Hachette design interview, May 2021

A conversation to mark the extension of the Making Space Battleship Yamato 2202 series

Aiming to create a “full-scale” model

Junichiro Tamamori (series supervisor) & Ken Sato (Hachette Collections Japan)

The publication of the “avante garde” 1/350 scale AAA-1 Andromeda model has begun as an extension of the Making Space Battleship Yamato 2202 Diecast Gimmick Model, which was completed in volume 110. To celebrate, we asked Junichiro Tamamori, the supervisor of the series, and Ken Sato, the editorial director of Hachette Collections Japan, to talk about the appeal of the series!

From Star Blazers/Yamato Fan Club magazine issue 11, May 2021

What lies ahead in the pursuit of detail that is commensurate with scale?

Interviewer: Hachette Collections Japan is a “part work” series, which mainly focuses on real vehicles, so it is unusual for you to handle fictional works such as Space Battleship Yamato. First of all, could you tell us why you decided to do this series?

Sato: We’ve wanted to handle vehicles that appear in fictional works, including anime, for a long time. Needless to say, we thought Yamato would be at the top of the list. Of course, we had a plan, but it took a long time to realize it.

The main reason was the difficulty of creating a “non-existant” three-dimensional vehicle. For example, if you have a real car, you can get the blueprints and other information from the manufacturer, and real molding is possible to some extent. However, in the case of fictional works, it is not possible to create a model that everyone can grasp from blueprints alone.

Of course, there are times when I ask experts to supervise the creation of real vehicles. But in the case of fiction works, it is even more important to have a supervisor who is familiar with the work. The main reason we were able to realize this series was because of the cooperation of Mr. Tamamori, who actually designed the ships in the remake series.

Tamamori: This was the first time for me to supervise a “part work” project, and when I had my first meeting with Hachette, they showed me samples of their products.

I was very interested in the I400 (a submarine of the former Japanese army), and I think that was the reason I accepted the project. They reproduced not only the exterior, but also the internal cross-section that shows the pressure-resistant structure and ballast tank. I thought if they could do this so well, they can do the inside of Yamato.

In reality, due to the difficulty of the assembly and the production schedule, we couldn’t go as far as the internal structure. But I was really attracted by the fact that they could achieve such detail in the supervision.

Sato: Mr. Tamamori has supervised it very carefully. In particular, in the first volume, he pointed out some problems when we were in the test-sale process, and we had to redesign the entire product before it was released. It was because of that experience that we were able to create a product that was well received and led to the current extended series.

(See a comparison between the test version and final version here.)

Tamamori: It’s a very expensive product to begin with, so you want to pursue a quality that is commensurate with that. At the time they were doing the test sales for Making Yamato, I was sent the bow and the main gun parts, and the shape of the bow was a little different from the anime image. “A doll’s face is its life,” and the bow is the “face” of Yamato, isn’t it? I didn’t want to disappoint the fans who would pay a lot of money to assemble this model.

Interviewer: What was it about the shape of the bow that bothered you?

Tamamori: It was just a slight difference in impression. In a word, was that expression appropriate for the scale? It’s more than a meter long, so the expression should be different than on a 1/1000 model kit.

Interviewer: If you don’t pay attention to the detail of the large size, you end up with the wrong expression?

Tamamori: That level would have been fine for a smaller size, but with this size, I thought they could do more. To be honest, I thought it was too late, but I gave my opinion anyway. But they said, “Let’s rework it before it officially goes on sale.” From that point on, we had a lot of detailed communication, including for parts other than the bow.

Sato: We had to redesign the molds from scratch. As I mentioned earlier, it was the first time for us to create a fictional model, so it was a series of trial and error. That’s why, when we saw the prototype for the sale version after Mr. Tamamori’s supervision, we felt a great sense of accomplishment. I was convinced that it would work.

Tamamori: I said the expression should be appropriate for the scale, but in fact, I supervised the project with an eye for an even larger scale. In this series, we were pursuing expressions that were appropriate for 1/350 scale, but I thought about the detail as if it were a little larger.

Interviewer: So you left some room for the fans to imagine what it would look like if it were bigger?

Tamamori: I don’t know, maybe someone who builds this series will say, “I’ll invest in a full-scale version, so please make one based on this model!” (Laughs) If you’re a fan who’s been supporting us for a long time, maybe there are presidents or chairmen of big companies in your generation. I believe Yamato has such potential. In that sense, I think we were able to commercialize it in a way that includes elements that encourage the “dreams” of fans.

The biggest attraction of the 1/350 Andromeda is lighting that can be freely controlled!

Interviewer: As a result of strong sales with the help of Mr. Tamamori’s supervision, Making Andromeda was realized as an extended series.

