Junichiro Tamamori interview, 2020

Volume 8 of the Star Blazers/Yamato fan club magazine turned the spotlight on fightercraft and the pilots who fly them. Among the many features under this heading was a fresh interview with Mecha Designer Junichiro Tamamori, who now turns his formidable talents toward Yamato 2205.

Space Battleship Yamato 2205 Mechanical Designer Junichiro Tamamori Interview

Inheriting the “dream” of a “flying space cavalry” from the predecessors

From Yamato 2199 to the latest work 2205, Junichiro Tamamori has been mainly dealing with mechanical design of the Earth-side spaceships. Among them are the fightercraft, including the Cosmo Zero, which have been redesigned with his careful consideration, and he has become indispensable in talking about the appeal of the new series. The origin of Mr. Tamamori’s commitment to fighter design is his feelings for the old series and his predecessors who created it. We asked him in detail about the appeal of fightercraft in Yamato.

The mission to surpass the fighters in “real robot anime”

Interviewer: How did you feel about working on designs for the fightercraft that appear in the new series?

Tamamori: When I took charge of renewing the mecha designs as well as the fighters, the first thing that came to mind was something from Hayakawa Publishing, the Starship Library serial in SF Magazine.

Interviewer: Members of Studio Nue (Yamato‘s original design team) worked on that. It was a series of conceptual thinking about spaceships based on more realistic scientific considerations. I think it was published from the fall of 1978 to the beginning of 1982.

Tamamori: Due to the trends at the time, Yamato was often brought up in the series as an example of “a space battleship without reality.” It wasn’t given enough scientific consideration. In response to that opinion, I’ve been wanting to break through it for a long time.

Interviewer: Studio Nue was in production on Macross at the time.

Tamamori: Mechanical Designer Kazutaka Miyatake and other Studio Nue members were moving away from anime and tokusatsu [live action special effects] back then, and were considering the existence of a space battleship based on scientific thinking. Of course, Mobile Suit Gundam had already aired, and the genre called “real robot anime” had been established.

Interviewer: It can be said that “real robot anime” was born because of the existence of Yamato.

(Translator’s note: “real robot anime” refers to SF anime of the 1980s and thereafter in which robot designs broke with the “super robot” style of the 70s. Mobile Suit Gundam is considered to be its starting point in 1979.)

Tamamori: Therefore, I thought a new Yamato would have to surpass “real robot anime.” As with Gundam and Macross, the world of a new Yamato should be built upon “real robot anime” as a passing point. The mecha I would rework for the remake was said in the Starship Library to have no reality, so I intended to create something that would explain, “Here is why it works.”


Mr. Tamamori’s Cosmo Zero design images from 2199
(final draft). With so much attention to detail, you can
feel a deep affection for the Cosmo Zero.

Interviewer: With such determination about the redesign of the fighters, what kind of attention and ingenuity have you brought to the task?

Tamamori: For example, with the design of the early Cosmo Zero, there’s something very different about the shape when you view it from the top and from the side. It’s smart when you see it from the side, but it’s quite wide from above, and when you see it from the front or back it has a cross shape. But I still want to cherish the fun and surprise of such a design.

Interviewer: Do you think it’s quite difficult to honor these contradictions when working on a design?

Tamamori: Yes, I don’t think it would work as a Yamato design if I didn’t value that. As I bring a design together, I take a chance by leaving some mystery to it. I think it’s important to keep parts that can’t be divided out.

Interviewer: How do you think about the balance with reality? For example, in modern anime it’s necessary to keep merchandising in mind, such as plamodels. Is the hurdle required for design much higher than it was back then?

Tamamori: For the new series, it was decided to represent the mecha in 3DCG. For that reason, it’s natural that it must be established as a three-dimensional object. That’s also why I’m very particular about reality. I digress a bit, but since airplanes are supposed to fly in the air, there aren’t many straight or flat parts. Wings need to be angled and rounded in consideration of lift and airflow.

Like the F-15J, which is the current fighter of the Self-Defense Forces, a twist is added from the base of the wing toward the tip in order to improve flight performance.

Interviewer: The shape characteristics of such an existing fighter is used in the fightercraft of the new series, isn’t it?

