Yamato Year 2008

2008 was an amazingly busy year for an anime series that had gone out of production a quarter of a century earlier. New and unique products rolled out of Japan to keep the fans’ attention and they got the best news of all when Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki announced that a new film was going into production on July 31. It also marked the 30th anniversary of Farewell to Yamato and started the countdown for the 35th anniversary of the original series in 2009. For the sake of posterity, then, here is a complete rundown of what happened with Space Battleship Yamato in the year 2008.

The first new product of the year was a real oddball, miniature keychain Kewpie dolls of Kodai and Captain Okita from the Run’A toy company, which has given the same treatment to many popular characters. Read more about them here.

January also saw the release of a much more traditional product, a handsome Andromeda released by toy designer Marmit. This metal behemoth reaches almost 18 inches long, topping the previous record holder (the Bandai model kit) by nearly 3 inches.

Megahouse, one of the many divisions of Bandai, finished off their Cosmo Fleet Collection series in January with a ‘Best Selection’ set featuring eight spaceships from their previous three collections. See them all here.

February kicked off with the release of what became the undisputed highlight of the year for Yamato fans: a newly-remastered DVD box set of the first TV series with a gorgeous new 1/700 scale model kit as a bonus item. Both began as independent projects and were eventually brought together by the mighty forces of Bandai. The DVDs were digitally captured from a 35mm negative of the original animation (all previous video releases were struck from 16mm prints) and were personally approved by Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki. To date, the kit has not been made available on its own.

Read the whole story of this release here.

Magazine coverage of the DVD box followed quickly. First out of the gate was Japan’s Weekly Playboy, which carried the first interview in a decade with Yoshinobu Nishizaki, in conversation Yamato superfan/Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno. Read a complete translation here.

Dengeki Hobby Magazine‘s March issue contained a bonus 20-page booklet devoted to Yamato (cover shown at right). Click here to view the entire thing from cover to cover.

Bandai’s next Yamato release also came in March and was an unusual product indeed: a bottle of “Deslar Wine,” custom-packaged with its own stemware, two commemorative cards, and a high-quality reproduction of the Gamilas medal of honor. No report has yet surfaced about the wine itself, though it’s doubtful that any serious collector would dare to open it.

Bandai followed this a month later with the super-cool Cosmo Zero motorcycle helmet as worn by Kodai himself. It came with a cloth bag, face shield, and bonus money clip. Both this helmet and the wine set were released by Lalabit Market, Bandai’s online boutique for high-end anime products. Browse their website here. Don’t forget your drool cup. The source of the Black Tiger windbreaker (below right) is currently a mystery, but it’s definitely a perfect pairing!

April brought issue #466 of Hobby Japan, the premiere modeling magazine for over four decades. A year earlier, the cover story was the giant 1/350 scale Bandai model kit, and this time it centered around the new 1/700 Yamato with related articles on scratch-built EDF spaceships.

Gamilas ships were the focus of the fourth Space Battleship Yamato Mechanical Collection, a series of miniature “trading kits” released by Plex and Zacca P.A.P. under the all-seeing eye of Bandai. There were ten releases in each set, and an eleventh “secret ship” which turned out to be a green version of the Dessler Battle Carrier. See the entire Mechanical Collection line (and its gorgeous trading cards) here.

The only Yamato event that happened in May was worthy of an entire month all to itself. On May 19, 2008, the Space Battleship Yamato theme got its first-ever live performance on American soil when it was played by the Port Angeles High School band in Washington. The sheet music was procured by superfans Ed Hawkins and Don Gaiser. Don attended the performance in person and recorded it for all time. Click here to see what will hopefully be remembered as the first stop on Yamato‘s US concert tour.

Just as Marmit set the record for largest Andromeda toy in January, Game manufacturer Taito did the same with the Cosmo Zero in June. The “Super Mechanics” Cosmo Zero measured 12 inches from nose to tail and cut a dashing figure on any collector’s shelf. Taito’s previous release, the “Super Mechanics” Yamato from 2007, would make a reappearance at year’s end. Read more about Taito here.

June also saw the newest release in the Leiji Matsumoto Character Doll Series, the exquisite line of designer figures from Zero Goods Universe. CDS No. 31 was Sasha from Be Forever Yamato. Two more figures followed in August: CDS 32 was an alternate Sasha from the PlayStation 2 game based on Be Forever. CDS 33 was the first male doll in the series, Mamoru Kodai (also from the PlayStation game). See Zero Goods’ entire Yamato lineup here.

