Yamato Resurrection interviews, 2009

To mark the ten-year anniversary of Yamato Resurrection, we present three interviews that were published upon the release of the film. They originate from the three magazines shown here: Rocks #5 and consecutive issues of Great Mechanics DX. Put together, they present conversations with three of the most important members of the animation staff: Director Yoshinobu Nishizaki, Character Animation Director Tomonori Kogawa, and Mechanic Director Nobuyoshi Habara (who would later direct Yamato 2202).

Animation Director Tomonori Kogawa

From Rocks magazine #5 (Shibuya Publishing), December 3, 2009
Illustrations by Ken Hamaguchi
Text by Seita Fukui

Thus, the old SF anime is “revived”

Over the last 26 years, the techniques of making anime and the tastes of anime fans has changed, and Yamato has been revived after all that time. Why Yamato now? What does the producer entrust into this film, and what will it convey? We look behind the scenes of Yamato‘s resurrection in an interview with Animation Director Tomonori Kogawa.

Mr. Kogawa is very famous among anime fans. In addition to character designs for Farewell to Yamato, Galaxy Express 999, Legendary Giant Ideon, and Holy Soldier Dunbine, he was also involved with Neon Genesis Evangelion under a pen name. This is because of the attractive characters he has created one after another, which are unforgettable to anime fans. In the spring of 2009, it was announced that he would do character designs and supervise the animation for Yamato Resurrection. This is the first time in 31 years Mr. Kogawa has been involved with Yamato, and many longtime fans were excited about this announcement.

What’s on Mr. Kogawa’s mind now after completing the revival of this SF anime giant? In order to get closer to the heart of it, we saw an early preview and visited Kogawa’s workshop on a certain day in Nishi-Tokyo.

Interviewer: Can you tell us about how you suddenly got involved in Yamato Resurrection?

Kogawa: It first came up in 2007 when I got a phone call from Director/Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki. I was surprised. It was so sudden, the first thing I said was, “It’s been a long time.” He started by saying, “I’ve been looking for you, Kogawa-san.” (Laughs) He also said, “I’ll never forget your movies.” The main point was that he wanted me to be the animation director.

Interviewer: Was it a quick decision?

Kogawa: No, a lot of things ran through my head for about five seconds before I replied, “That’s fine.”

Interviewer: You were able to accept it after all. Is that because Yamato is special?

Kogawa: Hmm, I wonder. I don’t think I can say if I felt one way or the other about it. If I’d been asked to revive some work other than Yamato, I might not have accepted it.

Interviewer: Do you get emotional about Yamato when you draw it?

Kogawa: I loved drawing Yamato 31 years ago on Farewell. I liked Yamato because it was the first time something seemed to have a heavy form to it. Early on, Yamato referenced the form of the World War II battleship Yamato. It had a feeling of weight. The Yamato in this film is very smart because it’s in 3D.

Interviewer: What’s the biggest difference between now and 31 years ago?

Kogawa: My consciousness hasn’t changed, and I intended to draw Yamato‘s image without changing it as much as possible. Some realism was added to it.

Interviewer: What has changed at the work site since 31 years ago?

Kogawa: It’s quite different. You could say the system is different. When I directed on Farewell, the only other people in the main staff room were production assistants. The producers were in different rooms. When there was an important matter to discuss, we called the production crew together for a meeting. That was the feeling. This time, it seems like everyone is in the staff room. The good side is that it’s lively, but the bad side is that it’s noisy. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Have you seen the movie yet?

Kogawa: I’ve seen it many times during the retake process. I revise the visuals while watching it. I’ve seen it in fragments, so I don’t want to see it ever again. No, I’m kidding. (Laughs) I do want to see the finished product once.

Interviewer: Yamato will be released for the first time in 26 years. How do you feel about the art quality and the story? Are you satisfied?

Kogawa: It’s not bad. I think it’s a proper Yamato. Of course, I can’t tell you any details. It uses color differently, but those who have seen Yamato in the past won’t be disappointed. I think Makoto Kobayashi, who’s in charge of the mechanic design, did a great job.

Interviewer: Speaking as someone on the production, do you want those who were enthusiastic about Yamato in the past will want to see this movie?

