Vintage Report 6: September 1977

As summer gave way to fall, Yamato‘s fortunes just kept on climbing. The initial theatrical engagements ended just before September started, but far more theaters were picking the movie up than were letting it go. 33 more in September, and 39 in October, an unprecedented increase in demand. Media attention widened and deepened as it became increasingly obvious that Yamato had evolved from fad to phenom and was here to stay.

This new flyer preceded the film wherever it went, upgraded from the summer version to include the actual one-sheet on the front. The back was mainly the same except for the bottom portion, where promotion for novels and the LP record was replaced by new ads for an official Yamato fan club and a 1978 Yamato calendar.

For a mere 1600 yen a year, charter fan club members were promised priority information, the lending of production materials (art, cels, etc.), priority access to events, and discounts on merch. It was also indicated that membership cards and an official magazine were in the works. (The first issue would be published the following February.)

With that offer pointing the way to an even brighter future, here’s what kept fans excited in the film’s gigantic wake…

September 1: Eiga Fan magazine, October issue

There wasn’t a lot of Yamato content in this issue of Eiga Fan, but enough to represent what was probably happening in a lot of similar entertainment magazines: a brief movie listing (above) and a short review of the one Yamato record album that was available at the time…

Space Battleship Yamato
Animation. Toshio Masuda, Director. Voices: Goro Naya, Kei Tomiyama, Hideo Nakamura. In the year 2199, young space fighters stand determined at a time of extinction for all of mankind on earth. The film depicts the roman[ce] of men in the expanse of space. This is a space animation film that has exploded in popularity among young people. (Courtesy of Academy, premiered August 6)

Eiga Fan LP Recommendations

A: Recommended
B: You want to hear it
C: Only if you want to pick it up
D: Depends on your taste
E: If you like this sort of thing

Space Battleship Yamato

This record is released by Columbia. The composer/arranger is Hiroshi Miyagawa. It is not a music record, but more of a total soundtrack disc. It includes lines by all the characters: Juzo Okita (Goro Naya), Susumu Kodai (Kei Tomiyama), Mamoru Kodai (Taichiro Hirokawa), Starsha (Michiko Hirai), Narrator (Horo Kimura), along with sound effects (Mitsuru Kashiwabara), and a full sound mix (Atsushi Tashiro), captured in monaural from the movie. Of course, it has a shorter run time.

The drawback is that the scenes aren’t very clear if you haven’t seen the movie, but it is a must-have album for enthusiastic Yamato fans. Two of the songs are included, Space Battleship Yamato and The Scarlet Scarf. With a gorgeous jacket, this record has a heavy feeling like a battleship.

September 1: Roadshow magazine, October issue

Roadshow was pretty much at the top of the heap in terms of movie coverage, a large-format monthly magazine that was mainly devoted to American films and American movie stars. It took a lot for a Japanese-made film to get an invitation to the party, but it happened in this issue with a glowing review of Yamato, beginning a long-term relationship that would lead to a LOT more coverage and a series of books over the next few years.

Read the article here

September 1: Eureka magazine

As a monthly digest for poetry and criticism, this was an unusual publication to comment on Yamato, which made it an excellent example of how widespread the impact was becoming. This issue devoted four pages to an interesting review of the film by someone with no prior Yamato exposure but a deep literary knowledge. There were some odd takes that don’t survive the test of time, but also some thoughtful observations that keep it fresh even today.

“One day, if someone called to me from Iscandar, the ‘green planet’ of the Great Magellanic Nebula, I would forget about saving the reddish brown Earth. Much better to be sucked into the great unknown darkness…”

Read the article here

September 1: Starlog issue 9

Let’s start September 1977 with a bang, shall we? This is almost certainly the first mention anywhere in American print media of Yamato in English. It was a single paragraph in an article about animated “kid vid” that mentioned a syndicator named Modern Programs Incorporated. This name didn’t appear on Star Blazers, so it was either a stepping stone in that direction, or an interim company that held the rights before Westchester Corporation stepped in. Either way, it represents the first bridge for the Yamato TV series to the English speaking world, earlier than previously expected.

Thanks to the global circulation of the Yamato movie (under the Space Cruiser title), more mentions in English-language media would emerge in 1978. For now, click here to read the Starlog article in full.

Click here for an extensive online archive of Starlog magazines.

September 1: Treasure Island magazine

It’s difficult at a glance to pinpoint the target audience for Treasure Island; it’s a digest-size magazine that seems to have content for teens, but advertising for adults. Either way, it became the second mainstream magazine to interview Leiji Matsumoto. Unlike the Sept. 21 Screen magazine, this one stuck to Yamato and started with a single provocative question: why did the movie feel so different from the TV series?

Matsumoto took the question head-on, describing at length what he wanted to avoid most in the TV version, namely any connection to militarism.

Yamato is very dangerous material and it bears a fateful quality that can be easily misinterpreted. Based on my beliefs and ideas, it could only be made as ‘Spaceship Yamato.’ If we let go of this, we’d end up with the Battleship Yamato.”

