Space Battleship Yamato 2199, Report 5 Part 2

Online Activity

Starting on March 30, the official 2199 website ramped up its reporting and added new material to its mecha gallery page in order to catch up with everything seen in the hobby magazines. This included the Gamilas mecha seen in the first two episodes. Click here to see it for yourself.

Beginning April 3, the homepage of the official site went into countdown mode, spotlighting a different character each day as the count dropped from 4 to 1 and concluded on premiere day, April 7.

New character art and descriptions were added on April 5, filling out the rest of the Earth side and providing a formal introduction to Starsha Iscandar. Yes, that is her full name. The first characters from the Gamilas side were added on April 9. See and read all of it in our 2199 Character Guide here.

The Three-Man Media Blitz

The final days leading up to the premiere brought three key staff members back into the fray for yet another round of interviews. And somehow they had still more to say about what was to come.

Mynavi: Yutaka Izubuchi Interview, April 4

Mynavi is a Japanese news site that digs into every corner of the entertainment world. On April 4 they published Yutaka Izubuchi’s last pre-release interview, for which he was probably quite grateful. The article can still be seen here. Full translation follows.

Director Yutaka Izubuchi Talks About Yamato 2199

Space Battleship Yamato, the immortal masterpiece that was broadcast on TV in 1974, is being done as a remake at the hand of a top creator who was strongly inspired by it at the time. It is revived as a new anime work, Space Battleship Yamato 2199.

Yamato 2199, an event that will start screening on April 7, becomes a completely new animation work, dividing all 26 episodes into seven chapters that will be shown theatrically. Before the April 7 debut, General Director Yutaka Izubuchi will introduce the appeal of the new Yamato. Please be aware beforehand, portions of this article contain spoilers.

Interviewer: First, please talk about the circumstances that lead to the remake of Space Battleship Yamato.

Izubuchi: The story goes back to four years ago. I was helping out on [TV anime series] Toward the Terra, and it was expected that the staff would do the remake of Yamato, and I was seemingly recommended as a director at that time. Then I got a telephone call saying, “it’s about Yamato.” Of course, my initial reaction was, “huh?”

Interviewer: You were surprised.

Izubuchi: I had participated as a designer on Yamato III and Final Yamato, but Yamato was a very difficult project because of various rights relationships. But it seemed all the problems in this area had been cleared away, so I undertook it by all means. And since I was told it would be a remake I thought that I really wanted to do it. No, that I HAD to do it.

Interviewer: But you didn’t answer immediately.

Izubuchi: When talks began, I thought about it for a moment after all. There had previously been talk of remaking Yamato many times. Although I’d heard the rumors every time, it never got going because it was a very difficult property.

Interviewer: How was it that you got the offer to direct rather than design?

Izubuchi: In fact, I thought that if a remake was carried out, Mr. Hideaki Anno would be the director and I wanted to be on the staff. I’d been talking about it with him since the old days. (laughs) But it wasn’t possible for Mr. Anno to do it because of Evangelion [the remake movies], so if that was the case it seemed that only I could do it.

If I may say so, when it comes to Yamato, other than Mr. Anno I didn’t think any other person could do it better than I could. I don’t say this to claim too much about my work. As far as general design goes, if I thought someone else could do it better, I’d simply say leave it to him. But particularly on this, it feels exactly like when I designed Kamen Rider The First. I am the most suited one in the world for this work. Well, weird self-confidence like this is necessary sometimes. (laughs)

Interviewer: Concerning the original Yamato series, you watched it in real time.

Izubuchi: That’s right. But I started watching from the second episode instead of the first, and already regretted it. (laughs) When I saw it in a rerun, I thought it was wonderful. At the time of the final episode, the circumstances were that we had to take a trip to Miyake Island on the broadcast day, and because I wanted to see it by all means, I begged my parents for an advance on my allowance. I bought a small black & white portable TV and watched it on the ferry that went to Miyake. Reception was terrible, but looking back at it, it was a work that inspired great passion, even then. (laughs)

Interviewer: I agree it’s a work that inspired intense devotion, but in doing the remake, were there any decisions made in advance about how to follow the original?

