The Yamato Decade: Fan Perspective

Expansion and Evolution of fans

There was no time in which anime fans had more power than they do now. The expansion of fandom’s spirit after long perseverance knows no bounds. With that expansion comes evolution. Here we consider the central impact of Yamato on anime fans and its relationship to them.

Good old nostalgia

A talk with the chairman of the
first Yamato fan club

Many fans of anime burned with youth for Yamato. You who read this should inherit the “feelings” of those predecessors, considering that and how they have lived. The famous M.K. was the chairman of the first fan club, and now participates in the planning of anime shows and movies in a leading advertising agency. She was once a fan at the forefront, and we talked with her about present fandom.

[Translator’s note: despite the mismatch in her initials, M.K. is almost certainly a fan named Asami Kushino, a key member of Cosmo Battleship Yamato Laboratory. Read all about that game-changing fan club here.]

Interviewer: Tell us the circumstances around the formation of the Yamato fan club.

M.K.: I went to visit the studio. My university was located along the same train line as Academy [Studio]. After the first TV series ended its broadcast run, the fan club was started by friends who hung around the studio.

There were two men and two women in the fan club, and because the male chairman was taking his college entrance exams, I took the role of acting chairman at the time.

When I made fanzines, the membership swelled to about 300 people, and when the paperwork got out of hand, we had to dissolve it and make a truly new fan club. And so, I got stuck in charge of communications, and finally people started calling me the founder of the Yamato Fan Club. I have always believed myself to be its communications director, though. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Were there other fan clubs?

M.K.: There were about three or four, but we spent all our time our studio, and I held the valuable design documents in those days. (Laughs) Finally, it swelled up to about 1,000 people. The staff was about 5 people. One of our members could touch-type, and our fanzines looked something like present-day anime magazines.

The Doujinshi [Fanzines]

Interviewer: Unexpectedly, commercial magazines came to carry the same kind of information that was in fanzines a long time ago.

M.K.: But the method of commercial magazines is the correct way, since the fanzines had the problem of charging for copyrighted design data, and I think that’s bad. There was a good excuse at the time, since such things couldn’t be found in those days. Essentially, in how we viewed ourselves, we wanted to have something by fans for fans, so we thought of it as a doujinshi [fanzine]. But this is a case of anime fan clubs.

“Bookmaking” was a lot of fun. It was rewarding. We learned how “a good book” is made…

Fan Activity

Interviewer: With the first Yamato movie, it seemed that it was publicized by the power of the fans. How would you compare that to recent, similar activity?

M.K.: It was a major thing. (Laughs) There was a feeling of “do or die” heroism. A compelling desire. It is bright these days. I think I’m very lucky.

Interviewer: Did you often see fans gather at the recording studio?

M.K.: Since our being there was a nuisance, I can’t say very strongly that we did, but I think we showed a minimum of good sense. The important thing to consider was not being a nuisance to others. Besides, in the case of anime, you’re dealing with professionals at work, and we were just fans, so in the end we were only there to enjoy ourselves. I think you need to firmly understand your place.

Fan Conduct

Interviewer: The lines to see an anime movie on opening day were famous from that time. Is it different these days?

M.K.: I don’t do precocious things any more. Because I’m not young. (Laughs) But it was fun. Standing in line, we talked about many things, from “where did you come from?” to “what’s your favorite anime?” and we shared addresses and made new friends. At the time of the first Yamato movie, a junior high student brought their mother along. The mother said, “thanks for your help,” and was going to leave, but ended up staying and talking about things all night. (Laughs) It’s a good memory.

Speaking of staying up all night, it was really great at the time of Farewell to Yamato. I was up all night and it was good until I entered the theater, but when the ending song started to flow, the next thing I thought I heard was the beginning of the Comet Empire theme. (Laughs) I thought, I must have fallen asleep for a minute! Why is everyone crying? (Laughs)

Interviewer: Recently waiting in line has become the fashion, and people peddling cels frequently appear in their midst.

M.K.: I absolutely want such things to stop. Standing in line means that you are rooted in a public place. Because your conduct becomes the overall image of what is considered an anime fan, I absolutely want people to stop doing such shameful things.

Interviewer: I’d definitely like people to think about things like that. It’s not limited to the lines, you must not forget that your behavior creates the image of all anime fans.

M.K.: That’s right. There were no such tensions at that time. We just wanted to see anime widened.

Interviewer: That’s still how it is.

M.K.: Yes. Embarrassingly. (Laughs) For the most part, we pollute the lowest rung of the ladder on the scene where anime is produced!

Interviewer: Speaking of your advertising agency, it’s a major star enterprise. Anime fans are not only on the spot, they’re also at TV stations, agencies, and sponsors. I want you to play an active part in a place where you can show your stuff.

