The Farewell to Yamato Time Machine

It’s hard to overestimate the impact Farewell to Yamato had on Japan when it was released in August 1978, especially when one examines the ambivalence of mass media toward anime prior to that time. It was one of those cases where the audience was way ahead of the press, since they themselves became part of the story in 1977 with the explosive release of the first Space Battleship Yamato movie.

In hindsight, that moment was a wake-up call to the rest of the world: anime could no longer be dismissed as kid stuff. When Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki announced three months after the Yamato movie’s premiere that he intended to make a sequel, it was a whole new ball game. In addition to concluding his space saga in the most spectacular way he could imagine, he also wished for it to have media coverage at every step of its creation. Today that’s how it is for every big movie, anime or otherwise. In 1978, it was entirely new.

Nishizaki himself lead the charge in February when the inaugural issue of the Yamato Fan Club Magazine made the first official announcement of what was to come. Out of that initial burst came a torrent of news coverage that went right up to the premiere and beyond, documenting every nugget of information that could be found.

Collected here is a complete chronological record of all the major coverage aimed at dedicated fans who didn’t want to miss a word, from the pre-production all the way through the premiere and into the “look-back” phase. All the key articles have been translated and most are appearing here in English for the first time. Together, they constitute nothing less than the birth of anime journalism.

Space Battleship Yamato Fan Club Magazine #1

Office Academy, February 25

Appropriately, the first publication of any kind to break the news of the new film came straight from the home office. Fan Club (or “Fun Club” if you prefer) Magazine #1 made Yamato Part II its first headline story. By the time it arrived in subscribers’ mailboxes, the movie’s script was in its third draft, design work was well underway, and storyboarding had just begun.

The magazine was split about evenly between movie coverage, a retrospective of Series 1, and setup for fan club networking.

Click below to read the movie-related articles:

Interview with Chief Director Tomoharu Katsumata
Q&A with Yoshinobu Nishizaki

Space Battleship Yamato Fan Club Magazine #3

Office Academy, April 25

The second issue of the Fan Club magazine skipped movie coverage entirely, probably because animation production was monopolizing the staff’s time and little attention could be spared for interviews. Thus, almost the entire issue became a compendium of designs from Series 1. Issue 3 didn’t have much in the way of breaking news, but it was still more than all other publications put together, which totaled zero.

Click here for the coverage: News update and producer interview

Despite the dearth of ink in other magazines, Yamato was very much in the public eye throughout the spring months. The first movie was on a “roadshow” tour of theaters in various cities, Series 1 was in reruns on TV, and some new music releases heralded things to come. Major corporations were about to get in on the act as well; Toei signed product licensing deals with both Glico and Pepsi in April, which meant Farewell to Yamato was going to become practically inescapable.

Press Conference, May 24

The first physical exposure of Yamato Part II to the outside world included the unveiling of the movie’s full title: Saraba [Arrivederci] Space Battleship Yamato, Soldiers of Love. (Farewell to Yamato was officially adopted as the movie’s international title in 1988.)

The Press Conference took place at the Imperial Hotel in Hibiya, Tokyo. Present were Producer Nishizaki, Toei President Shigeru Okada, Leiji Matsumoto and Toshio Masuda (directors), Hiroshi Miyagawa (composer), Yukiko Hanai (costume designer) and Isao Sasaki (vocalist). Lyricist Yu Aku was absent because of illness.

Click here for a photo gallery of the press conference.

One by one, each spoke passionately about their work and heightened the anticipation in the press room. Some of the key quotes were as follows:

Okada: The previous film set a record by making more than 900 million yen [$9 million], so I’d like to raise the curtain on this on at 6AM [on the premiere day] to make even more. (Laughter) Our target for this one is 15 billion yen.

Masuda: The first movie progressed from a TV series. I’m very enthusiastic about this one since it was conceived as a feature film from the beginning. This adds to the anticipation.

