Vintage Report 9: 1978, Part 1

As the new year began, the Yamato movie was still raking in box office profits after an incredible five months. After a slowdown in December, the New Year’s holiday brought it surging back in 21 new theaters, and screenings would continue all over Japan throughout the spring.

Meanwhile, the late December release of the magnificent Symphonic Suite brought equal attention to Yamato music, giving it a life of its own and uplifting the entire anime industry as a result.

New products appeared, media attention continued, the fledgling fan club was growing quickly, and everyone wondered what “Yamato Part 2″ would bring. Meanwhile, the production staff worked like mad with just eight months to top the biggest anime film in Japan’s history. In retrospect, we know that they would succeed beyond all expectations, but let’s try to put that knowledge aside as we see how the busy first quarter of 1978 unfolded…

January 1: Manga Shonen, February issue

Yamato‘s first 1978 appearance in Manga Shonen was as a cameo in one of the regular manga serials: Hachya-Mechya [Topsy Turvy] Lab, a comedy strip by Mitsutoshi Furuya. In this episode, the professor character and his assistant test out an invention called the M13 Image Machine, which allows them to transmit a picture from their brains directly to a screen, out of which pops a solid image.

The assistant decides to make Yamato, but only manages a crude version. The professor does slightly better, producing something that could be called Yamato in shape only. When their robot asks to give it a try, his photographic memory produces a picture-perfect Yamato and a few other things.

The professor and his assistant get more than they bargained for when Godzilla shows up, and after all the chaos is over, the robot uses the machine to produce his own mother to tuck him in.

January 1: Roadshow magazine, February issue

Roadshow‘s first issue of the year maintained a Yamato connection with two points. First, the reader popularity poll taken between October 21 and November 20 ranked Yamato at number 4 in the top ten favorite movies. Second, more Yamato art showed up on the reader page (upper right). See an enlargement of the reader page here.





January 1: Study Computer magazine

Ahoy, computer nerds! It’s not evident from the cover, but this issue of Study Computer marks the first time Yamato crossed paths with the steadily growing world of home computing. It came with a supplement titled Introduction to BASIC for Micon [Microcomputer]. Regrettably, that supplement was missing from the copy obtained for Cosmo DNA.

However, research from a contemporary Yamato doujinshi reveals that the story of Yamato‘s journey to Iscandar was somehow used as the framing device for the explanation of BASIC. Until a copy of the actual supplement can be obtained, we’ll just have to imagine how that task was carried out.

So consider this a placeholder until the real thing can be found.

January 1: Modern Film magazine

In the November ’77 issue of Modern Film, columnist Yoshio Shirai expressed his disappointment in the Yamato movie. As a fan of the TV series, he found it wanting and asked for other fans to share their opinions. How did they respond?

This issue’s column contained the followup, which you can read here.

January 1: Treasure Island magazine

Here’s one of the stranger entries in the Yamato media record. This issue of Treasure Island had a lengthy anthology of essays called “78 Boken, proof that “facts are stranger than trivia.” Exactly what that means is anyone’s guess, but there were indeed 78 short commentaries on different fads, trends, bands, celebrities, etc.

Yamato got the nod as well, but the essay was way off the beaten path. Read it for yourself here.

January 5: Yamato Part 2 production

In story meetings that took place throughout December, a wide range of ideas was mixed and matched until the basic plot was worked out. Finally, Keisuke Fujikawa unified them into a single, comprehensive draft which was then turned over to Producer Toshio Masuda for further refinement.

Masuda came from the live-action film world, but he was certainly no stranger to Yamato. He made significant contributions to Series 1 while it was in development, and returned to edit the series down into the movie that was still blazing away in theaters.

The content of the Masuda Draft is almost the same as the finished film, but the battle between Yamato and the Comet Empire in the second half is somewhat different. Click here to read it.


January 5: All About SF Space Movies

Published by the Kantosha company, the title of this 126-page spinoff of Aviation Information magazine was somewhat misleading. Instead of focusing on space movies, it was more of a general encyclopedia of SF and fantasy films, many of which had nothing to do with space (King Kong, for example).