Izubuchi: In terms of the basic format, there was no intention to change the various events that happen in the story. But because it’s an older work the tempo is more relaxed and might seem a little slow to present-day people. On the other hand, if we chose to speed up the tempo, we could compress the story. For example, in the original they launch in the third episode after flying once and then coming back down to pick up people, so couldn’t we just fly once? So we made it fly just once by launching in episode 2.

Also, they did the warp test in Episode 4 and fired the Wave-Motion Gun in Episode 5, and although it might seem crazy we could get it over with in a single episode by warping in the first half and firing the gun in the second.

Interviewer: That’s quite a feeling of stacking it up.

Izubuchi: We are stacking it up. (laughs) But if we repeatedly compress events like that, the tempo will improve. Of course, we’re not merely tightening it up, we also firmly present the story of Pluto and the Yukikaze.

When we go outside the solar system there are the stories of the space mines and the Alpha star, and though they’re favorites of mine, I think what they’re trying to do is quite similar. So I wondered if it might be better to combine them.

Interviewer: It’s hard to throw away the space mine story.

Izubuchi: Of course, the story of the space mines is interesting, but the episode itself is a bit illogical. One big question is, how many mines are needed for a vast stretch of space? Another is the order to “Tilt!” How can you tilt in space without a horizontal waterline? (Laughs) We’re correcting the weird contradictions in places like that, and our approach changes depending on the event.

Interviewer: Is there any element that is newly added to the original?

Izubuchi: Because we earned back some episodes at the beginning, there are places where a story that was originally one episode can be expanded into two, and there’s room for some original episodes, too. So for those who have watched the important points in the original, it might seem like, “oh, it’s that part,” and the overall flow of the story is not changed. But the characters are different and some mechanisms of the story have changed. That’s the basic formula.

Interviewer: Was there any place where you hesitated to use a story from the original?

Izubuchi: Because I love the original myself, there was no hesitation, and this story has been made with a feeling of respect. In fact, at the development stage I showed the outline to the original author, Yoshinobu Nishizaki, and there were only three places where he didn’t approve it. So although this was not due to hesitation, it is different in only about three places.

Interviewer: When I watched Episode 1, I wondered about reusing the impressive line of Captain Okita from the original. Was it intentional?

Izubuchi: Although I’m writing the scripts for the first stage, I didn’t write those lines. But since I thought that line was absolutely necessary in the first episode, so I added it myself in the storyboard. I wondered myself why it wasn’t placed in the script from the beginning, but I was still indecisive at the time. It was 3 or 4 years ago, so I don’t remember it well. (laughs)

The original Yamato had a good element of World War II parody in it, so I thought about whether or not to follow that, and left it in. By contrast, the parts that did not work well or are now out of date were things I removed decisively.

Interviewer: The original Yamato had some “naughty” scenes and gag scenes. What about those?

Izubuchi: Because the warp scene is a fixture, we’re doing that, but we’re taking out Analyzer’s skirt-flipping. This is for the convenience of broadcast; in terms of showing that on TV, it’s pretty difficult. With respect to Analyzer, that’s an area where our approach changes it a little. In Episode 2 of the original, he selfishly boarded Yamato with Kodai, without permission. Okita said “what are you?” and he said, “I’m this person’s friend,” even though they had just met. Then when he says “take me on the ship,” Okita just says, “Hm, all right…” It’s weird. (laughs)

As for Dr. Sado, he was originally a veterinarian, but he boards Yamato as a regular doctor for some reason. When you look closely, there are a lot of strange things.

Interviewer: In the original, it’s not clear why Sado joined Yamato.

Izubuchi: This time, it’s because he’s Okita’s doctor from the beginning, and the added nuance is that Hijikata asks him to go along.

Although Yuki was a nurse on Earth, she becomes the radar officer on Yamato, and also does various things as a nurse and the life group leader. Unless a warship has three shift operations, she couldn’t revolve like that and the workload would be impossible. (laughs) So we’re sharing some of Yuki’s role with different characters.

Interviewer: Some parts fit in with the times, but there are certain areas where inconsistencies must be crushed.

Izubuchi: But not all the inconsistencies are bad. If crushing an inconsistency makes it boring, it’s meaningless. But conversely, if a contradiction leads to greater drama, a “plus alpha” is produced and the method of approach becomes more interesting. So my stance is to crush it in a positive way.

