Director Nobuyoshi Habara interview, June 2017

Published by Bandai Channel, June 23, 2017.

Depicting a three-way relationship with Susumu Kodai at the center

Interviewer: Yamato 2202 is a very special work. I think it would be seriously difficult to make a work that builds on the story of Farewell to Yamato and Yamato 2 for a new form. First, can you tell me about the response to Chapter 2?

Habara: After all that pressure, the response was wonderful. There were times when the work was harder than I thought and it weighed heavily on me. When I was a director on Yamato 2199, General Director Yutaka Izubuchi steered the big ship, but this time I have to steer it all by myself. Since everyone on the staff and in the audience has their own Yamato image, I have to find the direction that pleases as many people as possible. It’s a situation where I’m feeling my way along.

Interviewer: Susumu Kodai becomes the acting captain in this story, and it sort of feels in sync with your circumstances. (Laughs)

Habara: That’s right! In Mr. Fukui’s scripts, Kodai is troubled and worried and lost, and since many conflicts are depicted I understand them very well. Kodai is terribly troubled in Chapter 3, and I’m in a condition where I can exactly detect my own feelings when I see what is written.

Interviewer: The Kodai-centric narrative is an important point, and I’m wondering if it will lead to a difference between 2199 and 2202.

Habara: Yes, as you can expect, “How we depict the character of Susumu Kodai” is important. If we did 2202 in the form of an ensemble story like 2199, it could be distracting. Now we have a three-way relationship with Earth, Garmillas, and Gatlantis and since there are new characters out there too, it takes on a form that shows Kodai at the center. Maintaining that balance…that’s the hard part.

Interviewer: A few stories have gone around, but what was the process for you to become the director this time?

Habara: At first I was asked, “Do you know anyone who can write a script?” and I didn’t know about Mr. Fukui’s participation at that time, so I recommended the live-action director Hideki Oka. We’d gotten together at other times and our “Yamato love” made us friends. He also saw Yamato Resurrection, for which I supervised the Director’s Cut, and so the flow lead to me asking “what about a director?” The story was that if Mr. Izubuchi decides not to continue, you and your company can do it. (Mr. Habara is also chairman of the board at Xebec.)

Interviewer: That was the order?

Habara: Yes. Whether I was suitable or not, I would definitely regret it if I’d refused and it went to someone else. Even if it wasn’t easy, I thought I’d want to do as much as I could, and that’s the feeling that leads me now.

Interviewer: You’re in the anime staff that went from Resurrection to 2199. What were your major Yamato experiences before that, in the days of being a fan?

Habara: Of course, if I’m asked, “How much do you like it?” I’d say as much as ever. Yamato is a huge part of me.

Interviewer: How old were you when you first encountered Yamato?

Habara: I was ten years old at the time of the first TV series. I was in the third year of junior high when Farewell came out.

Interviewer: That’s a time when life can be seriously influenced.

Habara: Yes, I was very impressionable. (Laughs) After I became an adult, I understood that the generation above me looked at the end of Farewell and called it a “suicide attack.” But I considered it to be “the best work.” I didn’t feel the last scene was a suicide attack. Since Kodai called it a new voyage it had the feeling of a wedding to me. I had great sympathy.

Since I’m from Hiroshima, there was a peace class at school during summer vacation every August 6 (the date of the atomic bombing) and I grew up being told, “War is miserable, we should never awaken it again.” Of course, I knew what a “suicide attack” was, but it wasn’t possible for me to connect it with Farewell by any means. Since people of that generation reacted due to their personal experience, I thought, “I see…” and came to understand it afterward.

Interviewer: I was thinking about the story today and was impressed by how a straight element like “Pure Love” this year is similar to Your Name from last year.

Habara: That’s exactly right. I wondered if we should go in that direction if we did a remake of Farewell. As for how to end it this time, I can’t tell you now…

Interviewer: That would be the biggest spoiler. (Laughs)

Habara: So I’ll just say “we’ll depict love” and you can look forward to it in the future.

Attention to character expressions in the camera work

Interviewer: What you’ll do with the ending is one of the big features this time, and it’s an interesting place. Not only is this a continuation of Yamato 2199, the number 2 is in the title. So is it arranged like Yamato 2 or Farewell…? Regarding that, what kind of story was it at the early stage?

