Space Battleship Yamato 2199, Report 6

First things first: jumping backward a bit, we pick up the March 26 issue of Weekly Toyo Keizai [Oriental Economy], which at first glance seems to have nothing to do with Yamato. Ordinarily, this would be the case. But the business plan behind 2199 is an unusual one, and this business magazine decided it was worthy of an article.

Their three-page story was titled, Does Yamato’s development surpass Gundam, with theatrical and DVD release at the same time? Can Yamato, parent of the anime boom, come close to the king, Gundam?

Mobile Suit Gundam is indisputably the ruling franchise of modern anime, just as Star Wars pretty much stands above all mass-market SF in America. Yamato‘s groundbreaking success essentially made it the Star Wars of Japan during the 70s, but when the saga ended in 1983, Gundam ascended to claim that title and has held a firm grip on it ever since. Now it’s much more accurate to compare Yamato with Star Trek, for which it suffers not one bit.

But the fact remains that Gundam is the most lucrative and successful anime franchise in the world with revenue of over half a billion dollars a year, so it was significant for Weekly Oriental Economy to observe Yamato 2199‘s arrival as competition.

The article opened with a claim that the series challenges the common practice of the movie business by reducing the time lag between theatrical and video releases. In fact, that lag was reduced to zero since theaters sold a limited-edition Blu-ray of the first movie while it was on the big screen. The article was published almost two weeks before the premiere, so they couldn’t have predicted at the time that every copy would sell out within a week (and the movie played for two).

Producer Mikio Gunji of Production IG was quoted as saying that such a scheme was unprecedented, and was only possible because it was Yamato.

After a historical primer of Yamato‘s early success, which inarguably set the table for Gundam, the article profiled the comeback with Yamato Resurrection and the live-action movie. It observed that the standard business model delays a video release so as not to step on ticket sales, and only the limited-edition Blu-ray encroaches upon this turf since the mass-market BR/DVD release follows by almost 7 weeks. Nevertheless, there was some built-in risk management since the film was to play on only ten screens nationwide and theater owners welcomed the experiment. (Which paid off handsomely for all.)

Gundam was cited as a precedent for this marketing scheme, since it closely follows that of the ongoing Gundam Unicorn series. The difference with 2199 is the instant BR availability, and since Bandai Visual handles video distribution for both franchises, there was actually no real competition there after all.

Most interesting in the article was this passage:

There is a reason this experiment was carried out in the anime business. In the area of anime video software, there have been not only TV and theatrical works, but also OVA (Original Video Animation) where the main purpose was direct sale. Usually they wouldn’t be bought if the content was not understood, but if the creators were popular, some numbers were sold. In the past, some popular Gundam OVA series were born, but in general OVAs did not sell well. TV and theatrical anime do not sell as much as they used to on video, as well. (…) But by developing simultaneous delivery, it may be said that the technique creates a “festival” for the fans.

And the conclusion:

If Yamato was the first shot in the anime boom 38 years ago, then Gundam learned from Yamato‘s example to bloom as a great flower. This time, Yamato learns from Gundam to change the conventional wisdom of movie marketing. Even Hollywood, the home of the movie business, suffers from a drop in video sales. If Yamato‘s experiment succeeds, this scheme may spread throughout the world.

And now we pick up after April 7 to review a very healthy inaugural period for the new series.

April 9: First Look at the Gamilas

Gamilas personnel were finally added to the character page of the official 2199 website on April 9. See them (with translated descriptions) in our character guide here. Some of the info was expanded and updated on May 25 when Dessler’s voice actor was finally announced. (Keep reading.)

