Making The Director’s Cut

If one compares “modern” Yamato history with “classic” Yamato history, parallels begin to emerge. In this case, an interesting coincidence occurred with two consecutive feature films. The 26-year gap between them is just a detail.

Shortly after Final Yamato arrived in theaters March 19, 1983, Executive Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki decided the film would be hauled back into the shop for a redo. Production had pushed too close to the deadline and some of the remaining work had to be abandoned. The entire epilogue, for example, was only slightly better than a rough cut, and after seeing it on screen Nishizaki famously ordered it deleted from all future screenings after opening morning.

The end result of this was the 70mm version of the movie, released 8 months later and preserved for all time on home video. With many scenes repaired and restored, it was a Director’s Cut in every sense of the word, we just didn’t have that term yet.

Flash forward to November, 2009: a special preview of Yamato Resurrection is shown to a lucky audience of fans. Yamato‘s crew goes all out and claims victory in what would later be called the “Defy Fate” ending. Hands bang together, lights come up, and Yoshinobu Nishizaki walks out on stage. He asks everyone to stay in their seat, because there’s another ending for them to watch.

This one is very different. It’s referred to as the “Accept Fate” ending, and you can probably guess how it goes based on that term alone. Again, the lights come up and now these fans have a job to do: vote on which ending they prefer.

The film premieres on December 12 with the “Defy Fate” ending, and shortly after that Nishizaki hauls it back into the shop for a redo. Rumors of a Director’s Cut begin circulating in the fan community, and just a couple months later the official word is given. There will be a Director’s Cut, and it will feature the “Accept Fate” ending, among other things.

For the rest of 2010, little is said. Finally, the Resurrection Complete Box is released on October 30 with an art book containing the first printed words on the project, in what would turn out to be the last-ever interview with its creator.

Yoshinobu Nishizaki Special Interview (Fall 2010)

Interviewer: What kind of SF films do you like?

Nishizaki: Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 a Space Odyssey was good. It is very intelligent and has excellent visuals. Its theme of a computer revolt is still contemporary, and depicting the next evolution of human beings was very philosophical. That movie is wonderful.

Interviewer: How is Star Wars?

Nishizaki: It is said that it imitates Yamato in some places. That doesn’t really matter, but the theme and the story feel thin to me. Although it is well-made for Hollywood entertainment, I don’t understand very well the point it tries to convey. It’s a big hit and popular with fans, but it doesn’t really grab me.

Interviewer: Do you have any other favorite SF films?

Nishizaki: I like Blade Runner. The underworld is completely covered by a dark atmosphere with a mingling of insanity, despair, and hope. The sorrow of the replicants is a common theme in the world of SF, and the image is very well-presented. Many SF works handle the sorrow of robots and androids, but the movie’s unique view of the world prevents it from falling into a rut. It gives a mysterious impression, I like it.

Interviewer: In Anime?

Nishizaki: Anime? As the person who made Yamato, it’s hard for me to criticize and forgive other works. I take pride in Yamato being the first.

Interviewer: Of course, pardon me. What are your feelings about the new live-action Yamato movie?

Nishizaki: Ah, it’s complicated. It’s a great feeling to see the challenge of live-action film being met, but as expected the question is whether or not the world of Yamato will be faithfully reproduced. Because I wanted to produce a live-action version with Hollywood someday, I OK’d it, but I wavered considerably. I want it to be good and I think a lot of people want to convey the appeal of Yamato. I also think it’s good for Yamato to be remade by a variety of filmmakers with sensitivity.

Interviewer: Do you still have the intention to make Yamato with Hollywood?

Nishizaki: Actually, Disney approached me to buy Yamato. The conditions were very good. Who was to be in the leading role? He was quite an important star. But I declined it then, since I still had a commitment to anime. [Editor’s note: this statement doesn’t quite square with actual history, but memory seldom does.] However, the recent trend in Hollywood is for a popular childrens’ anime to be remade with adult sensibilities. I understand that feeling, too. Yamato was also popular in America as Star Blazers. I think I’d like to make a Hollywood masterpiece.

Interviewer: It is said that a few offers have come in already.

Nishizaki: It looks like it. I am considering some now. However, since I don’t want to sell the original to Hollywood and leave all the production to Hollywood, I’m still thinking about it. I would certainly like to do it, and if it comes together I will announce it by all means.

Interviewer: It’s been heard that you are making a Director’s Cut of Yamato Resurrection.

Nishizaki: Yes, production has started. Usually a Director’s Cut restores scenes that were thrown away, and it’s just a different edit from what appeared previously. I am editing and creating new scenes. The circumstances of showing it in a movie theater lead to various situations, such as working with sponsors and constraining the running time. I’m making this Director’s Cut as I want it to be. I’m looking forward to it myself.

Interviewer: Fans are expecting a sequel to Resurrection.

