Koichi Yamadera interview, November 2018

On the day Yamato 2202 Chapter 6 premiered in Japan, multiple interviews were published with actor Koichi Yamadera, who had performed double duty on this one as both the voice of Dessler and the singer of the ending theme song. Here he comments on these different demands, progress of the series so far, and the death of a beloved co-star.

This is a combined version of four interviews, published by Akiba Souken, Animate Times, Cinema, and V Storage.

Yamato 2202 Chapter 6, Regeneration Chapter commemorative interview! Koichi Yamadera on Yamato and the love of Dessler

Yamato 2202 Chapter 6, Regeneration Chapter opens nationwide in 35 theaters on November 2, 2018. The story of 2202, consisting of seven chapters, finally rushes toward its climax. After seeing Chapter 5, it seems hard to imagine the sudden, surprise developments in store. Here we interview Koichi Yamadera who performs the role of Dessler and even sings the ending theme song for Chapter 6!

Dessler’s past was revealed in Chapter 5, and we understood what a heavy cross he bore to save Garmillas. Also, the relationship between Dessler and the mystery man Keyman became clearer and increasingly compelling. When Saburo Kato took irreversible action, Chapter 5 ended with a very strong pull toward Chapter 6. Now, Chapter 6 is even more amazing with one highlight after another!

What does Koichi Yamadera think of Yamato and the love of Dessler? And what thoughts went into the ending theme song? We asked for detail on these things that occupy us.

The ending theme Great Sum is said to be a “Yamadera masterpiece.”

Interviewer: You sang Great Sum, the ending theme for Chapter 6. Hasn’t it been a long time since you sang an original song in your own name?

Yamadera: I’ve sung a lot of character songs, but so far there haven’t been many original songs that I’ve sung as myself. It’s not like the story is, “Let’s put out a Yamadera CD!” (Laughs)

Interviewer: How did you feel to be in charge of the Chapter 6 ending song in your own name?

Yamadera: I was surprised. “What is it?” I first thought it would be a Dessler song rather than an ending theme song, but the episode that symbolized Dessler was in Chapter 4, so apparently this one was not related to Dessler.

POWER, Kana Meishi Records, December 2017

A cover album was released last year called Power, where several singers sang the anime and tokusatsu songs written by Yu Aku. (Translator’s note: Yu Aku was Yamato’s lyricist from start to finish during the original production years.) I sang From Yamato With Love, but I haven’t gotten many requests for original songs. Maybe someone involved with Yamato might have heard my version of From Yamato With Love and said. “This is Yamadera singing Yamato’s ending,” but nobody gave it any praise, so I didn’t think it was popular. (Laughs) I still don’t know why I was chosen. (Laughs)

Staff member: We heard From Yamato With Love and made the choice based on that.

Yamadera: All right! It was just revealed for the first time! (Laughs) I thought that was it, and it was just proven. (Laughs)

[Translator’s note: From Yamato With Love was the ending theme of 1978’s Farewell to Yamato, originally sung by Kenji Sawada with lyrics by Yu Aku.]

The composition and writing for this song were done by S.E.N.S. Project, which of course means Yukari Katsuki with Anzen-Chitai’s guitarist Yutaka Takezawa. Before the recording, we talked about the interpretation of the lyrics and various other things, and they said, “We listened to a lot of your songs before we made this, so it was made to suit you. Sing it any way you like.” Which was the opposite of pressure. (Laughs)

However, I don’t have a singing technique or my own vocal style, so I just said I would sing it as I was told to. And they said, “Let’s make this a Yamadera masterpiece” and “Please sing with feeling, as you do with your speaking roles.” So I sang it with all my heart and Mr. Katsuki gave me huge praise when he said, “It’s good!” Mr. Takuzawa said, “It’s great, I’m impressed!” I thought they were people who expressed their feelings often, but they both said, “In fact, we usually don’t give much praise, and we thought it was really good.”

Of course, there were difficult technical parts, but I sang very comfortably. Anyway, I definitely sang it with care and feeling. For example, I’m from Miyagi Prefecture, and when I went back to my hometown and talked to people after the 2011 earthquake, they said, “Please think of us when you sing.” When I sang it, I thought about that scenery and my feelings overflowed. I hope that comes through, even just a little bit. When I sing, I put myself in a different place and motivation springs up in various ways. This time, I thought that rather than do that I’d just trust the both of them and sing it with my own feelings.

Interviewer: How did you respond when they said, “Let’s make this a Yamadera masterpiece”?

