Yamato Year 2021

The year 2021 will be remembered as our bridge from one reboot to the next when Age of Yamato took us from 2202 to 2205. If not for Corona, we would have gotten ALL of 2205, but screening delays pushed the second half into early 2022. But where the reboots go, the originals are always close behind. Here then is our roundup of all the attention given to the classic saga during this interesting year, starting with these very pages.

Cosmo DNA Highlights

Yamato and Hideo Ogata

Hideo Ogata is not well known outside Japan, and it’s impossible to even find a photo of him on the internet (believe me, I looked!) but he’s one of those people who played an instrumental role in building the foundation of anime culture. In 2004, three years before he lost a fight with cancer, he did the world a huge favor by publishing a book of his memoirs as an editor at Tokuma Shoten. In two chapters, he describes the creation of the Roman Album and the birth of the game-changing Animage magazine.

Start reading here.

Yoshikazu Yasuhiko interviews, 2020

“Yas” is an artist for all seasons with decades of experience in both anime and manga that turned him into an industry giant. As a key contributor to the two biggest anime franchises of all time, Space Battleship Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam, he possesses a unique vantage point and a fascinating career. He was extensively interviewed for two major books that were published in 2020, both of which are excerpted here.

Yamatunes Catalog

Regular followers of the Cosmo DNA Facebook page are familiar with “Yamatunes for Tuesday,” a weekly drop of amazing online music discoveries. The reach of Yamato music is far and wide with incredible energy and variety, guaranteed to lift your spirits. We cataloged an extensive roundup of Yamatunes for easy access whenever you need it.

See part 1 here and part 2 here.

Leiji Matsumoto essay, 2013

Countless books have been published by and about Leiji Matsumoto, exploring his unique creative legacy (see a large collection of them here). As his career moved through some very impressive anniversaries (he turned 80 in 2018), retrospectives appeared with greater frequency. One such book was Leiji Matsumoto Creative Note, a paperback from KK Bestsellers published the year he turned 75.

Each chapter of this book focused on a favorite manga title with an accompanying essay of stories related to the making of that title. The Space Battleship Yamato chapter is presented here.

Isao Sasaki interviews, April 2021

As of 2021, Isao Sasaki has been singing professionally for an amazing 60 years. His voice was the first anyone ever heard when they met Space Battleship Yamato, and he still belts out that theme song as no one else can. Two days before his first-ever livestream concert on April 9, 2021, a pair of interviews with Sasaki appeared online, and as usual he had plenty of stories to tell. Read them here.

Star Blazers Series 2: the Scripts

In June 2021, a dramatic discovery was made on eBay: a large collection of Star Blazers production scripts. The seller agreed to an offer for the entire set, and now they reside where they belong: in the hands of fandom itself.

The collection covers almost the entirety of the Comet Empire series, from the first episode to the last, with only two gaps near the beginning and a small number of missing pages. All the rest are present and accounted for, and can be read here.

How the Reboots Resurrect the Past

The makers of the Yamato reboots have gone on record time and time again to state that their most important mission is to maintain the “Yamato-ness” that made the original saga a classic and inspired them to make anime themselves. No matter how many seemingly new elements are continually plugged in, they all feel authentic, as if they belonged there all along. That is no accident; many of them have been there all along, just maybe in a form we don’t immediately recognize.

Anton Me Brandt digs deep in this series of articles to find the hidden anatomy that ties the present to the past. Explore it all here.



