by Gwyn Campbell
Yamatalk Night 2 was held on July 10, this time at the classy Shinjuku Picadilly Cinema, a few blocks way from the Wald 9 where the previous night had been held on April 17. (Read the full report here.) In fact, the first event had proven to be so popular that this time around it was being held twice–once at Shinjuku and then a second time at the Yokohama Burg 13 Cinema. What follows is a transcript of the Shinjuku event.
The talk show was preceded by a screening of Yamato 2199 Chapter 2. When this concluded, Master of Ceremonies Osamu Kobayashi took the stage (well, the front of the cinema) to introduce the evening’s guests: General Director Yutaka Izubuchi and Screenplay Writers Hiroshi Ohnogi & Sadayuki Murai. The chemistry between the guests was immediately obvious. Izubuchi and Ohnogi had known each other for decades and this came across in their interaction with each other. To keep the spirit of their constant back-and-forth intact, I have tried to keep the transcript as complete as possible.
MC: Tell me a bit about your history with Mr. Izubuchi.
Ohnogi: We met during their university years. Izubuchi was semi-pro and I was still an amateur. Due to our shared interest in SF, we kind of entered the industry through that.
Izubuchi: Wasn’t it due to Gunsight?
Ohnogi: Err…are we allowed to mention that? (laughter) Well, considering the age and interests of the people in the audience they may have already heard about this.
Izubuchi: It was a doujinshi [fanzine] that became the basis for Gundam Century. [Note: this was a famous art book that began the expansion of the Gundam universe beyond the TV anime.]
MC: Do you want to talk a bit about that?
Izubuchi: If we do, we won’t have any time left to talk about Yamato, so let’s move on (laughter).
Ohnogi: So we knew each other from a long way back but it was ages before we actually worked together.
Izubuchi: It would have been on Birdy the Mighty.
Ohnogi: Ah that’s right. The radio drama of Tetsuwan Birdy. There was a CD version of it. Thanks to your introduction, I was able to work on it.
Izubuchi: It was around that time that Ohnogi was thinking of turning it into a novel but then the publishing company went bust (laughter) [Note: he previously adapted Wings of Honneamise into a novel and would eventually do the same for Aquarion and Rahxephon.)
Ohnogi: And then while I was lost with nothing to do, I was taken in by the Great Izubuchi. I was surprised, since I had intended to write a novel but ended up writing anime scripts again. That was in the early 90s. So we’ve known each other for a while. [Note: they would go on to work together on Rahxephon and Toward the Terra as well)
MC: And Murai?
Izubuchi: Yamato  was when we met right?
Murai: Yes, Yamato was the first time we met. I was told by a producer from AIC that they were going to do Yamato and when I asked who the director would be, he said it was Izubuchi.
Izubuchi: I’d been shown some of Murai’s work in advance and I thought it was interesting. Almost mysterious. Here was someone who understood SF. I’d like to bring him on board, I thought. So I invited him.
Murai: Yes that’s how it was. Of course, I liked Yamato. But to tell you the truth, given the situation at that time I couldn’t really see how such a project could succeed. But since the director was going to be Izubuchi…well, I thought I’d like to give it a try.
MC: I’d like to talk a bit about your history with Yamato. You both (Ohnogi & Murai) saw the original when it first aired. Did it leave any impressions?
Ohnogi: That’s right. I would’ve been in my third year of middle school. And regardless of after-school study periods, I always watched it.
Murai: I would’ve been in year 5 or 6 of elementary school. So while I saw it as a child, you would’ve been watching it as a teenager with more of an eye for SF.
Ohnogi: True. I already liked SF [at that time].
Murai: As an adult [oriented] anime, Yamato was a little different and was possibly my first SF. Well, in my case, it was edited into the movie which I saw, and while there was a Yamato boom prior to that, the story [of the movie version] was pretty poor..
Izubuchi: The boom really started when the series was re-aired.
Murai: And when it did I was in my 6th year of elementary school. And that’s when the boom REALLY began. Even though I actually watched a fair bit of it right from the beginning, but.. well, I wasn’t a great kid, I didn’t finish it because I didn’t get what was going on. (laughter)
MC: And that was how you got into Yamato. So I’d like to talk a bit about the your work on the scripts [for 2199].
Izubuchi: At first, I worked on it myself. I decided the general direction I wanted it to take, and main plot twists, and then Murai came in on Chapter 3, I think.