Kogawa: I think so. Of course, I want people who haven’t watched Yamato to see it. There are great expectations.

Interviewer: These days, young people are watching Evangelion and Hayao Miyazaki anime. I’m interested in what their reaction will be when they see Yamato after being touched by those things.

Kogawa: It may be extreme.

Interviewer: Do you think they’ll reject it, or get into it?

Kogawa: Yep. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Will the “heartfelt dialogue” of Yamato characters reach the hearts of today’s young people?

Kogawa: There will be a lot of that. It’s slightly different this time, with crowds saying “Yamato, Yamato, thank you, thank you.” It may seem abnormal, but it wouldn’t be Yamato without it.

Interviewer: It’s basically a man’s drama, isn’t it?

Kogawa: That’s right. When Farewell came out, I stood at the entrance of a theater and watched the audience. Only boys and their mothers came out. The mothers were saying, “What is this? Isn’t it a war movie?” (Laughs) But the boys were very enthusiastic about it. As I wrote on the official Resurrection website, Yamato is about the friendship, unity, and romance of men. And it’s a Wave-Motion Gun movie.

Interviewer: Were there any unforgettable moments during the production?

Kogawa: There were so many, I can’t say.

Interviewer: Just try.

Kogawa: If I had to pick one, it would be Queen Irya (of Planet Amal); I wonder if her face has changed in the end.

Interviewer: Has it?

Kogawa: Her face was different at the beginning. I tried to give her a more oriental look. I went through a lot of historical materials to create a face that looks good.

Interviewer: Are there are lot of changes like that?

Kogawa: There are. While satisfying all the longtime fans, we also have to add modern touches when possible. Yamato‘s form and detail, and Susumu Kodai’s face are constantly revised and corrected to find that balance.

Interviewer: What are your feelings after finishing the production?

Kogawa: I want to take a rest. And I want to go drinking with the staff that worked so hard. (Laughs)

See all the Yamato pages from Rocks #5 here.

Read a more comprehensive 2018 interview with Kogawa here.

Director Yoshinobu Nishizaki

From Great Mechanics DX #11 (Futaba Co.) December 15, 2009

After Final Yamato in 1983, Yamato returns to the theaters for the first time in 26 years with Space Battleship Yamato Resurrection! On this unique occasion, we interviewed Series Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki about the work!

Yoshinobu Nishizaki, the creator and producer of the Space Battleship Yamato series, is a leading figure in the anime world. The impact of Yamato on many creators who are currently active on the front line is immeasurable. In other words, it could be expressed as the impact of Mr. Nishizaki. In addition to his career as a producer, he is also known for numerous events.

Our interviewers were all nervous before meeting this man of “living history.” When the door opened, we entered the room where he was waiting. The strong smell of his cigarette drifted through the air along with the aura of an extraordinary person.

Space Battleship Yamato is musical!

Interviewer: It’s been 26 years since Final Yamato. Why did you decide to make Yamato again now?

Nishizaki: That’s right. I’ve had the concept for 14 or 15 years. It was 12 or 13 years ago that the idea of a moving black hole came up. Since then, I’ve been thinking about a lot of things. Why now…why did I want to make it now? Everyone on the staff in the old days has passed away. Hiroshi Miyagawa and Kentaro Haneda (composers) and Yoshio Kimura (guitarist). I made something new for them. At the end of the film is a title dedicated to them.

Well, honestly, that’s not the reason. I’m 75 years old, so I’ll make it my last work. Is that reason enough?

Interviewer: This is the first time in the series you’re credited with the post of director, isn’t it?

Nishizaki: Even though I’ve been a producer up until now, I was pretty close to being a director. In this new work, I also wrote the script from my own planning and concept work, I oversaw the design, and checked the plot. I set up a studio for this movie and gathered the staff so I could supervise it from the animation to the final picture.

Interviewer: Does that mean the Nishizaki flavor is stronger than ever?

Nishizaki: Well, it’s the Yamato flavor, isn’t it? The Nishizaki flavor is the Yamato flavor. I think Yamato is musical. That’s why so many orchestral records were sold. If you look at a scene, music will come to mind and when you hear music a scene comes to mind. It’s structured the same a musical.

