Interviews with Mechanical Designer Junichiro Tamamori

Both published July 2012

The Dengeki Hobby Interview

Commemorating the release of the 1/1000 Space Battleship Yamato 2199!

This month, to commemorate the release of the latest model kit from Bandai, the 1/1000 Yamato, we present the design sketches that helped the production of Yamato 2199. Additionally, this special interview was conducted with Junichiro Tamamori, who was in charge of the mechanical design and planning for the Earth side in Yamato 2199!

Hearing Talk of Yamato!

Coverage and text: Dengeki Hobby Magazine editorial department

Interviewer: Please talk about the content of your work for Yamato 2199.

Tamamori: It is mainly mechanical design. I was in charge of mecha for the Earth side. In collaboration with director Yutaka Izubuchi, I worked on the Cosmo Falcon, the Type-100 Reconnaissance Plane, and the Cosmo Seagull. He did the basic design and I did the finishing touches. The Murasame is director Izubuchi’s design.

In addition, I supervised some layout work. I give intricate instructions in the stage before an animator starts their work, and I do something like a rough version of a layout.

Interviewer: What circumstances lead to you get involved in 2199?

Tamamori: I was active as an amateur during the era of Space Battleship Yamato fan activities, and my work caught the eye of Yasushi Ishizu (in charge of the mecha for the Gamilas side), so I was able to make the acquaintance of director Izubuchi from there. I met the manga artist Michio Murakawa at the same time, and when he introduced me to Mr. Izubuchi, I felt like we’d known each other all along. (Laughs)

At the time we talked about Yamato I said, “I’d like to do a remake.” I was surprised when the plan truly got started. The first thing I was asked to do was to create some concept art for the first episode.

Interviewer: Yamato 2199 now has a reputation for having a lot of art on the screen. What areas do you think about when you draw the details?

Tamamori: The first think I think about is the size of a person. When I design a warship, I give consideration to the size of a human while thinking about a cross-section of the decks. For example, for the bridge turret of Kirishima, from a human’s size, the fore section becomes a two-level deck, and since the main guns merge into the fore section, I gave it a downward-stepping feel towards the aft and figured, “the deck should widen there, shouldn’t it…?” And then, in that manner, I draw onto the design and I think, well, there’s a door here and a passage here.

Interviewer: The filling in of the interior and exterior designs is great, but what is the basis for expanding the amount of detail in them?

Tamamori: In order to turn a concept into a specific design, I adopt the method of industrial design to think about the function and meaning of a shape. For example, “because a part here should produce heat, there should be a warning line around it to draw attention.” When I lock down the function of a part in this way, it inevitably decides the elements of its appearance. I look for an attractive point in the appearance while considering the function.

The mecha that appears in Yamato is a stage for living people, so to speak. I bring charm to mecha as both a simple substance and also a background stage, and being aware of the ability to incorporate information may be the biggest factor in the difference between this and robot anime. I like plastic model-making, too, so I do a lot of cutting and pasting. I work to keep it from feeling like details have been left out due to the reduced scale.

Interviewer: What is your feeling after seeing the film?

Tamamori: I’m glad to see the things I created in it. I’m satisfied by the large amount of information on the screen. My generation took advantage of still-frame video to watch anime, and I was excited to analyze Itano missiles and Anno animation. [Translator’s note: here the references are to Ichiro Itano’s famous scenes of missile barrages in Macross, and the high-density animation of director Hideaki Anno in shows like Nadia.]

This time, mechanical director Masanori Nishii gave instructions like, “more intricate!” and at first I thought, “this is for TV and the drawing won’t even appear.” But when the theater showing was decided, I gradually escalated it to “can I draw more?” That was the state of it. (Laughs)

With the high-resolution that Blu-ray offers, I worked hard to give you stuff you’ll enjoy freeze-framing again and again. Of course, we consider both that and the large size of a movie theater. It became a good motivation for content in these times of high-resolution.

Interviewer: Is there something in the film you like in particular?

