Production Staff Interview, October 2017

The Overwhelming Presence of the One and Only Space Battleship Yamato

Published in Yamato 2202 Newspaper 2, October 13, 2017. (See it from cover to cover here.)

Yamato 2202 Chapter 3, Pure Love Chapter, is finally released. In the broad sense, the story approaches the middle stage, which is the “turning point” part. Chapter 3 also holds an important key to the next chapter, as we hear in this conversational interview with Director Nobuyoshi Habara, Series Writer Harutoshi Fukui, and Scriptwriter Hideki Oka.

I turned my attention to the “adult” fan layer

Interviewer: 2202 has finally reached Chapter 3. Original elements have appeared that are quite different from the original work. Please tell me if there is a point you’re conscious about in the interpretation.

Habara: 2202 is a continuation of 2199. On top of that, we depicted a global relationship between Garmillas and Earth in Chapters 1 and 2, which is a major premise of this continuation.

Interviewer: So far, Great Emperor Zordar doesn’t feel very different (compared to the original).

Fukui: For the moment. As you will see after Chapter 3, “Garmillas may be different from the previous work” is an idea in development that is about to blow up.

Interviewer: Are you saying that a story is starting that we’ve never seen before?

Fukui: Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 are composed of three elements: Farewell to Yamato and Yamato 2, and the sequel to 2199, and we’ve been following a conservative route. But from Chapter 3 onward the story begins to gradually deviate from that conservative route as we aim toward the ending, and that part will be glimpsed for the first time.

Interviewer: The appearance of Saito and the Space Cavalry was cool. Is that part conscious of the original work?

Habara: Regardless of the original work, I think everyone who sees it will have a similar image of Saito. However, there is a difference in what is appealing about him. Saito is cool, but he’s a passionate man with humanity.

Interviewer: Four characters who appeared in 2199 stayed on Earth at the time of Yamato’s launch. Are you thinking about their future…?

Fukui & Habara: Of course.

Fukui: First of all, there is the feeling of approaching the old Yamato as much as possible in the visuals. What kind of character appears when the camera is turned toward the inside of the ship? What kind of emotions appear when the camera pans across the first bridge? I intend to squeeze in that point. It’s a continuation of 2199 throughout, and in terms of casting we certainly thought about who to leave behind and who to discard.

Interviewer: I see.

Fukui: Since we’re talking about a sequel, if you were to ask why was the previous staff was replaced, the simple explanation is to profit from it. In terms of choosing the staff with the expectation of profiting, the previous work is a success on its own terms, but its success fires a bullet into the parts that are unexpected defeats.

Therefore, I think it will have some things that were unexpectedly lost in the previous work. Yamato and Gundam have extremely specialized content, and they’re works that people who don’t normally see anime will watch. Of course, a lot of people who do like anime will watch, too. Among them, there is a certain important number who will always “see Yamato” or “see Gundam,” and for such guests we offer something like a picture of a trendy girl. But conversely the elements that please anime fans become elements that push others away. I came to the idea that the previous work unexpectedly lost that layer. Therefore, I’m aiming at that layer again this time.

Interviewer: When building the story, what are the three roles you occupy?

Oka: First, Mr. Fukui writes the overall plot. On the basis of that, I go out as a scout and look around, and it’s my job to say, “How does this feel over here?” And then I’ll rewrite it after Mr. Fukui says, “OK, I understand” or “OK, I don’t understand”

Habara: And then I just look at it. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Mr. Fukui creates the big picture, and Mr. Oka advances it.

Fukui: Nonetheless, 2202 is a work that feels like Yamato thanks to Mr. Oka and Mr. Habara. In my case, I wasn’t in the direct-hit Yamato Generation. I was a little off. So, like I did with Mobile Suit Gundam UC, I can’t sync up 100% when evoking the old layers, and there are parts I don’t understand. It is Mr. Oka and Mr. Habara who understand the Yamato Generation, and I work with the feedback I get from them. If I had to make it without Mr. Oka, you might doubt from the start whether 2202 was Yamato or not. It might have been a completely different work. As I interacted with Mr. Oka and Mr. Habara, I gradually began to understand the point of “Yamato fans will be focused here.”

There is no substitute

Interviewer: I heard stories from Mr. Habara and Mr. Fukui in the first newspaper. Do you have a special fondness for Yamato, Mr. Oka?

Oka: Of course. It’s part of my life. Yamato is my youth. When Final Yamato was released in 1983, the history of Yamato was over. For a long time, it wasn’t possible to do a new Yamato after that, but I kept thinking about Yamato all the while. I wondered, “Why can’t I let go of Yamato?” But recently, I finally realized, “Because there is no substitute for it.” (Laughs) From the presence of mecha in the lead role, to how the story is carried, to the overwhelming music, there’s just no substitute.

Interviewer: The story changes a little, but the composer Akira Miyagawa said that some scenes stick with fans because of the music. Are you conscious of that?

Oka: When I write a script, the music is definitely ringing.

Interviewer: In your head?

Oka: It resounds in my head. There were several episodes in which I’d think “We have to use this music in this episode!!” and then that music just snakes its way through my head endlessly for days as I write the script.

Habara: In the stage directions of a script, I’ll write “that song starts here.” (Laughs)

Interviewer: You can tell it from “that song.”

