These five interviews were published just before the premiere of Yamato 2205 Chapter 1, with Kenji Yasuda discussing the challenges of stepping in as a new director and Harutoshi Fukui examining the cultural positioning of Yamato past, present, and future.
Harutoshi Fukui: Space Battleship Yamato takes the “Taiga route”; 2205 depicts what is “non-negotiable” in a downhill era
Published by Mantan Web, October 5. See the original article here.
Chapter 1 of Yamato 2205, The New Voyage, will be screened on October 8, 2012. Following Yamato 2202, Harutoshi Fukui is in charge of the series composition and script. He once said that 2202 depicted “the mood of ten years after the earthquake.” Now it seems that 2205 predicted “the future.” We asked Mr. Fukui about what he tried to depict in 2205 and the development of Yamato which aims to be a “Taiga route” project.[Translator’s note: “Taiga” is literally translated as “Big River,” and refers to a highly-respected, culturally resonant style of historical TV drama made for mature viewers.]
Non-negotiables needed for happiness
The first Space Battleship Yamato TV anime was broadcast in 1974. Yamato 2199, a remake of the first series, was produced from 2012 to 2014. The sequel, Yamato 2202, was screened in theaters and broadcast on TV from 2017 to 2019. Yamato 2205 is directed by Kenji Yasuda and produced by Satelight Studio. There are two chapters.
Is 2205 a “prediction of the future,” connecting to the present day Corona pandemic and the Islamist Taliban seizing power in Afghanistan? The work is so linked to the times that it feels that way. Mr. Fukui revealed that he finished writing the script before the Corona pandemic began. The film seems to be linked to the present day as a result.
“The content of the film is strangely geared toward today’s world,” Fukui said. “What can we do to encourage people to stand up again when everyone is down on their knees? What do we say to that? What is the purpose of human life? In the past, it was unquestionably for development and happiness. But now, when we are confronted with the cost of that development to this extent, I can no longer honestly say so. But some things are non-negotiable in order to be happy.”
2205 is a further step into the atmosphere of the times depicted in 2202, and it seems to have linked with our times.
“We know instinctively that we are going downhill, but our way of life and social system are not keeping up with it at all. What are we going to do in this situation? In recent years, words such as “manageable” have been used. But even these words seem to be going to extremes. The same is true of ‘the new normal.’ How can we say ‘new’ so casually? It’s the lifestyle of the Corona disaster. Calling it “new” is like proclaiming ‘this is the way it’s going to be for a long time’.”
A nostalgic return to the roots
In 2205, Susumu Kodai’s changes are impressive. After the experience of 2202, we feel a sense of certainty in each word. Kodai’s growth may be a result of his experience, but it is also due to the fact that the script was written by Fukui. Can this be such a simple story?
“Kodai is speaking from his heart, but he was saved by the consensus of all mankind in 2202, so he thinks he must do his best even if it means killing himself. It’s dangerous to have such a person at the top of an organization. In later chapters, we’ll see the crisis caused by this. Dessler, who was a step ahead of Kodai, has achieved a life of honesty to himself, but the worst thing happens to him in 2205. What happens when these two meet again is a major point.”
A new character, Ryusuke Domon, voiced by Tasuku Hatanaka, will also make an appearance. The arrival of a new generation brings a breath of fresh air.
“Without the drama of conflict, the story wouldn’t move forward. The character of Domon, who touches a nerve for Kodai, is placed in his way. I thought Mr. Hatanaka would have a great deal to offer, but he brought a whole new atmosphere.”
Domon’s presence has a certain fuzziness to it.
“Doesn’t it feel nostalgic, like returning to the origin? The original went with the family-oriented route. They were going for the Taiga route, but then they thought about making it for children, and I think that’s what happened. I don’t intend to follow that. By focusing on Okita’s generation and Kodai’s generation instead of just the youth, we have the perspective of three generations in a family-oriented film. That’s the essence of nostalgia.”
