1994 magazine articles

The extraordinarily rare August 1994 issue of the locally-based LB Nakasu Communication magazine carried a Yamato cover story shortly before the saga was revived the first time with Yamato 2520 and the promise of Yamato Resurrection. The magazine’s fifteen pages of articles included a Yoshinobu Nishizaki interview and a saga retrospective which can both be found at their respective links. Here we present the last two articles of the bunch.

Welcome, Syd Mead’s 1994

By Pango Soma

Syd Mead is creating a new Yamato as the designer for Space Battleship Yamato 2520. Let’s look forward to Syd Mead’s new “practical future” Yamato!

In 1982, Disney released the classic CG movie Tron, which became a hot topic. The design of its light cycle at the time was by visual futurist Syd Mead.

The shape of the light cycle was like a snail-type tape cutter that rolls across a desk. It was like a metamorphosis. I want to say that because it is built to enter and run around inside a computer, someone can smoothly accept it as a stationary image. It can be said that this demonstrates a smart design sense.

Syd Mead’s name became widely known for Blade Runner, the 1982 film version of Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Blade Runner’s tempting dead-tech (a sense of ruin) made it a cult favorite.

Syd Mead designed Harrison Ford’s spinner that pursued the “sad angel” replicants. You’ll remember it like, “Ah, that!” Some in America were dissatisfied with the movie, but in our country the world of Blade Runner was praised by high-culture people like architects. The buildings they were able to create in that city were very realistic, and even disco has increased its dead-tech design.

In terms of its pattern, it’s the magic of movies that can deliver a product of the 21st century, and the line that often comes up is, “It looks like a movie!” In particular, the city details, architecture, residential spaces, costumes, tools, transportation, etc. are subliminally imprinted upon the brain, which is fascinated by the nostalgia of something you saw somewhere. That seems to hit on the “practical future.”

Syd Mead is also an industrial designer who makes “future objects” for practical use. Not only him, but modelmaker Mark Stetson (who worked on the miniatures of Los Angeles and the spinner for Blade Runner). It is no longer unusual for such people to take part in moviemaking. In Japan, SFX (special visual effects) were once a fad but have become common now. In fact, they seem to have been replaced by the term “virtual reality.”

I’m interested in the practical future objects of Syd Mead, such as the jumpsuits of the Leonov crew in the movie 2010. Because they’re work clothes, it is natural that there was no gender difference, and along with the appearance of macho women with short hair, it blurs the border between men and women, which is praise for Syd Mead’s achievement. Unfortunately, when we observe NASA’s current progress, it was too ambitious as a movie.

It’s very exciting that Syd Mead is now doing mechanic designs for the Space Battleship Yamato anime. He was previously on the staff of an [unproduced] American version of Mobile Suit Gundam, and I regret that I’ve only seen a few of his image boards. I’m seized by the desire to see more.

I’m also interested to see how his Yamato mechanic design is evaluated by Shigeru Komatsuzaki, the famous painter who dominated the field of battleship paintings.

Speaking of the past, I wonder about other talented craftsmen such as SFX matte painter Matthew Yuricich, CG pioneer Richard Taylor, and high-end cinematographer Richard Edlund. How are they doing?

(Read more about Syd Mead’s Yamato 2520 here and farther down this page.)

From Battleship Yamato to Space Battleship Yamato

The 70,000 ton sea fortress that sank without fighting

By Mamoru Higashiyama

“This can only go one way. If you don’t immediately build a new battleship, it will get difficult.”

Forced to disarm for the Nepal Holiday, the Japanese Navy had stopped building battleships. In the middle of exercises, battleships had lost their balance and flooded. As a result of heavy weapons being stacked on top of each other, their center of gravity was higher and it became easier for them to capsize. The time limit of the Nepal Holiday was about 15 years, and when it expired in 1934, the Japanese Navy immediately began building battleships again. What’s more, their ultimate proposal was to build the largest battleship in the world.

Thus, the Battleship Yamato appeared and was completed on December 16, 1941.

In those days, the Japanese Navy gave priority to the power of the main gun batteries, based on the achievement of defeating the enemy with superior firepower in the Russo-Japanese War. Of course, Yamato had the world’s largest guns at the time, nine barrels with a diameter of 46cm (18”); two 3-barrel turrets at the front and one at the stern. Each turret was 21m (68’) long with a maximum range of 42,000m (26 miles). Once fired, the shells would rotate 60 times a second and reach their target in about 90 seconds.

Usually it is the design of a battleship that determines the size of its main guns, and a ship must be able to withstand the destructive power of its own guns. Therefore, Yamato could be no smaller than 70,000 tons and measure out at 263m (862’) long by 38.9m (127’) wide. In other words, it meant that a width of 38.9m was necessary to withstand the destructive power of a 46cm cannon.

