The Making of Be Forever Yamato, Part 4

From Concept to Production

Click here to back up to Part 1

On the first day of 1980, Be Forever Yamato was only eight months from its theatrical premiere, and all the production staff had to go on was the first story draft by Leiji Matsumoto (recounted in Part 3 of this series). They didn’t even have a title yet; it was still simply called Yamato Part III. Under other circumstances, having to complete a major feature film in just eight months might be cause for panic. But believe it or not, things were right on schedule.

At this point two years previously, Farewell to Yamato was in pretty much the same state, so evidently the staff was using its schedule as a benchmark. In fact, they commenced this project in exactly the same way, by heading off for a luau.

On January 2, twenty staff members were on a plane headed for Hawaii. This included Yoshinobu Nishizaki and Leiji Matsumoto, along with Director Toshio Masuda, the scriptwriters, and the primary designers: Kazuhiko Udagawa, Tsuji Tadanao, Takeshi Shirato, Katsumi Itabashi, Shinya Takahashi and Yoshinori Kanada.

Last time, screenings of Star Wars and Close Encounters (neither of which had yet been released in Japan) set the tone for their work. This time they took in The Black Hole and Star Trek: the Motion Picture. But it wasn’t a vacation; serious pre-production began there with a review of Matsumoto’s story draft to flesh it out for the script and design phases. Key decisions were made at this point, including an extremely ambitious one: to shoot the entire film in 70mm. Had this gone as planned, it would have been a first for anime. The idea would later be scaled back, but there were still plenty of other firsts in store.

One was to apply a technique called “Scanimation.” This was an early method of film compositing in which live effects photography was combined with 2D animation. Another was to animate part of the movie in the widescreen “Cinescope” aspect ratio rather than the standard 3X4 “Vista” size. In other words, an anime feature film would finally take full advantage of cinematic presentation.

After the Hawaii sabbatical, Designers got started on pre-visualization while Toshio Masuda began a new story draft that revised Matsumoto’s outline to incorporate all the new ideas. He delivered it on January 23, and worked directly with Yoshinobu Nishizaki to finish a revised version on January 24. Roughly speaking, it was about halfway between Matsumoto’s draft and the finished product. It would be rewritten three more times before being finalized as a screenplay, but the foundation of the story was now solid.

Read the entire Masuda/Nishizaki story draft here. (It is also linked at the end of this page.)

With this milestone reached, the starting gun was sounded for real pre-production. Here’s how it progressed from there…

February 1: Design assignments are established in a meeting with Nishizaki, Katsumata, Shirato, Tadanao, Tsurumi, Endo, accountant Ito, and Geki Katsumata.

Kazuhiko Udagawa will design the Great Emperor, Kazan, Grotas, and Captain Yamanami.
Shinya Takahashi will design Sasha and Sada.
Takeshi Shirato will design Alphon.
Katsumi Itabashi will design Yamato interiors and mecha.
Tsuji Tadanao will design backgrounds and environments.

February 5: Production Setup meeting (main staff). The division of labor is established for design and storyboards. Following the Farewell to Yamato production model, the script is to be divided into A, B, and C segments. Part C is divided into thirds for a total of 5 segments.

Many months later, after the release of the film, Tokuma Shoten would dedicate a volume of its popular Roman Album book series to Be Forever, which included staff essays about the work that began at this point. A link to their essays can be found at the bottom of this page.

February 8: Battle strategy concept meeting (Nishizaki, Masuda, Toyota, Fujikawa, Yamamoto, Katsumata, Tadanao). Battle scenes for first half of movie (script parts A and B) are worked out. The enemy invasion of Earth is discussed.

February 18: Keisuke Fujikawa and Hideaki Yamamoto complete the first script draft for Part A.

February 20: After some revision, script part A is completed by Hideaki Yamamoto. Each part of the script is reviewed by the writing staff and unified by Toshio Masuda.