“There aren’t many family-oriented works now. There are only films for a specific generation. The times have changed since 2199 began. If you try to appeal to all generations, I think you’ll end up with confusion. Satoshi Kuramoto aimed at a specific generation with Yasuragi no Sato (The Land of Relaxation) but surprisingly, there is still nothing like that in anime. It’s aimed at a specific demographic, but I would like it to be seen by a wider audience. The original movie drew 4 million viewers, so I think we can still do it.”[Translator’s note: Yasuragi no Sato is a very popular 2017 TV drama, named for a retirement commune in Tokyo that is home to elders who were all in the arts during the Showa era. It did particularly well with older viewers.]
Yamato is moving forward on the Taiga route
In a stage greeting held in June for Age of Yamato, Mr. Fukui declared, “From here on, we’ll be taking the Taiga route.”
“Originally, that’s what they wanted to do with Yamato; develop new characters, put Kodai in the same position as Okita, and depict the activities of a new generation, as well as the relationship between Earth and Garmillas. However, Kodai and Yuki were still very popular, so they couldn’t move forward after The New Voyage. I’m trying to move it forward.”
Looking ahead to the second chapter of 2205, Fukui says, “There’s one thing I’ve been bothered by so far, and it will be revealed. Kodai and Dessler will be confronted with a brutal truth they wish they had never known. Although the content of the film may be heavy, the title evokes a refreshing feeling.”
Not unlike 2202! That was full of surprising developments, but what kind of drama will 2205 show us? Expectations are high for future developments of Yamato, which has taken the Taiga route.
Yamato 2205: A new Yamato!
Director Kenji Yasuda talks about the changing challenges of controlling the amount of information when shooting combat scenes
Published by Mantan Web, October 5. See the original article here.
Chapter 1 of Yamato 2205, The New Voyage, will be screened on October 8, 2012. The 2205 series is a new production with new staff members, directed by Kenji Yasuda, known for Macross Delta and Aquarion EVOL. It is said that he was chosen to direct the film because, “We want staff who are not familiar with Yamato to create a new Yamato.” What is the new Yamato? We asked director Yasuda about it.
Make what you want to show stand out
“I started by studying,” Director Yasuda said. He had a lot of difficulties because he was not familiar with Yamato, but he took on the challenge with a fresh mind.
“I had heard it would be tough, but not that tough. If I was too focused on the previous series, there would be no point in me doing it, so I tried to make it with a fresh feeling. I wanted to create something different from the past in terms of visuals.”
“2205 is a short film with two chapters. We discussed the possibility of speeding up the tempo, but the tempo of the script was already fast and it was very dense. There were almost no scenes or lines that could be cut. If you look closely, there aren’t many scenes without dialogue. It was very difficult to spread out.”
It is true that 2205 is different from the previous Yamato films. Even the battle scenes seem to have a different atmosphere. What has changed?
“We wanted to give the battleship a massive feel. It would have been easier to see if we moved it slowly like before, but we didn’t have much screen time. I tried to create a sense of heaviness by splitting shots. This approach may be different from before. I tried to put the horizon at a slight angle without deviating from Yamato‘s previous approach. When ships are lined up side by side, there isn’t much space between the top and bottom, the allied forces have only a slight difference in height, enemies shoot from a slight angle, etc.”
These are just small changes, but they look fresh and new, probably due in large part to director Yasuda’s skill. The overall atmosphere of the film also seems different from previous works.
“In 2202 the visuals were beautifully shown, but I changed it by using light and filters. This is an extension of what I’ve been doing in recent years. I treat the visuals as material to make it look beautiful on the screen. I’m trying to create a picture that is completed by the shooting process. It gives a sense of depth to the screen, guiding your line of sight to where it should be. If you darken the background, you can create a mood by emphasizing a sense of urgency and impatience. I control the amount of information.”
