Text on right side: Vessel that races through the heavens, a crisis approaching from far away brings about a resurrection! The finale of Space Battleship Yamato has begun to move at last!!
Text to right of vertical red bar: You cannot talk about Yamato without talking about music. In the image of the work called Yamato, music has a major presence.
The History of Yamato Music
This scene is calculated with this music
Regarding Yamato, the theme and BGM are known to fans of anime music. This time, we hear about the roots of Yamato music from Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki, who is busy working on The Final Chapter.
Interviewer: If I think back to any scene from Part 1, I can remember the music perfectly.
Nishizaki: Speaking of it as hindsight-based opinion, you could definitely say I use such-and-such music in such-and-such a scene upon calculating it out. To put it into words, well, it’s kind of like that, but it’s not simply saying, “use this there.” There are all sorts of divisions in how it’s made and how it’s used.
Interviewer: Such as…?
Nishizaki: For example, while it’s all simply referred to as “music,” it’s divided into music that’s linked with a person, a scene, or with Yamato itself. So, to divide it into the major groupings, it becomes “people,” “places,” and “Yamato.”
Interviewer: Specifically speaking, what kind of music is attached to what kind of scene?
Nishizaki: For human beings and the Earth – this is the Yamato side. There is also music for the enemy and music for the queen, added for Starsha and Sasha, which is indispensable. In a scene, it could be for the launch of the Cosmo Tiger.
Interviewer: Is that how you’ve been doing it since the beginning?
Nishizaki: I’ve continued it from the beginning. Before choosing which music to use in detail, the musicality of the whole work is decided, and it’s divided into those three things. In the music of Yamato, between melody and rhythm, we focus on the melody in the arrangement. This is the starting point.
Interviewer: There certainly are unforgettable melodies that change form in various ways as they’re used.
Nishizaki: No matter how even a producer might comment on, say, the queen’s music, it’s no use trying to expand upon it if there is no melody to be developed.
Triton and Wansa
Nishizaki: When the first Yamato was created, though I wasn’t the one to carry out composition and arrangement, I compared a lot of music – I listened to a large range of traditional Japanese music, classical, and jazz, and asked, is this the direction for Yamato? I had to set a policy. In celebrating the tenth anniversary of Yamato now, we can record music during the script stage because both the story and image are specific.
Interviewer: At the time of the first work, anime music still had the feeling of something for children.
Nishizaki: Yes. Anime music itself was poor. I felt that way when I entered the anime world in 1970. Not much of the production cost went into openings and endings, and the BGM’s connection to the story content was extremely weak. Therefore, neither texture nor movement could be expressed – although it could be light if it was gag [comedy].
Interviewer: When you think about music for a scene, it has big, specific gravity.
Nishizaki: When you’re trying to keep reality or express quality, music has a huge role. However, the balance of picture and music in those days was about 20% music, 80% picture.
Interviewer: Was Triton of the Sea the first anime you were involved in?
Nishizaki: Yes. In that work, the music was appropriate to the “sea,” and there were clear changes for the friend and enemy sides. Rather than an anime drawn on paper with a good picture and good sound, I intended to keep it alive as a realistic drama.
Interviewer: Speaking of music, Wansa-kun had musical scenes.[Note: this refers to another TV series Nishizaki produced prior to Yamato, a children’s comedy with dogs as the main characters.]
Nishizaki: This is a bad way to put it, but that work was an experiment. I hired Hiroshi Miyagawa for it. He was an acquaintance from when I did jazz commentaries, and above all he could manage both composition and arrangement that closely resembled my feelings.
Interviewer: Wansa-kun was quite a novel combination of music and film.
Nishizaki: I thought there were many ways of using anime music in Wansa-kun. For example, there were songs in the film, and movement in time with the music, like Disney. Another was that the picture was more freeform, and we added texture to it with the music. Anyway, concerning the link between music and anime, it can be said that we tried a variety of tests. Even Mr. Miyagawa started saying, “So, anime can be this interesting, huh?” (Laughs)
Cinematization! Trouble with the music
Interviewer: And finally, we come to Space Battleship Yamato.
Nishizaki: Here it became a problem of organization. Of course, there is a difference between music for a work like Wansa-kun and music that supports the stage of the universe. In Wansa-kun, a small arrangement was good enough, even if a hundred dogs come out. (Laughs) But as you know, Yamato is drama on a grand scale with space as the sea. Space, Yamato, the enemy Gamilas, and Starsha – when you express such things, even on TV, you have to convey the image of the universe.
Interviewer: Then how was it organized?
Nishizaki: It was based on symphonic jazz. Then I decided that the music originally linked with characters should be scaled down a bit. That’s when I met Atsushi Tashiro.
Interviewer: He participated as the sound supervisor through Be Forever Yamato.
Nishizaki: He has deep musical knowledge, and his sensibilities are close to mine. I can never forget the meeting between him and the music of Yamato. You can believe that the music of Yamato was made by four people; Hiroshi Miyagawa, Atsushi Tashiro, myself, and Yu Aku on the lyrics. You could say it took four people to connect music to the human heart.
