Prior to the resurrection of Space Battleship Yamato in 2009, it was easy to think that the chance to watch it progress and evolve in real time would never come again. Fortunately, that turned out not to be the case, so rather than lament over something permanently locked up in history we now have the opportunity to draw parallels between then and now by reading the words of those who were there the first time around.
In the spring of 1990, a small group of Yamato‘s most dedicated Japanese fans assembled at the official fan club headquarters to put their experiences on record. It is they, as much as anyone on the production staff, who kept the homefires burning, and some of them are still doing so today.
The round-table discussion with these elite fans was transcribed and published in the Yamato fan club magazine; now we bring you their words in English for the first time.
Special thanks to Tsuneo Tateno for translation assistance.
Comparative Study: the enjoyment of Yamato fans
From Space Battleship Yamato Fan Club Magazine #75
What do Yamato fans enjoy doing? Hearing from them directly is the best way to answer this. We gathered five of our members to talk about the major activities surrounding each episode. We’ll also hear about their collections and the passions they share.
The participants (from left): Masaru Enomoto, Hiromi Yamaguchi, Shigemi Watanabe, Takumi Yoshii, and Toshinori Watanabe
Interview conducted by Masato Zawa on March 10, 1990 at the fan club headquarters in Roppongi, Tokyo
Part 1: Participation at movie and TV events
Interviewer: Please tell me how you enjoyed the experience of movie premieres and TV broadcasts.
T. Watanabe: In terms of movies, the first really enthusiastic Yamato fans were those who lined up in a vigil at theatres. I did this on the first day of Farewell to Yamato‘s release and made a lot of friends there. We’re still friends today.
Interviewer: What did you talk about during these vigils?
T. Watanabe: We brought our collections from Yamato and other works and showed them to each other.
Enomoto: Staying up all night for a movie first took shape with Yamato; it made the newspapers. At first, I just killed time, but that changed as people showed up with their collections. It was a pleasure watching that grow to become part of the story of Yamato.
Interviewer: How did it change you?
Enomoto: The premiere of Yamato was the first time you could get a free cel if you arrived early. I wanted one of those cels, so in the beginning I joined the vigil out of competition. You could brag to others about how long you waited in line, whether it was all night or a week or a month. To keep the line from getting scrambled, people kept track of who bought tickets in what order, and everyone happily followed the regulations of their fan comrades.
Newspaper articles and movie listings were just a few of the many items these fans gathered into their scrapbooks.
Interviewer: What were the other experiences of staying up all night?
S. Watanabe: Feeling like all the fans were hiding underground until then. (Laughs) There was the feeling that you wanted to belong. I was the opposite of you all. I wasn’t yet a big Yamato fan, so I decided to go later after it quieted down because I didn’t want to watch the movie in a crowded theatre! (Laughs)
At the time of Farewell to Yamato, the general feeling was that being there made us unbeatable. I didn’t think so many fans would be there, because the TV broadcast of the first movie happened on the day before. Who could miss that, since the main event was still a day away? It took someone with a lot of willpower! (Laughs)
I went to the all-night vigil for Be Forever. I decided I wanted to see it early, and had the feeling of making an open disclosure in a public place.
Interviewer: You didn’t have the feeling of enjoying the vigil for its own sake?
T. Watanabe: Not at first, but my mood improved, especially while listening to All Night Nippon (Laughs). There was someone who agreed to bring a portable TV to watch the previous movie [Editor’s note: The New Voyage was rebroadcast on Fuji Television that night]. Even though it was a tiny black and white screen, my willpower increased when I got to watch it with other fans.
Enomoto: When we waited in line to see Farewell to Yamato, we didn’t have that technology yet. There was no video at that time, so we looked around for a window at an electronics store somewhere. I decided to carry a TV with me forever! (Laughs)
Interviewer: Fans were conflicted by the broadcast of a previous movie the night before a new one premiered and went to a great deal of trouble over it. It seems that staying up all night with other fans was a way of voluntarily participating in a group activity rather than watching TV as an individual.
From left to right: Shigeru Watanabe, a self-proclaimed artisan, created a cel for a friend.
Takumi Yoshii bought keyholders that can be categorized as bootlegs.
Ms. Yamaguchi points to a photo of herself in cosplay; she also makes doujinshi (fanzines).
Toshinori Watanabe collects flyers and movie tickets.
Interviewer: Is there a similar experience with Yamato on TV?
T. Watanabe: On TV there were commercials for anime shows. I checked every TV show in which I thought a Yamato commercial might appear. I thought it was also possible that Yamato music might be used in other programs, like figure skating. I looked for anything and everything related to Yamato. For instance, another character named Yuki Mori appeared on a [live-action] TV drama called Hotel on TBS.
Interviewer: You mean, you checked everything for Yamato, even if there was no direct connection?
T. Watanabe: Yes, but my success rate was still below 50%. All I could do was guess.
Yoshii: When I rent a Yamato video and watch it with my friends, everyone knows the story, so we tend to nitpick it for faults. When we find something, we reacted like it’s a serious problem. Anyway, this is acceptable among Yamato fans, but I get outraged when I hear someone else speak ill of Yamato.
