Yamato 2202 used up most of the oxygen in the room with 2017 being its debut year, but there’s always room for a nod to the classic Space Battleship Yamato saga in Japanese media and certainly in fan circles. Here’s our annual roundup of things that derived from the beloved original over the last year.
Showa 40 Man vol. 41
Crete Publishing, January 11
Showa 40 Man is a magazine with a very specific focus: men who were born in the year 1965, also known in Japan as “Showa year 40.” As it happens, men of this age were the first Yamato target audience, so it should come as no surprise that this magazine would occasionally include Yamato-related coverage. They previously did so with a cover story in 2013 that lead to this article.
The cover to Volume 41 (sporting a February date) was a real eye-catcher, the first since 1978 to use the famous Farewell to Yamato movie poster. This fronted for “Our SF,” a series of articles that included some exceptional Yamato coverage. Click on the links to read these articles:
See all the Yamato pages from this magazine here.
Order a copy from Amazon Japan here.
In a related interview, editor Akira Ogasawara explained that the initial inspiration for the magazine was the tremendous nostalgia for the 2005 film Always Sunset on Third Street, which was coincidentally directed by Takashi Yamazaki (who would go on to direct the live-action Yamato). This, plus the massive wave of pop culture experienced by the generation of men born in 1965, inspired a magazine with such a specific focus. (It was launched in 2009 and still goes strong.) There was talk about similar magazines for the generation born in 1955 and for women born in 1965, but they were thought to smaller readership potential.
Yamato in particular is thought of as a “big bang” for the 1965 generation, which was exactly the right age to see it break in theaters, an environment cultivated by other hits such as Ultraman and Thunderbirds. The editor explained that the series of articles in this issue is titled “Our SF” since Yamato is considered as being of “our” generation. It was also the first and only magazine to feature “dual” covers since the front presented the 1978 Farewell poster and the back featured the “homage” version in an ad for Yamato 2202. He said that the original image is well-branded on the eyes of 1965 men, so he was glad to use it again.
When asked about the newer versions of Yamato, Ogasawara said he enjoyed both 2199 and the live-action Yamato very much, citing their obvious respect for the original material and the opportunity to see it afresh as others see it for the first time. He also re-examined the vital point that Yamato rehabilitated the image of anime as being only for children, giving rise to such personally significant works as Mobile Suit Gundam.
Showa 40 Man vol. 42
Crete Publishing, March 11
The cover topic for this issue was “Our Dark Heroes,” with profiles of twelve anime, manga, and tokusatsu characters along with some real-world personalities such as sumo and pro wrestlers. Among the fantasy candidates were Devilman, Hakkaider, Tiger Mask, and Dessler – evolving from villain to hero is what classifies him as a “dark hero.” (On a related note, anime director Rin Taro gave his thoughts on Captain Harlock.)
The Dessler profile ran four pages and can be read here.
Order a copy of the magazine from Amazon Japan here.
Kazutaka Miyatake: Mega Designer Created Mega Structures
Hobby Japan, April 28
As a founding member of Studio Nue, Kazutaka Miyatake played a huge role in the mecha design for Series 1 and Farewell to Yamato, then embarked on a long career involving Macross and other major anime titles. Several books have collected his art over the years, and this 113 page tome serves as an overview from 1972 to 2016. Only a few pieces (designs, sketches, and color paintings) are shown to represent his most prominent works since a full catalog would require several volumes, but this is a great place to get a broad view of his career. Yamato is represented by a single color painting done for Yamato Fact File in 2010.
Order this book from Amazon Japan here.
Professional Manga Techniques: The Manga of Leiji Matsumoto
Genkosha, July 31
This 142-page book is an excellent resource for classic Matsumoto art from the 60s and 70s, collecting many color paintings done for posters, manga, and other special projects. Yamato is represented alongside his other major titles, and dozens of pieces are analyzed for their technique. Also included is a rare episode of his Sexaroid manga and a reprint of a booklet on manga techniques by Matsumoto himself.
Order it from Amazon Japan here.
