Space Battleship Yamato 2199, Report 15

It’s time again to recount another banner month for Yamato 2199, centered around the premiere of Chapter 4 in movie theaters, which plants us right at the middle of the series. Three behind it, three ahead. Typically, this is when an anime series hits its vital turning point, but 2199 has staked so much new ground it’s hard to say what the turning point actually is. Either way, discovery is the fun part, and there was plenty to discover in the month of January 2013.

December 28

Hyper Hobby Magazine #173

This issue of Hyper Hobby (dated for February) put Yamato on the cover, but didn’t go beyond the usual two-page spread inside. As you can see, it was packed tight with Chapter 4 news focusing on new characters and merchandise such as the upcoming theater goods and Gamilas model kit set.

Space Battleship Yamato Ship’s Log #2

Yamato Ship’s Log #2 (actually the third issue, since it started with #0) maintained the English term “Fun Club Magazine” on the cover in what may or may not be a callback to the original fan club magazine–which also said “fun club” on its first issue. Regardless, there’s plenty of fun between its pages. The cover image is derived from 2199 Episode 9, displaying the cover of the apocryphal storybook read in the episode. The text and illustrations are presented along with a rundown of the real-world stories (by such authors as Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov) that inspired it.

Chapter 4 coverage takes up most of the issue with color stills, character and mecha art, and several pages of model sheets in multiple categories. Also featured is the Japanese version of my interview with Michio Murakawa (conducted spring 2012), an overview of the November 2012 concert event, some vintage product history, and the first chapter in what looks to be an extensive biography of Yoshinobu Nishizaki.

Copies of Ship’s Log are only available to members of the Yamato Crew Premium Fan Club. Regrettably, you need a Japanese address (or that of a surrogate) to sign up.

January 10: New Type Magazine (February issue)

This was only the third time New Type ran a 2199 feature, but this one was just as splashy as the first two. Its text put someone in the spotlight we haven’t heard from yet: Rie Tanaka, the voice of breakout character Akira Yamamoto. Here is that text in full.

It’s possible that Akira had a feeling of “jealousy.”

Rie Tanaka as Akira Yamamoto

Fortitude can be seen in the red eyes that grew up on Mars

She followed the path of her pilot brother who was killed in the war. Though that wasn’t the path that lead her to the pivotal warship Yamato, her quick wit during the crisis at Enceladus opened up the way for Akira as a pilot. In the original Space Battleship Yamato, Yamamoto appeared as a male character. Now Akira Yamamoto is presented as the younger sister and female pilot in 2199, and we’ve seen how she affects the story. As we now welcome Chapter 4, she’s becoming a vital figure to both Yamato and our main character, Susumu Kodai. What kind of appeal does Akira have for Rie Tanaka, who really plays her?

Tanaka: The Marsnoid part was surprising. You suddenly realize anew that her eyes are deep red because she comes from there, but aside from that, there’s a charm about her that comes from the strength of her heart, despite that stubborn streak of hers, as well as the unexplained hatred she carries.

Akira was born on Mars, which gives her a mysterious atmosphere, different from the other female crew. On the other hand, she shows superior ability as a pilot and supports Kodai. Although she’s a woman who shows strength in addition to calm, Rie tries to act naturally when performing her.

Tanaka: I try to play it as natural as possible. She looks pretty much like a Terron [Earth person] even if she’s called a Marsnoid, and her actions and movements have a very human sense, so there’s a gentle and loveable place in her. By playing it natural, I sincerely think I can make her more likable.

The story reaches a turning point in Chapter 4. Also, the individuality of Yamato‘s crew definitely begins to clarify in these episodes. Which character was most appealing to Ms. Tanaka?

Tanaka: Shiro Sanada. I like his unique atmosphere very much. If I’m asked about Yamato‘s crew, I always seem to go for Sanada. (Laughs)

On the other hand, Chapter 4 features an episode that may become a turning point for Akira. Will there be progress in the relationship between Susumu Kodai and Yuki Mori, though they were always cool toward each other before?

Tanaka: Maybe this time Akira’s heart-pattern is “jealousy”!? It could be this Yamato that feels a little of the Marsnoid passion! Don’t miss it!

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

January 10: New Type Ace #17

As announced previously, this issue of New Type Ace didn’t contain a new chapter of Michio Murakawa’s manga adaptation, but the usual two-page spread was there with another look at Chapter 4, along with the 7th essay in Ryusuke Hikawa’s Yamato Lessons from the Past series. (Read it here.) Also on offer was a foldout pinup of the Yamato Girls (below), whose uniforms just seem to get tighter every month.

There was also a reminder (below left) that the second paperback collection of the 2199 manga would soon arrive–along with Chapter 4.

