Space Battleship Yamato 2199, Report 21

If the month of June, 2013 in Yamato 2199 history could be summed up in a single word, that word would be “overdrive.” Even above and beyond the mid-month release of Chapter 6, there was more to see and do this month than any other. We’ll dive in momentarily; first there are a few leftovers from May…

Train wrapping

One of the more flamboyant promotional campaigns of 2012 was brought back to life on the Kitakinki Tango Railway when a newly-wrapped train was placed into service to carry the release date of Chapter 7 from city to city. The image of Kaoru Niimi on the special commemorative ticket is significant in that she is wearing a kimono pattern native to the Tango district.

The 2199 train was originally scheduled to be in service from May 11-20, but was later extended to the end of July.

See photos on the official homepage here.

See it in action on YouTube here.

Take a walk through the October 2012 version here.

Jigsaw puzzles

The “Artbox” division of the Ensky Company added three more 2199 puzzles to the growing catalog. The two horizontal versions comprise 300 pieces and measure out to about 15″ x 10″ while the vertical (at right) is made up of 500 pieces and comes to about 15″ x 21″ when completed.

May 24: Winds Score book

Spielen Musik gave Yamato music buffs a new chance to stage their own live performance of the main theme when they published this elaborate collection of sheet music for an entire orchestra. Music is arranged for 15 different instruments from piccolo to sax to Glockenspiel with additional parts for timpani and electric guitar, with an accompanying CD with an ideal recording. There is only one track on the disc, so unless you’re a Yamato music psycho-fan, you can probably afford to ignore it. But…for HOW LONG?

May 31: Sports Towel Set

Nico Nico is a major online destination in Japan, the home of the 2199 simulcast among other things, and their online store began offering Yamato merch that was previously available only at film screenings. They started with one of the first products ever released in 2012, a set of sports towels each measuring 15″ x 45″.

June 1: Hyper Hobby #178 (July issue)

Hyper Hobby always leads off a new month with its 2199 news roundup. This issue covered May events that were featured in our last report, and provided some of the first stills from the upcoming Chapter 6.

Being primarily a toy and model magazine, two more pages were devoted to an interview with parties not yet heard from elsewhere; the designers of the Yamato Girls Collection figures from Megahouse. Interested in what they have to say? Click here and read on!

June 2: Official site updated

Now that all the hobby magazines had run their advance look, the official 2199 website finally opened the vault on the Garmillas mecha that would soon appear in the much-anticipated battle in the Rainbow Star Group between Yamato and Domel’s carrier task force.

Click here to visit the official site’s mecha page and see them for yourself.

June 2: TV Episode 9

The Nico Nico simulcast went on as usual, but the most exciting part for fans who had already seen Episode 9 could only be witnessed at the end of the broadcast on TV, a brand new end credit scroll with art representing the middle third of the series. Based on this, it is estimated that yet another scroll will accompany the final third.

See the second scroll in its entirety here.

June 5: Chapter 6 trailer, long version

The 2-minute trailer for Chapter 6, Arrival! Great Magellanic [Galaxy], was released online to whip up even more excitement for the action to come. On the same day, the first half of Episode 19 was also released online to Japanese viewers.

See the trailer with English subtitles here.

June 9: TV Episode 10

Nico Nico’s online shop rolled out 2199-themed iPhone covers on June 7 and the Yamato Girls promoted them while covering other news on the Episode 10 simulcast.

Attentive viewers had a chance to win a special prize if they watched for a code displayed during the broadcast and used it after the show to register for a prize lottery. The prizes were three copies of the previously-published DVD Guidebook, signed by voice actors Daisuke Ono (Kodai) and Kenichi Suzumura (Shima). This prize campaign ran for two consecutive TV episodes, 10 and 11.

June 10: Niigata Museum event

The recently-opened Niigata Manga Anime Museum added a new attraction to its 2199 exhibit, six dioramas built for Hobby Japan magazine by professional modeler Takuji Yamada. The first 2,000 attendees received a free postcard (at right) of Naoyuki Katoh’s Yamato mural, which remained on display until the exhibit closed at the end of July.

June 10: New Type Ace #22

This colorful issue brought 2199 to its cover for the second month in a row and included another cheesecakey foldout poster of Yamato females, this time spotlighting the Iscandar sisters in a pinup by a famed manga duo operating under the joint name Kaishaku. Visit their blog here.

Three color pages promoted new products and the upcoming Chapter 6 (now less than a week away). Michio Murakawa finished his adaptation of Episode 6 by getting Yamato off Pluto and ending with a little treat for female readers who might just be a tad fed up with endless pinups of the Yamato girls.