Publishing

January 17: Leiji Matsumoto: Essays on the Manga and Anime Legend

How many times have you wished all those books on Leiji Matsumoto were in English so you could finally read about his life and times? As of now, that wish has come true. Clocking in at close to 250 pages, this book examines Matsumoto in English like never before. Whereas Cosmo DNA mainly sticks to his Yamato work, the contributors to Leiji Matsumoto Essays spread out over the vast field of his career and brought back the goods. Here is the official description to remove all doubt:

Leiji Matsumoto is one of Japan’s most influential myth creators. Yet the huge scope of his work, spanning past, present and future in a constantly connecting multiverse, is largely unknown outside Japan. Matsumoto was the major creative force on Star Blazers, America’s gateway drug for TV anime, and created Captain Harlock, a TV phenomenon in Europe. As well as space operas, he made manga on musicians from Bowie to Tchaikovsky, wrote the manga version of American cowboy show Laramie, and created dozens of girls’ comics. He is a respected manga scholar, an expert on Japanese swords, a frustrated engineer and pilot who still wants to be a spaceman in his eighties.

This collection of new essays–the first book on Matsumoto in English–covers his seven decades of comic creation, drawing on contemporary scholarship, artistic practice and fan studies to map Matsumoto’s vast universe. The contributors–artists, creators, translators and scholars–mirror the range of his work and experience. From the bildungsroman to the importance of textual analysis for costume and performance, from early days in poverty to honors around the world, this volume offers previously unexplored biographical and bibliographic detail from a life story as thrilling as anything he created.

Order it from Amazon (and see several preview pages) here.

Read an early review here.

Watch an interview with Editor Helen McCarthy here

Full disclosure and horn-tooting: the same person who wrote these words (Tim Eldred) also contributed an essay that takes a deep dive into Matsumoto’s manga techniques. Happy reading!

March 1: Showa Anime Card Chronicle

The Showa Era lives on! Back in the mid 70s, when on-demand viewing was inconceivable and books were fleeting, kids had few ways to preserve images from their favorite anime and tokusatsu programs. One of them was to collect mini-cards, their version of American bubblegum cards, and you have to imagine only a lucky few got to catch ’em all. For the rest, this new book from Tatsumi Publishing fills in the gaps.

It’s a thick 160-page full color catalog of over 2,700 mini-cards from 18 different 1970s anime shows, with Space Battleship Yamato represented along with Mazinger Z, Gatchaman, Getter Robo, Grendizer, and others. Order your copy from Amazon.co.jp here, along with its tokusatsu companion volume if that happens to be your jam.

September 27: Dawn Chapter, Aquarius Algorithm novel

Ever since Yamato 2199 launched the “reboot universe,” longtime fans have been wondering if there would ever be a return to the original saga. This is the answer to that question: a novel that explores, for the first time, the gap between Final Yamato (1983) and the still-unresolved Yamato Resurrection (2009). Written by Yuya Takashima with the help of a superfan brain trust called Asteroid 6, it takes the Kodai family to the Aquarius iceberg where Yamato is mysteriously coming back to life.

The paper and Kindle versions of the book were published on September 27th, and immediately jumped to the number 1 ranking in Amazon.co.jp’s novels category. Those who ordered their copy from Yamato Crew received the four trading cards shown above, containing mecha designs from the story. Order your copy from Amazon.co.jp here and see the first 30 pages at Bookwalker here (click on the cover image to open the viewer).

Obviously, this is a big project with major implications; there will be more to this story, and the staff has stated that it is the first step to open a path to a Resurrection sequel.

Find out much more about the book here.



Music

April 9: Isao Sasaki 60th anniversary concert

Isao Sasaki performed his first live-streaming concert to mark the occasion of his 60th anniversary as a performer. On June 4, Yomiuri online published a firsthand account of someone who was in the limited audience. There was no byline on the article, but the author speaks for all of us.

Power in full swing! Isao Sasaki’s 60th anniversary live

See the original article here

I went to a live concert to celebrate the 60th anniversary Isao Sasaki’s debut, an anison singer known for the Space Battleship Yamato theme song. Since the concert was held during the Corona pandemic, there were thorough safety measures such as temperature checks and alcohol disinfection. Of course, the audience had to wear masks (as did the band and chorus on stage when they weren’t singing or playing), and the only cheering was applause. It was the first time in a long while that I was intoxicated by live sound.

