Harutoshi Fukui interviews, Jan 2017, part 2

Back up to part 1

This interview was published in Hobby Japan #573 (published January 25) as part of a five-page article that also covered Yamato 2202 products and gave us our first look at some new mecha. The entire article is reproduced here.

Opening spread showing the 1/1000 Andromeda kit and other products. See enlargements at the end of this page.

With the immortal masterpiece Farewell to Yamato, Soldiers of Love as its motif, the long-awaited Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love revives the heroic story in a new interpretation with modern trappings. Theatrical screenings, digital delivery,and a special limited-edition theater Blu-ray will all debut simultaneously on February 25. Here we interview Harutoshi Fukui, who handled the series composition and script. How did Mr. Fukui, who wrote Mobile Suit Gundam UC, handle 2202? New mecha designs have also been released, so let’s all get into it together.

Interview by Makoto Ishii

Interviewer: How did you come to be involved in Yamato 2202?

Fukui: I was first contacted about three years ago by Voyager Entertainment, the producer of Space Battleship Yamato. However, I was in the midst of Gundam UC at the time and Yamato 2199 was still going on, and although I was interested I couldn’t work on it. Then about a year later I was fortunate enough to be called again and the flow took over. Gundam UC had just ended and there was a little work, but the timing made me think the plan might become a pillar for me, and it was a feeling of being called to board the ship. It was to be a remake based on Farewell to Yamato, and when I watched it again I became convinced that “this can be reworked for the modern era” so I decided to do it.

Interviewer: Where did you feel it could go?

Fukui: At the time Farewell was released, young people were enthusiastic, and in addition to it being historically recorded as a hit anime movie, maybe it also became their first date movie. However, to the adults of those days, the title Space Battleship Yamato gave it an unpleasant reputation because the finale was reminiscent of a kamikaze attack. But when I watched it again later, I conversely found it to be the story about that moment becoming inevitable for humans to live as human beings. In the present day, the idea of a kamikaze attack is linked to terrorist suicide bombing. How could we daringly express that through a work like this? I found that to be fascinating.

Interviewer: The revived Earth depicted in Farewell was the image of postwar Japan, and the Earth reviving in 2199 overlaps with the Great Tohoku Earthquake [of 2011]. Did you take that part into consideration?

Fukui: In terms of setting the stage to match the times, 2199 left me with a lot of good homework. Like the issue of the “Wave-Motion Gun problem.” It was depicted that the Wave-Motion Gun was sealed up as a weapon in order to revive Earth, which is similar to the real-world problem of nuclear power plants after the earthquake. It’s dangerous, so we’d prefer not to use it, but the reality was that we couldn’t manage without it, so I thought we could draw a parallel with 2199‘s “Wave-Motion Gun problem.” I think it’s like how the people of the generation that worked on the original Space Battleship Yamato production captured postwar Japan at the time.

For those in the current Yamato’s prime demographic in their early 50s, they had a sense of the postwar atmosphere and that ‘A war just happened not long ago,’ so they understood that mood. However, for those of us in our 40s, though there’s an age difference of only 5 or 6 years, we don’t really get that postwar sense, and have the impression that it’s on the other side of a membrane. The impact of the postwar period may not be quite the same as post-disaster, but both give you the sense that something huge has just happened, and the result is that they end up being like neighboring regions, times in which values are questioned. The people of those days sensed the contradictions in the air during the postwar period, and I think we can depict them in the way they took shape after the earthquake.

Interviewer: How did you proceed with story construction for 2202?

Fukui: Rather than first talking with the director or producer, I had complete freedom to write. I immediately suggested the direction and Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love as the title. (Described it in a way that made use of that title.) I was able to do this because it came together in my mind immediately. After about six months of plotting and writing four or five episodes, I took it to everyone to get their opinions, so I sort of walked in with a script.

Even if you call it a remake, the ending of 2199 differed from the first Space Battleship Yamato, so my starting point was different. I think the atmosphere of the first episode is very different, so it’s made in such a way that the remake of Farewell starts from Episode 2.

Interviewer: Since it’s a continuation of 2199, are there significant changes from Farewell?

Fukui: The running of Earth and Garmillas is decidedly different. Since Garmillas wasn’t destroyed in 2199, how would it affect the relationship between the two camps? Therefore, comparing it to the situation of postwar Japan, I thought it would be like the US-Japan relationship. What sort of thing would happen after the size of Earth’s population is significantly reduced? When I thought about that in detail, I figured, “Humans would do this” and it took the form of depicting the relationship of the two camps in the first episode. It incorporates the feelings of various people in the postwar atmosphere.

Interviewer: Will the theme focus on “love” in accordance with the title Soldiers of Love?

