There still would have been a Space Battleship Yamato without Leiji Matsumoto, but none can deny that it wouldn’t be the Yamato we know and love today. Matsumoto’s manga career had begun many years before Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki decided to make an SF anime series, and it was Matsumoto’s manga Sexaroid that captured Nishizaki’s attention. This lead to a job offer for Matsumoto to become Yamato‘s design supervisor, but he initially turned it down. Matsumoto’s entry into the anime world was going to be an all-or-nothing proposition; he wanted to supervise EVERYTHING.
As time went on and Writer/Director Eiichi Yamamoto dropped out to pursue other projects, Nishizaki finally made Matsumoto the offer he was waiting for, and the game was on. Unsatisfied with many of the characters and ideas in the 1973 plan book, Matsumoto wrote the following story treatment in April and May of 1974. Although character names have been added for clarity, none of them existed at this stage (except for Captain Harlock, who Matsumoto had created much earlier). It was first published in an early issue of Animage magazine, prefaced by this brief interview…
Interviewer: What was your first job on Yamato?
Matsumoto: I wrote a story draft on May 21 1974, five months before the October broadcast.
Interviewer: Which characters did you create?
Matsumoto: Mr. Nishizaki’s original proposal had the planets Iscandar and Rajendora. I left Iscandar alone, but selected the name Gamilas for the other. The Captain was named Mamoru Kodai, and Yuki Mori was Yuki Moriki. There were two Analyzers, and they could unite into one. Harlock was involved at this stage, too. Shiro Sanada was named Sasuke Sanada and he was going to be 40 years old. Shima Daisuke was Jirou Daisuke.
Interviewer: Did you design Yamato itself?
Matsumoto: Yes. I provided various samples and the artists at Studio Nue consolidated them. The basic design is mine.
Interviewer: In Nishizaki’s original concept, it was more like a submarine. When did it turn into a flying ship?
Matsumoto: The concept of a flying battleship was not exactly new. There were others in various manga. However, I thought Mr. Nishizaki’s idea to make it a spaceship was a good one. It was designed as an asteroid ship, though, and I convinced them over several meetings to match the image of Yamato.
Interviewer: Did you come up with the Wave-Motion Gun?
Matsumoto: That was mine. I first came up with the Wave-Motion Engine for an erotic comedy manga called Sexaroid , and used the same concept in Dafuin [SF Magazine, 1969]. Those were the ancestors of the Wave-Motion Gun.
Interviewer: And what was your impact on the story?
Matsumoto: I wrote a draft that became the basis for the scripts from that point on.
The Story Treatment
Translated by Earnest Migaki, edited by Bruce Lewis & Tim Eldred
In the year 2199, Earth’s atmosphere was devastated by intense radiation. The oceans evaporated, exposing the sea bed. This was caused in part by human activity, but the greater portion came from an unknown space fleet that bombarded the Earth during a 20-year space war.
Earth’s military is gone. Now humans live underground as the last resistance against the enemy. Contact points throughout the world are being eliminated. In the year 2198, the major cities fall silent. In the Kanto district of Japan, people struggle to survive in a large underground city.
The unknown alien force takes out a major part of the Earth defense force in an ambush attack, leaving the ships missing in action. Mamoru Kodai’s ship is destroyed in the vicinity of Neptune.
A different alien spacecraft, not of the enemy, crashes near the Mars colony. The enemy then attacks and devastates Mars. Our hero’s ship crashes near a destroyed Martian base. He finds a corpse in the alien spacecraft that crashed earlier. The deceased pilot resembles an Earthwoman, but is beautiful beyond any female from our world. Her ship also contains a message capsule.
The hero carefully buries the alien woman in the sands of Mars and brings the capsule back to Earth. Using the last of the mainframe computers in Japan, the message is deciphered. It reveals the identity of the unknown enemy who has devastated the world.
The aliens are humanoids called Rajendorans with a superior civilization and technology, and the ability to wage interstellar warfare on a grand scale. Their home world is located within the Large Magellanic Cloud (though the exact location is unknown because the message was garbled at this point). They are a warrior race, strong and proud, and they would die for the greater good of their people if their leader, Dessler, ordered them to. The Rajendora attack fleets come from the Small Magellanic Cloud.
The message came from Planet Iscandar. It directs the Earthlings to go there and retrieve a machine that will remove the radiation. If they do not make it, they cannot be expected to live in a universe where only the fittest survive. However, if they succeed, then there is hope for their future. A small sample of the radiation remover is contained within the message, sufficient enough to convince the Earthlings they must go to Iscandar. A large, spaceworthy battleship will be necessary to make the journey. They will use the Yamato, the great warship from the past, now being secretly rebuilt in an underground facility.
The propulsion unit for the massive engine necessary to drive Yamato through the deep reaches of space is described in the message, along with a detailed blueprint and an explanation of how to build it with Earth’s limited technological resources. (Or the engine from the alien spacecraft that crashed could be used as a sample for the design.) The time limit to retrieve the radiation remover from Iscandar is only one year! The radiation will seep into the underground cities and kill all living things in one year, and all remaining natural resources will be used up in that time.
Unknown to the Earthlings are the origin of the messenger and her world. The population there is only two; two beautiful sisters who control their dying planet’s declining technology. The younger sister became the messenger and died on Mars, leaving the elder sister on Iscandar. She is Queen Starsha, a proud yet gentle lady…but like a lioness, she also tests other intelligent life forms to see if they are fit to survive. The Rajendorans laugh and bide their time as the Earth slowly dies from the radiation.
