Chapter 1: The Birth of Subculture

What runs through the entire Yamato series

“Beyond the Universe, to Iscandar, we leap forward with destiny on our shoulders…”

Even though the purpose of Yamato‘s journey and battles changed among its many sequels, the theme song carried on as is. It is no exaggeration to say that Part 1 (the first TV series), which depicts the journey of Iscandar, says it all about Space Battleship Yamato.

The story begins in the year 2199. Earth is contaminated by radiation in a Planet Bomb attack from the planet Gamilas, where Leader Dessler reigns, and humanity is one year away from extinction. The Space Battleship Yamato, a revived version of the sunken battleship Yamato, travels 148,000 light years to Planet Iscandar in the Large Magellanic Galaxy in search of the Cosmo Cleaner D.

Captain Okita succeeds in Yamato‘s journey with his indomitable fighting spirit.

“Even if I am the last man standing, I will not despair.”

Susumu Kodai frankly expresses his regret after witnessing the devastation of the enemy.

“There is no difference in the feelings of people on Earth and people on Gamilas. We both just want to live happily.”

The enemy general, Domel, does not hide his admiration for his enemies. He is a martyr to his pride as a warrior, saying, “Glory to the planet Gamilas and to the great Earth.”

The nobility and preciousness of fulfilling one’s mission is portrayed with heroism, and at the same time, the question of peace is raised. At that time, there were very few full-scale space science-fiction dramas, and a journey into the vastness of space stirred up romance, which has now become a dead language.

After the broadcast of this TV series (October 6, 1974 to March 30, 1975), a film version was screened in 1977. The sequels were the film Farewell to Yamato (1978), the TV series Yamato 2 (1978-9), the TV special The New Voyage (1979), the film Be Forever Yamato (1980), the TV series Yamato III (1980-81), the film Final Yamato (1983) and the film Yamato Resurrection (2009). In each of these films, the original framework is carried over.

“The universe is our mother, and all life born in it must be equal.” (Susumu Kodai)

In Farewell, Yamato is not only trying to stop an invasion of Earth, but to also fight the evil destroyer Gatlantis, the White Comet Empire, for the sake of all living things in the universe. Dessler, who had been a member of Gatlantis’ army, also fights against Yamato, but realizes his own fault. He dies after telling them the weak point of the enemy. But Gatlantis is too powerful, and Yamato endures many sacrifices. Kodai finally sacrifices his own life to protect Earth. Thus, the film depicts the value of altruism.

“Compared to them, devoted to invasion and plunder, my heart is much closer to the people of Earth. I no longer hold a grudge against Yamato” (Dessler).

Yamato 2 is a Farewell to Yamato TV series, but with an alternate ending. The main difference is that Susumu Kodai and Dessler, who has made peace with Yamato, both survive.

Yamato struggles for peace in the universe, but is defeated by Dessler. He is then moved by the altruistic actions of Susumu Kodai and others and changes his mind. Yamato also loses to Gatlantis, but in the end, Teresa sacrifices herself to save Yamato. Teresa reminds them that it takes more courage to return home defeated than to return victorious. The courage to fight to the very end and to never give up is more impressive than the catharsis of victory.

“Please don’t be sad that Iscandar is gone. I couldn’t allow Iscandarium to become the scourge of the universe.” (Starsha)

In The New Voyage, an automated planet of the Dark Nebula Empire named Goruba (a sort of mobile fortress) seeks to exploit the energy ore Iscandarium for warfare. Yamato and Dessler try to stop it. Starsha, in order to prevent the loss of life and peace in the universe at the hands of an all-powerful enemy, destroys her planet along with herself. A new crew replaces the many casualties of the previous battle, but the ending is bitter because Starsha could not be rescued.

Part 1, all about Yamato

“When will human beings find happiness without shedding blood? I couldn’t even save Sasha. All that remains is my bloodied hands.” (Susumu Kodai)

In Be Forever Yamato, the Dark Nebula Empire that appeared in the previous film suddenly invades and occupies Eearth. In order to eliminate the threat of the occupying force’s Hyperon Bomb, which destroys brain tissue, Yamato travels to the enemy’s home planet, 400,000 light-years away, to fight to the death. Starsha’s orphaned daughter, Sasha, who went to Earth and became Shiro Sanada’s adopted daughter, stays on the enemy’s home planet to save Yamato. She sacrifices herself to save Yamato in this battle.

“Your defense network was never perfect. It’s dangerous to be overconfident in military might alone. Now you understand a little better. Think about it, Dessler.” (Susumu Kodai)

In Yamato III, the sun is struck by a stray missile in an interstellar war, causing an abnormal reaction that will lead to the extinction of the human race in one year. Yamato sets out in search of a second Earth for a new home. However, they become embroiled in a conflict between the Galman-Gamilas Empire (the reconstructed nation of Dessler) and the Bolar Federation. With the help of super technology from the peaceful planet Shalbart, Yamato succeeds in restoring the sun to normal and Earth is saved.

“I don’t know. It might be better to admit there is no way. But I will not despair. As long as I have these young people and Yamato.” (Captain Okita)

In Final Yamato, the Dengil Empire, having lost their home planet, warps the water planet Aquarius toward Earth. They plan to annihilate the human race by flooding the planet with water via the gravitational pull. Yamato eliminates the Dengil Empire’s armed invasion, but Aquarius’ approach cannot be stopped. In order to prevent the imminent drowning of Earth, Yamato stops this cosmic-scale flood by self destructing. The surviving crew members, including Susumu Kodai, embark on their new lives.

“It’s not Yamato that should survive. It’s the Earth.” (Susumu Kodai)

Yamato Resurrection takes place in the year 2220, when Susumu Kodai is 38 years old. The Cascade Black Hole is approaching Earth, and the human race decides to migrate to the Amal system. Memories of war have left Kodai with scars and a lonely existence. However, he accepts the captaincy of the Yamato in the face of Earth’s crisis. Yamato fights valiantly against the Great Urup Interstellar Federation, led by the galaxy-sweeping SUS, and succeeds in clearing the way for emigration. On the other hand, Kodai sees a spirit entity from another dimension behind these events, and obtains a hint for Earth’s resurrection. Kodai risks his life to approach the Cascade Black Hole and eliminate it. Earth is saved.

Throughout almost the entire story, Yamato struggles alone in a “mission to save Earth.”

Heroism is the highlight of the saga, but doesn’t always lead to victory. The desire for peace or a hesitation to fight is always present. Although sometimes seen as belligerent, the basic structure of the story is that it swings like a pendulum between war and peace. Depending on which side of the line it leans toward, the impression of the work will vary considerably.

