The Making of Series 2, Part 3

The Staff Speaks

Contrary to common sense, Yamato 2 didn’t get as much print media coverage as the other parts of the saga. In fact, as far as published behind-the-scenes information goes, it ranks pretty near the bottom. Part of this is explained by the overwhelming attention given to Farewell to Yamato, which diverted editorial resources away from the TV series. Most significantly, it didn’t get its own deluxe Academy studio book to explore every facet of the production. For that reason, direct messages from the various staff members are comparitively rare…but here they are all in one place.

An Interview with Yoshinobu Nishizaki

From Yamato Fan Club Magazine #6, October 1978

Farewell to Yamato is remade for TV with a launch date of October 14. After careful consideration, various new ideas have been added so as not to lose the appeal of the movie. I asked Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki about these resolutions.

Interviewer: How involved have you been in the TV Series Yamato 2?

Nishizaki: Currently I am just checking the scripts. Working on the movie is very demanding and I’ve had a difficult schedule, so I am entrusting the rest to Mr. Matsumoto and the staff.

Interviewer: Will this system continue into the future?

Nishizaki: Just through the first 13 episodes, for the time being. Once the movie is done and I regain my strength I will join the staff again.

Interviewer: Please tell us the reason this TV series is being made.

Nishizaki: There’s a big difference in the means of expression between a movie and a TV series. Although one can develop a single dramatic theme in a movie, there is a time limit. You can present much more detail in 26 episodes. Therefore, I can take the theme of eternal love and present variations on it, rather than just limit it to Kodai and Yuki. The relationships of human beings was an important characteristic of the original Yamato, and this can be widely explored along with all the mecha and action.

Interviewer: How will it specifically be different from the movie?

Nishizaki: There will be two major differences. First, in the movie the Andromeda was depicted abstractly as a symbol of Earth’s restoration. Now we can show it in more concrete terms. I intend to make it a more interesting story by exploring its effect on Yamato. Therefore, the role of Captain Hijikata in contrast to Kodai becomes more important.

The other difference is that both Dessler and his race will appear. He doesn’t live only for revenge against Yamato. He has a very serious duty to achieve at the risk of his life, that of rebuilding his race as the President of Gamilas. I want to make a big point of that this time.

Interviewer: There are many Dessler fans, since he is not necessarily portrayed as a simple “villain.”

Nishizaki: Yes, I want to show him as a person who continues to fight while shouldering the fate of his entire race.

Interviewer: I understand. Most of all, fans are interested to know if you will significantly change that impressive final scene from the movie.

Nishizaki: There is a plan for the last scene, but I’m still discussing it with the staff. Anyway, we will certainly not betray the expectation of the fans.

Interviewer: I’m looking forward to it.

Nishizaki: The staff is very enthusiastic, and we’re putting various ideas to work in all sorts of ways. This new Yamato will be just as good as the movie.

Staff Messages

From Yamato Fan Club Magazine #6, October 1978

Two months after the opening of Farewell to Yamato, the Yamato 2 TV series begins! Yamato continues to lead the world of SF Anime. The staff who made history has new passion that continues to drive them farther. We talked with the staff of this new Yamato

“Character appearances”

Chief Director Noboru Ishiguro

The stories of Farewell and Yamato 2 are basically the same, but we don’t have to rush through the story as quickly because we can do a 30-minute program every week and we can present things in greater detail. For example, we intend to expand on the psychology of the characters in their everyday environment. Especially on the enemy side. Their “evil” nature will gain new dimensions when we add a power struggle to their story. In addition, Dessler was just the guest of Emperor Zordar in the movie, but he will lead the entire remaining forces of Gamilas in the TV series. Also, we will have some new crewmembers and a female-type robot named “Koindar.” All of this will make it more fun and interesting.

(Translator’s note: Ishiguro was referring to Dr. Sane’s nurse robot, who only appeared briefly at the beginning of the series.)

“Stacked up one by one”

Assistant Director Kazunori Tanahashi

We’ve come a long way since Part 1, so we don’t have as much trouble on the technical side. Still, there is the feeling that we have to make this better. The work piles up week by week, but we can’t neglect a single thing on Yamato 2. Because it is a sequel to Part 1, it may be slightly different from the movie, but we want it to be as good as possible.

“It’s Part 1 Plus Alpha”

Storyboard Artist Yasuhiko Yoshikazu

From the beginning, I thought Yamato was most suitable as a long-form TV series. Therefore, I had to turn a blind eye to the unnaturalness of making it as a movie in order to give Farewell to Yamato my consent. Making Part 1 for TV had various difficult points, but it came out as good as possible. I consider the addition of something completely new as “Part 1 Plus Alpha.” It’s like adding a new seasoning to the recipe. Part 1 was a linear story, but this time people will see a complex twisting of various factors and elements. This makes it become “Plus Alpha.”

