At the end of 1977, some members of YA staff became members of the OUT staff, correct?
Yes. I did.
And then in the next year it became an all-anime magazine?
Yes, then there was Rendezvous. I drew the Gatchaman cover. Rendezvous Comic was for manga, a different division, but I did some pages on anime.
Was Rendezvous your idea?
That was Mr. K’s idea. He’s still my boss today.
I understand that he was always very protective of his privacy. Is that still true?
Yes. [Note: “Mr. K” was Yamato Association‘s expert on print production, who moved on to professional publishing as soon as the opportunity arose.]
OUT magazine went to an all-anime format in early 1978, and then Animage debuted a few months later. Did you consider it a copy of OUT?
No, it was very different. Animage was more graphically-oriented with many color pages and focused only on upcoming titles. About half the articles in Rendezvous and OUT covered older animation, not current material. That was the difference.
Something else I noticed was that as Yamato coverage increased in Animage, it decreased in OUT.
That’s because I left the publisher, Minori Shobo. New people came in with different interests. They did more on Gundam later.
And the pages devoted to Yamato went down, with less color.
Because of the huge success of the ’77 Yamato, there were many similar SF movies and TV shows such us Zambot 3, Daitarn 3, and then Gundam, and that became the new trend. Yamato fans moved over to SF robots and Mobile Suits.
After OUT Magazine, what did you do next?
I was fed up with the close ties of OUT and escaped to do other things, like the Yamato Big Encyclopedia pocket books from Keibunsha.
Did you create all of the Yamato Encyclopedias?
Only the first two, for Yamato and Farewell. There had been many before that; since 1971 Keibunsha had issued these thick pocket books devoted kids’ TV programs, tokusatsu at first. I left Yamato behind because Office Academy set up their official fan club [in early 1978], and it was a disappointment that I wasn’t asked to be involved. Also, for me Yamato was the first 26 TV series and Farewell to Yamato was just a compromise. Or, in other words, the “end of my favorite.”
Then you’re part of the generation that wanted the story to finish with Farewell?
I agreed with Leiji Matsumoto’s policy that the youth should live on at all cost. But I do agree that it should have ended with Farewell.
But you watched all of Yamato after that, didn’t you?
Everything except Yamato Resurrection. And I have no intention of seeing it because the first announcement of it was done by a model magazine company called Model Art [the company has close ties with mecha designer/modeler Makoto Kobayashi, author of Hyper Weapon magazine, who worked on the movie]. It was announced at a hobby/model show, not during its earlier business days but on its later public days. Why were we on the business side thought of as beneath the general public? That did not make sense to me at all. It made me really mad. So I gave up.
Part 3: Yamato Today
You still do Yamato projects today?
There’s a wide variety of things going on, like branches on a big trunk. I’m engaged in some of those branches.
In my own mind, I was a Gundam expert in the early 80s, and then after that I became an ambassador for the revival of Thunderbirds. So I didn’t pay any attention to videos and laserdiscs [above right], because there were some experts at a production company named ASH. Or in some cases, Shonan-Kobo or Tohokushinsha. They had their own experts, so I thought I didn’t need to be involved.
But in 1999 and 2000 the first Yamato DVD box sets came out, and you did work for those.
The LD’s were a huge mistake, and ASH disappointed people so no one relied on them any more.
At the time of Final Yamato, Producer Nishizaki asked every publisher to do a Yamato book. So I followed the order and made the Animec “Rapport Deluxe” book that specialized in the first series. The foldout had the plans by Mori Art Design, a real shipbuilding company.
Other publishers did many books on Final Yamato, so it was my idea that one book should focus on the first series.
The 1983 “Rapport Deluxe” book published by Animec with the foldout. See it in full here.
Were those drawings from Mori Art Design a plan for the Cut Model, or something else?
They became the basis of the Cut Model in 1977. I heard that the ship-making company was asked to create Yamato as if it existed today in real life.
Anyway, someone remembered that book, and when ASH failed, they asked me.
