Yamato 2202 Mecha Designer interview, February 2019

What is the secret of the smokestack, the third bridge, and the “Wave-Motion Barrier”?

Published by Gigazine, February 25 2019. See the original article here.

Yamato 2202, which has been shown in theaters since February 2017, concludes with Chapter 7, New Star Chapter, on March 1, 2019. It is a sequel to Yamato 2199 (a remake of the original 1974 TV series), based on the film Farewell to Yamato (August 1978) and the TV series Yamato 2 (October 1978). Much attention has been drawn to which ending it would reach.

For the finale of 2202, we had an opportunity to talk with Junichiro Tamamori, who was in charge of mechanical design for the Earth side on both 2199 and 2202. We heard a lot about Yamato, Andromeda, the sister ship Ginga (which appeared in Chapter 6, Regeneration Chapter), and more. We also report on a Yamatalk Night even in which Mr. Tamamori appeared on stage.

Participating in Yamato

Interviewer: What was your first impression when you heard that you would be working on Space Battleship Yamato?

Tamamori: For Yamato 2199, I got a call from General Director Yutaka Izubuchi. That was at the planning stage in 2008, so it’s been about ten years. By that time I’d built up an acquaintance with Mr. Izubuchi through doujinshis (fanzines). I had published new illustrations of Yamato in a doujinshi, so I had the feeling that “I was waiting.”

Interviewer: I think Yamato’s design is very strong, but what do you consider to be the core of 2199 and 2202?

Tamamori: As I grow older and look back at the original content of Space BattleshipYamato from 1974, I think it’s very suitable for the time it was made. After Yamato we passed through the age of Gundam and Macross, and it had to be recaptured anew. Also, the technology of animation has evolved since then, so I had to be conscious of production methods. I wanted to be able to express something we’d never seen before.

Interviewer: Like what, specifically?

Tamamori: The staff at the time was very creative, and expressed the gentle curves of Yamato’s hull with lines that moved one by one. It’s a great challenge to the spirit, but I don’t think the same thing could be done now. Therefore, since it could only be done in CG, we aimed for a design that could take full advantage of light reflections and shadows. When you see it from a distance, some lines are automatically omitted. It’s a unique method of CG that you only see the small details when it approaches.

Interviewer: You said, “I was waiting,” but what was your impression of the work called Space Battleship Yamato?

Tamamori: When I was a child, I liked Mazinger Z and Ultraman. Yamato had a battleship instead of a hero character, so it was very fresh. When I was a second-grader I saw an episode somewhere in the middle and thought a flying rocket shaped like a battleship was great. It was also impressive that Gamilas had a monster-like weapon called a “Balanodon.” Yamato was an adventure thing, not a war thing. They avoided fighting as much as possible, and sometimes fought to survive. In that way, “space adventure” echoed throughout my childhood.

2202 is a remake of Farewell and Yamato 2. The main subject is strategy and battles, and that’s where the real thrill lies. After being forced to near-extinction, Earth has revived and built a fleet, and now it fights against the White Comet Empire.

Interviewer: The technology of the work changes with 2199 and 2202. Are there places where the mechanical design changes, too?

Tamamori: I was in charge of refining the old work for the remake. That doesn’t mean it’s all new, it means the original designs are still wonderful and I think about how to use as much of them as possible. The ships that come out in 2202 are made with new technology, so I’m conscious that they are a different generation of ships than Yukikaze and Kirishima, which was a remake of Okita’s battleship.

Interviewer: In your interview in the Yamato 2199 Earth design book, you said, “Assuming there are future developments, I thought about creating a Yamato that would be provide a basis leading to that.” In fact, 2202 was made after that. After 2199, what was your impression when you heard about 2202?

Tamamori: I thought, “This is Yamato, it will happen.” I had a feeling that if it was a hit, we could assume that there would be a next one. (Laughs) After that, I was careful not to disturb it.

Interviewer: Composer Akira Miyagawa, who was also on the 2199 staff, said that “2199 was there first to consume all the sweetness of heaven.” What was it like for you to be in charge of these two consecutive works?

Tamamori: My thought was, “Can I tell a story that follows the previous work?” However, Harutoshi Fukui’s purpose was to formulate a concept to recreate it in accordance with the times. The number of new fans increased with 2199 and expanded the base, so I was conscious that the designs needed to expand widely to match a new sense of values.

