Yamato Resurrection, Report 9

Resurrection in 2010

Back up to part 3

Space Battleship Yamato Resurrection experienced its own cinematic resurrection in two locations in the summer of 2010. First, to the surprise of many, it appeared on July 18 at the 14th Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, Quebec. Subtitled in English for the first time, the film was one of many anime movies included in the three-week event. See the festival’s website here, and the Resurrection listing here. The photos above were provided by friend-of-this-website Dave Merrill, who shares with us his impressions of the screening below.

A little over a month later, the movie was screened once more in Japan at the Sunshine City complex of Ikebukuro, Tokyo on August 24. (Tickets shown above right.)

La Belle Provence Yamato, the Quest for Quebec

By guest writer Dave Merrill

Sure, I knew there was a new Yamato picture, but I didn’t think it would be making any kind of appearance in North America until the (hopefully) localized DVD release. And yet there it was on the Fantasia schedule, Space Battle Yamato: Resurrection (sic).

Since 1996, Fantasia has been Canada’s preeminent genre film festival. This year’s schedule included 85 feature films from around the world; everything from Hollywood blockbusters to Hong Kong action pictures to Serbian atrocity horror. Assisted by a wide variety of corporate sponsors, the support of the municipal, provincial, and national cultural community, and a committed, professional staff, Fantasia is a world-class film festival experience. And of course, I only find out about it because they’re showing an animated film about a space battleship.

Tickets purchased online, we loaded up the car and headed down the 401 to Montreal. We rolled into town late Saturday night in a sudden downpour that in no way dampened the spirits of Montreal’s late night crowds of fun-seekers. Once the rain stopped and we’d checked into our hotel, we joined the throng and walked a few blocks up to the venue to get our bearings for tomorrow, pick up our tickets at the will-call, and stare at the Yamato poster for a little while.

When we arrived at the Concordia University hall for the noon Sunday screening, there was already a line. I wasn’t sure how popular a Yamato film would be at this festival, but as showtime approached the line kept growing. Soon it was around the corner and reaching up the next block.

Once inside we took our seats–lecture-hall seats with the little foldout desktops–and waited for the film. One festival organizer came down and gave a little “welcome to the festival” speech. In French. Another festival organizer gave away T-shirts to audience members brave enough to take their shirts off. This being Montreal, members of both sexes participated. This was also conducted in French. I began to worry. The film listing had described it as ‘subtitled’, but French subtitles wouldn’t help me at all. Another festival organizer gave an introductory talk about Space Battleship Yamato, Leiji Matsumoto, Star Blazers, and a little background on Japanese animation as pertains to the Quebecois audience (in other words, mentioning Goldorak). This was also in French. I continued to worry.

The house lights dimmed, we saw a lot of trailers, the movie started. Presented with the endless expanse of outer space, the soundtrack filled the theater with Miyagawa’s Endless Expanse Of Outer Space and instantly my worries vanished. It didn’t matter what language this film was subtitled in–it’s a Yamato film, everything is going to be all right.

Better than ‘all right’ in fact. Yamato Resurrection is a terrific film. The animation is superb, the pacing is a lot tighter that we’re used to with Yamato pictures, the storyline is sweeping and epic, and what’s most important is that at its heart it’s a Yamato film, full of heroism, heartbreak, and all the melodrama of the endless oceans of the universe.

If you’re at all interested in the film you’ve already read the synopsis here, unless you want to avoid spoilers. Suffice to say, Earth is again threatened, this time by a Cascading Black Hole. The human race is being evacuated to the planet Amare in enormous refugee fleets. Even this slim hope of survival is threatened, however; the first two fleets have been attacked by a unknown alliance of different star systems. The rebuilt Yamato, captained by an older, taciturn Susumu Kodai, is launched to protect the third refugee fleet and to discover who lies behind these attacks.

