1993 Staff Interview
Conducted separately from a related interview, this one included five participants, two of which came on board for the first round of development on Yamato Resurrection. That project was discussed in a fair amount of detail, and was remarkably consistent with the film that finally emerged 16 years later.
1. Eiichi Yamamoto
A director and producer for Mighty Atom [Astro Boy] and Jungle Emperor [Kimba] at Mushi Pro. Afterward, served as the supervisor of A Thousand and One Nights and Belladonna of Sorrow. He participated in Yamato from the early development phase.
2. Hideki Takayama
First participated as a production assistant on Farewell to Yamato, became assistant director on Be Forever and effects director on Final Yamato. Achieved international recognition as the supervisor of Uratsukidoji [Legend of the Overfiend].
3. Kazunori Tanahashi
Began as an assistant producer on Yamato Series 1, Assistant Director for all productions except Yamato III, in which he became the Animation Director.
4. Hiroyuki Kitazume
Made his professional anime debut as a character designer with the feature film for Legendary God Giant Ideon, later participated in Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack and Moldiver. Will be in charge of character design for Yamato Resurrection.
5. Masahiko Okura
Mecha designer for Go Nagai’s Legend of Shutendoji, Animation Supervisor for Magical Taruto-kun (feature film). First participated in Yamato as an animator on Final Yamato. Will be in charge of mecha design for Yamato Resurrection.
Interviewer: Though the series once concluded in a way with Farewell to Yamato, it was revived with The New Voyage. What were the circumstances of that?
Yamamoto: I was deeply involved with the first Yamato when it was in production, but I stepped back a bit after the second one. My only involvement was to look at the script and storyboards and give my opinion. Therefore, I don’t know many of the details.
Tanahashi: Because my work was in actual production, I didn’t know much about the planning.
Yamamoto: However, the story of Yamato is complete with the first TV series and movie version, so I personally objected to the making of a second work and the following ones. It is not cool to make a followup to a story which has already concluded.
So with every subsequent one, we worked on it while saying, “let’s end it with this story.” And the title uses some words which imply the idea.
Interviewer: Were The New Voyage and Be Forever Yamato planned from the beginning as a serial?
Tanahashi: The New Voyage was originally made for TV. I don’t know whether it was planned from the start to be part of a serial.
Yamamoto: As for me, I saw only a little of the storyboard. It was the one in which I participated least. Mr. Nishizaki was effectively the director of it.
Interviewer: It feels considerably different from the rest of the series.
Tanahashi: If anything, it seems like an extra chapter.
Yamamoto: After all, it features familiar characters and incidents which involve them; for example, make this person and that person a couple, and explode a planet, though that’s putting it too harshly… (laughter)
Tanahashi: I remember this was the hardest in terms of the schedule. We were editing it right up to the day of the broadcast, so nobody had a chance to see the finished film before it aired.
Interviewer: What was the pretext of this work?
Kitazume: I don’t remember it very well, even though I saw it in real time.
Takayama: At the end, it seemed like there was a hint of what was coming next. The series was complete, so it would be awkward if they suddenly say “we’re going to make a theatrical film again.” This is my guess.
Kitazume: How far apart was it in terms of the time span?
Takayama: About one year after Farewell. But the characters who debuted in The New Voyage would appear in Be Forever. The ending of The New Voyage indicates that someone is aiming for Earth, but Earth doesn’t know it yet.
Tanahashi: However, the song sung by Chiyoko Shimakura had quite different tone.
Interviewer: It seemed to express and honor Starsha’s feelings.
Tanahashi: It may be so in the lyrics.
Okura: It was titled Sasha My Love.
Tanahashi: I thought it was a joke at first. (Laughter)
Interviewer: The staff was quite extensive at the time.
Yamamoto: We lodged together to write the scripts for the second and third works.
The lodging included not only script writers but also character designers and art staff. We included them in the discussion because although we passed out documents, the images often could not be conveyed.
The main staff members were Mr. Nishizaki, the writers, the director Toshio Masuda, Aritsune Toyota as scriptwriter and Leiji Matsumoto. A large number of people gathered around them.
