From issue 14 of the Star Blazers/Yamato Fan Club magazine (April 2022): very rare interviews with Sasha’s voice actor Keiko Han and singer Mitsuko Horie. Both cite their Yamato experience as a career-changer, and both recount remarkably similar moments from the recording booth.
Interview with actor/voice actor Keiko Han
The “bond” between Sasha and I, who ran through our youth together
For long-time Yamato fans, one of the most surprising features of 2205 was the special appearance of Keiko Han, the voice actress who played Sasha in Be Forever Yamato. We asked her how she decided to appear in 2205 and how she feels about Sasha, who she says is still a special person in her life.
Actor, voice actor, writer. Born April 5 in Tokyo. She started her career as a voice actor under the guidance of Kenji Utsumi and Michiko Nomura. Her Yamato credits include Momoya Kurata (Yamato 2), Princess Ruda (Yamato III), and Sasha (Be Forever). Other notable roles include Lalah Sune (Mobile Suit Gundam), Yayoi Yukino/La Andromeda Promecium (Queen Millennium), and Becky in Tom Sawyer.
Why I turned down the role of Yuki Kodai in Yamato Resurrection
Interviewer: Yamato 2205, The New Voyage is your first theatrical film in the Yamato series in 40 years, since Be Forever Yamato in 1980. How did you decide to participate in the film?
Han: Actually, I was invited to participate in the Yamato series before 2205. I remember hearing that Koichi Yamadera was going to play the role of Kodai in that film.
Interviewer: He was cast as Susumu Kodai in Yamato Resurrection.
Han: I turned it down at the time. I wanted to cherish the image of the character I played. Of course, I am an actor, so I play various roles. But I don’t want to do anything that would spoil the image of the characters I have played in the past. Especially Sasha, who I played in Be Forever. I have a strong attachment to her.
Interviewer: I see. I understand your feelings very well.
Han: That’s why I initially declined to work on 2205. I knew that Harutoshi Fukui was aware that I’ve been turning down Yamato offers since Be Forever…
Interviewer: And despite cherishing the character of Sasha so much, you decided to take the offer in the end. Is that because you were moved by Mr. Fukui’s enthusiasm?
Han: I was very happy that he understood the importance I attached to Sasha, and he informed me that the remake series is a different story from the original, and that I would be playing a different role.
Interviewer: I was very surprised when I heard your voice in 2205. However, it is a completely different role from Sasha, so I didn’t feel any of the discomfort you were worried about. Did you have any direction from Mr. Fukui or his staff regarding your technique?
Han: Mr. Fukui explained, “This time you’re playing a kind of computer.” So, I should be conscious of speaking like a computer. I’m the type of person who likes to express my emotions in my speech, but after the first take I was told, “Suppress your emotions with high pressure and keep it cool.” (Laughs) When I was younger, I had a hard time playing high-pressure roles, even when I played Queen Beryl in Sailor Moon. I had a lot of trouble with it. Recently, I’ve felt that this weakness has finally decreased. I don’t know if I was able to play the role that well this time, though. Please ask Mr. Fukui about that. (Laughs)
The miracle of Sasha’s presence that overlapped with my own circumstances at that time
Interviewer: As mentioned earlier, Sasha of Be Forever is a very special person for you. What are your memorable moments from that time?
Han: The main reason Sasha is so special to me is that she overlaps with my own circumstances at the time I played her. I left my parents’ house when I decided to become an actress in earnest, to make time for myself and to take responsibility for myself. It was truly a “Parting.” My mother was so angry with me that we were out of contact for years. Be Forever was recorded around that time.
Interviewer: In a sense, Sasha’s lonely situation synced with your own.
Han: In the middle of the story, there’s a scene where Sasha decides to stay on the home planet of the Dark Nebula Empire and calls out, “Mother” to Starsha in the sky. At that moment, I forgot all about performing and couldn’t stop crying. I actually had a line to say after that, but I couldn’t continue. And I was like, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” The door of the studio opened and the staff rushed in. I thought it was NG (a bad take) but they said, “That’s good, we’ll keep it that way. We’ll change the picture and it’ll be fine.” That’s why the scene ended after I said the line.
Interviewer: That’s a great moment!
Han: I was really grateful for that. At that moment, I was literally Sasha. Young, fearless, and determined. Just like I was back then. That’s why I was able to perform so naturally. I think she still has a special place in my heart.
Yamato will “be forever” in people’s hearts
Interviewer: What does the Yamato series mean to you?
Han: Today’s world has become so convenient that people can get anything they want as long as they have enough money. However, things that you acquire that way will eventually disappear. Things are always broken and lost. But works of art are different, aren’t they? If it is a great work of art, it will live on in people’s hearts forever.
When I met an astronaut in the USA, he told me that Space Battleship Yamato had inspired him to dream of working in space. He also remembered that I had played the role of Sasha. It is truly an honor. Yamato is a work that gives hopes and dreams to people all over the world. It is truly a blessing for me and for all of us to be involved in such a wonderful work.
Interviewer: Thank you very much! Lastly, please give a message to the fans who read this magazine.
Han: I sincerely believe that I am where I am today because I was able to participate in Be Forever Yamato. It is thanks to Yamato that I am able to speak to you all through this magazine. I hope I can continue to weave such happy encounters and bonds with you. That’s what “Be Forever” is all about. (Laughs)
Keiko Han’s Yamato roles:
Be Forever Yamato
See Keiko Han’s MASSIVE credit list at Anime News Network here
Singer/Voice Actor Mitsuko Horie interview
The encounter with Parting was a turning point in my life as a singer.
