First the basics: The New Voyage was first broadcast on Japan’s Fuji TV network Tuesday July 31, 1979, from 7:30-9pm. Referred to as a “telefeature,” the film occupies a special position in the Yamato saga in that it was intentionally designed to serve two audiences. To explain why, some historical context is in order.
Building the Legend
The second feature film, Farewell to Space Battleship Yamato, was a blockbuster of unprecedented proportions. Its phenomenal popularity gave way to a retelling–with a significantly different ending–in Yamato 2. This TV series debuted in October 1978 and concluded the following spring after a 26-episode run. The belief of designer/director Leiji Matsumoto that “young people should survive at all cost” came through loud and clear. It also re-opened a door that Farewell had seemingly closed, one that lead to new adventures the fans were only too happy to follow.
An unforeseen side effect was that those fans had divided themselves into several factions. There were those who loved Farewell so much that they wanted it to be the end of the saga. To them, Yamato 2 was a step down. Opposing them was a huge audience who had gotten on board with the broadcast of Yamato 2 and was now the driving force of the franchise. There were even those who thought Series 1 was as good as it could get and didn’t see the need to continue after that. There were also fans of particular characters who carried the rivalries of the story into real life. A Kodai fan, for example, was in direct opposition to a Dessler fan and vice-versa. It was something new to anime; a colorful, multi-tiered fan base that all got something different out of the experience. Whatever was made next somehow had to appease them all.
Executive Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki had a tiger by the tail, and felt that the sensible way to approach the problem was to divide the viewers up by age. Viewers who were 7-8 years old during Series 1 were now 12-13, and those who were 12-13 years old back then were now 17-18. Thus, the age range was continually expanding and now had a six-year spread. This didn’t even take into account those who first saw Yamato in high school and defied all precedent by continuing to watch anime rather than “growing out” of it.
Nishizaki’s choice to deal with this challenge was to revive the spirit of Series 1. With Yamato 2 now concluded, it was decided to go back to basics. Therefore, The New Voyage was essentially the beginning of a new series, and the title implied a step forward.
Work began in early 1979, while Yamato 2 was still in the thick of production. A plot by Hideaki Yamamoto was completed on January 17. The basic story was not fundamentally different from the final version, but there were plot points in the first draft that did not endure, such as Kodai and Yuki’s wedding and her subsequent pregnancy. At this point, the enemy’s name had not yet been clarified.
On February 5, Aritsune Toyota completed a treatment. Here the enemy was named the Galactic Crime League, and its chief was a one-time classmate of Mamoru Kodai. The concept of an Earthling as the enemy was new to the saga.
On February 14, Toyota turned in another draft in which the enemy’s makeup was changed. The Auto Planet Goruba now came flying in from the Dark Nebula Uralia. Two more drafts followed later in February, one by Toshio Masuda and the other by Hideaki Yamamoto. Masuda established the enemy’s base in the “Dark Nebula Volgazen,” and eventually everyone settled on the “Dark Nebula Empire.”
Takeshi Shirato (L), Mitsuki Nakamura (R)
(Links to all these story drafts can be found at the end of this page.)
Though the enemy’s name changed frequently, the story concept for both Gamilas and Iscandar to be threatened by the appearance of a mysterious foe was consistent from one draft to the next. The intention was not to pit them against a mutual enemy, but to evoke the spirit of Series 1 by sending Yamato off on a new mission to Iscandar. First and last, the project was a sequel to Yamato 2, but the subject matter also served as a conclusion to Series 1 with the destruction of the twin planets and the final fate of Starsha.
The production staff was replete with veterans (including storyboard auteur Yasuhiko Yoshikazu), but there were also some changes within the ranks. Takeshi Shirato, a Yamato veteran from the earliest days of Series 1, took the Chief Director reigns from Noboru Ishiguro, and mecha design shifted from Studio Nue to artists Tsuji Tadanao and Mitsuki Nakamura.
A 2001 book showcasing Nakamura’s work
along with his studio partner, Tomoaki Okada.
Yamato was in very capable hands with them both. Tadanao began as a designer on Rainbow Sentai Robin (1966) and served on all the major “Super Robot” shows of the early 70s, such as Mazinger Z, Getta Robo, and Grendaizer. Immediately after The New Voyage he moved on to Captain Future, Future War 198X and others before returning to the fold with Final Yamato in 1982 (some of his paintings can be seen in our Final Yamato gallery). He would return to Yamato again decades later to work on Dai Yamato Zero Go under Leiji Matsumoto.
