2016 may be remembered as one of the most turbulent years on record, but Space Battleship Yamato was there all the way through it, and the steady emergence of Yamato 2202 consistently gave us something to be happy about. If you looked deep enough, you could also find the continuing presence of the original saga in various corners of the internet. It wasn’t a year of quantity, but certainly one of variety. Here is our annual roundup of activities surrounding classic Yamato.
Cosmo DNA highlights
Keeping up with Yamato 2199 and 2202 news was the main focus of this website for 2016, but there was always room for classic material. The major ongoing project in this category was a complete translation of the original 1974-75 Space Battleship Yamato novelization, which differed from the anime in major ways and makes for a fascinating read. See it all here.
Reruns and Screenings
Fans of the classics who – for whatever reason – don’t have it on home video already were taken care of by cable network Star Channel. All three of the original series were broadcast over the months of February and March in blocks of episodes at different times.
Series 1 could be seen in the following configuration: Episodes 1-4 on Feb 1, 5-8 on Feb 4, 9 & 10 on Feb 5, 11 & 12 on Feb 8, 13 & 14 on Feb 9, 15 & 16 on Feb 10, 17 & 18 on Feb 11, 19 & 20 on Feb 12, 21 & 22 on Feb 15, 23 & 24 on Feb 16, and 25 & 26 on Feb 17. OR…1-4 on Feb 6, 5-10 on Feb 7, 11-16 on Feb 13, 17-20 on Feb 15, and 21-26 on Feb 20.
Series 2 went this way: 1 & 2 on Feb 18, 3 & 4 on Feb 19, 5 & 6 on Feb 22, 7 & 8 on Feb 23, 9 & 10 on Feb 24, 11 & 12 on Feb 25, 13 & 14 on Feb 26, 15 & 16 on Feb 29, 17 & 18 on March 1, 19 & 20 on March 2, 21 & 22 on March 3, 23 & 24 on March 4, and 25 & 26 on March 7. OR…1-4 on Feb 21, 5-10 on Feb 27, 11-14 on Feb 29, 15-20 on March 5, 21-24 on March 6, and 25 & 26 on March 12.
And finally, Series 3: 1 & 2 on March 8, 3 & 4 on March 9, 5 & 6 on March 10, 7 & 8 on March 11, 9 & 10 on March 14, 11 & 12 on March 15, 13 & 14 on March 16, 15 & 16 on March 17, 17 & 18 on March 18, 19 & 20 on March 21, 21 & 22 on March 22, 23 & 24 on March 23, and 25 on March 24. OR…1-4 on March 12, 5-8 on March 13, 9-14 on March 19, 15-18 on March 20, 19-22 on March 26, and 23-25 on March 27.
There was also some Yamato to be found on the big screen. The live action movie came back for two limited screenings at Odaiba Cinema Mediage in Tokyo. It was shown once per day on May 14 and December 25.
With 2199 and now 2202 hogging the spotlight, very little physical merchandise dedicated to the classic saga emerged in 2016, but there’s always something to catch the eye and remind us of where it all began.
CR Fever Space Battleship Yamato
Yamato pachinko/slot games have been around for over a decade with new ones appearing periodically (see a roundup of them here). The 2016 entry to this lineup was a game called CR [Card Reader] Fever Space Battleship Yamato. Promotion for it began in January, but evidence of its actual street date is hard to come by since it lacked the high-end rollout of previous games. So instead of a colorful website or promo package, we only have internet sightings to rely on. Fortunately, there were quite a few.
See a gallery of art and photos here.
Find tons of video clips (including screen footage) here.
1/8 Yuki Mori garage kit figure
This figure previously appeared in our 2015 review as a prototype, but the finished painted version finally crossed the radar screen in August when it was promoted at the official Leiji Matsumoto website (specifically at this page). It was displayed at the summer Wonder Festival and made available for sale afterward. The creator of the kit goes by the pseudonym Kokuto. Find more photos on his blog here.
“Previz” Yuki Mori garage kit
A second and equally imaginative Yuki figure turned up in October when the prolific garage kit maker Abeshi posted these pics on Twitter. This Yuki goes back to the “previsualization” phase of the first Yamato series when designs were not quite finalized, but solid enough for the proposal book. Learn more about that phase and see the book from cover to cover here.
At left: Abeshi makes a gift of this figure to her creator, Leiji Matsumoto.
Yamato Gallery Zero mugs
A trio of coffee mugs (and probably other things) took their place among the products you can buy at Yamato Gallery Zero, a shop devoted entirely to Leiji Matsumoto in the city of Kure, right around the corner from the Battleship Yamato Museum. Learn more about the gallery in our 2010 review here.
Yamato products at Ali Express
If you’re sick and tired of reading about Yamato products and not being able to buy most of them, another conduit seems to have opened via a company called Ali Express. As one branch of the multilingual Alibaba Group that covers Asia and Europe, their reach goes far and they currently offer a selection of jackets, costumes, wall scrolls, and more.
