Production staff interview, October 2017

Yamato 2202 Chapter 3 Commemorative Interview!

Nobuyoshi Habara (director) X Harutoshi Fukui (writer) X Hideki Oka (script)

Published by Akiba Souken, October 13, 2107. See the original post here.

What do you see beyond the trials and tribulations…?

Chapter 3 of Yamato 2202 premieres today in theaters. In addition to the subtitle Soldiers of Love, it is also called Pure Love Chapter. Prior to the screening, we talked with the director, writer, and scriptwriter to ask them what, exactly, is “love”? Find out in this unprecedented long interview!

The pressure to recreate the masterpiece called Farewell to Yamato

Interviewer: I’m from the generation that saw Farewell at the theater. At the time, I was in the lower grades of elementary school.

Fukui: I watched it!

Habara: Did you understand the content at the time?

Interviewer: If you did, it turned out to be pretty traumatic. (Bitter laugh)

Fukui: It was kind of a “radio wave.” (Laughs)

Interviewer: It was shocking. The TV series [Yamato 2] was produced after the feature film, which has the image of a classic, and the story is now being recreated. It seems like everyone would be under great pressure.

Fukui: I thought it seemed to be very worthwhile, but at the same time it’s extremely difficult. However, I’m the type that finds joy in things that seem difficult. (Laughs) That said, there were many things that had to be clarified. But it will be a good feeling to get through it all and the pleasure will surpass the pressure.

Habara: I like it very much, but I once had the feeling that I didn’t want to do it. Since the previous work 2199 was of such high quality, I was worried about whether or not I was fit to direct the continuation. But when I actually started I had a strong feeling that I would be happy. Whenever a screening happens, I always feel the pressure lift and I’m like, “It’s going to be OK.”

On 2199 I had the feeling of being in the care of Yutaka Izubuchi (when I participated as an episode director), so I didn’t feel a sense of responsibility at all. It was just, “I’ll do what I like!” But this time it’s exhilarating.

Interviewer: How about you, Mr. Oka?

Oka: Since I came from the live-action film field, the impression I got was, “It’s going to be strange.” Mr. Habara called me in, and I met Mr. Fukui and I was going to help out with Yamato. But isn’t Farewell at the absolute peak of Yamato history? “Do I have to climb all the way up there? It has to be awesome.”

Moreover, if we called it Soldiers of Love, it was sure to be considered a remake of Farewell. What was the correct way to cut the card? My first thought was that it would be impossible to do it exactly the same way as the original because the worldview was superceded by Gatlantis appearing ahead of schedule in the previous work, 2199.

Interviewer: 2199 has a pretty stubborn feeling to it.

Oka: It wasn’t possible to ignore 2199 at all. But Mr. Fukui said, “It honored the old things and left good ones behind, and it’s covered by a theme that leads to the present.” What kind of story would it become, exactly? Part of me was excited while we were waiting. The flow of the story in the proposal book went up to Yamato’s launch, right? 

Fukui: That’s right.

Oka: I asked, “What happens farther on?” and he said, “I don’t think about it.” (Laughs) I wanted to continue writing while hearing various surrounding opinions, but there were many different options in Mr. Fukui’s mind, and it didn’t take long to get them all out. 

Fukui: The flow itself. For my part, I don’t feel like making it for myself, I make it according to the present age, and I’d already seen the course and knew I had no choice but to do it. The ultimate problem with Farewell from those days was that it was said to “glorify suicide.” Now we’re in a world where that’s being done again with suicide bombings happening every day. It would become a terrible laughing stock if we didn’t do something drastic with it. Then there would be no breakthrough. Nevertheless, the wall that looked like it could never be broken actually broke beautifully the moment I approached it.

When thinking about such a path, “Shall we go over here? Shall we go over there?” there was no point where I was at a loss. The way to go was decided. I didn’t know if they’d all end up dead. It’s a story in which the theme will be incorporated and conveyed.

Nobuyoshi Habara

Space Battleship Yamato – an anime with a very special spirit

Interviewer: Yutaka Izubuchi was at the center of the previous work, 2199. This time, the main staff is replaced. Could you tell me the reason and circumstances for this?

Fukui: We were asked to participate, but the reason for the staff change is simple, to make this work different from the previous one. But there are a lot of fans of 2199, so it would be too inefficient to make a work that completely ignored it. So, while making the best use of 2199, I want to rescue lost parts. There’s a big market for Yamato beyond the anime fans; among adults who aren’t in the habit of watching anime, there are still people who will watch this. 2199 has quite a few parts that are attractive to current anime fans, but conversely they can become factors that make non-anime fans to say, “This is irrelevant to me.” But there’s a military gain from the bullet fired by 2199, so I say let’s throw a net over here now.