The essence of this story is all condensed in Part 1. The rest of the Yamato series did not take a big step away from its initial path, nor did it stray very far from it. On the other hand, sometimes only the afterglow of Part 1 stands out, and there are only subtle changes within the general framework.

Not all of these sequels were necessarily welcomed by many fans. In that sense, a better understanding of Part 1 is the way to understand Yamato in its entirety.

An unknown experience from a cathode ray tube

Back then, the impact of Space Battleship Yamato was so great that it cannot be described by the commonplace word “novelty.” It would be more appropriate to call it a new experience.

The year 1974 was the starting point for the birth of Yamato, 29 years after the war ended. But it is possible that the changes between then and now, 36 years later, have been even more significant. You can watch all the images you want for free on Youtube, the internet is crowded with free image distribution sites with advertising, cable TV offers nearly 100 channels for less than 5,000 yen, and iPads and other mobile devices allow you to read manga and play games on the go. We are now in an environment overflowing with such information.

In comparison, the only entertainment at home in 1974 was TV and radio. If you didn’t sit in front of the TV at a certain time, you’d miss the program you wanted to see. Accessibility was not so different from radio. Video recording was the world of a few rich hobbyists.

In such a “poor” media environment, Yamato was a bit of a shock. An unimaginable world came out of a cathode ray tube, a world that had leapt out of the Milky Way and traveled all the way to the Large Magellanic Galaxy. (In Yamato, it was called the Large Magellanic Cloud, but this is the actual name.)

It was still three years before Star Wars was released in America. The series failed miserably in the ratings, but it was revived as a movie due to the passion of producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki, who never gave up in the face of adversity.

On the other hand, a major tailwind was created when the series went into reruns and scored high ratings in the 20% range, enhancing fan activities, and driving up the sales of books and magazines, like OUT. The boom created by fans was a kind of movement. By expressing their favorite things with action, they bounced back in a tangible form.

It was my first experience of participatory media. To put it in sociological terms, “consumption is itself social participation.” (Naotaka Torii, The Ecology of Japanese Consumption, Brain, July 1972.)

Even before the film was released in 1977, media stirred things up with headlines like, Conquering the World’s Movie Theaters (Hochi Shimbun, June 11, 1977), Expanding into Europe and the United States, the Aim is Hollywood (Sports Nippon, June 11, 1977), and Distribution Set in America and Europe (Asahi Shimbun, August 5, 1977).

Japan was on the upswing again after the oil shock, and society wanted “a Japan that can be the pride of the world.” In other words, self-confidence.

This is where a new form of expression called anime came in. The Yamato series was a push in the right direction, attracting the attention of the mass media. This was a strange turn of events, given that the message built into the origin of the work questioned the “distortions of industrial society.” A few years later, Ezra Vogel’s Japan as Number One (1979) became a bestseller, and the success of YMO‘s world tour was widely reported on the cultural front.

Until now, Yamato has been evaluated within the genre of anime. But this may have been one-sided. It wasn’t only for boys and girls who were fans, it was evaluated by the public as a work of general entertainment rather than as an anime work.

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman and Mobile Suit Gundam are examples of the gradual evolution of the anime industry. They won recognition as grammatical upgrades of action anime and robot anime as the industry gradually evolved. However, Yamato and Lupin III started from the point of ignoring the industry’s grammar. In order to evaluate a work, it must be considered not only in the context of anime, but also from the perspective of general visual expression and social trends.

A major condition for a work or product to hit the market is that it is a “catcher.” Space Battleship Yamato fulfilled this condition right from its title. The addition of “Yamato” to “Space Battleship” conveys the world view and content to the general public without the need for detailed explanation. It was a war story set in space, and it was not intended for children.

At the time, the Battleship Yamato was widely known and popular, and the brand of the Battleship Yamato was incorporated into the image. Furthermore, using katakana instead of kanji for the name differentiated it from the battleship.

Similarly, the name Lupin III is a reference to the fact that the protagonist is a thief and anyone can guess that the content is modern because he is the third generation of a thief. Of course, this work also borrows from the Arsene Lupin brand, which was widely read in childhood. Thus, whether borrowed or not, an excellent work already has an element of attractiveness in its title.

On the other hand, Mobile Suit Gundam is not so easy to understand as a title. It is not for the general public. This is the misfortune of a robot work with the basic premise of selling toys. But at the time of its release, the foundation for appreciating anime as a form of expression had already been laid, so the title was not a problem. It was supported by fans who saw the true value of the work, and were not bound by the title.

While there were other successes such as Votoms and Ideon, Sunrise’s production of Gundam Seed and Gundam 00, which have no continuity at all with Yoshiyuki Tomino’s original Gundam, was a result of the Gundam brand already being established. If it bears the name Gundam, it’s obvious at a glance that a powerful human drama will be developed in a “serious war story”.

A scene that no one had ever seen before unfolded in the first episode

What is needed most in entertainment is novelty and impact. No one will pay attention to it just because it’s easy to understand.

There is a saying that “science fiction is visual,” and Space Battleship Yamato is also visual. Many reasons have been given for the popularity of Yamato, but its simple visual impact has not been mentioned much. The surprise of seeing “an image that no one had ever seen before” was irreplaceable at the time.

To start with, there was the image of the radioactive reddish brown Earth in the first episode. There were no mundane images of dead grasslands, polluted seas, and collapsed buildings. The red earth was covered with craters like the moon, with no signs of life. When a bomb falls, light flashes without a sound.

This scene is depicted with zoomed-out images from far away in space. There was an awesome beauty that eliminated any easy emotional involvement. There was no room for warm blood in perfect beauty. With only a picture of the red earth, the cruelty of death was conveyed in a way that anyone could easily understand and remember at a glance.

At the time, pollution and environmental pollution were major social problems in Japan, starting with Minamata disease. The 1971 film Godzilla vs. Hedorah is a good example of how this was reflected. The threat of war and nuclear war was an undercurrent of social consciousness, as seen in the opposition to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

The idea of a global environment devastated by a nuclear war was intended to strike the social consciousness of the time. However, the fact that this was not a conventional message, but a “visual” with an impact, is the real thrill of entertainment.

But to put it bluntly, the first episode of Yamato is not easy to understand. Of all the works in the series, this one is the most difficult to understand on first viewing. However, the impact of the images and the formative power of the film were the most outstanding in the series. It may sound contradictory, but you don’t have to understand the visuals. If the viewer is drawn in with the question, “What is this?” you have won. The first episode contains a lot of such magic.

