Yamato Fan Conversation, 1979

Previously on this website, we chronicled the intimate relationship between Space Battleship Yamato and OUT Magazine, the first “otaku” periodical in Japan. The term wasn’t in general parlance at the time, but OUT certainly fulfilled all the criteria. Initially conceived as a “hipster media” publication, it was open to cult phenomenae such as the original Yamato TV series, and when the editor hired a fan club to produce a Yamato issue in early 1977, it was a shot heard ’round the world of fandom. The inmates took over the asylum and within a year OUT was the bleeding edge of otaku journalism. (Read the whole story of OUT magazine here.)

When the 1977 Yamato movie kicked anime into a period of rapid expansion, OUT was there to report on all of it, but it never stopped being a magazine by fans for fans. This article perfectly represents that approach; the transcript of a round-table discussion at a Yamato fan club meeting. It was published in the March 1979 issue, which went on sale in January. (The cover is shown at right, with art by Yuki Hijiri.) At the time, Yamato 2 was just past the halfway point of its first broadcast and with each new episode enlarging the context of the saga, there was plenty to discuss.

We now present a complete English translation of this article for the first time anywhere. (Special thanks to Sword Takeda for translation assistance.)

Yamato Fan Conversation

Talk of Yamato Rumors Goes on All Night

Introductions from the participants:

I was a junior high student when I met Space Battleship Yamato for the first time.

For the Battleship Yamato, a pile of scrap metal, to fly in the sky was an unprecedented story. In addition, thanks to the images and music, I became a great Yamato fan.

I felt man’s longing in the first work and the value of love in Farewell, which was shown last year. Both of these masterpieces remain in my memory. That’s what I think. So I will never forget Yamato…forever. (T1)

I’ve stuck close to Yamato since I was in junior high. Because I’m a girl, I should have been intrigued with typical romance comics, but in fact I’ve been hooked by Yamato not because it is SF, but rather a human drama (overestimating?).

It’s getting to be a trend to have anime sequels now. But right after seeing the first original, no one could possibly predict that it would have sequels. On the other hand, everyone misses the first original, not only Yamato but also Lupin III. The people who made the first work gave it their all.

I have no intention of criticizing new sequels, but something that intrigued me about the original Yamato now seems so distant. Therefore, I feel a little lonely. (T2)

It was three years ago that I became a Yamato fan! I got on board with the Yamato boom…I saw the movie and the rerun of the TV series, and I was deeply impressed!! So many memories remain in my heart…! Then I joined the fan club, met wonderful friends in various ways, and became very happy!

Yamato‘s charm, as is often mentioned, is its broad scale and its roman [romance]. And the interpersonal relationships are well-depicted. Though there were various anime before now, none were like Yamato.

It certainly has a mysterious power to attract people. Though my acquaintance with Yamato is shorter than everyone else’s, I’ve seen how wonderful it is and I value Yamato greatly! (Y)

Loneliness, longing, courage, determination, endurance and haste. Yamato has them all and I see them as guidelines for the survival of man and society.

Now my work is related to Yamato, and it is not an easy task. But it is surely one of the most unforgettable. I hate to lose and I feel love rather than like. (K)

Both the original TV Yamato and the movie versions are very popular. Yamato 2 has high ratings and Yamato fans are now nationwide. So I wonder what Yamato means to them.

People are expecting more than excitement, and long for something unknown or never before seen.

Then what does Yamato mean to me, I wonder. Everyone is likely to have his/her own thought. I learned something from Yamato, but it’s difficult to put into words. Even if I could describe it, that is only for myself and not for someone else to read.

I guess all the Yamato fans should achieve the ultimate goal for which Kodai and the other crewmembers hoped to reach, rather than flip responses like ‘Cool!’ or ‘Bummer!’

I hope your passionate journey with Yamato goes on without regret. This is Emu, over and out. (M)

The host of this meeting was Kiyoshi Okawa, “master and king of animation.” [Title given in original text.]

As Akira Sakuma (one of the main writers for OUT at the time) mentioned, nothing is more comforting than picking on someone’s faults. Thus, we subject Yamato to criticism this time. But we also love Yamato, too (worship, worship). Let’s read on.

