Yamato Year 2016, Part 2
Persons of Interest
What Yamato fan wouldn’t want to own an original art piece by the master himself, Leiji Matsumoto? In 2016, this concept shifted from fantasy to reality when Anime-Link.com (based in Torrance, California) announced an exclusive agreement with Mr. Matsumoto to seek commissions from fans.
This arrangement was on a limited-time basis, but as of this writing (January 2017) the Anime-Link webpage is still active and displays a few more images in addition to these. Buyers can ask for any of Matsumoto’s characters and get a hand-drawn original. Now the heartbreaking part: they go for around $30,000.
Nobody said a shift from fantasy to reality would be cheap.
There is, on average, one new “legacy” publication per year dedicated to Matsumoto, and this year’s entry (above left) was a deluxe magazine titled Leiji Matsumoto Big Analysis, published by Sanei on March 31. All the major titles are covered (Harlock, Galaxy Express, Yamato, etc.) with loads of art both new and old and lots of data on spinoff projects, merchandising, publishing history, etc. Many such books have been published, but every new one has its own treasures and perspectives.
It’s available from Amazon.co.jp here.
Matsumoto art shows are also a yearly staple, and from May 14 to 29 fans could attend Leiji Matsumoto ~ Dreams and Romance at a venue named Gallery 21, where 40 pieces were available to view and purchase as prints (flyer shown above right). The venue is part of the Tokyo Hotel Grand Pacific on Odaiba island (in Tokyo Bay) which was also known for themed hotel rooms devoted to Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express.
Another exhibition took place at the Kobe Artists Museum from September 10 to November 20, this time a collaboration between Matsumoto and his wife, artist/designer Miyako Maki.
The final show of the year happened at Morioka from November 26 through December 25. The title this time was Leiji Matsumoto: Legend of the Manga World and it focused on Yamato and Galaxy Express 999. He appeared for his customary talk show and autograph session on opening day. A Junior High choir performed the Yamato theme at the opening ceremony.
Katsumi Itabashi, Tomonori Kogawa
Two other Yamato luminaries made their presence known in 2016. First, mecha designer Katsumi Itabashi held an art exhibition on March 5 and 6 at a Tokyo gallery named Hokutopia. The art was derived from his monumental art book Zero-Dimensional Machine Travelogue, which can be ordered here.
Meanwhile, designer/director Tomonori Kogawa created original art of Yamato characters for a charity auction to benefit earthquake reconstruction. He posted several pieces on his blog March 20 and May 17. Visit his blog here and see the art images here. He was the subject of yet another gallery show (poster above right) from October 8-10 in Tokyo.
Kobayashi is one of the most active contributors to the modern Yamato saga, having worked on all the new anime productions from Yamato 2520 forward (currently serving as an episodic director on Yamato 2202). He’s a prodigious artist, and his Twitter feed is always packed full of past and current works.
In 2016 he shared production pieces from 2520 and Yamato Resurrection. See a gallery of them here.
Kanada was one of the most revered animators in Japan while he was still with us, bringing a sense of action and dynamism to the craft that will still be a high bar for decades to come. (Click here for our career-spanning tribute to him.) In October, a comprehensive hour-long documentary titled Anime Revolutionary Yoshinori Kanada was released that can be enjoyed by all, despite its lack of subtitles. See it on Youtube here.
Voice actor Kenichi Ogata has one of the longest resumes in the business, covering far too many titles to list here, but Anime News Network has it covered. In Yamato he was the voice of Analyzer, and also did a side-stint as Yabu [Sparks] in Series 1.
An interview with Mr. Ogata was published September 11 at the entertainment website otoCoto. Here is the segment of that interview that pertained to the Analyzer role.
