Since the Yamato saga ended just slightly before the advent of Compact Discs, it also served as a clean break from the vinyl era. As a nation of very limited real estate, Japan was an early adopter of this new format, since it allowed a big collection to be stored in a smaller space. Naturally, Yamato albums were among the first CDs to be released by Nippon Columbia, but it took over ten years for them to gain serious traction. Once they did, however, fans were finally treated to content that had been locked up in vaults from the earliest days–and even some brand new albums that carried on the legacy in style.
Grand Symphony Yamato
Live concert album, 9/21/1984
Nippon Columbia, LP: CF-7002 Cassette: CAR-502
The first album of the legacy years (or the last of the production years, depending on your preference) was composer Kentaro Haneda’s personal love letter to Yamato, in which he rearranged Hiroshi Miyagawa’s best themes and motifs into a cohesive 4-movement symphony in the best classical tradition. It was performed live by the NHK Symphony Orchestra in May 1984 and released later in the year. It was also recorded for broadcast on NHK (Japan’s PBS) and became the only live Yamato event ever to be released to home video.
Read a more detailed description of this album here.
Read about the home video releases here.
Music Video Series
Nippon Columbia Home Video, 1984-85
Nippon Columbia, long the home label for Yamato music, had expanded into the home video market as soon as it became feasible and became the first source for the Yamato movies on Laserdisc. This made them the natural choice to release the MV series, an innovative set of programs that combined re-edited footage with symphonic scores. One was produced for each of the five films (the Be Forever volume is not shown here), and since they have never been re-issued in any format they are now highly valued by collectors. Read more about the MV series here.
Odin: Photon Space Sailor Starlight
Music Collection albums, 1985
Nippon Columbia, CX-7234 & CX-7235
In his liner-note signoff for Final Yamato, Yoshinobu Nishizaki closed with this message: “One day I will put the 10-year history of Yamato behind me with heartfelt gratitude to all who supported me. Then I will look forward our next work with great pleasure.” That day wasn’t long in coming. In 1984 he got started on a new feature film and infused it with all the leftover Yamato magic. If Yamato was the Apollo space program, Odin was its Skylab. And not necessarily in the best sense of the word.
But regardless of the movie’s mixed reviews, the music was beyond reproach. Nishizaki’s best move was the most obvious one: to get the band back together. Hiroshi Miyagawa and Kentaro Haneda picked up right where they’d left off, now producing music for the Symphonic Orchestra Odin, which was again conducted by Naoto Ohtomo, who had joined the family in 1982. For all intents and purposes, this body of work can be tacked onto the end of the Yamato saga as a continuation of the tones and styles of Final Yamato. They have yet to be released on CD, which makes them rare collector’s items indeed.
Read more about Odin here.
The First CDs
The rest of the 1980s saw Yamato music released at a much slower pace, in part because by this time the anime world had virtually exploded with so many movies, TV shows, and OAVs that no fan could keep up with them all. Nevertheless, Nippon Columbia threw down the gauntlet with three CDs on one day in June 1985. Above from left to right, they were Symphonic Suite Yamato (32C35-7529), The Farewell to Yamato symphonic album (32C35-7530) and the Grand Symphony (33C35-7397).
Next up were two double-disc collections, shown below. Animage/Tokuma released both of their Final Yamato albums as the Final Yamato Best Collection in 1986 (27ATC-124~5) and Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s video distribution company JAVN released an extremely limited 2-disc set as a bonus item with the VHS box set of TV series 1. The first disc (JAC-97001-CD) was a reissue of the BGM Collection 1 from 1981 and the second (JAC-97002-CD) contained a newly-edited, 32-minute medley of symphonic tracks from across the saga.
Yamato 2520 CDs
These were the first Yamato albums released only to CD, all from Sony Records during the first attempt to make a Yamato sequel. In a complete break with tradition, Yoshinobu Nishizaki hired an American composer, David Mathews, to write and arrange the score with Kentaro Haneda as music director. Main title music was by Japanese rock group Tokio, who also released a 2520 music video. Read all about Yamato 2520 here.
