Harutoshi Fukui Interview, May 2018

The day before Yamato 2202 Chapter 5 was released in theaters, this brief but insightful interview with Series Writer Harutoshi Fukui was published on Otonanswer. Also included here is his introduction from the theatrical program book.

Talking Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love with Harutoshi Fukui; where we’ve been and where we’re going

See the original article here

Yamato 2202 has reached Chapter 4, and we interviewed series writer Harutoshi Fukui to hear his current feelings on having just three chapters left. He shared his thoughts on handing the script for this national anime.

This work is a sequel to Yamato 2199 and is set three years after the voyage to Iscandar. In order to protect Planet Telezart from an invasion by the Gatlantis Empire, the former Yamato crew takes on the challenge of a voyage to Telezart.

One more, then it’s a grand slam

Interviewer: In terms of all seven chapters, I’ve heard that Chapter 4 is the turning point. What is your feeling now that you’re entering Chapter 5?

Fukui: Last year I felt that coming this far would be “one more step,” but now I don’t feel that way. It’s the feeling of being at the halfway point and still having so many things to do. From here, the story gets denser and darker. It’s almost time to start on the ending, in such a way that you think it’s going in this direction and then it gets flipped over with a boom.

Interviewer: After Gundam UC ended, next you were in charge of composition and scriptwriting for Yamato 2202. How do you feel about the creation of two major anime titles that represent Japan?

Fukui: It feels like if I do one more, then it’s a grand slam. I didn’t aim for that (laughs), but when I finished Gundam there was no serious plan to work on something else, and when I was thinking about what to do I got the offer for Yamato. I thought it was special providence. When I got on board, it was harder than I thought. Whether Yamato or Gundam, I don’t think it’s important to keep on chasing after them, because I graduated from Yamato and Gundam a long time ago. If I remade them because I was unable to graduate from them, and thought I’d only end up projecting my own ego, I wouldn’t have taken them on. I undertook them because I’d gained a modicum of distance from them.

Interviewer: You had a ship in Another Country’s Aegis and a submarine in Lorelei at the End of the War, and you’re dealing with battleships this time. Do you feel a connection to ships?

[Translator’s note: the two titles mentioned here are novels by Fukui that were adapted into live-action films.]

Fukui: There is no doubt that I have a connection with ships. I guess I haven’t done a story where no ship appears. Ships are suitable for an ensemble drama in a closed space. As characters become integrated into a crew, they can stand up against a powerful enemy. In that way, I think it suits me.

Interviewer: Do you have a boat license?

Fukui: I don’t have a license, and I don’t want to get on board one. It has the image of taking you somewhere far beyond Japan, which I might have liked as a child. In my generation, I first knew Yamato as the space battleship rather than the actual battleship. There were hundreds of ships in Tokyo Bay, and I longed for such a ship as a child.

Interviewer: I feel that there are many so-called “Buddies” in your work. In Yamato, I think the relationship between the main characters Susumu Kodai and Klaus Kiman is like that.

Fukui: It’s not a buddy thing, it’s a clash between generations. If a story advances with only one set of values, it will be a sermon or propaganda rather than a story. Whatever the right answer, even if someone has it from the beginning, it’s good to clash even with a boy who doesn’t have it. As a human being, I think the real thrill of an ensemble story is when the truth appears for an instant and then disappears.

In the Showa era, it was unshakable that the teachings of a predecessor were absolute justice, but that is not so in the Heisei world (post-1980s). Companies collapsed from doing what the predecessor said, and now AI is good enough. How should one live in such a world? In this world, problems happen every day that the predecessors in the family line never had to face. I wonder what beliefs we can live by.

When I think about that, this Yamato fits well. It’s like, “There’s a lid for every pot.” In keeping with that, we have the conflict of Captain Okita, the predecessor in the previous series saying not to use the Wave-Motion Gun. How does Susumu Kodai deal with that? I figured it would be easy for adults living in the Heisei era to sympathize. With that, I was able to depict it with the same methodology as usual.

Interviewer: In that sense, is Kiman a statement to the previous work that we should recognize a buddy over a senior?

Fukui: It has an implication of betrayal.

Interviewer: It’s the same as with your characters in Aegis and Lorelei.

Fukui: In fact, one person is looking in a different direction than everyone else, but when we finish they’re all looking in the same direction. Or maybe he was standing at the top. Since the breadth of change is the fun of the story, Kiman feels exactly like that. Because everyone takes the lead now.

The thought behind Soldiers of Love

Interviewer: Only fighters have appeared before now, but Mobile Space Armor appears in Chapter 4. Whose idea was that?

Fukui: Makoto Kobayashi suggested it, and I thought it was interesting. It would be a problem if I have to make the Space Cavalry appear, and there weren’t many scenes or highlights for them. When it comes to ship vs. ship, it’s about the melee of ships clashing with each other. I wanted to be able to have characters at the forefront of that.

Interviewer: Was there any part of the armor you were particular about?

Fukui: The first thing I cared about was, make it clearly not Gundam. (Laughs)

Interviewer: On the Gatlantis side, there’s a line about “A war because of love,” but will there be a response to that on the Yamato side?

Fukui: There will be a bloody answer to that. After all, the story of Farewell to Yamato clearly said, “everyone will die for love.” When that is replaced by the present-day world, only the term suicide bombing comes out. There was criticism in those days that it glorified suicide. Now it is more directly related to terrorism.