Murai: That’s right. The screenplay for Chapters 1 and 2 had pretty much been completed.
Izubuchi: Then he came in from Episodes 8 [Wish Upon a Star] & 9 [The Clockwork Prisoner]. Actually, I was most interested in seeing how he handled A Clockwork Prisoner, but I handed them both over to him as a set since they had some interconnected elements and I thought it was best to work on two episodes at a time. As for Ohnogi, given his past experience with writing drama [i.e., character relationships] in the past, I had him oversee the drama elements, especially the female characters in particular from Chapter 4 onward. Morita, who isn’t here tonight, came on with Episode 6.
Murai: When I came onboard, Episode 4 was done and eps 5 and 6 were being done.
Ohnogi: Izubuchi came to me and said, “we’re doing Yamato. You’re in, right? For our generation, Yamato is something we absolutely have to do.”
Izubuchi: That’s right.
Ohnogi: When it was said that way, there’s no way I could refuse! (laughter)
Izubuchi: Murai may be slightly younger than us, but he still watched the original when he was young, right? So I think he shared the same feeling. If I was to say, “it has to be done like this” to someone younger, say in their 30s, I don’t think they would really get it.
Ohnogi: Morita’s role was mostly just chit-chat, right? (laughter) He kept asking these questions like, “what are we gonna do for Yuki’s naked scene?”
Murai: And how will we do the warp scene, etc.
Ohnogi: He was like, “Yuki has to be naked during the warp scene, or it just isn’t right!” (crowd applauds). So that was the role of Morita-who-isn’t-here-tonight, while the rest of us, well…
Murai: Apart from the script, Morita had another important task, which was to…well…to me, the impact of Yamato comes from its visuals.
Izubuchi: (smirking) Well, you could say the same for Morita. (laughter)
Murai: In other words…well, if we look at Chapters 1 and 2, there’s the floating continent, and the firing of the Wave-Motion Gun has a great impact. Then, in the current Chapter there’s the Satellite Reflection Gun…there’s a new gimmick of some sort every episode that hooks you, and that’s an important part of writing Yamato. I mean, the image of the Warp scene is…
Izubuchi: Yuki? (laughter)
Ohnogi: For our generation, I think we understood what “Warp” meant. We’d seen it used in novels and such, and when I saw the scene in the original Yamato where everything stopped, I was like, “wait a minute…isn’t just TIME moving and while THEY aren’t moving anywhere at all?” (laughter) And of course, Yuki being naked had a huge impact. (laughter)
Izubuchi: Even among the other staff working with us, some people asked if ‘THAT’ scene was going to be included, while others asked if there would be some sort of lingerie involved. (laughter)
MC: So in other words, the impact of the visuals of the original was really strong. Did anything else from the original affect you when writing?
Ohnogi: Yes. As those in the audience have already seen, the image [type] of the voice actors is quite different [compared to the original]. For us script writers, this wasn’t decided in advance.
MC: I just need to jump in here and ask, how far in advance was the script decided upon?
Izubuchi: It was finalized either last year or the year before, but we had been working on it for four years.
Ohnogi: How to put this…the director got hung up on this and that…
Izubuchi: I did?
MC: Now, guys, let’s not fight…
Izubuchi: Come on, I’ve gotta be easier to work with than [Shoji] Kawamori, right? (laughter)
Ohnogi: What were we talking about again?
MC: The voice actors?
Ohnogi: Oh, right. In all seriousness though…
Izubuchi: You seemed serious enough just now. (laughter)
Ohnogi: Well anyway, the cast hadn’t been decided yet. So without meaning to, we would recall the voices from the original series. In 2199, some of the characters’ personality traits have been changed a bit from the original, but while writing I had in mind, for example, the original more hot-headed Kodai. So afterward, I had to rewrite some of his lines, which was fairly difficult.
MC: In other words, this was mostly around the time Chapter 2 was being written?
Ohnogi: That’s right. Apart from creating the script itself, writing these new versions of the character while the old ones were still in my mind was the hardest part.
MC: How about you, Mr. Murai?
Murai: When Morita was reading the script for for Eps 5 and 6, he stopped at one point, saying it was too difficult. Those in the audience have heard the script with the animation to accompany it, but when all you have is the script there’s just so much technical jargon. Especially during the final battle of Pluto in Episode 6, because you have to try to picture the location, the setting in your head. So I think one of the hardest things was that we were trying to write with the aim of keeping the original intact but adding some reality to it.
