Yamato Year 2020, Part 2

TV and Video

Family Theater reruns

Japan’s satellite channel Family Theater did sterling work throughout the year, keeping the flame lit with multiple broadcasts of the classics and remakes alike. The month of March gave everyone another chance to see Yamato 2199 and both its respective movies along with the Close To You Tonight concert, the 1977 Yamato movie, and Farewell to Yamato.

April brought back all three original TV series and Be Forever. May featured Final Yamato, Close To You Tonight, Resurrection, and full runs of both 2199 and 2202.

September kept it all going with Series 1 and 2, 2199, 2202, and one more round of Close To You Tonight. So if you were a fan in Japan, you had to work pretty hard to miss your favorite stuff.

June: Star Blazers back on the air!!!

Having Yamato 2199 on Netflix in Japan is a pretty big deal, but what could compare to THIS? Longtime fan Scott Baker shared the glorious news on Facebook that his local station in Buffalo New York WBXZ-LP had brought Star Blazers back to its classic timeslot of weekdays at 4 some time in 2019. It appears as part of a 90-minute timeslot called Yesterday Anime which also includes Battle of the Planets.

September 9: Maeda Construction Fantasy Marketing Department Blu-ray

The title makes this sound like a business presentation, but that’s just part of its genius. It’s actually a comedic feature film that was released in Japan back on January 31, which made it one of the last theatrical events before Corona lockdown. Maeda is a real construction company and it actually has a Fantasy Marketing Department. The purpose of that department is to capture the public imagination by working out what it would actually take to build the fantasy structures seen in various anime. They’ve already turned their attention to Yamato, publishing a thorough essay on what it would take to recover and launch the original battleship (read it in full here.)

The film is loosely based on a true story. The Fantasy Marketing Department is founded by an out-of-the-box salaryman who wants to figure out how to build the launch facility for anime super robot Mazinger Z. His proposal is met with a wall of skepticism that gradually gives way as one participant after another is seduced by the concept. What we get from it is exactly what the real-world Maeda is after: fascination and awe with the scientific know-how that suffuses our daily lives. When the film reaches its climax, you will be as seduced as anyone in the story.

There’s a surprise Yamato connection that brought the film to our attention back in Report 43 and Report 44, but it won’t be revealed here in case you want to savor the surprise. However, there’s another surprise you need to know right now: the Blu-ray has English subtitles!

So don’t delay, order it today from Amazon.jp or CD Japan. This film is highly recommended, especially to longtime anime fans. You won’t regret one penny of the cost.

September 19&20: Daikaiju TV marathon

According to the description on their website, Daikaiju TV (or DKU-TV for short) is an online streaming channel that started in 2015. The channel streams Tokusatsu films and shows (such as the Godzilla films and episodes of Ultraman), vintage anime films and series, Asian drama and horror films, European sci-fi films and shows, animated films from around the world, vintage B-films and Saturday morning cartoons.

Under the fair use umbrella, DKU-TV operates outside of licensing agreements and is strictly non-profit (just like the website you’re reading now), which makes it a by-fans-for-fans proposition until further notice.

For the weekend of September 19 and 20, DKU-TV did what no one has done before, even in Japan: streamed a 34-hour marathon of all three Star Blazers series and the two Yamato 2199 movies. It was all in observance of Star Blazers’ 41st anniversary, which was a A-plus gesture.


Quarantine music

COVID quarantine brought us an explosion of remote and homemade performances we probably never would have seen if conditions were different. That made it an excellent year for Yamato music despite the lack of any official releases (other than the Close To You Tonight concert from 2019). Thanks to lots of generous fans and professionals alike, you can have your own personal Yamato concert at home. Click on these links and enjoy.

May 9: Radio Suite Yamato, The New Voyage

Three times makes it a tradition. This was the third Yamato program by internet radio station Clover Media. Fittingly called The New Voyage, it reunited manga artist Michio Murakawa with DJ Andro Umeda and Yamato music expert Fukan to gather music tracks from the entire Yamato catalog and bask in the joy of it for four hours on a Saturday afternoon.

