Harutoshi Fukui interviews, January 2017

In the month of January, Yamato 2202 writer Harutoshi Fukui took the lead in media interviews. As the staff member most qualified to speak on the new series, he was the logical choice – and it was probably inevitable since everyone else was buried in anime production. Here we bring you interviews from two separate magazines that each brought something unique to the discussion.

Front and back covers from Showa 40 Otoko issue 41. (Crete Publishing, January 11, 2017)

Show 40 Otoko [1965 Man] is a monthly men’s lifestyle magazine that has graced these pages once before. Back in January 2013, they published a Yamato cover story that fronted for some terrific legacy coverage and an enlightening interview with writer/director Eiichi Yamamoto. Read all of that content (and get an explanation for the magazine’s name) here.

Issue 41 of Showa 40 Otoko became the first magazine since 1978 to put the classic Farewell to Yamato movie poster on its cover, which fronted for extensive articles on the SF culture of 1970s Japan. Four of these articles dug into Space Battleship Yamato, culminating in this interview with Harutoshi Fukui. The others will be presented here at a later time.

Writer Harutoshi Fukui talks about Space Battleship Yamato

A look at the original SF work and expectations for the new

Yamato 2199, which launched in 2012 based on a new interpretation, had a big impact on the first generation from Showa 40. Now, in 2017, a newly-reborn Yamato will begin its next voyage. SF writer Harutoshi Fukui is writing the script, approaching the new work with a desire to continue Yamato with the latest charms.

Coverage/text: Kenji Adachi
Photography: Michito Matsuda

“When I was in elementay school, most students didn’t read books. Everyone was reading the novelization of Mobile Suit Gundam.”

During the childhood of Harutoshi Fukui, whose popular masterpiece novels A Lost Country’s Aegis and Lorelai at the End of the War have been turned into movies, it seems his interests centered on manga and anime. He says he was first touched by Space Battleship Yamato around the time he was in fourth grade.

“The theatrical version of the first series was broadcast as Farewell to Yamato was opening. I was surprised. Even in fourth grade, I felt as if I was growing out of manga and anime, and suddenly I was able to see this amazing thing. Moreover, it wasn’t some weekly thing, but one whole thing that showed up with a bang. It was the impression of seeing some serious anime. The sequel was opening immediately in theaters and I wanted to go, but I couldn’t. From what I could see, all the older brothers and sisters were obsessed with the boom at that time.

Yamato launches to space from the sea in
Farewell to Yamato, Soldiers of Love

As for the possibility of seagoing battleships flying into space, Fukui “Didn’t mind at all.”

“The boom fell into place with The New Voyage, which was on TV the next year, and Be Forever Yamato after that. That was the climax of childhood for me.”

When Fukui says “older brothers,” this includes Showa 40 men, who are three years older than he. Above all, he emphasizes the “gorgeousness” of the visuals in Be Forever Yamato at that time.

Be Forever Yamato is wonderful to watch even now, int terms of the high-quality animation sequences, the movie was like an out-of-place artifact. I think it was so well-made for its time that even anime researchers looking back 100 years from now will say, ‘There’s nothing wrong with this.’ Especially the work of Yoshinori Kanada.” (An animator who created unique animation techniques with bold perspective and posing, using such effects as incorporating lens flares that occur in live-action photography.)

“When you look carefully at the art, it is finely detailed and makes great use of projected light. We can say the feature film version of Galaxy Express 999 was equally gorgeous, wasn’t it?”

Under the exceptional producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki, the high quality Yamato series was made with the leading anime production system, which attracted the curiosity of Mr. Fukui.

The feeling of SF Fukui sees in Yamato

Although there is a difference of three years, the SF sensibilities of Yamato as perceived by Fukui are not far off from the feelings of Showa 40 men.

