Here we present a pair of interviews in which Writer Harutoshi Fukui and Director Kenji Yasuda both give their final word on the making of Yamato 2205, unveiling their creative thought process and providing a tiny glimpse at what may come next.
Space Battleship Yamato 2205: A time when the future is not rosy.
A modest anthem to humanity; what will happen in 3199?
Harutoshi Fukui interview, published by Mantan Web, February 3 2022. (See the original article here)
Yamato 2205, The New Voyage Chapter 2, the latest in the popular Space Battleship Yamato series, will premiere on February 4. Some say that 2205 is linked to the situation of the Corona disaster. According to Series Writer Harutoshi Fukui, “the script was finished before Corona started, but it is eerily linked to today’s world.” He says that 2205 is a “modest anthem to humanity” and “moving forward one step at a time” in a time when “the future is not rosy.” We interviewed Mr. Fukui about the behind-the-scenes production of the film.
Human beings are not so bad
The first Space Battleship Yamato TV anime series was broadcast in 1974, and many sequels followed. Yamato 2199, a remake of the first series, was produced from 2012 to 2014. Yamato 2202 was screened in theaters and broadcast on TV from 2017 to 2019. Yamato 2205 is a subsequent series composed and written by Fukui.
2205 is a major work. The film unveils secrets of the world of Yamato and explores questions like, what is humanity? What is a nation? What is an ethnicity? It may seem like a grand theme, but Fukui says, “It’s simple.”
“It’s a time full of sadness, but human beings are not so bad…in the end, it’s simple. We live in an age that cannot be described as wonderful. We should find hope and salvation in even the smallest of things, and not forget the feeling of moving forward. We are worth it. It’s a very modest anthem for humanity.”
However, despair alone cannot move us forward. 2205 is also a story of hope.
“While we hope that many different generations will see the film, the fans who support Yamato as core members are a generation that has experienced many things being reversed in their lives. In the past, Yamato had unshakable faith in the future. Now, the future is not rosy. But since it’s Yamato, we want to show our support for humanity.”
“We live in an age when young people are fearful of the future, and all we can do for them is shine a flashlight or two on the path of life to set the next foothold. But I wanted to portray the warmth of that light.”
The Corona pandemic has linked the present with the uncertain future.
“How do we cope in the midst of all this loss? Dessler loses his support. But he only acts on his thoughts. It’s foolish, but it’s also a good thing about being human. It’s good to be able to support that. The internet is full of information about how to be smart, but if you rely on that alone, it will make your life more limited. Where do we set our foothold, and what is at our core? I hope that this story will help people to re-examine their own life.”
Boiling down the core of Space Battleship Yamato
In the second chapter, the truth about the relationship between Iscandar and Garmillas is revealed, and other shocking developments await. 2205 has the Yamato style, but it also has something new. The balance between the two is exquisite, and it is a work that will make you rediscover the charm of Space Battleship Yamato
“People change with the times. The Kodai of the past series was protected in one way or another, but the Kodai of 2205 is protected by no one. Yuki is only a slight support for him. This is the difference between the values of the past, where lifetime employment was unwavering, and the values of today. This time around, that is what we have to focus on.”
“When you hear the truth about Iscandar and Garmillas, you ought to think, ‘Yes, that’s right.’ Some things are totally removed from the original work, but some of it is preserved. Some things are at the core of Yamato, and we tried to rediscover their value. If we did it as nostalgia, it would close up, but I thought about what would remain if we boiled it down to the core. I gave it some thought. I realized, ‘humans can’t stop war, but humans are not that bad.’ That’s part of what’s good about them. It’s becoming more and more difficult to say this, but I will say it.”
In Yamato 2202, Fukui took on the theme of “love,” which is also difficult to say in this day and age.
“The crisis becomes too great to overcome with love. But Yabu, Dessler, and Susumu Kodai all end up with ‘that face.’ The only thing humans can do is to move forward, one step at a time. Some of you may have stopped, thinking there is nothing you can do. I really hope you can get your legs moving again.”
The production of Be Forever Yamato REBEL3199, a sequel to 2205, has also been announced.
