Kenichi Suzumura Interview

Animate Times, February 22, 2017. See the original post here

What is the “Will of Yamato” inherited by voice actor Kenichi Suzumura?

Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love interview

The legendary Space Battleship Yamato TV anime series was broadcast on Yomiuri TV in 1974. Nearly 40 years later, Yamato 2199 premiered in 2012 to produce an enthusiastic movement among fans old and new. The latest series, Yamato 2202 will finally be released in theaters February 25, 2017.

Prior to the screening, Animate Times talked with Kenichi Suzumura, who played the hero Susumu Kodai’s friend Daisuke Shima, who has steered Yamato since 2199. He talked about the appeal and highlights of this work.

Our coverage is full of jokes and laughs, but Mr. Suzumura’s firm passion for Yamato is impressive.

A work that embodies the Will of Yamato

Interviewer: You’re recording Yamato again after two years, so please give us your thoughts on performing again.

Suzumura: “It finally came!” It was like that. I’ve been looking forward to this work the whole time, and when recording began it finally became reality.

Interviewer: Many people have been looking forward to it. What was it like at the site after such a long time?

Suzumura: It was a long time, but it wasn’t awkward at all. As things built up with 2199, the cast became stronger. I was able to adapt to the atmosphere on-site without even thinking about it.

Interviewer: Now that 2202 has finally started, what are your impressions from reading the script?

Suzumura: I simply thought, “This is a really good book.” The goal in 2199 was to head for Iscandar and shoulder the fate of Earth, a heroic script. This time, it starts with a very painful scene that makes you think the Earth hasn’t been saved. Yamato saved the Earth, but Earth as a whole hasn’t become a monolith yet. Various different failures have already occurred.

It’s not just about the heroes saving Earth this time, the drama is also strongly depicted. Yamato launches again to confront a bad situation, which leads to a positive image. It’s SF, but it’s a work that pursues reality, and I can really feel the tone of the Yamato epoch has been inherited in the screenplay.

Interviewer: Since this is a remake of Farewell to Yamato with a modern interpretation, I think the expectations are even greater.

Suzumura: The qualities of Yamato have been extracted amazingly well into a modern script. I think you can feel that 2202 is a work that inherits the “will of Yamato.” The old fans and those who supported 2199 can see it with confidence, and even those who will see Yamato for the first time should feel that “This is a great work for Japan.” I believe it will become a masterpiece.

Interviewer: What is the strength and appeal of the work called Yamato?

Suzumura: Isn’t it the reality in the heart of each character? In 2199, everyone got on board the ship with the big intention to save the Earth. Now that that fight is over, everyone is changing little by little in 2202. Shima, who I play, is considering leaving the military while Kodai argues that he should get back on Yamato and head off into space. I think the rest of the crew will surely have their own ideas. What answer will they give to starting a journey into space again? I’m excited just thinking about it.

My chest heated up while recording

Interviewer: Production of the sequel was announced nearly two years after 2199 ended. Did you have any anxiety or tension at that time?

Suzumura: It was a great joy! Looking back, I was a little nervous when I joined 2199. I was excited at that time and thought “This will be a great work” and I believed in the staff at the recording. But to be honest, when it was announced to the world that “A new Yamato will be made,” I felt the anxiety of the fans. But when the 2199 theater screenings began, the evaluation shifted right away and it was accepted that “a great work has been born!” I can’t forget the excitement at that time. And from then on, I heard plenty of voices say, “When will you do a sequel?” and I definitely believed it would come. So when the story finally came, “Hooray!” (Laughs)

Interviewer: When were you certain that 2199 would catch on?

Suzumura: I felt it during the recording of the first chapter. I wanted to announce it to the world immediately. (Laughs) My chest heated up in the recording. The best part was the moment when Kodai and Shima found Yamato, where that theme flowed through that everyone knows. I thought this would surely catch on with everyone, and I had a strong feeling that everyone would see it.

However, I think there are more people who don’t know Yamato at all, even in real time. Meanwhile, 2199 was accepted by the younger generation and many women watched it, too. Its content was a great success. And now that 2202 is the sequel, the pressure of higher expectations is just fine.

Interviewer: What do you consider to be the highlights?

Suzumura: In 2199, Yamato‘s crew was able to reach Iscandar by becoming unified. So when it’s is over and they save Earth, you think of it as a great heroic story. But when we return to Earth, the situation isn’t going as well as we thought. It’s a bit sad that the crew was not rewarded even though they tried so hard. That’s why Shima is thinking of leaving the military.

Meanwhile, Kodai takes action and says, “It can still be done.” I think the power to make that decision is really great. I’d like you to see that and see how it moves the hearts of Shima and the crew.

Interviewer: It seems like a situation where the crew can become unified again. Everyone feels somehow like a soldier, which seems like an unfamiliar development for the fans.

