Vintage Report 2: 1975

The simplest description of Yamato‘s arc in 1974 would be “a herculean rise leading to a sudden fall.” An enormous amount of effort to get the thing off the ground and a sharp reduction of resources caused by disappointing ratings.

The arc in 1975 was quite different. The unbeatable foe, Heidi, ended its year-long run at the end of December with Dog of Flanders taking its slot on Fuji Television. Yamato Series 1 was only half over at that point, and its ratings began to slowly improve as it continued on the Yomiuri Network. It wasn’t enough to save what had been lost, but it was enough to stabilize the patient.

Even before the first TV series concluded, the next and most important phase of Yamato history began: the “redemption year.” Its driver was an unexpected force that would slowly but steadily change everything for the better. The name of that force was “fandom.” In 1975, that force took shape for the first time.

January 1: Bouken Oh [Adventure King] February issue

In the fourth chapter of Leiji Matsumoto’s manga, the ship exploded. The end. But not really. This was a Yamato drone destroyed in a test-firing of the Pluto Reflex Cannon. The real one zipped right on by, forcing Dessler to intervene with an array of space mines. The chapter ended with the ship surrounded on all sides.

Elsewhere in the issue could be found another bonus feature, a 2-page spread showing various features of the ship. Pictures like these were as good as gold to hungry fans in the days before books and magazines.

January 5: Episode 14

The galaxy’s ordeal! The year 2200 advances!
Not all the dangers of deep space are made by the Gamilas. Yamato is trapped in a massive space storm, unable to continue its voyage to Iscandar. And every day they lose brings Earth closer to extinction!

It was an interesting bit of timing for the year 2200 to begin in the series just as the year 1975 had begun for viewers. Almost like it was…planned.

Read our commentary here.

January 12: Episode 15

Desperate escape! The galaxy’s different dimension
Yamato becomes trapped in the Sargasso Sea of space, a dimensional vortex that stops spaceships dead in their tracks. To make it worse, General Domel of Gamilas chooses that moment to strike – and there is no way to fight back!

Read our commentary here.

January 16: Episode 16

Planet Beemera, underground prison of condemned criminals
Yuki and Analyzer are captured by a race of Bee people while exploring their planet. They are imprisoned to wait for the judgment of their queen – a sentence of certain death!

Read our commentary here.

January 17: Episode 17

Charge! Balanodon special attack group!
As Yamato nears General Domel’s base on Planet Balan and Captain Okita is paralyzed by illness, Goer unleashes a scheme that is sure to stop Yamato – a gigantic space monster!

Read our commentary here.

January: Analyzer model kit

Bandai released their fourth model kit with the same gimmick as the first three, a windup motor.

In this case, however, the motor powered feet instead of wheels, giving you a walking Analyzer to pass the time between episodes. Like the others, this kit would later be reissued without the motor.

January: Terebi Land special issue

Sometime during the month of January (exact date not yet found), a special new year’s issue of Terebi Land contained “bonus” chapters of ongoing manga, including Yuki Hijiri’s unique version of Yamato. Even for Hijiri, this was a unique chapter with the ship landing on a planet for repairs and Kodai dueling a Gamilas agent to save Yuki.

Read it (and all the other chapters of this manga) here.

February: 26th Sapporo Snow Festival

If you were a fan during the first broadcast, this was the first public place you could gather with other fans to celebrate your fandom. This festival always featured snow sculptures from popular children’s shows, but Yamato was a curious choice since it was still working its way uphill at the time. Either arrangements had been made before the ratings drop, or a miracle happened. Maybe both.

Either way, this became the first time in history (certainly not the last) that a VERY large Yamato was built for a public event. And “large” is the right word; this one was an amazing 15 meters (50 feet) long, accompanied by a 3 meter (10 feet) tall Analyzer. All that remains of them now is these postcard images.

Find more information about the festival here.

See a record of all the giant-size public Yamatos here.

February 1: Terebi Land March issue

This issue contained the sixth and final manga chapter by Yuki Hijiri, which featured the showdown with Domel (in which Yamato warps out of the battle to disrupt every enemy ship) and skipped Gamilas entirely to conclude on Iscandar. Okita dies there and the signoff reads, “May glory be on Susumu Kodai and Yamato on their way back to Earth!!”

Yoshinobu Nishizaki refused to authorize a reprint of the Yuki Hijiri adaptation on the basis that it was too different from the anime, a puzzling decision when we remember that the Akira Hio version was just as different and has been reprinted many times. Nishizaki relented only once when he permitted a fan circle named Hamidashi [Split off] Yamato Fan Club to publish 300 copies of it in doujinshi form. And, of course, it’s preserved forever here at Cosmo DNA.

