It goes without saying that the vast majority of Yamato activity in 2013 was devoted to Yamato 2199, which came to a thunderous conclusion on both large and small screens in the fall. Parallel with that, activity centered on the original saga was fairly steady, and just about equal to the previous two years. Here’s what went on with “Classic Yamato” while “Modern Yamato” hogged the spotlight…
1965 Man magazine
January 11, Crete Planning Box Publishing
Issue 17 of 1965 Man (dated February) had a cover guaranteed to grab the attention of Yamato fans, especially those who were there at the beginning. Someone born in 1965 would have been 9 when the first series premiered on TV, dead center in the target audience. And for that particular audience, few men from the world of anime made a deeper impression than Captain Okita.
The cover story for the issue was titled The Message Hit Us Directly, and Yamato was one of the pop culture classics examined under that heading. An insightful article titled The Message of Space Battleship Yamato was broken into two parts: an analysis of Series 1 and an interview with writer Eiichi Yamamoto.
Read the entire article here.
Captain Legend: A Book for the Space Age
January 31, Ichijinsa Publishing
Written by Keisuke Hirota, this intriguing paperback brings together the words and comportment of characters from Yamato, Gundam, Macross and other titles – a total of 24 anime captains – for the purposes of inspiration. The book is mostly text, lightly illustrated, and runs 184 pages. The Yamato captains are Okita, Hijikata, the Andromeda captain from Farewell to Yamato, both Kodai brothers, and Yamanami.
The Yamato content runs almost 50 pages and will be translated here in the future.
Great Yamato manga (reissue)
April 5, Shogakukan Publishing
Great Yamato was Leiji Matsumoto’s first attempt at reviving the saga during his tenure as a copyright holder from 1998-2002. It was set in the year 3199 and brought together the distant descendants of Yamato‘s original crew to lift off in a much bigger version of the famous ship. The story was paper thin (yet ran to 400 pages) and since Matsumoto still retains ownership it has been reprinted multiple times – usually when there’s a prominent coattail to be ridden.
Read all about Great Yamato here.
The Universe of Leiji Matsumoto
August 24, Shogakukan Publishing
A flurry of Leiji Matusmoto books appeared just ahead of the Captain Harlock feature film premiere in September. This one cherry-picked some of his most memorable manga stories from all genres including Harlock, Galaxy Express, Sexaroid, Oidon Man, Gun Frontier and many more, totaling over 300 pages. The Yamato chapter was a new reprint of Eternal Story of Jura, which can be read here.
If you’re a casual fan hoping for a grab-bag manga sampler of the Leijiverse, this book is a treasure trove.
Double R Mechanics Volume 3
September 23, Model Art
This quarterly magazine is a showcase for model kits of classic anime mecha, primarily from the 70s and 80s. (Double R stands for “Real Robot.”) The first and second issues were devoted to hero and villain robots respectively, and both gave passing nods to Yamato kits. This one took a big step forward, filling up almost a third of the magazine (37 pages) with Yamato spaceship and fighter models, both new and old.
Visit Model Art’s home page here.
Space Battleship Yamato Circa 1966
August 11, West River Corporation
This 16-page doujinshi was easily the most unique Yamato publication of the year, professional or otherwise. The project began when film designer/manga artist Shinji Nishikawa (who goes by the penname MASH) posted his own retro sketch of Andromeda on his Twitter page, which became an instant hit. When another manga artist coined the term “Circa 1966” the Twitter feed turned into a jam project with contributions from all corners.
Anime/game artist Nobuyoshi Nishimura posted his idea of what the characters might look like if animated for Japanese TV in 1966, and writer/animator Yuka Minakawa created CG models of several other mecha, all re-envisioned in the earlier aesthetic (the complete Twitter record can be seen here).
The doujinshi shown above was one result of this creativity, a loving homage to the first Space Battleship Yamato Roman Album, that covers a TV series that never was. Other results could be found on Nico Nico and YouTube, a variety of homemade videos that demand to be seen by YOU. (You’ll need to sign up for a membership with Nico Nico for most of these, but it’s free…and SO worth it!)