April 9: Weekly Post Magazine #2177

The first magazine to cover 2199 after its premiere was an even more unusual one than Weekly Oriental Economy, a gossip magazine from Shogakukan named Weekly Post. The front cover is shown above left; the back is shown above right, a cheeky self-parody with Yuki as the cover girl surrounded by lurid Yamato headlines. They read as follows:

1. Astonishment
2. Screened nationwide in 10 theaters from 4/7!
3. Limited edition BD with same content released in theaters
4. Will they become a star of hope for mankind?
5. The miraculous sudden revival of Yamato‘s launch!
6. Am I still a boy too!?
7. Will it be an embarrassing attempt?
8. Yamato Gal
9. Susumu Kodai arches an eyebrow, Dessler is a pretty boy
10. BD & DVD release is already decided!!
11. Main title: Weekly Yamato
12. Earth could be saved from extinction
13. There is a message to convey for the present times
14. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is Amazing
15. Should you see it on BD/DVD or go to the movie theater too?
16. Director Yutaka Izubuchi made Yamato doujinshi in high school
17. Talent studied medicine at Tokyo University “Because I wanted to make Yamato
18. Must-read for fathers/Hiroyuki Amano: “My father took me to the movies only once”
19. Former Yamato fan boys in the present day
20. History’s first large-scale remake “People who made it”, “People who are impressed”

Rather than being invented out of whole cloth, each headline was actually derived (gossip mag style) from a very enjoyable 4-page interior article, which is presented below in full.

Exploring the Equation of a Hit

38 Years on, Anime Series revives in movie theaters

Space Battleship Yamato will save “a Modern feeling of the End”

I aimed for the University of Tokyo because I wanted to make Yamato

Doctor of Medicine
Takayoshi Yoshida (47)

“My life changed when I watched Yamato in 6th grade at elementary school. I studied physics on my own before then. I was a child who thought adults were foolish and I was absorbed only in my favorite things. Yamato was authentic in its construction, even in the warp to Iscandar.

‘I want to make a real Yamato with my own hand,’ I said to my parents. ‘Yamato is a national project, and I won’t be able to participate if I don’t go to Tokyo University.’ Taking on this subject was going to be hard work.”

However, by the time he enrolled in the science program at the University of Tokyo, he knew that leaving the galaxy to reach Iscandar would not be possible.

“Still, because of my interest in space, I continued to do space research.”

(The round photo shows Yoshida in his youth.)

Announcer to political secretary to doctor, his is a life of many changes.

“When in doubt, I leap at a new challenge because that’s what Yamato taught me.”

The Message of Yamato is Needed in These Times

Hiroyuki Amano (42)

“That was when my identity awoke. The first movie my father took me to see was Yamato in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture. It was a fateful encounter.”

In this case, it caused a Yamato fan to enter the entertainment industry.

“In my entire life, that was the only time he took me to a movie. ‘You know when you took me out that time?’ I asked my father, but he didn’t remember.” (laughs)

When the movie version of Yamato was released in 1977, fans stood in line overnight. It became a social phenomenon.

“When I saw Yamato that time, I thought even though it was an old remake, the theme wasn’t old at all. The Earth was bright red instead of blue. They could no longer live above ground. It was a work that didn’t show a childish, rosy future, and I wished other anime would do it after I saw the difference. When I see Yamato now as an adult, its elegant message is just as relevant. It will surprise me again.”

Revival of the masterpiece that
turned the flow of anime
into world-class culture

Anime commentator
Ryusuke Hikawa (54)

Yamato dramatically revolutionized the thing called anime. Before Yamato, it was called ‘Terebi Manga,’ and it was watched by children.”

Japanese anime started with Mighty Atom [Astro Boy], and Yamato incorporated strong social issues.

“An Earth fleet suddenly lost a battle in space with a sound defeat. The design of the mechanisms was realistic and it had a hard view of the future, the opposite of that held by a dreamer. I was surprised by its high level and visited the production studio which was in Sakuradai in the Nerima ward [of Tokyo].”

At the time, the word ‘Otaku’ didn’t even exist. Very few fans visited a site of production. Mr. Hikawa and others collected production materials when they were in high school and published it in homemade fanzines.

“Among the friends of the fanzine was Yutaka Izubuchi, who is now the General Director of Space Battleship Yamato 2199. It was our dream to reproduce Yamato with modern technology, and now that we’re in our 50s, it has come true.”