In the first half of the first episode, the “image no one has ever seen before” is a spacefleet battle. There was already an American TV series, Star Trek (1966), that captivated many people with its excellent and pioneering science-fiction modeling. Its influence on Yamato can be seen in the bridge structure. However, the Enterprise alone was active in the series, and there was no battle between fleets.

Of course, Japanese anime and tokusatsu [live-action special effects] of the time also had science fiction set in space, but to put it in the extreme, they were not comparable. Space Pirate Captain Harlock (1978) was a later work depicting space battles, but their depiction in Yamato was incomparably better.

The episode begins with a radar and operator…

“Radar is responding. Target approaching. Enemy at 3 o’clock, distance 10,000 km. Speed, 27 space knots. Six battleships, eight cruisers, and numerous escorts are approaching at high speed.”

Next, a view of outer space is shown, and the image zooms out to show a planet in the background. A fleet of green spacecraft approaches rapidly from the center of the screen. Next, the image changes to the rear of the space fleet, and the fleet’s behavior is shown in a solitary formation.

During this time, there is little explanation of the situation. The word “enemy” indicates the relationship between the two, but not the location. Next, we hear:

“Incoming call from the enemy. To the Earth fleet: surrender immediately.”

This is the first time we understand that the previous shot is from an Earthling’s point of view. After this, the two fleets begin to engage in battle. The omission of explanations creates a sense of urgency, and by fixing the camera in the perspective of the Earth fleet, the viewer is suddenly caught up in the space war. The absence of shots from the enemy side creates a sense of anxiety and urgency.

Next, another kind of spaceship appears and flies through behind the Earth fleet.

“It is far beyond the speed of interplanetary navigation. At that rate, it will reach Mars orbit in a few minutes.”

After a pause, we shift to Susumu Kodai and Daisuke Shima, the main characters stationed on Mars.

“There’s a battle near Pluto. One of the ships must have gone down.”

“It seems to be a space ship. It’s not Gamilas, and it’s not from Earth.”

At this point, we finally learn that the Earth fleet is engaged in a battle with Gamilas at Pluto. Five minutes have already passed since the beginning.

Kodai and Shima find a beautiful woman, Sasha, lying on the Martian soil. This scene is a stark contrast to the harsh battle. After this, a gruesome scene unfolds throughout the first half of the episode as the Earth fleet is almost unilaterally defeated, but the reason for the war is never revealed.

The second half begins with a meteorite (Planet Bomb) dropping and exploding on a red planet. The attentive viewer will understand from the shape of the Japanese archipelago that it is a transformed Earth, and that the Earth side is overwhelmingly outnumbered.

“No, we can’t prevent it now. We have no power to stop that Planet Bomb. This can’t be what’s become of our mother Earth.”

At this point, the famous narration flows, “In the year 2199…” and the background of the story is explained for the first time. In other words, the first half of the first episode and the beginning of the second half are used to introduce the story.

This was a time when science-fiction films rarely depicted battles in outer space. This novel but somewhat blunt image shows the strong confidence of the filmmaker and his enthusiasm to “make what I want to see.” In the 1977 feature film version, narration was used from the beginning to explain everything in an easy-to-understand manner. But in the TV series we can see the “difficult” and vigorous Yamato.

Intense combat to highlight human drama

The first half of the first episode of Space Battleship Yamato was given a sense of urgency by eliminating explanations as much as possible. On the other hand, the battle depiction added depth to the images by carefully following the process. Let’s go back to the scene between the Earth Defense Fleet and the Gamilas Fleet at Pluto.

On the bridge of the flagship of the Japanese fleet of the Earth Defense Forces, which is commonly known as the Okita ship (unofficially named Eiyuu), an operator uses a lever to control the turning of a ray gun. The turret turns awkwardly.

In the meantime, the enemy ships release energy projectiles. (Although they are described as laser beams in support materials, it is not officially specified.) They shoot by close to the Okita ship, leaving behind an afterglow of their trajectory.

Juuzo Okita’s order comes quickly: “Keep calm and aim at them.”

The electric display on the operation panel indicates that the fine-tuning of the sights has been completed. A shot of Okita staring at the enemy fleet is seen. Then, the electric display gives the “all green” sign. Okita gives the first command: “Fire!” 35 seconds are spent on this sequence.

When the Gamilas energy projectile hits Okita’s ship, the energy scatters in a small arc. The streak of light that pierces Okita’s ship flows backward as if tearing the ship apart. This is because the ship is moving forward at high speed. A beat later, the ship rolls about forty-five degrees from the impact. The next shot shows the bridge illuminated by red emergency lights. This is a visual presentation of the crisis without any explanation.

When Mamoru Kodai’s Yukikaze releases a missile, the wake of its jet flame flies toward a distant enemy ship deep in the scene, becoming a small, faint blur. For a few seconds, a duel ensues between the evasive maneuvering of the enemy ship and the tracking missile, and finally the ship is sunk. As the flames spread, Yukikaze slowly drifts downward in the foreground. The image of the loser and the winner is appealing to viewers. The camera captures everything in one long (distant) shot.

In other anime of the time, it would have been composed in a speedy manner with three shots: the launch, the hit, and the winner. The flow of the scene is slow, but the composition is full of realism.

The control and mechanisms of not only the Okita ship but also the weapons, engines, and other mecha are meticulously set up, and process is carefully followed in the production. This depth of detail gave birth to a persuasive power. Even today, nothing surpasses Yamato in terms of its meticulous depiction of process.

Of course, the impact of the first episode was not limited to the depiction of space and battle scenes. Set against the backdrop of images that exceeded the norms of the time, there was a passionate drama of men that will be handed down to posterity. Mamoru Kodai, captain of Yukikaze, refuses to follow Okita’s order to retreat.

“I don’t want to. If we retreat here, we won’t be able to show our faces to those who died.”

“Listen, Kodai. If we’re wiped out now, there will be no one left to protect Earth. You must endure today’s humiliation for the sake of tomorrow. That’s what a man does.”

“Okita-san, if you are a man, shouldn’t you fight and fight and die to kill as many enemies as possible?”

Against overwhelming odds, Mamoru Kodai finally decides to die a martyr in his role as a soldier. Juuzo Okita, on the other hand, never gives up, no matter how bad the odds are, and bets on the possibilities. The intense battle scene I have described so far was all a setup for this exchange between the two. A solid realism is indispensable for the story to be convincing.

This lengthy intro ends with Okita’s commentary as he gazes at the red Earth just before his return.