Space Battleship Yamato Ship’s Log
The “Yamato Crew Premium Fun Club Magazine” is mainly dedicated to 2199, but each issue has a little something from the past, such as vintage product reviews, historical features on Yoshinobu Nishizaki, and occasional words from original staff members. The magazine is available with a yearly membership to the Yamato Crew Premium fan club, but only ships to Japanese addresses. It remains to be seen if this will extend to North America via starblazers.com.
Four issues of the magazine were published in 2013, in the months of April, June, August, and November. Read more about them in the Yamato 2199 reports that cover those months.
The Yamato Sound Almanac CD series continued at full speed in 2013, adding new titles to the revival catalog every 60 days. Consisting of 30 discs in total, the series changed package colors from red to blue at the halfway point in May. An in-depth review of the first half (all 15 of the reds) can be read here. A matching review of the second half will be published after the series concludes in March 2014.
1980-III ’80 Yamato Festival in Budokan Live
This famous concert from summer 1980 was divided into four parts, each featuring live music and scenes devoted to a different story; Series 1, Farewell, The New Voyage, and Be Forever (which hadn’t yet premiered in theaters). These segments were broken up by live interviews with Yoshinobu Nishizaki and Leiji Matsumoto, and others. Of course, all the spoken parts are in Japanese, but there’s a real thrill in hearing the audience react to certain Be Forever scenes for the first time, even if you don’t speak the language.
The entire concert is reproduced on this 2-disc set. Each disc includes two karaoke-style bonus tracks from the Yamato song catalog.
1981-I Symphonic Suite Yamato III
This album presents symphonic rearrangements of Hiroshi Miyagawa’s score for Yamato III, with four karaoke-style songs as bonus tracks.
1978-V, 1978-VI: Yamato 2 BGM Collections
Of the thirty discs in the series, none were more eagerly anticipated than these two, which are an absolute gold mine. This body of work was composed and recorded in the summer of 1978 for use in both Farewell to Yamato and Yamato 2, and was so large that some of it was left over for other productions. Until these discs were released, a significant portion of it had never before been available on CD.
1979-II The New Voyage BGM Collection
Released the same day as the Yamato 2 collections, this disc complemented them nicely with tracks recorded for The New Voyage. Some of these were also held in reserve for later works, such as Yamato III and the Yamato 2 compilation movie. Many were not commercially available until now.
Sound Almanac Storage Box
Each Sound Almanac disc came with proof-of-purchase tabs that could be redeemed for bonus items. The first of these was a box to contain discs 1-15. A complementary box was offered for 16-30, and there is another prize waiting at the end of the run, still to be announced as of January 2014.
1980-IV Be Forever Yamato BGM Collection
This disc collected the music actually heard in the movie (as opposed to rearrangements heard on the symphonic albums) along with three bonus tracks that were recorded for Be Forever but not used until Yamato III.
1982-II Mellow Guitar, 1982-3 Fascinating Piano, 1982-4 Romantic Violin
These three are referred to as the “Rhapsody” albums, full-throated and elaborate rearrangements of Yamato score from Series 1 through Yamato III. Despite the emphasis on individual instruments, the entire Yamato orchestra is present and accounted for, which makes these an indispensable part of your collection.
The bonus tracks this time are something very special: 29 tracks of piano solos by Hiroshi Miyagawa and Kentaro Haneda covering the entire saga. These recordings were previously available only on a limited-edition cassette tape sold through the Yamato Fan Club in September 1982. This is their first time on CD, evenly distributed across all three discs.
1981-II, 1981-III: Yamato III BGM Collections
These discs do for Series 3 what the previous set did for Series 2, bringing a significant number of tracks out of the vault for the first time and almost filling out the Yamato III catalog. 7 tracks are still missing for some unexplained reason, but they can be found on earlier albums. For the sake of completists, these missing tracks are as follows:
Yamato III BGM album: tracks 9, 19 and 21. Yamato III Eternal Edition CD: tracks 3, 5, 9, 20, and 30.
