As these words are being written in November 2009, the clock is running down and Yamato fever is heating up with the rapid approach of the new movie in Japan. Merchandise is now popping up at a reassuringly steady clip, new content has been added to the official website (homepage shown above), and a special advance screenings began on November 28.
It has also been announced that a Japanese rock group named The Alfee has recorded the title song for the film, Dedicate My Love. This isn’t their first go-round with anime; they also contributed to the 1984 Lensman movie and the 1998 Galaxy Express OVA. They have a special kinship with Yamato since they formed in 1974, the same year the saga made its debut. Multiple CD singles will be released along with two Yamato Resurrection soundtracks in December.
What’s more, the live-action Space Battleship Yamato feature film has gone into high-gear production with principle photography completed in October and special effects to continue for several months. Since that movie isn’t due out until December 2010, there isn’t much hard news about it, but a teaser website went online October 1st and it will be something to watch over the coming year.
The biggest current news about Yamato Resurrection is that members of the cast and crew have finally begun to talk openly about it in the Japanese media, and we’re proud to be the first to bring their words to you in English. We present five interviews in this article, the first four of which were posted to the official Resurrection website in October…
Koichi Yamadera (Voice actor, Susumu Kodai)
Interviewer: You perform Susumu Kodai as a legendary hero.
Yamadera: Yamato was my favorite as a junior high student, and I watched it regularly. Moreover, I had great respect for Mr. Kei Tomiyama, who played the role of Kodai. Even though I have had the role in a game before, I feel a lot of pressure! I am overwhelmed with emotion!
(Note: Yamadera is a very accomplished anime voice actor. His many roles include Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop and Susumu Kodai from the Yamato Playstation games.)
Interviewer: What is your impression of Yamato Resurrection?
Yamadera: “Grand Scale” is exactly the right term, because it feels like Yamato has been renewed. The highlights are the relationship of Kodai and his family, the new crewmembers, and powerups like the new Wave-Motion Gun! I feel that the story is filled with a great, important message for the people of today.
Interviewer: What is the appeal of Space Battleship Yamato?
Yamadera: For me, it was the first work that made me think of myself as an Earthling. It was the individual characters, the mecha, the music, etc. There are various elements, such as the idea of putting oneself at risk to protect the Earth or someone you love. It reaches straight for the universal themes with no blurring.
Interviewer: What is the message from Mr. Yamadera, who plays Susumu Kodai?
Yamadera: I got goosebumps when I saw Yamato rise again! It was great! I think it will impress the old Yamato fans and first-time viewers alike. Please enjoy it!
Masayuki Ibu (Voice actor, General Gorui)
Interviewer: What is your impression after participating in Yamato Resurrection?
Ibu: This came after an interval of 30 years or more. I originally played Dessler when I was in my twenties. I have great nostalgia.
Interviewer: What did you think of playing General Gorui?
Ibu: It was like before; despite being an enemy, Gorui is an honorable man. So it was very comfortable for me.
Interviewer: What is the appeal of Space Battleship Yamato?
Ibu: Could it because Yamato speaks to the Japanese soul?
Tomonori Kogawa (Character Designer)
Interviewer: How did you feel about participating in Yamato Resurrection?
Kogawa: Producer Nishizaki quite seriously requested me after I worked on Farewell to Yamato over 30 years ago. It felt like a light was shining into a deep, dark place.
Interviewer: What design point did you take the most care with?
Kogawa: Basically, every image in Yamato has depth; I felt it was important to show that the people live everyday lives even though they see so much action. I kept this in mind even when I was starting with a blank page.
Interviewer: What is the appeal of Space Battleship Yamato?
Kogawa: Friendship, solidarity, romance, and the Wave-Motion Gun!
Interviewer: What is your message to everyone who is looking forward to Yamato Resurrection?
Kogawa: Whether or not you go in with an impression from the past, think of this as your first encounter. The fun of combining the mecha design with 3D for the screen is a great discovery.
(Note: Kogawa’s life and work were extensively profiled in a previous report, which can be read here.)
Makoto Kobayashi (Mecha Designer)
Interviewer: What was it like to participate in Yamato Resurrection?