Habara: The title 2202 was already on the plan book written by Mr. Fukui, though the 0 was the character Φ (Phi). It seemed to be both Yamato 2 and Farewell, but maybe neither. That was the meaning of the title. From the beginning, I thought we could put a lot of new elements in it.

Interviewer: Did you come in and deepen the discussion based on that plan?

Habara: At the first script meeting, Mr. Fukui had made a rough overall flow. We divided it up into episodes, and Mr. Oka would write a script called the “Zero version” for each one. The core group talked about it, and then Mr. Fukui gathered it all up into another script to advance it. Since each episode is written by two people, the script gets a joint credit.

Interviewer: It’s a collaboration of various elements.

Habara: At that stage, Assistant Director Makoto Kobayashi says “I also have this idea” and pictures come burning out and something like, “Gyaaa!” happens. (Laughs) “Let’s put this in, too!” With things like that, more and more new elements are incorporated into the script. Rather than me saying “please do it this way” or “let’s do this to make use of that,” I become a coordinator who balances everyone’s opinions for consistency.

Interviewer: As a director, you make the screen visuals?

Habara: As the criterion for judging whether something in a script is OK or NG [no good], it has to be visual. That’s the measure. Mr. Fukui’s scripts are packed with tremendous density, and we could put it all in, but then the distinctive “Yamato-ness” would be lost. As music comes in it will slowly liven it up, but it wouldn’t work if the visuals can’t be done at a director’s discretion. There is also the factor that I don’t want to chop up the music, so one thing I wanted to do was avoid the ship movements becoming too fast. With that, I decided that the policy on the Earth side was to focus mainly on Kodai and organize it around that.

Interviewer: I think there are many parts where those on the audience side will be surprised by new elements. Were there any ideas that surprised you?

Habara: I’m always surprised by the images Kobayashi comes up with. (Laughs) Even for the throne of Gatlantis, I was planning on a flat image with Emperor Zordar at the end of a red carpet, but he came up with concepts that gave it a vertical direction, and I thought it was wonderful. In terms of ideas, I was surprised at the “time fault.” I wanted to make some kind of singularity, and then Mr. Oka came up with the term “time fault.” It had the feeling of the “negative legacy of the Cosmo Cleaner.” Back then the thought was “the reconstruction of the Earth fleet is too soon,” and when we took this as an opportunity to make full use of various concepts of the past, everyone did it wonderfully. There were almost no ideas that came from me. I moved forward while thinking about the production side. “What should be done to make this a surprise?”

Interviewer: After participating in all three Yamato works over recent years, Resurrection, 2199, and 2202, what features are unique to 2202?

Habara: I think the difference in the visuals is big. Both Resurrection and 2199 were made with camera angles that looked like movies. 2199 in particular had the feeling of capturing crowds in panoramic long shots, but 2202 brings the camera close to the characters, and I’m conscious of capturing it with a slight wide-angle touch. By doing so, I want to deliver subtle changes in facial expression and excitement when yelling. I know it’s not good to overuse this technique on a big-screen film, but I use it purposefully. I grew up on Toei anime, so it might be superfluous.

Interviewer: Do you feel there are three types of “Yamato-ness”?

Habara: I touched on it a while ago, but I think in the end it is “pacing.” There is a “pacing” that is clearly different from other works. As with the use of music, there are a lot of images that settle in slowly and carefully. Then the camera follows it, and it gradually swells. My impression of Yamato is like that. Since I started out directing shots that were short and choppy, I’m careful to slow it down and let it breathe for a moment.

Interviewer: It’s a very difficult direction when it comes to creating art, isn’t it?

Habara: If it’s drawn by hand, it’s practically impossible. Because it is CG, it can be extended for a long time, and the angles can change, too. It is helped tremendously by CG.

Commitment to the newly-built Battleship Andromeda

Interviewer: Originally, a lot of new elements came out in Farewell, including Andromeda. What feelings were considered in that area?

Habara: With Andromeda as a new element, it was a good thing that we dealt with the nuance of “what is it NOT supposed to be?” A magnificent, newly-built battleship came out and fired the Dispersion Wave-Motion Gun, but it was defeated…that doesn’t give you the feeling of it being purposefully built as a symbol of reconstruction. I think that’s being expressed well now.