February 21: Storyboarding begins by Masaharu Endo and Takeshi Shirato. Storyboards will advance in parallel with scriptwriting with a deadline of May 10.

February 25: Yamato Fan Club Magazine #14 is published. The top story is a big one: both the title of the movie and its release date are announced for the first time. Below is the entire text of the article by Yoshinobu Nishizaki.

Fan Expectation: Space Battleship Yamato Part III Engine Start!

The first information of Space Battleship Yamato Part III!

Production has finally started on the latest work, Be Forever Yamato!!
Simultaneous Nationwide Roadshow release is determined to be Friday, August 2!

Hello to everyone in the Yamato Fan Club, and to those of you who have always supported Yamato, thank you very much. As announced already in issues 12 and 13, the release date of August 2 has finally been decided for “Yamato Part 3” and the staff has begun production with great enthusiasm. When this issue reaches you, the basic story and settings should have been determined.

After Space Battleship Yamato and Farewell to Yamato, this is the third feature film. It will include more interest and excitement than ever before and will have something new for everyone. So far, the main theme has been “love” — “are you able to die for your loved ones?” Also, “we should love rather than fight.” It will expand further in this latest work to examine love between people; “love is our trust in one another.”

As long as we believe in the everlasting beauty of the Earth, the human race is immortal. I want to draw upon that as a big theme. That is, “the future you make yourself for what you believe in and those you love.” The beauty of the description is a kind of warning to the harshness of the real world. It’s a call for love and courage for you young people, the importance of believing in each other.

In the last issue, I said that “I will continue to make Yamato as long as there is a theme to be presented.” There is a wonderfully big theme here. Then there are the voices from fans across the country who say “we want to see a new Yamato!” Yamato Part 3 launches with their encouragement and support.

With the big scale of the theme and your support for Part 3, the title Be Forever Yamato has been chosen. Let’s introduce part of the story for everyone in the fan club.

It will begin about one year after the battle with the Dark Empire group at Iscandar. The Earth has been restored after the destruction by the White Comet Empire Gatlantis, and is now at peace. All the fleets which defend the solar system are now unmanned, and stationed at each planet under control of the headquarters.

However, a huge missile is launched and approaches the Earth. It descends to the city of Megalopolis without exploding. Furthermore, a huge fleet appears at the edge of the solar system and approaches as if following this missile. A mysterious missile and a mysterious fleet–what is their purpose in coming to Earth, and are they too strong for the unmanned fleet?

Be Forever Yamato begins with this developing mystery and builds toward an unexpected climax.

Let’s talk about the characters everyone cares about most. “Who is the hero in Part 3?” is one of the many questions.

The heroes of Yamato are still Kodai and Yuki. For me and everyone else, it would not even be possible to make Yamato without these two. Showing the love and growth of Kodai and Yuki is the essential point of Yamato, and I think everyone finds hope and pleasure in this image of youth.

Besides these two, characters familiar to everyone will show their faces on screen: Shima, Sanada, Mamoru, etc. Of course, Sakamoto and the new crew must board Yamato to deal with unprecedented story developments. New characters will also appear one by one and launch with Yamato to “make their own future.”

Between Kodai, the new characters, new mecha, and new story developments, we are convinced that everyone will be stunned by the new impression of Be Forever Yamato. Although the full story cannot yet be told, we want this magazine to bring the latest information to the Yamato fan club in the future. The staff continues to make arrangements for new mecha and characters with a premiere date of August 2.

I think that to answer the passionate demands for “Yamato Part 3,” we must make something even better than the first two films. A grand theme and the romance of the world of Yamato can only be brought to the screen through the power of animation. The charm and passion of an epic space opera will begin when Yamato launches. I want you to look forward to Be Forever Yamato by all means!


March 6: Part A storyboards are completed and turned over to the animation staff at Toei to begin the main body of production.

March 17: Opening ceremony for “Yamato Part III” production at Toei Studio. Work begins moving toward the August release date.

Marc 18: Part B storyboard completed. Script Part C revision completed.