Kobayashi: I asked Producer Nishizaki to please let me work on it by all means, and he accepted. I was very happy to see it materialize.
Interviewer: What are the important design points?
Kobayashi: I always looked for a way to emphasize the beauty of a design, to combine novelty with the sense of reality that Yamato has always expressed.
Interviewer: What is the appeal of Yamato?
Kobayashi: My first work on the series was Yamato 2520, about twenty years ago. I always thought the attraction was that anyone could enjoy it, not just fans of SF space movies.
Interviewer: What is your message to everyone who is looking forward to Yamato Resurrection?
Kobayashi: Twenty years ago, some said it was impossible to make this project. Filmmaking technology has reached a point where a person has complete control, unlike in the analog age, and is finally up to the task of clearly expressing the intentions of the producer. I personally love the hangar scenes and the battle scenes since that is my hobby, but the entire project is a surprisingly good revival of Yamato.
(Note: Kobayashi began work on the film in its original development phase, all the way back in the early 1990s. Read all about that phase here.)
And now the main event. Unlike the old days, coverage of Yamato Resurrection in anime specialty magazines has been extremely scarce until very recently. Only passing mentions of it appeared in print during the summer months, a far cry from the reams of Yamato material that filled their pages back in the production years.
The silence was finally broken by Animage magazine in their November issue (above left), which went on sale October 10. A full-page image appeared (above right) to promote the film, teasing fans with tiny character and spaceship images. But this was only a warmup.
Just a few pages later fans finally got what they’ve been waiting for: a substantial new interview with Executive Producer and series creator Yoshinobu Nishizaki. The session was conducted on September 17 by Yuuichiro Oguro, nicknamed “Animesama” for his intimate knowledge of anime production and staff members. Oguro explained on his blog the next day (see it here) that as one of those who grew up on Yamato, he was a little nervous going in to speak to the great man himself. And who wouldn’t be? But he pushed past this and turned in a fantastic piece, the single largest volume of info that has been published about the film so far…and as you will see, it’s loaded with surprises.
(Note: the stills shown throughout this interview are from the two new movie trailers that can be viewed at the official website.)
I Want to Hear the Story from This Man
An interview with Yoshinobu Nishizaki by Yuichiro Oguro
Conducted September 17, 2009 at Enagio Studio, Tokyo
Translated by Tim Eldred
Space Battleship Yamato Resurrection Chapter will premiere in December, the new work in the historic Yamato series. It is the complex story that picks up from Final Yamato, which opened in 1983. The hero, Susumu Kodai, is now 38 years old. The parent and supervisor of this production is the charismatic producer, Yoshinobu Nishizaki. What thoughts and feelings went into the making of this movie? We will enquire about that in detail.
Interviewer: Thank you in advance.
Nishizaki: No problem.
Interviewer: Until now, you have been the producer of the Yamato series, and it seems you are directing Yamato Resurrection. Your role has always been as a producer, why do you now take up the title of director?
(Note: though Nishizaki was credited as Executive Producer on Final Yamato, he served as a co-director with Tomoharu Katsumata. Similarly, he was the general manager on Yamato 2520 but directed in cooperation with another. Strictly speaking, “director” was not his primary job title.)
Nishizaki: I directed the voice recording and dubbing. Others directed the animation and the overall production. I left that to them and took charge of the recording myself. I watch over their work and entrust each of them to do their part. It begins with the design and goes through the animation and photography. Because this will be my final project, I wanted to run it like a general overseeing an army. I asked Mr. Toshio Masuda to direct the overall production, since to be honest I could not find another qualified candidate besides myself.
Interviewer: In the past you have been the overall creator. Has that changed?
Nishizaki: It has not changed. I began with a script and continued through the storyboarding. After that, I established Yamato Studio. It was too much work for one person after that.
Interviewer: Do you watch over it scene by scene?
Nishizaki: Yes, I do. It starts with the rough photography [an animatic or pencil test]. I work it out scene by scene on a screen and it gets very data-heavy. But that’s OK with me, I want to see what’s in every nook and cranny.
