Stage 4: Art and Design
Mecha design startup
Many people participated in the art and mecha design of Yamato III, starting with veteran designer Katsumi Itabashi. He stood in for the legendary Studio Nue on Yamato 2 and went on to revolutionize Yamato‘s mecha design with his work on Be Forever (as described here). He began work on Yamato III‘s new mecha in February 1980 from a partially-completed story outline, and kept up until the beginning of April. Once the October premiere date was set, additional mecha design commenced in mid-June.
The main body of Yamato itself was inherited from Itabashi’s extensive work for the movie, so he moved on to the Cosmo Hound and the Galman Dimensional Submarine and submitted rough designs on June 15. Participating for the first time, designer (and first-generation superfan) Yutaka Izubuchi further developed the Cosmo Hound and turned it in along with other designs on June 27.
After that, Itabashi moved on to the Galman/Gamilas heavy bomber, a catamaran-style fighter (both shown at the top of this page), and the Reflex Gun Reflector ships. He further refined the Cosmo Hound based on the image of a B29 bomber and submitted it on July 15. Its overall body shape was approved on July 20. Its cockpit was designed on July 27, a 3-view isometric drawing was done on August 7, and its launch process was created on September 19. The engine room and other interiors were completed September 30.
All the larger-scale Galman/Gamilas ships were initially designed in a marathon from July 12-18. Their isometric drawings and interiors were done from August 6-17.
Submarine Studio designs the Bolar mecha
The Bolar Federation, which was established early in the series as the controlling force of the entire distant half of the galaxy, had its own massive space fleet that had to be identifiably different from the Galman/Gamilas mecha. All of it was entrusted to Submarine Studio, which had previously taken charge of mecha for Cyborg 009 and Legendary God Giant Ideon.
Katsumi Itabashi had a preferance for straight lines on his Galman/Gamilas designs, so Submarine adopted a more curved, organic approach to provide contrast with the Bolar ships. However, additional Bolar mecha was needed for Episode 13 (indicated in a script draft dated November 11) so Itabashi took care of that and continued to design Bolar mecha for the rest of the series, including Bemlayze’s flagship, a destroyer, Hakins’ battleship and Golsakov’s battleship.
Yutaka Izubuchi came on board as an experienced designer whose initial contribution was mainly SF concepts (such as space phenomenae), but he also contributed some mecha to the Galman/Gamilas side that built upon ideas from Series 1, such as the Seeadler III fighter and Dagon’s white disc-shaped flagship. He also designed Earth’s new Space Battleship Arizona, which quickly became a fan favorite despite its brief screentime. This experience, taking original TV designs to a new level, served Izubuchi in good stead when he came back decades later to direct Yamato 2199.
Yamato III‘s design runs into rough waters
The usual process for an anime series is for an art director and his assistant to develop the model sheets and create color design art boards. However, on the first Yamato series, director Leiji Matsumoto did the initial designs for Yamato itself, and everything on Gamilas and Iscandar. The artisans at Studio Nue cleaned up and refined his work, and art director Hachirou Tsukima drew art boards.
This system was revived for Farewell to Yamato, in which Matsumoto and Studio Nue turned finished mecha design work over to Tsuji Tadanao and Geki Katsumata for color design and art boards. As previously stated, Katsumi Itabashi stood in for Studio Nue on Yamato 2, then remodeled Yamato‘s interior for Be Forever, with art director Geki Katsumata supervising the art boards. Fortunately, their work was reusable for Yamato III. [Translator’s note: on many occasions, the color mecha art boards were published for promotion and used on merchandising, such as model kit boxes.]
Designer Noriyuki Moto was appointed to the task of supervising Yamato III‘s background art in March 1980, the same month his work could be seen in the theatrical premiere of Phoenix 2772. His first assignment was the Space Soldier Academy from Episode 1, which he started on June 17. Between then and July 3 he painted 56 backgrounds including the spaceport, but the overall sense was that he didn’t grasp the Yamato style and he was let go.
His work for Episode 1 was inherited by assistant artist Kei Azuma, and the very experienced painter Kazuo Miyagawa worked as an assistant from there all the way to the end. Moto’s replacement art director was Kazue Ito (shown with Leiji Matsumoto at right), who had done the same job on Triton of the Sea, and filled the world of Yamato III with vibrant color. Yutaka Izubuchi painted additional backgrounds for the Galman/Gamilas settings.
