This article needs little introduction, but the magazine it was translated from definitely deserves some props. As with some of the best stuff on Earth, it sort of started by accident. Futaba Corporation is a Japanese publisher with a long history (founded in 1948) and a rich output of magazines and manga. Among their publication lineup was a series of “mooks” (magazine/book) titled the Curiosity Book series, each volume of which covered a different pop culture topic from anime to games to movies and so on.
Curiosity Book Volume 73 (above left) came out in October 2001. It was devoted to anime robots and was titled Great Mechanics. The name derived from GM, a line of Mobile Suits from the Gundam saga. It was well-received, so volume 76 was done as a followup titled Great Mechanics 2 (above center). This met with success as well, so Great Mechanics became a subset of the Curiosity Book series. By the time they got around to Great Mechanics 20 in 2006, it had essentially taken over and settled into a quarterly schedule.
From there it was a simple step to split the title off into its own independent publication. The page format was enlarged and the first issue came out in the summer of 2007 with the new name Great Mechanics DX. Toy collectors immediately recognized those initials: the designation DX [Deluxe] is often applied to toys and action figures of substantial size or importance, and it fit the magazine’s mission perfectly.
Great Mechanics was founded on the world of anime robots, but true to its name, DX expanded the definition of mecha and was among the first publications to run substantial coverage of Yamato Resurrection in 2009. Now they’re back on the Yamato beat in a big way. There was a short article about Yamato 2199 in issue 19 (covered here), but issue 20 (at left) ran a whopping 16-page feature with exclusive artwork and a heavy-duty interview with two very important members of the production team.
The passion and expertise of the editorial staff pours out of every page of Great Mechanics DX, and makes this article a tough one to beat. (But let’s hope lots of other magazines try!)
Special thanks to Sword Takeda for translation assistance.
Full-Power Special Feature
Space Battleship Yamato 2199
As we reported in the previous issue, the day is finally approaching for Yamato 2199, the remake of the original Space Battleship Yamato TV series, to launch for Iscandar. As we also reported, this work is being produced by the “Yamato Generation” that is enthusiastic about Yamato, including Director Yutaka Izubuchi.
“A Yamato remake by the Yamato Generation.”
There are many anime remakes, but no other title can expect that much. Therefore, this magazine will deliver details in every issue from now until Yamato returns. This time we examine the “Yamato Soul” of the mecha with Director Yutaka Izubuchi and Mechanical Director Masanori Nishii.
Click here to see art enlargements:
Click here to see art enlargements:
Locus of the new journey of Space Battleship Yamato
A talk with the General Director
and Chief Mechanical Director
2199 “Yamato Soul”
With much public anticipation for Space Battleship Yamato, following our color introduction to the mecha settings, we will examine the process and production and explore how Yamato is presented. We asked General Director Yutaka Izubuchi and Chief Mechanical Director Masanori Nishii about their commitment and passion for Yamato.
General Director Yutaka Izubuchi
Born 1958 in Tokyo. His debut was enemy mecha design for Fighting General Daimos (1979). Since then, he has worked as an illustrator, anime designer, cartoonist, and tokusatsu [live-action special effects] artist. He made his directorial debut on Rahxephon (2002). His major anime works include Battle Mecha Xabungle, Yamato III, Aura Battler Dunbine, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack, and Mobile Police Patlabor. His tokusatsu works include Science Squadron Dynaman, Supernova Flashman, Kamen Rider Agito, and Kamen Rider Oz. He has also illustrated novels for Record of Lodoss Wars, Aura Battler Wars, and a wide range of others including Machine God Fantasy Rune Masker.
Chief Mechanical Director Masanori Nishii
Born 1963 in Shiga Prefecture. Began his career at the animation production studio of Kaname Production. His major anime works include Plawres Sanshiro, Tenchi Muyo, Silent Moebius, Hades Plan Zeorymer, G Dangaio, Mobile Suit Gundam Seed, Destiny of the Shrine Maiden, Gun X Sword, Mobile Suit Gundam OO, and Super Robot Wars OG: The Inspector.
Part 1: Why Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is being made
The Yamato remake that has always been warming up
Interviewer: A remake of Space Battleship Yamato has actually been a rumor for a long time in the industry. When was this plan advanced?
