Yamatour 2017 travelogue, Part 2

By Tim Eldred

Back up to part 1

On my way to Sunday’s first stop (in Asakusabashi, right next to Akihabara), I was delighted to bump right into the Tokyo Marathon. Part of me wanted to throw off my coat and join in. In previous years, I couldn’t even conceive of writing that sentence.

The Kyowa Forum building, home of Yamaket 9.

Sunday, February 26

Tokyo is a battery giving off a constant charge. That’s why I can never sleep a full eight hours there. Five or six at most, and then I’m already up and buzzing. At home the routine is to make breakfast and dig into the web for news, both local and international. I only barely remember a time when I didn’t spend part of that hour gathering the latest Space Battleship Yamato data for Cosmo DNA research.

On a week like this with a new Yamato in theaters, it can be like drinking out of a fire hose. Every day since I landed, Twitter and the various Yamato sites (official and otherwise) were jam-packed with stuff. The giant magazine list was only half the picture – the other half was online with at least one interview or article for each one in print, and I tasked myself with collecting EVERYTHING.

The arrival of Yamato Resurrection in 2009 gave me the first taste of what it’s like to keep a handle on all this. That and the 2010 live-action movie turned out to be a warmup for Yamato 2199 and all that followed. If those two movies hadn’t motivated me to develop a system for news gathering, this website would just be plain impossible.

It was during those years of data-mining that I first learned about Yamaket. The name is a play on Comiket, the biggest doujinshi convention on Earth. (Comic Market/Yamato Market.) Doujinshis are Japanese fanzines, and the creative passion they represent is quite literally immeasurable. OK, maybe someone in the world is doing the unimaginable task of tracking them all, but it sure isn’t me.

Program book for Torilozi 13. According to the interior
description, 22 individuals were part of Yamaket 9.
Some shared tables, so it seemed like less.

I’ve amassed a decent collection of Yamato doujinshis over the years thanks to constant monitoring of Japanese auction sites and visits to the all-too-rare Yamato Party (not seen on Earth since 2012, unfortunately), but compared to what I’m aware of, my pile isn’t much better than Borat’s pathetic little “America shrine.” There are easily hundreds – probably thousands – that I’ll never lay eyes on.

For some reason, Yamato doujinshis are remarkably difficult to find in second-hand stores like Mandarake, so inflated auction rates place many of them out of reach. No matter how appealing they may look, it’s hard to justify spending $20 or more on something that’s usually less than 20 pages. It has to come from pre-1980 to get that kind of action out of me.

That’s why an opportunity like Yamaket is one that cannot be missed. I’d originally planned a day trip to Osaka on the 26th, but as soon as I learned this would be the day for Yamaket 9, that plan changed faster than the sheets at a Love Hotel.

So, what is Yamaket exactly? A micro-con inside a mini-con. The larger of the two is called Torilozi (which I think is a Japanese misspelling of “trilogy”) that happens twice a year in Asakusabashi, Tokyo. Two or three floors of a rented municipal building fill up with fans of many different titles (Transformers, for example) to sell their ‘zines, crafts, and collectibles to other fans. Yamaket is simply a loosely-knit bunch of Yamato fans who set up in this space to offer their latest works.

Getting in easy – buy the program book (700 yen) and it doubles as an entry ticket. All together, the Yamaket portion of the event was maybe a quarter of what you’d see at Yamato Party, but it will certainly liven up a Yamatour. There were eight or nine tables of goods, and since it presented the ultra-rare occasion to buy everything in sight for the actual cover price (often less than 500 yen) I gave myself permission to go hog wild.

It was a delight to cast an eye over someone’s offerings, knowing full well what a labor of love it represented, then look them square in the face and say, “Subete, onegaishimas.” (“Everything, please.”) Their eyes would get big and a flurry of activity would follow. Freebies would emerge from nowhere (postcards, buttons, etc.) and my day bag would suddenly get heavier.