The inside story of Kenichi Ogata who plays a wide range of roles including Analyzer of Space Battleship Yamato, Shinmaru of Ninja Hattori, and fathers in Urusei Yatsura and Ranma 1/2.[excerpt]
Interviewer: Are there particular gags that you started to put in? I don’t know how far you can go with adlibbing…
Ogata: I do adlib, but I don’t completely replace lines. It would be rude to the scriptwriter to ignore the written line entirely. I talk fast and plug gags into it while properly reading what is written. (Laughs)
Interviewer: You don’t forget to honor the writer and director.
Ogata: With Detective Conan (1996 to present) the script gradually become something you couldn’t plug adlibs into. Because I say unnecessary things when there is a break, the lines became simpler. I feel a sense of vigilance. (Laughs)
Interviewer: In Space Battleship Yamato (1974) there was a case of a character that became more lively because of your adlibs.
Ogata: That was Analyzer. At first I was directed to speak mechanically. But Analyzer drinks and lifts women’s skirts and is a bit strange. It wouldn’t be interesting if I played it as a normal talking robot. So little by little I changed the performance to act like a human. (Laughs)
This name is new to the Yamato roll call, but he did us all a sterling service when he wrote the first warts-and-all biography of the saga’s creator. The Man Who Made Space Battleship Yamato ~ The Madness of Yoshinobu Nishizaki was published by Kodansha in September 2015 and was an instant hit (read more about it here) and shone a candid light on its subject that the world was waiting to see.
An interview with Makimura appeared on the Gendai Business website on January 30. Translation follows…
The madness of Yoshinobu Nishizaki, creator of Space Battleship Yamato and anime’s “rogue who made history”
There was once a great man. In the Showa era, he put his private property on the line to make a movie, and everyone knows his work. He was surrounded by scandal in a criminal case, but restored his name in a social revival to die an accidental death afterward. Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki (1934-2010) died at 75.
That life was vividly described in his essential biography, The Man Who Made Space Battleship Yamato, The Madness of Yoshinobu Nishizaki. It has the intense aroma of a “Showa story,” and the book went into repeated reprints after its release. We talked with the book’s author Yasumasa Makimura, who spoke about the appeal of “the rogue who made history.”
The madness of the man who changed the history of anime
Interviewer: What was your first impression after you finished writing this book?
Makimura: The response from readers was greater than I imagined. Frankly, I didn’t think many people were interested in Yoshinobu Nishizaki. What got the book started was a proposal from [co-author] Tetsuhisha Yamada saying, “I’d really like to bring together the biography of this brash, unique man, Yoshinobu Nishizaki.” Because Mr. Yamada was on Mr. Nishizaki’s staff for six and a half years, he had firsthand knowledge of his boldness and rogue nature. He was the instigator and lead witness of this book, since he continued to associate with Nishazaki even after leaving his side. I was caught up in Mr. Yamada’s enthusiasm, so to speak, and began writing.
Interviewer: What stood out to you?
Makimura: First of all, Mr. Nishizaki’s specificity. His unprecedented legend earned a lot of publicity and made headlines, but at his core he was brought up as “the eldest son (and second child) of a good family.” As I detailed in the book, when he failed his junior high exam, he brooded and thought he had no choice but to run away from home. He was afraid of his father, who had a strong sense of nobility. It could also be understood that all his wild behavior when he went out into society was a rebellion against the authority figure of his father.
Freelance journalist, Yasumasa Makimura
Such a man changed the history of Japanese anime. As the terms “before Yamato” and “after Yamato” state, anime was originally regarded as entertainment intended for children, until Space Battleship Yamato expanded the audience all at once. As the producer, Mr. Nishizaki’s enthusiasm was intense when he said, “I’ll make a work that cannot be called childish.” Despite being an amateur in anime, the scripts, visuals, and music had great power precisely because he brought together a top-notch staff.
He raised all the money that was needed for it on his own, whereas a typical autocratic producer would say, “I will pay for it, but it goes in my mouth first.” It could be said that this was the first time someone with such ideas and resolution came to the anime world.