Sato: The reason we decided to make it an extended series was partly out of gratitude to the customers who followed all 110 issues of Making Yamato to the end. There was a plan to do a simpler model for the extended series, but in the end we chose the most gorgeous idea. (Laughs)

Interviewer: After all, Andromeda‘s finished size is over 1200mm (47″) long, isn’t it? Some people on social media are saying, “Think about your housing situation!”

Sato: On the other hand, I’ve heard a lot of people say, “If you’re a Yamato fan, you can’t miss this.” (Laughs) I’m bragging, but the finished product is really powerful and cool. I would like everyone to experience this surprise.

Interviewer: Mr. Tamamori, you continue to supervise this project. Is there any difference in the process from Yamato?

Tamamori: The project started when we were in the midst of production on Yamato 2205, and because of the Corona pandemic, the supervision was basically done online. The supplier (production company) is located overseas, so we asked Joy-san to be our go-between.

Joy Fan (production assistant manager): It was difficult for him to see the prototype, so we took a lot of 360-degree photos of the parts so he could inspect them. It was different from the Yamato project, so it was inconvenient.

Tamamori: I tend to overlook my email, so I think I caused more trouble for Joy-san. (Laughs) Since online communication has become mainstream, there are more opportunities for Japanese and overseas suppliers as well as Chinese manufacturers to meet in one place. I think it’s a good thing to have a sense of unity in the field.

Interviewer: As you supervised the Andromeda project, were details added to be commensurate with scale, as with Yamato?

Tamamori: Compared to Yamato, the design of Andromeda (in the anime) has less detail. So, I was worried about how much we should add to it. In terms of design, I think the most important point is that we increased the number of lines to match the scale of 1/350.

The other point is the lighting. I was very particular about this. The conditions and timing for each light are set in great detail. This is also a result of the online meetings where we were able to closely coordinate with the staff in the field.

Interviewer: How did you devise the lighting system?

Tamamori: Basically, we recreated most of the settings from the story. For example, there’s a scene in which Andromeda, after returning from her maiden voyage, passes over the statue of Captain Okita on Hero’s Hill with a full ship display. The scene is more flamboyant in 2202 than in Farewell. I tried to reproduce all the lights except for the blue lines that frame the whole figure, which is technically impossible in 1/350.

Interviewer: That’s amazing!

Tamamori: In addition, it is also possible to control navigation lights, left and right identification lights, and anti-collision lights individually, and to turn off unnecessary lights during combat.

Interviewer: In other words, it’s possible for fans to recreate the lighting of various scenes in the story by themselves?

Tamamori: That’s right. Not only can you recreate scenes from the story, but you can also create your own situations. This is one of the most attractive features of the model in terms of play value. I’d like to proclaim that I was very commited to the lighting.

Joy: For the lighting gimmick, Mr. Tamamori suggested, “Since it’s going to be displayed in a room, I want it to have an attractive interior function.” When the gimmick is completed, it will be a wonderful night-light to decorate a room. I’m sure your wife will approve of the purchase. (Laughs)

Sato: Having something to convince your wife is an important point of appeal for the product. (Laughs)

Tamamori: In fact, some of my friends told me that they had to ask their wives’ permission to continue the extended series. It takes up a lot of space if you put it together with Yamato, so I think it’s important to get your family’s consent.

Joy: In terms of helping you create a mood, it also has a built-in music player. Of course, I asked Mr. Tamamori to select the music.

Tamamori: I’ve already decided to include the Andromeda theme. After all, I wanted to create a theatrical accompaniment that would enliven the recreation of the scenes from the story. I also wanted to add some music that could bring out a mood for the interior.

Interviewer: I think it would be interesting to have a voice playback function. If you press a button in the full display lighting mode, you could hear “IDIOTS!” from someone on Hero’s Hill.

Tamamori: I hope everyone will recreate that in their own voice. (Laughs)

I’d like to pursue the reality and romance of “space battleships” in the future

Interviewer: I’d like to ask you about “space battleships,” which is the theme of this issue [of the fan club magazine]. When did you first become aware of a gadget called a “space battleship”?

Tamamori: I think Yamato was the first. Until then, rockets were the norm when it came to space vehicles. Suddenly, a rocket and a battleship were combined into one. The impact was enormous.

I saw Yamato when I was in the second grade of elementary school, and I drew a large picture of Yamato on the blackboard in the classroom. At the time, I couldn’t confirm the number of wings on the rocket nozzle, so I drew four.

Sato: I was born in 1968, which means that I’m the same age as Captain Okita in the Iscandar story. (Laughs) So, of course, I was the generation that was directly hit by Yamato.

