1977 Time Machine: Manga Shonen magazine

All of the 1977 covers. See the entire run here.

It’s a truism of anime and manga journalism that all roads eventually take you to the doorstep of Osamu Tezuka, the world-renowned “God of Manga.”

There are tenuous connections between Tezuka and Space Battleship Yamato. Most significantly, Yoshinobu Nishizaki spent a few years as the business manager of Tezuka’s Mushi Productions, his first foray into the world of animation, which ended on somewhat shaky grounds. Due to inexperience (though some might claim calculation), Nishizaki “accidentally” bumbled his way into ownership of Tezuka properties that resulted in him producing his first two TV shows, Triton of the Sea and Little Wansa. As described elsewhere on this website, that laid the foundation for Office Academy Studio and the origin of Yamato.

This Time Machine explores a lesser-known connection to Tezuka through the pages of Monthly Manga Shonen (Manga Boy) magazine, which was established by Asahi Sonorama as a vehicle for Tezuka to continue his epic Phoenix series. It wasn’t the first magazine to use the name; an earlier edition with an all-kanji title was founded in 1947, and Tezuka manga was frequently published therein.

This version ran from August 1976 to May 1981 and featured a genuine dream team of talent: Leiji Matsumoto (Miraizaban), Keiko Takiyama (Toward the Terra, Andromeda Stories), Shotaro Ishinomori (Cyborg 009), Kaoru Shintani, Monkey Punch, Go Nagai, Fujiko Fujio, and many more. By all accounts, if you were looking to find Japan’s best and most respected manga creators all in one place, Manga Shonen was the place to go. And readers certainly went for it – over 24 million of them for the first issue.

With that introduction out of the way, here’s how Manga Shonen specifically connected to Yamato: one of its editors was Yoshikazu Hirose, who actually worked on the series in the area of color design and published the first magazine to specifically cover anime, titled Fantoche. It gave Yamato an early spotlight in April 1976, in a cover story that can be read here.

With Hirose on staff, there was a ready-made advocate for new coverage. TV cartoons, newly-christened with the term “anime,” were gaining ground fast, and Manga Shonen was only too happy to devote pages to this emerging phenomenon. The material presented here appeared throughout 1977 when the first Yamato series was finally striking ratings gold via TV reruns, and the first feature film hit Japan like a freight train.

The purpose of the many Time Machine collections here at Cosmo DNA is to chart the evolution of both Yamato and anime journalism, and Manga Shonen was an early source for both.

January 1977 issue

Back when it was still possible to compress the entire history of TV anime into a single magazine article, Manga Shonen did it in this 9-page feature titled The Wonderful World of TV Anime.

Fans discussed what they liked about their favorite shows while an index of every series broadcast so far ran along the bottom of each page.

Voice actors were just starting to get their due, recognized in some cases as real-life stand-ins for their most popular characters. The best of them, including Yamato actors, embraced that role with gusto.

Favorite action titles are mentioned on the run, an industry insider explains the purpose of a “pilot film” and the historical index reaches the year 1974.

All about Space Battleship Yamato

Now, on the last page of this special feature is Space Battleship Yamato, which continues to be the most popular. Space Battleship Yamato. No other work has been blessed with a staff like this one. Although it did not escape the limits of a TV series, it showed none of the usual deficits of an anime schedule or budget.

When looking at the staff, there is director/designer/manga artist/SF fan Leiji Matsumoto. Animation supervisor and director Eiichi Yamamoto. SF writer Aritsune Toyota. Movie director Toshio Masuda. And Hiroshi Miyagawa, who covers broad genres of music. That’s a top-notch member lineup.

The highlights are romance that both boys and girls can appreciate, the animation technique, and also the gorgeous music flowing behind it all. It’s regrettable that dust and scratches show up on the screen, and unfortunate when they interfere with the mood in a few places, but 26 episodes of anime take time and money to make! Enough said about that.

In the case of Yamato, Leiji Matsumoto’s participation progressed throughout the production. He drew the storyboard shown here as well as writing and doing set design from the beginning. He fussed over the color, worked out intricate details (sometimes in places not even seen), and had to juggle drawing manga at the same time. In the end, he had to overcome many hardships.

Yamato is a representative on TV in terms of animation, story and picture (images, motion and color) and sound (voice, sound effects and music), and can be called composite art because of all the different elements it brings together. Apart from voices and characters, everyone must pay more attention to the basics of movement in animation, which are in decline. There are up to twenty TV animation series currently airing with more to come in April. Otherwise, the future of animation (not just on TV) cannot be taken for granted.

February 1977 issue

There was no Yamato coverage in this one, but it did contain a full page ad from Sonorama for the original Space Battleship Yamato novelization, along with two other titles. (Read it from cover to cover here.)