Izubuchi: From the time planning actually started, it’s been about four years as of the start of this year. Meanwhile, there were changes in the system and in the production committee, and it took time to get the final OK from the original author (Yoshinobu Nishizaki) so the pace fell off.
Interviewer: That’s about the same amount of time since Yamato Resurrection and the live-action movie started, too.
Izubuchi: From the beginning, the plan moved forward with the feeling of a trilogy. There was also talk of this project starting before the other two, but it was affected by the various circumstances I mentioned, and we finally got a GO in the spring of last year  for a release beginning this year.
Interviewer: It’s been said that you and your staff are tackling this with considerable passion. What circumstances lead you to become involved with it?
Izubuchi: It traces back to before the Toward the Terra TV series (2007). For that title, I worked with Mr. Nishii and the conceptual designer, Yasushi Ishizu. On the occasion of such meetings, Yamato was often cited as a specific example of production and design. Yamato had common recognition with everyone, and with that in mind, I’d say “I want to do something with Yamato.” Of course, at the time it was just talk, but after Toward the Terra finished, the production studio Minami-machi Bugyosho [South Town Social Office] called me and said they had something to talk about. It was this remake of Yamato.
How did the “Yamato Generation”
Interviewer: What was your feeling at the time?
Izubuchi: To put it in one word: HUH!? That was it. (Laughs) In other words, “out of the blue.” I guess Mr. Nishii recommended me.
Nishii: I always said I wanted to do Yamato. It was my dream, so I could say anything about it since that’s all it was. (Laughs) Then somehow it actually came true. That’s why I may have said Mr. Izubuchi should direct it.
Interviewer: So Mr. Izubuchi, you accepted the offer right away, since you wanted to do it so badly?
Izubuchi: There was a desire to do a remake of the first series. However, it was actually not the first time there was a plan to remake Yamato, and I heard that previous plans stalled because of several setbacks, because it’s a difficult property in various meanings (laughs) it’s very risky. But the desire to do it was stronger. Though I hesitated at first, I decided that if I missed it the chance may not come again, so I undertook it.
Interviewer: What made you go with the remake?
Izubuchi: Space Battleship Yamato has always had a wonderfully basic format, so I thought it could be revived in the present day and it would be accepted properly. Therefore I thought freely about remaking various things (concepts, design, story, etc.) as I did many times as simulation in my young mind. So I wouldn’t have to struggle too much to come up with new ideas for it. (Laughs)
Interviewer: (Laughs) For this production, in addition to Mr. Nishii, there is Kimitoshi Yamane, Mr. Ishizu, Makoto Kobayashi, Takashi Imanishi…a lot of staff members from the so-called “Yamato Generation” have gathered together. Was there any intention in this?
Izubuchi: This staff is from the first generation hit by Yamato, and there are many people whose lives were changed by it. Now they’ve reached the age when they are called veterans, seriously facing our first experience with Yamato and remaking it faithfully for authentic results. To stand on the starting line again means a restart of ourselves. I raise such a flag, a flag in my heart.
The Yamato Generation’s response
to plot flaws of the original!?
Interviewer: In areas where a trace of the previous work is carried out, it is skillfully balanced to complement the new. I think fans of the original feel relieved. Meanwhile, there are many more female characters. Would you say this area is a modernistic interpretation?
Izubuchi: Rather than saying there are more female characters, “that’s not out of place” is the feeling we’re going for. That’s because there were actually women seen in the boarding parade, the farewell party, etc. in the original. Then it was said that the entire female crew went to sleep later, except Yuki (laughs). It’s the result of cleaning up such contradictions.
The original is very well done, but I notice a lot of things from that time that are amusing. However, because of my greater love of the work, it would be good to attach some logical reasons to them. Hard SF fans often point out that “Yamato is wrong with this and that” and I would respond, “no, that’s because it goes like that and this, so it’s all right,” using twists and half-joking. (Laughs) But there were also some impossible points. This time you won’t see them because it is consistent. For the plot flaws or something else that is technically wrong, I reviewed the concepts and found a way to properly improve them.
Interviewer: In the first episode, a reference is made about the reason Gamilas devised the planet bomb attack on Earth, and I thought this work could be enjoyed because of such new information and concepts.