Interviewer: When you say Farewell or Yamato 2, you think “first, Andromeda.” (Laughs) When you bring it up at an event, there’s a burst of laughter. Still, it’s impossible to just say “We can talk, but maybe not about Andromeda.”

Habara: Yes, “first Andromeda,” definitely. (Laughs) When I gave instructions to Mecha Designer Junichiro Tamamori, my first request was “I want to make a shot of the forward pass that was drawn by Kazutaka Miyatake.” And with that…

Interviewer: If the three-sided diagram was used as a CG model, the expression of that pass would be difficult. I was worried.

Habara: So it’s really great that it has such exquisite lines.

Interviewer: What do you think are the merits of Andromeda? Of course, the first thing is that it looks cool, but…

Habara: It’s completely different from other battleships. First of all, it has the firm position of being a “main character mecha.” It’s designed to be a hero, and moreover an entirely different direction from Yamato as a hero. Obviously, it stands out. Therefore, it’s cool. That’s how I perceive it. It was good that we could add a little more menace to it this time.

Interviewer: There’s also a very direct feeling of power-up with the two Wave-Motion Guns.

Habara: When I was a junior high student, I was just happy to say, “Cool! It has two!” (Laughs) It was an obvious “sense of strength.”

Interviewer: It has a lot of line work for parts like launch tubes and others of unknown purpose, and I’m glad it was used in Chapter 2.

Habara: Fine details were decided like “The fighters launch from here” and “Gravity darts spread out.” In the future, I want to use all the parts Mr. Tamamori established.

Interviewer: It was also a surprising point that multiple Andromeda ships of the same type appeared.

Habara: That was another idea from Mr. Kobayashi at the script conference, and picture came out of multiple Andromedas lined up. Everyone was surprised. “A fleet?” “Let’s put it in!” Like a whirlwind. I think that also gave the feeling that Earth had begun to go in the wrong direction.

Interviewer: On the other hand, there’s another familiar scene with Andromeda in Chapter 1.

Habara: It’s sort of an obsession with “Keep making warships, because we’ve got plenty of champagne.” (Laughs)

Interviewer: To which I reflexively thought, “Don’t overuse the dramatically-lit return to base.”

Habara: I wanted to strengthen it this time, so I made it “bakiyaro” instead of “bakayaro.” But I thought when it was time to launch, I still wanted to go with “Slow speed ahead, 0.5.” (Laughs)

Interviewer: Again, it’s a place where you expect to be surprised, but the surprise instead is that it’s restrained. The feeling of balance between new and old is fascinating.

Habara: I wanted to properly restrain it when I thought it was important. I think there are also a lot of points where people will be dissatisfied, so I want to keep as much as I can.

Interviewer: I also feel the interpretation of the enemy Gatlantis side has been substantially redone.

Habara: That’s right. When they came out in 2199, they were regarded as a tribe. But because I wanted to get back to the pipe organ music at all cost, I had to return to a feeling that suited it, which was close to that of Farewell. And the structure of Gatlantis itself is a new concept that Mr. Fukui came up with.

Interviewer: I’m looking forward to that.

Habara: There’s a concept I can’t talk about yet that shows how they are a nation of conquest and how they inherit generations.

Interviewer: Is it because of that feeling you get from the beginning? “I wonder if this is a race with a different concept of life?”

Habara: that’s right. Everyone is surprised that “Zordar talks about love,” but when you ask, “How is love understood?” you get the feeling that various details can be derived from there.

Interviewer: I see. “Is this a story that talks about love through a different basis for life?”

Habara: It is connected to the reason why they are soon coming to Earth.

Interviewer: I see. As for “the problem of love,” since it’s a part of history that’s been discussed various ways in the past, I look forward to this becoming a story with a new interpretation.

Habara: The “Soldiers of Love” subtitle is not a throwaway by any means. I’m taking good care of it and incorporating it into the story, so I’d appreciate it if you keep your eye on that.

Aiming for a deep character portrait

Interviewer: I also want to ask about characters on the Earth side. Hijikata and Saito already appeared in 2199, but they were new characters from Farewell.

Habara: Both are very good characters, aren’t they? Yamanami also appeared in 2199, and it was a great help to be able to put him on Andromeda. The situation was that we couldn’t make Hijikata the captain as in Yamato 2 because we could get new development possibilities by moving him to the 11th Planet with Saito.

