Yamato 2205 writer interview, October 2021

From the Yamato 2205 Part 1 program book: Scriptwriter Hideki Oka and Concept Consultant Yuka Minakawa discuss the development and creative process for 2205, describing how some decisions were made and revealing some of the roads not taken.

“We finally managed to create a Yamato that looks good under a blue sky” -Oka

“This is a “post-war” story that fits the new Cosmo Tiger theme” -Minakawa

Hideki Oka and Yuka Minakawa

From here on, it’s total war

Interviewer: You both worked on Yamato 2202, didn’t you?

Oka: Yes. Director Nobuyoshi Habara asked me to join the project. It was in 2015, and at the time, they hadn’t even decided on the title. It was the first time I met [Writer] Harutoshi Fukui. Didn’t you come to the studio shortly after that?

Minakawa: No, it was quite a while later. When I was approached by Mr. Fukui to novelize 2202, all the synopses had already been written. I heard a rumor that he was going to work on Yamato. Whenever I saw him, I would say, “Great, great!” and it felt like his ship had come in. (Laughs) At that point, he told me that he was already working on several drafts of the final episode script.

I read the synopses first and saw the perspective it was coming from. I was moved to tears when I read the part where Saito tries to commit suicide and Nagakura stops him. There were some undecided drafts at the end of the story, but when I got the script for the final episode, I started working on the novelization.

Oka: So it was almost a year after I joined the project.

Interviewer: Did the two of you participate in Yamato 2205 as well?

Oka: It’s not like that was the automatic route from the beginning. When I started working with Mr. Fukui on the scripts for 2202, he said, “If the remake Yamato is going to continue in the future, I think it would be better if a completely different staff creates a new Yamato for each series.”

2202 adds many new elements, but the finale of the story would be similar to the end of the original White Comet arc, so we could pass the baton to the next person. That was Mr. Fukui’s policy. When he told me that, I thought, “That’s a good idea.” (Laughs)

Minakawa: It’s true that after 2202, Mr. Fukui said, “That’s for the person in charge to think about.” Some time has passed since then, and he actually decided to continue working on it himself. This is clearly the self-responsibility system he often talks about. (Laughs)

Oka: I had a shocking consultation with him at a pub one day where he said, “I’ve been asked to work on the continuation of 2202, which is The New Voyage. Can you work with me?” As someone who was invited by Mr. Habara to work on 2202, I hesitated for a moment. But I thought that if Mr. Fukui was going to take on the project, I had no choice but to do it. I promised to participate on the spot.

At that meeting I suggested, “Let’s move up the appearance of Domon and the other crew members from Yamato III.” 2199 and 2202 were required to be faithful to the original works, but from this point forward, I thought the main question would be, “How do you we change it?”

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that we can remake all the old works. So, from here on, it’s total war. We should take advantage of all the elements we can. That’s what I felt as a longtime Yamato fan. So I proposed that we debut Tasuke and the rest of The New Voyage team and Domon and the rest of the Yamato III team all at once.

Minakawa: When I joined the staff, it had been decided that the planet Galman would appear at the beginning. The surprise of the people who saw it at the theater was the same as my surprise at that time.

Interviewer: I heard that you participated in 2205 before you wrote the script for Age of Yamato.

Minakawa: I started working on 2205 in the summer of 2018, I think. I remember that at a fireworks viewing at Mr. Fukui’s house, he told me he was going to do the sequel to 2202. He asked me if I would be interested in joining the staff. After that, he proposed that I work as a concept researcher.

When I was writing the 2202 novelization, I thought about the concepts around Iscandar and Garmillas. I told him, “I had this idea” and showed him some of the concepts I came up with. That seemed to have stuck in his mind. I think he felt it could be used if our next story was based on The New Voyage.

New crew members from The New Voyage (1979)

Interviewer: How did you come up with the basic plot of 2205?