Interviewer: Among the examples of anime revivals, I think Space Battleship Yamato is a cool mecha anime. It will be depicted in CG if modern methods are used, but the original had lots of cheats and omissions since it was drawn by hand. Was there any trouble in that area?

Tamamori: Actually, what I kept in mind was, “Don’t make it too detailed.” In the case of a CG model, if you crowd it by showing every single screw, it gets overloaded. By being aware that you should omit some things properly, you don’t put in anything unnecessary. When there are fine details depicted on Yamato, it’s just a matter of course because those details were set in the original. I don’t just put in fine details because I like it. (Laughs)

Interviewer: There is a change in Yamato’s shape from 2199 to 2202.

Tamamori: Yamato wasn’t depicted consistently in the original works, and there were small changes in its appearance. It was depicted differently in Farewell and Yamato 2, and it was considerably changed later on in Be Forever and Final Yamato. Every fan has their own ideal shape, too. And there were also developments in model kits in addition to anime. It’s very clear to those who are familiar with models, and that’s why they say, “This is one is my Yamato.” So I can’t just put it out in one form and say, “Oh, this is Yamato.”

In the case of 2199, it was good for the ship to have a sharp bow, as it did in the 1974 Yamato. I made a hull that had a curved surface, as if it was made by human hands. In 2202, it was based on the renovation that was done in Farewell and Yamato 2. I removed the flavor of the first work and gave the bow a vertical tilt. I changed the shape around the fairing and made it stronger.

In these explanatory drawings by Mr. Tamamori, you can see that various parts
have been changed between the
2199 and 2202 versions.

Interviewer: You were mainly in charge of mechanical design for the Earth fleet. There’s a new concept called a “time fault,” which is different from the previous work. Were there any parts that you consciously changed?

Tamamori: In the Earth fleet, I did the main battleship, Andromeda, the escort ship and the patrol ship. At the time of design, the story was that they were “automatically made in a factory inside the time fault,” but we didn’t have a specific visual image yet. If it was an automated factory where everything is completely machine-made, I couldn’t put in too much detail because it was organized differently, so that gave me trouble in various ways.

Design of the main battleship

Tamamori: If the ship crews were reduced it would save labor, but then would it be necessary to put a human-scale handrail on the deck where people stand? Ladders are usually retracted for storage and covered up, so we might not see them. When I realized that they would be stored that way on Andromeda, I was conscious of the feeling that “it has none of the warmth that people would create.”

Interviewer: The escort ship and patrol ships turn up later than they did in the original work.

Tamamori: It wasn’t up to me to decide when they turn up. I receive the design order when it is decided that something will appear. The first to get a role [in 2199] was Kirishima, which advanced from the Isokaze and Yukikaze classes. I received the order for other designs later.

Interviewer: I was surprised at the design of Ginga, which appeared in Chapter 6. What was at the core of that design?

Tamamori: Ginga is Yamato’s first sister ship, so I was able to predict the pros and cons. The origin of the design came from production development of the mid 1990s, an idea presented by Makoto Kobayashi at the time of Yamato Resurrection. There was a moment where the previous production staff liked it. I personally thought a ship like Ginga was suitable as Yamato’s sister ship, so I arranged it to match the worldview of 2202.

Makoto Kobayashi’s original concept, named Musashi, from the 1993 development period for Resurrection.

Ginga is not like a Wave-Motion “battleship,” it’s more of an “experimental ship” to explore things in space that are not understood. Since it’s an “experimental ship,” I sympathized with the concept of it not being a pure battleship. It’s also not a mass-production Yamato type. I thought I might be able to deepen the worldview.

Interviewer: The observation dome gives the impression that it is similar to Yamato, but not quite Yamato.

Tamamori: The design goes in a new direction following Andromeda, and the bow and sides have a classical sensibility. It was a challenge to adopt the flavor of the 19th and early 20th centuries into the image, so I organized it around the observation dome.

The upper structure of Ginga.

Finely-drawn detail in the design around the observation dome.

Interviewer: The fact that Ginga’s crew is all women comes out in Chapter 6. Did you hear about that at the design order stage?

Tamamori: I heard about it to some extent at the script stage. But the shape was arranged while taking into consideration how it would look in solid form when it became a model kit. I wasn’t aware that they would all be women.

Interviewer: In other words, the emphasis was on the form and the detail parts.

Tamamori: That’s right. Of course, I was conscious of the role and significance of the ship.