A veteran of Tatsunoko Productions, Nakamura’s career went all the way back to Space Ace (1965) and included such benchmark shows as Mach GoGoGo [Speed Racer], Gatchaman, Casshan, Tekkaman, and many more. He left Tatsunoko to form his own studio, Office Mecaman, in 1975. His post-Yamato resume would further expand with Mobile Suit Gundam, Ideon, Dougram, Crusher Joe, Nausicaa, Area 88, Megazone 23, and other anime you’ve almost certainly heard of. (See a longer list here.)
Leiji Matsumoto, who had previously worked intimately with the Yamato staff, was now busy with his first Galaxy Express 999 feature film, so he limited his participation to consulting and some character design.
As with the previous two Yamato movies, The New Voyage was boosted by plenty of promotion. On July 13, starting at 1am, Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki appeared on the radio program All Night Nippon, which by now had become a regular haunt for him. His appearance kicked off a three-week “Big Summer Roadshow Festival,” which brought the first two movies back to theaters along with a compilation film of Triton of the Sea. He talked at length about the forthcoming film, promising that it would show “when and in what circumstances does Yamato launch and fight.” The rest of the four-hour radio show featured a rerun of the first Yamato radio drama from December 1977.
Nishizaki returned to the airwaves in another All Night Nippon special devoted entirely to The New Voyage on July 30 and had plenty more to say. He single-handedly narrated the story for listeners, which played out through audio clips from the movie. He also took calls from fans and chatted with a very giggly (possibly drunk) Isao Sasaki. Hear the entire special on Youtube in four parts: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Special attention was given to new characters and the voice actors who spoke for them:
Makio Inoue as new helmsman Tetsu Kitano: previously played the parts of Mitsuru Hanagata in Star of the Giants, Ishikawa Goemon in Lupin III and the title role in Captain Harlock. He softened his voice for the role of this elite rookie.
Toshio Furukawa as Cosmo Tiger pilot Shigeru Sakamoto: also known for Ataru Morohoshi in Urusei Yatsura and Kai Shiden from Mobile Suit Gundam. Good at roles requiring some conceit. He returned to Yamato for the role of Takeshi Ageha [Flash Contrail] in Series 3.
Toru Furuya as Assistant Engineer Tasuke Tokugawa [Orion]: a superstar whose two greatest roles were the lead characters of Star of the Giants and Mobile Suit Gundam, which made its debut on Japanese TV the same day Yamato 2 ended and started the next big anime revolution. It was unusual for him to perform a comedic role such as this one. Incidentally, he had previously performed in a band named “Slapstick” along with three other Yamato voice actors and would be cast in the lead for Nishizaki’s next series, Blue Noah.
Mikio Terashima as Chief Engineer Sho Yamazaki: a veteran voice actor for both anime and the dubbing of foreign films, he was well-known for roles with authority.
Kousei Tomita as Dark Nebula Officer Deda: often chosen for strong supporting roles, he previously voiced General Zabaibal [Skorch] in Farewell to Yamato.
Koji Tanaka as Dark Nebula Officer Meldarz: famous for his voice roles in the British Thunderbirds series and Ninja Kamui. He brought an air of intelligence to the role of Meldarz.
Miyuki Ueda as Starsha: the original voice for Starsha in Series 1 was performed by Michiko Harai, but Ueda took over the role in The New Voyage after supplying the voice of Teresa in Farewell. The reasons for the change were unclear, but the role was in good hands with her, since she had played heroines in all three installments of the “Romantic Robot Trilogy”: Combattler V, Voltes V, and Daimos. She would reprise the role of Starsha in Be Forever Yamato and become the “voice of Iscandar” in the 2010 live-action Yamato movie.
For more credits, consult Anime News Network’s entry for The New Voyage.
Finally, a new chapter was being added to the mega-popular Space Battleship Yamato soundtrack catalogue. Already known for breaking barriers in the world of music, this one would feature then-trendy synthesizers, the first theme song to include English lyrics (“Remember Yamato“), and another theme that crossed over into the realm of Japanese folk music. Read about these and more in our New Voyage discography.
The day after Nishizaki’s radio appearance, The New Voyage officially premiered. It blazed a new path for anime with the tele-feature format (which Nishizaki also used to launch Blue Noah) and was aired on the Fuji TV network, which created a stir all by itself. Fuji was a much bigger entity than Yomiuri, the network that had run both of the TV series. This was proven in 1978 when Fuji won the bid for broadcast rights to the first Yamato movie. It ran the night before the premiere of Farewell and was a ratings juggernaut (read about the slaughter here). That victory placed Fuji first in line for this new offering.
