Habara & Fukui: Talking about Yamato music

On the occasion of the October 2019 Yamato 2202 concert Close To You Tonight, Director Nobuyoshi Habara and Writer Harutoshi Fukui reunited for another conversation, this time entirely focused on Yamato music. From their memories as fans in the old days to the process of selecting music for 2202, their passion for the subject is on full display.

What do the director and writer of Yamato 2202 say is the appeal of Yamato music? Let’s enjoy this talk with the two of them, full of Yamato love.

From the Yamato 2202 Close To You Tonight concert program book, October 14, 2019.
Portions of this interview were also published at V-Storage on October 8.

Quick vocab:
BGM = BackGround Music (the score heard in the anime)
Drama = voices, music, and sound effects (either edited or reproduced directly from the anime)

When I first became aware of Yamato music

Interviewer: When did you both become aware of Space Battleship Yamato’s music?

Fukui: I first encountered the music before I saw the main story. The older sister of one of my relatives was in a brass band, and they played Yamato music. I remember hearing it before seeing the movie version on TV [in 1978]. By that time, a lot of students were playing in bands, so the music of Yamato was already famous, wasn’t it?

Habara: I was aware of it in the first TV series, along with the visuals. Just before the first Yamato movie was released in theaters (1977), an LP by that name came out. I remember the promotional text read, “Do you remember? That hot blood of Yamato!!” I dropped the needle thinking, “I can finally listen to the BGM!” and the narration flowed, “The infinity that is space…” and the story started. (Laughs) I was disappointed. “This isn’t a BGM collection!”

1977 drama records: EP single and LP

Fukui: Was it a story digest?

Habara: That’s right. Singles came out before and after that, and I bought them thinking, “This is it!” But it was also, “The infinity that is space…” (Laughs) The LP was condensed from all 26 episodes, a digest of the story up to Domel.

Fukui: A pure BGM album didn’t appear for a while.

Habara: That’s right. Then a record slightly smaller than an LP came out called Yamato Theme Song and BGM Collection (1978). I think that was the first record that contained actual BGM.

Symphonic Suite Yamato (1977), Theme Song & BGM Collection (1979)

Fukui: What about Symphonic Suite Yamato (1977)?

Habara: That wasn’t actually original BGM.

Fukui: They made new music for that?

Habara: That’s right. Of course, the melody was the same, so I was happy with that. But it didn’t satisfy my desire to listen to the original.

Interviewer: You seem to have had quite a few records at that time.

Habara: I bought those records.

Fukui: One of my friends was from a rich family, so I borrowed his records and recorded them. (Laughs) He had the Yamato Complete Works LP box with the drama of all 26 episodes. It was a big, fancy box.

Flyer for the Complete Works TV series LP box (1979)

Habara: I recorded all the episodes on cassette tape from the TV broadcast in Hiroshima. (Laughs) For some reason, our TV had two earphone jacks, so I recorded them through a cord connected.

Fukui: That’s great. I recorded it by holding a cassette recorder up to the TV. So I could hear my dog barking, too…

Habara: And your parents calling, “Hey, Haru-chan”? (Laughs)

Interviewer: You didn’t buy the records back then, Mr. Fukui?

Fukui: I didn’t. The first record I bought with my own money was Love Letter From Canada (1978). (Laughs) Now that I think back on that, I have no idea why…

“I bought Yamato records with my own pocket money.” (Habara)

Habara: No, that was a good song. (Laughs)

Fukui: If anything, I wanted the drama version more, which is why I borrowed it as I mentioned before. The music came into its own for me when I was in junior high and afterward.

Habara: I recorded the drama from TV, so I already had the pro material. I wanted the same original BGM used on TV.

The novelty of Yamato music

Interviewer: I think this is a work that made the importance of music in particular more widely recognized.

Fukui: The first Yamato was a miracle, wasn’t it? There are so many brilliant melodies in the music. After that, it made a lot of money. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Certainly. You can feel an increase in the music budget especially when its density increases around Be Forever Yamato. (Laughs)

Fukui: When the work is a hit, the budget for music increases and it’s possible to make many more tracks. From among those, you can choose only the best and most necessary ones. I think that created that sense of density.

Habara: Isn’t it gorgeous? Yamato has a lot of unused music.

Fukui: We could choose music from there and use it. It was a really luxurious environment.

Interviewer: What’s your favorite piece from the old work?

Fukui: In the end for me, it’s the one we hear when Captain Okita dies. Death of Okita.

Habara: It was played on violin.