February 1: Bouken Oh March issue

This issue gave fans a few more rare and precious color images from the anime while Leiji Matsumoto’s fifth manga chapter got the ship stranded in the Sargasso Sea of Space… with only one more chapter remaining to wrap up the story. How did he do it? Keep reading.

February 2: Episode 18

Floating fortress island! Two men brave death!
Trapped by a massive floating fortress that shakes spaceships to pieces with a Graviton wave, Yamato must wait for Kodai and Sanada to disable it. But if they fail, they will be trapped there forever!

Read our commentary here

Volume 2 cover art by Munehiro Minowa

February 3: Novelization volume 2, The Recovery of Earth

Like the Hijiri manga, the second volume of this adaptation reached the end of the story before the TV series. In all cases, due to heavily divergent story details, nothing was spoiled for fans who read them all. The novel took us to a completely different planet (Bolzon) and then to a desolate Iscandar with an unexpected solution to Earth’s extinction. How does it end? Read it for yourself here.

February 9: Episode 19

Homesickness of space! My mother’s tears are my tears!
Secretly communicating with Planet Earth, Aihara gets tragic news from his family…and he is determined to return home with or without Yamato!

Read our commentary here.

February 16: Episode 20

The day planet Balan’s sun dropped!
Yamato reaches Balan, the halfway point on the desperate mission to Iscandar, and is caught in a deadly trap! General Domel intends to crush them with Balan’s artificial sun – and he just might succeed!

Read our commentary here.

February 19: Studio sighting

By this time, the end of production was approaching and motivated fans found their way into recording sessions to see the actors work. Above are two photos from a session in which Yoko Asagami (voice of Yuki) recorded her dialogue for Episode 22. This was down to the wire, since the episode was due to air in just 11 more days.

February 20: Akira Hio manga Vol. 3

This was the third adaptation of the story to reach the finish line in advance of the TV series with an ending of its own. Here, Captain Harlock takes out both Domel and Dessler before revealing himself as Mamoru Kodai and flying off to other adventures. Kodai and Yuki are last seen embracing each other with thanks to their benefactors as Yamato heads back to Earth.

Read more details here.

February 23: Episode 21

Desperate Challenge from Domel’s fleet!
Furious over his defeat at Balan, Domel and the deadly Gamilas war fleet draws a line in front of Yamato. And if the ship crosses that line, they’ll be in for the fight of their lives!

Read our commentary here.

February 23: Diecast Cosmo Zero toy

Popy released the first Yamato toys as the TV series was starting its last month on the air. The first was a diecast metal Cosmo Zero in the “Popynica” series that could fire spring-loaded plastic discs out of its nose.

February 23: Soft vinyl Analyzer toy

This was Popy’s other release, a small vinyl Analyzer in three colors: red, blue, and turquoise (all three shown here). These would be Popy’s only Yamato products until they returned in 1980 as a licensor of both Be Forever and Yamato III.

February: Space Battleship Yamato Fan Club founded

The first Yamato fan club had the luxury of choosing an obvious and fitting name. This was literally a group of fans as opposed to the official club that would be established in 1978. They marked their turf by publishing what is believed to be the first Yamato doujinshi [fanzine], titled Negal, which ran for nine issues over one year.

It featured staff interviews and production art, obtained the old-fashioned way: by visiting Academy Studio and meeting the people who were actually making the show. The staff welcomed them with open arms and sent them home with all sorts of souvenirs that ended up in the pages of Negal. As time went on, it would become evident that more than one visitor was given this treatment.

Read more about early doujinshis here.

February: Terebi Manga Action Deluxe LP

If you’d missed out on previous chances to get the OP and ED themes, Columbia offered another one, and it marked the second time they were issued on LP.

This time they shared a record with themes from Great Mazinger, Hurricane Polymer, Robocon (live action), Kamen Rider Amazon (live action), and The Song of Tentomushi. And for those who missed THIS one, many more of these collections were coming.

March 1: Bouken Oh April issue

So how did Leiji Matsumoto manage to cram 11 TV episodes of story into just 31 pages for his final chapter? With the magic of manga. A message capsule is received on Earth with a recording inside by Captain Okita, who summarizes the final push to Iscandar and the acquisition of the Cosmo Cleaner from Starsha. We then switch to the ship on its homeward journey and the final showdown with Dessler.

As of this day, four adaptations had come to an end while there were still five episodes to go on TV.

Read more about the original Matsumoto manga here.

March 2: Episode 22

Decisive battle! Fight for honor at the rainbow star cluster!
Yamato plunges into a showdown with General Domel and the Gamilas fleet. At stake is the entire mission to Iscandar – and the future of Planet Earth!

