By Anton Kholodov (with notes from Tim Eldred)
I abandoned my usual life for one month to reach my dream and with no regrets. I arrived in Tokyo two weeks before the main event of the year (or maybe of 25 years), dreaming about new adventures and a movie that should become the best in the whole line. (Of course, I expected too much from only one movie. I had my ideal version in my head like any other fan and no other version could beat it, but that was only my dream, maybe it’s not bad at all).
The first immersion puzzled me. I visited large areas such as Ikebukuro and Shinjuku but I saw nothing about Yamato. No posters, no advertising, no trailers on video billboards or inside the trains. Even in Russia we have better advertising of such big projects. Maybe I was wrong and it’s not a main event at all? I still had two weeks and expected to see big changes. It became even more interesting for me. So that’s how I started my journey.
2: First Contact
As soon as I got my own “Cosmo Tiger” (I would call my bike “Black Tiger” but it was blue) I rushed to Akihabara’s Tokyo Anime Center. They had a small exhibition about Yamato and I had to see it. Of course I wanted to see something new to spoil some awesome detail, to show me characters, etc. But the exhibition was quite “cold” at first glance; a few bulletin boards with information from flyers that I had already seen, a DVD display for someone who still hasn’t seen the whole series (what kind of fan could do so?) and two video screens that were showing trailers.
I enjoyed the trailers a few times (now at good quality at last, much better than on YouTube), took photos of the big Yamato model and a standee with a hole in the Wave-Motion Gun. Kodai’s voice came out of it, repeating: “Gentleman, I’m Captain of Yamato – Kodai Susumu!” Then a narrator said, “Space Battleship Yamato! Resurrection Chapter!” And Kodai yelled: “Wave-Motion Gun, Fire!”
I hadn’t seen anything new, but when I left that exhibition I was glad. I realized that I didn’t want to spoil anything. The less I knew, the more interesting the movie would be. Why should I destroy my pleasure with my own hands?
Side note: Anton was lucky enough to get a good look at one of the two famous Yamato Cut Models in this exhibition. The history of these remarkable showpieces was previously reported here, along with a viewing of the first version in the Battleship Yamato Museum. The whereabouts of the second version were unknown until it reappeared at the September Perfect Revival Exhibition, back in the public eye where it belongs.
Then I went to theatres in Shinjuku to get some flyers. There I could see the same trailer on a large TV monitor. That was MUCH better. For the first time I realized how great it would be to see it on a big screen! I spent at least an hour at the theater waiting for Yamato trailers (they were shown once every 10 minutes because of annoying interviews with Twilight‘s actors on the same screen). It was only the 29th of November but already, I couldn’t wait to see it. Waiting for such a thing is itself a great pleasure, so I really enjoyed those two weeks.
3: First Battle
I found out from a very respectable source (Tim) that two previews of Yamato Resurrection would be shown in Tokyo on the 31st of November and 1st of December. I decided to go there not only to feel the atmosphere of the cinema but also to test my luck (and boldness) by trying to somehow get inside. The idea of seeing the movie before the premiere day made me crazy. I decided to follow my path to the end. After all, that’s why I came. This outing was lucky and unlucky at the same time.
I went early and took a few photos of the hall. Gentle lighting and jazz piano created a soft mood but my knees were shaking. Then fans of all ages (from 6 to 90) started to enter. During that time the new main theme was playing endlessly so at least I could enjoy it.
One of ticket-guys said to another: “It doesn’t sounds like an anime song.”
“Yes, more like a song from a TV drama,” the second one replied.
They started to show the movie and I began to leave (since I’d had no way to get an advance ticket) but then I heard THAT woman’s singing voice from the start of every Yamato story. I was ready to turn back, run, knock down all the ticket-boys, open the doors and see it with my own eyes. I remembered a Russian proverb, “a true hero will always make a short cut,” and decided to take action.
I crawled under the ticket window in order to open the far door (the lock was pretty simple and I could open it with my bike’s keys) but they had one more inner lock on it. I returned and started to search for emergency doors. It was useless–they all were outside and locked. Finally, I went into the hotel next door (I used a “staff only” door behind a telephone room because all the elevators were under remote control) moved to the second, third, and fourth floors, but didn’t find any passages to the cinema hall. So I just went home in a dark mood.
I hope the fans will choose the good ending. I just don’t want to see Yamato die again. (Nishizaki! Don’t you dare resurrect Yamato only to kill it again!!!)
Side note: by complete accident, Anton managed to snap a historical moment. At left is a photo from March 15, 1983. This was the last Yamato preview-type event of the production years, the Grand Festival (held just a few days before the premiere of Final Yamato). At right is Anton’s photo from November 31, 2009. The angle and poses are close enough to be positively eerie. And for the record, he didn’t know about the earlier photo until I sent it to him the next day.
The only thing I found out from this trip was that the movie will begin with the famous woman’s singing. Of course, I wasn’t surprise by this because they all start with it, but thanks to this I was finally sure that I would see the Yamato I came for. I just can’t imagine what other people who saw Yamato back in the 70s and 80s will feel when they hear it. Even I was ready to cry. From there, the situation became more interesting with every new day.