The Invincible Third Bridge

Host: First, let’s start with the motivation that made the fan clubs.

K: It was the desire to discuss with someone how “that was interesting,” or “it would have been better if.” If there is a friend, couldn’t you enjoy it several times more than you could by yourself?

Host: Why did you become a Yamato fan?

M: I liked weapons from the days of World War II. Especially any material related to the case of Battleship Yamato. When I watched Space Battleship Yamato on TV it was very interesting, so ever since then…

T1: It had an appealing message that wasn’t found in other anime.

Y: It was good that the stage was not tied down to Earth and had no limitations. I also felt that the characters were very well delineated.

T1: A ship flying in the sky is an interesting concept.

K: Before Yamato, I’d see boats floating in the harbor. “What would it be like if it were possible for ships to fly?” That was actually how I felt.

M: After all, it was the spark of Columbus. But Yamato‘s mecha should be more theoretically persuasive and believable. Traditionally, manga from the old days had something special to use in the climax, and the Wave-Motion Gun simply followed that tradition, not theoretical solutions or conclusions.

T1: Gamilas seems on the verge of destroying Earth, so it’s funny that the war situation changes completely when only one ship, Yamato, appears.

T2: Isn’t it also funny that in Yamato 2 the ship’s return date seems not match?

K: Yeah, that’s strange.

T2: In the previous story, Yamato came back to Earth on September 6, and the day of Okita’s death is also September 6. However, In Yamato 2 they finish guard duty and return on October 6, but they say, “the anniversary of Captain Okita’s death is tomorrow.” If that’s the case, then after they returned to earth Okita must have hung on for one more month.

M: Generally, they came back too fast in the first original series compared with the outgoing voyage.

T1: Because there were far fewer battles.

M: After all, it was because of the audience rating. They strongly backed [rival anime series] Heidi of the Alps. But apart from that, Yamato‘s contradictions are considerable. For example, in Yamato 2 the time radar appears as a new mechanism, but it was featured long ago in the manga by Yuki Hijiri. Then there was the strange part in the manga by Akira Hio where the artificial gravity should be working, but the crew falls to the ceiling when Yamato flips upside down. Dr. Sado breaks a bone.

Also, this is not a consistent thing, but in Akira Hio’s manga, Yuki calls Susumu Kodai just “Kodai” not “Kodai-kun” as in TV or films. It’s creepy!

K: The funniest thing is that no matter how hard Gamilas attacks, those three bridges are always safe. That legendary invincible, immortal third bridge!

T2: It’s one of the seven wonders of Yamato.

K: In the beginning of Yamato, wasn’t Ganz flesh-colored…?

Y: One theory is that they were cyborgs remodeled for our solar system.

M: There was also a theory that they were originally Earthlings who had been brainwashed by Gamilas.

K: The skin color is a common topic. You could say that they turned from blue to pale when they saw Yamato coming! As it was written in the previous issue of OUT.

M: They entered a parallel world when they went into a warp.

Speaking of OUT, I asked a barber to give me a haircut like Kodai, inspired by the article. When I asked things like, let’s make the top into tapered points, they laughed at my order. How insulting!

Analyzer Dies!?

K: Should we talk about Farewell to Yamato? Though it was a very good movie, I think it was a little, shall we say, stiff. Other than Kodai and Yuki, it was mostly battle scenes. There were also many scenes that showed only upper-body movements and less action, oriented like a stage play.

T1: I’d say Mr. Matsumoto’s manga has the same tendency, too. The panel layout is big and doesn’t show much movement. Other than that, I wanted it to have a happy ending.

M: However, there is the fact that one who dies leaves a lasting impression. There is a song saying, “only the departing one is beautiful.”

T1: Even though it was certainly a good movie, it did not move me to tears. I must admit there was a slight tear but it wasn’t like the end of the first series when Yamato returned to Earth and my tears flowed. There was something more than the death of Captain Okita that moved me.

T2: Though Mr. Nishizaki said they should have loved their enemy, they actually kept on fighting. That may result in gaining love at the end, but there certainly were some occasions to talk with their opponents.