Oka: It was the result of Mr. Fukui summarizing nearly two years of discussions among all of us. The atmosphere at the site was that everyone is on the same team. All the staff members involved in the creation of the concept and script have a say. It was an atmosphere where you could say, “I think this,” or “That’s not quite right” without hesitation.

It didn’t matter at all if Mr. Minakawa, who was in charge of concepts, read my zero-draft script and said, “This should be different.” In fact, I asked him to say so. It was the same for the first draft of the script written by Mr. Fukui. The film was created through a series of honest exchanges.

Minakawa: The script meeting was a lot of fun. It wasn’t just people from the writing side like me and our science and SF researcher Shinya Ogura, but also the mecha designers: Junichiro Tamamori, Yasushi Ishizu, and Mika Akitaka. Everyone liked it. Words like “hospital ship” and “Balanodon transport ship” were commonly thrown around. It’s a good thing that we’re all on the same team.

I tried to harmonize things that came from different people. It was also my job to put them together based on the concepts of the original series. Mr. Ogura asked a planetary science professor about what would happen if Iscandar went out of orbit. He worked on it as a proof and I came up with a way to describe it, so it came out as a compromise between the two theories.

New crew members from Yamato III (1980)

Oka: It was just a theoretical image, but I thought about the formation of the Dessler fleet and how its actions are organized. What ships would be damaged in what scenes, and what will be left in the end? I set up things like that and entrusted them to Director Kenji Yasuda. It’s a self-responsibility system.

Interviewer: You all created the idea together, didn’t you?

Minakawa: I am credited with the title of “concept researcher,” but I really said whatever I wanted. (Laughs).

Oka: All the elements presented in 2202 were “things that happened in history.” The psychology of the characters follows it faithfully. On top of that, the worldview and the elements presented in the original are important. 80% of the cards on the table are familiar ones. However, the timing is a little different. We’ve been discussing these things with that in mind.

Since our relationship with each other has grown so much, we also call each other on the phone outside the meeting place. “Hello, Minakawa-san…” Unusual ideas are born in the course of those conversations and get reflected in the script. I did this repeatedly. We were presented with a mountain of ideas and stories. In the end, Mr. Fukui wrote out a “composition memo,” which corresponds to the “original story,” to consolidate the theme.

Minakawa: Since I had the opportunity to participate in this, I thought it would be great if we could keep a record of what ideas came out of the meetings. What was retained and what was not. If there’s an opportunity, I hope to present this information in such a way that the viewers can enjoy it even more.

[Translator’s note: this idea, too, is has a precedent in Yamato history. All the unused story concepts were published in various books over the years. You can find five different drafts for the original New Voyage here.]

The birth of the Yamato fleet

Interviewer: The appearance of the Yamato‘s companion ships is also a big factor, isn’t it?

Oka: At a very early stage, Mr. Fukui told me, “I’d like to have two aircraft carriers.” This meant that the Yamato fleet, with space carriers as support, would be used in the merchandising fight for this work. So it would be meaningless if we didn’t make the companion ships attractive. Thus, Sanada and Yuki were selected as the captains of Hyuga and Asuka.

It took a lot of courage to separate them from Yamato. The drama that had been created by them being on the same ship would no longer be possible. But the meaning of doing something new is greater than the pain. A drama could also be created by them being apart. And for Yamato, the ship is not a mecha, but a character. It’s very important to know who is supporting the ship.

We’ve also added new characters that haven’t appeared yet in the remake series, and assigned them to Yamato, Hyuga, and Asuka one after the other. They don’t have many lines, but if you look at the pamphlet, you can see that this one is Sakamaki, that one is Nishina, and so on. At one of the meetings, I was thinking of making Ota an XO. It was like a personnel meeting and it became a very contentious issue. Everyone started saying that they didn’t want to get on a ship with Ota as the XO…. (Laughs)

Interviewer: That’s terrible. (Laughs)

Minakawa: There are a lot of characters, so it was easy to develop and expand the ideas. But it was difficult to decide what to cut.

