The “secret” fan club, 1991-2001

The original Space Battleship Yamato fan club has been well-documented elsewhere on Cosmo DNA. Founded in December 1977 after the incredible success of the first feature film, it launched a high-quality magazine in February 1978 that always delivered the latest news and kept fans actively involved like no other anime franchise.

Long after Final Yamato in 1983, the magazine kept going. It was the one and only place to get exclusive info on Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s subsequent productions, like the aborted Dessler’s War. Ultimately, Nishizaki’s ambition over-extended his financial resources, and the final issue (#83) was published in June 1991 when the fan club had to close down.

The farewell message: 14 years have passed since the Yamato fan club was founded. In the time since then, the fans have always been supportive of us and of Yamato. We always felt your strong passion and your love and hope for Yamato on its many voyages. There will be a little time before the fan club headquarters can be reborn. As long as we have you and Yamato, the fan club is immortal. We have learned much from our work and we will never forget the strength and enthusiasm of your support.

So what happened next? Where did all those fans turn to for further news as Yamato 2520 came and went, for example? You may be surprised and delighted to learn that a new group stepped in to pick up the slack, and they lasted another ten years.

They went by the name Space Battleship Yamato Revival Committee, and their chairman was Toshiki Kazama, who had worked for Nishizaki since 1977. He served the official fan club since its inception, and continued his work on an unofficial basis after it folded. The Revival Committee published their own newsletter to keep tabs on products and productions, releasing 25 issues over ten years.

Lacking the budget of the official fan club, the newsletter adopted a B&W doujinshi format and relied on rising fan artists for illustrations. Kazama and his group soon learned what it was like to serve an aging fan base accustomed to high-end production values, sometimes struggling to live up to their own standards. The final issue was published in August 2001 and contained a wide-ranging interview with Kazama that provides a rare glimpse into an otherwise under-documented era.

Just to provide some context, the years leading up to this conversation encompassed the Quickening documentary, all of Yamato 2520, the first attempt to make Yamato Resurrection, the decline and incarceration of Yoshinobu Nishizaki, and Leiji Matsumoto’s takeover of the franchise, during which time he launched the Great Yamato manga. With Yamato seemingly entering a new period of visibility, why didn’t the Resurrection Committee newsletter stay in print? The answer to that and many more questions can be found in this candid conversation.

The illustrations shown here were also part of the final issue.

Space Battleship Yamato Revival Committee Round Table

Due to the suspension of the newsletter, we have included a conversation with President Kazama. It started as a dialogue about the Revival Committee, the editorial team took two shots (?) and then it went into all of Space Battleship Yamato!

Kaze: Chairman Kazama
Hara: Editing Team Hara

(We started by looking through the newsletters)

Hara: This is the first one I have.

Kaze: What issue?

Hara: I think this is the second issue…?

Kaze: Well, it’s the first issue of its type.

Hara: This is when I started editing…the content and atmosphere have changed from the early days, hasn’t it? Some readers said, “You’re like [censored], man!” There was a lot of criticism.

Kaze: Well, there are people who want serious articles. They’re called “Maniacs.” [Otaku]

Hara: If I can write it, I will.

Kaze: Well, by the way, whose art is this? (cover of issue #20)

Hara: Abe-san.

Kaze: It’s true. The first one was also Abe wasn’t it? His drawings are very meticulous, aren’t they? It’s wonderful.

Hara: His personality is the same.

Kaze: The cover for issue 8 approached Studio Nue quality.

Hara: I think Juzo’s covers were the most common.

Kaze: He’s good at it, too. It looks like a mixture of Matsumoto and Udagawa. He’s the best when it comes to drawing the Yamato illustrations fans are looking for. In addition to that, what’s great about him is his sense of balance. His sense of layout is outstanding. Who’s this? (#10)

Hara: Masago Takatsuki.

Kaze: Oh, Masago. That’s great.

Hara: I like this one (#22) by Nakao-san. It’s a bit quirky, so it may not suit all tastes. This is Okamoto.

Kaze: Which one?

Hara: Issue 4. Battleship Yamato, Space Battleship Yamato, and Syd Mead Yamato. I like the idea, the composition, and so on. By the way, we call him the “tone wizard” in our circle.

Kaze: (Laughs)

The photos weren’t captioned, but that’s probably Kazama on the left and Hara on the right

Regarding the Revival Committee

Hara: The original start of the Revival Committee was said to be a fan club run by Westcape, wasn’t it?

Kaze: That’s right. When the official fan club closed down, I thought it would be a shame to let such a great group of fans come to an end. One of the reasons we decided to suspend the [original] fan club was financial.

Hara: Oh, really?

Kaze: That’s right. Do you have any idea how much that magazine cost? It was produced by a company that mainly printed art books. We thought that if we asked them to print the magazine, they would be able to print original Yamato art and other things beautifully. But it cost loads of money.