Interviewer: Then this will have more “Nishizaki Purity” than any previous Yamato film.
Nishizaki: That’s how I think of it. (Laughs) The story is set 15 years after Final Yamato. Kodai was 23 then, and now he’s 38. He and Yuki had a child named Miyuki, and the story begins from there.
Interviewer: Final Yamato was released in 1983. How soon after that did you intend to make Yamato once again?
Nishizaki: The planning for this movie began 17 years ago. At the time, the concept I thought about most was the sinking of Yamato in the sea of Aquarius, and then 17 years passed. It’s been a long project.
Interviewer: Meanwhile, there was a different line of Yamato.
Nishizaki: You mean Yamato 2520?
(Note: this was an OVA series released in 1995, set over 300 years after the original saga. Read all about it here.)
Interviewer: Though it had the Yamato name, it seemed like quite a different concept.
Nishizaki: Yes, but the concept wasn’t that different. The love theme didn’t change. The big difference was the story and the designs by Syd Mead.
Interviewer: I remember a similar project of yours called Odin. It seemed like another variation on Yamato.
(Note: Odin was a feature film released in 1985, another SF anime with a spaceship designed after a seagoing vessel. Read about it here.)
Nishizaki: I varied it in different ways, but I didn’t want to change the “Yamato spirit.” Individually, I think Odin and 2520 each have their own merits, but if they’re all going to have a flying ship we might as well make it Yamato. That was my thought 17 years ago.
I started with the idea that Yamato was sunk into the sea of Aquarius. The project was nursed along for a long time, and it has finally been realized. Meanwhile, Yu Aku [lyricist] and Kentaro Haneda [composer] have both died, so we do not have our melody makers.
Interviewer: In that case, what form will the music take?
Nishizaki: I’m using the nostalgiac Yamato melody in the first half, then go to classical music in the middle, and return to the music of Yamato again in the latter part. That’s the feeling I wanted.
Interviewer: I see. In other words, there is not a new score.
Nishizaki: It is newly recorded by the Japan Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. Therefore, when I use classical music they perform it.
Interviewer: Then the classical music is a new recording.
Nishizaki: Yes. The basis for the melody is in eight bars because that’s the basis for classical music. I made a lot of music with Hiroshi Miyagawa. Most of it expanded on the 8-bar measure. I gave him the nickname of “8-bar Miyagawa” (laughs). When you attach 8-bar music to animation, it makes quite an impression. Mr. Miyagawa was a genius at making impressive melodies that were just right for a scene.
But Mr. Miyagawa is no longer with us, nor is Mr. Haneda. Therefore, I only chose classical music with 8-bar measures, such as piano concertos from Mozart, Chopin, and Grieg. Isn’t that the sort of music you look forward to hearing?
Interviewer: Please tell us more about the planning of the story. You started the plan 17 years ago. Weren’t you dying to make it during all that time?
Nishizaki: Yes. I wasted seven and a half years, but my desire to make it didn’t go away.
A moving black hole appears in this story, double the size of Jupiter. It is approaching our solar system and causes a great crisis. The concept is that it could swallow the entire solar system in passing. I created the story and then called in a scriptwriter to work with me.
Interviewer: In the past I believe you wrote the scripts with others, but I don’t believe your name was listed that way in the credits. Did you work that way on the new movie?
(Note: Four people were credited for the screenplay in Final Yamato. Yamato 2520 had joint screenplay credits as well.)
Nishizaki: Yes. It takes shape as I concentrate and elaborate, because that’s my particular nature. The movie began with my concept and scenario. I thought up the water planet Aquarius in Final Yamato. The duplicate Earth in Be Forever was my idea. I also came up with the purposes for trips into outer space. A scriptwriter joins a project after the concept has been developed.
Interviewer: Around 1980, I remember hearing you talking to a DJ on the radio. You mentioned a certain line from Dessler and said, “I wrote this line myself and was moved to tears.” I remember being surprised to learn that a producer would write a line of dialogue.
