In the history of fantasy films, animated or otherwise, few premieres can compare with the rollout of Be Forever Yamato. The anticipation for this film burned even hotter than it had for Farewell to Yamato two years earlier. Ever the showman, Yoshinobu Nishizaki supervised an avalanche of promotional events that built excitement to a fever pitch and set records that have yet to be broken.
This was partially due to his alliance with a publicity company named Major Enterprise, a relationship that went back to the first Yamato movie in 1977. Animage magazine was another important partner in stoking the flame. They published this short interview with Masaya Tokuyama of Major Enterprise in their August 1980 issue:
Three big Yamato events!
We must exceed the previous film!
Interviewer: Supported by 2,500,000 moviegoers for the first film and 4,300,000 for the second, the third Yamato movie is on the way. As the publicity man, you are conscious of these numbers, aren’t you?
Tokuyama: Yes, I am. We must exceed the previous film in terms of the publicity activity as well.
Interviewer: Therefore, you organized three big events, unprecedented publicity for a single movie.
Tokuyama: Though these events are basically meant to promote the third film, we want to return the profits we have made to the fans. For example, on the cruise event, though it actually costs 30,000 yen per person, we are only charging 3,000 yen. If we did it for free, the event may seem too casual, so we decided to charge 3,000 yen. The money will be donated to welfare activities or something like that.
Interviewer: The mystery train tour is the second promotion of its kind. The first one was done by your company for Galaxy Express 999.
Tokuyama: This will actually be bigger than we expected. Posters will be in stations and on the ceilings of trains for six days–4,800 trains in the Kanto region.
Interviewer: The third event is still secret?
Tokuyama: Our strategy is to let people build their expectations. Knowing the secret makes a magic trick less interesting, and this is the same. The goal is to get as close to 4,300,000 moviegoers as possible, to measure up to the previous work.
(End of interview)
Spoiler: the third event was the justly-famous Yamato Festival in Budokan.
If you were a devoted Yamato fan in the summer of 1980, here’s the demanding schedule you would have had to keep…
March 24-26: Farewell to Yamato made a three-day comeback at the Sakurajima Sankei Hall theatre in Tokyo (mini-flyer shown above left). The theatre was named after a volcano in Kyushu, which was fitting given the eruption of activity that would soon take place.
Monday, May 26: Film production was well underway when a well-attended press conference featured a lineup of big names. They were (from left to right) Art director Tomoharu Katsumata, Leiji Matsumoto, Nishizaki, Composer Hiroshi Miyagawa, singers Isao Sasaki, Akira Fuse, and songwriter Yoko Yamaguchi. Also present was Toei President Shigeru Okada. The promotional campaign was talked up as much as the film, though lips were sealed when asked to explain the “Warp Dimension” effect.
See a photo gallery of the press conference here.
Read magazine coverage of the press conference here.
Saturday, June 7: All Night Nippon, which had by now become the radio home of Yamato (part of the Nippon Broadcasting System), broadcast a Be Forever 4-hour radio drama commencing at 1 AM. Over 100 members of the film’s cast and crew participated, including all the voice actors, directors Leiji Matsumoto and Toshio Masuda, producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki, composer Hiroshi Miyagawa and vocalist Isao Sasaki. By dawn the next day, the studio was completely surrounded by adoring fans.
Here is how Animage magazine reported the event:
For those fans who went to bed early on June 6…
Two days of rehearsal were needed for the four-hour live drama. On the day before, June 5, rehearsal for the first and second parts was done. Actors Nachi Nozawa and Goro Naya, who would not be able to join in the live drama, did recordings on this day.
On June 6, familiar faces began to appear at 9:30 PM.
This was the seventh four-hour drama done by the Nippon Broadcasting System, and the third time for Yamato. Producer “Don Ueno” says, “in the beginning, four-hour dramas were quite daunting, but when we forced ourselves to go through with it, the ratings doubled, so it was a success.” But success in this case is relative, considering the limited audience for overnight broadcasting.
“Good mooorning. It’s Yamato!!” announced Masayuki Ibu (voice actor for both Dessler and the EDF commander), whose voice is three times as loud as a regular person, and is always cause for laughter.
At 9:40, Yoshinobu Nishizaki arrived. “Many thanks for your help. Hi, Ibu-san, sorry for not giving you the role of Dessler this time.” With this showing of sympathy, Nishizaki left for the mixing room.
At 10:00, rehearsal began for the third and fourth parts. Afterward, Nishizaki gave direction from the mixing room. “You can describe Yamato as a musical drama for youth,” he said. “It’s OK to overlap the dialogue and the music. It’s better, in fact. The radio drama lacks the reality created by the picture, but the music will supplement it.” The secret of Yamato‘s success could often be found in the passion of his words.
By 12:30 AM, Leiji Matsumoto had not yet arrived. By 12:50 everyone began to fret, and (in an equal fret), he finally ran into the studio. Everyone had taken their places by the 1 AM start time.
