1/100 Display model builder interview

Starting with Yamato‘s 40th anniversary in April 2014, we’ve been treated to the perennial return of the magnificent 3-meter long Yamato display model in one event after another; something we can enjoy even over long distance. One of the highlights of 2205 was seeing it again with its third makeover. In issue 13 of the Star Blazers/Yamato Fan Club magazine (published November 2021), we got a look into its building process.

Interview with Amane Gonjou (AG Factory), Production Manager of the 2205 Yamato

Major points of the 2205 Yamato redesign as seen in the process of making the display model

The giant display model is an indispensable item for theatrical screenings of the remake series. Of course, it is upgraded for each work. It is also a valuable resource for understanding the points of Yamato‘s redesign. We interviewed Mr. Amane Gonjou of AG Factory, who fabricated the 2205 Yamato display, to learn more about the production process.

(Photos courtesy of AG Factory)

Efficiently creating a precise model using two methods: sculpting and modeling

Interviewer: How many people worked on the 2205 Yamato?

Gonjou: Basically, there were 5-6 staff members in total.

Interviewer: That’s a surprisingly small number of people.

Gonjou: We have a small number of elite staff to meet the time and budget limitations. Since it’s a 3-meter class exhibit, the cost of making a complete precision model would be too much. Therefore, in the Yamato series, large parts are made of FRP (fiberglass reinforced plastic) and the “sculpting method” is used.

On the other hand, parts that require precision are designed by CAD, output by a 3D printer, and assembled using the “modeling method.” This is our hybrid production system. By having specialists in both sculpting and modeling working in tandem, this image aims for the best possible production within the conditions.

Interviewer: How long did it take you to create the 2199 Yamato, the base of the project?

Gonjou: About 3 months. If I had only used the “sculpting method,” I think it would have taken more than twice as long. I believe one of the reasons for the positive response is that the production method was successfully formulated and the staff was blessed.

Interviewer: From 2199 to 2202 to 2205, what’s the general process of refurbishing parts to match the evolution in the story?

Gonjou: I think it would be ideal to rebuild the entire ship from the hull up. But in practice, time and budget constraints mean that we have to use the model we already have as a base. The process is to rebuild important redesign points. For example, in the case of the 2202 Yamato, the hull shape itself was more macho in style compared to the previous work.

While checking the materials we were given on the surface area and such, I thought about how to reproduce its nuances, like adding armor around the bridge and main guns, and changing the shape of the fairleader. The basic procedure was the same on the 2205 Yamato, but we enjoyed working on this project even more because it was the third time.

[Translator’s note: “fairleader” is the nautical term for the iconic fairing at the bow. The circular cutouts originally accommodated ropes and rigging.]

What “brilliance” was first implemented on the 2205 Yamato?

Interviewer: Please talk about the main modification points of the 2205 Yamato.

Gonjou: The main nozzle was the major redesign point. Its diameter was enlarged in the 2202 modification, and in 2205 it has been narrowed again as in 2199. Personally, I think this is a better balance for Yamato.

Interviewer: What were you particular about when you created the main nozzle for display?

Gonjou: The main nozzle was originally the same color as the hull. Now the color is toned up to bring a little silver to the surface. However, the difference is so subtle that the change is not noticeable unless you’re told about it. I changed it it a little because I thought it would be better to have a metallic feel. The color is slightly darker than the hull, so please look for that if you have a chance to see it on display.

Interviewer: When I saw it at the theater, I was impressed by the electronic decorations on the main nozzle. That’s a fan’s dream.

Gonjou: This is one of the points we were particular about when we created the 2205 Yamato. The “brilliance of the Wave Engine” had to be reproduced. (Laughs) It’s a bit self-indulgent, but I wanted to do it for the Wave-Motion Gun, too. But it’s difficult because the muzzle is deep inside and the viewing angle for the light is limited. I’m always trying to think of a better way. Someday, I would like to make it happen.

Yamato‘s iconic fairleader has also undergone major redesign

Interviewer: The most distinctive feature of the 2205 Yamato is still its bow. It looks very different from the one in 2202.

Gonjou: One of the most prominent features is the shape of the Wave Gun port. When viewed from the side, the slant has changed shape. Also, the fairleader shape had a sharp tip in 2202, but now it’s tilted slightly forward. It’s like smoothing the connection of the line to the Wave-Motion Gun and the bulbous bow. Also, there is a step on the front side of the fairleader on both sides. This area has been molded in a very different way and reshaped using a sheet-metal working method.