Yamadera: It’s been a masterpiece since the day I finished recording it. (Laughs) But after that they put in the strings and various other things, and I’m deeply moved by how wonderfully it was finished. I’ve listened to it almost every day since I got the finished version. Also, I’m a huge fan of the wonderful singer Koji Tamaki, and I started out by imitating him. Yutaka Takezawa has heard Tamaki’s singing voice for many years, so when he said “It’s good” that made me really happy.

Interviewer: When this song comes up in Chapter 6, it feels like a refreshing surprise. The melody isn’t really Yamato-like, but it feels like a good match to the flow of the story. How did you feel when you heard this song?

Stills from the end title for Chapter 6

Yamadera: When I first heard it, I thought it was really good. The title is Great Sum, which is a perfect fit for the present Yamato, and it’s a wonderful song. Yamato is a profound story of the magnificent universe, but the song is accompanied by original landscapes of Earth and the landscape of my home, and the dichotomy is very good. You may think of Yamato as a story of the grand universe far away from us, but conflicts between nations and trouble in familiar places are constant on the contemporary Earth, and human beings still don’t understand what love and peace truly are. That’s why I think it would be good for people to cozy up to this Yamato story and this song. If you push back a little, the music can bring you some relief.

Masato Ibu and Koichi Yamadera, the two Desslers

Interviewer: You play Dessler in 2202, and his past was depicted in Chapter 5. Now that his principles and sentiments are clearer, did that change your approach to the role? And was there any talk about the script beforehand with Harutoshi Fukui and Nobuyoshi Habara?

Yamadera: I’ve been watching Yamato since I was in 7th grade, and I was a big fan of Masato Ibu, who played Dessler in those days. When I started performing Dessler in Yamato 2199, I played it while feeling a lot of pressure. In 2199, Dessler was depicted more deeply than in the original work, and I was grateful for that. I don’t think anyone expected that 2202 would be such a deep story.

In fact, I got the first proposal book for 2202 that was written by Harutoshi Fukui, and in it was written the great concept of “two Desslers” that Mr. Fukui and Director Habara wanted to depict. These “two Desslers” are definitely revealed in Chapter 6, and I also thought I wanted to precisely depict the “love” in the title of this work. This “love” is not only the story of Yamato’s crew, of course, there is also the Garmillas side and Dessler’s part of it, too. In that sense, my feelings changed after I read that proposal. I think it was good that Mr. Habara and Mr. Fukui were there at the recording so I knew what they wanted to depict.

Dessler is shown at various ages in Chapter 5, and I was allowed to play him at all those ages except for early childhood, so I thought I should understand more about his feelings at those ages. It was difficult to perform those lines because of the various feelings that built up about the mother country of Garmillas, his opponent Yamato, and being rescued by Gatlantis. Still, I was very glad to perform a Dessler that carried such a huge fate and destiny.

Interviewer: Everyone has given you high praise in various interviews; Mr. Fukui, Mr. Habara, and Hiroshi Kamiya (Klaus Keyman).

Yamadera: Kamiya, too? Having him say that is a wonderful reward for me! By the way, since I didn’t appear at the beginning of 2202, I was surprised that his nephew Keyman has such a big presence. “Keyman, you’re a Garmillan on board Yamato!” (Laughs)

Dessler was talked about in various ways in Chapters 5 and 6, but I’m wondering what happens to Keyman. It’s really amazing how packed this is with expectations for each character, isn’t it? Dessler has such a complex background, and it’s the same with all the other characters. Chapter 6 has many such highlights, and my friends Ayahi Takagaki (Saki Todo) and Megumi Hayashibara (Megumi Kanzaki) make a spectacular showing, too. I was surprised. (Laughs)

Interviewer: In terms of the voice actors, Dessler’s family was also quite extravagant. Takeshi Kusao as Mattheus Dessler, Kazuhiko Inoue as Erich Vam Dessler, Shoko Ikeda as Adelcia…what was the recording like?

Yamadera: It was surprising. I was there with Kazuhiko Inoue and Shoko Ikeda. Yamato’s studio is not a small one, and there are so many characters, so it isn’t unusual to see a lot of actors there. I was impatient to huddle with the old-timers in the corner. When I noticed them, I said, “Mr. Kazuhiko, Ms. Ikeda, you come here, too? Please do it more often!” (Laughs) There are many generations at the Yamato site, from the seniors to the young ones and there’s always a feeling of tension, but the voice recording for Chapter 5 in particular was amazing.

