B-Club Time Machine, 1988

In November 1985, the publishing arm of Bandai launched B-Club, a monthly magazine for modelers with a heavy tilt toward Bandai products. By its final issue in 1998, it had broadly expanded its scope to include anime, manga, garage kits, live-action subjects, and just about everything else that keeps our attention on Japan. Yamato articles were few and far between, but by no means nonexistent since the saga had played a critical role in putting Bandai on the map in the 1970s.

This 8-page article, published in issue 35 (September 1988) served as a concise overview of the classic Yamato models of the “golden age.” Five years had passed since Final Yamato and it would take another six for 2520 to arrive, so this was assuredly a time when the legacy was being fortified. Decades later, it’s fascinating to see how it took shape.

Note for newcomers: the term “plamo” occurs many times herein, and is a portmanteau of “plastic model.” Another common term is “zenmai,” which refers to a spring-loaded windup motor.


The history of reality-oriented anime plamo began with Space Battleship Yamato

The history of plastic models in Japan bloomed with the hits of Battleship Yamato and the Zero fighter. It can also be said that the precision scale models of Space Battleship Yamato paved the way for reality-oriented anime plamo. Thus, Bandai’s Yamato series was the pioneer of today’s anime plamo.

By reviewing the history of Yamato kits, we would like to reaffirm the path toward realism in anime plamo. This special feature is all about Yamato plamodels.

The first Space Battleship Yamato plamodel was released in December 1974, when the first series was on the air. That was now fourteen years ago.

Two years after the Yamato series ended, it was re-evaluated when it was released in movie theaters (as an edited version), so it wasn’t until 1977 that the plamodels were also re-evaluaged.

The four points of the initial release were Yamato, the Type 52 Cosmo Zero, the Black Tiger and Analyzer. Their proportions were good compared to other plamodels of the time, but they all had built in zenmai because the product concept was still a toy. However, the proportions for Yamato, the Zero, and the Black Tiger were good enough to pass as excellent display models when their molds were modified later. The Yamato model in particular maintained its popularity at the price point of 700 yen (standard) for five years until it was replaced with a new version for Final Yamato.

Yamato became an authentic anime scale model with the release of the Image Model in November 1977. It was designed based on the image of Yamato captured from the front as if photographed with a wide-angle lens, and was a sort of deform model. The secret story of its birth is that, separate from this kit, Bandai prepared another more normal prototype supervised by Yamato‘s Executive Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki, who chose the Image Model instead. Mr. Nishizaki, who understood Yamato better than anyone, was right. The Image Model has been criticized by some devotees, but succeeded in attracting a range of customers who had not previously built plamo.

There was another important Yamato incident when the Image Model was released in November 1977. At a party for the movie version that had been released in August of that year, Mr. Nishizaki announced the production of Part 2. This was to be Farewell to Yamato, which opened in August 1978 and became a hit that surpassed the original. Based on this movie, the new TV series Yamato 2 was aired for half a year beginning in October.


Emergency Concentration Collection!

The entire Yamato plamo series started with this kit. The first edition Yamato released in December 1974 was driven by a zenmai. The third bridge was omitted in favor of a zenmai box. In addition, a spring-launched missile flew out of the Wave-Motion gun. The sales price at the time was 500 yen. The mold was modified in February 1978 and the kit appeared again as a display model. Box art was by painter Shigeru Komatsuzaki.

A 1/500 scale Cosmic Model was released in November 1978. It was a very large model with a total length of 525mm (20.6″), and the underside was pre-painted red. Analyzer was included as a bonus, converted into a piggy bank.

This Yamato with a display panel was the modified zenmai model. (Released in July 1978.)

Another modified version of the zenmai Yamato was the “Galaxy Yamato” with a decorative stand, painted in a copper color. Both were priced at 700 yen.

In November 1977, a deform-style model appeared which reproduced the image of the ship approaching through a wide-angle lens. There were pros and cons among the fans, but it created a new trend in anime plamo.

The modified version of the zenmai Yamato was a long-selling kit that continue to be renewed by changing the packaging many times. This photo is of the part III Yamato with new markings.

The 1/700 Yamato was highly rated for having the best proportions. This kit also became the basis of the Mechanic Model that reproduced the internal structure. The price was 1500 yen.

