The Making of Series 2, Part 2

Vintage advertising for Yamato 2, set to premiere October 14, 1978


At the time of the first Yamato series in 1974, the headquarters of Academy Studio was in the Kudanshita ward of Tokyo. But this was strictly the office for planning and sales, while the actual animation work was produced in a condominium (what the Japanese call a “mansion”) in the Sakuradai ward. This location was vacated in the spring of 1975 and taken over by art director Kazuhiko Udagawa’s Anime Room Pro. (“Pro” is native shorthand for “Productions” or “Production Studio.”) Academy did not have its own production facility from that point on, and was driven only by planning, sales, and international film distribution.

The first version of the Yamato feature film was edited just before the production office was taken over by Anime Room. When the time came to re-edit it for the 1977 release, it was under the umbrella of Toei Pictures, so the Toei Studio in Nerima became Yamato‘s new production home. This continued to be the case with Farewell to Yamato in 1978.

When Yamato 2 got underway in the spring of ’78, Academy needed its own studio for the first time in three years, since it was Toei’s policy at the time not to accept outside orders for TV production. An entirely new staff was also needed, at least for the pre-production phase since the artists would be tied up on Farewell to Yamato until August.

An artifact from Yomiuri network’s Yamato 2 campaign: a make-it-yourself pencil cup that included a fall calendar.

Six people from four different companies were brought together to supervise the launch. Starting at the top, the Executive Manager was Osamu Hirouka with Satoshi Yamada in charge of production. Yasunori Honda and Shigeo Kurauchi ran the production desk. Yoshita Hata and Ms. Kinuyo Nozaki were the office managers.

Mr. Hirouka and Mr. Hata had transferred in from Oka Studio. Hirouka had run Oka since the days of Yamato Series 1 and had worked as an occasional subcontractor for Academy. In addition to his office manager position, Hata also served as an assistant director under the penname “Saki Edomura.”

Article from the fall ’78 issue of Talk of TV Magazine, which included a free Yamato 2 iron-on (at right).

Mr. Yamada and Mr. Kurauchi were on temporary transfer from Academy, but they were inexperienced in TV production since they had not participated in the first series. Ms. Nozaki had, so she was called in as reinforcement. After Yamato Series 1, she had worked on two other shows for different studios, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Dokaben, before establishing her own post-production company in 1977.

Yasunori Honda was another staff member on loan from his own company, Child Pro. He had begun his career in 1974 at Arts Pro, the sound production department of Tohokushinsa Studio. He founded Child Pro in 1976 with his inaugural project, a Tatsunoko TV series named Hurricane Polymer. He served as Sound Director with several high-profile partners including veteran Animation Director Tadashi Hosono. Their production process became the model for Yamato 2 and Hosono was to serve as its director of animation, but staff shortages forced him to take the post of director of photography instead.

Yamato 2‘s pre-production began in a borrowed office at Osamu Tezuka’s Mushi Pro, but everyone would move to a central location in Nerima when Academy’s new studio opened in the fall. Until that time, only Ms. Nozaki worked full time on the series, managing story meetings and the writing of scripts.

Academy Studio Mark II

Documents from the time establish the first day of operation as September 1, 1978. Tokyo’s Nerima ward was chosen for its vicinity to key train lines and the animation community that had built up around Toei Studio.

By this time, Farewell to Yamato had been in theatres for almost a month, so the various art teams were already hard at work (in scattered locations) under Hirouka’s supervision. Episode 1’s airdate was just six weeks away when the studio officially opened and everyone could finally gather under one roof. On day one, therefore, Yamato 2 was already beset by the severe schedule everyone had experienced on Series 1.

The new facility was a four-story building. The first floor was already occupied by a company that leased out copy machines, but Academy had everything else. The second floor housed producer’s offices and the Yamato fan club headquarters. The fourth floor held the camera room, conference room, cel warehouse, and Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s office. But the third floor was where the rubber hit the road. It had been partitioned into five production areas where designers cranked out new mecha, animators created scenes, painters colored cels, a film editor assembled rushes, and the supervising director fought an all-out war against the calendar–by all counts a foe to rival the Comet Empire itself.