Interviewer: It’s an important element that symbolizes Yamato, so it’s a particularly important point of redesign.

Gonjou: There is a scene where you can see the turrets and bridge through the fairleader. Some of the photos posted on social media were taken from such an angle. As the creator, that made me very happy.

Reproducing changes in details that are difficult to see

Interviewer: In terms of impression changes, the shapes of the main and secondary guns are also different from those of 2202.

Gonjou: Reinforcing the armor of the main and secondary guns is also a major modification point. As you can see from the photos, it’s considerably thicker than the 2202 version. The thickness is 5mm to 1cm on both sides. The side rungs (ladders) are also in different positions. We worked on that as well. These modifications occupied a large volume of the work…it’s a pity that it’s hard to tell when they’re painted in color. (Laughs)

Interviewer: It’s not a change in style, but a change in detail.

Gonjou: The addition of armor around the pulse lasers is another modification point. It used to follow the flow of the ship’s body. In the 2205 version, it’s one step higher. The whole thing looks remarkable when it’s assembled, but you can clearly see that armor has been added here because of its thickness.

Interviewer: It must have been a very difficult part.

Gonjou: We were able to secure the manpower to do it, so instead of working alone, heaping putty on and chipping away, we were able to work on it all at once and complete it in a short period of time. In addition, the instructions we received (from Mecha Designer Junichiro Tamamori) were very clear. The location and volume of the additional armor is quite clear. I was able to make the modifications without any hesitation using this as an indicator. It was not as backbreaking as I expected.

The creator’s “playful” attention to detail inside the bridge

Interviewer: Are there any other points you were particular about?

Gonjou: It’s not a particular point this time, but when we made the 2199 Yamato, I built interiors for the first and second bridges. You can somewhat confirm the interior of the captain’s quarters, but unfortunately the other interiors aren’t visible in the finished product. (Laughs)

Interviewer: As a Yamato fan, I’m very eager to have the captain’s quarters and the interior of the first bridge.

Gonjou: The United Earth Defense Forces mark is on the back wall of the second bridge. We did reproduce the interior to some extent. But because the LED lights of the display are so strong, you can’t see inside, even if you look directly at it.

Interviewer: That’s too bad. (Laughs) But it shows your commitment as the creator.

Gonjou: Incidentally, in the 2199 version, a figure of Captain Okita was placed in the captain’s quarters. It is also a bit of a commitment that it’s absent from the 2202 version. As a Yamato fan, I look forward to “playing” with it.

I put my admiration for Yamato into my work as a colorist

Interviewer: For Yamato fans who are modelers, the paint job is also of interest.

Gonjou: It’s about the same as painting a car, but as I mentioned earlier there are many “model” parts, so you can’t just apply a thick coating. Basically, we use an airbrush gun about ten times larger than average. For the delicate parts, you can think of the work as being similar to that of a plastic model. The process of smudging and staining is basically the same. The work is very time-consuming and labor intensive, but it is a 3-meter class exhibit. We enjoyed and struggled with it.

Interviewer: Was the color of the ship custom-made?

Gonjou: In our case, we mixed all the special colors by ourselves. We received the color specs for the anime along with the production materials. We use that as a reference to create the colors. It’s fun to be able to reflect my own thoughts in the colors. The colors of Yamato in 2199 and 2202 leaned toward a very gray tone. That’s what I like about it.

The 2205 Yamato is closer to the tones of the Yamato we used to watch in our high school days. While chewing on all the ideas I did the color mixing and thought, “Yes, yes, this is the color of Yamato.”

The “complete” version of the 2205 Yamato can be seen at a theater screening Chapter 2

Interviewer: The 2205 Yamato displayed at the theater was very well received by the visitors. Of course, it will be displayed at the screening of Chapter 2, right?

Gonjou: It’s not up to me, so I can’t say for sure. We’d love to have it on display. Actually, the model is not yet perfect. For example, Mr. Tamamori pointed out that the color of the deck doesn’t pick up all the details from the design drawings. There are some areas that we haven’t interpreted well.

Therefore, if there will be an exhibition for Chapter 2, we will fix all the problems before then. I would like to you to see the “complete” version of the 2205 Yamato on that day. Please stay tuned!

Interviewer: I’m looking forward to seeing it with Chapter 2 next year!

See extensive workshop photos of the 2205 renovation here.

AG Factory is a display production company with a workshop in Fujiyoshida City, Yamanashi Prefecture.

