Daisuke Ono & Kenichi Suzumura interview, October 2018

Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love
Daisuke Ono and Kenichi Suzumura look back on the monumental achievement of this SF anime and its long “voyage” to the next generation.

Kenichi Suzumura (Shima Daisuke) and Daisuke Ono (Susumu Kodai)

Originally published October 4/5 on Anime Hack, Cinemas Plus, Nizista, Web Newtype, and the Official 2202 website

Based on Farewell to Yamato, which was released in 1978, a new voyage of Yamato is depicted in Yamato 2202. Chapter 6 of this 7-chapter series, Regeneration Chapter, opens in theaters November 2, and the TV broadcast begins October 5. Continuing their roles from Yamato 2199, Daisuke Ono plays the hero Susumu Kodai and Kenichi Suzumura plays his companion Daisuke Shima for the length of Yamato’s voyage. We listened to their current feelings about the upcoming TV broadcast and how best to enjoy the work.

Interviewer: The TV broadcast is finally starting. What is your current frame of mind?

Ono: I feel like we’ve come a long way from 2199. We can finally see the end point in Yamato’s endless journey. I think the decision about the timing of the TV broadcast is truly significant. It revives the excitement of the 1970s, and the so-called “Yamato generation” can get excited about watching it. I think that excitement will be conveyed to the next generation that doesn’t know Yamato yet, and it could create an upsurge in new viewers as we approach the climax. As a crew member, I’m very happy that Yamato will be affected by being able to experience both of them at the same time.

Suzumura: The flow with Yamato 2199 was also to be shown in theaters first and then on TV afterward, so the feeling this time is, “It finally happened!” I’m looking forward to the big movement that will arise from the synergy of starting the TV broadcast as we rush toward the theatrical climax.

Ono: 2202 has had two arcs [13 episodes X 2] over a year-and-a-half to two years. In the case of a TV series, there are few works that were made over such a long time. Even after passing through 2199, I can’t imagine what it will be like to watch it on TV every week.

Suzumura: When we came together as a cast, we treated it as a theatrical work, and I think the staff had the same feeling. Those who have seen it in theaters already know, the visuals and sound are theatrical quality. I think it’s amazing to be able to see that on TV every week. The monumental achievement of the original Yamato movie was that a movement arose in theaters, and I think Yamato being symbolized on the big screen is very meaningful. However, since a lot of people who liked Yamato saw it on TV, the previous Yamato that became popular on TV made its way to theaters. I thought it was fascinating that the reverse happened with 2199. I wondered if it would follow the same form this time, and personally I wanted the TV broadcast to start early. (Laughs) The synergy of big movements between TV and the theater is fascinating. Did you know there would be a TV broadcast, Ono-kun?

Ono: I knew it would happen at some point.

Suzumura: I just didn’t know when. (Laughs) But it’s good timing. I think it’s great that the TV broadcast will start while the theatrical screenings are still underway. 

Interviewer: 2202 has been made over a long period. Were there any changes in your approach to the roles during that time?

Ono: There haven’t been any specific changes. Since 2199, I’ve played Kodai without knowing about future developments. Instead of preparing my feelings for the future, I’ve always just been trying to “do my best at the time.” Yamato is a great work, and though I’m tempted by a desire to know what’s coming up, I want to link myself to Kodai as I play him, as he responds to the pressure of a serious decision. That’s my attitude toward playing Kodai.

Suzumura: The axis of the story is for Kodai not to get blurred. Shima, who supports him, has more definite intentions. In 2202, that becomes the position Shima steps back to take. The feeling of “I support you” toward Kodai was strong in 2199, but in response to Kodai’s growth in 2202, I think I came to respect that he could stand on his own. There are many times when the feelings in that area are depicted visually with no lines. One one hand, I think, “This is animation!” but there’s also some loneliness to it. “I want to perform more!” (Laughs)

Ono: Compared to 2199, I think gazing eyes and such behavior is part of Nobuyoshi Habara’s directing style, and there is a lot of natural depictions where you can understand that Shima supports Kodai. By the way, the Sound Director Tomohiro Yoshida doesn’t record much ad libbing when it comes to breathing. I was surprised by that at first, but when I actually saw the finished footage I understood why sound wasn’t necessary.

Suzumura: In the era when animation was for children, the original Yamato placed the depiction of adult psychology over science fiction, and Director Habara was greatly influenced by it. I think that’s why he strives for nuanced depictions.

Ono: As a result, fewer lines for Shima. (Laughs)

Suzumura: However, Shima can appear every week without warning, so please pay attention. I think the lines that come out after building things up visually are very heavy. When Shima says “Warp!”, there’s a lot going on behind it. “Warp” to get out of a big pinch, “Warp” in response to Kodai’s decisions…lots of “Warp!” There aren’t many lines, and Hiroshi Kamiya [Keyman] makes fun of me as the “warpman,” but “Warp” is my main line, and thanks to the play of the visuals Shima has a proper presence there every time.

Ono: By all means, look for Shima every week.