Interviewer: There seemed to be a color plan where the waterline position was different on Ginga. You mentioned that you were involved with the design image through product development. Was this part of the plan?

Tamamori: The model kit seemed to move forward at the same time as the design work. If I came up with a draft where the waterline went between the first and second torpedo tubes, there wouldn’t have been enough time [to change the model kit]. When I considered its overall position in the story and how it looks when it’s compared to the other ships, like Yamato, I still think there might be a sense of incompatibility. When you increase the windows on Ginga’s flanks, you get the feeling that it’s not a battleship, don’t you? The idea is that it should not feel like a “weapon” up to that point.

I came up with a high-detail version and a normal version in my rough draft drawings. The position of just one line can give a different impression.

Interviewer: Is the shape of Ginga’s hull the same as the 2199 Yamato?

Tamamori: It’s the 2202 Yamato.

Interviewer: Along with the Ginga, Andromeda is new in 2202.

Tamamori: My job was basically to refine the design without changing the impression. But I think some people feel “it’s exactly the same” while others feel that “it’s completely different.” One thing is that I arranged it to be expressed in 3D.

Interviewer: When doing modeling, it looks like a difficult ship to make in 3D.

Tamamori: I think the 3D would have been difficult if this was a normal anime. I want the 3D to be as easy as possible, and I want to hand it over in good order, so I made a simple 3D model myself and handed it in.

Interviewer: Regarding the design of Andromeda’s Wave-Motion Guns, I get the impression that they curve slightly toward the bottom.

Tamamori: In the original design, I interpreted it as “perpendicular when viewed from the side.” It’s drawn that way in the anime and made that way in the model kit. However, in the design drawing it seems to be slanting toward the base. The Wave-Motion Guns seem to be slanted, too. This was a subjective image valued by Kazutaka Miyatake, who was in charge of the original design, and it emphasizes the force of an approaching ship. I think it’s more dynamic because it looks like it’s moving even when it’s standing still.

At the time, we couldn’t review the visuals like we can now. I thought the design used on the model kit packaging was the one that stuck in everyone’s head. Just as there is no one fixed image of Yamato, it’s hard to fix on one of Andromeda, too.

When I consulted with Director Habara, many people said the image with the slant was impressive, so we decided it was good to take Andromeda in that direction. Mr. Miyatake’s drawings were clearly made for animators, and at the same time there were characteristics that were rearranged and changed shape to be easy to understand. It was an explanatory drawing, not a drawing to be made three-dimensional.

It would be dangerous to make a solid just based on that drawing, because there was a difference in the line thickness of the Wave Gun part when seen from the top view and the bottom view. From this, I believe that Mr. Miyatake intended there to be a difference in inclination. So I slanted it a little. I actually met with Miyatake and told him what I was thinking about, and when I got to that spot, he reflected, “Indeed.”

Andromeda materials drawn by Mr. Tamamori. The shapes of the Wave-Motion Gun and the bulge are set in detail.

Interviewer: Yamato 2202 finally reaches its conclusion in Chapter 7 on March 1, 2019. How do you feel about arriving here?

Tamamori: It feels like an instant. It’s about ten years since I started on 2199, and it seems like a very long time when I realize that I’ve been doing it since before the Great Tohoku Earthquake (March, 2011). Along the way I participated in other works and worked on the 2199 movie, Ark of the Stars. 2202 alone took about three years, including development.

Interviewer: How many designs did you do for 2202?

Tamamori: Not very many. Yamato, Andromeda, the main battleship, the patrol ship, the escort ship, the Cosmo Tiger II, and Ginga. And a little later, the damaged Andromeda. And I did a few detail concepts occasionally.

Interviewer: Do you spend more time with your hands on a design or does it take longer with your head?

Tamamori: Hmm…what about that? I considered Farewell and Yamato 2 beforehand, and that became the basis. Basically, I stayed within that range. If it was something like Be Forever Yamato, I would need more time to use my head.

Interviewer: You drew the Yamato of 2203 for your Yamato Mechanics website, which must have been useful. With 2199, in order to think about the technology of the world, you began with Kirishima (also called the Okita ship) and Yukikaze. What was your approach when you began to draw on 2202?

Tamamori: Andromeda was first, because that was going to be the first model kit.

Interviewer: Yamato was the main ship, but it wasn’t the first.

Tamamori: Yamato had a prototype, but I had nothing for Andromeda. Then I moved on to the Cosmo Tiger II and the main battleship.