However, the actual space movie content was good enough for the time it was published, most likely meant to capitalize on the rising tide of Yamato, Star Wars (which hadn’t premiered in Japan yet) and the swing toward Sci-fi on the big screen. Articles profiled 2001 and other films, along with an SF glossary, a movie index, a look at NASA spacecraft, and more.


Yamato featured in a short piece titled Yamato vs. Gotengo, stacking it up against the drill-nosed flying submarine from Toho’s Atragon (1963). The headline on the 2-page spread read as follows:

Immediately after Toho’s production announcement in late September, inquiries about the film began to arrive from America and Europe. Let’s compare Yamato and Gotengo!

Yamato, here’s what has changed


January 7-11: Hawaii trip

The writing staff of Yamato Part 2 took a five-day “retreat” to Hawaii for some much needed relaxation before they dove headfirst in what would be a punishing 8-month production period that would consume their every waking minute.

One purpose of the trip was to take in Star Wars and Close Encounters, the two blockbuster American SF movies that had yet to premiere in Japan. Leiji Matsumoto began his initial designs for the movie, and Toshio Masuda’s story draft was thoroughly digested by everyone to prepare for the task of expanding it into a script.

Read more about the trip, and the work that followed, here.


January 13: Asahi Graph magazine

Unless you’ve taken a look into the history of Japan, you may be unaware that the name Yamato goes much farther back than the 20th century. It originated as the name of Japan’s dominant ethnic group and expanded to encompass a province, a spirit, a time period, and ultimately the nation itself. That heritage manifested in the name of the World War II battleship and its anime descendant.

This issue of Asahi Graph, a tabloid-size culture magazine published by Asahi Newspaper, took a look at the many forms of the name Yamato and its propagation across the country from high-end entertainment to everyday objects.

Read the article here

January 15: “Hamidashi” doujinshi

Here’s another example of how grateful we should be to the first generation of Yamato fans for their diligent preservation efforts. The Hamidashi (“split off”) Yamato Fan Club did us all an enormous service when they noticed a discrepancy in manga reprints; Leiji Matsumoto and Akira Hio’s versions were riding high, but nobody had seen or heard of Yuki Hijiri’s version since it ran its course in Terebiland magazine (October ’74 to February ’75).

They sought permission from Yoshinobu Nishizaki to make their own reprint. He agreed as long as they limited the circulation to 300 copies. Their club ‘zine was titled Zero, so this project was titled Supplement Zero Vol. 1. About the size of a standard paperback, it contained a complete photocopy of the manga (taken from Terebi Land) in 84 pages. To this day, it remains the only source other than the original magazines.

In it, the club staff wrote the following:

How did you like Hijiri’s Yamato?

It was serialized in six issues of Terebiland during the time Yamato was broadcast. The design of the characters is quite different from the original work, which has been a problem for Academy since that time. Mr. Nishizaki in particular stated that he wants to “cherish the image of the original work” and is hesitant about reprinting this, but permission was granted to us for research purposes.

We’re sure you will have your own opinions and impressions when you read it. Please send them to the Hamidashi Fan Club and we will feature them in a future issue. Finally, we’d like to express our gratitude to Mr. Hijiri, and Mr. Nishizaki at Academy, for their kind cooperation.

Read more about this doujinshi, and see the complete manga translated, here.

January 15-28: Yamato Part 2 Production

After the staff returned from Hawaii, story development entered its next phase. Aritsune Toyota consulted on SF concepts and Keisuke Fujikawa began work on the first draft of the script. The production office officially opened at Toei studio on the 27th, and design meetings began the next day.

Something else that happened on the 28th was a much-requested rebroadcast of the 4-hour radio drama first heard on All Night Nippon in December. (Described in Vintage Report 8.)

January 17: Iscandar Vol. 6 doujinshi

The Cosmo Battleship Yamato Connection fan club released their 6th volume on this day, a 54-page treasure trove of mecha designs, character profiles, one fan’s account of meeting Leiji Matsumoto, original fanfic and comics, a segment of the Episode 26 script, and more.