Yamanami is a good, easygoing character, but that alone wouldn’t qualify him as captain of Andromeda so I’m glad we could give him the feeling of “actually, this is a man who can handle it.” By contrasting him with an ineffectual government, we were able to define him as “a person who stands out.” And as for Saito, the more you use him, the better he becomes.

Interviewer: The space cavalry also has a somewhat different way of participating.

Habara: Nagakura, who appeared in Ark of the Stars, plays a good role this time. The Space Cavalry is a military unit, but it feels a little different if you can combine their brawn with the sense that they’re good people.

Interviewer: They’re a gang, but they also feel a little chivalrous.

Habara: I want to feature elements like that. Hijikata also watches over Kodai and the others, including with the Wave-Motion Gun problem, and I think a fatherly feeling will emerge. Since he was originally Yuki Mori’s substitute father in 2199, that’s the impression he gives in that area.

Interviewer: Speaking of Yuki Mori, I think her romance with Kodai is a particularly big point this time. How is that going?

Habara: I’m trying to depict it quite carefully. The separation scene in Chapter 2 was originally set in another location in the script, but I put it in an elevator since I wanted them to talk in a tight space where their faces would contrast each other. They’re watching the door while they’re talking and Kodai turns to her but she doesn’t turn to him. I wanted to play up the difference in their emotions.

Interviewer: I could see subtle feelings of love going through their eyes throughout the whole thing.

Habara: I think Kodai is still immature when it comes to such things. You can see much more going on with Yuki. I think that “Women are amazing, aren’t they?” part is a lot like Farewell, too. I especially like Yuki, and the feeling that came from them shouting in the car in Chapter 1 became my favorite scene. Houko Kuwashima’s acting is really good. I hope you’ll look forward to it in the future.

The story of an alliance with Garmillas is changing

Interviewer: Because the concept of a “Garmillas alliance with Earth” was possible, it would inevitably change Farewell and Yamato 2.

Habara: I think 2199 improved when it ended with an alliance. Garmillas would have foresight about the new problem of time fault technology, so it’s fascinating that they would develop an alliance with Earth in that respect, so it’s a good feeling. The simple presence of Garmillas observers in suits allowed me to visually expresses the feeling of “what’s going on here?”

Interviewer: I was surprised to see people with blue faces. (Laughs)

Habara: It was a normal crowd, and when the idea appeared I rushed to appoint the blue color. “Can we have some Garmillas people in there?” Originally, the two Garmillas children on the 11th Planet were supposed to be Earthlings, but since the concept was that Garmillas had developed the planet, I decided that their father had told them “Yamato saved Garmillas” and that Garmillas children would have Yamato models. I thought “this is great” and it nearly made me cry. I think we were able to inherit a lot of depth and good feeling from the new part that was born in 2199.

Interviewer: How about the new character, Kiman?

Habara: As for that, Hiroshi Kamiya’s voice was the only one I heard at the time I read the script, and we were able to cast him from quite an early stage. When deciding on his name, everyone agreed, “It has to be Kiman.” (Editorial note: Alphon’s initial name in Be Forever Yamato was Kiman.) Mr. Fukui said, “In Garmillas, Kiman is a common name like Suzuki or Sato.” (Laughs)

Interviewer: The route to Telezart may be the same, but things will develop differently because of him won’t they?

Habara: As for the situation of a Garmillan riding on Yamato, it also has a different feeling from Melda. I hope you’ll enjoy that along with his interactions with Kodai. Farewell to Yamato had a lot of female fans, too.

Interviewer: Mr. Kamiya is suitable for the demeanor of Kiman. He seems sincere, but there’s still a peculiar feeling.

Habara: Various developments will come out of that area.

Interviewer: I’m interested in Dessler’s whereabouts on the Garmillas side. Can you talk about that at this stage?

Habara: No. I’m sure it will be a surprise, so please look forward to it.

Interviewer: I was surprised by the trailers for Chapters 1, 2 and 3, and the activity of the large Gatlantis battleship.

Habara: Everyone on the staff wants to “push the large battleship.” If for no other reason than to get a big model kit.

Interviewer: In the old days, it only came out as a Mecha Collection mini-model.

