Space Battleship Yamato Novelizations

Above: 2-Volume First Edition

Author: Arashi Isuzu
Publisher: Asahi Sonorama

Volume 1: The Fall of Earth published December 20, 1974
Volume 2: The Revival of Earth published February 3, 1975
Hardcover, black & white illustrations interspersed with text

Left: ‘SF Novel’ Edition

Author: Arashi Isuzu
Publisher: Asahi Sonorama
Softcover, published November 10, 1975

320 pages, black & white illustrations interspersed with text

Collected edition of the two Hardcovers. Click here to see a complete gallery of the interior illustrations.

See a detailed review of this edition below.
Click here to read the novel translated.

3-Volume Hardcover Edition

Author: Yoshinobu Nishizaki
Publisher: Asahi Sonorama

Volume 1: Launch Volume published July 20, 1977
Volume 2: Struggle Volume published August 1, 1977
Volume 3: Restoration Volume published August 10, 1977

192 pages each, color and black & white stills interspersed with text

Volumes 2 and 3 of the Taiwanese edition

3-Volume ‘SF Novel’ Edition

Author: Yoshinobu Nishizaki | Publisher: Asahi Sonorama

Volume 1: Launch Volume (240 pages) published July 20, 1977
Volume 2: Struggle Volume (240 pages) published August 1, 1977
Volume 3: Restoration Volume (256 pages) published August 10, 1977

Softcover, 32 pages of color stills in each volume
Text is identical to the 3-volume Hardcover Edition

3-Volume ‘Complete Works’ Edition

Author: Yoshinobu Nishizaki | Publisher: Asahi Sonorama
All published August 1, 1980

Softcover, 192 pages each

Color stills interspersed with text
Text is identical to 3-volume Hardcover Edition

Juvenile Hardcover Edition

Author: Michiru Maki
Publisher: Shueisha

Published October 30, 1978

96 pages; color and black & white stills interspersed with text

Monkey Library Edition

Author: Kiyoshi Miura
Publisher: Shueisha

Softcover, October 30, 1978

176 pages, including 32 pages of color stills
Black & white stills and animator’s drawings interspersed with text.
Shueisha’s Fanfan Library Edition (not shown) is an identical edition with a variant dustjacket

Cobalt Library Edition

Author: Ken Wakasaki
Publisher: Shueisha

Softcover, September 20, 1978

272 pages; black & white stills interspersed with text

‘Hot Blood’ Edition

Author: Hitomi Takagaki
Publisher: Office Academy

Hardcover with slipcase, published June 21, 1979

272 pages, 2-color illustrations interspersed with text
Click here to see a complete gallery of the interior illustrations by Yutaka Ono (30 images)
See a detailed review of this edition below.

Review of the First Edition, transcribed from The World of Anime Novelize

by Naoto and Yoshito Sakai
(published by Hiroshi Spring in July 2006)

Shocking! Can you believe this image of Yamato?

At the time these novels were published, there was no such thing as a core fanbase, and things were presented in a different light. The basic story premise is the same, but some little details are different and eventually they add up to a lot.

The trauma of the backstory is more strongly reflected in the characters. To borrow a trendy expression, it could be termed “PTSD Yamato.” It’s like a parallel world with only a hint of the sweetness of the story we know. To someone who has only seen the anime version, this will be astonishing and breathtaking. I wouldn’t blame them if they chose to avert their eyes and forget the whole thing. Even the author seemed to go in that direction, but this is part of the original mythos and can’t be dismissed.

For the purposes of distinction, I’ll refer to the anime as “positive Yamato” and this novelization as “negative Yamato.” It’s hard to take this story on an emotional level, but very interesting on an intellectual one. “Negative Yamato” is divided into two parts, the Fall of Earth volume and the Revival of Earth volume. We’ll start with the first one.

At the beginning of “positive Yamato,” we see Earth close to extinction. But “negative Yamato” has much more backstory about the war with Gamilas. In the anime, little is known about the world other than Japan. But in “negative Yamato” there is much more participation from other countries in the defense of Earth. There is a greater sense of unity in the struggle to overcome this global crisis.

As in “positive Yamato,” Captain Okita is a man of great courage and conviction. Here he has a background as a physicist and was close to the parents of Mamoru and Susumu Kodai. Also, he does not have space sickness as he does in the anime. But the toll on families in this story has been heavy. This gives important meaning to what happens on Yamato and with Captain Harlock.

Yuki is the granddaughter of Japan’s prime minister. Usually calm and collected, Shima proposes to Yuki in a rare outburst of emotion that makes him seem even more hot-tempered than Kodai. Having already fallen in love with Kodai, she gently refuses and Shima is called away to join in a fighter sortie.