The opening song was of course the Yamato theme, sung by Sasaki with accompaniment on wind instruments, which made my tears suddenly well up. The story of Yamato, which set off into space in search of a radiation removal device to save Earth from near extinction, overlapped with the current difficult situation of the present day world, and I was deeply moved.

When I listened to the theme song of Galaxy Express 999, which was performed next, I had a completely different impression from when I watched the anime. The emotional voice of Sasaki is soothing to my heart, which is tired from a year of grappling with Corona. On the other hand, robot songs such as UFO Robo Grendaizer are powerful enough to inspire and encourage us to look forward to the future.

In addition to anison [anime songs], Sasaki made his debut as a “Japanese Elvis” and sang in a wide range of genres over his sixty years of performing. What I found amazing was not just live performance of old hit songs; he also sang an insert song for this year’s super sentai series, Machine Squadron Zenkaiger, in a duet with Ms. Michiko Horie, who came in as a guest. She is still going strong in her 60th year as a singer. What surprised me even more was when Sasaki said, “I am 79 years old” with a laugh.

He sang 24 songs, including the encore. Given the luster and power of his voice and the way he moved to the rhythm, it is hard to believe that he will be 80 years old in just one year. His voice is the same as it was in the past, and those of us in the audience were able to enjoy the happiness of sharing the same space as adults.

At the end, they sang the theme song of Superhuman Machine Metalder. My tears flowed again when I heard the lyrics of the song, “Is your youth shining?” It was exactly the song and words I needed to hear right now. As I watched Isao singing, I thought to myself, “I will live my life with no shame about the songs I listen to.” I also thought that no matter how difficult the world is, looking forward and doing our best is what we have been taught by hero songs.

To prevent infection, there were no congratulatory flowers or loud cheering at the concert. However, the sparkle of Isao’s songs definitely lit up the hearts of the audience and those who participated via streaming. It was such a miraculous night.

April 25: Departing Ship: a Baritone’s Collection of Hiroshi Miyagawa Songs

Yamato music can be found in unexpected places. This CD features solo performances of no less than 12 classic Yamato songs by Baritone Tetsuro Kitamura (with piano accompaniment). It’s a masterful performance for a very select audience, and is thus not available through mainstream sources. It is independently published by BKM Records and can be ordered here (ships only to Japanese addresses).

Hear Tetsuro Kitamura’s rendition of The Scarlet Scarf here.

September 8: Ikuko Kawai CD: Always ~ Masterpiece Story

Music completists added another title to their search lists when this disc was released by internationally-known violinist Ikuko Kawai. It features 26 east-meets-west tracks that puts the Yamato Theme in the company of The Sound of Music, Whole New World, Ave Maria, and Dancing Queen (among others).

Get it at Amazon.co.jp here or CD Japan here.

Hear the entire album on Youtube here.

October 17: The Melody of Kure Station

In 2013, a train station in the city of Kure, where the Battleship Yamato was built, adopted the Space Battleship Yamato theme as its jingle to announce arriving trains. The prelude signals trains going one way, and the main melody is for trains going the other. Hear both of them on Youtube here

A reporter for the AERAdot website investigated how it was decided to make this the song for Kure Station, taking a look into musical history and Kure’s main attraction, the Battleship Yamato Museum.

Read the article here.

Pilot Film musicology

The Space Battleship Yamato Pilot Film has become a legendary artifact of the early days, produced to pitch the series to TV networks in 1974. The story of its production is well-documented and explained here. Less well known, at least until recent years, were the sources for its temp score. But superfans in Japan kept digging, and it was all eventually identified.

First, watch and listen to the pilot film (with subtitles) here.

Then hear the source tracks one by one on Youtube:

Track 1: Spirit of Summer by Eumir Deodato. From the album Prelude (1973).

Track 2: Love theme from The Getaway by Quincy Jones. From the album You’ve Got it Bad Girl (1973).

