The Space Battleship Yamato Theme

The opening theme song was rendered in three different variants, two for broadcast and one for commercial record release. The two meant for broadcast can be referred to as the slow version (starting with an acapella chorus) and the fast version (something like a march). A third version was refined after the TV broadcast to become the overture for the 1977 Space Battleship Yamato feature film. The ending theme, The Scarlet Scarf, had its chorus line removed at this time as well.

(For those keeping count, episodes 22 and 26 had no opening title.)

In all versions, Hiroshi Miyagawa is credited for the composition, Yu Aku is credited for the lyrics, and Isao Sasaki is credited as the vocalist. (All pictured here from left to right.) Kazuko Kawashima, the female singer heard in Endless Expanse of Outer Space, performed the backing vocal, but was not credited. There are two other names that appear on separate releases of the song: Musical Academy and Royal Knights.

Musical Academy was simply the name of Office Academy’s music department. ‘Royal Knights’ was the temporary name given to the chorus, which was brought together only for this project. Their contribution was diminished throughout the various remixes, then restored from original master tapes in a later compilation LP called The World of Leiji Matsumoto. Released by Nippon Columbia in January 1979, it collected the themes of various Matsumoto anime programs onto a single album. This included both the Yamato Theme and The Scarlet Scarf, remixed from original master tapes and upgraded to full stereo.

Adding further wrinkles to the story, the opening theme was remixed for the Yamato 2 TV series and again for Yamato III, which added a newly-recorded chorus line. These would be made commercially available in subsequent years, and the very first “slow” version would eventually appear as a “TV Size” bonus track on the 2005 CD Yamato the Best II. Isao Sasaki would be called upon at various times to re-record the theme, starting with Yamato ’83 to commemorate Final Yamato, and most recently for a 2008 pachinko game.

The last bit of trivia concerning the opening theme is the existence of an NG (“No Good” in film-production jargon) version that was recorded before Isao Sasaki arrived on the scene. It was only ever attached to a forgotten workprint of episode 1 that surfaced sometime during the 1980s and found its way onto Emotion’s DVD box set of the first series. The identity of the singer is unconfirmed, but to some ears it sounds like Hiroshi Miyagawa himself doing a demo. Another suspect is a now-retired vocalist named Akira Yamasaki, who was mentioned in internal memos kept by Nippon Columbia.

Complicating the matter even further, a popular singer of early 70s children’s songs named Masato Shimono was mentioned by Sasaki as an “involved party” in a 1978 interview. It doesn’t help matters that the playback speed of the NG main title is slightly faster than normal, which pitches the voice up to make it even more of a mystery. According to vocalist Mitsuko Horie, who was under contract with Columbia at the time, Masato may have sung it as part of the studio’s audition system. Either way, this performance didn’t live up to Nishizaki’s expectations and brought about the hiring of Isao Sasaki. From that day on, the Yamato Theme would be eternally his.

For many years, the only commercially available versions of both the Yamato Theme and The Scarlet Scarf were the full-length singles. Slightly more rare were the one-verse ‘TV size’ editions. All known versions of the songs (including braodcast versions) were eventually released in 1999 as part of a box set called The Music Encyclopedia of Leiji Matsumoto. This remains the only single source for the entire lineup.

Below are some of the LPs and CDs that reprinted this most famous of all anime themes over the years. The fact that this is NOT a complete representation should help to illustrate what an enormously popular song it became.

Terebi Manga Action Series
Yamato b/w Kamen Rider Amazon
EP, Nippon Columbia 1974.12.10

Terebi Manga Action Deluxe
LP, Nippon Columbia

Terebi Manga Golden Album
LP, Nippon Columbia

Terebi Manga Action Deluxe
LP, Nippon Columbia

Golden Terebi Manga
Big Hit Song 17
LP, Nippon Columbia

Terebi Manga Main Title
Song Walk
LP, Nippon Columbia

Best Hit Animation Series
Yamato b/w Triton of the Sea
EP, Nippon Columbia

Terebi Anime best 10
Main title theme Collection
Mini-LP, Asahi Sonorama

Terebi Anime best 10
Main title theme Collection
Mini-LP, Asahi Sonorama

Hit Song Big 8
Ace Puppy Series Mini-LP
Asahi Sonorama, 1977

Terebi Animation
Dynamic March
LP, Nippon Columbia

Golden Puppy Series:
Yamato, Kamen Rider
Amazon, Great Mazinger,
Monkey Army
EP, Asahi Sonorama 1977

Anime Request Best 28
LP, Nippon Columbia

New Screen Themes
Best Album
LP, Unknown Label
Circa 1978

Anime Best Hit 20
Cassette, Nippon Columbia

World of Leiji Matsumoto
LP, Nippon Columbia

TV Manga Hit Parade 24
LP, Nippon Columbia

Terebi Manga on Parade
LP, Nippon Columbia
Circa 1977

Popular Anime 10 Song Collection
LP, Sonorama
Circa 1978

SF Animation & Movie
Super Library
Double LP, Nippon Columbia
Circa 1978

Animation Movie Theme Song
Best Collection
Nippon Columbia, 1980

Fantastic Animation 24
LP, Nippon Columbia

Leiji Matsumoto
World of SF Roman
Double LP, Nippon Columbia

Terebi Manga Best Collection
Series #7
Yamato b/w Triton of the Sea
EP, Nippon Columbia 1981.10.1

Popular Anime Main title
theme Collection
EP, Victor Entertainment

World of Leiji Matsumoto
Time Trip CD Series
Nippon Columbia, 1989.11.21

SF & Space Animation Vol. 1
CD, Nippon Columbia

Favorite Terebi Anime
Main title theme Omnibus
CD, Victor Entertainment

Anime Sound Memorial
Main title theme Memorial
Vol. 10
CD, Nippon Columbia 1991

Terebi Manga Favorite
B Side Collection
CD, Nippon Columbia 1992.10.1

Favorite Anime Main Title
Song Collection
CD, Victor Entertainment 1995.7.12

Favorite Terebi Anime
Main title theme Omnibus
CD, Victor Entertainment 1995.11.16

TV Anime Super History Vol. 10
CD, Columbia Music Entertainment

Youth Song Yearbook
Best 30 ’77
CD, EMI 2000.11.22

Showa Kids TV Singles
Vol. 10
CD, Columbia Music Entertainment

Leiji Matsumoto
Animation World
2-CD set, Columbia
Music Entertainment

Favorite Songs of Showa Children
CD, King Record Co.

AniBara: Moved to Tears!
Memory of Anime Ballads
CD, Columbia Music Entertainment
2006.5.24 (CME)

Master of Pops
The World of Hiroshi Miyagawa
CD, Teichiku Records 2006.7.26

Permanent Preservation Version
Anime Main title theme Omnibus
10-CD Box Set, Unknown Label

Click here to learn about the “secret” version of the Yamato theme with two additional verses.

Click here to view albums by Isao Sasaki.

Click here to see an even bigger gallery (with recommendations) of albums that contain cover versions of the theme.

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