We had this kind of meeting in Hawaii for the second and third works, and in Izu for the fourth and the following ones. It was around this time when Kazuo Kasahara participated in the scriptwriting. After production started [we were joined by] Hiroshi Miyagawa for music, Yu Aku for lyrics and Kentaro Haneda for arrangement. There was the impression that a first-class staff had gathered, so it may naturally become a hit.
And Yamato has never been a work of art. It should be compared to works such as the popular novels of Eiji Yoshikawa; for example, Miyamoto Musashi or Maboroshi-jo. [Like these novels] Yamato has twists that appeal to the emotions of the general public. In my opinion, it is much harder to create a popular hit than a work of art.
Kitazume: I had been a viewer until around Be Forever (laughter). In New Voyage, I found it very interesting how they developed the relationships and backstory. For example, Starsha and Mamoru already have a child and Dessler becomes a warrior equal to Kodai, though he was [previously] an enemy.
I think they understood the feelings of the fans really well. Conversely, Dessler didn’t appear in Be Forever, so I felt it slightly unsatisfying.
Okura: Animating Final Yamato was, so far, my first and last involvement with Yamato, which also had a really good appearance by Dessler. At the moment of crisis he appears with a rose in his mouth (laughter). When I saw the first rushes at the Toei screening room, it didn’t have the retake in it yet, so just after he appeared with a rose in his mouth, he was bleeding from his forehead while trying to fire the Dessler Cannon, and the audience had a big laugh. (Laughter)
Takayama: (Laughter) I think there were some missing scenes in that area, because Dessler’s battle should have been longer.
Okura: I had the same feeling, because the shift in timing [from dramatic to injured] was so great.
Kitazume: It’s always great when Dessler appears. It makes the story more exciting.
Okura: His appearance in Final Yamato was especially good. I think that created enough momentum for the next work to be Dessler’s Story.
Interviewer: There were rumors for a long time about Dessler’s Story. What kind of work would it have been?
Yamamoto: Because Yamato was sunk at the end of Final and couldn’t appear again, the plan was to make the next work about Dessler, but it didn’t come true in the end. It might have been possible to do it within the first year, but the excitement of the audience faded away after two or three years. I think we got as far as a synopsis.
Interviewer: Will that synopsis be reflected in Yamato Resurrection?
Yamamoto: A lot of different ideas were developed for Dessler’s Story, but the one which was most likely to go through was that Dessler raises the main bridge of Yamato, the most significant part, as a commemoration and takes it back to his home country to make it a spiritual symbol. Dessler then has a big battle and Earth comes to his aid. At that time he restores Yamato and presents it to Kodai. However, Kodai is killed in action and the child of Kodai would inherit Yamato. That’s how Yamato would have been brought back again.
(Read much more about the development of Dessler’s Story here.)
However, Yamato is being revived now in a different form entirely. That’s why Syd Mead was commissioned for the redesign.
We shaped the idea of reviving Yamato, then we thought it would be interesting to make another work which would feature Yamato in exactly the old shape.
Interviewer: 19 years pass between Final Yamato and Yamato Resurrection, the same amount of time that has passed since the first TV broadcast. Come to think of it, this is a magnificent series.
Kitazume: This time, Mr. Okura is making a new fighter design, quite different from the Cosmo Tigers, and it will have a new feeling compared with previous works. The use of fighters is generally the same even in different films. In Resurrection, if we can show some variation in Yamato itself and the mobility of the fighters, I expect we can find new patterns of combat.
Okura: Makoto Kobayashi and I are in charge of mecha design at the moment, and I think it is considerably different from previous works. The forms are different from Final or Be Forever, but they are still in the world of Yamato. If we can effectively present that design on the screen it will create a new feeling.
Yamamoto: When we have a lot of new mecha, it’s necessary to create a situation in which they can best be presented. This is difficult in a movie of limited length. I hope it can continue as a series.
Interviewer: Yamato‘s battle scenes were originally influenced by World War II. Would the Gulf War have an influence on the style of combat today?
Okura: I haven’t gotten a consensus from the staff at this stage, but I would make it more like World War II.
