Encount interview, June 2021

Age of Yamato: The secret story revealed by the supervisor of the production that aimed to be an “NHK special”

Interview and text by Tetsuya Hiratsuji

Published June 7, 2021 by Encount
(see the original article here)

Age of Yamato, a special compilation film which is a new take on the immortal anime remakes Yamato 2199 and Yamato 2202, will open in theaters on the 11th. Harutoshi Fukui, who composes and supervises, and Yuka Minakawa, who writes the script, talked about what Yamato is asking us now.

Age of Yamato is a unique work that does not merely summarize a series of remakes. It starts with the Apollo moon landing in 1969, moves on to the voyage to Iscandar in 2199, and continues to the Battle of Gatlantis in 2202. The story is centered on the battle of 2202, which is engraved in the history of mankind and space. It also serves as a prelude to the new film Yamato 2205 (scheduled to open in October).

“I wanted to make it like an NHK special, not just a fictional war story,” Fukui said. “I wanted to convey it as a mirror of the time we are living in. In an age when everything can be seen on the internet, I thought it needed a point of view that even people who have seen the story don’t know. And those who hadn’t seen the film before would understand it if they watched these two hours.”

Mr. Fukui is known for the films Another Nation’s Aegis, Lorelei at the End of the War, and Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn.

Ms. Minakawa, who received an offer from Mr. Fukui to write the script, said, “Mr. Fukui told me that he wanted to do a new film about the pre-history of the Inner Planets War, the battle before Yamato was launched. When I first put it together there wasn’t a script, and I thought it would be hard for someone to write, and after a while, I got the offer.” (Laughs)

The narrator of the compilation is Shiro Sanada (voiced by Houchu Otsuka), who doubles as the technical chief and deputy captain. He is a brilliant student who graduated from MIT, a 29-year-old man who volunteers for the United Nations Space Command and is entrusted with the core of the Yamato project.

Fukui: “Since the days of the original Yamato, Sanada has been the one who explains everything to us. One point is that he is not unusual. In the remake series, Sanada was not a communicative person at first, but as he interacted with people, he gradually became a man who could empathize with ordinary people. I thought he would be able to tell the story of Yamato‘s three-year history.”

The original Yamato (26 episodes) was aired on Japanese TV in 1974. A compilation of the series was released in theaters in 1977. It was followed by Farewell to Yamato (1978), Be Forever (1980), and Final Yamato (1983).

What was the original experience for the two of you?

Fukui: “When I was about 10 years old, when Farewell was released in theaters, I saw the first Yamato film on TV. I realized it was possible to do something like this with a TV cartoon.”

Minakawa: “When I was in 4th grade, I watched the 1974 broadcast from the very first episode. But when I saw them making rice cakes when they left the galaxy, I thought it was strange that this would happen in the future. So I switched over to Monkey Army [a live-action show] halfway through. (Laughs) It was a scary, scary story about a world on the verge of dying. The Gamilas ships were amazing, and I felt like I had seen something incredible.”

“In the future, there could be a time when aliens come every year.”

What do you think of Yamato‘s worldview?

Fukui: “In Yamato‘s time, new aliens come to Earth every year. When I was a kid, I thought it was ridiculous, and I thought, ‘Gundam seems more real.’ But now, in this day and age, I’m rethinking that. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the worst things imaginable have happened one after another. If things keep going like this, I think it’s possible that in the future, aliens will come every year.”

The original version of Yamato is said to be based on the apocalyptic ideas that were floating around in the 1970s.

Fukui: “There was Nostradamus, there was [disaster novel] The Sinking of Japan, and then there was the oil shock. We realized that the world’s resources are limited, and we felt despair.”

Minakawa: “There was a feeling that one day a nuclear missile would suddenly drop and the world would end, but in reality, there was no destruction in 1999 as predicted by Nostradamus. However, there was a sense of stagnation for 20 years. I think it’s very meaningful to reconsider Yamato in that context.”

Following this compilation, the new series Yamato 2205 will be a remake of The New Voyage (1979). The storyline is inherited, but the theme has been drastically rethought.

“I don’t feel pressure to work on a beloved series,” Fukui said. “The target is mainly people in their late 40s to 60s. Works that are pitched to people in their 20s and 30s get more buzz, so there is nothing for the older generation in Japan. From the point of view of someone who watched Yamato, today’s world is a nightmarish future. My goal is to create a work that will make such a generation look at the present and push them to live in the future. I’ll be happy if young people follow me as a result. It hasn’t yet regained the enthusiasm of the boom days. There are still a lot of people who haven’t seen it yet, so I’m making it for them.”

Minakawa, who is also participating in the new series, said, “Fukui-san is a person who thinks he can do something with stories. He thinks that by watching a two-hour film, your life might change in some way. That’s why he is a storyteller. I empathize with that.”

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