Yutaka Izubuchi’s Galman designs
Yutaka Izubuchi was seemingly destined to work on Space Battleship Yamato, since the original series was his inspiration for getting into anime in the first place. He started in the development phase of Yamato III, designing SF concepts as the story was mapped out. Some of his work built upon designs from Series 1 and took them to a new level. He had been active in the fan community after watching Series 1 on TV, and particularly liked the Gamilas mecha.
Because he knew the Gamilas design aesthetic better than anyone else on the staff, he took charge of Dessler’s palace interiors from the month of August. All things Galman/Gamilas were initially Katsumi Itabashi’s area of expertise, but Izubuchi quickly worked his way into the fold with one complex design after another. See a gallery of his Series 3 designs here.
At left: Gamilas fightercraft from Series 1. At right: Yutaka Izubuchi’s Seeadler III from Series 3.
(Art from Yamato Fact File magazine.)
By the end, Series 3 was able to inherit 120 model sheets from Be Forever (for Yamato itself). Kenzo Koizumi drew 93 models. Yamato got 67 pages of new interiors and 58 pages of new equipment. Galman/Gamilas had 163 mecha sheets and 60 background sheets. The Bolar Federation got a total of 127 designs. Planet Shalbart got 33. Over and above this, there were 250 pages of rejected designs (see some of them here). The grand total was over 1134 unique drawings, averaging about 45 per TV episode.
Stage 5: Voice Recording for Yamato III
New sound supervisor, new and veteran actors, new studio
For the 1974 TV series and the movies in 1977 and 78, Atsumi Tashiro was the post-production sound supervisor. The voice recording was done at Avaco Studio. Yamato 2 was managed by Toshio Sato of Tohokushinsha Film Co. and recorded at one of their studios. The two subsequent films, The New Voyage and Be Forever, returned to Tashiro and Avaco.
Tashiro was also in charge of the drama records released by Columbia on LP and cassette. The plan was for him to continue his work on Yamato III, but this went awry in spring 1980 when he was caught up in a scheduling conflict. Instead, the job went to Toshiki Toriumi and a different recording studio in Akasaka, Tokyo.
Left and center: AR scripts for episodes 4 and 24. AR stands for After Recording, called “Afreco” in industry jargon.
At far right is an earlier draft of the Episode 24 script with the working title “Mystery of Cosmic Energy.”
Voice recording for Episode 1 was done on September 18, 1980, about three weeks before the broadcast. The session began at 6pm with Goro Naya (the original Captain Okita) as narrator along with seven members of the regular cast. New to the group were Hideyuki Tanaka as Domon, Toshio Furakawa as Ageha, Kaneto Shiozawa as Bando, and Makoto Terada as General Dagon. Guest actors were Yasuro Tanaka as Professor Simon, Kunihiko Kitagawa as the Earth president and academy headmaster, Yoshito Miyamura as the academy instructor, Koji Yada as Dr. Kuroda, and Keiko Miyazaki as Domon’s mother. In all, 17 people participated.
Eight more actors joined the cast in Episode 2. The semi-regulars included Akira Kamiya as Shiro Kato, Mikio Terashima as engineer Sho Yamazaki, Ichiro Nagai as Dr. Sado, and Toru Furuya as assistant engineer Tasuke Tokugawa. Guest actors were Akira Kimura (the original narrator of Series 1) as Captain Ram, Siko Nakano as nurse Miyako, and two more as Ageha’s parents: Kiyoshi Kawakubo and Miyoko Shoji.
Aihara [Homer] made his debut in Episode 3, and Ota [Eager] and Nanbu [Dash] joined the series in Episode 4. Voice actor Yoshito Yasuhara was meant to return to the role of Ota, but he was already committed to another show (the lead role in Fighter Gordian), so the role was inherited by Hirotaka Suzuoki, popular as the voice of Bright Noah from Mobile Suit Gundam. In fact, Yamato III became a reunion point for three Gundam actors: Suzuoki, Toru Furuya (Amuro Rei) and Toshio Furukawa (Kai Shiden).
Susumu Kodai’s appearance throughout the series varied according to the styles of individual directors and layout artists. (1) From Episode 1, animation directed by Shinya Takahashi. (2) From Episode 2, drawn by chief animation director and character designer Kenzo Koizumi. (3) From Episode 3 by Toyoo Ashida, who participated in Series 1 and The Blue Bird.
Late animation, recording without a picture
Voice recording was scheduled to occur on Thursdays, approximately three weeks before a broadcast, but that gap was squeezed down to 16 days by the turn of the new year . For Series 1 and 2, rush films were edited for voice recording every week, about two weeks before a studio session. On Yamato III, this job fell to Assistant Director Kazunori Tanahashi, who was under pressure to also fill the position of Animation Director. He served as both from Episode 5 onward, so it was inevitable that his progress would be delayed.