“Look at me, you devils. I will fight for as long as I live. I will never despair. Even if I am the last one standing, I will not despair.”

His face is red from the reflection of Earth, like the burning blood that flows through him. Here, the hellish defeat of Earth and its fleet is seen. It is no exaggeration to say that everything was presented to demonstrate Okita’s indomitable fighting spirit, even his exchange with Mamoru Kodai.

The second half of the episode is devoted to the post-return; the treatment of Okita’s injuries and verification of the report by Kodai and Shima from Mars. The second half of the episode is quieter than the first half. The analysis of Sasha’s communication capsule recovered by Kodai and Shima is presented.

It is a message from Starsha of the planet Iscandar, 148,000 light years away from Earth. (In the TV series, her name is given as both Stasha and Starsha, but it is Starsha in the movie version.)

“I am Starsha of Iscandar. My sister Sasha has arrived safely on Earth. When this message reaches you, come to Iscandar. It will only be one year before the radiation destroys all life on Earth. There should be no time to doubt. However, we have in our hands the Cosmo Cleaner D, a radiation remover. Unfortunately, it is no longer in my power to deliver it to Earth. I am 148,000 light years from your galaxy. I believe you will come to Iscandar. I am Starsha of Iscandar.”

As the camera pans from the Milky Way galaxy to the planet Iscandar in the Large Magellanic Cloud, the face of a fantastically beautiful woman, Starsha, appears over it. This is another famous scene.

Iscandar is a paradise-like world with 80% of its surface covered with water. It is a strong contrast to the heavy atmosphere of the first half. The viewer’s imagination leaps tens of thousands of light-years from the decimated battlefield of the solar system and a cool breeze blows across the room. Incidentally, Starsha only reported the distance to Iscandar, not mentioning the Magellanic Clouds. (This is improved in the movie version).

Around this time, the long-bodied, short-legged veterinarian Sakezo Sado appears. This is another contrasting image. He pushes a rampaging pig into his operating room, but fails and ends up killing it. (After boarding Yamato, he becomes a human specialist).

Another image in the second half that is representative of the series, along with the red Earth, is the abandoned battleship Yamato. It is the famous scene of the hull protruding out of the red surface, covered with soil and rust.

There are messages both from space and a battleship of the Japanese Imperial Navy from long ago. The red ruins and the blue planet. The second half featured various contrasts in the arrangement of the visuals. The first episode was not so much about the depth of a carefully composed drama, but novel images and contrasting scenes, interwoven to create a unique visual world.

In addition to the visuals and production effects, the first episode was also unique in its language expression. For example, the following terms appeared:

Speed 27 space knots, super dreadnought battleship, Earth fleet, second turret error zero degrees, cyan gas generation, interplanetary navigation speed, Earth Defense Command, freefall to Mars, communication capsule, bulkhead closure, velocity difference +2, missile ship 17, laser ship, Planet Bomb, radioactive contamination, underground cities, hospital area, 148,000 light years, and faster-than-light engines.

At a time when science fiction was not yet commonplace, there was a real enthusiasm here that was not to be taken lightly. The unknown experience woven with the production effects and images was, so to speak, Yamato shock.

Title frames from Episodes 22 and 26

Creating a “world” is the beginning of subculture

If the shocking visuals of the first episode were dots, fleshing things out to create lines and planes was essential. The episodes of Space Battleship Yamato often have their own beginning, middle, and end. On the other hand, the overall series is structured as one big flow.

This is first evident in Yamato‘s deconstruction of the typical format of a 30-minute program. The theme song, for example; rather than a signal that the episode is about to begin, it is arranged in a story flow suitable for a movie.

Episode 22 begins with narration. It is the episode of the decisive battle between Yamato and Domel’s Gamilas fleet in the Rainbow Star Cluster. When the episode ends, the wounded Yamato is shown and the theme song is played softly. The engine is ignited and the ship starts to move forward again.

The final episode begins with narration and the theme song is not played. Nor is the ending song, Scarlet Scarf. With only the sound effect of the ship’s propulsion, Yamato slowly returns to the red Earth and disappears. The Earth changes slowly to a blue figure. Then we see a caption (slightly different from the movie) saying, “On September 6, 2200 A.D., Yamato returned. The universe continued breathing peacefully as if nothing had happened.” The staff credits appear, and we finally fade out. This kind of direction made me feel like I was watching a long movie with a total of 26 episodes.

In addition, the theme song is arranged in various ways. The rearranged part is mainly the prelude, but episodes 1-3 are slow versions that start with a heavy ballad. Episodes 4-11 feature a march type that starts with a slightly shocking sound. Episodes 12-21 have a completely light march type (the best known, with the Royal Knights Chorus), and the slow version is played from episodes 23-25.

Throughout the entire piece, the first part is heavy, then a little lighter, then light and joyful, and finally heavy again near the climax. The heavy version is used for both the beginning and ending. These small details are the essence of Yamato. (From The opening of Space Battleship Yamato, an anime homework assignment, by Masahiro Haraguchi, Bijutsu Techo magazine, September 2000.)

In order for Yamato to take the form of a single “movie” as a whole, the story had several pillars that followed a timeline. First, there is the element of a journey with a countdown theme, going to a destination and coming back home. Then there is the growth of the main character, Susumu Kodai, depicted throughout the journey. Then there is the drama of Captain Okita, who suffers from a mortal illness as the journey progresses, but fulfills his mission and achieves a great life. The story unfolds along these three lines.

In those days, whether anime or drama, an episode was often self-contained. But for a few exceptions, there were not many serialized dramas at that time. One reason for the popularity of self-contained episodes in the early days was the question of viewers’ patience. At that time, viewers were not yet accustomed to the weekly TV format, and there was an assumption that it was difficult for them to sustain interest over multiple episodes. As a result, most dramas were simple and easy to understand. There were few cases where foreshadowing was laid out in preceding episodes and then picked up later. It was a time when viewers were only expected to enjoy something while they were watching, and that was the pathway to a favorable audience rating.

Because this story depicts a space journey, the Earth side of the story is almost exclusively depicted on board Yamato. It centers on Susumu Kodai and Captain Okita, and depicts a variety of human characters. The ship is divided into a combat team, navigation team, engineering team, factory team, and life support team. The characters are representatives of their numerous departments. The detailed descriptions of their roles and work procedures, combined with their personalities, makes them convincing. In other words, characters stand out.

In addition, the story depicts Daisuke Shima, Shiro Sanada, Yoshikazu Aihara, Yuki Mori, Analyzer, and features episodes in which almost all of these major subcharacters play leading roles, giving depth to their characterization. According to Leiji Matsumoto, he used the Shinsengumi as a reference to create a strong ensemble drama.

