Michio Murakawa Interview, October 2022

From the Star Blazers/Yamato Premium Fan Club magazine, Vol. 15

Celebrating the resumption of the comicalized version of Yamato 2199!

The comicalize version aims for the summit of 2199

After a 5-year gap, the comicalize version of Yamato 2199 has finally resumed serialization. To commemorate the restart, we asked the author, Michio Murakawa, about the “truth” behind the suspension and the future development of the series. The article also includes a discussion of the monitor graphics that Murakawa created for the anime versions of 2199 and 2202.

[Translator’s note: “comicalize” is the literal word from the Japanese text. It simply means “manga adaptation.”]


Michio Murakawa was born in Tokyo in 1964 and raised in Saitama. After graduating from university, he worked at an advertising agency, as an editor, and was the representative of his family’s company, a manufacturer of electrical equipment. He liquidated the company and turned his attention to art in earnest. Currently, he is an artist, editor, and designer with a wide variety of talents. His main manga publications include Yamato 2199 and Girls & Panzer: Oak Tree and the Witch of Iron Wings (both from Kadokawa).

The legendary doujinshi that became the foundation of the remake series

Interviewer: One of the most important things to know about your relationship with Yamato is the doujinshi series that became legendary among Yamato fans. How did this project come about?

The comic anthology mentioned in the text, a May 2000 tie-in with
the first Playstation game. Murakawa’s contribution was
a 25-page adaptation of the Battle of Pluto.

Murakawa: I didn’t intend to publish a doujinshi at the beginning. At the time, I was publishing manga while working as an editor for an organization’s PR and bulletins. I had a lot of acquaintances in the publishing industry, so I approached a number of publishers with the idea of doing a regular project. I wanted to publish something that would commemorate the 200th anniversary of Yamato‘s launch.

Interviewer: As a result, your work was published in the Space Battleship Yamato Distant Planet Iscandar Comic Anthology by Studio DNA (now Ichijinsha). So that’s how it came to be.

Murakawa: Unfortunately, this book turned out differently from what I had planned. So, I decided to reshape my project in the form of a doujinshi. That’s roughly how it happened.

Interviewer: A number of prominent artists participated in the project, including Junichiro Tamamori. It was through his connection with your doujinshi that he came to participate in the production of the remake series.

Murakawa: After the magazine was completed, we had a launch party for the contributors, including Mr. Tamamori. I invited Yutaka Izubuchi as a guest speaker. That was the first meeting between the two of them. Some time later, Mr. Tamamori quit his job and entered the world of Yamato. (Laughs)

Interviewer: That’s a great achievement by you on behalf of Yamato, isn’t it?

Murakawa: I think it’s the same in other fields. If people who like something are doing it enthusiastically, they will naturally become connected to each other through a kind of gravitational pull.

Above: Yamato 2199 emerged from these doujinshis compiled by Murakawa (2005-2009). The series included contributions from 2199 director Yutaka Izubuchi, Junichiro Tamamori, Yuka Minagawa, and other key staff members. These activities led to the participation of many people in Yamato‘s remake series. This is due to Mr. Murakawa’s diverse activities and connections to various fields, including Yamato radio specials and more.

My experience as an editor was put to good use on monitor graphics

Interviewer: You were also drawn into the world of Yamato yourself. I understand that 2199 was your first anime work.

Murakawa: Mr. Izubuchi called me out of the blue, and that’s how it all started. (Laughs) I was told that the person who was supposed to be in charge of designing the monitor displays was unable to participate due to various reasons. I had no experience in this area, but I went to the production studio where Mr. Izubuchi was working to hear about the details first. There, he suddenly introduced me as “Mr. Murakawa, who will be doing our monitors!” I was like, “Huh?!” (Laughs) I thought to myself, well, now I have no choice but to do it. And here we are.

Interviewer: What points do you pay attention to in creating the monitor graphics of Yamato‘s world?

Murakawa: I was told by the director at the time, “It doesn’t have to be a crisp, cool design. I want the visuals to be easy to understand by reading the display. I want it to be designed so that the contents on the monitor are linked to the information on the screen.” That was it. The design was to be direct and realistic, so what is displayed on the monitor is connected to the actual actions of the characters.

However, it would also be boring if the design didn’t have an “anime” feel to it. Fortunately, I have experience in editorial design. I was able to work on the project while considering the balance between conveying information and an anime-like expression.

Interviewer: Among the designs you’ve done so far, what has left a particularly strong impression on you?

