Showa 40 Otoko is a bimonthly magazine published by Crete Planning Box with a very specific target audience: Japanese men born in 1965. It’s actually a bit broader than that, but men born in that year experienced a heavy dose of pop culture and social change that always seemed to have them in its crosshairs, not the least of which was the chance to see Space Battleship Yamato at the very ripe age of 9 or 10; precisely the right time to get the full impact and ride it all the way to 1983 when they were 18 and 19.
Thus, examinations of Yamato come up on a fairly regular basis, especially when they fit into themed issues. Two such articles appeared in 2018, both of which are presented here.
Past Future ~ the future we aspired to
Vol. 49, June 2018 (published May 11)
A vision of the lost future reflected in Anime and Tokusatsu
There might have been a big turning point before and after the future was lost. What if it was 1974’s Space Battleship Yamato? Through an examination of this hypothesis, we will explore the transition of the future image!
Special essay by Ryusuke Hikawa
Not “retro future” but “lost future”. One that was once shared by the general public. It’s not nostalgia for a”view of the future,” but rather grasping at something that was lost. I thought that this was a profoundly interesting viewpoint.
The “rosy future” we lost was a product of the 1960s, at the peak of the high economic growth period. It turned into something negative five years after the “Modern years of the Showa Era” festival that opened the World’s Fair in Osaka, in 1970. I can’t help but think it symbolic that the work lying in wait for this ending was the monumental SF anime Space Battleship Yamato.
The broadcast period was exactly at the turning point, from October 1974 to March 1975. In the first episode we saw an image of Earth ravaged by radioactive contamination in an aggressive war, and air-cars running through tubes were depicted in an underground city to which humanity had evacuated. In other words, it seemed like a crosspoint where positive was inverted to negative. As evidence, the story of Yamato begins with a sense of mission to save the human race, for a great recovery of the future at the global level. It is also meaningful that the main character experiences a personal loss and recovery of the future when he loses the person he loves, and she is miraculously restored at the end.
Personal entertainment arose four years later, such as Space Invaders in 1978 and the Walkman in 1979. Mobile Suit Gundam appeared as the new lead anime. Although set against a backdrop of war, the story begins with an introverted hero with computers as a hobby, and an isolated group of teens separated from society by huge circumstances. Future images like air cars and silver space clothing no longer appeared. The electric vehicles that came up instead seemed more like extensions of reality.
Realism surpassed dreams and romance, in parallel with anime viewers expanding from children to middle-teens, and the leap to the “future” was over. After all, the “bright, all-purpose future of science” came to a dead end with Yamato. There also seems to be no doubt that this was an intersection with the starting line for the “age of the individual.”
The rise of space development and the SF culture
The image of extinction depicted in Yamato is assumed to result from the “doomsday boom” caused by the 1973 oil shock. This was related to a feeling that the global public no longer believed in the future. In order to grasp that change, we need to analyze the beginning and end of the 60s.
Rapid growth began in earnest when the royal wedding appeared on TV sets in 1959. The spread of household appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators changed life completely. This same year saw the consecutive launch of the boy’s magazines Weekly Shonen and Weekly Shonen Sunday. Baby boomers had grown up after the war, and “child business” could be quantitatively secured as a result.
In this way, juvenile culture in the 1960s entered into an era of mass consumption of information at high speed. A “rosy future” was mass-produced through a great variety of illustrations in boy’s magazines and novels. Another representative was 1963’s Mighty Atom, which was the trigger for mass production of TV anime. Popularization of the future had begun. It was the adults’ mission to present a peaceful and happy future brought about by science, with the idea that it would be accomplished before long by their growing children.
What I want to note here is the future those adults were aiming for, which was related to the war. This high-growth period was “post-war settlement,” which was promoted as a peaceful conversion of wartime technology. Society overflowed with a desire to convert the negative past into a positive future. It was the new SF culture that compelled such feelings. It was not a coincidence that SF Magazine (Hayakawa Publishing) launched at the end of 1959. Books and magazines translated masterpieces selected from overseas SF novels, one after another.