The 1/1000 Yamato was the last, released to commemorate the premiere of Final Yamato. The modified zenmai Yamato was discontinued with the launch of this kit. (Released March 1983, priced at 700 yen.)

A plamodel even approached the internal structure of Space Battleship Yamato

Farewell to Yamato was not just an anime. Mecha designed for the film, such as the Earth Defense Force’s new battleship Andromeda, captured the hearts of anime plamo fans. The Yamato Image Model and another Yamato with a display panel (modified from the zenmai version) were re-released for Farewell along with modified Cosmo Zero, Black Tiger, and Analyzer kits. But the full-fledged Yamato anime plamo series soon started with one release after another; the 1/700 Cut Model and Dessler Ship in October 1978, the Cosmo Tiger II, Giant Battleship, and huge 1/500 Cosmic Model in November.

Since the lowest price range for the Yamato series was set at 600 yen, the lower-priced Mecha Collection line began in January 1979. This succeeded in capturing a wide range of fans. Because realistic anime plamo was established by the Yamato series, it is no exaggeration to say that it led to the success of the Mobile Suit Gundam series released in August 1980.

Yamato 2 continued on Fuji TV through March 1980, followed by the telefeature The New Voyage in August of that same year. The third film Be Forever Yamato was released in theaters, leading to the next TV series, Yamato III. In Be Forever and Yamato III, the ship underwent its first major renovation since the series began. It gained anchor marks above the Wave-Motion Gun and both sides of the hull, and the Wave Engine was powered up by a supercharger for continuous warping. In addition, a large-scale radar was added to the lower bow, and the Cosmo Hound was added in Yamato III. At the same time, Yamato plamodels were modified in all scales to Be Forever specs.

Yamato plamodels were only released by Bandai (with the exception of three kits from Nomura Toy co.) until the TV broadcast of Yamato III started, then toys were released by Popy. They became the second toy company to work on Yamato after Nomura at the time of Farewell. Originally, support by young, toy-buying children of an anime made for older viewers was weak, but since the foundation had changed to more short-term sales, some may have been unaware that the Popy toys they played with were based on Bandai product designs. Apart from their gimmicks, their proportions were excellent. In particular, Popy’s Space Collection (10 pieces) was the exact same size as the Mecha Collection, and were the Yamato version of High Complete Models.

[Translator’s note: High Complete Models were a line of finely-crafted anime robot action figures made by Bandai in the 1980s.]

The Mecha Collection was an enormous series of 30 kits that culminated in June 1981, but there were no character figures in this series. (One exception was a metal Captain Okita image figure.)

In terms of plamo, there was concern that commercial opportunities would gradually decrease with the rise of Gundam models, so new Yamato model kits essentially vanished after the last four Mecha Collection kits were released. No new Yamato products were released in 1982.

Cosmo Zero and Black Tiger were regular kits at first

The Cosmo Zero was first released in December 1974 and Black Tiger followed in January 1975. At this time, both had zenmai motors. Cosmo Zero could fire missiles from its wings and Black Tiger had a flying gimmick on its nose. In addition, a shark mouth was molded onto Black Tiger’s shark underside. Both were priced at 500 yen.

The Black Tiger (600 yen) was a zenmai model that was modified into a display model. About 1/70 scale.

The Cosmo Zero (600 yen) was another zenmai model modified into a display model. About 1/70 scale. The Final Yamato version is shown here.

The 1/70 Cosmo Tiger II was released as a display model in November 1978 with pre-painted orange parts. The price was 600 yen. This kit was a single-seat type, but the Mecha Collection Cosmo Tiger II was the two-seater. The Mecha Collection scale was about 1/144.

1/700 scale Mechanic Model

This kit adopted the common 1/700 scale of full-fledged ship models. The Mechanic Model Space Battleship Yamato reproduced the internal structure. This photo is of the first Cut Model released in October 1978. The sales price was 1800 yen.

The New Mechanic Yamato with an improved internal structure, released in November 1980 at 2000 yen.

In the year 2199, the brave figure of Yamato departs on a voyage of 148,000 light years to save Earth. It came in the form of the revived giant battleship Yamato of the Japanese navy, which sank in the Pacific 250 years earlier. (Diorama produced by Shunichiro Togawa, featured in the April 1981 issue of Model Information.)