How to Draw SF Mecha starting from Leiji Meters
Genkosha, August 4
As a companion to the book described above, this 168-page full color volume is by Leiji Matsumoto’s longtime mecha design collaborator Katsumi Itabashi. It provides step-by-step instruction of his process for creating elaborate mecha at all scales from control panels to gigantic space stations. Most of the subjects are original Itabashi creations, but Matsumoto’s Galaxy Express is included. The name of the book derives from the famous “Leiji Meters,” those impossibly complex gauges that populate his SF manga. If you ever wanted to draw one yourself, this is the book you’ve been waiting for.
Order it from Amazon Japan here.
The Movie Art of Syd Mead, Visual Futurist
Titan Books, September 19 2017
This amazing 256-page collection spans Syd Mead’s cinematic work from Star Trek the Motion Picture all the way to Blade Runner 2049, which is reason enough for it to land on any SF fan’s bookshelf. But there’s another reason for it to land on a Yamato fan’s bookshelf: 8 pages devoted to Yamato 2520.
Order it from Amazon here.
Here is the text from this section of the book:
Yamato 2520: Masters of Anime
The passionate, mythic images created by Mead for the revival of the legendary Japanese anime series reflect his fascination with the culture of anime and the all-encompassing world of the fabled battleship. Here was an opportunity to work closely with the masters of the medium, who Mead came to admire, and to forge a true creative partnership with the storytellers, animators, and voices that were to bring the story to life.
Mead, already a near-deity in Japan, was invited to give form to a successor ship to the venerable Yamato which, much like the starship Enterprise, had become an icon of the series with fetish-finished models, interpretive text, and posters depicting it in constant demand.
As Mead explains, he was both honored and somewhat awed by the challenge. He explains. “The design had to embody the mystique of the original story ship destined by venerable animation guru [Leiji] Matsumoto. Design for the new Yamato 2520 went way beyond any movie project I have worked on… [it] was an elaborately-funded and elaborately-staged design tour de force stretching over many years.”
The medium of anime, unlike live film, is a graphic artist’s medium, revealing in image after lingering image the precision of Mead’s designs, unadulterated for the most part by the vageries of motion and lighting that so often consign intricately-designed props to fleeting impressions.
The cosmic sweep of the compositions for Yamato 2520 permeates space, time, and even tranquil, Earth-bound environments, endowing each image with an epic stature fitting the legacy of the original series.
They are among the most compelling of Mead’s long career, imbued with the gravitas of pure geometry as pure energy arches into the infinite reaches of outer space, as well as in the green-edged pools of Earth’s surface.
The Truth of Space Battleship Yamato
Shodensha, October 2
This 224-page paperback book by Series 1 writer Aritsune Toyota documents the genesis of the story from earliest concepts through to broadcast. It is described as “the hidden story of the huge hit work revealed through priceless records and testimony.” Since it is 100% text, it will have to wait for future translation.
Order it from Amazon Japan here.
Meanwhile, you can learn much from our Yamato Origins series right here at Cosmo DNA.
Showa 40 Man vol. 46
Crete Publishing, November 10
The headline article in this issue was titled “The Men You Can Rely On.” Similar to the “Dark Hero” coverage, it examined the elder male heroes of anime, manga, and real life. It included profiles on Condor Joe from Gatchaman, Jigen from Lupin III, characters from Star of the Giants, Kamen Rider, Getter Robo, and more. (Even Brian May of Queen got a nod.)
The Yamato character in this lineup was science whiz Shiro Sanada. His article can be read here.
Order a copy of the magazine here.
Leiji Matsumoto manga announcements
Dual announcements in November riveted the attention of Yamato fans around the world.
First, Fukkan publishing (Japan) announced a new hardcover edition of Leiji Matsumoto’s original Yamato manga for January 2018. It will collect his original story (based on Series 1) with all color pages intact and with rare production sketches and related illustrations done for various publications from the same time frame, some never reprinted until now. The spinoff manga Eternal Story of Jura will also be included.
Order it from Amazon Japan here.
Matsumoto’s Yamato manga has basically been in print for its entire life, so the announcement of a new Japanese edition was to be expected. But far more surprising was the near-simultaneous of the first-ever English edition, promised for October 2018 from Seven Seas Entertainment. (Who are also publishing Space Pirate Captain Harlock.)
