Meisa Kuroki (Yuki Mori), Toshiro Yanagiba (Shiro Sanada)
Naoto Ogata (Daisuke Shima), Reiko Takashima (Dr Sado)
The acclaimed actors who supported Takuya Kimura in Space Battleship Yamato gather for T Magazine! In this exclusive roundtable discussion, they talk about their work and Takuya Kimura in full.
Shadowy photography = Osamu Kikuchi
Text = editorial department
From Theatre Culture Magazine “T”
December 1, 2010
Interviewer: Everyone, I heard that you all saw the completed film just the other day. How was it?
Kuroki: I was overwhelmed by the visuals. The on-site shooting was mainly done against greenscreen and bluescreen, so it was impossible to imagine such an image before I saw the movie. I was surprised at how big it all was.
Ogata: The VFX [visual effects] were amazing. Japanese movies have arrived at last. I saw some of the rough CG on-site, but I honestly didn’t believe the quality would be so much better. It can’t be helped if some small part is inferior compared to Hollywood SF works like Star Wars or Star Trek, but all the shots have power, and it was completed perfectly. On the other hand, each person’s character stands strong, and the human drama is depicted well. I now realize that I got to participate in a wonderful project.
Takashima: I’m the type who can’t usually watch their own work objectively, so it was surprising that I could watch objectively this time. I think it just overwhelmed me.
Yanagiba: I am completely of the Space Battleship Yamato generation, someone who fully understands what Yamato is. (Laughs) and I’m happier above all else that the world of Yamato was properly brought to the screen. So rather than getting an impression of the work, I just felt the joy of being there myself.
Interviewer: I heard you guessed your role when you got the offer.
Yanagiba: That’s right. Before I was told, I said “I’m going to play Sanada, aren’t I?”
Ogata: That’s great.
Yanagiba: Among us, the man called Sanada is the ideal older brother. Of course, Susumu Kodai is the hero. I think all the children who watched it at the time empathized with Kodai, wishing they could have a guy like Sanada to be their older brother. So I’m not sure why I had such strange confidence that I could play the part of Sanada.
Takashima: No, I understand it well.
Ogata: Isn’t Mr. Giba just Sanada in the flesh? (Laughs)
Interviewer: What did the rest of you think when you got the offers?
Takashima: I was just the opposite of Mr. Yanagiba. I was surprised when I first heard about it, “Why would I get the Dr. Sado role?” In the original, the gender was different. I watched Space Battleship Yamato too and I know it has a lot of core fans, so I was worried about it at first, but there was no help for it. As for the similarities between Dr. Sado and I, we both like liquor and cats. (Laughs) But this Yamato comes more than 30 years after the original, and because the background times are different, it seems natural for some of the concepts to change. So I changed my mind and solidly played Dr. Sado as depicted in the script.
”Prior to photography, the role was all I could think about”
Kuroki: I’m not of the generation that saw Space Battleship Yamato in real time. I read the script first and then saw the original. Then I read the script again and looked at the original again…and repeated. So I understood the importance of Yuki Mori’s role and felt a mix of both the pressure to perform it and the expectations for how I would portray her in live action. It was unprecedented, and prior to photography, the role was all I could think about.
Ogata: In my case, I’m just the right age to be in the Yamato generation, but I didn’t see it for some reason. So, rather than Mr. Giba and Ms. Takashima, my situation is closer to Meisa’s. After I got the offer, I watched the movie version of the anime on DVD and read the script several times to make the role my own. That was necessary work.
Interviewer: Were you conscious of the original character while you were performing?
Ogata: At some level I was determined to meet the expectations of the fans of the original, but it wasn’t necessary to be conscious of that while I was on-site.
Yanagiba: From the moment I was on camera, there was Susumu Kodai, there was Yuki Mori, there was Shima, there was Captain Okita, and – though it was different from the Showa Yamato – there was Dr. Sado. It was close to the atmosphere of the original with different dimensions to the story, and I was there as a member of Yamato. So, right from the beginning, I was in the world of Yamato that I loved.
”I am in the world of Yamato. It was a time of supreme bliss.”
Kuroki: I came in later than everyone else, and the atmosphere of the Yamato worldview was already established when I came on-site. It was like diving right into a whirlpool. As for my role, there was the strong impression of a spirited woman, and I played her as someone who pretended to be tough without showing weakness or delicacy. I wanted to be careful with Yuki Mori’s development after she meets Kodai.