Takayama: It’s not satisfactory when it turns into a computer battle. It’s confusing when rendered as an image. Those with a game-mania might get it, but I doubt everyone would understand. I think it’s OK to have computer-oriented battle, but it’s difficult to judge how much to show of it.
Yamato has a feeling of realism, so even if it starts out as a pushbutton war, realism [manual battle] would become crucial.
Okura: I think that video surely uses more digital expression, so I would prefer to stay with analog in order to avoid conflict.
Kitazume: I want to make Yamato more like the Battleship Yamato this time. Drawing techniques have improved, and I think we can present a more rugged iron feeling now. I used to compare the Battleship with the Space Battleship and thought the anime Yamato was cooler, but the original is really full of the charm of the old days.
Okura: Mr. Kobayashi went out drinking and he was in tears saying, “Such good design…” (Laughter)
Kitazume: It certainly has girth and is not easy to draw. But I think it looks cool even if [the designers] didn’t try to design it that way. This is a product of its function-oriented design, which makes Yamato very distinct from other battleships. I would be happy if we could express that, the feeling of texture for example, with the latest drawing techniques.
Interviewer: This time Yamato is rebuilt. Will the secrets of its reconstruction be incorporated into the story?
Takayama: It depends on the length of the film, and if the scene is needed for the story. I don’t think it will be a problem to have Yamato appear with magnificence in a time of crisis.
We mentioned that in Dessler’s Story he would have restored Yamato and presented it to Kodai. That would indeed be dramatic. It sounds kind of funny that he only takes the bridge, but when thinking about the true intention of Dessler’s action, it is dramatic. Even more so when he presents the rebuilt one. For Dessler, it means he is giving his treasure to others.
Okura: It has not yet been decided if Dessler will appear in Resurrection.
Kitazume: I heard of a plan for Talan to appear as an adjutant of Kodai. What has happened to this idea? (Laughter)
Yamamoto: When the main plot is decided, we may give Dessler an appearance.
Interviewer: In Resurrection, the staff is a mix of the generation who grew up watching Yamato and those who were involved. On the other hand, in New Yamato [Yamato 2520], the new staff will play a central role.
Yamamoto: We arranged it that way intentionally. In the past, there were films produced as series; the older examples are Miyamoto Musashi and Izu no Odoriko, and a more recent example is Tora-san.
I think Yamato is becoming a work like those; people who saw it earlier make the new one, and people who see that make another one. I think that’s remarkable. Making Yamato is getting to be a tradition.
Interviewer: Speaking of the mixture of [new and old] staff members, are they mutually inspired?
Yamamoto: Yes. It is a pleasure to work together.
Interviewer: Mr. Takayama, are you thinking of new things to attempt on the technical side?
Takayama: Well, the story hasn’t been finalized yet, so I can’t say anything about that.
Kitazume: However, I think it would be considerably difficult to visually present the Cascade Black Hole.
Takayama: The other day when I heard that a planet would warp in the new one, I was at a loss. (Laughter.) I understand the idea of Yamato warping, but the issue is how to show the warp of a planet; if we should emphasize the magnitude of the process, or show it step by step. And we may add more excitement with music. We’ll have to have a long talk about how Yamato does a warp if it becomes necessary to show a planet doing it.
However, we haven’t talked much yet about the Cascade Black Hole. I feel that it’s not possible to do it with conventional film technology. On the other hand, using a computer is the easiest escape. We’ll have to decide early on if we’re going to go that way. If so, it will become a problem of how to harmonize a cel image with a computer image. If that’s the case, we should present an image which looks computer-made somewhere before the Cascade Black Hole appears; then it won’t seem too abrupt.
Interviewer: Yamato has used various gimmicks, such as “Warp Dimension” in Be Forever.
Takayama: I didn’t understand what it was all about at the beginning, and I found out during the course of the work; “Warp Dimension means something seriously difficult.” (Laughter)
Kitazume: Did they use different film?
Takayama: No, I think the film was the same, but the screen extended on the sides just before it went to “Warp Dimension.” As the reel changed, the picture was switched over to a projector with an anamorphic lens. When the curtains started pulling to the side, some people in the audience might have wondered if it was a mechanical failure, because it happened in the middle of screening. (Laughter) Then the picture was suddenly projected where it was just black before; so people who were watching must have been surprised.
