Roadshow magazine, November 1977 issue

SF fantasy of dreams and adventures

Star Wars vs Space Battleship Yamato

Written by Kazukuni Kawahara

In the year 2199 A.D., the human race finally reaches the time of extinction

In 2199 A.D., Earth is in danger of extinction due to Planet Bombs from the planet Gamilas. Humans are living underground, but the radioactive contamination is relentless. The human race is only one year away from extinction.

Then, a message arrives from Starsha, a princess of the planet Iscandar, far away in space. She says that the human race can be saved if they come to retrieve a device that will remove the radiation. Thus, 114 people, including Captain Juzo Okita, Space Soldier Susumu Kodai, Navigator Daisuke Shima, and Yuki Mori fly off to Iscandar on the Space Battleship Yamato.

However, Dessler, leader of Gamilas, who was planning to invade Earth, tries every means possible to block Yamato‘s advance. However, Yamato overcomes a great space battle against a fleet led by General Domel, and finally prepares to engage the planet Gamilas in a decisive mainland battle.

The all-out battle between the two forces ends in victory for Yamato. Go for it Yamato! With just over a hundred days left until Earth’s destruction, will they be able to safely return with the radiation removal device?

To save Earth, to save mankind, Space Cruiser Yamato launches on a journey of 140,000 light-years

Who could have predicted this Yamato boom? On the first day of the Tokyo premiere, the Tokyu Bunka Kaikan in Shibuya was filled with the extraordinary enthusiasm of Yamato fans. The doors opened at 6:00am, ahead of the scheduled 8:40 start time, with some 60 people standing in line all night.

In addition to the Tokyu Rex, the original screening theater, the Pantheon and the Tokyu Masterpiece Theater were also reserved for Yamato screenings. I had to bow down to the fans who brought their own lunch boxes and tried to stay all day, and I was forced to join them. It was truly a stampede. This was the first time in the movie world since The Exorcist. The audience was mostly junior high, high school, and college students, and 60% were women.

“I love everything about Yamato,” said one fan. “Even the unfinished parts, which increases the potential for audience participation.”

The momentum from this opening day continues unabated, and in the Tokyo area alone, box-office receipts are projected at 700 million. Record sales are also increasing rapidly, and are on track to surpass 400,000 LPs. The comics have sold 1.4 million copies and are being reprinted over and over.

Why is it such a big hit? Dreams, adventures, roman, and love all unfold in the magnificent universe. The young audiences are fascinated by the simple story of good and evil, and may detect an ideal that transcends the Shirake and Shikoshiko schools. For example, they see in Captain Okita an ideal father figure. The hand-drawn lines on Yamato‘s body give it a rugged appearance, rather than a metallic sounding, bland style, which makes it more approachable.

The number of images used was 52,000, the number of paint colors was more than 120, and the total production staff was 890 (30% more than for a normal anime). The production period was 2 years, at a cost of 300 million yen. There are many inconsistencies, such as the damaged Yamato appearing unharmed in the next scene, but at any rate, Yamato continues to make rapid progress, becoming the talk of the summer holiday season.

A message of love from the Queen of Iscandar, a strange star at the edge of the galactic universe. “Welcome, everyone on Earth!”

When it aired for 26 weeks on Japanese TV from October 1974, Space Battleship Yamato had low viewer ratings due to its rival program, Girl of the Alps Heidi. But the series became very popular in reruns, and Yoshinobu Nishizaki, the original creator and producer of the program, re-edited it into a movie for the 30,000 members of the 200 known fan clubs. However, all domestic film companies refused to distribute the film. It was finally able to be screened in the form of independent distribution.

At one company, the president gathered the staff in charge and yelled at them for their lack of foresight. It was good medicine for the filmmakers who only think of animation as a child’s lunch. However, Producer Nishizaki said the film was produced with the light-hearted intention of “providing a service to the fan club members.” A distribution staff could not be blamed for not foreseeing the boom phenomenon.

Even after the premiere of the film was decided, no one in the film industry predicted that it would be a big hit. In fact, it was only when advance tickets started selling like crazy that the industry went into a frenzy. Because it was ignored and treated so coldly, it is considered one of the Seven Wonders even now in the midst of becoming a hit. The reason for the significant delay in the release of the film outside of Tokyo and Hokkaido is that no one had anticipated it to be this popular.

Star Wars & Space Battleship Yamato Comparison

Both films, made in different places and at different times, happen to have a surprisingly common theme: justice and love for humanity.

Popularity = Juzo Okita

Captain of the Space Battleship Yamato. He is a veteran space fighter and commander of the former Earth Defense Fleet. He has a calm, collected judgment and is like a father to his crew. He takes his last breath just before returning to Earth, but his quiet death is filled with dignity.