After destroying the [Comet Empire] Imperial City, Kodai said they had paid a “heavy price,” which showed his regrets. Then why that Kamikaze attack at the very end? As if the attack had been planned from the start and the plot had to go in that direction. As if it was the foundation of the movie.

T1: I agree.

M: I like Sanada’s death scene the best. An older guy in the audience next to me also cried deeply in the theater. But it was sort of the big climax, and the following drama gradually shrank. I think they should have worked out a better death for Dr. Sado. And Kato looks like he died in his sleep…I wonder if the canopy was cracked. Maybe his blood boiled in the vacuum.

T1: It’s also assumed that Analyzer died. Wouldn’t they be able to repair him?

K: What I did not really get was what Kodai’s line, “I do not go to die” means exactly.

M: It’s Buddhism.

K: I hoped for them to have some kids, at least one.

M: Then they’ve got to make love before marriage. (laughs)

After all I much preferred one of four possible or ideal endings suggested in the September ’78 issue of OUT that finishes with “white out.” [In reference to a humorous choose-your-own-ending-style article from that issue.]

K: But how do you think Yamato 2 will turn out? There is a rumor that only Kodai will survive.

M: Only Kodai is packed into a capsule and thrown out, and…

T1: …and he would be blamed by people who throw stones at him back on Earth.

M: In Yamato 2, Kodai seems to grow up and get more calm and steady. To make it stand out, other characters become more careless.

Especially Analyzer. He is currently just hunting space fireflies. He may have served well in the hollow planetoid [Episode 12] but that was all. He gets more human and cute though.

T1: That’s right. He only says “goodness gracious me!” or something like that. In the latest episode he was ordered by Kodai not to come out.

M: “Don’t come when you’re not needed.” was the line. What a pity. But some comedy relief from Analyzer is a must since the story tends to be too serious without him.

T1: However, as a Yamato gag it’s unsatisfactory. I want funnier ones like in Daitarn 3.

M: That goes way beyond too far and Yamato shouldn’t go in that direction or it would ruin everything.

T1: That’s right.

Bystanders die but never Kodai?

Host: Should we talk a little about the enemy side? To begin with, the people of Gamilas and Gatlantis?

M: That’s fine.

T1: In both cases, they are humanoid aliens. Space humans.

M: Yes. Therefore, aliens who are not humanoid are sure to appear.

T1: As in Star Wars. They also appear in Captain Future. Speaking of villains, some staff officers of the Earth Defense Force could be villains in a sense, I guess.

K: There was the Gatlantis pilot who was captured and the Earthman who questioned him, that Earth interrogator looked so evil!

M: Speaking of mecha, by the way, there’s no place where the captain of an enemy vessel can sit down. Always keeps standing.

T1: That’s right.

M: Somehow, a civilian never appears on the White Comet.

T1: Isn’t it a moving base?

M: If it is just a mobile sentry, the emperor or the grand ruler would sit back and relax in dignity on his homeworld.

T1: You have keen eyes!

M: It would be interesting to have some twist such as a revolt in there.

T1: It was in episode 19 of the first series where Aihara became homesick and tried to swim back to Earth across infinite space. Yamato 2 should have something like that. It seems the bonds are tighter among enemies than in the Yamato crew.

Host: In the conversation a moment ago, I asked how you thought Yamato 2 would turn out.

T1: I think that Kodai will not die.

M: Me, too. But I think Yuki will die. Even Kato and Sanada are in danger.

Host: Why?

M: Even if bystanders get killed off, there’s not much death among the leading roles, is there? Because TV in particular, is made for kids…

Host: That’s circumstantial evidence.

T1: If there was enough time, they might not die even in a movie.

M: Another solution might be found as the episodes go on.

K: Shima is anxious about his separation from Teresa…

M: Maybe he’ll go mad and do a Kamikaze attack against the Comet Empire.

T1: I’d much prefer a happy ending not only in Yamato 2 but also movies in general. In Captain Harlock even the injured crew never dies. That might be too optimistic and unrealistic, but I much prefer it.

T2: Even while I’m watching TV, sometimes that scene of Kodai dying pops into my head, and when I think about it I get a bit lonely.

Host: Have any of you collected cels?