Okura: However, I think in some places they probably failed to show it correctly, and the screen suddenly shrank. (Laughter)
Yamamoto: This was only done because it was Yamato. Otherwise, the projectionists would have refused to do such a troublesome thing. Movie companies would say no to it.
Interviewer: Because the TV screen size doesn’t change when it is seen on video, it’s regrettable the picture actually gets smaller. [Editor’s note: it goes to letterbox.]
Okura: But now there are widescreen TV’s, so it may be better to make a video which corresponds to that. (Laughter)
Kitazume: Even with monster movies, there are films whose good points can’t be appreciated if they aren’t seen in a theatre.
Yamamoto: Young people today grow up with small pictures like TV and games, so they say they can get excited with movies. Movies are like a live performance. Young people go to them expecting the excitement of a live performance. It won’t be good if we can’t meet such an expectation. There are many such movies in America, I think the same would be required of Yamato.
Kitazume: When I joined for Yamato Resurrection, needless to say it was because it’s Yamato. But moreover, it was because of the charm of having it in a theatre again. I want to animate something that will live up to the big screen. That is the major motivation.
Okura: After all, Yamato for the theater has the feeling of being something special. Therefore, as for me, I want to draw mecha especially for the big screen.
(To reflect on the series, a videotape of Final Yamato is turned on at this point in the interview.)
Interviewer: I like this opening. When was the “Vast outer space spreads into infinity…” narration added?
Tanahashi: It was already there in the pilot film. When we were making the first theatrical film, we wanted to have a movie-like introduction, so we edited the corresponding part and put it at the beginning.
Interviewer: Each time the introduction was somewhat poetic. I don’t think there had ever been such a film which presented space as mysterious.
Yamamoto: At that time the trend was toward an emphasis on science. Even in the ninja genre for example, Sanpei Shirato emphasized the scientific aspect. Yamato intentionally changed the view that the space was just cold and lifeless. There may exist romance beyond space and you may fall in love with those who live there. Because this is such a work, the introduction is very contemplative.
Okura: In Yamato, the art, special effects and filming gradually improve over time. More and more special effects were added.
Takayama: What surprised me when I actually worked for Yamato was that the length of a scene was different from that of TV.
(A line from Shima is heard from the video)
Okura: Shima’s voice was changed, and I heard it was because [voice actor] Mr. Nakamura was ill.
Tanahashi: Indeed, he was in the hospital. The recording was done over 3 or 4 days, and Mr. Nakamura was only there on one of those days. We recorded Shima’s part with his voice for a trial.
(The scene of Planet Denguil being flooded by Aquarius)
Kitazume: There are so many animation effects each time in Yamato, like water and fire. There are an awful lot of natural disasters. (Laughter)
Interviewer: Those are the hardest things to draw.
Kitazume: It looks cheap when it’s done badly.
Yamamoto: When you look back over all ten years of Yamato you grasp the rise of technique in the anime world.
Tanahashi: Looking back on those days [of making Final Yamato], I now think it was a luxury. The lengths of the rush [version] and the finished film were very different.
Interviewer: That means there are a lot of deleted scenes. Does that film exist anymore?
Takayama: I think it’s still around somewhere.
Kitzume: Could that film be collected and restored into a new movie? You can redo voice recording. (Laughter)
(Mr. Tanahashi adjourns here for the sake of work. The long pullback scene revealing Satellite City Uruk appears on the video.)
Kitazume: How much was synthesized for that shot?
Takayama: It was a combination of four separate images.
Kitazume: Was it done with video editing?
Takayama: No, on film.
Kitazume: Wasn’t Scanimate used for it? [An early precursor to digital filmmaking]
Takayama: No, I don’t think that was used. It may have been used in the final rush. I believe it synthesized the image of mist.
(Emperor Lugal appears)
Takayama: I remember that during the meeting to talk about this scene, Mr. Nishizaki took that pose when he read the line.
Interviewer: I’d like to touch on Yamato Resurrection again here. Was it planned after the new video series [Yamato 2520] got started?
