The Making of Farewell to Yamato, Part 1

The Groundwork

Many stories have been told and continue to be told (on this website and elsewhere) about the enormous effort it took to make the first Space Battleship Yamato TV Series. Gallons of blood, sweat, and tears were poured into it, and the reward took much longer to arrive than anyone thought. But when it finally came, it came BIG.

It’s a classic tale of struggle and perserverence that should be told for the rest of time. Naturally, compared to that, less attention is paid to the big story that came next: how it was topped.

Farewell to Yamato arrived in Japanese movie theatres a year after the movie version of Series 1, and this time everything was different. No one was going be blindsided; it was the followup to the biggest thing to ever hit Japanese cinema and nobody wanted to miss out. Fans eagerly gobbled up every news announcement. Licensors lined up to produce something, anything, with the Yamato name on it. And most importantly, the anime industry ballooned overnight to meet the growing demand for new content.

At the time it was called the Yamato Boom. Looking back from several decades hence, we can recognize it as the birth of the Anime Global Village.

For the first time, the media infrastructure existed (through the Yamato Fan Club Magazine and new periodicals such as Animage) to follow the making of an anime feature while it was still in production and count down the days to its release. To his eternal credit, it’s exactly the environment Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki wanted for his new project. And, in fact, he was instrumental in creating it.

What this means for us now is that there is a complete start-to-finish record of Farewell to Yamato from the earliest notion to the mega-blockbusting premiere. We can say the same for plenty of other films, of course, but this was the first reportage to be gathered directly from the source while it was happening in real time. Anything prior to 1978 could only be explored through memoir. Starting with Farewell to Yamato, anime news media had as important a role to play as the producers and the audience.

It is therefore our pleasure to recount that record from all the disparate sources that committed it to paper.

April 1977: The First Glimmer

Nishizaki said the following in an interview published in OUT magazine #2:

We originally composed Yamato to have a longer plot and more extensive ideas, but the TV network did not allow us to finish. Therefore, the last episode was considerably rushed. There was a lot removed from the original story. After Yamato passed Planet Balan we jumped to the battle at the Rainbow Star Cluster and then went immediately to the Large Magellanic Cloud. The original plan was to go through the Small Magellanic Cloud first, to get around the Gamilas front line. That was going to take another 6 episodes. So when I thought about writing a sequel, I wondered if we should go back and fill in those missing episodes, or start on Earth and go into a new story. In any case, the work of writing a sequel is starting now.

July 1977: Choosing a Direction

Nishizaki said the following in an interview published in OUT magazine #5:

It’s enormously difficult to force something produced for TV into a movie version. You’re always worried about what is lost in the conversion. And I wouldn’t want to be reliant on a fan club to help sell the next movie. As an executive producer, I would want to properly promote it and offer accurate information at every step. I would want everyone to fall in love with Yamato again by watching the production of a sequel from the beginning.

Because boys and girls have been following Yamato for two or three years now, I think its success is genuine. Because this was important to me, I conducted research to learn about their expectations for a sequel. If you want to offer your opinion, I would like to hear it by all means.

Without necessarily deciding on the content, there are three thoughts…

One would be to depict the return to Earth.

Another would be to make the parts of the series that were pulled out. Yamato had the themes of brotherhood and duty, but we were not able to provide a complete portrait of the theme of personal love. We would want to present the return trip from Iscandar more thoroughly.

The third is probably a dead idea, but it would be to make Dessler a more significant character. He would have reason to hold a burning grudge against Earth.

August 6, 1977: The Door Opens

The movie version of Space Battleship Yamato premiered to sold-out theatres and the spectacle of audiences lined up around the block. It was the culmination of four years of hard work and determination. The path toward a sequel was now set.

November 15, 1977: The Announcement

A party to celebrate the success of the Space Battleship Yamato movie was held at Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel on November 15, 1977. The movie had opened to unprecedented support and created a boom that rolled across all of Japan. Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki opened the party with these remarks:

“On the basis of this success, I want to start production on a sequel that will depict the end of Yamato.”

