Interview with Shinya Asanuma, Mechanic Animation Supervisor for Yamato 2205
The goal is always to make it a “movie”
From issue 14 of the Star Blazers/Yamato Fan Club magazine, April 2022
Shinya Asanuma wanted to participate in the world of Yamato since his boyhood, and as you will see from his account of selling himself to the production company, he is passionate about his work. The rich and powerful mechanic depictions in Yamato 2205 are the result of his efforts. We asked him about his passion for drawing mecha and for the Yamato series.
From 2202, Episode 3: Yamato in the scene where Kodai is determined to answer Teresa’s call.
Details that were missing in the CG material were added by hand and polygonal surfaces were smoothed out.
This is a pan-down wide shot, so it is drawn in a vertical direction. Special effects were added later.
His passion for Yamato led him to the production of 2205
Interviewer: What was your impression of Space Battleship Yamato when you first came into contact with it?
Asanuma: I think the first time I came into contact with Yamato was in the information page of a magazine. At that time, there were TV magazines for children such as Terebi Land by Tokuma Shoten and Terebi Magazine by Kodansha. There was a special feature on Yamato in one of these magazines, with a full-page spread. I remember thinking as a child, “What is this? Something different from the anime I know!”
Even from a child’s point of view, when mecha appeared in TV anime at the time, lots of people said, “Well, I guess that’s all there is to it.” But Yamato was on a completely different level. I later learned this was the result of the work of Kazutaka Miyatake and Naoyuki Kato of Studio Nue. Anyway, the impact was very strong.
Interviewer: Your SF spirit was stimulated. How did you come to participate in the Yamato series?
Asanuma: I was inspired by Yamato to become a manga artist, but after learning about Syd Mead through the magazine Starlog, I decided to become a “movie designer” when I was in college. I started to get involved in game and anime work, but I couldn’t get a chance to work on Yamato. Then, when I heard a rumor that preparations for Yamato 2202 had begun, I contacted the production company Xebec directly and pitched the project myself.
Interviewer: So it was your passion to be involved in Yamato, no matter what it took, that got the ball rolling.
Asanuma: Yes, that’s right. (Laughs) Before I knew it, Resurrection was being made, and 2199 was in the works. I was so frustrated when I found out that 2199 was already in progress.
From Yamato 2202, Episode 3: the Andromeda and Dreadnought class space battleships produced in the time fault,
drawn by Mr. Asanuma. Special effects and details were added in the photography, and the figures emerging from the dark combined with the rusted scenery of the dock adds to the eerie impression. The new ships that made a spectacular appearance in the original work are revived in 2202 by the Cosmo Reverse in a scene that symbolizes the ominous negative legacy.
I want to inherit the appeal of mecha design that has continued from the time of Studio Nue
Interviewer: As an animation director of mecha, what is important to you when depicting Yamato‘s mecha?
Asanuma: I think Studio Nue’s design is a big part of what makes Yamato‘s mecha so special. The arrangement by Junichiro Tamamori and his team in 2199 is a great inheritance of that taste. I participated in 2202 as a mecha artist, and like Mr. Tamamori, I also felt the sensibility that Nue had created. I try to make the best use of the cool feeling of Yamato that I felt at that time.
Interviewer: Please tell us about the scenes you were in charge of. What were your favorite scenes or most difficult scenes?
Asanuma: In 2202, for example, it was the scene where the Andromeda-generation ships are first seen at the dock in the time fault. The layout was good, so I remember it was very easy to draw. It was also a composition that was decided graphically, so I’m glad I was allowed to create that scene.
Interviewer: There were many scenes in 2202 where the old generation battleships and the new generation of Dreadnought and Andromeda are depicted together. Were you conscious of this sense of mecha generations when you were drawing them?
Asanuma: In terms of generations, Yamato was already treated as an “old ship” at the time of Farewell wasn’t it? Older vessels were already considered useless in actual battles. I think the sharpness of Andromeda was created as a contrast. Of course, 2202 also follows this contrast. On the other hand, the older generation ships are still being updated. I was conscious of expressing this point in my work.
Layout of a shot from 2202, Episode 6. A Kukulkan-class destroyer assaulting Yamato, which is rescuing refugees.
The perspective is well defined by the auxiliary lines.
Interviewer: What’s your favorite scene in 2205?
Asanuma: I like to depict “foreign things,” and in 2205 I was allowed to draw Goruba a lot. I did brush-up basic details on line drawings created by Mika Akitaka for the CG base. After that, I also worked on the textures. We apply a thin layer of the original texture material for surface treatment. I also apply a texture brush to give it an ominous look.
Goruba in its main gun deployment mode. The 3DCG model was created based on a design rough by Mika Akitaka.
Mr. Asanuma added details to the model. The angular curved surface caused by the computer drawing
with polygons has been corrected to make it look more natural.
The damaged part of Goruba, which was opened by Deusula III in a suicide attack.
The organic, multi-layered structure can be seen.