April 2: The script is completed, with the exception of the finale. It times out to a running length of three and a half hours, considerably longer than the intended length. Scenes are cut from the storyboards before going to animation.

April 7: Color design meetings (staff and animators). Animation is proceeding smoothly at Toei.

April 25: Yamato Fan Club Magazine #15 delivers the next batch of news to hungry fans. It includes animation designs and brief messages from three key staff members…

Three Samurai Who Bet on Yamato!!

The main staff of Be Forever Yamato communicate their enthusiasm.

Summarizing Yamato

Leiji Matsumoto, Total Setting Supervisor

It is thought that the upcoming Yamato Part III, Be Forever Yamato, is a summary of the series we have created so far. Yamato made a voyage to Iscandar and fought against the White Comet, and the presence of “Starsha” flows through the entire story. I want to focus on those parts.

I participated in the creation of the total setting again this time, but I want to make everything more enjoyable than before. After all, everyone likes the crew and mecha of Yamato, but they like the setting very much, too.

Speaking of SF animation, it has a feeling of reality. In other words, a person who aims to achieve a thing can get their first experience of it through SF. Of course, I and everyone on the staff enjoys the sensibility of SF also.

Big Scale Music

Hiroshi Miyagawa, Composer

Though I have been in charge of Yamato music for a long time, I personally like the music of this series the most. I first got involved in anime with Producer Nishizaki’s Wansa-Kun, but this is still my favorite. Is it connected by fate? (Laughs)

By the way, in Be Forever Yamato, I am tackling bigger-scale music than ever before. Of course, I intend to repeat the grand image of space that Yamato has built up before now. Furthermore, to increase that image we have introduced a synthesizer this time. It has to express the image of both vast outer space and a huge enemy.

Besides the big enemy theme, there is also the theme of love. There is the theme of Sasha, and one that expresses “belief in each other is love.” Please look forward to the music by all means.

Attention to Kodai and Yuki

Toshio Masuda, Director

Three years have already passed quickly after the first movie. Meanwhile, both Kodai and Yuki have grown up. And all of you who watched Yamato have grown up. I think you would like to see that Kodai and Yuki have grown as much as we all have.

In particular this time, Kodai and Yuki will be caught up in the whirlpool of battle and separated. If everyone gets drawn into the actions of these two, I’ll be really glad. Speaking of growth, Sasha appeared in The New Voyage telefeature, and grew up rapidly because of her Iscandarian blood. I think you’ll want to pay special attention to Sasha in action. She plays a very active part in Be Forever Yamato.

Of course, Kodai, Yuki, the rest of the crew, and the new characters will surely live up to your expectations.

April 30: Scanimation review meeting: a technical meeting to review the use of the Scanimation process for scenes such as the double galaxy and Dark Nebula.

May 7: Production meeting to work out script part “D” (the finale). This was previously postponed because a theme song had not been decided upon. After this meeting, the finale is rewritten twice and ultimately becomes a fantasy scene with the song Love Until That Day by Akira Fuse. Completion of the storyboard takes the rest of the month, extending past the original May 10 deadline.

May 8: Music composition meeting (Nishizaki, Hiroshi Miyagawa, sound director Atsushi Tashiro). The soundtrack is discussed while examining the storyboard.

May 26: Akira Fuse produces a demo version of the ending song, Love Until That Day.
A press conference is held at Tokyo Kaikan to officially announce the national release of the film. (Photo below)

This, of course, is not even close to the end of the story. With the press conference, Yoshinobu Nishizaki officially pulled the pin on the promotional campaign, which was as epic in scope as the movie itself (read about it in detail here). This included heavy coverage in monthly magazines such as Animage, The Anime, and others.

Click on the links below to see how it all unfolded.

Continue to Part 5: the Masuda/Nishizaki Story Draft
Continue to Part 6: Essays by the Production Staff (from the Roman Album)
Continue to the Be Forever Time Machine, an archive of magazine coverage

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