In-Depth Report of a Hit

38 Years on, the Men of the “Yamato Generation” support a big hit Anime

Those who made Yamato are its “Driving Force”

Yamato is a symbol that makes its best effort
when it must not be defeated

General Director
Yutaka Izubuchi (53)

When Izubuchi was a boy in high school, he and his friend Mr. Hikawa (who later became an anime commentator) turned their Yamato mania into fanzines. After he understood that it was impossible to satisfy the image of Yamato held by any 100 people, he aimed to satisfy the largest possible number of them.

“There is something called the Taste of Yamato. In fact, the old Yamato wasn’t actually drawn that well, but it is beautified in the mind of a fan and is completed there. Therefore, if we brush up the image without raising its density, the beautified image will be lost. In our drawing process, even the firing of the Wave-Motion Gun is very detailed. It achieves the Taste of Yamato for the first time.”

Yamato is neither Star Trek nor Star Wars. A feeling of reality comes out by the handmade analogue feeling which is made by people. It’s almost as if it is made of flesh and blood.

Yamato is an unchanging figure that makes its best effort when it must not be defeated. It does not give up. Yamato is a universal symbol that does not lose hope.”

Clearing the rights relationships and making the project a Go.

Xebec representative
Yukinao Shimoji (54)

Believing that wishes come true, and confronting trouble with no thought of retreat.

The trust of his employees is steadfast, just as if he was Captain Okita. After it had been thought impossible for many years, Mr. Shimoji was the central figure behind the scenes who cleared the clogs and spearheaded the project.

“Because it is an anime with history, I pushed the work forward while properly respecting the rights relationships. To get the license and approval to bring Yamato back to the present, only those of us who actually got through it know how hard it was.”

He first spoke to Director Izubuchi five years ago, but the final go-signal wasn’t given until March of last year [2011]. It required patience upon patience.

Since this is Yamato, corrections must be made to things not even a fan would notice.

Production Supervisor
Hidenobu Watanabe (42)

The release will divide all 26 episodes into seven chapters. From troubleshooting at the production site to coordinating interviews, it is the role of Mr. Watanabe.

“Late-night video editing. Even in a situation where we’re at the very limit of production, if I’m told, ‘another retake will be needed,’ I cope with the groundwork and have to adjust the schedule. This kind of commitment on the site of Yamato is not unusual. It could be a correction that not even fans would notice if they watched it normally. But ‘this is Yamato, therefore…’ is simply what we say.”

A display panel that should be lit has gone out.

“To correct a panel takes several hours. A person who watches this will never notice that the panel has gone out. But on Yamato, we fix it.”

Thus, another all-night session has been confirmed today.

This person’s pencil pours soul into Mecha

Chief Mechanical Director
Masanori Nishii (48)

It is Mr. Nishii’s role to take responsibility for the mecha images which are the life of anime.

“I put life into the details that cannot be expressed in computer graphics. Using a pencil to draw extra details on a mecha improves a space battleship scene even for a few seconds.”

When saying that he wants to depict reality, it becomes the turn of skilled craftsmanship.

“The figure of Yamato shining in the setting sun appears at the end of the first episode. You can see the rifling in the main cannons that add rotation to an artillery shell. At first, this was a straight line. The subtle curve was added by hand-drawing them one by one.”

The destroyer Yukikaze also appears at the beginning of Episode 1, hand-drawn by Mr. Nishii. He would like those who bought the Blu-ray disc to freeze the frame and enjoy the beauty.

“You might not be able to see it in a movie theater, but I drew in the increments of the safety steps.”

(Special thanks to Sword Takeda for translation support.)

April 10: New Type Ace #8

This issue of Kadokawa’s monthly New Type Ace magazine contained chapter 2 of the Yamato 2199 manga adaptation by Michio Murakawa. Also included was another interview with Director Yutaka Izubuchi.

See all the manga pages here.

May 10: New Type Ace #9

One month later, chapter 3 followed. Also included was an essay by anime commentator Ryusuke Hikawa, which can be read here.