On the other hand, Gamilas, the enemy side, is depicted as an organization to give the impression of a broad base. It is a military state with a president, a vice president, a galactic military division, a Solar System division (a subordinate organization, perhaps), and a Magellanic Galaxy division, which does not appear on screen. The administrative side and the organization of the military are depicted in detail.

In the decisive battle in the Rainbow Star Cluster, under the command of General Domel, there is Getto from the Ruby Front, Berger from the Sapphire Front, Kroitz from the Diamond Front, and Haidern from the Omega Front. The depiction of interstellar warfare with other star systems, probably at the Magellanic Front, fascinated the viewers.

In Star Trek, the Klingon and Romulan empires were not depicted in detail. The only character that appeared was an enemy commander whose organization was unknown. Even in Star Wars (the first movie released in 1977), the Death Star was the only Imperial military formation depicted in the film.

One of the features of Yamato is the excellent design of the battleship, which you never tire of looking at. The exterior of the old battleship Yamato was skillfully refined, and the interior was completely transformed with a unique mechanic feeling. The design of the Gamilas fleet is a complete change from the previous image of spaceships. Starsha and the other beautiful women have a unique character designs. As is well known, Leiji Matsumoto created these visual aspects.

In addition, the many mysterious celestial bodies that spread out before Yamato, from the Milky Way to the Large Magellanic Galaxy, are by no means wildly ridiculous. Throughout its run, Yamato created a visual world that had never been seen before.

The sound world created by Hiroshi Miyagawa (deceased) was another major achievement. Aside from theme songs, how many well-known pieces of background music are there in TV dramas and anime? Yamato‘s Infinitely Expanding Universe is surely at the top of the list. Many people do not know the name of this piece, but most of them know it as “aaaAAAAH~” with a female scat. Most people would probably say “I know that one.” The catchy and impressive nature of the music is part of the appeal. In this respect as well, Yamato was far ahead of other works.

Yamato is the result of the intertwining of these various elements. More than well-made entertainment, Yamato is a complete virtual world. This work was not only to be casually viewed in your living room, but also to be watched over and over again. It also created the habit of repeated viewing and enjoying derivative works.

The tie-in business of Ultraman, monster toys, and picture books was already in evidence at this time, but the Yamato series further evolved into a mixed media business, including serialization in magazines, radio dramas, and the sale of related goods spun off from the TV series.

However, Yamato didn’t become a booming business until later. At the start, the existence of what is now called “subculture” took on a clear form for the first time.

The inheritance from underground cinema to subculture

The birth of subculture was not entirely created by Space Battleship Yamato. The seeds had already been planted, and it is correct to say that Yamato was the catalyst for the birth of a new subculture when the ground was fully watered. However, in order to grasp the subculture of anime, it is necessary to go back to the cinematic expression that served as its nursery.

In the postwar period, movies were the mainstay of entertainment. However, the film industry began to decline in the 1950s. The number of moviegoers was 1.12 million in 1958. The number of films peaked at 547 in 1960, and began to decline. The main reason for this was the spread of TV.

On the other hand, in France, La Nouvelle Vague [the New Wave], an avant-garde film expression movement started by Godard, Truffaut, and others had an influence on the whole world. In Japan, a movement called the Japanese Nouvelle Vague was born, led by Nagisa Oshima, Hiroshi Teshigawara, Masahiro Shinoda, Shohei Imamura, and others. This was both a response to the trends of other countries and the feeling that Japanese films of the time were old-fashioned and boring. The new sense of visual expression, sometimes called “underground cinema,” revolutionized the cinema of the time. However, it was beyond the understanding of the upper echelons of film production companies.

Nagisa Oshima’s Night and Fog in Japan (1960) is set at a wedding reception, where political denunciations by people from the student movement are intertwined with flashbacks that serve as evidence of the denunciations. However, just four days after its release, Shochiku forced screenings to be canceled. Oshima resigned from Shochiku.

Unlike today, film directors at that time were employed by production companies to make movies. Seijun Suzuki was also popular at the time, and his independent film festival was organized by students. However, the experimental techniques used in his action film, Branded to Kill (1967), were not accepted by Nikkatsu’s upper management, and he was fired. They probably could not tolerate his increasing charisma, even though he did not make a large profit. He had a long period of misfortune, during which he supervised the anime Lupin III (the second TV series), but that would come a little later.

As a rebellion against the old film system, he joined Nagisa Oshima’s Creative Company, ATG (Art Theater Guild of Japan), giving birth to an independent production company. This provided a venue for up-and-coming filmmakers to present their experimental expressions. Among them were Akio Jissoji and Mamoru Sasaki, who later came to prominence with Ultraman (1966). However, the Nouvelle Vague was not able to revive Japanese cinema in terms of revenue. So a number of artists turned to the new media of television as a venue for their works.

In the early days of TV, the format was not yet complete in every sense of the word. Everything was yet to come. TV was basically a commercial medium that did not require artistry. The influx of talent from the underground film industry experimented with different forms. A prime example was Ultraman.

The theme of Ultraman Episode 23, Earth is Home, is a political indictment. The monster Jamila attacks only the planes and ships carrying delegates to an international peace conference in Tokyo. In the period prior to the story, a fierce space race is underway between countries. In the midst of this competition, there were sacrifices in the form of space accidents due to reckless development.

Jamila was an Earth astronaut who was lost in space and transformed into a monster in the harsh environment, then returned to Earth to take revenge on the humans who transformed him. Fearing that the peace conference will be disrupted, the Paris branch of the Special Science Task Force keeps the truth hidden and sends the Tokyo branch to exterminate Jamila. The members of the Tokyo Branch cannot hide their bewilderment at this order.

“We, too, could meet the same fate as Jamila at any moment.”

The Science Task Force and Ultraman do not represent justice and truth after all, and the episode comes to an end. The non-kaiju terrorists were eliminated for political reasons. In the end, as the national flag flies over the Peace Conference Hall, a member of the team contemplates things.

“It’s always like this for the victims. The organization goes on.”

This episode was directed by Akio Jissoji and written by Mamoru Sasaki. The first encounter between Jissoji and Sasaki was through an introduction by Nagisa Oshima. Both were young people attracted to the new wave of cinematic expression and attended Oshima’s school. When Jissoji joined Tsuburaya Productions, he invited Sasaki to join him. Incidentally, Sasaki was also known for his anti-emperor stance.