Space Battleship Yamato depicts both a futuristic SF view of the
world and the arrival of the end. In addition, it intersects with the
progress of realism and the rush into an age of the individual,
positioning it as a turning-point work.
The “space development boom” that provided a background to this movement was also closely related to the war. The cold war between the east and the west began when the Soviet Union suddenly launched the man-made satellite Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, and a competition began for space development. It was founded on an application of missiles, a showcase of technology to demonstrate which side could accurately aim a nuclear weapon. There was also a war of supremacy over undeveloped space called the “space race.” The clincher for this was the Apollo program, proposed by America’s President Kennedy in 1961. The goal was to send humans to the moon in the 60s, and after Kennedy was assassinated, Apollo 11 achieved that goal on July 20, 1969.
At the same time the 60s presented a vision of the future, it was also the beginning of an era that depicted products of the imagination brought forward into reality. This change of current in the times also had a huge influence on the design of rockets that appeared in science fiction movies. In 1968’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, sleek silver spaceships had turned into white ones with exposed piping, like those of the Apollo program. This work was permeated with a high level of scientific research. Another word for that was “realism.”
The future was lost to reality
On the basis of such change in the 60s, the early 70s made a transition to being “reality driven.” For example, the student protests that arose against the security treaty of 1970, an idealistic movement that should have been advocated by the baby boomers, rapidly lost public support when it led to terrorism and internal strife. This diluted the meaning of the drug culture’s love & peace message, which was an inversion of the Vietnam War, and had brought human consciousness into fashion.
Changes also came to the magazines of the 60s, which presented SF culture and encyclopedias for children on a wide variety of subjects as an “image of the scientific future.” Around 1972, cover images came to include female idols. Folk songs about unity devolved into those about individuals.
In the end, the image of a bright future at the national level peaked at the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair exposition. Japan’s manufacturing industries and infrastructure companies were represented in a “future design” pavilion, along with other countries. After that, a second “monster boom” took the initiative in 1971. But it wasn’t The Return of Ultraman (TBS). Rather than a story about a team confronting monsters, it was about an individual who rebelled against a science group called Shocker, which was a metaphor for industrial polluters. Thus, Masked Rider (NET) became a huge hit. It was a time to fight for freedom rather than justice, which also suggests an emphasis on the individual.
Finally, returning to Yamato, this was a projection of the war boom in futuristic SF that happened around the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Shigeru Komatsuzaki’s illustrations glorified the packaging for plastic models. He was an artist who painted fantasy weapons from wartime that conveyed the Battleship Yamato and the Zero Fighter to boys in the 60s, while also illustrating space development and a scientific society of the future. But it is conspicuous that they drew curiosity as an “antique future” after the 1980s. Yamato itself could not capture the changing of the times either, and was gradually forgotten.
A vector of convergence on the individual, based on realism, was felt by all. A big future cannot be created by a divided consciousness. That being said, the flow of time repeats like a pendulum. Depending on the appearance of visionaries, the possibility still remains that a future image can be brought about. The discovery of such hints may also come from a study of the future that was lost.
The Heavenly Love that Nurtured Us
Vol. 51, October 2018 (published Sept. 11)
The greatest threat approaches. Witness the Soldiers of Love fight for love in Space Battleship Yamato
The premise of the Iscandar story was that everyone was determined to live, and one person after another died in the White Comet story. In depicting the “love of humanity,” they both had different banners. However, to dispel such contradictions, we shed tears that could not be forgotten for the rest of our lives.
By Ryosuke Kobayashi
In the proposal book for Space Battleship Yamato, which made its broadcast debut in 1974, the following sentence was written:
This work is an SF adventure drama that tells the story of boys and girls who stand resolutely against the extinction of the human race in the year 2XXX. What we want to demonstrate through their actions is the meaning of the human word “love.”
One year before the broadcast began, this work was launched as a proposal plan written by the staff, centered around Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki. In other words, it can be said that the work was defined by the message of “this is love” for boys.
