In the summer of 1973, a critical threshold was reached in the evolution of Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s SF anime series: it had a name that would stick. It also had a real spaceship instead of a giant rock.
This was the result of his idea to push Aritsune Toyota’s Asteroid Ship concept one step forward. Instead of converting a space rock into a ship, a space ship would use the rock as a protective shell. When worse came to worst, that shell would burst open and a mighty Space Battleship would charge out with all guns blazing. The clincher was also Nishizaki’s idea: the ship would be named Yamato.
This was just one of many revisions that moved the story closer to the final product we know and love. Others came from the experienced hand of Eiichi Yamamoto, a writer/director/artist who met Nishizaki during their joint tenure at Mushi Pro Studio and continued to work with him at Office Academy. Together, they crafted the first version of Yamato that would be seen by the outside world.
By late summer, a 45-page plan book was being assembled which combined Yamamoto’s text with some actual artwork. The book included several paintings by Kenichi Matsuzaki and color sketches by Kazuaki Saitou. Matsuzaki was a member of Crystal Art Studio, which specialized in SF anime design and would be renamed Studio Nue the following year. Saitou was an illustrator of covers and interior drawings for Japan’s SF Magazine and novels such as E. Hamilton’s Star Wolf series. A handful of drawings were also done by Yamamoto himself. Assembly of the book was supervised by Producer Yoshihiro Nozaki.
Here is the full text of the Space Battleship Yamato plan book, translated to English for the first time. It is believed that only 80 copies of the book were made at a cost of about $100 each owing to the large amount of color art. (Some of which was used to illustrate the previous two installments of Yamato Origins.) A sample script by Keisuke Fujikawa was also included, but has never been published.
Space Battleship Yamato Plan Book
Written and designed by Eiichi Yamamoto. Cover illustration by Kenichi Matsuzaki.
1. Project Goal
2. Production Specifications
3. Concept for the Series
6. Settings of Yamato
7. About the Production
8. The Prospect for Success
9. Appendix: Synopsis and Sample Script
1. Project Goal
This year (1973) the American movie Poseidon Adventure was a big hit. It is the miraculous story of a few men and women who escape from a capsized luxury liner and return home alive. The reason it is such a hit is that it symbolizes the end of an era with the capsized ship and the belief that it is possible for humans to escape.
(Note: The Poseidon Adventure was an American movie released in Japan in January 1973 that sparked a disaster movie craze.)
Today, Japan is experiencing a wave of earthquakes. There are theories that the Japanese islands are struck by a major earthquake every 69 years. In this dangerous period, Sakyo Komatsu’s novel Japan Sinks is selling like hotcakes. This boom is not just based on a scientific issue; it reflects the deadlock of our lives and the wish for social reform. It is not necessary to explain the details here.
(Note: Japan Sinks was Japan’s the best-selling novel up to that point in the postwar years. The movie adaptation was also a big hit.)
Though the Japanese people have accomplished marvelous economic growth and achieved great material wealth, there is also runaway pollution and a high cost of living. People increasingly feel that they are merely cogs in our industrial society and are not necessarily happy, especially at a spiritual level.
History has proven that it is possible to overcome conditions like these. The human race has been confronted with crisis many times, but people have continuously prevailed, even to today. The important thing is to not allow oneself to become dehumanized by a vast industrial organization.
We rise above this by telling ourselves, “we are human beings.” We have planned Space Battleship Yamato to help not only adults but also children in particular to recognize this dream. This work is an SF adventure drama that tells the story of boys and girls who stand resolutely against the extinction of the human race in the year 2XXX.
What we want to demonstrate through their actions is the meaning of the human word “love.”
2. Production Specifications
Genre: SF Action Adventure
Format: Color, Animation, 30-minute broadcast, 52 continuous episodes
Target Audience: Upper elementary school above 2nd grade, general households
Planning: Yoshinobu Nishizaki, Eiichi Yamamoto
3. Concept for the Series
The beginning, ending, and general continuity of Space Battleship Yamato have already been determined. The events and characters have been developed as you will see here. Let’s start at the beginning of the story.