Finally, Ryusuke Hikawa’s 11th installment of Yamato Lessons from the Past delivered his first hand account of visiting the animation studio in 1975 as the classic Battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster was being prepared. Read it here

See the manga and internal pages here.

June 10: Ship’s Log issue 3.5

With the last three chapters hitting theaters at an accelerated pace, the Yamato Crew “Premium Fun Club” had its hands full keeping pace on a quarterly schedule, so they borrowed some strategy from the past and rushed out an in-between issue (something that was also done to cover Be Forever back in 1980) that collected art from Chapters 5 and 6. The issue was half its normal length and contained no articles, but provided plenty of art seen nowhere else, including almost an entire page on Analyzer’s exoskeleton.

June 12: Chapter 5 end title CD single

Lantis, LACM-14090
The volcanic anime theme singer Hironobu Kageyama performed the end title track heard in Chapter 5, Steady as She Goes across the Sea of Stars. The four-track single contained this and one unrelated song, both presented with and without vocals. Kageyama’s professional career began in 1981, and he has recorded countless anime themes both as a soloist and a member of the world-famous JAM Project, which performed the closing theme for Chapter 6.

Read Kageyama’s Wikipedia entry here.

June 14: Premium night

If you haven’t heard of 2199 Premium Night yet, odds are you’re not a Yamato fan living in Japan. This is where the Premium Fun Club members gather for a night-before sneak preview of a new chapter, and it has become the first point of contact between fans and the newest round of theater merchandise. That’s irritating enough if you have no access yourself, but attendees also get first crack at an extremely limited-run special product. This time it was a “clear version” of Bandai’s Cosmo Zero Alpha 1 model kit.

But premium night also has something for those who can’t attend in person, in the form of announcements for upcoming products. The most visible one this time was for a smart phone game (below left) due to roll out in September, described as a social game where users can collect virtual cards for use against virtual Garmillas forces standing between them and a virtual Iscandar. Early registrants could get a free Yurisha card, drawn by Michio Murakawa.

Get a better look at the ad here.

Also, Anime World Star was on hand to sell their latest custom swag, including bookmarks and a brand new pair of drawstring bags (above right)

Another new product on hand was the second “frame stamp set,” a sheet of 2199 postage stamps by Japan Stamp Connection Co. that commemorate Chapter 5 and come with their own protective folder (inside and outside shown above left).

Finally, the best part of premium night for a non-attendee is the first rollout of promotional art for the next chapter, which in this case is also the last. (Photo by Gwyn Campbell.)

In addition to the standee, this 2-sided foldout flyer for Chapter 7 gave everyone their first glimpse of the end with the Iscandar sisters rightfully taking the spotlight.

The interior of the flyer provided a highly abridged flow chart of the journey through Chapter 5 with ads for videos both new and remastered.

June 15: Chapter 6 premiere

Arrival! Great Magellanic [Galaxy] opened in 12 theaters on Saturday the 15th, bringing viewers to the edge of their seats with Episodes 19-22 and a cliffhanger ending that makes Chapter 7 seem even farther away. Grabbing up the newest theater merchandise was top priority for regular attendees, starting with the exclusive blu-ray and its accompanying storyboard book (below right).

This one was a real tour de force, the entire storyboard for the fleet battle in Episode 20, substantially thicker than all the previous books and personally drawn by series director Yutaka Izubuchi.

Get a better look at the packaging here.

Then there was the new round of collectibles and knick-knacks for your Yamato life. See the full lineup here.

Second only to the blu-ray is the program book and its lavish treatment of the newest episodes. This edition ran 40 pages with all the usual features, starting with this introduction by the world’s #1 Yamato superfan , Ryusuke Hikawa:

Yamato vs. Domel – Battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster!!

It is the year 2199. Space Battleship Yamato left Earth on a grand voyage, overcoming many obstacles to cross vast intergalactic space and finally reach the Large Magellanic Galaxy. It is just a little further to the destination, Iscandar. But just ahead of them waits the task force of the famous General Domel to sink Yamato with a sinister plan. The curtain opens on Yamato‘s greatest battle yet…

Introduction by Ryusuke Hikawa, anime commentator

The voyage of Space Battleship Yamato 2199 has reached Chapter 6, with Chapter 7 and the finale close at hand. The TV broadcast began in April, and strong ratings have been reported. If all goes well, it will end in a one-two finish at theaters in August and on TV in September. This is an unprecedented event.

And the story is heating up. Yamato has finally reached the Large Magellanic Galaxy which contains its destination of Iscandar, and Chapter 6 begins with the “Battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster,” which is considered the ultimate matchup. Domel himself leads the offensive with a carrier fleet and air power, and a breathtaking wave of rage is about to expand into the climax.