Naturally, therefore, rush films with full cel animation weren’t ready in time, so they had to resort to the fallback method of drawing colored lines on strips of film. When projected, they would signal an actor when to start and stop. The veteran Yamato voice actors were used to it, but it was understandably difficult for the newer cast members.
In the Yamato III Roman Album published by Tokuma Shoten, voice actor Tessho Genda (Golsakov) commented that during the recording of Episode 19 he didn’t even have his character’s facial expression to take any cues from. Without the benefit of a picture, the timing of dialogue had to determine itself. Finished film had to be timed to match it, which only added to the struggle of the final music/sound effects mixes during the last two weeks before an airdate.
(1) Kodai in Episode 5 by Kazuhiko Udagawa, chief animation director of Be Forever. (2) From Episode 13 by Takeshi Shirato,
who worked on the saga since Series 1 and storyboarded 15 episodes for Yamato III. (3) From Episode 12 by Colony studio.
Kenzo Kuizumi directed the episode, for which he was uncredited.
Flashback: original Yamato voice actor audition data
Even the regular Yamato actors, who had reached veteran status by the time of Yamato III, had to be chosen through an audition process at the very beginning. Here are some facts about those original auditions.
Sound supervisor Atsushi Tashiro met with candidate voice actors from the end of August 1974 until September, about a month before the first episode was to be broadcast. 21 voice actors read lines for their candidate characters at Avaco Studio, and the main staff decided who got what part by listening to the tapes.
Hideo Nakamura tested for Shima, Sanada, and the narrator, and got the role of Shima. Kei Tomiyama tested for both Kodai and Shima, and got the role of Kodai. Other tryouts included Shigeto Iguchi who would participate in Yamato 2, and Ryoichi Tanaka (of Devilman) who also tested for both Kodai and Shima.
Takeshi Aono tried out for Sanada, Tokugawa, and Captain Okita, and got the part of Sanada. Taichiro Hirokawa read for Sanada and the narrator, and later got the part of Mamoru Kodai (he later returned as the narrator of Farewell to Yamato). Shunji Yamada tried out for Shima and Sanada, and later took over the role of Saburo Kato in Episode 8. Masana Tsukayama also tried out for Shima and Sanada, to come back much later as Lugal in Final Yamato. Masato Ibu read for both Sanada and Dessler, and ended up with the role of a lifetime as the latter.
Akira Kimura read for Captain Okita and engineer Tokugawa, and got the role of narrator. Kiyoshi Kawakubo read for Okita, narrator, and Dr. Sado without getting any of them, but he came back in Yamato III as Ageha’s father. Masato Tsujimura read for Dr. Sado, Tokugawa, and Analyzer, then later got the part of the EDF staff officer [General Stone] in Yamato 2. Kohei Miyauchi read for Tokugawa and later got the part of the Planet Shalbart elder in Yamato III. Ichirio Nagai read for Sado and Tokugawa and landed both roles simultaneously. Kenichi Ogata read for Sado and Analyzer, and got the part of Analyzer.
Three actresses tested for the role of Yuki. The part went to Yoko Asagami, but one of the other hopefuls, Kazue Komiya, landed the role of Sabella in Farewell to Yamato.
Actor Goro Naya had provided narration for the Yamato pilot film and finally got the role of Captain Okita (he was also well-known as the original voice of Inspector Zenigatta in Lupin III). Michiko Harai had read a line for Starsha in the pilot film, and kept the role for the series.
After the auditions were concluded, all the actors were chosen in early September, 1974. Only two of them, Kei Tomiyama (Kodai) and Goro Naya (Okita) appeared on the first Yamato drama record, released by Asahi Sonorama a few weeks after the series premiered in October. All the other parts were read by non-cast members.
Finally, the part of Shima was initially given to Shinji Nomura and he recorded his lines for Episode 1 in mid-September, but he was replaced by Hideo Nakamura, who rerecorded the lines and kept the role through Yamato III. Illness prevented him from finishing the role in Final Yamato so it went instead to vocalist Isao Sasaki.
Stage 6: The turbulent fate of Yamato III
With all this momentum, there was no reason to expect a rough ride with the broadcast of Yamato III in the fall, but that’s exactly what happened. The newly hyper-competitive atmosphere of anime on TV had pushed expectations through the roof, and when the ratings came in unexpectedly low after the first month, the Yomiuri network cut their commitment in half. 50 episodes were dropped to 25 and Exec Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki was suddenly faced with a challenge he didn’t expect.