Fukui: That’s right. When you break down the original work, it becomes apparent that “love” is the force behind it. The word “love” might have gone stale since it was promoted with Yamato and Farewell. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the word “Newtype” in Gundam has the same weight and presence as “love” in Space Battleship Yamato, would it? So you really can’t avoid it. If that’s the case, I’ll take it and put it front and center.

Interviewer: In terms of the “homework left by 2199” that you previously mentioned, was there any part that gave you trouble?

Fukui: In fact, that became my weapon. In the original Space Battleship Yamato, Garmillas was annihilated in the war, and Farewell was the story that was made after receiving the message of, “We should have loved each other.” Therefore, Yamato wasn’t in a fight from the beginning, and the reason for launching from Earth was to respond to the distress call from Teresa. But when they arrive at the destination, they are helpless against reality. They say something like, “All that power, all those numbers,” and worry about how to oppose it. If this was a fantasy anime, we would “break through with the power of youth” but in the case of Farewell, they aren’t young people, are they?

The characters weren’t designed to have aged much, but when you view the images you can see them as adults who know the hardships of reality, as if ten years had passed since the last war. The people making the movie at the time reflected that in the characters, and they knew they couldn’t have them win easily. In that case, they worry about how to fight back without losing their humanity, and in the end they’ll fight even at the cost of their own lives. I brooded over ways to reproduce that feeling again, and the homework left to me by 2199 became a good clue.

Interviewer: Now that Gatlantis is the main enemy in 2202, how are they depicted?

Fukui: When Gatlantis appeared in Farewell, they were nothing more than a metaphor of reality, so they weren’t even depicted as a state. Just a country that can overwhelm you with numbers. The morality of such a country and how they would increase their descendants wasn’t touched upon at all, and Zordar was a mysterious emperor who built his empire on “power is justice.” As a result, whereas the fight with Gamilas was like a war between nations, Gatlantis had only a symbolic presence.

On the other hand, when they appeared in 2199 we don’t even know if they have a home planet. They’re just a huge battle nation that boiled up from somewhere and we only know that they expand like a swarm of insects. In 2202, I intend to at least depict what Gatlantis’ life is like, and I’m creating concepts that are suitable to comment on the subtitle Soldiers of Love. This isn’t an intentional change, just a feeling of reinforcing it in necessary places. What kind of system does this group called Gatlantis run on, and how is it managed? I intend to depict that.

Interviewer: Teresa seems to become a key character. Will she a be a point to watch for?

Fukui: For now, she isn’t formed of antimatter. (In Farewell, the concept was that Teresa was formed of antimatter, which meant she could not come into contact with a human.) The idea of coming into contact being impossible is still there, like the antimatter concept in Farewell. However, in terms of the “love” theme, the condition of humans needing other humans becomes an important point, so I’m suitably restructuring that where she’s concerned.

Interviewer: And, of course, I think fans expect that Dessler will be involved…

Fukui: That’s right. I can’t currently comment in detail, but I don’t think there’s any reason not to do what you expect…I’ll just say that. But beyond the characters, there are various impressive scenes and visuals in Farewell, and I’ll try to reproduce them as much as possible.

Interviewer: Also, I’m interested in the mecha portrayal and fleet warfare that is unique to Space Battleship Yamato. Have you thought about how to depict that?

Fukui: Although Mobile Suit Gundam seems to be a similar work, it is much more about militarism and military affairs, and there’s not much that gets in the way of its pursuit of realism. Gundam has its characteristics and I think I want to attach a true image of Yamato‘s characteristics to this. I want to pin down those “characteristics” in the pursuit of reality. When you talk about the realities of a fleet war in space, it’s strange that they don’t fly apart rather than lining up, but it seems that having 20 or so vessels gathered in one place is a “Yamato characteristic,” isn’t it? If so, I want to make a battle scene that you can look at and understand why they come together and fight like that. For example, in the first episode, “Board” is depicted as a keyword in the fleet battle.

Interviewer: What about Andromeda, which is indispensable when talking about 2202?

Fukui: Andromeda is one of the faces of Farewell, isn’t it? However, it’s also true that the illustration was prominent despite it not fighting very much in the story. So I think it became a matter of ‘We have to do at least this much.’

The concept is that it’s the symbol of the Earth Defense Forces. In Farewell, Andromeda emerges from the postwar environment when reconstruction gave way to a period of maturity, and it has the look of something that came from a fully mature contractor, doesn’t it? Up until then, Yamato supported the reconstruction at the edges like the uncle of a Japanese worker, and Andromeda is like a securities man who came in from New York, isn’t it? Since 2202 has a post-earthquake atmosphere, Andromeda appears as a new hope, but to Kodai and the audience, it’s a dangerous presence with those two Wave-Motion Guns that we promised “not to use any more.”

Interviewer: What else can we expect in terms of mecha?