Suzumura: Will you stop telling everyone to treat it like “Where’s Waldo”? (Laughs)

Interviewer: (Laughs) By the way, what’s the atmosphere at the recording site?

Ono: I’m really grateful Mr. Suzumura is there. The site is filled with veterans, so I get nervous…

Suzumura: Compared with 2199, when I was often surrounded by veterans.

Ono: The story with 2199 was usually that young people played the crew, and now in 2202 everyone in the role of a soldier from Earth who come chasing after Yamato is a heavyweight…

Ono: In such circumstances, it’s really helpful to have Mr. Suzumura and Mr. Kamiya there, who are close to my age. With so many veterans around, I don’t have many opportunities to work with them. I was even nervous at first when talking with Houchu Otsuka [Sanada] on the Yamato crew. But he and Mr. Mugihito [Tokugawa] came over to talk when I was chatting with Mr. Suzumura and Mr. Kamiya, and both are friendly. I’m grateful to Mr. Suzumura for livening up the place.

Suzumura: By all means, please print that in bold text. (Laughs)

Ono: If not for Shima, Kodai wouldn’t be acting captain now. I’m the same. Even in places where there aren’t any lines, I’m glad you can feel the relationship of mutual trust between Kodai and Shima.

Interviewer: You mentioned Mr. Kamiya, who also appears in 2202.

Suzumura: When Hiroshi came in for 2202, the site had an entirely different impression than 2199. Why was that?

Ono: Mr. Kamiya got into discussions with Director Habara and the writer, Mr. Fukui. Keyman’s presence as a character is filled with mystery and a lot of speculation, so he aggressively tried to get at the meaning behind his lines. It’s the complete opposite of my approach, where I don’t dare to learn what’s coming. He says, “I want to know everything that’s going to happen.”

Suzumura: Indeed he does. I’m like Mr. Ono, I prefer to decipher things from the script without looking ahead, but Hiroshi gets what he can out of the directors because Keyman is full of mysteries. It’s customary that when the discussion is over between those three, I join up and the four of us go for rice. Since “D” [nickname for Daisuke Ono] has the lead role, he has a lot of work to do after the main voice recording, like commercials and interviews, so it’s hard for him to come along.

Ono: I’m jealous every time. I want you to take me, too!!

Interviewer: Mr. Kamiya’s presence has a big influence on the recording site, and his character Keyman is important for being involved in the whole story, isn’t he?

Suzumura: Keyman didn’t appear in Farewell to Yamato, so his presence is a very big element. The flow of 2202 is roughly the same as Farewell at the beginning, and Keyman was slightly out of place as a new character. That small deviation is a device that makes a huge difference in the future, so definitely pay attention to his trend.

Ono: Kodai encountered Dessler just once in 2199, and they didn’t exchange many words. But Kodai has pride in saying, “I can understand even aliens” so when he carries on a direct dialogue with Keyman as a Garmillan, Keyman literally becomes the “key man” for Kodai to understand aliens. But since Keyman’s perspective on Earthlings is from the Garmillas side, his way of speaking is difficult. (Laughs) There is a part that deters Kodai, and I feel like his conflict is “I want to understand, but I don’t want to understand.” But actually, Keyman has a positive approach, he just comes out and says, “Get on Yamato.”

Interviewer: The main visual for the TV broadcast is an homage to Farewell to Yamato, which this project is based on. What is your impression when you look at it?

Suzumura: When I see it, I think, what are those two (Kodai and Yuki) looking at? (Laughs)

Ono: That’s first. (Laughs) Then there’s the title Soldiers of Love, and I’m impressed by the fact that these two are in the main visual. It reminds me of what Mr. Fukui said before 2202 started, that “It will be a painful journey that tests their love.” It makes me want to cry. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Can you tell us about a scene in 2202 with Kodai and Shima that impressed you?

Suzumura: It’s the scene where Shima is deciding whether or not to ride on Yamato. I think it was huge that the feelings between these two, who traveled together in 2199, were out of sync. As a result, Shima sympathized with Kodai’s thoughts about getting on board. If not for Kodai in that scene, I wouldn’t have gotten on. When you think about him as an ordinary person in society, it would be an unworthy act. (Laughs) There must be an absolute rule in this group, to protect those who believe that only they can go and give help, to say, “Wait a minute, let’s keep calm.” (Laughs) It’s only right for Shima to calmly give a dissenting opinion when there’s no conclusive evidence or support for what we can do. Shima goes beyond logic when he decides to board Yamato.

Kodai has passion and the ability to act on it, and I think I believe in human nature even though I’ll suffer from the trouble it brings. Also, Shima hasn’t gotten far enough into the Earth Federation Army to gain a career. (Laughs) But he has the power to bring happiness to the people within his reach. Shima’s standing in the organization is to balance the influence of others when they do something, and I think it’s likely that he got on board to take care of the “great sum” of Yamato. It gets diluted when you put it into words, but I’m just saying that Shima is attractive when he steps up and says, “Leave it to me.” A certain bond between two people is depicted there, and even if it isn’t emphasized in another episode afterward, I think it will be conveyed to the people watching it.