“I originally liked Tomorrow’s Joe by Osamu Dezaki, so I’m a little bit nostalgic about this process. But today’s anime is largely based on shooting techniques, so it’s important to think about how to create visuals. If you just make it pretty, it won’t look like Yamato. I don’t process the images to make them realistic, but rather for I want to show to stand out.”
The Importance of Music
Director Yasuda created a new Yamato, but there’s one thing he did not change: the music. Music is an important element that makes Yamato what it is. He also felt the power of that music.
“Music has a greater presence in this film than in a normal anime or movie. Personally, I thought that if we were going to make a new Yamato, one way might be to change the music, but without this music, it wouldn’t be Yamato at all. I was also concerned about whether the existing music would match the faster-tempo visuals, but when we actually played the music, I knew it was Yamato the moment I heard it! I was reminded of the power of music.”
“It’s also necessary to make the visuals more exciting so the music can be heard. This is the New Voyage I’ve been waiting for! There are scenes where the music plays at the exact moment you’re waiting to hear it.”
Looking toward the second chapter…
“There’s Kodai’s story, Domon’s story, Dessler’s story, Iscandar’s story, and Starsha’s story. That’s already enough, but there’s also the story of Sukeji Yabu. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.”
We are also looking forward to seeing what the next chapter of Yamato, which takes up the challenge of new expressions, has in store for us.
I want it to be a work that embraces the “Betrayed Generation”
Interview with Writer Harutoshi Fukui
by Yo Nakanishi. Published in Sunday Mainichi magazine, October 5.
(Note: the article opened with a 3-page color backgrounder on the series; only the 4-page interview is translated here.)
Space Battleship Yamato was enthusiastically supported for a profound SF depiction that was ahead of its time. The modern remake series is led by novelist Harutoshi Fukui, known for works such as Lorelai at the End of the War. In conjunction with the screening of this new film, he talks about his intention, significance, and will to weave the story of Yamato.
Interviewer: How did you first encounter the Yamato series?
Fukui: I saw the first movie on TV in 1978, when the second feature film Farewell to Yamato was released. It was quite a shock. It changed my awareness of anime.
Interviewer: What was it about the work that made such a big impact on you?
Fukui: A 10-year old child could watch a 2.5 hour film all the way through without getting bored. I didn’t know anime was a medium that could tell such a large volume of story. I feel like I learned that instinctively at that time. Even though it was a compilation, it was able to tell a story about an interstellar battle in two and a half hours. It was a proper depiction. Compared to the first Star Wars film, which was released around the same time, the capacity of the story was completely different.
Interviewer: What was your relationship with the series after that?
Fukui: I heard that “the continuation of this is now playing in movie theaters,” and I really wanted to go see it. But no matter how much I tried to explain to my parents how great it was, they said, “It’s just a cartoon.” Instead, they took me to see Kita Fox Story. (Laughs)
Later, the TV series Yamato 2 was aired. But by that time, the heat had cooled down a little. I didn’t keep up with it every week. In 1979, when The New Voyage was aired as a TV special, it was on at 9:00pm. The next day was summer school, and we had to meet early in the morning, so I was only allowed to watch until the middle of the movie. I didn’t see the ending until I became an adult and got a rental video.
Interviewer: How did you feel when you saw Yamato, Susumu Kodai, and the rest of the crew return in New Voyage after they were supposed to have been blown up in Farewell?
Fukui: I was like, “What?” (Laughs) There was that tragic sequence of events in Farewell, and then, “Actually, they didn’t die.”
Interviewer: In 2202, a remake of Farewell, the life and death of the main characters is clarified, and the story of how Kodai and Yuki were able to return is also depicted. Is this because of their sudden revival in the original?
Fukui: I think there might have been some trauma. (Laughs) But 2202 is also a story of a happy ending. After that, when you think about Kodai’s life and the history of Earth continuing, this is actually two “hells.”
Interviewer: What do you mean by that?
