One of the most interesting surprises in Yamato 2205 was not only the unexpected return of Sukeji Yabu, but also his presence as one of the emotional touchstones of the story. This brought his voice actor, Cho, out of the shadows for his first interviews since the remakes began. Three of them are presented here.
Cho: Surprised by Sukeji Yabu’s activity in Yamato 2205!
Published by Mantan Web on January 30 (see the original article here)
Yamato 2205, The New Voyage is the latest work in the popular Space Battleship Yamato anime series. The first chapter was screened last October and had numerous shocking developments. There were many highlights such as the disappearance of the planet Garmillas, the activities of a new character, Domon Ryusuke, and so on. Among the many highlights, there must have been many fans who were surprised by the activities of Sukeji Yabu, saying, “No way!”
Yabu is a character who once served on board Yamato. In 2205, he reappears as a technical exchange officer for Garmillas. Cho, who plays Yabu, says, “I was so surprised!” We asked Cho about his thoughts on Yabu and Yamato.
Yabu is like a corporate warrior, doing what he has to
The first Yamato TV anime was broadcast in 1974, and many sequels followed. 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. 2205 is a follow-up to 2202, with Harutoshi Fukui in charge of series composition and screenplay, and produced by Satelight. The second chapter, Starsha, will premiere February 4.
Sukeji Yabu was once aboard Yamato, but was involved in a mutiny and became a prisoner of war under Garmillas. He began a second life as a crew member of a Dimensional Submarine and found a loving family on the planet Garmillas. In 2205, he appears as a technical exchange officer dispatched by Garmillas. He leaves his family on a distant planet and temporarily rejoins Yamato.
Yabu was also featured in 2202, but not as prominently, and he is now back in the spotlight in 2205.
“Yabu has mostly been overshadowed so far, so I was surprised to see him in the film. I didn’t know about it until I read the script. I had no advance notice from the staff that he would play such an active role. He’s not dead, he’s alive…and he has a family!”
In the first chapter of 2205, Yabu left a strong impact. He is not a hero like Susumu Kodai or Dessler. He is family-oriented and has human weaknesses. He is a character viewers can relate to, which is probably due in large part to Cho’s acting.
“Basically, I don’t think Yabu has fundamentally changed. Like a corporate warrior, he does what he has to to make a living. There’s nothing cool about him, but he’s stubbornly trying to survive.”
“At first, the only thing that mattered to him was himself, but when he got a family, I think some of the things that were important to him changed. When you’re away from your family, you realize how important they are. I think he’s strong because he’s used to being knocked down. That’s a part of him that resonates with me in 2205.”
In addition to Yabu, Cho has played Analyzer, a robot, since Yamato 2199.
“[Original voice actor] Kenichi Ogata’s Analyzer was very human, but this Analyzer is different, and I separate the two. He has the melancholy of inorganic beings, doesn’t he? The AI is so advanced that it reacts as if it were alive. It can talk to humans. But it’s inorganic. There’s something sad about it. I like that. If AI evolves more, it may become more human-like.”
The continuing impact of Yamato is an amazing power
Cho has been watching Yamato since the first TV broadcast in 1974. It was one of the works that made him aware of voice acting as a career.
“I was in high school. I looked forward to watching it every week. I didn’t have an impression of Yabu at that time. I remember Analyzer well, though. Ogata-san was interesting, wasn’t he? I thought his anime and voice work was interesting! My friends and I would imitate his voice shooting the Wave-Motion Gun. I also really enjoyed The Snakeman Show with Masato Ibu, who played Dessler. I was surprised at how interesting voice work can be!”
Yamato is a long-lived work. It has been almost 50 years since its birth, and it continues to be loved. Cho also feels its power.
“I’m always connected to it. It’s an incredible thing, isn’t it? We’re all connected because of the thoughts of the people who support us. Its continuing power is amazing. I try not to take on too much, because it would get hard to carry if I was overly conscious of it. I want to be neutral. When I was a viewer, I was so involved in that world. But when it comes to acting, I want to be a bit detached. I’m an actor. I think about how I can help the staff members while they’re making the film.”
Looking toward the screening of the second chapter, he said, “I think of everyone who comes to see the film in the theater as my family. Let’s enjoy this space together.”