See the official announcement here.
The Man Who Made Space Battleship Yamato ~ The Madness of Yoshinobu Nishizaki
Kodansha, December 21
First published in September 2015, this warts-and-all biography co-written by one of Nishizaki’s former employees was republished in a smaller-format paperback with a higher page count. The “Plus Alpha” designation indicates new material, in this case testimonies by 2199 director Yutaka Izubuchi and live-action Yamato director Takashi Yamazaki.
The book is all-text, which may not appeal to casual fans. It will become a subject for translation here after it goes out of print in Japan.
Order it from Amazon Japan here.
Leiji Future 2017 (the first)
Tokyo, January 21
Leiji Future is an annual one-day event that brings Leiji Matsumoto together with fans (some in costume) and professional colleagues alike to discuss his life, career, and current projects. Usually held at the end of a year, 2017 saw two such events with one in January and the other at its usual time. The venue was Tokyo Culture Culture, a club-style restaurant located in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Matsumoto opened the January event by saying, “As someone who draws things, I am very happy to see you.” The first part of the day is all about drawing. Matsumoto takes character requests from fans (who qualified via lottery) and everyone can watch him draw in a projected image. Meanwhile, fans can browse the booths of vendors and exhibitors selling or promoting related products.
For the first time, a “mini live” concert was held during the midday break. A technopop trio named Cupitron performed a cover of the ,em>Galaxy Express 999 theme song in costume. Following them was a singer named NoB who performed Infinity, the theme to Captain Harlock Dimension Voyage.
The second half of the day centered on a talk show titled “Adult Otaku Leiji Matsumoto, 60 turbulent years of life as a creator ~ Subculture backtalk 9” (being the ninth such event). Since his 79th birthday was just four days away, the members of Cupitron opened by presented him with a birthday cake.
When it was revealed that one of the guests did a great impression of voice actor Goro Naya (quoting a line from Kamen Rider) he was asked to do his best Captain Okita and ordered everyone to prepare for firing the Wave-Motion Gun. Applause.
Masato Hayase, one of the manga artists on the panel, asked Matsumoto where he came up with the idea to present manga narratives in the form of scrolls. He replied that he wanted to make a reader feel as if he were being handed a written letter with secrets from the heart of the writer. Ms. Yuzuru Shimazaki, who was drawing a serialized Gun Frontier reboot for Champion Red magazine, observed that the original strip didn’t yet use the scroll motif, but she applies it to “the story so far” text. Matsumoto observed what a rare thing it is for a woman to interpret one of his works, and he was looking forward to it in print.
Aritsune Toyota, one of the writers of the original Yamato series, was on hand to talk about the hard ratings battle that was fought against Heidi Girl of the Alps on another channel. Yamato wasn’t the only victim; the live-action Monkey Army was also hit hard.
“Yamato was cancelled,” Matsumoto said, “but conversely it was a fortunate thing since it was able to become something else.”
Toyota added that it is healthy for creative people not to work in isolation, since collaborating with others allows one to forge relationships that can lead to the next job. Everyone was excited to hear that he was about three-quarters finished writing a book called The Truth of Space Battleship Yamato (to be published later in the year).
Matsumoto closed by repeating his long-held credo about all of his stories being connected, and his continued intention to close the loop. “When I finish it will be the end of my life, and I don’t want to rush it but I’m nearly 80 years old so I want to do my best.”
Yamato Resurrection screening
Yokohama, February 5-11
Resurrection was resurrected for seven days in Yokohama when special screenings took place at the the Cinema Novecento theater. With only 28 seats, it truly lives up to the category of “art house.” Fans got a free water bottle with their ticket.
There was also some celebrity support; animation director/character designer Tomonori Kogawa gave a talk on opening day and original sound designer Mitsuru Kashiwabara took the stage on the closing day. Fans could get autographs from each guest and pay an extra fee to socialize with them after the film.
Photo of the lounge area tweeted by cinema1900.