The song Parting was used effectively in Yamato 2205, for the climax scene depicting the farewell to Iscandar and a comrade-in-arms. It was originally an ending song for Yamato III. Many fans must have been moved to tears by Mitsuko Horie’s singing at the time. We asked Ms. Horie about her thoughts on Parting, which she herself says is “the song that changed my life as a singer.”
Mitsuko Horie debuted as an animation singer in 1969. Candy Candy was a big hit for her, selling over one million copies, and won many awards. She is still active at the forefront of the anison [anime song] world, expanding her activities overseas as well. Other than the Yamato song, her representative songs are Song of Voltes V, Poem of a Baseball Fanatic, New Moon ni Koishite, and many more. In 2021, she performed Zenkai Gohtai! Juragaon as a duet with Isao Sasaki, which attracted a great deal of attention.
I ran to the bathroom and cried
Interviewer: The ending theme Parting from Yamato III was used in 2205 in its original form. In addition, you also sang the song Face in the Stars from Be Forever Yamato. Both of these songs were written in 1980, but do you remember any moments from the time of recording?
Horie: At that time, I had a few hit songs, such as the theme song for Candy Candy, which brought me into the limelight as a singer. As some of you may remember, my character at that time was a cheerful, bright and lively girl. Many of the songs I sang were adventurous or robot themes. That’s why I wasn’t sure about singing Face in the Stars and Parting. I was a bit confused and hesitant.
Interviewer: Certainly, your image and the world of Yamato might have felt far apart at the time.
Horie: To begin with, the women in Yamato, such as Starsha and Mori Yuki, are not even similar to me, visually speaking. (Laughs) I wondered if I could really express in my songs the image of translucent women that I myself admire. I was worried. When singing anison, the most important thing is imagination. I use my imagination to grasp the world of the work and express it in a way that everyone can understand. But at the time, I was inexperienced. I didn’t have the confidence to make the world of Yamato and the image of Yamato‘s women my own.
Interviewer: Did you have a hard time in the recording process?
Horie: I can say now that I cried in the bathroom during the recording of both songs. I was frustrated that my ability to express myself was not up to the level of the songs I had been given. Every time we took a break, I would run to the bathroom and cry. My voice became hoarse and I couldn’t sing as well as I should have. (Laughs) But the recording was a great success. Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki, and Hiroshi Miyagawa were present during the recording, and were very kind. They told me, “It’s very good.” I wasn’t convinced because the songs were so far from my ideal, but they said, “That’s what made it the way it is.”
Interviewer: Perhaps it was because your anguish at the time bled into the song, and created the kind of emotion that the production team was looking for.
Horie: What I learned at that time was very significant. Until then, all I could think about was singing to the best of my ability. But that’s not always the right answer. I learned for the first time that even if my voice is only at 50%, if I put my heart into it, it can be a “good song” for the listeners.
Interviewer: So Face in the Stars and Parting were major turning points for you as a singer.
Horie: I can say this now, I was not satisfied with the recording. However, when it was released, it was very well received by fans. The reaction was surprising to me. That’s when I realized, “What I think is good is not always good.” that’s what I learned through Yamato, and since then I am now able to look at my songs objectively.
The charm of the “original” was born through suffering
Interviewer: When you say you’re not satisfied with the recording, do you mean you’re confident that you can sing them better now than you did back then?
Horie: Of course I can. I can probably sing them better now. However, I don’t think I could sing the same way I was feeling at that time. To be honest, those songs are bittersweet works that I created through suffering. My immaturity and the anguish I felt at the time are expressed in the songs, and I hope that the people who listen to them will think, “That’s a good song.”
Interviewer: After hearing what you said, it feels significant that the original recording for Parting was used in 2205 rather than a new version, because it was sung with your feelings at that time. I think that’s why the song touched the hearts of Yamato fans.
Horie: I’m sure the staff of 2205 also cared about that. But I couldn’t be happier if both the fans of the original series and those who hear Parting for the first time in this work think it’s a good song.
With gratitude to Yamato for expanding my world view as a singer
Interviewer: As a side note, I would like to mention that you also did a cover of Galaxy Legend, sung by Hiromi Iwasaki. Do you remember it?
Horie: Of course I do! I can say this now, singing Galaxy Legend was a lot of fun. I was able to sing it with more spontaneity than Face in the Stars and Parting, which I suffered through. Even listening to it now, I think I sing it well. (Laughs)
Interviewer: (Laughs) What kind of work is Yamato for you?
Horie: As I mentioned earlier, it was a work that expanded my ability to express myself as an anime song artist, and expand my worldview. There had been anime with space as a theme, but this was so magnificent. I was happy to encounter a work that expressed such deep human emotions and ways of life. I think it was a blessing for me.
Interviewer: Finally, please give a message to the readers of Yamato magazine.
Horie: First of all, thank you for listening to Parting through 2205. As long as I continue to be a singer, I will continue to sing Parting and Face in the Stars. Of course, I can’t sing them like I did back then, but I hope I can express myself with my current feelings. I hope you’ll look forward to it.
Face in the Stars
B-side on the Pendant of Stars single, 1980
Listen to it here
B-side on the Yamato III OP/ED single, 1980
Listen to it here
Mitsuko Horie’s cover of Galaxy Legend can be heard on the Eternal Edition CD Yamato The Best II
Listen to her solo album Ready Madonna (1982) here
See her long list of credits at Anime News Network here