Tamamori: To be honest, in the designs that I drew, there was one part I refused to give up–the rocket anchor, which I’ve considered the most Yamato-like mecha since I was a schoolboy. They can mess with the other stuff all they want, just so long as the rocket anchor works the way I designed it to. (Laughs)

After the first series, the rocket anchor was not shown directly. How does it hang down after it is stowed, and where is the chain stored? These things were seldom considered. That’s such a waste, so I suggested to Direcor Izubuchi that we illustrate that with great vigor. When I watched the floating continent episode in Chapter 2, there was a scene of the huge chain flowing with great momentum outside the window of the control room. Although it lasts for just a few frames. (Laughs)

I also came up with the gimmick of it changing shape on the design drawing of the anchor’s main body, and the need for the production was recognized.

Interviewer: What’s your impression of the 1/1000 Yamato?

Tamamori: In the anime, the details of Yamato vary depending on the time they were drawn. In that way, even the most intricate places on Yamato are updated in 2199. When I call it a model, I immediately assume it is faithful to the design, but warships are always subject to repair and continued careful usage. As for this kit, granted there are places where the parts are depicted differently, so it could be a future version and I think you could enjoy interpreting the differences as something that came from repairs over time.

Explanations could spread like, “The muzzle of the Wave-Motion Gun was modified after test-firing,” or “The hull volume was increased by strengthening the ballast tank and spaced armor.” Because it’s on a voyage where it gets damaged in battle and undergoes further repairs, and the official information in the top secret Yamato Plan have not been fully disclosed, nobody knows the correct answer.

Interviewer: Finally, please state your message to our readers.

Tamamori: This is not a work with transforming or combining robots, so therefore how about positively enjoying mecha borne from reality, such as an airplane or a naval vessel? It becomes an opportunity to create interest in things that really exist. Conversely, it utilizes the model of a robot system, so I think it’s a way of enjoying mecha that can broaden your outlook on life. Yamato 2199 itself is still in its infancy, too. Building the model can also expand your field of view. I’d like to hear your feedback on this project, so please write in and show your support.

(Somewhere in Tokyo, July 2012)

The Hobby Japan Interview

Approaching the Appeal of the 2199 mecha!!

Although it departs from the atmosphere of the original, the depiction of mecha in Yamato 2199 shines brightly. For our Yamato 2199 features this time, we were able to interview Junichiro Tamamori, who was engaged in the mechanical design and layout supervision for the Earth side. How was the 2199 mecha produced? We delved into the subject of mecha detail appropriate for our magazine, and it is presented here.

A new “way of showing” was explored, different from conventional anime.

Interviewer: Please tell us about your opportunity to participate in the production of Yamato 2199.

Tamamori: My illustration work was shown on the web during the amateur era, and I had an opportunity to make the acquaintance of Yasushi Ishizu and Director Yutaka Izubuchi. The plan for 2199 arose after that, and it was about four years ago that they called out to me and I became directly involved with the production (circa 2008).

Before then, only Gundam products were sold in stores, especially plastic models, but I always thought it was strange that there was nothing from Yamato, so I asked to get involved to help enliven Yamato.

Interviewer: I heard that you and Masanori Nishii (chief mechanical director) were mainly centered on the Earth side and Mr. Ishizu and Director Izubuchi did mecha design for the Gamilas side. What is your flow for making mecha design on 2199?

Tamamori: In the beginning, I worked on Kirishima and concepts for the Earth fleet, such as Yukikaze. Kirishima was still called Okita’s battleship then. The concept was to explore a new “way of showing” that was different from conventional anime. Unlike in robot anime, there is little movement. A robot with hands and feet can strike a pose, but I had to find cool angles to depict a warship, that sort of thing.

Rather than tampering with the exterior and making a show of its eccentricities, I wanted to arrange it so it wouldn’t lose the essential atmosphere of the previous work.

Interviewer: When you designed the 2199 version of Yamato, on which parts did you place particular emphasis?

Tamamori: Because Yamato is an “important cultural asset,” the initial premise was that I could not change its design. Essentially, the design of Yamato herself solidified around the time of the 1983 film Final Yamato, and it’s been stuck that way ever since. Therefore, I started out with a reset and thought about returning to the beginning. I looked at a huge amount of material on the original Yamato, and when I started to dig up the work of the first series I felt that its essential “Yamato-ness” was not treated properly in the sequels.

Furthermore, in the history of Yamato design, there was the majestic figure of Yamato that was modernized by Katsumi Itabashi for Be Forever Yamato in 1980. While taking that into account, I traced the detailed work of Kazutaka Miyatake and Naoyuki Katoh of Studio Nue, and took into consideration the feeling of performing “reconstruction” of the image for toys and models.