There is no guarantee that this merchandise is officially licensed, and Cosmo DNA is not in a position to endorse Ali Express, but things are there to be bought and there are no restrictions against shipping to U.S. customers. So click here and let your eyeballs wander.
With the Sound Almanac CD series now complete, the original music archive is essentially tapped out, but spinoff products will probably keep coming forever. Two examples in 2016 were found in sheet music form: a piano solo of the Yamato theme (Fairy publishing, July 31) and a book titled Nostalgic Anime and Tokusatsu Hero (Electone, August 31). Click on those links to order them from Amazon.co.jp.
Disc-wise, there were four places to go for a Yamato fix…
Heirloom, Akira Miyagawa & Osaka Shion Wind Orchestra
OSWO-0001, October 2016
This rare disc was self-published by the Osaka Shion Wind Orchestra and sold only at concert venues until it was picked up by Music Store JP for online sales (to Japanese addresses only). It collects a mix of pop tunes written by both Hiroshi Miyagawa and his son Akira, including Yamato Jazz, a swingin’ cover of the original theme.
WCDA (Will Cinderella Dance Again) is a fascinating music group that we’ve mentioned before in these pages, and whenever they add to their catalog it’s definitely a moment for Yamato fans to sit up and take notice. They specialize in covering anime theme songs, but also dig deeper to find grooves and beats hidden in the BGM. They previously released two different singles titled Iskandall and Bolar, and in January they took on the blood-pumping Dessler attack theme in a 2-track digital single.
The best part is that you can order all the WCDA singles RIGHT NOW on the American version of iTunes. Just enter WCDA as a search term and their whole catalog will be at your fingertips. It’s one every anime fan should explore.
The third fix was a CD/DVD combo from a prog-pop group named Especia (Bermuda Entertainment Japan, August 10). The CD (Mirage, shown below left) consists of only 4 tracks, but the DVD contains a full concert that opens with the Yamato theme. Click here to order it from Amazon.co.jp, and see the opening chunk of the concert on Youtube here.
The fourth fix (above right) was Isao Sasaki 55th Anniversary Album MOMENT ~ Now Beyond Now (Nippon Columbia, September 28). The CD consists of vintage recordings, a mixture of anime and live action themes, and was released to commemorate Sasaki’s 55th anniversary as a performer. Order it from Amazon.co.jp here.
Sasaki’s actual 55th anniversary hit in May of 2015 and was marked by a live concert. The reason it came up again in 2016 is because he did an encore of that show on March 6, which received a fair amount of media coverage…
Isao Sasaki says singing Space Battleship Yamato “feels like singing the national anthem of Japan”
Tokyo Sports, March 6
On March 6, a “55th Anniversary Debut Special Live Encore” was held with “Great King of the Anime Song World” Isao Sasaki (73) at Zepp Diver City in the Koto Ward of Tokyo. In May of last year, tickets sold out in one day, and an enthusiastic crowd of 1100 flocked to the performance. Sasaki appeared in dashing costumes and started with the commemorative 55th anniversary single Now Beyond Now for the first time on May 25.
Before going on stage, he spoke about concerns for his physical strength: “It feels like only 15 years have passed, not 55, and I still feel young at heart.” The audience was entranced for about three and a half hours.
Regarding his signature song, Space Battleship Yamato, he said passionately: “Because I don’t want the voice of Yamato to crumble, I sing with the feeling that it’s the national anthem of Japan. Otherwise it would be a disservice to Yamato.” Besides Yamato and other popular anime themes such as Galaxy Express 999 and Getta Robo, and famous tunes from his favorite artist Elvis Presley, he kept the show exciting.
Isao Sasaki will “keep on singing” as he starts toward his 60th anniversary
Nikkan Sports, March 6
On the 6th, singer Isao Sasaki did an encore performance of his 55th Anniversary Debut Commemoration live in Tokyo. The original version, which was held on his birthday last May was a great success. Fans clamored for a repeat, which lead to this encore performance.
Sasaki’s singing of classic anime songs such as Galaxy Express 999 has appropriately earned him the nickname “King of Anime Songs.” Dripping with sweat as he sings Getter Robo!, he makes you smile as you wonder, “When he starts out on such a high, can he really maintain that to the end?”
Though he’s wiped off the sweat many times, he hasn’t lost his grip at all. Originally debuting as a rockabilly singer, “Japanese Presley” became his catchphrase. He has unforgettable stories about singing Presley’s I Can’t Help Falling in Love while dancing with an intense twist.
The first half of the program was crammed with content, ending with the first live performance of Now Beyond Now, a new song released on May 25 (catch it on Youtube here). After a 15-minute break, the second half started with Space Battleship Yamato. With an added encore, he delivered 36 songs to 1100 people in over three hours.
In an interview prior to the show, he smiled as he said, “Even though it’s the 55th anniversary, it has rushed by and it feels like only 15 years have passed.” However, he added that “wisdom acquired through age” brought skillful taste to his songs. “In the old days, I’d leave things to my youth and sing like I was lashing out, never thinking about the listeners. Now I lash out, but also react…I think it’s gotten deeper.”