See it from cover to cover here

January 28: OUT, March issue

Despite the Yamato logo on the cover, there wasn’t a Yamato article in this issue. But there was still a good reason for the logo to be there; the main feature was a huge 34-page profile of the legendary Studio Nue, mecha designers for the first Yamato series and the forthcoming Space Pirate Captain Harlock. The studio has been written about in many other publications since then, but nobody else captured them in a time capsule like this one.

January 29: Fan event

Yamato Launch to 1978 was the name of a one-day mini-convention, put together with the participation of four private fan clubs and Academy studio. It was held on a Sunday, and the only surviving artifact seems to be this 2-sided program.

It looks to have been a simple affair, commencing with opening remarks and TV episode screenings in the morning, then a staff speech and quiz game in the afternoon, followed by more screenings with a 3:30pm close. Regardless, until we hear otherwise, this marks the first Yamato event organized by fans for fans. Of course, there would be many more. Yamato Party would pick up this format and run with it six years later.

January 31: Department store exhibition

Tokyo’s Imai department store was the first commercial venue to host a Yamato exhibition with products and displays. Imai placed this Yamato-themed ad in newspapers to promote it along with other attractions going on that same week. It was probably the first time a major department store decided to get in on the anime boom, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.


Also spotted in January

Famous Monsters magazine #140

Lest we forget, Yamato was slowly making its way outward to the rest of the world thanks to the English-dubbed Space Cruiser version being licensed in Europe, America, and elsewhere. It was due to open in American theaters in the spring, so Famous Monsters described it in a 6-page article titled Incredible Future Films.

Read that article here

See the entire magazine here


News headlines from January

The 77th male number one chosen by Kurikuri is Susumu Kodai!
Kurikuri, January 1

Space Battleship Yamato Part 2 to launch during summer vacation! The production of Yamato is a challenge to adults of the “disengaged” generation
Sankei Sports, January 8

Teenagers now play a leading role in animation, which was once thought to be for young children
Nihon Keizai Shimbun, January 11

Space Battleship Yamato selected as a participant in the Mainichi Film Contest in the Japan Film Awards category
Mainichi Shimbun, January 25

Yamato to be rebroadcast on radio.
Mainichi Shimbun, January 25

30,000 postcards requesting the encore broadcast of Yamato were received, and the battleship Yamato was re-launched
Sankei Sports, January 27

Symphonic Suite Space Battleship Yamato joins the best 4 popular LPs.
Mainichi Shimbun, January 31


February 1: Roadshow magazine, March issue

Yamato finally dropped out of the top ten in the favorite movie poll, but still featured prominently on the reader page. See a larger version here.

February 3-7: Yamato Part 2 production

Before the script for the new movie could proceed past the opening act, numerous battle and strategy details had to be worked out for the action scenes. This was the work of Leiji Matsumoto, Tomoharu Katsumata, and Noboru Ishiguro in consultation with others on the main staff. While Series 1 was considered an extrapolation of World War II, battle scenes in the sequel would be designed on the basis of modern scientific strategies and combat methods.

Read the results here

Concurrent with the “Battle Plan” stage, Leiji Matsumoto took the initiative to produce one more draft of the story before scriptwriting began in earnest. It was essentially a new synopsis meant to serve as script reference, infused with his own ideas for SF concepts, strategy, character names, and battle scenes. This was the last of the pre-script documents and strongly reflected Matsumoto’s personality in interesting ways.

Read it here

February 15: Kinejun magazine #728

This issue of Kinejun only had a short piece on Yamato, submitted by a fan for the Reader’s Film Reviews section. But it was a different kind of review with a wholly unique observation.

Read it here

February 15: High school chorus festival

From the time the Yamato theme stormed its way into pop culture, it was destined to become a standard in school music performances. This created a new and eclectic channel for music releases when some of those performances were preserved on keepsake LPs like the one shown here. It was recorded at the February 1978 Tokyo Metropolitan Musashi Murayama High School 3rd Chorus Festival and released later in presumably limited numbers. It may have been the first, but it would not be the last.