Yamamoto: As far as I know, Syd Mead’s design for New Yamato was commissioned quite a while ago , so I think the plan for reviving Yamato with New Yamato came first. When we arrived at this prospect, we also wanted to bring back the Yamato from the old days as well. With old and new arriving together, they could heighten the appeal.
Interviewer: Will Kodai be the main character of Resurrection?
Yamamoto: The new, younger crewmembers who appear will play the key role, but it is shaped around Kodai who is the important lead figure at the core. In Resurrection the crisis from space is the approach of the Cascade Black Hole, which is destined to swallow up the Earth. There is no escape from it, so a destination for migration is found. An opponent appears to block it and the story is about Kodai and others’ fight with them.
Interviewer: Mr. Kitazume is in charge of character design. What will be the main points of that?
Kitazume: We are still examining it. It is just in the preparation stage since there is no script yet, but the most difficult part is the weight of each person. There aren’t many original crew members left because 19 years have passed. Most of them are new people. But once Kodai appears, he will naturally become the main character. He can’t help but lead the story; he’s the protagonist.
However, if Kodai is too much out in front, it will not be certain what the new characters are there for. So he needs to be restrained, but he also has to have a pivotal role which makes him indispensable. If Kodai is presented well visually, those who come to see the film will be convinced, I think.
Though Kodai’s appearance is older, I want to give the feeling that he’s still as passionate as when he was young. Young characters are not very interesting when they’re just supporting players. So the point will be how much to show of the clash between the Kodai’s generation and the young members. Because the film also shows Kodai’s daughter, it already creates a gap between generations. We need to depict these differences wisely. It is certain that there will be a new character who plays Kodai’s original role. Showing how he and Kodai get along will be a character highlight.
Interviewer: What’s the current progress of this work?
Yamamoto: It is in the plotting stage, before the script. There could still be significant changes. Because New Yamato is into animation and now on track, we should be able to put all our efforts into this project now. But if the [New Yamato] video is boring, Resurrection may not be able to appear (laughter).
Kitazume: In the latest plot, there are three young men in the crew. That number could go up or down if the plot changes, so I don’t know what will happen to them. In the previous series, Yuki was the only female crew but Mr. Nishizaki says that there will be several this time. This idea must be respected to some extent.
Interviewer: The appearance of Yamato‘s design seems to be the same, but now it carries a smaller battleship inside, so I think it will need to be larger than before.
Takayama: It is likely to grow. Since we are recreating it, it would be better to make it bigger. Various proposals have been made, like lengthening the distance from the bow to the bridge to meet the contemporary style. Okura is taking on things like this single-handedly.
Okura: Up until now it was 290 meters in length, but because Mr. Nishizaki wants to add a six-chamber addition to the Wave-Motion Engine and it carries another battleship, I’ve submitted a plan to make it 400 meters long. (Laughter) Well, 400 meters is probably excessive. Maybe it would be better to make it just one size larger.
Interviewer: There is also a design for the dome on the front deck to detach and fly solo. The inside of it is like a bridge, and it has a sense of considerable size. I think the number of characters could increase quite a bit if this is the case.
Takayama: That would make it harder to decide who will be presented as main characters. When the main characters and sub-characters clash with each other, it’s difficult to hold everything together. But if we keep the concept that all crew members fight the enemy as one, I think fans will be convinced after watching the film.
Yamamoto: You can think of it as soccer with Kodai as the coach. The players run the plays and it’s his job to lead them well. Of course, Kodai himself will have to get into the action.
Interviewer: After all, the story is from the viewpoint of the younger crew.
Yamamoto: Yes, because if the series continues, it would be the younger crew who leads the story. However, if everything is suddenly modernized, then longtime fans may be unhappy. So we keep characters from the previous works, such as Kodai, Sanada, and Dr. Sado.
Interviewer: What kind of movie do you want to make with Resurrection?
Kitazume: I got the impact of seeing the original Yamato, so as I chew on it I hope to reflect that and enhance it. If the video series gives us something entirely new, then in Yamato Resurrection I want to push the flavor of the original Yamato to the front.
Interviewer: I’m looking forward to Resurrection. Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy day.
Special thanks to Michiko Ito for translation assistance.
See more about the early development of Yamato Resurrection here.