Interviewer: I was also surprised by the design of Raiden, who became a woman.

Oka: Was Raiden already there when you joined the project?

Minakawa: Yes, she was. When I joined up, we were talking about whether or not to have a woman. At first, the Cosmo Python was named Cosmo Raiden, so there was some talk of putting her in as a mechanic or engineer, since her name was Raiden. However, the name Cosmo Raiden was rejected, so she became a Space Cavalry member. The pairing of Raiden and Sakamoto has become a very interesting one, as you can see from their interactions. They have an interesting relationship, don’t they? I think Mr. Oka is really good at that kind of thing.

Interviewer: I thought the Space Cavalry would show up again.

Oka: It’s true that the Space Cavalry no longer appeared in the original series from The New Voyage onward. No one thought to follow that up. (Laughs)

Interviewer: By the way, did you have any plans to include Shiro Kato as an element from the original?

[Translator’s note: this is a reference to Saburo Kato’s lookalike brother, who joined up in Be Forever.]

Oka: I had many discussions with Mr. Fukui about whether Shiro Kato would exist or not in the world of 2205. We couldn’t come to a conclusion, so we didn’t show him on screen. I personally think he does exist, but if so I don’t think he would have to be a fighter pilot.

Interviewer: How did you decide on the two-part structure of the first and second chapters?

Oka: At the beginning, we wanted to make three episodes plus three episodes, for a total of six episodes. The old New Voyage was only 90 minutes long, so we figured we could do it in that amount of time. But based on our experience with 2202, we couldn’t do that. I asked them to make it at least four episodes plus four episodes. Once we started working on it, the amount of information became more than we could use.

New and old crew members

Interviewer: Going back to the beginning for a moment, what was Mr. Fukui’s reaction to your proposal to introduce Domon and the others?

Oka: This is always the case, but at that time, he would listen to me and say, “Hmmm.” He listens to various ideas with a “hmmmm.” But only those that stick with him or leave a lasting impression on him become subject to further examination.

I’m sure Mr. Fukui was thinking about bringing Domon forward, but then he thought hard about what to have him do. I guess it came together the first time I asked, “Why don’t we use Ryusuke Domon?” I proposed various completely different roles for Domon until we arrived at the current form. I don’t think he remembers anymore. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Why did you choose to put Domon in the accounting department?

Minakawa: Because Mr. Fukui had a strong request to do that.

Oka: Mr. Fukui’s own Yamato experience started in earnest with The New Voyage. From there, the period of Be Forever and Yamato III remained strong. That’s why for him, Ryusuke Domon had to be in that orange outfit. We’re the same in that respect. Domon in 2205 is at the head of the class among the newcomers. He’s so elite that he even serves as their president.

Minakawa: In the end, as for how to get Domon to change from the red uniform to orange, we decided to use Hirata to solve the problem, didn’t we?

Oka: In Yamato III, Domon wanted to be in the battle group, but was sent to the life group. There he meets a great senior named Hirata. In Yamato III, Hirata appeared in only two episodes, but he left a big impact on Domon and the viewers. You may remember the episode where Hirata makes lemon tea for his classmate Kodai late at night. In 2205, Hirata offers help to Kodai, who is struggling over how to deal with Domon, and he ends up taking over the problem child in the main accounting department. I’ve left out a lot of the dialogue that led up to this, but I think the history of Yamato and the history of the character could support this.

Minakawa: Today, we can’t say that the tactical department is above and the main accounting department is below. But when it came to the question of who would take in the problem child Domon, I thought it was natural that it would be Hirata. In the case of 2199, Yamamoto was transferred from Hirata’s accounting department to the air corps. Hirata is a man of virtue, so I thought it would be convincing to the fans.

Interviewer: Yes. I felt that the relationship between the old crew and the new crew is one of the charms of 2205.

Minakawa: How do you connect the character of Domon with the existing crew in a dramatic way? How do we connect these newcomers with Iscandar and Dessler? We had a lot of trouble with that. The first half is still Domon and Kodai’s story. But in the second half, Iscandar and Dessler become the main story.