The first hour was devoted to BGM/score, the second to songs, and then a very special guest arrived, Isao Sasaki. He told stories and commented on various songs for the third hour, then stayed on for the final hour to read messages from listeners while their requests were played.

The major attraction for longtime fans who have curated their own collections is the chance to learn about true rarities and obscure tracks from alternate sources. Selections in this category included audio from the 1974 Yamato Picture Story Show, a drama recording that didn’t use any actors, music, or sound effects from the anime (read about here).

One particularly unexpected track was a cover version of the Yamato theme from a 1980 album by legendary guitarist Takeshi Terauchi. It was arranged by no less than Hiroshi Miyagawa and included scat vocals by Kazuko Kawashima. Countless covers of the theme have been recorded, but few demonstrate this level of authenticity and craftsmanship. If you’re thinking, “yeah, great, when will I ever get to hear it?” then stop reading this report right now and click here. You’re welcome.

The show was extraordinarily popular, trending at number 1 on Twitter and inspiring over 15,000 Tweets from listeners (double the number from last year). Visit the show’s Twitter page here.

The Japanese fansite Yamato Music Collection published a complete media list for everything played over all four hours, which can be found here.

It’s become tradition for everyone who participates in the show to leave sketches or autographs behind. The sketchboard for this one is shown at left, joining the previous two at right. Photos posted on Twitter by Clover staff member Cyuniapplelove.

August 12 & 19: Radio Suite Yamato Extra Edition

Photo posted on Twitter by cyuniapplelove

Shortly after Clover Radio streamed their third annual Yamato music program in May, they announced an hour-long followup called the “Extra Edition” that would feature tracks that didn’t make the cut. This was a fortuitous decision, since it was also announced that Clover would cease broadcasting in September, so if this annual tradition continues it will have to go elsewhere.

The hosts talked their way through 22 tracks that ran the gamut from classic favorite to rare gem. None of these were BGM or film score tracks, instead coming from symphonic, live, tribute, and concept albums from 1977 through the 40th anniversary. The rarest gems included pieces from Kazuko Kawashima’s solo album Second Story, the Yamato Steel Suite by heavy metal band Concerto Moon, and an elusive CD called Heirloom featuring Akira Miyagawa’s performances with the Osaka Shion Wind Orchestra. The program premiered on August 12 and was repeated a week later on the 19th.

Of course, there is enough Yamato music (rare and otherwise) to fill many more hours like this, so let’s hope someone else picks up where Clover left off.

August 2: Remote music by Chor Stella

In August, an ensemble group of up-and-coming opera singers called Chor Stella made the Yamato theme their fourth remote performance project, and the results rival Isao Sasaki himself.

Get a load of this knockout on YouTube here.

August 18: Music performance by Lilium

Lilium is a singer specializing in Celtic-style ballads, and she occasionally crosses over into the anime world on such titles as Macross and Elfen Lied. She rises to our attention here because on August 18 a video was posted on Twitter in which she does an absolutely gorgeous rendering of the Infinity of Space theme. Upon further examination, it turns out that video was recorded two years earlier, and the piece is part of her regular repertoire. So settle in and enjoy…

March 2020 performance

Visit Lilium’s Youtube channel here

Visit her Facebook page here

August 28: Yamato in Panama

This is a one-of-a-kind story guaranteed to warm your heart. Musician Noriyoshi Murakami goes by the Twitter handle N-BRASS and teaches brass players at a Turkish University. On August 28, he posted a video clip of a Panamanian marching band with the following explanation:

A friend in Panama contacted me, “I know this is a Japanese song, but I don’t know the title! Please tell me if you know it. I’ve been looking for years now.” I was happy to tell him when he asked; it seems that the score was unknown when it was transcribed, and I’m impressed by the enthusiasm of the performance.

To fully appreciate the significance of this, here’s what probably happened: the conductor of this ENORMOUS brass marching band heard a symphonic version of the Yamato theme, not knowing what it actually was, and liked it enough to put time and energy into transcribing all the individual parts by ear. It’s likely that none of the performers know where it came from, but they’re knocking it out of the park. And this may be, to date, the largest group of musicians ever to play the theme live, onstage or off.

