In the summer of 1978, one of the biggest topics in national newspapers, magazines, and TV in Japan was Farewell to Yamato. It was also taken up in radio and other forms of mass communication. Here are some newspaper articles from the peak of the boom on August 5, a look back at Yamato‘s influence on evolving pop culture.
Yamato‘s Popularity Overheats
After an all-night vigil, the doors are opened at 4am
Asahi Shimbun evening edition, August 5
The Japanese Islands are suffering under intense heat, but the craze over SF anime Farewell to Yamato (distributed by Toei) shows further overheating. By the morning of the premiere on the 5th, there were lines of nearly 1,000 fans. Consequently, theater owners used nearby buildings to accomodate them and opened their doors as early as 4am.
This was for the sequel to Space Battleship Yamato, the anime film shown at this time last year. It was unusually popular, and the producer’s policy to present “the end of the story” spurred the craze and revived the previous excitement among young people.
The film opened in 132 theaters nationwide, and approximately 200,000 advance tickets were sold at the box offices of eight Tokyo theaters. Including tickets sold on a consignment basis, the number exceeds 500,000.
Ten days prior to the premiere, only a few fans of junior high-age gathered around theaters. Early screenings had been tentatively scheduled for 8:30am. However, fans began to line up at the Tokyu Rex Theater in Shibuya, Tokyo on the night of the 4th; their numbers swelled to approximately 1500 by the morning of the 5th. Theater staff asked security guards to form the crowd into a line while about 20 staff members prepared an extra early show for 6am and overnight in parallel with the Pantheon theater chain and Tokyu Classic Theater.
Sotetsu Bunka Theater near Yokohama Station also had an overnight line of 120-130 primary and junior high students, which began to form at 2pm on the afternoon of the 4th. It reached about 1,000 people by 6am on the 5th, and the theater responded to the film’s popularity by moving up the first screening by approximately two hours. The line of people for the first screening still wrapped around the neighboring Sotetsu Building.
Yamato‘s Popularity Does Not Cool Down This Year Either
The police wear sour faces
Chunichi Shimbun Evening Edition, 8/5/78
Original animation cels were given out to the first 300 people to arrive at the Toei theater in Sakae, Nagoya. The line began to form in the early morning of the 4th and surpassed 100 by midnight. The line stretched to 150 meters on the morning of the 5th, so the doors were opened an hour early at 7am. While the crowd consisted overwhelmingly of high school students, about 30 percent were female.
“It seemed very unlikely that they would stay outside overnight,” the theater crew said, “but college student leaders handled the crowd well.”
Meanwhile, at Nakamura-Ku-Mei-eki Station in the same city, about 30 people sat all night in front of the shuttered Nagoya Cinema in a line that was 500 meters long by morning. The nearby Central theater changed its timetable to begin screenings early in the morning.
High school students who came by early morning train complained, “It was strange to come yesterday morning, since true fans must have stayed home for the TV and midnight radio versions of Yamato. They must have been tempted by the cels.”
The line was formed early in the morning on Yanagase Street in Gifu City. The same was true for the Yanagase Theater and Yotsuk-ichi Cinema in Suw-Sakae-Machi. The Out of necessity, the Yanagase theater housed two high school boys from Takayama City in the theater dormitory.
Seeing Farewell to Yamato
Boys Sit Up All Night for Early Morning Screenings
Nihon Keizai Shimbun Evening Edition, August 5
Farewell to Yamato, the animation movie that became explosively popular among high school students, was released on the 5th. Because high school students rushed to various theaters in Metropolitan Tokyo and waited in groups all night on the 4th, screenings began as early as 4am when it was still dark at the Tokyu Pantheon Cinema in Shibuya.
“This kind of thing hasn’t happened in recent years,” said delighted film distributor Toei after seeing the escalating activity. It was said that screenings would also begin early on the 6th.