Nishizaki: It will have to be made. There is already a plot in my head. I think it would be great if I could make a production announcement by the end of the year, but I have to finish the Director’s Cut first.

Interviewer: What kind of story will it be?

Nishizaki: I’m not able to say right now. But naturally, it would have to be about Kodai looking for his missing wife Yuki. But I think it can’t just be about that, it would have to be a strong human story. It would have to convey several things strongly with Yamatoism.

Interviewer: What does it mean for you to have made Yamato Resurrection after an interval of 30 years?

Nishizaki: After having made Yamato for all these years, perhaps I wanted to acknowledge what all the fans conveyed to me, and for this to be a new step into the future. Yamato became a work that was supported by the fans and demanded by the times.

Just 8 days after these words were published, the death of Yoshinobu Nishizaki hit Yamato fandom like a ton of bricks. Enagio Studio made this announcement via the Yamato Crew website:

On November 7, 2010, Space Battleship Yamato author and producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki died suddenly by an unexpected accident. We assume the will of the deceased and are committed to the continued creative development of Space Battleship Yamato, which is loved by all of you. We sincerely appreciate the kindness everyone extended to the deceased during his lifetime.

Enagio Inc.
CEO Shouji Nishizaki
Yamato Crew Executive Office

The next part of the story came several months later, after it was formally announced that the Resurrection Director’s Cut was back in production. The obligation to go forward had been set when the Complete Box was published; it included a promissory letter to all purchasers that they would be offered a complimentary ticket to see the film in a private screening. Details would follow when that time approached.

This is where Makoto Kobayashi comes in. As the chief mecha designer and assistant director of Resurrection, he had a major role to play in the project, and occasional production notes popped up on his blog throughout the first half of 2011. Finally, he announced the completion in early summer and gave the world its first look at the film in his art magazine Hyperweapon on June 23.

18 of its large-format pages were lavishly illustrated with production designs, lead by this text:

Makoto Kobayashi’s introduction to Resurrection Director’s Cut

Director Yoshinobu Nishizaki left us in the afternoon of November 7, 2010 in the waters of Tokyo Bay near Chichi-jima in the Ogasawara Islands.

That’s all I’m going to say on the matter. Except for my thoughts when I heard the news. In the end, it had been a bitter parting.

Resurrection, the Director’s Cut.

Even though several important plot points have been taken care of with editing, finally Yamato is confronted by a sequence worthy of the sense of expectation that the ship will reach out a helping hand in any impossible situation. Now, the music and sound effects are arranged in order to keep the feelings of the climax from seeming like a farce.

[Talking about the 2009 release:] The production staff were all fighting the enemy of approaching deadlines to somehow visualize the ideal that had been imagined.

Even after it had been finished, the director showed the film to several people, modifying all sorts of parts they pointed out. There was a sense of nervousness, but this is the sort of thing that other directors do, so conversely it felt just like the sort of thing a director should do. Up until the preview screening at the Tokyo National Forum, we on the main staff waited in the studio for changes to be replaced.

This is the work of a new director. The intention was to reflect that feeling in the collaboration as a whole. If you ask me, there are no missing scenes to be restored in the Director’s Cut. Besides that, I didn’t feel it was necessary. Thus the bitter parting.

The “Deluxe Book” in The Complete Box (available now) collects all the model sheets and Resurrection items, and we’d go over the illustrations, arguing over the phone about the aesthetic sense of the Director’s Cut.

“I want to connect these to the three segments we did in the initial planning work. Please understand!”

That was our last conversation. Later I got the word that all newly-written contributions would be postponed.

I was thinking about the idea of a sequel to Resurrection. The illustration I drew for the disc packaging reflected this intention. On the front of the package is a picture of the “past” Yamato, being rebuilt so as to achieve Resurrection. And on the back of the package is an image of Resurrection‘s “future,” with a shot from the climactic third act. However, it was intended as an image that was cut from the screened version of Resurrection.

Earth’s disappearance. This is the Director’s Cut.

Since the director chose the Earth disappearing as the ending, this was required. Although the original plan for Earth to disappear was certainly a shocking situation, we had to add some element of hope to it. This element of “hope” would not disturb the overall flow.

Conversely, it was also difficult because too strong an image would fuel a great sense of craving. Even if a sequel is realized, it would be several years away. So it had to be a hope that wouldn’t be too strong until we reached that point.

I’ve heard the opinion of many Yamato fans. For those who watched Resurrection, what would another film they’d find “acceptable” be like?

There is also the issue of the budget. There are also time restrictions. I wondered, “could I accomplish the will of the director, based on those?”

I traced my memory back to the time when the story of Resurrection was born in 1993. It was found. I report it here.