May 1977 issue

This issue contained a followup to the January article that focused its entire 8-page length on Space Battleship Yamato. It may have been the first dedicated article since the April 1976 issue of Fantoche; actual publication dates are a little slippery, but it could have hit the streets just ahead of the famous April 1977 issue of OUT.

The Wonderful World of TV Anime, Part II: All of Space Battleship Yamato

You left on a voyage of 148,000 light years! There are just 365 days left until global extinction. Only you can save the burning red Earth! Return, Yamato! Revive!

After the last anime feature, many passionate voices responded and asked for Yamato! This appealing special feature is presented in response!

Headline: This is Space Battleship Yamato!!

This cutaway illustration was lifted from the first book that covered the anime, an extremely rare artifact that can be seen from cover to cover here.

The index running across the bottom of the pages gives a summary of each TV episode from Series 1.

Headline: Yamato vs Gambles, Powerful Weapons!! A quick and dirty montage of Gamilas might.

Headline: The heroes who came back!!

Text below headline: The long, painstaking journey is a battle for just 140 people. Their love for Earth is the power that will save our tiny planet!!

The Secret of Yamato‘s Popularity

What is it about Yamato that continues to enthrall us? What is the key to solving the secret of its popularity? A reporter from this magazine asked Yamato‘s creator, Yoshinobu Nishizaki.

“I carried three themes through Yamato. One is opposition to Western civilization and the rejection of a mechanical civilization. The second is a sense of adventure and the courage not to give up no matter what the challenge. That shows in the human growth of Susumu Kodai. It is, so to speak, a man’s way of life. And the third is about love…Kodai fights, but in the end he recognizes the preciousness of love.”

What about the many people who participated in the production?

“They were all excellent. First there were the three themes, then the idea of a space battleship flying through the sky – and we were able to do it with the brainstorming of various masters: Aritsune Toyota, Keisuke Fujikawa, and Eiichi Yamamoto. Manga Shonen readers will be familiar with Leiji Matsumoto, from whom we borrowed the power of excellent art and mecha concepts.”

The theme song is wonderful.

“I would say it’s a great triumph for Hiroshi Miyagawa. In fact, Yamato has the feeling of a boyhood dream and the sweet heartbreak of first love that is surely unchanged when you remember it even now. I wanted it to give that pure feeling to boys and girls, and Mr. Miyagawa gave it to us beautifully in his music.”

So, does that solve the secret of its popularity? No, it doesn’t even come close. It’s in the heart of each of us individually. Yamato is still alive in all of us. Space Battleship Yamato, live forever!!

August 1977 issue

Above right is another ad page, this time for the second Yamato novelization, a 3-volume version that stuck to the story seen on TV.

The main attraction this time was a 4-page color featurette to promote the forthcoming Yamato movie. There was already great anticipation in the fan community, but no one had a clue that the entire anime business was about to change as a result.

Text in the blue box above:

Fulfilling the hopes of men and all of humankind, Yamato soars through the skies once again!! Fans can look forward to the long-awaited Space Battleship Yamato feature film, to be shown at four theaters on August 6 in Tokyo. So this magazine releases a big present to readers in advance!!

The Yamato feature film was produced in response to enthusiastic requests from fans, a fascinating work no one can miss, which was introduced in the May issue of this magazine.

Yamato heads into space, backed by that famous song! Kodai, Okita, and Shima face trouble, fight, and find love in a man’s way of life!! It’s a solemn, splendid space drama made by a passionate, first-rate staff. In one important scene, Susumu Kodai, who was invited to Iscandar, rides on a band of light. It is a beauty unique to animation.

Running time 2 hours, 8 minutes (tentative).

Translator’s note: The “band of light” reference was in regard to one of a handful of new scenes that had been animated for the end of the film. Read more about them here.

September 1977 issue

Since the movie was a surprise blockbuster, there wasn’t a great deal of merchandising to be had in the month of its premiere. But there was just enough time to upgrade the ad for the 3-volume novelization with film-related imagery.

October 1977 issue

It was time to start a serious conversation about the emerging anime trend, and an article titled Animation World Part 1 presented the top ten anime titles chosen by readers. Space Battleship Yamato clocked in at number 1, occupying the first page of this 7-page feature.

The text was a simple staff and cast listing, but the illustration was completely new, drawn by director Toyoo Ashida and seen only once more, on the cover of a doujinshi.

The other titles that made the top ten were (in order) Cyborg 009, Triton of the Sea, Lupin III, Gatchaman, Raideen, Mighty Atom (Astro Boy), Kimba, Danguard A, and Babel II.

December 1977 issue

Home video was still a few years away, but the ad above right promoted another kind of on-demand viewing, a highly-condensed 8mm film version of Space Battleship Yamato on three reels. Get another look at them here.

Click here for Manga Shonen‘s 1978 coverage of Farewell to Yamato

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