Yamaguchi: I’m the opposite of Watanabe; I love to meet with Yamato by accident. I mean, I’m very glad to find a Yamato reference in programs I regularly watch, such as the use of some music or some guest with a Yamato connection. I feel like, “oh, I found Yamato in a hidden place,” and I enjoy it.
S. Watanabe: When part 1 was first broadcast, everybody in my family watched Heidi of the Alps. After Heidi concluded, A Dog of Flanders began. But my family discussed it and decided not to watch, since it’s a very sad story. Thanks to that, I could watch Yamato at last. I started around the Octopus Star Storm episode, and I was so excited, like “Oh! Yamato! And it’s in color!” (Laughs)
Interviewer: It sounds like Yamato could either unite or destroy your family! (Laughs)
Autographed items were particularly valuable, since each was one of a kind.
Here is a 1979 double feature movie program and a “Drama” LP signed in 1981.
Interviewer: Next I’d like to ask about events. I think you all had the experience of participating in one. Please tell me how you liked it.
Enomoto: I stayed up all night for that, too. I kept wanting to be the number one fan, not yielding it to anyone else…
Interviewer: Was it like the movies and the all-night vigils?
Enomoto: Yes, but the degree of enthusiasm was higher because fan club events attracted only hardcore fans, and I had a lot of fun meeting people like that.
Interviewer: So was it an even bigger pleasure than going to a movie?
Enomoto: We would sit up all night outside an event hall and greet each other as we arrived. When we parted, we promised to meet the next time, even if we left disappointed. I would get carried away with the joy and excitement, even though police cars occasionally showed up. I encounter many people at work, but it’s different being in a crowd that shares my passion.
A small sampling of what devoted collectors had to keep up with: stickers, wallets, keychains, and more.
Interviewer: What about the content of the event itself?
Enomoto: The biggest pleasure of the fan meetings was the appearance of Mr. Nishizaki. Fan and creator met face to face. I looked forward to that, imagining how he would answer my questions. I had many things I wanted to ask. He didn’t pick me, but he did pick other fans who asked the same questions I had, so I applauded him in my mind. “Yes! You did it!” Such feelings were a good reason to attend the fan meetings, and it was a lot of fun…but maybe it makes the creators feel nervous. (Laughs)
S. Watanabe: True, a chance to hear Mr. Nishizaki speak was a real pleasure for an underground fan like me. I wanted to ask him tough questions. I could speak to him directly, but I was nervous about him being critical of me.
Yamaguchi: I did cosplay at the fan meetings. There was a 2-day screening event in Ueno. I conspired with my friends during the first day to cosplay on the second day and watch Yamato more emphatically.
Interviewer: Did watching in costume give you a different impression?
Yamaguchi: Yes, it was different. To tell the truth, I intended to enjoy it by completely identifying with my character, but actually every time one of our characters appeared on screen, we burst into laughter. It was a different way to watch anime, and it was a lot of fun. Also, strangers spoke to me whenever I wore a costume. It expands your connection with people.
Masaru Enomoto shows his extensive collection of Glico candy
products. See them close up via a link at the end of this page.
Part 2: Collecting Yamato Goods
Interviewer: Next I’d like to hear your stories about collecting Yamato goods
Enomoto: I collected the prizes from Yamato snacks at the time. There was a large number of them, so I had to buy a lot. I saved up my lunch money so instead of buying just one or two at a time I could get a whole box. I asked for a box with artwork of Yamato on it. The supervisor in the shop said no one had ever asked for that before.
He said ‘just a minute,’ and brought out a box with a huge hole in it. That was the one. Even though it was sticky, I took it.
Interviewer: Is your home full of Yamato?
Enomoto: Well, I tried to organize everything in the beginning, but the number of items recently increased. I intend to tidy it up gradually one day in my old age.
T. Watanabe: The problem with keeping any collection is what to do in case of a fire. One fire could erase all evidence of Yamato from this world. (Laughs) I’m thinking it should be distributed across the country to prevent the tragedy of it being lost.
Part 3: Starting Fan Activity with one’s own Hands!
Interviewer: What about making doujinshi [fanzines]?
Yamaguchi: My cosplay friends asked me if I would write for their circle, and now I’m making my own. Sometimes I write serious stories, but most of it is parody manga. Two years ago I put out a Yamato cookbook. The names of the dishes were all related to Yamato, like ‘Emperor Dessler Cocktail’ or ‘Sulfuric Acid Soup of Gamilas,’ etc.
The Amada Printing Co. released card sets in enormous
quantities that kept fans on their toes.
Yoshii: When I participated in Yamato Party for the first time, there was great excitement and I began to feel like doing something of my own. I put out a recruitment request and got cooperation from several others, but there is great satisfaction in editing something in one’s own way. I intend to start over again after some re-thinking.