Tamamori: It isn’t a faithful reproduction, but it’s taken thoroughly into the balance. The Cosmo Zero has antenna-like projections on the wing tips, right? Originally, they were supposed to stick out straight, parallel with the fuselage, but if you were to follow the twist of the F-15J’s wing they would protrude downward and that would look bad in design. Therefore, I solved the problem by adjusting the root of the main wing upward.

Interviewer: that’s a pretty maniac [obsessive] adjustment, isn’t it?

Tamamori: However, because there are such small details, maybe it will feel different from a fighter that comes out of an anime robot. That’s what I think. Because it is designed with that consciousness, it’s different from the real robot system that seems to be the mainstream in current SF anime.

Fighter pilots are samurai on horseback who can fly in space

Interviewer: What do you think is the significance and the appeal of fightercraft in the Yamato series?

Tamamori: For me, it’s a space fighter that is controlled personally, compared with a battleship operated by a large number of crew members with divided roles.

Interviewer: Indeed, the force of a battleship comes from the collective strength of a team. Fighters are more about individual combat power, aren’t they?

Tamamori: That’s why I think fighter pilots can become the most glamorous stars in a battle scene. If it’s a battleship, it’s hard for the story to establish, “I’m the best at firing the main guns!” Fighter battles aren’t like east vs. west across the ocean, it’s more like “samurai on samurai.” In fact, in the Army and the Navy, commanders control the front line from the rear and in the case of the Air Force, the commander himself grasps a control stick and leads the unit in flight. In the 1996 movie Independence Day, the president himself flies a fighter jet. (Laughs) When a figure personally goes to the front line, he resembles a samurai.

Interviewer: That’s why the Cosmo Zero is a fighter for the exclusive use of Combat Chief Susumu Kodai, right?

Tamamori: In fact, the design of the Cosmo Zero that I worked on is inspired by the gorgeous armored helmets of Japanese medieval samurai. The red part of the nose is like the huge armor from the Kamakura period to the Muromachi period. I designed it with an image that is ornately decorated in red and gold. You can compare Kodai, Kato, Yamamoto, Shinohara and the others to the image of warriors running around the battlefield on horseback. The vertical tail is like the armor’s “battle banner.”

Also, on the Cosmo Falcon in 2199, the jagged markings resemble the haori coats worn by the Shinsengumi with the kanji character for “Sincerity.” That is the result of historical context shared by the staff.

Interviewer: Even in reality, war is often likened to a castle. Yamato is certainly the castle they protect, so I wonder if the squadron is a samurai cavalry that takes off from there.

Tamamori: There’s a captain on the top floor of the castle tower, and it could feel like he’s taking command while watching the situation on the battlefield.

Connection to the “Yamato-ness” of predecessors’ thoughts

Interviewer: Have you been assigned to design a new space fighter to appear in Yamato 2205, The New Voyage, which is now in production?

Tamamori: In the old series, up to Final Yamato, the main fighter of the EDF was the Cosmo Tiger II, wasn’t it? I think the Cosmo Tiger II is basically the mainstay, but I thought it would be nice to have a fighter that would be a little different appear as a “guest.” Because the Cosmo Tiger 1 appeared in Yamato 2202, I think it would be good for a new machine to get the guest treatment this time.

Interviewer: Can you give us a hint?

Tamamori: Though the new machine conforms to Yamato‘s worldview, I’m trying to design it with an awareness of modern fighters, like a stealth fighter.


Introducing the image for the new fighter that Mr. Tamamori is currently designing for Yamato 2205!
It’s like no fighter seen in the old series, so what kind of action will it take…!? (This is not the final draft)

The Cosmo Tiger II was designed with the motif of fightercraft that were actually used in the 70s, so it’s kind of an old image from a modern point of view, isn’t it? Therefore, with the new machine, I’m going to give it the essence of popular modern fighters such as the F-22 and F-35, which today’s generation can understand. On top of that, I want to make it a space-fighter with a Yamato-like design.

Interviewer: What idea do you consider to embody the “Yamato-ness” of a space fighter?

Tamamori: My starting point is “the concept that the original staff was going for,” so I’m constantly looking beyond the model sheets and the “visual” that appears on screen. I expand it beyond war books and SF comics from the 60s and 70s to include movies, literature, and social conditions, with the idea of finding the “dream” that the staff based their thinking on. It’s abstract, but it can give me some more design hints.

