Harutoshi Fukui Interview

From the Yamato 2202 newspaper, February 24, 2017

Pressing to develop something to rival overseas dramas

Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love has “launched” at last. There are shocking developments in Chapter 1, written by Harutoshi Fukui (48) who is in charge of series composition and scripts. Mr. Fukui, who also works as a novelist, talks about 2202.

Danger and necessity. Depicting a conflicting love.

Capturing the mainstream layer

Interviewer: When you took charge of the series composition and scriptwriting, what kind of enthusiasm did you go for?

Fukui: Even if you say “Space Battleship Yamato was a social phenomenon,” the world is filled with anime now, and because it’s an age where it’s normal for adults to watch, there isn’t much that stands out. It’s hard to convey the impact of that to those who didn’t go through the old days. Farewell to Yamato was released when I was in third or fourth grade, but the amount of heat I felt then was close to the impression of Your Name now.

You might understand if it was called a boom. When you summarize the testimony of people from that period, they say, “Farewell to Yamato was a date movie.” Anime was considered “kid stuff” then, so the impact of Space Battleship Yamato was strong, and it immediately opened the door for young people. Anime stood up for years and gained citizenship, and the term “cool Japan” was born. However, even if you say it got citizenship on the surface layer, there was actually an atmosphere that anime had arrived at a closed direction. Anime of the 70s and early 80s should have had the same potential as foreign films and overseas dramas.

While working on Yamato again, my aim is to evoke the former boom by making a work that can be seen at the mainstream level. Since Farewell to Yamato brought 4 million people to theaters, there are still a lot of potential fans out there. It will be important for them to come back to the theater again, won’t it? In addition, 2202 is a sequel to 2199, so some may be concerned that they might not understand it if they haven’t seen the previous work. The hurdle is high, but I think they can clear it.

Interviewer: Please tell me how you encountered the Space Battleship Yamato series.

Fukui: My first encounter was seeing the feature film on TV. I saw it at a relative’s house where I was staying, and what surprised me was watching it together with adults. It was impossible in those days for adults to get absorbed in anime. “It’s not just me, but adults think this is interesting, too?” In fact, the sense of density was extraordinary for a two-and-a-half hour movie, and its impact was overwhelming. It could be said that the feeling of “I have to get to the movies” was imprinted by Yamato.

Interviewer: What kind of message did you get from Yamato as a child?

Fukui: It was a dialogue with the times. For example, the generation that experienced Yamato had lived through the postwar period as children thinking, “What was that war?” and I think it was a work that made them consider it again. Farewell to Yamato was set only one year later in the story, but the mood of it felt like ten years later, didn’t it? From the postwar reconstruction to the full maturation of the 80s bubble was “an unpleasant flow” and Yamato took off on a voyage again. That’s the same thing we have to face in the modern era, in the time after the great Tohoku earthquake [of 2011]. We can’t forget how to overcome that disaster, after all. We are living it out in real time. Now that we’re making 2202, Yamato cannot escape it.

Interviewer: What kind of theme emerged as you wrote the scripts?

Fukui: The subtitle “Soldiers of Love” is being used without hesitation. The depiction of love in Farewell to Yamato may seem a little different from the present feeling. For example, isn’t it like the lyrics in Kenji Sawada’s theme song From Yamato With Love symbolize? “All that matters is the one you love.” In the society we live in today, considering one-way love as being right would bring out antagonism. There is still some charm in “All that matters is the one you love.” But the result of this purity and dedication when it’s applied in another way can plunge the world into chaos.

Since this is an age in which we see endless stories on the daily news that show the “forms of antagonistic love,” I can well imagine the sense of it being fraught with an inescapable danger. That’s the form of love depicted in the last scene of Farewell. Even at that time, the danger of love appeared and disappeared. But on the other hand, when you live as a human being, love is an absolutely indispensable feeling. The theme depicts this conflicting perspective.

Interviewer: Farewell was made into the TV series, Yamato 2. Are elements included from this?

Fukui: It’s there in the title, 2202, isn’t it? This was derived when the story was set three years after the previous work, and the intention was to emphasize the “2.” In other words, it might be a remake of Yamato 2, or it might be Farewell since Soldiers of Love is attached as the subtitle. It may be, or it may not be. Please use your imagination. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Was there a point you struggled with in the script?