Interviewer: What was Director Yamazaki like?
Kuroki: Very passionate. That feeling was constantly running through the set. And his direction was clear, concise, and very easy to understand. I felt like the image of the finished film was already in his mind during the shooting.
Ogata: That’s it. I think because he could see the picture, he could say, “You should do it this way” while also actively adopting the opinions of the actors. Just after Meisa came on board, there was a scene with just the two of us, and we carefully rehearsed the scene before shooting. I think the director was very tactful in creating an atmosphere that made it easy for Meisa to enter into. The teamwork of his crew was outstanding, and I thought it was a nearly perfect production. Then there was their tenacity for the VFX, and after I saw the completed film I thought again about what a great director he is.
Yanagiba: As for my feelings on Yamato and Director Yamazaki, I felt like I had waited for it for a long time, and it came very easily. I had researched the man named Sanada, but I told the director from the beginning, “Let me know if I’m going too far.” But since his vision was clear in advance, I performed in response to him and nothing stuck out too far (laughs) so I enjoyed shooting very much.
Takashima: Of the scenes I was in, I don’t think a single one was shot in one take. I guess they hadn’t wasted any shots before then. From the start, I can’t think of any pointless scenes that they shot. Besides, even art for example’s sake isn’t wasted. I got the impression that everything was utilized in some way. I felt great affection for the director’s work.
”I participated in a great project” (Ogata)
Interviewer: What were your impressions of the star, Mr. Kimura?
Ogata: When I met him for the first time, I was surprised that he doesn’t use a dressing room. He comes straight into the studio, drops his bag, starts shooting, and finally leaves without using a dressing room. Since the lead actor is on set all the time, he naturally has a relationship of mutual trust with the crew and teamwork with the other actors. I think he took the initiative to create the atmosphere of Yamato on the set. I discovered the greatness of Takuya Kimura.
Kuroki: One day after a morning of shooting we got to a lunch break and he invited us all to the studio dining room, saying, “Let’s all eat together.” He’s a person who pays attention to detail, like pulling the team together and making time to spend with them. That’s what I felt the whole time we were shooting.
Yanagiba: As for me, I got him to buy a fishing rod when we were shooting near a wharf. For some reason he said, “I wish I could go fishing in my spare time.” So I found a fishing tackle store nearby and he bought a proper fishing rod. “Giba,” he said, “now let’s do it together.”
Interviewer: That same day?
Yanagiba: Yes, right after that casual conversation. He’s a guy who can pull off that sort of coolness without breaking a sweat. If I was 20 years younger, I’d surely follow his lead to study how to be a man. It may be too late for me. (Laughs)
”I was amazed by the ending” (Takashima)
Takashima: When I got a small injury, Mr. Kimura gave me some ointment.
Yanagiba: Oh, I wish I was that cool. (Laughs)
Takashima: We happened to be returning on the same bullet train. As the train was rattling along, I heard that he was looking for m. He said, “Please take this, I’ve got another one.” I fell in love! That was my feeling.
Yanagiba: I’m taking a memo. (Everyone laughs)
Takashima: Since the time we were in a previous drama together, I had the impression of him as a person who always stretches his antenna. Not just toward the other actors, but by communicating with the director and the crew. He’s someone who can take on a lead role.
Ogata: Because of his thoughtfulness and ambition, as well as his roles, I think he’ll be on the front line for a long time.
Interviewer: Returning to the content of the work, did your impression change between reading the script and seeing the finished movie?
Takashima: Since I was a Yamato fan, my thought when I first read the script was, “Can Yamato be depicted accurately?” and I was moved to tears in the second half. Is it Bushido [Japanese chivalry]? It was strongly depicted, and cool. It was a good story. When I saw the film, first of all I thought the VFX were wonderful, but that’s because the story itself is wonderful. It’s properly based on the original material and dramatized using techniques that make the finished work even better. I think it turned out to be tremendous.
Yanagiba: I might be scolded for this, but from the beginning to the end I was just thrilled. When I first read the script I thought, “I get to say these lines” and it was a joy just to perform Sanada on-site. When I saw the completed film, I was just happy to say, “I’m in Yamato.” To be honest, I can’t say what it’s like or what to watch for. I’m just so thankful for that time of supreme bliss. I only feel gratitude. (Laughs)
Interviewer: (Laughs) What is everyone’s favorite scene?