The original reference point for the “Battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster” was the Battle of Midway, a significant turning point in the Pacific War. The multi-deck carriers Akagi and Kaga fought on the Japanese side, and four carriers were lost, such as the Hiryu. Domel’s carrier fleet is connected to this, but with this based on Imperial Navy carriers and the original battleship Yamato, the sense of military intricacy of the space battleship’s engagement with them will be fascinating to behold. Part of the fun is seeing by what interpretation it’ll be arranged this time around.

And everyone will be surprised at the new developments centered around our heroines – while feeling a certain fascination there, the meaning of Yamato‘s voyage can be more deeply appreciated than before. Since the 1974 version of the story was simpler, there was no trace of this. What kind of spectacle is waiting for Yamato when it reaches its destination? We’ll only know when we get there.

What makes the voyage possible, this “pushing on towards an unknown land, and the joy of seeing the path open before us,” is reflexively exciting. While we’re using the same sea chart that plots the round trip to the Large Magellanic Cloud, with the same objective of saving Earth from the destruction closing in on it, I get a bit tense because, in the end, I recognize that this is a new crew on a new voyage. While we have our fun mixing our depiction of the journey with the old one, 2199‘s greatest meaning is derived from fresh personal experiences that call into question the meaning of battle.

Besides the best possible visual quality and the refined design work, the aesthetic value of the images is outstanding.

Another highlight of Chapter 6 is the attention given to the convergence of the “group drama.” The original Space Battleship Yamato concentrated on the individuality of the characters, and the appeal of the story was spun from a variety of perspectives. In 2199, the female point of view was adopted by increasing the number of female characters while avoiding the once-classic “female only” kind of story. By reconsidering the concept of human history in space, the voyage of Yamato is revitalized by a wider point of view from both sides as well as the individual.

The posture of Chapter 6 begins to greet fruition. Considering the changes that have happened both in Japan and abroad over the last 40 years, it is a proper arrangement. For example, the collapse of the Cold War structure is one factor. The condition of no longer having a simple axis of conflict means that the entire world has had an impact on the story. In 2199, rather than a single person being responsible for historical change, the role is carried by two or more characters, increasing its density. Various human relationships and colorful, multi-faceted new elements are woven around the female characters in this portion.

When all the foreshadowing we’ve set up comes to a head, you end up with a lot of points where you feel your stomach drop and you realize, “Ah! Now I see!” with the excitement of the final showdown providing a special fun. When the curtain closes on Chapter 6, I regret that it couldn’t have gone on for one more minute, but doesn’t that just increases our expectations while we await the final chapter?

Click here to see the program book from cover to cover and read translated text features.

The other big draw on opening day is always the premiere talk show. Website correspondent Gwyn Campbell was there and supplied this report:

On the morning of June 15, Yamato fans old and new lined up outside the Shinjuku Picadilly hours before the cinema opened in order to secure merchandise and limited edition blu-rays. This time however, there were actually more people; with the TV broadcast in full swing, some newer viewers were apparently eager to catch up with the latest adventures. A similar phenomenon was evident when it came to the opening day talk shows. Demand was such that two different sessions were held on opening day.

The morning session featured voice actors Akio Ohtsuka (Domel) and Takayuki Sugo (Okita) and pre-sales managed to crash the cinema website. The actors walked on stage with series director Yutaka Izubuchi to the strains of the Garmillas national anthem. Ohtsuka stated that he had burned himself out playing Domel’s final scenes, and was grateful that the character had been given much more depth and dimension in the remake. Speaking like a proud father, Sugo commented that everyone put their very best into these new episodes. The afternoon session only featured Sugo but was fortunately a little easier to get in to.

The morning talk show was held after a screening of Chapter 6, but the afternoon talk show was held before, so the participants were wary of spoilers. Chapter 6 marked the first time that Sugo had spoken in front of fans since Chapter 1. As such, he received a standing salute upon entering the theater, with some fans yelling out “CAPTAIN!” as he took the stage with the MC and series director Yutaka Izubuchi. A transcript of their conversation follows. (Note: all photos are from the morning talk show featuring both actors.)

MC: The last time we spoke was at the premier of Chapter 1, which was back in April of last year. Since then the show has progressed considerably. What are your thoughts on it?

Sugo: It’s been a wonderful and major role to play and I’ve had some great lines. I won’t go into too much detail, but back in Chapter 1 I got to say “Yamato, launch!” and now the story is heading to a climax. And along the way I’ve grown closer to those playing the other younger, inexperienced members of the crew to the point that I really do think of them as my crew. Our working relationship is really great.