Interviewer: Between the music that was made for the first work and what is used in Yamato even now, there are a lot of unforgettable tunes. Such as the scat…[Translator’s note: this refers to the female vocal for the “Infinite Expanse of the Universe” theme.]
Nishizaki: In the first work, the scat is the expression of space. In other words, the origin of space as a sea and Yamato as a ship is the infinite expanse of the universe. There is also the Yamato theme itself and The Scarlet Scarf, which are also songs that combine with details. Okita’s death scene and the Iscandar theme are like those, though Iscandar was also used when Yamato deployed its wings…
Interviewer: The foundations of Yamato music were established in those days.
Nishizaki: Rather than making music for parts of the story, I made it from the total image of Yamato in the universe. In a story of big scale like Yamato, rather than considering what music will support the story in half-hour units, it’s better to decide on the total musicality clearly and to build on it. While we rendered the images and movement in minute detail, when it came time to convey peoples’ emotions, we used a technique of having a clinching scene and music.
Interviewer: The first series grew in popularity, then the movie was released in ’77.
Nishizaki: In fact, I was troubled and restless at the time of the movie.
Interviewer: In what way?
Nishizaki: There was no music. On TV, because there were 26 episodes at the rate of one per week, I didn’t mind if the same music came in at different good places, but in a 2 hour and 10 minute movie, I couldn’t use the same music over and over. At first I tried to emulate the TV series, but then the same tunes just kept coming out. (Laughs) For example, the music heard in the scene of Okita’s death is the same as in the scene where Dessler is beaten, and stares outside.
Interviewer: Then, what did you do?
Nishizaki: Even if I definitively said that it was a situation that had not been considered, there was no chance of making anything new. In the end, I made it earnestly with the material I had.
The episode concerning the theme song
Interviewer: When it comes to the music of Yamato, there are also the songs of Isao Sasaki.
Nishizaki: Oh, there’s an anecdote for that theme song. Actually, when we were first auditioning, Shimon Masato also came in. However, while he was good, it had a Western feel to it.[Translator’s note: Shimon Masato had previously performed the opening theme for Gatchaman. Hear it here. See a live TV performance here – song starts at 1:30.]
Then came Mr. Sasaki. I came to give him a listen, and was like, “Oh, you’re my junior.” (Laughs) (Mr. Nishizaki and Mr. Sasaki were both graduates from Musashi Senior High School.) And then the way he sang the song, it wasn’t just the skill with which he sang it, but the way he just sang it straight had a nice feel to it.
Nishizaki: The recording started from 8:00 in the evening. However, even though it was sung many times, Mr. Miyagawa and I just couldn’t agree. Things got tense as the clock ticked on to midnight, and then 1am. Finally, we lost our tempers. “Fine,” I said. “Sing it the way you want to.” And then he raised his voice and just belted it out. The recording time was a long eight hours. The recorded theme that everyone heard later was more of a “Yamato of total desperation.” (Laughs)
Interviewer: But, he’s a true singer. It took eight hours?
Nishizaki: Yes. It wasn’t a hit at first, but I was surprised when it suddenly became one. (Laughs)
The music of Dengil is Wagner
Interviewer: What was your plan for the music of Farewell to Yamato in 1978?
Nishizaki: At that time, [music] composition for the movie was carried out from the beginning. It was the second movie, so the first work could not upstage it. At first I decided to divide it up between the friends, the enemy, and the queen, and the musicality was decided before starting the storyboards. First, it was good that Yamato had something from the first work. Then I decided on what to use for the enemy, and what came to mind was the pipe organ.
Interviewer: For the White Comet theme.
Nishizaki: I had decided on an independent instrument that was strong and could suggest largeness, and the the image that came to me was the scene from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, in which Captain Nemo regrets killing people and plays the pipe organ. The music also assumed the monotonous melody of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. At first I said we should go to the Vatican and have someone perform it there – but it became the Musashino Academy of Music in the end. (Laughs)
Interviewer: I’d think it would be hard to decide on the music before the storyboard.
Nishizaki: You should do it at the stage of minimal storyboarding, just to keep the music from drifting. Otherwise the picture won’t fit the music. If it’s too long or too short, the picture and the music will kill each other.
Interviewer: I see. That’s the secret of Yamato music. So, please tell me about the music for The Final Chapter. A record has just come out…
Nishizaki: First there is the Dengil theme, but this planet, which gets flooded by Aquarius, is a world where living things evolved. The warlike inhabitants are aware of the world of Wagner. It is powerful, but melodic – it has a hard, Roman touch. On the other hand, at the beginning of the story, Aquarius has the feeling of Bach in order to give it a classical mystique. In other words, the starting point is from classical examples. We’ll have the Queen of Aquarius, too, and we’ll focus on it around November. Because the people chosen to be in charge of the storyboards are music lovers, I think both the picture and the music will harmonize.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.
Page at left:
Latest art board collection
The stage settings for Space Battleship Yamato The Final Chapter are wonderful. The beauty of Planet Aquarius, as well as the spectacle of the galactic collision, and also the cities that fall to the flood of Aquarius, are illustrations that you can enjoy from now until they fill the screen!
NOTE: the lower portion of this page is a listing of the “Fan Gathering” events that took place during the month of August 1982. They are covered in greater detail elsewhere.
Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.