Some high school students had been waiting with their sleeping bags in front of Shibuya’s Tokyu Cultural theater since July 30th. Asked about this, they said, “Yamato is the greatest. Besides, you can get original art or records of the movie by standing in line early,” and, “It won’t be easy to talk to my friends if I don’t see it.”
At other Tokyo locations, boys arrived as early as the 3rd to see the movie in Chiba and Kanagawa, and lines of about a thousand people clad in T-shirts milled around theaters in Shinjuku and Yurakucho on the night of the 4th.
The Toei Company allowed Shibuya and Yurakucho Audiences to enter right after the restriction expired at 4am. The Tokyo restriction prohibits teenagers from entering any show facility from midnight to the early morning.
“We thought it would be very popular, since all-night groups appeared for the first movie last year,” Toei said, but the impression was that it had escalated this time.
Yamato‘s Record-Breaking Launch
Even Producer Nishizaki is Floored!
Tokyo Midday Sports, August 6
Even Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki is feverish over the enthusiastic popularity. Mr. Nishizaki was a special guest on Fuji TV at 8pm, just before the airing of Space Battleship Yamato [the movie]. After attending the show, he appeared on Nippon Broadcasting’s live program All Night Nippon to accept calls from fans from 1am to 5am. Without even stopping for sleep, he went out to greet fans at Tokyo theaters the next morning. With Kamikaze skill, he faced an assault of handshakes and autograph requests from junior high school girls.
Fatigue finally caught up with him at 10am when he returned to Office Academy Studio in Tokyo.
“Supported by such a tremendous number of people, I cannot ever be happier, especially as a movie producer.” His words were muffled by full emotion.
The film set a new summer vacation record by taking in 150 million yen on the first day. Last year’s box office earnings were 980 million yen, and it was assumed this film would do slightly better. The way things are going, it is likely to earn 1.5 to 2 billion yen.
Overheated by Farewell to Yamato
The Overnight Vigil of Determined Children
Asahi Shimbun Evening Edition, August 5
A line began to form one week ago in front of the Toei Palace Theater in Umeda, Osaka on July 29. It was ignored at first, but it continued to grow day by day. On the night of the 4th it swelled to 400 people and the theater reluctantly opened to accommodate them. They stayed up all night.
Because 1500 children had gathered by 4am on the 5th, two theaters were hastily opened on a temporary basis. The show started at 6:30 in the morning, and the theater was full all three days with a total of 2,300 boys.
At Shochiku-za in Shin-Kyogoku, Kyoto, a boy arrived to stand in line on the night of the 3rd, so the theater staff gave him a numbered card proving he was the first and sent him home. Nonetheless, about 300 high school students stayed up all night from the night of the 4th. Because of this, the first screening was moved up from 8:30 to 6:30am.
At the Toei Plaza theater in Sannomiya, Kobe, young people dressed in jeans and T-shirts stepped out of the crowd in turns to buy bread and other food, then watched the first movie on a portable TV while waiting for the doors to open.
Smaller children of junior high age stood out as well. Given pocket money, they rushed to the front of Umeda Toei Palace. Hiroshi Ueda, a senior at Utajima Junior High in West Yodogawa Ward said, “It’s greater than anything, the best in SF. Even if we stand in line for several hours, it’s no problem.”
Naomi Takuno, a second year junior high student in Kawanishi City, said passionately, “I love Yamato‘s fantasy and mystery elements. I must see it on opening day! So I left home at 6am and rushed here.”
Lines form at night, leading to early morning premiere
Cheers for Yamato at 5AM
Sports Nippon, August 6
Yamato dominates the youth box office again this summer. Toei’s Farewell to Yamato was released simultaneously in 133 theaters nationwide on May 5. To accommodate the all-night crowds, many theaters opened their doors at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning, The film was a huge hit, doubling the previous film’s total, and is expected to gross 2 billion yen. Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki was thrilled by the applause. His eyes turned bright red and he said in a tearful voice, “This is a great honor for me as a producer.”