Oka: Oh, and when I’m seeing the completed version for the first time I get a feeling that a certain song will start a few seconds before I hear it, and then that song comes up! I’m guessing it unconsciously. When I feel that way, I hear a lot of the songs I anticipate. In 2202 most of the music is decided in discussions between Mr. Habara and Sound Supervisor Tomohiro Yoshida. They’re both hardcore, so their commitment as Yamato fans is wonderful. There must be a common sensibility in those with a love for Yamato music. Everyone who sees 2202 may feel the same way.

Interviewer: I’m a Yamato fan, and I’ve felt it, too. Please tell me about scenes in the first three chapters that you are most particular about.

Habara: For me, it’s Yamato’s launch in Chapter 2. Of course, it’s a scene that became iconic for the story, so I made it with great sensitivity.

Interviewer: When it launches from the undersea dock. How about you, Mr. Fukui?

Fukui: In Chapter 3 this time, it’s the scene where Kodai and Yuki are forced to make a choice. These two are forced to make the ultimate choice, and choose the unexpected. We all agreed that “this is a daring choice.” It was pretty difficult, because I had a hard time getting unified agreement. It’s the scene that becomes the overall icon of Chapter 3.

Interviewer: It’s the part that becomes linked to the catch phrase. “Choose that which you love.”

Fukui: The words in that phrase become very ironic after you see Chapter 3. But it’s also an unwavering proposition that all humans will do so.

Interviewer: It was decided by all three of you.

Fukui: In Yamato, and later in Gundam, there is a common point that the hero has realism. People who have watched Yamato think it’s inevitable that it’s necessary to give Susumu Kodai a heroic image. To everyone who thinks so implicitly, my thought was to ask, can I please say something raw here? I thought I had to do it this time.

To begin with, I think the place that touched everyone’s heart so much in Farewell was the final Kodai scene where he’s going to give his life for the Earth. Despair overlaps with too much loss, and Kodai becomes weird enough to see hallucinations. The sadness and pain gives him the strange air of a madman. That’s what struck my heart. Because that’s what everyone responded to, I will step into it again this time.

Interviewer: This has become a work that takes a considerable step into that territory. How about you, Mr. Oka?

Oka: I honestly can’t say which is the best. At the time of the big plot written by Mr. Fukui, it all had a tremendous amount of heat and density. It exceeds my capacity to catch everything completely, but I still catch it somehow. Once a script is completed, we release our grip on it and hand it to Mr. Habara. It’s completely packed with content, and I don’t have the slightest idea at that stage how they can visualize it in the given working time. I have no choice but to believe it. It goes far beyond my expectations and reaches completion in Mr. Habara’s hands. That’s how I got to a place where I could deliver Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and now Chapter 3 to everyone. I’m overwhelmed with emotion, so it’s impossible for me to choose only one.

We pick up as much foreshadowing as possible

Interviewer: In Chapter 3 we meet big developments at last. What kind of developments are waiting in the future?

Oka: As you know, we’re taking a line that zigzags between Farewell and Yamato 2, but 2202 suddenly goes off in a different direction. However, we pick up key scenes and impressive moments that everyone remembers as much as possible, so you can expect that because it’s a major policy at the roots. But there are a lot of parts like, “Are you really picking this up, Harutoshi Fukui!?”

Interviewer: Moments meant for maniacs?

Oka: There were many times when I actually said, “Are you really picking this up!?” (Laughs)

Interviewer: Because the moments came from Yamato 2 or Farewell, right?

Fukui: Farewell is a masterpiece, so everything I take from it is a famous scene. But Yamato 2 is full of moments. I think they become fascinating if we depict them with present techniques and appropriate narratives. More than anything else, I think it’s important for you to see it and say, “Ah, I know this picture.” As a member of the generation that slipped a little from Farewell, I saw pictures from Yamato 2 in children’s publications over the next year. One image that made an impression on me was “Yamato flying in the midst of lots of fireflies.” Well, I thought the fireflies were necessary, so I had an idea that incorporated them into Episode 10.

Interviewer: It feels like stimulating both the new fans and those who loved Farewell and Yamato 2. Lastly, please give a message and an appeal from you three to the fans of Yamato.

Habara: In a nutshell, this is both “The Yamato I wanted to see” and a Yamato that no one has seen before. The subtitle of Chapter 3 is Pure Love Chapter, and I think seeing this work will get you thinking about pure love.

Fukui: Pure Love Chapter is a story that goes beyond that. This time you get a glimpse of the White Comet Empire that shows what Gatlantis is like, and this continues to expand in the fourth chapter. You’ll understand the reason it is said that “Love is necessary.” So what is this work trying to depict through the power relationship between Yamato and Gatlantis? This means it will gradually brighten up as they approach the core of Telezart, and Teresa.

Oka: As of now, we’re in the midst of production on Chapter 4. Everyone’s humanity intensifies every time you see them, and I’m spinning the story as I pour my blood into it. Based on the story of Yamato, I think the appeal of this work is that the characters are depicted as if they truly have flesh and blood. Furthermore, ideas and visual spectacles appear one after another that are appropriate to succeed the history of Yamato. In the future, both the elements of story and picture get increasingly bigger, and all I can say is that this will continue to the end. I think it will be something of that magnitude.

Interviewer: At this stage it’s a feeling of high expectation. Thank you for today.

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