In the upcoming movie, the original Yamato music will flow at first, and there’s a lot of classical in the middle stage: Grieg’s piano concerto, Tchaikovsky’s Slav March, and so on. After that, Chopin’s Fantasy Improvisation. I wanted to use Chopin, Beethoven, and Mozart, but Mozart has a slow tempo that doesn’t fit anime. Scenes are short in animation, so music has to be used strikingly. It has to flow when the enemy fortress appears. (Quoting Grieg concerto) “Kan kan kakan kan! Kan kakan kan kan!”

Interviewer: Why are you using orthodox classical music?

Nishizaki: The composer Hiroshi Miyagawa is no longer with us. So what can be used as anime music in place of his work? I searched for it and arrived at classical. I studied classical in elementary school, from third grade to fifth. So when I learned to read an orchestral score, the Argentine Tango seemed interesting. Then I entered the world of jazz. Roughly speaking, classical has eight bars of melody for a theme, then the music develops in various ways. The man who could make those melodies is gone now, so… Anyway, I use classical music for about half and Yamato music for the other half.

His remarks indicate that he is richly cultured, which is one way you can see how a character such as Dessler was born in Yamato. The producer of a masterpiece cannot be an ordinary man.

The script concept of Yamato Resurrection puts Kodai on the spot

Interviewer: In this film, the passage of time is acknowledged in a way that it wasn’t in the original series.

Nishizaki: At the time of Final Yamato, Kodai was 23 years old. This is more than ten years later, and now he’s 38 years old. The story is Kodai, Kodai, Kodai from start to finish. There are also a lot of supporting roles, but you can’t give a full portrait of all those characters in a two-hour time frame. So the supporting roles are depicted only in terms of their connection with Kodai. Not just the allies, but even the admirals on the enemy side are part of Kodai’s story. In the end, it’s all about Kodai.

Interviewer: From what point of view did you choose Koichi Yamadera for the role of Kodai?

Nishizaki: [Original voice actor] Kei Tomiyama was a genius…we lost a dear friend. First, Mr. Yamadera’s voice has a similar feeling. He’s a versatile performer. Kodai is a handsome young man, but that’s not all there is to him. It’s very difficult to find someone who can find the rest of the role. I judged that Mr. Yamadera could do it, so I chose him. Kodai also puts a lot of nerve behind his lines. That’s part of the “Yamato-ness.”

Interviewer: What do you mean, specifically?

Nishizaki: Like in a line near the end. Earth has had various problems, including environmental pollution. Kodai is on Yamato’s first bridge. There’s a line where he says, “How have humans treated the Earth until now…?” The theme of Yamato Resurrection is encapsulated in those lines.

Interviewer: Is there a goddess character like Sasha or Starsha in this work?

Nishizaki: Isn’t everyone getting tired of beautiful women appearing in space? (Laughs) It’s true that having a woman floating in space and fading away is a good scene, but this time I wanted to make a Yamato story that was more realistic, so that doesn’t happen.

Interviewer: Yuki Mori doesn’t appear, either.

Nishizaki: She’ll appear in a scene at the beginning. However, a man can be seen in his prime even in his forties. Do you want to see Yuki Mori at 38 or later? (Laughs) That’s the biggest reason she doesn’t appear. It’s not the kind of story where Yuki Mori can come out beautifully dressed at the age of 38. [Translator’s note: Nishizaki was always a man of his time.]

Other than Kodai, Yamato’s old crew has been revamped. Tasuke Tokugawa appears. He was a child last time, so his role is quite different.

The drama comes from Yamato fighting as a single ship

Interviewer: We hear that a fleet battle is depicted in Yamato Resurrection.

Nishizaki: In the first battle, an escort fleet is guarding an emigration fleet from Earth. As for the battles with Yamato, this is different from the Yamato you’ve seen before. There are a lot of things inside it this time, not to mention the new launch. This is the age of CG in anime, so 30 to 40% of the visuals are now in CG. These are new times, and one of the themes you want to see is CG mecha in battle scenes.

Interviewer: It seems like it would be easy to depict a fleet battle in CG.

Nishizaki: But in the end it comes down to “Yamato as a single ship vs. the enemy fortress.” After all, in a Yamato story, Yamato becomes the only ship, and it’s a big deal to fight against a mighty enemy.

