The Music of Yamato Resurrection

From the moment Space Battleship Yamato Resurrection was announced, one of the first questions from the fan community was, “who will write the music?” This was only natural; the opening song and all those amazing soundtracks are so deeply interwoven with the story that the two are inseperable. Even if you forget some of the characters or story details, you never forget the impression that music left on you.

We examined Yamato music on this site in 2008, exploring its variety and history in great detail (starting here) but still only scratched the surface of how meaningful it has become to the fans. You can only watch the anime so many times, but you can listen to the music forever and it will always hold the same emotional resonance. No wonder fans were so quick to ask that question; a new soundtrack that failed to meet the standard would make this new movie sound like an imposter.

Fortunately, Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki not only agreed, he insisted that Yamato deserved nothing less. He not only revived the original score, he dug into its roots and augmented it with some of the classical music that inspired it in the first place. Add a new end title song by a Japanese rock band with the same vintage as the first TV series, and you have a musical package that meets its requirements handily.

Animage Original is a spinoff of Animage, Japan’s first anime specialty magazine. It can be described as a high-end publication with lengthier coverage of more selective topics. Volume 5, published in October 2009, was the first to seek out an answer to the fan community’s important question, and we’re proud to bring you a full translation of the article.

The Music of Yamato Resurrection

By Amane Ito
Translated & edited by Tim Eldred
Yamato is musical. The music stays in your ear even after the scene floats away. That should be true of this new Yamato as well.”

So says Executive Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki, who was done with about 90% of the film’s editing when we talked with him at Yamato Studio in September. Yamato caused the anime boom and influenced subsequent generations in various fields, especially that of anime music. Nishizaki partnered with the incomparable composers Hiroshi Miyagawa and Kentaro Haneda. Their work stays in peoples’ minds today and was invaluable to Yamato Resurrection. I discussed the music of Yamato both old and new with the parties concerned with it now.

Music That Crosses Generations

August, 2009. A day in which summer asserts itself. The air conditioner has to be stopped because the nearly 30 microphones are picking it up. The band members keep their concentration high on the music even though they have to pause and wipe off the sweat. Finally, the supervisor announces a 15-minute break and many voices leak out relief. The people who supply the water remark on how hot it is even with the fans on, but this does not register on the faces of the musicians while they are on stage.

The music recording for Space Battleship Yamato Resurrection took place August 17, 18 and 26 at Suginami Community Hall. It was performed by the Japan Philharmonic Symphony under the supervision of Conductor Naoto Otomo. Usually, the music for movies and TV programs is recorded in a studio, but Otomo and Yoshinobu Nishizaki prefer the acoustic sound of a full orchestra, so they adopted this method of working.

The music recorded on this August day was written shortly after Final Yamato and is the only symphony left behind by the late Kentaro Haneda. Additionally, classical music will be at the heart of Yamato Resurrection.

It was Hiroshi Miyagawa who created the musical image of Yamato that engulfed many people in a wave of excitement. Kentaro Haneda participated as a pianist in the score for Farewell to Yamato and subsequently became an essential member of the staff. Both had been friends since they were 10 years old and did much to stimulate each others’ creativity. It was Haneda who played the major role in the music for Final Yamato in 1983, but fans always loved the Miyagawa sound and what Haneda brought to it.

The Yamato Grand Symphony followed the release of the movie, an orchestral concert in four movements performed by the NHK Symphony Orchestra in 1984. It rearranged and wove together scores from both film and TV soundtracks into a symphonic poem that expressed Miyagawa motifs with the technique of classical music. Haneda added his own original flourishes in a magnificent performance that lasted over 50 minutes.

In May 2009, Conductor Naoto Otomo revived that performance after 25 years with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra in concert. “Because it was the last, greatest symphony of Mr. Haneda and I wanted it to be heard again,” he explained. (The flyer for this event is shown below)

It was a lucky coincidence of scheduling that Otomo was available to join the music staff of Yamato Resurrection. According to him, he was asked to participate by Mr. Nishizaki in December ’08. In Producer Nishizaki’s words:

“It was because of the composing and arranging of Miyagawa and Haneda that Yamato remained in so many hearts. With them both now absent, you are the remaining member of the music staff. By all means, I want you to participate as the person who knows all.”