Hara: I remember when I joined some other fan clubs, I received a very poor newsletter compared to Yamato‘s standard…

Kaze: The fan club was not created by choice, you know. There were so many inquiries from fans, and we had to deal with them all at once. We started out trying to handle them separately, then we put them all together.

Hara: Now that I think about it, the magazine would have to be gorgeous.

Kaze: I know, right?

Hara: And then, after all that happened, we became the Revival Committee. There was a lot going on, wasn’t there?

Kaze: Was there? (kidding)

Hara: I have received a lot of requests, more in the form of commands, to dissolve. I didn’t understand the situation or the feelings of the person who said it. Now I do, but I still wonder why.

Kaze: It’s no good if fans drag each other down.

Hara: We did our best to revitalize the scene. We could only do that because of reader support.

Kaze: Yes, thank you very much.

Regarding Yamato‘s hit

Hara: I became a fan after watching the rerun of part 1.

Kaze: Me too. Now that I think about it, I guess you couldn’t tell how good part 1 was the first time it aired.

Hara: Eh?

Kaze: At that time, most anime was made up of self-contained episodes. Yamato was originally 52 episodes long, and it was reduced to 26 episodes to complete the story, or half a year. That meant you had to keep watching [every week]. On the other hand, in reruns, you could watch an episode every day for a week and the stories connected! Then you were drawn into it, or rather, you become addicted. In other words, you had to watch it in its entirety to enjoy it! If you read an Agatha Christie novel divided up into 26 episodes, one per week, would the stories connect? No, they wouldn’t. The same went for Yamato.

Hara: I see, once a week wasn’t enough to get into it. When I saw it every day, I said, “What is this? What’s gonna happen?”

Kaze: I started watching from the last episode of the rerun. The heroine suddenly died. It was like, “What’s this? She can die?”

Hara: The strange thing was, I didn’t understand why the TV station would air reruns of a work that had such poor ratings.

Kaze: Re-runs of animation were the least expensive programming. At that time, there was no problem with secondary royalty fees for re-runs. There was no such thing as home video back then, so the TV station’s contract only included broadcast rights.

I don’t know if it’s the same now, but the rights to broadcast a program were time-based, meaning that since you paid a high production cost, you could broadcast it as many times as you wanted within the term of the rights.

Hara: At that time, there were only reruns from 4 to 6 p.m.

Kaze: I guess since kids were going to watch it, they aired as much tokusatsu (live-action) and anime as they could.

Hara: Maybe it depended on the region, but in my area, there was a lot of rotation. There was so much to watch.

Kaze: If it wasn’t for that rerun, Yamato might not have become a hit. Maybe it would have ended with the 26th episode. But fortunately, it gradually spread. At that time, there were Yamato study groups in all six Tokyo universities.

Hara: Six universities… Tokyo University, Waseda University, Keio University…

Kaze: Meiji, Rikkyo… the other one… (Laughs)

Hara: (Laughs) And then it became a movie.

Kaze: That was a little different, too. When we made that movie, the people at the company were not at all aware that it was slowly becoming popular. They just had the feeling that it got low ratings and was cancelled.

Hara: Then why make the movie?

Kaze: Because Mr. Nishizaki wanted to!

Hara: Just that? (Laughs)

Kaze: In other words, Mr. Nishizaki originally wanted to make a movie. Yamato flopped, but he still wanted to make movies. So he gathered all the employees together for a company-wide meeting and said, (imitating Nishizaki’s voice) “I want to make a movie. I want to edit Yamato and make it into a movie. If it fails, the company will collapse instantly. But what do you all think?”

Hara: That sounds like him! No, that IS him!

Kaze: The employees thought that if the president wanted to do it, he should.

Hara: So casual. You couldn’t do that now.

Kaze: So, he decided to do the movie, but since it was just something Mr. Nishizaki wanted to do, there was no media publicity. When we received an inquiry about Yamato at the company, we casually said, “We’re going to do a movie next, so please wish us luck.” And then it spread through local media and I was like, “Really?” They were suddenly lining up on opening day. That’s what it was like.

Hara: The headlines were, “Many enthusiastic fans line up all night long!” and “The Yamato boom has arrived.” I guess they were starving for information.

Kaze: Yes, and with that timely support it became a boom. And that’s how Animage [magazine] was born.

Hara: Also, it had a sense of tragedy that you couldn’t see in other works, which is unique to Yamato‘s world. A certain heaviness…

Kaze: At the time, there was an oil shock and the world was in a state of depression. On the other hand, there was a demand for ruggedness or strength. At that time, there was also the SL (Steam Locomotive) boom. It may be a little different, but it has something in common with Yamato, doesn’t it? This was in the proposal.