One of Yamato‘s destinations is the Planet Bolzon. This is the goal of Sasuke Sanada, who is roughly equivalent to Shiro Sanada [Sandor]. And is there a spy on board? The Captain and Kodai we know would be able to sniff out such a criminal. Also, the Kodai and Shima we know had a strong friendship, punctuated by occasional arguments, until it was ended in Final Yamato. But this story is 180 degrees the other way, with their friendship being miserably destroyed by their romantic rivalry. On the other hand, this is an unavoidable real-life obstacle that is interesting to watch.

The characters are wounded in body and heart, and carry lonely scars. According to the words of Leiji Matsumoto, Captain Harlock was always meant to be the third main character, and this is evident in his early works. Though he has filled diverse roles, Harlock was consistently a brave and noble person in search of freedom. He was intended to be the mysterious benefactor of Yamato, who appeared in moments of crisis to aid the ship. As most fans know, he was actually Mamoru Kodai, who seemed to have died at the beginning of the story. Although he didn’t appear in the anime, this story has been borne out in the manga versions, and it happens here as well.

The author, Arashi Ishuzu, acknowledges Matsumoto in his afterword as the creator of Harlock. His ship is called the Phantom and he is always ready to spring from the shadows to help Yamato. He also has the scar and eyepatch, but it’s his unexpected connection to Captain Okita that gets special attention. His last words to Kodai are touching and heartfelt.

The two major supporting characters, Starsha and Dessler, are also different in “negative Yamato.” In the anime, Dessler starts out as a hateful villain, but gradually comes to respect and befriend Yamato. But there’s no room for this to happen in “negative Yamato.” He’s a thoroughly ruthless dictator with no sign of warmth. (And when the Gamilas pilot is captured, there’s no happy ending. He dies cursing the people of Earth.) Starsha appears to be loving and benevolent, but there’s a surprising condition and an astonishing entanglement with Dessler. She is somewhat ambivalent about the severe fate of Yamato and the distress of the crew.

There is a third power in this version of the story, the king of the Planet Bolzon. Though similar to Earth, its people refused to develop machine technology and rely instead on spiritual energy. They are the ones who convince Dessler to give up on his war of aggression, similar to the people of Planet Shalbart in Yamato III. Bolzon presents a Utopian ideal for which the people of Earth should strive.

The way Earth is revived at the end is quite heroic, as opposed to the simple activation of the Cosmo Cleaner D. I’ll refrain from giving it away, but it’s a great twist that changes Earth and mankind from their very foundations. Given the habit of humans to repeat their mistakes throughout history, it’s a bit ironic and sort of a cautionary tale for our age. My feeling that Kodai and Yuki would fulfill the role of Adam and Eve was misplaced, and instead I’m left more with the impression of Pandora’s Box.

The author, Arashi Ishizu, was a member of the Mystery Writers of Japan. Even though this novel departs from the story of “positive Yamato,” there’s a certain charm in its freedom of expression. Dr. Sado and Analyzer are absent, there are no great sacrifices on the part of the crew, and the Wave-Motion Gun is fired by unseen characters. Doubtless many fans will reject “negative Yamato” for all these reasons, but it’s still part of the history and we can’t simply dismiss it.

It’s fascinating now, over 30 years later, to re-examine the early origins of Yamato.

Space Battleship Yamato “Hot Blood” Novel

Postscript by Author Hitomi Takagaki, November 1978

I was once asked a question at a broadcast station. “What would you think of seeing your work adapted for TV?” That was interesting. What would happen? Who would do it? I would watch with surprise. Though I would receive a slim package in the mail containing a royalty, would my writing have lost some of its honor? If it was a live program, the station might have trouble with it.

You who see this “Hot Blood” novel and also watched the anime may harbor some suspicion. But it’s the same relationship a stage play would have to a movie. There’s a fundamental difference between the fleeting image on a screen and an idea that comes into my head which must be written as literature. There’s a basic difference in the depth of their content; with TV there isn’t room to let one’s thoughts and imagination go to work. At first glance, the “Hot Blood” Yamato novel might seem this way, but the theme at the core of both versions has the same depth.

I was born and raised near the Seto sea, which was thick with sailors from the Kure port and the naval academy. As a 5th and 6th grader, I gave my rapt attention to the “Undersea Warship” adventure novels by Shunro Oshikawa, and I treasured photo albums and magazines about the old-world navy. I can still picture my model of Yamato, the world’s strongest battleship, sitting on my desk in the morning. Yamato‘s powerful armament and efficient performance were matched by the nobility, elegance and dignity of its form, the culmination of an artistic masterpiece. There was an interview with Yoshinobu Nishizaki, who created the smash hit Yamato anime at Office Academy in Kudanshita, Tokyo; he loved the Battleship Yamato just as I did.