Why Yoshinobu Nishizaki now?
Interviewer: What is the “Yoshinobu Nishizaki image”?
Makimura: His greatness is symbolic. I’m thinking of the 2009 release of Yamato Resurrection. I wrote about it in detail in Chapter 8 (“Prison Warfare”), but after his bankruptcy and criminal case (drug and weapons possession) he was sent to prison and had a literal “resurrection” in his mid-70s. He sent this work out into the world with the dignified credit of “Executive Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki.” He hadn’t lost his greedy streak when his life bottomed out in his old age, but his relationship with his successor (adopted child), Shoji Nishizaki, brought him back from the edge. I can’t help but admire the energy with which he brought this film to the public. So, in a word, I wanted this book to appeal to “the greatness of the man who revived.” Each reader can interpret that in their own way if they pay attention to that point.
Interviewer: Why does Nishizaki attract attention now?
Makimura: I think it’s because of the way the world is today, with the absence of the “self-reliant producer.” Yoshinobu Nishizaki,was the man who showed Japan what an independent producer was.
Yoshinobu Nishizaki in the 1970s
Today, producers in art and entertainment are largely divided into two types. One is the support type: “I’ll gather the staff and the talent will do the work.” The other is the self-reliant type: “I’ll gather the staff to make my work.” Nishizaki was typical of the second type. In other words, the premise is that he wanted to make the work himself. Therefore, he gathered the staff and paid them out of his own pocket. The staff was like a tool he needed to realize his dream, so to speak.
Moreover, Nishizaki honestly had no concept of poverty, so the idea of poverty was not abhorrent to him. He was a producer who didn’t spare the money for his work. By the way, Nishizaki often said he was “hungry for money,” but he didn’t hoard it. He was a person of conspicuous consumption, and needed money to support that. It was a very different idea from most Japanese at the time.
Behind the revolutionary work called Yamato, it was the attitude of “damn the authority and common sense about taking risks,” which was literally “the madness of Yoshinobu Nishizaki.” It was also a fact that many hardships, including financial ones, contributed to his madness. The results of that lead to the development of Japanese animation as we know it now.
(written by Yoko Ohba)
The Petition of Yu Aku
An excerpt from Chapter 8 of the book: a petition written by Yu Aku for consideration of Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s extenuating circumstances. (2000)
Yu Aku onstage at the
Yamato Festival in Budokan, 1980
July 3, 2000
Yu Aku (real name Masayuki Fukada)
To the Tokyo District Court judge
My first meeting with Yoshinobu Nishizaki was unforgettable. It was because this great man openly demonstrated his childlike purity, passion, and talent. Before Mr. Nishizaki achieved his brilliant success as a producer, his name was unknown even to people like me, and I remember being half-stunned even as my other half had a sense of admiration for him.
When the TV animation Space Battleship Yamato started, he visited my office to request lyrics for the theme song. It was the time he was fairly burning to convey the mindset of the show. The first episode of Space Battleship Yamato was broadcast on TV October 6, 1974, so it was probably about six months earlier.
In such a meeting, the client often makes an impassioned speech. It’s rare that I become intoxicated by those who show signs of sales talk, but with him it was clearly different. He read aloud from the first section of the proposal book, and I was surprised by the appearance of a producer with a tear in his eye. It didn’t feel exaggerated, like in a stage play, because I felt a passion like a transmission of the soul. “Purity.” “Integrity.” “Love.” “Self-sacrifice.” I didn’t know anyone who talked so earnestly.
As I said earlier, half of me was stunned while the other half had a sense of admiration. I was overcome by the feeling of an adult who would embarrass himself by baring his soul because there was a part of me that was swayed by the romance of it. I believed in the plan that he had devised, and I envied an adult who could dream like this and convey that dream to the world.
