 story, Beemela, Planet of Condemned Criminals. Also, I personally wanted to do [Quoting Analyzer] “I am human.” (Laughs)

Interviewer: Your next one took place right before the battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster, Episode 19, They’re Here.

Habara: That was a good time. I enjoyed it heartily. I wanted to do the scene properly where they sing the Garmillas national anthem, so the lip sync was finely reproduced.

Interviewer: When you showed me the storyboard for Episode 19, the face of Domel at the end was very impressive.

Habara: Yeah, yeah!! (Laughs) I really like the animator Kazuhide Tomonaga from the old days. Especially on Episode 22 of Yamato, Decisive battle! Fight for honor at the rainbow star group!, that was the best. I added that touch to the storyboard out of respect

Interviewer: It’s the last shot in Episode 19, and the same scene is in the trailer after Episode 18, but Domel’s face is drawn differently.

Habara: In fact, I drew the animation for the trailer at the end of Episode 18. But Director Izubuchi pointed out that “that’s overdoing it”! (Laughs) The face was revised to look a little more normal in Episode 19.

Domel heads toward the Battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster. The scene shows him with a fierce, determined expression.
The still at far left is from the original Episode 22. Center: Habara’s “tribute” from the trailer after Episode 18.
Here you can perceive his feelings and respect. At right is the final version from the end of Episode 19.

Interviewer: I’d like to hear about how your enthusiasm will soon be applied to Space Battleship Yamato 2202, since for you Farewell to Yamato is…

Habara: I love it, of course! (Laughs) I read the interview with Harutoshi Fukui in the last issue (Ship’s Log #13), and I agree with it completely. Even now, I don’t think of that ending as a simple suicide run, and besides, you’re not moved because he defeats that super colossal spaceship with a suicide attack, but because of the tenderness he felt for others.

Even Sanada and Saito loved Kodai, didn’t they? And in loving Kodai, and loving everyone else, couldn’t you call it an ultimate expression of kindness for people? That really echoed in my heart.

There were some who took any slight change in taste or theme from the original Space Battleship Yamato with discomfort, but inside I feel that the range of difference between the original series and Farewell isn’t as great as the range between the individual episodes of the original series. Since I was in middle school, I understood that different film companies worked on them, and you can quickly tell with a look when the animation staff is different, can’t you? Including the visual parts, I quietly just accepted everything.

As far as the differences in how the pictures were drawn, since I thought it was great to have all sorts of art, I love Nobuhiro Okaseko and Toyoo Ashida’s artwork, and also like Tiger Pro’s episodes. Likewise, I really love Tomonori Kogawa’s art, too. I enjoy seeing the individual personalities of the men responsible for the original animation.

Interviewer: That’s right. Our generation likes seeing the various versions of Kodai and we all have a favorite. But what specific scene do you like in Farewell?

Habara: As expected, I’ll have more to say about the pictures than the story, and I like the part where Mr. Tomonaga took charge of the scenes, which is also where Yoshinori Kaneda’s amazing scenes appear! It gets my blood pumping even now when I see it. It starts around the time they attack the imperial city, the area where Mr. Tomonaga takes charge of the most painful parts. (Laughs) Right before Dr. Sado says “Make me a Yamato cocktail” while doing surgery, the layout of the bombed medical instruments you see around the scene and the weird mecha are exquisite.

One of Mr. Habara’s favorite scenes. Tension rises as bottles and medical equipment in the field hospital go flying after a hit.

Interviewer: That’s where the camera is tilted when Saito carries an injured person in, right?

Habara: Yes. That scene in particular emphasizes the enemy onslaught and the urgency of the crisis with the tilt of the camera. The boldness of parts like that is a big feature of Farewell. And after that is all the “Kanada action.” In the case of current action, mecha scenes are done in CG rather than drawing…but I want to do the animation that way. (Laughs)

In these shots, the camera is tilted as Saito brings in an injured soldier to better emphasize the state of emergency.
The camera is also tilted in the scene where Saito conveys Sado’s death. In scenes that express anxiety and fear,
the camera tilts to visually evoke an abnormal situation.