Space Battleship Yamato launches on January 1st, 2199. One Captain leads the crew of the Yamato, which is divided into two groups: the space soldiers and the navigators.
–The Captain: A great scientist from the war.
–Susumu Kodai: Leader of the space soldiers. He is the hero that found the alien spacecraft on Mars. Impatient and restless, he opts to take dangerous missions instead of speaking what’s on his mind.
–Chief Navigator: He has the opposite personality of Kodai, and is a professional in all aspects of mechanics.
–Yuki Mori: She resembles the beautiful alien woman. She is very much a romanticist and wants to be a famous space poet.
–Analyzer: A two-in-one robot. Its human and robotic personalities often conflict and it behaves strangely, especially in a crisis. However, when it comes to saving lives, it will continue to fight even when damaged, braving flames, water, or even methane gas to help its comrades. It is always worried about dying.
–Doctor Sado: He’s a quack veterinarian, but a top physician.
–And over a hundred other crew members that will make this year-long journey aboard the Yamato.
Creating a protective asteroid ring around the ship, the crew of Yamato fight on as they leave the solar system behind. Yamato often has to land on some unknown planet to pick up supplies or must make emergency landings when attacked. The Rajendorans attack using various life forms as slaves or with the aid of space pirates.
Once beyond the galaxy, the crew are not able to make contact with Earth. The pirate ship Deathshadow approaches Yamato. It is a high-class battleship from Earth (but it pales in firepower compared with Yamato). The pirates are a dying people affected by radiation without any hope of survival. They also despise the Earthlings because of their relative health and well-being. Captain Harlock is the leader of the pirates. He is a strange man who pays particular attention to Kodai.
Although there are many battles with the Rajendorans, Yamato continues to speed toward Iscandar. The space soldiers begin bickering with the navigators. The Captain must deal with many trials and tribulations as they make their way toward their destination, using the asteroid ring as an effective defense mechanism.
They eventually are able to identify Iscandar. Surprisingly, Iscandar and Rajendora are binary planets. Iscandar has only one surviving citizen, but the Rajendorans do not attack it. If one of the planets were destroyed, the other would lose its orbital balance and fly straight into the sun. Iscandar also has a self-destruct system. The Captain collapses after breaking through a barrier between the planets. Kodai takes command thereafter.
After becoming Captain, Kodai discovers the difficulty of commanding a ship with all its responsibilities. He must deal not only with the space soldiers, but needs to come to terms with the navigation group as well. The Chief Navigator, who was to become Captain, cannot deal with Kodai taking his position. Yuki is stuck between the two mens’ rivalry.
In the final battle, they must destroy the military forces of Rajendora in order to reach Iscandar. Yamato, enduring a number of casualties and damages, makes it to Rajendora’s planetary capital and silences it. Dessler escapes in a large interstellar craft to fight another day. A pirate ship arrives and delivers the death blow to the Rajendorans.
Yamato lands on Iscandar. The crew is surprised to discover only Queen Starsha there. She sees Yuki and cries when she is reminded of her dead sister. They obtain the radiation remover, but it remains untested because Starsha is without the help of her robots (they are all inactive due to the depletion of their energy). The crew prepares to make a final, single jump to Earth. They invite Starsha to go with them, but she refuses, saying Iscandar is her world and she plans on dying here. She tells Kodai that only the pirate, Captain Harlock, understands her feelings about a world that is destined to die. She tells Kodai that the true identity of Captain Harlock is no doubt among the possessions of Kodai’s elder brother (which he has been keeping with him all this time).
The trip back home begins after a big commotion about leaving Starsha alone. “So I’ll remain behind, too,” says one of the crew. Yamato disposes of its asteroid defense belt and departs. They test the radiation remover on a nearby planet along the way. The Chief Navigator operates the machine by himself and dies as a result.
Even if they make it back, they could still be too late. Therefore, they plan to make another world into a second Earth…but humans are not able to live in a pure atmosphere. Ironically, they are more adapted to a world with pollution. It will take a number of decades before they are able to live in an unpolluted world again.
The final battle with Dessler: Yamato is ambushed in a surprise attack. Both sides are equally matched, and they inflict severe damage on each other. Because the crew dismantled Yamato‘s asteroid shield, they begin to take severe losses. The crew realizes that if they lose here, the effort of their year-long journey would be for nothing, so they dig in and fight to the death.
The Deathshadow enters the battle and complicates matters. Dessler’s battle strategy is foiled, and his ship is destroyed by Yamato‘s main weapon. Most of the crew of the badly-damaged Deathshadow are either injured or killed. Kodai offers to transfer the pirate crew to Yamato, but Captain Harlock, laughing sadly, refuses. “Now is not the time to take on extra cargo,” he says. “Get rid of your excess baggage and make haste to Earth.”
Kodai recalls Starsha’s words about his dead brother’s possessions. He searches through them but can find nothing concerning the identity of Captain Harlock…until Analyzer reads a manga found among the possessions: The Tale of Captain Harlock.
Captain Harlock IS Kodai’s elder brother!
Harlock laughs and waves. “Be strong and live long,” he says, as he departs for the dark reaches of space. Starsha hears the transmission and weeps. “It appears that I shall not die alone,” she says. “As things die, new life is born. That is the way of the universe.”
The remaining Yamato crew, pawns in the greater scheme of things, returns home. Earth now has a chance to be reborn. It has been saved. The battle-weary Earthlings welcome Yamato back with hope.
(Or: there was nobody there to greet them in the end…did they make it back in time?)
Continue to the next part of Yamato Origins:
Part 7: Matsumoto’s Story Notes
Continue to the next Matsumoto article:
1976 interview from Fantoche Magazine