It was a year that will live in infamy. Stories will be told, movies will be made, lives will be forever changed because of 2020. But this is where all that stuff gets checked at the door and we focus on everything that spun out of the original Space Battleship Yamato saga (not the remakes) over these twelve endless months. It was surprisingly busy with interesting entries in multiple categories.
Be Forever Yamato and Yamato III reached their 40th anniversaries in August and October respectively, but no moves were made in Japan to commemorate them. It’s tempting to imagine that, if not for COVID shutting down movie theaters, lucky Japanese fans might have gotten to enjoy the spectacle of Warp Dimension in a late-night screening somewhere.
Cosmo DNA Coverage
1977 spotlights: Matsumoto & Nishizaki
To this day, it is impossible to overestimate the impact of the first Yamato movie in 1977. Whenever artifacts from this time reappear, we’re reminded all over again how it completely changed the environment for anime production and marketing. It also marked the first time anime creators themselves emerged from the shadows to become full-fledged celebrities in their own right.
Click here for two such examples from magazines published during the heyday, which put the spotlight on both Leiji Matsumoto and Yoshinobu Nishizaki.
Otaku Generation Zero
Inextricably linked with the rise of Space Battleship Yamato was the rise of otaku [geek] culture in Japan. Where it was once an insult, the word became a badge of honor when that generation grew up to seize the bullhorn of their own subculture. Writer Eiji Otsuka is one such member of the otaku community, having worked in publishing while Yamato and its successors were ascendent in the 70s and 80s. One of his books is titled The 2nd Floor Residents and Their Times: A personal history of transformational subculture. He wrote extensively about the impact of Yamato in two consecutive chapters.
Be Forever Yamato Time Machine, continued
One of the missions of this website over the years has been to gather up vintage magazine coverage around specific productions and examine what was being said within the context of the time. Be Forever Yamato generated so much of this coverage that it’s still emerging from the mists of time. This article presented four new finds from that body of work.
Read it here.
Starlog magazine, October 1980
Yamato fans will surely recognize 1978 as the year the saga hit the big time, so it would stand to reason that the Japanese Starlog ought to have plenty of Yamato coverage. In fact, this was NOT the case since the magazine was devoted first and foremost to live-action and literary SF. So it wasn’t until two years later in issue 24 (October 1980) that Yamato – and anime in general – finally earned editorial attention. The editors went into it with an obvious bias, certain that this flash would leave the pan in due time. The advantage of hindsight makes fretful accounts like this great fun to read decades later.
Read it here.
In November 1985, the publishing arm of Bandai launched B-Club, a monthly magazine for modelers with a heavy tilt toward Bandai products. By its final issue in 1998, it had broadly expanded its scope to include anime, manga, garage kits, live-action subjects, and just about everything else that keeps our attention on Japan. Yamato articles were few and far between, but by no means nonexistent since the saga had played a critical role in putting Bandai on the map in the 1970s.
Click here to read a 1988 article about vintage model kits.
Click here for Galactic War Record, a series of retrospectives published in 1990 and 1991.
Masahiko Okura interview, 2014
In November 2019, we had the pleasure of presenting our first in-person interview with anime artist and lifelong Yamato fan Masahiko Okura (which you can read here). A few years earlier, a previous interview was published in issue 6 of the Yamato fan club magazine Ship’s Log (February, 2014). It was another instance of Mr. Okura generously sharing his deep Yamato passion from the bottom of his heart, and it demanded a place in the Cosmo DNA spotlight.
Read it here.
Classic character profiles, 2017
Showa 40 Man is a magazine with a very specific focus: men who were born in the year 1965, also known in Japan as “Showa year 40.” As it happens, men of this age were the first Yamato target audience, so it should come as no surprise that it would occasionally include Yamato coverage. It’s quite common for the magazine to feature several articles based on a single theme, which is what lead to twin essays from 2017 that examined both Dessler and Sanada from the perspective of real-time viewers of the original saga
Read it here.
Model kit catalogs
In addition to the groundbreaking model kits and classic toys of the original saga, a huge army of fans has returned to the well over and over again to enlarge the catalog with their own homemade garage kits, some of which rival the quality of Bandai’s best efforts. Starting in the summer, this massive collection of products was organized into a series of catalogs that finally puts everything in one place.
