Nobuyoshi Habara interview, February 2019

From Hobby Japan #599, March 2019: in his final solo interview for Yamato 2202, Director Nobuyoshi Habara spoke passionately about his time with the saga, which he began as a fan of the original TV series. He also shared previously-untold stories about the making of Chapter 7 and some of his favorite moments in the series.

Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love completion commemoration!

Director Nobuyoshi Habara Special Interview

Yamato 2202 has finally reached its conclusion with Chapter 7, New Star Chapter. While this work inherits the genes of Farewell to Yamato and Yamato 2, it surprised fans with a completely new direction and ending. In commemoration of this conclusion, we heard stories from Nobuyoshi Habara, who served as the director.

Interview by Hiroyuki Kawai

Thoughts on fulfilling the entrusted role

Interviewer: The first thing that was impressive in Chapter 7 was the chance encounter between Kodai, Keyman and Miru, all from a young generation. The scene of their relationship felt like it symbolized 2202.

Habara: In the original works Farewell and Yamato 2, Dessler was positioned as Kodai’s rival, but when considering it from the present-day point of view, I was worried that, “Perhaps there hasn’t been enough built up between them…” That’s why Kodai pushes peace toward Zordar in Chapter 7. It was also an important action that showed the character of the hero.

Interviewer: Unfortunately, peace didn’t materialize despite the glimpse of hope in the action of Miru handing over the gun.

Habara: If Miru is the next generation of Zordar, that action seems impossible, doesn’t it? When I read about the choice to hand over the gun in the script, I was shaking. “Can we do it this way?” (Laughs) There’s a sense of tension in this scene, switching between closeups and wide shots, and I struggled with the timing of the lines.

Interviewer: I get the impression that the relationship with Dessler is still in the future.

Habara: Based on the flow of Yamato 2199, we kept it on a level of suspense. “Is the feeling of rivalry with Kodai finally deepening?” Dessler is the king of his country despite the current change of government, and he’s someone who is in a position to lead the people. But he doesn’t know everything about Kodai yet in 2202, so our judgment was that it was still too early for him to have any feeling toward a young Earthling.

Interviewer: If he were too cooperative, it would be difficult to maintain that balance of character.

Habara: It’s still surprising in Chapter 7 when he gives them the Neu Deusler for the Transit Wave-Motion Gun, isn’t it? When depicting Dessler in particular, his dignity is the most important element. If you don’t depict him based on the essence of “I let my guard down for no one” then Garmillas itself looks smaller. In terms of positioning, Keyman is closer to the original Dessler.

Interviewer: Keyman played an important role in the climax.

Habara: Keyman takes up Sanada’s role in Farewell. As the writer Harutoshi Fukui thought, “You can’t play an important role if it isn’t depicted properly,” so it was built up very carefully. Therefore, a lot of people were shocked at his death.

Interviewer: He also spoke his thoughts about Yamamoto on the verge of his death.

Habara: Many people may be surprised to find out about the relationship between those two, but in fact we touched upon it over a long time in the script stage. Given the flow of 2199, there was concern about whether Yamamoto was seen as a woman suited for grand romance…so for the sake of those who take the “pro” stance on that we switched to a form were the feeling emerged gradually.

Interviewer: Looking back at the original, it seemed like Yamamoto would be the one to die…

Habara: But thanks to her surviving, she became the last witness, the character who created a chance to rescue Kodai and Yuki. And since in a way she will inherit the will of Keyman, I think she’ll play an important role in the future.

Interviewer: Elements of both Farewell and Yamato 2 were captured in 2202, so the issue of “who will die?” was a point of anxiety.

Habara: That’s right. I was quite concerned about the fate of each character. In particular, I talked with Mr. Fukui many times about the scene where Saburo Kato dies. According to the original work, Saburo dies and his younger brother Shiro appears. If possible, I wanted Saburo to live because the Saburo of 2202 has a family, and even if Shiro were to appear it wouldn’t feel like,
“That’s OK, then.”