Izubuchi: Why use a planet bomb to attack Earth if you have a superior fleet? The explanation is that Okita and others made their best efforts and inflicted unexpected damage on the Gamilas fleet. It’s not presented in detail, but I wanted to put in things like that so the premise can be better understood.
Interviewer: Kodai’s age has been bumped up a little (to 20).
Izubuchi: He drinks liquor. And if he assigned to the fleet, he must be a little older. We made him 20 years old in consideration of that.
Interviewer: In the Okita fleet, Captain Okita’s ship has been named Kirishima [see trivia note below]. And some of the other mecha have been renamed, like the Cosmo Falcon.
Izubuchi: It’s because until now, Okita’s battleship didn’t have an official name, so I gave it a name that sounds like a warship. A novelization once gave it the name Eiyu [Hero], but that’s odd for a fleet vessel. It can’t be! (Laughs) We chose Kirishima for how it sounds.
Names and numbers were decided for all the ships at the battle of Pluto, even if they’re only seen off in the distance. They all have proper markings, even if they might not be visible. It’s a lot of work, but I appreciate our CG Director Takashi Imanishi for taking the trouble to accommodate it.
As for the Cosmo Falcon, we all now see “Black Tiger” as the name of a kind of shrimp, so another name is needed. But I’m kidding. (Laughs) I first thought of using the same designation on the body as the Hayabusa aircraft [see trivia note below], and I considered it to be Type 99 since it was developed before the Cosmo Zero. Originally the Falcon was for the army, and the interpretation was that it was installed as a carrier-based plane because development of the Zero wasn’t far enough along.
Since the old Hayabusa was an army fighter, then it might be all right to adopt the name. It was decided after the spacecraft boom of the Hayabusa [a Japanese satellite mission] with the feeling that it was good timing in terms of general familiarity.
We’re introducing a materialized round called the san-shiki-dan [type 3 bullet]. This name is from the one actually used for anti-air fire by the Imperial Japanese forces. San-shiki-dan sounds good, so we adapted it intact. I did it intentionally, but Takashi Imanishi pointed it out, saying, “Isn’t it Kyu-ichi-shiki [type 91]?”
Settings and Mecha Designs packed with meticulous detail
Interviewer: This work has picky fans, and I think there are many elements to stimulate that in a good way. Did you have that in mind when you went into the mecha design? It seems you’ve also created an internal structure for Yamato.
Izubuchi: Rather than creating an internal structure, we counted backward from the size of the first bridge shown in the original to determine the overall length of the ship, and then decided on the exact size of rooms that would fit in that form. As a result, the length became 333 meters. The same exact height as Tokyo Tower. Nice coincidence, eh? (Laughs)
In fact, it was also set at 333 meters in the original. When I talked to [Studio Nue designer] Kazutaka Miyatake about it, the number was written on a model sheet that compared Yamato to Domel’s disc-shaped ship. It was retrofitted to 263 meters after the broadcast finished, to match the original Battleship Yamato. If they were faithful to that size in the original, then the observation room on the side of the ship, which was about the size of a hotel ballroom, would be about half the length of Yamato. The ship has a fairly narrow feeling when we faithfully observe 333 meters, so there may be another way to express that narrowness from the director’s point of view.
Interviewer: Which of the mecha have you personally redesigned this time?
Izubuchi: I did the four general warships of the Gamilas including the Destoria-class. Also the Gamilas fighter and dive bomber, and the Murasame of the Earth fleet [see trivia note below]. And I did some roughs for the Falcon and Seagull, Analyzer, and others, for example.
Interviewer: Was there any sort of guideline for the designs?
Izubuchi: I think that the design work in the original is excellent, so we did brush-up with that as a base. The Falcon has the feeling of a stealth fighter so we advanced it on those grounds while keeping a Black Tiger feel in the silhouette. We also had to think about how the Zero and Falcon were stored on Yamato and their pre-launch process. For instance, there are three fighter hangers and their individual method of launch is different, so I’m thinking about how it will be shown in the production.
Part 2: The Mecha Action of 2199
The designer’s tendency is for the pictures to be “Yamatoic”
Interviewer: What sort of work is done by a Mechanical Director?
