Yamato Year 2014

With so much energy being poured into Yamato 2199, sometimes you have to remind yourself that there’s an enormous body of work preceding it. To aid this effort, here’s a look back at everything that happened with the rest of the Space Battleship Yamato saga as it marked its 40th anniversary in 2014.

First, this handsome 40th anniversary logo made its first appearance on the back cover of the official fan club magazine Ship’s Log #6, published February 28, and was seen throughout the year on several other publications and products.

Second, the amazing fan art shown below first appeared on Twitter in September, then was re-tweeted on the actual 40th anniversary, October 6. The artist is named Mitsuru Tokishiro. If that artist happens to be reading these words, please join our Facebook group to collect your compliments.


The Family Channel cable network has had a long association with the Yamato saga, and it stepped up again in 2014 when all three of the original TV series were marathoned in January as part of the Space Battleship Yamato & 2199 Big Launch Special.

Yamato 2199 was spread out over January and February while the original Series 1 ran three times. Yamato 2 and Yamato III were both shown in their entirety over four nights each. Series 1 was rerun again on Family Channel at the end of the year during the runup to Ark of the Stars. This time, Family Theater ran it three times in 13-episode marathons from November 24 to December 5.

The original movies also got the spotlight when the Star Channel ran them three times each throughout December. Between Family Theater and Star Channel, it was possible to watch almost the entire Yamato catalogue on TV in 2014.


Live action movie US edition

After far too long a wait, the live-action movie finally came to DVD and Blu-ray in the US on April 29 (trailing Australia, Asia, Europe and the UK by years). Despite reports from 2010 that lead actor Takuya Kimura’s contract forbade any dubbing, there is a full English dub on the disc (in addition to subtitles), and despite a few mispronunciations (such as “GaMEElus”) it is good enough to earn a passing grade. There is a respectable amount of bonus features, though it does not include the extensive making-of documentary that filled up a second disc in the Japanese edition.

Visit Funimation’s Yamato page here, or order it from Amazon here.

Farewell to Yamato MV (55 min.), November 19. Order it from Amazon or CD Japan

The other big video news of the year was the reissue of the complete MV [Music Video] Series on DVD and Blu-ray.

Hiroshi Miyagawa’s amazing musical scores provided yet another way to expand the Yamato video library after the original saga ended. One by one, Yoshinobu Nishizaki supervised the conversion of each Yamato movie into a Music Video, removing dialogue and sound effects from key scenes and creating extended montages that could be paired with an appropriate score. The result was a symphonic music video that could be played like an album.

The New Voyage MV (35 min.), September 17. Order it from Amazon or CD Japan

The scores were a mix of soundtrack music as heard in the anime and symphonic arrangements from the albums. Sometimes entire animated sequences played end-to-end, other times they were re-edited. The opportunity was also taken to enhance older footage with new effects, such as the misty “Scanimation” developed for Be Forever and used extensively in Final Yamato.

Be Forever Yamato MV (54 min.), July 23. Order it from Amazon or CD Japan

After their initial release, the MVs became extremely rare and were virtually unknown outside Japan, since they were never exported. Even in their time they didn’t get much publicity and only received heavy advertising in the Yamato Fan Club magazines. Thus, the only lasting record of their production is an interview published in issue #40, which is presented here.

Final Yamato MV (56 min.), April 23. Order it from Amazon or CD Japan

The revival of the MV series began when the first of two Yamato 2199 MV’s was released in July 2013, accompanied by the one for the 1977 Yamato movie. Nine months of gestation later, the baby finally arrived when Nippon Columbia began to roll the rest of them out bi-monthly (though in reverse order for some reason). They can be ordered via the links provided above.

The Yamato movie MV can also still be ordered from Amazon or CD Japan.


Yamato Sound Almanac CDs

There was plenty of Yamato action to be found on the music side of Nippon Columbia as the Sound Almanac series, which began in 2012, moved into its closing months. The mission of this 30-CD series was to finally bring every note of Yamato music out of the vault, and it was accomplished with flying colors. (Shown above is a commemorative clear file showing the entire series along with several Yamato 2199 discs.)

Released January 22:

1982-V: Digital Trip Space Battleship Yamato Synthesizer Fantasy
1983-IV: Final Yamato BGM Collection
1983-V: Digital Trip Final Yamato Synthesizer Fantasy

Released March 19:

1984-I Grand Symphony Yamato (1984 concert)
1996-I Sound Fantasia Space Battleship Yamato

Released August 28:

Bonus disc: Space Battleship Yamato drama (from 1977)
Only available to customers who purchased the entire series.

Read a complete discography of the Sound Almanac series (with track listings) here.