“Initially, there was some talk that it would be okay to move away from the original series after New Voyage, but I thought it would be more important to keep following the original series. Be Forever will not deviate from that basic policy. However, the order of events may change, and shuffling may occur. I don’t think it will be completely different. But I think you will be surprised.”
We were also taken aback by 2205, but what will happen next? We must keep our eyes on future developments.
Interview with Writer Harutoshi Fukui and Director Kenji Yasuda
From the Yamato 2205 Chapter 2 program book, published February 4 2022
We met at our usual restaurant
Interviewer: What kind of communication did you have during the production process?
Fukui: We had a new studio for this project, so once production was decided we met with director Yasuda face-to face. We started with a blind date.
Yasuda: It was at Yakitori Yamato [restaurant] in Shibuya, right?
Fukui: Yes, that’s right. That’s how we started. At that time, we didn’t talk about the content at all.
Yasuda: We only talked about the newcomers [in the story] and that kind of thing.
Fukui: After that, we didn’t get to specifics until we said, “Let’s start talking about the script.” We talked with Hideki Oka, Yuka Minagawa, and other staff members.
Interviewer: It sounds like you gathered the authorities for script production.
Fukui: This time it felt like everyone made it together regardless of price.
Interviewer: Did Director Yasuda ask you to make the script more dense?
Yasuda: Yes, that’s right. This is not a good or bad thing. I wanted to present a lot of information in an organized manner for the audience who hasn’t seen Yamato in the past. I also felt that if we used the original tempo, the impression would be the same as before. I had done other works with a lot of density, so I had a feeling that I could do it even if I raised the tempo more.
Fukui: I was relieved to hear that. I think that this tempo and density are necessary for today’s audience. After all, this is a work that people will buy and watch many times. It’s not good if the audience gets everything after one viewing.
Yasuda: It should leave a lasting impression, not just be burned into the eyes.
Interviewer: Mr. Fukui, did you have any conditions for the selection of the director?
Fukui: First of all, I wanted a director who had not been involved with Yamato before, and a director who was not from the Yamato generation. I had a feeling that it would be better that way. I think it was more of a suggestion than a condition.
Interviewer: How did you feel when you heard that, Mr. Yasuda?
Yasuda: I felt like, “Oh, it’s okay if I don’t know anything about Yamato.” If they wanted to show everything based on the history of Yamato, there would be too many things everyone liked, and in a way it would become an obstacle to making it. In the process of doing it myself, I’d feel that the volume of the characters and events was too large. I was able to work on the script in front of me from an objective point of view, and the balance was very important. I think this was possible because I didn’t know Yamato.
Fukui: I’ve been told by customers who saw Chapter 1 that they feel like the Yamato of the Showa period has come back. That’s because it was made by “adults.” I don’t mean to deny the passion of fans, but this time I tried to do something that didn’t cater to that. We’re making this for the general public, after all. Let’s return to a work made by “adults” for the general public, as Yamato used to be in the past. That’s why I thought that if someone who is too particular about this were to make it, it would go bankrupt.
In fact, I thought this is what everyone is looking for. I’m sure each person will have a different impression of it. When I saw it as an audience member, I felt that this was sufficient.
Yabu is the reason for the high density!
Interviewer: The original New Voyage was a TV special (telefeature). You managed to fit it into eight TV-size parts this time…
Fukui: Why is it so short? (Laughs) It was not enough at all. I can say this now; for the sake of the future…I thought about connecting it to Be Forever Yamato, and this is what I came up with. Looking at the overall balance, it’s quite difficult to turn Be Forever into 26 episodes, so we decided to include elements of Galman-Garmillas (from Yamato III) in the Be Forever storyline. I thought about setting a pace with that kind of development in mind. Then I thought, “We have to establish it here as well.” That was the order of my thoughts.
Interviewer: Just as the original work was an introduction to Be Forever, the plan this time was based on the premise that it would be continued.