Interviewer: Give it some fresh air.

Fukui: That’s right. That’s the purpose behind keeping the subtitle, Soldiers of Love.

Interviewer: Since Mr. Oka is from the live-action film field, his participation on the scriptwriting feels unexpected.

Oka: There was a request from Director Habara: If you could do The White Comet Empire as a 26-episode series, how would the story flow? I wrote up a document that explained it and eventually Mr. Fukui was brought in, so it was decided that I would act as his assistant. A lot of impossible things have piled up in my career, and because I’m a Yamato fanatic, I participated with the thought that I might be useful for something.  

Mr. Oka’s own Yamato goods

Interviewer: Yamato is a considerable favorite with you, isn’t it?

Fukui: Out of the three of us, Oka is the biggest fan.

Habara: His personal belongings speak for themselves. (Laughs)

Oka: However, it’s strange to become a member of those who “actually create Yamato.”

Fukui: Mr. Oka and I see pretty much the same in terms of what we think is “good.” So, on the day we first met, I asked the obvious question “Why didn’t you go with Gundam?” To which the man himself replied “Why indeed?”

Habara: Generationally speaking, it wouldn’t have been odd to have gone there.

Fukui: I did both, and as a result I’ve come to realize recently that Gundam and Yamato have very different parts. What’s different is that Gundam rides on board White Base, and the battlefield is in the robot’s belly. The main character is alone in there. There, he takes everything on, and all of the potential of mankind he has experienced is a lone experience. Gundam is a place of irritation because the experience of that one individual can’t be conveyed to others. But in Yamato, everyone is there on the bridge.

Interviewer: That’s right.

Fukui: Therefore, instead of “doing it by myself,” the story is, “What can I do if I don’t play a shared role?” We always survive critical situations when we’re united. Sometimes we split up and fight, but the focus is placed on moments when we people unite against a difficult situation. In the case of Gundam, only friction arises when people gather. (All laugh)

Habara: I see. (Laughs)

Fukui: Judging from the so-called anime market and anime fans, I think there are places where Gundam is more approachable. But Mr. Oka didn’t come to the site from anime. I don’t think it’s a question of not having seen Gundam or that pictures were his forte. Rather, I think it’s like the nature a person has. For myself as well, the anime industry has my head thoroughly pickled in getting results. When I consider how I didn’t start out that way, it shows how very special Yamato is amidst other anime.

Interviewer: it may be so.

Fukui: During the era of rapid economic growth specifications, it might have been said that Japanese people are happy to see a story that says “If a person is part of a group, it will produce only friction, so how do you survive the friction?” But instead of that, I’m depicting something everyone has forgotten, something like, “Of course, there is anxiety and this is a world of many mountains, so we must unite to survive.” If you don’t do that, everyone will look away from all the various problems and try to find a detour, so they don’t even know what the problems are. In such a time, I think it’s a very good thing to do Yamato again.

Interviewer: It’s an opportunity to examine the current times.

Fukui: Susumu Kodai relates to Captain Okita as a great master, and there’s a place that says “When you get lost, return to Okita,” or “We have the Wave-Motion Gun but we can’t use it,” or “Earth had to be rebuilt, but on the other hand using the time fault built up a lot of debts.” This whole “You shouldn’t keep society alive with a bad deal” is clearly a reflection of the collapse of the post-bubble-collapse Japanese.

Kodai finally fires the Wave-Motion Gun at the beginning of Chapter 3, but I think there is a flow of, “Captain Okita would fire it if he was here, therefore I’ll fire it, too.” That’s beautiful in and of itself, but that’s not right. It’s more “Captain Okita would show he was prepared to do it, but you shouldn’t have gotten yourself into this mess in the first place!”

Interviewer: That’s certainly true, isn’t it?

Fukui: Taking the previous generation of business leaders and effective senior businessmen as an example, I think the old type of drama is, “This is how we did things when I was young,” and the way to victory is opened by the younger man saying, “I see! That’s what he was talking about!” However, “But you haven’t experienced times of a declining birth rate! How do you sell things while people are decreasing?” That’s today’s drama.

This is the equivalent of Kodai shouting “What’s the good of being resolute?!” As he says that, what is he reaching for? The fun of Yamato is in examining what you gain by working in common cause.

Interviewer: When I saw Chapter 3, I felt that the theme of Kodai being troubled is deep. He’s suffering from various things. That’s one of the highlights of the growth story.

Fukui: Then when Yuki supports him, that’s one of the pickups of Chapter 3.