Nishizaki also seemed to have a strong desire to use classical music in the soundtrack for Resurrection. Naoto Otomo specializes as a classical conductor and was only in his twenties when he lead the orchestra in the score for Final Yamato. He understood Nishizaki’s feelings well, having a deep friendship with both Miyagawa and Haneda. A tremble entered his voice when he talked about Haneda, who was his same age.

He explained that tying the background music to the film’s narrative would lead to a better performance. He feels particularly strongly about connecting with both those who know Yamato and those who are new to it. Other members of the staff say that as well. They want to convey a message across generations with music as the prime example.

Four Pillars of the Music Showcased in Resurrection

The music of Resurrection has four pillars. One of them is the 1984 Grand Symphony, which symbolizes in classical techniques the legacy of Miyagawa and Haneda. It is said that the 2009 performance of that piece will be used in the climax of the movie. Its power eloquently expresses the world of Yamato.

The second pillar is the classical music that will be heard as the central BGM of the film. Otomo explained that Yoshinobu Nishizaki was committed to this because when he worked closely with Hiroshi Miyagawa to create the Yamato theme, classical music was their wellspring. This was maintained in the arrangements of Haneda. But everyone on the staff agrees that without the Miyagawa sound, it is not Yamato, even the members of the Japan Philharmonic.

Miyagawa’s music cannot be excluded from Yamato, as Otomo said: “it wouldn’t feel like Yamato if it didn’t have that theme and the original music.”

A contemporary rearrangement of the original music becomes the third pillar, and a new song becomes the fourth. It’s worth noting that the soundtrack includes a new theme song by THE ALFEE with arrangement by Kosuke Yamashita.

Yamashita was born in 1974, the year Yamato began. He worked on a lot of game music and the movie soundtrack for The Ambition of Nobunaga. He studied under Kentaro Haneda at the University of Tokyo Graduate School, developing a strong reputation for soundtracks and many other works.

Several pieces were written for the new generation of characters and enemies, but it will not be determined until the final edit if they are actually used.

In addition, the music of Resurrection is divided into three parts. The first part uses the Miyagawa sound from previous works, to symbolize the revival of Yamato. Classical music is used in the middle part, but it comes back to Yamato music again in the last part. Nobody yet knows what will actually be heard there.

Above: 1983 recording sessions for Final Yamato. Conductor Naoto Otomo is in the white t-shirt. Hiroshi Miyagawa and Yoshinobu Nishizaki are shown with Otomo in the center photo.

Eight Measures of Magic

According to Otomo, he put in more than 100 hours on the music of Final Yamato 25 years ago. It was very uncommon at the time to make such luxurious music for such a project. “Three LP records of music were released [by Nippon Columbia], but there was plenty of music that was not used that could still be released.”

The studio orchestra at the time was organized around top members of the NHK Symphony Orchestra and the quality of their performance was first class. But the hand that guided all that music began his work much earlier.

Hiroshi Miyagawa was known as the “Composer of Eight Measures.” Yoshinobu Nishizaki confirms these words: “isn’t the best classical music developed from units of eight measures? There was no other composer in Japan who made such spectacular music in units of eight.”

Miyagawa was the standard-bearer of Japanese music in the Showa era, and was also a songwriter of rare distinction. Nishizaki continues:

“In both the Yamato Theme and The Scarlet Scarf, there is a melody of 8 measures that develops fantastically. This differed substantially from tunes written in 2/3 time. These days, there is no composer who can stand in for him. Therefore, I thought I could only use classical music.”

“Furthermore,” he added, “his compositions were amazing.”

I talked with the performing orchestra members about this, and they said playing it is very natural and easy to feel emotionally. There is no struggle with their instruments, just good tunes. An excellent piece of music can be universally famous for 100 years or more, and Yamato music represents the present time.