I never had much taste for anime, and even though Yamato was a big hit, I did not see it because of a foreboding that it would interfere with my memories of the battleship. Young people were all excited about it, but there was a big difference in their age and mine, like parents and children in a house divided.

It was said in that interview that the goal was for the transient visual presentation of Yamato to eventually be seen as a literary work. Film and television were always their own experience to me, and there is always the problem of a writer’s pride when it comes to adapting them into literature. I didn’t think I needed to see the anime.

“Please reply after seeing this,” said the note that came with a package of videotapes and the scripts for 26 episodes. It was a huge labor for me, watching them and comparing them with the scripts day after day. But gradually, it caught my interest. Generally, I found anime to be rather absurd and silly at its best, clumsy and stupid at its worst. It had no connection for me. The things I look for, beauty, love, spiritual strength; all these things were lost. It’s rare to find recent works with depth. Which is why Yamato‘s unprecedented success is not accidental at all.

I must admit, I’m a strange and difficult person, and this was the first time I have adapted someone else’s story into literature. The anime version was bound to its own limitations but has an essential beauty that I was not fully able to express in words to my satisfaction. In the intense heat of August, I started writing and filled 350 pages at a stretch. In September I did a rewrite that came to 370 pages. I found myself charmed by the splendid purity and spiritual strength of the so-called “Nishizaki Yamato,” and it carried my pen through all 720 pages.

What do these two versions of Yamato try to give you?

Yoshinobu Nishizaki is an ambitious author in a time of economic supremacy, showing us that the human spirit is greater than the material nature of modern society. The sons of Captain Okita have engraved love and strength on the minds of the younger generation.

Perhaps anime is good nourishment for the young.

Review of the ‘Hot Blood’ Edition
transcribed from The World of Anime Novelize

by Naoto and Yoshito Sakai (published by Hiroshi Spring in July 2006)

The key to victory is spiritual strength!
Learn about
Yamato from the great master of juvenile fiction!

The pinnacle of Japanese animation: Yamato. Animators, modelers, and military maniacs alike are all connected by this masterpiece.

Even without reading this book, only an unpatriotic person would be unaware of Yamato. However, few people know of Takagaki, the great master of adventure novels for boys, who wrote this novel. He was born in Hiroshima in 1898, and published his first story in 1919, Biography of a boy’s swimsuit. He gained great popularity with Eyes of the Leopard in 1927 and The Black Hood in 1935, and illustrations from these books have been exhibited in galleries. Nishizaki asked him to write a novelization at the peak of “Yamato Fever,” and what he says in his postscript is tremendous.

It generally starts out the same as the TV series. The “Bee Planet” and “homesick Aihara” episodes were eliminated at Takagaki’s whim, but the rest is very close to the TV version. Additionally, there is no change of names or characterization, but several crew members do not appear, such as Ota, Nanbu, Analyzer, and Kato & Yamamoto of the Black Tiger squadron. Shima is given the title of aviator, Sanada is called the chief engineer, and it is the intention of Captain Okita that all the main crewmembers be youths.

Starsha and Sasha are there on the Iscandar side, Dessler is the cool-headed leader of the Gamilas, and General Domel is also portrayed as on TV. An original character named Johan makes a small appearance. As a captive of Gamilas, he interprets their language to Yamato. Dessler is a potential suitor for Starsha and propositions her even though he already has 58 wives!

As I said before, the content is not very different from the TV series, but in the hands of Takagaki it becomes a pre-war era “hot blooded adventure novel!” Let’s look at the some of the chapter titles for examples:

Charge–the Invincible Battleship Yamato
The Spiritual Strength of Humans Eliminates the Mines
Three Young People in the Spring Breeze
All on Yamato are United
The Revival of Mori Yuki

I think this communicates the atmosphere of the book, more or less.

Terms like “full speed” are used; a megaphone is a “speaking tube,” an electromagnetic wave net is a “barrier net.” It reads like a pre-war novel, and it’s irresistible. The author frequently uses terms I don’t even know. It would probably make a great impression on a fan of the imperial navy, showing the indomitable spirit of Yamato breaking the hand of the Gamilas. We know about hot-bloodedness around here, too.

The original battleship is referred to in the formal, historical form of “Yamato” until Captain Okita revives it in the future, and maintains the great sense of pride people once had in the vessel. Takagaki admits that the original warship is his favorite, and it’s comforting to see that such an enthusiast believes it would be powerful enough to make the difficult trip to Iscandar.

Incidentally, Takagaki hadn’t seen much anime before Yamato, but praises it highly after watching the TV series and reading the scripts, saying that it’s “good nourishment for the young.”

Below: This imaginative nautical space map illustrated by Mitsuru Akiyama appeared on the book’s dustjacket and as an interior foldout. Yamato‘s path through various recognizable obstacles is denoted by the blue line. See a translated version of the map here.

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