This is what is called “book” material (a technique to cut out a part of the background and treat it like a cell), and I use camera work to create a pseudo-3D effect, so I was in charge of production of that material. Other memorable scenes include Deusula III‘s assault on Goruba and giving Goruba‘s exposed interior an organic feeling. That was challenging and interesting.
Interviewer: What was the process like?
Asanuma: First, there was the original material the CG team came up with. Then the director said, “We want to have the mark of Deusula III‘s attack here” so they designed a 2D version in response. I worked on it while thinking about how to make it fit into the 3D image. I wanted it to be compatible with 3D, so it was okay just to stick it to the front of the 3D material.
Interviewer: It’s a translation work that connects 2D and 3D, so to speak.
Asanuma: That’s right. This is a personal thought, but for me, the definition of a “movie” is “a film that is rich with images.” In the real world, there is the issue of cost-effectiveness, so I can’t be too selfish. And I can’t just focus on one scene, because it has to balance with other scenes before and after it. But in some situations you can say, “right here!” and unlock the limiter and do your best. Because of scenes like that, I thought of it as a “movie” while I worked on it.
From 2205, Episode 6. The 3DCG drawing of Yamato has been corrected and detailed-up, and special effects
have been applied to give it a more hand-drawn look. The texture is closer to a hand-drawn one.
Channeling the “spirit of SF” nurtured since boyhood into the artwork
Interviewer: Were you in charge of drawing Yamato itself in 2205?
Asanuma: There weren’t many scenes where I was allowed to draw Yamato. For example, there was a scene in which Yamato is seen in reddish space from the front, from a bird’s eye view. Also, there was a scene from Episode 6 that was used in promotion. I drew Yamato moving through the universe where the stars exploded and turned pink. Both of these were drawn on top of the CG base in accordance with Mr. Tamamori’s instructions for detail-up.
For the other battleships, I was in charge of Asuka and Hyuga‘s anchoring scenes at sea. I was also in charge of the close-up of the turrets. On the enemy side, I worked on many scenes of Goruba and Great Pleiades. As for a memorable scene, I enjoyed drawing the Pleiades bridge. I also drew the powered suit (Type 5 Spatial Maneuver Armor). I was in charge of the shots of it undergoing maintenance.
From 2205, Episode 4. The mobile armor itself was drawn and detail-up based on CG material, and special effects were applied.
It is interesting that the maintenance stand is designated as “book” material.
Interviewer: Is there a mecha that you particularly enjoy drawing?
Asanuma: Of course, Yamato usually gets me fired up, but the enemy is the enemy. It’s open to interpretation by the person in charge of drawing, which is fun. In the case of Pleiades, it’s the adversary, and it comes in red and black coloring, so I wondered if it was okay to draw it with a more evil-looking image. I think the cinematographer further interpreted and changed the effect of light and dark. Personally, I thought why not give it a scary vibe like in Alien? I worked on it with that in mind.
Interviewer: Starting with Yamato and continuing with Starlog, you’ve been channeling your accumulated SF spirit into your art, haven’t you?
Asanuma: That’s right! I knew that if I didn’t get to work on Yamato, I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my own desires. (Laughs)
From 2205, Episode 1: Hyuga and Asuka at the military wharf. The mooring lines were added by hand.
Also, only half of Hyuga‘s pier is drawn because that’s all that will be seen on screen.
I want to create works that satisfy fans of all ages
Interviewer: As a staff member of Yamato, were you thrilled to see your name in the end credits?
Asanuma: Of course I was. “Hooray! My name is on Yamato!!” When I was invited to the preview I went to the theater and saw the end credits and thought, “Oh! There it is!” (Laughs)
Interviewer: What’s the most important thing about your job as a “Mechanic Animation Director”?
Asanuma: Of course, it’s important to make the most of the designs and not to make a mistake in interpretation. Of course, the detail-up process involves looking at the designs and properly adjusting them. We need to understand the designer’s intention and make the mecha, which has been interpreted in the remake series, look cool on the screen. I’m careful about things like that. When I look at the designs drawn by Mr. Tamamori and his team, I ask myself, “What were they thinking about? Here it is!” and reflect it on the screen. I think that’s the most exciting part of my job.
Interviewer: By redrawing Mr. Tamamori’s design, you can interpret it even more deeply.
Asanuma: That’s right. I hope to be able to output the input in a different form somewhere else.
Interviewer: Finally, please give a message to the readers of Yamato magazine.
Asanuma: I’m a fan of Yamato myself and I’d like to continue working on it in the future. But as a staff member, I want to keep an objective eye so that everyone, from the fans from the original series to the younger generation, can understand it. thank you very much.
From the last scene of 2205: wreckage of the Andromeda-class ships lodged inside Goruba. Damage created
by special effects is vividly depicted. Note the treatment where it has been assimilated into Goruba‘s interior.
Shinya Asanuma profile
Born in Tokyo in 1966. He is a creator of various designs and concept art. Graduated from Musashino Art University in 1992. Major works include Attack on Titan, Golden Kamui, Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash, Yamato 2202, Age of Yamato, and others.
See his credits at Anime News Network here.