Harutoshi Fukui

A combination of Fukui throwing the ball and Oka doing course-correction

Interviewer: Regarding the script, is it divided into the form of Mr. Fukui deciding the rough overall plot and Mr. Oka writing the script?

Fukui: That’s right. I perform checks here and there and then it goes back to Mr. Oka again, then it’s finally finished (by me)! I didn’t think it would change again when it goes to the storyboard… (Laughs) No matter how many passes there are, it doesn’t end.

Oka: Collaborating on a script like this isn’t done that often?

Habara: Basically, not really. Generally, it’s settled with the storyboard at the discretion of production.

Interviewer: Is the script continuously rewritten to the end?

Oka: Mr. Fukui partakes in the storyboard, and we certainly go to voice recordings together, and we check for discrepancies or mistakes. 

Fukui: Mr. Oka’s current job would be the post called the “script editor” in a normal anime, and basically I have him concentrate on the finished product. (Laughs) I have to make sure “This person wouldn’t say it like that,” and “This is how it was said before.”

Oka: After every battle is over, I feel like it’s time for another one. 

Interviewer: The theatrical screenings consist of 7 chapters made up of 26 TV series episodes. Does that seem long, or short?

Fukui: It’s not too long for me. To the contrary, I’m more like “This is all we can put in?” (Laughs)
There’s always that conflict.

Interviewer: In the process of extending Farewell, a 150-minute movie, into seven chapters, did you have parts to supplement those that were omitted wholesale from the original film?

Fukui: Farewell is very complete. It’s a movie that makes you feel like “I’ve seen so many things,” and it gives a different impression from a work where “I saw a very simple thing,” but both are interesting, aren’t they? I think Farewell is a prime example of a movie that makes you think “I saw so many things.” So when I became a creator and asked what makes you feel like you’ve seen a lot, it was a kind of model for “having your cake and eating it, too.” So in my opinion, Farewell is neither excessive nor insufficient.

However, if you just adapt it as is into a TV series, it may come off as cruel, so the approach I thought to take was why not take the approach of doing something in contrast to Farewell? If we can end up making something that has the same flavor, that makes building the concept from square one easy. However, while it’s Farewell, there are parts where we have to make it with a strong impression of “this.”

Interviewer: This work has the word “love” in the title, and the subtitle for Chapter 3 is Pure Love.

Fukui: It’s an awesome kind of “love,” isn’t it? (Laughs) First of all, what is perceived as “love” now is received with a completely different feeling and impression by today’s generation than it was then, so I started by rebuilding it from there.

Interviewer: I wondered if the relationship between Kodai and Yuki would be at the center of the story when I saw Chapter 3, but then I got the impression that it wouldn’t be just that. There’s that feeling, too.

Fukui: First, the enemy also says, “Love is needed.” Therefore, it’s a story about being caught in a paradox. The choices made by Kodai and Yuki happen as a result, but that wasn’t a guarantee. But I’m confident that if I was put in that position, I’d probably make the same choices as Kodai. I think there is such a thing as, “Humans are bound by love.”

It’s not only a beautiful thing at all, sometimes it’s similar to madness, and there’s an ego-driven part, too. But humans can’t survive without it, and I intend to depict that from here on. This episode is like the first mountain.

Interviewer: Did you discuss that with Mr. Oka?

Oka: Did we discuss it? No, we didn’t. Did we? 

Fukui: I feel like I did all the talking and you did all the listening. (Laughs)

Oka: Basically, 2202 is made from the thoughts Mr. Fukui captures. How do you feel about the history of Yamato? How would we inherit 2199? How do we reflect the present age? It’s all that. Mr. Fukui’s conclusion was written in his proposal before we joined together: Soldiers of Love should be the subtitle, and “Yamato should be made to talk about love in a multilayered fashion.”

From the beginning to the end, it is thoroughly Mr. Fukui’s world and its axis is not unclear at all. However, there were many opportunities to discuss how to depict it, or rather how to throw the ball and give it some subtle course correction. “Wouldn’t it be better here to do something that is more in keeping with Yamato?”

Hideki Oka

Seeing the landscape through trials and tribulations

Interviewer: There is this new element, the concept called a “time fault.” I asked Mr. Fukui about it in the last interview, but would you tell me again how this concept came about?

Fukui: The response will overturn what Mr. Oka just said. It was his idea. (Laughs) A plot had already been conceived when I joined up, and when I saw it I thought, “This time fault is good. I didn’t think of that!” In terms of time passage, 2202 has to be conscious of the Japan Earthquake disaster [of March 2011] with the feeling that the reconstruction isn’t going as planned.

At the same time, I thought the idea of piling up debts could be expressed well with this. “With this, we can open the floodgates on the Andromedas!” (Laughs) We plan to continue depicting this setup for “debts” as we go on. This concept will work more and more in the future.