What kind of activities will Yabu be involved in? Expectations are high.
Interview with Cho, who plays Sukeji Yabu in Yamato 2205, The New Voyage
Published by Aniverse on February 8 (see the original article here)
Yamato 2205 is the latest work in the Space Battleship Yamato series, based on the TV special The New Voyage that was broadcast in 1979 and won high viewer ratings. Following Chapter 1, Take Off, which premiered last year on October 8, the second chapter Starsha has been showing in theaters since February 4.
To commemorate the release of this film, we interviewed Cho, who plays the role of Sukeji Yabu and the crew robot Analyzer in the remake version of the Yamato series. How does Cho view Yamato through the character who was tossed around by history and become one of the top class? We also asked him how he evaluates the character of Yabu.
Interviewer: In Yamato 2205, Sukeji Yabu is a key person. Between playing Yabu and Analyzer, you are an indispensable person for Yamato. How do you feel about that now?
Cho: The new Yamato series started ten years ago, and it’s been going ever since. Yabu and Analyzer were main characters in 2199, while Analyzer was a main character in 2202. I had the impression that Yabu was really overshadowed. He was more often in a supporting role as an antagonist. And now he shows up again here! I was surprised. (Laughs)
Interviewer: Yabu has a family on Garmillas and is a pioneer who has established a new relationship between humans and aliens. I think some Yamato members see him as a traitor. I don’t know if this is the right analogy, but he seems like Hideo Nomo who tried his hand at American Major League Baseball.
Cho: The first Japanese. I see. So the second and third Yabu will come next… (Laughs) Like Shohei Ohtani, he may be a star on both sides, on Garmillas and Earth. I’m looking forward to that. (Laughs)
First of all, Yabu had to cultivate the field. I don’t know how hard Mr. Nomo had to work, but maybe that’s the case. But Yabu didn’t go to Garmillas because he wanted to. (Laughs) I think he was there in order to survive.
Interviewer: In that sense, Yabu is very resilient.
Cho: He’s tough! And he also feels like a commoner.
Interviewer: That’s right. Among the characters in Yamato, Yabu seems to be closest to us.
Cho: That’s right. That’s why he was so overshadowed!
Interviewer: Did you know about Yabu’s role in this series before you read the script?
Cho: Yes, but I didn’t know everything about it. I just read the script and picked it up as I went along. I was like, “Oh, I come in here, and here, huh…” At first I was like, “I was on the Garmillas side.” Then I’m under siege by Yamato, which I was forced to board. So, like everyone else in the audience, I went through it gradually, and I played the role without knowing what was going to happen next.
Interviewer: Did Mr. Fukui (the writer) explain to you what was going to happen?
Cho: Not at all. (Laughs) As far as I remember, he just said, “There are three Analyzers, and they’re all different colors.” So, in my mind, I thought there would be a lot of Analyzers, but then I realized, “Oh… it’s Yabu.”
Interviewer: The story of Yabu’s family is one of the pillars of this work. What was your impression when you read that part of the story?
Cho: In the first episode I was in, I thought, “Oh, I have a family now. I’m having a hard time here, but you guys are doing your best.” I sent a message of love to my family. I was talking to them, talking to myself. I thought, “Oh, so this is where a human being comes in.” I thought it was nice.
Interviewer: It’s refreshing when you look back at 2199. How has Yabu changed since then?
Cho: Basically, I don’t think Yabu has changed at all. He thinks hard at each moment, makes decisions to live, becomes a prisoner of war to live, and uses the skills he knows to live. And somehow he found a family he met there in order to live. I think he felt the warmth of being with them because it was better than being alone. There, he felt the sense of “living,” and he continues to live for his family.
Then he boarded a Dimensional Submarine as he was ordered, and came back to the Earth side this time to teach some technology. In the end, he has no choice but to live within the confines of what he was told. He has to live. That’s the basic premise. It’s not cool or anything, he’s just struggling to get by.
Interviewer: He built something that was important to him.
Cho: Maybe so. At first, he felt like he was the only one who mattered, and because of that he tried to rebel and survive. Because he felt important, he managed to get by on Garmillas. And when he found a family, I guess he went in a different direction and started to realize that his family was more important, so he started to live for his family. I think even Yabu himself is surprised by it.