The performers are the Banda De Musica Virgilio Escala PPS, a student band belonging to the Pedro Pablo Sanchez High School in La Chorrera, Panama. Watch them here and be amazed.

Stills posted on Twitter by jtwk14

September 6: Anison General Election

“Anison” is a portmanteau of “Anime Song,” and this year TV Asahi held a prestigious nationwide poll in which 130,000 anime fans chose their 30 favorite theme songs. Comedians and voice actors appeared on the TV Asahi broadcast to count them down, and Space Battleship Yamato clocked in at number three, topped only by songs from Evangelion and Devil’s Blade. While readers of this website would no doubt have voted it number one, it is a huge testament to its staying power that it scored that high against such a mountain of competition, especially when modern songs tend to crowd out the classics.

Pleasingly, a few more classics made their way into the list: Touch (#5), Get Wild/City Hunter (#8), Galaxy Express 999 (#16), Tetsuwan Atom (#19), Zeta Gundam (#24), Lupin III (#25) and Mazinger Z (#26).

See the top 12 on Youtube here

Read another report on Crunchyroll here

Visit TV Asahi’s website here

September 13: One-man opera

“Olange Channel” (a respelling of “Orange Channel” is a Twitter user who devotes most of his activity to Mobile Suit Gundam videos, but he took time off to record a very impressive one-man opera version of the Yamato theme that really should be heard by you, right now. He recommends earphones for best results.

Find it here.

September 21: Yamato theme by Aloha Band

The Aloha Ensemble Band is based in Nishinomiya, a city near Osaka. Formed at the turn of the century, they are well known for their colorful Hawaiian shirts and stage presence. Rather than Hawaiian music, however, they go for exciting and dramatic scores from all over the world, which puts the Yamato theme right in their wheelhouse.

They scored a hit with a Yamato performance in 2013 (see a sample of it on Youtube here) and brought it back in a 2017/2018 New Year’s performance, but the onset of Corona cut off any chance of another stage performance this year. Once again, the stage’s loss was the internet’s gain; Aloha outdid themselves with TWO new versions of the theme, both recorded remotely and assembled with terrific production values.

Quarantine has brought us some amazing Yamato performances in 2020, but none are more spirited than these.

Concert band version | Solo & chorus version | Visit the band’s official website here.

September 23: Music popularity polls

Following the mecha popularity polls from August, Akiba Souken hosted two music polls that closed on September 23. For one month, fans were invited to vote on their favorite BGM tracks and Yamato songs. Results were posted every day, so it was interesting to watch the top choices battle it out. Crimson Red from 2202 climbed the charts with a bullet, even knocking the Yamato theme out of the number 1 position for a while before things settled down and sanity reasserted itself. As we saw with previous polls, it’s an arena for otakus to push at the edges, so be prepared for unconventional choices.

See the BGM list here and the song list here.

See our translated versions here and here.

Photos posted on Twitter by Kazan00-zan and and Tano-san

September 27: Karaoke Battle

This is a talent show on TV Tokyo with an interesting twist; amateurs and professional singers alike perform karaoke to see how they measure up against the national average for hitting all the notes. In the episode broadcast on September 27, Isao Sasaki himself performed the Yamato theme, which has a national average of 83.6 points (out of 100). And he did not disappoint – his live performance scored 93.3 and earned him the title of “professional singer.” Because of course.

Other anime songs on the episode included themes from Tomorrow’s Joe and Laputa.

Several viewers captured the performance and posted video clips on Twitter. Audio quality isn’t great on any of them, but don’t let that stop you.

Clip 1 | Clip 2 | Clip 3 | Clip 4

November 11: Yamato theme by Foresta

Showa 40 Otoko is a Gen-X magazine we’ve heard from a few times now, thanks to its unique coverage of the Yamato legacy. On November 11 they announced a partnership with a men’s chorus named Foresta to revive songs that appeal to their readership. First up, the Yamato theme!