Interviewer: The character design is by Nobuteru Yuuki, who also worked on Toward the Terra…is there a connection?

Izubuchi: Not particularly. I knew Mr. Yuuki liked Yamato, and I asked for his touch because I trust him, after all. Regarding the design, I thought more about the realism of it. Since I wanted a young audience to watch it, it became a form of design that a young person can easily identify with.

Interviewer: In what ways are you conscious of the original with respect to character design?

Izubuchi: I thought it would probably be impossible to make it just like the original, but it wouldn’t make sense to alter Dr. Sado or Analyzer. But at the same time, since Sado is somewhat isolated, a slightly more realistic touch is used. As for the first work, not every character follows their original design, and some parts were changed to make them easier to animate. So I thought that should be our basic approach this time.

Interviewer: Did you also cast the voice actors?

Izubuchi: The young people were chosen by audition, but my opinion on the nucleus of the cast was basically accepted.

Interviewer: When I watched the first episode, it seemed like the character of Kodai and Shima was reversed from the original.

Izubuchi: In the original, Shima was more serious and Kodai seemed more hot-blooded, but because the number of characters has increased this time and it’s more of a group drama, a single hot-blooded character becomes odd. It’s fine if Kodai is the sole hero, but when we need some chemistry with others, more specific characterization is necessary and in the end it helps in writing the stories. While Kodai gets serious, Shima becomes lighter. This is an exchange of their former roles, so the new voice cast also represents that.

Interviewer: Finally, please state your message to the fans who are looking forward to Yamato 2199.

Izubuchi: The first Space Battleship Yamato was made more than 30 years ago, but it is by no means an old work. It is fully acceptable in the present day. By adding further brush-up to it, we’re making it as it should be expressed in modern form while holding tight to the original. So I think it can be appreciated by fans from the old days, and those seeing Yamato for the first time can watch it with a fresh feeling. If you can watch it at first without any prejudice, I think you will find it interesting.

Thank you for your consideration.

Interviewer: Thank you very much.

Special thanks to Sword Takeda for translation support.

Anime Beat: Ryusuke Hikawa Interview, April 6

The night before the premiere, anime commentator and series publicist Ryusuke Hikawa returned to Bandai Namco’s online talkshow Anime Beat. It was streamed live, and viewers could tune in from around the world. Hikawa’s mission was to remind viewers of Yamato‘s roots as the series that sparked modern anime. He spent the full hour describing its impact on fans and professionals alike, observing the trends it established for the anime industry, and fascinated the hosts with descriptions of its many technical accomplishments. For example, the use of special camera techniques and mechanical effects that are now imitated with digital means.

Enterjam: Akira Miyagawa Interview, April 6

Enterjam is a site not unlike Mynavi, but with a tighter focus on anime and games. On the last day before 2199‘s theatrical debut, they published a new interview with charismatic composer Akira Miyagawa, who lit up the stage at the special February 18 launch event. See the original article here. Full translation follows.

Celebration! Space Battleship Yamato revival! Akira Miyagawa interview!

Space Battleship Yamato, which shines in animation history, returns as Space Battleship Yamato 2199! To commemorate the premiere of Chapter 1 on April 7, we asked Composer Akira Miyagawa to talk about the appeal of Yamato.

Interviewer: At the launch event held in February, it was said that you played the theme of The White Comet in Farewell to Yamato. Is that true?

Miyagawa: It is true. (laughs)

Interviewer: That’s amazing!

Miyagawa: I think I was an eleventh-grade student at the time. One day my father suddenly brought me a musical score and asked, “can you play this?” I said, “I might be able to.” And he said, “Let’s go to the Musashino Academy of Music and play the pipe organ.” (laughs)

Interviewer: Did that pipe organ belong to the university?

Miyagawa: I think it still does. We went there to record it, but I had no experience playing the pipe organ, so I said to my father, “I can’t work the footpedals.” I said, “A professor plays the footpedal. If there is a professor there, why do I have to play it?”

