Production staff interview, October 2017

Special Talk: Chapter 3, Pure Love Chapter

Director Nobuyoshi Habara, Series Writer Harutoshi Fukui, and Scriptwriter Hideki Oka

Published at the official Yamato 2202 website, October 12, 2017

Interviewer: It seems the three of you met at the planning stage for this work. What was your first impression of each other?

Fukui: It was a stormy feeling at first. (Laughs) First of all, we weren’t informed of each other until just before we met.

Habara: Mr. Fukui came in when he was called for.

Oka: I learned just beforehand that Mr. Fukui would be there. When the door opened I wondered if it would be him, and I really thought, “Wow, the genuine article.” (Laughs)

Fukui: I’d heard that I would be paired up with Mr. Habara, but I didn’t know that Mr. Oka would join us there. Morever, regardless of the proposal I was writing, they brought me their ideas. I was going to proceed in the direction of my proposal either way, but since the content was still in an early stage, the feeling was that I’d incorporate whatever I could from what they came up with.

Interviewer: What kind of specific discussion did you have on that occasion?

Fukui: I didn’t know either of them, but over the course of the day I thought we would get along so I invited them out for a drink.

Habara: It was good to go out for a drink together.

Oka: We went out for a drink and talked for about four hours. Just before we left the meeting room, I got a request from above to be Mr. Fukui’s assistant. I didn’t answer on the spot because I didn’t think it would be possible. When we went to get drinks, I tried to talk about other things besides Yamato with Mr. Fukui.

Fukui: Various perspectives on life. “What do you think happens to a person when they die?” (Laughs) Since this message from Telezart borrows the image of a dead person who is important to you, I strongly responded to the sudden question from Mr. Oka. This is a story that was not very close to me when I was young. Actually, the average age of the Yamato 2202 staff is older than the staff of the original Farewell to Yamato. Therefore, the age of the viewer is also higher. But instead of just rehashing the past for that market, we share the feeling of making it for today’s viewers for a much bigger harvest.

Oka: In our first meeting, I attacked Mr. Fukui with questions with a straight face: “What do you think space is?” and “Where do you think people go when they die?” Anyway, I was shooting straight. If we were remaking Farewell, I thought it was a part we couldn’t avoid. How do we capture invisible things? If there were differences between us in those areas, it probably wouldn’t go well with me as his assistant. However, because I’d read Mr. Fukui’s 2202 proposal in advance, I had a vague expectation. So when I listened to him, many things fell into place. I thought I could work with a person who had such views on life and death.

Fukui: Yes, that’s right. Views on life and death.

Oka: In the beginning we gathered every Friday and talked openly about the direction of the project. On our third time, we talked about the composition of all 26 episodes, and I was surprised that Mr. Habara had on-the-spot opinions about the “last scene shots.” After the meeting that day I went to the bar with Mr. Fukui and talked about how the flow of the story could arrive at Director Habara’s images for the last scene. I think it was about six hours? So we came to one conclusion and Mr. Fukui began writing the full-fledged plot in earnest. After waiting for a while I felt several times that we’d get the first four episodes, but after about five months Mr. Fukui had written the entire flow up to the last episode.

Interviewer: Mr. Fukui writes the story and Mr. Oka writes the script. How are your roles assigned?

Fukui: In parallel with the original plot, Mr. Oka wrote a detailed outline called the long plot, and script production advanced based on that.

Oka: If we were to put it in military terms, Captain Fukui came up with the strategy (plot) first, and I reported on the landscape (long plot) that we’d have to go into based on the strategy. Then after getting the judgment of Captain Fukui, I write a 30-minute script. If it gets the OK from Mr. Fukui and Mr. Habara, the “zero draft script” is submitted in a general meeting and then Mr. Fukui writes the “first draft script” that reflects the various opinions we gather there. He thoroughly rewrites it from start to finish. In the meantime, I go back to the long plot and write a proposal script that becomes a basis for discussion on next episode. We repeat that process over and over again.

Interviewer: How are you involved with the script, Mr. Habara?

Habara: I just read it and say, “interesting.” (Laughs)

Fukui: The feeling is that we get opinions from Mr. Habara.