Fukui: They were saved in exchange for the Time Fault, which is important for the restoration of Earth, so they have to continue to bear that fact. In this film, Yuki Mori refers to them as “the most expensive couple in the world.” It’s self-deprecating, but they must have gone through a really hard time before they could laugh about it.
When I was asked to work on 2205, I thought I had done enough with 2202. But when I thought about the story of Kodai and his team beyond that, I knew this was going to be an incredibly tough road. I couldn’t leave it to anyone else. If the story were to move forward as if the previous heavy choices had never been made, as in the original New Voyage, it wouldn’t have been worth making 2202.
I want to properly depict the “latter-day Kodai”
Interviewer: 2205 is based on The New Voyage, but also contains elements of the TV series Yamato III. Which story is it closer to? This seems like an unpredictable element even for fans who know the original.
Fukui: The subtitle of 2205 is The New Voyage, so of course that’s what it is. It gets a lot more suspicious as it progresses. (Laughs) You’ll also see some characters from Yamato III. The original story is always very thought-provoking, isn’t it? (Laughs) Something suddenly appears, or something happens that seems like it happened before. It was the common wish of all the staff to sort that out from the beginning so that the main plot could be told properly.
Interviewer: To prepare for this interview, I looked back at both the original story and the remake series. My son, a high school student, watched it with me. He said that what attracted him was not Kodai, but the captains Juzo Okita and Ryu Hijikata. Yamato isn’t just Kodai’s story. I was reminded of how fascinating the other characters are.
Fukui: Kodai starts out basically helpless. That’s from the original story. Okita gradually trained him and made him mature in the end. In Farewell, Kodai would not have been able to handle the situation if Hijikata had not joined up.
Interviewer: After their training, Kodai becomes the captain in 2205. And now we have the character named Ryusuke Domon from Yamato III, who was not in the original New Voyage. Is it to depict the theme of Kodai leading someone else this time?
Fukui: That’s how the original story was written. However, Kodai was more popular as the main character at the time, so the generational change did not go smoothly and we ended up with Kodai and Yuki at the center again. I’d like to make sure we do it properly this time around.
Interviewer: I’m very curious to see how that will be depicted in the future.
Fukui: Well, let me give you a hint. At that time, anime was something that young people watched. It was a medium for middle and high school students and university students. It was positioned as something that wasn’t watched by people in their late 20s and older. This meant that the main characters could not be in their late 20s or older.
But now, adults are watching anime on a regular basis. This means Kodai could be 50 or 60 years old if we want. Whether or not we really want to do that, in terms of time and character age settings, there is a degree of freedom that wasn’t there in the original work.
Belief in the future is the last hope
Interviewer: It seems to me that one of the characteristics of the Yamato series is that decisions based on personal feelings determine the big picture. Concerning the part where someone sacrifices themself to protect everyone, is this subject to an update that’s in line with a modern perspective?
Fukui: If we’re going to update that, we need to draw a clear picture that we have to pay the price for our naniwabushi [classic narrative style] behavior. In the last episode of 2202, the whole human race saved Kodai and Yuki out of love. They’ll have to pay the price for that for a long time to come.
While there are things that can only be resolved through emotion, on the other hand, we must equally depict the realism that we will be asked to pay the price for it. That’s the update. And we’re already doing that in a very harsh way.
Interviewer: So far in the remake series, you’ve included contemporary themes such as coexistence with A.I. It’s been said that you’re troubled by your work being “too close to the times.” To what extent is the story linked to today’s Japan?
Fukui: I believe that what we make now must be for the people who will see it now. If there’s no contrast with reality, it isn’t worth making. So that’s inevitable. But there are times when I end up synchronizing with the times to an eerie degree without meaning to.
In fact, there are hints of it in this work. When I started making this film, I didn’t think there would be a Corona disaster. I had no idea that we would be exposed to a situation where people would betray their former selves and switch to the prevailing editorial we get exposed to every day in the media.