“Even the cels convey newness”

Art Director Kenzo Koizumi

We can only grope in the dark now. Because we’re projecting the story into the limitations of TV rather than a big movie screen, movement and other things will change considerably. Because it will be presented as a continuation of the first series, we can express it differently than in the theatre. There are scenes we cannot simply reuse from the movie, so a lot of new things are popping up. Anyway, I want to express the mood of Yamato in a better way.

Yamato is born here”

The production of Yamato 2 goes on in the Academy Studio in Nerima. The third floor in this four-story building is related to animation. (The second floor contains the fan club headquarters.) One floor has been partitioned into five areas in order to do it. Checking colors and reviewing animation goes on constantly, and sometimes you feel the energy even when everyone works silently. Someone else applies a thin earthen color to a cel, painting it on with an air compressor. I don’t want to interrupt his work, but I have to ask what he’s working so hard on. “It’s dust,” he says. All these things pile up as Yamato is completed.

Round-Table Discussion with
General Director Noboru Ishiguro

An anxious meeting: thinking of the final scene!

From Yamato Fan Club Magazine #8, February 1979

During the production of Yamato 2, fan representatives had the chance to hear from Director Noboru Ishiguro in a round-table discussion. Ishiguro always looks upon animation with a stern eye, and doesn’t flinch at tough questions from fans!

Saito: About Farewell to Yamato and Yamato 2, I heard that one difference is the lowering of its age group.

Ishiguro: It is surely a factor that it is being made for a lower age group. We are also making it much longer.

Saito: In what ways?

Ishiguro: It is based on the story of the movie, but extended to 26 episodes. We will spend more time on what life is like on a warship.

XXX: Do you think the first series was good to work on?

Ishiguro: Yes, even though the ratings were not good. But one day I was reading a newspaper and found a letter praising Yamato.

Sawada: Oh, I read that.

Ishiguro: That letter took the trouble to see and understand the spirit of an animator.

Yamamoto: All the deaths at the end of the movie left me feeling sort of empty. Even though this is a war story, I would like the characters to survive it.

Ishiguro: Hmm, I see. In fact, the ending of the TV series has not yet been decided. But I’m looking forward to it, and I want to make it very interesting, probably different from the movie.

Fujiwara: I’m very anxious about who may die no matter how it goes.

Ishiguro: Will you issue an order now about who can be killed? (Laughter)

Saito: By the way, do you think today’s fans are different from the earlier ones?

Ishiguro: Yes. In the days of Series 1, it seemed like anime was still only for children. Anyone older probably watched it with a guilty conscience. (Laughter)

Sawada: It’s still like that! (Laughter)

Konno: I’m not happy about the new image of Teresa [Trelaina]. Some of the magic was lost…

Ishiguro: You’ll understand more about that decision when you see episode 17. What do you think of Yamato 2‘s story so far?

Sawada: I’m still comparing it to the movie.

Sakaguchi: The story is the most important part. I have high expectations.

Ishiguro: You can depend on it. (Nods all around)

Fujihara: Will we see the giant warship at the center of the White Comet Empire?

Ishiguro: In the beginning we talked about whether or not that would be shown. It might appear if Zordar gets into trouble. (Laughter)

Editorial staff member: (It suddenly comes out) What will be the last scene?

Ishiguro: Oh, the last scene…even I don’t know. (Laughter)

Since even a member of the editorial staff couldn’t get an answer to such an intriguing question, the round-table talk came to an end.

The following commentaries were published in the Yamato 2 Roman Album, 1979…

Yamato, My Younger Days

Keisuke Fujikawa, Script Writer

As one who has participated in Space Battleship Yamato from its inception, I would boast that my love for it has been second to none. It has been unforgettable to me in many respects.

When we started Yamato as a TV series, we had planned it to be a year-long story. However, being unable to earn high ratings due to various unfavorable conditions, the series was terminated in just half a year. This gave me anguish at the time, but I was strangely overcome by a feeling of satisfaction…probably because I knew that I had worked to the best of my ability. I believe that I did everything in my power as a script writer at that time. Therefore, each line, each idea still lives in my heart and leads me to many recollections even now.

Cover image for The Hot Feelings Once Again,
a collection of Fujikawa’s favorite anime
scripts (Fujin Co., 1999)

I devoted much of the energy of my youth to Space Battleship Yamato. The work, therefore, reflects me in many ways. I expressed myself through various characters, sometimes through Kodai, other times through Captain Okita. The scripts may have been confessions of what I had confined deep in my heart.

