The first Yamato 2199 “movie” has come and gone in Japanese theaters, and the great ship is off to outer space again. In this report, we’ll review everything up to and including the premiere. It only covers about two weeks in real time, but it was an extremely busy stretch for the new series.
Hobby Japan & Dengeki Hobby May issues (published March 25)
We’ll start by backing up to March 25 when Japan’s premiere hobby magazines finally gave 2199 a cover feature to herald its imminent arrival. Their articles were quite similar, photo shoots of the first models based on the series (one-of-a kind scratch builds from their resident experts), further design art for both mecha and characters, and more interviews with Director Yutaka Izubuchi. Each magazine devoted 17 pages to Yamato, and Dengeki included a two-sided foldout poster. Drool over the pages by clicking here for Hobby Japan and here for Dengeki Hobby.
We’ll start with Hobby Japan, which opened the discussion with quite a historical bombshell.
The cover of Hobby Japan‘s December 1977
issue, the first to cover Space Battleship
Yamato. Mr. Izubuchi appeared in an article
titled “We are Yamato fans!!” and was a
member of Yamato Association at the time.
He built 1/35 scale Dessler and Domel figures
that were showcased in the article.
Space Battleship Yamato 2199 Interviews
Our special Yamato 2199 feature this time is an interview with both General Director Yutaka Izubuchi and Chief Mechanical Director Masanori Nishii. Since this is a modeling magazine, our conversation centered around mecha.
Hobby Japan December 1977 Issue
Interviewer: Concerning Yamato, Hobby Japan, and you, Mr. Izubuchi, take a look at this (the December 1977 issue is taken out).
Yutaka Izubuchi: Well, that’s totally awkward! (laughs)
Interviewer: This was the first Space Battleship Yamato article ever published in Hobby Japan, and you appear in it, too.
Izubuchi: I built figures. I was surely a high school student at the time. I can’t stand it now. I broke out in a cold sweat the moment I saw that book.
Interviewer: It was 35 years ago. Since you’re such a longtime fan, certainly such excavations may occur.
Izubuchi: Because I was an otaku back then. (laughs) That has not changed. (Reading the article) “The skin color of the Gamilas changed in episode 11.” And that photograph…whoah, shameful!
Interviewer: I’d like to connect the thoughts of that Izubuchi to Yamato 2199 today.
Izubuchi: But all I’m really saying is that it hasn’t changed at all. I said a similar thing in an interview the other day, that what is learned in the cradle is carried to the grave.
About the Remake
Interviewer: The title is Yamato 2199, but was a remake of the original series settled upon from the beginning?
Izubuchi: That’s right. I accepted it because it the story was going to be a remake. If the talk was about Resurrection, I would have said “I’m sorry, that’s not for me.” (laughs)
Interviewer: With a remake, I would think one would be conscious of the contradiction to tamper with the content and yet not to tamper with it.
Izubuchi: No, I’d been toying with it as a simulation in my brain for about a decade, so you could say that all the tampering was completed to some degree.
Interviewer: Simulation in the brain! Good term.
Izubuchi: What I didn’t tamper with was the mecha design. But I thought it could potentially be a great thing to do some brush-up with the design.
Interviewer: How about the characters?
Izubuchi: I thought that it wouldn’t be possible to do it the same as in the original and that we shouldn’t. I wondered if I should approach it like the production method at the time, to build them up on the basis of rough designs. Nobuteru Yuuki based it on the early ones drawn by Toyoo Ashida, and they feel close to that image. Even though I loved them myself, they might not be accepted by young people today, so it was changed with an awareness of present-day anime fans. This was because I wanted a younger generation to watch it.
Interviewer: Are there parts that were not changed?
Izubuchi: The sound. An impressive part of the original was the sound effects by Mitsuru Kashiwabara. I asked for them from the very beginning. I wanted to be able to use those sound effects. But the music could not be handed over from the original because the BGM recorded at the time was monaural, so we had to salvage it by re-recording it. For that, probably the only one who could do it was Akira Miyagawa, the son of the composer. I think it’s powerful.
