Yamatalk Night 3 Report

by Gwyn Campbell

The Yamato faithful gathered again on the evening of October 23rd 2012, this time at Shinjuku Picadilly Cinema for the third Yamatalk event. After a 9PM screening of Yamato 2199 Chapter 3, MC Kobayashi took to the stage to introduce guests Yutaka Izubuchi (General Director) and Akira Miyagawa (Composer).

Izubuchi was no stranger to the event, having attended every Yamatalk to date (and presumably more to come). Miyagawa, on the other hand, had last appeared on-stage with staff and cast at the February Launch Ceremony (footage of which was included on the Chapter 2 video), but had turned up as a member of the audience at Yamatalk 2. His appearance at Yamatalk 3 was timed to coincide with his upcoming Yamato concert on November 10 (tickets for which were available in the cinema lobby).

Miyagawa, being the rather colorful character that he is (that hair!) was a terrific guest and kept the audience entertained for 45 minutes with plenty of insights and anecdotes, as well as treating us to some rare, never-before-heard recordings by his late father, the legendary Hiroshi Miyagawa.

MC (to Miyagawa): I believe you actually arrived early and watched the screening of Chapter 3 with the rest of the audience here?

Izubuchi: This was your first time seeing Chapter 3 right? How was it?

Miyagawa: I’m still digesting it. I don’t think I’ve taken the whole thing in yet. But there were 4 episodes that were so rich in content that, after episode 7 I felt like a cup of coffee, after episode 8 I felt like I needed something to nibble on, and by the end of episode 9 I just wanted to be left alone [to concentrate/watch]. I previously watched both chapters 1 and 2 at the cinema twice each and with Chapter 3 I felt that I really wanted to watch it at least twice.

Izubuchi: So, of the four episodes, which ones left an impact?

Miyagawa: I’d have to say episode 9. [The Clockwork Prisoner.] It was extraordinary.

Izubuchi: Ah. That was really done in the style of a children’s storybook. Given the story, it was based around the idea of a storybook. Originally I sent you the scenario outline.

Miyagawa: I’m a reader. More than images, words make an impression on me, and when I read it I thought, “this is really great!” And it was with that impression in mind that I made [the song for] it. [NOTE: the song referred to here is titled Picture book and is used when the storybook illustrations are shown in Episode 9.]

MC: So now that you’ve seen it animated, what do you think?

Miyagawa: I was relieved. By which I mean, relieved that the song was right for it.

Izubuchi: It really was. (Applause) In a way, you could say it’s different from your other songs. Although, while we’re on the subject, and I’ll get into this more later, there were several occasions where I asked for songs in a specific style.

MC: So, in other words, the song Picture book was only used in episode 9?

Izubuchi: In principle, I only intend to use it in Episode 9, although that might change in the future if there’s a scene that it fits, but in principle it is meant for Episode 9. There are a fair number of songs that I asked to be composed exclusively for certain scenes.

MC: Wow, that’s rather extravagant. Moving along, one thing we always ask guests about at Yamatalk is their first exposure to Yamato. Now, in Mr. Miyagawa’s case, I feel it would be a major oversight if we didn’t ask about your history with Yamato, so could you possibly tell us about your first experience?

Miyagawa: The first time I saw Yamato? To be honest, it was the first day it aired.

MC: Oh, the first broadcast?

Miyagawa: Yes, the first broadcast. I kind of already know that my father was working on it, but at that time he was very wrapped up in his work and was seldom at home. So, while my father had his own room (at home) he hardly ever used it. And in his room he had a portable TV set. It was on that TV that I watched Yamato.

Izubuchi: So, you secretly watched Yamato in your father’s room when he wasn’t around?

Miyagawa: Exactly right. That’s exactly what it felt like.

Izubuchi: Like you were doing something naughty in secret?

Miyagawa: No comment. (Laughter) As for why I remember all this, I actually have a younger sister who was into Heidi, Girl of the Alps. (Laughter)

[NOTE: Heidi aired from January to December 1974 on Fuji TV, whereas Yamato aired in the same time slot from October, 1974 to March 1975 on Yomiuri TV. This on-air rivalry has become the stuff of legend.]

It’s not like I disliked Heidi or anything, but anyway, I’d just say to my family “I’m going upstairs to watch Yamato.”

MC: How about your first exposure to Yamato that wasn’t the TV broadcast? For example, from [your father’s] documents or something like that?

Miyagawa: Actually, I don’t remember what year it was, but I made some notes about this; I was 13 when Yamato debuted on TV in 1974. I was in my second year of middle school at the time, and had formed my own band called “Wise.” Some of our original songs were heavily influenced by Yamato. It was about a year after that that it happened. Yamato‘s initial viewership ratings weren’t too good, right? Well, despite this, there were about three kids in my class who were big fans. And some time in 1975, one of them asked me, “do you have any Yamato stuff at home?”

Actually, my family had moved houses a couple of years earlier and there were still boxes of stuff in my room that hadn’t been unpacked yet. So it was at around that time that I came across two stacks of papers bound with string. One was the scripts for episodes 1-26, and the other was what must have been the original proposal document for the show. This was a time before color photocopiers were in use, and it had photos actually pasted into it. So I gave it to this kid at school. It’s incomprehensible, looking back on it now.