“Because they’re classical musicians. They won’t play a Miyagawa tune because I’m a pops musician. I composed it in the style of Bach as much as possible, but a professor won’t play it. Therefore, you will play it.”

“Me? Just like that?” That’s what I thought. (laughs)

So I had to play it, but the pipe organ is different from what I’m used to. When you play do-re-mi it’s like the sound is coming from an unexpected place that you don’t understand (laughs), and since there’s no pedal that extends the sound like on a piano, you have to control it constantly and a good technique is necessary.

As a boy I had a lot of guts (laughs), so I kept playing it but I made a lot of mistakes and it wasn’t OK at all. A teacher played the opening section of the music and I repeated what he played several times, but I kept making mistakes. (laughs)

My father said, “That’s not it. More slowly.” While taking instructions it became take 27 or 28 and the man from the recording staff said, “There’s no more tape left from what I brought.” I started shedding tears and said “I’M SORRY” as I kept playing.

Father said, “You’ll do better. It will be OK.”

I didn’t know how much time it had taken until I was told later that a full tape was 15 minutes long, and they brought four, so I think it was about an hour. But it felt much longer, like three or four.

That tune was played with these hands!

Interviewer: Was The White Comet music completed after all that trouble?

Miyagawa: Yes. But I cringe when I listen to it even now, because of the mis-touches! Waah! It becomes traumatic. (laughs) But what was used in the movie mostly came from the teacher’s work on the pedalboard. (laughs) The part I played comes at the start of a battle scene, so I don’t hear it very much. (laughs)

Interviewer: Yamato Resurrection was released in 2009. Was there talk of you composing for it at the time?

Miyagawa: There was, but I didn’t take it on.

Interviewer: Why not?

Miyagawa: I didn’t want there to be a Resurrection. It was a regrettable feeling, because I liked the first TV series very much.

Interviewer: Did you listen to all the music of Yamato when you took charge of the composing this time?

Miyagawa: No, never. (laughs) I concentrated only on the original 73 pieces from the TV series and the Cosmo Tiger music. But even that was pretty serious. (laughs)

Interviewer: Was it difficult to reproduce the sound of a synthesizer from those days?

Miyagawa: In those days, if you wrote a chord into the score, you entrusted it to the musicans afterward! That was the feeling, anyway. There are always trends of the time, so if you just left it to others, sometimes it could get disco-ish. Yet now it just gets very “temporal.” (laughs) Rhythm patterns and styles have changed drastically over the last 38 years. Besides, synth has advanced too much and doesn’t sound like it used to. Now it can do anything, but each sound gets weak. The synth back then could only handle monotone, and complex matters were totally beyond it.

There was a simple model of synthesizer at the time called a Mini Moog with an extremely deep sound. Yamato used that, but without it the vintage sound can’t be reproduced. It’s an antique now. Only collectors have them. Not even professional synth manipulators have them any more. A modern synthesizer can make a sound like it, but it comes out a little thin.

They are still professional, though, and created a very close sound match (laughs). “So close! It sounds like it!” Reconstructing the music was very exciting. But after all it’s a little different. It’s unavoidable. (laughs) It’s a close resemblance, but I can understand the difference when I hear it. Even though it was difficult, it was interesting.

Interviewer: What’s your favorite episode of the first TV series?

Miyagawa: It’s Episode 11, when they remove the Dessler mines by hand. It’s excellent! Of course, the warp and the Wave-Motion Gun were surprising, but since the handmade feel of Yamato was amazing, it was as if it was also being moved by hand! And Dessler got to know how it was handled! That’s how I feel about it.

In the story where it was hiding in the asteroid belt and used other things like that, it felt like Yamato itself was a collection of waste materials. I like that sort of thing.

Interviewer: Finally, what’s your message to those who will see Yamato 2199?

Miyagawa: Although people in their 50s are taking the lead in advancing this project now, what I would like you to see through Yamato is “adults taking on responsibility.” Because of [today’s] adults, I’m worried that the meaning of the word “responsibility” isn’t clear to young people any more. It’s a political thing.

By all means, I want young people to see an example of it. I think “responsibility” is the fundamental subject Yamato talks about, and it is inherited. While being engaged in Yamato, I’ve come to realize that it’s about passing the baton that will be inherited. That’s the feeling we’re making it with, and I’d like the current generation to remember it when they reach their 50s and 60s. I hope that such people will emerge.