Interviewer: Kato built up a lot of drama between 2199 and 2202, didn’t he?

Habara: That’s right. But I wanted to end it in such a way that even if his death was unavoidable, it wouldn’t be a meaningless one if he insisted, “I’m going to survive.” That was my feeling. In the last battle he would be in a terrible state if he was shot through the abdomen. He wouldn’t be able to breathe. But he fights through it and shouts at the top of his lungs and plays his role. And in the end he’s wrapped in light rather than an explosion. It feels like, “Saburo’s thoughts are being sent to [his son] Tsubasa.”

The impact of the original work is challenged by a new approach

Interviewer: Golem, the Ark of Destruction, finally appears. In the original, this is the scene where the giant battleship appeared, but the image changed a lot, didn’t it?

Habara: I was concerned about the handling of the giant battleship from the start of 2202. The White Comet is the same size as Saturn, so if you think about the battleship coming out of it, that wouldn’t be a surprise. But when I thought, “How is it made, and who is moving it?” it wasn’t limited to a battleship’s framework. There was also a suggestion from [Assistant Director] Makoto Kobayashi, “Let’s move away from the battleship,” and that became the direction. The finished Golem looks like a symbol of the devil, and I think it became a design that suits the worldview.

Interviewer: Even if a strong impression was left behind [by the original], when I think about the city empire as “A group of buildings in that size…” I can feel the trend of the times.

Habara: Yes, that doesn’t have the same sense of scale any more. However, the shock of Farewell had a wonderful effect because it remains strong in everyone’s mind, so it was a difficult decision not to use that visual. The breakthrough was seen in the design for the city empire in 2202 with planets inside of it…the idea of it containing Zemuria was very shocking.

Interviewer: From that you could imagine how huge it is.

Habara: It’s a success if we can get you to think, “BIG!” In Yamato 2 there was an impact in the visual of it coming down to Earth, but the size changed this time, so that became NG. [No good]

Interviewer: I could not imagine how they would get inside.

Habara: That’s where the Galman Wolf comes in. He wasn’t originally in the script, but I personally wanted him to appear by all means. Consultation with Mr. Fukui and Makoto Kobayashi moved it forward, and he appeared in a role to lead Yamato. Of course, Yabu also appears, but without showing his face at first. He shows up only in the salute when parting with Yamato. His method of saluting is different from the rest of the crew, so please look closely.

Interviewer: Ultimately, Yamato gets battered like never before, and I got the impression that its fight was over.

Habara: Since it’s the war against the city empire, there was a feeling of, “we have to go all the way.” The tip of the first gun battery was bent as much as possible according to the image in Farewell. Actually, I also wanted to punch a round hole in the antenna as shown in the original, but there wasn’t time for it. I regretted that, so I put a round hole in Yamato’s antenna on the poster. (Laughs) Please check out the poster for Chapter 7.

A deep-cut surprise that acknowledges all of Yamato.

Interviewer: Instead of sacrificing their lives like in Farewell, and also not following Yamato 2, a suitable story was needed for the couple to return, wasn’t it?

Habara: That’s right. I was personally committed to the scene where Kodai decides to return. First Yuki comes to Kodai and he refuses to return, but he finally makes the decision when the baby’s hand comes out…that’s how it developed. That baby is Miyuki, who appeared in Yamato Resurrection, one of two future children.

Interviewer: So in the instant that hand appeared, it was Miyuki, right?

Habara: The way it developed was, first the baby clearly appears…and when Kodai smiles, that’s the start of his decision to return. I wanted to make it a story about just Kodai and Yuki if possible, so by showing the baby’s hand for only a moment, for all intents and purposes it included both Yuki and the children, and it flowed into the image of Kodai returning. I made adjustments right up to the last minute in the editing stage, including switching scenes, connecting shots, and timing when the hands appear.

Interviewer: Various ideas are elaborated in the final episode, aren’t they?

