Live Action Movie, Report 6: 2011-2014

As expected, events and merchandising for the live-action Space Battleship Yamato calmed down considerably as the “Year of Yamato 2010″ faded into memory. After its initial strong performance at the Japanese box office, it continued playing in major theaters through February 25, then dropped back to limited screenings in smaller venues.

There were no more major product releases, but an occasional blip registered on fans’ radar screens. One such blip is shown at right, a Yuki Mori figure that does an excellent job of capturing actress Meisa Kuroki’s likeness. Probably 1/6 scale, this photo of it turned up online with no attribution no manufacturer name. It was either a custom build (and thus one of a kind) or a limited-edition piece sold at a hobby show. Since no additional photos have surfaced since January 2011, it’s anyone’s guess.

The next thing to ping was the February issue of Electone magazine (shown at left) from Yamaha Music Media. A year earlier, magazines like this one featured sheet music from Yamato Resurrection, and Electone followed suit by publishing Steven Tyler’s Love Lives single.

This too continued a long-standing Yamato tradition. Songs by pop music stars were a highlight of nearly all the animated films (including Resurrection), and sheet music for all of them was widely available during the production years. In fact, the only difference with Love Lives is that it was performed in English by an American singer. Thematically, it fits quite well into the Yamato canon.

On April 1, a pre-release promotional campaign from 2010 finally paid off. House Foods, one of the licensing partners for the film, held prize lotteries in convenience stores during the runup to the premiere. Fans who bought their Yamato curry or Yamato potato chips could enter to win prizes. The grand prize winners finally started receiving their loot in April.

500 of those winners received this Space Battleship Yamato “Memorial Clock,” a portable digital clock with a portrait image and nameplate. The clock would play back lines from the movie in addition to the standard alarm tones.

Curry is a common part of the Japanese diet, so Yamato Space Curry isn’t as weird as it sounds. This was another prize for lottery winners, custom packaged in a run of only 5,000.

From the look of these boxes, it’s likely that “Space Curry” isn’t just a gimmicky name; Japanese astronauts almost certainly introduced it to life on board the Space Station.

April 7 marked the next big event in the life of the movie, the much-anticipated announcement of home video releases from TC Entertainment on June 24. Posters and banners like these started appearing in stores to promote both DVD and Blu-Ray discs in single, double, and triple-disc editions. May 12 was given as the cutoff date to get special premiums for placing a pre-order.

Three of those premiums are shown at right, all of which were announced by production company TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System); a cel phone strap with anchor emblem (mysteriously using the anime-style anchor rather than the movie version) and two clip-on charms of crew uniforms in salute poses. To date, there is no evidence that these trinkets were actually made; they may in fact have been preliminary designs for the items that eventually did get bundled with one of the sets. If this is the case, then they went through some evolution after this image was published online.

The last of the 2010 prize lotteries came to fruition in late May when winners of the December campaign at Famima convenience stores received their prizes. 10 winners received HDTVs from Hitachi, 200 received Coolpix digital cameras in a custom Yamato carrying case (above left), and 20 received HP Mini Notebook computers with custom Yamato graphics on the outer shell.

Famima stores were THE place to go for fans during the campaign for the movie; new prizes were available every week throughout the month of November which gave way to the December campaign described above. All the Famima prizes can be seen in Movie Report 5 here.

As stated earlier, the movie was still screening in limited runs throughout the spring. A flyer for a March 26 screening is shown above left and the ticket for a June 27 revival is shown above right. The DVDs and Blu-Ray discs would be out by then, but nothing beats the big screen.

As June 24 closed in, a mini-version of the 2010 promo campaign got rolling. Displays popped up in stores to announce the upcoming video release. A tabletop version of the poster is shown here, which included comment cards to encourage pre-orders.

When June 24 finally did arrive, it put almost as much bounty up for grabs as when the movie premiered on December 1. With three different editions to choose from, every fan from casual to crazed could have their needs met. Here’s how it all broke down (and don’t worry, we’ll tell you where to place your order at the end of this page.)

Standard Edition (single disc)

As the name implies, this is the most basic version. Above left is the preliminary image of the sleeve art, which was modified to include Takuya Kimura as Kodai. The final sleeve art is above right. This edition was released only on DVD (no Blu-Ray). The disc includes the movie (138 min.) and a collection of trailers and commercials totaling 8 minutes.

The film is subtitled, but only in Japanese. None of the Japanese releases include English subtitles. That will change when foreign editions are released, but more about that later.