Fukui: At first, I thought there was plenty of room, but what I didn’t calculate was Yabu. My original plan did not include Yabu. When Oka-san said to me, “Why don’t you put in Yabu?” I was reluctant at first, but then I reconsidered. I thought it would be a good idea to have Yabu carry the theme. As a result, the volume grew unexpectedly. The biggest change from the first plan was the Yabu element. I thought it would be hard for people in their 50s, including myself, to empathize with Kodai and Dessler. (Laughs)
Interviewer: Actually, Kodai, Domon, and Yabu are equal to each other, aren’t they?
Fukui: I put the burden on Yabu of not knowing what would happen tomorrow. Now I can’t even remember what it was like without him. I thought about what our generation is going through now. I thought about “changing jobs.”
He was supposed to have been employed by one company (Yamato) and been safe for the rest of his life, but he was betrayed at every turn and cast away by his former employer. Now he’s working hard at a new company (Garmillas) and gets ordered to go to his old company for technical reasons. Everyone at the old place stares at him. But he has a family now, so he can’t quit.
It’s not like he’s going to lose his entire hometown, but at his age, he’s not sure if he’s able to leave. A lot of things could happen to his family due to health problems or something. I thought that if we could make him smile again at the end, the story would win. I was totally focused on that feeling.
Interviewer: Director Yasuda, did you have any requests in the script writing?
Yasuda: This was the first time for me to work with both Mr. Fukui and the script team. I thought it would be better for me to focus on how to visualize the script without showing my own colors. So, after receiving the completed script, we made adjustments to it. That said, the core elements of Yamato couldn’t be removed. After we went over the details several times, I started on the storyboarding process.
The merits of doing all the storyboards alone
Interviewer: You drew the storyboards for all 8 episodes, didn’t you? Isn’t it unusual to work alone on a film like this?
Yasuda: In recent years, I’ve been doing more and more of the storyboards myself on other productions. Half or two-thirds. Actually, I asked someone else to do the sixth episode. But I ended up drawing all of them because of the flow of the previous and following episodes.
Fukui: In fact, the storyboards were completed very quickly. Normally you would bring in others since it will save you work to some extent, but this is what Director Yasuda can do.
Yasuda: There’s a history to Yamato, and there are a lot of characters. There’s also the physical arrangement of the fleet. If there’s even the slightest discrepancy in explaining all of this, it will affect the results later on. So it was faster for me to cover it on my own. When you have other people helping you, you might get something you wouldn’t have come up yourself, but in this case, there were many elements that I had to explain, so I did it by myself.
Fukui: Since he drew the entire storyboard, there is a sense of cohesiveness.
Interviewer: How did you feel after actually drawing 8 episodes?
Yasuda: When I received the initial scripts, I didn’t get tangled up with any strange questions. I could understand the feelings of the characters, and although there was a lot of information, I felt that I could manage to fit it all in. However, when the storyboards for several episodes were finished, Mr. Fukui had a change. I think he realized, “Oh, this is all going to fit?”
My impression of the scripts changed as they went on. In the beginning, there was so much volume I thought that it would be okay if one or two lines didn’t get into the film. But then I thought, “What the heck? It’s getting harder and harder…” (Laughs) The parts that could be omitted from the script gradually disappeared. Did you change the way you wrote as you went along?
Fukui: I found that it was possible not to show the process of things every time. He’s the right person to focus on that. I thought, “If we keep doing meticulous shots, this story will never be over.” (Laughs)
Interviewer: Watching the visuals, I realized that this is what high density means.
Yasuda: When a traditional scene changes, I pick up the character descriptions and conversations carefully. I didn’t do that this time. There was no need to go through the steps like that. This may not be a pattern, but it isn’t particularly unusual.
Fukui: Actually, before we started working on the sound, I was worried about whether the solid music of Yamato would work with Mr. Yasuda’s drastically shifting storyboards. The music of Yamato has a kind of formula. That’s the Yamato style, and we absolutely could not move it. Tomohiro Yoshida (Sound Supervisor) did his best on that part. We were convinced that it could be done.
Kodai-kun or Captain Kodai?
Interviewer: The relationship between Kodai and Dessler went through the flow of 2199 and 2202. It was interesting to see how they became equals at this point.