Once I answered a questionnaire about Yamato. There I said that Yamato to me was a representation of wildness. I define wildness as solitude, romanticism, definitude, action, and courage. To live wildly is my personal goal. I think that to keep wildness in your heart is to have eternal youth. This is nothing to do with your actual age. A 20-year old could be an old man, and a 50-year old could be a young man. I can’t stand people who talk beautifully and then do nothing to match.

The most important thing in our lives is to endure our own fate as best we can, like Yamato‘s crew did. Of course, no life is free of failures and mistakes. All you can do is avoid making the same mistakes again. You need diligence and patience in order to do that.

I have always enjoyed confronting a challenge and working to overcome it. This is often a lonely effort, but it allows you to live a full life. In addition, the effort sharpens your senses. Even if you are defeated, you can live with humiliation until the time comes to strike back. You need to save your energy for the striking back. Therefore, it seems a waste of energy to complain every time you are suffering, lonely, or agonizing.

My friends and the people around me gave me great comfort whenever I felt ready to give up. They didn’t even have to understand my suffering. I have learned how to take comfort from anyone near me just by spending time with them. This is why I have always tried to care for everyone I’ve ever met. You can only meet a limited number of people in your lifetime, so I try to look for charm even in someone I find at first unattractive. Of course, the effort is not always successful. When it isn’t, I just think I met the wrong person. You sometimes have to sacrifice yourself in order to care for people. They will leave if you must always have your own way.

Fujikawa is also a prolific novelizer of anime programs. These are from
Godmars, Toward the Terra, Galaxy Express 999, and Queen Millennia.

This is the first time I’ve confessed my personal beliefs like this. But I could not write about Yamato without writing about myself. I believe that a script is something formed from the deepest part of a writer. Of course, I know that a movie is, first of all, entertainment. At the same time, however, I hope someone can read between the lines to see my true feelings. If I could have one such audience, my pleasure would be beyond expression.

The Yamato series is now moving on from the second sequel to the third. I have already made up my mind to leave the series when I find myself unable to hold onto my beliefs. To write without following my beliefs would betray both myself and Yamato fans. I believe that a system of beliefs is the minimum qualification for writers who address the younger generation.

I would like to close this essay by praying that Yamato may forever remain in your heart as a spiritual monument of your younger days.

Fascinated by the Prospectus

Kazunori Tanahashi, Assistant Director

[Translator’s note: over time, it was revealed that Mr. Tanahashi was the real-life model for the character designer of Shinmai, known to Star Blazers fans as Royster. See the resemblance?]

In 1974, at Coffee Shop “Koko” in Sakuradai, Nerima-ward, I said, “My name is Tanahashi. Great pleasure to meet you.” This was the first time I met the producer, Mr. Nishizaki.

I called myself a Sci-fi maniac in those days and was reading whatever I could lay my hands on. In addition, I was crazy about animation. Accordingly, the moment I saw the prospectus and the storyboard for Space Battleship Yamato, I fell in love with it.

My long cherished dream had been to participate in a full-scale space opera animation. I was as happy at that time as when I read the first episode of The Adventure of Rokku, Osamu Tezuka’s legendary manga, in my childhood. Anyway, to return to Yamato, the story was good, the designs were very good, and the characters were excellent. In addition, Mr. Noboru Ishiguro, who I had been following since I got involved in animation, was going to be an assistant director with me. On top of that came Mr. Nishizaki’s enthusiasm for creation. These things together got me in high spirits.

One more factor gave Yamato its stature: the musical score. It had a grand scale and profoundness which made audiences vividly feel the vastness of the universe in which the story took place. The score was excellent music not only as an accompaniment to the picture, but also on its own merits.

As you know, animation consists of two essential elements: the picture and the sound. Most production processes rely on individuals. This means that if any one of the staff fails to fulfill their responsibility, the whole production will be spoiled. If the production is behind schedule, we are forced to add the sound to the picture at the last minute. This requires high concentration and is, therefore, a very exhausting job. And to my regret, we were almost always impelled to resort to this method in Yamato.

Now, as I watch the series again, I can see it is full of slipshod mistakes that fill me with regret. On the other hand, I can also feel the show brimming with the enthusiasm of the staff. It seems to me that this combination is very much like Yamato itself.

Due to the low ratings, the broadcast had to be ended in a 26-week run. However, as I look back I can say that it was this first series to which I most devoted myself. “Satisfaction” seems to be the most suitable word to express my feelings in those days.

I got into a state of lethargy after the 6 months of production. I felt absentminded while working on other productions. Then came the offer from Mr. Nishizaki to help re-edit the 26 episodes into a compilation film. The days came back to me and again I was fully absorbed in Yamato. What made me happier this time was that we didn’t have to paint the same pictures again! Moreover, I had the very precious opportunity to watch Mr. Toshio Masuda re-edit the story. His work made me realize the difference in the tempo of a TV series and a movie. As a result, the new Yamato didn’t seem to be a mere reissue at all.