Side note: a report that covered the first sneak preview on November 28 (see it here) gave a description of the festivities: despite breaking three ribs in a fall two days earlier, Yoshinobu Nishizaki attended in a wheelchair. He spoke warmly about his production staff, approximately 900 people who worked night and day on the film. He also pointed out that 750 of the movie’s 1850 scenes were done in CG.
Isao Sasaki took the stage and spoke briefly with an MC, saying that he’d seen the movie a week earlier and gave it a glowing review. He then sang the Yamato theme and The Scarlet Scarf to the audience, all of whom received a free red scarf to wave around. Sasaki’s voice is not heard in the movie, since rock group The Alfee now performs the famous opening theme, but his presence definitely gave a blessing to this new venture.
4: On the way to Final Battle
After the 1st of December, the situation completely changed. I started to feel an atmosphere of expectation in the air of Tokyo. New Yamato food (cheap and delicious) was released in stores, and believe me, it was really popular. Whenever I entered in a shop I saw someone holding it, standing in a queue.
I thought that I could easily collect all the wrappers and decided to buy one item (lunch, snack or candy) each day. Oh, how wrong was I. Some kinds were so popular that I only saw them on the first day. Any other time I only saw an empty place on the shelves and regretted that I didn’t buy them all on day one.
However, I did get reprints of the Yamato manga (from Akira Hio and Leiji Matsumoto) that I didn’t have. During my previous trips to Japan I had to search for them on the endless shelves of antique book stores and was glad even to find something with yellow paper and worn edges. Now the whole series was re-published for someone who still didn’t have a complete collection (What kind of fan could do so? ME!)
Not only manga, but famous plastic models like the 100-yen Mecha Collection and a larger Yamato and Andromeda were available in hobby shops. So I finally completed my collection. That was great. The Yamato Boom became clearer with every new day.
On the 5th of December I went to the first Yamato Goods Fair at Aeon Laketown Mall. This time I didn’t want to spoil anything. My target was furious shopping of Yamato goods. It took about 3 hours to get there, a deep northern suburb of Tokyo, because of train delays (the rain was terrible that day). I rushed inside the hall and soon found the exhibition. The situation was familiar to me; more display stands (now with original cels from previous movies), a 5-meter Yamato model and the Cut Model I saw at Akihabara.
But now they had a lots of products: calendars, posters, t-shirts, underwear, and models. The organizer of the exhibition noticed a “non-Japanese” guy and jumped on me trying with all his might to say it: “Su-pe-su Ba-to-ru-shippu Yamato!” He was really glad to hear that I can speak Japanese and of course he was surprised that I came from Russia (who wouldn’t be?). He and other staff members helped me in my difficult task, to complete the whole collection of five new capsule toys. I tried for them in a vending machine about twelve times but all I got were a few Yamatos and MANY Blue Noahs. Fortunately I could exchange them, so I got two full sets but without the Cosmo Pulsar. Not to worry, readers, between us Anton and I managed to score two complete sets. So everyone can relax now.
I spent at least three hours there. I left the exhibition area for a bit, saw other places in the mall and ate lunch, then returned to watch the same trailer again, to see how people were looking at the screen (especially “first-generation” fans). They stood speechless and without any movement, watching it with all their soul. I felt how great it is to see something you like reborn after 25 years. That was magnificent. I left Laketown absolutely happy and started to prepare myself for the final battle.
5: Battle is over? No, just beginning
The day of the premiere. A sleepless night (how could I sleep?). Two hours on my bike to the theatre through the empty streets of Tokyo (it was early even for Japan) listening to the music from Yamato on my mp3 player. Everything was fast and hard to remember.
I met Tim and Sonchori, my friends and battle comrades, to see the movie as early as possible, 9:40 AM. Before it started I couldn’t help myself; I bought a program book and a production sketch book and eagerly read them just outside the theatre’s gift shop to spoil all that I wanted to spoil. I noticed that most of people waiting to see the movie were “looking inside themselves.” They were concentrating on their emotions and were slightly nervous. (Or maybe it was only my imagination because that’s how I felt?)
Inside the theatre, I see one trailer after another. My nerves are at the limit but I want more trailers of other stuff to enjoy my condition as long as possible. And finally, the woman sings. I made it! I abandoned my life, my education, and my work to come here and now I’m watching the movie I want to see more than anything else. I just couldn’t believe it. Was all that real?
My song is always with me. You know the tune.
Do svidan’ja mat’ Zemlya
Farewell, Mother Earth
Jdut nevedomy kraya
Unknown places are waiting for us
Mchitsya v put’ kosmichesky kreiser
Space Battleship is taking off
Shtob nadejdu obresti
To gain the hope again
To save the humankind
Vseh zlodeev odolet’
To defeat all villains
I lish za god uspet’
And to make it only in one year
Vsey Zemli sud’ba seichas
The fate of the whole Earth is
Na plechah lejit u nas
Falling on our shoulders
Druz’ya derjites’ my klenyomsya
Friends, hold on! We swear
Chto obyazatel’no vernyomsya
That we’ll return for sure
Za pobedoy my idyom
We’re going for victory
Znaem chto ne propadyom
Knowing that we can’t lose
Dom pokinuv mchitsya v put’
leaving it’s home goes to journey
Kosmichesky Kreiser Yamato!
Space Battleship Yamato!