Main Theme CD single by Tokio (above left)
SRDL 3962, released 12/12/1994
Laserdisc and VHS videos shown above center and right
Yamato 2520 Original Theme Music I
Special Edition: SRCL 3118 (with slipcase and booklet) released 1/21/1995
Standard Edition: SRCL 3126 released 2/1/1995
Original Soundtrack (BGM collection)
SRCL 3487 released 3/21/1996
The 1995 Reissues
Ten years after the arrival of the first three Yamato CDs, Nippon Columbia finally unleashed the entire catalog to tie in with the new Yamato 2520 series. That didn’t make it all the way to the end, but fans everywhere were grateful for its dividends–especially when Columbia cracked the vault and excavated four albums of previously-unheard BGM tracks. Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s previous companies, West Cape Corporation and JAVN, had both been dissolved by this time, so his new company name, Voyager Entertainment, appeared on these discs.
The Symphonic albums were the first out the door, all released on January 1. Top row: Symphonic Suite Yamato (COCC-12227), Farewell to Yamato (COCC-12228), The New Voyage (COCC-12229). Bottom row: Be Forever Yamato 2-disc set (COCC-12230~31), Yamato III Symphonic Suite (COCC-12232), Final Yamato 3-disc set (COCC-12233~35).
Though their original purpose had now been overtaken by home video, completeness was the name of the game…thus, all of the Drama albums were released on April 1. At left: Space Battleship Yamato (COCC-12477), Farewell to Yamato (COCC-12478~79), Yamato 2 (held back until November/COCC-13035~36), The New Voyage (COCC-12480~81). At right: Be Forever Yamato (COCC-12482~84), Yamato III (COCC-12485~86), Final Yamato (COCC-12487~89).
Five of the long-sought after concept albums were released on June 21. Top row: Mellow Guitar Yamato (COCC-12669), Fascinating Piano Yamato (COCC-12670), Romantic Violin Yamato (COCC-12668). Bottom row: Choral and Piano Suite (COCC-12671), Grand Symphony (COCC-12672) and the Yamato Song Collection (COCC-12875), which followed in September. Pictured below is the 2-disc Yamato Festival in Budokan Live 1980, released in November. Click here for details.
The last wave was the most welcome, as it began with both of Columbia’s 1981 BGM collections and continued on through the end of the saga, yielding four albums of previously unreleased material. All six arrived in stores on September 21. Top row: Yamato Part 1 (COCC-12869), Yamato Part 2 (COCC-12870), The New Voyage (COCC-12871). Bottom row: Be Forever Yamato (COCC-12872), Yamato III (COCC-12873), Final Yamato (COCC-12874).
Yamato Sound Fantasia Series
2-CD set, 3/21/1996
Nippon Columbia & Voyager Entertainment, COCC-13263~64
Voyager Entertainment was a new company set up by Yoshinobu Nishizaki in 1993 to produce the Yamato 2520 series and various other products. This was also when the US office of Voyager Entertainment was established, which now operates independently. When 2520 stalled out, Voyager’s Japan office returned to the original Yamato and produced two groundbreaking new products. The first was a 1996 calendar designed by Leiji Matsumoto, filled with cutting edge CG imagery. The second (which reused the calendar art) was this unique CD set.
Its purpose was to explore the other major facet of Yamato sound production, the sound effects themselves. Both discs in this series contained imaginative remixes of music and effects to create unique Yamato soundscapes. An entire suite of isolated sound effects was included as a series of bonus tracks. Additionally, the liner note booklet contained an exclusive interview with the sound engineers who built Yamato‘s effects library.
Click here to read the interview in full, accompanied by the CG calendar images.
Click here for a complete track listing.
At right: the Prelude to Final Yamato CD (COCC-13262) was released on the same day as Sound Fantasia, also under the Voyager Entertainment name.