Young hero = Susumu Kodai

Following in the footsteps of his older brother Mamoru, Kodai is the leader of Yamato‘s battle group. In the latter half of the voyage, he takes command of Yamato as a substitute for Captain Okita, who falls ill. He is a young man who grows as a person in the course of the voyage. He is tied to the lovely Yuki Mori, leader of the life group. He is an intuitive type of person.

Planetary Beauty = Queen Starsha

Queen of the planet Iscandar. She sends her sister Sasha to deliver her message to save Earth. She has an intelligent and elegant face, and for an eternal woman who never actually appears, she has many fans among men and women alike. She is an ideal woman who symbolizes love and peace.

Villain = Dictator Dessler

Dessler is the leader of Gamilas Empire, a ruthless dictator who believes himself to be the greatest human being in the entire universe. His pale, cunning face makes him a loathsome villain. He is an icy man who does not seem to have a shred of love in his heart.

Highlight = The flying battleship Yamato

The star of this film is, above all, Yamato. The pride of the Imperial Japanese Navy has been revived as a flying battleship. Yamato‘s exterior remains unchanged, but it is equipped with a Wave Engine capable of super-light speed flight (warp navigation). The famous triple main guns and secondary guns fire energy rays instead of cannonballs, and the catapult at the stern was also retained. The speed is 99% of the speed of light, and one warp can travel 100 light years. It is equipped with a bow Wave-Motion Gun, bow missiles, and more.

Popularity = An odd pairing of robots

C-3PO is a metal robot that translates human and robot languages. R2-D2 is a computer repairman. The odd pairing of these two has made them a popular duo. They recently stamped their footprints at Mann’s Chinese Theatre, the second and third non-humans to achieve this feat. [Translator’s note: Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger was the first.]

Young hero = Luke Skywalker

He is a farmer living on a planet far from Earth, but he stands up with determination to rescue Princess Lea. He is a brave and hot-blooded hero. With his robots in tow, he runs into trouble head-on. Luke is the nickname of Lucas, so perhaps he is the director’s alter ego.

Planetary Beauty = Princess Leia Organa

She rises up against the oppression of the Galactic Empire, but is kidnapped. She is a strong-willed, intelligent, and lovely beauty. However, when she is in danger, she shows flamboyant action comparable to that of The Bionic Woman.

Villain = Dictator Darth Vader

The incarnation of evil in the Galactic Empire. He is the head of this dictatorship. He wears black armor, a black cloak, and a mask with a grotesque breathing screen to hide his face. A big man to look up at. He is an example of a villain with a terrifying face.

Highlight = Big space battleships and special effects

The highlight of Star Wars is special effects. In Japanese terms, tokusatsu. Under the direction of John Dykstra and John Stears of The Andromeda Strain and Silent Running (not shown in Japan), a total of 900 special effects personnel worked on the film. They made elaborate miniatures one by one. A special camera was used to capture the images one frame at a time. The details are top secret.

What is the next big sci-fi movie after Star Wars and Yamato?

The list is endless. There are many, many science-fiction films inspired by Star Wars: Damnation Alley, Close Encounters, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Cat from Outer Space, Time Machine II, and more. Star Wars II will begin shooting next July. Lucas’ script and Spielberg directing are now the most likely scenarios. Just imagining what it would be like to add the horror of Jaws makes me happy.

I’m tired of disaster movies, and “occult” films have degenerated into the bizarre. It was said early on that a sci-fi boom was next. I never expected such an unprecedented work to appear so soon. The secret of Star Wars being a big hit is that it contains all the pleasures of cinema: dreams, adventure, and love. At the height of the disaster movie era, Star Wars is said to be a return to the good old days of Hollywood. In Japanese terms, Star Wars revives the excitement of the Great Picture Show.

The hit of Space Battleship Yamato is a similar phenomenon. The company intends to produce “Part II” of the series. As for other Japanese films, Osamu Tezuka’s epic saga Phoenix has finally been made into a movie by combining anime, special effects, and live-action. Toei is also aiming to make a Japanese answer to Star Wars using the characters of Kikaider and Masked Rider. Kinji Fukasaku went to the U.S. to inspect the situation. The film is now being steadily prepared for an early release. [Translator’s note: this refers to Message From Space.]

The movie industry [in Japan] is so focused on the release of Star Wars on July 1 next year that even the New Year’s movies have been overshadowed. 2001: A Space Odyssey is expected to be revived next spring. The first half of next year is likely to be a considerable science-fiction rush.

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