October was filled with variety. Dai Yamato Zero-Go, a made-for-video series supervised by Leiji Matsumoto, was reissued in a box set by Godship on October 24. (Learn all about Dai Yamato here.) The very next day, Yamato 2 made its return to television for the first time in 28 years when a rerun began on Japan’s Family Theatre Network. October 30 brought a new book to the attention of classic anime collectors when Gakken published Bandai Box Art Collection, a seriously deep dive into the career of artist Shigeru Komatsuzaki. Revered as a master of the form, many of his paintings had gone on tour earlier in the year, which included his work for the earliest Yamato model boxes.

November saw a pair of Mechanical Collection sets from Plex and Zacca P.A.P. that forced collectors to clear even more space on their sagging shelves. The first was the Farewell to Yamato set, which cherry-picked earlier Mechanical Collections for ten ships that appeared in the film. (Which turned out to be the only commemoration of Farewell‘s 30th anniversary.) The “secret” ship turned out to be a gold-painted Yamato.

The second set was entirely new, a lineup of fightercraft that included a Black Tiger, a Cosmo Zero, and five variants of the Cosmo Tiger II. This set also had a “secret” ship, an alternate Cosmo Zero with a silver paint scheme. Conspicuously absent were the red snub-nosed Cosmo Tiger variant from Farewell to Yamato and the grey-and-green variant from Final Yamato. Some fans can never be satisfied.

Two more CDs were added to the long list in November, both from King Records, each featuring a cover of the Yamato theme. Shown at left is a disc titled Piano book of verses: Until we see the day again by Takashi Ohara. At right is a more unusual offering: Hassha [Takeoff] Melody Sound: Anime & Hero with several themes rendered in the style of Japan’s railway jingles, which are unique from station to station. There is a real-world precedent for this: tne JR station in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, uses the famous Astro Boy theme.

December turned out to be the busiest month of the year for Yamato fans. The first event was a one-day mini-con called Leiji Future 2008. Sponsored by Zero Goods Universe, this has become an annual event in which Leiji Matsumoto meets his fans and friends for a day in the Matsumoto-verse.

This was followed by another unusual product from Bandai: the Space Battleship Yamato pedometer. In earlier times, this would have been a pre-fab gadget with an interchangeable sticker to tie it in with whatever was hot at the moment. But in the days of digital technology, all sorts of new custom options become possible. Part exercise moniter, part video game, the pedometer came with three preprogrammed elements: a progressive story mode in which events are revealed when a user reaches specific milestones, a health mode in which Dr. Sado delivers fitness advice, and a Warp mode in which the user physically interacts with a battle scene.

A backstory supplied with the pedometer goes as follows: In 2008, the Earth (your body) was attacked by mysterious alien planet bombs (health neglect, excessive drinking, gluttony, lack of exercise) from the Gamilas Empire and was on the verge of extinction. The body’s internal organs were polluted by fat and the human waited for slow extinction in the basement. However, information about an “internal organ fat removal device” (Metabo Cleaner) arrives from a distance of 148,000 light years. The state of the art Yamato is equipped with a new wave-motion walking engine to go the distance. The human will reach extinction in only 90 days…

Another added bonus was an interactive website to allow users to enhance their pedometer service. There are almost certainly a whole world of fans who could benefit!

The most anticipated December releases were to come from game manufacturer Taito. Their first was a remake of their “Super Mechanics” Yamato from 2007, a 1/665 scale toy that made up for numerous structural inaccuracies with sturdy plastic and an impressive 16″ length. The new version came paired with a 1/1 scale Wave-Motion Gun trigger that lit up the ship’s prime weapon when pulled. As seen in the photo above, the trigger was bigger than the ship itself.

Also on offer from Taito was this lovely pair of 8″ Yuki Mori “Real Figures” in which Yamato‘s sweetheart is outfitted for both of her stations. Visit Taito’s toy page here.

Marmit made a comeback to close out the year with the second metal statue in their Yamato line, Dessler’s Battleship from the first TV series, which measured just over 9 inches long. Other than its picture-perfect sculpting, its one action feature was a popup bridge module.

Lawson, one of the bigger convenience store chains in Japan, surprised everyone with this new Mechanical Collection in early December, eight ships released as part of a canned-drink promotion. Each could be mounted on its own stand or combined in the separate domed display base. This was the first Yamato product to tie in with 2009’s 35th anniversary of the first TV series, hopefully a sign of special commemorations to come. Lawson upped the ante with a hilarious TV commercial, which can be seen here.

With a new movie AND a 35th anniversary, 2009 was another great Year of Yamato. Read our 2009 Year-in-Review here.

The End

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