Rumors had been floating around about the planning of a second film, and now they were officially revealed.

The Yamato movie had pulled in over 2.25 million viewers by that time, made over two billion yen at the box office, and received the overwhelming support of boys and girls across the country. The English version, Space Cruiser Yamato, was enjoying its own brief world tour in Europe and America.

The sequel, to be titled Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato, Soldiers of Love, would be the finale of the series. With Nishizaki’s announcement, it began a difficult year-long trek down the road toward its release in 1978.

Nishizaki promptly gathered his main staff at the Hotel New Japan in Akasaka, Tokyo, to begin conceptualizing. This group included Leiji Matsumoto, director Toshio Masuda, and others. Their starting point was to reflect on the first Yamato story in which the love of humanity grew from the Earth into the vast stage of infinite space as symbolized by the growth of the young hero, Susumu Kodai.

Despite the huge box office returns and the overwhelming support of the fans, Nishizaki and his staff were not necessarily satisfied with their work. The film had been edited together from the first TV series, and many important scenes had been cut due to the limited running time, which severely restricted the scope of the theme. The TV Series was itself a series of similar compromises in which a 39-episode plot was shortened to 26 after early audience ratings came in low. This particularly affected the second half, which was the most heavily edited. Reflecting on these experiences strongly influenced the development of the sequel.

As well as the previous production staff, it was decided to involve Toei Animation, at the time the biggest studio in the anime world.

November 25, 1977: The Nishizaki Doctrine

Discussion officially began with the presentation of the document presented here, Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s “Proposal for a Yamato Sequel.” It summarized his personal opinions about where the story should go and offered a premise upon which many plot ideas could be built. Its two main areas of focus were reflections on the original series and constructing a new theme of “universal love.” It was roughly equivalent to the planning book for the first TV series.

Proposal for a Yamato Sequel

By Yoshinobu Nishizaki, 11/25/77

1. Basic Production Policy

Yamato is, apart from box office success and establishment of business, a work of high achievement. (Not in an artistic sense, but one of mass entertainment, such as the 007 movies.) To maintain this success, it is necessary to aim for an unimaginably thrilling SF space action drama. The first part was satisfactory in some areas, but not always in that respect. We should pay sufficient attention to that in the sequel as we aim for its completion as an action story.

2. Basic Theme Setting (1)

The foundation of the first part was the invincible hero of Space Battleship Yamato. Its grand character broke through all the physical limits of space and brought a catharsis to the daily grind of boys and girls. As the most popular element of this work, it must be inherited by the sequel.

3. Basic Theme Setting (2)

Furthermore, the theme of “we absolutely must survive and return” was carried out through the behavior of the characters in the first story. Captain Okita represented this in the lead role: “A man does not die to bring about tomorrow, he endures a life of humiliation.”

This was a great line written by Leiji Matsumoto [in the first episode]:

“Kodai, don’t die! For the sake of tomorrow you must bear the humiliation of today! That is the way of a true man!”

Regrettably, after this was said directly, it did not come out much in the rest of Yamato. This theme of “choosing a glorious life of disgrace” should be reviewed as Yamato‘s secret strength in the sequel.

4. A Thought About Nonviolence (1)

Something else introduced in Yamato Part 1 was that “a violent solution only creates more violence,” which was Ghandi’s philosophy of nonviolence. There was an effort to represent this by showing the fate of Dessler. But the problem is that the existence of Yamato itself is based on violence. When the Earth is attacked, Yamato responds violently. The process of fighting and winning a progressive series of battles against the enemy is not essentially different from Dessler in any way. A hand that picks up a gauntlet dropped by another does not change the ultimately self-destructive character of violence.

Kodai resolved this contradiction by finally recognizing the violent nature of Yamato after the extinction of Gamilas. Therefore, it becomes impossible for Kodai to fight again afterward. This is an important problem to deal with in the sequel.

5. A Thought About Nonviolence (2)

If we develop Kodai’s recognition to its logical extent, Yamato must be destroyed by him upon the completion of its mission. A human race that craves peace must not allow any form of violence to exist. If Kodai wants to take action to achieve genuine peace and harmony, Yamato must be blown up.