Murakawa: For 2199, I mainly designed the monitor graphics for the first bridge. That was the first thing I put together. The comicalize version started around the same time the first anime chapter was released.

I was not able to touch the monitors that were needed for every episode, but one of the most impressive scenes in Episode 18 showed Captain Okita’s pocket watch. We were able to properly incorporate the chronograph mechanism into the design. The original 1974 version of his watch was used as the basis for the design.

I designed it to have a switching display as a story requirement. It isn’t well known that a “chronograph” also has the function of a slide rule. I was particularly impressed by the cleanup of the design to include the function displays. I thought, “I wonder if this could be made into a product.” (Laughs)

Why was the comicalize version suspended?

Interviewer: As you mentioned earlier, the comicalize version of 2199 started at a very early time, didn’t it?

Murakawa: I was asked to participate in 2199 in the summer of 2011, and around the end of October, Mr. Izubuchi asked me, “Murakawa-kun, why don’t you do the comicalize version of 2199?” I was very happy to hear that.

I felt that it would be disrespectful to Yamato if it was simply based on the anime production, so I proposed to the editor-in-chief of Kadokawa a different flow of the story based on my own image. I wanted to be sincere with Yamato. I didn’t want any special treatment as a manga artist, I wanted to take on the challenge of comicalizing by following the formal steps.

Interviewer: Wasn’t it difficult to work on the anime and the manga serialization at the same time?

Murakawa: My saving grace on 2199 was that I only had to do monitor graphics. On the other hand, for 2202, I had to take a break from manga to participate fully in the project. I designed 80 to 90% of everything on the Earth side.

Interviewer: So that’s the reason why the comicalization of 2199 was interrupted.

Murakawa: When the story turned into something different from the anime version, I decided to stop there and set a solid policy for the future. At about the same time, 2202 started to move forward, and Mr. Fukui said to me, “I want you to help me with 2202 while the serialization is stopped.” I agreed, with the promise that I would resume serialization after 2202 was finished. I talked about this in a previous Yamatalk at the theater.

Interviewer: And now you’ve decided to resume the long-awaited serialization.

Murakawa: I wish I could have resumed as promised, when 2202 was completed, but a Girls & Panzer project at Kadokawa moved forward, and I started working on it around 2017. I had originally planned to alternate between that and Yamato, but when I actually started working on it, I realized it would be impossible to work on both at the same time. (Laughs) In addition, Nobuyoshi Habara, who had just finished 2202, asked me to design monitors for the Kyoukai Senki anime series.

Interviewer: So you became quite busy.

Murakawa: This summer (2022), Kyoukai Senki and Girls & Panzer finished around the same time, and I was finally able to concentrate on Yamato. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t work on it during the interruption. Actually, I’ve completed detailed plots up to the final episode. The production committee reviewed it and gave it their approval. That’s one of the reasons I was finally able to resume the project this time.

The trials of the Rainbow Star Cluster awaited the resumption of serialization

Interviewer: In the last collection (Volume 8), the mutiny on board Yamato was depicted. From this point, the story finally enters the Balan region and gets more and more exciting.

Murakawa: Yes, that’s right. I’ve finished drawing everything for Volume 9. I’ll resume the serialization starting with the Rainbow Star Cluster. In fact, Yamato 2202 was scheduled for release during the serialization, and there was talk of abbreviating the story. I thought, “Could the Rainbow Star Cluster story just suddenly start with the drill missile flying in?” (Laughs) Of course, when I restarted the project, I decided to write the story properly.

Interviewer: That’s something I’d really like you to do!

Murakawa: Hideaki Anno said he wasn’t satisfied with the Rainbow Cluster story in 2199 from a strategic point of view. I thought I needed to rethink it from the beginning.

That part has a high hurdle because it’s such an exciting scene. I’m not a manga artist who is good at fighting, action, or mechanics. I prefer drama and dialogue, so I’m torn. The Rainbow Star Cluster really is a “trial by fire,” so I knew it was going to be tough. (Laughs) I’d like to put more emphasis on the part where drama takes center stage.

Interviewer: Your 2199 is well thought out in terms of page effects, so I think it’s especially popular among manga readers.

Murakawa: I don’t do social media, so I don’t really know how readers react to my work. (Laughs) I’ll be grateful if it reaches people who read it with gusto. Of course, I also want to do it for all the Yamato fans who are looking forward to it. I want to make sure that I draw the ending.

Is there a possibility that the ending will be different from the anime version?

Interviewer: The comicalize version has different developments from the anime version. Is there a possibility that the story will be very different in the final episode?