February 16: Dynamic Happy Concert

Following Nippon Columbia’s release of the groundbreaking Symphonic Suite Yamato album in December 1977, Hiroshi Miyagawa teamed up with contemporary composer Katsuhisa Hattori to conduct the first live concert to feature Yamato music. Both men were already famous for many of their other works, which included numerous film and television scores for NHK (Japan’s PBS), and were also known for being a couple of goofballs both onstage and off, which only added to their popularity.

Miyagawa’s portion of the concert would be released in May on what would become the next hotly-anticipated Yamato LP, titled The World of Hiroshi Miyagawa.

February 21: Yamato Part 2 production

Something unprecedented in the history happened on this day; a renowned fashion designer was asked to participate in the look of an anime film. As one who made a habit of thinking outside the box, Yoshinobu Nishizaki hired haute-couture designer Yukiko Hanai to contribute her talents to costuming the characters.

Not all of her contributions would be used, but she ended up creating Yuki’s beloved pink daywear and a crew T-shirt (above) that would become a real product. More importantly, she became a visible part of the production crew, one of the first women (if not THE first) to be seen in that capacity.

February 25: Yamato fan club magazine #1

Imagine, just for a moment, what it must have been like for fans to open their mailboxes and see this waiting inside. It wasn’t a lot, just 18 pages including the covers and mostly black and white, but the weight of what it represented was monumental, especially for those who had carried the flame on their own from the beginning.

Fan Club (or “Fun Club” if you prefer) Magazine #1 made Yamato Part II its first headline story, becoming the first publication of any kind to deliver movie news directly from the home office. By the time it arrived, the script was in its third draft, design work was well underway, and storyboarding (by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu) had just begun. Found in its pages were a Part II announcement and comments, character guide, a “roots of Yamato” retrospective, a Leiji Matsumoto mini-gallery and studio visit, a “fan plaza” that opened the door to contributions, info on private clubs, and a Q&A with Yoshinobu Nishizaki.


Read some of the articles here:

Introduction

Interview with Chief Director Tomoharu Katsumata

Q&A with Yoshinobu Nishizaki



February 25: Starsha Space Love

This nearly-forgotten artifact was the only Yamato book from Joy Us publishing (created in cooperation with Bandai), but it remains a record-holder to this day.

Starsha Space Love was a children’s book, a highly simplified 16-page look at the Yamato story from her point of view. Like Studio Nue’s Big Picture Book from late 1974, it was handled by an insider. Studio Mates was one of many participants in the production of Series 1. One of its artists, Kenzo Koizumi, assisted illustrator Tenkou Fukuta in the making of 8 elaborate paintings that were reproduced in a giant 18″ x 24″ format, making this the Imax of Yamato storybooks.

This is where it still holds the record: for square inches. Only a couple of Yamato wall calendars have topped it. The artwork inside has never been reprinted, but is as striking today as when it was published.

See it from cover to cover here.

February 28: Mechanic Analysis No. 2 doujinshi

Published by a club named UBYF (Uchu Battleship Yamato Fans), this followup to their first issue in December ’77 devoted 12 pages to what they were able to gather on Mamoru Kodai’s Yukikaze.

See it from cover to cover here


Also spotted in February

Children’s Parade Band Songbook 2

Until an earlier candidate emerges, this looks to be the first professionally-published Yamato sheet music. The publisher’s name is unclear, but the Yamato theme is right there among other tunes such as Wooden Shoes, Beautiful Sunday, and Butterfly. No doubt the composition was highly simplified, but many other sources were on the way to rectify that.

HERO No. 1 doujinshi

HERO appears to have been a doujinshi devoted to anime in general, but Yamato got the lion’s share of its first 36-page issue with extensive ship art and six pages of Leiji Matsumoto’s Series 1 story notes.