See all the manga pages here.

April 12: Smart Phone Yamato

The first Yamato app for smart phones was a personal calendar/datebook that was released in late 2009 with Yamato Resurrection, and a virtual “battlecard” game followed in 2011. This new app, published for Android on April 12 and iPhone on April 16, was created by Production IG and functions as a clock/calendar that keeps you posted on Yamato‘s voyage to Iscandar.

April 13: Theatrical Midpoint

2199 movie #1 finished its first week in theaters on this day with another week to go. By this time, the entire stock of limited-edition Blu-rays had sold out, but as of this now the movie was available on demand from Japan’s Hikari TV and the online Bandai Channel. Promotion got a boost on April 15 when commercials for 2199 began to appear on the most-watched screens in the nation: the closed-circuit video systems in every JR commuter train in Tokyo.

April 17: Yamatalk night

Similar to the opening day talk show (reported here by friend-of-the-website Gwyn Campbell), another event titled “Yamatalk Night” was held at the Shinjuku Wald 9 cinema on Tuesday evening, April 17. Present were Director Yutaka Izubuchi, Chief Mecha Director Masanori Nishii, MC Osamu Kobayashi…and Gwyn Campbell. He transcribed the entire event for us, and his report can be read here.

The movie closed on April 20, marking the first of many waiting periods to come.

April 25: Bonanza

Ship’s Log Volume 0

April 25 was a great day to be a fan. If you had signed up for a Premium Fan Club membership at the Yamato Crew website, the premiere issue of Space Battleship Yamato Ship’s Log shipped out to your mailbox. This full-color, 24 page magazine picked up where the original fan club magazine ended almost 21 years earlier.

Ordinarily we’d show it to you front to back, but by request of the publisher, we can show only the cover and describe these highlights:

1. An introduction by fan club chairman Shouji Nishizaki that mentions (among other things) the beginning of work on Yamato Resurrection Part 2.

2. Interviews with two key personnel from the original saga: Director Eiichi Yamamoto and Production Designer Nobuhiro Okaseko.

3. Interviews with commentator/original superfan Ryusuke Hikawa and vocalist Isao Sasaki.

4. Pinup art by designer Masahiko Okura and manga artist Michio Murakawa

5. Eight pages of Yamato 2199 design art

6. Messages from various staff members

7. A remembrance of Yoshinobu Nishizaki

Future issues of Ship’s Log are to be published quarterly.

CD Single (Lantis, LACM-4921)

Music is always a vital part of any Yamato production, and this newest body of work kicked off with the release of the first CD single on April 25. It contains the opening theme and The Scarlet Scarf, both newly-recorded by Isao Sasaki. Karaoke versions are also included.

Interestingly, this recording of the theme is not the one heard with the Yamato 2199 opening title, but this is not an oversight. The original series began with what became known as the “dirge” version, which opened with a men’s chorus and then went up-tempo with Sasaki’s vocal. The “dirge” portion was dropped as the series progressed in favor of an all-up-tempo rendition that practically became a national anthem. 2199‘s opening title (as seen on the Blu-ray disc) uses a redux of the “dirge” version, and will probably follow precedent by replacing it with the CD version later.

On the other hand, The Scarlet Scarf is not used as the closing title; a new song was recorded for that, which will be released as the next CD single on June 27. Meanwhile, we’ll have to wait and see how The Scarlet Scarf is incorporated into 2199. It will most likely close out the “farewell to Earth” episode, as it did in the original.

The CD release was marked by a free mini-concert by Isao Sasaki on April 27 at Sunshine City Mall in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. It can be ordered from here and from CD Japan here.

Hobby Japan June issue

Hobby Japan delivered two new pages of 2199 material consisting of stills and designs from Episode 2 and some interesting product news. Above left are CG images of the forthcoming 1/1000 Yamato model kit from Bandai, scheduled for release on July 31. More news about that can be found later in this report.

Beneath that is a roundup of recent events, and at the far left is an artist’s conception for a new Yuki figure coming from Megahouse. This was the first image to be published for the 8″ figure, but no release date was given.

