Yamato 2205 Writer & Director interview, Oct 2021

Of the many Yamato interviews that accompany a film premiere, those published by the entertainment website Gigazine always rise above the others for the depth and knowledge they bring to a conversation. This one was published on October 13, five days after the premiere of 2205 Part 1.

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Interview with Yamato 2205 Series Writer Harutoshi Fukui and
Director Kenji Yasuda, who is “not from the Yamato generation”

Yamato 2205, The New Voyage, the latest in the Space Battleship Yamato series, has been showing in theaters since October 8, 2021 (Friday). This film is a continuation of the story from Yamato 2202. It is set three years after the end of the battle against Gatlantis, and depicts Yamato‘s challenge of a new journey.

Harutoshi Fukui, who is in charge of the series composition, continues his work from 2202. On the other hand, Director Kenji Yasuda has just joined the production team. How did the new series come to be, and why did Yasuda decide to work on this film?

Interviewer: Mr. Fukui, I’ve heard that you’ve been working on this project since 2018. What was your impression when you first heard that you were going to work on 2205? Was it a surprise, or did you just say “I knew it”?

Fukui: Well… “I knew it” (Laughs)

Interviewer: (Laughs)

Fukui: I had heard that 2202 was doing well, so I thought it would come to be. To be honest, right after I finished writing the last 2202 script, I felt like I had done it all. I thought maybe someone else would take over, but when I considered it, I realized that in the last episode of 2202, I had put the Earth in a certain condition. The first thing that came to my mind was, “I can’t leave this to others…”

Interviewer: I see.

Fukui: If Kodai returned to Earth in that situation, I’m sure many people would say, “He came back in place of the Time Fault,” and he would be chased by reporters from weekly magazines, and put in a situation where he would have no privacy. If there’s a hint that there’s going to be another war, everyone will to say, “Well, we saved this guy, so there’s no Time Fault, so what do we do?” He would be stuck living in that atmosphere. I couldn’t ask someone else to write an anime with such a person as the main character. That’s why I decided to do it.

Interviewer: I’ve heard that 2202 was well-received in many places. Since it got off to a good start, did you hear about 2205 early on?

Fukui: I think it was at a time when we had a good start and I was able to take a break.

Interviewer: Next, I have a question for Director Yasuda. In the introduction page of the official website, you say that you are from a generation that did not experience Yamato in real time. So, I looked up what kind of anime you were watching in the “Creator’s Selection” section of Bandai Channel. There, you said your first experience was Gamba’s Adventure. When you were in elementary school, you watched robot anime such as Xabungle, Dunbine, and L-Gaim. What was your impression of the Yamato series?

Yasuda: My brother had a book and a poster of the movie in his room, so I knew about it, but to be honest, it wasn’t something I was into and actively watched. On a general level, I knew “it has a character like this,” but I didn’t watch it in earnest until after I took this job.

Interviewer: Was it because of your taste at the time that you didn’t actively watch it? Or because it was a work for your brother’s generation?

Yasuda: At the time, there was the development of model kits from Mobile Suit Gundam, so I felt Yamato was a bit plain in comparison. I didn’t have a problem with the story, but it was aimed at my brother’s generation. I intuitively felt that it was not for us.

Interviewer: Mr. Fukui has been working on this film since 2202, while Mr. Yasuda has newly joined the production. What was the process behind Mr. Yasuda’s selection as the director?

Fukui: When we first started talking about 2205, I said, “If we’re going to make the next Yamato, let’s get a director who isn’t from the Yamato generation.” In that sense, he was a perfect fit, a skilled director with experience.

Harutoshi Fukui

Yasuda: At first, I asked, “Is it okay that I don’t know much about Yamato?” The series so far included Yutaka Izubuchi, Nobuyoshi Habara, and other Yamato lovers who put their heart and soul into their work. I thought, “I don’t have the same kind of passion.” But they were daring to go outside the “Yamato generation,” so I thought if it was okay from an objective point of view, I’ll definitely try to get on board. (Laughs)

Interviewer: (Laughs)

Yasuda: When I actually joined the project, I found that it is a series with a long history. I had to learn the flow, the terminology, the settings, and so on, because there was a remake series being made at the time. I thought, “I shouldn’t take on a major title so casually.”

Interviewer: (Laughs) I understand that it was only after you accepted the job that you saw it in earnest. What did you notice when you looked at the Yamato series again?

Yasuda: I have the impression that the first film was a work that fit well into the times. It became a theatrical anime, and every year fans gathered like a festival. Because of advance information, the act of “watching anime” wasn’t just watching it on TV as a viewer. It was Yamato that made it possible for people to participate in the entertainment. When I look back on it again, I think it must have been a work that was fresh and stimulating in many ways. I’m watching it now, so my impressions of it are different from those who saw it back then. But by looking at it objectively, I felt the pressure to not betray their expectations.