MC: Was there any particular meaning or reason behind who you assigned which episodes to?
Izubuchi: Well, it’s pretty much like I said earlier, I wanted Murai to try his hand at Eps 8 & 9, with Morita handling episodes which had a lot of drama to them.
Murai: Yes, the first episode I wrote was Episode 8, and it was pretty difficult to begin with–knowing how long it would take to travel from one place to another, etc.
Izubuchi: We had meetings to discuss how much time certain distances would take to travel, etc.
Murai: So things I’d never considered when watching the original as a kid…you become conscious of them as an adult.
Izubuchi: there are things in the original that the audience wouldn’t allow you to get away with today. And you pay attention to these things. It’s like, when making a movie, on the set you have things like chests of drawers with no actual clothes in them. They aren’t seen, so they don’t need to be included. But sometimes they will be included anyway. This is close to the level of detail we considered. But even having said that, there are some things that you don’t necessarily need to show. The depth of meaning comes from the fact that they aren’t shown. If they aren’t things that are noticeable, then that’s fine. But when they are noticeable, then mistakes become all the more obvious to the viewer.
MC: One thing in particular caught my attention [in Chapter 2] that I want to ask about, as I’m sure the audience probably will, and that was the fact that Yuki was wearing her hair pulled up at one point. I thought that looked pretty nice.
Izubuchi: But its normal, isn’t it? She has to be able to wear a helmet. And that was a situation where she had to be able to exit [the vehicle] quickly. So we were just showing something that came naturally. But then, once you start showing things that would normally seem logical, then those things stand out even more. We simulated how things would work. It’s not like someone asked how Yuki would look with her hair up, we thought about it logically and said well, this is how it would be.
MC: These things add a sense of realism to the world. That it exists.
Izubuchi: Actually, the original series did a lot of things like this. The characters actually wore spacesuits when necessary, for example. But by the middle of the series these things got a little sketchy. Like, you could see a gap between the [spacesuit] glove and the clothes that the character was wearing. They still wore helmets at least, so it wasn’t a huge issue, but later on still…well, I don’t want to mention this, but there were times when characters went out without a spacesuit and things like that.
In the original, in one episode the script required that Shima and Kodai go up on deck and get into a fight. They had to be able to fight out on the deck–probably according to the order of a certain someone. So when [Animation Director] Noboru Ishiguro later asked, “why is there a dome barrier on ONLY THAT part of the ship?” the reason was just so that Shima and Kodai could get into a fist fight. That’s the reason it was there.
MC: When writing the script, was there anything that you thought you’d like to add?
Ohnogi: Various things. For example, you’ve probably already noticed what we did with Sanada. The old Sanada, his sister died on a roller coaster on the moon! I was thinking, how I can do this character for this new version, and I started thinking about the relationship between him and Aihara. The director (Izubuchi) liked the idea and allowed us to go with it.
Izubuchi: And then we came up with, for example, their exchange in the cafeteria when he is reading a book.
Murai: In other words, to be blunt, we were fine with removing things that were in the original that didn’t make sense. But those elements that were core to Yamato, those couldn’t be removed, so we had to think of how to keep them in this new reality. Episode 8 in particular–the Satellite Reflection Gun–it might seem ridiculous, but if we were to remove it, then the whole battle of Pluto would…
Izubuchi: Yeah, that would be no good. But then there was the question of how the planet bombs were launched. And then I thought, that’s it!
Ohnogi: Everyone has their own “Yamato.” Those elements that make it what it is for them. Which is why among us, including Morita, everyone brought their own Yamato to the table and we had to think about what we had to do to make this work. With the case of the Satellite Reflection Gun, we thought it’s strange that they just happen to have it there.
Murai: They just learned of Yamato‘s existence, so why would they have an offensive weapon there?
Ohnogi: And it just happened to be more powerful than the Wave-Motion Gun…
Izubuchi: Even back when I watched the original, I thought that Schulz didn’t have his data straight…I made up excuses for [that sort of stuff] in my head when I watched.
Ohnogi: So in the middle of all this, we were constantly talking about how to make these things work.