He would not compromise even if he became a master of song, and his creed of “not lowering the key of the original song to sing it” persists to this day.
He is now the same age as actor Hiroki Matsukata, who was hospitalized for a brain lymphoma. He is careful with his health and regularly works out in a gym.
“About ten years ago, my right foot was numb from spinal stenosis, and in those days I couldn’t stand on it, but it recently cleared up. Was it thanks to exercise? Continuation is power,” he laughed.
2. The Blue Earth
3. Galaxy Express is far away
4. The Gleaming Galaxy
(Giant robot corner)
5. Do your best! Soldier of Space
6. Go! Grendaizer
7. Burning star of love
8. Super smash! Kinkaizer/Sky demon dragon Gaiking
9. Getta Robo!
(Elvis Presley corner)
11. It’s now or never
12. I can’t help falling
13. I need your love tonight
14. To you
15. Love of snowfall
16. Conversation in the wind
17. Space Battleship Yamato
18. Scarlet Scarf
19. Teresa Forever
20. Yamato!! The New Voyage
21. Fight! Casshan
22. Newcomer fight! Polymer/We are Gatchaman/Gatchaman Fighter
23. Go go flying stallion
24. Revive flying stallion
25. Secret Squadron Goranger
26. Advance! Goranger
27. Jacker electric shock corps
28. Midnight Dekaranger
29. Is your youth shining
1. Space Battleship Yamato
2. My Way
Isao Sasaki 55th Anniversary Special Live DVD
Almost the entire concert described above can be seen on this two-disc set. Disc 1 contains the performance and disc 2 contains 42 minutes of bonus material including rehearsals and interviews. There is also a 13-minute talk segment in which Sasaki invited Leiji Matsumoto and Akira Miyagawa onto the stage. At the end of it, Miyagawa played a solo version of the Yamato theme on his Melodica.
New Battleship Yamato exhibition
Before Space Battleship Yamato, there was New Battleship Yamato, conceived by the prolific author Ikki Kajiwara, then just 25 years old. It first appeared in July 1961 as a serialized novel in the adventure magazine Hinomaru, illustrated by Ikuya Yoshida, then again two years later as a manga in Shonen Gaho (Boys Pictorial) drawn by Tetsuya Dan.
In 2016, a publishing company named Cyberdyne revived the entire body of work from cover to cover with the intention of reprinting it in a single collection. It premiered in the form of an art exhibition held June 17-26 in Tokyo’s Ginza district, curated by Cyberdyne to ignite interest in seeing the work back in print.
As of this writing, publishing plans have been announced and withdrawn, based on what seems to be a tepid response. But a surge of interest rippled through the fan community in Japan when the project was announced, so click here for an overview of the Yamato that predated Yamato.
Studio Khara 10th anniversary exhibition
Studio Khara is an anime development and production studio run by the multi-talented writer/director/producer Hideaki Anno. Best known as the mind behind Evangelion, his most recent project as of this writing is Shin Godzilla. Khara celebrated its 10th anniversary with a week-long exhibit at the Laforet Museum in the Harajuku district of Tokyo, November 23-30.
This is relevant to Space Battleship Yamato because Anno cites Yamato as the most important anime series ever made (read it in his own words here and here). He has contributed to a few side projects, but the closest he’s come to making Yamato anime was when he co-created the opening title of 2199 with Yutaka Izubuchi. As a fan, Anno gathered a very impressive collection of original production art, and fellow fans were delighted to find it on display at the exhibition.
Lots of photos were posted to Twitter, and you can see a gallery of them here.
Toru Ohira, voice actor
Ohira was an accomplished voice actor whose entry in the Yamato hall of fame was Emperor Skaldart in Be Forever. This casting was inspired when you take into account that he was also the Japanese voice of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. That would be enough to prop up any resume, but his went on to include Fred Flinstone and Homer Simpson, and he is best known in the anime world as the voice of Dr. Nambu from the classic Gatchaman saga. He died of pneumonia on April 12.
Bruce Lewis, artist
It’s one thing when the hand of fate falls upon someone in Japan who we know only through their contribution to the Yamato saga. It’s quite another when it lands on one of our own, and Bruce Lewis was certainly that. As one of the most energetic and outspoken voices of anime fandom in the USA, he made friends wherever he went (and foes, naturally) and enjoyed a colorful career creating comics and art instruction books. His contribution to the world of Yamato was as the co-creator of the Star Blazers comic book series for Argo Press (as part of Studio Go!) from 1995-97. Read the entire series here which includes background notes in Bruce’s own words.
To the sorrow of his friends everywhere, Bruce lost an tenacious battle with cancer on May 15. He is survived by his wife and two children, and leaves behind an unmatched legacy of enthusiasm, creativity, and wit.
Read a more in-depth remembrance by his friend Helen McCarthy here.