”When a big thing falls, a man wants to push it back”
Interview with Director Nobuyoshi Habara and writer Harutoshi Fukui
Interview by Kiyoshi Tane
Nobuyoshi Habara (left) and Harutoshi Fukui (right)
The day for Yamato to depart for the galactic ocean has come again at last! The long-awaited Yamato 2202 Chapter 2, Launch Chapter, opens nationally on June 24 for a limited time. Based on Farewell to Yamato and Yamato 2, it is a legitimate sequel to Yamato 2199. Nobuyoshi Habara directed two episodes of 2199, and writer Harutoshi Fukui worked on the story of Mobile Suit Gundam UC.
The story begins to move in earnest this time in Chapter 2, and we asked these two about the story and production secrets. The new opponent Gatlantis appears, Earth and Garmillas engage in secret manuevers behind the scenes of reconstruction, and a secret voice calls the former Yamato crew together. Hints to decipher these complex stories may be hiding in this interview…
The seminal Yamato experiences of Nobuyoshi Habara and Harutoshi Fukui
Interviewer: Yamato 2199 came to an end, but it restarts as Yamato 2202. You both have strong feelings for Space Battleship Yamato, don’t you?
Habara: Yes. I watched the first TV broadcast (1974) in real time. I was in the direct-hit generation. Just a little under Hideaki Anno’s generation (born 1960).
Fukui: I was a third-grader at that time, different from the direct-hit generation. I stretched myself to see what made that generation so excited.
Interviewer: If anything, Mobile Suit Gundam was your direct hit.
Fukui: That’s right.
Interviewer: Mr. Habara, was the impact of Yamato the trigger that put you on the animation path?
Habara: Before Yamato, I was baptized by Mazinger Z. By 1974, I already wanted to become an animator. When Yamato came out of my TV screen every week, I drew a flip book while watching the scene where it flies by and goes off into the distance.
Fukui: Mr. Habara’s generation is probably at the lower limit of the Yamato direct hit. Hideaki Anno, Yutaka Izubuchi (2199‘s director), and Ryusuke Hikawa (anime/tokusatsu expert) are in the central layer. I’m in the generation that got hand-me-downs from older brothers and sisters as they got absorbed in Gunpla (Gundam model kits).
Interviewer: Yamato was the first big hit with plamo (plastic models) and then Gunpla were created.
Fukui: I have memories of Yamato plamo. A friend’s older brother learned a technique of heating up a nail and piercing a model with it to make it look like a hole was struck. I tried it myself on most of my models, and when my parents found out I was severely scolded. Well, it was dangerous to play with fire. I held model kits in pliers and melted them with fire until it escalated and they turned into black lumps.
Habara: A lot of soot came out, didn’t it?
Interviewer: Far from being hit, it was bombed and sank instantly.
Fukui: There was a moment when I felt a little chill. I should note here that good children should not do as I did.
From the completion of 2199 to the restart of 2202
Interviewer: The previous work Yamato 2199 was a masterpiece, and the sealing up of the Wave-Motion Gun could be considered a symbol that brought it to an end. Was it hard to restart from there?
Fukui: That’s how it ended, but in the feature film Ark of the Stars they couldn’t use it against Gatlantis because they had capped it. Speaking from the storyteller side, there is no more delicious a situation. You can get a lot of drama out of that.
Interviewer: It’s not a pinch, but a chance.
Fukui: Which I’m using as much as I can.
Interviewer: Has Yamato 2202 been moving forward from a very early stage?
Fukui: I got the word before Yamato 2199 was finished, which certainly was early on, but it was about the beginning of 2015 when we decided what direction to go. After I handed over the proposal it had the feeling of moving in earnest.
Interviewer: You wrote the plan book. The original feature film Farewell to Yamato took place in 2201, a year after the battle with Gamilas, but this time 2202 takes place three years after 2199.
Habara: The first thought was that reconstruction would be difficult in just one year.
Fukui: Simply put, I got the idea for the “2” from the title of the previous work, 2199. For older fans it may be Yamato 2, but with the Soldiers of Love subtitle attached, it might be Farewell to Yamato. But to keep the implication that it may be neither, I wanted to emphasize the 2.
Habara: 2202 was already firmly established from the first stage of Mr. Fukui’s proposal.
Interviewer: At the beginning of Chapter 1, I was surprised that it was Great Emperor Zordar who talked about love.
Habara: That is new, isn’t it? I trembled the first time I read the script. That’s how it connects to The Universe Spreading into Infinity! At that point, it was a feeling from which all the opening images were conceived.