Yamato set out on a voyage to Iscandar to rescue Earth from an extinction crisis. And in this story, the first time “love” was spoken of by a character was in Episode 24, close to the finale, in the last decisive battle at Gamilas.
“This is a battle for the mainland! Make a sea of fire over Yamato’s head!”
Dessler intensely poured his life into a shower of missiles. Diving into the sea of concentrated sulphuric acid, Yamato fired its Wave-Motion Gun into a volcanic chain. The world collapsed, crushing Dessler in his presidential office. Yamato won while both sides sustained many casualties.
Standing on the deck of Yamato, which was covered in damage, Susumu Kodai looked out over the drastically-changed form of Planet Gamilas. Next to him, Yuki Mori cried.
“What have we done? How can I face God now?”
Despite the necessity of saving Earth, Yuki had been seized by a guilty conscience and it brought her to tears. Kodai also felt the weight of the crime they had committed, and spoke tearfully by her side.
“There was no difference between the people of Earth and Gamilas, both wanting to live happily. Nevertheless, we fought. It was a fight we didn’t have to have. We should have loved each other. Victory…tastes like ashes!”
It can be said that this scene symbolized the first story. Anyone who innocently rejoiced with the thought that “Yamato won” was actually mistaken…with Kodai’s words, boys became adults. They learned the emptiness of war and the way people should be. This matched “The meaning of the word love” from the proposal book, meaning to love not just the human race of Earth but also the people of an enemy nation.
The shocking development of main characters dying one after another
If you talk about Yamato’s theme of “love,” you must include the movie Farewell to Yamato, released in August 1978. This work loudly proclaimed “This is love” to appeal to viewers. You could catch it in the trailer: “Could you die for the one you love?”
The first sacrifice was Yuki Mori. In the midst of a direct confrontation against the White Comet, Yuki falls on Yamato’s bridge due to the impact of an explosion. Already seriously injured, she breathes her last in Kodai’s arms, saying “Please defeat them, Kodai. I know you will.” As overwhelming as that is, the fight soon intensifies even further. The story develops into one of survival, wrenching tears from the viewer.
Dr. Sado, Chief Engineer Tokugawa, and Captain Hijikata die on Yamato one after another. To destroy the White Comet from the inside, Kodai, Sanada, Saito, and Kato fly in on Cosmo Tiger fightercraft. Yamamoto is hit and salutes with a smile from inside his burning fuselage, then hurls himself at the enemy. Only three men arrive at the power room. Standing before the heart of the enemy, Sanada asks Kodai for covering fire and says, “When we get to the other side, you escape.”
Saito and Sanada have the same unspoken thought, prepared to die together. In my case, that’s where I lost it. It was the moment I first learned what it was like for tears to come gushing out of control.
“Kodai! Go! You’ve got to go!!”
At Sanada’s shout, Kodai ran off with tears in his eyes. Saito became Sanada’s shield, holding guns in both hands and bathed in gunfire while standing tall. Kato, who was waiting in his Cosmo Tiger for Kodai’s return, delivered him to Yamato with his dying breath. I had never cried like this, even when when scolded by my parents or when my pet died. All the moisture in my body turned into tears and came pouring out.
After all these sacrifices, when I thought the enemy was finally defeated, the giant battleship appeared.
Hearing the phantom voice of Captain Okita, Kodai decided on a final attack and issued orders to the remaining crew. “No! I will stay here with you!” In the scene where Shima cried desperately, I cried out loud. Fans still talk about that unforgettable finale.
“Yuki, I love you very much. I can shout it to the stars. Let’s be married now among the stars of this vast universe. This will be our wedding.”
With the thought of his loved one in his heart, Kodai gave his life to protect something greater. For the first time, we witnessed a love of humanity, different from the love of men and women or of parents and children.