Besides the shape, the color is important, too. For example, the dignified grey of the hull color has a little taste of blue. And furthermore, impressions have changed about the depth of the red on the lower hull.

This time, we wanted the 3DCG of 2199 to have the “flavor of freehand drawing,” to have the expression of a hand-painted cel. Rather than inorganic 3DCG, it was a movement to recapture the strength and weakness of the lines in the original work. The result can be seen in the 3DCG direction of Mechanic Director Nishii and Director Izubuchi.

Interviewer: It’s impressive that modern techniques were used to incorporate the atmosphere of the original Yamato mecha design.

Tamamori: The mecha of the original has a charm that’s missing from the mecha of today. Since they feel a bit lifeless, we considered the current era’s realism while trying to bring out maximum liveliness.

However, since the premise was to use 3DCG, it was necessary to carefully arrange the expression of surface and linework. I took charge of CG modeling, and since Mr. Shimizu of Sunrise D.I.D. was an industrial design graduate like me, we were able to push forward in this area on the same wavelength.

Interviewer: Other than Yamato, what other mecha design did you enjoy dealing with?

Tamamori: The Cosmo Zero, ¬ÅKirishima, and Yukikaze. I collaborated with Director Izubuchi on the Cosmo Falcon, Cosmo Seagull, and Type-100 Reconnaissance Plane. In the exchange, while working to fix the mecha’s external silhouette, for example, I felt intimidated by the veteran designers.

The Murasame design was not mine, it was 100% the work of Director Izubuchi. And I didn’t necessarily do all of Yamato. Takeshi Takakura was in charge of set design, such as the main bridge and the engine room and most of the main portions of the ship. I worked on things like the observation dome at the rear of the bridge and the control room for the rocket anchor. I think the rocket anchor is actually the most Yamato-like item. (Laughs)

There is a scene flying toward the floating continent in the third episode that uses the gimmick of the anchor and the image of the control room. The storyboard was by Shinji Higuchi, a leading authority in special effects. I was glad to see it adopted.

There is also the gimmick of Yamato‘s stabilizer wings. How were those big wings housed in the ship? We dealt with that and the details of thrusters and every other part, arranging them in a modern style.

For other parts of Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, I worked on the design of Yukikaze‘s resting place on Enceladus and a special dock for Yamato‘s construction, I did cleanup of the personnel transport vehicle designed by Junya Ishigaki, the stairs to the captain’s cabin, and even small-scale designs like the draft mark of Nanbu Heavy Industries.

Interviewer: All this “elaborate detail” has become one of the highlights. What sort of thought went into it?

Tamamori: First, I wanted to give as much purpose to each part as possible. For example, on Yukikaze the overhang of the bow has the role of armor to protect the bridge, and the central (yellow part) of Kirishima is similar. For the sake of convenience, the side was weakened by a hatch for aircraft, so the purpose of it is to protect against attacks from below.

I kept in mind the “iron and oil” smell in the atmosphere of naval vessels. Although they are carrier-based planes, the Cosmo Zero and Cosmo Falcon are “spacecraft” rather than extensions of airplanes and that was the premise of their design. For example, their wings are heat sinks and they may have the function of inertial control related to mobility. The wing has a role in atmospheric flight, too. The nose of an airplane is the shape of an antenna and has complex functions, such as aerodynamic control, communications, and sensors. I design it in detail if a particular function is needed, but I consider other parts when making it.

We started with Mr. Takakura, gave it to Gamilas mecha designer Mr. Ishizu, then to Kimitoshi Yamane, who designed the bridge interiors of Kirishima and Yukikaze. Since great designs always come up, we inspire each other, and I think it’s a good work environment. It’s come so far because there is the feeling that it’s everybody’s Yamato.

Interviewer: In the mecha on the Earth side, we see some details that are particularly evocative of the modern-day SDF.

Tamamori: We had the cooperation of the Maritime Self-Defense Force this time, including the chance for the staff to sail on a guard vessel and experience the real thing. I rode only once, and went around the entrance of Tokyo Bay.

Mr. Takakura designed small parts, like a handrail or a door. The targeting device on Kirishima that aims at Gamilas warships in the first episode was Mr. Yamane’s design. Anyway, Director Izubuchi’s obsession with bringing reality to it is shared by everyone on the staff.