We had a lot of discussions about how to tie Domon and the other newcomers into the story. In the early stages, there was a plan for a love/romance to emerge from Domon’s emotional relationship with Yurisha. Miyako Kyozuka wasn’t around yet, so we had other ideas, like Domon having a secret crush on Yuki. There were many ideas that came up.

Oka: As the person in charge of the script, I feel that Miyako Kyozuka was the key. In the beginning, it was decided that all the newcomers would be male classmates from the National Defense Academy. And then all of a sudden, the idea of having a “heroine” came up. It was a suggestion from character designer Nobuteru Yuuki.

Minakawa: I was shocked when I saw Kyozuka’s design.

Oka: She is truly a heroine. But at first I thought, “No, no, that’s impossible.” The amount of drama was already overflowing. But once I started writing, I was like, “Huh?” Miyako is not going to do anything major, but I would be in trouble if she wasn’t there.

Thanks to Miyako, the newcomers of the 38th class were able to come together quickly and easily. With the birth of Miyako Kyozuka, the nature of their relationships became clearer. I was able to recognize once again that the stories of all the 38th class members exist as important pillars in 2205.

Minakawa: The first half of the story is about how the newcomers of the 38th class perceive Yamato‘s problems. In the second half, I think the story is about how they accept the situation of Dessler and Iscandar. Of course, Kodai is the main character, but the relationship between the Domon and Kodai, who have accepted the problems and the situation, is different from the Yamato of the past, and gives the remake a slightly different flavor.

Yabu’s reappearance

Oka: In terms of characters, I kept saying from early on that I wanted to bring back Yabu. After Tokugawa passed away, Yamazaki took over as the chief engineer. In the original Yamato, there was no one below him, only a newcomer named Tasuke Tokugawa.

It’s absolutely necessary to have seniors in the field who can teach us techniques and how to handle things. No matter how you turn Yamato‘s history upside down, there is no one suitable for that. I thought it would be best to have Yabu come back. So I called Mr. Fukui. He said, “No, that’s impossible!” There were already so many elements in the game, adding Yabu would be too much to handle. So I gave up.

But at a meeting two weeks later, he was talking on the assumption that Yabu would be there. (Laughs) Before I knew it, Yabu had entered the story. Mr. Fukui has that kind of tendency. It was the same with the Time Fault. Even if you say, “It’s impossible” at first, if you think about it carefully and it seems usable, before you know it, you’ve adopted it. In the end, Yabu became a very important pillar in 2205.

Minakawa: I said that it would be better to cut Yabu.

Oka: Yes, it was OK to have him at one point, but then there was a moment when I felt it was better to leave him out. That was after you had joined us.

Interviewer: You mean it became a blank slate?

Oka: Yes, that’s right. But by the time of the next meeting, it had been revived in Mr. Fukui’s mind. It was Yabu’s life force. (Laughs)

Minakawa: The reason his story was scrapped once was that I thought it wouldn’t fit. Also, there was the concern that Yabu’s presence would create multiple story arcs. But as the script progressed, the story of Yabu and the story of Domon came into contact with each other. In the end, it came together in a way that kept the axis intact. That flow was great.

Oka: In the third episode, there’s a long scene between Yabu and Domon. It was originally supposed to be Domon and Shima. Since there are few scenes where Shima is shown in closeup, I put him there. But Mr. Fukui said, “I’m sorry, but I’m going to use Yabu there.” Looking at the whole story, that was definitely the right decision. That was the scene we needed.

Interviewer: It was also interesting that Yabu and Tasuke were old acquaintances.

Oka: It’s a bit convenient, though. (Laughs) I hope you can understand that they must have visited each other before.

Interviewer: To me it felt like an element that captured the flow of “history” after 2199.