Enomoto: It was about six years ago that I discovered the world of fan groups for the first time and thought, “could there be such a good world?” A circle comes together little by little, and a combination is needed to make a book because it cannot easily be put out by one person. Therefore, some contribute illustrations, or poems, or manga. Everyone does something.
Yamaguchi: I have talked with many people, and a lot of them have their own Yamato story in mind, even if they don’t write doujinshi. A while ago I put an announcement in the fan club magazine about my plan to publish an anthology of such inside stories.
Interviewer: Next I’d like you to talk about the event organized by fans…
Enomoto: Yamato Party is done every year. It brings together the activity of many circles and strengthens the whole system by providing a place to sell their doujinshi. There will be another one this summer.
Interviewer: Have you been to other events hosted by fans?
Enomoto: My first time at such an event was 6 years ago in Yokohama. I had a chance to participate in a screening put on by fans. I was surprised and impressed by their efforts.
Yamaguchi: When I do cosplay at events like Comiket, other cosplayers often point at me and say, “Oh, it’s Yamato!” It seems they loved it before, but now they prefer the anime their costume comes from. I always cosplay at Yamato Party where all of the participants are Yamato fans. Some may feel shy about speaking with strangers, but everyone is friendly. I made many friends whose name I didn’t even know before the event.
Interviewer: It seems the common experience is to make friends who you can then meet again and again.
Many of the various stationery products were offered through the official Yamato fan club,
but there were still plenty more to be hunted down.
Part 4: Many Interesting Episodes!
Interviewer: Do you have any other interesting episodes to talk about?
Yamaguchi: There was a piano in my school, and I learned to play the theme for Uruk [from Final Yamato]. A friend heard me playing it and asked which “classical” piece it was. I said it was from Yamato, and afterward my friend became a fan. I didn’t know the sound in that building was so good; I was spreading Yamato music without knowing it.
T. Watanabe: I did the reverse; I started listening to classical music after hearing the soundtrack to Be Forever.
Yoshii: My music teacher played Symphonic Suite Yamato to the students in a music appreciation class in high school. I was able to identify the theme in the middle of it. Actually, that teacher was a Yamato fan and listened attentively to the music at that time.
Interviewer: The music is one part everyone can enjoy.
Enomoto: I used to be in the Air Self-Defense Force. At that time, there was only one TV in the dayroom, and The New Voyage was on. Naturally, I wanted to watch it again. But because I was a recruit, I didn’t have the right to change the channel, so I had to request it beforehand. When I walked in at half-past five and put it on, Kodai and Dessler appeared and there was instant applause from the others. By the end of it, there were about 50 people in that little recreation room. (Laughs)
Sometimes the prospect of amassing a complete collection must have seemed hopeless.
Yes, that would appear to be a frisbee…
Part 5: Recommendations for Every Fan
Interviewer: Please give your suggestions for ways others can enjoy Yamato.
Yamaguchi: Mine would be cosplay. It’s slowly declining, but I want to revive it. We need more men to participate. I want to see every character done all at once!
Enomoto: Individual people can start a screening association with friends in their neighborhood. It’s possible to find cheap spaces such as public halls and rent 16mm films from the fan club. It’s a good way to increase the number of fans. It’s also good to host video screenings at your house.
T. Watanabe: If you meet someone who doesn’t know what’s going on, have them contact the fan club headquarters to find out how they can become active.
Books and magazines were slightly easier to keep track of, but still came in overwhelming numbers.
The 1980 Academy studio pamphlet, promoting Yamato and other productions, was easily among the rarest.
Interviewer: What would each of you like to do with your time?
Yoshii: I’d like to participate in making Yamato again. Then I’d like to run around to used book and record stores to collect the things I don’t have yet.
S. Watanabe: I’d like that, too. I became an anime fan thanks to Yamato and went through the company entrance exam for Toei Animation Studio. I felt that my experience making fanzines could be serve them with their official bulletin. That bulletin connects a huge number of fans, so I’d like to set up a journal for all of them.
Yamaguchi: I’ve always wanted to see a Yamato concert performed by amateur fans, though that may be impossible. It wouldn’t substitute for a professional performance, but the music is loaded with deep contemplation. I want to recruit people who would be willing to cooperate and try it.
Enomoto: I’d also like to enhance the official club magazine. I’m thinking about some kind of game everyone could participate in. And I might like to try some cosplay. (Laughs)
Interviewer: Thank you for joining us today, and thank you in advance for your active participation in the future.
Conclusion: I was surprised to hear the enthusiasm for Yamato in the stories of these five people. I was even more surprised by what was in their collections! I’d like everyone to continue holding onto such passion. Please send your stories to us at the Fan Club Plaza. Thanks for your feedback!
Click on the links below to begin a photo-tour of the vintage collectibles these fans (and many like them) chased after during the production years. Each page links to the next if you want to follow them chronologically.
And to find out what these fans are up to today, click here for a firsthand report on Yamato Party 2009!
BONUS: Something a really, REALLY dedicated fan might collect: memorabilia from the Yamato Hotel chain in China.