To mark the occasion of the 1/500 Space Battleship Yamato 2199 model kit, Model Graphix magazine #352 (Dai Nippon Kaiga, January 2014) published a massive cover story to front a record-setting 36-page article that went deep into 2199 modeling and mecha design. The title of the article, Yamato Mechanics, took its name from a pivotal website once run by Junichiro Tamamori, who would become the mecha designer for Yamato 2199 a few years later.
Here is the first of three articles that present the text content of the magazine, starting with an essay by the main man himself. Special thanks to Mr. Tamamori for permission to reproduce the images from his website, which now belongs to history.
Essay by Junichiro Tamamori
Space Battleship Yamato 2199 was still in the early planning stages when I said to General Director Yutaka Izubuchi, “I’d like to ask you to let me design the mecha for the Earth side.” I was aware that Yamato would have to be designed from scratch. Now, I will design it. I think it becomes like this. Since there were endless thoughts and images continuously flowing through my mind, the same as the General Director, I got into smooth design work. Of course, the General Director had intentions, but he is a person of “aesthetics.”
Regarding Yamato, there are those who settle on a consolidated overall aesthetic for it. Therefore, we compared each others’ aesthetics and pushed the design work forward. The General Director is a person who highly respects each designer.
The length expanded to 333 meters, but this change was not a big deal. In the previous works, it was not necessarily said that “the full length of Yamato is 265.8 meters,” so I didn’t think we needed to worry about resetting it to 333 meters. I respected the figure of 330 meters that Kazutaka Miyatake had decided upon. However, the difference between 330 meters and 333 meters is quite big. When you build a model, the difference of 3 meters at 1/1000 scale is a considerable gap. What would we do with this 3-meter difference?
The outside thought was the idea that there was a change in parts, such as, “then the slope of the bow is changed,” or “the nozzle is longer than it was in the original.” This full-length number itself changed in various ways in the world of Yamato. In other words, in the Yamato Plan, when the design evolved from the starting numbers, or when the Wave-Motion Gun was attached, could it have changed steadily? I planned to keep the margin.
There were many depictions of Yamato being repaired during the original stories, and I think there was also some renovation of the hull. For example, after firing the Wave-Motion Gun at Jupiter, there would definitely have been some renovation. If they discovered a leak in a shield or a jet burst, “Hey, it’s leaking a little here,” they might enlarge the fairing to extend the opening outward a little, and there might have been changes to the form of the Wave-Motion Gun. In that way, I think the full length of Yamato would naturally change during the voyage if such renovations were made.
I also added some unprecedented detail to Yamato this time. I was worried that adding something that Yamato didn’t previously have might spoil the original, but actually, there were quite a lot of mysterious parts at the stern, particularly in the area of the rear deck. Naoyuki Katoh, who drew the stern back then, didn’t grasp it well, either. I thought it might be good to change that. There had been various interpretations before now. Was there meant to be a step on the rear deck? It was connected in Mr. Katoh’s picture, but it was different in the film, so it became a zone of mystery. For example, the base part of the catapult. How on Earth could it be solid? What was recessed, and what was projected?
Related to this, as I worked with Mr. Katoh, we had an exchange of ideas along the lines of, “Yes, THIS is what Yamato should be.” While creating a new interpretation of the rear deck, the redesign included that sort of thing.
Yamato this time around was using CG in the production, but there was a trick to showing the mecha detail. Mainly because I hated asking, “Why can I see details on the mecha the same, even when they’re visually a long way off?” Let’s treat it like we’re shooting prop models in a live action movie, with separate ones for close-ups and long shots. Then we can change the detail level according to the shot.
We’d mark up the CG lines with red letters for corrections, and as these weren’t design drawings, it’s not recorded in the official design book. It was [Chief Mechanical Director] Masanori Nishii and me who came up with this. Several of these were gathered and passed along to Bandai in the development of the 1/500 Yamato model kit. Even so, when there were parts they couldn’t understand, we’d mark the designs by hand and send them over. Because in anime, any designs you can’t use don’t get used. In the production of a drama, designs are produced as needed, and the practical fact of the matter is that stuff you don’t use doesn’t get design drawings. From the fans’ point of view, they may think it’s all exactly decided, but it’s not like that at all.
Even if a magazine editorial department says, “Please give us materials on this part,” we can’t if it doesn’t exist. Because of that, in relation to the development of the 1/500 kit, it got piled onto the work we were doing on the 7th volume of the show. We couldn’t check everything as finely as we’d have liked, but we still went back and redrew details on the missing sections. Some designs were drawn in my hotel in Tokyo as I was peering at my laptop’s little screen.
Then I had to see what Bandai would put on display at a 2013 hobby show, and I confirmed the results, “this and this are OK.” I’d given them a revision wish-list beforehand, and they did their best to make modifications according to that. When a representation of Yamato becomes this size, the impression is different from that of the 1/1000 Yamato model. You stare at different points. I don’t have to worry about scrutiny of such a large model. I feel a sense of unity and overall proportion.
I want you to play with variety in this 1/500 Yamato. For example, because the main guns were beaten up like crazy in the story, I think the shape would change steadily with every repair. It wouldn’t last unless the armor was thickened. The Wave-Motion Gun would probably be repaired after it is fired, and thus each answer would be correct. “Here’s how I’d fix it if I was Sanada.”