Fukui: When you look at the original story, you wonder how you can say “you” to the president of a country. Calling him “You, Dessler” makes him sound like just a soldier. (Laughs) [Translator’s note: in Japanese, directly addressing a superior as “you” is considered impolite or demeaning.]
Interviewer: Mr. Fukui previously told me that “Space Battleship Yamato is the story of Susumu Kodai.” I wondered how “Kodai-kun” would grow up to be an adult wearing a captain’s uniform. I felt that I could see a glimpse of it here.
Yasuda: In that sense, I don’t have any image of “Kodai-kun” in my mind at all. I’m looking at it from the same perspective as the new crew members. I may be burdened by many things, but I am not in the same position as the “captain” of the ship.
Fukui: If you thought of him as “Kodai-kun,” there might have been some unnecessary noise. [Translator’s note: the “-kun” honorific is how you would refer to someone younger and less mature, or as a term of endearment.]
Yasuda: That’s right. I didn’t think, “Oh, he’s ‘Kodai-kun'” until you mentioned it.
Interviewer: Director Yasuda’s participation was also meaningful in that sense, wasn’t it?
Fukui: This time, Captain Kodai is an adult without gaps. I mean, a life-size adult with various problems. Susumu Kodai has become such an adult. In other words, I have to be careful when I do Be Forever. I don’t want him to look like a young man again. But if it stays the way it is now, the story will not advance. So next time, I’ll depict the cute part of “Kodai-kun” as well. (Laughs) He’s finally going to propose to Yuki, and he’s practicing for it.
Interviewer: Didn’t he propose already?
Fukui: A lot of things have happened. He wants to keep Sasha with him, but he’s worried about what it would be like to wait so long to get married, and then go into it with this bump. He has to be very careful about how to say things, so he’s practicing a lot. If I start from that, I wonder if he can go back to being “Kodai-kun” again. Of course, Yuki knows everything from the beginning, and she’s prepared for that.
Interviewer: Yuki was very dignified this time.
Fukui: In this day and age, it’s common for married couples to both earn incomes. (Laughs)
Interviewer: I have the impression that both Kodai and Dessler have grown into humane characters.
Fukui: I wondered if that would be the case this time. In the original, Yamato started out as a young man’s story, but after The New Voyage, it became a family story. That’s why the scene where Kodai calls Starsha “sister-in-law” became necessary. If it had matured like this at that time, Yamato might have taken a different turn. But the audience back then was probably still in their teens and twenties. They probably thought it would be a bad idea to bring in a story about having a child. Now that fans have grown older, I think they’ll see the story in the right light.
Interviewer: Please tell us about the most important parts of the story, including the first chapter.
Fukui: I concentrated on the drama and interplay. The peak the first chapter was when Yabu shouted, “Family is the place to be!” I arranged the entire story to make everyone’s tears gush at the scene of Yabu in the second half. I was happy with the way the visuals turned out.
There are two peaks in the second chapter, one of which is the scene where Yabu’s problem is solved and the other is the scene where he smiles at the end. I asked Akira Miyagawa to have the prelude of Love is Still Light (the ending song) match that scene. When I placed the order, the example I gave was that it should be like the prelude to the theme song Mirror of the Moon, sung by Sayaka Kanda in 2202 Chapter 2.
The song starts quietly and then goes off with a bang. The timing of the visuals and the music was important. There’s the agonized feeling in the foreground, then all the sound is muted for a moment. We took up the challenge many times until we got it right, and then the music was added.
Yasuda: When that song was played at the climax following the climax, I felt that it was all coming together. I thought it was very convincing. It made the film more cohesive. I’m glad it was such a good song.
Fukui: I know some people were disappointed that it wasn’t [original vocalist] Chiyoko Shimakura. (Laughs) And the other thing is Dessler asking Starsha, “Why did you tell me to grow up so fast!” I knew that if I could get the song Parting to work there, my mission would be complete. I had already decided to play Parting from the script stage.
A little bit more is just right
Interviewer: Director Yasuda, could you tell us about your particular approach?