Habara: That’s right. When Kodai is wavering about going back, Teresa presents him with new possibilities. There’s the scene filled with balls of light. In fact, various scenes from the original Yamato series are depicted in those balls. They were newly drawn. There are also scenes from Yamato 2 and Yamato 2520.

Interviewer: You did something that extravagant?

Habara: Yes, drawn by animators in the industry who like Yamato. I asked them to “Please draw just one of your favorite Yamato scenes!” and some interesting scenes came together. There’s a Yamato with only four windows from Episode 2 of the first series, the Balanodon is shown, and there’s also one of Aihara trying to steal the glass [from Be Forever]. (Laughs) If you’re someone who’s really into Yamato, please check!

Interviewer: It was a big surprise for fans, but why did you make such a scene?

Habara: What was important about this scene was to acknowledge all of Yamato and give it a feeling of, “Everyone loves Yamato!” Even if you just mention Yamato in passing, there’s a wide range of fans with passion for various works. It’s also important what age you were when you first encountered Yamato, and I think that can affect someone’s favorite accordingly. It was a declaration that there is a favorite Yamato for every generation. I was in the first generation and the Farewell generation, but when I consider the entire saga, I’m reminded of Yamato’s many charms.

The existence of 2202 as a memorable monument

Interviewer: Looking back on all seven chapters, please tell me which mecha scene you have a special feeling about.

Habara: The one I really wanted to do was to move Yamato around while it was under renovation in Episode 1. I really wanted to move the unfinished Yamato around while it was full of holes. It would be difficult to draw by hand, but it was possible to somehow do it in CG. A Yamato cutaway model was released back in the old days, right? The image is close to that.

Interviewer: You wanted to reproduce the “cutaway Yamato” with current technology, huh?

Habara: That’s right. I wanted to make an in-story version of a three-dimensional Yamato that had that cutaway image. In addition to the Yamato under renovation, the climax Yamato was also good.

Interviewer: Which particular battleship do you have a special fondness for?

Habara: Andromeda-kai, the Yamanami special. At the stage when Andromeda is repaired, I said, “I want it to get Yamato’s colors.” Yamanami would have a special consideration for Yamato, and I think he’d want to follow that color scheme.

Interviewer: Since Yamanami becomes Yamato’s captain in Be Forever, it gives you a feeling of foreshadowing, doesn’t it?

Habara: I want you to imagine all sorts of things.

Interviewer: A variety of products has come out of 2202, but which one made an impression on you?

With Harutoshi Fukui at Yamashiroya modeling event, April 2018

Habara: They’re all generally cool. The model kits are easy to make and they’re just fun to assemble. I built my first model kit in decades at an event, and it feels like putting a puzzle together. The latest one is striking, the 1/1000 Yamato final battle version. The thickness of the main guns has increased, and it’s similar to their shape in Episode 2 of the original series, where Kodai fires the main guns for the first time.

Interviewer: The GX-86 Soul of Chogokin Yamato 2202 comes out in March.

Habara: There are lots of sound and gimmick items, and there’s actually a hidden mode where the Wave-Motion Gun firing sequence changes to the Transit Wave-Motion Gun firing sequence. It’s the same as in Episode 18 where the sequence gets about halfway, but in the end it can’t fire. At one of the meetings about this, the joke was, “Let’s just reproduce it like in Episode 18.” (Laughs)

Interviewer: You’ve been involved in Yamato for a long time, ever since Resurrection. What thoughts do you have now that 2202 has reached its conclusion?

Habara: Yamato is special to me. When I first heard that I might be able to join the staff on Resurrection, I was really happy. And 2199 was the reason I was able to participate in 2202. It was tough, but it was my favorite part. (Laughs) Thanks to the staff and all the fans who supported me, I was able to finish it without collapsing. Our company Xebec and I will graduate from Yamato in March, and I think it has become a monumental work of my anime life.

(Tokyo, February 2019)

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