Within the Japanese Navy, it was speculated that America could not build a battleship with 46cm guns. At the time, the American Navy had to travel through the Panama Canal to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Since the width of the canal was only 33m (108’), it could not accommodate a 38.9m wide battleship. In fact, America did complete its own Yamato 14 months later by building the state-of-the-art Battleship Iowa, which had 40cm (16”) guns.

In order to prevent its width from slowing down its cruising speed, Yamato was given a bulbous bow instead the of the conventional vertically-inclined bow. The deck used nickel-chrome armor, which could not be penetrated even by an 8,000kg (9t) bomb dropped from 3900m (2.5 miles). The maximum thickness of the deck was 40cm (16”).

It was certain that Yamato would not lose to Iowa if they engaged in a shooting war. However, it sank to the bottom of the sea without such a cannon fight.

On April 7, 1945, Yamato made for the Battle of Okinawa as the flagship of the second fleet. That same day, the American army began its onslaught at 2:23pm, destroying the ship with 10 torpedoes, six bombs, and countless other types of ordnance.

If it had been an engagement like the Battle of the Sea of Japan, Yamato would have shown its mettle, but the nature of the war had completely changed and the Japanese Navy had missed the trends. As solidly as Yamato was built, it still had the soft spots of strategy and usage.

Battleship Yamato sleeps about 300km southwest of Kagoshima Prefecture at a depth of 340m (1,120’), at 30˚/22 min N latitude by 128˚/4 min E longitude.

Battleship Yamato woke from that sleep and now flies in space. Speaking of which, the sea is also a world of weightlessness in which a huge warship passes through the dark like an aurora.

(Read more about Battleship Yamato at Wikipedia here.)


Footnotes: Communications from Dr. Yamato

Yamato is equipped with two types of aircraft, the Cosmo Zero and Cosmo Tiger. The first is Susumu Kodai’s favorite machine and launches from the top deck. The Cosmo Tiger (which has been redesigned many times) has a launch port in the “butt” section.

There is a character named Yasuo Nanbu, who is the deputy head of the combat group and is in charge of gunnery (he’s the only one on the ship who wears glasses). In fact, the concept is that he’s the son of the president of Nanbu Heavy Industries, which rebuilt the Battleship Yamato into the Space Battleship Yamato in the first series.

The setting for the first story begins in the year 2199. (Kodai, Yuki, and Shima are all 18 years old). Farewell is set in 2200, The New Voyage in 2201, Be Forever in 2202, and Final Yamato in 2203. It was a wonderful five years…

The naval image of Daisuke Shima saying lines like “Steady as she goes” and Captain Okita’s general comportment are impressive. A military spirit was also seen in the first work, when Captain Okita and Gamilas’ capable enemy general Domel exchanged messages praising each others’ tactics.


Bonus item

The Movie Art of Syd Mead, Visual Futurist

Titan Books, September 19 2017

This amazing 256-page collection spans Syd Mead’s cinematic work from Star Trek the Motion Picture all the way to Blade Runner 2049, which is reason enough for it to land on any SF fan’s bookshelf. But there’s another reason for it to land on a Yamato fan’s bookshelf: 8 pages devoted to Yamato 2520.

Order it from Amazon here.

Here is the text from this section of the book:

Yamato 2520: Masters of Anime

The passionate, mythic images created by Mead for the revival of the legendary Japanese anime series reflect his fascination with the culture of anime and the all-encompassing world of the fabled battleship. Here was an opportunity to work closely with the masters of the medium, who Mead came to admire, and to forge a true creative partnership with the storytellers, animators, and voices that were to bring the story to life.

Mead, already a near-deity in Japan, was invited to give form to a successor ship to the venerable Yamato which, much like the starship Enterprise, had become an icon of the series with fetish-finished models, interpretive text, and posters depicting it in constant demand.

As Mead explains, he was both honored and somewhat awed by the challenge. He explains. “The design had to embody the mystique of the original story ship destined by venerable animation guru [Leiji] Matsumoto. Design for the new Yamato 2520 went way beyond any movie project I have worked on… [it] was an elaborately-funded and elaborately-staged design tour de force stretching over many years.”

The medium of anime, unlike live film, is a graphic artist’s medium, revealing in image after lingering image the precision of Mead’s designs, unadulterated for the most part by the vageries of motion and lighting that so often consign intricately-designed props to fleeting impressions.

The cosmic sweep of the compositions for Yamato 2520 permeates space, time, and even tranquil, Earth-bound environments, endowing each image with an epic stature fitting the legacy of the original series.

They are among the most compelling of Mead’s long career, imbued with the gravitas of pure geometry as pure energy arches into the infinite reaches of outer space, as well as in the green-edged pools of Earth’s surface.

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