Fukui: I’m doing it quite freely. For example, in Mobile Suit Gundam there are concepts and a chronology that must be protecte to keep the worldview clear. If you don’t have to worry about the chronology, there is a higher degree of freedom, but there are absolutely parts that cannot be changed. It’s an image that depicts the world in the sense of a historical novel. On the other hand, Yamato seems to have a history that has not been decided yet. We can ask, “What can we do?” which is different. Everyone has a vague sense of “Yamato-ness” and I think it will take time to grasp that.

Reproducing it or changing it

Interviewer: What sorts of things did you discuss with Director Nobuyoshi Habara and the rest of the staff?

Fukui: For example, at the beginning we faithfully traced Farewell, and the question of what to change became an issue. I mean, as a former fan myself, I wanted to incorporate the visuals of Farewell everywhere. Still, a lot of staff members had the impression that “it’s changing quite a lot.” Everyone, including Director Habara, has a unique view of the work, so there is difficulty in terms of what to protect and what to change.

Interviewer: What parts became points of discussion?

Fukui: When I submitted the story proposal, there were parts that people were opposed to, and others that they were OK with. Even though Director Habara and I saw the same work, he was in the Yamato target generation and I was one generation below that, so we definitely felt differently. Finally, the breakthrough was to find a path that passed through the middle of both generations.

Interviewer: Were the basic concepts inherited from the previous work 2199?

Fukui: Since it was proposed as a continuation of 2199, the elements 2199 changed from the original series are intact. Just by inheriting them, there is a side to 2202 where some things have to change from the very beginning. Conversely, since 2199 reached a different landing point, it gave us many things we could use. It can be said that there wasn’t much trouble in making a sequel in the sense that so much material was left for us, and I think we could inherit it in a very rewarding form.

Interviewer: In the power of continuing from 2199, the position of Garmillas is quite different from the original.

Fukui: Because they haven’t been destroyed. (Laughs) On Garmillas, the Dessler regime has collapsed and the nation is restless, but they have a peace treaty with Earth. On the other hand, though the Earth side was regenerated with the Cosmo Reverse, its national power is in a depressed state. Under these circumstances, the two countries have mutual expectations in signing the peace treaty. It’s similar to the present relationship of Japan and the US, isn’t it? When US President Trump came in, it became an era when the Japan/US security treaty was thrown around as a political tool.

Interviewer: A Garmillas language appeared in 2199. Is the Gatlantis language scheduled to appear?

Fukui: When you directly confront that concept, I think it can create confusion and change your impression. For example, wasn’t it more of a threat in Farewell with Emperor Zordar saying “Earth” or “Oh, they’re going to Earth”? When the word “Terron” was said in Garmillas, I felt like that feeling faded away. It’s the same word in the Gatlantis language. In that respect, I think you can watch it without being conscious of it.

Offering a chance

Interviewer: What is a point you would like everyone to see in Chapter 1?

Fukui: I think a lot of people who will buy this newspaper are in the same generation as me. We are well past the point of middle age in our lives, and we haven’t much free time to watch or listen to things which will neither harm nor help us. For that reason, I would hope that as each person watches it in their own way, they use it as an example or as an opportunity for growth in their life. Since, as we pursue each chapter, we’re making it with the thought of “our own story is depicted here,” I think there are sections of it which feel as if I’m comparing them to myself.

Our rival is continuing overseas dramas. There’s a great momentum in the information and a sense of density that is easy to lose if you’re careless. That may be a difficult part in Chapter 1. As we continue, I’d like to make this into a title that can compete with such overseas dramas.

Interviewer: Finally, a word to the fans about what to expect.

Fukui: While I think we’re all old enough to know better, I have a feeling the build of the Yamato series audience is of the generation that feels we can’t win at the last minute. I think the feeling is that we live in a world that’s very different from the future I imagined when I was a child. That’s exactly how the world is depicted in 2202. It will become a story about how you escape from that or how you change it, so I don’t think it could ever become a waste of time. I’ll be glad if you can take a look at it.

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