As the title states clearly and distinctly, this was the last Yamato production. After this, there would be no more. (At least, that was the plan at the time.) It goes without saying then, that the hardworking staff, most of whom had taken long and demanding voyages with Yamato before, saw it as the last opportunity to pour their creative passion into their work. Here, then, are their own words to describe the experience. These interviews were originally published in 1983, a few months after the release of the film.
1. Leiji Matsumoto (original story, design, and supervision)
A Fresh Ending for Yamato
Actually, we had decided to sink Yamato from the very beginning. We wanted a graceful scene for Yuki and Kodai. Since this is the last story, we made sure that it flowed smoothly. We also added some new elements and changed earlier ones. What I regret, however, is that I could not attend the voice recording session because of my schedule.
It was fun when I was working on this project. In Yamato‘s case, I tended to trust other staff members and depend on them too much. As a result, as the release of the movie approached, I felt nervous wondering what kind of work it would be.
This is the last story of Yamato, so I would like the fans to enjoy this movie a lot. I would also like older fans to come to the theater to see our work. Personally, I wanted to end Yamato in a fresh way.
2. Tomoharu Katsumada (director)
To the fans, “Thank you.”
I had a difficult time setting up the theme since there were many important points to include; the process of growing up from a child to an adult, the necessity to revive Okita, who was supposed to be dead, and the passing of the torch from Okita to the next generation. Combining these big themes well in honor of the tenth anniversary was a difficult task. Moreover, we had to solve the problem of how to express the grand and vast scale of nature in pictures. Since the staff members had known each other for a long time, they could easily understand what was in my mind. Consequently, I had no difficulty in the actual process of making the movie.
This time, unlike before, I was not involved in the actual production of the movie that much. I was a liaison between Mr. Nishizaki and Toei Studio. It was hard for me to arrange his schedule.
Although I have only been involved in the production of the Yamato movies [rather than the TV version], I would like to thank the Yamato fans for their ten years of support.
3. Eichi Yamamoto (screenplay, associate producer)
A new departure from Yamato
I supervised the planning, scenario, and storyboards. What I found most difficult was the choice of themes in the story. It took us a long time to reach an agreement about this. What I paid the most attention to was the overall image of “Final Yamato.” We wanted to decisively prevent any reappearance of Yamato on the screen. Therefore, we wanted to vaporize Yamato and let it go up in smoke. There is the scene in which Yamato sinks into the water, but this is a purely imaginary scene. We were thinking of how the end of Yamato would look to Kodai and other crewmembers. Now that I am finished with Yamato, I finally feel released. I think Yamato has inspired many different types of SF anime, and played a leadership role in this trend. I believe this will continue to develop. For me, although Yamato is over, I feel that something new will be generated out of this movie. My interest and imagination is growing to find out what that will be. I’m very pleased at the interest in this movie, and I would like the fans to pay attention to all the many aspects of the film. Also, I hope their minds and morals will be enriched by further exposure to great stories, not just those limited to TV and film animation.
4. Kazunori Tanahashi (assistant director)
Dubbing without pictures was difficult.
I could not fully participate the production of Final Yamato because I also had other tasks. I was mainly in charge of checking the dubbing and the original cels. I checked the storyboard with Mr. Katsumata. [Editor’s note: animation checkers are tasked with coordinating and reconciling the many elements that go into a production.]
We had a hard time with the dubbing because there were lots of blank, unfinished scenes. Without pictures, it was tough to edit them. As a result, we sometimes ended up using parts we had previously cut. As for these blanks, I assume that Mr. Kashiwabara, who was in charge of sound effects, had a difficult time due to his tight schedule.
Also, in choosing classic scenes to run behind the credits, we selected them from the first movie, Farewell to Yamato, and Be Forever. This was another difficult task.
I think this film finally measured up to the expectations of Mr. Nishizaki.
5. Geki Katsumata (art director)
A “Yamato” that is real and fantastic
I enjoyed making this movie. We developed the story in image boards before we set it in stone. The scale of this movie was huge. I was in charge of developing the image, which meant I was in charge of the storyboards. Therefore, my intentions were fully reflected in the work. I paid special attention to the color of the mountains and sky, since they might influence the tone of the entire movie. I used bright colors so that the film would not be too dark. I am especially pleased with the scenes of Aquarius. I wanted to emphasize a crystal and electronic atmosphere in those scenes. As for the structures on Uruku, I wanted to make them different from those on Earth. I wanted to make them look mechanical and something like a control tower. I thought I could make these images powerful and real at the same time. But if I was asked to choose which pictures to show to an audience, either the image boards or the finished film, I would go with the image boards.
The story development began by connecting the flood myth with Yamato. I worried at firest that it would sound like a soap opera, but when seeing the completed film, I felt relieved because everything fit together and great atmosphere was created.