Interviewer: How about Yamato 2? There are a lot of differences there, including in the art.

Habara: Of course, I watched the whole thing and loved it. But there are a lot of places where I don’t remember details. (Laughs) But that’s not a bad thing…I’d already made up my mind to become an animator in those days, so I focused more on the animation than the content when I watched Yamato 2. I liked the story, but I remember various things like “that shot, that timing…” (Laughs) For the story, Hijikata assembles the Earth fleet at Saturn, burning for a showdown with the Gatlantis fleet.

Interviewer: There’s a part where even if Earth surrenders, Yamato decides to fight a decisive battle without surrendering. That’s a climax that wasn’t in Farewell.

Habara: Of course! But I didn’t want the imperial city to drop down into the ocean of Earth. I thought, “It’s small!” when it did. (Laughs) Because it was a TV series, it was shot on 16mm film rather than 35mm, so I was disappointed in the depth and tint. But that’s fanboy talk, sorry.

Interviewer: No, no, not a problem. In fact, I think everyone in the Yamato Crew Premium membership will be pleased. When we talk this way, I get the illusion of talking to a regular Yamato fan. (Laughs) So other than Farewell, what kind of scenes do you like?

Dessler cracks a whip to hasten a warp. Mr. Kaneda took advantage of the weakness of limited animation
to create unique movements that could not be imitated, which fascinated everyone who watched.

Habara: The scene of Dessler that Kaneda drew in Episode 26 of Space Battleship Yamato [Series 1]! “Warp after them!” It’s the scene where Dessler cracks the whip. That’s insanely cool. His cape goes flying and Dessler dances. (Laughs) It’s not really in character, but I really like that scene. The whole staf worked on the last round, and that scene is totally different in both layout and tension! (Laughs) I’m grateful that that scene was appointed to Mr. Kaneda. (Laughs) He had participated since Episode 2, but he was always under someone else’s direction, so it was comparatively quiet. But it sure exploded in the last round. (Laughs) After that he also did the scene in the same episode where Sado salutes Captain Okita after he dies.

The scene of Dr. Sado saluting Captain Okita just before returning to Earth.
When you see all three poses, you can understand the “ghost” in the second image.

Interviewer: That’s where the “ghost” can be seen. (Laughs)

Habara: That’s right. The salute is done in three drawings, and in the second one you can see “ghost arms,” which gives unique movement to all three. That “KAN” sound effect really matches it, too.

Another of Mr. Habara’s favorite shots. Yamato drawn by
Mr. Tomonaga. This powerful pass later became synonymous
Yamato, and could be called an “invention” that Yamato
produced in the world of anime.

I also like the original Yamato pass drawn by Mr. Tomonaga in the second-to-last episode. There are only four windows on the first bridge (laughs), but that doesn’t matter, because it has a “Yamato lives” sense of vitality, doesn’t it?

Interviewer: There was quite an animation mania in those days, wasn’t there? You previously mentioned that you’d made up your mind to be an animator while you were still a junior high student. What was the work that triggered it?

Habara: I decided to become an animator when I watched Mazinger Z as a fifth grader. When I watched it I thought, “Why are the pictures different every week?” and after a while I noticed that the credits for “animation director” were different and I felt, “Maybe I’d like to be that person.” When I saw the preview for next week, I thought, “Oh! It’s by that animation director, I absolutely have to see it!”

When I watched the end credits for Getta Robo, there was one for “character design” in addition to “animation director,” but I felt that it was better when they were the same person. (Laughs) “Kazuo Komatsubara is good, and I also like Takuo Noda.” I had a real animation mania, and I enjoyed the personality of the art.

Interviewer: Since you have such a drawing mania, what kind of pictures do you intend to make for Yamato 2202?

Habara: Well, when I was involved in Yamato 2199 I didn’t do true animation, and the thing was “Mr. Izubuchi’s direction policy is to present realistic angles that are pushed a little to depict a situation properly.” That became the reality of Yamato 2199. Naturally, that will continue to be important in Yamato 2202. As a director, I like the camera to get in close to the character. Camera work where you film it as a close up as much as you can to hit you with the emotion is something I like and use a lot.