See it from cover to cover here

1978 Nippon Columbia flyer

The exact date of this colorful foldout flyer is unknown, but February is a good guess based on the soundtrack albums it promotes for the upcoming months. Yamato Part II is right on top, but its contemporaries are eminently noteworthy.

Space Fantasy Emeraldas and Jungle Emperor [Kimba] Hit Parade are both listed for late March. Mazinger Z, Phoenix, and Message From Space are listed for April. Star Wolf and Space Pirate Captain Harlock (soon to debut on TV) are listed for late May. Other titles (already available) are Babel II, Casshan, Ribbon Knight, and Rainbow Soldier Robin.

The Yamato entry is particularly interesting from an archival standpoint. The promo text reads, “Aiming for a big hit in summer ’78, another big start!” The name of the movie is listed as “Sayonara Space Battleship Yamato ~ Soldiers of Love.”

If the timing estimate is correct, this would be the first instance of the movie title in print (rather than “Yamato Part 2,”) and it’s only one word off; “Sayonara” instead of “Saraba.” They mean “Goodbye” and “Farewell” respectively.


News Headlines for February

It was decided that the Space Battleship Yamato theme song will be played during training at the Hankyu [Braves, baseball team] grounds
Hochi Shimbun, February 1

Space Battleship Yamato Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki interviewed by Seiyoung [radio show] (Bunka Broadcasting). Talked about the film’s production, incorporating actual sounds.
Seikyo Shimbun / Hochi Shimbun / Tokyo Shimbun / Yomiuri Shimbun / Asahi Shimbun, February 8

Space Battleship Yamato radio drama program, popular with young people, is a representative of this type of program
Tokyo Shimbun, February 8

Next to “Kadokawa,” maybe a “Nishizaki boom”
Sports Nippon, February 12

Space Battleship Yamato is the fuse for a re-boom of theater anime
Sports Nippon, February 19


March: Yamato Part 2 production

Several key milestones were met in the month of March to push the movie forward. The script was completed on the 7th, except for the final scene, which became the subject of intense focus in two subsequent meetings on the 17th and the 20th. Yukiko Hanai completed her costume designs on the 11th, character names were finalized on the 18th, and Yasuhiko Yoshikazu finished storyboarding the first of four “blocks” so that layout and animation could get underway at Toei Studio on the 22nd.

Outside the production bubble, the Yamato movie was still in theaters, the TV series returned for another rerun on four regional stations, and two major department stores in Tokyo hosted what we now call “popup shops” for Yamato products. They very likely showcased the merchandise shown here.

March 1: Roadshow magazine, April issue

For the second month in a row, fans kept Yamato visible in Roadshow via artwork on the Reader Page. See an enlargement here.

March 14: Space Pirate Captain Harlock debuts

Occasional space-oriented anime series appeared after 1974 to echo some of that Yamato magic, but it took this long for a truly worthy successor to arrive. Leiji Matsumoto’s gestation period for the character went all the way back to high school, and Harlock made several disconnected manga appearances before an attempt was made to fold him into Yamato. If not for the fateful decision to cut the series down to 26 episodes, it would have worked. (Read all about Harlock’s relationship with Series 1 here.)

This new anime TV series was based on the Space Pirate Captain Harlock manga that debuted in Playcomic magazine on January 13, 1977. Amazingly, Galaxy Express 999 would debut in Shonen King just 11 days later, providing a near-simultaenous launch for Matsumoto’s two most famous creations. Yamato‘s incredible success flung the door wide open for both to migrate to anime, and all three franchises would follow very similar trajectories ever after.


March 25: Symphonic Suite from
Space Battleship Yamato

With this release from Nippon Columbia, anyone who still hadn’t caught the buzz of the Symphonic Suite could sample the album from the three tracks on this EP single. A foldout insert reproduced liner notes from the LP, which included this charmingly humble commentary from Hiroshi Miyagawa:

When Producer Nishizaki called upon me to create Yamato‘s Symphonic Suite, I figured it would be a fairly challenging piece of work, but it would also be a bewitching job for a composer. Three years had passed since I created the soundtrack for Space Battleship Yamato. I set my will on fire, and I wanted to create some new music with a deeper theme.