The sharp critical spirit of the Japanese Nouvelle Vague was inherited in this work in a different form. It is neither art nor popular expression, but both, giving the story a complex nuance. The name Jamila was taken from the Algerian revolutionary girl whom Simone de Beauvoir introduced in her 1965 book Djamila, the Morning is Near [alternate title: Djamila Boupacha] about an Algerian radical who was tortured by the French military in Algiers to force a confession.

And it wasn’t just Ultraman concerned with this issue. In the next work, Ultra Seven (1967) there was The Messenger of Nonmalt (Episode 42), in which it is learned that Earthlings may have been the evil that exterminated the indigenous Nonmalt people. Screenwriter Tetsuo Kinjo said that he projected his own Okinawan origin (ethnic tensions) onto this story. The antithesis to justice depicted in these works became an important motif of Japan’s subculture.

Reconstructing reality is the law of anime evolution

As is well known, full-scale Japanese TV anime began with Mighty Atom (1963). This was produced under the direction of Osamu Tezuka, the author of the original manga. Since the original author was also the director, the boundary between manga and anime was still unclear. After this, many manga-based anime series were produced, but the autonomy of anime expression began to emerge little by little.

A typical example is Star of the Giants (1968). The final episode depicts the battle between Hyuma Hoshi and Chuta Ban in the third game of big league baseball. Only three pitches are thrown to Chuta Ban, taking up one third of the episode.

It is often said that in this work, it takes time for the ball to leave the pitcher’s hand and land in the catcher’s mitt. That time passes not in seconds but in minutes by inserting images that depict emotions of the various characters in metaphor (such as lions fighting). It is a visual storytelling method that goes beyond realism.

Manga is a medium of expression in which time does not flow, but is interpreted by the reader. The manga author encourages this by creating images as suggestive as possible. By freely using the time between frames, however, the anime of Star of the Giants created extraordinary moments that are more like a stage performance than reality. In other words, an expression that does not rely on manga storytelling.

This directing technique was invented by Tadao Nagahama. He directed Super Electromagnetic Machine Voltes V (1977) and laid the foundation for robot anime, which culminated in Mobile Suit Gundam (1979). This independence from manga (rather than adapting manga content) is the barometer of the maturity, or autonomy, of anime expression.

Masaaki Osumi, who worked on the first few episodes of Lupin III (first TV series, 1971), was an avid fan of Monkey Punch. But instead of tracing the manga as it was, he thought thoroughly about what was at the core of the work. What he came up with was “apathy.” Lupin was a man who looked at things cynically, but at the bottom of his heart, he wants a momentary thrill.

At that time, the downfall of the political movement that had reached its height in the 1960s was casting a dark shadow over society in the form of a loss of ideals. On the other hand, a rebellious spirit that refused to be tamed remained in the hearts of many people. Okuma wrote in his proposal for Lupin III, “The rebellion has already begun!” (Studio Hard, Lupin III Research Report, Futabasha, 1999)

Lupin at that time was not yet the righteous man perfected by Hayao Miyazaki. He was a tough, black-hearted badass. It had a different meaning from Ultraman; it was an expression of the rebellious spirit of underground films and the Japanese Nouvelle Vague. In fact, the scriptwriter Atsushi Yamatoya directed the underground porno Dutch Wife in the Wilderness and also wrote the screenplay for Branded to Kill.

Okuma wrote in the proposal, “Young people don’t want ‘factual reproductions’!” He established his own animation realism, which was not a reproduction of manga: “(1) I will never do anything that can’t be done in live action, and (2) I want to do it in live action, but I can’t.” (Minoru Takahashi, Lupin III – The Visionary Lupin Empire, Film Art, 1995.)

For example, the common nouns “alcohol” and “car” do not appear in this work. They are all proper nouns with brand names and identifiable car models. This accumulation of precise realism makes the world convincing. Although the first Lupin III series usually overemphasized this style, the technique became the foundation for many of the later works. However, this seminal Lupin III was cancelled due to low ratings.

In terms of autonomy from manga, the achievements of Tatsunoko Productions cannot be overlooked. The company was led by Tatsuo Yoshida, who was originally a manga artist. He was the first to develop an original animated cartoon and send it out into the world. Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972) was the pinnacle of this trend. It is a socially conscious work that deals with environmental pollution. Realism is also a major point in its direction.

Berg Katze, a mutant with a half-yin, half-yang personality, carries a real women’s pistol. When Galactor Island was used as the stage, the guns were all made in Italy. Producer Ippei Kuri, in directing the work, said he aimed for an image that “looks like it could be done in live-action, even though I can’t make it that way.” (interview, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman movie DVD).

The creation of a reality unique to anime evolved with the depiction of mecha in the Yamato series. It is set in the future, so real-life mecha cannot appear. In order to create a sense of reality, the painstaking depiction of operations that partially reflects real processes makes it convincing. For example, the main gun firing process in the second episode is as follows:

“Shock cannon azimuth panel activated.”

“Interlocking device set.”

“Target space carrier, automatic main gun firing.”

“Range 20,000 meters.”

“Vertical angle 45 degrees. Ground speed 1,000 kilometers per second.”

“All guns engaged. Elevation angle from 9:00 to 9:05. Set 20 and 45. Switching to the captain.”

“We’re 0.2 seconds behind in turret three. It’s just like in training. Don’t panic.”

“Well, I’ve never handled one of these things before in my life.”

“All hands prepare for shock. Fire!”

The “shady” spirit made the subculture grow

The anime of those days was full of enthusiasm to create new expressions, and a certain kind of complex can be found among those who were involved in it.

For example, Yoshiyuki Tomino, known as the director of Mobile Suit Gundam, recalls his impression of the industry when he was about to graduate from college: “Everyone started making films and copying Mighty Atom. When Toei, which had made Legend of the White Snake did Ken the Wolf Boy, I felt nothing but disgust. Although I didn’t set out to become a filmmaker, I wondered why movies were slipping so close to TV, even if it was just for business. I had a strong feeling that I was doing something I shouldn’t.” (Complete works of Yoshiyuki Tomino, Kinema Junpo Mook, 1999.)

Tomino also chose the path of anime through a process of elimination to earn a living. Many anime creators of this period were similar. He worked on Triton of the Sea (1972) under the direction of Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki.

Incidentally, it was with Triton of the Sea that the first anime fan club was formed. Fans began to visit the voice recording studio and the production studio. The rebelliousness and enthusiasm generated by the adversity of the story captured the hearts of the young people. Fan letters to anime production companies were also sent around the same time. Devilman (1972) is said to be the first to receive them. (Asahi Journal, October 27, 1978).