NHK TV special on Yu Aku
Yu Aku (1937-2007) was a writer, poet and lyricist who penned the words to almost every song in the classic Yamato saga, including the timeless main theme. NHK, Japan’s equivalent of PBS, broadcast a documentary special on his life in February, and Twitter quickly lit up with scenes of a truly inspired moment from the show: original Yamato vocalist Isao Sasaki performing the theme in front of the giant 1/10 model that is the centerpiece of the Battleship Yamato Museum in Kure, Japan.
See a video clip of the performance here.
Read our tribute to Yu Aku here.
Junko Yagami in concert
Tokyo, July 8
Songstress Junko Yagami crossed paths with Yamato in 1983 when she performed the closing ballad Love Supreme for Final Yamato, and it has been a concert standard for her ever since. She delivered it again in a Tokyo concert in July.
Photos posted on Twitter by Sukupon 0601.
The World of Manga Legend Leiji Matsumoto
Imabashi, September 2 – October 22
Matsumoto reached his 60th year as a professional artist in 2017, and one commemorative event could be found at the Toyohashi Art Museum in Imabashi. He appeared in person to cut the ribbon for the opening ceremony, at which he said, “Art is not something painted by a machine, but made from the heart.” He gave 80 fans a guided tour of the exhibition and followed with a lecture in which he cited outer space and classical music as chief inspirations.
Another Matsumoto exhibition was installed at an Iwataya department store in Fukuoka Prefecture from November 1-6, named Leiji Matsumoto Galactic World Exhibition ~ Bringing dreams and romance together
Photo posted on Twitter by fwks7841.
Leiji Future 2017 (the second)
Tokyo, December 3
The event that started the year also closed it when the 12th Leiji Future returned to Tokyo Culture Culture in Shibuya. Matsumoto opened this time by saying that despite the approach of his 80th birthday in January, he was still “running wild and working hard.”
The first half of the day consisted again of drawings done by request. Harlock, Emeraldas, and Maetel cosplayers were on hand to mingle and provide fans with photo ops.
Soul singer Aya Shoul took the stage for the “mini-live” concert, performing an original song called Dynamite, a cover of the Galaxy Express TV series theme song, a song titled A Letter set to poetry about war losses, and one more titled Andromeda that was derived from the Matsumoto manga Sexaroid.
Something very unusual came up next: a 50-year old commercial for a lamp made by Toshiba that featured animation of a Matsumoto manga character named Lightspeed Esper from 1967. This was followed by an unaired episode from the second season of Galaxy Railways, introduced by the producers.
The talk show opened with a surprise guest. Longtime colleague and voice actor Keiko Han (who did the voice of Sasha in Be Forever and has appeared at most of these events) introduced her daughter Megumi, also a voice actor, who was the first to wish Matsumoto a happy birthday.
Aritsune Toyota had returned to discuss his newly-published book, The Truth of Space Battleship Yamato. It was revealed that Matsumoto’s earliest design drawings were unearthed during the research phase of the book, which puts together all the previously-unknown puzzle pieces to examine the making of the series.
When asked to describe one of his original ideas for Yamato, Matsumoto mentioned reading about the discovery of gravity waves approaching our galaxy from Andromeda. They will not endanger Earth, but the damage is potentially catstrophic for any planet in their path. This is where he got the idea for the Wave-Motion Engine and Wave-Motion Gun. It was his ship-drawing hobby that produced the hydrodynamic “bulbous bow” design. Freestyle drawing of such subjects was his particular “mania” at the time.
Talk turned to the battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster, and one of the panelists was eager to ask a question: was it Sanada’s technology or Okita’s strategy that lead to reversing the drill missile to crash into the enemy? Matsumoto said it didn’t matter, since reversing the rotation of the drill wasn’t meant to be a counterattack. Laughter.
After some more conversation, Matsumoto closed by saying, “It was Mr. Nishizaki who gave me the opportunity to enter the animation world. If he hadn’t, my chance would have taken much longer. I sincerely appreciate it.”
Friend-of-the-website Gwyn Campbell attended the event and posted this photo on Twitter with the following caption: At today’s Leiji Future event, Yuzuru Shimazaki announced she would be doing a new Galaxy Express 999 manga. Titled Galaxy Express 999: Ultimate Journey, it will be serialized in Champion Red magazine from March. Yuzuru Shimazaki also did the Gun Frontier 1-shot manga reboot.