I never imagined it. But it seems like this film was made in anticipation of what the world is like now. That’s what troubles me, because it seems to be what’s both in my heart and in modern times.
Interviewer: You also worked on Gundam UC, another representative Japanese SF anime. Does that experience come through in Yamato?
Fukui: Yes, in the sense that I learned the basics of anime production, but not so much in terms of plot development. But, whether it’s Yamato or Gundam, it has a big theme, or at least it did when the boom was at its peak. I’m conscious of the fact that I should face up to that without avoiding it.
In Gundam, the “newtype” concept is an element that was not touched upon in any of the sequels created by people other than Yoshiyuki Tomino. However, since UC is a continuation of the first Gundam, it’s a key element, so we can’t avoid it. Similarly, in Yamato, I tried to take “love” head on, which had been mentioned so often in the original.
Interviewer: What kind of people do you want to deliver this work to?
Fukui: I’ve tried to keep the genre and content of my works as broad as possible in order to keep them from tapering off. I’ve been trying to reach as wide an audience as possible. However, when I looked at the reaction of Yamato fans, I began to think it might be better to stick with a certain generation.
Not the maniacs [otaku], but people who have grown up with Yamato. They’re people who have lived with Yamato for 30 or 40 years while keeping it at the periphery of their vision. In terms of age, they’re now in their 50s and 60s. It may seem that there’s other content for this generation, but there really isn’t.
Just as Satoshi Kuramoto succeeded with Yasuragi no Sato, I want to make a work that this generation can really relate to. If we can devote all our energy to this, we’ll be able to shake up the sleeping population and increase the number of viewers. In that sense, I’m now looking at Satoshi Kuramoto as a great rival. (Laughs)
Interviewer: Lastly, please give an appeal for 2205 to our readers, including the Yamato generation.
Fukui: We hope that the Yamato we’re making appeals to those who feel betrayed because the future they once hoped for has not arrived. My first priority is to create a work that firmly embraces that generation. People who have suffered from those same wounds are in the world of Yamato as well.
But, as symbolized by a line in the story, “After you hit rock bottom, something wonderful is waiting for you.” Believing that and living for it is the last hope of human beings. I hope to convey the message that there are rewards for that belief. To this end, it’s important to draw a clear picture that compares the five that are not rewarded to the one that is. With the remake, I hope to depict the harshness of reality while conveying the importance of not losing hope.
SIDEBAR: Commentary by Anime Critic Ryota Fujitsu
The New Voyage, Yamato III, and 2205 open up a new world for Yamato What kind of works are 2205 based on, and what kind of story does it tell? We asked Anime Critic Ryota Fujitsu.
Interviewer: What were The New Voyage and Yamato III like?
Fujitsu: The story of the first Yamato and the following works Farewell and Yamato 2 came to an end, and the story of The New Voyage began a new phase. The feature of this phase is that the theme of “love,” which was touched upon in the previous two works, was incorporated into the foundation from the very beginning. There’s also the introduction of characters of a younger generation than Susumu Kodai. In the original Yamato, various concepts and elements that were added later felt like an afterthought and didn’t work well. How will this be reconstructed? I think people who were dissatisfied with the original work will be interested in it.
Interviewer: What do you think the story of 2205 will be like?
Fujitsu: It’s difficult to predict, but based on the methodology of 2202 to make use of classic elements while creating a modern work, it’s possible that the worldview will be expanded even further. At the time of the original, they had a plan for a spinoff with Dessler as the main character. Even now, a manga with a completely different view of the world (Star Blazers Lambda) is underway. The story is not about Yamato and Susumu Kodai, but a large space opera based on “a world with Yamato” can be developed with various perspectives. It will be interesting to see works with that foundation.