See them all at these links:
Yamato Resurrection novelization
This year-long project brought the entire novelization for Resurrection to the English language one chapter at a time. Now the entire thing can be read from start to finish. It begins before the movie and offers a deeper glimpse of the troubled Kodai family. A few added scenes and modified scenes provide new context that enlivens the story all over again.
Read it here.
Yamato Resurrection development, 1993
Story ideas for Yamato Resurrection written by Yoshinobu Nishizaki in 1993 formed the basis for the film’s first preproduction period, leading to further story development and art design. Preproduction was suspended in 1994/95 to be resumed in 2008. The majority of the concepts that made it to the screen were already in place at this early stage, but there were some interesting off-roads that still ignite the imagination for what might have been — AND what could yet be if a sequel is made.
Read it here.
“Kimtak” interviews, 2010
To mark the 10th anniversary of the live-action Space Battleship Yamato, we presented three insightful interviews with the star Takuya (“Kimtak”) Kimura all published prior to the release of the film in December, 2010. They all originated from a single press conference, so there is considerable overlap in their content, but they’re just different enough to warrant individual attention.
Read them here.
There are plenty of deep-diving Yamato collectors in the world, but few take the time to organize their collections to share with others. Cosmo DNA is one example. Another is this virtual museum curated by Kanako Yokosuka. It contains several “floors” divided up by category. Three of those “floors” are devoted to Yamato with other subjects elsewhere. Since the collection is entirely online, it gets periodically updated with new entries – so make the Kanaeyokosuka Museum a regular stop to fill those quarantine hours.
January 25: Leiji Matsumoto official website news
Some good news arrived on this day from Leiji Matsumoto’s official website, which read as follows:
Leiji Matsumoto celebrates his 82nd birthday today. The official website launched in November of last year at the desire of Mr. Matsumoto himself to tell fans and other parties that he was in good health after it was learned that he was urgently hospitalized in Italy. We also report on the future activities of Katsumi Itabashi, a mechanical designer who has contributed to a number of Mr. Matsumoto’s works.
In addition, the official website will introduce “Leiji Matsumoto Works & Memories,” which looks back on past work while introducing his favorite items and memories. Along with the opening of the official website, he presented fans with a Christmas card completed after returning from Italy that said, “Fans, I know you were very worried, but I’m fine.” Also, an official Twitter account has been opened in the name of his beloved cat Mi-kun.
April 30: Product news
Noel Corporation is a new name in the world of Yamato, and a fairly new toy company going back to just 2018. They specialize in toy trains, particularly reproductions of cutting-edge linear mag-lev trains in Japan. One of their newest products is a “floating model” that literally hovers above its base.
From there, it’s a short jump to their forthcoming floating model of the Galaxy Express 999, scheduled for release in July. And from there, it’s just another short jump to the rest of Leiji Matsumoto’s famous spaceships, including Yamato. So this is a company to watch.
Visit Noel’s homepage here.
April: Live-action movie images
Half the fun of trawling through Twitter is finding artifacts you never expected to see. In this case, fan modeler Hearyhat shared the unusual discovery of CG model images from the 2010 live-action movie.
No source was indicated, but these are by far the clearest shots of Captain Okita’s battleship and Yukikaze we’ve seen so far.
See them at full size in the original post here.
July 7: Character popularity contest
Kodai’s birthday present was well-timed: in a Yamato character popularity contest conducted by entertainment website Akiba Souken, he took the number one position, ahead of even Yuki Mori. The contest ran for a full month and the rankings changed more than once, but when the dust settled and the votes were counted, 50 characters found their spots – some of which were quite unexpected.
See the final tally here.
July: TV comedy sketch
Okan & Ma-kun is a comedy series about a fussy Japanese mother (Okan) and her hapless son (Ma-kun), performed by comedy duo named Downtown. In this vintage sketch titled “Nap,” Ma-kun dreams himself into the role of Kodai and his mother tags along.
See it on Youtube here.