See Gwyn’s photos and find his podcast about the event here.
Aloha Band Wind Orchestra concert
This wasn’t a 2017 event, but its promotion in December brought to light the interesting history of this band. Their January 8 concert included an encore performance of Yamato themes they previously performed in 2013. Back then, they fully committed themselves with Yamato cosplay and on-stage antics involving a sinister-looking Dessler.
Promo image posted on Twitter by Akira Hoshi
Stage photo posted by Kiss Press
Leiji Matsumoto art prints
Broad Expert Co., February 16
Matsumoto teamed up with Broad Expert to create an inspired new series of art prints that reimagined his characters in classical Japanese art styles. An online article at IT Media described them thus:
The world of Leiji Matsumoto in Ukiyo-e! Novel artwork of Maetel, Harlock, and Yamato‘s crew as Shinsengumi. Foreigners also smile at this.
Images from SF manga master Leiji Matsumoto’s popular works Galaxy Express 999, Space Pirate Captain Harlock and others will be reproduced in woodblock print scenes in the Leiji Matsumoto Ukiyo-e Collection. The highlight is an expansive fusion of classic Edo art and space science fiction. Is it too bold to rearrange the Yamato crew as Edo-era Shinsengumi?
Under the full supervision of Mr. Matsumoto, this collaboration used the traditional print technique of “handrail woodcut” by the Hirotaka Group, which worked on the Lupin III Ukiyo-e series. The finished work transcends the world of manga with beautiful calligraphy. Each piece is limited to 1,000 copies and is priced from 95,000 yen (around $900). Horizontal pieces are 14.5″ wide by 10″ tall, and verticals are 7.5″ wide by 14.5″ tall
See the original article here.
Yamato Crew trading cards
Yamato Crew is the go-to website for Japanese fans wanting to buy products directly from the home office (they don’t ship outside Japan, sorry), and it’s the origin point for trading cards dedicated to 2199 and 2202. In March they published this limited set of 8 cards hitting on all the original films that culminated with Resurrection and 2199.
Two new sheet music publications arrived in 2017, both of which can be put to use by any competent musicians anywhere in the world to bring the Yamato spark to life.
The first was New Sounds in Brass: Yamato highlights from Yamaha Music Media (April 26), a medley of scores arranged for a full wind orchestra. Order it here.
The second was a composition for the Yamato theme arranged for a 4-part chorus with piano accompaniment from Winds Score (July 3). It includes a CD of the finished performance. Order it here.
Best Tune Takamiy
Universal Music, August 24
Toshihiko “Takamiy” Takamizawa performs lead guitar and vocals for Japanese rock group The Alfee. Launched the same year as Yamato, their paths crossed when The Alfee recorded two songs for Yamato Resurrection in 2009. Prior to that, Takamiy had adopted 1978’s From Yamato With Love as one of his signature tunes. This CD brings his best-known solo hits together. The 2-disc version includes a live performance of the song from 2016.
Order it from Amazon Japan here.
Tracking the Pros
Nobuhiro Okaseko art at Yahoo Japan
Mr. Okaseko is not well-known for his Yamato contribution, but it was a vital one: he served as the character designer of the original 1974 series, the first to capture the Leiji Matsumoto style for animation. Seemingly out of nowhere, this original signed illustration by Okaseko turned up for auction at Yahoo Japan.
Nobuyoshi Habara on Twitter
Yamato 2202 Director Habara shared this image from his archive, describing it as something he drew just after he was hired to work on Yamato Resurrection (in 2008/2009). The background was borrowed from Final Yamato.
Visit Mr. Habara’s Twitter page here.
Keisuke Masunaga on Twitter
Keisuke Masunaga made an unforgettable impression on Yamato fans when he redesigned characters and directed animation for the Playstation games in 1999 and onward. This recent photo of him and his drawing of Yuki Mori was posted on Twitter by OGGI Pictures.
Read a 2000 interview with Masunaga here
Twitter (and other social media platforms) were great places to look for fan art devoted to 2202, but it was not unusual to find tributes to vintage designs as well. Many of these appeared in our 2202 reports, but now all the vintage is gathered in one place.