Kuroki: Since the enemy was added with CG, they weren’t in the studio during the shooting of the battle scenes, and we had to align ourselves with an enemy that should be there. But I couldn’t keep up with the eyeline, so I caused trouble for everyone, but the battle scenes are powerful, so I want you to see them by all means. After that, the original itself is a magnificent story, and in comparison with the presence of space at the time of the broadcast 30 years ago, it doesn’t feel as far away this time. I think that’s because we live in a world where we actually can go into space. After I performed in it myself and watched the film, it gave me a chance to think about how I should spend my days. Of course, I think you can enjoy it from various perspectives.
Ogata: Ms. Takashima said before that there really are no wasted scenes. It’s all harmonious, and I think it will be a wonderful work. And the ending is moving, isn’t it? It has a global-scale message, and I hope it reaches as many people as possible.
Takashima: Unlike everyone else, Chief Engineer Tokugawa, played by Toshiyuki Nishida, and Dr. Sado whom I played, are in secondary positions and don’t come forward very much. Our scenes could be called filler, but I think they have a supportive, comforting role to play. Among them, I like the scene where they tell Kodai about the captain’s past using the weapon of alcohol. I think only Dr. Sado could fulfill that role. Also, I don’t appear in the latter half, but those scenes are really impressive! When that big Yamato breaks through I was like, “I’ve never seen such a picture!” I can’t tell you any details, but I was amazed.
Yanagiba: Ms. Takashima is a good guest, isn’t she? (Laughs)
Takashima: The finale is really wonderful, too. You’ll want to see that scene again and again.
Yanagiba: And…I hope Sanada comes off like a good big brother. (Everyone laughs)
Interviewer: To change the subject, you all participate in the launch scene and I hear that it’s quite exciting.
Ogata: Giba-san was the only one who had another job to do, and joined us while it was going on.
Yanagiba: When I went off, Isao Sasaki was singing the ending them, right? Sorry, but I was in back with tears rolling down my face.
Takashima: You came in at just the right time.
Yanagiba: Just suddenly, there it was. I was just like, “Wow.”
Takashima: But the amazing part was that we could sing the ending song without seeing the lyrics. Isn’t it great that we can still remember everything even now?
Ogata: Mr. Giba had to work the next day, so he went home early, but the rest of us were up pretty late. The captain (Tsutomu Yamazaki), Isao Hashizumi (General Todo) and Meisa.
Yanagiba: That honor would have made me swell with pride. I wanted to be there until the end.
Ogata: The captain would normally be gone by then, right?
Yanagiba: That’s right.
Ogata: But Meisa got along with everyone, so she stayed until the end, right?
Kuroki: Well, I guess so. (Laughs) I couldn’t leave until the end.
Interviewer: How do you think the generation that saw Space Battleship Yamato will react to this movie?
Ogata: In the end, I think what’s most important is, are Mr. Giba and Shima okay?
Yanagiba: Shima is fine! But that’s because Shima was the very image of you.
Takashima: I think it was perfect. I don’t think anything Mr. Ogata said here today would be out of place coming from Shima himself.
Ogata: Really? I’m glad I came today. (Laughs)
Yanagiba: Ideally, I actually wanted to see the scene of Kodai and Shima fist-fighting. Those guys have a great friendship and plenty of scuffles. If that had been there, it would have fully depicted the relationship of those two. After seeing it, I can understand it was a time problem not to put it in. But that really is the best fight.
Interviewer: But when Kodai and Shima work as a tag-team for the first time, they have eye contact, don’t they? Even just watching that scene, I understood the trust relationship between those two.
Ogata: That was good. I was pretty nervous.
Yanagiba: Yes, it was completely fine.
Takashima: I was nervous too.
Yanagiba: No, you did fine, too. Your hurdle was different from ours because of the different gender. (Laughs) But It was great that you became a proper Dr. Sado.
Interviewer: On the other hand, I think many people who don’t know Yamato will touch the world of Yamato for the first time with this work.
Takashima: There will be many more people who have never seen Yamato, won’t there?
Yanagiba: As the Yamato generation, we were taught love, romance, and justice. I’ll be glad for them to know it properly. And I want the fans to reconfirm it.
Kuroki: I agree. I learned and felt the same things through this work, and I think it should be properly delivered to the next generation.