Those tracks, plus various pieces that were recorded earlier and ended up in Yamato III (found on other Sound Almanac discs) add up to about 40 minutes. That’s on top of the two hours of BGM found on these discs, an enormous library that was worth the 34-year wait.
1982-I Prelude to Final Yamato
When it was initially released about a year before the film it related to, this album was an interesting experiment in stage-setting. Yoshinobu Nishizaki often indicated that he could “hear” a film before he could “see” it and that the music in his head helped him find the story. This album explored that literally with compositions by Hiroshi Miyagawa (some arranged by his son Akira) that were based on the concept of Final Yamato rather than the film itself (which was still in the script stage at the time).
Some of these compositions would be rearranged for the film score while others remained on this album. Two of the tracks include spoken narration, and appear as bonus tracks with the narration stripped out.
1983-I, 1983-II, 1983-III: Final Yamato Symphonic Collections
Working together, Hiroshi Miyagawa and Kentaro Haneda produced a sweeping, epic score running longer than the film itself. All three discs in this set include bonus tracks; variations of symphonic score and more songs for the karaoke catalog.
The remaining discs in the Sound Almanac series arrived in 2014. See a complete discography for the series here.
Star Blazers Sound Almanac series
In July, it was announced that the Yamato Sound Almanac series was to be made available to fans around the world via iTunes under the name Star Blazers Sound Almanac. Twelve albums were offered in August with others added periodically thereafter. You can download them right now, using “starblazers” (one word) as a search term.
Of course, this is a massive development for overseas fans, marred only by clumsy packaging; the word “Yamato” was globally replaced with “Star Blazers” without much care given to context. So, for example, we get names like Star Blazers Symphony Orchestra rather than Yamato Symphony Orchestra, and there is no explanation at all for some of the track titles or content. This takes nothing away from the music, but a little more effort could have made things much clearer for everyone.
Beyond the Sea
Universal Music Japan, November 6
The Japan Marine Self Defense Force has a world-class band, and has performed the Yamato theme live on many occasions. This disc collects several ocean-invoking pieces both classical and modern, including the “Infinite Space” theme and the main theme. Find out more about it here.
The Alfee: Tie-up ~ Collaboration History (limited edition)
EMI Records Japan, December 25
The Alfee has been an A-list rock band for 40 years, marking the anniversary with this massive box set of 7 discs containing music composed for film and television. This includes Dedicate My Love, their power ballad from the end title of Yamato Resurrection. The box costs close to $100, but that should be no obstacle to a rabid Alfee fan.
Toys and Models
Iscandar Fierce Battle Cosmofleet Collection
Megahouse has been releasing Yamato Cosmofleet miniatures since 2006, and has occasionally reissued them in themed sets. This one was themed for Series 1 with ten ships, sold separately and in boxed collections. Each ship came with bonus parts to assemble a never-before-released Analyzer figure.
See all the previous Cosmofleet sets here.
This set is somewhat mysterious, appearing only briefly and then vanishing without a trace. Called only the “Leiji Matsumoto Heroine” series, it was probably released at one of the many Japanese hobby shows centered on limited-edition garage kits. The bases in this photo are a bit mixed up, but that seems easily remedied.
Mecha Collection Present Campaign
Beginning in July, Bandai had a bonus gift for everyone who purchased Yamato 2199 model kits either online or from major stores. Six of the vintage Mecha Collection mini-kits were recast as “Cosmo Clear” versions in translucent plastic, and were given away free with any 2199 model.
Hero’s Hill figurine (reissue)
The Plex Company (formerly known as Popy) has released several sets of Yamato miniatures in their “Mechanical Collection” series, but this figurine of the Hero’s Hill monument was completely new. Standing almost 8″ tall and 6″ square at the base, even the plaque at Captain Okita’s feet is readable.
Mecha Collection Special Box
The famous Yamato mini-kits have been in production practically non-stop since they first appeared in 1979, boosting Bandai’s fortunes like nothing else before. From January ’79 to June ’81, thirty of them rolled out at the very affordable price of 100 yen each, which gave even youngsters the chance to build a collection. They were first brought together as a set in 2004 with each of their individual packages inside a single large box. This time the individual packages are gone, but there’s a very nice tradeoff for that.
