Yamato Models by Bandai

Part 11: The Crown Jewel

Space Battleship Yamato 1/350 scale kit

January 2007, 70 cm (27.5 inches) long
Based on the 1999 Playstation Yamato, designed by Kazutaka Miyatake

Returning to the Bandai Character Plastic Model Chronicle book described in The Bandai Story, we present the origin of the newest and most ambitious Yamato model of them all…

An Obsessed Soul! Plans to Revive the Great Ship Yamato…

Text by Satoshi Kato and Hideki Kakinuma, ┬ęGakken 2007
Translated by Earnest Migaki, edited by Tim Eldred

The hot item that made news in the Plamodel World at the start of 2007 was the 1/350 scale model of the Space Battleship Yamato. The length when fully assembled is just over 30 inches! It is comprised of over 500 pieces, and is priced at 47,250 yen (about $450 US). A beam of light comes out of the Wave-Motion Gun, there are the 20 rotating pulse lasers, main and auxiliary guns, opening and closing shutters for the Smokestack Missiles, and much more–all operated by a remote control in the shape of the Wave-Motion gun’s pistol grip–to give you all of the action from the anime.

Mr. Hirofumi Kishiyama of the Bandai Hobby Development Team was motivated to create this model by his love of Yamato, but his passion goes beyond mere words. He was wondering what they could come up with (outside the Mobile Suit Gundam category) that might bring back the glory days of Bandai Models. He once read an article about a possible new Yamato anime series for 2006, and he assembled a proposal for a large-sized model of the ship. Since such an expensive model had never before been released and would require extravagant construction materials, he had a difficult road ahead.

The Road to the Starting Line…

Bandai’s Yamato models were a big hit in the 1970′s, but when older properties are revived, it’s typical to start out with something small-scale. However, Kishiyama felt it would be better to return with something big, like an explosion of fireworks. Yamato fans are at a level slightly above the generation of the Gunpla (Gundam Plastic Model) users. While there might be some overlap in the fan base, he felt that the most massive impact should be directed at the Yamato fans. It would have to make a big impression on them. You just can’t deceive the true, hardcore Yamato fans with cheap kid stuff.

One reason for the 1/350 scale was that there was already a Yamato model at 1/500 scale, so Kishiyama figured the next one had to be larger. With the increased size, he wanted to add more detail with a target price range of 10,000 to 20,000 yen. Bandai’s reaction, however, wasn’t favorable at all. “Why drag Yamato out now?” When Kishiyama said there might be a revival, the staff took a wait-and-see attitude, since the plans for a new anime series were merely unsubstantiated rumors.

Kishiyama decided to make a real prototype, since mere words on paper didn’t carry the right impact. He added a several performance gimmicks to heighten his mockup, and soon he went overboard with them. No doubt the size was meant to impress. Eventually, he got the general manager to see the potential of his prototype, and in 2006 he was given the green light to start the project.

The Birth of the Exceptional Model…

Once development got under way, the number of parts was estimated at 500, but when you added the inner mechanics, the count exceeded 600. A lot of time was required to create the gimmicks. The gear boxes for the moving turrets and gun barrels would not fit inside the body of the ship, so they had to be miniaturized as part of the learning process. The planning stage took a year, and production took another year. In the end, the development cost went well over 1 billion yen, with the metal molds hitting the 700 million yen range. For a Plamodel, this was a massive project.

When the prototype model was completed in December 2006, a special press pamphlet was released. This model had one weakness: the pamphlet just couldn’t show the actual size or the various action features, much to the frustration of the developers. They had some strong passions regarding this kit…

“We didn’t want to merely copy the ship from the anime. We wanted the users to remember the powerful emotions that arose from the opening scenes of the series, where the movement of the main guns showed that the Yamato is a character. We created it at 1/350 scale to show the potential of such a large object so the fans could relive the emotions of the story while they enjoyed building the model.”

This was made for those who truly loved Yamato. Whether you are a child or an adult, if you see a true Plamodel masterpiece on display, you will fall in love with it and just have to have it for your own. This is the true meaning of the Character Models. Mr. Kishiyama believes that 30 years ago, there were at least 2.3 million fans who went to see the theatrical release of Yamato. If only half of the men were modelers at the time, then there were at least a million of them. He also figured there must still be hardcore fans 30 years later who just can’t forget about Yamato even as they grow older. He wanted to help them recapture their fond memories of building great models.

To further invoke the golden age of modeling, Bandai commissioned two superstars for the box art. The piece shown above left is by Naoyuki Katoh, who worked on the first TV series as a designer/painter for Studio Nue. The other side of the box (above right) is by one of Japan’s most famous hobby-art painters, Yoshiyuki Takani. His lush illustrations on magazines and product packaging are classics, considered by some to have inspired an entire generation of Japanese boys to become model builders.

Strategy for a New Series…

The prototype model was completed in October of 2006. Mr. Kishiyama personally presented the prototype at the 46th All Japan Model hobby show. Although there were many vendors, the Yamato booth attracted the most people. Older fans really loved the features, and they just couldn’t take their eyes off the huge Yamato. They had a lot of expectations, since there hadn’t been a major release like this for quite some time.

Kishiyama wanted the 1/350 Yamato not to be the end, but the beginning of maximum potential for a new Yamato series. He figured this model would lead the way. The obsessive passion of the developers and the advancement of modeling technology pushed the evolution of the Character Plamodel another step forward. The term “model” would no longer suffice since the next generation will incorporate animated movement as well–so a new term will be needed, probably something like “Animodel.” We can only wait with high expectation for what will come next…

(End of excerpt)

And now we present a photo-walkaround of the 1/350 Yamato kit. Collected here are photographs that were originally posted on Yahoo.jp by several modelmakers in Japan. We thank them for generously sharing their work with the world, and regret that we don’t have any of their names to offer up for proper credit here.

Click here for gallery 1, which starts at the bow and works its way around the port side to the stern.

Click here for gallery 2, which begins at the stern, moves around the starboard side, and concludes with a gallery of the many accessories that are included with the kit.

If you’re ready to invest in this whopper (or the EX Models if you’re on a budget), here is a link to get you started:

For more information, you can also visit Bandai’s official site dedicated to the 1/350 Yamato:

Related reading, L to R: Hobby Japan (March 2007), Model Graphix (April 2007), Space Battleship Yamato Modeling Guide (Dengeki Hobby Magazine, April 2007).

The End

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