ASHISUTO 25th Anniversary Concert Live
Kojima Recordings Inc., LMCD-1525
You can take the man out of Yamato, but you can’t take the Yamato out of the man. This was proven when maestro Hiroshi Miyagawa crossed paths with the Space Battleship once again in April 1997, when he conducted the Tokyo City Philharmonic in a concert that was later released to CD. It was mostly made up of pop and showtunes, but a Yamato suite appeared at the end. This marked the first new recording of Miyagawa conducting Yamato since the end of the production years, and set the stage for many more reunions to come.
Steel Suite: From Space With Love
CD single, 12/17/1997
Nippon Crown, CRCP-1005
Completely out of left field came this 17-minute EP by Japanese heavy metal group Concerto Moon. Despite all appearances, their hearts were definitely in it when they pushed the volume to 11 and cranked out a powerfully energetic rendition of Miyagawa’s original score. Listen to the disc in its entirety here.
Grand Symphonic Poem ‘Rail of Fantasy’
Live CDs, 1998 and 1999
Nippon Columbia, COCX-30110~11 and COCX-30654~55
Produced during Leiji Matsumoto’s tenure as Yamato‘s merchandising benefactor, both of these double-disc albums contain live concerts performed one year apart by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. The purpose was to explore the musical history of various Leiji Matsumoto productions, such as Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express. Yamato, of course, was front and center both times and brought the entire ‘old guard’ back for a magnificent reunion. Hiroshi Miyagawa arranged and lead the orchestra for most of the numbers and also described the origins of the Yamato Theme. Isao Sasaki and Kazuko Kawashima were also on hand to reprise their roles as Yamato‘s best-known vocalists. The inclusion of a gigantic pipe organ gave the lucky audiences a unique opportunity to feel the theme of the Comet Empire rattle their very bones.
The highlight of the first concert’s program book was an extended round-table interview with Leiji Matsumoto, Hiroshi Miyagawa, and lifetime Yamato fan Hideaki Anno. Click here to read that interview in full.
Vacation of Love
This disc looks like something of an oddball unless you recognize the man at far left: Hiroshi Miyagawa. He was involved in a number of different bands and combos over his career, and this disc was recorded by a group he performed with in 1999. The full title of the disc was Vacation of Love: Hiroshi Miyagawa and his friends are relieved. It included some of the maestro’s early pop hits, lounge standards such as Fly Me to the Moon and–surpassing all expectations–a cover of the 1978 disco version of the Yamato theme from I Adore the Eternity of Love. The structure of the song is the same, but the rearrangement with non-disco instruments gives it a far longer shelf life.
The Music Encyclopedia of Leiji Matsumoto 1999
10-CD box set, 3/2000
Bandai Visual & Columbia Family Group, GES-31170~79
This deluxe collection was Matsumoto’s next major contribution to the late-90s revival. Two of the ten discs in the set were devoted to Yamato. The first contained BGM from the Series 1, which included many previously-unreleased tracks that would reappear six months later in the Eternal Edition series. What continues to makes this disc unique today is a complete set of every version of the Yamato Theme and The Scarlet Scarf created in 1974. (Read about the variations here.) The second disc spanned the rest of the saga with a grab-bag of songs and rarities favored by Matsumoto. It concluded with a previously-unreleased track called Theme of Yamato ’83, which is arguably the best instrumental version ever recorded outside of the first Symphonic Suite album. Prior to this, it had only been heard over the end titles of the 35mm version of Final Yamato.
The set was limited to 1999 copies and marketed by Bandai Visual exclusively through their LaLaBit online store. LaLaBit continues to offer limited-edition Yamato items today, such as a Cosmo Zero motorcycle helmet and a Dessler wine set, both sold in early 2008.
Space Battleship Yamato Eternal Edition
File No. 0: Symphonic Suite Great Yamato
Columbia Records, COCX-31082~3
Great Yamato was the “international” name of a new manga written and drawn by Leiji Matsumoto that was serialized in Gotta Comics starting from February, 2000. (The name in Japanese was simply New Space Battleship Yamato.) In that same year, Nippon Columbia had changed names to Columbia Records and began to assemble the holy grail of Yamato music: The Eternal Edition CD series.