The writer and director of the latest Space Battleship Yamato film talk about “Yamato-ness”
by Satoru Ota and Takeaki Kikuchi. Published in Weekly Asahi magazine, October 5
Yamato 2205, The New Voyage Chapter 1 makes full use of the latest technology. What is the message behind the series and the latest work? Yamato, launch to a new voyage!
Harutoshi Fukui (52), who was in charge of series composition and scripts for Yamato 2202, says one of the main themes of 2205 is the rebirth of the main character, Susumu Kodai.
“In 2202, Earth made great sacrifices both economically and militarily, to save Kodai’s life. Now he bears the responsibility of this fate, and is convinced that he shouldn’t pursue his own personal happiness. How can he mentally rehabilitate himself and look forward again? If we started 2205 without depicting that point, it would not be connected to 2202 at all. I had to be conscious of that.”
Mr. Fukui also overlaps Earth’s situation in the remake series with the situation we are facing today.
“I wanted to make a clear contrast with the situation in contemporary Japan, especially after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, and Earth is in a similar situation in 2205. I wanted to depict this within the continuity of the series while maintaining an affinity with the atmosphere of reality. The script was written before the Corona pandemic, which is a strange thing. As a result, the story seems to have been written for the world we’re in now.”
Fukui, who was greatly impressed by the first Yamato series, says that he was only able to see the first half of The New Voyage when it was originally broadcast.
“Summer school started the next day, and we had to meet there at 5:00am. (Laughs) As an elementary school student, I couldn’t watch it all the way through. I didn’t know how it ended until I watched the video as an adult. It was a turning point that made Yamato into a series for a wide range of people, from children to adults.”
Making a modern presentation while preserving the essence of the original
What is the significance of being in charge of the series composition?
“I had always felt Yamato was a pioneering work that would lead the way to a new type of animation. I wanted to take over the theme and properly steer Yamato toward the Taiga route that it originally aimed for. Then, as we add new enemies and new characters, the story will naturally take shape and chemical reactions will occur on their own. The rest is just a matter of filming the story as it unfolds. Compared to 2202, the enjoyment was greater than the hardship, and I was able to write the film with an interest in what’s going to happen to these characters.”
The new director for this project is Kenji Yasuda (49), who has no actual experience with the original Yamato series.
“If you have a strong emotional attachment to a film,” Fukui said, “you may think, ‘If I were in charge, I’d do this or that,’ and create ‘my own Yamato.’ In my experience, this can lead to neglecting the essential story. I told Director Yasuda at the beginning that he didn’t have to be preoccupied with the Yamato theme. I wanted him to create the story that the script was looking for in a natural way.”
Yasuda, who worked on Macross Delta, is four years younger than Fukui.
“My brother, who is three years older than me, loves Yamato,” Yasuda said. “Of course I knew about it from a general education point of view, but the remake series so far has been made by people who really loved the old series. I was surprised when I heard about it.”
“They wanted me to create a Yamato for the current era with a fresh feeling. When I looked at it again, I realized that some of the depictions were indeed very dated. How could they be remade to feel current? When I thought about it, I wondered if it was a matter of visual expression and a sense of tempo. In some of my recent works, I’ve tried to depict the tempo along with the volume of the story, so I thought I could make the most of that.”
That said, Yamato is also a major series that has continued for over 45 years.
“Naturally, since we’re not from the original generation, we can’t just do whatever we want. We have to protect and preserve the key points you remember, like memorable lines and the music. We had to create a film that could be enjoyed by people of the original generation. I was able to do this thanks to Fukui-san, Hideki Oka, who co-wrote the script, and many others of their generation. I digested that in my mind and made sure it was presented in a modern way.”
Yamato love acknowledges the other person
Of course, there are parts of the film that felt strange to Mr. Yasuda.
“I had some simple questions. Why are they fighting this way when they’re supposed to be in outer space? Why are only Japanese people on board a ship with the fate of the Earth at stake? But if we simply made it multinational, it would lose its Yamato-ness. I tried to understand the key points of the ship and the Japanese people, and I tried to change the mood by consciously making slight shifts within the scope of Yamato.”