Suzumura: Like it’s burning. Because the groundwork of 2199 was so big, it happens in a short time in this chapter. Everyone is troubled and oppressed, and the catharsis of getting back on Yamato is exciting. I think the drama unfolds really comfortably.

Interviewer: It’s gathered up beautifully into a story, isn’t it?

Suzumura: There seem to be complex human relations, and it’s sorted out so that you can perceive it easily without worrying about it. There is mystery in the parts that aren’t depicted, of course, but the relationships of these people clearly come through. I often thought 2202 would start with a lot of explanatory scenes, but it wasn’t like that. Since the flow of the characters’ emotions is so strong, I think you can empathize with them when you watch it.

A great love for Shima!

Interviewer: The new character Kiman appears this time, played by Hiroshi Kamura. How do you think he is involved in the story?

Suzumura: He’s a character of many mysteries. I don’t know yet what kind of fight he’ll get into, but from what I’ve overheard he’ll do fascinating things. The feeling is as his name suggests. [Key man] It wasn’t depicted deeply in the first chapter, but I’m expecting a lot from the future. I think the human relationships will become even more complex and intertwined with him as a trigger.

In 2199, there was an insistence on sticking to the core principles in the respective viewpoints; Yamato for Yamato, Garmillas for Garmillas. But it’s a mix from the beginning in 2202. Kiman seems like a friend, but there are secrets going on in the background. This is a development that wasn’t in the original Yamato. I think there will be a case where the goal that some envision will become blurred. That will certainly make the story of 2202 even more fascinating.

When you have an obstacle to get over, a story becomes interesting. It’s boring when you have a story where nothing changes. I expect that Kiman will cause a stir because he’s a character charged with the role of stoking controversy.

Interviewer: In addition to wanting 2202 to be like this in the future, do you have your own expectations?

Suzumura: For now, I just want Shima to get on Yamato. (All laugh)

Suzumura: It’s a scary thought, but there is the possibility of him not getting on board. The staff seems to be considering bold things like this. (Laughs) But I take pride that only Shima can steer Yamato. So far, Kenji Akabane in the role of Yasuo Nanbu can claim, “I steered Yuunagi in the first chapter” in an assistant position, and I’m a bit uneasy when I talk about that, but…since he got to fire the Wave-Motion Gun in 2199, I will not hand over the steering of Yamato! I can’t be left behind on Earth, say it isn’t so… (Laughs)

Interviewer: You definitely feel uneasy. (Laughs)

Suzumura: Speaking of being left behind, there’s one more thing. In 2199, all the men including Kodai look good and are popular with women, except maybe that hyper-serious Sanada. Therefore, Shima should get a partner. It would be a good development for Shima in 2202. The catch phrase is “This love will shake the cosmos.” So I expect that Shima will get a great love.

The origin of Yamato for Suzumura was in his father’s singing

Interviewer: That reminds me, when did you first encounter Yamato?

Suzumura: I knew of the existence of Yamato when I first arrived, and I already had Yamato with me in childhood. My father, who doesn’t watch much anime, sang the Yamato song. So it may be that my father’s singing was the starting point of Yamato for me. After that, I have a faint memory of watching TV reruns.

As you could expect, the content was difficult for me in those days. It had the feeling of an adult anime. I liked things with more fighting and BOOM and CRASH in them. When I saw Yamato, I thought “There are no robots in this.” (Laughs) When we finished 2199 and I looked back at it, I thought, “This is an adult story after all.”

Interviewer: Do you look at the past works as a reference for Shima?

Suzumura: Actually, for Shima the shaping of the character in 2199 is different from Yamato in 1974. In the past he was depicted as a more adult man, and the Shima I play is still maturing. So I reviewed the original Yamato, but there wasn’t much I could reference for his character. However, I felt what I call the “Yamato-ness.” There is the power to overcome any pinch and conquer it. I wanted to cherish that when I played Shima in 2199. It’s also true for the future of 2202, and specifically because Shima is responsible for steering the ship, Yamato will sink if he gives up. It is said that never giving up is an important quality of “Yamato-ness” and it’s the most important lesson of the original Yamato.

Interviewer: What particular aspects of Yamato do you pay attention to?

Suzumura: The magnificent worldview and the characters who are full of life. When men watch anime, they think most people look at the story and worldview, but women have the impression that most people focus on the characters. They may look cool and beautiful, but they have to have a backbone. If there is no element at the core of a character, no one will empathize with them.

That part is also solid in Yamato, and by boldly depicting Earth in the grand worldview of SF, a lot of empathic characters are created. You should definitely see it in a theater, and I’ll be glad if you can become immersed in the story and characters. Every character with a backbone is attractive.

Oh, and I particularly recommend the character of Shima. (Laughs) Please look forward to it!

Interviewer: (Laughs) Thank you very much.

Interview by Yu Ishibashi
Composition by Naoki Hara

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