Overall, the content of the radio drama was the same as the film, but with expanded dialogue and music to replace the animated picture. The program ended at 5 AM, and at 5: 10 the staff and performers toasted the occasion with beer sent from Toei and elsewhere. Because Yoko Asagami’s role in the production finished earlier than the others, she insisted she would head for home by 3 AM, but she was still there for the toast, and the live broadcast concluded happily for everyone.
Read magazine coverage of the broadcast here.
June: Nishizaki gave equal time to members of the Yamato fan club, hosting a pair of club meetings throughout the month with others at his side, chiefly Isao Sasaki who could always be counted on to deliver a rendition of the crowd-pleasing Yamato theme.
Read magazine coverage of the meetings here.
Saturday, June 28: Launch! Space Battleship was an event centered around the creations of Leiji Matsumoto that had been held the previous June. It made a comeback on this day as a part of a week-long “Energy Saving Fair ’80,” which had the primary purpose of commemorating the 35th anniversary of the North Sea Times Company. Little is known about the Matsumoto content, though it was likely an exhibit of art and display objects.
Sunday, June 29: Beginning at 9am, applications were accepted at Shinjuku Station, Tokyo for the “Space Battleship Yamato Voyage of Adventure Roman.” It would be an unprecedented form of film promotion: a sea cruise with the cast and crew of the film.
Despite pouring rain, over 10,000 fans responded to the call, “Crew Members Wanted.” Some had gotten in line three days before to vie for the coveted 500 slots. The crowd went into an uproar whenever the winning numbers for groups of three were announced. It was the full-blooded return of Yamato Fever.
Click here to see the site of this event as it looks today.
Sunday, July 6: Another lottery was held at Ueno Station, Tokyo, to select 560 candidates for a tie-in event with National Train (now renamed JR, for Japan Railroad). It was called “Three Days of Adventure and Exploration: Where is Secret Training Base Icarus!” Like the “Adventure Roman,” it would be a three-day journey, in this case via rail.
Sunday, July 20 to Tuesday, July 22: “Space Battleship Yamato: the Voyage of Adventure Roman” commenced. Kawasaki Pier was filled with the winning “Yamato crew members.” A luxury passenger ship, redecorated to look like Yamato, launched on a three-day round trip between Kawasaki (representing Earth) and Hyuga (the New Galaxy). There were greetings from “Captain” Nishizaki and “Chief Navigator” Matsumoto, both of whom would go on the voyage along with prominent members of the voice cast.
To the accompaniment of the Yamato theme and a bon voyage from 3,000 spectators, the ship sailed at 6:30 PM. The fan crew enjoyed a variety of events such as Yamato film screenings, photo and autograph sessions, treasure-hunting, and fireworks. There were also chances to participate in sea rescue training. At Hyuga, the passengers were received by sailboats and helicopters. Everyone safely returned to the Earth (Kawasaki) on July 22. The lucky winners even got to see Be Forever before most others at a special advance screening on July 30.
The event was well-documented, as this day-by-day photostory will attest.
Read a contemporary magazine article about the cruise here.
July 22-27: the first retail tie-in launched at Moriya Department Store, a Space Battleship Yamato fair with several attractions and merchandise for sale. It was a continuation of similar events held in 1978 for Farewell and would carry on into the 21st century when the revival/remake era began.
Thursday, July 24: those who went on the cruise had just two days to catch their breath before participating in the most famous Yamato concert of them all: the Festival in Budokan. It was highly-anticipated; when Animage magazine published the first announcement of it in the spring, over 1,000 ticket requests were received in only three days. The event was both comprehensive and breathtaking. Scenes from the new film were previewed, the cast and crew appeared on stage, and maestro Hiroshi Miyagawa conducted the orchestra, which performed many new pieces. Isao Sasaki and many other singers also participated. Altogether 15,000 fans attended the festival, which was split into morning and afternoon concerts.
Click here for a more detailed report and a photo gallery.
Click here to see what the Budokan looks like today.
July 25: The ’80 Summer Vacation Children’s Expo kicked off on this day at Matsuya department store locations in Ginza and Asakusa, Tokyo. It was an almost month-long combination of anime film screenings (including the first Yamato movie and the Yamato 2 compilation film, Galaxy Express 999, Triton of the Sea, and many more) along with a robotics expo, a wildlife exhibit, and a game center. The events continued through August 19.
Saturday, July 26: A lottery was held at the Shibuya Pantheon theatre complex for tickets to an upcoming presentation called Yamato Fever ’80. Once again, fans started lining up from the early morning.
The event itself was held just two days later. It was hosted by Leiji Matsumoto and Isao Sasaki, who showed advance footage from Be Forever and kept the crowd entertained for a memorable Monday afternoon.