Yamato movies had been the major pop culture events in Japan for two years running, and The New Voyage was the defacto substitute for the summer of 1979. This brought a major ratings battle to Japanese television, which Yamato handily won over professional baseball and even the Moscow Olympics. Indeed, The New Voyage achieved a commanding share of 31% in its premiere. This beat even Yamato 2‘s highest rating on Yomiuri (27.7% for the final episode) and opened up other networks for anime programming.
The movie was advertised in mainstream newspapers published on or just before July 31, which also announced a quiz competition. The first to write in and correctly identify the name of the enemy commander that Yamato fought would win an original cel. Thus, participants had to watch the show to get the answer.
The story begins with Yamato taking off on a training run with its new crew (graduates from Space Warrior Training School), followed by the appearance of the mysterious Dark Nebula Empire. The subsequent conflict leads to the destruction of the twin planets, Gamilas and Iscandar, both of which were important locations in the first series. The unique friendship between Kodai and Dessler becomes a focal point, following developments in Yamato 2.
This is strongly represented in the final sequence, in which Yamato and Dessler’s ship are “anchored” in space. Kodai and Dessler converse while standing on the decks of their own ships. The power and symbolism of this scene dispenses with science for the sake of pure romanticism, eloquently expressed through the art of animation.
Resolving the story of Series 1 and setting the stage for a new adventure effectively made The New Voyage into both an epilogue and prologue. Nishizaki made no secret of the fact that this was the stepping stone into a new drama referred to at the time as “Yamato Part 3.” This knowledge stoked the flame even higher and perpetuated the Yamato boom. Nishizaki’s intention was to harmonize two generations of fans, and he succeeded admirably.
In the wake of this, he made an announcement that was akin to a declaration of war in the anime community, since he knew full well that he was setting new standards for others to follow: “I will make the next Yamato not because I want to create it, but because I personally want to watch it!”
Fans ran wild with anticipation. What would happen next? The Yamato fan club magazines were full of reactions and opinions.
“I like the new crew!”
“Sasha looks cute.”
“Yamato has not changed.”
Fans were also abuzz about the controversial new friendship between Dessler and Kodai.
“What do you mean by ‘weird!?’ There is no weird or normal, no good or bad, no right or wrong in friendship!”
In a phenomenon that perfectly followed the effort to unify the audience, the division disappeared between Kodai fans and Dessler fans. Now they were all simply Yamato fans, counting the minutes the summer of 1980, when the next big thing was scheduled to happen.
The New Voyage was next seen in a rerun on August 1 1980, the night before the premiere of Be Forever. Since the original production had followed the usual Yamato pattern of going right up to the edge of the deadline (according to Noboru Ishiguro, the last reel was in the developing lab while the first reel was being broadcast), it had a few animation mistakes which were fixed for the rerun.
The New Voyage and Be Forever were both paired up in the spring of 1981 for a theatrical double-feature called the “Space Roadshow.” It arrived on home video in 1983 and would not reappear on television until 1999 for occasional revivals throughout the next ten years.
Reproduced from his introduction to The New Voyage symphonic album (1979)
Whenever one plans a “new voyage” of their own, whatever the form is, a new love and hope must be born from it. Newly-born love and hope are the most deeply touching dynamics of the human spirit, and they are the foundation of the future. It can be said, in fact, that The New Voyage was created to depict this love and hope in a very simple but profound way. My fondest dream is to tell stories of love and hope, the most important dreams for human beings or other living creatures. I let that dream fly into the vast world of space, and it became this film.
Dear fans, please recall the first Yamato series, which presented the development of the hero, Susumu Kodai. That story featured, with infinite romanticism, young people who never gave up, sought every possibility, and used all their energies in the mission to save the Earth. And remember Farewell to Yamato, in which Kodai became aware of love for others even after fierce battles, and asked what “love” is, after all. We have gone from the drama of goals and missions to the drama of love. Driving my own thoughts and feelings to the limit, I developed the story further and envisioned this New Voyage.
Yamato has left my hands now, and it belongs to its fans. But I wanted to continue presenting Yamato to the younger generation in its best possible form. Therefore, I am careful to do my best with the story development. So I imagined a new theme, and created a story to use that theme effectively.