That’s how you became involved again for the DVD sets?
Yes, I wrote the manuscript for the inserts. The first [movie] DVDs had them.
So this was the first new project you did for Bandai, or Emotion?
Yes. Noriaki Ikeda, the tokusatsu critic/writer, introduced me to Emotion.
And after this came the TV series box sets?
Yes, this was successful. In the box sets, the customer needed more than just an insert. If I were a customer, how could I check my favorite episode? Through a book. Looking at this recovers memories of the early days. I approached them as if they were souvenir program books.
For me personally, the most important part of those books was the “making of” text, and the product information.
In 1978, the 30,000 yen [Academy Deluxe Book] set came out, but there was no detailed descriptions of the products, only a list. That was frustrating. So my first idea was to make a comprehensive listing. I did the same thing for Thunderbirds in the 80’s. Those lists were influenced by books that were made for Thunderbirds conventions in U.K. and Star Trek conventions in the states.
Your books contained a lot of new information.
The starting point was just my collection, and there were things I didn’t have, so I asked many people for help and the result was very fruitful. So my mission was to deliver the information to the customers.
One of the things I learned about from your books was the manga by Yuki Hijiri. So every time I visited Japan, I looked for the back issues of Terebi Land. After two years, I was able to find every issue except for the special. Adding it to starblazers.com was the end of a long process that started with seeing your book.
Even I don’t have the whole collection of Terebi Land, and Hijiri’s manga didn’t find its way to a reprint. Tohokushinsha and Nishizaki wouldn’t allow it. Nishizaki owned all of Hijiri’s original artwork, but a few years ago in the bankruptcy of one of his companies, the artwork drifted into auction at Mandarake.
So the only way to recover it was to find the magazines themselves.
If you live in Japan and you have a huge amount of money, there are ways to see it. The best way would be to reprint the comics, but it needs the permission of many different owners.
I’d like to ask you about your new book, Yamato Great Chronicle. I’m hoping I can help introduce it to American fans. What would you like to say about it?
The initial idea was to show the detailed creative process of Leiji Matsumoto for the first series. That resulted in the first half of the book. The second half is devoted to cels and background art up to Final Yamato, demonstrating how tiny TV screens were in those days was and how big the movie screen is.
Is all the artwork in the book from Mr. Matsumoto’s personal collection?
80% of it. 10% from me, and 10% from other collectors, mostly from my assistant Mr. Endo.
It was supervised by Leiji Matsumoto, so it’s mainly representative of his collection. I hoped to see more of the earlier rough designs and drawings. But Matsumoto’s schedule was so hectic there wasn’t an opportunity. But he still has many cels.
Did you use every cel from his collection?
Only about half of his whole collection.
So he still has a lot of material from the first Yamato?
Yes. I am willing to do a followup with rest of his collection if there is a chance.
What is the condition of the collection?
Some of it has gotten some rough treatment, but some are very carefully preserved.
This book looks like something you would find in an art museum, accompanying a Monet or Picasso exhibit.
That’s what I had in mind.
Do you think someday there will be an actual museum for anime like Yamato?
I’m not sure. Copyrights are splintered into many different pieces. There are some occasions to see the art in person, since Mr. Matsumoto holds many events. But I wanted others to see them, so my concept was to create a sort of art catalogue. I wanted to inject that kind of meaning into it.
So this could be the beginning of a new kind of book.
I wonder who will follow from here.
The first step is the hardest, to set the standard for everyone else to follow.
It goes back to the roots, to the origin of American fanzines. That was my image to follow, and create a Yamato version. There were so many fanzines for Star Trek and Lost and Space, and we wanted the same thing for Japanese anime. There were things like the blueprints for filming sets, so “why don’t we have that for anime” was my thought.
The first announcement for the book appeared in the summer [of 2010]. How long ago did you conceive it?
It was in my mind for a long time, and the premiere of DeAgostini’s Yamato Fact File [in late 2009] was the inspiration that made me think, “I have to do it.”
