Part 1: Yamato & Fighters
Model building has been a major part of Japanese anime fandom since the earliest years, so it should come as no surprise that Space Battleship Yamato model kits have been enormously popular since the day they first appeared. The desire to build one of those revolutionary spaceships and actually hold it in your hand not only added a real-world dimension to the experience, it turned a fledgling modeling company named Bandai into one of Japan’s most successful industries.
Of course, most modelers were satisfied with simply building a kit as instructed and sticking it on a shelf, but many others took the process farther by experimenting with their own custom paint jobs, extra detailing, and modification. At its most extreme end, this process takes us into the world of garage kits, which is explored in detail here. This collection, however, remains in the realm of mass-market products made by Bandai and various other companies.
That said, the creativity exhibited here is enormous, and (in some cases) as imaginative as the original ship designs themselves. Unfortunately, the names of the modelers themselves are inaccessible; all the images were originally posted on Yahoo Japan with only pseudonyms attached. This is a longshot, but if any of the modelers happen to be reading these words and wish to come forward, we’d love to hear from you so we can give credit where it is due.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world can have the pleasure of seeing the world of Yamato through the eyes of a modeler.
This first gallery is dedicated to Yamato and her attendant mecha…
A good ship starts with a good crew, and with a lick of paint and a little ingenuity, they can all be assembled from parts. The parts in question come from a set of mini-figures Bandai released in 2005. It would have been nice if subsequent sets gave us all the other characters, but that didn’t happen. Thus, one modeler decided to take matters into his own hands by modifying them (and throwing a few Gamilons in for good measure). See a gallery of this modeler’s work here.
Don’t forget the robot! Here we have a modified version of Bandai’s Analyzer kit with found objects standing in for some of the hardware on our robot buddy’s body. The paint and texturing do an excellent job of making his plastic shell look like real metal.
Next, the classic Black Tiger from Series 1. This kit doesn’t appear as frequently as others, but its smooth surfaces lend themselves nicely to custom paint jobs.
Cosmo Tigers (called Astro Fighters in Star Blazers) are seen in several color variations throughout the saga, but not all of these were commercially released. Naturally, fans stepped in and corrected this. Click here for a gallery of their work.
Sometimes all it takes is a clever paint job to turn a standard kit into a custom variant, such as this Cosmo Tiger decorated with a Black Tiger paint scheme.
One particular Cosmo Tiger variant was never commercially released, the red torpedo bomber seen briefly in Farewell to Yamato. But modelers with some sculpting talent were able to create their own by modifying standard kits. Click here to see a gallery of examples.
Once the door to kit-modification is muscled open, there’s no telling where it will lead as represented by this sampling of progressively-customized Bandai kits. Click here for the gallery.
The same is true for the Cosmo Zero (or, if you prefer, the Super Star), which is seen here in three versions that go from Zero to Sixty. Click here for the gallery.
Modification doesn’t stop with the fighter; the support stand can be tinkered with as well. Here are Bandai’s Cosmo Zero and Cosmo Tiger on modified stands, looking ready to shoot off into space at any moment. Click here for the gallery.
Finally, here’s a great example of how to turn an existing kit into a non-existing one. The Cosmo Zero body has been cannibalized and rebuilt into something close to the Type 100 Scout Plane from Series 1. This is one that should have been a no-brainer during the production years, but has only gotten proper treatment in the world of garage kits.
Moving on to Yamato, the large number of available versions has made many diverse modifications possible. The larger kits, such as Bandai’s 1/700 scale model, lend themselves to internal lighting as seen above left. Taito’s 1/655 toy version (above right) came with its own built-in lighting, but cried out for more detailing. At least one modeler answered the call. See a gallery of these kits here.
The 1/665 Taito toy was retooled and repainted for a special giveaway to readers of Weekly Yamato Fact File in 2011. Its size and durability still make it a good candidate for internal lighting, as seen here.
This amazing kit is a substantial upgrade of Bandai’s 1/700 cutaway Yamato with an incredible amount of added detail that rivals the famous six-foot Cut Model displayed at the Yamato Museum. See a photo gallery of this kit here.
As perfect as Yamato looks from a pure design standpoint, it has also seen its share of tinkering by modelers. The three versions shown here represent a starting point all using the 1/500 Bandai model kit. See a gallery here.
Here’s another version of the 1/500 kit, this time modified with some of the extra detailing created by Kazutaka Miyatake when he redesigned the ship for the Playstation games.
The remodeled version of Bandai’s 1/500 kit came out just after the live-action movie, and the two come together in this heavily-modded version that applies movie-like detail to the anime hull structure.
As the ship gets bigger, the detailing opportunities increase. This maker of this version of the new 1/500 kit went all out with a full lighting rig, which brings Yamato to life in a way even the anime can’t match. See more photos of this model here.
Here’s a version of the new 1/500 kit with several interesting modifications, not the least of which is a rusted-hulk-in-the-seabed as a bonus model. The builder gave the internal lighting a slightly different treatment and added a flattop to the stern. See more photos of this model here.
This is the same kit with some extra hull detailing, which moves in the direction of the live-action version. Speaking of which…
When your modeling skills reach a certain level you can perform your own wish-fulfillment, as demonstrated by these artful conversions of the 1/500 kit from anime to live-action movie Yamato. Since Bandai did not sign on as a licensor for the film, this is about as close as we’ll get to a model, at least for now.
Whereas the two models shown above were modifications of the 1/500 Yamato kit release in December 2010, this one has gotten so much beefing up and modifying that it’s difficult to identify its starting point, which makes it the work of a real craftsman indeed.
This horrifically battle-damaged Yamato is Bandai’s 2005 Mechanic File kit, which was issued in eight sections that included all the interior parts (see it here). Its outer skin was made of high-impact plastic nearly as tough as the ship’s actual armor. As proven here, it takes a licking and keeps on…well, you know.