Miyagawa: In the previous work, the music was a perfect match with Mr. Nishizaki’s image. Although our conversations went smoothly this time, every tune was declared “not good enough.” (Laughter) Currently it is a process of trial and error. I’m always worried about Mr. Nishizaki’s counterattack.

Matsumoto (Responding to a reporter’s question about SF mania, and whether Yamato‘s warp technology might be out of date): The point is the same whether it comes from the perspective of SF mania or not; it’s a very difficult one that we’re stuck with in storytelling. I always try to aim for the factor that is most comprehensible and the common denominator for average SF fans. It has to be explainable even if it becomes tiresome. (Laughter) That’s how it’s done.

Nishizaki: I wanted to make “the final Yamato story.” That was my purpose in creating Farewell to Yamato. Yamato has been done in every genre; TV, film, radio, record, and print. However, since it has not yet been done as a musical I wondered if it could be placed in the Takarazuka Opera.

The 90-minute press conference was followed the next day by an event that got plenty of print coverage of its own: the first official Yamato fan club meeting. Among other important topics, it was announced that a new TV series was being prepped for October that would expand the Farewell to Yamato story to 26 episodes. (Read all about the making of Yamato 2 here.)

Animage Magazine #1

Tokuma Shoten, May 26

It is universally agreed that OUT was the first anime magazine, buoyed by the lucky timing of the 1977 Yamato movie and an experienced fan group ready to make the jump from fanzines to the mass market. (Read their amazing story here.) But during its first year, OUT‘s pages were also devoted to live-action film, pulp fiction, comics, and other eclectic pasttimes. And thus the title of first true anime specialty magazine was claimed when Tokuma Shoten published the debut issue of Animage.

Naturally, Farewell to Yamato was its initial cover story and biggest article. Text coverage was rather thin, little more than a teaser for the story and a retrospective of Part 1, but plenty of animation stills and artwork were ready to share with a starving public, and Animage #1 doled it out in generous helpings. Many images that would later become iconic got their first public exposure right here.

Click here to see Animage #1’s complete coverage.

Paper Moon Magazine special issue: SF Anime Fantasy

Shinshokan, June 15

Few remember now that Star Wars didn’t make it to Japan until the summer of 1978, which landed it very close to Yamato Part II. Their proximity on the entertainment calendar meant that both films shared space in certain magazines. SF Anime Fantasy was one such publication, and it had the distinction of being the first to publish substantial story details.

See its article on Farewell to Yamato here.

Space Battleship Yamato Fan Club Magazine #4

Office Academy, June 25

This issue was fully loaded with the latest news, which included coverage of the May 24 press conference/fan club meeting, character and mecha art, another Q&A with Nishizaki, and more.

Click here to examine this issue from cover to cover.

June was a heavy month for movie production; Hiroshi Miyagawa had completed and recorded the film score at the end of May and spent the month of June rewriting it for a symphonic album and concert series that would be the big event of July. The first set of film rushes was viewed on June 7, and the recording of the movie’s new songs began a week later. Also, after more than a year of word-of-mouth buildup, Star Wars finally opened in Japan on June 30 and instantly turned the public eye directly toward science-fiction. Farewell would open just over a month later, effectively dodging the spectre of competition and benefiting from heightened interest at just the right time.

The July Symphonic Concert tour visited seven cities, and was often paired with a fan club meeting hosted by Yoshinobu Nishizaki. The tour began in Nagoya on July 5; Click here to read a transcript of the Nagoya Fan Club’s Q&A session, which was later published in the Farewell to Yamato Roman Album (seen further down this page).

Animage Magazine #2

Tokuma Shoten, July 10

With the movie premiere now less than a month away, Animage placed an easy bet by making Farewell to Yamato the cover story of their second issue, which appeared just over six weeks after their first (it would go monthly from here). The 16-page article was practically an art gallery with huge color stills, a brief report on the May press conference, and plenty of juicy story info.

Click here to see Animage #2’s complete coverage.