The newest and latest 2202 model kits have added new subjects for Yamato modelers to sink their teeth into, but countless vintage models and garage kits remain in circulation and still get plenty of attention.
See a gallery of modeling from 2017 here.
The New Voyage with CG footage
By “FGT 2199”
3DCG modeling is another way to go if you want to express your inspiration, and many fans have done just that. This effort is of particular note, since it grabs onto a specific part of Yamato history and enhances it in an enjoyable way.
Theater display in Hakata, Kyushu
One of the most remote of the 15 theaters showing Yamato 2202 Chapter 1 was the T-Joy in Hakata city, located in Kyushu at the far southern end of the country. Local fans carried the banner loud and proud when they loaned their vintage collectibles to the theater for a display.
These photos were posted to Twitter by Yyboueki.
The first issue of Animage in the summer of 1978 came with a striking Yamato cover (which has never appeared elsewhere, incidentally). Twitter user Uhyon wondered what the results might be if today’s Animage editors decided to acknowledge that.
This was a fascinating bit of pop-culture crossover. Twitter user Zero5120 spotted a very familiar-looking prop in the Orion, a ship used in the super-sentai TV series Kyuranger. You could fault the program for not coming up with their own design, but on the other hand it means that this chair actually exists on our planet and can actually be sat in.
See Youtube clips of Kyuranger here.
Cosmo Gun discovery
The existence of a 1978 vintage Cosmo Gun from Nomura Toy Company was already known to us, but Twitter user Yukesnpl reminded the world that it was later repurposed by another company named Rideko into a “laser gun” from Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s 1979 Blue Noah anime series. Unsurprisingly, the handguns that actually appeared in Blue Noah looked nothing like it.
Action figure mashup
When SH Figuarts released a new (and very posable) Yuki figure, Twitter user NS-Z recognized that she was perfectly scaled to Nomura’s vintage soft vinyl Kodai figure from 1978 and thought a reunion was in order.
Vintage SF magazines
With all the renewed visibility for the Comet Empire in 2017, it came to pass that some observers found visual links to the pulp era of science fiction in these two magazine covers. These were posted by Twitter user K Yasky.
It should also not escape anyone’s notice that another such link can be made to a movie that appeared one year before Farewell to Yamato. In the interview published in January’s issue of Showa 40 Man, mecha designer Kazutaka Miyatake finally revealed that the mothership from Close Encounters gave him the inspiration for the half-sphere shape with a city on top.
Once in a great while, Twitter users will pull up photographic evidence of classic Yamato history. Above left: a shot of the overnight campout for Farewell to Yamato in August 1978. It was posted by Odanii 0414, who quotes the location as the Shibuya Cultural Center, which was used as a waiting area. The size of the crowd prompted the local theater to start the first screening at 4:30am.
Above right: A poster for Leji Matsumoto SF Anime World, a festival that went on for six weeks in the summer of 1979. Films and TV shows were screened in theaters at the Toyohashi Sports Center in Nagoya, which also offered ice skating. Products were displayed and special events came and went. Posted on Twitter by Grifter 10271.
Posted by the same Twitter user was this ad for an earlier anime product fair (August 1979) that went on for nearly two weeks at Discport, a record shop inside Seibu Department Store in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Above right: It’s sobering to be reminded that for every bit of the past that has been captured for posterity, other things may be lost forever. One example: a TV appearance by Yoshinobu Nishizaki that predated mass-market home video and is now exceedingly rare. This still from an August 1978 “Summer Vacation Special Program” on the first Yamato movie were posted on Twitter in August by Jonathan Factory.
Sportswear company Pearl Izumi released a line of Yamato bicycle shirts back in August 2012. These two were rediscovered and posted on Twitter by Mat Hama.
The Nova Show
Alexandra Amrine, who has endeared herself to the Yamato/Star Blazers community with her enthusiastic and spot-on Nova cosplay, crossed over into “superfan” status when she started her own Youtube Vlog dedicated to all things Yamato/Star Blazers. New episodes debut (sort of) weekly and carry the conversation in multiple directions.
Without a doubt, the weirdest Yamato cosplay of the year was committed by this gentleman, who uses the Twitter handle Koullman20. The only fitting comment for it is…