Interviewer: I have the impression that his visuals are becoming more and more dignified as the series goes on.
Cho: Well, I think he’s getting fat. (Laughs)
Interviewer: Maybe it was the impression of the drama that made him look dignified to me. (Laughs) He’s 40 years old, so he’s one of the older members of Yamato‘s crew.
Cho: We have newcomers this time. From their point of view, 40 years old is already quite an old man. But at heart, I think he will always be a boy. He doesn’t think of himself as an adult.
Interviewer: In The New Voyage, you return to Yamato, where you used to be on board. How did you feel when you actually played the role?
Cho: In the normal condition of being a punching bag. (Laughs) I don’t think it can be helped at all. But I think he’s strong. He’s good at getting hit. (Laughs) Even on Garmillas, he was persecuted as an alien. So I think he’s definitely used to it.
Interviewer: I thought Yabu symbolized the theme of 2205 in which different species and generations fight together. What do you think?
Cho: That may be. I think the the main theme is of enemies or compatriots of different species joining hands, living together, and coexisting. Even in 2199, there was a scene where Garmillas and Earth fought together, but wasn’t Yabu an Earthling who went to the enemy side and now comes back again? The situation is a bit different. So, from an Earthling’s point of view, he might be even more of a jerk.
Interviewer: What was your impression of Space Battleship Yamato in 1974, and how did you feel about participating in the remake version?
Cho: When I heard about 2199, my first reaction was, “Oh! They’re going to do it!” I was in high school when the first TV series was released, and I came home after finishing my club activities early. I looked forward to seeing the “XX days until the destruction of Earth” every week.
Interviewer: What was your impression of Yabu at that time?
Cho: Nothing at all. (Laughs) Kenichi Ogata played the role of Analyzer impressively, that’s for sure. That may be what made me realize how interesting anime is and how interesting the world of voice acting is. After that, Masato Ibu, the voice of Dessler, appeared in The Snakeman Show and I remember vividly thinking, “Wow, he does such interesting things!” I thought that voice acting was an interesting job.
Interviewer: Did you feel any pressure, participating in a work that you had always admired? You mentioned earlier that Analyzer was impressive. How was it playing Analyzer?
Cho: There’s no pressure anymore. Ogata-san’s Analyzer was a “human” Analyzer. I was a completely “mechanical” Analyzer, so we played them differently.
Interviewer: The “human” Yabu and the robot Analyzer. Did you find it difficult to play an organic and an inorganic character in the same work?
Cho: Not at all. Analyzer is an inorganic object, so it was rather easy. I just followed the direction and didn’t have to put any emotion into it.
Yabu in 2199 didn’t have many emotional ups and downs, so I didn’t have to worry too much. He just went along with his master and when he was told to “do it right,” he just said, “Yes!” And then, in a slightly devious way, he would say something like, “Is that a good idea?” It was like looking up from below. So I played him as if he was that kind of person.
It was more difficult for me to speak Garmillas. (Laughs) But there are young people who speak Garmillas very well. So I learned a lot from them. (Laughs)
Interviewer: Yabu was very appealing. I could relate to him as a human being. Did you also sympathize with Yabu?
Cho: This was the first time I felt sympathy for Yabu. I think he must have been changed by living as a POW. They could have killed him in the script if they wanted to. The story could have been that he rebelled and ended up on Garmillas and died, but instead, it was shown that he was still alive and well. I thought it was amazing.
Interviewer: By the way, did you feel any sympathy for Analyzer?
Cho: Yes, I did. (Laughs) I think Analyzer is a contrast between a flesh-and-blood human being and an inorganic object. A kind of melancholy comes out of that contrast. Because AI is advancing rapidly, it reacts as if it were alive. It can talk like a human, but it’s inorganic and has no heart. So we can see the sadness in that fact.
As AI advances further in the future, Analyzer may speak in a more human-like manner. So if Yamato continues, Analyzer will evolve as well. I think that when that happens, Analyzer will become more like Ogata-san’s version. (Laughs)
Interviewer: Yabu plays a very important role in the second chapter.
Cho: I was wondering what would happen to Yabu after each episode, but it was really toward the end that he started to get more and more involved.
Interviewer: Could you give a message to your fans?