Voice recording for the movie ended just one day before this magazine was published and the symphonic concert series had already toured its first two cities, Nagoya and Hiroshima. Final editing sessions commenced the day after Animage #2’s debut.

OUT Magazine

Minori Shobo, July 28

Animage was getting the big flashy coverage, but all the hardcore otaku knew OUT was still where it was at for articles written by fans for fans. After the Space Battleship Yamato issues put the magazine on the map in 1977, the inmates took over the asylum and pursued their hobby for all it was worth.

Their continuing love of all things Yamato was on full display here in more than 30 pages of articles containing mecha design art, product reviews, character guides, and interviews with the cast and crew.

Click here to see OUT‘s complete coverage.

Click below to read individual articles:

Fashion Designer Yukiko Hanai
Voice actor interviews
Producer’s message

Rendezvous Magazine #6

Minori Shobo, August 20

Rendezvous was OUT‘s companion magazine, an ambitious bi-monthly that debuted in December 1977 in the midst of the post-Yamato anime boom. It was larger and more colorful than OUT, dedicated to anime and SF/fantasy films with an emphasis on tokusatsu (special effects).

Chronologically speaking, this entry into the media record should appear farther down the page, but its coverage of Farewell to Yamato belongs here for the timing of its content: a two-part article in the form of a discussion transcript that (A) provided the first critical comparison with Star Wars, and (B) reviewed the climax of the Symphonic Concert tour in Tokyo on July 29.

Read the article here.

Rendezvous Comic #3

Minori Shobo, July

Since the editors of both OUT and Rendezvous were fans who turned pro practically overnight, it’s easy to imagine them as kids suddenly put in charge of a candy factory. This is as good an explanation as any for the rapid debut of their third publication, Rendezvous Comic, a bi-monthly manga anthology that launched in the spring of ’78. Naturally, it carried a few articles as well. The third issue was released in July (just before the OUT magazine shown above) and contained a new interview with Yoshinobu Nishizaki.

Read it here.

Pretty Pretty Magazine

Major Enterprise, July 31

As suggested by the title, this one was a standout from the crowd. Yamato had a considerable presence in girls’ magazines over its lifetime, a reflection of its unusually high female following. Pretty Pretty was among these, a girls’ manga anthology with articles on popular anime productions. Farewell to Yamato got a whopping 20 pages of coverage in this issue, which included an account of the May press conference/fan club meeting, a revealing outline of the movie’s plot, and interesting production notes.

The truly distinguishing factor of this magazine’s coverage was its editorial style, which was aimed directly at girls and thus looked at the movie from a slightly different angle. “Even if you don’t like mecha” read the telling headline of one article, which examined the story from a feminine perspective.

Click here to see Pretty Pretty‘s complete coverage.

Click below to read individual articles:

Press conference report
Fan club meeting report
Story notes for Girls
Production notes

Kinejun Magazine #740

Kinema Jumpo Co., August 1

The last magazine to squeeze out a Farewell cover story prior to the August 5 premiere was Kinejun, a bi-weekly bible for movie buffs that examined the world of cinema at home and abroad. This was the first time an anime film became its lead feature, and though the coverage inside wasn’t nearly as flashy as Animage, its editorial standard was far more sophisticated and penetrating.

Yoshinobu Nishizaki and Leiji Matsumoto were interviewed at length, both discussing aspects of the Yamato success story that hadn’t been reported before. Farewell to Yamato got a glowing early endorsement, and astonishingly the screenplay was included for fans to read line-by-line…at least up to the scene in which Yamato took its first shot at the Comet Empire. They would have to visit their local theater to find out what happened next. (Or buy Kinejun #743 for the conclusion.)

Click below to read the articles:

Nishizaki interview
Matsumoto interview
Movie overview

Animage Magazine #3

Tokuma Shoten, August 10

Here again we’re going slightly out of order for the sake of content. The third issue of Animage didn’t hit the newsstands until 5 days after the movie premiere, but it included an article written literally one day before.