Thirty different kinds! Mecha Collection, 100 yen each

[1] Space Battleship Yamato [2] Cosmo Tiger II [3] Main Battleship [4] Andromeda [5] Dessler Ship [6] Super Giant Battleship [7] Baruze [8] Naska (first eight released January 1979) [9] Dessler Destroyer [10] Goland (both released February 1979) [11] Escort ship [12] Destroyer (both released May 1979) [13] Patrol Ship [14] Large Battleship [15] Gamilas Ship (all three released July 1979) [16] Dessler Battle Carrier [17] Pleiades [18] Three-deck Carrier (all three released October 1979) [19] Okita Battleship [20] Kodai Ship (both released May 1980) [21] Cruiser [22] Cosmo Zero type 52 (both released June 1980) [23] New Dessler Ship [24] Cosmo Hound [25] Large Battleship [26] Battle Carrier (All four released May 1981) [27] Twin Three-deck Carrier [28] Rajendora [29] Dessler Gunship [30] Planet Destroyer missile (All four released June 1981)

The “Space Panorama” series contained five Mecha Collection models with gallery-style display panels. The fives sets were named “The Rival,” “Earth Defense Forces,” “White Comet,” “Fierce Battle of the City Empire,” “Decisive Battle in Saturn airspace.” Released from April to August 1979, 600 yen each.

The spaceships that color the Yamato world

Earth Defense Force Fleet New Battleship Andromeda

The flagship of the Earth Defense Force that appeared in Farewell. Equipped with two horizontally-spread Dispersion Wave-Motion guns, it was expected to push Yamato aside as an obsolete ship to protect the Earth, but it was powerless before the White Comet. Its total length is 275m, width is 66.2m, and total weight is 98,000 tons.

For the model kit, the Wave-Motion Guns and rear jets are clear parts, and it is possible to install lighting. The stand includes a copper-colored relief of Susumu Kodai and Yuki Mori. Released August 1979, priced at 1600 yen.

Earth Defense Force Fleet Main Battleship

The primary battleship of the Earth Defense Forces. Like Andromeda, it is equipped with a Dispersion Wave-Motion Gun. The total length is 242m and the weight is 54,900 tons. Appeared in Farewell. The kit includes a mini model of the White Comet fighters Paranoia and Deathvatator. Released July 1979, the price was 600 yen.

Earth Defense Force Fleet Cruiser

Belongs to the Earth fleet’s lunar base command corps. Antennae are omitted and weapons strengthened. Wave-Motion Gun, 2 torpedo tubes, 4 light multi-launchers, 8 heavy multi-launchers. Total length is about 180m. The silhouette of the hull is very similar to the Patrol Ship. The kit included a Yamato landing craft. June 1980, 600 yen.

Earth Defense Force Fleet Patrol Ship Yuunagi

A light cruiser belonging to the medium-range fleet at the outer edge of the solar system. Lightly armed to enhance its radar. Total length 150m, weight 5,900 tons. Yuunagi served as Captain Hijikata’s ship in Farewell. The kit was accompanied by a mini model of the lifeboat that evacuated Yamato‘s crew (except Kodai and Yuki). Price 600 yen. Released in July 1979.

Earth Defense Force Fleet Spacecraft Carrier

Appearing on TV in Yamato 2, it is a modified (longer) version of the Main Battleship that appeared in Farewell. The kit was a latecomer to the Yamato series, released in June 1980. The price was 600 yen.

Great Emperor Zordar’s Super Giant Battleship

Built in anticipation of a worst-case collapse of the White Comet Empire. Its power is beyond imagining, incorporating a huge cannon underneath. Before the collapse of the White Comet, it was integrated into the function of the city. Its total length is 12,200m. Priced at 600 yen (includes a display panel). Released November 1978.

Dessler Ship (White Comet Empire, Dessler fleet)

Commanded by Dessler, built in the style of a former Gamilas Battleship. Larger and more heavily armed that the Dessler Ship from Part 1. Equipped with its proudest weapon, the instant matter-transfer devices. Total length is 235m. This was the first Yamato enemy kit. Priced at 500 yen, released in October 1978.