Nishizaki: (Laughs) Really? I usually wrote the important lines of dialogue myself. This time, I wrote the line for Kodai that gives his view at the end of the story. The role of a scriptwriter is to make the entire thing flow. Anything that I specifically wanted to be said, I wrote myself.
Interviewer: Did you choose the artists for Resurrection?
Nishizaki: Ah, the animation staff. I hired [character designer] Tomonori Kogawa, who worked on Farewell to Yamato in his twenties. Then there is Kazuhiko Udagawa and Shinya Takahashi, who directed Be Forever. These three are the main staff, and they supervised all the animators. I that sense, I think I got everyone I wanted.
Interviewer: Kodai’s age was decided a while ago, but why is he in his late thirties?
Nishizaki: Because 38 is a good number. 40 is a bad one, and so it goes all the way up to 49. [Editor’s note: the number 4 is unlucky in Japan, and thus it is said that anyone in their forties is in for bad luck.] Therefore, he’s 38. His daughter is 16, and Yuki is also 38. However, Yuki lead the first emigration fleet to evacuate from Earth, and it has gone missing. So Kodai says, “Yuki, I do not think you are dead. Space is always alive somewhere. I will go to the bottom of hell to help you, but I have to save humanity before that.” That’s a line from the movie. So actually, Yuki is not in this movie.
Interviewer: In Final Yamato, Kodai was shown as a young person who hadn’t finished growing up yet. He was not yet able to become a Captain on Okita’s level. But he’ll be treated as a full adult this time, is that right?
Nishizaki: No, this Kodai will also have a childish side. I created scenes that let you assume Kodai is older, but he is still not a replacement for Captain Okita. He acts for himself and brings up the next generation at the same time. He is shown from both sides.
Interviewer: This time we’ll see the relationship between Kodai and his daughter.
Nishizaki: The daughter rebels against the father. Isn’t 16 the age of resistance against the parents? The daughter will…
(We talked about the drama between Kodai and Miyuki all the way to the end of the movie, but it is cut from this article so as not to spoil the movie.)
…but I’m telling you too much. (Laughs)
Interviewer: What is the connection between Kodai and Mr. Nishizaki? When the first Yamato was made, you were in your late thirties.
Nishizaki: 38 or 39 years old.
Interviewer: At that time, wasn’t Kodai a teenager? Did you project yourself onto him? Are you someone who is in touch with his own youth?
Nishizaki: Hmm. That was not a conscious consideration. It was all about going to Iscandar to bring back the radiation remover and save the Earth. Eiichi Yamamoto and I wrote in the planning book that we would depict the growth of Kodai at different stages. I intended also to show the growth of Yuki. Therefore, it differs somewhat from the idea of self-projection.
After all, the most important character was Captain Okita. He is at the center with Kodai on the right and Shima on the left. There is Yuki, too. Okita was the core and the story unfolded around him. Kodai was originally meant to be handsome and fun-loving.
Interviewer: Fans pointed out at the time that he was sort of impetuous and illogical. His behavior was inconsistent. That is his strong point.
Nishizaki: That’s right. I also drew on those characteristics of Kodai this time.
I should add that this is the era of 3D CG. In the battle scenes, all the tanks and fighters are CG. Yamato was modeled by animator Masahiko Okura. We had to figure out how to show its massive body. It took six months to build it.
Interviewer: Until now, Yamato has always been drawn by hand. Does it work in CG?
Nishizaki: It does. To the audience, the CG Yamato will be indistinguishable from one drawn by hand. Yamato has always connected directly to the emotions, and its appearance hasn’t changed. The result is very good.
Nishizaki: Also, we’re making two versions of the movie; one in which Earth is saved and one where it isn’t. Which one we show to the public has not been decided yet. We will preview both of them at the end of November.
Interviewer: You made two versions of the film?
Nishizaki: Yes. We have to watch the previews, see the reaction of the audience, and then decide which one to show.
Interviewer: That’s a Hollywood method! (Laughs)
Nishizaki: It is. It will affect how we begin Part 2.
Interviewer: Huh? You’re already thinking about a Part 2? A while ago you said this was likely to be your last work. Now you’re saying a new series will begin from Resurrection, is that going to be your last work?