From that point, what was the first step to get started?
I was in touch with Mr. Matsumoto and Katsunori Anzai of Zero Goods Universe. [Matsumoto’s product/art agency.]
Did you go to Tohokushinsha for permission?
Yes, at the very beginning.
What’s the relationship of Mr. Matsumoto to Tohokushinsha today?
There were many confrontations and quarrels when the DVDs came out. Tohokushinsha didn’t allow the copyright to be attributed to Nishizaki, only themselves and Matsumoto at the time.
That was around 1998, 1999?
That was the case until 2003. Then Nishizaki began to insist that he had the rights, and they went to court.
So today, when someone wants to create a Yamato project, they go Tohokushinsha first, is that right?
About old material, the first step is to go either to Leiji Matsumoto or Tohokushinsha. I went to Matsumoto first for this book.
Did he then take the idea to Tohokushinsha?
Possibly, but in this case, Mr. Anzai was the intermediary, as Mr. Matsumoto’s agent.
And who is the publisher?
Glide Media, a new publisher. They’ve also done a book on Toei’s Sentai [Ranger] series. It was delayed from its original publishing date. If you’re a Yamato fan, you probably got the idea that it was because of Mr. Nishizaki, like the case with the one-month delay of the Yamato Resurrection DVD.
It was just a coincidence that it came out at the same time as the live-action movie. The two are not related.
I think the timing will be to your benefit. In America, the belief is that all promotion is good promotion.
America is very business-like. Here, it’s not that simple. There are tendencies to take care of people to whom you owe something, unique and complicated relationships.
The layout of Great Chronicle is very similar to the DVD books.
That’s my policy. I used to be a graphic artist, so the layout is mine.
Now that this is done, do you have an idea for your next Yamato project?
I’m tired, so right now I don’t have any. Maybe in 10 years. I was in hibernation from the last book to the DVDs for about ten years. So maybe there will be another 10-year hibernation. But if someone asks me, and the policy of Tohokushinsha changes, and the Nishizaki sympathizers are all gone…
My hope is for a Blu Ray disc of the first Yamato series. I’m concerned about how it will be handled, and who will do it, dealing with the frame ratio and such things. My idea would be to put the TV picture and the screenplay, what we call the AR [After Recording] Scenario, side-by-side because we read vertically. We used to get foreign films with vertical subtitles, but now they are horizontal. I’d like that to become the standard presentation for all anime with a 3X4 ratio.
Do you have a prediction about what will happen in the wake of Mr. Nishizaki’s death?
Yes, I do. I’d like to keep it only in my mind, a remake of Part 1. Nishizaki planned to remake the first series. The directors are decided and the scripts are already done.
And now someone has to decide whether to keep going?
That is a huge problem. What Mr. Nishizaki started and what Mr. Matsumoto thinks. That problem remains.
Well, I don’t think there will be another live-action movie. I thought for sure they would set up a new series, but no. And what’s interesting about it to me is that there is such a large group of original fans like you who wanted Farewell to be the end of the story, and now the movie ends with Farewell. So history repeats.
The wife of the director wrote the screenplay, and she put together all the most popular elements. Whether or not she did it intentionally is still a total mystery.
But even if it’s not intentional, history still repeats.
I didn’t like it. There are many SF geeks would point out that Kodai could have used an escape pod or something. Those scientific or technical aspects are totally missing from her screenplay and this is the 21st century, when we already had Gundam 30 years ago.
I’m very grateful for your time today, and I’m glad to finally meet the number 1 fan.
I think of myself as number 2 or 3. Tatsuya Nakatani would be number 1. He was the one who collected all the materials. He lived in Tokyo at the beginning of everything, and we inherited his legacy. We helped him while he was busy taking his university entrance exams.
Like I said, I’m very happy to meet the number 2 or 3 fan (laughter). And good luck with your next project.
Postscript: We deeply regret to announce that Mr. Ito died of heart failure on July 21, 2013.
His gifts to all of us should never be forgotten.