Yasuda: In terms of visual expression, which I am in charge of, I wanted to keep it from being too “modern.” It was that kind of thing. There is also the processing of photography, but the amount of information is controlled by light and shadow. I didn’t want to just show a pretty picture, but to control the viewer’s gaze and impressions.
For example, the scene that Mr. Fukui mentioned of Yabu exploding with emotion, the lighting is such that the viewer can guess the mood of the scene the moment it is shown. The first and second episodes, for example, show Domon’s glare. And then there’s the scene where Yabu and Domon are depressed. There are scenes of exploding emotions, so I tried to be careful of the contrast in each scene. I always liked what [directors] Osamu Dezaki and Yoshiaki Kawajiri would do. It feels like I’m doing a more classic form of expression now.
Fukui: We met and talked a few times in the early stage of the project. I said, “Oh, Director Yasuda likes Dezaki, too. Then we’ll be fine.” (Laughs)
Yasuda: Overall, it’s the balance between the drama and the battle scenes. I think the fans would be happier if we put more details in the battle scenes. But that’s something that inevitably gets in the way of the drama, so I put more emphasis on the tempo than the details. I tried to include as much detail as possible, such as reproducing fine gimmicks, but I wanted to give an overall impression of speed during the training and urgency in total war.
I also wondered how much new expressions such as Lambea‘s drift would be accepted as a new element for Yamato fans. It’s a new Yamato, so I just took up the challenge of seeing if I could add new elements.
Fukui: In Yamato, there is a deliberate emphasis on showing “setup” and “appearance.” But when I look at the old works again, I still don’t see that much mecha setup and detail. I think that changed around the time of the Mobile Suit Gundam III feature film. When the lead Zaku pushes his subordinate Zaku out of the way, he gets blown up right after that, and so on. That’s when the “home office” began to incorporate things that were previously only seen in “secondary works.”
What’s important is what you want to express by including such scenes. It’s no use playing a closed game of catch just to appease the mania. Unless it’s connected to the story, you can’t show that many scenes.
Yasuda: It is best to stop at the point where you want to see a little more.
Fukui: Just enough. The same is true for drama. If the scenes seem to be jumping from one to another, it’s best to leave it at the point where you want to see a little more. I feel like I’m providing the material for that.
Yasuda: For example, there are many Analyzers in the second episode, but after that there are only a few on the bridge and deck of Hyuga. I’m sure there are many Analyzers around who fulfill similar roles. I hope you can imagine that. It would be nice if we could depict activities on various parts of the ship. But I don’t think it would be a good idea to give too many answers.
Yamato is a story about human beings
Interviewer: Director Yasuda, please tell us how you feel about participating in Yamato.
Yasuda: As I thought, it was a big title. Based on the image I had of it before starting the project, I had the impression that Yamato was a mecha film. But when I tried it out, I realized that it’s a character piece. I feel that it’s a story about characters, in the sense of depicting human beings.
Outer space is the stage, and the originality can be expressed by matching the battle scenes to that. But the base of the story is the characters. I was able to confirm that again. If there are people who dislike Yamato for being a mecha thing, I hope they will enjoy it for the characters.
Interviewer: Mr. Fukui, could you give us a summary of this?
Fukui: I don’t think there’s any need to hide anything anymore. We have to do the “next” one now. The scale of the next project, Be Forever Yamato REBEL 3199, is three times larger than this one, so what should I do? I’m now more concerned about that than about the summing up 2205. (Laughs)
Interviewer: It’s finally time to demonstrate the true essence of Yamato.
Fukui: To some extent, I may not be able to sum up 2205 in my mind until 3199 has been completed. But I would say that I learned a lot about Mr. Yasuda’s direction and how he handles a film. I learned that it’s possible to pack that much information in. I’ve worked with many directors in the past, and I’ve learned a lot. This experience was also significant. Based on this, I will aim for even higher density in my next project.
These are unstable times. I hope to continue moving forward with the fans through these difficult times. In 3199, there will be even more “What the!?” moments. Why is it 3199? It’s not just a title, is it? Please look forward to it when you see the teaser page at the end of this program book.