I had those deep feelings as I wrote the lyrics to the theme song of Space Battleship Yamato. Since then, the anime expanded from TV to theaters and caused the Yamato boom. I wrote a significant number of theme songs and insert songs while the Yamato generation was built. I think it reached its height with Farewell to Yamato and the song From Yamato With Love.
Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s success was the success of Space Battleship Yamato in Japan and established the position of an “independent producer.”
As you know, Japan is an absolutely corporate society, and even if someone is given the job title of “producer” it is usually an in-house position. Originally, a producer was responsible for everything from raising funds to planning to production and box office distribution using their own individual talent and ability. Therefore, they would become an instant hero if they succeeded and it was their fate to take on the debt if they failed.
However, in Japanese business the company becomes the hero if it’s a big hit and no one loses their assets if it isn’t. Yoshinobu Nishizaki defied that. I applaud him. Sadly, there is a climate in Japan that is not pleased with success landing in the hands of an individual, and it seems that such success is dismissed as a mere gust of wind, so I was glad to personally witness proof that the dream of success could become real in this society. Not only could it enrich an individual such as Yoshinobu Nishizaki, but it became the forerunner of the world-class culture of Japanese animation. Additionally, Mr. Nishizaki was aware of his position as a patron of talent, and Space Battleship Yamato lead to the appointment of many talents in the field of composite art.
While the association Mr. Nishizaki and I shared was similarly confined to business matters, for my part I believe that a certain generation’s true face and essence lie in the sparks scattered in their work, rather than your daily association with them, and so now I don’t think I misread him.
The mistakes and crimes of Yoshinobu Nishizaki are not something we should defend. A crime is a crime. However, if it is a human crime, I do not think it is beyond human understanding or judgment. That is why I wrote this.
I am of the same generation as Mr. Nishizaki, and we can now both be thought of as being “late in life.” Rather than tarnishing that, I want to fulfill it. My wish as a friend is to let Mr. Nishizaki fulfill it as well. Nevertheless, crimes don’t so much subtract from a person as multiply their negatives, and to just cast a man as talented as him into oblivion would be extremely unfortunate.
I hope I have a good opportunity to help him.
Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support
Read our tribute to Yu Aku here.
Artwork devoted to 2199 and 2202 dominated the year (as seen in the monthly reports) but a few pieces also turned up from the original saga. See them here.
Giant Lego model
Memorial photos of a large-scale lego Yamato (before and after) built by Twitter user Jumpei Mitsui in his freshman year. (Posted on twitter February 7.)
Afterward, he recycled the parts into a Battleship Yamato.
A fresh, high-quality take on the Yamato 2520 model kit, posted on Twitter May 25 by “Komappy.” See a photo gallery at his website here.
Redhawk Yamato CG model
An unexpected deep cut: homemade CG model of the Redhawk Yamato model kit from Aoshima. Built from May through August by Twitter user TheMoon.
An even more impressive Space Battleship Yamato, posted December 20. See more pics of these models on TheMoon’s Twitter page here.
EDF model lineup
A set of EDF ships from across the saga, roughly to scale with each other (mostly garage kits). Posted on Twitter July 9 by Earth Defense Headquarters.
Be Forever Yamato CG tutorial
CG animation is a powerful tool in the DIY community for those intent on making anime of their own. On November 4, CG animator “kunbe0924” posted a comprehensive 10-minute tutorial on Youtube using a major action sequence from Be Forever as its subject. Have a look here and see “kunbe’s” other Yamato projects here.
Vintage merchandise sightings
Yamato vs Blue Noah
A blast from the January 1980 issue of Third Grader magazine: Yamato is placed side by side with Blue Noah to see how they measure up.
Blue Noah actually outclasses Yamato in size: 360m long and 126,000 tons (as opposed to 263m and 62,000 tons). It also takes a crew of 750 vs. Yamato‘s 114.
All three images were posted on Twitter October 14 (the anniversary of Yamato 2‘s premiere) by Hiroyuki Arai.
