Mecha designer Junichiro Tamamori interview, April 2017

Junichiro Tamamori’s name graced this website many times during the heady days of Yamato 2199. As a Yamato fan artist, his highly-popular Yamato Mechanics website blazed a trail all the way into the dream job of modernizing the ship for the remake, along with the other Earth mecha. Now that he’s doing the same for Yamato 2202, his first project was to take on Yamato‘s legendary successor, Space Battleship Andromeda.

In this interview for Model Graphix issue 391 (April 2017), he discussed the design philosophy that equipped him for this intimidating task. Also presented here is the complete 12-page article that encompassed his interview.

Andromeda‘s weapons have the essence of Thanatos and Eros

Following Space Battleship Yamato 2199, mecha designer Junichiro Tamamori took charge of the Andromeda remake. We talked with Mr. Tamamori about how remaking this masterpiece was accomplished; this great ship, which some fans revere more than even Yamato.

Interviewer: Did you already have an idea of “I’ll do it this way if Andromeda is renewed” before the current pitch was decided?

Tamamori: Yes, there was a plan. During the production of 2199, I was conscious of the change in Earth’s technology and paid attention to how the Earth side was built before the Iscandar expedition, and also how it would be revived afterward. Andromeda and the main battleship were conceived at the time while designing ships and fighters. Specifically, things like retractable ladders to make the appearance clearer and to solidify the connection between Andromeda‘s forward and rear hull since I wanted to reproduce the overall impression of the “forward pass (visual).”

Interviewer: How were you able to make use of them in the actual design work this time?

Tamamori: When I was asked to do the design, in my first telephone meeting with Director Habara I asked him, “What sort of image are you aiming for in the plan and forward pass?” And without hesitation he replied, “I want to recreate Andromeda‘s forward pass.” The director already had a clear vision of “how it will reappear” and “matching it to the worldview” so I was able to concentrate on wrestling with it.

For expressing the mecha in the main story, the “hand-drawn detail-up over a still picture” method was heavily used in Yamato 2199. It was supposed to incorporate detail into the 3D model, and since there was also talk of plamodels, I decided to design details first to some extent. Since a lot of features and equipment were added there, it expanded the possibilities of using them in the production.

Interviewer: After the first Andromeda there were some new Andromedas, from a game version (it appeared in the Farewell to Yamato PS1 game) to the Soul of Chogokin version. Were you conscious of those?

Tamamori: Kazutaka Miyatake, who was originally in charge of Andromeda‘s mecha design, continued pursuing it from there. (Read an interview with Miyatake about the game design here.) The game version showed a change of design approach to Yamato mecha, and I’d always observed the design for three-dimensional objects such as the plamodel and the Soul of Chogokin version. There is a lot you can get out of it when thinking about the expressions of the 3D modeling era, especially in the game version; not just Andromeda but the main battleship that was similar in style.

Interviewer: What is your image of Andromeda? Also, what influence did that image have on the refining? If you have a specific image, please describe it.

Tamamori: The image of Andromeda has changed in various ways. First, just before Farewell to Yamato came out in 1978, the design setting of Andromeda appeared in the first issue of Animage, and I was fascinated by its modernity compared to the anachronistic Yamato. The image itself was the change from “TV manga” to “Animation.” (See the full article from Animage issue 1 here.)

In Okinawa, where I lived at the time, since it was immediately after cars made the changeover from left-hand drive to right-hand drive, we saw the nostalgia of America get completely exchanged for the economic growth and remarkable modernization of Japan. That overlaps with Earth’s revitalization leading to a new age in the post-Garmillas War era. There was the same spirit after the Vietnam war. From such a background, Andromeda has the image of a “new age.”

From the time I participated in fan club activities, Andromeda has been a “symbol of revival and power,” being “self-made,” a “killing weapon,” a “strong man who died a regretful death,” and the complex image of a “goddess” dressed in beautiful clothes.

Interviewer: What point did you start with when you began working?

Tamamori: Making the concept. Looking over the show’s script, I took “automobile design” as the modeling concept and then did the image work with “goddess” and “magic power” as the key concepts. To be more specific, “to design the surface as a volume, not a line,” and a “moderately firm body (a balance of plump and muscular).” I think it was also affected by my losing weight on a metabolic diet. I wanted to express a kind of “magical power.”

Interviewer: Were there any parts that weren’t decided until the end?

Tamamori: The changes in the specific thickness of the teeth in the Wave-Motion muzzle weren’t decided until the end. I left it to the person in charge of the 3D modeling.

Interviewer: Earlier you spoke about the “forward pass visual.” Did you have any difficulties reproducing it?

Tamamori: I submitted the first idea sketch around autumn of 2015, which included the policies of “slope of the Wave-Motion muzzle” and “a Coke-bottle-like swelling of the hull.” I went to Tokyo to exchange views with Director Habara, Assistant Director Kobayashi, and Set Designer Takakura and the trend started.

Parts of Mr. Tamamori’s design sketches. Many design approaches can be seen, such as the hull’s center point being different at the front and rear, the shape of the Wave-Motion Guns discussed in this interview, and how the highlights appear.