Interviewer: The distortion that a time fault produces will naturally arise, too.

Oka: When Mr. Fukui said, “I want to depict the time fault as a negative for society,” I immediately thought, “I get it” and knew what kind of effect it would bring. It didn’t exist at all in the history of Yamato before now and it’s a huge idea, so it’s a pretty delicate problem. I think that I responded fairly to the opinions of the staff, but this was something that Mr. Fukui couldn’t shake, which meant that it was necessary. The “time fault” is an element that affects the whole story. 

Interviewer: The thing fans care most about is what happens after this, and what will happen in the end. What I think on my own is “everyone dies, but I don’t want to worry about something that won’t happen. I mean, can you give me even a little hint?

Fukui: Everyone dies and is reborn on another planet. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Then it will be a different anime. (Laughs)

Oka: But if there are no life-threatening trials and tribulations, I don’t think the viewers would feel like watching a remake of Farewell. However, I don’t intend to distort the story into something stupid just to say, “Isn’t it exciting when someone gets killed?”

In the process of carrying the story along with the theme Mr. Fukui wants to depict, it’s already guaranteed that a lot of trials and tribulations will appear in the future. The various images and details we’ve seen in the history of Yamato will be expanded or more deeply depicted, to make it greater and more wonderful…that’s the plan.

Habara: We who are making it are in the midst of trials and tribulations now. (Laughs)

Oka: You’ll just have to wait for the flow of the story. I think what you’re most concerned about is what we go through and how we get through it, but we’re only on Chapter 3. (Laughs) Let’s go slowly. 

Habara: We’re not even halfway yet.

Fukui: But when I thought about the length of Farewell being two and a half hours, it doesn’t stretch out that much if you distribute it into 26 episodes. It takes more than an hour to get to Planet Telezart. Actually, there are places where we simply enlarge the scale and an event becomes one whole episode.

However, you should begin to see that we didn’t just expand something into Chapter 3. As we go forward with Chapters 4 and 5, it will be, “Oh, I remember there was something like this” while regularly having scenes that make you go, “Eh?” “What?” Whaaaat!?” I think that’s how it will develop.

Interviewer: “Love” is said to be the big theme this time, and a while ago a story got out about an important “form of love.” I’d like to hear how you will convey it throughout the seven chapters. Can you tell me what the big subject is all about?

Fukui: The heart of our viewers has reached the age where they’re just about done raising children, and have had experiences many times when they thought, “I’d rather die.” The story is for the generation that has experienced a “better off dead” idea so I think it’s necessary to tell it in a completely different way than you would with young people.

If Farewell was originally made to strike the hearts of the “youth layer” as it was called at the time, this time we have to tug on the hearts of the present-day viewers. Some things will inevitably change along the way. “Better off dead” is a difficult problem that forces you to betray your own soul, but in the course of experiencing various things you come to realize, “life is worth living.” I’m going to depict what that’s like. You can’t get a cartharsis from a story about a normal way of living, and I’m very conscious of the fact that I have to deliver a proper catharsis.

I talked about a “radio wave” earlier, but I think the fate of Farewell is a kind of madness. In the end, it has this strange atmosphere of Kodai losing his sanity, doesn’t it? He succeeds in blowing up the interior of the White Comet in the end, but when he says, “It was a great sacrifice, Sanada,” he doesn’t mention Yuki’s name. I wondered why this was for many years, and if the death of Yuki should have had more of an impact to the end. But maybe by that point, Kodai forgot Yuki was dead. I realized that, but couldn’t accept it. So my consciousness has shifted.

You could say that we’re executing the order because we have to take off now, and I’m putting it all back together in my mind, but I can’t imagine that if there’s a dialogue with Okita he would say “Let your life be a weapon” as he did in the original. I don’t think Okita would have so many fans if he didn’t cherish life, would he?

But the Kodai at that time heard it like that, or perhaps it was a hallucination showing Kodai what he wanted to hear Okita say to him. With that interpretation, I can understand that bizarre atmosphere it had.

He says “I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything for you” and doesn’t realize that he’s dead, and I think that put a fear of insanity in the hearts of children in those days. After that, I don’t think “I’ll sacrifice myself to save the Earth” will stick. I don’t think I can reproduce that strangeness and still have a catharsis afterward.

Interviewer: Isn’t that strangeness still important to the atmosphere?

Fukui: It’s not about stacking up episodes that are similar to the original storyline. If you do your homework automatically, I think you can solve the meaning of bringing back a title as corny as “Soldiers of Love” in the present day.

Interviewer: I see. Thank you for today.

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