Izubuchi: It wasn’t a copied document was it, since it had photos in it.

Miyagawa: That’s right. It was incredibly thick with a bunch of photos. Practically like an album. I first found it when I was at home sick for three days and went over the whole thing.

MC: So you actually read it?

Miyagawa: Yes. It was really interesting, even though I ended up giving it away, seeing what had influenced what. A few years later, I also came across a demo tape which had my father singing the opening, Space Battleship Yamato. I was surprised, because the melody was a little different. Realizing how important it was, I put it aside in a container, but it got lost in a move.

Izubuchi: While we are on the topic of cassettes… (pulls out an old SONY cassette tape with Yamato 3-b written on it). Actually, I recorded all of Yamato on these things. My parents used to buy cassettes like these saying that they were going to use them to learn/practice English, but I would use them to record the audio from each episode of Yamato when they were rebroadcast, and then I’d listen to the latest episode before going to bed each night.

MC: People didn’t have VHS decks in those days because they were so big.

Izubuchi: They were really expensive. But also, I was far from the only person who used to record the audio from Yamato on cassette tape. A number of my friends did as well.

[At this point the MC asked audience members who had done the same to raise their hands; a surprisingly large number of people did.]

MC: But getting back on track, let’s talk about the contents of this particular tape.

Miyagawa: Actually, I’d forgotten that this tape even existed. When I first met Mr. Izubuchi, he was good enough to remind me of it.

Izubuchi: It was in Yamato III that I remember first seeing (Akira) Miyagawa’s name credited. On the soundtrack for Yamato III, I remember his father saying “My son wrote this track.” I realized that that must have been his debut.

MC: In other words, that’s what’s on this tape.

Miyagawa: That’s right. Going by my notes, being Yamato III, that would’ve been late 1980 or early 1981, so it was probably recorded in 1980. But actually, while Yamato 3 is written on the tape, I’ve also [originally] written “third composition” on it as well.

Izubuchi: In other words, you had already composed two other pieces.

MC: We are going to play the tape now, but what order should we listen to them in? The order they were composed? Or should we start with the third one, which is largely thought of as your debut?

Miyagawa: Whichever is easier to understand.

MC: Let’s start with number 3 then.

[Plays tape]

Izubuchi: So the title of this track is The 18th Armored Division, and it’s pretty upbeat for music that’s used for when the enemy is on screen. [Note to music collectors: this is track 5 on your Yamato III Symphonic album.]

Miyagawa: Oh, it was enemy music? (Laughter)

MC: Yes! Although that wasn’t noted in the title of the piece, which was pretty rare.

Miyagawa: I used to listen to this tape every morning and night until it became worn. But I wrote it when I was studying to retake university entrance exams, so I would’ve been about 19 or 20 at the time. I entered university when I was 20, so it would’ve been around those years. But there’s no way I could have successfully composed orchestration like this initially at the age of 19. The first thing I composed, if I remember correctly, was some battle music from Be Forever Yamato, but it was cut. (Laughter)

Therefore, what you are about to hear is not something that has been heard before. And when you hear it, well, you’ll probably understand why it got cut. (Laughter)

MC: Well, let’s listen to it.

[Plays tape; at the end, Hiroshi Miyagawa’s voice can briefly be heard.]

So this piece was originally approved?

Miyagawa: The situation was quite tough. I had yet to get into university, and so my father said that since I wanted to study music composition, why didn’t I try composing a piece for him? I said I would. He then told me to do some music for a battle, with some explanation I didn’t really understand, and I then spent two whole weeks composing that 1 minute, 20 second piece on a keyboard at home while he was at work each day. He would come home and ask, “are you STILL working on THAT?” During the same period, he composed 30 or so pieces, while I was just doing the one.

I was so scared that I couldn’t go into the studio. There was no way I could stand up [in front of the orchestra]. So I left [the recording] up to my father. Yet, he didn’t know what the piece was supposed to sound like, so in retrospect I think that he must’ve struggled with whether or not to take me along to the studio. But anyway, I didn’t go. Instead I just waited for him to come home. When he did, he exclaimed, “your song was certainly something!” At the time, I thought that he meant it was good, good, but apparently he was told that it didn’t sound anything like his usual work (laughter).

Izubuchi: Ah, so that’s what he meant. (Laughter)

Miyagawa: When I listened to it, he had certainly followed my instructions. But it’s obvious, listening to it now, that there were mistakes all throughout.

Izubuchi: But you had heard the piece before today, right?

Miyagawa: Of course, my father brought it home so I could listen to it. And I thought, oh, so that’s what it sounded like. Today, with computers and synthesizers, you can experiment (prior to recording), but back then, you never knew what it would sound like until it came back [recorded]. So while there were mistakes and parts that were embarrassing, I was still really moved [when I heard it].

MC: Listening to it now though, despite being a first effort, it does sound theatrical. It follows the same musical theme. But it mixed too many elements as a theatrical piece.