On August 4, an Animage reporter sat down with three enthusiastic fans to get their final thoughts before the big day. A discussion about their hopes and expectations for the film was interspersed with comments from the voice actors about the growth of their characters.

Read this article here.

Newspaper Coverage, August 5

Anyone who didn’t hear about Farewell to Yamato on this day must have slept right through it. And anyone who had dismissed the clamor of the first Yamato movie as a mere fluke became a wrong-headed wrongmeister on the bullet train to wrongville.

theater owners had been paying attention to the pre-publicity and knew they would be in for an assault, but even the advance sales of over half a million tickets did nothing to stem the tide. Hundreds of kids all over the country began to line up the day before, and their numbers swelled overnight into the thousands. The film opened at 133 theaters, many of which suddenly had to figure out how to accommodate overwhelming crowds.

Police and security guards were called into action at more than one venue, but by all accounts the hardest thing they had to deal with was the sweltering August heat. This all-night vigil was a product of pure passion that harbored no disruptive intent whatsoever. If there was any conflict, it existed only in the minds of fans who chose to spend the night outside and miss the TV broadcast premiere of the Yamato movie.

There were two consolation prizes for those who lined up early. The first was a free animation cel given away at certain theaters, and the second was found on radio: All Night Nippon broadcast a rerun of the previous December’s Yamato radio drama followed by a new one for Farewell that kept fans riveted through 4am on the 5th. Yep, before seeing it in a theater, they could have the entire story spoiled for them on the airwaves.

Newspapers gleefully reported all of this the next day, and a handful of the representative articles was later collected in Office Academy’s Farewell to Yamato deluxe hardcover book.

Read them here.

See a photo gallery of opening day here.

Farewell to Yamato Movie Program

Office Academy, August 5

Movie program books (or “pamphlets” as they are commonly known) have been a mainstay of Japanese cinema for decades, and continue to be published in huge numbers today. Farewell to Yamato‘s program book had such a massive print run that copies can still be easily found today in collector’s shops all over Japan.

This 28-page full color booklet was loaded with artwork and stills (more in one place than had ever been seen) and a few text features that added even more data to the growing library.

See the book from cover to cover here

Click below to read the text features:

Introduction and Producer’s Message
Staff biographies
Production notes

Space Battleship Yamato Fan Club Magazine #5

Office Academy, August 25

Appropriately, the wrap-up for the whole summer media storm could be found in the pages of Fan Club Magazine #5. The amazing story of the opening day was told, which included some exclusive photos and personal testimonials from those who were there.

Readers were also treated to song lyrics, a story synopsis, photos from the symphonic concerts, and a sampling of Q&A sessions with Yoshinobu Nishizaki at various fan club meetings.

Click here to examine this issue from cover to cover.

Farewell to Yamato Roman Album

Tokuma Shoten, September 15

As every longtime fan knows, the most enduring books for every installment of the Yamato saga came from Tokuma Shoten’s famed Roman Album series, which began in 1977. (This was the same publisher that rolled out Animage magazine, so they pretty much knew what they were doing.)

The Farewell Roman Album was #11 in the series and it delivered the most concentrated dose of material that had been seen up to that point: color film story, animators’ model sheets, highlights scenes, song lyrics, and a host of articles on the making of the film that peeled back the curtain even farther.

Click below to read the articles:

Transcript of Q&A at July 5 fan club meeting
Production data
Animation staff questionnaire

Farewell to Yamato Deluxe Hardcover Book

Office Academy, April 1979

Naturally, the finest Yamato publications could only come from the home office. This was their second hardcover book after the legendary ‘Silver Set’ devoted to Series 1. Released just before the conclusion of Yamato 2‘s first run on TV, it contained the most comprehensive photo story ever published (only the movie itself was more complete), a huge collection of model sheets, and a complete record of the story drafts from which the final product evolved. (Read them all here.)

Also included was the last of Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s essays on the film, which can be read here.

Read more about this impressive book here.