Hara: It could have been done three years earlier or later, but it was a good thing that it was at that time.

Dessler’s War

Hara: Dessler’s War just kind of disappeared. What was the real story? Were you really trying to make it? Was it actually possible?

Kaze: We were in a situation where we could do it. The company wasn’t in trouble at that time.

Hara: Then why didn’t you do it? According to one theory, the story and the project were almost completed.

Kaze: There was Final Yamato. The title said “Final.” It could have ended with Farewell to Yamato, but it continued. But they said it was “Final” and the ship was destroyed. We felt that we couldn’t create any more, no matter how much Mr. Nishizaki wanted to. (Laughs)

Hara: (Laughs)

Kaze: So he created Odin after Yamato.

Hara: (Laughs) That crazy guy. (Not saying it’s bad in terms of the work.)

Kaze: We opened it at the Shibuya Tokyu [theater]. On the first day, when I counted the number of visitors, there were no more than 50 people in a theater with a capacity of 1,000. Everyone else must have thought, “This won’t be good.” After that, we did A Passenger (a live-action motorcycle racing movie) and it wasn’t good enough either.

Hara: Far from it. Only about fifty people? Did the rest just want to ride their own bikes and launch their own cruisers? (Laughs)

Kaze: (Laughs) And then I thought, “We have to go back to Yamato.” But…

Hara: But you destroyed it. (Laughs) And politely called it Final Yamato.

Kaze: (Laughs) And that’s where Dessler comes in.

Hara: What? That’s messed up!

Kaze: (laughing hysterically) No, no, no. So it would become Dessler’s War. Yamato, the symbol of peace, must exist! So, Dessler pulls up Yamato and…

Hara: It’s a long story, so let’s leave that out. Why did you stop in the middle of the project?

Kaze: The most important question was, “Can we surpass Yamato?”

Hara: Even if you couldn’t, Dessler’s War would have done well.

Kaze: That’s right. We probably should have forced it through, but we ended up stopping it.

Hara: Was it a good idea to do that? Just put the brakes on?

Kaze: It would have been better if we had just made it.

Hara: Both economically and to revitalize the “scene.”

Kaze: And the other works sold like hotcakes. But by that time, Syd Mead’s new Yamato was in motion.

Concept sketch for Yamato 2520, 1992

Yamato 2520, Syd Mead

Hara: This one really did get going, but it finished in the middle of the project.

Kaze: Because we had to make it. I mean, the name New Yamato was a moneymaker. It’s a strange story. The first thing that came to mind was, “We’re going to build Yamato.”

Hara: But it ended in the middle of the project. Unfortunately.

Kaze: It was a financial matter, a problem with the company itself, so there was nothing we could do. It was too late.

Hara: What would have happened if you had continued?

Kaze: I wonder if there’s a proposal for that…

Hara: Which one? The story is different, because it’s an unused project!

Kaze: (Laughs) Well, it’s possible, I guess.

Hara: So, the important thing is that 2520 Vol. 3 has not yet been released. And what happens after Vol. 3?

Kaze: I don’t know…

There was more!

Hara: I remember when the Quickening video came out, there were two projects, the “Syd Mead Yamato” (2520) and Resurrection

Kaze: Yes, at a certain point, two projects, Syd Mead Yamato and the new Space Battleship Yamato, started in development.

Hara: How did that happen?

Kaze: Where did it come from? It’s more advantageous to have two projects going.

Hara: Is that how it is? From what I saw in The Quickening, both looked exciting. I wish I could have seen it!

Kaze: As for the Syd Mead Yamato, Bandai asked me, “Are you really building this?” I ran in with a 1-meter model! I said, “Look, we’re looking at it and drawing it. It’s in progress!”

Hara: Holding it under your arm? (Laughs)

Kaze: I carried it. (Laughs)


Translator’s note: there’s no background given in this short exchange, but it likely refers to an original T-shirt that was announced and never materialized.

Hara: You have to do something about this one. (Laughs) Everyone is angry.

Kaze: I’m thinking about it. Honestly speaking, when I met Leiji Matsumoto, I wondered if I could get him to draw it…sort of…

Hara: Everyone’s had to wait for so long, so please make it a good one. I didn’t sign up for it. (Laughs)

About the Revival Committee

Hara: Why did you stop doing events?

Kaze: Financial difficulties! (Laughs) The expenses were supposed to be covered by a certain source at first, but they stopped..

Hara: It is a reality, isn’t it? I used to do events myself (Yamato World), so I understand that it costs a lot of money. It’s not very interesting to talk about this, but it’s also a good idea to have a meeting with the staff. The venue costs a lot of money. It’s not just once or twice, and no one else would pay for it. We had to make do on our own. I’m not saying this because I don’t like doing it, or to spoil it, but that’s the reality.