MC: Has the way you approach the role changed at all? Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Sugo: Not really. Basically the way I play Okita hasn’t changed. After receiving the role, I played Okita in my own way, and in hindsight I don’t think that I was mistaken. Okita is a character that basically shouldn’t be changed. His character doesn’t really change, so I don’t think anything has changed in the way I play him.

Izubuchi: I am really grateful that we got Sugo for the role. Initially I had this very strong impression of what Captain Okita should be like based on Goro Naya (the original voice actor). As I auditioned potential candidates for the role, I imagined them doing Naya’s voice until I realized that Sugo was the only one for the role.

[Akio] Ohtsuka mentioned this during this morning’s session; I met him at a bar about four years ago in [Shinjuku’s] Golden Gai. At that time, I thought that he would be perfect for the role of Domel and told him so. Eventually, he ended up doing the role. Unfortunately though, I didn’t have the good luck of running into Sugo at a bar. (Laughter)

MC: Are there any particularly memorable episodes [involving Okita] that stand out to you from Chapters 1 to 5?

Sugo: I’d have to say Chapter 1, where Kodai’s brother dies. Okita tells him not to die and then he and his crew go down singing. That was pretty emotional. It was a great scene. Then there was the scene [in episode 7] when the crew were allowed to contact family members for the last time. Okita, not having any surviving family, wanders around the ship which surprises everyone he comes across. In the end he has a drink with Tokugawa and it brings out the normal, human side of his character. I thought that was good because we normally only see him as the Captain.

MC: I suppose you can say it adds depth to the character. Allows us to see him from another angle. (To Izubuchi) How about you?

Izubuchi: Those things which show the human side of him, such as those that Sugo just mentioned. While he may not allow the younger crew members to see it, he went through a lot in the past, is going through issues such as the food shortage in the present, etc. And yet when something has to be done, he does it. The tough part [about his character] is that when trouble hits, he…well – and this was true in the original – he looks really cool when he remains silent! There are times when you think, “surely he has to give some sort of order for the sake of his inexperienced crew!” But even just by being present, he is like an anchor. His presence has a weight to it.

Sugo: His eyes have this intensity to them.

Izubuchi: You kind of see when he resolves to do something.

MC: So, since he can show intensity and resolve with his eyes, that means that he doesn’t have that many lines?

Sugo: That’s right. It was a great help! (Laughter)

Izubuchi: You probably shouldn’t say that. (Laughter) Actually, at a recent recording session when Mugihito (Tokugawa) had only one line, I felt bad that he had to come in just for one line and wished I could’ve given him more.

MC: So when there’s a lot of lines, you could say it’s easier to create a sense of character, but when there aren’t a lot of lines, it’s more difficult.

Sugo: Actually, when I play Okita I play the character as I personally envision him. Even if it’s a long scene, the Director was kind enough to allow me to play the character as I liked and then edited it afterwards as necessary. So I think it was really wonderful that I was able to play this [version of] Okita as it existed within me. Normally the Director would give more direction but this time I was given freedom over how I did it.

Izubuchi: We cut and edited as necessary in post. There were times when the length of a line was too long, but rather than have him rush the line we allowed Sugo to do his Okita, and when we absolutely had to shorten a line to make it fit, we cut a word or two. Actually there were times when lines were actually a bit wordy but were better if they were more succinct, so we do things like cutting a noun here and there, etc.

I hate to say it, but even after we’ve finished recording we put in sound effects such as the air conditioner, operators talking, etc. In the case of operators, I write these lines myself so it sounds like SF jargon. In short, we use them to bring scenes to life. So with this backbone, it’s OK even if we cut something.

Sugo: Everyone, as you can see, it appears that we [voice actors] are no longer necessary!

Izubuchi: Then there are times when we cut [for example] the operators talking in the background, and then there are other times when main characters are speaking, and if you listen closely you can hear the operators talking in the background, but we decrease the volume to emphasize the main character’s lines. For example, in Chapter 6 you can hear them talking in the background in the Garmillas fleet, or on Yamato‘s third bridge. Normally you can hear them, but when main characters are speaking you really have to listen carefully to hear them.

MC: So those here today who picked up the blu-ray can check for themselves at home, or even come back to watch Chapter 6 again to double check. (Laughter) Who in the audience picked up the blu-ray? I noticed that the included storyboard book was a lot thicker than usual!