Izubuchi: Yeah, there was “The Drill Missile Debate.” (Laughter) That one got pretty heated. Trying to decide whether such a thing was realistically doable or not. When it hits the Wave-Motion Gun, would it actually end up entering the ship? (More laughter)
Ohnogi: Everyone had different points. We discussed it and then had the director decide whether it was doable or not.
MC: Speaking of the drill missile, there is one point I wanted to bring up regarding the 3rd bridge. When Yamato submerged it ended up looking like a submarine.
Izubuchi: Yes, when Yamato inverts it looks like a submarine. It was [mecha designer Junichiro] Tamamori who noticed that. I thought, “You’re right! That looks cool! It really does look like a futuristic submarine! I want to use this!’
Then, they had their inertial control taken out by the Satellite Reflection Gun, right? Then they went down, right? But they still had some gravity control and managed to rotate the ship. That’s why, when the chief engineer says, “we can fight without feet on the ground now!” that meant that even though the ship was inverted they could still fight.
MC: I thought that was impressive. They could control gravity inside the ship.
Izubuchi: Actually, it’s more that the original was a little strange in that it omitted such a thing.
MC: Something else I’d like to ask about; Shulz’s daughter. [Thunderous applause from the crowd] Whose idea was it to include her?
Izubuchi: It was probably mine, I think. When you take into account the fact that he is a 2nd-class citizen in the empire and his background, I thought it wouldn’t be unusual for him to have a daughter. And of course, this wasn’t in the original due to the whole changing-colors-of-characters’-skin issue.
MC: Since we are running short of time, I’d like to move on to some audience questions.
Question: How would I go about learning the Gamilas language? Is there some sort of grammar textbook?
Izubuchi: Well, it was created mostly by someone Ohnogi knows, a linguistics professor. Where were they from again? Are we allowed to say who?
Ohnogi: Probably not. There was someone who specialized in the field of linguistics. Izubuchi had already put together a few words and then we gave it to this friend of mine and had it put together properly, with grammar and everything.
Izubuchi: Even at recording sessions, they had us practice the correct pronunciation beforehand, otherwise it would end up being pronounced like Japanese. We gave the Gamilas parts to the voice actors beforehand so they could memorize them, since they were pros. [Kouichi] Yamadera did a speech in Gamilan, for example. But you know, if you go to all the trouble of creating Gamilan, then you have to make Iscandarian too. And you might hear a few words here and there of other alien languages as well.
Question: What do the food replicators use to make food? (Laughter)
Izubuchi: Damn it, why isn’t Morita here [to answer this]! Well, we simulated the voyage and how much food would be needed. They would need to find planets that could supply food and the issue that would then come up was, why wouldn’t they just live on the planets that had food? And in the end we took kind of a Star Trek route. [The food replicator] is a bit of a convenient invention, but we figured it was better to include it. As for what it uses, well it might not be what you think.
Question: What were the three sticks of Calorie-Mate-looking food that Sanada ate? Avoiding unnecessary calories is one thing but if you don’t chew and digest proper food your body will deteriorate.
Ohnogi: Errr…he chews it properly, so it’s OK.
Izubuchi: It kind’a breaks up into a paste after you chew it properly.
Ohnogi: So he is chewing and getting enough nutrition.
Question: I’m interested in the fact that Schulz has a daughter and that Gamilans are able to have a home life.
Izubuchi: Ah, Hilde. Well, this isn’t something peculiar to Schulz, There are other Gamilans that have families as well.
Question: Whose idea was it to put the symbol on the Cosmo Falcon’s tail?
Izubuchi: Its was Enomoto. He really wanted to put it in there.
Question: In Episode 6, Yamato went inverted in the seas of Pluto. What happened to the gravity inside the ship?
Izubuchi: Well, we discussed most of this earlier. As you could see, there was a slight turbulence when they rolled but that was just due to Pluto’s gravity. Although it doesn’t have that much gravity. Like the floating continent, it’s about the same size as Australia, so it doesn’t have that much gravity.
Question: Does the third bridge actually have any special equipment or purpose?
Izubuchi: You guys love the third bridge, don’t you?
MC: It hasn’t been damaged yet, either!
Izubuchi: Well, since we are using CG for the ship model, we can’t really heavily damage the third bridge over time but I’m thinking it might get faded or something. As for special functions, it’s not really used as a bridge but, and this gets mentioned later on, it contains the gravity control system.
By this time it was getting late, so the guests pulled names from a hat of audience members who had submitted unread questions, and awarded them with autographed theatrical posters.