Interviewer: Earlier, you said the main premise was that the designs could be properly reproduced as CG models. Was there any case with a mecha design where that couldn’t happen?

Tamamori: In the present day, I think there’s a lot of robot anime with the premise of 3D collaboration. However, when a creator’s concepts are important and you emphasize the momentum of that it can’t always be bound to three dimensions, and there are cases where 3D models can’t be done well. What’s the best solution there? I think it’s a field that needs to be explored and researched in the future.

Interviewer: Sublimation did the modeling for 2202. What was your impression when you saw the finished models?

Tamamori: I thought it was good at first glance. There may have been a lot of places where they struggled with parts I didn’t see. Since there were 2199 model kits, I thought it would be easy be conscious of the differences, but it was also good to have the modelers’ skill on parts like the bow that stands upright.

Interviewer: When Sublimation showed me the Cosmo Tiger II “Version K,” I laughed in surprise.

Tamamori: That was an interesting animation challenge, wasn’t it? They succeeded in changing the form with exquisite timing when it passes directly in front of the camera in flight. Some shots used the Version K, others did not. I think the places where the accent was needed worked well. I was conscious of the “Kanada pass” in the design this time. A subtle angle was attached to Mr. Miyatake’s design drawing. Even if you do nothing to it, you can still get close to a form like the Kanada Pass. I think it was successful because it was technically possible to do a deform. Mr. Kanada’s movement is compatible with Mr. Miyatake’s design.

Interviewer: Did the Kanada Pass gradually become something like picking up the lines for Andromeda?

Tamamori: Mr. Miyatake’s drawing is a combination of simple building blocks with the nose, the wings, the body, and a protrusion in the back. It’s a distinctive design that takes fluid dynamics into consideration at subtle angles. Since the angle of attachment of the wings is slightly different in the drawing, Yoshinori Kanada was able to make the movement he wanted. In other words, I think that essence was already in the design.

Interviewer: The animators were able to make good use of that form simply because it was an excellent drawing.

Tamamori: That’s right. Fluid dynamics were also taken into consideration with Yamato, and narrowing was done from front to back. The discovery was that it would reduce air resistance. The same is true for the Cosmo Tiger II. There’s a commitment to technical engineering, so we picked up on it.

Design for the 3-seat Cosmo Tiger II (torpedo bomber)

Interviewer: In a discussion about the novel Blue Brigade, Producer Gunji of Production IG said about your designs, “They’re well thought out not just in their appearance, but also in the function and necessity of the design.” Were there also parts of Yamato where necessity was considered?

Tamamori: Blue Brigade was original, so I could do it freely. Since Yamato has the original design, there are a lot of constraints. There wasn’t much I could add on my own. However, I thought about interpretations in various ways. For example, “Why is there a smokestack?”

Interviewer: Things like that! (Laughs)

Tamamori: A “Wave Barrier” was developed for Yamato, which is like an invisible electromagnetic field that defends against beam weapons and solid rounds. Just as Earth’s magnetic field formed to link the north pole to the south pole, couldn’t Yamato’s electromagnetic field for the Wave Barrier appear to link the smokestack to the third bridge?

Interviewer: Whoah!!

Tamamori: The magnetic field would have a weak point if it’s attacked from above. On the other hand, the area around the smokestack and the third bridge is very strong. The captain’s dome also seems to be exposed, but it is quite strongly protected.

Interviewer: I see…of course. The space battleship Yamato is different from the actual battleship Yamato, since its fuel is not oil. So there would be no need for a smokestack.

Tamamori: Well, it does include missiles. (Laughs) Also, the energy conduction pipe for firing the Wave-Motion Gun runs throughout the ship, so there would something like valves to eject gas out if something happens. Maybe it zig-zags around the base of the smokestack. There are no antennae on the flanks of the fleet ships that gather around a smokestack, so this is probably due to the strength of the Wave Barrier. I think about things like that.

Interviewer: Even if it’s not an official concept, this gives meaning to the third bridge being below the smokestack around the hull. Your explanation is very convincing.

Tamamori: Yes, the third bridge is the strongest. Maybe… (Laughs) Rather than saying, “There’s a top and bottom because it’s based on the battleship Yamato,” I think this is the justification for its form. The shape is also the essence of weapons, “shield” and “spear.” The bottom is a shield and the top is a spear. The top is materially weaker, so it is protected by a Wave Barrier. The bottom is materially stronger, so it was flipped upright on Pluto [in Yamato 2199].