Kenji Yasuda

Interviewer: This is the first time you’ve both worked together. In the meeting video for Age of Yamato (Part 2), Mr. Fukui said “he treats it more gingerly than Mr. Habara…”

Fukui: (Laughs)

Interviewer: What kind of person is Mr. Yasuda from your point of view?

Fukui: He’s a real pro. This time, I was wondering how to express things with scale. There were some parts that I solidified in the script, but on the other hand, there were parts where I said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen here…oy!” The way he cooked those parts was exquisite. And the way he captured the characters was extremely accurate. What matters is capturing the idea of, “Would Kodai say this?” It’s necessary to understand that the Susumu Kodai of the current series is a different person from the previous one. That’s why I thought, “The commander of this work must be a person who doesn’t know Yamato.”

Interviewer: Oh, I see.

Fukui: I felt very confident that the script and the story would be translated into images based on what I wanted. I had a great sense of security.

Interviewer: I see. Mr. Yasuda, what kind of person is Mr. Fukui from your point of view?

Yasuda: I think he is the person who knows the world and characters of the remake series the best, since he has been working on 2202. As for myself, I tried to keep in mind the story and the characters appearances that Mr. Fukui was aiming for, rather than trying to be overly showy. The script is written with a lot of guts. I made sure to ask about the meaning of various things in the meetings and then drew the storyboards. My role is to take what Mr. Fukui has created and make it into an effective visual.

Interviewer: In addition to Tasuke Tokugawa and Shigeru Sakamoto, who appeared as new characters in The New Voyage TV special, this work also includes the characters of Domon and Bando from Yamato III. As for the story, we’ve already seen the first images of Dessler visiting the planet Galman. On top of that, there is the reappearance of 2199 characters who did not appear in 2202. Also, the design of the Hyuga carrier is based on the Earth carrier from the PlayStation game. I get the impression that it’s packed with everything.

EDF carrier redesign for Playstation by Studio Nue veteran Kazutaka Miyatake, 1999

UNCF combat carrier Hyuga

Fukui: I’m a “Yamato expert” from Mr. Yasuda’s point of view, but from my point of view, there are plenty of people on the staff who know more. When that happens, the two of us have a role to play in deciding which way to steer the work. It’s a challenge to see how much we can accept the opinions of the people around us. That’s what it’s like.

Interviewer: A challenge. (Laughs)

Fukui: Basically, the style was to somehow incorporate everything that came up. Of course, there were some times where I said, “I can’t go that far,” and there were some things that I had to leave out. As for the Hyuga, I was actually planning to use the same design as the supply carrier Asuka, and put them on the left and right sides of Yamato. I was going to omit a lot of things. But when [Mecha Designer] Junichiro Tamamori sent me the design, I thought, “I have no choice but to put this in.” I asked him to bring in elements that didn’t occur to me. The best part of working in a group is the process of fleshing out elements that you didn’t have in your head, and making them richer than you imagined. I was able to work in a very good group again this time.

Interviewer: When you were working on 2202, you first created the core plot, and then Hideki Oka created the details based on that. He made a detailed long plot based on the core plot, and then you went to the “zero draft” of the script. I heard that the process was different this time.

Fukui: I think it’s more like we threw the “meat” around for the “fleshing out” and it was my job to mold it. (Laughs)

Interviewer: So it wasn’t a policy of “Let’s mix New Voyage with Yamato III” from the beginning? Rather, you asked yourselves, “What would happen if we mixed them together?”

Fukui: That’s what I meant. But I was originally thinking about mixing them because the newcomer crew members in New Voyage and Yamato III are completely different. In the original story, the connections between the works became weaker after New Voyage, and they became more like standalone works. However, there is a general “big river” flow to the story, so I decided to take the time to establish that. It’s too early for the Galman-Gamilas Empire to be created in one year. So I decided to give it a few years.

Interviewer: Certainly.

Fukui: I wanted to make the best use of the potential in the original series and rewrite it again. I used my head to figure out how to arrange the lumps of meat that were being thrown at me.

Interviewer: From the director’s point of view, Mr. Yasuda, it sounds like you were prepared to make a complicated work, and then suddenly you were faced with an application problem. Was there any confusion?

Yasuda: The reference materials they gave me for this project were enormous. It would have been very difficult to read through all of them from cover to cover, but I had knowledgeable staff members who told me, “Here is the key part.” It wasn’t a case of “recreate everything as it is,” so I was able to concentrate on the storyboarding and visualization.

Interviewer: Regarding Yamato‘s design this time, you said, “It’s a big battleship, so I want it to look big,” and you wanted it to be more realistic rather than having a cel-look. There was a change in how the belly of the ship swelled from 2199 to 2202. Is there anything that you changed in the same way?

Yasuda: Yes, there were many changes in the details. But to be honest, I don’t even know, “Is that different?” (Laughs)

Fukui: What Mr. Yasuda mentioned in his comments is not the design itself, but the look of the image. The design itself is a basic type. In 2202, we had the rear nozzle enlarged because of the impressive view. This time, we made it smaller again. We also added an element on the side to store the new mecha that will appear in the future.