Shown here are the main menu and the trailer menu. The left column is for theatrical teasers and trailers; the right column is for TV commercials. The entry indicated by the red arrow is something a little more unique…

One of the events described in our previous reports was a traveling exhibit that opened in Tokyo shortly before the premiere and traveled to other cities afterward. In addition to the giant Yamato model and prop & costume displays, a video was constantly playing to promote the tour. This included some short scenes of Yamato flying over famous landmarks, made by the film’s FX wizards. This bonus feature contains all of those amazing clips.

Premium Edition (2 discs)

The next size up is this double-disc version, released on both DVD and Blu-Ray. It contains the disc from the Standard Edition and an extra one filled with bonus features.

This set also includes a physical bonus item, a book of 16 large-format picture postcards of the cast. The book’s cover is shown above left; it is open above right. This release marks only the second time Yamato has gone to Blu-Ray; Yamato Resurrection was the first.

The second disc (titled “Special Disc 1”) is filled with just over three hours of bonus material all having to do with the physical making of the movie and the live events surrounding its release. Above left is the menu, which gives you access to seven different features.

The first (above right) is a 43-minute documentary titled Kodai Fights a 77-Day Challenge: Takuya Kimura Comprehensive Making. The subject is the star, and the piece follows him from “Crank In” (start of filming) to “Crank Up” (end of filming), through all his major scenes and locations.

Next (above left) is a 46-minute documentary titled Staff and Cast Challenge the World: Complete Comprehensive Making. As the name implies, this is a more far-ranging piece that tracks the entire cast throughout the shoot, collecting their thoughts, watching them on set, and gathering comments from the film crew as well.

After this comes a 17-minute discussion titled Takuya Kimura X Director Yamazaki 2-Shot Special Talk. There’s not much more to see than the photo above right; non-Japanese speakers can skip this one. It’s interesting to note, however, that this discussion was extensively sampled for various TV specials that were broadcast in Japan starting the week before the premiere. This is the only source for the unedited conversation.

That’s it for making-ofs. The remaining features all cover live events. First (above left) is Complete Preview and Debriefing, coverage of the Japanese sneak preview on November 1. The entire main cast was present. This 36-minute piece shows them in a press conference, talking backstage, and walking into the giant movie theater for their first public ovation.

Next (above right) is a very lively feature, 3-Day Countdown Public Event. This 12-minute featurette presents highlights from the outdoor gathering at the prop exhibit on November 28, which was also reported here. The guests were Director Takashi Yamazaki and Analyzer, who were also joined by singer Isao Sasaki. He performed the classic anime theme with a cheerleading squad. Takuya Kimura also made a surprise appearance.

The last two featurettes (totaling 26 minutes) follow the cast and director from opening day well into December as they appear on stage at various theaters in different cities, answer questions, and participate in special presentations. Opening day at the Toho Cinema in Ginza is shown above left. Members of the Yamatour 2010 Adventure Team saw the film in that very theater two days later. Above right, Analyzer joins a brass band to welcome the stars to another Toho Cinema on December 4.

Collector’s Edition (3 discs)

This is the set with all the marbles. Also available on both DVD and Blu-Ray, it contains both discs from the Premium Edition plus a third with additional features.

Naturally, it’s also got the best production values, as the foldout disc container demonstrates at a glance. Shown here is the outer surface…

…and here’s the inner surface, which holds the discs. This profile shot of the ship is a direct throwback to the old days and was used extensively in promotion. The Collector’s Edition also comes with a generous set of physical bonus items, but first let’s have a look at that third disc.

Titled “Special Disc 2,” it isn’t quite as packed as “Special Disc 1,” but it certainly delivers the goods.

Above right is a frame from the first feature, VFX Making. The abbreviation is for Visual Effects, and this 12-minute collection is a fascinating look at various scenes being built layer by layer into the finished version.

Previz Movie is the second feature. That’s short for “Previsualization,” an element of moviemaking that has evolved substantially since Ralph McQuarrie’s famed paintings for Star Wars. These days it’s usually done with crude CG animatics that allow a director to lock down timing and camera angles, then use them as visual aids for the cast and crew. Running 25 minutes, this feature puts “Previz” frames next to finished scenes for comparison.

The last feature on the disc is a real treasure trove for mecha lovers: Ships 360Ëš Gallery. It presents you with 11 different ships from the film. We’ll choose Kodai’s Cosmo Zero as an example (above right).

Clicking on “More Info” zooms us in for a closer look and some text. “360Ëš Move” is just that; an animated rotation. The complete collection consists of Yamato, Black Tiger, Cosmo Zero, Cargo ship, Land rover, Yukikaze, Okita’s Battleship, and four Gamilas vessels.