Izubuchi: It’s about 1.5x the usual. Well, there are some parts included which were later cut, but to tell you the truth I was a little overzealous when I did them. The scene structure was pretty much OK, but same fine-tuning was required. For example, with the drill missile, in the original it was never explained why it was able to be entered [from the front]. This wasn’t originally included in our script, so I added a scene to explaining it in the storyboards along with some extra battle scenes.

Actually, we ended up with more CG than we could use. So there was stuff we just had to cut. So, basically I initially included everything I wanted in the storyboards and then we cut some for time. For me it was difficult, for example, to be satisfied with the battle at the Rainbow Star Cluster. I was probably quite a nuisance to the production staff.

MC: So the storyboards include a lot of scenes that were cut. Battle scenes, etc.

Izubuchi: Yes. When it came to the battle at Rainbow Cluster, well “Rainbow Cluster” was the original name used for the setting, but this time we actually based it off an existing star cluster in the Large Magellanic Cloud. There is a section that is actually known as the Rainbow Cluster so we used this. However, in the original Yamato it was shown as seven differently-colored stars just floating in space. That’s fine for the initial shot when Yamato first arrives, but once the battle begins it’s something you don’t really see again. It just feels like a normal area of space. So we went back and started analyzing just what exactly the Rainbow Cluster was. Is it made up of planets or fixed stars? We call it the star cluster and so assume it must be made up of stars, yet stars wouldn’t look like that. On the other hand, planets wouldn’t group in that way. So the issue was, how do we visualize it?

We took the basic concept from the original and then added what we learned to that, and I came to the realization that it was an ocean. Thats what it would be like when you take into account the gasses and such that would be around. So, from scene to scene, whether its Domel’s fleet, Yamato, or a dogfight scene, the color of the background changes and the stars can also be seen. You can see the whole cluster from the outer edges, but once they are inside it there’s a great distance between the stars themselves. So in between there are these gasses and forces….well, it’s not like I’ve actually seen it, but I thought this would be a good way to visualize it.

So the battle became like a naval fleet battle with aerial warfare. And due to that (i.e. gasses in the area) we were able to show trails following the fighters, which gave an added sense of speed. With space being so vast, normally they would look like they were standing still even while traveling at a very fast speed. This approach allowed us to present the scene in a more anime-like manner while creating something close to regular naval and air battles that people are more familiar with. To be honest, we were able to create something more realistic that was like the original [WW2] Yamato.

MC: Of course, during the battle there are also the characters. (To Sugo) Is there anything in particular the audience should look forward to?

Sugo: Well, as the audience here today is about to see, and as was mentioned by Akio Ohtsuka (Domel) during this morning’s talk, when recording our lines for the series we are always split into separate recording sessions for Garmillas and Yamato crews. Okita never actually met Domel, but [this battle] is the first time they actually know of each other and fight with a kind of mutual respect. This scene is in the episode.

While we still recorded our lines in our regular, separate groups, as luck would have it, I arrived at the studio early on this particular day. Once, when he was still there after the recording for a previous episode, I said to him, “Let’s do this!” As a result, we recorded this final scene together for the first time. We both really got into it, so that’s the scene that I want people to pay special attention to. As for other scenes…well, if I say anything more… (Laughter)

Izubuchi: In the studio we split everyone up into the Garmillas group and Yamato group because there are just so many voice actors. But on the other hand, until this point [in the story] Domel and Okita hadn’t actually met. They didn’t know what the other looked like, or even their name. So in the same way, Sugo and Ohtsuka didn’t record together until the same point. On the day Ohtsuka mentioned that he would like to try it with Sugo, and since he happened to be there, it was actually the ideal way to do the scene.

MC: And so, we are actually able to hear it play out the way best suited to the visuals. (Applause) Unfortunately, we are almost out of time today, so could each of you please say a few final words?

Sugo: I’m very grateful to everyone who has supported us. The opportunity to play the role of Okita has been great. The younger cast members have continued to grow into their roles since the first episode, and I have also learned a lot thanks to them. While the show only has a little bit left to go, I really want to make it one that stands the test of time. So please continue to support us until the end. (Applause)

Izubuchi: On the way back today, I’m due to have a meeting about this – and you’ll probably notice as you watch Chapter 6 – but there are certain music tracks that still haven’t been used yet, that are meant for certain scenes. This may be rather selfish of me, but I’m thinking of doing another recording session for Chapter 7. And if we were to do, say, 10 new tracks or so, then we would have enough material for a third volume of the OST. (Applause) Actually, we originally intended to do this, but there wasn’t quite enough music, so a third volume would seem a little lacking compared to the previous ones. Chapter 7 will have some new tracks from composer Akira Miyagawa in it, so please look forward to it. (Applause)

End of transcript

Continue to Part 2 of this report

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