May 23: Momoconline
Covid-19 may have stopped anime conventions in their tracks, but it hasn’t done a thing to stop the desire for them. Thus, online “virtual” cons began popping up as spring lurched toward summer. One such event was Momoconline, taking place from May 21-24. In terms of Yamato-related content, a pre-recorded Leiji Matsumoto panel was streamed on May 23, hosted by Darius Washington with guests Helen McCarthy (author) and Tim Eldred (Cosmo DNA editor) who talked about a forthcoming book of essays on the man himself.
Ride the galactic railway for an hour or so on Youtube here, if you don’t mind some picture distortion.
Shinya Takahashi originals
It’s been a long time since the name Shinya Takahashi came up in connection with Yamato, but he certainly earned his place in the production pantheon as the character designer for both Be Forever and Final Yamato. He stepped back into the slipstream in 2020 when he posted new original artwork for sale on Yahoo Japan Auctions, featuring Sasha and Miyuki Kodai. His first outing must have gone well, because he returned multiple times with new pieces in subsequent months.
See a gallery of his art here.
August 13: Andromeda popularity poll
In July, the entertainment website Akiba Souken gave fandom a treat with a huge character popularity poll, which we shared here in our last report. As soon as that one closed, a new one opened for mecha with a deadline of August 15. And then, probably to keep the results from overbalancing, they split off a whole separate poll just for everyone to vote on their favorite Andromeda. That poll closed first after amassing over 4100 votes for no less than 23 different candidates.
Remember when we were all chomping at the bit to see just one Andromeda on screen in Yamato 2202? We were all so innocent then.
August 15: Mecha popularity poll
The results of Akiba Souken‘s main mecha poll were announced today. The top two choices will surprise no one, but keep in mind that you’re dealing with a lot of superfans with a LOT of time on their hands…so the subsequent choices become delightfully eclectic as you make your way down the list.
Keisuke Masunaga art
These terrific pieces by animation artist/character designer Keisuke Masunaga floated back up to the surface in August. They represent Sasha’s appearance in the Playstation 2 games based on Be Forever.
October 20: William Shatner on Twitter
Nobody saw this coming. NOBODY. He even went with a Japanese spelling.
November 1: Voice actor polls
The month got off the ground with a pair of polls at the Akiba Souken website in which fans voted for their favorite actors in two categories: the classic Showa years and everything since. To no one’s surprise, the respective voice actors for Kodai took the number one spot in both polls.
November 10: Vulture article
We all know Star Blazers and Yamato are great, but it’s still a thrill to see that knowledge affirmed in places you didn’t go looking for it. Such was the case with this article from the Vulture website. (Notice image number 2 in the first row.)
The review wasn’t what you might call extensive, but it is 100% appreciated nonetheless. You can reward the writer’s good judgement with a click here.
November 24: Walter Simonson X Yamato
It’s no secret that there’s a large overlap between comic book artists and anime fans, but it’s still a nice surprise to find that overlap in someone as accomplished as Walter Simonson, whose work in American comics goes back to the 70s.
He posted both the rough and inked versions of this piece on November 22 and 25 respectively, citing it at 12″ x 9.” He commented, “Whew! That’s a lot to cram into a relatively small drawing. Maybe I’ll go back to 17 x 11 if I ever do this again!” Yes, please!
December 13: Top 20 Anime poll
Bunshun Online reported on the amazing box office returns on the new anime movie Demon Slayer. It opened October 16 and went on to unseat all others as the biggest theatrical moneymaker in anime history. This motivated Bunshun’s editorial department to conduct a street survey to determine the favorite anime title among 200 participants over the month of November. Yamato came in at a very respectable No. 8.
The full list was as follows: Demon Slayer, Detective Conan, Mobile Suit Gundam, Star of the Giants, Lupin III, Doraemon, Astro Boy, Yamato, Dragonball Z, Totoro, Sazae-san, Slamdunk, One Piece, Nausicaa, Tomorrow’s Joe, Laputa, Evangelion, Spirited Away, Attack on Titan, and Gintama.