Among the fan dealers was a genuine Yamato superstar, former doujinshi publisher Michio Murakawa, who now writes and draws the Yamato 2199 manga. He had his own table and was drawing characters on commission. I couldn’t do much more than say, “Hello, Mr. Murakawa,” but he remembered me from our 2012 interview (he did give my name to a minor character in the manga, after all), gave me a smile, and dove back into his work.

I also got to briefly meet Mr. Osamu Kobayashi, an anime commentator who has become the regular host for most of the Yamatalk events over the last few years, and runs his own semi-regular event, Yamato Lecture. Thanks to the presence of my pal Gwyn Campbell, Osamu and I could exchange a few words. Naturally, I bought the doujinshis he was there to sell and he held up some free postcards of Yamato Girls, telling me to pick one. He was quite surprised when I went for Kaoru Niimi (I can’t resist the dark-haired brainy ones) and asked me to help promote her to the rest of the world. Not sure how I am meant to do that, but maybe I just did.

Doujinshis sold by Osamu Kobayashi under his “Yamato Lecture” organization.
32 pages each, full of cute character drawings. One page each, bound “notebook” style.

He expressed the opinion that the Yamato Girls are starving for equal representation in the merchandising (since Yuki Mori is the only one who seems to get made into figures now), and I agreed: “Yeah…everyone who wants a Yuki already has one.” A deep nod from my Japanese brother, and we looked thoughtfully toward the future.

I don’t want to give short shrift to any of the other fans who were selling stuff – I recognized most of their Twitter handles, and if you’ve followed the fan art galleries in the monthly reports you have seen their work – but there was a strict no-photo policy so all I can do is share a look at the bounty I brought home. (Which would have taken FAR more time and money to accumulate online.)

Illustration collections by artist Kazuo Ozawa, who goes by the Twitter name Kamidekorokoro. Quiet but friendly, he seemed to be at the upper age limit of the group. Most looked to be in their upper 30s and 40s.

The first volumes of the Project PS Story series, novellas and illustrations that focus on Yamato’s space marines. Published by Umiushi.

The series expanded into PS Story G [Gamilon] in 2000 and has been going strong ever since with periodic novellas and illustration collections.

Umiushi’s newest offering was a nicely understated 2017-2018 calendar with alternating Earth and Garmillas mecha.

Doujinshi by “Okusei” consisting of comic stories with short character pieces and gags. The character art is exceptionally good.

Postcards and an illustration collection by Yuki Shimako, a master with watercolor also known as Alpha. Visit her Twitter page here and her blog here.

Comics and text stories all about the romance of Kodai and Yuki, created by Chihiro.

The most prodigious of the fans at Yamaket was an artist by the name of Sumikojo whose work runs the gamut of comics, illustrations, and parody travel guides to Yamato locations.

The one photo exception was for cosplayers, so we finally got the chance to share the air with a Garmillan. From left: JP, Dan, Garmillan, and myself. Said Garmillan has his own Twitter page here.

Waiting to charge across the giant crosswalk outside Shibuya Station.
Imagine the crowd holding swords and shields and you know what the tension is like.

After Yamaket we went our separate ways for the rest of the day. I took my first dive into the anime wonderland of Akihabara to soak in the pure blend for a while and poke around for my remaining magazines. Not finding much, I moved on to Shibuya. I have to say, if you had only two hours to experience the essence of Tokyo, this would probably be the best place to do it. Giant crowds, huge buildings, high-end shopping, a materialist western dream amplified through a Japanese spectrum. As a tourist, you go there to be marketed at with the sole requirement of spectating. If you’ve seen a movie set in modern-day Tokyo, this is most likely where it was shot.

My primary target here was Yamato-related: the Under Armour showroom store. I wasn’t sure what to think when I learned last fall about Under Armour becoming a sponsor for Yamato 2202. It’s great for visibility, but the fact that a character in the anime would be wearing the logo was a new thing to grapple with. Product placement in Space Battleship Yamato? I guess you do what you have to, but I hope it doesn’t change your mission.