The flyer shown above is from a different event, an Anime Fair that took place at the towering Keio Plaza Hotel in Central Tokyo from July 27 through August 31 and brought together a variety of live events under the big tent of Kamen Rider, Be Forever Yamato, Magic Girl Lalabel and Toward the Terra. A ticket sleeve for the event is shown at right.
Tuesday, July 29: The nine-day Space Battleship Yamato and Animation Festival began this day at the gigantic Mitsukoshi Department store in Sapporo, Tokyo. It began with four days of variety shows by singers and voice actors, then moved to the local Toei Palace Theatre for even bigger events such as contests, concerts, and programs based around other anime films such as Gundam and Ideon.
The department store hosted the traveling Yamato exhibit that had previously been seen in 1978 and ’79, which included the bridge panorama, full-size Analyzer, the precision “Cut Model,” and much more.
This flyer for the Animation Festival also indicated a special tie-in with the local post office in which fans could have their postage stamps canceled with a special Yamato mark that commemorated the date. The flyer itself could be shown at a special information booth in Mitsukoshi to claim a free gift.
Tuesday, July 29: If anything could tear a Yamato fan away from Mitsukoshi, it was a ticket to ride on “Three Days of Adventure and Exploration: Where is Secret Training Base Icarus!” Also called the “mystery tour,” it was a three-day train voyage with a Yamato theme hosted by Leiji Matsumoto and a group of voice actors. the stated destination was Icarus, the secret asteroid training base. The real location was kept secret. The trip included a variety of events, including a quiz to guess the destination, Yamato video screenings, mountain and lakeside hiking, field athletics and cycling. The final destination was Lake Nojiri at Nagano Prefecture.
Friday, August 1: The night before the release of Be Forever Yamato, eager fans surrounded theatres all over Tokyo. At 8PM, around 500 gathered at the Toei Palace theatre in the Marunouchi Ward. At 9PM, another 500 were at the Tokyu theatre in the Ikebukuro Ward. The first person to sign the guest book had been in line for a solid week. At 9:30, an estimated 600 were at the Toei Palace theatre in Shinjuku. First in line was a group of four who had arrived two days earlier, at 7AM. By 10PM, a record 1,000 people had lined up at the Tokyu Rex theatre in Shibuya. As usual, the theaters had opened their doors for those who were waiting in the long lines to let them nap indoors, where they could get some respite from the killer heat.
See a photo gallery here.
Saturday, August 2: At last, the premiere! A special train renamed Yamato-Go ran on Tokyo’s 10:30 AM Toyoko Line with Leiji Matsumoto serving as the conductor to Shibuya station (which sits next to a theatre complex), hosting 600 primary and junior high school students.
At 9:50AM the same day, Toei President Shigeru Okada, Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki, and Director Toshio Masuda appeared at the Toei Palace theatre in Marunouchi, mingling with the fans before the doors opened, then conducted an opening-day press conference at Toei headquarters. The movie kept fans riveted for over two hours, and the Warp Dimension effect was finally revealed when the story arrived at a pivotal and the picture expanded to a full widescreen aspect ratio. At the same time, the sound went from mono to 4-channel stereo and blew every mind in the room.
The end result of the Summer of Love was boffo box office. Be Forever brought in over 2.2 million viewers and earning 1.36 billion yen, which made it Japan’s 7th highest grossing film of the year.
Sunday, August 3: the Yamato Festival in Budokan capped the Summer of Love when it was broadcast on the locally-based Tokyo 12 channel. Tokyo 12 specialized in such unique programs and was a large supporter of anime programming.
About a month later, students were back in school and Be Forever‘s cast and crew could finally recover from what must have been the most demanding year of their lives. They already had Yamato III to contend with, of course, which hit the airwaves on October 11 and started a whole new cycle of events (including the forced change from Academy Studio to West Cape Corporation; read all about that here) that would finish the year.
In the end, Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s final gift to Yamato fans was an easy topic for the perennial back-to-school essay: “What I did on my Summer Vacation.”
Click here to continue to the Be Forever Yamato Time Machine, which features comprehensive magazine coverage from 1980.
Stills from a Be Forever TV special starring Nishizaki, some special guests, and some very special props…
The segment opened with a 3.5 minute choral presentation by the Tokyo Academy Boys & Girls Choir that included the Yamato theme and the Kodai & Yuki love theme from Farewell with lyrics that were not used in the movie. (Commercially released only once, now long out of print. Sorry, collectors.)
Nishizaki proudly introduced the 6.5 foot long Yamato “Precision Cut Model,” which was open on one side to mesmerize 10-year old boys (and men) the world over. Find out more about this model here.
Another meticulously-designed prop was this highly-detailed model of the first bridge…
…which, along with the other props shown here, was part of the traveling Yamato exhibit that went far and wide starting in 1978.
Finally, voice actor Akira Kamiya (Kato) clowned around with Analyzer, who cracked up the studio with his response…and voice actor Kenichi Ogata stepped out to take a bow.
Video courtesy superfan Steve Harrison