Great Mechanics DX #25

Decisive Battle! Toward the Rainbow Star Cluster Battle and the Climax

The moment of truth has come at last

Yamato 2199 Chapter 6 will be released by the time this magazine comes out. The battle of the Rainbow star cluster, one of the biggest highlights of the original, breaks out at last. And when Chapter 7 arrives in a whirlwind two months later, the voyage of Yamato will reach an end for the time being. What sort of thing was it? As we look back over the voyage of Yamato in 2199, we also ask Production IG Producer Mikio Gunji about the voyage of Yamato 2199 as a production.

The Rainbow Star Cluster Battle Matchup

Composition of Yamato and Domel’s fleet

The strategy to destroy Yamato with a small fleet!? Only a few Garmillas ships face off in the battle. There are more than 10,000 vessels in the Garmillas fleet, but most are far away. Domel organizes a new task force to meet Yamato, deploying troops, ships, and four carriers.

Each of the carriers is occupied by a single model, such as a fighter, attack plane, torpedo bomber, and a heavy bomber. This deployment is probably based on the tactics of Domel.

On the Yamato side, there is Yamato itself, the Cosmo Zeros, and the Cosmo Falcon fighters. Merely looking at it this way, Domel’s task force has an overwhelming advantage. However, Yamato has a critical weapon to use against Domel, the Wave-Motion gun. But if this gun can be crushed, victory for Domel’s task force must become more certain.

Domel’s strategy must take this into account. A “special rock drilling cartridge” also appears this time. That means it may follow the original to some extent. This is the strategy of Domel!

Producer Mikio Gunji

Talking about the voyage of Space Battleship Yamato 2199

From here, we look back on Yamato 2199 as it finally approaches its climax. The illustrations look back on the actual voyage and Producer Mikio Gunji of Production IG talks about 2199 as a production. Up to now, the voyage was filled with unexpected surprises.

The road from the cinema to the TV broadcast

Interviewer: In fact, the plan for Yamato 2199 was discussed from a long time ago.

Gunji: It was around five years ago that talks began. Xebec, the group’s animation company, was moving independently at the beginning. Then Production IG (the production committee coordinator) took the lead from various circumstances and the current production committee was composed. At that time, all the script discussions had already taken place.

Interviewer: It advanced as a TV series at first.

Gunji: As you know, Yamato 2199 has been screened in theaters with a four-episode structure, made in the format of 26 TV episodes. Although the mission assumed it would be broadcast on TV, the chance of it not materializing was high if it was done the conventional way. This is because broadcasting on TV means that you have to collect the expense from sponsors on your own.

Bandai Visual, a member of the production committee, proposed taking the lead by showing four episodes at a time in theaters and selling videograms. [Translator’s note; this is the Japanese term for home video.] The business model was for you to see it at a theater first and buy the soft[ware] afterward. The production committee has to finance the first stage, and there is a considerable risk to cover the TV costs from there. But if the business stage of screenings and videograms was successful, the thinking was that a TV broadcast would materialize easily.

The TV broadcast was undecided at the stage when Chapter 1 was released. The producer of [TV network] MBS liked the work, and proposed the 5-day broadcast which brings us up to the present. [Translator’s note: “5-day” refers to the 5pm Sunday timeslot on TV, prime time for the biggest anime titles.]

An unprecedented advertising strategy to reach Yamato fans

Interviewer: When Production IG took charge, I think it was natural to collect money for production, but what was there to do other than that?

Gunji: To rebuild the business line and the various parts, including how to sell and where to target advertising surfaces.

Interviewer: It was very impressive when Yuki Mori appeared on the cover of the Weekly Post. What other kinds of things did you do?

Gunji: The marketing team seriously discussed target analysis and where to hit promotion. Although the Yamato 2199 anime was not made to target only the traditional Yamato fans, the first round of theater screenings would not be a success without them. In order to promote the behavior of appreciating it in a theater and buying the videogram, it was necessary at first to attract those who liked the original Yamato. In that case, we had to target the age range above those who usually watch TV anime, so the the contact media had to be different.

To focus chiefly on media such as weekly magazines, sports newspapers, and economic magazines, we visited editorial departments one by one and carried out publicity. Because we didn’t advertise to what is called anime fans, I think it became an unusual promotional development for an animation work.

Interviewer: The prospective buyers of products such as blu-rays are in their 40s and 50s, most of whom keep their distance from animation, and it’s more difficult to get them to purchase a conventional product.

Gunji: Since Yamato is a work with overwhelming recognition, we lit a signal fire that Yamato would be revived, and our biggest strategic goal was getting them to see the beacon through advertising. The parameters were large, but it meant we had to plow a fallow field that hadn’t been cultivated in a long time. It was good that Yamato Resurrection and the live-action movie came out. It meant that a lot of people came into contact with a recent film work called Yamato.

Interviewer: While people now in their 40s and 50s have children, I think it’s considerably difficult to sell video product to them. Even so, you feel that cultivating that layer of demand is linked to your success.

Gunji: The thought was to reach out to those layers first. Of course, you can watch a TV broadcast for free, but coming to a theater screening on “a certain day” and expecting them to pay “the admittance fee” is a very high hurdle to make. It meant that those who knew the original Yamato had to be targeted first.

Success of the theater screening! Leading into the TV broadcast

Interviewer: Even with a theater screening, some works only target in on video sales, but in the case of Yamato 2199, it was also very important to mobilize spectators in their 40s and 50s to come to the theater, which must have been quite a difficult mission.

Gunji: It was important. Therefore, we thought that if Chapter 1 failed, that would be it. So we put our maximum effort behind Chapter 1.