M.K.: I’ll keep that in mind. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Finally, please tell me a good memory of your fan club activity…

M.K.: It meant that you could get to know a stranger from far away through a beloved work. When we did membership recruitment, I got a letter from someone in Kyushu for the first time. When I went home and told my mother I had a comrade in Kyushu, she was deeply impressed. (Laughs)

What I want from people who are present-day fans is not to make the feelings temporary, but to go deeper and expand steadily as they grow up. I think that is the purpose of fan club activity, because there is a pleasure in joining a fan club, and there is also a pleasure in doing. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Thank you very much. Please keep it up.

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.


When I became a Yamato fan

Misao Minamida

When I became a Yamato fan, it was my second year of junior high school. I was the student council president at the time, and Monday’s student council meeting always finished early so I could go home and see Yamato at 6pm. (A rural area!) After I came to Tokyo for exams, more anime doujinshis were coming out at the time, so I made the inside story of Yamato as an original parody. I did five volumes in the “Glitter Yamato” series: Love and Soldiers, New Journey, From Sasha With Love, Forever Yamato, and a story of the children of the main crew. With a few exceptions, all the new ones were by girls, and we made a bright, fun Yamato.

It is already four years since then. But I sold reprints at the Winter Comiket, and it was popular.

Personally, I want to see one new Yamato every two years. It’s the same feeling as watching Mito Komon. [Translator’s note: this is a live-action historical drama that has been broadcast on TBS since 1969.]

By all means, I want them to make new series, and episodes about the children.

Summary: Yamato Decade

Yamato is the alpha, but not the omega
[The beginning, but not the end]

Misao Minamida

The result of the Yamato decade was to influence anime, and we’ve seen Yamato itself transform in a variety of ways. I’d like to summarize the expectations of The Final Chapter to come next March, and consider the issues of the entire anime industry bubble.

The current state of the anime movie

I think Yamato‘s biggest influence is still in movies.

Anime currently occupies over half of the Japanese film box office. We can’t talk about the process that lead to this situation without talking about Yamato.

After the phenomenal hit of Farewell to Yamato, Toei released Leiji Matsumoto’s Galaxy Express 999. The line of Toei, Toei Animation, and Leiji Matsumoto was fixed by this success. Other companies made the shift to releasing anime films during long-term school holidays, and soon the number of summer anime increased until it became spring anime.

The line of Shochiku, Nippon Sunrise, and Yoshiyuki Tomino recently caused a big boom with Mobile Suit Gundam, and also enlivened mass media. The line of Toho, Tokyo Movie, and Osamu Dezaki has also steadily sent fine works off into the world.

While all these numbers and profits increase, the outlook of the Japanese movie industry misjudges the character of anime in newspapers, and society still thinks of them as “manga movies.” The actual state of things is that the true value of anime which we feel has not yet been recognized.

If anime in the movie world is only a numerical expansion, the disregard of adults is probably unavoidable. But on the other hand, Lupin III Cagliostro Castle and the Mobile Suit Gundam movies are first-class works. Let’s hope such improvement in quality somehow becomes socially acceptable, and those who become engaged in anime are not just a few fans.

In that sense, the responsibility of Yamato The Final Chapter is critical.

Yamato = Anime

This scheme may be deeply engraved into the minds of adults in the world. If The Final Chapter demonstrates the state of the art of anime, we’ll be able to see how far anime has come over these ten years.

On the other hand, like I look forward to Mito Komon, I have high hopes to be able to see another Yamato, since Yamato is Yamato. It’s a unique world that asserts that. A complete world that has nothing to do with the inconsistencies of its establishment. For ten years without a break, I’ve had a tremendous urge to see Yamato.

Next spring will bring us three theatrical anime movies in March, with the completely new Crusher Joe and Harmagedon to show us more state-of-the-art anime. In this way, more than just having the adults of the world acknowledging it, as an anime fan, the urge to see Yamato again is very strong.

Once, it was Yamato = anime. To the society coming to know anime for the first time, they were synonymous. But it should not be necessary for it to take that responsibility now. For Yamato, I want it to be the most Yamato it can be, adorned with perfect beauty.

What is left by Yamato

It can be said that Yamato is an original anime work. Gundam as well. Original material is at the height of its prosperity on TV, and movie compilations of TV works can be considered mainstream. The situation left by Yamato may be going in a different direction from the passion for anime that Yamato had.

This can also be said of the fans. The spirit with which we supported anime for Yamato will probably disappear. The age of anime fans being a subset of manga fans is over. We now have six anime magazines, and the world has come to understand what we mean when we call it anime.

Fans should not depend on producers. You must get the next generation to inherit the passion of the days of Yamato.

Yamato is only the alpha [beginning]. I don’t think it should ever be the omega [end].

Yamato‘s ten years, for both anime and anime fans, was truly a singular stream in time.

The End

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

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