-Makoto Kobayashi, A.K.A. MK2520

Better known for his meticulous artwork than the clarity of his writing, Kobayashi described in that introduction an intense period of second-guessing. The overall plan for the revision of the film had been made prior to Nishizaki’s untimely death, but the realization of that plan fell to others. The “Accept Fate” ending was now in their hands, and rather than accept fate themselves, they decided to take it farther than the version screened for fans in November 2009.

After all, if Resurrection ever got a sequel, they would pick up their work exactly where this film left off. With no guarantee of that ever happening, however, they didn’t want to take it TOO far. A tricky proposition, indeed.

Nevertheless, the Director’s Cut got made. The limited-edition program book that accompanied its January 2012 release picked up the narrative begun in Hyperweapon and explained how everyone got it over the finish line…

Comments on the Director’s Cut

Shoji Nishizaki
Executive Producer

Space Battleship Yamato was born, and 37 years later on November 7, Yoshinobu Nishizaki, the original author who was its parent, died by an unexpected accident. I inherited the will of the deceased and completed the Yamato Resurrection Director’s Cut, which he was managing while still alive. The content of this work positions it more strongly than before as part 1 of a trilogy, and increases the sense of anticipation for a sequel. The theme he wanted to present with the Resurrection trilogy was, “how much can we do to show our love,” from Yamato and its crew to the Earth and its people. I pass along his thought to all of you fans, completing it with the thought that I would like to you to be satisfied. Please enjoy it to the fullest.

Makoto Kobayashi
Acting Director

From 1993 up to our last telephone conversation, his words repeated.

“Don’t make it superficial. Give it the part that’s closest to its true self. Give it feeling.”

I could grasp what it was he was trying to say.

On the night of December 27, 2010, after numerous scenes had been altered and revived, Mr. Habara agreed to add the last part as a bonus. On December 28, I was formally asked by Enagio to take the lead on behalf of Director Nishizaki and I consented. And in 2012, the completed film was shown. The “feeling” of the director of Resurrection became unified with the “feeling” of the staff. This Director’s Cut is the result.

Nobuyoshi Habara
Animation Director

Although I was credited for mechanic direction in the 2009 version of Resurrection, I was actually responsible for image boards, storyboards, animation, etc. With regard to storyboards, the scenes were created under the direction of Director Nishizaki as well as a variety of mecha. I talked about many things with the director and through this I was able to get a feel for the movie. The new version was carried out to express the director’s feelings directly.

Scenes were cut and rewritten at the time of the original release. Many picture details were modified by [character designer] Mr. Tomonaga, and given greater density. Minute CG scenes were also added.

With respect to the sound side, although the sound effects added to the film were appropriate for a real movie, we chose the sounds of the original productions as an alternative. I think it is a good match, and it’s good to enjoy the differences with the 2009 version.

Tomohiro Yoshida
Sound Supervisor

About six months after the theatrical release of Resurrection, Director Nishizaki decided he would like to carry out a renewal version with the disappearance of Earth, and there was a request for me to cooperate again. From the time of the first version, Mr. Nishizaki wanted to end it with the disappearance of Earth, and since I had the same feeling I participated with pleasure.

Although I had several sound meetings with Mr. Nishizaki, he was struck by an accident and he unfortunately passed away. Production was halted for this reason, but we inherited his last wish to complete it for the fans, and we started again.

As for the music, I was presented with a different plan from the initial version of Resurrection. The tempo and configuration of the picture had been finely adjusted, and it was the thought of both Mr. Nishizaki and [original sound supervisor] Atsumi Tashiro, who also passed away, to reconfigure the music based on the point of view of a Yamato fan. The “Earth survives” version used many classical tracks, but this time the soundtrack would be based on the original BGM by both conductors Miyagawa and Haneda. It was rearranged by Kosuke Yamashita, the apprentice of Mr. Haneda.

Further fan service was granted to Yamato fans by the use of sound effects by Mitsuru Kashiwabara. I was charged with adding these effects under his supervision and unified them with the overall integrity of the sounds by Mr. Kawada of Suwara Productions. Because they can experience many familiar sound effects, I think the traditional Yamato fans will enjoy it.

I only wanted to work on this Director’s Cut if it was treated as a definitive edition of Resurrection. It was done by the all-out effort of the staff, and we will be pleased if it is thought of in the way that Farewell to Yamato differs from the end of Yamato 2. We hope that although both works have their pros and cons, they will be loved for a long time.

The restoration of scenes that were cut the first time, the addition of new scenes, the renewal of images, the revision of timing by re-editing, new voice recording, the reconfigured music, and the sound effect base of Mr. Kashiwabara. All these elements were done to refresh the Director’s Cut beyond the disappearance-of-Earth ending. I hope you will enjoy Yamato Resurrection after it was resurrected from the theatrical release of two years ago.

The End

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support

Click here to read our interview with Makoto Kobayashi about the making of the film

Click here to continue to our overview of the Director’s Cut

Most of the art on this page is from the limited-edition Director’s Cut program book. Click here to see it from cover to cover.

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