Nishizaki: Well, I came up with the concept for Part 2 myself. I will not take an active role in it, because this movie was so demanding. I will develop Part 2 through the script stage and then entrust it to others. I would ask to see the storyboard and check it over. It would still be a film I created even if I don’t participate as a director.
Interviewer: I see. I wondered why Resurrection would be developed as a revival and then not continued.
Nishizaki: Yes. The theme of Part 2 has been determined. The second part…
(Again, this discussion has been cut from the article to avoid spoilers.)
…and that will be the theme.
Interviewer: Certainly a lot of new characters will come out in full this time. It would be a waste never to use them again.
Nishizaki: It would be a waste. Therefore, even if the Earth is destroyed, the crew basically won’t lose anyone. Even Kodai is alive and well at the end.
Interviewer: Is there a reason not to kill Kodai this time?
Nishizaki: It wouldn’t be Yamato if not for Kodai.
Interviewer: But he died in the past, in Farewell to Yamato. And there have been many other deaths in the crew.
Nishizaki: When I did Farewell I seriously thought Yamato could go no further. Then we were asked to remake it for TV by Mr. Tatsuro Ishida, to whom I was indebted. To me, it was already over but Mr. Ishida asked for me to take charge of it.
Interviewer: Was he from the TV network?
Nishizaki: No, he was the president of Nippon Broadcasting. (Note: he later became the president of Fuji Television.) So I said, “OK, if you say to make it, I will.” And it continued from there. When The New Voyage was broadcast, the audience rating exceeded 30%, so I thought I was really popular! (Laughs)
Then I made Be Forever, and because of that I decided I must make Final Yamato. I really thought at the time I made Farewell that it was going to be the end. Yamato disappeared into space and Kodai went with it.
Interviewer: It was over. Did you feel the same way after Final Yamato?
Nishizaki: Well, afterward I made Grand Symphony Yamato. Between that and Final Yamato, I thought “this is really the end.” Since then it’s been, what, 26 years?
(Note: Grand Symphony Yamato was a concert recorded for home video in 1984. Read all about it here.)
Interviewer: Yamato fans are wondering if you’re going to continue after Resurrection. There are very strong feelings about seeing a new film.
Nishizaki: I got a lot of inquiries about whether I would make a Yamato sequel, even after an interval of 26 years. Even though it was so demanding, it felt good to make it. Whichever version becomes the real one, please watch it.
Interviewer: The voice recording has already ended?
Nishizaki: Yes, it’s finished. The final edit is our last stage, and then it goes to the sound effects department. After that, there is the dubbing. Shizuo Karahashi is handling the sound. The schedule is being adjusted because we cannot cut corners on that. (Note: usually a voice recording does not take place prior to a final edit.)
Interviewer: Are you re-using the original sound effects?
Nishizaki: No, because that would be impolite to Mr. Karahashi. We will use them only in flashback scenes.
Interviewer: I’d like to ask about the casting. Some of the original actors have died, so what form will it take?
Nishizaki: We have a lot of new voice actors, but the roles of Sanada and Dr. Sado are still filled by the same actors who always did them.
Interviewer: I saw a notice that Kenichi Ogata will return to do Analyzer.
Nishizaki: It would not be conceivable for Dr. Sado to appear without Analyzer.
Interviewer: What about the role of Kodai?
(Note: at the time of this interview, the cast for the film had not yet been announced)
Nishizaki: His original voice actor, Kei Tomiyama, was a genius. The entire voice actor boom started with him. His death is a great loss. However, the person who has the role now sounds like Tomiyama as if he were 38 years old, so it is just right.
Interviewer: There was once a scene of yourself in Farewell to Yamato. Will there be such a scene this time?
Nishizaki: I have a line of “gaya” (note: this word is the Japanese equivalent of “walla,” for ad-libbed crowd noise) toward the end where I say goodbye to Earth. Hearing it spoken by the crowd moved me to tears. We have excellent voice actors, even those who only do “gaya.”
The line is, “Earth, goodbye, and never forget. We will surely return.” It was very impressive to hear it. I’m glad I had the opportunity.