In terms of “Yamato-ness” in the mechanical design, like I said earlier, the presence of Studio Nue from the old series is still a big thing for me. Not only Yamato, but also various anime of the time. They laid the foundation for the visual of a “character ship,” even in live-action films like Sayonara Jupiter (1984), so I don’t want to lose that “axis” that Studio Nue left behind.

Interviewer: Your mecha design has a strong sense of respect for the pioneers.

Tamamori: What is “Yamato-ness”? I think it’s about connecting the memories of all the people who were fascinated by Yamato, including the viewing audience at the time. For example, 2202 Director Nobuyoshi Habara is in the generation above mine that watched the dawn of anime and tokusatsu, and when I hear stories from 2199 Director Yutaka Izubuchi, I realize that they saw a Yamato world that was different from that of my generation.

Interviewer: Because their generation watched those programs from the dawn of TV Manga and tokusatsu.

Tamamori: One of the things we should do when working on the new series is to take the “dream” that excited children in the early days of TV anime and pass it on to the next generation. Even now, rather than studying, I’m exploring and unraveling what was cherished by my seniors, like [scriptwriter] Hideki Oka. Exploring what my predecessors thought about when creating the work leads me to a pursuit of Yamato‘s mechanical roots.

JUNICHIRO TAMAMORI PROFILE

Born in 1967 under the American Administration in Okinawa. After graduating from university, he became an industrial designer and design educator for a general company. While working as a web engineer, he published illustrations of Space Battleship Yamato as private fan activity. This attracted the attention of people involved with anime, and led to an invitation from Yutaka Izubuchi to participate in Yamato 2199. He is currently active as a freelance mechanical designer.




Mechanic designer Junichiro Tamamori’s choice

Best fightercraft scene in the Yamato series

Space Battleship Yamato Episode 4 (1974)

It’s during Yamato‘s first warp test. Just before the test starts, Gamilas fighters attack and are intercepted by the Black Tigers, led by Kodai. During the battle, Akira Yamamoto’s fighter is hit and becomes hard to maneuver.

They have to close the hangar hatch in order to warp, and Yamamoto’s fighter can’t get back in time. Will he be left behind? Kodai and the others keep the hatch open to the very limit and they safely retrieve Yamamoto. I especially like that scene. That’s when I was able to confirm that the Black Tiger had a shark mouth. That episode gave us a real sense of Yamato‘s flying corps as a team.

Mechanic Idle Essay

If you look at the reality of mecha, the question “could a space battleship/space fighter exist?” can be exhausting. Fans have long discussed whether it’s necessary to have “the shape of a ship” or “the shape of an airplane.” However, you can also play with the idea of looking at the animation visuals in front of you with “the eyes of the heart.” The work of mecha design shifts back and forth between that idea and the visual appearance.

As for a “space fightercraft,” do you need wings? I think of it the other way around: “a pilot has mobile space weapons, so they are consequently mounted on wings.” Then there is a moment when other problems are settled in sequence. The inevitabilities of a manned vehicle; technology to protect the pilot, placing weapons such as missiles and cannons…

Personally, I think about a shield system that doesn’t go as far as the Wave-Motion Barrier, something that existed before Iscandar technology was acquired. We believe that battleships and fightercraft equipped with beam weapons will be established. The wings are heat-dissipation plates and weapon carriers, and advanced antennae on the wingtips are for the transfer of energy and shields (from the mother ship to the fighter, or from fighters to each other). As a result, it starts to look like a fighter of the old days. The remaining issue is, “is it piloted”?

This text and illustration are personal considerations, not official concepts.

How are you all doing? The new mecha design for 2205 is in full swing, and every day I adjust my brain as I work on multiple mecha. Feel free to use this Cosmo Tiger II’s special markings as the mood strikes you. I drew this as a fictitious “performance test” model built after the war with Garmillas.


Read more interviews with Mr. Tamamori here:

Cosmo DNA interview, 2011/2012

Hobby magazines, July 2012

Otona Anime Vol. 28, March 2013

Model Graphix #352, January 2014

Hobby magazines, December 2014

Yamato 2202 interview, April 2017

Yamato 2202 interview, May 2018

Yamato 2202 interview, July 2018

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