40 years later, the memory of those tears has not faded
It has been said that the theme changed in those days; the first Yamato said, “I will live for my loved one by any means and return,” whereas the purpose of Farewell was, “It is beautiful to die for the one I love.” Clearly, “human beings are love” was intended in the plan at first, but it’s obvious that these two works contradicted each other in how to convey it.
However. Regardless of that, the experience of shedding so many tears that I couldn’t stand up is a memory now engraved in my life. It depends on the person, but if asked if I had any other experiences like watching Farewell during my elementary or junior high days, my answer would be no. There are no words for that emotion, which is different from grief. My chest was hot and tight and my overflowing tears felt like they were being squeezed out of me. I’ll remember that to my dying day.
There is no way to confirm now whether or not Nishizaki felt that contradiction after making Farewell, but in later works it came to be said that it was not a suicide.
Just two months after the premiere of Farewell, the broadcast of the second TV series Yamato 2 began (October, 1978) with almost the same premise. The story was changed in this work so that all the major characters survived. Above all, the most important thing to note is Yamato itself. It returned to Earth this time, and Teresa played a major role in ending the story. In the scene where it became increasingly obvious that the only way is to ram into the enemy, Teresa descends to Yamato’s bridge with Shima.
Dr. Sado, who lost his life to an explosion on Yamato in
Farewell was wonderfully revived in Yamato 2. Most of the
main characters were saved.
Yamamoto was an especially popular character among
female fans. After the succession of deaths among the crew,
it is said that the girls’ bathrooms in movie theaters
were packed with crying girls.
“I have come to fight Zordar.”
Teresa becomes a single, giant, glowing sphere and sacrifices herself against the giant battleship. The words of Dr. Sado, one of those who died in the movie but survived in the TV version, harkened back to the form of love originally shown in the origin of Yamato.
“Let’s live on, Kodai. No matter what happens, we will survive.”
Teresa, the incarnation of love that settled all the chaos
The original Yamato says, “I will survive and return” and the aesthetic says, “I die for the one I love.” Although the main characters survived in Yamato 2 at this point, many on the crew still lost their lives.
Hajime Saito of the Space Cavalry and the white-bearded Engineer Tokugawa. Saburo Kato and Akira Yamamoto of the Cosmo Tiger corps. Ryu Hijikata, who became the captain of Earth’s flagship Andromeda. Even though the battle was reset, their lives were still lost. Even the new character Shinmai had a hard life that ended in death.
Also, some may remember the eyeglass-wearing gunnery chief Yasuo Nanbu. In his case, despite escaping on a lifeboat in Farewell, he was caught in an explosion in the last episode of Yamato 2. He finished up in a state of the unknown, between life and death.
In both the film and TV versions, it was Teresa who overcame the chaos of survival and death by vanishing with the giant battleship. Watching from on board Yamato, Kodai said, “Thank you, Teresa. Miracles happen only once. We know that. We will never make that mistake again.” (paraphrased)
Thus, Yamato survived and returned to Earth. In Yamato 2, I think the last words spoken by Sanada are the theme of the whole story. While being carried to the lifeboat by Kodai, he says, “Earth may already be lost as our planet, but let’s live on. The human race must survive, even if we have to search for another planet. Let’s strive for that, Kodai.”
Like Dr. Sado, Sanada tells Kodai to overcome and rebuild.
As for which story ends correctly, there is no answer. Some say it concluded with the movie version. But in Yamato 2, Sanada’s assertion to “make an effort for the purpose of continuing to live” can be seen now as words for becoming an adult.
Analyzer: Robot of love and sorrow
Analyzer, who conducts various tasks for Yamato’s crew, always loved Yuki Mori. In Episode 16 of the first TV series, he is held captive with Yuki, who says that he will just be broken up into scrap iron. “I have life as well,” he insists, earnestly declaring his love for her. “I will protect you and fight and die. I won’t let them kill you. My life is dedicated to you.” Even if his feelings are not accepted, he carried through with his love. “But I love you. And there is no reason I can’t love someone.”
In a modern day theme of AI technology developing rapidly, can a robot love human beings, and vice-versa? This can be considered a philosophical question.