Who’s Who on Yamato 2

The one man who had worked hardest to keep Series 1 under control was tapped to do the same this time: Animation Director Noboru Ishiguro. As the new series began ramping up, he was sequestered at Toei Studio on Farewell to Yamato, delivering the final scenes just one week before the movie was released. In fact, he had been so preoccupied with the film that he didn’t even know there was a Yamato 2 until Farewell was in the can and he received his new marching orders.

It was already a daunting task before it even started. Despite all the troubles of Series 1, skilled animators weren’t that hard to find in 1974 and many of them were starved to work on a cutting-edge SF series so they were eager to help out on Yamato. In 1978 the landscape was very different; the Yamato Boom of 1977 suddenly put SF at the head of the line and qualified animators were in demand everywhere. Yamato was still top of the heap, but now it had shows like Daitarn 3, Daimos, Starzinger, Future Boy Conan, and Galaxy Express 999 to compete with for artists.

Ishiguro was undoubtedly relieved to learn that despite this challenge, some fellow Yamato veterans would be on his side. Leiji Matsumoto was involved as a consultant, but he had his own anime programs going on elsewhere and didn’t spend every day at Academy. Scriptwriter Keisuke Fujikawa had written most of Series 1 and returned as the head writer of Series 2 with Kan Shunsuke and Eiichi Yamamoto backing him up.

Studio Nue, the mecha design powerhouse that helped to make Series 1 a touchstone of SF anime, was now in high demand for other projects. Their work on Farewell to Yamato would be re-used, of course, but for new mecha design Leiji Matsumoto brought his own ringer into the game, Katsumi Itabashi. The two had shared a manga studio for years, and Itabashi was particularly adept at turning Matsumoto’s rough designs into fully-realized mecha of all shapes and sizes.

Assistant Director Kazunori Tanahashi was Ishiguro’s right hand and even served as the basis for a new character in the show, Shinmai [Royster]. Shinmai literally translates to “New Guy,” and he was handy whenever exposition was needed to explain something to new viewers. (Tanahashi wasn’t the only one to spawn a character; Comet Empire pilot Mazer from episode 9 was based on Production Manager Satoshi Yamada.)

Director Kenzou Koizumi was also on hand, one of the stars of Series 1 with his own production group named Studio Mates. He was a go-to guy for many tasks including storyboards, key animation, and even character design. (Among other things, he redesigned most of the Comet Empire characters for television.) Director Takeshi Shirato came in with the same pedigree and his own studio, Tiger Pro. Director Kazuhiko Udagawa and Art Director Tomoharu “Geki” Katsumata had both joined the Yamato family on Farewell and was called upon to continue their roles on Yamato 2.

Left to right: Kenzo Koizumi, Takeshi Shirato, Kazuhiko Udagawa, Tomoharu Katsumata, Yasuhiko Yoshikazu

Yasuhiko Yoshikazu had stood out as the premiere storyboard artist for series 1, worked on key scenes for Farewell, and would return again to storyboard 13 episodes of Yamato 2. Ishiguro boarded another 7 episodes with the balance done by Masao Yanagida, Kazunori Tanahashi, Kenzo Koizumi, Shoji Okuda, and Takeshi Shirato.

The animation for the series was shared by four groups in rotation. Some were offsite, but others took up residence in the Academy studio. One by one, they were Tiger Pro (presided over by Takeshi Shirato), Studio Mates (supervised by Kenzo Koizumi), Anime Room (run by Kazuhiko Udagawa) and Oka Studio (led by Osamu Hirouka).

Left: Art Director Katsumata’s desk. Right: Mecha Design desks

Tiger Pro ended up with the lion’s share of the work, taking on 9 episodes (1, 3, 5, 10, 14, 17, 20, 23 and 25.) Takeshi Shirato supervised roughly 10 artists in two groups, both of which worked in the Academy studio. This cemented Shirato’s place on all subsequent Yamato productions, positioning him to take Ishiguro’s position on The New Voyage.

Studio Mates did episodes 8, 16, 20, 23, and 24. Oka Studio did episodes 2, 6, 12, 15, and 19. Anime Room handled the rest, 7, 13, 18, 21, and assisted with 24 and 25. The crush of production gave everyone occasion to look for subcontractors. This brought many other talented artists into the fold, including Yoshinori Kanada of Studio Z, whose work is very recognizable in episodes 9 and 17.