Therefore, it is necessary to prepare a considerable resolution for the title Soldiers of Love in the modern day. I dared to bring the title in as is and tell a story that can embody it. It began with a snap decision, and that’s how the scripts are going all the way to the end. Moreover, the meaning of Soldiers of Love is different from that time.

Interviewer: Chapter 5 will be shown in theaters soon, then it’s on to Chapters 6 and 7. I’d like to finish with as many future highlights as possible.

Fukui: Chapter 5 is “turning point” in the flow of introduction, development, denouement, and conclusion. It’s a point in the composition that should turn toward “consolidation,” but we don’t see the consolidation. There is a setup, and despite the converging catharsis, there is a development that betrays it. For those who saw the original work, there is an impact and something equivalent to trauma.

You think you’ve been beaten, but then something amazing comes from inside. That feeling of despair and surprise is also imitated in Hollywood grammar. If so, what could happen if we tried to recreate that feeling? That’s the Yamato I’m making now. From here on, there will be a series of surprises for those who saw it back then. For those who didn’t, I’m making something that will not come up short compared to the latest thing. Once you start watching, you won’t want to stop.

Chapter 5 Introduction

by Harutoshi Fukui, from the theatrical program book

Gatlantis vs Andromeda fleet!! Behold, the dreadful city empire!!

Is it greater than Earth?

As usual, please pardon the oncoming spoilers.
Be sure to read this after you watch volume 5.

“I’ve taken your family hostage. If you don’t want them killed, then do what I say!”

This sort of villain line is the most standard of standards, especially for those of us who are pushing 50. I think that in the tokusatsu hero shows I watched in my childhood, that line would inevitably show up in one or two episodes. Adding in adult-oriented detective shows, I think I may have heard this line about a hundred times.

And so the threatened party does what the bad guys tell them to, obeys their demands, and are then saved through the efforts of the hero. As as child, I thought that they might sacrifice themselves to at least save their families, seeing how the demands were always for something like an “Earth Destruction Bomb” or “Poison Gas That Will Kill Everyone In Tokyo.” If the Earth itself was threatened, saving your family can’t really be helped, can it?

Well, if the damage is just limited to Tokyo, then I suppose you could escape to Chiba or Saitama, but if the hostages are being held in exchange for the Earth or all of humanity, then the premise doesn’t really hold up.

No, no, even if you limit it to Tokyo, it’s still no good. It’d be ridiculous to endanger other people for the sake of one wealthy family. We wrap up that sort of egotism in pretty words like “familial love” and unconditionally excuse it. It’s a deception in regard to the contradiction of human society, isn’t it? Anyway, this has gotten a bit long, but these were the author’s impressions upon becoming a middle school student. (My still watching these things after entering middle school is an entirely separate discussion).

So, having these thoughts prompts the thought experiment of “What would I do?” if I was still a kid, with no idea yet of being burdened with responsibilities to a family, who considers placing his life in the balance. You’d think “Let me save the Earth in exchange for my life.” Yes, that’s it. If possible, you’d want everyone to know “He sacrificed himself for Earth’s sake,” but even if it happened in secret, you’d think “Well, I think I’d be able to die satisfied.”

On the other hand, it’s far more frightening for people to not know whether they’d save the Earth or not. At this point, if you won’t step into the realm of asking “Well, would you sacrifice the girl you have a crush on?” then it’s all just a middle schooler’s thought experiment in the end. At the very least, for me, there’s nothing more serious in the world than my own life. The moment I’m asked to offer something worth more than my life, the experiment ends, because I am invincible. At the risk of sounding annoyingly simplistic, that’s what it is to be a child, isn’t it?

As we go through life, in the period from puberty into our 20’s, while I risk having this taken the wrong way, you come to feel that your life is fairly cheap. If we believe that it does have value, then somewhere inside we also have the hidden desire for there to be some danger in which we can easily offer our lives. It can’t be denied that an aspect of that youthful mentality was taken advantage of with the kamikaze pilots of the old Japanese military. Perhaps, as we tearfully watched Farewell to Yamato 40 years ago, those same sorts of heartstrings in us were being plucked.

But, as that pubescent mentality I had becomes more distant in my memory, and I have long since been burdened with the responsibilities of a family, we now run that thought experiment again with completely different priorities and meanings manifesting before us.

Trade your life for the world…
Yes, I could. Moreso than before.

The reason being that I now have a wife and child in this world. There are things which are more important than my life. Well, what if you ask me to trade my family’s life for the world? As a child, I could cut the Gordian Knot by simply declaring “It’s a ridiculous premise!” but I’m sure I’m not the only one who would realize that he couldn’t. At the very worst, maybe I’d say just my wife, so long as I could die with her (cue commentary from the nation’s wives).

But children, especially very little children, dying with me is something that I could never accept. The duty to protect and raise children, and your duty as a member of human society…they’re really not equivalent. On a sentimental level, the former completely overrides the latter. I understand it in theory. Children will not live long or happily in a world that’s controlled by evil. But, if I were in that situation, I’d probably do all I can to delude myself. With the magic words, “So long as I live, then I’ll manage somehow.”

In volume 3, Kodai and Yuki both make a decision — one might better call it an impulse — to adopt a phony sort of cruelty to each other, arriving at a coldness that approaches madness. Like Katou has now…

If we think of this as a game, with the urge strong to put the thought experiment into practice, then who is Zordar, who sneers at love? Guessing from his eyes that silently look down on a healthily crying baby, that regard Sabera, who was revived as a puppet, the truth is…well, I suppose, in the end, there’s no hint of anything in there.

The 21st century edition of Soldiers of Love now approaches its climax.

Translation by Neil Nadelman.

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