The Producer Speaks, May 2019

The first person we heard from at the dawn of Yamato 2202‘s production was Executive Producer Shoji Nishizaki, who spoke directly to fans through the pages of the Premium Fan Club magazine, Ship’s Log. At the sunset of that long project, he spoke again through the same publication to offer his personal reflections and a nod toward the future.

Published in issue 3 of the Yamato/Star Blazers Fan Club magazine, May 27 2019.

Executive Producer Shoji Nishizaki: Talking about Yamato 2202

In the future, I want to seriously push the expression of the visuals

Shoji Nishizaki was the executive producer in charge of Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love. What was the goal of the work? And also, what direction will Yamato take from here…? We heard the passionate thoughts burning in his heart.

Interviewer: Yamato 2202 has been completed, and I heard that it was a commercial success. First, could you share your current feelings and response as the leader of it all?

Nishizaki: In recent years, sales of video media has been decreasing every year. In spite of that, 2202 is supported by the enthusiasm of all the fans, and I was able to finish it with a strong performance. By spreading the word of mouth, the number of viewers increased with each theatrical chapter. In that sense, I think we have closed the curtain successfully.

At the same time, we’ve seen a number of issues that need improvement. There are parts where I myself am still not satisfied, and as we get feedback for the Space Battleship Yamato series in the future, I want to aim at further evolution.

Interviewer: With Director Nobuyoshi Habara and Writer Harutoshi Fukui, the main staff changed greatly from 2199 to 2202, didn’t it?

Nishizaki: Mr. Habara supported us on Yamato Resurrection as a member of Xebec studio. At that time, I was attracted by the power of his humanity, and I decided to ask him to direct. After Resurrection we had several meals together, and that was when I first sounded him out on directing 2202. He was very spirited, and our mutual admiration was what decided his appointment as director.

As for the story, Mr. Fukui already had some great achievements. I’ve always thought the story and visuals should complement each other, and I was looking for a storyteller that I could leave that to. On one occasion I heard his name and actually saw some of his works. They were full of fresh sensibilities and stuck to a solid core. After a couple of discussions with Mr. Fukui, we finally received his reply of consent.

Interviewer: What do you consider to be the differences between 2199 and 2202?

Nishizaki: I would say that 2199 is Director Izubuchi’s Yamato. Mr. Izubuchi was originally a huge Yamato fan, and his Yamato was told from a fan’s point of view, so to speak. 2199 was refined with modern creativity.

In contrast, 2202 is Harutoshi Fukui’s Yamato. Rather than emphasizing the integrity of gadgets like Izubuchi, he started by proposing a big theme for the whole series, then drew out the dramatic elements from there. As a result, he depicted the figure of Yamato as something new and original. It converged on the original theme while acting as an antithesis against modern society. Such magnificent and detailed dramaturgy is the main appeal of Harutoshi Fukui’s Yamato.

Interviewer: Your vision of a director and writer making the series together was right.

Nishizaki: Staffing is the most important job. It may be second-guessing, but I don’t think there was any mistake in that direction. Right now, my only response is relief.

Of course, they had a lot of help from the production staff, including the drawing, and in the case of a series it’s common to pour too much effort into the first half and then run out of steam in the second half. It’s a fact that 2202 had to follow a schedule, but it was thanks to the effort of everyone at the site that it was able to land very close to the original image. They have my unconditional gratitude.

Interviewer: You mentioned the schedule, and we also got a very good impression of the 2202 scriptwriting. The system was that Hideki Oka wrote the scripts based on Mr. Fukui’s plot, then Mr. Fukui reworked it. I’d think that that would be a rather difficult system on a weekly TV series.

Nishizaki: Mr. Fukui is very quick on the mark, so it might be able to endure such a method. But speed is not his only characteristic, of course. He buries foreshadowing everywhere in the story and carefully pulls it together for the climax. He’s a master storyteller, going beyond the boundaries of writer and screenwriter, with a sense of coordination approaching that of a director or producer.

Interviewer: Also, 2202 left the impression of collaboration with various companies. I was particularly surprised by the Yamato Jet, from the teamup with Skymark.

Nishizaki: Part of my vision for Yamato is rebranding. Anyway, speaking of Yamato, several decades have already passed since the first work. For today’s young people, it is a work of their parents’ generation. But Yamato has an excellent format that can be utilized today. To that end I want it to have clear appeal power with various hooks that can be enjoyed by the younger generation. That’s one of the skims that I take the lead in promoting, separate from the production work.

At the production presentation, Sept 2016

Skymark was the first of a variety of collaborations, and fortunately all the companies I’ve spoken to have voiced their support. To be honest, there were some situations that were puzzling at first, but I’m glad that all the fans are pleased with the results.

Interviewer: You said that “Yamato has an excellent format.” From your point of view, where do you think the base is?

Nishizaki: There is no perfect human left in this world. Still, Susumu Kodai and the young crew overcame long hardships and continue fighting to protect their loved ones. Whether you win or lose in “war,” only emptiness remains. But they are still entrusted with the future of the human race, and they throw their bodies into the battlefield at the risk of their own lives. Such a universal anti-war message is the appeal of Yamato, and I think that’s the driving force that continues to be loved across generations.

At the stage greeting for Chapter 5, May 2018. L to R: MC Osamu Kobayashi, Shoji Nishizaki, Eriko Nakamura, Harutoshi Fukui

Interviewer: A new work has already been announced, so are there any topics that you can disclose about future prospects?

Nishizaki: The first thing is that story and picture are “the two wings,” and with 2202 Mr. Fukui achieved far more than I expected with the story. As for the picture, I want to seriously push the “expression of the visuals.” In order to do that, we will gather together an anime staff with superior techniques and sensibilities. I want to start an animation studio that is centered on Yamato, so first I have to set up the framework and guidelines of a studio, including the staffing. Next will be setting up a direction for a “new work,” so I want to get a studio running as soon as possible.

When I think about it, it starts with the plan of my late father, Yoshinobu Nishizaki. After a long hiatus, the Yamato series literally went through a “resurrection.” This was not only my father’s last wish, it was all the old and new fans who breathed life into Yamato’s new age. I’d like to bring you an even more attractive and majestic figure of Yamato.

Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.

Revisit Shoji Nishizaki’s first interviews here: July 2015 | November 2015 | March 2016 | June 2016

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