Habara: From the early days of script reading, everyone talked about plamo [plastic models]. There were a lot of angry stories about “It was hard to make the model of the large battleship, the fins kept breaking because they were attached diagonally.” So we said, “When will we have the large battleship?” I think it was a surprise to see it in Chapter 1, then it gets serious for Yamato when six of them appear in Chapter 2. And you can see that it gets more serious in the trailer for Chapter 3.

Interviewer: I thought, “what’s happening with this?”

Habara: I hesitated for a moment about whether or not to put it in the trailer, but I thought you’d be surprised.

Interviewer: One of the attractions of Farewell was the Gatlantis mecha appearing one after the other.

Habara: It was surprising to see more and more new mecha.

Interviewer: Thanks to the plamodels of enemy mecha selling so well, we were able to get Gundam plamo of the Zaku and Musai right from the beginning.

Habara: Oh, that’s right. We didn’t get plamo of enemy mecha until then. Also, it was good that the Gatlantis mecha was cool.

Interviewer: The wraparound carrier Naska at the beginning made for a good homage.

Habara: It’s something you don’t easily notice. I added lines to give it some flash across the side to improve it a little. I just added a hint since it looks noisy when it goes too far. It’s satisfying when I can be particular about such little details. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Hand-drawing and CG hybrids are good, aren’t they?

Habara: As for other impressions, we gave Yamato a good feeling in the opening title, too.

Interviewer: There’s a shot where it takes fire from the city empire. In the original, that was a Kazuhide Tomonaga scene.

Habara: When I gave instructions for that, I said, “please do it with that timing” to faithfully reproduce it! I think that’s the best result at the present stage.

Interviewer: The opening title is incredible.

Habara: Before the storyboard stage, I talked with Kia Asamiya and said, “let’s make this kind of shot.” In fact, on Resurrection I asked, “can’t we show Yamato under construction?” but various circumstances made it impossible. So since then I’ve always thought, “someday I want to show nameless men, different from the crew, rebuilding Yamato as energetically as possible.” (Laughs)

Starting from the ideas to the angles to the first line drawings and then the cleanup, Mr. Asamiya drew a lot. Art Director Yoshio Tanioka put in the color and the harmony treatment (a method of applying texture to a line drawing). Regarding the harmony on the characters, Mr. Tanioka studied the illustrations of Mr. Asamiya and reproduced the same brush stroke. The soul of various people went into it, and made it a great opening.

The method of ending each chapter strengthens anticipation

Interviewer: Have you attended Akira Miyagawa’s music recordings?

Habara: Not all of them, but for the main parts of the BGM. It goes without saying that it was wonderful.

Interviewer: What about the performance on the pipe organ?

Habara: I went to see that! I couldn’t miss it. Different people played different pieces on the pipe organ. I think some will notice because the area of the hall was different. Sounds in the lower range echo in a completely different way. This time there’s a take where only the low bass tones echo, and it’s quite eerie. There are other songs that were played in a special performance on the pipe organ, but I can’t talk about them yet.

Interviewer: Finally, please talk about future development and points you’d like us to anticipate.

Habara: First there’s the “Wave-Motion Gun problem,” isn’t there? What will happen with the “promise to seal it up” with Iscandar? And what happens to Yamato after falling into a pinch? Those are points I want you to look forward to. Chapter 3 picks up with the feeling depicted in Chapter 2 regarding the future of Kodai and Yuki. I hope there’s a lot of anticipation about the action that will lead to.

Interviewer: That reminds me, 2199 came to points where a chapter break naturally happened, and it gave each chapter a feeling of cohesiveness. By contrast, 2202 has an abrupt sense of “to be continued.” (Laughs)

Habara: Certainly there was a satisfaction after each 2199 chapter that “I’ve finished watching it.” But with 2202 it ends at a point of “must keep going.”

Interviewer: 2199 was good because it seemed to expand the content of the familiar main route, but this time it’s nice that the route is unknown in 2202 and we can expect a lot of surprises.

Habara: Chapter 3 also ends abruptly. At one event Mr. Fukui said “There’s a cliffhanger at the end of every season in an overseas drama, and I’m matching that.” But as much as he said that sort of thing, since we’ve really only thought about the final scene, for now I think I’ll end each chapter with “Look forward to the next part!” (Laughs)

Interviewer: I’m looking forward to it more and more. Thank you very much.

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

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