Nishii: I give my opinions in mecha design or modeling, but after the modeling is done the main thing is how it’s going to move, so I’m entrusted to make the actual animation scenes that will be shown on screen.
Interviewer: What do you take the most care with when you visualize the final look?
Nishii: The mecha design in 2199 is all wonderful and looks great, but in addition–for example in the fleet battle in episode 1–I add hand-drawn detail to make it more attractive in a scene when it isn’t moving. There are some scenes where [a CG model] is completely replaced by a hand-drawing. This comes from the thought of conveying the appeal of naval vessels drawn by people like Junichiro Tamamori.
I was shocked when I first saw Tamamori’s illustrations. The impression of a warshp and the feel of the surface materials is very attractive, and I wanted you to get the same feel from the on-screen animation. “This is a picture by Mr. Tamamori.” That’s what I wanted to get on the screen.
In addition, I wanted to do a similar thing with the Gamilas warships that Mr. Izubuchi and Mr. Ishizu took charge of, considering their impression on the screen. Later you’ll look back at the design sheets and understand what it is. That’s fine. But when you look at the screen it’s better if your immediate impression is, “that’s Mr. Tamamori’s design” and “that’s the Gamilas warship of Mr. Izubuchi.” So that’s what I aim for.
Izubuchi: We put all our energy into Episode 1. The upshot scene of the gun turret firing in front of the enclosed bridge is improved by Mr. Nishii’s hand-drawing.
Nishii: In the case of CG, it is restricted by the number of polygons, curves, etc., and some detail is not included, so to just pop it in looks a bit severe. In such a scene, there is no way but to draw it by hand.
Interviewer: CG modeling for close-ups doesn’t work particularly well either, right?
Nishii: When the polygon count goes up, data inevitably becomes heavy, so it’s hard for us to do action.
Izubuchi: If a model has a lot of polygons in it, it looks dirty in a wide shot, with all the information densely concentrated. So after some discussion I decided that we would go that way [hand-drawing].
Nishii: For the pictures and the look of 2199, since it is called a remake of the first TV series, we’ve separated it from the later series and focus only on the first, as if only the first series exists. That means the outstanding impressions of only the first series must be recycled and resurrected.
For example, the beam discharged from the main battery was twisted in the beginning, but it became a plain straight-line beam afterward. It was caused by the rifling in Yamato‘s gun barrel. I thought it was logical for it to twist like that, so I was disappointed. If we were to do that this time, I’d think this wouldn’t be Yamato if the beam from the main battery wasn’t twisted.
As for the warp, it looked great in the first series. The image changed over time, but the atmosphere of going through the procedure to reach warp was left behind.
In this film, we also show the preparation to fire the Wave-Motion Gun. After the first time, warping or Wave-Motion firing looks easy, but the first time through showed them in a heavily-detailed process. I wanted to show that firmly.
Furthermore, regarding Yamato‘s rocket anchor and the various weapons, I talked about wanting to show that as much as possible. I wanted us to put their functions into play and show all of them.
The reality of Yamato based on the detailed design settings
Interviewer: I thought it was interesting to call the second bridge the CIC and give it a new function. [See trivia note below.]
Izubuchi: If it was truly a CIC, the outside wouldn’t be seen from there, although it is correct to put it in the center of the ship like the armored bridge of an old battleship. I guess it’s nice to have dual casing and a turret-tower-type command center inside, so it came to be as it is now. It has an analog feeling that matches up well with a work called “Yamato.”
Nishii: Yamato‘s captain’s cabin is at the very top, the most dangerous position. This is the aesthetic style of the space battleship and we should preserve it even if it’s not logically right.
Interviewer: As a fan, I wouldn’t want you to break up that part.
Nishii: We chose what to change and what not to change, but none of the important factors are changed, I believe.
Izubuchi: Also, it is now possible to launch the Cosmo Zero properly.
Nishii: In the old days it came out somehow and just appeared on the catapult, but we wondered how, in fact, it would actually go up. This time it is able to work properly.
Izubuchi: The size was verified. We succeeded in being able to do it without breaking its appearance. It gave our set designer Takeshi Takakura a hard time.