However, to have such a discussion before we begin to create an SF action drama sequel to Yamato is unrealistic nonsense.

6. About the Practice of Love (1)

Therefore, the handling of Yamato will be set aside and have Kodai recognize the practice of non-violence through the practice of love.

Even though man has advanced beyond the animal stage to achieve culture and civilization, there is no change in the competitive survival-of-the-fittest nature of society. When man’s history is examined over thousands of years, the early era was a very barbaric age. Mankind is again in such an age now. The day when man finds genuine peace in clear distinction from the animals must come in the future.

The first step for the human race to bring that day about is the effort to “love.” Saying this aloud has significant meaning in the modern day, but it is very difficult to combine it with a story.

7. About the Practice of Love (2)

First, there is a great misunderstanding of “love.”

“Love” does not refer to romance or passion between man and woman. It is not unrelated, but it is not the main subject. Such passion between specific men and women is egoistic and possessive.

In Part 1, Kodai had stagnated in this dimension of love until he awoke to it with much effort in the second half. If the problem of love is taken up in the sequel, we need to think about this point again.

8. About the Practice of Love (3)

True love must not choose an object.

In Episode 26, Okita states that in “having love for a particular person, you learn to love all of mankind and all of space,” though he does not say it to Kodai in those words, Kodai should be challenged to take up this practice in the sequel.

However, no matter how hard I consider this, it seems totally unrelated to SF space action drama. We should proceed with our work without being overly particular about this point.

9. Introduction of “Self-Sacrifice”

However, when dealing with the problem of love, “self-sacrifice” is relatively plain and easy to dramatize.

People these days are beginning to lose their ability to sympathize, though they are becoming more self-assertive. Strength is not a bad thing, but self-sacrifice is no longer being seen as a virtue. It is technically possible to push the spirit of self-sacrifice through the destruction of Yamato at the end of the sequel.

10. Policy of the Basic Theme

Since the sequel to Yamato is an extension of Part 1, Kodai should behave as follows:

1) As he progresses toward the goal of practicing nonviolence, the difficulty of its execution causes him to make more mistakes.

2) Part of the practice is to live for love.

3) To express the tangible love of men and women

4) Make the transition to a great love for humanity (a love that is non-selective).

5) Sacrifice one’s own body and life for love.

However, while this ideology makes a good story, it is unrelated to a thrilling SF space action drama.

11. About Ideas

There is some criticism that the enemies in Part 1 were Nazis, but the reality of the action may be considered a success. The sequel does not particularly need to diverge from this. Considering the pattern of the battles, it would not be a bad thing to go up against the Nazis again.

If Part 1 was modeled after combat with the Nazis, the sequel could be based on the rise and fall of the Nazi Empire. The scale would be impressive. If Dessler were used as part of this mechanism, it would be regrettable to eliminate him.

12. Battle and Strategy Plan

It is preferable that combat methods be a realistic as possible. To accomplish this, we could expand on the “World War II” aspect of Part 1. To think in terms of “what weapons would be used in a US-Soviet War” would be a good approach. There are those people who think that it would not be foolish to end a US-Soviet war with a Hydrogen bomb that would destroy the Earth.

It starts with a proxy war such as those in the Middle East, which then expands to a worldwide theatre. Very different arms and strategies would appear in appropriate places. A small country in an important position, such as Japan, could suffer a fatal blow.

Among intellectuals, the so-called Third World War is fading as a mere fantasy. Therefore, the Self-Defense Force has an intense interest in the potential of arms and strategies being developed in secret by the US and the Soviet Union.

If Part 1 was a nostalgia story, could the sequel look into the future?

The End

Continue to The Making of Farewell to Yamato Part 2: The Aritsune Toyota Draft

Or jump ahead to any article in this series:

Part 3: The Keisuke Fujikawa Draft
Part 4: The Toshio Masuda Draft
Part 5: Battle/Strategy Direction Plan
Part 6: The Leiji Matsumoto Draft

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