Interviewer: Thank you very much!

The last of the April 6 news was a renewal of matrimony between Space Battleship Yamato and Japan’s Family Theater satellite channel. This network has actively carried the Yamato banner several times in recent years with various specials and reruns. On April 6 they offered Episode 1 of Yamato 2199 and a half-hour making-of special titled New Life Yamato Launch Declaration. Both continued airing sporadically through April 30.

This also kicked off marathon reruns of the original; Series 1 was shown in full over two days (April 6 and 7), and Series 2 followed in a three-day run on April 13, 20, and 27.

April 7: Launch Day

Captain Okita occupied the home page of the official site on April 7 with the words “Yamato Hasshin [Launch],” quickening heartbeats everywhere. In the last few years those two words have tagged feature films, pachinko games, and plenty more, yet they never seem to lose their power.

Space Battleship Yamato 2199: The Long Voyage premiered in ten Japanese theaters on the morning of April 7 to kick off a two-week run. Friend-of-this-website Gwyn Campbell was one of thousands who was there on opening day, and he filed this eyewitness report:

The day was finally here, allowing fans old and new to embark upon that epic voyage to Iscandar once again, this time with a modern coat of paint and possible changes which had previously been greatly speculated upon. Now it was time to see Izubuchi’s vision of Yamato on the big screen for ourselves.

Screenings started early in the day but I had opted for an early afternoon showing which was accompanied by a surprise; a small talk session with General Director Yutaka Izubuchi and the voice actor for Captain Okita, Takayuki Sugou. Tickets for this particular session had sold out within 3 minutes of going on sale but I was fortunate enough to secure seats in the left wing of the cinema.

The theater was the Shinjuku Picadilly, renown for playing a lot of small-scale anime releases as well as mainstream live action fare. I had previously managed to catch screenings of Evangelion and Macross Frontier there, among others. [Editor’s note: the Picadilly is also where previous Yamatour adventurers saw Resurrection and the live-action movie in 2009 and 2010 respectively.]

In the lobby, a large wall-sized poster to the right was already advertising the second theatrical release which is slated for June 30. To the left was the merchandise counter which had obviously already been hit hard by fans. The limited edition blu-ray appeared to be sold out, along with several other items. Stock of commemorative postcards, clear files, cel-phone straps and program books still remained although the line to the counter was fairly long.

Armed with a program, I made my way up to the 8th floor where staff were handing out commemorative stickers, the first of seven. (One to come with each movie.)

I won’t review the show itself. I believe that’s a task better undertaken by more experienced contributors to this website. I do, however, think that the words of Anime News Network’s Egan Loo best summed up my feelings when he said, “the only bad thing is that it’s too short! I want more. Now!”

Once the screening ended, the staff set up some chairs at the front of the cinema and Izubuchi and Sugou entered to a standing ovation. The talk session was brief (a second, longer one would be held two weeks later), but the fans eagerly took in every minute of it.

Izubuchi started off by talking about his experience making the series. He had been working on it for four years now and the process was still far from over. When asked what his greatest concerns had been, he replied that he’d often wondered whether or not the production would actually get made and if opening day would actually come. Another big concern was how to create something which would not betray the expectations of long-time Yamato fans while simultaneously appealing to new ones.

Sugou then spoke a little about how he became involved with the series. After auditioning, he had been offered the role of Captain Okita about 6 months back. The hardest thing for him was that he wanted to tell everyone he’d landed the role, but was not allowed to say anything until Yamato 2199 was officially announced. Once word of the remake was made public, many people told him that Captain Okita would be a difficult role. Others kept asking him to say “HASSHIN!” When it came time to record, he did indeed find that the large amount of technical jargon in the show made the role difficult. Having said that, he hoped that everyone would enjoy it.

It was at this point that the official Yamato 2199 ‘Supporter’ (something like a campaign girl) came out on stage: “Selina,” a 26-year-old ex-member of idol band SDN48.

She was wearing a special Yamato-themed (yellow and black) outfit that had been designed specifically for the premiere. Prior to becoming the “official supporter” of 2199 she’d heard of Yamato but never actually watched it. She had recently watched some of the original series and was surprised at how comparatively modern it still looked.