Quotes were collected for each entry. The Yamato quotes were as follows:
“The visuals were beautiful at that time, and even high school girls enjoyed it.” (female, 60)
“The strongest battleship Yamato will be revived as a space battleship 254 years later. Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s plan to travel to Iscandar to save humanity, and Leiji Matsumoto’s mechanic and character design are all excellent.” (Male, 56)
“Yuki Mori is the best heroine of youth.” (male, 63)
“Because I was absorbed in the Tamiya model waterline series, I was crazy about it. I was sweating at scenes where they escaped from Gamilas traps.” (male, 57)
“The love of humankind is beautifully depicted in a spectacular battle in space. When I heard the theme song, I hummed along and felt something stir inside me.” (male, 77).
“It was quite innovative that it didn’t finish with a happy ending or a grand finale.” (female, 53)
“The highest peak in the origin of science fiction anime.” (male, 57)
“The idea of flying a battleship into space was amazing.” (male, 57)
See Bunshun’s full article here.
December 28: Radio show
Shigeru Ishiba is a name that came up in Yamato 2202 Report 51 when he made an unsuccessful run for Prime Minister. Had he won, he would have been the first Yamato fan to be in charge of Japan. Instead, he remains in our fold. The following article about him was published at JOQR on December 28…
Shigeru Ishiba and Kyohira Furuya Talk about Space Battleship Yamato
On December 30th at 8pm, Bunka Hoso will broadcast a special year-end dialogue between Shigeru Ishiba and Kyohira Furuya, talking about Space Battleship Yamato.
Writer Kyoshiro Furuya, who is a Wednesday commentator on News Wide Sakidori, declared himself a “fan of Ishiba” when the program covered the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election. Since Furuya and Ishiba have the anime Space Battleship Yamato in common, Furuya’s dream of “discussing Space Battleship Yamato with Mr. Ishiba” came true in this special program.
Furuya asked Ishiba about the appeal of the Yamato series. Mr. Ishiba, who was a university student when Farewell to Yamato was released, went to the movie theater three days in a row from the first day and said, “I was continuously moved from beginning to end. I saw it four times on the first day, three times the next day, and twice the day after that. No matter how many times I saw it, I would always cry at the same point,” he recalled, highly praising the film. “There was no Yamato before it, and there was no Yamato after it.”
Toward the end of the program, Mr. Furuya asked, “If Earth were to be invaded in the future, around the year 2200, what position would you like to hold, Mr. Ishiba? Would you be the Director General of the Earth Defense Forces? Or would you board Yamato?”
Mr. Ishiba referred to the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq when he was the Director General of the Defense Agency. “When I sent the SDF to Iraq, I was often told, ‘If you’re going to give orders like that, you should go yourself.’ I tried many times to go, but every time I tried, the media found out. I was scolded by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, who said, ‘I understand that you want to go, but if you do, you will cause trouble for everyone’.”
In addition to the above, the program included “Space Battleship Yamato from the Meta Perspective of Postwar Japan,” “Ishiba’s Choice of Great Lines from Yamato,” and “Can Collective Self-Defense Be Established Between Earth and Gamilas?”
Friend-of-the-website Minoru Itgaki listened to the program and recalled that when Mr. Ishiba was asked if Yamato could be operated under current Japanese laws, his response was “no problem.” So that’s a relief.
December: Big models being big
Big Yamato models in unexpected places can grow the heart of any Grinch.
The first comes from yukesnpl, who posted these rare found-photos on Twitter of the famous 6.5-foot-long “precision cut model” built for special events back in 1978. It was built by a company called Gunji Model Manufacturing, which also built props for Toho monster movies.
The source of these vintage photos is unknown, but you can read much more about this amazing artifact here.
The cardboard Analyzer shown above right comes from another source. It was spotted by Okama Rio, who posted the photo on Twitter with a surprising story.
Out on a walk in (undisclosed location), Rio spotted elaborate cardboard sculptures of anime characters outside a shop and asked to take photos. The shopowner said more amazing things were waiting inside, and there was another big Yamato, in addition to other sculptures. See them all here.