As Mr. Tamamori said, the idea of a battleship-shaped vehicle flying off to a distant galaxy was very powerful. As I said in the beginning, “Yamato is at the highest level.” That is also my personal feeling. When I think of a “space battleship,” Yamato is the one that comes to mind to this day.

Joy: I’m from a different generation than you and I grew up in Taiwan, but I was still very familiar with Yamato. I think a lot of people in Taiwan also know about it. After I started working at Hachette, I watched the remake series. I was fascinated by the wonderful designs and the coolness of each scene. Since I started working on the Making Yamato series, I’ve been thinking about how “I saw this part in that scene” and I feel that coolness again.

Interviewer: By the way, is there any ship that you’re particularly fond of?

Tamamori: Personally, I’d say Yukikaze. I also like the Okita ship (now the Kirishima).

Sato: Aside from Yamato and Andromeda, I actually liked Yukikaze too! Partly because it was the ship that Mamoru Kodai was on, but I was fascinated by the excellent design. Among all the ships in the series, it had a particularly realistic “vehicle” feel to it.

Space X’s Starship (illustration). See official photos here.

Tamamori: When looking at Yukikaze and the Okita ship, I think some people wondered at the time, “Why does a rocket have wings? The answer to that question is the manned spacecraft Starship developed by Space X. It also has wings on the front and back. And it has a similar structure to the Okita ship. When I think about that, I realize that the mecha design of Yamato was highly perfected from the time of the 1974 version, when people from various fields were involved in the designs.

Interviewer: In the history of anime, the influence of “space battleships” starting from Yamato is quite strong.

Tamamori: It’s hard to escape the influence of Yamato in the design of a space battleship. A number of masterpieces seems to have been born from the enthusiasm of, “In my work, I’ll do what Yamato couldn’t do,” with Macross at the top.

But if you look at it from a different angle, you can feel the dilemma of “I love Yamato so much that I’m embarrassed to try and emulate it.” It’s like trying to replace “romantic” with “realistic,” but also trying to find “romantic” from there.

Sato: Even the battleships in Mobile Suit Gundam seem to reflect the worldview of Yamato.

Tamamori: The bridge of White Base looks like the destroyer Kodai was on in Farewell to Yamato, though it was probably designed at a similar time. In this way, the influence left by Yamato feels like “trauma” in both good and bad ways. It may still be there.

Interviewer: You mentioned the topic of Space X. Since the expression of mecha has to evolve with the times, how do you think the design of a “space battleship” should be changed?

Tamamori: Ships with a “top and bottom” like Yamato, Andromeda-class, and Dreadnought-class are the most important features of the series, but ships without a top and bottom already appeared in the 1974 version, like Yukikaze and Kirishima. There are also cylindrical destroyers and patrol ships that appeared in Farewell. In terms of the future of design, I personally think that this kind of “ship with no top or bottom” is a good idea. The bridge is attached to the ship, but the body of the ship seems to have a rotational form.

However, it’s not just a matter of pursuing reality. I also want to cherish the SF ideas that are unique to the world of Yamato. For example, Yamato is quite special as a “spaceship” with the stype of a real battleship, divided into upper and lower functions. The armor is on the lower half and weapons are concentrated on the upper half. I think it makes sense. I’d like to pursue this further in the future.

Looking at the 1/350 Andromeda prototype from the front. As indicated in the text, the lighting programming has not been adjusted yet, so all the lights are glowing. The actual product will be controlled in various modes by the PIC microcontroller.

The 1/350 Andromeda prototype with full lighting from the “model sheet” angle. The lighting in the full display state from 2202 Episode 2 has been recreated as accurately as possible under the guidance and additional input of Junichiro Tamamori. The density of detail that can be reproduced in a large model is very pleasing. The graviton spread launcher built into the bow can also be deployed by pushing in the intake part of the bow, and has a built-in lighting gimmick. You can enjoy the same action as in the story.

When completed, the figure is a powerful 1270mm (50″) in length. Just by looking at it, you can feel the natural passby. Also, please note the sharp finish of the wings of this large kit. The metal model’s heavy finish will be a “supreme gem” for Yamato fans.

Mr. Tamamori and Mr. Sato mentioned the space destroyer Yukikaze as a ship that has a special place in their hearts. In Yamato 2199, Tamamori added details to each part of the ship, including the main landing gear, as well as structure and equipment. Although this ship is highly supported by fans, it is smaller with a length of 80m, so only palm-sized models have existed so far. If it were reproduced at 1/350, it would be about 230mm (9″), which is the ideal size.

Visit the Hachette Collections Japan website here

See the Andromeda page here

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