Galman-Gamilas Empire, New Dessler Ship

The flagship of Leader Dessler of the Galman-Gamilas Imperial Forces. Features a large Dessler Cannon on the bow and matter-transfer devices on both wings, along with a huge missile on the underside. It is a super-dreadnaught space battleship with a total length of 1350m. Priced at 600 yen, released April 1981. Introduced in the TV series Yamato III.

Galman-Gamilas Empire Large Battleship

A capital ship of the Galman-Gamilas Empire. It is huge, with a total length of 492m. Equipped with “Boomerang Cutter Missiles” on the bow. After the Boomerang Cutter Missile is launched, it splits into left and right portions. The missiles are removable from the kit. Priced at 600 yen, released June 1981.

Earth Defense Force Fleet Large Unmanned Battleship

An unmanned ship that appeared in Be Forever Yamato. Daisuke Shima operates it from a control center on Earth, along with smaller ships. It usually orbits a planet and assembles a fleet as needed. The total length is 300m for the large ships and 180m for the smaller ones. This kit is only the large ship. 600 yen, released August 1980.

White Comet Empire Goland Missile Ship

A member of the Planet Telezart defense fleet, a battleship and missile interceptor. The 1st Combat Fleet is named for its commander, Admiral Goland The fleet consists of 50 medium-sized missile ships of the same type as the large flagship. Missiles are produced one after another in an onboard factory. The total length is 240m. 600 yen, released February 1979.

Gamilas Empire Dessler Battle Carrier (large)

The singular Battle Carrier of the Domel Fleet, commanded by Captain Haidern, who came to Planet Gamilas from the Omega Front. Its feature is a divided deck that can rotate to reveal guns. It also has a drill missile. The total length is 200m, and its weight is 42,000 tons. 1000 yen, released November 1979.

Gamilas Empire Dessler Battle Carrier (small)

The flagship of the Gamilas forces that appeared in the telefeature The New Voyage. The total length is 260m, which is larger than the original Battle Carrier. The difference in its appearance is a Dessler Gun attached to the center of the deck, combining the strength of the Battle Carrier and the Dessler Ship. 600 yen, released July 1980.

Galman-Gamilas Empire Battle Carrier

This spacecraft carrier appeared in the TV series Yamato III with the three-deck carrier and large battleship. In the series, Yamato travels in search of a second Earth in 2205 as the sun threatens to explode. They stumble into a three-way war between Galman-Gamilas and the Bolar Federation. 600 yen, released in 1981.

Earth Defense Force Fleet Patrol Boat

The Type 10 patrol boat, commanded by Captain Kodai. After investigating Mars base, it became involved in a battle between an unmanned fleet and a Dark Nebula fleet near the moon. Introduced in Be Forever Yamato. Its total length is 75m. An escape capsule detaches from the front of the craft. 600 yen, released August 1980.

Final Yamato, the last work of the series, premiered in March 1983, but the only new model kit released with the movie was a 1/1000 Yamato. The 1/700 Yamato and Cosmo Zero (with a Final Yamato color scheme) were reissued with new packaging. The hull markings from Be Forever and Yamato III disappeared in Final Yamato.

Yamato is demolished in the story, leaving only the bridge with Captain Okita as it sinks into the water planet Aquarius. The Yamato plamodel series also ended here after almost a decade of history.

Yamato kits have disappeared from model shops, but Bandai Hobby is planning a reissue. What should you make when you have a Yamato kit in your hands again? Because Yamato plamo reached their peak before Gundam plamo, there was no craze to modify them and make dioramas as there is now. They were just completed, painted, and displayed on a desk. Once in the hands of today’s modelers, their superior techniques should revive Yamato plamo as a wonderful thing. Furthermore, there are things no one has done before, such as full-scratch building.

The Yamato anime, which has been around with its plamo for more than a dozen years is also awaiting another launch. The day when Yamato opens up a new age of plamodels is now approaching.

Unfortunate? Analyzer plamo’s walk from zenmai form to a bonus “piggy bank” with the 1/500 Yamato

As the all-purpose robot with survey and analysis functions, Analyzer had already been made as a kit at the time of the first TV broadcast. Released in February 1975, the price was 500 yen. Like Yamato, Cosmo Zero, and Black Tiger, it had a zenmai motor that enabled it to walk. The first release had box art by Shigeru Komatsuzaki.