In terms of recent animation, Gundam has been doing business for about twenty years now, right? It was Yasuhiko Yoshikazu who incorporated the human element into Gundam, and I think he learned that from Yamato.

Interviewer: Speaking of which, [Gundam creator] Yoshiyuki Tomino also worked on Yamato, didn’t he? [Translator’s note: while Tomino is credited for storyboard on Series 1 Episode 4, it is theorized that his contributions did not make it to the screen.]

Nishizaki: Anyway, it’s been 35 years since then, hasn’t it? Yamato is still selling now. I think it fits the needs of the times. There are a lot of ideas in Gundam. Various mecha has appeared. But you can’t just have mecha fighting mecha, there must be a human story there.

Interviewer: Yamato may have an advantage as a “ship” because various members of the group all ride on board.

A message for people living on Earth now

Interviewer: Yamato Resurrection isn’t just about stopping an invasion, it also has a theme of diplomacy with aliens, doesn’t it?

Nishizaki: “If we leave here, Amal will be safe but humanity will die.” That’s the reverse of what we’ve seen in Yamato before. What should we do in such a situation? Kodai closes his eyes and thinks about it, then we hear the voice of Yuki. Kodai makes a decision and tells the Queen of Amal, then the people of Amal say, “Let’s fight with Yamato and win our freedom!” That’s how it goes. That scene is part of the story, too.

Interviewer: In the time it was made, the first Yamato reflected the structure of the Cold War. But I think the modern world is more complicated than it was back then, isn’t it?

Nishizaki: No, it’s not more complicated. I’d say it’s just that the positions have changed. Environmental issues are reflected in Kodai’s line, and other recent social conditions are also taken in. I think you’ll notice them right away. (Laughs)

Interviewer: I felt there was a message in the concepts for Earth and the SUS like, “Let’s see things that people don’t see in their daily lives.”

Nishizaki: That’s right, there is that. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t feel that there should be a message behind it for young people, you can’t truly be considered first rate.

What is the fate of Earth?

Nishizaki: I actually made two endings. Two patterns that are totally different from a happy ending. After showing it to the staff, there were pros and cons…to be honest, I haven’t decided yet which way to go. So I’ll be showing them in a preview screening and try to get opinions. If you can see it at a theater, please decide which one you prefer. [Translator’s note: six preview screenings took place in late November and early December, 2009. Audience voting took place at each one.]

Interviewer: I get the impression that you’ve put a lot of effort into scripting this story.

Nishizaki: Of course. I put a lot of emphasis on the script and based everything afterward on that emphasis. In animation, I think “it’s all about the script.” The story. I’m 75 years old now, and it’s something I’ve treasured since childhood. I believe it works even today. And strong music, of course. As I said, I know all about classical, jazz, and Latin music. That’s why I asked Mr. Miyagawa and Mr. Haneda to make Yamato’s music.

Interviewer: Now that I think about it, the staffing on the music side was very revolutionary at the time, wasn’t it? They were really valuable people.

Nishizaki: [tearing up] Oh no, I’m crying. They really were geniuses. I think teenagers who come to see this movie will certainly be impressed. Some will come to chase the past Yamato, but it’s a movie that new younger fans can enjoy, too. Please come and see it.

What impressed me after the interview was how moved Mr. Nishizaki became, tearing up twice in front of the interviewers. However, I quickly pinned it down. In the last scene of Farewell to Yamato, Kodai is the last one left on the ship, and aims for the base of the White Comet Empire. That’s probably what it feels like to Mr. Nishizaki after so many have passed away. Or he may share the feelings of Captain Okita when he comes back to Earth and weeps when he sees it. Indeed, Mr. Nishizaki really is Dessler, Kodai, and Okita all rolled into one. Since Yamato Resurrection is made with such spirit, no fan can afford to miss it.

Mechanic Director Nobuyoshi Habara

From Great Mechanics DX #12 (Futaba Co.) March 15, 2010

Depicting Yamato’s battles from a modern perspective

Retrospective of the original production years

Drawing Yamato starts with “if”

Interviewer: How did you come to participate in Yamato?

Habara: At the start, the decision was that our company Xebec was going to do the movie. At the time, there was a call for a general animation director, but as soon as Yoshinobu Nishizaki decided to direct, I took charge of the mecha direction.