Interviewer: How did you change your voice from the young Dessler to the current Dessler?

Yamadera: Naturally, I practiced it a lot. I did a lot of trial and error at home. “Is it like this?”

Aberdt is compared to his older brother Mattheus, who is a great person. Every word that is spoken becomes a reality. What would young Aberdt think about losing his mother at his age? The first thing I said was, “Mother” at the graveyard. I thought it should have been someone a little younger. There was a sense of trouble, that if I couldn’t perform it well, they might have to get someone else. But the director bet it all on me.

The emotions and situation and condition of the voice at the moment are written neatly in the script. I play the modern Dessler while thinking about it within myself, but I couldn’t play a young Dessler well that way. But I didn’t think it would smell right if someone else played him. If I thought, “I’m a little old for this,” there were many experts around to divide up the role into different ages. But I thought, “I can still cut it around here!” I did it out of a single-minded desire to play Dessler alone.

I don’t have as much charisma in my voice as Masato Ibu, but I have an important role that is deeply-depicted internally, so I wanted to do it even if it was difficult. But it would look worse to overdo it, so I kept a tight lid on it and dealt with the pressure. As one who performed every voice except for childhood, I wanted to divide it up by age difference for each year. I’m often called a jack-of-all-trades and I’m proud that I can change my tone, but you can’t only do that. Properly preserving the role was the game. I was glad afterward that the Sound Supervisor Tomohiro Yoshida was able to say, “It has a good feeling” but my heart was pounding so hard I almost threw up. (Laughs)

Dessler and Masato Ibu, 1979

Interviewer: How did you deal with the challenge of inheriting the role from Masato Ibu?

Yamadera: I’m a big fan of his, and I’ve heard all of The Snakeman Show [Ibu’s comedy troupe]. Of course, I loved his Dessler and it was hard to take it over. Dessler was attractively drawn in the original, and combined with Mr. Ibu’s performance he became a really popular character. This time, Dessler is depicted more deeply. Therefore, the flow has become that he’s naturally supported by everyone, and I kept in mind that the rest was going to depend on my performance.

Because of that, it was good to be able to do a young Dessler. If it was just the present-day Dessler, I don’t think there’s any doubt that there would be someone better for the role. I didn’t have such a great voice in the beginning, but I had to understand the emotions and the content so they wouldn’t get lost in the acting. Because we put so much care and feeling into what we do and work so hard on every word, I feel saved by hearing praise for the young Dessler. I think that area is where I stand out. Now I feel like, “Thank you, Mr. Habara! You get me!” (Laughs)

Interviewer: What are you conscious of when you play Dessler?

Yamadera: It can commonly be said of any role, it’s all about how you interpret and express the lines written in the script. With Dessler there is a lot of charisma, though I try to convey the magnitude of what he carries on his back without giving anything away to others. But sometimes he shows what’s inside just for an instant, so it’s complicated. Why is Dessler always calm, and why does it seem like he sees through everything? That part has been a mystery to me so far when I play him.

Originally it seemed that he ruled Garmillas simply by being a strongman, but in Chapter 5 of 2202 we find out that’s not so. I play him now while being conscious of that to some extent. He wasn’t born as such a person, but he was compelled to walk into that life. I always think about that when I face up to the role, and try to make it come out in the lines. Usually I’m just a timid person who keeps an eye on my surroundings, but I couldn’t play Dessler if I allowed that to sneak in even a little. This could mean that I play Dessler with a resolute attitude that hides inside me. It would have been good if I could have played him from the day he swore to save Garmillas, but the scale of what I’d carry on my back would be quite different. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Were they any Dessler lines that made an impression on you?

Yamadera: In a speech he gave in Chapter 5, he said, “If people lose hope, they lose their hearts.” Japan has long been threatened by natural disasters, and has been damaged many times. When everyone is about to lose hope, I think a person can live even when there is just a tiny ray of hope. When I talked to various local people during the Great Tohoku Earthquake I often heard, “I thought I lost something important, but I didn’t lose hope.”

Dessler hardened his heart and pushed forward with his plans. I thought it was interesting in Chapter 5 when he told Teresa, “I often speak without being heard.” I like that line because it’s not just sarcastic. (Laughs) In Chapter 6 he has a monologue where he says, “Yamato. The Great Sum. It’s a beautiful ideal, but nothing can be saved by ideals alone. If you have the power to change reality, come and defeat me. And you too, Ranhart [Keyman].” Ranhart doesn’t hear him, but I think various things are summed up in that line, and Dessler’s feelings will connect to the next time. Dessler really is a “walking quotation collection,” isn’t he?