Its purpose was to track down all remaining unreleased tracks, combine them with bits from various concept albums, and repackage them with extensive historical liner notes (which were a significant resource in the writing of these music articles). You can explore individual discographies for descriptions of each disc, or read about the entire set here.
With two new Yamato ideas moving forward simultaneously, they were destined to meet. This happened with the very first disc in the series, the Symphonic Suite Great Yamato. It was a dream come true for all involved: Hiroshi Miyagawa would create an ‘image album’ for Matsumoto’s new manga and take the opportunity to revisit some earlier scores for another round. The finished product was packaged with Eternal Edition File No. 1, which contained long-awaited BGM tracks to the first TV series.
Leiji Matsumoto’s liner notes:
Yamato‘s voyage will be a long one, but the crew will be accompanied by the music of the great Hiroshi Miyagawa from beginning to end. It think the world meant for it to be this way. If we were to ask 100 people, 120% of them would insist that the music of Miyagawa must never change. Just as a person cannot be separated from their voice, Yamato and its theme music are one thing. It could be said that Yamato‘s fate is dependent on its music.
In this new symphonic suite, Mr. Miyagawa makes paintings in our minds that recall scenes from our imagination. When the Yamato theme flowed out during the recording we were overwhelmed by a flood of emotions.
I have designed—I use the word ‘design’ intentionally—a place in my soul that contains the power and force necessary to create a new Yamato. As you listen to this CD, let’s join our hearts and launch on this new voyage together.
Hiroshi Miyagawa’s liner notes:
I chose my favorite Yamato motifs to compose this symphonic suite. The demands of composing Yamato music were very high, and by the time we reached Final Yamato, I felt like all the music in me was used up. When Mr. Matsumoto asked me to wrestle with Yamato again, I worried him with a troubled look. I had to weigh the pros and cons about how to express the future of the year 3000.
This time my son Akira helped me to do the arrangement. ‘Metanoid’ is executed brilliantly. He understands the project very well and this outstanding music will help New Yamato stand out as a work of art. I’m sure it will be compared favorably with whatever musical upgrade is in store for a future Yamato.
I am very pleased with the great musicians and excellent recording staff who made a wonderful CD, and I thank all of them. This is a strange album in the age of CDs and if you listen to the themes so much that you wear it out, that would make me very happy.
Eternal Edition File No. 10: Yamato the Best
Song collection CD, 3/31/2001
Columbia Records, COCX-31162
Eternal Edition [extra]: Yamato the Best II
Song collection CD, 12/22/2004
Columbia Music Entertainment, COCX-33060
Each and every Yamato song got the Eternal Edition treatment on these discs, which were actually released over three years apart. The Best was the concluding volume of the Eterrnal Edition series, and its first pressing came with A keepsake box for all 11 discs. The Best II was not numbered as part of the series, but functioned as an addendum for all the songs that did not fit onto its predecessor. Taken individually, The Best is a sequential collection of all the primary songs and The Best II contains image songs and variants. Between the two, the only songs left out were Akira Fuse’s cover of Galaxy Legend and two karaoke tracks released by Tokuma on the 1979 Theme Song and BGM Collection.
Eternal Edition Premium Set
11-CD Collection, 11/25/2004
Columbia Music Entertainment, COCX-33021
With Columbia’s recording studio approaching its final days, the complete catalog of symphonic Yamato albums was re-released in miniaturized packaging to commemorate the single most successful line of recordings in the company’s history. The silver-foil container was modeled after the 13-LP TV series drama box from 1979.
Read all about this set here.
Eternal Edition “Special File”
This disc was limited to just 300 copies and released in 2001. It contains three unique tracks that were recorded in a special session at Columbia music studio on December 3, 2000. Lucky fans who won a postcard lottery could attend and watch as Hiroshi Miyagawa lead the studio orchestra in re-arrangements of music heard on Eternal Edition Disc 0. The CD was probably sent to those fans afterward, and is now quite possibly the rarest Yamato disc of all.
Click here to continue reading this discography