With Triton, Tomino constructed a story that is reminiscent of his later works. The story concludes with the revelation that the Triton tribe, to whom the protagonist Triton belongs, were the ones who persecuted their enemies, the Poseidon tribe, who almost destroyed the Triton tribe in self-defense. This is the same antithesis to justice that existed in The Nonmalt Messenger in Ultra Seven. This was a sign of the genre maturing, and a response to the demand for deeper and more complex stories.

However, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata were making masterpieces with a straightforward approach. This was, so to speak, a change of pace. Rebellious expression was not the only way to make a masterpiece, and we can’t help but perceive the will of creators who had to persist in an industry that (at the time) was not yet in the limelight.

Keisuke Fujikawa, the scriptwriter of Yamato, also said, “I wanted to change the perception that animation is kid stuff.” (The Birth of Anime and Tokusatsu Hero, Nesco, 1998.) It was against this backdrop that Japanese subculture, which is now admired even overseas, was born.

Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, who was a well-known animation director for Gundam and storyboard artist for Yamato, later stated, “In those days, it was not about greatness or quality. There was a strange chaos of trying to pull off something weird or interesting, and having fun with it.” (Gundamists: The Men Who Created Gundam, Kodansha, 2002.)

Yamato‘s revenge began with overseas expansion

In an interview with Weekly Bunshun (September 8, 1977), Yoshinobu Nishizaki said the average viewer rating for the first Yamato broadcast was about 7%. In the August 21, 1977 issue of Weekly Myojo, the average was given as 3~4%. The liner notes of the Yamato Eternal Edition CD No. 1 indicated 6%.

This was the viewers’ response to Space Battleship Yamato, which was released in response to the emergence of a maturing subculture. In an era when a 20% anime rating was the norm, this was a loss.

The program aired on Sunday nights at 7:30 p.m. In this same time slot, Fuji TV broadcast the immortal masterpiece Girl of the Alps Heidi by Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki (for Calpis Masterpiece Theater). The TBS network was airing Monkey Army, a clear knockoff of Planet of the Apes, but it lost out to both of these.

For this reason, a 39-episode commitment (which actually started out as 51) was reduced to 26, and the program ended after six months, running from October 6, 1974 to March 30, 1975.

Lupin III (1971) had also been cancelled due to low ratings. The style of a badass playing an active and erotic role was not well-received by the client. Masaaki Okuma clashed frequently with the network and left early. His successor was Hayao Miyazaki, who, at a meeting attended by the sponsors, said, “Do children understand this kind of thing?” Although the viewer ratings improved somewhat, the average remained at 8.8%. (The Lupin III Files, Kinema Junpo, 1998.)

The story was similar to Yamato in that the competing program was Calpis Masterpiece Theater’s Andersen’s Tale. Does this mean legends repeat themselves? After that, Lupin regained popularity and sequels were made, very similar to Yamato. But Yamato still scored below the legendarily low ratings of Lupin III.

Okuma once cited three reasons for Lupin III‘s low ratings: “It was aimed at a slightly higher audience, the fact that we tried something new, and that it didn’t appeal to the audience.” And, as someone else pointed out in later years, “The reason for the high ratings of Lupin III (the sequel) was, oddly enough, exactly the same thing.” (The Lupin III Files, Kinema Junpo, 1998.)

This would also apply to Yamato. Although the audience it aimed for was not as high, the target age was mid-teenagers, which was high for the anime of the time. The frequent use of sci-fi and weapons terminology is a good indicator of this. Of course, the expressions were full of novelty, as we have seen.

Yamato did not try to flatter its audience. The first episode was intentionally “under-explained,” and though the decaying battleship Yamato appears, the space battleship does not. Even in the Gundam series, the main mecha does not appear in the first episode of Turn A Gundam (1999). It is said that the author tried to do the same in V Gundam (1993), but was opposed.

There were three Yamato episodes in which battle scenes did not appear at all, even though the story was about battle action. However, those three elements that were not accepted were later turned into positive factors.

Yoshinobu Nishizaki began to search for a way to revive Yamato after it was cancelled, pursuing both foreign and a domestic versions of a feature film. One of the driving forces was the support of his fans. Nishizaki saw the fans of Triton and Yamato visiting the studio, and he was impressed by their enthusiasm. He was probably more aware than anyone of the fact that anime was maturing as a genre.

Some fans even flew in from as far away as Kyushu. (Thirty-six years ago, flying was an unthinkable luxury.) At the time of the final voice recording, as many as 40 fans packed into the studio, making it like a public recording. Nishizaki must have had a premonition of the times, that he could turn this excitement into a new business.

The staff shared the same feeling. After the broadcast, Scriptwriter Keisuke Fujikawa said, “Our work was absolutely not wrong. I’m sure it will be reevaluated as time goes by. We should compile what we did for the broadcast, revise the parts that didn’t connect well, and release it as a movie.” (The Birth of Anime and Tokusatsu Hero, Nesco, 1998.)

Nishizaki’s devotion to his work was extraordinary. He took a gamble on the revival of Yamato by first reorganizing part of it [the Rainbow Star Cluster battle] into a medium-length film of about 40 minutes for film rentals. These activities became a grass-roots movement that would later become a foothold for the boom. Concurrently, reruns of Yamato triggered the formation of the fandom.

The production of Yamato was very elaborate, with complex mecha design and a vast amount of drawings, so it was also very costly to make. In the end, the debt could not be recovered, and the company was left with a huge deficit. Nishizaki repaid the debt with the profits from separate business [early merchandising of other IP, such as calendars], and the revitalization project proceeded.

This reckless behavior without regard for profitability was possible only because Nishizaki was not a corporate employee belonging to a company, but an independent producer. If Yamato had been produced by a company with a solid foundation, it would not have been made into a movie, and the anime boom would have taken longer to blossom. Furthermore, Nishizaki was originally from the music field, not steeped in the sensibilities of the anime industry.

The first target of the revival project was overseas. In the October 1, 1975 issue of the anime magazine Fantoche, it was reported that a two-hour film was planned for “overseas export sales,” and that the work had already been completed. Storyboards for the new shots were included, and it seems that the film had already been completed to some extent by this time. [Translator’s note: the author is misremembering the magazine, referring instead to Fantoche #7, published in August 1977. See it here.]

Based on an English script, voices were recorded in October 1976 using Hollywood voice actors. After its completion, the film was screened at the market division of the Cannes Film Festival in April 1977. There, films were voluntarily exhibited and business transactions took place, separate from evaluating the artistic merits of films. It is said that about five countries were represented at the market.