Producer Nishizaki thinks deeply about the loss of his friends Miyagawa and Haneda. (Shown here in their later years.)

“Hiroshi Miyagawa, Kentaro Haneda, violinist Tsugio Tokunaga, and guitarist Yoshio Kumura. The four of them were gathered together, drinking late into the night. They were all active into their late thirties and early forties, and they’ve had a lot of alcohol. Miyagawa has a flash and flips open the piano. What he plays is inarguably a masterpiece, but it was completely forgotten the next morning. (Laughter) No one could write it down as sheet music. Therefore, a tape recorder was attached to the piano so they could continue drinking every night. That’s how he squeezed out such tunes as the Separation theme from The New Voyage.”

Today, Nishizaki does not have such a partner with whom he can collaberate. Therefore, he has developed the method of using classical music to embody an image with sound.

“Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin. We’ll include elements of the most wonderful music.”

The commitment to the 8-measure form of classical music seems to be strong in this producer.

Yamato is Musical

Yoshinobu Nishizaki became addicted to classical music at age ten and went to Hibiya Public Hall in Tokyo to hear the NHK Symphony Orchestra perform every month. This continued until he awakened to Argentine Tango music as a 15-year old high school student. And Jazz; moving from east coast to west coast styles, he at last arrived at modern jazz. Of his time as a commentator, he says:

“I studied music and learned how to read a score. If I was going to talk about it, I thought it would be a good idea to understand it. Yamato is musical. The music stays in your ear even after the scene floats away.”

This is of great concern to the producer.

“The picture and the sound combine organically. The scene and the music are closely calculated before the combination is applied.”

Another great SF work to use classical music in its soundtrack was Legend of the Galactic Heroes. When I asked how that was different, Nishizaki said the music was used wrongly in it.

“For example, it uses a Mahler symphony. There is a particular scene where it was applied though it was unnecessary. There is even a problem with the volume level. Because I am supervising the sound production myself, the effects, music, and dialogue are all worked on together. When effects and music are needed in the same place, you control the fade-in and stop at the best level. You must be conscious of that. When you see and hear it all together on a screen, you understand.”

As the supervisor, he sees every single scene. He becomes the work. It has been the same way with the music since the first series.

“There is a picture in my head. I see a storyboard, imagine the scene in my mind, and place an order for it. It’s the same with classical music, combining it in a way that makes sense.”

About ten pieces of classical music were used, all newly-recorded. The pianist was Yukio Yokoyama who played the fourth movement of Haneda’s symphony, the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth piano concerto, the first movement of Greig’s piano concerto, pieces by Chopin, and more. The strong, deep sound of a pianist’s fingers was needed. The tone must fit the image and the technique must be perfect.

Yokoyama delivered an excellent performance on the recording day and exchanged an impressive handshake with Nishizaki, who was deeply moved. So how will those pieces be specifically used? For example, the Grieg piano concerto:

“The orchestra defers to the piano for the scene where the enemy fortress appears before Yamato for the first time. Also, the beginning of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 is heard when Yamato‘s fighters launch into space and engage the enemy fleet. It is much faster than the tempo is usually played. It is our second battle scene, the biggest fight with the enemy throwing everything into it, so the normal tempo wouldn’t be good enough.”

As for Chopin:

“That’s for General Gorui, in charge of the enemy side. His voice is provided by Masayuki Ibu, who doesn’t perform any more but made an exception for Yamato. [Editor’s note: he previously performed Dessler and the EDF Commander.] Gorui is a man who will do and say things in a certain way, and I looked for music that could only be attached to him. That’s when Chopin came out.”

This also includes a piano solo by Yokoyama.

Inheritance of Memories and a New Generation

Kosuke Yamashita is participating in Yamato music for the first time and took charge of the arrangement. He is a man of exceptional talent, active in music for stage and television, and was an apprentice of Haneda. Nishizaki describes him as the greatest arranger of the present day. Yamashita described his approach:

“It’s about 16 or 17 tracks. The Cosmo Pulsar theme and the battle music, mainly. I’m a contemporary man who values the work of both Miyagawa and Haneda. It was difficult to find the balance between the old Yamato world and the new one. The acoustic sound was used so it wouldn’t become the “New Space Opera” style of today.”