Interviewer: Did you have any interesting moments with Hiroshi Kamiya?

Yamadera: Kamiya is the type who will say anything regardless of whether you’re a senior or a junior, and he has a rather sharp tongue. (Laughs) He spits a good poison. (Laughs) But it’s also thanks to his kindness and grace that everyone can relax. We’ve played roles in other works in the past few years, and I get to watch his magnificence every time. Not just Mr. Kamiya, of course, Yamato has a lot of rising stars in that generation.

When I entered the industry thirty years ago, I got inspiration from people from all generations, but lately I’ve heard that it’s increasingly being done by young people and there aren’t as many roles for veterans any more. But Yamato has a lot of different generations, which makes it really fun to do. There is some tension, but you can learn a lot as a voice actor in an environment where you perform with people of various generations, and I think the good atmosphere of the site is reflected in the quality of the work. I always feel like I’m stealing tricks from both the young people and the seniors when I’m there.

With a lot of things to be anxious about, surprise developments await in Chapter 6

Interviewer: Chapter 6 approaches the climax of 2202. Prior to Chapter 5, the feeling was that it was an extension of the original work, and the story rapidly expands with Chapter 6, too. What’s your overall impression?

Yamadera: There are surprising developments in Chapter 6. In such interviews, I’m often asked “What are the highlights?” But it’s awkward because there are so many of them. Even if I said, “Oh, this is it, this is the most exciting part!” there are still bigger surges up ahead, and they’re so amazing you forget about the first part.

Besides, even though there are so many characters, their dramas are all properly depicted. Kato’s drama was shown, but then the Ginga crew appeared, such as the new character Saki Todo, and they play an active part. Furthermore, there is the drama of Zordar and Sabera. Zordar is mysterious, but Sabera is even more mysterious. I didn’t understand her for a long time. Initially I felt like, “Why is Yuko Kaido doing both roles?” [Sabera and Katsuragi.] Then information about Gatlantis suddenly thunders out, and it becomes clear at last. It’s a really great development. When you look back on the original Farewell to Yamato, nothing like this appears. (Laughs)

The ending is serious for Dessler, and now I’m anxious about, “What’s going to happen to Dessler!?” I have no idea what will happen next, but the story development is fascinating and the battle scenes are powerful! I’m anxious to see how this expanded story will come together from here. And I haven’t even mentioned our heroes Kodai and Yuki, which should be the leading roles. (Laughs) There are so many new developments in Yamato, it’s really hard to choose a highlight. Honestly, there’s just too much to say.

Interviewer: Which character do you sympathize with the most? Is it still Dessler?

Yamadera: Sympathize? Hmm. (Laughs) Dessler is a man who shoulders his own fate. I’m someone who immediately reveals his weakness to others, so to be honest I’m on the opposite pole from him. But in 2202 this time, there are scenes where Dessler unexpectedly pours out his feelings, because of the influence of Teresa and the presence of Keyman. He’s basically a character who carries everything on his back in loneliness. But everyone in 2202 has their own humanity, don’t they?

I’m the type who whines and bellyaches immediately. Are there any pathetic characters like that in Yamato? However, I’m relieved to hear lines in this work like, “Humiliating oneself and making mistakes, this is the privilege of being human.”

But I also think Zordar’s philosophy is amazing, and when I think about the lines that make an impression on me, many of them are his. I feel like it expresses something that people of today must be feeling. Zordar and Dessler are both “walking quotation collections” and even though I can’t always sympathize with them, I think they have good things to say.

“Love” is a very difficult word, isn’t it?

Interviewer: The term Soldiers of Love is in the title, and Dessler seems like a soldier of love who fights for the nation called Garmillas. With the weight of what he carries on his back and the love he must have, I wonder if it refers to Dessler the most.

Yamadera: Zordar is also carrying something pretty big on his back, so I can’t say Dessler is the best, but it’s still pretty big. When he was pressed by his brother and his uncle to make the ultimate choice, he made a blood vow and promised to “Save the Garmillans” and he lived only for that. I think he was saved by giving that answer.

Interviewer: The theme of this work is “love,” so what do you think Dessler’s love is?

Yamadera: Everyone carries big things on their backs. I think Dessler had special feelings for Starsha in 2199, so I don’t think he only loves Garmillas. He was influenced by Yamato and Keyman, so I think he’s shaken. I wonder if he’s exploring what he should do. The title says “love,” but it’s a really difficult word. Zordar has the idea that “Life is cursed by something called love” and it makes us scramble and kill each other.