Habara: I give advice on whether or not it will be hard to float a visual. After that, I imagine how long it will take to create the visuals, and I consult with others to make sure it will fit into our schedule.

Interviewer: I previously interviewed Mr. Habara and Mr. Fukui about the “time fault” that appeared in Chapter 2 and heard that it was your idea, Mr. Oka. How was that idea born?

Oka: It was in the plan presentation I gave to Mr. Habara. The concept was a space that people could work in. About 5,000 people went in at the risk of becoming Taro Urashima (a dislocated time traveler in a Japanese fable), but it was a little brighter in terms of the reconstruction of the Earth. After the Earth is occupied by Gatlantis, we planned for the partisans in the resistance to use it as a base. Mr. Fukui saw other ways we could use the idea, so he drew more out of the time fault element.

Interviewer: When I heard about the idea of the time fault the first time, Mr. Fukui also told me he rejected it…

Oka: Not just the time fault, but the whole proposal. I was clearly told, “There is no point in using this now.” (Laughs) I was taken aback by this, so I asked for an explanation. Mr. Fukui started gesturing and talking about 2202 as I waited, and the story was really fascinating. I was impressed, and told him my honest feelings, and that’s how a bad situation was overturned in my head. Then a couple days later Mr. Fukui called me and said, “I’d like to use the time fault.” I didn’t really give him much of a reaction over the phone. (Laughs) He explained, “I’d like to use the time fault as the dark side of society,” and I hit my knee. “I get it!”

Since Kodai is a carryover character from Yamato 2199, he would certainly be more rational than in the original series. Because of that, it was hard to imagine him as someone who would lead a revolt to start the voyage. I agreed with Mr. Habara about that, and also told Mr. Fukui about it. We didn’t have a solution on the spot, but we felt the “time fault” might be the catalyst to overcome the problem. Once Kodai knew the truth of this distortion in the world, he would certainly build up a resentment and motivation that didn’t exist before. I felt that this could be the material to reinforce that motivation.

Habara: In addition, it works well to create an attachment to Garmillas, doesn’t it?

Oka: I was surprised when Mr. Fukui told me, “Garmillas uses it, too.” (Laughs)

Interviewer: What about the time fault, Mr. Fukui?

Fukui: I think Yamato was always a work that kept up with the times, and the atmosphere after the [March 2011] earthquake was something we couldn’t overlook this time. It was used well to express that.

Interviewer: What happened with the other ideas expressed by Mr. Oka?

Oka: It was my suggestion to make Osamu Yamanami the captain of Andromeda. Hijikata was relocated to the 11th planet along with Saito and others, so the Andromeda captain’s seat was vacant. Mr. Fukui’s plan book introduced a new character called Kondo, and when I tried to imagine his face, only the face of that captain in Farewell came out. (Laughs)

Habara: Oh yeah, in the ship muster.

Oka: Creating a new character would take up some of my energy, so I thought that energy should be poured into deepening an existing character. The day may come in the future when Yamanami sits in the captain’s seat on Yamato, so why not plant a seed for that time? That was the feeling I proposed to Mr. Fukui.

Interviewer: How did you two receive that proposal?

Habara: Yamanami’s easygoing aspect was quite well emphasized in 2199, so my impression was that he wasn’t the kind of person who could get to that position. However, since he’s a person with great skill, I thought it would definitely be cool if we could express that buoyant part of him as well. It came out great in the script, didn’t it?

Fukui: Mr. Oka mainly wrote that image for Yamanami, and I don’t remember changing it.

Oka: The content of Mr. Fukui’s written proposal went to about the fifth episode. Since it was only written to the extent that there would be a running battle with Andromeda, I had a relatively free hand. At that time there was some homework to be done about where the elaborate relief sculpture of Captain Okita came from. The two theories were that Analyzer made it in memory of the late Captain Okita, or that Yamanami gave it to them from his personal property. Eventually we went with the Yamanami theory.

Fukui: By the way, the concept was that the relief of Captain Okita enshrined the captain’s seat of Andromeda, not that it personally belonged to Yamanami. Speaking in terms of the real life military, he occupies a position like Heihachiro Togo, where it’s halfway become a Shinto shrine. The fact that its color changes after it’s removed is a fine detail of the art.