Interviewer: What was your first impression when you heard about this Yamato?

Habara: I danced for joy, of course. (Laughs) Besides, wouldn’t it be more genuine if it’s Nishizaki’s Yamato?

Interviewer: What were you specifically in charge of in mechanic production?

Habara: First, I drew image boards based on the script, including mecha. It was around 60 pieces. In fact, when I got warmed up I also drew a lot of storyboards that didn’t involve mecha, like a little scene of Miyuki and of Vice Captain Omura’s special attack. (See a comprehensive collection of Mr. Habara’s image boards here and here.)

Basically, it was describing a director’s orders through a drawing. Because there were changes in design and concepts along the way, the storyboards were drawn by Takeshi Shirato and some shots were revised for the screen.

Overview of the film’s mecha.

Interviewer: How did you work in the fine gimmicks and mecha designs created by Makoto Kobayashi?

Habara: He gave me instructions and drawings regarding the gimmicks and presentation, and there were other scenes I created myself.

Interviewer: In the case of Yamato, the big question is how to modernize it, right?

Habara: If you make it too modern, it ceases to be Yamato. I talked a lot with Mr. Kobayashi about “Where is the Yamato-ness?” And things like, “If we make this into something consistent with the current style, can we still call it Yamato?” In the end we went in the direction that the director was aiming for, and I was able to settle it all in my own way.

In fact, a lot of the battle scene storyboards that I interpreted in my own way were rejected. About 200 shots. Things like “which enemy comes from what direction” weren’t clearly written in the script, so I made a map and determined all the positional relationships. Then I could place the camera in a way that the imaginary line didn’t go crazy, and aimed to be strategically consistent. But it was all over the place.

[Translator’s note: the “imaginary line” is drawn between two subjects, and the camera stays on one side of that line to maintain consistent screen direction.]

Interviewer: What was the reason for that?

Habara: Because it was modernized. (Laughs) In the end, that’s not Yamato. There were various reasons, but in terms of directing the natural course is, “If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.” So after a while, I didn’t sweat the small details in the directing any more. (Laughs)

For example, there are three Fredei ships, and a scene where a Cosmo Pulsar attacks one them while circling it. The next ship is always visible, but according to the director it doesn’t have to be. I worried about not seeing it when I thought it should be there, but when the final visuals came up, I realized that it didn’t have to be there. In the end, modern theories aren’t necessary in the world of Yamato. All that’s really important is “what you want to show.”

Mr. Kobayashi says the director looks at the work from the fan’s point of view. Therefore, that’s the criteria and you shouldn’t do something complicated that’s hard to understand. You sharpen it and show only the important points. That’s certainly the right way to depict it, and it took me a long time to realize that.

Interviewer: Was it like, “If you’re going to do it, this is how it is”?

Habara: That’s right. Based on what I just said, if you’re referring to the script, wouldn’t it be interesting to include a scene like this? Then I drew it as a proposal.

Interviewer: This time it’s a little different from what we’ve seen before, with Yamato in a position to protect a fleet.

Habara: That’s right. I thought that would be a highlight, so I put a lot into it. You could say Yamato “becomes a shield,” but it’s much smaller than the emigration ships, and I had a hard time showing it. So I put in the element of using barrier missiles for protection, which wasn’t in the script. I wanted a scene where that was hit instead of an emigration ship. It was completely created in the image boards and the director seemed to like it, so I thought it could play the part.

Interviewer: I get the impression that there are wonderful scenes everywhere. For example, the scene where a damaged Super Andromeda is caged up on Planet Amal.

Habara: Thank you very much. That scene came from a storyboard. I wanted to show a place where the Super Andromeda was battered after it was shown so many times in the storyboards. I also worked on layouts. It’s almost a hobby. (Laughs) Eventually, Mr. Kobayashi’s added effects made it a great visual.

Interviewer: It feels like it’s in a huge warehouse. (Laughs) The wonder of Yamato seems to transcend logic.

Habara: It’s romance. (Laughs) How did they get it into the warehouse? Such things are irrelevant in Yamato.

Interviewer: However, I’m a little sorry that Yamato’s wings didn’t come out.