This is a grand space opera, and while it plays upon themes that we’ve seen in Space Battleship Yamato for years, Resurrection is perhaps the first Yamato film to really strike the perfect balance between cosmic and human tragedy. The ‘ocean of outer space’ metaphor has never been stronger, particularly in a vast battle scene set near the cosmic whirlpool of a black hole, and the final showdown with the battle fortress of the S.U.S.–an enormous leviathan submerging and surfacing at will from the boiling waves of hyperspace–is a real cinematic spectacle.

The animation is top notch and the computer-animated ships merge seamlessly with the more traditionally animated characters, bringing Space Battleship Yamato firmly into the world of 21st-century animated feature films. The character designs have moved away from the rounded 70s-80s look of earlier Yamato films, but that’s OK, I don’t look the same as I did in 1978 either.

Subtitled in English, Fantasia screened a flawless digital print. The appreciative audience laughed, gaped in awe, and fought back tears along with Yamato, and applause greeted the end of the film. My advice? Do not miss any possible chance to see this film in a theater, even if you have to drive five hours and battle Montreal traffic. It’s totally worth it.

Postscript: it was announced on July 29 that the movie was awarded the bronze prize in the “Best Animated Film” category!

July 23: The DVD Release

Sedic International is a new participant in all things Yamato, both a sponsor of the film and the manufacturer of the DVD. They also happen to be the source of the subtitled print that was screened in Montreal. Bandai’s Emotion label has been the distributor of all Yamato home video products since 1989, and Resurrection is no exception.

Picture quality aside, the standard Region 2 DVD (BCBA-3938) differs from the Blu-Ray edition (BCXA-0269) in only two respects; the bonus features are on a separate disc and the slipcase has a different color tint. Content-wise, both are identical. The first pressings contain a small strip of film cut from a 35mm print in a nice throwback to the early years when these were commonly offered as free bonus items with Yamato books or LP records.

The bonus features add up to 49 minutes and tick all the boxes one might expect. They begin with a collection of movie trailers and TV commercials followed by an all-too-brief interview with Yoshinobu Nishizaki.

There’s coverage of the first preview screening back in November 2009, in which fans were shown the film and then the alternate ending. Afterward, the massive audience of 4,000 fans were asked to vote on their preferred ending by waving the scarlet scarves found in their gift bags. As we know now, the “save Earth” ending won hands down. (Regrettably, despite all promises to the contrary, the other ending is not included on the DVD. Rumor has it that a director’s cut is in the works for future release, at which point the footage will finally see the light of day.)

The most touching part of this feature hearing Mr. Nishizaki’s voice break with heavy emotion as he thanks the crowd for their loyalty through the many years it took to get the film made. He also apologizes for his poor posture, explaining that he’d cracked a rib a few days earlier.

The longest of the bonus features is a 30-minute interview with the movie’s two creative leaders, Tomonori Kogawa (character designer) and Makoto Kobayashi (mecha designer). Of course, the language barrier will leave most non-Japanese viewers out, but it’s interesting to see them being interviewed by Ryusuke Hikawa, one of the veteran members of the legendary Yamato Association fan club.

The final bonus feature on the DVD is a collection of mecha images.

Japan’s 2010 Wonder Festival was held on July 25th. New Yamato garage kits regularly turn up at this bi-annual event, and this year brought the first-ever Resurrection garage kit, the mighty Blue Noah from Ndopara Shop. See the rest of their Yamato garage kits (and dozens from other companies) here.

The Yamato Crew website announced a Resurrection-oriented illustration contest for its members back in April with a deadline of July 23. Such contests have been a part of anime fandom since the days of the original Yamato fan club, and the only major difference these days is digital delivery.

On that same day, the site offered a completely new form of Yamato product: protective covers for the Apple iPhone. The variants shown above are only a small sampling; the entire lineup consists of no less than 79 different versions to choose from.

A week later on August 19, Yamato Crew rolled out a few more new items, including this set of lapel pins…

…a sheet of stickers to liven up those unadorned personal items…

…and this decorative strap for your cel phone or keychain.

These three glasses were added to the online store at the site on August 25, each suitable for a frosty space beer.