In addition to the 1/100 Yamato and Andromeda display models, they’ve built treasured event pieces for FGO (Fate/Grand Order), Ultraman Nexus, Ultraman Max, and Ultraman Mobius. The company also makes props that appear in the films, such as fighter planes.

Comment from Junichiro Tamamori, designer of the 2205 Yamato

It looks like a scaled-up version of Bandai’s large plamodel. It is an emotional experience that makes you think, “If there was a real one, it would look something like this.” For 2205, hints for painting the deck came from 2199 and were applied to the 3-meter Yamato that was improved for 2202. In the Anime expression, the upper deck is divided into “wooden parts” and “hull-colored parts,” but the “non-slip part” has been increased in 2205. It is wonderful to make and have new things.

Main Nozzle

As stated in the design changes sent by the production committee, the nozzle aperture has been narrowed and the line from the side of the ship to the aft end of the nozzle has been smoothed out. The main nozzle, including the vertical and horizontal tail fins, was not simply modified but newly constructed for this conversion.

The photo at left compares the main nozzle of the 2205 version (left) and the 2202 version (right). There is no change in length, but the nozzle’s diameter is reduced to about 70%, so the vertical and horizontal stabilizers were newly built so the wing tips would be match the horizon of the hull. In addition, the cone inside the nozzle is a separate part because of the electronics that reproduce the propulsion energy light from the Wave Engine.

Bow and Wave Gun muzzle

The front fairleader on the bow, which was nearly vertical in 2202, was replaced. The angle was made closer to that of the 2199 version. The silhouette on the side of the wave gun muzzle has been modified accordingly. The slight bulge at the sides of the fairleader are also an important change.

In order to change the angle of the fairleader on the bow, the tip was cut off. A wedge shape was then fixed in place with metal wire. After filling in the gaps with polyester putty, the bow line was smoothed out. The Wave Gun port was shaved at an angle to connect it with the fairleader. Due to these changes, the position of the rifling inside the muzzle (called “tooth alignment” in the instructions) also changed.

Main and secondary turrets

Both the main and secondary turrets have reinforced side armor in the 2205 version. The additional armor consists of curved surfaces. The impression is significantly different from the previous linear surfaces of the gun turrets. The details on the top and back of the turrets and their overall width, including the range finders on the sides, remains unchanged.

The additional armor was reproduced by gluing and shaping 3D printer output parts to the existing gun turret. The ladder rungs were originally designed as notch cutouts. The ladder positions on the sides had to be adjusted to match the redesign. These parts were also cutouts. While the shape of the barrels remains unchanged, the edges that became dulled by previous refurbishments were shaved and reshaped to be sharper.

Bridge area

The side beveling of the first and second bridges has been changed as well as the main turret. The sides of the bridge base and the lower part of the pulse lasers have additional armor. A step-up was created at the connection with the side of the hull. The instructions also describe other hull changes.

The first and second bridges were modified to make the window frames at the left and right ends parallel with the edge of the bridge side armor. After this was scraped away, thicker armor was added. The additional armor around the pulse laser turrets was made of acrylic plates, cut out and glued to preserve the detail of the original parts. Polyester putty was used to smooth the lines. The lower right photo shows additional armor parts based on the design drawings and instructions (cut out and 3D printed).

Before painting the entire surface, it is important to spray surfacer to check for scratches and bumps, the same as in normal model making. If there are no problems after checking the proportions, the main painting is performed. At this point, you can see that the searchlight lenses on the side of the smokestack have already been masked.

The main painting of the ship’s body starts with the highly saturated red on the bottom of the ship. After drying, masking is applied at the paint line, and the upper hull body color is sprayed on. To simplify the process, parts of the same color were done together. It can be seen in the photo that the pedestal is a metal frame that will be covered by dressing.

Smudging is done with a solvent paint that is different from the body color (kerosene-based in this case). The overspray is wiped off, taking advantage of the paint’s non-invasive nature. In addition, the shading of details is emphasized with a low-pressure, ultra-fine caliber airbrush, and markings are applied. The photo at right shows the final check at the workshop. The outfitting parts are connected as much as possible.

Collected photo galleries

Click on each of these links to see extensive galleries of the display model and watch it evolve from year to year.

2199 version

April 2014 (first unveiling)

September 2014

October 2014

December 2014

June 2016

2202 version

February 2017

May 2017

June 2017

October 2017

January 2018

March 2019

2205 version

September 2021

January 2022

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