Fukui: After that, the sad version of the main theme arranged for trumpet. Sad Yamato. That “sadness” was something that connected to the “sorrow” and “poverty” surrounding Japan in those days. In the Man is Great series [1969], there’s a theme song that is played during touching scenes, and I think it’s comparable to that. That theme song has been forgotten since those days. I think it’s a symbol of “desperation” or something like that.

Interviewer: The opening theme at the early stage started with a chorus that had a particularly heavy sense of despair, didn’t it?

Fukui: It didn’t feel bright at all.

Habara: That was really striking to me as a fifth grader at the time. I was honestly disappointed when it changed to the up-tempo version along the way. (Laughs)

Interviewer: What piece would you choose from Farewell to Yamato?

Habara: It’s Great Love from the finale, which comes in on piano in the scene where Kodai mutters, “This is our wedding.” Every time I heard that song, I remembered that scene and it made me cry. I seemed to cry as a conditioned response. In 2202, that song doesn’t hang on a corresponding scene in Episode 25, so we used it in a different scene, but it was a wonderful decision again. It was chosen by [Sound Supervisor] Tomohiro Yoshida.

Interviewer: The use of themed instruments for each enemy was also impressive, like the pipe organ in Farewell.

Fukui: The pipe organ is a musical instrument you associate with God and the church, isn’t it? It’s supposed to depict a sacred existence, but this is the opposite. It’s used to depict a great evil advancing on the universe. It’s amazing. An instrument suitable for depicting the greatness of God. Conversely, here it creates the image of an enemy with immeasurable fear. I think it’s exquisite. It creates the feeling that you’ll never be able to win.

Habara: In fact, what to do with that pipe organ was on the agenda in the first Yamato 2202 meeting. That’s because percussion instruments were used for the scene of Gatlantis’ appearance in Ark of the Stars.

Interviewer: I was surprised by the interpretation of using percussion. The new image was beautifully depicted, wasn’t it?

Habara: That’s right. It was good. But this time we were following the flow of Farewell and I still wanted to use a pipe organ, so that’s what we did. The interpretation was that the barbarians who appeared in Ark of the Stars were just a group watching the frontier of the Gatlantis army.

Fukui: On the other hand, it can be said that it was better not to use the pipe organ in Ark of the Stars. If it was used there, we might not have been able to use it here.

Habara: They did something irregular there, so as a result the pipe organ now sounds fresh and gorgeous.

Fukui: In that sense, I think Ark of the Stars was a good setup for 2202.

“I think Yamato was strategic when it came to music.” (Fukui)

A producer’s touch on the music of 2202

Interviewer: Did you both discuss music at the start of 2202?

Fukui: We did. “If we redo a scene from Farewell, it would be good to use the same music.” And “How about using that piece for a newly-created scene?” But I didn’t tell Mr. Yoshida the results of that discussion, because I also wanted to know his thoughts.

Interviewer: Did you draw a line there?

Fukui: If his ideas were too different from ours I told him our opinion, but it’s Mr. Yoshida. His music selections were almost the same as what we thought of.

Habara: On the other hand, he gave us more selections in some cases.

Fukui: He didn’t cut the music to the scene, he just attached it at full length. So we only put music in scenes where it was really necessary. Now I think it’s a pretty unique way of doing things.

Interviewer: There were also scenes where the timing matched, such as Hero’s Hill.

Habara: There were scenes that assumed certain music from the script stage. I also wrote in “put in this piece” from the start. Then at the script meeting everyone would say, “That’s it…” (Laughs)

Fukui: There was the desire for music to be helpful on the script side. There were certainly scenes that couldn’t be done without the music.

Interviewer: Did you give any opinions when placing orders for music?

Habara: Basically, Mr. Yoshida read the script and picked up and ordered the music he would need. He showed us the order menu, but that was just to confirm.

Fukui: It was a menu with surprisingly few words. I thought that some great music would come from that. For Zordar’s theme, Great Emperor Zordar, the menu simply said, “devil.” Normally, I’d think that would lead to something terrifying, but when Akira Miyagawa read it, he created a piece that was a little sad. Of course, that was the correct answer this time. How could I have known that I wanted a piece like that?

Interviewer: You didn’t have a detailed meeting about it?

Fukui: If you give me a direction, I’ll do something with it. That’s Mr. Miyagawa’s style. Of course, there are times when you want to meet more closely. We always have new ideas and more to be done. Besides, in the case of Mr. Miyagawa, he’ll make music that you didn’t order if he thinks it’s necessary. The battle song Time of Fate [OST Vol. 2, disc 1, track 13], which is first heard in Episode 13, wasn’t something we originally ordered. As a result, the songs we didn’t order became indispensable for the work.