“In previous robot anime there were ‘death rays’ and such, but ‘Wave-Motion Gun’ and ‘Wave Engine’ seemed to be more logical science fiction names, so it was reasonable to even have a ship fly smoothly into space. A Gundam fighting a battle with a shield and a beam rifle is entirely SF. Older generations might say, ‘That’s not SF,’ but then what is SF? Various answers come back, and when you examine them it boils down to a narrow range of things like 2001 A Space Odyssey. It’s not like that; SF is a broad genre of entertainment.”

From Farewell to Yamato; the true form of the White Comet
Empire appears before
Yamato. The image of “Soldiers of Love
confronting an enemy with overwhelming power struck deep
into the heart of Mr. Fukui, who saw it again while
in college, after a long absence.

“Looking at Yamato with cold eyes, even though Apollo had already gone to the moon, why did something shaped like a boat have to go into space? Why do fighters get shot and then fall ‘downward,’ and isn’t it weird to refer to that direction as ‘down’ in the first place? Stuff like that is ripe as material for ripping on. But when I watched it in those days, such things didn’t worry me. It was what it was.”

Fukui points out that the most convincing factor was the strength of Yamato’s mecha design.

“I decided in my heart that design had gone as far as it could. The White Base from Mobile Suit Gundam wasn’t cool at all. Though it was in the form of a space ship, I didn’t think of it as a ship, because Yamato was the first ‘space ship’ I saw, and it was useless if it didn’t have a waterline! I was intensely impressed.”

The appeal of Yamato’s world view and characters

Mr. Fukui is full of love for Yamato despite its slightly clichéd qualities. Who is his favorite Yamato character?

“I’ve been working on Yamato for over a year, and this is the first time I’ve been asked that question.”

So who is it? In the Yamato lineup, it must be such great characters as Captain Juuzo Okita, Susumu Kodai, or Shiro Sanada! This writer feels like he can’t narrow it down to one. I thought Mr. Fukui would share my sensibility.

“When I think back, I didn’t have a specific favorite character as a child. Looking back at it as an adult, Dessler is interesting. But I’m not certain. It’s just fascinating to watch. Dessler has the best lines in Yamato 2, like ‘Do you expect me to sleep on the same sheet two nights in a row?’ This was in the scene where he was a captive of Gatlantis. ‘What a small man he is,’ I thought. They might have captured him, but he’ll keep quiet and then show them all someday, won’t he? Then he’ll put that loudmouth in her place. Thinking that, I could accept his mistakes.”

Indeed, it is a deep consideration. Whatever your taste, if you feels a strange attraction to the enemy general, perhaps it’s because you’ve reached the age of accumulated experience.

Realizing the core of the story with the second experience of Farewell to Yamato

Mr. Fukui says that he realized the true greatness of Yamato when he saw Farewell again as a college student.

Two shots from the new work. Though drawn with modern
technology, you can’t help but feel the flow of the times in its
precision. Both scenes are enough to give expectations
of a strong fleet war!

“It was around the time when video rental shops propagated, and when I watched it again after a long absence I was already crying buckets. This was at the end of my adolescence, and something about it stuck in my heart more deeply than before. I had shed tears when I saw it the first time, but not like this.”

At that time, Fukui noticed that Yamato was a symbol of postwar Japan.

“We’d lost the war, therefore war was bad, therefore it was not to be discussed. Therefore we received almost none of what was called a war education. Even if you’d heard fragmentary information about what it was like to go through an air raid, we had no sense of crisis that the country might fall. Before Yamato, I don’t think there was much anime that depicted those circumstances, the poverty and such. Before that, most works showed the future as being fun and convenient.”

In the first work, planet bombs from Gamilas are often depicted falling on Earth with scenes of cities and important people being lost. It was the image of the great air raids and atomic bomb drops that our parent’s generation experienced. Yamato clearly showed the truth of war that can’t be found in textbooks, wearing the clothing of SF anime.

On this basis, and on the back of the original work, Fukui emphasizes that an important message is included for our generation, which did not experience war.

Obviously, Yamato. The Yamato of our memory is further brushed-up with an exciting SF feeling.
In the story, after it returns from Iscandar to save Earth with a “Cosmo Reverse System,”
the Earth government decides to return it to the battle lines, and it undergoes a major refurbishment.
Will the Wave-Motion Gun sealed up at Iscandar be used again?