It is the beginning of the 21st Century. (Note: for the broadcast, this was advanced to the 22nd Century.) Earth is attacked by aliens from space called the Rajendora. Nuclear missiles fly in from distant space to scorch the Earth and cover it in radioactive pollution. Earthlings resisted the attack by abandoning the surface and now live in cities that have been built underground.
One day, the attack suddenly stops and people are overjoyed. However, they do not know the truth of the situation.
The Rajendorans attacked the Earth with the intention of taking it over, but they have withdrawn their hand because of the advanced state of global radioactive pollution. The surface of the Earth is covered in boiling magma and all living things have disappeared. The only plants and animals that remain are those useful to humans underground.
The radioactivity on the surface will gradually seep underground, and the energy supplies of the underground cities will eventually run out. Even if there is no further attack from the Rajendorans, Earthlings can only wait for the slow death of extinction. According to the scientists’ research, the underground cities will only be safe for one more year.
What is to be done?
One day, an answer is found in the wreckage of an alien spaceship that makes an emergency landing on the surface of Mars. The ship came from the planet Iscandar in a solar system 20,000 light-years away. (Note: for the TV series, this was changed to 148,000 light-years.)
The people of Iscandar know of Earth’s crisis and attempted to deliver their technology for sterilizing radioactivity. However, they were attacked by the Rajendorans as soon as they entered Earth’s solar system and came to an untimely end on Mars. One of the Iscandarians lived long enough to leave a message for Earth to try and reach Iscandar, then he died.
It was a miracle that this message got through, since all other data was taken by the Rajendorans. Can a crew now make the 40,000 light-year round trip to Iscandar within the time limit of one year?
It must be done. People all over the Earth grapple with the problem.
The scientists construct an Asteroid Ship, a spaceship built inside an asteroid.
It is thought that at one time a planet existed in the orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Now it is the asteroid belt, consisting of 44,000 drifting pieces of stardust. A spaceship is built inside one of them, equipped with an engine modeled on the one in the crashed Iscandarian ship.
This interplanetary ship is named Yamato. It uses the rock to look like an asteroid. Its length is 2 km, width is 1km, and height is 500 meters. Its cruising speed is 1,000 km per hour inside an atmosphere, and a single warp jump can span 100 light-years. It is possible to warp twice a day for a total distance of 200 light-years. 200 warps will be required to travel the round-trip distance of 40,000 light-years. Yamato‘s navigation schedule to reach Iscandar and return is 300 days.
(Note: At this point of story development, the scale is smaller, since Iscandar is within the Milky Way Galaxy. In the series, a space warp can cover up to 600 light-years.)
Scientists have equipped Yamato with Earth’s best countermeasures. Therefore, it will have the function of a battleship rather than a transport. When facing a powerful enemy in space, Yamato blows off its rocky shell and emerges as a mighty space battleship. The rock fragments circle the ship like the rings of Saturn and return to their original shape after a battle.
The day arrives. Under the careful command of Earth headquarters, Space Battleship Yamato departs for the stars on its 20,000 light-year journey to Iscandar. It carries 114 crewmembers. There are 365 days left until the end of life on Earth.
Though it is a bit long, all of the above is the beginning of the Space Battleship Yamato story. In broadcast terms, it would take three consecutive TV episodes. Yamato‘s difficult mission begins in episode 4…
An automated Rajendoran observatory on Pluto spots Yamato as it begins its voyage. The order to defeat it is given by these dominators of the stars and the Rajendoran attacks begin. Throughout the struggle, Yamato gradually comes to know the true nature of these aliens, something that could not be learned on Earth. The dangers of outer space also become a source of torment, and many warriors die.
After enduring many hardships and running hopelessly late, Yamato arrives at Iscandar near the end of the series. The device to remove radioactivity is obtained. They hoped to get the device itself, but only a blueprint is available. It is decided to build it during the return to Earth.
It takes another 100 days to cross the distance of 20,000 light-years. The details of this are omitted from the broadcast. As the story enters its final climactic stage, there is only one week left for the human race.