Habara: But the color changes a lot in a new battleship. (Laughs)

Fukui: Because of the time fault, ten years have passed since it was actually made.

Habara: I see. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Please tell me about any moments that made an impression on you in your various interactions during the production.

Fukui: In terms of Yamato love, Mr. Oka is outstanding, and Mr. Habara comes next. The depth of their love is equally intricate. For me, they play a role like a compass. There are directions they would never turn toward, and I realized that I wasn’t supposed to go there. Otherwise, I’d probably have gone further that way.

Oka: Like Kodai, I sometimes told Mr. Fukui “That’s completely wrong!” That was about until the tenth episode. By the time we got there, we were in step, weren’t we? Since it’s soaked into my flesh and bones, it was meaningless for me to do this project if I couldn’t help shape Mr. Fukui’s thoughts, but unless it’s something serious I don’t think I’ll need to say much after Episode 10. There were various exchanges during the tenth episode, but after that we became a team.

Fukui: Episode 10 is the last story of Chapter 3. It’s the first side-dish to be served between the main courses that I’ve been running with all this time, and I won’t have any more side-dishes afterward. (Laughs) So with each review, it came to look more like Yamato than I thought. The things these two told me accumulated up to the tenth episode until I could see the point where I could start to do things my own way. I think we made Episode 9 a grand adventure, and then had it drop off in Episode 10 because it came immediately after. That way we make 2202 with that rising and falling, comes from everyone, and that’s why I have profound memories of Episode 10. Speaking of which, the plot of Episode 10 is oddly long.

Habara: That’s right. (Laughs)

Oka: With Episode 9 there was a feeling of pouring it all out. I wrote a memo in Mr. Fukui’s composition: “It already feels like a grand finale, but it’s still only one episode.” Since Episode 10 was the only one to be self-contained, it was written very carefully and I wrote what I felt about it as I read it. Then at midnight Mr. Fukui sent a very long sentence to Mr. Habara by email saying, “I get it! Yamato is a spokon thing!”

(Translator’s note: “spokon” is a portmanteau that combines the “Spo” from “Sports” with “kon” from “konjo,” which means “guts.” There is no English equivalent, but “spokon” is a popular genre in Japanese manga, anime, and live-action drama featuring hot-blooded athletic competition.)

Habara: Yeah, yeah. That e-mail came, didn’t it? (Laughs)

Oka: Mr. Fukui’s passion that night was amazing. He wrote a huge number of sentences detailing the reasons he thought it fit the definition of spokon, and he sent it in the middle of the night. It had occurred to me, so I enjoyed reading it. (Laughs) While reading his sentences, a lot of things fell into place in my mind.

Fukui: The important thing was that I confirmed it is not SF at all. It has the trappings of SF, but it has the spirit of spokon. When it becomes spokon, everyone can feel Yamato.

Oka: In spokon, one asserts their lives and values through sheer willpower, and only those who reach the resolve to destroy their own bodies can reach the goal. It depicts that point. That’s what was written in the email at the time. I agreed that it is the way of life of Hoshi Hyuma (Star of the Giants), Joe Yabuki (Tomorrow’s Joe), and Hiromi Oka (Aim for the Ace).

When I read that, I suddenly thought of Susumu Kodai in Farewell to Yamato. He was, in fact, “The man who sacrificed himself for the way.” The structure is that at the end of Farewell Teresa helps Kodai and they face the super dreadnought battleship together. At that moment, he smiled when he passed through a plane of existence to become more than human. In my junior high days, I used to say I wished Teresa had gone into the suicide attack by herself, but now that I’m older I’ve come to the feeling that this isn’t such a sweet thing. I think those who are Yamato fans now have their own feelings about it. While looking at Mr. Fukui’s late night message, I thought again about how to make 2202 appealing.

Habara: I grew up with spokon, so I never thought about it again, but I was convinced that it’s true.

Oka: However, when I entered the 1980s I felt the world was getting colder. I thought Yamato was already old.