M: Only those worth collecting. But not enthusiastically. I don’t think it’s a good idea to sell cels or character design sheets as merchandising since it used to be just disposable or expendable. How can they sell what was once garbage?

T1: Thanks to cels, I understood more about how animation is made.

M: As for me, I used to think cartoons were flip books projected with a camera.

T1: Making anime is a serious job. I visited Toei Animation studio to find many handbills on the wall demanding more pay. It is also famous for its low pay…

K: Very much so. It isn’t possible to make anime unless you really like it.

Yamato is forever!!

Host: Do you like the mecha of Leiji Matsumoto?

T1: I like it more than most other people’s works or designs.

M: Hmm, there are a few too many meters. Some of them are placed where nobody can see them. According to OUT, Matsumoto-Sensei looks up in the sky whenever an airplane flies over, even in the middle of playing baseball.

T1: Wasn’t it written in Animage?

M: Oh! My mistake. Forget what I just said. I like the Studio Nue designs best.

T1: Because they are professionals and experts.

M: Not really, it just seems that way.

T1: Matsumoto-Sensei is full of humor and humanity. In Galaxy Express 999, a little short guy is the hero. As if insisting that you don’t need to be good-looking to survive in space.

M: It is very different from classic anime of the old days. That has gradually changed since Yamato

K: What do you think anime will become in the future?

M: Doesn’t it feel like we’ve reached the ultimate goal? So it seems the only way to go is back to the way it used to be.

K: It may go to something fantasy-like, such as Disney. Some of the manga titles may find their way to becoming live-action rather than anime. You might not know it, but that was done for Tetsujin 28 [Gigantor].

Everyone: We know. Tetsuwan Atom [Astro Boy], too. He looked like he was wearing a diaper.

I used to role-play pretending I was Goldar from Ambassador Magma [The Space Giants], but it’s harder pretending to be anime characters and portraying their situations.

K: So all we can do is copy famous lines like, “Hisu [Krypt], don’t be an idiot.”

M: Changing the subject, I think Yamato 2 is kind of deceptive.

K: What do you mean?

M: I wonder if people would keep watching if not for [the huge success of] Farewell.

T1: I agree. Once we had Captain Okita.

M: Yeah, that kind of centerpiece is a must. Kodai and Yuki are followed by Shima and Teresa. Love stories in turn do not help the main story much.

T2: In Yamato 2, the characters come out sporadically. This time, Sanada is at the center. Next time some rookie might be the center. So it becomes less impressive.

Host: I have to say, the previous Yamato seems soft to me, like a dream. Farewell and Yamato 2 surely seem more realistic than a dream. It becomes a matter of taste.

T1: It’s irrelevant, but don’t you want to hear “M-kun is dying!” from Yoko Asagami? [Yuki’s voice actress.]

M: No. I don’t.

T1: But I like the sequence when Kodai orders Yuki to leave the ship and her eyes fill with tears.

M: It was unlikely.

T1: Unlikely of course, but it was still good. I really want to be spoken to like that!

Everyone: Hmm…

M: Irrelevant again, but Sanada’s hands should be adjustable for multiple attachments like an apparatus that extends from the palm.

T1: Sounds fine! A bit silly, though.

Host: Anything to say in closing?

M: Yamato is forever. A proper closing, huh? Seriously, I think Yamato will not be forgotten.

T1: Criticized, complained about and parodied because it is so famous. Anyway, Yamato is the king of anime. Since Yamato, anime has changed.

K: Years later, bedtime stories like, “When I was young, there was a anime called…” may be told.

M: Will there be anime in the future, then?

T1: It will be sort of three-dimensional, with holography.

M: It is possible, absolutely.

K: We have said a lot already, but Mr. Nishizaki is now way past forty, right? It’s remarkable in many ways.

M: What do you mean?

K: In some ways, he’s very young. (Murmurs, avoiding saying more)

M: To be honest, I think Yamato 2 has gotten a little worn out. But because Yamato made the anime boom what it is today, I wish it luck to the end and I want it to be good.

Everyone: Applause

Host: To everyone in the Yamato fan club, thank you very much for your opinions today.

The End

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