At times, Mr. Nishizaki would get extremely passionate about his views, which resulted in a positive experience for a musician whose views held a wide horizon. Since there are many new arrangements here, those that have the drama album may think these are somewhat incompatible, but I feel that if you listen closely, you can catch the deeper themes I have added, and I believe they’ll fit right in with the broader tone of Yamato music. I figure that once you listen to the opening, you’ll understand that this LP is reasonably priced.

March 25: Yamato fan club magazine #2

The second issue of the Fan Club magazine seemed more like a doujinshi than a newsletter. There was only a single page devoted to Part 2, probably because animation production was monopolizing the staff’s time and little attention could be spared for interviews. Thus, almost the entire issue became a compendium of designs from Series 1.

On the other hand, the designs chosen for the single page were pretty significant in hindsight. Fans got their first glimpse of the iconic Hero’s Hill monument, a rebuilt Earth city, and previously-unseen spaceship called “A new Earth Defense Force Battleship.”

The accompanying text read as follows:

Yamato Part 2 Bulletin: Original picture production progressing smoothly

Since the first brainstorming (planning meeting), we have completed the setting, script, storyboard, and layout meetings, and Yamato‘s engine has finally started moving forward into the stage of original picture production (i.e. key animation). In this issue, we present a bulletin on the setting meeting for the story.

This is an important meeting to decide on settings for story development, characters, mecha designs, weapons, and so on. Based on a vast amount of materials, staff members discuss new images of mecha and characters and come up with unusual ideas, such as a design plan for an ultra-modern city, and other matters.

Producer Nishizaki sometimes nods his head, and at other times makes suggestions and finalizes the settings. The staff’s faces are serious, since the quality of the work depends on this meeting.

March 27: Valelus Vol. 1 doujinshi

Edited by Yuuto Onomura, who published HERO No. 1 in February, Valelus was sort of a companion piece that took the same story development material by Leiji Matsumoto and enhanced/expanded it into a 24-page compendium.

See it from cover to cover here

March 28: OUT, May issue

This issue of OUT did not have a dedicated Yamato article, but certainly rode the wave with a huge cover feature called The World of Akira Hio, who had recently completed mecha designs for the forthcoming live-action Message from Space feature film. 42 pages were devoted to his life, art, and extensive manga career.

Read another career-spanning interview with Akira Hio (from 2014) here.


Also spotted in March

Yamato model kit, gold version (Bandai)

After all this time, there were still only two Yamato model kits available: the windup motor version from December 1974 and the “Deform Display” version from November 1977.

This followup was substantially resculpted to replace the much-despised windup motor with a proper third bridge and the plastic was coated in a golden-bronze finish. It also included a tiny Analyzer and two fighters, like those in the 1974 model.

It was definitely a step up, but still only a prelude to what would become a wildly successful breakout year for Bandai.

Starburst magazine Vol. 1, No. 2

The English-dubbed Space Cruiser Yamato movie finally made its international debut early in 1978. Exact dates and places are unknown, but this British Sci-fi magazine at least proves that someone saw it before the month of March, since it contained the first detailed review…that sliced the movie into bloody ribbons.

Writer Tom Crawley, who was far more impressed with Star Wars at the time, disqualified himself early in the review with this uninformed sentence: “considering that Space Cruiser must have been in the creation stage at the same time as Star Wars…” and tied everything up in a smug little bow with: “America has the force, Japan has the farce.”

A 1980 issue of Starburst followed up with a review of the second movie, admitting in the warmup that “Space Cruiser Yamato was not that bad after all.” But we’re not up to 1980 yet, so here’s a look at the article in all its misguided glory. The poster was quite nice, though.

Click here to read a PDF with all pages

See the entire magazine here

What’s Next

We dive into the second quarter of 1978, a pivotal stretch of time that included heavy duty movie production, new music, new manga, legendary moments in anime publishing, official fan club meetings, and – most visibly – the first press conference to announce the coming of an anime feature film.

See it all in Vintage Report 10!


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