Interviewer: When I previously interviewed mecha designer Takeshi Takakura about your work, he said, “If you’re going to get bombed, a mecha designer is a must.” The fate of Earth rests on Yamato, so it would be a problem if it sinks. Does that mean he wants to break the products based on your designs?

Tamamori: That’s Mr. Takakura’s hobby. (Laughs) What he means is, “If you have it, use it to your heart’s content.” I totally agree. The saddest thing is to leave something unused…so blow it up. (Laughs) Wouldn’t it be great to see a cross section? So if you were to say, “This part will get destroyed, so draw some pipes here” or “Draw a reinforcement structure,” I’d say, “Sure, I’ll draw that.”

Interviewer: That’s what made Andromeda so awesome in Chapter 6.

Tamamori: Everyone was happy to create that CG. (Laughs) My intention was, “You can build it up to here” when I drew the fine details, but they went even finer than that. I don’t usually draw that intricately. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Andromeda looked truly cool in Chapter 6. And the rocket anchor played an active part, too. Sublimation showed a lot of the material from your designs. If your thinking was, “This is set up in various ways,” that was a major achievement in Chapter 6.

Tamamori: I didn’t give any instructions on how to use it, but I was convinced when I saw the visuals. “Oh, it can be used that way.”

Interviewer: Thank you for all your stories today.

Tamamori goes on stage: Second Yamatalk Night of Love report

During the screening of Chapter 6 Regeneration Chapter, Mr. Tamamori appeared on stage as a guest at the Yamatalk Night of Love on Thursday, November 22, 2018. He talked about his designs and showed specific plan drawings. A report is published here.

The event featured Mr. Tamamori, Director Nobuyoshi Habara, and Series Writer Harutoshi Fukui. Anime writer Osamu Kobayashi served as the moderator.

Mr. Tamamori was born and raised in Okinawa. Space Battleship Yamato was broadcast there one year after its original run, and he watched it as a second-grader. His first viewing was the floating continent episode, featuring a “flying rocket that looked like a battleship,” and he was shocked later by the monster-like appearance of the Gamilas’ “Balanodon.”

Time moved on from there, and he participated as the mechanical designer for Yamato 2199. For 2202, he was tasked with refining Andromeda, a design that surprised him when he first saw it in a book for Farewell to Yamato.

Mr. Tamamori specifically explained how the figure of Yamato changed from 2199 to 2202 while showing old and new images at the theater. Osamu Kobayashi drew attention to a note on Yamato’s cross section that read “pear-shaped.” In response, Tamamori explained that since the original Yamato was entirely drawn by hand, some parts were emphasized to bring more impact to a scene. Thus, to the viewers, there are multiple forms that feel like “This is the shape of Yamato” and many of them had a pear-shaped hull.

Additionally, one of the points that changed from 2199 to 2202 was the shape of the fairing on the bow. It was revealed that Mr. Habara’s design order said to “Please make it into the shape from that time [1978].”

A detailed design was shown from Episode 5, the “Asteroid Ring System” that uses asteroids for defense. When Mr. Tamamori did the design, he thought “This is how the system is supposed to work,” but it wasn’t formalized. He had Mr. Kobayashi convinced, but then he joked, “I was just kidding.”

It also came out that Andromeda had “retractable beam guns” in Episode 5 because it seemed that the ship had almost no armaments other than the Wave-Motion Gun. Tamamori explained that the design went that way because “I wanted it to look intimidating from the front.”

Besides Yamato and Andromeda, Mr. Tamamori was in charge of the Earth fleet’s Dreadnought class, patrol ship, and escort ship. The Dreadnought class was previously called the “main battleship” and did not have a specific name.

One point in the design was a Wave-Motion Gun in the bow with a divider in the center. Tamamori said that there was a debate among fans saying, “Wouldn’t that divider be melted by the energy of the Wave Gun?” He explained that the energy is emitted to the right and left when firing a Dispersion Wave-Motion Gun. The energy would merge after passing the divider to become a single-beam Wave-Motion Gun without melting it. This cleared up the problem.

Speaking of the “Wave-Motion Gun problem” from the days of Farewell to Yamato, what about the small beam cannons on the patrol ship and escort ship? There seemed to be a debate about whether they were small Wave-Motion Guns. On this point, Mr. Tamamori wondered, “Could a beam gun fire wave particles?” and he coined the term “Wave-Motion Squirt Guns.”

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