Oka: As the remake series has gone on, more and more elements have been added. The history of the characters has also been building up. I wanted to make the most of this as much as possible. As far as 2205 is concerned, I think I was able to distribute the story in a balanced manner. Of course, there are characters who are just appearing now, but there may be more to come. You can expect them to bloom at that time.

Interviewer: Despite the large number of characters in the story, it seems to be easy to follow.

Oka: That’s all due to Director Yasuda’s skill. It’s wonderful. The story itself exceeds the usual 30 minutes. The script department put in more than the amount of information that I think is necessary, but he was able to take it all in and capture it on film. I think this sense of tempo is one of the charms of this work.

New thoughts on Yamato

Interviewer: Could you tell us your thoughts on the original New Voyage?

Oka: It was the summer of my second year of middle school. I sat in front of the TV with high expectations. My father was watching behind me in silence. It was around the time when I stunned my family by declaring, “I’m going to be a film director. Today’s Yamato is an important opportunity for me to learn.”

I started to watch the movie with a tense mood. Two hours passed. I got impatient and thought, “This is a trailer for next year’s movie.” Then my father, who had been silent the whole time, got excited and said, “It’s Chiyoko! Chiyoko Shimakura is singing an anime song!!” I was saved by his excitement. (Laughs)

[Translator’s note: Chiyoko Shimakura was a popular folk singer who performed Sasha My Love at the end of The New Voyage.]

Minakawa: I was in elementary school when I watched the first TV series, and I was in middle school from the first movie to The New Voyage. During my three years in middle school, it felt like there was a Yamato every summer. It was like, “It’s summer, here’s Yamato.” But they all had different flavors. It was a series, but it didn’t repeat the same thing.

After Farewell and Yamato 2, I sat in front of the TV wondering what it was going to do next. The New Voyage really was a new voyage. Looking back on it now, the fact that it was different while maintaining the same style was what made the series so appealing.

Toward the next chapter

Interviewer: Finally, please tell us about your thoughts on the first chapter, TAKE OFF.

Oka: This time, Yamato is woven into an “urgent yet refreshing ensemble drama” with the largest number of characters in the series. There aren’t many Yamato stories that look good under a blue sky. The New Voyage was the only one. I wanted to make sure we didn’t lose sight of that. How did you see the new Yamato that Domon, Tasuke, and the others get on board?

Minakawa: It’s a “post-war” story that fits the New Cosmo Tiger theme. That’s the kind of atmosphere I feel in the students of the 38th class. If I were to use a Japanese analogy, I would say that 2205 is set in the 1950s. It’s a world where the smell of war is fading away.

Interviewer: Has the memory of the war already faded?

Oka: The generation is changing rapidly. But the people who experienced the war with Gatlantis and Garmillas are still alive in the world of 2205. I think many of them still carry the misery of war. Even if there is no fighting now, the situation is that we never know when we will be involved again. Then [singing], Earth gradually forgets its fight…

Does the first line from the famous song Yamato!! The New Voyage match the content this time? That comes out in the story, too. Mr. Fukui was very concerned about that point. If it didn’t fit, we couldn’t use the song. We discussed that very seriously.

Interviewer: Please tell us about the highlights of Part 2, STARSHA.

Minakawa: I can’t talk about specifics, but Mr. Fukui told me, “Think of something that would give Dessler the biggest shock of his life.” I think it will be even more shocking than the disappearance of the planet Garmillas depicted in the first chapter. Excuse me… long live Garmillas (Gahre Gamilon).

Oka: Just as 2202 depicted Dessler’s past, Starsha’s “secret” will become a major theme in 2205. How will Domon and the other newcomers, Yabu, Kodai, Sanada, and Yuki deal with it? I hope you can look forward to it. Also, that one thing that didn’t show up properly in the first chapter should go on a rampage!

Bonus shot

The first on screen appearance of Yamato in 2205 appears to have been inspired by its first on screen appearance a 1981 feature film titled Imperial Navy. (Posted on Twitter by PMF Mutsuraboshi Sigma)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.