The visuals, which make full use of the latest computer graphics technology, also have a “core” aspect.
“What should be added to the original Yamato, and what should not be added? If too many details are added just because it’s CG, its Yamato-ness may be lost. I think we were able to create a new atmosphere with textures and such, while retaining the atmosphere of the previous remake series.”
Yasuda also talked about the new crew in 2205.
“The story is about the growth of new characters such as Ryusuke Domon, but also gives motivation to Kodai, who is struggling with his own thoughts. Kodai feels secure in the knowledge that his friends and Yuki Mori will understand him, but at the same time, he also wants to be pushed forward. As he clashes with the younger generation, he gets that push to take a look at himself and he grows together with the new characters. I hope to depict the process where the troubled Kodai becomes a cool Kodai again.”
We sometimes feel a message of “love” in the Yamato series. Ryusuke Hikawa (63), an anime/tokusatsu researcher and specially-appointed professor at Meiji University Graduate School, is deeply familiar with the Yamato series.
“It’s ‘love’ in the sense of acknowledging the other person,” he says. “It’s worth thinking about even more in this day and age. Let’s move forward with positive recognition of various discomforts. I feel that this form of ‘love’ will be carried through Yamato in the 21st century.”
Mr. Fukui expressed his thoughts on Yamato in 2205 as follows:
“In the era when the first Yamato series was launched, human beings had ventured into space and there was no doubt in our mind that a more advanced future and a better life awaited us. However, all of these feelings have been betrayed in the present age. I intend to face this situation head-on and create a work that is truly a new voyage. It may seem bitter and difficult to watch for the generation that doesn’t know the original, but I hope you’ll see it and realize that you’ve been deceived. I’m sure what you need most right now is right here.”
This new heroic figure of Yamato should be witnessed by all generations.
The new Space Battleship Yamato is a work that welcomes people in their 40s and older
Harutoshi Fukui reveals the possibilities of anime
Published by Smart Flash, October 8. See the original article here.
“More than once, I’ve seen news and topics in the literary world fail to reach the public even by a millimeter. As a novelist, I realized that there wasn’t much I could do to communicate to the world with my novels. When I began to feel that atmosphere, the weight of my work shifted to the film industry. As an extension of that, I worked on Gundam UC and now Yamato 2205.”
Harutoshi Fukui (52) is the author of many bestselling novels, including Another Nation’s Aegis and Lorelai at the End of the War, both of which have been made into films. Now showing is Chapter 1 of Yamato 2205, The New Voyage, for which he was in charge of series composition. Fukui has been deeply involved in this series since his previous work, Yamato 2202.
“My credit is for series structure, but in reality it feels like I play the role of a producer, overseeing the entire work. The previous series 2202 was a remake of Farewell to Yamato (1978), but there was the restriction that the main character not be killed off. As a result, it has many original elements. Afterward, I had the feeling that there was nothing more I wanted to do with Yamato. But I also felt that if there was a sequel, I had no choice but to do it myself.”
What innovations did he bring to the remake version of the series?
“The original work seemed to be continuous, but in fact it was not. When I look back on it now, I get the impression that it was always made on the spur of the moment, and there are some inconsistencies. From the standpoint of a remake artist, this is a treasure trove of material. In this work, we brought in material from The New Voyage and Yamato III, and it was fun to re-tell the story in a way that was consistent with the previous remakes.”
Fukui says that the work “also links to the contemporary world.”
“Instead of fighting to protect the Earth as we’ve done in the past, this film takes on a whole new dimension of intervening in the affairs of other nations. Humanitarian aid and relations with other nations are major themes. I think the story is coincidentally linked to the real world, such as the situation in Afghanistan.”