This was, hands down, the single toughest episode of the series to animate (or perhaps any series up to that time). It took a total of 50 days and consumed so much time that there wasn’t enough left to fix on-screen errors for the initial broadcast. They had to be repaired later for reruns. The “NG” version of the episode was eventually released as a DVD bonus feature.

Read our commentary here.

March 9: Episode 23

Finally arrived! Crest of the Magellanic Cloud’s wave!
Yamato is in the home stretch toward Planet Iscandar, where they will retrieve the Cosmo Cleaner machine that can save Earth from radioactive death. Only one more thing stands in their way: Planet Gamilas!

Read our commentary here.

March 16: Episode 24

Death struggle! God, weep for the Gamilas!
Pulled into the acid sea, Yamato battles desperately against the might of the Gamilas Empire. Before this day, Dessler allowed others to fight for him…but now he takes matters into his own hands!

Read our commentary here.

March 23: Episode 25

Iscandar! A dying planet of love!
At last, Yamato reaches Planet Iscandar to retrieve the Cosmo Cleaner machine that will save Earth from extinction. Their benefactor, Queen Starsha, is the last Iscandarian left alive…but she does not wait there alone.

Read our commentary here.

March 25: Production wraps

The TV series officially wrapped animation production on this day with delivery of the final episode, but a core team would stay on for five more days to handle retakes for Episode 22. The impetus for this was to create a 40-minute featurette (combining episodes 21 and 22) that could be sold to film rental agencies. This was the project that gave Yoshinobu Nishizaki his next big idea: to create a Yamato feature film.

March 30: Episode 26

Earth! Yamato returns!
As humanity counts down its final days, Yamato races to return home and use the Cosmo Cleaner machine to save Earth. But Dessler is hot on their heels, determined to destroy them in sight of their own planet!

Read our commentary here.

A little-known fact of these early days was that VERY devoted fans were able to find their way not only into Academy Studio (where the show was produced) but also the recording studio where they could watch voice actors actually perform the dialogue. By the time Episode 26 was recorded, this had turned into a real event; an estimated 40 visiting fans packed into the studio to watch the last recording.

April: CBYL founded

“Our purpose was to build a monument to Yamato for all time, to ensure that it would be properly understood.”

Those words were written in 1982 by CBYL founder Tatsuya Nakatani, who is now known by the professional name Ryusuke Hikawa. The letters stood for Cosmo Battleship Yamato Laboratory, the second known fan club to form in 1975, and the most productive by far. The club’s staff members had visited Academy Studio many times, accumulating a treasure trove of material to share with the world. Without knowing it, they were helping to build the foundation that would eventually bring Yamato itself back to life.

CBYL published three different doujinshi titles: Yamato, Yamato Books, Astronaut , and a newsletter called Yamato Land. One of their first projects to go out the door was a mini-‘zine called Cosmo Battleship Yamato No. 1 that collected hard-to-find artwork from the childrens’ picture stories in Fourth Grader magazine. See it here.

Read an overview of fan history here.

April: Columbia song collections

Two more LPs rolled out in the month of April, both of which added the Yamato themes to a wide variety of contemporaries. Their titles were Terebi Manga Action Deluxe (left) and Terebi Manga Golden Album (right). The term “Terebi Manga” [TV comics] would hold sway for another two years until the Yamato movie arrived in 1977 and a more expansive term was adopted from industry jargon: anime.

May: Movie editing begins

If Yoshinobu Nishizaki wanted to edit down 26 TV episodes into a feature film, the first thing he needed was funding. He obtained it in a fairly simple way: by selling rerun rights to the 26 episodes. Tohokushinsha Studio took him up on it, picking up the series for distribution and an option for the movie he wanted to make. It was the beginning of a partnership that lasts to this day.

The supervising director for the cutdown was Toshio Masuda, who had consulted on the TV series during development but moved on to other projects in the meantime. Now he was back, and he had his work cut out for him; the first edit he was given to work with timed out to five hours.

Read more about the process here.

May/June: Astronaut 1 & 2

These were the first two issues in a series of six from CBYL. Whereas their other doujinshis were compendiums of production materials, Astronaut took on a magazine format with articles, interviews, analysis and fan art. Issue 1 was published on May 10 and issue 2 on June 30.

See them both from cover to cover in the vintage doujinshi archive here.

July: Seiun Award

This had to be a sweet moment for creators and fans alike: Space Battleship Yamato received a Seiun [Nebula] Award in the dramatic presentation category at the annual Shincon, held in Kobe. The Seiun is the oldest SF award in Japan, being given since the 9th Japan Science Fiction Convention in 1970. It is unrelated to the American Nebula Award and is limited only to Japanese media or works translated into Japanese. Yamato was the first animated TV series to receive the award; the next would be Mobile Suit Gundam in 1981.