Ono: I want to have a friend like Shima. (Laughs) The way they think of each other that goes beyond words…I think Yamato itself is a ship that is connected by such thoughts. But I think there’s also a part where turmoil is the blood of the ship, too. (Laughs) I think the behavior principle of Shima is family, with the depiction of both a father and a brother coming out. It’s the same with the visions shown by Teresa, but I think that’s a really deep love. On the other hand, Kodai only sees his favorite woman. (Laughs) But when he gets ready to leave, he tries to leave his beloved behind. Then Shima stops Kodai when he says, “What about Mori-kun?” I don’t think there are many friends who would say that. I think that line in the scene between Kodai and Shima was great. I wondered if I could say the same thing to my best friend. Shima is a good guy…

Suzumura: Shima is a man of few words, but he says good things. (Laughs)

Interviewer: For those viewers who will see 2202 anew in the TV broadcast, how would you like your work to be enjoyed?

Ono: Since this is going to be the last year of the Heisei era, I think there will be a lot of people who don’t know Yamato. But when that song starts with “Saraba…Chikyu-yo…” [Farewell Earth…] I think they’ll know it. The reason why Yamato travels is vague in the lyrics, but there’s enough background in it to enjoy 2202. The long trip to Iscandar mentioned in the song has ended, but when you see the first episode it explains why we go off on a new voyage, so I think you can enjoy it by that alone. And for all the genuine fans, it becomes a new story that doesn’t look like the Farewell to Yamato that you know. Its approach and expression are totally different, but it includes homages to Farewell, too. And of course, for the fans of 2199, this is the sequel you’ve been waiting for. Since it’s a work that all three of those people can enjoy, I just want to say, “Just start watching it without thinking of anything!”

Suzumura: Kamiya-kun says, “Yamato is already a classic.” He means on the level of Momotaro and Kintaro, a work that everyone in Japan knows. I think it’s actually a common thing not to know the details about that kind of classic. When I say “Kintaro,” the plot doesn’t just swish through my head. Yamato has become a classic imprinted on the DNA of some people, and it’s a rare work in that those who witnessed the beginning of the legend are still active. In remaking such a classic, you can either trace it perfectly, or just extract its essence and create a totally different story. The wonderful thing about 2199 and 2202 is that it balances both sides really well. Anyone who looks at it will see the “Yamato of today.” And I think fans of the original can say, “This is Yamato.” And those who don’t know Yamato and think of it as a folktale will be able to feel, “Is this Yamato?”

Interviewer: Can you both recommend a way of enjoying the TV broadcast?

Ono: When you watch a TV broadcast with two arcs [26 episodes] every week, the tempo is going to be different than with someone who looks forward to seeing it in theaters and then waits for the next time. Maybe it’s a luxurious point of view.

Suzumura: I think you can only eat popcorn in a theater, but at home you can enjoy booze and snacks. (Laughs)

Ono: I’d want to party. (Laughs)

Suzumura: I’d say to everyone that “We’re Yamato’s crew” and recommend that they watch Yamato while drinking booze like Dr. Sado. (Laughs)

Interviewer: How can fans who have already seen Chapter 5 in theaters enjoy the TV broadcast?

Suzumura: It’s an automatic house party. Gather your friends and adopt a smart face and hint at where it goes.

Ono: You mean a smirk? Sounds like a jerk. (Laughs)

Suzumura: It’s a real thrill to be one of the few who knows where it’s going. It’s a late-night broadcast, so don’t eat any takoyaki then, just have fun drinking sake.

Ono: No Tako!? For those who have seen it in theaters, I want you to spread it widely to your friends. It may be hard to say, “Let’s go see a movie,” but I think it’s easy to say, “Let’s watch now that it’s on TV.” It expands more on TV. Even for people who don’t usually watch much anime, there may be a case where, “I found it by chance as I was changing the channel.” I think it’s a unique occasion for those who don’t know Yamato to be touched by it.

Suzumura: It’s a good time for the broadcast. Japanese people love stories about overcoming adversity. You could come home at night tired from work and watch Yamato while you take a breath. I think it’s a work that makes me feel like I’ll surely have more energy tomorrow.

Interviewer: Finally, a message to the broadcast, please.

Suzumura: For everyone who wanted to see it in a theater but unfortunately couldn’t go, now you can see it on TV. You can enjoy it in exactly the same quality as a theater, so don’t miss it! Those who didn’t see 2199 can still understand 2202, and if watching 2202 gets you interested in 2199, on-demand delivery has started, so please enjoy that too. Please plunge into the world view of Yamato to the fullest.

Ono: To everyone we’ve kept waiting, the TV broadcast is starting at last! I feel great joy that you can enjoy an anime work of this quality on TV every week. I’ve been involved in Yamato from 2199 to 2202, and we’ve taken on the mission of handing down the monumental achievement of SF anime called Space Battleship Yamato to the next generation. Among those who will see Yamato for the first time, I think there will be some fans who like Yamato more than ever before. As the crew of this “ship” increases, I hope they will convey the universal fascination of Yamato…”love”…to the next generation.

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