I think the fusion of music and visuals leads to some lucky accidents. If a song made for one scene unexpectedly didn’t fit and we used it for another scene instead, that’s the scene the comes to mind now when I listen to the music. There are plenty of examples like that.

Interviewer: In recent years, it’s been unusual for anime to have so many music performers.

Fukui: I was present at the recording site for Time of Fate, and that was a very difficult arrangement to play. Sometimes when you listen to a song, the performers seem busy, don’t they? Sometimes there were so many performers there, some couldn’t get into the studio. (Laughs)

Habara: I remember a story about another difficult piece. I think it was during the recording of A Satisfying Battle. [OST Vol. 2, disc 2, track 26] It turned out that the trumpet player’s breath didn’t last long enough, so they had to record two trumpets.

Fukui: Yamato music must have been born out of reckless things like that.

What is the appeal of 2202’s music?

Interviewer: What was the scene that impressed you most because of its music?

Habara: In Episode 21, Ginga appears to help Yamanami, and I got goosebumps when I heard Endless Battle. [OST Vol. 2, Disc 1, Track 22] It was like, “This music is being used here!”

Interviewer: Wasn’t it intended at the storyboard stage?

Habara: When I draw a storyboard, I often assume which music will be used for a scene, but there was no plan at all for Episode 21. It was a shock. I cried during the sound mix.

Fukui: The music also impressed me in the last episode. There was more music in the first outline and I didn’t think it would work, so I tried to replace the tracks many times. It still didn’t work. However, since we were already at the mixing site, there was no choice but to make a final choice on the spot.

Interviewer: Was it completely different in the end?

Fukui: Eventually, we took everything out of the A part [first half] except for one piece. That’s why the A part doesn’t have much background music.

Interviewer: It was a very quiet A part.

Fukui: Music can be used to enhance people’s emotions. But we did so much of that in Episode 25, we decided to calm it down immediately after that. Finally, I thought it would be best if we just brought in music later toward the end. The original work was good at not only using music, but also using silence. At the moment Captain Okita dies, Dr. Sado just takes a breath. It’s something we’ve forgotten in modern productions, where we’re obsessed with music. It made me feel that it’s also important not to use music sometimes.

Interviewer: Do you make assumptions about music when writing a script?

Fukui: I assume that we’ll be keeping music in some places, but other than that there’s no plan at all. I just wait and see what it will be like.

Interviewer: Regarding the ending theme songs, which will be featured in the October concert, is that something you both talked about?

Fukui: As for me, I just wanted From Yamato With Love to flow at the end. But if I were to choose one of the new songs, Mirror of the Moon [from Chapter 2] was impressive.

Habara: Sayaka Kanda’s voice was beautiful.

Fukui: When I heard that song, I felt like I could see, “Well, this is how 2202 is going to go.” Even when I listened to it for the first time, I felt very nostalgic for some reason.

Habara: I asked for that song to have the same image as Teresa Forever from Yamato 2.

Fukui: That’s right. (Laughs) Mirror of the Moon was done for the end of Chapter 2, and when we traveled around doing stage greetings [in theaters], we’d be standing off stage when that ending flowed. So I listened to that song there. When I hear it now, I have memories of going off into the countryside. That’s how music is. It’s not just about visuals, but also human memories.

Habara: We went all over Japan, didn’t we? It was fun.

Fukui: I got around more than I do for Gundam. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Finally, I’d like to ask you both again about the appeal of Yamato music.

Fukui: In the end, anime is visual, and there are many aspects that can be helped by music. From that point of view, Yamato is about music and I think it was very strategic. It has the feeling of, “Let’s give it more gravitas with music!!” There’s a famous anecdote that when the late Yoshinobu Nishizaki went to Hiroshi Miyagawa the first time to ask for Yamato music, he told him the story with tears in his eyes. Mr. Nishizaki wanted to have music that arouses emotions, and this anecdote speaks eloquently of that. When he went to Mr. Miyagawa to ask for music, I think that’s when this game was won.

Habara: When you talk about Yamato, music and sound are part of its character. The sound of Yamato flying and the music playing behind it are all parts of Yamato. If this concert happens at a venue with a pipe organ, I definitely want to listen to White Comet live with the fans.

[Translator’s note: unfortunately this was not the case, but the concert opened with a different arrangement that was equally enjoyable.]

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