Interviewer: The commitment of the staff has been reflected in the points that were changed from the original. I’m looking forward to experiencing it. By the way, did you decide on the number of Yamato‘s crew?
Izubuchi: It’s 999 people. Considering the size of modern vessels and the number of crew it takes to operate them, I think that’s a reasonable figure.
Interviewer: Have you revised the sound effects of the previous work, too?
Izubuchi: A considerable number of them have been changed, like the navigation sounds, the armor of the Gamilas ships breaking, etc. But I think the viewer gets tired of hearing the same sound over and over, so I’m devising different ways to use them.
PART 3: So once again, what is the appeal of 2199!?
Digitally drawing the analog world of Yamato
Interviewer: What are your thoughts about the quality of Yamato? Such as when it is projected on film?
Izubuchi: I mentioned this a little before, but if I have to put it into words, it is not digital even though it is a future story. Is it a feeling of digital analog? In the first episode, the monitor of Kirishima is monochrome, and it has an impression like a brown [picture] tube. It can be said that we draw the taste of analog with digital.
Interviewer: Mr. Nishii, what are your thoughts about the quality of Yamato?
Nishii: It’s like Mr. Izubuchi said concerning the picture expression. The expression of the first Yamato series was clearly different from other anime being done in those days, and I think it’s cool. I want to preserve it. “Ah, this is Yamato,” is how I refer to that mode of expression, and I can show it by having that as my first thought.
Interviewer: Do you have any particular scene that you show off proudly?
Nishii: There are a lot of parts I would like you to see. Although it has a 3DCG base, hand-drawn scenes are also added, and I never intend to make a film that depends only on CG.
Scenes drawn entirely by hand, still pictures with hand-drawn detail added to the CG; we’re aiming for the pictures to give an impression like, “Is that drawn by hand? Is it CG? It’s amazing, I can’t tell.” In fact, I think the places where hand-drawing is used are a highlight. Compared to the mecha works that have used CG in recent years, this title has quite a lot of hand-drawn scenes. Especially for Episode 1, we didn’t know what the ratio of hand-drawing would be, and it was hard to assess.
For work we make a printout of a still picture from the CG for line drawing, and we get a detailed-up picture from Mr. Tamamori. We scan the original art, add it to the digital cel on a monitor and paint in the color. Furthermore, we add special effects work to complete it, so a lot of time and effort goes into a single scene.
I also asked Mr. Ishizu to add detail to the Gamilas battleships. We make pictures that require such meticulous work, so I’m sure the audience will appreciate it.
Well done with
The Battle near Pluto
Interviewer: Earth and Gamilas are both different camps, I look forward to seeing that in detail.
Nishii: The ships of Earth by Mr. Tamamori and Gamilas by Mr. Izubuchi, and different designs by Mr. Ishizu, I think the differentitation of ships from different planets was accomplished.
Izubuchi: The Gamilas ships have a slightly mysterious feeling, a little like the future target of SF. Yamato and other Earth vessels have current, modern feelings with a lot of credibility.
Interviewer: The first and second episodes will be released after this magazine is published. Is there anything else you want to call attention to?
Izubuchi: The launch of Yamato! (Laughs) In the launch scene we particularly focus on the music. Since there was no score [on paper], Mr. Akira Miyagawa copied it by ear, and it’s wonderful. For Yamato‘s launch scene, I think of the reproduced BGM as the highlight. Also, please pay attention to the Pluto battle at the beginning. [See trivia note below.]
Nishii: As for Episode 1, the story flow is almost the same as the original, and Yamato does not come out, but I don’t think Yamato could begin without that Pluto battle, so how would we show it with visual impact? I tackled it with that thought.
Interviewer: I get the feeling that the old fans of the first Yamato will be evaluating the Pluto battle with a critical eye.
Nishii: We’re confident that we made something that can be critically evaluated when you see it.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.
BONUS: Trivia Notes
1: The source of Kirishima
In Yamato 2199, the name Kirishima has been given to the vessel that was called Okita’s battleship in the original. The name was taken from the Kongo-class battleship of the old Imperial Japanese Navy. That name in turn came from an actual country and the name Kongo was derived from Mount Kongo. Kirishima is also the name of a modern Japanese destroyer. Kongo was originally a class of battlecruiser built prior to World War I, which was remodeled into a battleship, so it is somewhat irregular as a name. As stated in the interview, the name was chosen because of its nuance.