The family now numbers 33. For the first time, three new kits have joined the lineup: Domel’s saucer (with a SMITE trigger), a Black Tiger, and the Cosmo Cleaner D. Close inspection reveals that this is not the same Cosmo Cleaner mini-kit that came with the 2001 Popynica Yamato toy. Bandai has not yet announced whether they will be sold separately.
Yamato movie Blu-ray discs
The first Yamato production to appear on Blu-ray was Resurrection in 2010, followed by the live-action movie, 2199, and Series 1. The five classic movies were the next to migrate over, coming out bimonthly from April to December. Farewell to Yamato was out first on April 24 (it had also been the first on DVD in 1998) followed by Space Battleship Yamato (June 21), The New Voyage (August 28), Be Forever (October 25) and Final Yamato (December 25).
It goes without saying that the primary attraction was seeing each film in the best possible picture quality. In one case, this wasn’t necessarily an improvement; The New Voyage was the most rushed of the five films, so numerous animation errors and prodigious cel dirt actually detract from the viewing experience. On the other hand, Farewell to Yamato is gorgeous to behold and even had one of its most infamous mistakes corrected – Yamamoto’s elbow no longer pops out of his Cosmo Tiger cockpit during his final salute.
In terms of bonus material, the movie trailers that were common on LD and DVD are here again, along with reproductions of program books and occasional TV ads or teaser trailers that have never been released before. Also included is a series of Yamato soundscapes (music and effects) that originally appeared as extra features in the Series 1 LD box set (Emotion, 1990).
The real standouts in the series, however, are the last two films. Be Forever‘s famous Warp Dimension screen shift made it a true spectacle on the big screen, but became an instant handicap on home video. No matter how it was treated for TV, its impact was compromised – especially on the DVD release, which artificially letterboxed the pre-warp segment by blocking out the picture top and bottom so the post-warp segment would be wider. On top of this, the film master was low-contrast and improperly focused. All of these problems were finally rectified for the Blu-ray; the picture has never been sharper and Warp Dimension now fills an entire HD TV screen.
Final Yamato had similar issues; though the animation was composed for a widescreen format, the full aspect ratio of the cels was 4×3 (to preserve future options), and those who were there to see it in ’83 say that it was projected as a 4×3 picture in theaters. It remained 4×3 in all of its video releases until it came to DVD, at which point artificial letterboxing cut off the top and bottom of the picture. Unfortunately, it was cropped too tight and made many scenes feel cramped. The letterbox was reformatted for the blu-ray, and at last Final Yamato feels like the epic it was always meant to be.
There is only one problem that remains unfixable – the video processing of certain special effects shots at lower-than-film resolution. They were always slightly blurry on home video, but now they stand out like a sore thumb. They could be easily recreated today by rebuilding effects on top of the original footage, but the fact that this wasn’t done probably means the film negative is unavailable.
Despite all this nitpicking, Yamato movies on Blu-ray serve as welcome evidence of continued support. Let’s hope TV series 2 and 3 will follow.
Yamato Crew Blu-ray storage box
Always looking out for the needs of loyal fans, Yamato Crew made a custom storage box for all five films. It sold out quickly.
Space Battleship Yamato MV Blu-ray disc
Originally released in 1984, this was the first of five “concept” videos that coupled re-edited animation from each of the five movies with film score or BGM. Special video effects (similar to those developed for Final Yamato) were occasionally applied to enhance the picture. They were only released once on LD and VHS, then disappeared seemingly forever. The exile finally ended when this volume and a new one devoted to Yamato 2199 came out together in July. The other four classic MV’s followed in 2014.
Read all about the MV series here.
Live-action Yamato movie [UK Edition]
Manga Entertainment inadvertently announced its acquisition of the live-action movie by listing it on Amazon.co.uk for August release. This marks the second English-speaking country to import the film, after Australia’s Madman Entertainment released it in 2012.