Vintage Report 7: Fall 1977

The events and artifacts in this account took place several decades ago, but the actual research in putting them all in order inevitably leads to new discoveries. As more details are found and loose ends are tied together, history becomes fresh news again. Thus, it occasionally becomes necessary to backtrack and amend the record. That’s where this report begins as our journey through the Yamato boom continues…

August 1:
Eiga Fan magazine, September issue

Despite its name, Eiga [Movie] Fan was all over the place with coverage of entertainment, sports, music, sex, and cinema of all stripes. Just before the Yamato movie arrived, they gave it an attractive 2-page spread with a mini-guide to concepts and characters.

An explosive boom calling to the young
A masterpiece of space animation!

The phantom masterpiece Space Battleship Yamato, which was continuously broadcast on TV two years ago and became popular, has now become an animated movie.

In the year 2199 AD, the beautiful Earth, full of water and greenery, is on the verge of extinction. The Planet Bombs of Gamilas, which plans to invade the earth, are raining down on the planet. To avoid radioactive contamination, human beings have sought shelter underground, but they are only one year away from extinction.

Then, a message arrives from Iscandar, 148,000 light years away. There is a device to remove the radiation. It is decided to dispatch the battleship Yamato, which has been secretly converted into a space battleship…

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 15: English Today magazine

English and Japanese speakers alike could find plenty to interest them here, a collection of articles and essays from around the world presented in bilingual text with a lean toward teaching English to Japanese readers. The monthly “English on Screen” feature turned its spotlight on the English-dubbed Yamato movie, and actually did the work of translating the English script back into Japanese.

It may have provided a skewed experience, but it was the first magazine anywhere to provide a bridge between Yamato fans on both sides of the language barrier.

Read the article here

September 19: 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 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

October 1: Roadshow magazine, November issue

Space Battleship Yamato vs Star Wars read the cover blurb at the bottom right. Unless you personally lived through 1977, it’s difficult to understand how truly revolutionary Star Wars was. It brought us a new flavor, a new tone, a new feeling never felt before. In Japan, it was further intensified by breathless magazine coverage for over a year before the film itself arrived in June 1978. Yamato happened along at just the right time to capitalize on that anticipation.

This was only the second issue of Roadshow to cover Yamato, but it was obvious that they were enamored with it. This cover story ran 15 pages with a strong graphic presentation that was unique for the magazine. And there was plenty more to come.

Read the article here

October 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

October 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.

October 1: Middle Third Age magazine

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

October 15: Movie Arts magazine No. 319

Glancing through the pages of Movie Arts, filled with coverage of adult movies and grindhouse cinema from both East and West, the words “high-minded” do not spring to mind. But it’s descriptive of the Yamato movie review found in this issue, written by an author who was decidedly NOT in the target audience. It’s also quite a payoff to Leiji Matsumoto’s conversation in Treasure Island about the dangers of misinterpretation, as this excerpt illustrates:

Space Battleship Yamato did not even tickle the nostalgia of a middle-aged man like me. The film is about the remodeling of Yamato, which is the main point. I am not sure what to make of it, but it was a bit of a mess. Even for me, it had complicated repercussions.”

Read the article here

October 15: Parody Edition Space Battleship Yamato doujinshis

This 2-volume set from a fan club called Character Class Lab was quite an achievement. Both were published on the same day and delivered a whopping 144 pages of parody comics that must have been in the works for quite a while.

See both issues from cover to cover here (volume 1) and here (volume 2)

October 25: Iscandar Vol. 5 doujinshi

The Cosmo Battleship Yamato Connection fan group killed it again with this 52-page ‘zine that offered more production art and commentary on the intricacies of the ship and crew, and the complete voice recording script for TV Episode 26.

See it from cover to cover here.

Also spotted in October

Music talk

Pictured at right is the October 1977 issue of Music Guide, a 100-yen pamphlet that must have had something to say about the Yamato drama LP, since it landed on the front cover. Of greater interest, however, was an article from the October issue of Monthly Dollar, which discussed the early stage of Yamato‘s musical success and was the first to announce that a Symphonic Suite was being planned.

Physical copies of Monthly Dollar magazine seem to be beyond reach, but thanks to the curatorial efforts of Japanese fans, the text of that article is still available.

Read it here

OUT magazine, December issue

The main article this month was a huge feature on Locke the Superman, but the cover also promoted a Space Battleship Yamato Corner inside. It was part of a section consisting of fan mail and art submissions, mainly parody manga.

See it all here

What’s next

The record nobody asked for, the model kit nobody knew they wanted, more media attention, and the first steps toward the Yamato sequel! See all that and more in Vintage Report 8!

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