Fukui: I think the passionate part was forgotten. I think it’s related to the appearance of Mobile Suit Gundam as the successor after Be Forever Yamato came and went. In the end, the basis for Yamato being accepted by all of Japan might have been gradually lost.

Oka: I think Yamato is actually Project X. I think you all know about the big hit documentary program on NHK. Imagine the singing of Miyuki Nakajima flowing behind the screen captions. “The burned, baking Earth. Human extinction. The 148,000 light-year journey to Iscandar with no guarantees. Still…men accepted the challenge.” Isn’t it exciting? It’s exactly the same sense of the story of the men who penetrated and accomplished their mission. “The story of the men who opened the Seikan Tunnel.”

After all, the touch is a little different from Gundam. Mr. Fukui analyzes Gundam as a story that results from individual in the belly of a robot, and it’s certainly hard to compare it to Project X. On the other hand, Yamato is a story of a group pursuing a single purpose. I think the story of Yamato can be aligned with “The story of the men who opened the Seikan Tunnel” after all.

Fukui: It is said that we can accomplish something together. But if you’re just rehashing some golden oldie, it’s meaningless. You may as well go and rewatch the old show again. This time, while holding tight to the fundamentals, we have to make it a story of searching for how to live not alone but all as one in an age with no prior reference, while reflecting the troubles and struggles of the people who live and work in the modern world. Gundam goes out to explore alone. In the case of Yamato, everyone propels the ship together to reach their destination.

Habara: Wouldn’t it then be more like Passion Continent than Project X, then?

Oka: I think an idealized group is somewhere in the baseline for Yamato. Each person has their various problems, but I don’t think anyone loses their beauty when they “abandon minor differences and band together.”

Interviewer: In Chapter 3, which has the subtitle of Pure Love Chapter, the love of Susumu Kodai and Yuki Mori will be tested. There are various forms of “love,” but what kind of “love” do these two have?

Fukui: Back in the day, Yamato was expressed as “a work for the young,” so I think it naturally became the story of young lovers. Most of the viewers are married this time, and are about the age where they’re done raising children. I think they’re after more than the idealized love of young men and women. Even from my point of view when I was a child, Kodai and Yuki were idealized at the time as the perfect couple.

When I thought about what to do if we were to revive it for present-day adults, I felt the most important thing was to be considerate of a partner. I think the weight of specifically caring for a partner does not compare with the love I longed for when I was young. These two got serious about each other at the end of 2199 and have been together for three years or so, so I thought it was not out of place for them to have developed a relationship of mutual trust like a married couple that has been together for several years.

In Chapter 3, there is a s scene where Kodai and Yuki are forced to make a significant decision. So the feeling of them caring for each other is close to the sense of a couple that has been married for many years.

Habara: A harmonizing of two minds.

Fukui: Oh yes, it’s said to be heavier than lovers. (Laughs) I was slightly worried about that when I thought of them being in their 20s, but as we watch it it’s touching to see how mutually considerate of each other they are. Even the double suicide thing was boring to me when I watched it as a child, but I shed tears when I look at it now. (Laughs) After all, our sensibilities change. Therefore, I had the desire to tell a story about love that would touch an adult viewer.

Oka: Kodai and Yuki have been strangely yearning for each other since the original series. There were many places where I felt that Yuki was made to do too much. (Laughs) Because the first story includes that history, I thought it would be OK to move past that mental age a little, so I fully agreed with Mr. Fukui’s idea.

Habara: I was taken with the cry from Yuki in the car when she came to pick up Kodai in Episode 2. For me it became, “Yuki is the best!” (Laughs) In the elevator scene in Episode 4, Kodai says things he isn’t supposed to say to Yuki, and in Episode 9 he takes actions while thinking about Yuki. As I watched his helplessness, my thoughts about Kodai got stronger.

Interviewer: The problem of Yamato’s Wave-Motion Gun becomes a big point in Chapter 3. How did you think about that?

Fukui: I didn’t want it to not fire. (Laughs) That was the main premise. Mr. Oka thought it was still to early to fire it. But I had to reveal in the trailer that it was going to be fired, because as a sequel to 2199 it always seems like they won’t fire the Wave-Motion Gun, and I was worried that it would turn away viewers. So I decided it would absolutely be fired this time and Kodai would regret it.