This time on the making of Yamato, those whose lives were once changed by Yamato will face their own destinies with respect to Yamato. That is my definition of the work. By making this, we can restart and take this as a new epoch. At my age, things get inflexible with established roles and status, but working on this refreshes me. That is my ideal.
Changes to the Story
Izubuchi: The basic components up to Pluto will remain unchanged. After that, we leave the old taste behind. For example, the Planet Beemera appears, but it is not the same story. Situations that do not stand up to reason may be changed. If changing it seems to make it boring, we’ll actively add a “plus alpha” factor to the story to make it a positive change. That’s another flag on top of this work.
Interviewer: Names have been established for each of the warships this time.
Izubuchi: With CG it becomes possible to put a ship’s name and number on its hull, so I thought we should do it. You can’t always see it, but in the Pluto battle all the Earth vessels have names and numbers. You can confirm it if you watch it in high-definition, such as a Blu-ray. As for the destroyer and the cruiser, the color is set in patterns of three. I wanted to treat them as three-dimensional objects.
Interviewer: Okita’s Battleship is now named after the Kongo-class Kirishima; I thought that would be unbearable for navy buffs.
Izubuchi: In any case, “Okita Battleship” is a dull name. It was named Hero in the novelization by Ken Wakasaki [Cobalt edition, 1978], but it would be impossible to have that name on a Japanese warship.
I thought it would be too heavy if it were named after the country in Nagato or Mutsu since it’s just a battleship, so it is named after the Kongo-class vessel. It shoulders the nuance of the word Kirishima. Because it’s a Japanese ship, we refer to it as a “type,” and for the Gamilas on the other hand, we use the word “class.” Also, the Earth ships start with the term “Space” and the Gamilas ships start with “Aerospace.” We added a proper noun to the Gamilas side; you get a certain feeling from a proper noun.
Years ago, on Yamato III or Final Yamato, some ships had distinctive names that were not requested [by the supervisors], and now I confess that I was the one who named them. (laughs) “Seeadler III” or “Charisma.” When there is a proper noun, understanding is easier, and in my case when I do design, a feeling enters into it above all.
Interviewer: Why is the Black Tiger changed into the Cosmo Falcon?
Izubuchi: That design originally evolved for the sake of convenience. Honestly, I wish they had all been Cosmo Zeroes, but it was impossible in those days to translate that design into multiple craft moving in formation. So the Black Tiger was designed to be easy to draw. It was cool in its day.
These days, we think of “black tiger” as a type of shrimp. In any case, it seems like an American name. But after all, if there is a Zero, shouldn’t there also be a Hayabusa [Falcon]? It wasn’t a navy aircraft, but it feels like an army plane produced in a hurry to fill in for the delayed Zero.
Interviewer: After all, such a thing was considered more than 30 years ago.
Izubuchi: That’s what I thought. (laughs) Actually, I wanted to have a Type-1 craft, but that would be problematic for the Zero since it would follow the naming regulations of the next year  and it’s two years until 2201, so it became the Type-99 despite the explosion of other ships. It feels like combining puzzle pieces when such things come together.
Interviewer: It feels like a puzzle that’s been coming together for 30 years.
Izubuchi: Actually, there was no time to play around at first. It was more like, it would make sense to do it this way.
Interviewer: I guess that’s because you thought about Yamato for a long time, Mr. Izubuchi. Thank you for today.
(Recorded at XEBEC Studio one day in March.)
Chief Mechanical Director
Interviewer: First, please tell me about the title “Chief Mechanical Director.”
Masanori Nishii: Even if it is called “animation” now, it is not only hand-drawn. 3DCG is also used. Simply speaking, the traditional title was “Chief Mecha Animation Director.”
Interviewer: Is it like taking responsibility for the layout?
Nishii: With respect to the CG, I leave the basics to Takashi Imanishi for supervision, and I oversee the total process of uniting the on-screen CG with illustration for certain scenes.
Pursuit of Detail
Interviewer: What particular points does the Chief Mechanical Director pay attention to?
Nishii: This time we have to refine various mecha designs. Mr. Junichiro Tamamori is mainly doing the Earth side and the Gamilas side is done by Yutaka Izubuchi and Yasushi Ishizu. The design line incorporates both the image of the past and current technology. It’s not simply tracing the shape, the design is filled with details that add presence while taking advantage of the form. That’s the sort of thing we want to bring to the screen.
Interviewer: The fine detail of the mecha is very impressive on the still shots.
Nishii: I have the designer add detail to the basic hull, and we replace the image on screen with a hand-drawn version. It starts with an output of the CG line-drawing which shows only the contours [image 1]. Mr. Tamamori brings his touch to it and covers up the CG with a detailed line drawing, then I get it as a design [image 2]. The hand-drawn layout [image 3] then goes onto the screen to create a finished still frame [image 4].
Interviewer: It takes a hand.
Nishii: Going into the first episode, there was no know-how for replacing CG with freehand drawings, so in the beginning I thought we would somehow add lines to the structure by hand. But the moment I saw the detail of Mr. Tamamori’s art, I said “this is impossible.” It would ALL have to be drawn by hand. For example, the scene of the turret in front of Kirishima‘s bridge [image 4]. Since we weren’t used to it yet, it took two days to draw.
Interviewer: That’s remarkable.
Nishii: In the picture drawn by Mr. Tamamori, even the part that sinks into black is filled with detail, and I said, “Wow, this is on par with the hyper detail of Gunpla Master Grade!!” (laughs) [Editor’s note: Nishii is referring to an upscale line of Mobile Suit Gundam models.] A lot of effort goes into drawing details that can hardly be seen on the screen. Because of that, if it is possible to watch it in high-definition video such as a Blu-ray, I think you’ll see a remarkable amount of information.
Interviewer: What is the method for the Gamilas?
Nishii: Gamilas is Gamilas, and we process their still scenes the same way. So far, the type of details specific to Gamilas are finely-formed panel lines. Mr. Ishizu’s designs clearly express a technology that is not from Earth. There is a feeling of differentiation in the shape.
A Feeling of Scale in the Aircraft
Interviewer: You’ve come out with aircraft such as the Cosmo Zero, which I thought to be surprisingly thin. There is a clear sense of scale.
Nishii: Mr. Izubuchi’s commitment was to establish and properly carry out the sizes this time.
Interviewer: Yamato seemed to be the anime that kept the most distance from that matter. (Laughs)
Nishii: There are some impossible places, to be sure. And there is some cheating to some extent, but the size is still verified and adhered to as much as possible. For example, to store the Cosmo Zero we had make it compact. We folded the main wing and the tail fins top and bottom, and the nose collapses it even further. That was Mr. Tamamori’s idea, and bending the nose was quite an innovation.
The Cosmo Zero is shown in Episode 2 as I just described it, stored in the hangar. You can confirm it on the screen.
Interviewer: Please tell us about your ambitions for the future.
Nishii: While working with freehand drawings, my intention is to make images that convey the nuance of detail. Since there will be 26 episodes, I think it’s going to be very tough, but I intend to do as much as possible.
Interviewer: Thank you very much for today.
(recorded in March at XEBEC studio, Kokubunji)
Special thanks to Sword Takeda for translation support.
Next, we turn to the interview from Dengeki Hobby…
Special Interview: Yutaka Izubuchi
The Stance for 2199
Interviewer: The premiere of Yamato 2199 is finally approaching and the trailer has become popular; is anticipation also growing amongst the staff?
General Director Yutaka Izubuchi: The staff and all the people concerned are fans of Space Battleship Yamato itself, and because they’ve all been supporting each other through the making of the long-standing content, there is a feeling of pressure in a good way, as fans of the original. In addition, expectation is always high partly because most of the staff was hugely influenced by this work, so there’s always some tension looming over the scene.
Interviewer: The new mecha was introduced with significant brush-up, and has been carefully designed from the original image. Is this the thought you wanted to bring to the screen?
Izubuchi: Regarding the mecha, the framework of my direction was not to tamper with the original design, but to give it the appearance of being completed. In considering the qualities of 2199, one of them was the detail. The designers who participated in this are overflowing with love for Yamato. One of the merits of the original that set it apart was a true commitment to detail. The sense of balance is wonderful, and it was really enjoyable to watch the rough sketches develop.
This detail is intended to reproduce the “Yamato-ness,” so to speak. When we go to a still frame, there isn’t enough detail in the CG to capture that, so the designers build up layers of detail by hand-drawn line work. This time and effort creates the “Yamato-ness.” This technique can only be used on still shots, not moving CG, and I think you’ll understand the result if you watch it on the screen closely for yourself.
Interviewer: Some original mecha has also appeared in 2199 like the Cosmo Falcon, which we covered in our magazine. A moment ago you said you didn’t want to tamper with the original; did you have a different idea about this?
Izubuchi: Actually, the style of the Cosmo Falcon itself is an advancement of the basic design [of the Black Tiger]. When you look at it from various angles, you can understand that it follows the previous silhouette. Although one designer is capable of designing a fighter plane, I drew the rough image of the Cosmo Falcon and gave direction. Mr. Junichiro Tamamori did the design and gimmicks of the exterior and the interior cockpit was designed by Mr. Kimitoshi Yamane, so many designers had a hand in it.
If this were the time of hand-drawn anime, I could just take it home and use the illustration as reference. This is now unnecessary because 2199 is being done with CG data, but it’s regrettable because I would personally like to do it. (laughs)
Fighter Planes Refined & Renewed
Interviewer: The designs show several color patterns on the Cosmo Falcon. What about these different patterns?
Izubuchi: You can think about them in reference to the coloring on a real fighter. The Cosmo Falcon has a basic paint pattern of blue as the so-called aircraft of Yamato, which gives it the image of the F-2 fighter of the Air Self-Defense Force. But we’re not just aiming for novelty. It was “black” before, which is an alluring color, but considering that we would place it against the black battlefield of space, that color would just blend in.
While it’s correct to say that the paint scheme of a military aircraft is meant to blend into the background, it’s difficult to assimilate that in moving pictures. And practically speaking, that [original] yellow arrow doesn’t work as camouflage at all. (laughs) So after some trial and error, we settled on this color scheme.
Interviewer: Speaking of color, the texture of the mecha is very attractive, too. The opinion about the body color of the Cosmo Zero was divided among modelers. In Yamato 2199 it has become a metallic silver.
Izubuchi: In this case, the mecha in 2199 is a polished version of the original. After all, a cel-like feeling would be closer and more familiar to the image in your memory. But the Cosmo Zero and the spaceship of Sasha are exceptions, since they have metallic textures. The silver areas of the Cosmo Zero were once grey. Sasha’s spaceship has a stronger metallic tone, to produce an alien impression, but the Cosmo Zero was changed on my own judgement. By not painting it, the body assumes the silver color of the metal, like the F-104 Starfighter. This was made possible by the CG, since it would have been abandoned in the old days of cel painting.
Between Earth, Gamilas, and Iscandar, I’ll be glad if you pay attention to the use of color by each camp.
Interviewer: Both the Cosmo Zero and the Cosmo Falcon have very slim silhouettes. Is this intentional?
Izubuchi: It is true of both aircraft, but this time it’s about Yamato. First of all, the bridge had to have a feeling that didn’t destroy the image of the original work, so we started by counting backward from there to decide the entire size of the ship. The length is the same as Tokyo Tower, 333 meters. From there we determined the size of the hangars, the aircraft, and how big the people would be and carried out a design from that. I didn’t want to cheat that, even if it is anime.
Yamato has to make the long trip to Iscandar as just a single, old warship so it should carry a Cosmo Zero, Cosmo Falcons, and many other machines. So it was best if they had slim silhouettes. A conventional hangar was impossible when you take into account the space needed for launching and maintenance, so the hangar design went through a lot of hardships.
But you know, Domel’s disc-shaped ship is 80 meters in the old design sheets, and Yamato‘s length was written in as 330 meters. (Laughs) I heard from [mecha designer] Kazutaka Miyatake that the design was meant to be 330 meters in those days, but it was retroactively established as 265 meters after the broadcast.
Design Differences of the Ships
Interviewer: The method of expression is renewed for the spaceships, including Yamato. What differences are you conscious of between the UN space forces and Gamilas?
Izubuchi: If I say it roughly in terms of design, on the Earth side it is reminiscent of actual vessels and aircraft with a direction that gives you an analogue feeling. One particular feature of the Gamilas is for their armor to gradually pile up. I emphasize the part which appears more alien, whereas the silhouettes of the ships and aircraft of Earth have one thing in common: they all “follow the original work.” (laughs)
Episodes 1 and 2 will be shown in April, and the vessels of the combined space fleet are at the center. But in the middle stage, I want you to pay attention to the new Gamilas ships that will appear one after the other. There are more types of Gamilas warships and they all have names.
Moreover, we didn’t just consider the designs, we also organized them by term. On the Earth side we attached names like “Space Battleship, XX Type,” and for Gamilas it was “Aerospace Warship, XX Class.” The impression we get from such words makes for a deliberate change. We use proper expressions such as “missile” for something launched vertically up or down from the vantage point of a plane, and “torpedo” for something fired front or back in parallel.
Since many such things have been taken into consideration, it might be fun when you notice them.
Consciousness of Direction, Such as the Fleet Exercise
Interviewer: The movement seemed new this time in the fleet battle. There were also gimmicks such as the detail of missile and torpedo firing, but it was the overall direction that was most effective.
Izubuchi: Since Yamato‘s action is by a single warship and the multiple Gamilas fleets attack one-sidedly in sequence, it could be considered the basis of a Yamato battle scene. The Pluto fight was easier to direct as a “fleet battle.” After that, the battles are all “fleet” versus “single ship,” so it becomes “one” versus “everyone.” (laughs)
However, since it is Yamato, I think it’s important to express the mass and weight of the big warships. On the other hand, when focusing on that too tight, it takes up running time and the tempo is sacrificed. Therefore, alternating close-ups and long shots, slow and quick motions might be a good solution.
In the first place, rather than being at sea, they are space battleships making a round trip from Earth to Pluto, so I think they’re actually moving quite fast. But the highlights of decisive fleet battles are only caught by long-distance images, so we’ve depicted that just like action at sea. We could show the movement of vessels slower to make fighters look like they’re traveling faster, but the truth is that Yamato‘s wave engine would be faster.
My initial preference is toward the image of real warships and aircraft, so we add the quality of a spaceship to that feeling.
To All of the Fans
Interviewer: To conclude, please say a word to the fans.
Izubuchi: As a matter of fact, I’ve been doing this for the last four years. (laughs) I was a huge fan of the first Yamato, and there is so much more of it because of the fans who continued to love it. It was an important theme from the beginning to carry out a brush-up of Yamato in the hope that it would satisfy those fans.
At the same time, there are a lot of fans who don’t know Yamato, but like Gundam. To be honest, I envy them because they can watch it without knowing what the story is. They can enjoy it because it’s all fresh. For the fans with no preliminary knowledge, I think you should see it on the big screen in a theater first.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.
(Somewhere in Tokyo, February 2012)
Special thanks to Sword Takeda for translation support.
Additional material from Dengeki Hobby
From the beginning of its 2199 coverage, Dengeki has consistently been the first to publish a multitude of art from the production office. The stakes were raised in the May issue, giving us the first official description of Yamato itself.
Space Battleship Yamato 2199 version
In the latter half of the 2190s, Earth was on the verge of extinction due to environmental pollution caused by attacks from the Planet Gamilas. The UN drew up the “Izumo Plan,” which would allow chosen people to escape from Earth to a habitable planet using a large warship constructed in the Far East district.
The area of the closing stage of World War II was chosen for the construction site, a point off the coast of Kyushu where the Imperial Japanese Navy Battleship Yamato was sunk in 1945. Top secret work was advancing with the wreckage of Yamato serving as camouflage.
However, technology assistance was received from the Planet Iscandar in 2198, called “Dimension Wave-Motion Organization.” (Hereafter, Wave Engine.) The ship has been remodeled into Earth’s first space battleship, capable of interstellar navigation. Also, because it was requested to retrieve a decontamination system from Planet Iscandar, the purpose of the “Izumo Plan” changed and it was renamed the “Yamato Plan.” The ship’s name was also changed to Yamato.