The Rajendorans reveal themselves again when Yamato is only one day out from Earth. This is the last obstacle. It has been learned during the previous battles that Rajendorans cannot survive in a world without radioactivity. The Yamato crew has completed the elimination device and used it to remove all radioactivity from the Rajendorans’ home planet.
It is day 364. Yamato enters Earth’s atmosphere. All but one crewmember has died. His name is Shinobu Kotake, and he is the only main character to make it all the way home.
This must be expressed at the beginning: the characters of this story have not yet been designed.
We are considering serializing this story in a manga magazine at the same time it is broadcast as a TV series. In this case, a first-rate writer and artist must be found to match the requirements of a leading magazine publisher and this would affect negotiations. Therefore, it was an unpleasant matter of necessity to delete this aspect from the plan book. We must apologize, then, and point out that the insert illustrations are meant as design studies. But we believe that you can get a grip on the characters entirely by a text description.
Most of the main characters in this story are the crew of Yamato. They are categorized in two groups, the “space navigators” who pilot the ship and the “space soldiers” who take part in combat on other planets. Each has its own independent chain of command. The navigation leader is the Captain and the head of the soldiers is the Admiral. Yamato advances under these two equal-ranking individuals while the general manager of the Asteroid Ship Planning Division supports Yamato from the ground. (Note: at the time of broadcast, the general manager was to be named Tanaka.)
Staff Officer, will later be promoted to Admiral. 18 years old, the hero of the story. A trim and handsome man with large eyes, thick eyebrows, tight lips. Medium height. Trained as an elite Space Soldier, a highly intelligent man with an RNA factor in his brain. (See note)
The collected knowledge of many scientists who died has been transplanted into him, and his scientific know-how is prodigious. When he was a child, his parents died in an attack from the Rajendorans. Therefore, his grudge against them is deep. He is courageous and full of curiosity; his quick judgement is exceptional. The Earth is saved by his tenacity and indomitable fighting spirit. He falls in love with the one female on the crew, Machiko Jin.
Note: RNA is Ribonucleic Acid, the material responsible for memory. For example, two mice (A and B) take part in an experiment. Mouse A is trained to take the bait when a door is opened. Mouse B is not given this training. When mouse A’s RNA is transplanted into the brain of mouse B, it then takes the bait when the door is opened.
Leader of the Space Soldier Group, 18 years old. A big, tough guy. He is a fierce warrior who does an outstanding job, but is always impatient for battle. He likes popular songs and classic poems. He also falls in love with Machiko Jin.
Leader of the Space Soldier Group B, 16 years old. A beautiful woman like [contemporary Japanese actress named here in original text], and a romanticist. She is a hardworking, enthusiastic fighter with a boyish spirit. She is embarrassed at being loved by both Shinobu and Masaaki. She is more attracted to Shinobu, but the two quarrel whenever they meet.
She is a mascot on the all-male crew. When not fighting, she enjoys a variety of space fashions. She is troubled by the Robot Analyzer, who always grabs her skirt in passing without fail. It is assumed that this is a malfunction in his programming, but no one seriously investigates this because they all enjoy it.
A robot. Its role is to analyze the conditions of a planet and provide data to the soldiers during a military mission. It looks like a comedian with a brown pipe for a nose that displays data. The thoughts, words, and actions of this robot are strangely human, including its habit of lifting Machiko’s skirts. Could something be missing from its design?
The Admiral, 55 years old. He was wounded in a battle against the Rajendora. He wears an eyepatch and was injured in both legs, so he is confined to a wheelchair. A brave, resolute character with hawklike features.
The Captain, 35 years old. A figure with an owlish appearance. Has a serious, cautious nature despite his age because he has shouldered the burden of many responsibilities.
The First Mate; will be promoted to captain later. 20 years old, a best friend to Kotake. Nishino has made many efforts to match Kotake’s brilliance, but has an inferiority complex.
Yoshikazu [Giichi] Aihara:
Communication Leader, 18 years old. Has a somewhat delicate constitution. Modest and pure, the child of a single mother. (Translator’s note: other than Analyzer, this is the only character who did not undergo a name change for the series; Star Blazers fans know him as Homer.)
Operations Leader, 18 years old. Serious about his job, painting is his only pleasure.
Equipment Leader, 18 years old. Though a bit slovenly, he is a good idea man and makes unique tools and weapons.
Life Group Leader, 60 years old. A genial older man and medical doctor.
Defense Leader, 19 years old. His job is data analysis. He is always tense, and stress makes him forgetful. He and Analyzer are constantly at odds.
Space Soldier Group C Leader, 18 years old. Very methodical, makes the most of information in battle.
Space Soldier Group D Leader, 20 years old. A strategist. Very funny, good at bringing people together.
Space Soldier Group E Leader, 18 years old. A man of great heart, very humane. Could become a liability in combat.
Director of the Asteroid Ship Planning Division, 55 years old. A pre-eminent space scientist and uncle of Shinobu Kotake.
We believe you now understand what kind of story Space Battleship Yamato is after reading the concept for the series. Here we will explain in detail how the story will develop after Yamato begins its voyage into space.
One powerful enemy is set against Yamato: the Rajendorans.
Many of the stories will be about how the Rajendorans attempt to obstruct the voyage and how Yamato fights back to continue. Because the Ranjendorans have conquered many planets, the people of those worlds also join the fight.
The advanced science of the Rajendorans is one step ahead of Earth’s. Their true nature is not understood, and the location of their home planet is a mystery. Yamato gradually uncovers that knowledge over the course of its struggles. In an episode near the end of the series, there is a challenge to fight a decisive battle.
Rajendorans do not have large bodies; they are more or less the same size as Earthlings, but their forms are more diverse and varied. This difference is the result of existing with space as their natural environment. Fighting with Yamato changes them as well, and they may appear different each time, which adds to their mystery.
Next, there are episodes based on various events and situations in space. Just as a natural disaster may block a traveler on Earth, Yamato must forge its way through the mountains and valleys of space.
For example, a region around a fixed star could be a huge gravitational field that prevents warping. A black, burnt-out star (one which no longer shines), a galactic current (a flow of atoms such as carbon and oxygen), a supernova explosion, and many other phenomenae can appear one by one in anime form.
(Note: Please refer to the synopsis and script at the end of this plan book for more about fights with the Rajendorans and the natural hazards of space.)
Translator’s note: this is the earliest occurrence of the word ‘anime’ that has yet been discovered in production continuity, indicating that though the world at large wasn’t using it yet (and wouldn’t until Yamato popularized the term in 1977), it was already part of the industry lexicon.
Furthermore, the greatest challenge Yamato must overcome is the fact that its crew is made up of “mere human beings.” That viewpoint will distinguish this work from other SF action/adventure stories.
Are the people of Yamato‘s crew capable of carrying out the heaviest mission in the entire history of mankind? They absolutely must succeed in a limited time. If they fail, the entire human race will fall.
In other works, even if a main character fails and his country falls, other countries may continue. Even if one entire race falls, another may live on. The story of Yamato is different.
Concepts for a Rajendoran computer and spaceship by Kazuaki Saito
Moreover, as Yamato fights the Rajendorans and runs the gauntlet of space, it becomes damaged over time. No one from Earth has ever been to Iscandar, their destination. Even if it is reached, there is no confidence that the device to remove radiation can be obtained.
Still, the crew puts this out of their minds while they take action. The anxiety of the Earthlings who can only sit and wait at home is even worse. Panic rises from the ground and spreads to Yamato. The crew is made up of young people who received special training, but in such a crisis situation they are still human beings with weaknesses.
The crew is under great pressure to perform courageously, and are also asked what it takes to have love and compassion for others. The threads of these human conflicts are woven inextricably into Yamato.
Damaged and exhausted, Yamato returns to Earth with the radiation removal device and lands in the final episode. Of the crew of 114, the hero Shinobu Kodake is the only survivor. He gets out of the warship and walks step by step toward tomorrow. He has learned the weight and the beauty of life.
Because of the length of this text, it has been broken into two parts