There were actually two version of the Mechanic File kit, one with solid hull pieces and another with a transparent hull. One modeler decided to combine the two for the best of both worlds.
This is another treatment of the same kit, removing the skin and propping up the interior parts in an “exploded view” to provide the most complete view you can possibly get.
Going another step, we have an example of creative retrofitting with the anime ship design being pulled back in time to see how it might have looked as a 20th century seagoing vessel…and then an imaginative step sideways to see how Yamato might look as a carrier rather than a battleship. See a gallery here.
What could be more natural than returning Yamato to the water? This has actually been attempted several times with different kits all heavily modified to be seaworthy (or at least pool worthy) with radio-controlled engines, and the results are pretty amazing. Fortunately, they have been documented on YouTube: 1/500 kit | 1/500 kit in action | 1/350 kit in action | 1/100 scratch-built kit in action (part 1) (part 2)
And now we dive headlong into an arena in which modelers fly off in different directions, each embellishing their Yamato kits as the spirit moves them. See a gallery here.
Scratch-building takes everything to the next level; here’s a Yamato made entirely of styrofoam. While obviously based on the 1/350 Bandai kit, it’s quite a bit bigger; almost 44 inches compared to 30.
Next, although this monster isn’t based on any existing model kit and has some pretty obvious inaccuracies, it deserves honorable mention for its sheer size alone–a monstrous 4 meters from bow to stern. See a gallery of photos here.
Building a Yamato is one thing; recreating a scene requires another level of craftsmanship altogether, since every element has to be created from scratch. Nevertheless, fans go to these lengths on a regular basis. Here we see the work of a single modeler who put several of Plex’s Mechanic Collection Yamato toys through their paces. The fact that the toy is just a little over 5 inches long speaks volumes about the intricacy of these projects. See a gallery here.
Moving up the ladder in terms of scale, here are three dioramas that make use of Taito’s 1/665 Yamato toy, which is slightly over 15 inches long. See a gallery here.
Back in the world of actual model kits, here are three versions of the ship at rest in the exposed seabed of Earth. Above left is the miniature Bandai model kit from the “Mecha Collection” and above right is the much larger forced-perspective “Image model.” Beneath them, just for the sake of completeness, is a Battleship Yamato model waiting to be rebuilt. See a gallery here.
Here’s another that takes one of the countless models of the original IJN Yamato and reconfigures it into pre-launch mode.
This version uses Bandai’s 1/1000 Yamato kit to achieve some very realistic results with careful lighting and a well-chosen sky backdrop. The modeler even shot his own YouTube video of his work, which can be seen here.
Size is not a deterrent when making dioramas. Quite the reverse, in fact–the bigger the kit, the more detail can be added to its setting. Above left, for example, is a 1/700 Bandai model kit exploding out of Asteroid Icarus, as seen in Be Forever. Above right is a 1/500 Bandai model kit in drydock. The kit is over 18 inches long, which makes this piece a whopper indeed. See a gallery of these here.
And still the scale increases. The biggest Yamato kit (so far) is Bandai’s massive 1/350 model from 2007, and here it is above left in the iconic asteroid ring. Above right is a lavish double-decker view of Yamato in the seabed and reconstructed in a drydock underneath. The ship is Bandai’s “Soul of Popynica” toy, which stretches a generous 17″ and has been heavily modified to match the Playstation redesign. See a gallery of these here.
By far the most-recreated scene is the dramatic launch from the ocean as seen in Farewell to Yamato. No less than nine versions of this launch have been discovered, starting with four rather simplistic interpretations at various scales. See a gallery here.
These two depictions are slightly more elaborate, with more attention paid to the sculpting of water effects. The kits used are Bandai’s 1/700 model (above left) and “Image” model (above right). See a gallery of these here.
When Bandai released the new 1/500 scale Yamato at the end of 2010, modelers wasted no time putting it through its paces. Here’s a beautifully-crafted ocean cruise that uses this remarkable kit. Below is a more dynamic take by the same builder using the same kit.
Here’s a creative take on the concept that adds combines miniature Cosmo Tigers with Taito’s 1/665 “Super Mechanics” toy in one energetic burst, probably inspired by the CR Yamato 2 pachinko game.
The dioramas top out with these three examples of museum-quality craftsmanship, probably all done by a single modeler. His ship of choice looks to be Bandai’s vintage 1/500 kit, and his skill at rendering the water effects is unequalled, an uncannily realistic 3D snapshot of an iconic moment. See a gallery here.
Addendum: along with every new story comes new modeling opportunities. Above is one modeler’s rendition of the ice-launch scene from Yamato Resurrection using the movie version of Taito’s “Super Mechanics” toy, and below is another with internal lighting. Wave-Motion Gun, Fire!
Finally a Yamato from the Plex “Mechanical Collection” heavily modified as seen in Resurrection. Given the fact that it’s only a little more than five inches long, this represents some intricate workmanship indeed.
Click here to explore Bandai’s complete line of model kits
Bonus: the Daicon IV Parody
In 1983, an anime legend was born at Japan’s Daicon IV SF convention: a 5.5 minute animated short that was jammed so full of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sight gags that no human being can catch them all in one viewing. It was created by artists who went on to fame and fortune in later years, most of whom worked at the trend-setting Gainax Studio.
One of the gags, which gets about two seconds of film time, is an unholy mashup of Yamato, Macross, and Captain Harlock as seen here. In the years since, toy versions of all three ships in correct proportion finally leaked out and at least one enterprising modeler took advantage of this fact. See his work here.
See the Daicon IV animation (REQUIRED VIEWING) on YouTube here