The main mechanism of Yamato is the Wave Engine, a remarkable promotive body that can reproduce the state of expansion at the time of the universe’s birth. This makes it possible to warp time and space and leap beyond the speed of light. Moreover, the energy in the Wave Engine can be emitted from a muzzle in the bow in a system called the “Dimensional Wave-Motion Radiation Implosion Machine.” (Popularly known as the Wave-Motion Gun.) This can be considered the major feature of the warship.
Furthermore, the Wave-Motion theory can be applied to defend the armored ship using a “Wave-Motion Barrier.” For the first time in the history of the UN space navy, it has become possible to protect the armor from the positron beam attack of Gamilas vessels for a short time.
Incidentally, two supplementary mechanisms are located under the stern nozzle of the Wave Engine, the “auxiliary engines.” They use the same type of propulsion as the Kongo-type Space Battleship, but have been improved to operate with the Wave energy of Yamato‘s main engine.
The armament consists of three main gun turrets, each equipped with three 48cm positron shock cannons. Two subturrets, each equipped with three 20cm positron shock cannons, serve as secondary weapons. The main batteries fire beams or solid rounds (three sets of fusion bullets). These are selected depending on the target and battle situation. Unlike the positronic guns that were equipped on previous space navy vessels, the use of Wave-Motion energy made it possible to miniaturize the firing mechanism, and automatic fire also became possible.
Antiaircraft pulse lasers are placed on both sides, and the bow and stern are each equipped with six torpedo tubes. The rear bridge deck is equipped with an 8-missile firing tower, 8 torpedo tubes on either side, and a missile launcher beneath the ship that can operate as a VLS (Vertical Launch System) during diving action.
Ship type: Super Dreadnought Class Space Battleship
ID number: BBY-01
Total length: 333m
Main engine: Type-R main vessel system-I Wave Motion Drum x 1 (Nickname: Wave-Motion Engine)
Auxiliary engine: standard warship type Cosmo Turbine x 8 sets, 2 axes
– Dimensional Wave-Motion Radiation Implosion Machine (diameter 200cm, Nickname: Wave-Motion Gun) (Bow)
– Main gun turrets with three 48cm positronic shock cannons x 3
– Auxiliary gun turrets with three 20cm positronic shock cannons x 2
– Torpedo tubes x 12 gates (bow and stern, both sides)
– Torpedo tubes x 16 gates (both sides)
– Deck-based 8-tube missile launch tower x 1 (behind bridge)
– Missile launcher x 8 gates (underside)
– Several antiaircraft pulse laser turrets (both sides)
– Zero type 52 Space Fighter (Cosmo Zero) x 2
– Type 99 Space Combat Strike Fighter (Cosmo Falcon) x 36
– Type 100 Space Reconnaissance Plane x 2
– SC97 General Purpose Space Transport Craft (Cosmo Seagull) x 2
And finally, this description of the UN space force that provides the starting point for everything to come:
In Space Battleship Yamato 2199, the existence of the UN space forces is presented as an important organization supporting Yamato and her crew. Although it existed in the original series, it was not elaborated upon. Therefore, Kodai and others wear the uniform of the UN space forces before changing to Yamato crew uniforms and launching for Iscandar in Episode 2. These designs only appear in the first two episodes of 2199 so far, but they show a remarkable attention to detail in the uniforms. Kodai’s resembles that of the present-day army and Shima is shown in combat clothing while Sanada, Niimi, Nanbu, and Yuki are in normal duty uniforms. Through this we can understand each of their roles by their type of uniform.
Yamato‘s flying corps was introduced on the color page, but the pilot suits (Cosmo Falcon group) are the same. In addition to their uniform’s department patches, their rank badges are also finely set. This is the first time Yamato characters have been given rank insignia, and although it appears that a “class structure” is being established, “Space Battleship” Yamato is a “battleship” to begin with, and it seems unnatural that such a structure did not exist until now. At least these uniforms symbolize the intention of reunification in the world of 2199, so we should support it from now on.
We’re not even half done with this report! Click here to continue to part 2!