Final Yamato “cel ticket”
Another find from the same collector: a limited-edition advance ticket for Final Yamato from 1983 with a “cel layer” above an animation-style “background painting.”
Odds and Ends
An unusual vehicle spotted in a local parade in Kumamoto. Posted on Twitter January 22 by Kojiman1227.
From the Yakitori Yamato restaurant, owned by Shoji Nishizaki: bottles of alcohol named after Yuki and Kodai. Posted on Twitter February 18 by Warp2220.
Yuki Mori (stranded?) on Earth
Probably the oddest find of the year – none other than Yuki Mori trying to place a presumably urgent phone call, caught on Google Maps. Posted on Twitter December 27 by Shinon.
There are still a LOT of fans hanging around from the original Yamato generation, those who watched at least part of it in real time. One is a female fan from Osaka who goes by the pen name “Yamatogawa” and runs a blog named Talking Space Battleship Yamato, 1974-2199 ~ Vaguely writing about Yamato-related stuff. On June 16, she published an essay that was evidently on her mind for some time, profiling the seldom-remembered character Takeshi Ageha from Yamato III (Flash Contrail in Star Blazers) with custom illustrations.
The thoughts of the Yamato generation get more interesting as years pass and context deepens, so it’s a pleasure to bring you this translation of her essay. (See the original post here.)
Yamato person biography: Takeshi Ageha edition
It’s the rainy season when laundry doesn’t dry and the mind is gloomy, but how has everyone been? I’ve been going to work since April, so I haven’t had as much time as before to write articles on weekdays, but despite a long silence I never abandoned this blog. I’ll be continuing it from now on, so don’t think that I’ve forsaken it.
This is an article I’ve been preparing for a while. Why Ageha this time? It’s hard to say, but maybe it’s because there aren’t many characters as pitiful as him if you look at the entire Yamato series. Because I felt sorry for him, I made up a life for him. I mentioned it on Twitter, but felt despair over the meager reaction.
So, without further ado, here is “Ageha’s game of life” …
Phantom scenario: Conspiracy of the Ageha Clan
Takeshi Ageha is is a pitiful character. He’s a handsome man, the son of a financial group family, and a genius pilot. He looks cool, but he’s hot-blooded. However, I haven’t heard any stories about him being popular. Maybe I just don’t know of any. That’s why I was concerned about Ageha from Yamato III for some reason.
According to the initial concept for Takeshi Ageha, from an article in the first issue of My Anime magazine (March 1981), he was very popular with women: “When he boards Yamato, he drives away a large number of girlfriends who had clustered around him.” But how did he come to be attached to Yamato? And what was the general intention of having Yamato III start out from the Japan Alps mountains?
Ageha’s father is the proprietor of Yamato‘s dock in the Japan Alps (separate from the ministry of defense!), and of Ageha Concern, the financial group that takes on the cost of Yamato‘s remodeling to look for the second Earth. As the CEO, father Ageha is not happy about his son boarding Yamato, so he pulls strings to have him cancel the crew order. (Which Captain Kodai receives as a paper memo.) Ageha returns by train (where’s the train station?) and while en route there is a scene where he makes a call on a “Showa era” public phone. (Laugh) Back in those days, it was amazing to be able to call from a bullet train. And in a time before phone cards, it was maybe a 100-yen phone.
Ageha returns to his parents’ home, and while relaxing in the high-tech living room, the robot assistant (not a robo-maid) feels uneasy and suddenly collapses. Electronics are disturbed by abnormal electromagnetic waves caused by the sun’s increased nuclear fusion, but we don’t know that yet. Anyway, he goes to a hospital where his mother is under care. She has a mysterious illness, and is connected to a life-support device (by her left wrist). Takeshi switches her over from electronic to manual control (usually, hospitals don’t allow people to touch medical equipment) and the trouble is over.