Interviewer: I see.

Fukui: Mr. Tamamori, who is in charge of design, said, “I made this change voluntarily.” There are many parts, but it’s an esoteric sort of can-you-spot-the-difference situation.

Interviewer: As expected, he’s very particular, isn’t he?

Fukui: It’s really amazing. I never dreamed that Hyuga and Asuka‘s forms would be so different. When you see the two ships side by side, there are many things that make you think, “Ah!”

Interviewer: It seems that production under the influence of Corona has become part of your daily life. I’ve heard both positive and negative comments about the different production style. How did you feel about the production of this work?

Fukui: I guess it depends on the position. I think it’s better for animators to have an environment where they can concentrate at home rather than having to get together. However, since we could no longer get together and talk, it was difficult for us to communicate with each other. What about you, Mr. Yasuda?

Yasuda: It wasn’t all bad in terms of production, but I couldn’t see all their faces when I’d tell them, “Please do this here,” so I didn’t know who was in the room. There are both good and bad points. There was a big impact on the voice recording, wasn’t there?

Fukui: Yes, because we have to record each person’s voice one by one.

Interviewer: Oh, that’s hard…

Fukui: Of course there are some parts that can only be recorded by one person alone, but there is nothing better than working together with everyone.

Interviewer: I heard that it got serious when you decided to record conversation scenes with different actors at the same time. That seems like the impact would be heavy.

Fukui: The sound engineer knew what he was doing. We were able to record without lowering the tension. But I’d like to get back to normal as soon as possible.

Interviewer: This time, you fleshed out various elements and added many new characters to the work. Were there any characters that caught your attention, whether they were old or new?

Fukui: I’d have to say Domon, because of the performance of Yu Hatanaka. I think we were able to take a step forward from the “common characters of the same kind.”

Yasuda: When we got the design for Domon from Nobuteru Yuuki, it was a type of character that had never existed in the remake series before. The design was completely different from the original work, and I felt that this would be the start of The New Voyage. His voice is also very natural. There are many scenes with a sense of urgency, such as strained voices in battles, but the synergistic effect of Hatanaka’s acting keeps his presence from getting buried.

Interviewer: When I first saw the visuals of Domon, I felt that he had more “solidity” or “strength” compared to the other characters. He’s the centerpiece of the new crew. Did you ask Mr. Yuuki to draw him that way, or is it something that just naturally emerges from the character?

Yasuda: I don’t think I asked for anything in particular for the design.

Fukui: No, nothing like that. Since it’s a new character, the animators won’t be able to understand it unless it’s drawn by Yuuki, the originator. So, I think he drew it well to set an example.

Interviewer: There are other new characters in the series, but Domon has a particularly strong eye, which is very impressive.

Fukui: That’s right. It’s not so much the design, but the cutting impression. Domon is the only one of the crew who comes aboard Yamato with a clear purpose. On one hand, there are adults like Kodai and others who seem to be strong, but have not yet decided where to put their feelings. Then there are the children who ask straightforwardly, “Why?” It’s the power of the directing that makes their eyes look so strong.

Interviewer: I didn’t know what the theme song for this film would be from the special report and the trailer. I was surprised to hear Yamato! The New Voyage when Yamato appeared in the preview.

Fukui: Is that so? New Voyage is the only song I could think of. (Laughs) I didn’t have the option of not using it.

Interviewer: Just because it’s a remake doesn’t mean that the theme song will be the same. I just thought, “It’s this!” when I realized it.

Fukui: But I think using Yamato! The New Voyage now is also very ironic. There’s a saying, “Keep your heart free of fear and grief.” But in today’s world, “fear and grief” come at us every day. The world in the story is the same, and we never know when we will be caught up in another war. It’s ironic that this song rings out in the midst of all that, but that’s why. As Varel and Serizawa say, it’s amazing that we are talking together, even though we were enemies before. By noticing such small advances and carefully nurturing the buds, maybe someday we can take you to a world where your heart can be “free of fear and grief.” That’s why we used that song.

Interviewer: Finally, now that the new Yamato series is being released, can you tell us about the parts that you would like us to pay close attention to?

Fukui: Like Mr. Yasuda said, where Yamato is concerned, the generation from the early 40s on down may feel like it has nothing to do with them. But I can say with pride, “Look at it, everything you want is here.” I hope you’ll see it and think you’ve been missing out. There is also a summary of Space Battleship Yamato at the beginning of the film. I hope you will see it at the theater.

Yasuda: There are a lot of new characters in this film, and there are a lot of pillars and a tempo to the story. I think it will leave you with a full stomach after watching it. It’s got live-action style lighting, so it’s easy to see at a glance how tense or sad a scene is. I hope you will come to the theater more than once to see it for yourself.

Interviewer: Thank you very much for your time today.

The film, which is not a remake of the old New Voyage but includes elements from Yamato III, is currently doing well, ranking first in the weekend box office screen average.

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