Interviewer: In the original work, the Great Emperor gave a strong impression of power by citing philosophy.
Habara: By bringing that into the beginning, I think it shows that Dagarm in Ark of the Stars (an uncouth Gatlantis commander) does not represent the entire family of Gatlantis. In that way, the pipe organ music becomes useable since Zordar recites philosophy. While reading the script, that was a place where I felt, “This is it.”
Interviewer: It was Tomonori Kogawa (character animation director of Farewell to Yamato) who took charge of the art for Zordar in that scene.
Habara: It could only be Mr. Kogawa. It’s best to have it drawn by the man himself. We sometimes go drinking together, so I could make that request of him.
Interviewer: You also worked with him on Yamato Resurrection (2009).
Habara: We had that relationship, too. Even though Mr. Kogawa was busy, he really saved me. Naturally, the images are wonderful. I personally wanted to see his name in the credits.
Interviewer: I still see the names of big veterans on active duty in a number of anime.
Habara: But actually, rather than Mr. Kogawa, the concept for Zordar was drawn by our character designer, Nobuteru Yuuki. I think it’s close to what Mr. Kogawa did in those days. Mr. Yuuki has great respect for Mr. Kogawa, and this is the only character Mr. Kogawa is doing. Because it’s still “Mr. Kogawa’s image,” it’s become very powerful. I think it’s good to have that relationship between the films.
CG drawing that cherishes “Yamato-ness”
Interviewer: The first fleet battle was spectacular with a heavy-feeling finish. Did that reflect the intentions of you both?
Habara: Although it’s set in outer space, we were conscious of wanting to give it a “sense of great weight.” For example, when a battleship turns it was about six seconds in the storyboard but it felt too quick when we rendered it. So we tried it at 12 seconds, and as a result of that steady increase it sharpened various things about it.
The script included more depictions of the Garmillas side and interiors of the Gatlantis ships, but we had no choice but to remove it for time. As a result, I think it was possible to make it more “Susumu Kodai’s story.”
Interviewer: Big fleet warfare has an image of mass, so it would be bad for it to be speedy.
Fukui: In terms of realism, since space is airless the engine corresponds to the mass it has to move, so you could fly like a fighter, but that’s not Yamato. Yamato was originally made in the days when they didn’t think about such things. So it was our intention from the beginning to properly set up an environment that can produce that image.
However, we finally figured out when starting with the storyboards that making that image would take more time than we could estimate. It became very clear that if we did it using Gundam’s intervals, we’d never get it nailed down. In the case of Gundam, it’s just the opposite, in that the combat scenes are pared down.
Interviewer: In Gundam the battles are speedy, but Yamato is the opposite, isn’t it?
Habara: It is said that the battle scenes in Yamato become enormous.
Interviewer: With contemporary CG technology, you’re able to express the incredible resources of the Earth, Garmillas, and Gatlantis armies.
Habara: That’s right. If the first episode of 2199 was hand-drawn, we might still be making it even now. (Laughs)
Interviewer: On the other hand, even with CG technology to depict the quantity of fleet warfare, it still seems like a Yamato visual when a Garmillas ship holds up a huge shield against Gatlantis’ Flame Strike Gun.
Habara: That was Assistant Director Makoto Kobayashi’s idea. Surprising, isn’t it?
Interviewer: CG is good at moving many objects effectively, but in the 2202 fleet battle there are also a lot of powerful shots with a hand-crafted flavor.
Habara: The size of the ships changes from shot to shot. We also doubled the size of the large Gatlantis battleship so it would be recognized as something huge. When I directed Episode 19 of 2199, the size of the Domelaze didn’t come out well. When I thought about it, it was because I tell a lie in the size contrast when I draw it by hand. I thought about incorporating that and asked the CG staff to change the size in different shots and even change the proportions.
Interviewer: Even with CG it takes effort.
Habara: That’s right. It is done by hand, after all.
Fukui: With mecha, while some of these ships look like something new, the feeling of old familiar things also comes out.
Habara: It’s expected with Yamato, after all. For example, in addition to the normal version of the Cosmo Tiger II, I tried to make a “Version K” I’ve never done that with other works. I wanted to do something new.
Interviewer: The K in “Version K” is for the genius animator Yoshinori Kanada, who passed away in 2009. The nose and wingtips are slightly lower, which gives it a unique perspective.
Habara: From the time 2202 was decided, I thought “I want to do that.” Maybe it’s just my selfishness over the original Yamato, but since the hand-crafted taste of the art was so significant, I wanted to be careful with it.