Now that we’re done with that, here’s a look at the bonus items in the Collector’s Edition. The three discs are shown above left and everything else is above right. One by one, they are…

Promotion book, 16 pages, 5.5″ x 7.5″
This full color pamphlet is a booklet version of the large-format press folder that was published in Japan a month before the movie premiere; it covers all the basics about the director, actors, story, and characters. Click here to see a complete version of the press folder it was based on.

Storyboard book, 108 pages, 5.5″ x 7.5″
This is a unique look at the groundwork for the “Previz” phase. Director Takashi Yamazaki, an artist with a pen as well as a camera, drew storyboards for all the key sequences of the movie, many of which are reprinted in this book. They are primarily VFX scenes involving ships in space.

The package also includes two lenticular image cards measuring about 4″ x 6″ and a white cardboard frame for display.

There are three more bonus items that come in their own box (above right) with graphics that resemble a crew uniform. Let’s open it, shall we?

Above is Kodai’s dogtag, which gives his birthdate as October 31, 2166. This
is the second time it has been made available as a collectible; the first time
was as the grand prize in a promotional campaign from Famima convenience stores. At right is a crew pass, a card sleeve with a crew ID on the back for your personal information. As if anyone would actually write on it.

Finally, shown below is another of those personal item straps that comes out every 5 seconds in Japan. This one gives you Kodai’s combat group uniform
to dangle from your cel phone, key chain, or whatever.

It should surprise no one that the DVDs and Blu-Rays were hot sellers from the moment they went on sale June 24. But it may not have been anticipated that the Blu-Ray version would score as Japan’s best-selling BR disc of all time. Over the first week of release, the film sold 24,985 copies on Blu-ray and 56,090 copies on DVD.

Friend-of-this-website Yutaka Shiratori confirmed that with a photo taken of a mostly-empty display at Yodobashi department store in Akihabara, Tokyo (above left) on June 26.

Mr. Shiratori also provided us with the photo above right of a crew jacket and water bottle left over from the film production. This is currently on display in the Gifu prefectural government office; Gifu was a site for location shooting.

Even this was a detail worthy of coverage in the making-of documentaries. The film crew was shown admiring their jackets the day they arrived on the set, each production department grouped in Yamato crew colors. So far, a reproduction has yet to turn up for commercial sale. For that matter, we’re still waiting for the official jacket of the ship’s crew.

Home video, Europe and Asia

Despite news that US distributors were expressing interest shortly after the premiere, Sedic International could not find a distribution partner for the US. However, they found success in Europe and Asia. Shown above is pre-release video box art for the French and Spanish editions, and a cinema poster from China.

The name “Yamato” is conspicuously missing from the French version for a reason: unlike Spain and Italy, France never previously imported the Yamato anime in any form (though Captain Harlock and other Leiji Matsumoto properties found great success there, and are still well-known).

The first edition with English subtitles (not pictured) appeared in December 2011 from Australia’s Madman Entertainment.

Yucca: Queen of the Night CD

Edoya Corporation, EDCE-1010
July 20, 2011

Yucca is the vocalist who performed the signature “Infinity of Space” theme for the movie soundtrack (she would perform it again in Yamato 2199). Queen of the Night contains 11 tracks that combine her wide-ranging operatic voice with progressive rock beats. Her rendering of the theme from Yamato is a new one produced specifically for this release and fits beautifully into a lineup that includes Ave Maria and other internationally-recognized tunes. Yamato music completists won’t want to miss it.

Visit Yucca’s official website here. Her discography page provides access to a sample of each track on Queen of the Night.

See a live performance of the theme by Yucca on YouTube here.

Home video, UK Edition

August 19, 2013

Manga Entertainment inadvertently announced its acquisition of the live-action movie by listing it on for August release. This marked the second English-speaking country to import the film, after Australia’s Madman Entertainment released it in 2012.

North American premiere

October 19, 2013

Eleven Arts, a film distributor to independent theaters in North America, finally broke through an important barrier when it brought the live-action Yamato movie back to the big screen. Premiering in Los Angeles and proceeding across the country (and into Canada), the print carried the same subtitles that were seen when the film first appeared in an L.A. film festival in November 2010.

Shown above is a promotional postcard for this release of the movie. Visit the Eleven Arts website here.

Home video, US edition

April 29, 2014

After far too long a wait, the finally came to DVD and Blu-ray in the US almost four years after its premiere. Despite reports from 2010 that lead actor Takuya Kimura’s contract forbade any dubbing, there is a full English dub on the disc (in addition to subtitles), and despite a few mispronunciations (such as “GaMEElus”) it is good enough to earn a passing grade. There is a respectable amount of bonus features, though it does not include the extensive making-of documentary that filled up a second disc in the Japanese edition.

Visit Funimation’s Yamato page here, or order it from Amazon here.

The End

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