Read the article here

September 1: Manga Shonen October issue

It was time to start a serious conversation about the emerging anime trend, and an article titled Animation World Part 1 presented the top ten anime titles chosen by readers. Space Battleship Yamato clocked in at number 1, occupying the first page of this 7-page feature. The other titles that made the top ten were (in order) Cyborg 009, Triton of the Sea, Lupin III, Gatchaman, Raideen, Mighty Atom (Astro Boy), Kimba, Danguard A, and Babel II.

The text was a simple staff and cast listing, but the illustration was completely new, drawn by director Toyoo Ashida.

September 1: Kinejun magazine No. 716

You had to look hard in this issue to find the Yamato content, because there wasn’t much of it; just two excerpts from the mail bag and a pair of rather tepid reviews from critics. To be fair, the reviews reflect what many first-generation fans were thinking; the movie was a good introduction to Yamato, but the heart of the story lay in the TV series.

Read the reviews here.

September 1: Weekly Bunshun magazine

When the intelligentsia comes knocking, you know you’ve made an impact. Yamato was big enough to catch the attention of Weekly Bunshun, a literary magazine from a publisher named Bungeishunju Ltd. Naturally, a Bunshun journalist would bring different questions to an interview than a news reporter, which makes this 1977 interview with exec producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki a uniquely insightful piece of the Yamato puzzle.

Read it here.

September 1: 2001 My Dream doujinshi

This 16-pager was a grab-bag of production art, fan art, and yet another primer for the story, created by a group calling themselves TAC (Terebi Anime Club).

See it from cover to cover here.

September 5: YAMATO interview doujinshi

This one doesn’t stand out visually from other doujinshis of the time, but it’s a genuine goldmine that deserves special recognition. Its author Kaoru Saito somehow gained access to the inner circle – producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki and most of the primary voice actors – and obtained interviews that would soon become the sole province of mainstream publishers.

There is information in these discussions that would never be repeated elsewhere. The text was not professionally polished, but the content is exceptional; here we see Nishizaki at his most unguarded, making statements far too candid for the public record. It was also the first time anyone interviewed the voice actors, a pop culture deficit that was about to change in a major way.

All that and more makes this doujinshi one for the history books, a permanent record of the first and only time a fan writer made it all the way to Iscandar.

Read it from cover to cover here.

September 11: Middle Third Age, October issue

First, an explanation of the name. This is one of many Japanese magazines tailored to a specific school grade. As you graduate from grade to grade, there is another magazine ready to replace the one you just graduated from. This one was tailored to the third year of middle school, hence Middle Third Age. Since its readership was dead center in Yamato‘s target audience, this issue ran a 2-page primer on what the movie had to offer.

Read the article here

September 12: Weekly Heibon Punch magazine

This men’s entertainment magazine was among the first to devote serious, informed coverage to Yamato in August, and nearly a month later they followed up with a truly historic piece of journalism, the first known article in a mainstream publication to look beyond Yamato into the rise and history of anime itself – using the word “anime” throughout to fortify its new context in the cultural lexicon.

Fans and producers alike were quoted with respect and encouragement, all of which led the writer to an important and prescient conclusion: “For those who still think ‘it’s just a cartoon,’ you have no idea how long you’ve been behind the curve.”

Read the article here

September 13: Weekly Seventeen magazine No. 39

Yamato had the outward appearance of a story for men and boys, but it was also true that the majority of its fandom in the early years was female. So when a girl’s magazine set out to write their Yamato article, they followed in the footsteps of OUT magazine and got female fans to write it for them. The content came from a contemporary Yamato fan club and laid out a case for why girls would enjoy seeing the movie too.

Read the article here.

September 15: Kinejun magazine No. 717

One week later, we got another Nishizaki interview for the history books. This one reveals intricate details of Yamato‘s rise to fame that were never published elsewhere. The discussion is as candid and penetrating as any Nishizaki interview that would follow, but this portrait of his first brush with success is truly special.

Read it here.

September 15: Weekly Sankei magazine

Derived from Sankei Sports newspaper, Weekly Sankei gathered up sports and entertainment news in a gossip-style format. In this issue, Yoshinobu Nishizaki delivered another interview at the peak of his early success, and revealed things you would only find in a gossip magazine.

Read the article here.

September 20: Roman Album 1

Just as the Yamato movie is responsible for anime going mainstream, this publication represents the launch of anime book publishing. Like the film, it broke through the prevailing opinion that children were the only consumers of anime. The turning point could be found within the pages of the book itself, which started with the basic design of a kid’s book (large art images with minimal text) and evolved into a mature fan’s dream, page after page of pristine model sheets and broadcast data.

The cue for this was obviously taken from OUT magazine’s historic 2nd issue (published in April) which showed exactly what fans wanted to see – because fans themselves had created it. And Tokuma Shoten was handsomely rewarded for paying attention; Roman Album #1 went through six printings in its first month alone. What started out as a one-shot spinoff of Tokuma’s Terebiland magazine became their signature creation as subsequent volumes set new standards for years to come.