Kaze: That’s right.

Hara: You have to be prepared to go hungry for something like that. I even sold off my prized collection to pay for it…

Kaze: I cried too, because I lost a lot of money. I probably shouldn’t say this.

Hara: I’m not sure if the newsletter itself is in the black, either. Oh, it’s a bittersweet battle. So, skipping the rest of the story, I’m going to suspend the Revival Committee newsletter for the time being.

Kaze: It’s a shame, though. Definitely.

Hara: As I wrote in the “Announcement of Suspension,” some people have been saying, “Matsumoto-sensei revived things with Great Yamato, and aren’t you the Revival Committee?” When I hear it that way, I guess that’s true.

Kaze: There was a way to change the name. We could have asked Mr. Matsumoto to give us a new name, or we could have solicited names from the public.

Hara: That’s one option, but I personally liked the name “Yamato Revival Committee” because I thought it sounded cool. I didn’t want to change it. I thought we didn’t have to be so particular about the name.

However, the reality is that Great Yamato started in the manga medium. There may be those who say it will be revived when it comes to video, and that’s understandable. I don’t think the worldview of Yamato can be depicted without both images and music. What constitutes “revival” is up to each fan. So, when you named the “Revival Committee,” what kind of “revival” were you aiming for?

Kaze: I think there’s an unspoken agreement that I was not trying to create a work with the name “Yamato” as everyone thinks it should be. I think when you get the spirit of Yamato into something, and it’s fun, no questions need be asked.

Hara: Then it would still have to be a sequel. But do you mean something other than 2520?

Kaze: No, I’m just speaking in terms of results, but if it had been a great film, it would have been accepted. I thought it would have been nice if most fans, if not all, recognized it as a work of Yamato.

Hara: I see. However, as a result of the Revival Committee’s various activities, the core fans, including myself, are now in their mid-30s or older. Some of the members may be managers with subordinates in their 20s who grew up watching Evangelion. There may be mothers who have children who are anime fans and never heard of Yamato. Well, I think that kind of mother would be properly trained in Yamato. (Laughs)

Is the current format of the newsletter good for those people? That’s the question. I wouldn’t mind if it continued as is, but if we lose inertia, we won’t be able to produce anything good. This may be my own selfishness, but I don’t want to treat our members as children. I’d like a newsletter for Yamato fans that is appropriate for our generation. I can’t come up with the answer to this question.

Kaze: Westcape’s Yamato fan club was aimed at middle school and high school students, but the generation of fans has changed.

Hara: Everyone is growing up, in many ways.

The future of the newsletter

Kaze: What are we going to do now?

Hara: I’m the one who wants to know! (Laughs)

Kaze: How about once a year?

Hara: The challenge is what to do with the content. As long as we clear that hurdle, once or twice a year is fine. But if we are going to publish it, it has to be something worthy of the Revival Committee. I don’t even know what it means to be “like a revival committee.”

Kaze: When we started, Yamato was hardly covered by the mass media. So even if Yamato was active as a company or a production company, it was not visible to fans. Under such circumstances, I thought it was the role of the Revival Committee to convey information from the production side to the fans. I know this may sound grandiose, but I think it’s a good idea to organize a large number of fans and to communicate with them.

The future of Yamato

Hara: I think people who are fans now will remain fans. For example, people who are fans of a baseball team stay fans regardless of whether the players or the manager change. People who used to go to the stadium instead of watching TV broadcasts are happy now to see the game results on pro baseball news. The way they act as fans has changed, but I think they’re still fans.

Kaze: I guess so. But in order for Yamato to continue in the future, we need new fans.

Hara: I think we need to work hard on new works, like Dessler’s War. Can someone make it?

Kaze: I would love to.

Hara: Let’s make it with the Revival Committee. We have a plan, we just need the money!

Kaze: That’s the problem! (Laughs) And the rights issues!

Hara: Someone become a sponsor! (Laughs)

To the readers who read my rambling long story to the end!

Hara: We talked for a long time, but most of it turned out to be small talk that I couldn’t include in the article. by small talk, I mean…dangerous talk. I made some excuses and complained, but I want to say this:

There were times when it was hard to publish, times when there was nothing to write about, and times when things got complicated, but the truth is that the letters and encouragement from our members kept us going. This last issue is coming out much later than we had planned. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize and thank you for your support.

Now, Mr. Chairman, please bring it to a proper close.

Kaze: It’s revived! I think it’s a strange time because the newsletter will be suspended at a stage where it can’t be said to be completed. We sincerely apologize to our members.

As for the Revival Committee, we will not disband yet. We will suspend the newsletter for a while, but we will continue to work as the Revival Committee. We will continue to explore what we can do for Yamato. We’ll keep doing what we can, and we look forward to seeing you in the future.

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