Interviewer: In the midst of that heavy fleet battle, the movement of Yuunagi, with Kodai as the captain, was light.
Habara: I wanted to give it the feeling of Mamoru Kodai (Kodai’s brother) as the captain of Yukikaze at the beginning of 2199. I wanted it to have a “brotherly” feeling.
Fukui: Since Kodai is a fighter pilot, his ship moves like a fighter.
Habara: He’s a master of the Cosmo Zero.
Interviewer: Then there’s the scene where Kodai tries to push up the large Gatlantis battleship with Yuunagi as it’s heading for Earth.
Fukui: When a big thing falls, a man wants to push it back.
Habara: That was an image board of Mr. Kobayashi’s, pushing up the large battleship.
From Yamato With Love fills a movie theatre after an interval of 40 years
Interviewer: There were a lot of surprises in Chapter 1, but it was a really nice surprise for the fans that Kenji Sawada’s From Yamato With Love was used (the end theme from Farewell to Yamato).
Habara: It was my intention to say “this is the one and only” because there was nothing else like it.
Fukui: With 2199 the ending theme from the original was The Scarlet Scarf, so this one could only be From Yamato With Love.
Habara: Another reason was that it’s been about 40 years since that song filled a movie theatre in Farewell.
Interviewer: For the real-time fans from those days, it is a song of youth.
Habara: That’s right, I don’t know how much I cried to that song, since when I saw Farewell I was crying long before it reached the ending.
Fukui: It had the feeling of a coup de grace.
Habara: The tears don’t stop and the nose keeps running. It wasn’t just me, you could hear sniffling throughout the whole movie theatre. It had the feeling of being baptized. And I want to cherish the feelings of Yamato fans, but the new songs are good too. The end song of Chapter 2 by Sayaka Kanda as Teresa has a feeling of transparency. Her singing voice is tremendously good.
The story of 2199 after the 3/11 earthquake
Interviewer: Three years pass between 2199 and 2202 in the story, which is a short period for such a big expansion in armaments; five Andromeda-type ships and a “Wave-Motion Gun Fleet.” So it’s great that this was explained by a time fault (a side-effect of the Cosmo Reverse System that saved Earth, a space in which time passes ten times faster). Where did that idea come from?
Fukui: There’s a story behind it. It flows differently than in the plan I submitted. It was done by two people; Mr. Habara was assigned to the sequel of 2199 and Hideki Oka (director of Ultraman Saga) wrote a script. When the outline for the project was finally solidified and we met for the first time we said, “Here’s what I came up with” and the “time fault” idea was in one of the documents. Both sides brought together completely different ideas, and after considering various things I went with this plan. Mr. Habara came up with the “time fault” on the side and I definitely thought it would be helpful, so I incorporated it on my side.
Interviewer: The time fault not only explains the consistency of time to build a big fleet in three years, but also has the darkness of a hidden collusion between the Earth government and Garmillas.
Fukui: It’s a scary thing to think about in reality, isn’t it? What does it mean to have that? I’m planning to further develop it in the future.
Habara: With that, it was good to clearly understand the collusion between Earth and Garmillas in a visual.
Interviewer: Unlike in the original Farewell to Yamato, it became possible on the time axis of 2199 because Garmillas was not destroyed. Still, the structure of “Earth and Garmillas and Gatlantis” is more complex, isn’t it?
Habara: I think Mr. Fukui had a tough time with that. It’s very difficult to depict three forces coming out.
Fukui: Conversely, I did my best not to make it a triple-threat. If we did it, that part would be unlike the flavor of the original Yamato. Instead, I’m using “Earth and Garmillas” as a metaphor of the US/Japan alliance.
Interviewer: The topic we talked about earlier, of solving the sealed-up Wave-Motion Gun, is a big axis of the story, isn’t it?
Fukui: The Wave-Motion Gun problem is a metaphor for nuclear power plants. Like last year’s Shin Godzilla, Yamato is also a story of “after Japan has a significant experience, how do you sublimate it and turn it into a catharsis?”
After Japan lost World War II, the original Yamato said “War is useless,” but young people have lived through a time when the words “Why is war bad?” have taken wing. I think it’s a very big thing to be able to experience it firsthand. The first Godzilla was a Tokyo air raid, a movie that reproduced the experience of people whose homeland was overrun and made it cathartic. I think the boom also happened because of that background.
Interviewer: For people with a huge shared experience, it was moving to see another reality and a solution on film. It can be a force for advancement.