Murakawa: Only with the approval of all parties involved, of course. I am thinking of a different storyline from that of the anime. In my opinion, the different details of the story will be of value to the readers. I would like to show differences.

Interviewer: I’m very curious to see how the story will end.

Murakawa: However, I think that the point to be reached in the Iscandar story was already decided in the 1974 version. That point is also firmly established in the anime version of 2199, although it has different developments from the original. If you compare it to climbing a mountain, the route may be different, but the goal is the same. It is precisely because they grasped the points of hill-climbing that 2199 has become a masterpiece in Yamato‘s history.

In the same way, my comicalize version follows a different route to the summit. In some scenes, I chose a route closer to the 1974 version than 2199, and vice versa. The goal of the manga is for the reader to finally reach the summit and feel, “I’ve climbed a mountain called Yamato.” I think of that as my “unwavering goal.”

There are parts where you can look at it in closeup and say, “It’s a different story, isn’t it?” but it’s actually just that the route between two points is a bit different. In the end, I would like you to feel that this is also the story of Yamato.

I’m looking forward to the appearance of the villains in the upcoming 3199 (Laughs)

Interviewer: Lastly, could you tell us about your expectations for 3199, which is currently in production?


I watched 2205 as a fan. The original New Voyage was a turning point in Yamato‘s direction from “science fiction” to a “melodrama” structure, but 2205 is a science fiction work with a mind of its own. It was very interesting that 2205 channeled the dramatic essence of The New Voyage while firmly building itself up as a science fiction work. This is due to the efforts of all the staff involved in the production, including Mr. Fukui and Mr. Oka who wrote the script, and my old friend Yuka Minagawa.

I believe the same staff will be involved in the core of 3199 as well. I’d like to see how they will channel the essence of Yamato III and Be Forever while clearing away the mountain of SF contradictions. I’m also looking forward to the reappearance of Prime Minister Bemlayze. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Thank you very much for your time! Now, please give a message to your fans who are looking forward to the resumption of the comicalize.

Murakawa: Yes, we still have Yamato! (Laughs)

Murakawa’s hand-drawn configuration of the monitor graphics for Sanada’s station. Upper right [display A] shows “3D sensor/sensing program work.” Lower right [display B] shows “sensing evaluation work.” On the left [display C] is a “probability calculator.”

Main monitor graphics on the right side of the first bridge: a display for “damage control assessment” of each part of the ship. Each damaged area has its own window, which displays the type of damage, scale of damage, room for activity, degree of maintenance, etc.

A shot of Yamato‘s internal structure as seen in warp space shown in Episode 3 of 2199. The original drawing depicts secondary armor inside the primary armor shell. A depiction of the inner core mecha block was also prepared. Based on these original drawings, special effects were added and color was applied to create a sense of a different space.

“IFF” monitor graphics for the Kongo-class space battleship Kirishima commanded by Okita (left) and Yamato‘s “IFF” monitor graphics for Nanbu’s radar on the first bridge (right). “IFF” (Identify Friend or Foe) measures ship size, natural frequencies, spectrum analysis, etc. The “radar” is not a single hemispherical monitor, but a display method that allows the viewer to grasp a 3-dimensional display on a flat surface.

The space navy pocket watch used by Captain Okita in Episodes 18 and 19 of 2199. The dial is not mechanical, but a monitor. It has a telemetry function that can link to the ship (radar, countdown, etc.) as needed. In addition to the normal clock display, there is also a timer, alarm, chronograph (stopwatch), and a rotary slide rule for aviation. It is a traditional multifunctional pilot’s watch used by aviators.

Yuki Mori’s radar display screen in Episode 11 of 2202. The left image shows the “extra dimensional implosion” by the Dessler gun in a long range, and the right image is an enlarged view to show more details. The impact area is clearly indicated by the shockwave and the fireball.

The floor of the central operation room in Episode 22 of 2202. The left image shows the “comet city analysis ” screen inside the White Comet. The middle image shows the “Frontal Shock Wave and Flare of White Comet.” The existing completed screen was used and covered with the analysis data. The figure at right is a schematic diagram of the comet city and its representation for a CG-based “Strategy map.”

The comicalize version of Yamato 2199 has resumed online at Comic Newtype here. The collected Volume 9 has been revised from what was published at the time of the serialization. The original version was the same as the anime with Yamato attacking the tightly-formed Garmillas fleet (at Balan) by itself, but the plan was changed to a plot in which Yamato would attack with asteroids (left). We are eagerly awaiting the release of new chapters to see how the story will unfold.

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