Track 3: Chump Change by Quincy Jones. From the album You’ve Got it Bad Girl (1973).

Track 4: Also Sprach Zarathustra cover by Eumir Deodato (original composition by Richard Strauss). From the album Prelude (1973).

Eumir Deodata is a Brazilian musician and producer whose rendition of Zarathustra reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1973. Read more about him here.

Quincy Jones is a legendary musician and producer who needs no introduction, but you can read more about him here.

Prior to entering the anime world, Yamato‘s Executive Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki spent at least a decade in the world of music, producing stage shows, spinning discs on the radio, and seeing live shows all over the world. The likelihood is very high that he made all of these selections himself, perhaps supplying the tracks from his own personal collection. They were almost certainly unlicensed at the time, since the pilot film was only intended for private screenings. The fact that it was later released fully intact means there is more information to be discovered at another time.



Pros Online

Shinya Takahashi auction art

Shinya Takahashi, character designer on both Be Forever and Final Yamato, re-emerged after decades out of the public eye to begin selling original artwork through online auctions in Japan. He added many more pieces to his catalog in 2021.

Get a good look at them in our 2021 Takahashi art gallery here.

Revisit the 2020 gallery here.


Keisuke Masunaga auction art

Following Shinya Takahashi’s lead, Keisuke Masunaga put up some original art of his own on the Mandarake auction site in February. His subject was Teresa, both the Farewell to Yamato version (above) and the Yamato 2 version (below).

Both auctions have closed, but you can still see their listings online here and here.

In case his name doesn’t ring a bell, Masunaga gained fame as an interpreter of Leiji Matsumoto’s works for anime. He redesigned all the characters for the Playstation games and went on to do the same for anime works of the 00s such as Galaxy Railways. See an interview with him here.

Two more pieces turned up in April, instantly flashing us back to his design work and animation for the Playstation 2 games.


Events

April: Leiji Matsumoto Symbol Road renewal

In 1999, the port town of Tsuruga erected the Leiji Matsumoto Symbol Road, a delightful series of Yamato and Galaxy Express sculptures that line both sides of the city’s main street. We went there for Yamatour 2009 and brought back a complete set of photos that can be seen here.

The passage of time can be unkind to metal, so at some point in the recent past, the city took each sculpture off the street for reconditioning. Happily, they’ve all be reinstalled and they look fantastic. Several fans made the pilgrimage to see them and brought back some amazing photos. See a collected gallery here.

October 1: Hideaki Anno Exhibition

Anime auteur Hideaki Anno, best known for co-created Evangelion, is well-connected to the Yamato fan community. He was one of the original “superfans” who published fanzines and turned his obsessions into a launch pad for a thriving anime career. From October 1 through December 19, that career was examined from its very beginning in an exhibition at the National Art Center in Tokyo. The first room (titled “Origins: childhood enchantment”) was a free-photo zone, so many visitors recorded it for Twitter.

Properly, Space Battleship Yamato had real estate of its own in this room. See a photo gallery of the Yamato artifacts here.

See photos of other exhibits here.


Photo at right posted on Twitter by aoi2199

November 13: Yokosuka Sea Anime Carnival

Originally scheduled for July, this event got knocked off the calendar by Covid and finally re-emerged from the 13th to the 28th. Set on board the museum Battleship Mikasa, it featured displays from three disparate anime shows, including Yamato 2205.


Bookmarks obtained by aoi2199, ticket and brochure photographed by friend-of-the-website Minoru Itgaki

To keep fans busy, a stamp rally was arranged with some local merchants in Yokosuka. Players were given cards to fill up with stamps obtained by spending a minimum of 500 yen. Five stamps qualified you to receive prizes. The Yamato prize was a pair of clear bookmarks.

But most of the effort went into the shipboard displays, which were photographed extensively by visitors.
See a comprehensive gallery here.


Continue to Part 2: articles, online activity, and Hero’s Hill

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