Oka: Like I said earlier, it was about that time that I bit Mr. Fukui with “It’s completely different!” But he thought it was the best timing based on various strategies, so I think there was the prospect that the story could definitely be livened up. Was it too early? I thought so, and that’s the reason I opposed it, but when I saw the finished film I thought it was time. (Laughs)

Habara: In fact, I explored a direction in the storyboard stage where it wouldn’t fire, but it didn’t come out well. I felt that Kodai could not move forward without firing it.

Fukui: Basically, we’re all people who want to fire it. (Laughs)

Oka: I’m not. (Laughs)

Habara: There was a scene in the storyboard where they stopped just before firing, and after exchanging opinions with Mr. Fukui we finally put in the firing scene. As a result, it was a good thing to put it in.

Oka: It’s still a story point in the previous chapters, and the time would come in 2202 when the problem of the Wave-Motion Gun was settled. As someone who sees how things are shaping up, I really think this was the best flow.

Habara: The actors also performed really well in the firing scene in Chapter 3. The artists worked hard, too, so I think it became a great scene.

Interviewer: Once more, please talk about the highlight points in Chapter 3.

Fukui: Whether 2202 is destined to become Farewell or Yamato 2 is not yet clear in the first two chapters, but I think it will come into view at last in Chapter 3. In that sense, Chapter 3 cannot be overlooked because it becomes the turning point.

Oka: And don’t get up from your seat until the very end of Chapter 3.

Habara: Well, the highlights are…I don’t know any more. (Laughs)

Fukui: What is it? (Laughs)

Habara: My thoughts are too strong to choose.

Interviewer: Finally, a message to the fans who are looking forward to seeing Chapter 3 in the theater.

Fukui: There are parts you won’t understand when you only see it once, so it would be better for you to buy the streaming version or the Blu-ray or the DVD and watch it many times. (Laughs) We make 30-minute stories, and I have the sense of making it as a single long movie so even trivial things are foreshadowing. After you’ve seen it to the end, this is definitely a work you’ll want to keep. I think it’s better to buy it from here on rather than collectively at the end.

Oka: Chapter 3 closes the curtain just before the Telezart landing operation begins. If you think about Farewell to Yamato, you already know that there’s no turning back from here. How far is it going to go in Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7? (Laughs) I think you’ll experience it as one really long movie, so please stay with it to the end.

Habara: I was thankful that there were so many fans who said Chapter 2 was better than Chapter 1. I think Chapter 3 goes even beyond that. It’s continuing to heat up, and now it’s a situation of whether or not I have enough life left in me to finish it. (Laughs) As I devote myself body and soul to pushing the production forward, I’d like you to immerse yourself in the world of Yamato at the theater and travel with the crew. By the way, the end title attached to the episodes [on video] is different from the movie version every time. Chapter 3 shows a dating scene of Kodai and Yuki as the Pure Love Chapter. The two of them are flying in the Cosmo Zero against a beautiful background, so I hope you’ll look forward to that.

Nobuyoshi Habara profile

Born in 1963, from Hiroshima Prefecture. Director and Supervising Director. Participated in Yamato Resurrection as a mecha director and served as animation director on the Director’s Cut version. Director in charge of storyboards on Yamato 2199. Served as the Supervising Director of Fafner: Exodus.

Harutoshi Fukui profile

Born in 1968, from Tokyo. Novelist. Many of his works have been adapted to film. In recent years, he has been pivotal in scripts for original works and anime. His best-known works are Another Country’s Aegis, Lorelei at the End of the War, Mobile Suit Gundam UC (Unicorn), Human Resources, and others.

Hideki Oka profile

Born in 1966, from Hiroshima Prefecture. Movie director. Participated in many tokusatsu (live action special effects) productions such as Ultraman Dyna and Ultraman Gaia. He was also in charge of design works in Godzilla vs. Destroyah and Mothra. Aside from his commercial activities, he continues to make independent movies for the film organization Tetsudon.

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