The rendition is fantastic, but the article that announced the partnership closed with some problematic words for translators: “Real men who have learned classical music confront Isao Sasaki in a thick harmony. Please watch it at a loud volume. Let’s come!!”

See Foresta’s new rendition on Youtube here.

Screenshots by friend-of-the-website Minoru Itgaki

November 21: Untitled Concert

Yamato got a nod on this popular long-running TV program dedicated to classical music. It often features musicians sharing their passion for pieces that influenced them, and on the November 21 episode, host Kanji Ishimaru talked about his love for the music from Farewell to Yamato. He explained that as much as he loved the album, he was disappointed not to find The Scarlet Scarf on it. The other musicians on the show obliged him with a live performance of the song on guitar and cello. Recordings are unavailable outside Japan, so all we have after the fact are some screenshots and the knowledge that it happened.

Incidentally, Akira Miyagawa has been featured on Untitled Concert more than once, and it was previously hosted by Yamato alumni Kentaro Haneda for seven years.

November: Music history lesson

Longtime fan Joseph Narkewicz shared an interesting find on the Star Blazers/Space Battleship Yamato Facebook page. It’s a historical song that sheds new light on one of Hiroshi Miyagawa’s most moving Yamato scores, the ballad of Hero’s Hill. The song in question is titled Ode of Showa Restoration, and was written in 1930 (five years after the start of the Showa era) to elicit public support for the Japanese emperor against a growing liberal democracy. (Read more at Wikipedia.)

Hiroshi Miyagawa was known to dislike military anthems, but a case could be made that the tonal similarities between Ode and Hero’s Hill are evidence of influence.

Hear it for yourself on Youtube:

Click here for Ode of Showa Restoration (with subtitles). Find two more versions (no subtitles) here and here.

Click here for the Hero’s Hill theme.

December 22: Chiko Miyagawa’s blog

Chiko Miyagawa, daughter of Akira and granddaughter of Hiroshi, became a visible member of the Yamato family in late 2019 when it was first announced that she would participate in an April 2020 concert called Yamato Meets the Classics. The lousy rotten Coronavirus got in the way, so that didn’t happen. However, she did perform a piano duet with her father in August, which was covered in Report 50.

On December 22, she shared the following story on her blog, something that could only come from inside the Miyagawa household…

Last night, I was looking for a certain Space Battleship Yamato score composed by my grandfather. I went into the library with a light heart, thinking that it would be somewhere in Akira’s music library. A shelf of Yamato-related scores. But there were so many of them. Yamato sheet music.

In one corner of the stacks, there were all kinds of Yamato-related sheet music in Hustle-Copy envelopes. [Hustle Copy is a music publisher.] It’s so much that I couldn’t even fit them in my hands. Each envelope was marked with “2202,” “2205,” “Nantara Concert,” “Kantara Concert,” and so on. But I had no idea where the song I was looking for was sorted.

I tried my best to find it by myself for about five minutes, but I couldn’t figure it out and gave up. I asked Akira-san, “Hey, where can I find the sheet music for that Yamato song?”

My father replied, “It’s in the library, but in a place only I can find it,” and followed me to the library. I should have asked him where it was from the beginning.

The sheet music I was looking for was not where I expected it to be, but we found another one instead. Akira-san was looking at the sheet music, saying, “Wow, when I looked at this from the side, I found the old sheet music written in my handwriting and Hiroshi’s.” Even though they are father and son, Akira’s and Hiroshi’s notes are completely different. And Akira’s old sheet music is completely different from what it is now. (Even this was praised as “beautiful” at that time by Akira-san.)

Wow, I didn’t know it was so different! We were looking at the sheet music together for a while. After that, we found the one we were looking for and all was well. I wonder how many notes Akira-san has written in his life. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Ligeti. It was a moment when I realized that the world we live in today is made possible by the notes that everyone has written.

Find the original blog entry here, which is followed by some live performance clips.

Click here to continue to part 3: Publishing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.