Interviewer: Is there a possibility that Dessler will appear?
Nishizaki: Not in this movie. But it’s possible in a later story if I create a new plot point where space-beings never age.
Nishizaki: Remember, I came up with the story for Sasha about Iscandarians aging 17 years in just one Earth year. But the audience can never be surprised by a sudden appearance of Dessler.
Nishizaki: Well, Dessler turned to good, you know. Plus, he died once. So if Dessler does reappear, I don’t think it will be as impressive compared to what happened before. He appears when Kodai gets into a desperate situation and wipes out all the surrounding enemies in a flash.
Interviewer: I see. How is the reaction among the fans?
Nishizaki: Apparently, advance ticket sales seem to be good.
Interviewer: Is that so? Friends of mine from the old days wondered, since Resurrection is a digital movie, would they still get free animation cels on the premiere day if they stayed up all night at the theatre? (Laughs).
Nishizaki: (Laughs) No, we won’t be giving away cels. However, I’m still thinking carefully about the fans. Soon I will announce an original poster being made by Yamato Studio for those who buy advance tickets.
(Note: Since this interview was conducted, the offer went live on the Yamato Studio website. The poster is shown at the end of this page.)
Interviewer: That’s like what you did with the original  movie poster.
Nishizaki: Yes. That poster was our only means of advertising the movie, and we spread it out nationwide. The price for this is 1500 yen; 1300 for the advance ticket and 200 for shipping. Our company will bear the remaining cost. I don’t know how many applications we’ll get.
(Nishizaki turns to a member of the film distribution staff)
What other movies are coming out in December?
(The person answers)
Is that so?
(He turns back to us)
Interviewer: You will?
Nishizaki: Yes. Please look forward to it.
Interviewer: You’re quite confident, Mr. Nishizaki. In terms of content, it is certain to be an interesting movie.
Nishizaki: That part never changes.
Interviewer: So it will be just like previous Yamato movies in that regard.
Nishizaki: Yes. We intentionally made the battle scenes in CG so as to be indistinguishable from those drawn by hand. It raises the quality considerably, and we’ve learned by experience to push the sound to its very limit. That part will leave my hands a month and a half before the premiere.
Interviewer: Does that mean your past experience taught you how to push the sound to the limit?
Nishizaki: And it was already great before.
Interviewer: There are many legendary stories about changing the picture after the release, or…
Nishizaki: I didn’t redraw it myself. (Laughs) But even after a premiere, a different version can be made to replace the first one if it couldn’t be finished in time. With this one, we showed a version to our concerned parties on August 3.
Interviewer: There was a version ready to show in August?
Nishizaki: Yes. At the time it was 2 hours and 24 minutes, and we were asked to reduce it to 2 hours, 10 minutes. But I didn’t know how it could be understood if it was cut.
Interviewer: I think the best part of Yamato up until now has been its romance. Will that be a part of Resurrection as well?
Nishizaki: Yes, I think you will enjoy it. The romance of Yamato is quite unique. It would have to be there if I worked on it, I’m fully aware of that. The romance of Yamato is there from the first idea to the scenario to the final script. It flows through all three beats. It’s great fun to watch that.
Interviewer: I think you used to say that the theme of Yamato is “love.”
Nishizaki: Love is also the theme of this work, saying that “I fight for what I love.” In a real sense, fighting to save Earth and all of mankind could be a form of love. The theme doesn’t change because it continues within myself.
Interviewer: So a longtime fan can walk into a theatre with confidence.
Nishizaki: Longtime fans, and also new fans. If you can make it to the theatre, you will leave with a sense of satisfaction.
Interviewer: We’ll have to see it in a theatre.
Nishizaki: I’m 74 years old now. There are few people of my generation still engaged in active service to the new generation. Even when I join the retirees, I’ll still be lively.
Nishizaki: The young people like you will carry things forward into the future. So please enjoy it when you see the next Yamato!
Above left is the original poster created by Yamato Studio as a free bonus item to those who ordered advance movie tickets from their website. Above right is Nishizaki pictured with interviewer Yuichiro Oguro.