Fukui: On the Earth side, the plan is to use many of the basic ships from the Garmillas war era, like Okita’s ship, with color changes. In addition, the impressive hand-to-hand combat by the Space Cavalry Division certainly comes up in Farewell, so you can expect to see things in that area. As for the fighters, we’ll have an answer for the question, “If there’s a Cosmo Tiger II, where did the Cosmo Tiger I go?” During the three years that passed in the story, they made the Cosmo Tiger I, and then the II suddenly appears. Of course, the main reason is that the II plays an active part, so maybe its predecessor was too high-performance and hard to handle…? I’m basing it on that idea.

Interviewer: What about devices on the Gatlantis side?

Fukui: There was an unnamed vessel called the Gatlantis large battleship. This is featured in Episode 1. Regarding the large battleship, our generation remembers it as a 100yen Yamato plamodel. The large battleship was part of that lineup. The parts were very small and you couldn’t complete it. It was really hard to glue tiny parts like the fins to its bow. I struggled with the bag of glue that was included with the original model and somehow got through it. It will appear right away, and because it has a big part in the story, I hope Bandai’s technology will now produce a model that’s easy to build. (Laughs) Assistant Director Makoto Kobayashi piles up the mecha-related parts in our meetings, so you should be able to enjoy something that’s definitely worth seeing.

Interviewer: Finally, please give a message to the fans who are waiting for the premiere.

Fukui: If you’re a Hobby Japan reader, I think it’s almost certain that you watched 2199. Although some things have been consolidated and there have been some staff changes, not everything has been changed since last time. Please be assured that we’re inheriting the story and concepts.

And for those who haven’t actually seen 2199, if you’re someone who knows the background of Space Battleship Yamato, you should be able to enjoy it if you keep three points in mind. First, Garmillas is not destroyed, and has an alliance with Earth. Second, because Yuki was in an accident, she only has a memory of the last four years. And finally, Kodai and the others made a promise to Iscandar not to use the Wave-Motion Gun. If you understand this, you can immediately get on board with 2202, and I think anyone who is interested should take a look and enjoy it by all means.

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

Cosmo Tiger I

(Trial production tactical assault fighter)

One of the prototype aircraft which competes as the next-generation primary fighter for the Earth Defense Forces. Since it is a larger craft equipped with a large quantity of weapons and a high-output engine, it was difficult to operate as a carrier-based fighter and was rejected. Akira Yamamoto flies it and trains rookies as an instructor on the moon base.

Cosmo Tiger II

(Comprehensive space assault fighter)

The successor to the Cosmo Falcon, whose excellence was proved as Yamato‘s fightercraft. Equipped with 18 machine guns and normal equipment for high mobility, its performance has dramatically improved. The members of Yamato‘s flight core train rookies to fly the plane at the moon base.

Murasame-type Space Cruiser Saratoga

Following the basic design of the old Murasame space cruiser, the Earth Defense Fleet equipped this model with a new engine that includes a Wave Core. It is deployed by the space forces of countries around the world, as exemplified by English names such as Saratoga and Defiant.

Kongo-type Space Battleship Yuunagi

As the main battleship of the reorganized Earth Defense Fleet, it follows the basic design of the Kongo-type space battleship. It is equipped with a new engine containing a Wave Core. It is capable of warp travel, is equipped with a new type of space torpedo, and its main battery consists of four 36cm tri-positron shock cannons that reinforce its output. Susumu Kodai is the captain of Yuunagi, unit 47 of the 2nd escort fleet.

Gaizengan weapons group – Calakmul-class battleship

A heavy battleship of Gatlantis that measures 520m in length. The design concept of its hull is very different from other ships, which characterizes it with unique operating requirements. In addition to the standard rotary turrets, it has a special firing system called a Lightning Strike Gun.

[Translator’s note: “Calakmul” follows the tradition of giving ancient South American names to Gatlantis mecha. See background info here.]

Crustacean Assault Craft Deathvatator

The main assault fighter of Gatlantis. It is equipped with a rotary beam machine gun (quick-fire rotating turret) on its upper surface. 8 machine guns are fixed on the front of the hull. It is piloted by a crew of three and carries six air-to-air missiles on its underside, or it can mount a single large anti-ship missile.

[Translator’s note: There has been long-standing confusion over the name “Desbatata” for the hermit-crab-shaped fighter. The assumption has always been that it was a misspelled version of “Devastator.” After consulting with 2202 supervising director Nobuyoshi Habara, I learned another explanation: it probably started out as “Devastator” and was modified into “Death-vatator.” (“Des” being a phonetic Japanese version of “Death.”) Until further evidence is found, I’ll be going with “Deathvatator” in all future texts.]

Medalusa-class Heavy Annihilation Battleship

This heavy Gatlantis battleship wields a Flame Strike Gun that warps a powerful blast of energy to allow for long-distance bombardment from outside an opponent’s range. Yamato met with a similar warship on its return from Iscandar, which has since been mass-produced and deployed with the Gatlantis fleet in large numbers.

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