So, compared to Yamato 2199, there may be a lot of up-shots this time. A lot of today’s anime looks like it’s seen from a distance through a zoom lens, but old anime was different on that point. Farewell in particular often had closeup images of characters as seen through a wide lens. When you see characters from a distance through a zoom lens, the view is more “objective” than with a wide lens, even if the character distribution on the screen is the same. I want the audience to have more of the feeling of being “on the spot.”

Since we grew up from childhood seeing lots of animation made using imagery like that, I think I like to use close-ups a lot in the big scenes with emotional highs and lows. Instead of getting the “feelings” of a bunch of characters on the screen, I want you to get the feelings of each character. Even related to the mecha, rather than shooting them from a distance, I tend to end up having them shot close, with them coming at the camera, like that “Yamato pass” and the like.

Mr. Habara says there will be more shots like this in 2202. Angles like these, as seen through a wide lens close
to the character, were a feature of
Farewell to Yamato. The composition and tilt brings out power and resonance of the
individual animator and beautifully projects the feelings of the character. This Kodai drawing by Mr. Tomonaga is a particular
favorite of Mr. Habara’s, a scene in which the emotions – anger, sorrow, and determination – all reach their peak.

Interviewer: In our previous interview with Mr. Fukui, he said, “I’d want to cherish the atmosphere of the original Yamato.” Mr. Fukui aims for that with the storytelling, and will you do the same with the direction and filmmaking?

Habara: That’s right. I’ve talked with Mr. Fukui from the early stages of the meetings and said I intended to “put in the images that we saw.” We can’t help but match the tempo of modern times, so we can’t settle into the unhurried feeling of older anime. However, the original Yamato was mainly about filmmaking, and I intend to properly follow the “grammar of drawing.” I’d like everyone to be able to say “I wanted to see scenes like that!” I want them to enjoy actually watching and seeing how a scene turned out.

Unique action scenes from Be Forever Yamato by Yoshinori Kanada that are familiar to Yamato fans.
Will the day come again when we can thrill to the action scenes of good old animation?

Interviewer: A few more staff members are announced every month. This time, Nobuteru Yuuki and Akira Miyagawa were announced, so it really mirrors Farewell to Yamato. I’m very excited to see “the old crew” gathering again.

Habara: It really does have that feeling. In the early meetings with Shoji Nishizaki, Mr. Fukui, Mr. Kobayashi and I and several producers, the creators who participated in Yamato 2199 joined in one by one, and it has the feeling of the Yamato crew gathering at Yamato in the underground. The staff from Yamato 2199 still continues to join up, so things are getting serious on-site. The amount of passion everyone has for Yamato is ridiculous… (Laughs)

Mr. Fukui had an overabundance of ideas, to the point where we’d say, “We can’t put that many ideas into a 30-minute film” as one interesting idea after another came flying out of him. I really think he’s an amazing person.

In addition, Akira Miyagawa participated in a meeting the other day, too, and we talked about various things. Akira’s smiling face has the power to lead the on-site atmosphere in a good direction. I think he’s a natural entertainer. That shows in his music, but it’s his father’s music too, so it will be fun just to listen to what he does. It really is a great feeling to have Akira in charge of the music. Don’t all the fans feel the same as I do?

Also, Mr. Yuuki finally drew Zordar the other day, and it’s insanely cool! Please look forward to it. I want to depict an attractive Zordar and Gatlantis that will be a good match for Akira on the pipe organ this time.

Interviewer: Finally, please give a message to the people reading about the second series.

Habara: My love for Yamato brought me into this industry, and I was happy to help make Yamato Resurrection and Yamato 2199. Now I’ve been blessed with the chance to make Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love, based on both Farewell and Yamato 2. I don’t know if I’m good enough, but I absolutely wanted to be engaged in this work. I’ll give it everything I’ve got. I’m not going to leave anything out, so please see it until the end by all means.

At Xebec Studio, May 27

The End

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

Read two more interviews with Nobuyoshi Habara about his work on 2199 here (2012) and here (2013).

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