See the opening color pages here.
Read the text features here.

Read editor Hidea Ogata’s account of the genesis and impact of the Roman Album here.
Read another historical account of the Roman Album here.

September 21: Screen magazine, November issue

The blank face of a young Jodie Foster doesn’t lead one to believe Yamato content could be found in the pages of this movie magazine (which was mostly dedicated to American films), but there was a true gem inside this oyster; perhaps first mainstream interview with Leiji Matsumoto. The interviewer, who evidently worked in television, came into the conversation with questions about Yamato, but talk quickly turned to movies and took us on a whirlwind tour of the films that influenced Matsumoto throughout his early career.

Incidentally, the publisher of Screen was Kindaieigasha, who would launch The Anime magazine about two years later.

Read the article here

Also spotted in September

Space Battleship Yamato 1978 Calendar

The exact date of publication is unknown, but fans could put this calendar to immediate use, since it actually began with October 1977 as its first month. Each month is peppered with stills from events that ostensibly happen on specific days, though the ‘timeline’ this represents varies pretty substantially from the official dates for the TV series itself. (For one thing, the calendar has Yamato returning to Earth about three weeks early.) But this takes nothing away from what must have been a fan’s dream in terms of big, colorful iconic images from the animation.

Click here to examine this calendar from front to back.

OUT magazine, November issue

After the huge Yamato feature in the September issue (published in July), the October issue focused on other things. This was the issue in which Yamato made its return, and anime coverage would be a mainstay from here on out. The article herein was exactly the kind of thing OUT would become known for, giving a platform to fans in the form of a conversation about Yamato and their own club activities.

Read the article here.

Isao Sasaki, Scarlet Scarf, World of Anime Roman LP

Nippon Columbia, CS-7040

It had been a year since Isao Sasaki’s first all-anime theme album, and the Yamato boom made it high time for a followup. This disc contained some crossover, but it was the first all-Sasaki album to feature both the OP and ED themes, and the first one to put the word “anime” on its cover.

Other songs included themes from Grendaizer, Getta Robo, Dangard Ace, Casshan, and more.

Cosmo Battleship Yamato Technical Manual doujinshi

In a month of outstanding publications, both amateur and professional, this one was another prizewinner. Clocking in at a prodigious 152 pages, it was the most extensive collection of character and mecha designs anyone had yet collected between two covers. Published by “Group Zero,” it offered material that hadn’t yet been seen elsewhere, and wouldn’t be seen again until the Academy hardcover books arrived in June 1978.

See it from cover to cover at the doujinshi archive here.

Newswatch: Headlines and highlights for September

For the sake of posterity, all of the press and magazine coverage for the Yamato movie was indexed in Office Academy’s Space Battleship Yamato Complete Records books (commonly known as the “silver set”). This allows us to see how newspapers and magazines reacted to the emerging phenomenon, which must have seemed to come out of nowhere. Here are headlines and highlights from that index.

(Translation note: “shimbun” means “newspaper.” The literal translation is shin/new • bun/hearsay)

A space anime masterpiece that will bring an explosive boom to young people!
Movie Fan, September 1

A dream that cannot be found in reality – roman – in search of love, the manga generation is dazzled by Space Battleship Yamato
Asahi Shimbun, September 1

Space Battleship Yamato is revived as an animation movie!
Junior High 1st Course, September 1

Through the fierce battle, the film aims to make people reflect on “love” from a broader perspective.
Senior High 1st Course, September 1

The world of Leiji Matsumoto is a world of compassion for the adolescent who cannot become an adult. Space Battleship Yamato is a hit with high school girls.
Senior High 2nd Course, September 1

Anime sound Yamato suddenly started selling like hotcakes.
Weekly Post, September 2

Nichan was inundated with postcards from young readers wishing for the re-airing of Yamato on TV.
Tokushima Shimbun, September 4

Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki producer calls Yamato a product of his desire. It is precisely at a time when life is in a slump and the desire for a better world is rising in everyone’s hearts.

“By depicting the activities of young people who are determined to stand up to the crises of Earth, I hope to give dreams and recognition to boys, girls, and adults that will truly nourish their lives. This idea and the dream I had as a boy were combined to create Yamato.”

Women Themselves magazine, September 6

Space Battleship Yamato is fighting hard
Asahi Shimbun, Osaka, September 12

Dreams come back to life! Love! Adventure! Do you know the roman drama Space Battleship Yamato?
Asahi Geino, September 15

Space Battleship Yamato, a “kamikaze” event in Japan
Tokyo Times – Talk of the Town, September 17

Yamato “Launching Ceremony” in the schoolyard
Yomiuri Shimbun, Osaka, September 25

What’s Next

Two months into its life in the mainstream, Yamato still rivets the attention of fans and media alike, both seemingly in a race to outdo each other. See where they took it from here in Vintage Report 7!

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