Newspaper articles and ad campaigns emphasized the importance of the Cannes Film Festival, but this was a sales strategy, and it should be discounted in light of the background circumstances.

Incidentally, Farewell to Yamato, Lupin III, and Voltes V were also entered from Japan in the market division in 1979. In other words, it was not that uncommon. However, in the end, the films were distributed in more than 20 countries including America and Europ, a great accomplishment!

Nishizaki asked Toshio Masuda to direct the film and supervise the entire composition. He had originally planned to be deeply involved in the production of the TV series, but due to other commitments, he was only able to attend a few meetings. The domestic version was two hours and ten minutes long, while the international version, Space Cruiser Yamato, was only one hour and 38 minutes. The title was changed to Star Blazers when the TV version was broadcast in the United States in 1979.

In the movie, Captain Okita remains the same, but other names were changed, such as Susumu Kodai becoming Jason, and Gamilas was replaced by Gorgon. Everything was renamed in the TV show, and Yamato was now Argo. It was mainly distributed overseas in the Star Blazers form, so it gets a bit confusing.

Kadokawa Pictures and Yamato the Movie: the battle of the newcomers in the movie world

Space Battleship Yamato was revived by reruns. After the first run, it was rebroadcast three times in evening slots. The response was so favorable that the dismal performance of the original broadcast was erased with viewership ratings of over 20%. The number of fan clubs was rapidly increasing. As of July 1977, there were an estimated 2,000 groups with 30,000 members. The majority were junior high school and college students, and surprisingly, 70% of them were female.

For the domestic version of the movie, Yoshinobu Nishizaki approached film companies with plans, but was continually rebuffed. Eventually, he was prepared to rent out a venue for a limited screening of the film for fans.

Finally, resigned to withdrawing from anime production, he took the project to the entertainment company Tokyu Recreation. After the holiday week of May 1977, Suzuo Horie, the general manager of the company, saw a preview screening of Yamato and liked it. Two days later, he informed Nishizaki of the distribution decision. The film would be screened at four theaters in Tokyo.

At that time, all the affiliated processes of film production, distribution, and exhibition were controlled by single companies, so it was very rare for an independent producer to make and release a film to the public. As a result, this was a major breakthrough in the practice of the time.

For publicity, Horie hired Masaya Tokuyama of Major Enterprise. Although Nishizaki later became known for his flamboyant publicity stunts, it seemed that Horie and Tokuyama took the lead in the promotion of this film. With a limited advertising budget, Nishizaki promoted the formation of a fan club in Sports Nippon [newspaper] and radio stations were bombarded with requests for the theme song. A press conference was held for the mass media in June, an extremely rare event for anime films at that time.

Yukio Shiraishi of Major Enterprise, who was in charge of publicity, seemed to be troubled by the prejudice of the mass media. He said, “The media called us to inquire about the film, and as soon as I said it was animated, they would hang up. There were a lot of cases like that, so I was very anxious.” (Heibon Punch magazine, September 19, 1977.)

However, some media were beginning to stir in response to the movement. The culture magazine OUT (Minori Shobo) ran a major feature in its second issue. This turned into a blockbuster, and was the catalyst for the magazine’s shift to anime coverage. The Hochi Shimbun [newspaper] carried large-format articles on June 11 and July 31, and Sports Nippon did the same on July 21. Both described the success of the reruns and the overseas sales of the film.

Advance sales of the film reached a record 100,000 tickets, probably due to the success of a strategy that focused on fans. Fans were given free posters and encouraged to put them up in public places. Two posters were given with each advance ticket for posting on the streets. In other words, 200,000 posters were independently distributed.

The film was released on August 6, 1977. The night before the opening, 30 to 60 people lined up all night long at each of the four theaters in Tokyo. In Shibuya, the all-night queue grew to 500 people. Some of them had lined up two days in advance. It could be said that the bonus gift of animation cells, limited to 700 people on opening day, spurred the line. Fans flocked to see the film on the first trains of the morning. Two more theaters were added to the Shibuya lineup and one to the Shinjuku lineup. Screening times were instantly moved up. In the end, the film grossed ¥2.1 billion at the box office, and the media declared this the Yamato Boom.

There were several reasons for the Yamato Boom: the excellence of Yamato as a film, the maturation of the anime market, and the SF movie boom that started with Star Wars. The following year, Yamato attracted attention as a topic linked to Star Wars being released in Japan. However, since Star Wars was released on May 25, 1977 in the US, it did not influence the release of Yamato, which had already been decided. It was only a supplementary tailwind for the campaign, along with other factors.

Furthermore, the changes that were taking place in the Japanese film industry at that time cannot be overlooked. In the first half of the 1970s, Japanese cinema had been in a noticeable declining trend, but in 1976, an event occurred that broke the stagnation. It started with The Inugami Clan, a new movie by Haruki Kadokawa, known as the head of Kadokawa Pictures. (See the complete film with subtitles here.)

The strategy of Kadokawa Pictures can be seen as the prototype for the successful method of the Yamato movie. First of all, it was Kadokawa Pictures that perfectly broke through the previously mentioned process from production to box office.

The filming of Proof of Humanity was done by Nikkatsu Studios, while distribution and advertising were handled by Toei and the box office was run by Toho Yo-ei. The film industry’s own sense of crisis ultimately allowed Kadokawa’s decision to break its customs. This precedent was a major factor in the success of the Yamato movie. Kadokawa made full use of its own network to mobilize a large number of advance sales, just like Yamato.

Toshiyuki Matsushima (a journalist for the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper’s arts and culture department) refers to the pro-independence movement of Nagisa Oshima and others that occurred in the 1960s as a rebellion. If rebellion = independence, then Kadokawa’s films were the rebellion of the audience. (Ten Years of Kadokawa Pictures, Scenario, July 1985.)

It’s about providing what the audience wants, not what the industry wants.

Kadokawa’s soundtracks were also highly acclaimed, putting a spotlight on the existence of film music. The same is true of the attention anime music has received since Yamato was released. These are similarities between Kadokawa Pictures and Yamato.

Haruki Kadokawa and Yoshinobu Nishizaki also seem to have something in common; both lived lives marked by controversy and criticism, and at one time they announced a joint production of the film Dirty Hero [though Nishizaki would later withdraw]. The similarities between them were pointed out in the film world at the time, including their sensational campaigns.

Anyway, in the summer of 1977, Yamato became the darling of the times.

NEXT CHAPTER: Who is the Author of Yamato?

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