Read the Wikipedia entry on Battleship Kirishima here.
2: The source of Cosmo Zero
The image source of the Cosmo Zero is the former Japanese navy’s carrier-based fighter, well known as the Zero Fighter. The original Battleship Yamato carried Zeroes, but they were used only for reconnaissance and as spotter planes. Incidentally, the name was taken from the last digit of Imperial Year 2600, (1940 by the Western calendar) when the plane first entered service. All planes produced that particular year bear a number with 00 as the last two digits. The number 52 also comes from a type of Zero fighter (the Cosmo Zero is referred to as a Type-52). The paint scheme almost matches the anime version except that the nose of the Cosmo Zero is red while the original Zero’s propeller spinner was brown. However, the original Type-52 was dark green. Additionally, a yellow band was used for friend-or-foe identification.
Read the Wikipedia entry on the Zero Fighter here.
3: The source of Cosmo Falcon
The name Cosmo Falcon is based on the bird often called the Hayabusa [Peregrine Falcon] in stories and plays, and also the Hayabusa fighter that was the primary plane used by the Japanese army in World War II. It was used during the same period as the Zero fighter and was equipped with the same engine. They were roughly similar in performance except for firepower. Both planes supported the Japanese forces from the sky during the Pacific War. Although the 2199 Falcon has aspects of a fighter/bomber, the original was considered a light aircraft and its great maneuverability gave it an active role until the end of the war. Incidentally, the character name for Saburo Kato is based on two actual Japanese pilots, Tateo Kato of the army’s Hayabusa squadron and Naval ace Saburo Sakai.
Read the Wikipedia entry on the Hayabusa fighter here.
4: The Source of Murasame
Earth’s new type of vessel in 2199 is named Murasame, in the same way as the destroyer Yukikaze, for modes of weather (Yukikaze translates to “Blizzard” and Murasame translates to “Passing Shower”). However, the name has been given to a battle cruiser rather than a destroyer. Why is this? Because Murasame is also the name given to escort-type vessels currently in use by the Maritime Self-Defense Force. Although it has the designation DD [Destroyer], the size and function of a destroyer has increased considerably after the war so that the current Destroyer has become a multi-purpose ship. It is no exaggeration to compare it to the Cruiser class during World War II, thus it is not unusual to apply a Destroyer’s name to a cruiser in 2199.
Read the Wikipedia entry for the Destroyer Murasame here.
5: The source of Yukikaze
Although Yukikaze is the name of the ship commanded by Mamoru Kodai in the original series, it was based on a Kagero-class Destroyer of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Whereas first-class Destroyers were named for weather (Yukikaze means “Blizzard”), second-class Destroyers were named for trees. Based on its outstanding record, Yukikaze is the most famous Destroyer of the war. Despite taking heavy damage, it engaged in a number of operations and survived to the end of the war. The ship was transferred to the Republic of China and renamed Tang Yan, and was finally retired in 1970, which was quite the opposite of the Yukikaze‘s career in Space Battleship Yamato.
Read the Wikipedia entry for the Destroyer Yukikaze here.
6: What is CIC!?
Many works in recent years have referred to a vessel’s battle command as CIC. CIC is the location where various information from external sources such as radar is gathered for comprehensive analysis. Though it became indispensable to ship combat after the digital revolution of the 80s, the concept of radar appeared during World War II to augment the tradition of conventional viewing from an enclosed bridge, which was largely inadequate. At the time of the original Space Battleship Yamato, the term CIC was not generally known, but it is being used now out of necessity. In Yamato 2199, it may be said that the second bridge is the ship’s natural CIC.
7: The Handling of Pluto!?
In Space Battleship Yamato, Pluto was a planet that occupied an important position on the outermost edge of Earth’s solar system and was the site of a coastal battle, the Reflex Gun, etc. However, as research advanced on the actual world of Pluto and many assumptions were overturned, it was demoted to the classification of Dwarf Planet in 2006. Although the outermost planet is now technically Neptune, Pluto is honored in Yamato 2199 as the site of great drama, and is presented similarly to the past as the planet on the edge of the solar system.