If you tell people to say in one word what is most necessary to human beings, many will definitely say “love,” and that word would be the hardest to deny, but it also becomes a source of fighting, so I think it’s a word with conflicting aspects. “Love” is difficult to define. 2202 is a great work that dares to take on that challenge. Those of us who believe that “peace” and “love” go together shouldn’t stick too close to that when we hear the catchphrase “This love will break the universe.”

There may be few people now who say, “the love of humanity” or “the love of the Earth.” They may be true as ideals, but when you consider it for yourself, isn’t it more common to have a love of home, and the people around you, and your nation? But in Yamato, we fight for the love of all humanity, not just people of Earth. Yamato is an amazing work, isn’t it?

Interviewer: Why do you think Yamato is still loved today?

Yamadera: Another difficult question. (Laughs) I can’t put it in one word. Everyone thinks of it as a “timeless masterpiece.” The Space Battleship Yamato series I saw as a child has been made even deeper and bigger. Because it’s a work that pursues the eternal human theme of “love,” various things go along with that. I think part of it is the appeal of the characters, who are all well-conceived. There are small dramas within the big drama. Therefore, even if the viewers are from different generations, they all have points they can sympathize with. Chapter 6 is an important chapter that leads to the climax, and various mysteries are beginning to be revealed.

To be honest, there are many things you won’t understand by only watching it once. You can enjoy it first with the loud volume of a theater, then there’s a great system where you can buy the Blu-ray in theaters and watch it many times to confirm what you saw. (Laughs) I think it’s a work you can enjoy more deeply from repeated viewings, and it will deepen your understanding of love. I watch it many times so I can do interviews like this.

By the way, Captain Ryu Hijikata, one of the important characters, is played through the middle of Chapter 6 by Unsho Ishizuka, then it changes over to Takashi Kusumi, who inherits the role brilliantly. I think Mr. Ishizuka would be pleased.

I co-starred with Mr. Ishizuka in various works, and I feel like I haven’t accepted his death yet. I want everyone to hear Mr. Ishizuka’s last line as Captain Hijikata: “Please do this.” The sound of that voice is really great. I wanted to work with him to the very end of Yamato, my favorite. But this became Mr. Ishizuka’s final work. I feel somewhat strange to have sung Great Sum for Chapter 6, since it contained Mr. Ishizuka’s last performance. When I saw it I thought, “This is the last of Mr. Ishizuka…?” I felt that very strongly when the song started flowing afterward. I want everyone to keep that voice in their hearts by all means.

In the first recording after Mr. Ishizuka passed away, my longtime friend Houcho Otsuka [Sanada’s voice actor] took the initiative and asked everyone to give a silent prayer toward the chair where he always sat. Everyone was holding back tears during the recording, and no one could say their lines properly. The last place I saw him was at that site. In that situation, I recorded my lines with the feeling of, “Thank you very much, Unsho. We’ll do our best!” I hope that comes through when you see it in the theater.

Interviewer: When Chapter 6 is over, the next one will be the final chapter at last. The TV broadcast starts in October, and I think more and more people will see this work. What comment do you have for them?

Yamadera: First, to those who have seen it through Chapter 5, you will naturally be anxious about what lies ahead. Chapter 6 is a great thing that will not disappoint you. For those who haven’t seen 2202, you can see it on TV and on demand, so please watch it from the start at Chapter 1. (Laughs) And if you’re someone who thinks 2202 might be a rehash of the old Yamato, I want to say, “This is a completely new story and it’s amazing right now.” It’s a work I can be proud of as a cast member, so if there is someone like that out there, please review this work starting with 2199 if you can. Yamato will help you to fully enjoy the coming autumn nights. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Please send a message to the fans.

Yamadera: The title of the ending theme song is Great Sum, with respect to the totality of people who gather together. There are many people watching 2202 in their teens and twenties, and also fans like me from the Yamato generation. This song enters all their hearts. From the scenery that comes to mind, it expands into the future. Please enjoy this song with its big-scale Yamato feeling.

Interviewer: Thank you very much.


Born in Miyagi Prefecture on June 17. His main roles have been Ryoga Hibiki in Ranma ½, Ryouji Kaji in Evangelion, Beerus in Dragonball Ultra, and Zenigata in Lupin III. In addition to voice acting, he is also active on the front lines as an entertainer, narrator, and radio DJ.

See his gigantic list of credits at Anime News Network here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *