The Be Forever Yamato Time Machine, Part 3

Since the August 2, 1980 premiere of Be Forever Yamato was one of the most anticipated anime movie openings in history, coverage was at an all time high across a wide spectrum of print media. There was so much of it that some entries weren’t discovered when the first two Time Machine articles were assembled – and some no doubt still lie in wait.

Click here for Part 1 (May to July)

Click here for Part 2 (July through August)

Click here for a retrospective on all the Yamato events of summer 1980

Presented here are four additional finds from that exciting summer.

Juniorhood, July issue

Obunsha, July 1, 1980

The literal title of this digest-size magazine reads Middle First Age, which refers to the first year of middle school. Its content was geared toward juniors (hence, Juniorhood), which included sports and music stars, school prep, anime, manga and teen activities. Since this readership was Yamato’s exact target audience, colorful Be Forever articles were a perfect addition. The first ran eight pages.

Story synopsis

Story synopsis, continued

“This is Yamato’s new mecha!”

The last page of the article offered an SF glossary to catch everyone up on significant terms like Analayzer, Iscandar, Wave-Motion Gun, Cosmogun, Cosmo radar, the Dark Nebula Empire, sonar, warp, etc. Critical information for a newcomer.

Juniorhood, August issue

Obunsha, August 1, 1980

This issue hit stores just one day before the premiere and devoted a generous 13 pages to the film.

Background and highlights

Yamato’s secret base at Asteroid Icarus

Story bits

Story bits continued, Yamato quiz

Song lyrics

Mail order products

Weekly Bunshun

BungeiShunju, August 7, 1980

Title text on page at right: Far-flung adventure, The faithful crew of Battleship Yamato

Bunshun is a contraction of BungeiShunju, which translates as “Literary Spring and Autumn.” The “summer deluxe” issue of this literary and culture magazine (which is still published today) brought us a unique time machine entry indeed – a four-page photo feature on arguably the biggest promo event in Yamato history, the “Adventure Roman” sea cruise that took place July 20-22. Since the magazine’s primary readership is adults, the brief writeup took a distinctly parental outlook.

Caption below, far right:
A semaphore signal class by Tokyo Mercantile Marine students. Time for the morning roll call.

Caption below, center photo:
When his name is called, he answers energetically.

Text above left:

Space Battleship Yamato was an animation movie that caused a boom when it was released three years ago. This summer vacation, the third film Be Forever Yamato will be released. Before that, five hundred children were invited onto a voyage. A 10,000 ton passenger ship, made over in the Battleship Yamato style, embarked on a 3-day, 2-night round trip between Port Kawasaki and Hyuga City in Miyazaki Prefecture. It was a world-class movie advertising campaign that cost 50 million yen ($500,000). It attracted even teachers in elementary and junior high. These days, extracurricular school activities such as seaside trips are receding due to fear of accidents. This trip took charge of 500 children all at once, which earned our respect.

After boarding, a sailing ship suddenly appeared on the sea that night. A helicopter flew in. There was plenty of entertainment such as a movie competition and a reception with voice actors. Announcements flowed across the ship each time. Organizers said the children were well-behaved. Scuffles like pillow fights on a school trip were hardly seen.

This is to be expected since anime fans generally seem to be quiet children. One goes to see an anime expecting active protagonists who are the exact opposite of one’s true self. It would be somewhat unsatisfactory for these quiet children to act out against their parents and teachers.

Captions above:

Top photo:
After arriving at Shiramukai City under the hot sun, a welcoming ceremony was held. A girl collapsing was the only moment that upset the organizers.

Bottom right photo:
A quiet, patient child.

Bottom left photo:
After the welcome ceremony was over, it was time for free action. Just stay around the venue without going too far.

Closeup at left: we can’t be 100% certain, but this sure looks like Yoshinobu Nishizaki himself helping the poor collapsed girl.

Weekly Bunshun crossed over with Yamato on at least one prior occasion; read their 1977 interview with Yoshinobu Nishizaki here.

Weekly TV Guide, Tohoku Edition

Tokyo News Agency, July 25, 1980

This issue of TV Guide covered the week of July 26 through August 1. Coming out one week before the premiere, it devoted 15 pages to Yamato and included an exclusive interview with Leiji Matsumoto, which is translated below.

(In a very strange twist of fate, the ad on the back cover was for a brand of toothpaste called “Zalts.” Coincidence?)

Headline on left side page:
Leiji Matsumoto Omnibus Part 1 / From The New Voyage to Be Forever Yamato / All of Space Battleship Yamato

Lookback at The New Voyage

Be Forever Yamato synopsis

Mecha guide

Right side: Characters and story flow (with the first indication of Yamato III).
Left side: start of Leiji Matsumoto interview (all intervening pages of the magazine removed).

Leiji Matsumoto Omnibus Part 2

Universe Talk: Leiji Matsumoto vs Takashi Ishikawa

Childhood Dreams Create Science Fiction in Space

Ishikawa: Recently, an American book has been translated titled Love Call of a Bad Kids Teacher that looks like an American version of your manga, Oidon Man, which is part of your Four Tatami Mat series. [Translator’s note: this term refers to the size of a low-rent apartment, residences occupied by the dregs of society in Matsumoto stories. The American book mentioned here has no obvious reference point.]

Matsumoto: Yes, I know the title.

Ishikawa: The young man who is the main character is a hippy, and his room is piled high with junk and garbage. It’s not surprising that mushrooms are growing there. Finally, fans of Four Tatami Mat appear in America…

Matsumoto: Americans today feel increasingly comfortable with Japanese people. Even without tatami mats, there’s a lot of familiar ground for young people.

Leiji Matsumoto profile (lower right)

Born in Kitakyushu, 1938. Moved to Tokyo to study manga. Creating girl’s manga led him to his present themes of pathos, war stories, and science-fiction.

Takashi Ishikawa profile (lower left)

Born in Ehime Prefecture, 1930. After working as a reporter, he started to write and review science-fiction and mystery. Known for works such as A Devil in Paradise and Run Horse Gentleman. (Find more information here.)

Ishikawa: How is the reaction to Yamato?

Matsumoto: In America they don’t like complex pacing and story composition. The methods of making something are wide open, but they don’t do things with just flashback scenes.

Ishikawa: It’s a matter of continuity, isn’t it? Osamu Tezuka also says that he made Phoenix a simple story for America.

Matsumoto: When Americans see Yamato, they feel first and foremost that the theme is “Japanese,” and that creates a barrier. Yamato is a famous battleship in Japan, but even if you know the Enterprise (from Star Trek) is America’s iconic aircraft carrier, there isn’t much resistance, is there? But there’s a lot of it on the other side. Whether they like or dislike Yamato, they think of it as a Japanese story. But when it comes to trains, the story doesn’t seem strange even though their feelings are different.

Ishikawa: When I was little, the enthusiastic SF writer Ray Bradbury had a story about “a locomotive in the desert.” It referred to an empty locomotive running through the desert (more information here). That image is like the train that flies through space in Galaxy Express 999, doesn’t it?

Matsumoto: Come to think of it, there’s a collection of American illustrations of trains flying through the sky.

Ishikawa: Romantic dreams are common the world over, aren’t they?

Matsumoto: It’s good to have something that can fly with ease, isn’t it?

Ishikawa: It seems that the new work Be Forever Yamato shows some new techniques.

Matsumoto: It’s called Warp Dimension, visual and acoustic effects that haven’t been seen before in anime. The rest is a secret until the premiere.

Ishikawa: I’ve heard that the setting for [your anime] Legend of Marine Snow is not space, but the sea.

Matsumoto: When I was in my twenties, I drew a story with the title Drifting One Million Light Years. Since then, after many serials, I wanted to complete this lost story with Marine Snow. The material is older than Yamato and Galaxy Express. The setting is the sea, but it’s related to space. When you look at pictures of the moons Ganymede and Titan, they’re big balls of ice, aren’t they? They’re frozen, but they’re basically water. So I think there is a sea in space, isn’t there?

The Apollo photographs changed human sensibilities

Ishikawa: Your work has a romantic flavor of inner space that unfolds in outer space. Was this an SF mania you had since your childhood?

Matsumoto: It started out as a star mania. The presence of “space” occupies a large part of the childhood mind, doesn’t it? I stared at the stars because they spoke of so much that was alien, like the size of space and the mysterious phenomenon of time. Of course, even if you know that’s not limited to science-fiction, what you learn in the cradle is carried to the grave. What I’m doing now is realizing my childhood longing in pictures.

Ishikawa: The photos taken by Apollo spaceships is gradually changing the sensibilities of people all over the world., aren’t they?

Matsumoto: They’ve made Star Wars, Star Trek, and even Yamato feel less outlandish. They’ve taken on some reality.

Ishikawa: I don’t think of SF as a genre, but a way of thinking about things in the late 20th century. Until the middle of the 20th century, the thinking was “Earth is the center of the universe, and mankind is the greatest of all primates” but when you look at the Apollo photos, Earth is just one planet floating in the great universe. It made people realize that we are only one of the creatures that have arisen there.

Matsumoto: We’re like microbes.

Ishikawa: When such an objective recognition becomes part of human sensibility, I think it’s like you’re reading SF.

Matsumoto: That’s right.

Ishikawa: Sakyo Komatsu talks about “touching space,” and that’s what you do in your work, isn’t it?

Matsumoto: It’s like the sea in the Age of Discovery. I draw pictures supported by my childhood fantasies. When you read the story of Werner Von Braun (German scientist and Apollo developer), launching rockets was driven by his childhood dreams.

Ishikawa: Something as small as a 20 centimeter pencil rocket can actually fly. Humanity’s dream of space started from that little pencil rocket.

Matsumoto: Hideo Itogawa’s rockets also had a great effect on Japan. Rather than being piloted by unknown foreigners, there’s an intimacy when familiar people fly them. It’s often said that it can’t be helped to follow behind others, but that’s not right. That’s the same as telling an elementary school student not to study.

Flies and cockroaches will survive Earth’s environmental upheaval

Ishikawa: You seem to like insects.

Matsumoto: There are two aspects to insects; some are highly sensitive to the environment and some are not. Back in my high school days, I caught a fly. I experimented by keeping it in a beaker with air in it. I thought if I pulled the air out of the beaker, it would get drowsy and die. But it didn’t. The next time I applied pressure, but still nothing. The beaker just cracked. That kind of adaptability might be momentary, but it’s quite strong.

If you go to another planet, Venus for example, the temperature is 400 degrees centigrade. There might be some fish that can thrive in hot water in a hot spring. Just because it’s 400 degrees doesn’t mean there are no living things. It might be room temperature on that world. It activates your imagination. When you hear, “Every corner of space is empty, there is nothing,” what a lie! We just don’t know yet. (Laughs) Even Mars might have something if you unmask it.

Ishikawa: I see. In SF, you can’t have expectations of the life forms in the solar system.

Matsumoto: You think outside of the box.

Ishikawa: That’s right. Your way of thinking is interesting.

Matsumoto: I’m even more persistent. I think there are many dreams in the solar system. Insects are tough! When I illustrated The Interesting Book About Insects, it ended with “Insects will survive the last environmental upheaval.” I hope they do. It could be a cockroach or a fly.

Ishikawa: Do you like animals too?

Matsumoto: Yes, when they’re cute or they look delicious. There were times when even goldfish looked like food to me. (Laughs)

Ishikawa: Your childhood was a time of scarcity, wasn’t it?

Matsumoto: There were some experiences with hunger. I don’t think I’ll ever take food for granted.

Ishikawa: That’s a futuristic, space-like way of thinking.

Matsumoto: I’ve infected my daughter with it. “I saw a chicken.” “Was it cute?” “No, it looked delicious.” (Laughs) I think human beings can eat anything to live. I’d just prefer to eat something as good as possible. I was born in 1938, so there was a time when rice itself was a feast. The desire to eat takes priority over everything. Turning it down would be abnormal.

I think it’s very important to eat in anime. In Be Forever Yamato, they store food on board when they go to the Dark Nebula. I added the concept that they had to come back before it ran out, but it wasn’t shown on screen due to limited time. In Galaxy Express 999, they often eat gourmet meals on the planets where they stop.

Ishikawa: When it comes to competitive eating, our generation won’t lose.

Matsumoto: My favorite is beefsteak. Then sukiyaki, grilled fish, and omelettes. I’ll also just eat rice about as often. Around the house, my nickname is “Farmer-san.”

Now matter how advanced a machine is, drawing is the work of the human hand

Ishikawa: When did you get the desire to make anime?

Matsumoto: Even before I drew manga. When I was in the third grade, I was overwhelmed by Disney and was convinced that I could do manga. But I also wanted to make anime with sound, color, and music. First and foremost, manga is a movie drawn on paper, isn’t it? My dream was to take the lead and make a finished two-and-a-half-hour work on my own. It would be fascinating to draw exactly what I wanted to…

Ishikawa: What do you consider to be a masterpiece of anime?

Matsumoto: The Disney series, including Snow White. It was by Fleischer. The early films are especially impressive. If you watch them now the tempo of the production is off, but they are highly complete. It takes a lot of time and effort to make them. That posture is good. Computers will be able to make anime in the future, but with regard to the visuals, human beings have to do the drawing. This will be impossible for a machine, no matter how advanced it is.

Ishikawa: If a human being makes it using a machine, is it possible to do something unimaginable?

Matsumoto: In some cases, you might get an image in your head and then hesitate to do it by hand. For example, in the title sequence for Superman (1978) there are those white streaks. If you did that by hand, it would be shaky. If there’s no way around it, you need a machine. There should be a good combination with the human will behind it. We use it in Be Forever Yamato, but I don’t think it gives the impression of so-called machine animation. In fact, we use torn paper to paint the giant nebula. If you know the process, it makes you go “ah.” (Laughs)

Ishikawa: When I was a kid, we dropped ink into a washbowl and played around with it to create interesting nebula-like shapes. You can have fun discovering unexpected forms that happen to look like something else.

Matsumoto: Since stars are scattered in the sky, I used to draw them by putting white dots on black. It got really messy when I flicked the white paint off my brush, and it felt unstable. It was the same with stars in the early days of anime. The staff said it would take five hours to put all those points on the background. I said, “What if you flick it?” Then it was, “We can do it just a few seconds!” (Laughs)

I read the works of Sakyo Komatsu and wanted to become a manga artist

Matsumoto: Speaking of starry skies, the number of stars you can see on the Amazon River is amazing. You don’t even need a planetarium. I thought it must have been like that everywhere in the old days. When they reflect on the Amazon River, you don’t know where the boundary is between the river and the sky. Fireflies drift around the border. You can’t see a fraction of that in Japan. The pattern of the Milky Way is also very bright. I wondered if it was like that on the old Earth. And it’s quiet. You’d hear the growl of animals, or some old man laughing. You have no idea where you are. Very far away. It used to be so quiet in the past…

Ishikawa: The last unexplored place on Earth will disappear soon, won’t it? As soon as some private plane lands there. Then all frontiers on Earth will be gone, and we’ll have to go to another planet somewhere…

Matsumoto: I’m sure of it. There’s no way to exist on Venus, but I think we could do it on Mars. It would be a way to raise the spirit…

Ishikawa: Did you ever dream about the planets in the solar system!?

Matsumoto: I still do. I want to go to Mars, at least. Even if I was told I’d only last a month, that would be fine. I’d love to go there.

Ishikawa: I understand. A place that can’t be fully understood no matter how much space science advances.

Matsumoto: Once you know the mystery of space, you can die.

Ishikawa: When you make space the setting, how do you differentiate it from reality?

Center of this spread: story synopsis for Legend of Marine Snow, an anime TV special
broadcast August 12, 1980 while
Be Forever was in theaters.

Matsumoto: I like to try all sorts of ways of pushing the limit on portraying that.

Ishikawa: I’m not so particular about scientific things. I think it’s more interesting to release your imagination.

Matsumoto: That’s right. On the other hand, you can do something closer to reality. Pictures of airplanes that humans imagined 50 years ago were drawn quite accurately. Some children say that when you watch science-fiction movies there are parts that stray from science, but I think if you look at the whole thing and understand that it’s actually possible, it’s not a problem. If one can get a child to think about it, it’s way of trying to solve problems. So when children grow up after being inspired by something we made, I think a new “individuality” is born.

For me personally, when I was a child it was the works of Osamu Tezuka that made me want to be a manga artist, or reading the manga Daichi Teikai (The Subterranean Sea) that was published by Sakyou Komatsu under the pen name Minoru Mori while he was at Kyoto University. Collecting and rereading books from that time is one of the driving forces (for creative activities), isn’t it? There are some which I view differently now than I once did, but when I pick them up and view them carefully, I come to clearly appreciate the distinction between the flowing history of manga and reality. The books I’ve collected over the decades are my treasures. When you open a book, your boyhood fantasies will expand without limit all over again.

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

The End

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