Cho: I think of everyone who comes to the theater as my family. You are the Yamato family. So, let’s enjoy this space as a Yamato family.
Yamato 2205, The New Voyage – Cho’s surprising points of interest
Published by Animage Plus on February 10 (see the original article here)
The way of life of Yabu, at the mercy fate, is one of the major highlights of 2205
The long-awaited second chapter of Yamato 2205 is now in theaters. The planet Garmillas was cruelly destroyed by a mysterious enemy. The emigration fleet escapes, albeit narrowly. Yamato rushes to save Queen Starsha of Iscandar, the twin planet of Garmillas. Dezarium, the leader of the Dark Nebula fleet, stands in the way!
This is a reconstruction of the TV special that aired in 1979, and is based on the previous Yamato 2199 and Yamato 2202. Sukeji Yabu is a former Yamato crew member who was involved in a rebellion. What kind of drama awaits him? We interviewed Cho, who plays the role of Yabu.
Interviewer: In Yamato 2205, Yabu is one of the main characters in the story. How did you feel about it?
Cho: It’s been about ten years since the new Yamato series started. My parts were a bit choppy in 2199, since I doubled as Analyzer and I also played supporting roles on the Garmillas side. I was surprised to see Yabu in this. “Why is he appearing here?”
Interviewer: Were you told beforehand that Yabu would be playing an active role?
Cho: I didn’t know until I was given the script. In my mind, my main role is Analyzer. I was more impressed by the fact that they said, “We’re going to have three Analyzers in different colors.” (Laughs) It was only after I read the script that I realized “Oh, Yabu is going to be in it!” (Laughs)
Interviewer: Yabu’s position has changed a lot since the days of 2199…
Cho: His position is different, but in my mind, Yabu has basically remained the same. He’s a person who thinks hard at each moment and continues to search for a way to survive. He rebelled to survive, he became a prisoner of war to survive, he offers the skills he knows to Garmillas, and he lives with a family he met there. It’s not cool or anything, it’s just living in the flow.
But it is the character of Yabu that is able to live so tenaciously. So when I first saw the scene that showed Yabu’s love for his family, I thought to myself, “This is great!” Yabu has been living his life and had come to value the warmth of being with other people.
Interviewer: What do you think family means to Yabu?
Cho: I think the only thing that was important to Yabu before that was “himself.” That’s why he worked so hard to survive. But when he met his family on Garmillas and felt how wonderful it was, I think he was able to go in a different direction for the first time. Furthermore, being sent to Yamato as a technical exchange officer and being away from his family made him decide to live for his family above all else. I think Yabu himself must have been surprised at this change in his feelings.
Interviewer: In the first chapter, Yabu learned that his family is in a critical situation. He tried to return to the planet Garmillas from Yamato without permission. What do you imagine his emotional was state at that time?
Cho: His body moved before his mind. I think he only had one thought on his mind, “I have to go back.”
Interviewer: Yabu seems to feel that the crew of the Dimensional Submarine is like his family…
Cho: I think it’s different from that. They’re his trusted friends, but frankly speaking, he can live without them. But family is different. I think for Yabu, his wife and children were the first people who depended on him. I guess it’s almost like protecting a baby who would die without you, with all your heart and soul. It’s the kind of life that makes you think, “I have to do my best.” I think that’s the big difference.
But actually, Yabu just thinks so himself. Maybe those on the other side just think, “We don’t need him.” (Laughs)
Interviewer: That’s not true. (Laughs) Do you have any memorable lines or scenes in 2205 that involved Yabu?
Cho: Watching video of his family. And there’s his line, “When you’re at the bottom, something wonderful is waiting for you just around the corner.” I think that describes his own history. No matter how hard things are now, there will surely be something good on the way.
On the other hand, even if something good happens, something bad may happen the next time. We tell children that such things will continue to happen throughout their lives. I was impressed by the scene in which he tells himself that.
Interviewer: Do you have any expectations for Analyzer in the future?
Cho: If a new Yamato is made in the future, I hope more AI technology will be used in the work, and I hope Analyzer will evolve to speak in a more human-like way. I hope to see Analyzers with individual differences, such as making puns like Ogata-san did in the past. (Laughs)
Interviewer: That is something to look forward to!