Last but not least, Hiroshi Miyagawa returned to write and conduct the music with Yu Aku as the lyricist.

Voice Recording

Atsushi Tashiro had served as the sound director on Farewell to Yamato, but was replaced by Toshio Sasaki on Yamato 2. Sasaki was an employee of Tohokushinsha Studio, where voice recording took place every Saturday at 6pm. Episode 1 was recorded on September 16, 1978, about a month before the broadcast began. This contrasted with series 1, in which recordings were done only about two weeks before they went out on the air, and sometimes even less than that. The recording schedule coincided nicely with the broadcast schedule; the fifth episode was recorded on October 14, the day episode 1 went on the air. The cast and sound crew watched it together, celebrating the occasion with a sushi party.

All but two of the voice actors from Farewell to Yamato made the transition to Yamato 2; only Teresa [Trelaina] and Sabera [Invidia] were recast. Additionally, Farewell‘s narrator Taichiro Hirokawa was replaced by Akira Kimura who had narrated Series 1 and also performed the voice of Captain Hijikata [Gideon].

New faces joined the lineup as well, actors from various sectors of TV entertainment (both live-action and anime) who stepped in to take bit parts. One was Shigeru Chiba, who spoke for a member of the Andromeda‘s bridge crew. The role was a small one, but Chiba’s glass-shattering voice was destined to be heard in well-known anime programs continuously thereafter from Blue Noah to Urusei Yatsura to Fist of the North Star.

The recording process for anime in Japan is very different than in the US. Here, actors are recorded before storyboarding and animation so that a character’s performance can be drawn to match theirs. In an anime production the opposite is the norm; actors are recorded after animation is done (what is called ‘Afreco’ for ‘After Recording’) so their task is to take inspiration from what they see on screen and enhance it.

The footage voice actors watch as they perform their lines is called a rush film, and in those days it was not uncommon for the rush film to be incomplete. On the worst days of Series 1, there was no rush film at all–just a series of timing marks hand-drawn on a blank filmstrip to indicate when actors should start and stop. (Noboru Ishiguro described this as the “worst possible condition” for an anime production to be in, and it was a weekly occurrence on Series 1.)

Episode 5 of Yamato 2 was a rare exception; 90% of it was re-used footage from Farewell to Yamato. Only 10% consisted of timing marks. Over time, however, this gain slipped away. By the time episode 9 was recorded on November 18, the lead time was down to three weeks.

The Medical Crisis of Yoko Asagami

A major incident occurred during the recording of Yamato 2 that was not reported either in monthly anime magazines or the Yamato fan club magazine: Yoko Asagami (Yuki’s voice actress) was urgently hospitalized by appendicitis on January 15, 1979. Her condition had been complicated by peritonitis; she had felt a burning sensation in her abdomen since the end of December. She underwent an operation on January 17 and spent several days in recovery.

Voice recordings were still taking place on Saturdays, but by the beginning of ’79 the lead time was down to two weeks. Episode 17 was recorded on January 20, but a member of the recording staff had to deliver a temporary reading of Yuki’s lines while Ms. Asagami was still in the hospital. Her stitches were removed on January 24 and she was allowed a furlough to leave the hospital for the January 27th recording. She picked up her lines from episode 17 and continued with episode 18, returning to her hospital bed thereafter. She was officially released on February 2. As a result, sharp-eared listeners can identify a slight change in the recording level of Yuki’s dialogue in episode 17.

All this was learned in an interview with Ms. Asagami by Yamato superfan Hideaki Ito and published in the first issue of her official fan club newsletter, Kodanuki Association, in March 1979. The nature of this exclusive can be better appreciated when one learns how visible Ms. Asagami was at the time; she was a high-profile celebrity whose activities were regularly followed in newspapers and magazines. She also appeared regularly at public events such as the Columbia Anime Concerts sponsored by Tokyo 12 Channel and various TV specials that had been tracking the development of anime since the Yamato boom of 1977. If anime can be said to have a spokemodel at that time, she was it.

She resumed her weekly place at the microphone on February 3, and turned up every week thereafter until the final episode was recorded on March 24. It was broadcast right on schedule two weeks later on April 7, 1979.

At right: a display card autographed by the entire principal voice cast; almost certainly a one-of-a-kind keepsake.

Continue to Part 3: The Staff Speaks

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