Massive chunks of the story were excised, damaging the licensing value and resulting in a loss of sponsorship revenue. This evidently cut far deeper into Yamato business than it first appears on the surface since the company name itself was changed practically overnight to “West Cape Corporation.”
In keeping with his desire to inform the fans at every turn, Nishizaki wrote an insert letter for issue 21 of the fan club magazine (published February 1981) which was deemed important enough to also send out as a separate mailing. Issue 22 of the magazine was published under the West Cape copyright, so this letter was the first public document to mention the name in print.
To all Yamato fans
From Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki
To everyone who loves and supports Space Battleship Yamato: thanks to your enthusiastic support, Yamato is about to reach the tenth year since production began. Between all of our productions, it seems like I have had no time to eat or sleep.
The story of Kodai and Yuki is that of the young generation, and also myself in the 1970s. Needless to say, Yamato is a drama of human beings who face circumstances that threaten to crush their humanity, but their spirit is revived by dreams of love, and a passionate spirit that sings out to the entire universe. It is a story that breaks new ground in science-fiction.
They showed a workmanship in story and music which had not previously been seen in anime (especially in feature films) that was universally appealing. I am very proud to have achieved these works.
Unfortunately, however, some unanticipated problems have arisen in my company with regard to Yamato production. You may have read about this in newspapers or magazines. I could say that some of the clumsiness is the fault of others whom I trusted, but ultimately the responsibility belongs to me.
Therefore, I have made many efforts to solve these problems in ways that everyone could understand. This resulted in the creation of West Cape Corporation, and we can now move forward with the assurance of future production activity.
Everyone: speaking honestly, nothing like this has happened in my life before now. Some may have said that it was over for both Nishizaki and Yamato, but we are both in good health.
From March 14th, in response to your many voices, there will be a revival of both The New Voyage and Be Forever Yamato. In the summer of next year  we will commemorate the anniversary of Yamato‘s birth with a “final chapter,” which we are now encouraged to produce as a theatrical blockbuster. Everyone will be able to enjoy it together; the current fans, of course, but also those who may accompany their parent or sweetheart to a grand, luxurious theatre.
Everyone: it is true that I am the maker of Yamato, but your enthusiastic support is more important. Yamato could not fly without the power of its fans.
Some have seen the new Mobile Suit Gundam films and denigrate Yamato by comparison. When The New Voyage and Be Forever are revived on March 14, let’s all prove otherwise with our enthusiasm.
Epilogue: The Yamato III Compilation film: Destruction of the Solar System
After Final Yamato came and went in theaters (the 35mm version in March and the 70mm re-release in November), the Yamato III compilation film was broadcast for the first time on Nippon TV’s Wednesday Roadshow during winter vacation on December 28, 1983.
Nippon TV commissioned it from West Cape Corporation to fill a two-hour timeslot, and Director Eiichi Yamamoto was tasked with editing the 25 TV episodes down to 93 minutes, 30 seconds.
Candidate scenes were chosen by extracting them from the TV recording scripts, which resulted in a 176-page “compilation script.” The next step was to confirm the running time of each scene by referring to storyboards and film clips, a process that brought the script down to 91 pages.
Using this revised script as a guide, negatives for each scene were struck from the extracted film clips, and new narration was written and recorded where necessary. Music was remixed in about 30 places under Yamamoto’s supervision, and the compilation film was completed.
At the time of its first broadcast, it was simply titled Space Battleship Yamato III: Destruction of the Solar System, but to clarify it as a compilation of the TV series, West Cape documents added the subtitle Compilation Edition in 1984.
The original Wednesday Roadshow broadcast featured a commentator named Kinya Aikawa who appeared at the beginning and again at the end. He talked passionately about Yamato and exhibited a 1/350 scale wood kit manufactured by Imai. His segments cut into the running time, so the last 8 seconds of the closing credit roll was eliminated.
The ratings for this broadcast actually outdid the TV series, coming in at 10.7%. However, it was far below the 40.1% captured by a year-end festival program on the rival TV Asahi network. The film was shown again on Fuji TV a year later, December 26, 1984. The Yamato 2 compilation film had been shown a day earlier, and both got the same rating of 5.5%. It was first released on VHS & Beta in January 1985, on LD in 1994, and finally as part of the Yamato III DVD box set in 2001.
Yamato III‘s turbulent legacy continued to dog it even during its transition to Star Blazers, which is described in detail here. But as the decades passed, it found ultimate acceptance as an essential part of the quintessential SF anime saga, with a potential that is still not fully tapped.
Read comments from the staff of Yamato III here.