At the beginning of the film, Yamato returns to Earth after a narrow victory against the Comet Empire. At the same time, we see a new beginning for Dessler and the Gamilas Fleet. Return and departure. This symbolic crossing brought new interest and expectation to the drama, but the real theme that develops from here is about the love, hope, and spirit born in the storm of intense ordeal.
The repaired Yamato will resume sailing, meet Dessler as a comrade, and fight a difficult battle to save the Planet Iscandar. After the destruction of its twin planet Gamilas, Iscandar is torn from its orbit and drifts away. Yamato and Dessler attempt at any cost to save Starsha and Kodai’s brother Mamoru, both of whom live on Iscandar. In this dynamic space drama, I attempted to create a concrete image of love which surpasses that of Yamato 2.
We see, of course, the love between Kodai and Yuki, but also the fraternity between Susumu and Mamoru. Furthermore, there is the new friendship between Kodai and Dessler, and Dessler’s secret love for Starsha. In addition, there is a big surprise when Sasha appears, the symbol of love between Mamoru and Starsha.
The one and only New Voyage collectible made in
1979 was this card album by Amada (volumes 1-3
were devoted to Farewell). See it from cover to
cover with most of the cards here.
Queen Starsha shares the destiny of Iscandar and must separate from her beloved daughter Sasha forever. But this makes the love between the mother and the child eternal. A new voyage is often accompanied by painful separation. Parting is one of the harshest ordeals. But parting does not bring love to an end. This is the message of the film’s ending.
To the dear Yamato fans, and the younger generations who are growing up: if possible, I want to fulfill your dreams with new Yamato stories which deliver my message with deep emotion.
We’re Off to Other Space
It’s interesting to note that while The New Voyage was in production in Japan, Star Blazers was being assembled in America. In fact, they made their respective debuts only two months apart in 1979.
If you were part of the original Star Blazers generation and ran home every day after school to watch the show and sang along with the theme song and did the other stuff, then you also had to grapple with the downside of all this excitement: at some point (roughly every 10.5 weeks) the story would come to an end. You’d watch the entire Iscandar arc and then get swept up in the Comet Empire epic, and then it was done. We all knew this for sure when the bittersweet trailer came up for the “next Star Blazers adventure,” and told us the whole thing was about to recycle again.
For a time, we had no choice but to be content. All good things blah blah blah. What we didn’t know (if we were cut off from the Yamato phenomenon) is that this was far from the end. How many of us would have given a limb to see not only the further adventures of the Star Force, but also what happened on the VERY NEXT DAY after the Comet Empire war? That’s precisely where The New Voyage began.
Fans in the know discovered it within a year or two of its Japanese broadcast, via video tape trading with Japanese penpals. It became slightly easier to see when it was released to Japanese home video in 1983, and all the obstacles vanished when Voyager Entertainment delivered the first official VHS release in the mid-1990s. It became the “departure point” in the saga for a variety of reasons, many of which are founded on nostalgia.
1998 video art by Toshihiro Kawamoto
First, if you’d only seen Star Blazers up until then, it provided the initial dunking of the toes into the waters of Yamato. The movie did an even better job in America than in Japan of pleasing the fans. When American fans saw it for the first time, they were firmly grounded in Star Blazers and well-fortified to immerse themelves in this new story even without the benefit of subtitles or a translation.
Second, it was a powerful introduction to the different sensibilities of American and Japanese entertainment. Again, if you had only seen Star Blazers up to that point, you probably walked away thinking that most everyone survived the Comet Empire war. But within the first ten minutes of this film, you learned the awful truth: a lot of beloved characters weren’t with us anymore, and we simply had to go on without them. With this came the realization that the world is a little harsher than we thought, and consequently a little more realistic.
One more New Voyage experience came in 1993, when a laserdisc of the film (released by Bandai) included a set of 11 scenes that were cut from the 1979 broadcast before they could be fully animated. These were incorporated into Voyager Entertainment’s DVD release ten years later in such a way that they could be streamed into the movie itself. Naturally, there’s plenty more to be said about this remarkable film, so click on the links below to continue your own New Voyage:
Production staff interviews
1980 essay by Yoshinobu Nishizaki
Story draft 1 by Hideaki Yamamoto
Story draft 2 by Aritsune Toyota
Story draft 3 by Aritsune Toyota
Story draft 4 by Toshio Masuda
Story Draft 5 by Hideaki Yamamoto
Each article contains a link to the next for continuous reading.
The Last Word
The New Voyage got a big makeover in 2004, as the first of three Yamato games for Playstation 2. Read all about it here.