There are markings on each part of the aircraft. A lot of the markings on the Cosmo Zero are in Japanese, being conscious of Japan’s former military aircraft, and markings on the Cosmo Falcon are a mix of English and Japanese since it is used by other countries. The image is divided between modern and SDF aircraft. Since they are spacecraft, there are markings you wouldn’t find on an aircraft, like “Danger: high-mobility nozzle” for example. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to touch US military planes in my hometown of Okinawa, so it helped me to develop a sense of military equipment design.

Interviewer: In our previous interview with Mr. Nishii, we heard about your idea for the fold-up storage form of the Cosmo Zero. What can you tell us about it?

Tamamori: Given the reality of a carrier-based aircraft, a fold-up mechanism has become necessary. In Yamato Resurrection, the main wings of the Type-21 Cosmo Zero were foldable, which was a mechanism not shown before. I thought about the shape of the Type-52 Cosmo Zero, and added a fulcrum to make the nose foldable in addition to the wings.

By the way, the “high-mobility nozzle” unit is a pod with a built-in thruster attached to the body, and the model sheet says that in addition to a fuel tank on the belly it improves both power and performance. It isn’t just mounted beneath the main wings, but can also be mounted on the upper surface, like the British Lightning jet fighter. The Cosmo Zero can mount them above the intakes. It can be equipped on the top or bottom, which emphasizes its image as a “spacecraft.” It can carry up to four of them. As for the fuel, we call it “Cosmo oil” as a joke. (Laughs) Liquids might not be confined to the main body of the plane. [Note: “Cosmo Oil” is an actual gas station chain in Japan.]

There are navigation lights on the wingtips, red on the left and blue on the right (which actually lights up green). The warning indicator in the canopy is an operational status display board. There are markings under the nose for the maintenance crew, and information like the number of missiles or auto-cannon shells to be installed appears in markings on the top. It enables the pilot to confirm with the maintenance crew before a sortie. This sharing of information prevents human error, and when I consulted with Director Izubuchi about it, it seemed to be useful to the production. Important information is shown in sequence, and disappears at the time of flight.

Interviewer: Such indications were given when Susumu Kodai boarded the Cosmo Zero in Episode 1. By the way, what is your favorite mecha at this particular moment?

Tamamori: Hmm, it may be Kirishima. It was a fairly simple design in the original work, so I had a hard time bringing out a solid feeling.

Interviewer: Have you built any models of Yamato mecha?

Tamamori: I built the old Bandai kits for research on the designs, and I’ve been shaving and cutting those things for a long time. But when I hit the halfway point, I can see the completed versions in my mind’s eye and get so satisfied that I never actually finish building any of them. (Laughs)

I painted the Cosmo Zero EX model silver, but it came apart while I carried it around at work. I arranged the kits to form the Earth fleet as I liked, but they remain sleeping in their boxes. But the trial and error I experienced with models of the Earth side gave me the confidence to make the most of the mecha design.

Interviewer: Finally, can I ask for your message to our readers?

Tamamori: In any event, my feelings are that I’d like for them to build their models “freely.” For example, even if it is just one color, the appearance changes as the lighting conditions change. Even when you hear that Yamato itself has been made into a kit, it’s a thing of fantasy, so if it doesn’t imitate the design documents faithfully, you can put in the work to make it your own after watching 2199. For example, the waterline of the 2199 version runs between the second and third torpedo launch tubes on the bow, and repainting it to run through the second tube is another representation of Yamato. But since I haven’t completed a model, maybe I’m not one to talk. (Laughs)

Even without being particular about completion, if you put your flesh and blood into some other expression, it still gives you valuable “model-making experience.”

Interviewer: Your time is valuable, so thank you for talking with us.

(Recorded in July at XEBEC studio, Kokubunji)

Above left: In Episodes 1, 5, and 6, the mounting locations of the high-mobility unit on the Cosmo Zero are different. Let’s confirm it on the Blu-ray. The rough image is by Mr. Tamamori. This explains the mission configuration seen in episodes 5 and 6.

Above right: The scene of Susumu Kodai and Shima Daisuke boarding the Cosmo Zero in Episode 1. You can see the operational status board which says “Warning/flight system being adjusted,” so the trouble that occurs later can be understood.

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

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