On the other hand, after a year of regular exercise I was in the unusual position of actually fitting into Japanese clothing, and I’m always happy to scoop up some new Yamato T-shirts for the wardrobe. The new Under Armour T-shirts were on sale at the Piccadilly theater on opening day, but I still wasn’t certain which size to get, so I passed on all of them. That turned out to be a big mistake, because they sold out pretty quickly. I thought this wouldn’t be the case at UA headquarters, but even they were having a hard time keeping them in stock. (Though the “Yamato bridge” T-shirt was apparently nobody’s favorite – myself included – so they were plentiful.)

Left to right: Yamato bridge (least popular), Yamato in flight (most popular),
Yamato profile (average), compression T (athletes only)

Anyway, the main reason to visit UA was to see the custom store display, which Japanese fans had already talked about on Twitter. It consisted of a big 1/500 model, a video screen looping the exclusive Under Armour 2202 promo video (with exclusive animation NOT seen in Chapter 1 – see it here), and the one-of-a-kind Akira Yamamoto flight suit. All there, all cool.

The staff was very helpful and English-speaking. Not only did they still have a T-shirt I liked (the profile version), they even let me try it on in a fitting room. Bingo – I am now comfortable in a Japanese Large. The cashier helpfully told me about the new Space Battleship Yamato series that had just started, and was amazed to learn that’s what I flew to Japan for. Plus, she had never heard of Star Blazers. Knowing is half the battle.

The rest of the afternoon was spent happily sniffing around in Shibuya’s Mandarake, the fascinating Tokyu Hands department store and one of the few remaining Tower Records (which used to make L.A. great) where I scored a copy of Junon, one of the remaining magazines on the search list. Dedicated to boy bands and idol singers, it’s the sort of thing I normally wouldn’t even notice, but that’s what a scavenger hunt is all about.

Macross/Yamato pals, L to R: Isao, Peter, me, Adrian, and Gwyn. The nice young lady
who took this photo of us turned out to be a Christian evangelist. And she was very, VERY chatty.

Dinner that evening was spent with Macross pals Gwyn Campbell and Adrian Lozano, who introduced me to a cool fella named Isao Yasuda. With our mutual friends translating for us, we hit it off right away. We’ve both been in the animation business for most of our professional lives, long enough to recognize a fellow traveler. Isao, who has a face that was designed to smile (seriously, he must smile even in his sleep) has actually logged some Yamato miles in the gaming world. As a CG modeler and animator, he has contributed to Leiji Matsumoto’s Dai Yamato and more than one Yamato pachinko game. That means he’s been paid to build and animate Yamato in CG, an enjoyable feat few can claim on their resume.

Isao currently works for Leiji Matsumoto’s Office Pri-on, a company dedicated to anime development. He’s listed as the producer and co-writer of this series, currently being pitched for TV. His profile is as follows: “A character contents planner, starting his career as a game producer for a major toy manufacturer.” I wish Isao the best of luck. If I lived in Japan, I have no doubt we’d be buds.

After dinner we stepped into a local pachinko joint and found the latest game based
on the classic original series. Isao did CG animation for the cut scenes! See a demo video here.

Gwyn and Adrian had hoped to corral me for a podcast recording after dinner, but with the day winding down I just didn’t have it in me, so we agreed to reassemble on Tuesday. Returning to the home base of Nakano, still carrying every single thing I bought that day, I decided to take one more around the neighborhood and see about knocking the last magazines off my list. Nakano is the kind of place where you only have to go about 100 feet to find a convenience store, and just a slight adjustment to my walking route brought half a dozen of them into range.

And thus, in less than half an hour, another one got knocked off the list. It was a trashy gossip magazine that later turned out to have no Yamato content at all, but it left only one more to find. Another day, another win.

The magazine shopping list at the start and the end of the day. The last item at the bottom, a manga mag
Young King, would remain unfound. I had to order it after I got home. Mission still accomplished.

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