Brand new day: The return of Yamato and Yoshinobu Nishizaki
Fans have been waiting since 1983 for the return of their favorite anime space adventure. The countdown clock has been reset many times in those 25 years as one attempted relaunch after another was aborted before it could leave the atmosphere.
But now, in 2008, the obstacles have miraculously cleared. At almost the same moment our August 1st update went live, the word came from Japan and quickly spread around the globe. The first English-language confirmation was posted on Variety.com August 3…
Yamato time again: Battleship to relaunch 25 years later
By Mark Shilling
Iconic sci-fi toon series Space Battleship Yamato is about to relaunch 25 years after the last installment was seen, according to producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki, who made the original Yamato TV show and four feature toons. Abroad the series is also known as Space Cruiser Yamato or Star Blazers.
For the new pic, Nishizaki, who has been in legal trouble in the intervening years, has set up a toon house, called Yamato Studio, in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward — the heart of the Japanese anime industry — with a staff of 40. Among Nishizaki’s collaborators are veteran character designer and animator Tomonori Kogawa, who will be the pic’s general animation director, and Toshio Masuda — the veteran helmer who was general director on four previous Yamato feature toons.
Set in 2220, the pic will depict the evacuation of 300 million people from Earth to avoid certain death from an expanding black hole. The Yamato, a space battleship, is leading the rescue fleet when it is attacked by an alien force.
Space Battleship Yamato began life in 1974 as a 26-episode TV series, helmed by animator Leiji Matsumoto. The series was a hit, leading to the production of the four Yamato features, which appeared in theaters from 1977 to 1983. Two more TV series were produced, as well as three small-screen specials.
However, in September 1997, Nishizaki and his company, West Cape Corp., filed for bankruptcy. That December Nishizaki was arrested on drug charges and he later sailed to the Philippines while on bail. He was arrested on his return, and weapons were seized from his yacht. Nishizaki has spent much of the past decade in and out of jail and battling in courtrooms. In 2004 he reached a settlement with Tohokushinsha, Bandai and Bandai Visual over their Yamato copyright dispute, with the three companies recognizing his right to make another Yamato pic.
Nishizaki was released from prison in December 2007. The toon is scheduled for release in 2009.
In less than a week, a short teaser trailer appeared to silence the nay-sayers who insisted that such a thing could never come to pass. (Stills shown above.)
If the premise of the new film sounds familiar, you aren’t imagining things. It was originally written in 1993 for Yamato Resurrection, a movie that was meant to go into production on the heels of Yamato 2520 (both were profiled in the 1994 documentary The Quickening). When this failed to happen and Mr. Nishizaki met with the problems described in Variety‘s article, it was shelved indefinitely…and then became the basis for our popular webcomic, Star Blazers Rebirth.
Never one to shy away from a microphone, Nishizaki’s first interviews appeared in print soon after he re-entered public life in December 2007. The timing couldn’t have been better, since Bandai Visual was preparing the release of a hotly-anticipated new product, a remastered DVD box set of Series 1 (shown below) that came bundled with a brand new 1/700 Yamato model kit. The project was spearheaded by lifetime fan and hyper-famous anime director Hideaki Anno, and things lined up perfectly for Anno and Nishizaki to be interviewed together.