His father comes in and declares, “You are the heir of the Ageha financial group” but he shouldn’t have a pipe in a hospital room. The son doesn’t accept this and says, “My life is on Yamato,” showing an abnormally deep attachment. Thinking only of her son, the mother pulls out her life-support equipment and says, “Let Takeshi board Yamato…” Papa Ageha’s anger is overcome by his wife’s determination, and he reluctantly consents. With that cleared up, Takeshi marches back onto Yamato.
I don’t know why Ageha burns with passion about getting on Yamato. His father is deeply attached to Yamato in a different way, but there’s a phantom scenario (unused concept) that says he takes on the ship’s enormous remodeling costs as a shield to privatize Yamato. The father is an acquaintance of Todo, the general of the Ministry of Defense, which creates an alliance of both the government and the Yamato crew with the Ageha clan. Yamato III is confused as a result. The scenario seems to be called “Rebellion of the Ageha Clan,” but it’s very confusing! The situation seems set up (by Ageha’s father) to converge over the long run, but I don’t get the feeling that it would save Earth.
There are other scenarios in which Yamato doesn’t make any progress at all, such as meeting up with the weather observation ship of Hikijiro (Saruta Hikijiro in the initial draft), but I have to say his arrogant attitude after being helped by Yamato was confusing. In the initial plan, this delegation from Ageha’s father would hijack Yamato in the “Ageha Clan revolt”. As expected, this would have taken things too far, and he was moved by the refreshing attitude of Takeshi Ageha when the two of them shared a table in the mess hall. From there he becomes cooperative with Yamato, and ultimately loses his life as a good person who helped them. Apparently Ageha’s role was to suggest a change of mind in the company, so it seems the convergent flow of the “Ageha Clan revolt” was changed.
In short, maybe the character was intended to clean up the mess on Earth caused by his own parents, but his presence was diluted when it turned out the plot of the Ageha Clan was no longer clearly depicted. As for father Ageha, he is himself killed by a mob (or caught up in terrorism) when the destruction of Earth approaches, and so he was waiting for that end. It could be that the “Plot of the Ageha Clan” became a prototype for the Izumo Plan in 2199. Whereas the Izumo Plan was a conspiracy from inside the military, this one was a selfish act by the individual leader of the Ageha financial group.
Based on such a thing, Ageha suddenly meets his end in the finale. He conducts a suicide attack on the Bolar Federation mobile fortress and dies spectacularly, but it should be understood that we can’t just have it be, “Boy, Yamato really likes those suicide attacks” and wrap things up so simply.
Prior to this, Ageha falls in love with Queen Ruda of Shalbart, and there is a scene where he becomes a believer in the Shalbart religion. When Yamato and a Galman-Gamilas fleet are at the mercy of Planet Phantom, Ageha and Domon win an unexpected lottery when they find Ruda at the heart of this living planetary organism. The reason Ruda chooses Ageha over Domon is unclear. (Because he has a “gentle heart”? Based on his looks?) All I can figure is that he’s “the son of an enterprising family (a fine young man) who rebels against his parents and devotes himself to a religion he doesn’t understand.” While he claimed, “My life is with Yamato,” his submitting to the religion founded by the woman he falls for can only be called splendidly vague.
Therefore, although the sudden “suicide attack” is a Yamato specialty, Ageha’s suicide becomes an act of personal redemption against the backdrop of the “Plot of the Ageha Clan” in which his father gave priority to his own self-interest over the fate of Earth. He wouldn’t be driven by his fate of not getting to be with Ruda (I think)! His loss pushes Dessler’s anger to MAX and literally becomes a trigger for him to bury Bemlayze with the Hyper Dessler Cannon. You could also say that this gave us one of Dessler’s greatest highlights.
However, I think Yamato III would have been more streamlined if the episode involving the Agehas was shaved off (though there were still plenty of messy episodes). The policy to bring in new characters for a “change of generations” wouldn’t have been changed, but since both Domon and Ageha eventually die, there wasn’t really a change of generations, was there?