Dedicate My Love is the noteworthy new ending theme song by THE ALFEE, a story sung from the heart in a unique treble that is completely within the world of Yamato. The band members are Masaru Sakurai (bass guitar/vocals), Kohnosuke Sakazaki (acoustic guitar/vocals/percussion) and Toshihiko Takamizawa (electric guitar/lead vocals).

“I went to see Farewell to Yamato many times in a theatre,” said Takamizawa. “While being a magnificent SF story, it also depicted the connections between people with great care and it became a favorite work of anime. It’s a great honor to be able to make this song.”

“I knew they liked Yamato already,” Nishizaki said of the group, “and that’s the reason I asked for them. They said “by all means” and made their demo tape in one week. It was an arrangement of the theme song played on solo guitar. It was remarkable as a solo, so it should be very good in the film.”

“We met several times during the production and talked about the story and theme,” Takamizawa added. “At that point the image had been firmly established, so we could basically entrust our song to it. He was very moved after hearing our demo tape, which was inspiring to us.”

Yamato and THE ALFEE both reached their 35th anniversary this year.

“I believe our appeal over these 35 years is due in part to the power of love. Dedicate My Love is the culmination of this,” Takamizawa said.

The refrain in the song is unforgettable: “I will return here without fail.” The harmonic progression is like an oath. The plan is to release this heartfelt song simultaneously with the Resurrection soundtrack album. Takamizawa also stands in for Isao Sasaki in the singing of the original Yamato theme in a rock/orchestra combo version made in cooperation with Yamashita. The arrangement of the two sounds together now represents the new Yamato.

“I felt serious pressure to arrange the Yamato theme to please the most dedicated fans,” Takamizawa concluded. “As the studio work was piling up, we had to express Yamato‘s unbeatable strength and give the impression of it being newly reborn without breaking the former image.”

Nishizaki also talked about this new version of the theme and about its life over the years.

“I thought it was a good opportunity to bring some change, since the original version is now consistently thought of as the work of Isao Sasaki. Of course, the original evokes a lot of memories. He started with Sarabaaa…Chikyuu-yo… in a low bass tone. He tried going down three, four, five levels, but he couldn’t get to five so we compromised at four. But I think it should change with the times. Mr. Takamizawa is halfway between youth and our age, so I thought he would be appropriate for it.”

It is a pleasure to hear Takamizawa’s higher tone in the new, more up-tempo version of the title song.

As for the generational change, it also affects most of the voice cast. One reason is that some original actors have died, but another is that the characters themselves are new and original. Sanada [Sandor], Sado [Dr. Sane] and Analyzer [IQ-9] have their original voices, but they do not board Yamato. Producer Nishizaki prefers the sound of an actor’s voice over their popularity and recognition.

“Surely,” he insists, “all the actors were good thirty years ago, but Kei Tomiyama [the voice of Kodai] was a genius. There are no voices like his anymore. And the whole image of this movie is Kodai, Kodai, Kodai. Even though we introduce a new crew, that’s a small detail, to be enjoyed the next time.”

When we asked about the meaningful words “next time” we learned how the new generation would play an active role.

“Two final scenes have been prepared,” he answered: “the ‘Save Earth’ version and the ‘Lose Earth’ version. Which one we’ll use has not yet been decided. I use part of the Haneda piano concerto for the ‘Save Earth’ version with Tokunaga on violin. The piano of Haneda was great in those days, and the string section of the NHK Symphony Orchestra was amazing, too. But Yamato will survive regardless of which ending is chosen. It’s hope that leads to the future. This is the last work I myself will actively supervise, then I will hand it down to the next generation.”

What will be the fate of Earth? Will the work of the next generation bear fruit? Will Yamato sail off into the sea of battle after Resurrection? Everything will be told in the movie. Until the premiere of Yamato Resurrection, there are just 42 days left.

The End

Click here to continue to the Yamato Resurrection discography

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