[Miyagawa agrees. Izubuchi then pulls out a TDK cassette tape for the second piece of music.]

Miyagawa: You can see I [originally] wrote ‘Yamato 3’ on the case. So it’s a piece I originally wrote for Yamato III.

[The song plays.]

Miyagawa: I originally thought that this piece was rejected as well, but listening to it later on, I thought it sounded familiar.

MC: Does anyone recognize it?

[A few audience members raise their hands. The piece as apparently used at the very end of Yamato III when the story dealt with the Planet Phantom.]

Miyagawa: Aha, so it WAS used! So my original ‘debut’ was a little earlier than Izubuchi’s. (Laughter).

[Izubuchi protests rather loudly that this is only the case, if they are timing Miyagawa’s debut from his first effort. Laughter ensues.]

Miyagawa: Abut that, the first piece I was actually involved in was really very interesting. It would have been 1978, in February. There was this concert that was essentially Miyagawa Hiroshi vs Hattori Katsuhisa.

[Collector’s note: this refers to the performance on the World of Hiroshi Miyagawa live concert album, released in May 1978 and brought to CD July 2012 as part of the Yamato Sound Almanac series.]

The first part of the concert consisted almost entirely of Yamato music and it was a really unique concert. Each side brought out guests to play what ended up being sort of competing pieces, and I participated. It was around that time that I had done a jazz arrangement of a Mozart piece in my spare time and even ended up being featured on a TV broadcast, although they ended up cutting my part. (Laughter)

So I started to get this idea that I might be a pretty good pianist, and it was right around this time that I was asked to play pipe organ in a piece for Farewell to Yamato. It was probably when I was on school vacation, meaning that that piece was either recorded at the very last minute, or else I did it during the previous Golden Week holiday. Anyway, I was really impressed with what I had composed, and bragged to my father about how great it was–this composition which had separate melodies to be played by the left and right hands and which then mixed. When he asked if I could actually really play it. I replied that I could, but I had no experience with pedals so I thought I could just leave the footwork to someone else.

So I tested the piece and thought it sounded really cool, but the problem was that I was trying it on the piano. Unlike a piano, on an actual pipe organ you need to constantly have your fingers on the keys for as long as you want a note to play. On a piano, notes ring a bit, giving you time to switch to the next key/note and so on. So, not having ever done this before, when I actually had to play it on a pipe organ…it was quite a tough experience.

MC: How many hours were you playing for?

Miyagawa: Well, I remember having dinner delivered. I was playing well into the evening. It’s not like I could keep playing if I made a mistake. I was stopped and had to start over. “Ok, take 23!” (Laughter)

It was a three-minute piece, so if everything went well, then naturally the recording would be over in three minutes, right? But I was trying for 3, 4, 5 hours. We started running out of tape to record on! There were 5 rolls of tape and each one could only hold about 15 minutes. Then I heard someone say, “Sorry but this is the last length of tape.” I was only a high school student. I had been under this sort of pressure before. So I gritted my teeth and begged them to let me do it one last time. I honestly thought I wouldn’t have a home to go back to if I messed this up. (Laughter) After this last time, my father, knowing that they could splice the track together from the previous takes, said, “All right, that’s OK.” I felt so relieved. But when I listen to that track now I can pick a spot where it’s wrong. (Laughter)

So after this first effort there was my rejected composition attempt about two years later, and then, finally, my actual debut in Yamato III. Then, three years later, in the lead up to Final Yamato I was able to contribute a track called “Great Dengil Empire” to a rather special album. There was originally going to be some visuals done to go with the music, but in the end just the album was released. This time it was really fun to record.

[“Great Dengil Empire” is played from the Prelude to Final Yamato album.]

MC: And now you’ve had your Yamato 2199 debut with the release of the soundtrack. (Applause)

Izubuchi: And it’s just the first part.

MC: That’s right, it says Vol. 1 on it!

Miyagawa: It covers up until Chapter 4, around the half-way mark, so we split it into two parts.

MC: Despite that, there are a lot of tracks on it.

Izubuchi: The original Yamato had a lot of music in it. And in 2199 there are things like jingles that I decided to include. There are some tracks that actually haven’t been used [yet].

MC: And those can be heard at the upcoming Yamato 2199 concert! (Applause)

The discussion then went briefly into how certain arrangements would be different at the concert, stressing the fact that it would be the only chance fans would have to hear the compositions played in this way. The singers of the various ending themes would also be in attendance, and Izubuchi himself intended to be there, but reassured everyone that he wouldn’t be singing.

Finally, a surprise–Miyagawa asked the audience to call out a random track number from either the original Yamato or Yamato 2199, which he then proceeded to play from memory on a piano that had been brought out onto the stage. But after three pieces, the event had already gone into overtime.

Miyagawa quickly thanked the audience for their enthusiastic participation, said that he would try his best on the remaining part of Yamato 2199, and urged everyone to introduce the show to anyone they knew who hadn’t seen it yet. Izubuchi wrapped things up by saying that the only real way to experience Yamato music was to hear it live and urged everyone to come to the upcoming concert.

The End

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