Interviewer: At the time of the event screening [opening day talk show] for Chapter 1, a lot of people from the target group and the Yamato generation were seated in the lobby of the Shinjuku Picadilly.

Gunji: I also saw that sight. “Space Battleship Yamato 2199 entrance starts now.” When that announcement came, the visitors dressed in suits all stood up at once. It was something you wouldn’t see in the theater screening of a conventional anime.

Interviewer:I guess that was the moment when all the publicity efforts came together. Was the box office for Chapter 1 pretty good?

Gunji: It was nerve-wracking, but it sold out on the first day, it mobilized a lot of people, and there was applause from the audience after the screening. I think I can say it succeeded as an initial shock.
Interviewer: At the theater for Chapter 1, at least half of the audience was in their 40s. (Laughs) A slightly younger generation appeared when it progressed to Chapters 2 and 3, and there were also some children, which was ideal. How were the soft[ware] sales, such as blu-ray discs? Were you looking for a business model where the first volume of the videogram sells the most, with sales falling with each successive release?

Gunji: There wasn’t much decline in videogram sales after Chapter 2, and furthermore the sales of existing volumes gradually increased, too. The numbers increased each time after a theatrical release.

Interviewer: So then what role does the TV broadcast have in all this?

Gunji: There are many of the “Yamato generation” who still don’t know about Yamato 2199. But while we want to make them aware of Yamato‘s revival and get them to be Yamato fans once more, I also think TV has the biggest role to reach the children’s generation that did not know of Yamato until now.

The work called Yamato arrives in all parts of Japan by TV broadcast. In some rural areas, only a few anime are broadcast per week depending on the district. It would be great to reach areas like that. In fact, I heard that the sales of plamodels started to increase after the broadcast started.

Interviewer: It means one of the goals was reached.

Gunji: It costs a lot of money to make one anime series, sometimes close to 1 billion. If that money can’t be recovered, it could greatly influence the life of someone who was involved with that work. Therefore, in order to recover the funds, I think a producer must think about what they have to do from the start, the places where they have to concentrate, such as advertising and PR strategy. I think that this work was well promoted.

Reading a script for the first time…

Gunji: When the remake of Yamato began and I read a script for the first time, I felt that it had become a new Yamato rather than the original work. It was very interesting reading. Besides, some of the various inconsistencies in the original work had been solved. So if such parts were precisely visualized, I felt it would personally reach that generation.

It was at the time of voice recording for Episode 1 that I became convinced Yamato 2199 would really sell. When I saw the Pluto battle, I thought “this is great” even though it was only half-colored. (Laughs) When I witnessed the music recording, the live performance of the orchestra was wonderful, and it made me cry. My memories were vividly revived by the music.

Therefore, at the first stage, I thought that how we dug up the memories of those in the Yamato generation would be important. Then in the second stage with the TV broadcast, the strategy would be expanded for new people.

Interviewer: To recover the funds by selling video soft[ware], I think the opinions on the marketing side would be considerably important, especially in the case of Yamato 2199.

Gunji: The script was already made when talks began and IG became involved. Therefore, that meant that although I am called a producer, in fact I wasn’t involved with the content.

The exquisite balance of Yamato 2199

Interviewer: Looking at this, you see quality that doesn’t look like a TV series, but was that the plan from the beginning? Or was it that Chapter 1 made such a situation possible?

Gunji: I don’t think it was so much Chapter 1 being a hit as it was the staff cutting out the limiters and taking it to the edge. (Laughs) Anyway, I think the staff that participated has been amazing. Because it is Yamato.

Interviewer: In fact, there aren’t many examples of previous remakes that became a hit.

Gunji: That’s right. They’re either too old-fashioned or, vice-versa, they alienate fans of the original. Therefore, I think it’s great that this achieves the exquisite balance of being supported by the Yamato generation while also succeeding in bringing in new fans. There are actually women even at Production IG who never watched the old Yamato but became fans of Yamato 2199 and buy the blu-rays.
In fact, we on the production committee side are really looking forward to the work. Although we all naturally know the story, the fun comes from watching it turn into pictures. Original story expansion comes out with Chapter 4, and you start to see pieces throughout the series getting worked in and filling the gaps in the story. In fact, more pieces fit into place in Chapter 6. I think this is a reason the series has maintained its support.

Evidently, many of the new characters were beaten up in the beginning. “You can’t put moe [fetish] characters on a man’s warship!” That kind of thing. I don’t hear that criticism at all any more. On the other hand, now there is the “Yamamoto faction” or the “Niimi faction.” (Laughs) The new characters weren’t added just to liven it up, they each have a life story, and I think it has become understood that they have a role.

Interviewer: What is a hit work?

Gunji: I can’t say categorically how to make a hit, but we believe it’s the culmination of all the elements, such as the passion of the staff and the environment at the time.

However, I think a producer’s role is to enlarge the business when it hits. And before beginning a fight, I think that it’s important to plan for “a battle we will not lose even if we can’t win.” I have my doubts that Yamato 2199 would have made it this far if we’d advertised it like a regular anime.

Setting strategic guidelines to sell the show, arranging what has to be done, and keeping track of all that can be a weak point for an anime company. I think the significance of having an anime company like Production IG handling this may lie there.

Interviewer: What comes next after the 26th episode is finished?

Gunji: Naturally, I’m not thinking about that yet. (Laughs) Everyone, please support Chapter 6 and see it in a theater.

Interviewer: “Since I want to see Andromeda by all means, I’ll do my best!” (Laughs) Thank you very much for your time today.

The End

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

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