Yamato‘s reputation as a trailblazer was reinforced once again on October 1 when the Yamato Crew website rolled out Resurrection-themed health insurance. It was actually a promotional partnership for pre-packaged health care provided by a third party named Mini-Insurer, but it’s probably a first for such a product to be sold with an anime/SF “skin” on it. Both general and female care are offered, and one would assume the coverage goes beyond advice like, “you’ve got two legs, use the other one until it wears out, and then come and see me.”

The ever-expanding world of Yamato garage kits expanded again on October 25 with the release of these four models from online vendor Team Strike’s Yamato Resurrection “Imagination Series.” All were rendered with CG data from the Resurrection production unit itself, resulting in 3-D versions virtually identical to their onscreen counterparts. The four kits (shown here in prototype form) are (A) a 1/1500 scale Yamato, (B) a 1/2000 scale Yamato, (C) a 1/700 scale Shinano, and (D) a non-scale Tugboat, which received less screen time than any other mecha in the film. But such a thing is no obstacle to a dedicated garage kit maker.

Visit Team Strike’s website here and see finished versions of the kits here.

The ultimate Resurrection collectible finally arrived when the Space Battleship Yamato Resurrection Complete Box began shipping from Yamato Books on October 27. Sold exclusively through the Yamato Crew website and limited to 5,000 copies, this was a direct callback to the Yamato production years when Office Academy (later Westcape Corporation) set the standard for high-end publishing with its deluxe hardcover art books. This set picks up where those left off and adds some pretty amazing artifacts to the package.

The first impression the box makes is one of sheer mass. It’s a 14-pound juggernaut measuring 12″ tall by 6″ by 9″ with silver markings and a small number plate. Inside are four separate cases containing all the goods.

The first item is the Deluxe Book, a particular type of volume made famous by Office Academy all the way back in 1978. The editor’s note, published after release on the Yamato Crew website, stated that the idea for the book was first expressed shortly after the release of the movie, and everything coalesced around that as production began. In the past, detailed photo-stories were a staple of the Yamato Deluxe Books, but it was judged that home video has now made them redundant, so most of this book’s 320 pages are filled with production art from black & white line drawings to CG models to a prodigious collection of background paintings. The rest are devoted to text features such as story development, the script, music notes, a short producer interview, and more.

the second book in the set is the larger of the two, a 480-page beast containing the entire storyboard for the film, including deleted scenes that will supposedly be restored for a Director’s Cut (in progress at the time of publication). Another item in the Complete Box is a promissory note that a ticket will be sent at a later date for a screening of the Director’s Cut when it premieres in theaters. As of this writing (November 2010) this date is still unspecified.

The two white cases in the box contain the rest of the collection. At left, a pair of AR (After-Recording) scripts formatted for use by voice actors. To help facilitate studio recordings, the text is larger and spread out across more pages (250 in this case) for easy reading. Finally, at right, is the “Special Presents” case which is a grab-bag of Yamato treasure. Going clockwise, it consists of (A) a t-shirt to match the one worn by JAXA astronaut Noguchi on the ISS, (B) six high-resolution art prints, (C) a book containing mecha designs from the 1993 preproduction phase, (D) a novelization with an alternate storyline (E) DVD with CG test footage–see a YouTube sample here and (F) a music CD with almost 70 minutes of unreleased tracks. Coupled with the original soundtrack released with the film, it completes the entire score. Hear a YouTube sample here

The 1993 preproduction book is smaller than the two hardcovers, only 16 pages, but each is loaded with rarely-seen mecha design art (both color and black and white) that has been largely hidden from the public since the 1993 documentary, The Quickening.

The novelization (above left) reportedly varies from the film by making many more references to past events and incorporating the “lost Earth” ending that was seen only in preview screenings. Finally, the six art prints bring several Yamato veterans back to illustrate images of their choice. Animation director Takeshi Shirato drew the Dessler portrait above, and four other original pieces can be seen here. The Starsha painting is the original classic by Leiji Matsumoto, reproduced to such a high degree of resolution that individual brushstrokes can be identified.

The last piece of the Complete Box is not pictured here, a bottle of Japanese Sake to match the one drunk by Dr. Sado in Yamato Resurrection.

Continue to Report 10

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