When asked which characters from Yamato 2199 she liked, Selina replied that she liked Captain Okita (Sugou visibly beamed at this point) because he was cool, yet seemed to be someone you could rely on. She also noted that there didn’t seem to be many characters like Captain Okita in anime these days.

She then asked Sugou to say “Bakame!” (Fools!) and “Hasshin!” (Launch!), which he gladly did.

Izubuchi noted that he would be happy if a new, younger generation of viewers also found Yamato 2199 interesting. He mentioned that the second installment had a few secrets to reveal that would keep long-time fans engaged. For example, did anyone notice that Hijikata wasn’t in the command center when Yamato launched? Where could he have been? It’s not like he was out taking off separately in the Andromeda or anything like that, but the answer should still be something interesting that fans can look forward to finding out.

Selina took this opportunity to ask if there were any characters who had yet to be cast. If so, would the director consider letting her do one?

Izubuchi replied that some background characters might still available, but permission to board was something that only the Captain could give. Sugou beamed as he said she was welcome to come aboard.

The three guests were then asked to say a few final words about Yamato 2199.

Selina said that, while there were a lot of older characters, she wants younger people like herself to enjoy the show. Sugou noted that it had been 38 years since the original Yamato. He believes that this iteration will also be a historically important production.

Izubuchi took this opportunity to speak directly to the audience. He wants Yamato 2199 to keep the greatness of the original. He expects to finish the production early next year and does not intend to allow the quality to drop. It will be a challenge for the staff, a one-year journey just like the one Yamato takes. The journey of Yamato had only just begun. He hopes that fans will continue to watch and support it until the end.

With that, two Yuki cosplayers came out to pose with the guests for media photographers and the mini talk show ended. The crowd filed out, some heading home, others staying presumably to catch a repeat screening. We now had almost three months to wait for the continuation, just one wait of many over the coming year.

When it was learned that 2199‘s first theatrical film would be less than an hour long and limited to ten theaters (what we in America might refer to as an “art house” release), it was generally assumed that it would not be accompanied by the customary wave of merchandising in theater gift shops. Lucky for us, that supposition proved to be 100% wrong.

A theatrical program book was a given, but beyond this there were enough trinkets and tchotchkes to form a collection, some of which carried over from the February launch event. They were also available by mail from the official 2199 website and an online vendor named Froovie that specializes in movie souvenir goods.

See a gallery of all these products here.

But the real gem was the limited-edition blu-ray disc of the exact same film content that was showing on the screen. It contained Episodes 1 and 2 (with optional English subtitles), an audio commentary track, a non-credit version of the opening title, a color pamphlet, and a booklet of Hideaki Anno’s storyboards for the opening title (cover shown below left). All of that will be available with the standard-issue blu-ray set for release on May 25. But the bonus item that made this one a limited-edition disc was a second storyboard book covering all of Episode 1 (cover and an interior page shown below).

Taken together, all of this made for an extremely successful opening. Reports tagged the total number of attendees at 13,000, making it the #2 film for the weekend and providing a box office take of 13.5 million yen (about $173,000, or an average of $17,300 per screen). Unsurprisingly, most customers were men in their 40s and 50s–the original Yamato generation. Half the theaters sold out of the limited-edition blu-ray in the first weekend, and about half the merchandising was sold in the same time frame. The entire stock of the blu-ray was gone by the end of the first week.

Beat Magazine

One more thing to look for on April 7 was the new issue of Bandai Visual’s Beat Magazine, a free pamphlet distributed to music/video stores. Its Yamato 2199 cover image was backed up by a 2-page spread inside that gave a quick overview of the new series and some promotion for the forthcoming blu-ray box set for the 1974 original.

Click here for an enlargement of the cover and here for an enlargement of the interior spread.

Click here to continue to Report 6.

Bonus: the Mandarake Showcase

In their own tie-in with Yamato 2199 Fever, the Mandarake Complex store in Akihabara devoted its front showcase windows to Yamato and the works of Leiji Matsumoto from March 31 to April 13. Photos by Gwyn Campbell

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