Fukui: The war is long over with, and our generation has never seen or heard it. But on the other hand, a huge earthquake happened, so the time has come again when it’s necessary to bring a catharsis to such a major event. I think 2202 and Shin Godzilla both have that premise.
2199 premiered after the earthquake, but since the project was already well along it was never able to incorporate that situation. Since this project was launched after the earthquake, we caught it in the gut and it feels like how the old Yamato was properly structured for wide acceptance. In that way, it was homework left by 2199. We could also use the concepts of the original Farewell to Yamato as a structure.
Also, even though the “time fault” idea didn’t come from me, I was able to incorporate it and it was a boost to the times. So I think 2202 can jump forward now.
The newborn Andromeda symbolizes “A society that doesn’t keep its promises.”
Interviewer: The battleship Andromeda is synonymous with Farewell to Yamato, and has played an active role from Chapter 1. There is also the strong presence of the Dispersion Wave-Motion Gun this time.
Fukui: The original Andromeda had the role of “the unfortunate handsome man,” didn’t it? This time, we’re going to properly show its cool.
Interviewer: There’s also an intimidating feeling when it appears, and an aura of evil.
Fukui: It is thanks to the concept of the “forbidden Wave-Motion Gun.” So using a warship loaded with two Wave-Motion Guns can only place it in the role of a villain. It looks like a rival right away, and when we properly show the strength of the Dispersion Wave-Motion Gun annihilating a large fleet and a floating continent all at once, we put it right up front as something scary.
Interviewer: The visual of a Dispersion Wave-Motion Gun roasting an entire fleet is not the picture of justice, is it?
Habara: As Mr. Fukui well says, by showing two Wave-Motion guns when even one is too much, when we hear Nanbu yell “IDIOTS” at Andromeda, it’s a cry of not knowing what will happen to the world. That leads to a feeling of being grateful that the Wave-Motion Gun was sealed up.
Interviewer: Yamato’s treaty with Iscandar has been broken, and the Wave-Motion Gun fleet plan was promoted.
Fukui: That was a “promise,” not a treaty. It was a bluff from the Earth side. But to a person, a promise is more important than a treaty. The man named Susumu Kodai keeps sticking to it. We live in a society that does not keep its promises.
Rather than promises, human beings have no choice but go through the experience of priority being given to the economy, and it gets worse every year. When we were kids, adults were sometimes forced into a decision where they had to betray their beliefs, and I think there are some parts to this future that were never imagined. In that sense, I had good materials to work with.
Habara: I think it’s suitable for these times, and there is great significance to doing it now.
Interviewer: Andromeda shoulders that theme, but I was surprised that Yamato did not surface in Chapter 1.
Habara: It’s shown bursting up in the poster.
Interviewer: But attacking and destroying the giant Gatlantis battleship with just the main guns became really strong, didn’t it?
Fukui: The giant battleship survived even Andromeda’s fire, and Yamato took it down with a single shot. But nobody who saw it complains about this. They just say, “Well, that’s because it’s Yamato.” At that point, you have a realism that is unique to Yamato. I don’t quite know what it is, but it’s the strongest and I have to preserve it properly.
Interviewer: It’s the Yamato aesthetic. I’m sure Sanada gave it a huge power-up during the remodeling, didn’t he?
Habara: Personally, I wanted to have Yamato moving while in the process of being rebuilt, by all means. So it settled into that appearance.
Interviewer: And Yamato and Andromeda face off in the climax of Chapter 2.
Habara: They actually crash. From the beginning of the story, we didn’t want them to just pass by each other.
Fukui: Because it’s a ship, you have to shoot at it, but it wouldn’t be fun if it was shot and hit. And just having warning shots wouldn’t be exciting. Therefore, I decided to use the asteroid ring, which hadn’t been used yet.
The balance of “modern themes” with “memories of the original”
Interviewer: Kodai is “a man who keeps his promises.” He had a cool personality in 2199, but he’s a little hot-blooded in 2202, isn’t he?
Habara: When we inherited the character from 2199, I wanted to show a difference in expressions with the camera work.
Fukui: I think 2199 was trying to depict “the world.” It incorporated the worldview of the previous work, and it was great to be immersed in that and to enjoy it. But in a movie for a general audience, the customers are interested in “Who did what??” after all. So in depicting human beings this time, when I’m thinking about making it easier for an ordinary person to watch, it’s proper to basically do “the story of a man named Susumu Kodai.” I think that’s a clear difference from the previous one.
Habara: Kodai is very troubled, and you feel sorry for him. You want him to do his best.