The next time Yamato would score a Seiun was in 2014 when Yamato 2199 took the same prize, then in 2015 when Ark of the Stars made it a triple. It happened once more in 2022 when author Yuya Takashima took the prize for Aquarius Algorithm in the “longform work” category.

Find a complete record of the Seiun Awards here.

July 20: Cosmoship Yamato paperback by Leiji Matsumoto

When all six chapters of Matsumoto’s manga were collected into a single paperback tankobon, fans found another bite of the apple inside. In the time since the series ended in Bouken Oh (and the anime concluded on TV), he had gone back to upgrade it. No less than 54 new pages had been added between chapters 5 and 6 to encompass battles with Domel and an encounter with a shrouded Captain Harlock. Three more pages were added to chapter 6 in order to flesh out the visit to Iscandar before returning home.

This material became a permanent part of the Matsumoto manga, which has been in print practically ever since. That includes the English-language version published by Seven Seas in January 2019 (above right).

On the other hand, some material was lost in the transition; color pages were converted to greyscale and most of the title pages were eliminated along with logos and other graphics. So if you still wanted the original version, the only way to get it was to collect back issues of Bouken Oh. Until 2018, anyway. That’s when Fukkan Publishing revived it at the original page size in a very satisfying 304-page tome. It also included Matsumoto’s picture story serial from Fifth Grader magazine, the Eternal Story of Jura spinoff chapter, other illustrations from the same time frame, production art from the Series 1 development phase, and more.

See Fukkan’s home page for this volume here. Order it from here.

July 30: Astronaut #3

The third issue of this doujinshi series from CBYL, like the first two, was a vessel for fans to communicate their thoughts with other fans in the 70s version of social media. It included one of the first polls for fans to choose their favorite characters; the results can be seen above right.

See the complete issue here.

September 10: TV series rerun begins in Sapporo and Hokkaido

It’s impossible to overestimate how important the first reruns were to the health of the series. Freed up from the ratings battle with Heidi that caused so much grief almost a year earlier, Yamato could now find the audience it was truly meant for, most of whom missed part or all of the original broadcast. This “second generation” of viewers also had fan clubs they could join right away, which unexpectedly created a new problem: membership overload. It put increasing pressure on CBYL in particular, forcing them to make a difficult decision in early 1976. But we’ll get to that in Vintage Report 3.

One of the things that made CBYL such a draw was that they seemed to have their fingers on the pulse of the latest inside news; their Yamato Land newsletter was the quickest way to get it out to the membership; a single-page document with handwritten text on both sides that could be put together and mailed out seemingly as often as needed. There must have been a studio connection at work, because the September Yamato Land was the first known news source for a Yamato feature film being in the works for release in 1976. Again, more to come in Report 3.

October 30: Astronaut #4

At 28 pages, this was the biggest issue yet, filled with cartoons, fanfic, and various articles including one that investigated the pre-Yamato history of flying battleships (as seen in Vintage Report 1).

See it from cover to cover here.

November 10: First novelization, paperback edition

Asahi Sonorama probably got a nice “rerun bump” when they published a paperback collection of their 2-part novelization. This was in a smaller format, but retained the illustrations. Sonorama would publish a more series-compliant 3-volume adaptation in 1977, and (as with the multiple mangas) there would also be multiple novelizations from other publishers. But none of that seemed to negatively impact this paperback, which was still around at least through 1981 after going through an incredible 43 printings.

December 21: Comiket 1

Today it’s known the world over as the biggest comics-related event on Earth. At the end of 1975, it was brand new with only 32 fan circles and around 600 attendees. (Since that time, both of those numbers have expanded by around 1000%.) As these photos attest, Yamato was there from the beginning, right at the time it was in expansion mode. There was still a long way to go, but things were significantly better than they had been a year earlier.

Read more about Comiket history here and here.

December: CBYL activity

The end of the year was a busy time for CBYL with multiple releases in the same month. There were two editions of the Yamato Land newsletter, the second of which was a special report from the 1975 SF Christmas Manga Carnival.

There were also two more issues of Astronaut, both mistakenly identified as No. 6; the one with the blue cover was actually No. 5 as indicated inside. It contained the first known interview with Chief Director Noboru Ishiguro. The properly-numbered issue 6 contained the script for Yamato episode 10. They were published on December 25 and 30 respectively.

Read the Ishiguro interview here.

See all of these CBYL publications here.

What’s Next

If 1974 was the “origin year” and 1975 was the “redemption year,” what do we call 1976? It contained far less activity, but far more potential as the first deal was inked to take Yamato outside Japan and open the path to 1977, the year that changed everything.

Click here to read Vintage Report 3!

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