For example, there’s a line on the boundary between the bulwark and the fairing of the bow, but it’s actually a broken line because material keeps getting added to it, and it may be broken by a difference between the structure or the armor. In the original work, this became a brighter color. I wanted to change that for the Yamato 2199 version, but Director Izubuchi said, “No, don’t change it.”
Furthermore, on the hull, it might be good to carve the cross-section of the hull around the second turret to make it more pear-shaped. I think it would be cool to have it swell outward like the bulge of Battleship Yamato. And on Pluto, as well as Iscandar, would the water that was pumped in be contained? It wouldn’t necessarily just be a reservoir, you could have a mechanism to use water as armor to disperse energy, and it could absorb beam energy if you got hit. There is no such design, but it works as an SF interpretation.
Kazutaka Miyatake showed his ideas for space Battleships in Studio Nue’s Starship Library serial in SF Magazine, and that idea for shielding popped up independently when I saw it. I also had the idea of integrating a spear and a shield. In the case of Yamato, since it is a spaceship as well as a battleship, the upper and lower portions across the waterline are in fact a spear and a shield. The red underside is the shield that has strengthened armor, and the upper side is the spear, loaded with armaments.
Piping and surface detail are concentrated on the sides, and something like appliqué armor is added in blocks to the bottom. Even if gatling missile launchers are added to the bottom, the openings are minimized to make for a strong shield. If you follow a route of such thinking, I think it allows for various interpretations and different ways of enjoying Yamato overall.
The home page for Yamato Mechanics in January, 2005
The legendary fansite that supported Yamato during downtime
An eyewitness who knew Yamato Mechanics in those days
We hear from Michio Murakawa (Yamato 2199 manga artist)
Listener: Editorial department
This issue borrowed the name Yamato Mechanics from a famous website that was part of Yamato mania. The manager of this website, which has since closed, was Junichiro Tamamori, the mecha designer and production staff member of Space Battleship Yamato 2199. We talked about it with Mr. Michio Murakawa, who currently creates the manga version, about those days and the feeling in the air at the time.
Tamamori-san founded the Yamato Mechanics website, I think probably around 2001. I came across the site in 2004. I found it while doing an image search for Yamato and said, “What is this?” It was surprising, so I had a look.
At that time, its configuration was a so-called gallery site centering on Tamamori-san’s illustrations. In addition, he spelled out his thoughts in text about the technology and SF concepts of the world of Yamato. There was something like an image bulletin board, and I remember that it functioned as a place of exchange for people who liked drawing Yamato as a fan activity. For people who liked the site, the three pillars of it were Tamamori’s pictures, his historical research, and exchanging their own pictures, which gave each person a way of enjoying it that suited them. I just enjoyed looking at the pictures.
I always found Tamamori-san’s pictures refreshing, as did General Director Izubuchi when he occasionally looked in, because it overflowed with “a realistic presence.” Until then, there weren’t many pictures of Yamato that took that sort of approach. The mechanic illustrations of Yamato had a strong influence on old anime and manga by all means, and a sense of “my Yamato” developed when you freely thought about the designs on your own, giving priority to your favorite shapes and lines, which gave it a lot of emotional meaning. There were some images where you could say this “forced pass” was too strong.
However, Tamamori-san’s illustrations were peaceful, I think because of a foundation in military and industrial design, so he talked about mecha with a sense of reality, with the interpretation and taste of a proper technique. Rather than the emotion we’d had until now, there was a presence that contrasted with the people, a feeling of atmosphere where the mecha were. Although there’s no “atmosphere” in space. (Laughs) With them wrapped in that sort of atmosphere, they project a sort of reality. Therefore, I think it attracted special attention.
Although I think this website primed the pump for Tamamori-san, it seemed there was also an exchange with international Yamato fans. The overseas appreciation was not an emotional impression of the old mecha lineup either, but the idea of refining that part for a contemporary reality and looking closely at the quality.
It can be said that the situation around Yamato at the time was that movement had subsided, and it was hard to generate any content. If you liked Yamato, even if you raised your voice, the general atmosphere was one of, “Huh? Yamato!?” That’s why, conversely, in general the only people who stay fans or stay in the anime industry are those who really like it. Perhaps you could say that they devote themselves to the feelings in their hearts.
When I reached out to Tamamori-san when I made a Yamato doujinshi on my own, it was the manifestation of such a feeling. “I want to make a doujinshi,” I said to General Director Izubuchi, “and I’m looking for people who draw great pictures like those at this site,” and I introduced him to Yamato Mechanics. (Laugh) “I know it, I know it, I’ve already approached them,” he said. It seemed that General Director Izubuchi had also watched Yamato Mechanics for a long time.
Also, Tamamori-san seemed to have read my previous contribution to a Yamato anthology manga, and responded without being overly cautious. Our acquaintance began from that.
As everyone thought about Yamato in the time that followed and General Director Izubuchi said, “we should work to create Yamato in this way,” I think there was an image in mind. This website was one of the things that was needed. Therefore, I think the voice that started 2199 was Tamamori-san.
The presence of this website became an opportunity for people to approach their aspirations and feelings for Yamato.
Read our interview with Mr. Murakawa here.
Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.