Simultaneous release at 133 theaters nationwide
Captions: Fans flooded the theater where Yamato was screened
early in the morning. (main)
Through tears of joy, Producer Nishizaki is happy to sign his
autograph in front of the Shinjuku Toei Palace. (top)
Young enthusiasts for Nishizaki’s drama
As expected, it was a big hit.
Although those under 18 years old were persuaded to go home, nearly 500 to 1,000 people stayed up all night at each theater, and the theaters were in a state of panic. Staff was exhausted from all-night security, having to let people take naps inside and opening the doors at 4:00 a.m. Even if you arrived on the first train and joined the line at 6:00 a.m., you would not be able to see the movie until 11:00 a.m.
The Shinjuku Toei Palace in Shinjuku, Tokyo, opened its doors to the public at 5:00 a.m., and they managed to handle the overflowing queue. Producer Nishizaki, who had to stay up all night for his TV and radio appearances, also arrived early in the morning. He was moved to tears by the huge lineup that echoed last year’s opening. When the audience applauded loudly at the last scene, he even uttered a gasp.
“I was worried about what to do if customers stood up at the end, but hearing the applause when it was over made me happier than anything else could. It strengthened my confidence in the music and story. Next summer, we will compete with other projects.”
Shigeru Okada, president of Toei Co. said, “Mr. Nishizaki’s film has passion. It is passion. Audiences will feel this on their skin.” Nevertheless, Yamato‘s overheated popularity was quite a surprise.
On the day of the opening, theaters were busy answering phone calls and organizing the lines, so the exact number of moviegoers could not be announced. Toei estimated that the total nationwide attendance would be 230,000 on opening day, and 480,000 for the first six days. The combined box-office revenue for the first two days is already 550 million yen. The final distribution revenue is predicted to be approximately 2 billion yen, double the previous film’s earnins.
A series of extra screenings
At the Umeda Toei Palace in Umeda, Osaka, high school students lined up in front of the theater three days before the premiere. On the evening of the 4th, about 400 young people, including 100 high school girls, stayed up all night. By 5:00 a.m. on the 5th, the number had swelled to 1,500. Because of this, Umeda Toei and Toei Hall also held extra screenings.
At the Kyoto Shochikuza theater, a line of 300 people formed from noon on the 4th. The theater opened its doors at 1:30 a.m. on the 5th to allow people to nap inside. At 6:30 a.m., earlier than expected, it was decided to hold a special screening at the nearby Piccadilly Theater.
About 50 people stayed up all night at the Senraku Theater in Kobe, and the screening time was moved up by one showing.
“Youth Guru” Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki; Love that spans the universe
The girls applauded the last scene and covered their eyes with handkerchiefs. The boys insisted on watching the film again, but reluctantly left the theater due to the changeover. They all agreed that it was fun. What is it that makes young people so enthusiastic?
Looking at factors behind this hit, Mr. Okada, president of Toei, said, “Like Mr. Haruki Kadokawa, Mr. Nishizaki is a guru of young people.”
Mr. Nishizaki was jostled by young people asking for autographs in front of the theater. The same happened with Mr. Kadokawa on the opening day of Proof of Humanity. They are both stars.
Mr. Nishizaki is a guru, a star, and an opinion leader. His message this time is love. He asks a grand question: can you give your life for the sake of universal love?
Is there anyone today who can ask the question, “What is love?” In this age of lost values, there is no adult who can ask such a serious question. Regardless of the content of the question, one answer is given to the young people. Is there any wonder why Mr. Nishizaki is seen as a guru? The young Yamato fans are the followers of Nishizaki religion.
At the same time, this poses risks. The love depicted in Farewell to Yamato can be seen as a “kamikaze anthem.” The cause to “protect Japan” is simply replaced by “space.” It is a film that adults should watch in order to understand the feelings of young people.