Dengeki Hobby June issue

Dengeki continued its commendable 2199 coverage by giving us our first detailed look at the new Gamilas battleships that appeared in Episode 1. As usual, resident Yamato expert Nobuyuki Sakurai weighed in with a short essay:

The fleet that threatens the UN space navy: the imposing figure of the Gamilas battleship!

This time we introduce the long-awaited Gamilas battleships. We touched lightly on them in the April issue of this magazine, but in The Long Voyage, the first chapter of Yamato 2199, three types of Gamilas ships confront the UN space navy in the Operation M battle. Although they were simply called “Gamilas Battleships” in the original Space Battleship Yamato, they are now divided into the Destria Class, Kelkapia Class, and Kripitera Class. This is a change from the original, where the three different ship categories were destroyer, heavy cruiser, and high-speed cruiser.

As I wrote last time, the UN space battleship (Kongo Type), the cruiser (Murasame type) and assault destroyer (Yukikaze Type) correspond to each Gamilas ship, so it can be said that they balance out the fleet battle.

Now, even though the old design is used, you can see in the art that new details have been added that are appropriate to today. The “eyeballs” in the bow that are the most striking feature of the ship show a color gradation from orange to yellow. This succeeds in keeping it from looking clunky and gives a certain beauty to a mysterious ship of an alien civilization.

In the original, the size of each ship type was ambiguous. But it should be noted that even the battleship of the UN space navy is now seen to be smaller than the heavy cruiser of Gamilas. They have the same “heavy” feeling as the heavy bombers of both the Allied forces and the Japanese Navy of World War II, but they seem to embody a completely different magnitude of destructive power. In this area, could we say that the difference in strength between Earth and Gamilas are clearly different?

The image of the German Luftwaffe during the war was dark colors, and the Gamilas battleships seem to reflect that now with two tones of green. This is also true of the specific classes, in which German-style naming is established. The naming of the Earth space fleet is reminiscent of the former Japanese Navy and the Maritime Self-Defense Force, so don’t the characteristics of both sides become clearer this way?

However, the German flavor suits Gamilas personally! It will be an increasing pleasure to see what kind of Gamilas mecha is announced in the future!

-Nobuyuki Sakurai

Also featured was Sakurai’s gorgeous scratch-built version of the Destria class battleship (above right) and a roundup of events and products (above left).

Finally, Dengeki offered two pages of stills and artwork showing the state of Planet Earth in 2199. The description reads as follows:

The state of Earth’s environment in Space Battleship Yamato 2199

It recalls the shocking scene of the burning red Earth at the beginning of Space Battleship Yamato. Both the air and the ground are contaminated, even the seas have dried up, and Space Battleship Yamato launches to save an Earth that has completely changed. This month, we introduce the designs that show what Earth is like in this story.

“It’s useless…we no longer have any power to stop it…what has happened to our Mother Earth…”

This was the line from the impressive scene of Captain Okita, burning in quiet anger while looking at the hideous red contaminated Earth. The scene is still alive and well in Yamato 2199, but the situation is very different from the 1970s when the original Yamato was broadcast.

It was made obvious in Yuki’s lines in Episode 1, Messenger of Iscandar. She says, “they altered Pluto to suit their own environment,” and “they continue to send their demonic weapons to Earth from there even now.” The important keyword here is “altered to suit their own environment.”

From this we understand that the red Earth is being transfigured in this work, modified for habitability by the Gamilas, so we can describe it as “Gamilas-forming.” The concept of the original work was planet reconstruction by planet bombs, but it is further refined in the 2199 version. Rather than the ambiguous expression of the original, it is better understood that human beings now increasingly face the real danger of extinction.

Yuki says that Gamilas-forming has already been completed on Pluto, which suggests they can reside on that planet. This might be further clarified as the war against Gamilas progresses. Yamato 2199 is particular not just about its mecha presentation, but also an overview of the world, which we cannot overlook from here on!

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