Habara: I drew it quite a bit in the image boards and storyboards, asking “can we have the wings here?” but they were all rejected. (Laughs) I still don’t know why.

Interviewer: It’s also worth noting that all the mecha is in CG this time, isn’t it?

Habara: There was talk of drawing it all, but surely it would never end. The level of drawing we saw in Final Yamato isn’t possible any more. In those days the lines were distorted to some extent, and even if it was inconsistent it was a flavor, but that kind of drawing would be considered broken now. Personally, I love the drawings by Kazuhide Tomonaga of the ship at the end of the second episode of the first TV series. Once I tried to distort the 3D model to aim for that on the movie poster, but it was not adopted.

Interviewer: What part is suitable for CG?

Habara: More and more seems to be suitable for CG now. In fact, we analyzed Yamato’s level of damage from the script and storyboards and made several different damage models in CG. I felt like if we used them for each scene, we could depict changes in damage and repair situations, but in the end that was also rejected.

Interviewer: Yamato’s hull got quite large, didn’t it?

Habara: This time, the Yamato model itself was supervised by Masahiko Okura, the director of Battle Fairy Yukikaze, and it’s great. Okura loves Yamato, too. Prior to the finished form, it felt like a plastic model, but Mr. Okura’s supervision made me feel much better about it. My instant reaction was, “This is the Yamato I wanted to see!” (Laughs) I personally think this Yamato shows the ultimate balance.

Right side: examination of Kodai’s character in the film. Left side: Start of Habara interview.

Supporting Yamato feels like repaying a favor

Interviewer: Do the visuals clearly follow direction that was there at the beginning?

Habara: When I entered the studio, Mr. Kobayashi was making the scene where Kodai turns around in Yuki’s engine room. He was in charge of all the backgrounds himself. It was a much more cinematic scene than the impression I initially got from the storyboards, and I was surprised that it had changed so much. For the first time, I was able to get a sense of the direction this movie would take.

Interviewer: Speaking of CG, were you also conscious of the pachinko Yamato? [Translator’s note: this refers to a game that came out in February 2009 with some truly breathtaking CG animation. Read about it here.]

Habara: That was a favorite of the director. Doesn’t it look realistic? However, that texture doesn’t match our characters. It’s OK for a short piece, but for a longer one the inside and outside would look like they’re from completely different movies. That’s why I searched for a texture that was just right.

In fact, our generation is absolutely all about cel texture. But Mr. Kobayashi asked, “What about young people?” so I thought about it. Young people are accustomed to CG, which has a denser texture. There is the Yamato we want to see, but that would limit it to our generation. Mr. Kobayashi asked what we could do to broaden the base, and I thought about that a lot. I got the impression that they’re one step ahead of us in that area, and I learned a lot from it.

Interviewer: What kind of relationship did you have with Mr. Kobayashi?

Habara: Since his seat was almost next to mine, we were always talking, starting from “What do you think of the old Yamato?” Exchanges like, “Habara-kun, I love Yamato.”

Interviewer: What did you think of Yamato at the time?

Habara: My final conclusion is that “there are various types of Yamato.”

Interviewer: In general, there are a lot of people who seem to love Farewell to Yamato.

Habara: But for a director, all Yamatos are equal. I like all of them, so it’s hard to discriminate. I think this finished film will be a beautiful continuation of Final Yamato.

Interviewer: Looking back on your work with Director Nishizaki, is there anything that made a deep impression on you?

Habara: A lot of things. First, I gave him quite a few opinions about the script. A good young man wouldn’t say such things, so I was scolded a bit…to be honest, there were some moments where I felt like I couldn’t be involved in Yamato any more. But then I changed my mind and said, “Let’s give back to the person who once made Yamato and sent it off into the world.” I’m in this industry because of Yamato, and it’s one of the reasons I fell in love with anime. So I tried to stay one step ahead of the director’s vision, and I thought if I made visuals that went two steps ahead, I would be paying it back.

Interviewer: As a result, what was your impression when you watched the film?

Habara: I thought it was the director’s Yamato. While I was making it, I thought it would seem to be a little newer, and when I watched the first preview it felt like a time slip. I had the impression that I was seeing it the day after Final Yamato was released. I thought that only Director Nishizaki could make this film now.

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