In addition to this series, Fukui has participated in several Gundam productions since Gundam UC (2010-2014). This means Fukui has been a key figure in two major Japanese science fiction anime series. He reveals that he became a novelist because of the influence of Yoshiyuki Tomino, the creator of Gundam.
“I think there is a misunderstanding about me saying that I don’t like anime. It’s more correct to say that I like and love the expressions of Yoshiyuki Tomino. After making anime myself, I realized that I’m not a fan of anime, but a fan of director Tomino. I’m deeply interested in his novels, dialogues, and works. I’ve been writing novels influenced by them.”
However, his current work is centered on animation rather than novels. He explains the reason for this…
“I started my career as a writer in my late twenties, and in my mid-thirties, I decided that I couldn’t continue to work and grow old in the publishing business. If I had really loved novels, I might have been willing to spend my life on them, but I was not that enthusiastic. What I really love is film, and when writing I was constructing what I wanted to portray on film in a literary way.”
He says that participating in live-action film adaptations of his own novels also had a major impact on him.
“From the standpoint of being in charge of the original story and the script, live-action films only provide material. Control of the details changes depending on the director’s direction and the actors’ performances. While this creates a good effect, it also makes it impossible to correct the details.
“On the other hand, in anime, every detail can be controlled. It’s just like writing a novel. I was more convinced of this when I made UC than when I made a live-action movie. I got a taste of it there, and ended up coming to anime. My current feeling is that I’ve switched from being a novelist to being an author.”
Despite the change from novels to anime, he says there has been no major change in his roots.
“My consciousness is exactly the same. I’m not working solo as I would with novels, but as part of a group. I have to keep an eye on what’s going on with the staff, but it never bothers me at all. Rather than digging a deep hole by myself, I found that the style of anime production, where everyone digs a deep hole together, suits my personality.”
Fukui, who sees more potential for expression in animation than in novels, speaks of the creators of Gundam and Yamato, both of which he is involved in.
“I think Director Tomino, who created Gundam, and Yoshinobu Nishizaki, the producer of Yamato, are polar opposites in terms of their works and characters. Director Tomino said, ‘It’s very disappointing that I couldn’t beat Yamato‘s box office in the end.’ I never had a chance to meet Mr. Nishizaki, but he said, ‘The robot (Gundam) took everything away from me.’ It seems that they were very much aware of each other.”
“Director Tomino was very much concerned with his work. He was mainly concerned with how he could deliver his own voice. On the other hand, Mr. Nishizaki was more oriented toward show business and how to keep the franchise alive. Although they are supposed to be complete opposites, when you listen to what they have to say, you can see that Mr. Tomino was more concerned with box-office results, while Nishizaki was more concerned with the content of the work. This is a very interesting contrast.”
How will Fukui carry on these two major series and weave a new story?
“The big thing I’m conscious of when it comes to the production of both series is the difference in the generation of viewers. Gundam, which has been established as a continuous series, is a work for people in their 20s to 40s. I am also conscious of young people who like anime, and it caters to a wide range of audiences.”
“On the other hand, there was no Yamato series for more than twenty years, and it’s a work for those in their 40s or older. In the past, there were many solid entertainment works for adults, but I think people in their 40s to 60s are the generation that has been left behind by anime and live-action. I made this film with an awareness of the time this generation has been living through. It would be great if anime had the same presence as Satoshi Kuramoto’s drama, Yasuragi no Sato (TV Asahi series, 2017).”
Perhaps Yamato is a kind of stronghold for the senior generation.
“In Yamato, it’s all the adults who are troubled and lost. There are a lot of things happening in the world today. What are they worried about? What are they angry about? The residue of such feelings must be accumulating inside of them. If there’s an anime that says, ‘Forget reality and have fun,’ It’s fine to get a catharsis from it. But it would be better if the accumulated catharsis could be verbalized and shared it with the senior generation. So, if I find a subject I want to express in an original form in the future, I’ll do it in animation, not in the form of a novel.”