Then I participated in the sequel, Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato, and now, having gotten through it, I realize that my days of absorption in Yamato are over.

My encounter with Yamato

Kenzo Koizumi, Art Director

I came across Space Battleship Yamato for the first time 6 years ago.

The moment I first heard about the project, it occurred to me that the Battleship Yamato had belonged to the Imperial Japanese Navy. This made me hesitant to engage in a project about warfare. Then I met Mr. Nishizaki, who cleared up my anxiety with his idea that he wanted to make a romantic space fantasy. His idea was so interesting that I decided to participate from the very beginning.

I was surprised that they spent much more time than average discussing picture effects. Before Yamato, I was accustomed to only a small briefing with a director or occasionally with an art director. In Yamato, however, a 6 or 7-hour meeting was held for each episode. They often continued until midnight. In addition, prominent figures from every part of the production such as Mr. Nishizaki, Mr. Matsumoto, and Mr. Ishiguro attended every meeting to wrack their brains and make Yamato better.

Secondly, we spent a lot of time on mechanical designs, and tried to make machines appear more realistic and detailed than ever. We prepared several options for the design of every part of a ship, and each design bore a “FINAL” stamp. Now I remember vividly how often we were confounded by our own stamps, being unable to tell which one was to be the true final. I don’t think it’s too much to say that Yamato has changed the philosophy of mechanical design in animation.

Third, there was realism. An actual explosion in space becomes invisible the moment it goes off. But in Yamato we used slow motion to make the aftereffect of an explosion visible. By this technique, we succeeded in showing a more terrific and realistic explosion. Another example is the depiction of the characters. They acted more realistic than usual. We tried to convey their feelings through their eyes and facial expressions, and avoided the relentless hand and leg movements of typical animation. These efforts, it seems to me, helped to make Yamato widely accepted by adults as well as children.

Fourth, we didn’t depict the characters as super-humans. They were ordinary people, who sometimes got distressed, argued, and fell in love. We tried to show those “ordinary” moments of their lives. Once the real combat started, on the other hand, they got together to fight against the enemy to save the earth. The huge battleship freely sailed through space, carrying patriotism, friendship, and universal love on board–values that get disregarded these days–to confront an unbelievably overwhelming enemy.

These themes and settings were born in the long meetings, then drawn on cels, and then developed into the film. The process itself was an another kind of war for me.

I am convinced that traditional Japanese values were conveyed through the crew of Yamato to a younger generation who didn’t experience war themselves. The old Yamato is surely going to be brought back to life again and again from now on to travel through the vast universe. I am very proud of having participated in Space Battleship Yamato.

I Want More Time

Takeshi Shirato, Director


When I heard that for the first time six years ago, I honestly thought and said, “what’s that? Space Battleship Yamato…?”

All I knew was that it was the amazing battleship that sunk without playing its part in the Pacific War. The producer was thinking about it flying off into space, and though it sounded like an interesting idea, I considered it somebody else’s problem.

In those days, Mazinger Z was on the cutting edge and robot action was extremely popular. That’s when I heard talk pop up of Yamato needing an art supervisor. It seemed possible, but I was running a stable production unit and I was hesitant to commit to something unknown. However, I took the position of director on the fourth episode. The charm of the work had great appeal. The passion of the producer and staff was overwhelming.

One day, we had an art meeting on a hot summer day in the studio. About twenty people crowded together in a narrow room. The meeting had begun in the morning and there were still no signs of it ending even at 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening. I remember someone shouting “fireworks,” and we could see them out the window. The scent of green onions floated in from the nearby Toyoshima Garden. It felt good and gave us some relief from the heat, but when it was over our mood dropped and we got back into the meeting.

When I look back at things like that now, I see that common sense was the foundation of Yamato. We continuously talked about the grand theory of Yamato‘s design with Mr. Nishizaki. I took pride in being second to none when it came to personal horsepower, but his energy was astonishing.

When Part 1 ended, I dismissed the idea of having any further relationship with Yamato, but now it has been decided that I will be the Chief Director of The New Voyage. Moreover, my work is extended now even to character design. Though the workload is enormous and there are a lot of hardships, it’s very satisfying when it’s finished.

So far, I’ve worked on many anime projects. Some were well-made and my many experiences have been very interesting. But I’ve never worked on anything where I’ve had to think so completely about the schedule as I do on Yamato. It’s always the cause of worry and dilemma, and I always wish I had more time.

Special thanks to Michiko Ito for translation assistance.

Continue to Part 4: Staff Round-Table Discussion, 1979

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