A new ship is built based on the policy of the Earth government. It is said that its equipment and performance
greatly surpass that of
Yamato, including two Wave-Motion Guns. Although it mostly looks like the Andromeda
seen in the original work, the impression of straight, sharp lines will probably increase when depicted in CG. It seems odd
that it was built to such a high degree of completion in a short period after the war, and its origins seem rooted in mystery.

Character designs for Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love. There is no great difference in the appearance of
Susumu Kodai and Yuki Mori from the previous work,
2199, but what progress will be seen in their relationship?
Meanwhile, Emperor Zordar of the Gatlantis Empire has finally appeared, doubling the sense of fear from the original work.
Also, the female commander Sabera is fascinating.

“In the end, Yamato beats Gamilas, but only after everyone is dead do they ask, ‘Why didn’t we try to talk to each other sooner?’ It may be too late, and they’re left with tears and regret, having become adults after a mountain of experiences, don’t they? You couldn’t express that in words, but you get that impression all at once. That this was the most vital thing postwar Japan had to convey. How, after waging a war, you’re left with an awful feeling from the poverty and calamity it had suffered. So it was saying ‘never wage war.’ But the thing about war is, as much as you plead ’Stop,’ you never can. It may be fantasy, but it may have been the first time in the postwar period when the idea of loving each other was stated. The first work is supremely valuable for taking that step forward.”

In keeping with that trend, Fukui interprets the sequel Farewell as a warning against the approaching 80s.

“Japan was heading for a maturity stage. It was around that time that we were climbing into the bubble economy. Frivolousness was becoming a virtue. It was in the structure of Farewell for people who felt uncomfortable in a postwar period to take off again on Yamato. The enemy for Yamato to fight in undertaking such an era would have to be a violence-by-numbers kind of globalism. The principle of efficiency becomes dominant, and the trend is to deny diversity. Its symbol is the White Comet Empire.”

“Those who dragged the postwar feeling into the clash with this coming reality had the same feelings as the young people on the crew of Yamato. There is absolutely no chance of winning, but they don’t wait for things to get worse before adapting to their opponent. They understood that they would die. They made the final choice to neutralize it. When you look back at it, that’s what it is to become an adult.”

“When I thought about it, the energetic SF that was developed in the visuals became secondary to the consciousness of the story. The people who set out to make Yamato at that time never thought, ‘Let’s make this with the emphasis on science fiction, did they?”

The figure of Juuzo Okita as he appears at the end of Farewell.
On the opposite page is a shot of Okita from the new work, 2202.
Though there are differences in the design, his presence is
strongly timeless. The sentiment he brings to
Soldiers of
Love seems to be the spirit of the work.

Depicting the meaning of Soldiers of Love in the present day

The theatrical premiere of the new anime work Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love, which is a new interpretation of the tearjerking Farewell, is near at hand. What is the significance of breathing new life into a work from 40 years ago today?

“Earlier I said that the original Farewell collided with the powerful force of reality and neutralized it. However, there is the risk that this can be connected with the suicide bombings we see every day in the news. If we end up making that part of the good guy’s logic this time, thee’s no way we can just leave it at that.”

“Protecting the ‘love’ of the original Soldiers of Love firmly resides in the highest level of human values. But when we put a foothold there, we run the risk of equating it with terrorism. So what is ‘love’ in the first place? What are the human values that should be protected? When I drilled down into that for Soldiers of Love, I thought it would be worth doing.”

What kind of route through the complex problems of modern society will Fukui’s Yamato story trace? What is the huge presence that is the White Comet Empire? For the men of Showa 40 who experienced the original work, I’m certain there will be many discoveries in the message of Soldiers of Love.

“After shedding tears for Farewell, most Showa 40 men probably don’t think there is another drop to cry for Yamato. I’m planning to make them cry this time, so I’ll be grateful if they all see it for themselves.”

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

Continue to the next interview, from Hobby Japan

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