Fukui: Currently, many people go out into society and are in a position where they take on every little thing on their own.
Interviewer: While inheriting the heat of the original, we make it into a force to break through contemporary problems.
Fukui: That’s right. When there’s too much heat in a love relationship, sometimes it can backfire. Even so, I think it’s another step toward adulthood.
Interviewer: Thanks to Kodai’s keen interest in the future of the universe, it suddenly complicates his romance with Yuki Mori
Fukui: That’s right. Yuki Mori doesn’t show up at all.
Interviewer: A strong impression of the flavor from Farewell and Yamato 2 comes through on the screen.
Habara: From the stage of the very first script meetings, we wanted to have “the scenes everyone knows” as much as possible. That’s the body. Even if it has a different flow, those visuals cause excitement.
Fukui: There is a sense of elation you get from watching a remake of Farewell. But if it developed in the same way, you’d conversely get bored. You can just go back and look at the original story. So we’re taking great pains to balance the new parts with callbacks to the old ones.
Interviewer: With modern social conditions and new gimmicks, the memories of the original are set up to make waves.
Habara: It’s a flow where you get interested in a new part and then suddenly return to an old one and then go to a new place again. There really is a sense of it being calculated from the script stage.
Interviewer: Was it difficult to write a screenplay that incorporates such various elements?
Fukui: A lot of opinions came up over whether or not it was the right way, but I didn’t have much trouble. Rather than “I don’t know how to finish it” I naturally feel “that must be it.” The direction was decided from the beginning at the stage when the title was attached.
With the theme of “love” in this era of frequently seen words like “terrorist bombing,” if I say “the ending of the story is a suicide attack” and do a modern dismantling of that, it may have been a straight and narrow road in a way. There aren’t many options, and you could say that I worked to fire a straight shot at the goal. It was seriously hard work, but there wasn’t much hesitation.
The voyage of Yamato toward the last chapter
Interviewer: In Chapter 2 this time, the voyage of Yamato finally begins in earnest.
Habara: It’s a long trip of 26 episodes in 7 chapters. We’re just barely making it.
Fukui: It’s not a job you can do in this short a time period, is it?
Habara: No, not really. From Chapter 2 onward, each chapter contains four TV episodes. The delivery date comes every three months. If you had to make a two-hour feature film every three months, it would be really hard.
Interviewer: If it was a TV anime, you could lighten the burden by reducing the amount of drawing for a few episodes. But you can’t do that with a feature film because of its quality.
Habara: That’s right. It took two years to make two and a half hours for Yamato Resurrection. Now we’re doing that in three months. Plus, it’s a shorter time span than 2199.
Interviewer: 2199 took a considerably long time from production to theater screenings and TV broadcasts, didn’t it?
Habara: There was actually quite a lot of lead time before Chapter 1 showed up in theaters, and thanks to what was set up with 2199 we can somehow do 2202. That’s what saved us.
Interviewer: As an audience member, I’m thrilled to see if it will end like the original.
Habara: It’s a fun feeling, by all means. I personally read the final script when I got it from Mr. Fukui, and I was very satisfied. All the scripts are ready, and it’s a feeling of heading that way now.
Interviewer: Finally, please give a message to the fans who are going to see Chapter 2.
Habara: Well, since it’s the “Launch Chapter,” Yamato launches this time! I’ll say that. Various people contributed to the launch scene, and we really took it all the way to the limit. I had calculated it to some extent from the beginning, and after some of the methods changed while working, it arrived at its current state. It was a lot of trial and error. By all means, I hope you’ll see it on a big screen.
Fukui: In Chapter 2, as it was in Chapter 1, you’ll see an answer to a thought I had about something in Farewell to Yamato. I think it will be interesting when you pay attention and look closely at that area.
Habara: Also, there are new images in the opening this time. I asked Kia Asamiya to do line drawings, and our art director Mr. Tanioka finished it in the form of harmony (a technique of expressing a hand-painted art style in a cell image). The characters are also painted, and it looks like they were painted by Mr. Asamiya.
Interviewer: Mr. Asamiya was also involved in the end title art for 2199. The given name was Michitaka Kikuchi rather than Kia Asamiya, wasn’t it?
Habara: Here he does it as Mr. Asamiya. The opening is a bit of Cinescope, and when the main story begins the screen opens up at the top and bottom. A vertical Warp Dimension, so to speak. (Referencing the change in aspect ratio from Vista size [1×1.85] to Cinescope size [1×2.35].) Therefore, I hope you’ll look forward to it.
Interviewer: Thank you very much for today.
Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.