In a later meeting, Mr. Kobayashi pointed out that “The front of Andromeda has a hint of the [Lambourghini] Countache,” which was a feeling that I somehow fell into. Because I was conscious of my own car designs, I pushed forward without hesitation to draw the specific image of a “70s Supercar.”

The size of the ship changed from 275m to 444m long, and I was able to derive the size to 440m with any trouble, but I had a hard time changing the positions of the larger parts when I packed on the details. Beauty doesn’t necessarily just come from the flow of a large hull shape, but the harmony of medium-size parts such as the lower box, and each bulge is important. Also, in order to put together the group of parts you could classify as miscellaneous, it was necessary to give strength to the hull form itself.

This is an application of car design. The overall form. You can see mainly from the top, but it bulges outward from the narrow neck into a sharp curved composition, the so-called Coke bottle, and the surfaces are devised to give the ship character without playing with linework. Specifically, I designed highlights. When lighting is applied to a pass, you can see the highlights on the bulge in the center of the hull’s flanks, the bulge section that is non-circular (an elliptical shape with a small arc radius).

The design of the top surface gave me a harder time than the flanks. The front part is two hull-widths, but the real hull is constituted around one large main engine, and I had to carefully design the shape of the four sub-engines so it wouldn’t become strangely top-heavy. The hull design was created and confirmed in a 3D sketch using Rhinoceros 3DCAD for industrial design.

This doesn’t appear directly on the surface, but whereas other ships are done with the meter method, an embedded feature of Andromeda was to use the yard pond method for setting the dimensions between bulkheads. It’s similar to the main battleship, but I casually included the thought that there may be differences in each country’s design stage.

Interviewer: One place where the form has changed compared with the old Andromeda is the second bridge, which rises taller and catches the eye. What was the intention behind this bold change, and what other gallery elements have changed?

Tamamori: I changed the design mainly to match the main battleship. To give it more of a mysterious biological image, it’s an aerodynamic design that retroactively takes the streamlined shape into consideration. The modeling of the bridge structure still has the impression of a human hand. It’s connected to an expression of “magical power.”

Yamato‘s bridge superstructure also lacked the dynamism of a living creature, so I gave that some consideration as well.

Interviewer: The design of the Wave-Motion muzzle has also changed greatly this time. A beautiful figure has emerged, especially since the front, which was vertical, has now been cut diagonally.

Tamamori: I decided to give it a bold slant there. (I got the OK from Director Habara on my first idea sketch.) In the original work, the “approaching movement” in the front-pass visual has a dynamic image that can be interpreted as a little exaggerated, and when observing the top view/bottom view diagram, the line of the Wave muzzle in the bottom view is thicker compared to the top view.

I took it as a message from Mr. Miyatake that said, “it’s slightly inclined.” Although it is expressed vertically in the side view, I thought it was due to the circumstances of the time and it was drawn that way for easier understanding.

To simplify the explanation, we made sacrifices to deal with integrating it into 3D, the same as how with the Cosmo Tiger II that appears in Farewell to Yamato, I can confirm that there’s a disparity in the location of the main wing in the side view.

Also, the line connecting the top and bottom of the hexagonal shape of the Wave muzzle looks like an inverted V-shape when seen from the front. It has the image of a giant robot’s eyes from the 70s. Because it has two eyes and a reptilian mouth, this part expresses a magical power, so each angle was carefully set.

(Special thanks to Mr. Tamamori for clarifying this concept with the sketch at right.)

Interviewer: Finally, I’d like to know if you have a message for the fans that comes from your thoughts about refining this Andromeda.

Tamamori: More than 40 years after the original work, I thought about what kind of enthusiasm there is now for Andromeda. I’ve received the impression of “I’m thrilled” from many places for not just Andromeda, but the overall design of Yamato 2202. The animal side of human nature that thinks of “war” is always conscious of the patterns of knives, guns, and other weapons, and I’ve found that a magical power lurks there: “Thanatos (the impulse to death)” and “Eros (the impulse to life).” (I’m thinking back to the traditions of Freud on sexuality.) I think it has the essence of human history being inseparable from “weapons.”

Through the design for this remake, I realized that the masterpiece design of Andromeda is surely equipped with them. I get a “thrill” when I think of writer Harutoshi Fukui’s slogan “This love will shatter the cosmos”, and “humanism” is another word that this work wants to express.

Through my relationship with Andromeda, which seems to be located at the core of 2202, I didn’t forget to ask fundamental questions about human beings, and I strongly wanted to do mecha design that looks toward the future while holding onto the viewpoint of controlling the impulse

It is being reconstituted as a Bandai model kit, and I’m glad that each part has a subtle curved surface. There is also the appeal of easy assembly and the electronic parts, and I think it will become a wonderful product. When you take that kit into your hands and assemble it, please feel the “thrill.” I’ll be glad if everyone finds a new sense of values through the model.

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

Read the Yamato 2199 interviews with Tamamori here:

Cosmo DNA interview, 2011/2012

Hobby magazines, July 2012

Otona Anime Vol. 28, March 2013

Model Graphix #352, January 2014

Hobby magazines, December 2014

2 thoughts on “Mecha designer Junichiro Tamamori interview, April 2017

  1. Dang! I never knew that the design for the Andromeda for Yamato 2202 would be inspired by a 1970s Lamborghini! That is pretty sweet!

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