Space Battleship Yamato 2 Roman Album

Tokuma Shoten, March 1980

Nearly a year after the conclusion of Yamato 2, Tokuma Shoten gave it the Roman Album treatment in volume 31 of their acclaimed series. Since it sprang from the same well as Farewell to Yamato, there was plenty of crossover coverage to be found. For example, a 16-page article titled “Document ’74-’80” presented a nice roundup of Yamato‘s history up to that point, which started with the development of Series 1 and went all the way through The New Voyage. Be Forever Yamato, referred to at the time as “Part III,” was in production at the time this book appeared.

Read the Farewell to Yamato segments of this article here.

Also to be found was a collection of staff essays that included all sorts of tidbits and personal observations about the entire phenomenon. Those that pertain to Yamato 2 can be read here.

The rarest of these essays was written by Director Toshio Masuda, who therefore gets the final word in the Farewell to Yamato Time Machine:

Yamato and I

Toshio Masuda (Director)

My career in animation started when I first made use of it in the film Ningen Kakumei II (Human Revolution II). I tried to visualize the origin of life at the end of the film and considered animation as the best means for that purpose. To learn about animation, I watched Walt Disney’s Fantasia and it stunned me. I was deeply impressed that such fantastic images could be achieved merely with moving cartoons.

Then Mr. Nishizaki offered to let me direct the Space Battleship Yamato TV series, but I was shooting another film at that time, so I could not seize the opportunity. I only helped establish the framework of the story. I was fascinated by the idea of a huge battleship traveling in space and also by the grand theme of the salvation of mankind. So I really missed the opportunity.

When the first series of Yamato was over, another offer came from Mr. Nishizaki to direct a theatrical version by re-editing the episodes of the TV series. Fortunately I was free this time, so I grabbed the chance.

However, to make a 2-hour movie out of 26 episodes (which ran for 13 hours) turned out to be a tough job. To simply abbreviate the original does not make a drama at all. You almost need to prepare an entirely new script. Moreover, my version made Mr. Nishizaki almost cry. While previewing it, he was continuously berating me for cutting this part or that part. I realized that for him cutting the original was like cutting himself.

In tears, he begged me not to cut certain scenes, and all I could do was tell him that a movie version could not be made otherwise. To persuade him was no easy task, for I was greatly moved by his passion. He said he was willing to take any loss of profit in distribution and promotion by making the movie longer. He even said he would be satisfied with a version that could be only be distributed as a late night program. The only thing on his mind, it seems, was to not let down the fans.

It is my personal belief that a film is born with its own fate. In the case of Yamato, we can say that the first series had a very difficult delivery. But each character was born with a strong personality. For example, Okita is a veteran samurai. Kodai and Shima are young samurai. Yuki is a Yamato nadesh’ko (a Japanese woman with traditional virtues). These characters made for a strong drama. I was convinced that it would eventually be a huge success and it only needed time to ripen. This is what I call the fate of Yamato. Mr. Nishizaki’s patience and uncompromising stand eventually led Yamato to full bloom.

Then, we moved on to its sequel, Farewell to Yamato. We made a big deal about what should be its main theme. I insisted we make it something like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and its message of “We are not alone.” Somewhere in the universe, there must be other beings, and we can work with them to make this world more peaceful and enjoyable. Finally, we decided “love that infuses the universe” would be the main theme for the next Yamato movie.

In live-action, actors act and a director directs them. This means that the world of cinema is governed by the principles of realism. On the other hand, the world of animation is founded totally on fantasy. Nothing is impossible, and we can expand our fancies as much as we want. We have unlimited freedom. It was a totally amazing experience to participate in this kind of filmmaking.

To direct Yamato was a continuous challenge to my imagination. I learned how to develop a core idea. It also led me to the profound recognition that I wanted to be a filmmaker not only in the field of cinema but also in animation, where one is required to expand their imagination.

One last word to the young people who watch Yamato: I would like you to be like Kodai and Yuki, both of whom love and fight with equal sincerity.

The End

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