It was a truncated year for Yamato-related events with quarantine lockdowns bringing everything to an abrupt halt in March. However, the first couple months put in a pretty good showing…
January 9-12: Anime Los Angeles 2020
The 16th Anime LA convention brought a luminary from “O.G. Yamato” to American shores for the first time: animation director/designer Tomonori Kogawa, who directed character animation for both Farewell to Yamato (1978) and Resurrection (2009). He was just as spry as ever, making a surprise appearance at the Space Battleship Yamato panel to greet Cosmo DNA editor Tim Eldred (left) and Yamato manga translator Zack Davisson (right).
Photo at left by Yuina1107 (click on that link for more)
Mr. Kogawa also had his own booth in the dealer’s hall where he sold pre-made art and custom pieces to those with sufficient taste.
Photo posted on Twitter by Shinya2199
January 25: HOBAS model exhibition
HOBAS is an abbreviation for “Hokkaido BBY-01 Association,” a Yamato fan club based in Hokkaido prefecture. On January 25, they made themselves visible with a one-day modeling exhibit in Hokkaido’s capital city Sapporo.
The group is eager to connect with other Yamato fans wherever they can be found, so bookmark them on Twitter and reach out today!
February 15-27: Leiji Matsumoto Cosmoworld
For about two weeks, a bubble emerged in the stream of time that seemingly gave direct access to the year 1979. Inexplicably, a “popup shop” titled Leiji Matsumoto Cosmoworld appeared on the 7th floor of the Tokyu Hands department store in Shinjuku, Tokyo. By all accounts, it was a true time capsule.
Fans posting about it on Twitter were amazed to see a wealth of vintage products that were everywhere back in the day, but now reside only in online auctions or second-hand shops like Mandarake. Some described it as a sight they’d previously only dreamt about, or seen in black and white photos.
There were several aisles of Yamato/Harlock/Galaxy Express/etc. products, all looking brand new and selling for their original yen prices (plus tax). The exceptions were original animation cells and higher-end boutique products from recent years.
The origin of Cosmoworld was a true mystery; no company emerged to take credit, so we’re left to speculate on where all this treasure came from and why it was offered for such comparatively low prices. (Not even Leiji Matsumoto’s official site mentioned it.) If it was a private collector emptying their personal archive, Cosmo DNA salutes them. If it was a company that discovered some deadstock in a warehouse somewhere, Cosmo DNA salutes them. If it was a literal time capsule from 1979, Cosmo DNA wants to live there.
Fortunately for all of us who couldn’t see it in person, there were loads of photos on Twitter. See a gallery here.
February 15 & 16: Yokohama Modelers Club exhibition
Modelbuilders in Yokohama assembled for a festive weekend to display their treasures, and Yamato was well-represented. See a photo gallery here.
February 23: Yakitori Yamato screening
Further fulfilling its promise, Yakitori Yamato restaurant in Shibuya, Tokyo became the impromptu host of a small fan event on this day. It was a screening of Be Forever Yamato attended by fans of everyone’s favorite space teen, Sasha.
February 29: Yamato Lecture 20
This ongoing fan event returned for a new round of conversation, this time at the Loft 9 club in Shibuya, Tokyo. The title of this one was Making my 1/144 Yamato, and the topic was DIY modeling. The guest of honor was a modeler named Wu Niang and the panel consisted of host Osamu Kobayashi, voice actors Mei Ueda and Yuuko Toba, and pro modeler Yasuhiro Takeshita of Max Factory.
The talk centered on the production process of Wu Niang’s homemade, one-of-a-kind 3D printed 1/144 Yamato, which has been underway for years and is still a work in progress. The model is a wonder to behold, and plenty of attendees made sure we all got a chance to do just that. See their photos in a substantial gallery here.
Visit the Yamato Lecture website here.
December 5-19: Italian art exhibition
Meanwhile, other pictures could be seen at Galleria de Nisi in Rome, where painter Fabrizio Spadini exhibited his works inspired by iconic anime and manga characters. The exhibit was named The Colonization of the Imaginary, and included at least one painting of our favorite…
The Italian website Anime Click quoted the artist thusly: “On display there are works that draw on the masters of the early 1900s: Picasso, DeChirico, Carrà, the Futurists. I think that a century after the early 1900s we are now facing a social revolution that will see social relations change based on technological and AI developments. With my works, I like to make people reflect on the relationship between man and machine.”
See more of Spadini’s work at Anime Click here.