When Farewell premiered (August 1978) it was resold with new box art by Masayuki Hasegawa. The Cosmo Zero and Black Tiger kits also still had their zenmai motors, and were sold with new box art. Yamato, Cosmo Zero, and Black Tiger were modified to display models and reappeared, but Analyzer alone had no further resale, becoming a bonus with the 1/500 Yamato Cosmic Model released in November 1978. In this case, the zenmai motor was omitted and the kit was modified into a piggy bank. The kit’s strange history is traced in these photos.

Limited-edition Captain Okita statue

The one and only Yamato character figure was the “Captain Juuzo Okita image” released in March 1979 for 1500 yen. It was made of metal and weighed 240 grams (.5 lb) with a total height of 65mm (2.5″). The scale was about 1/25. It came with a wooden pedestal, but was sold in a plain white box. It was a limited-edition product. No plastic character statues were released for the Yamato series.

The Cleanup Tripod Tank of the Dark Nebula Empire appeared in the third feature film, Be Forever Yamato (kit released in October 1980, 500 yen). It and the patrol tank (released November 1980, 500 yen) are unique in the Yamato plamo series.

At right: a diorama featuring the Cleanup Tripod Tank that appeared in Be Forever (from Model Information magazine, modeled by Shunichiro Togawa).


Becoming a toy

When Farewell was released, Yamato toys were made by Nomura. At the time of the Yamato III broadcast (October 1980) Bandai took over (under the “Popy” name in those days) and made more. In both cases, many products approached the standard of real toys. It can be seen that their target age was older. Nomura toys also included plamodels in their early stage.

We couldn’t cover all the Yamato toys here like we did with the plamodels, but we chose to introduce these for being particularly unique.

DX Space Battleship Yamato released by Bandai (Popy).

The display scale is 1/500, but the total length is slightly shorter than the Cosmic Model. The forward radar opens, bullets fire from the Wave-Motion Gun, and the hangar and wings open. There are several gimmicks, such as deployment of running wheels. The price was 6500 yen. In addition to this, a diecast Popynica Yamato” was also released.

Yamato Space Collection released by Bandai, a painted and finished product.

[1] Yamato [2] Cosmo Tiger II [3] Main Battleship [4] Andromeda [5] Dessler Ship [6] Baruze [7] Gamilas Battleship [8] Dessler Battle Carrier [9] Okita Battleship [10] Type 10 Cruiser

At the same size as the Mecha Collection, each came with a stand. (Unlike the Mecha Collection, all stands were identical.) Released in November 1980, 500 yen each. Also sold as a DX box set, as shown here.

Nomura Toy 80mm (3.1″) action figures (left). These products were consciously designed with the American Star Wars figures by Kenner in mind. They can be played with by placing them in the bridge set, sold separately. Five kinds, 500 yen each.

Mystery Analyzer (center) was an electric rolling toy released by Nomura (the gimmick was that it turned when it hit an obstacle). Total height 210mm (8.25″). Its lights turned on. The price was 3000 yen.

Soft vinyl figures (right) were also made by Nomura, 150mm (6″) tall at 500 yen. There were figures of Kodai, Yuki, Shima, Okita, and Dessler.

Wave-Motion Light gun (left) and Wave-Motion watergun (center), both shaped like Yamato, both released by Bandai when Yamato III aired. They were the same size because they used the same mold. The Yamato body is 23cm (9″) long and 1/110 scale. The light gun emits sound and the watergun squirts water from the Wave-Motion Gun. They are unique Yamato products. The watergun came with two floating targets.

Toy Cosmogun (right) made by Nomura with lights and electronic sounds. Its full length is 243mm (9.5″), sold for 1800 yen. It was remodeled and released as a Blue Noah ray gun for that series. No other Cosmogun has been released by Bandai.


RELATED READING:

The Bandai story

Nomura Toys: Empire of Tin

Popy Toys

Bonus

From the Be Forever Yamato Roman Album (1981): Bandai’s prototypes for several model kits from the film. Only those boxed in red actually went into production.

Text near the bottom reads, “These models are wooden prototypes made by Bandai to make plamo.”

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