It took a long time to find the concrete image. I wanted this Yamato to have a fantastic aspect as well as realistic aspect, and I paid particular attention to this mixture. Anyway, I think we were able to make this movie a suitable finale for Yamato.
6. Tsuji Tadanao (conceptual design)
It was difficult to develop the image
I was in charge of art and mecha design. Mr. Itabashi designed the interior of Yamato, and I designed almost everything else, such as Earth and Pluto. In terms of mechanical design, Mr. Izubuchi and I designed the mecha for the enemy side, whereas Mr. Itabashi designed the Earth forces, as usual. Compared to Farewell to Yamato and Be Forever, the script for Final Yamato was not concrete when we actually started production. The storyline was changed many times. Therefore, it was difficult for us to develop the movie’s full image.
There were many orders given by Mr. Nishizaki since this was going to be the end, and it was difficult to meet all the demands. The story was long, so I drew a lot of elements. However, when the movie was finished, many parts were shortened and cut. As a result, my ideas were actually used for only one-third of the entire movie.
The locations in Final Yamato are very interesting, especially the Aquarius scenes, which were the highlight of the movie. However, I feel that the flood that endangered Earth was not fully realized. Getting the effects just right is the most difficult part of filmmaking.
We have finally we come to the end of Yamato, and now I can sleep well at night. Honestly, I am relieved and now I feel released.
7. Atsumi Tashiro (assistant director of sound effects)
Too bad 4-channel could not be used
Final Yamato was literally the finale of Yamato. My role this time was something like an assistant to Mr. Nishizaki. This time, he was the initiator of the project. He was looking for high quality in the music, too. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Final Yamato was completely his own work, including the music. In the climax, Yamato sinks. In that particular scene, the crewmembers decided they could not save Earth unless they sacrificed Yamato. The sound effects in that scene emphasize the significance of the matter. Well-balanced and logical development is usually required in such dramas, and Final Yamato keeps this up to the very end. For two and half hours, the audience will never get bored. They will see the story flow toward a deep and balanced conclusion.
What I regret about Final Yamato is that a 4-channel sound system could not be used. With the powerful background music created by such a system, the movie would have been better and could have sent clearer messages. I had a hard time all the way through the production. As the day of release closed in, we were still hard at work. I’d never had this experience before.
I am sure you will see the result of our efforts. Please look forward to this movie.
8. Katsumi Itabashi (mecha design)
We valued a sense of reality in Final Yamato
I mainly designed the mecha for the Earth side. I was not involved in the enemy side. Most of the mecha design for Earth was built on previous concepts. The battleship, cruiser, transport ship and their various gadgets are good examples.
This time I wanted to make them look real, so I changed the inside of Yamato a little. Because it looked too spacious, I measured and adjusted the interior of the ship. As for the exterior, there were no major changes except for some devices such as the radar, which we added.
Production took about four months, but I wanted to spend one more year. I wanted to take my time with each design since this would be the last Yamato. I had to spend a lot of time in meetings at Toei Studio and Akasaka. Too bad we spent so much time in them…
9. Yutaka Izubuchi (mecha designer)
Mechanics of Denguil, etc…
This time I designed the mid-sized battleships of Denguil, the Robot Horse, and the fighters. Although I made various sketches, only a few them were used in the movie. Also, I was directed to emulate images from foreign SF movies, so I re-designed mecha from them and copied only their function. However, I was told that I changed them too much and my work was not approved.
I would like to leave it up to the audience to judge whether or not this is a complete movie. Personally, even though the world of Yamato is made complete by its characters, it seems to me there are other ways to achieve the whole picture. Perhaps I am just exhausted by this hard schedule.
10. Hideki Takayama (effects designer)
Powerful effects from dynamic light
In our job, we’re expected to create excellent effects with the right timing. We have to achieve a balance of both subtle and powerful effects. There is no point in using the same level from the beginning to the end of the movie. The dynamics of the light have nothing to do with whether it is used by the Earth side or the enemy side, it only matters how it appears onscreen. We talked a lot with the camera crew and checked through the lenses and determined when to use bright or dim light. In the end, I can say that my job was to establish unity.
Regarding Final Yamato, I had a difficult time throughout the entire production. The Aquarius warp scene was especially difficult. We had to shoot five or six passes just to finish one frame. Normal light, beam light, and patterned light are all different. Each frame required the right light at the right point and the layering of different lights. For instance, when a weapon of mass destruction appears on the screen, we have to decide how to show it effectively. Using normal light gives no impact, so we need different kinds of light to choose from.
There are many highlights in Final Yamato. By employing “transparent light,” we created spectacular visual effects, even for scenes that used to be made simply. Final Yamato has many scenes filled with tension. Tense pictures are necessary to create this sense of crisis. I think the attention paid to such points made the film a suitable finale.
Continue to Part 2, where we here from the craftsmen whose work appeared on screen.