You can order them from Amazon or CD Japan, and find most of them on iTunes under the name starblazers sound almanac. However, the following five albums are NOT available via download:

1977-II Space Cruiser Yamato drama (English)
1978-I The World of Hiroshi Miyagawa
1978-IV Yamato New Disco Arrange
1980-III ’80 Yamato Festival in Budokan
1996-I Sound Fantasia Space Battleship Yamato

While Japan is staking out a respectable position as one of the few first-world countries to keep solid-state media in circulation, it is no slouch when it comes to digital sourcing. One result of the Herculean remastering of the Sound Almanac series was to create a new hi-res audio library. Whereas CDs are mastered in 16-bit at 44.1 kilohertz, the content was mastered at 24-bit, 96 kilohertz, which stores a lot more information. This doesn’t do much for the monophonic recordings of the TV series, but adds tremendous depth to the stereo albums.

The hi-res versions of the Sound Almanac started rolling out August 6 at a digital music site called Mora, which appears to carry the entire Yamato catalog.

Sheet music

The Space Battleship Yamato theme is practically a national anthem in Japan, and has been published countless times in sheet music form – but never quite like this. On March 17, the “Music Eight” company released what they call a “gentle instrumental music” score for the following instruments: recorder, harmonica, xylophone, glockenspiel, bass, piano, drum, cymbal, and tambourine. Curious to know what such a version would sound like? Music Eight was nice enough to post a recording of it on Youtube here.

As it turns out, that just scratches the surface. They’ve also got a winds version, brass version, marching version, small winds version, and even a recorder ensemble version, all of which are worth hearing.

The sheet music mentioned above can be ordered from Amazon.co.jp here.

More sheet music

In addition to Music Eight, fans could find two other sources for Yamato sheet music in 2014. The first (above left) was in the April issue of Monthly Electone, published by Yamaha Music Media on March 20. Specializing in music for electronic keyboard, this issue had a feature on pipe organs, so it was a natural to include sheet music for The White Comet. This magazine can be ordered from Amazon here.

Above right is a more conventional product, the Yamato theme for solo piano, published May 31 by a company called Fairy. It can be ordered from Amazon here.

Anime Weekend Atlanta performances, September 27 & 28

Bet you weren’t expecting this. Right in the middle of this Yamato maelstrom in Japan came an echo in America never quite heard before.

The Georgia-based convention Anime Weekend Atlanta hit its 20th year in September. Music acts from Japan have long been a staple of AWA, and this year they stepped it up a notch with famed girl rockers Shonen Knife and the legendary anime theme singer MiQ (formerly known as Mio). MiQ’s opening act was a group of her students named VLOMiQ (VLO stands for Voice Lesson Office) and they performed an energetic grab-bag of anime favorites.

Photo by Walter Amos

The Yamato theme is a common show-closer at Japanese anison [anime song] concerts, and VLOMiQ upheld that tradition with their own rendition of both verses. MiQ strolled onto stage to follow up with a scat rendering of I Remember You from Farewell to Yamato, which is so rare in the anison world as to be an exclusive.

See both songs (and a few more) courtesy Anime World Order’s Gerald Rathkolb here.

See more of his clips and photos from MiQ’s hour-long concert here.

Samples on Youtube:
VLOMiQ performs Yamato
MiQ performs I Remember You.

The next evening, AWA20 closed with a groundbreaking orchestral concert dedicated to anime and game music. Performed by the Georgia Philharmonic, Fandom Fanfare consisted of such titles as Fullmetal Alchemist, Howl’s Moving Castle, Halo and Kingdom Hearts – and a 2199 composition of the Space Battleship Yamato theme.

The appreciative audience rewarded their efforts with oohs, ahhs, and generous applause, prompting the conductor to remark that it was the most enthusiastic crowd they’d ever played for.

See their performance of the Yamato theme here.

Two weeks later, the Georgia Phil opened their season with the same set list, augmented by popular American fantasy and SF compositions. After previous performances in 2008 and 2010, this marks only the fourth confirmed time the Yamato theme has been played live in the US. It was the first time for this specific arrangement. Hopefully the first of many.

40th Anniversary Best Track Image Album

HATS Unlimited, HUCD-10172

Expectations were high when this new CD was announced in November, and it easily surpassed all of them when it was finally heard on December 3. Its 13 tracks reach back across the entire history of Yamato music, sampling liberally from the vintage catalog and rearranging the scores for new interpretations by some of Japan’s top artists. The most prominent among these is violinist Taro Hakase, whose rendition of the main theme provides the opening title for Ark of the Stars.

Stylistically, this collection is very reminiscent of the 1982 “Rhapsody” albums, which took the same approach for violin, guitar, and piano. In this case, however, each track showcases different instruments. Other than the new version of the opening theme, the real standout is a rendition of the White Comet theme with what sounds like a cathedral choir in full voice. Read much more about the project in Report 38 here.

The disc is highly recommend and can be ordered from either CD Japan or Amazon.co.jp.

One more bonus for listeners was a special tie-in episode of the streaming internet program YRA Radio Yamato that could be downloaded to mobile devices with a Japanese OS.

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