January 10: TV announcement

The same day New Type Ace #17 was published, a major news announcement struck like a thunderbolt: Yamato 2199 was headed for Japanese TV an entire year before originally anticipated. Shortly after the series was first announced in late 2011, it was expected that it would play out its theatrical and video runs prior to a 2014 broadcast. Newspapers like the one shown above right picked up the story that nationwide network TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) would begin running the series in April. This is just the latest partnership between TBS and Yamato, since they were also the major sponsor of the 2010 live-action movie.

No indication was given about length; if it goes for 26 weeks without a break, it will finish sometime in October–very likely the same time Chapter 7 would bring the series to an end in theaters. Time and careful observation will tell the story.

A followup announcement hit the official 2199 website on February 9: the opening theme of the TV broadcast will differ from the theater/video version. JAM Project, a megapopular “dream team” anime vocalists, will perform their own version of the song with a CD to be released May 1, proceeds going to Earthquake-related charities. Members of the group have also been commissioned to perform the end title themes for Chapters 5 and 6.

January 11: Chapter 4 Premium Night

Members of the Yamato Crew Premium fan club had the privilege of early ticket access, allowing them to see Chapter 4 the night before everyone else at one theater in Tokyo (the often-mentioned Shinjuku Picadilly) and another in Osaka. The limited-edition blu-rays were sold, along with an exclusive “Kato version” Cosmo Falcon helmet keyholder. A standard version was part of the theater merchandise that accompanied Chapter 4–the “Kato version” has a different color scheme unique to the character.

January 12: Chapter 4 Premiere

After seeing the live-action film and both versions of Resurrection on the big screen, I can personally attest that no matter how many Yamato premieres you attend, they are never routine. Beyond the movie itself, it’s Christmas morning for fans at the theater gift shops.

Naturally, the top sellers are always the program book and the exclusive blu-ray. The cover art for the program (shown at left) is the most striking so far, showing off the floating Gamilas base on planet Balun (supposedly an artifact of an ancient race called the Akerians). The book runs a generous 40 full-color pages and can be seen from cover to cover here.

Also found inside are an interview with the voice actors for Cosmo Falcon pilots Kato and Shinohara (which can be read at the page linked above) and a lively talk with composer Akira Miyagawa (which can be read here). The ominous teaser text on the opening page reads as follows:

A Desperate Situation!? An Invisible Enemy Attacks Yamato!!

It is the year 2199. Space Battleship Yamato has left the solar system to save Earth, and sets course out of the Milky Way toward the Large Magellanic Cloud. But contact with a person from Gamilas, who is no different from a human, causes the ship to vibrate with quiet discord. Gamilas Emperor Dessler prepares the next move to subdue Yamato. Still in the midst of this endless journey, Yamato‘s ordeal continues.

Accompanying this is another insightful essay by the original Yamato superfan Ryusuke Hikawa, which reads as follows:


By Ryusuke Hikawa (Anime Commentator)

Chapter 4 goes just past the first half of Space Battleship Yamato 2199. (It reaches the 14th episode in terms of a 26-episode TV series.) In the lead-up to this block, the heights being reached for by the staff become clearer.

It is a magnificent work that captures the “Yamato saga” as an entire series, and if you make the “journey to Iscandar” again, the great challenge is to find what sort of spectacle can be rediscovered. I point to the appearance of characters, mecha, and concepts from the original, specifically the space carriers and destroyers of the White Comet Empire military (from Farewell and Yamato 2) that face off against Domel’s generals, and Frakken’s Dimensional Submarine (from Yamato III).

To the audience who appreciated the previous works of Yamato, it must have been a big surprise. In Episode 13, it is said that, “a person from Gamilas is just like humans from Earth,” which links closely with a turning point in the original. The drama that develops when Lieutenant Melda Deitz is taken prisoner in 2199 is impressively presented, but the overview of the journey does not remain there.

It leads to the “first contact theme,” as used in the field of SF. It can be said to symbolize the history of Earth. Human beings who dispersed into every corner of the Earth from the same pure breed evolved according to local terrain, such as the sea or a mountain range, and developed their own culture and civilization. However, issues of terrain were overcome and opportunities arose for contact between different groups, like the Roman expedition to Egypt or the arrival at the New World in the age of geographical discovery. The resulting conflict lead to the development of civilization and simultaneously to tragedy.

The intensity was handed down from generation to generation in the form of stories which continue to move peoples’ hearts even when transposed to SF space opera. The “drama of race-to-race contact” and referring to the whole world globally as “one thing” is even more important when we recognize the times we live in.

If Yamato is a work depicting a “voyage to wisdom” with respect to the grand saga that includes the original series, it becomes possible to delve into the overall picture, which has great significance now. In fact, the contact with Melda in this work “let slip the dogs of war,” and forms a nucleus for the group dynamic of Yamato‘s crew. Furthermore, the progressive approach of defining the Gamilas side with the same mentality as humankind is a big highlight of Chapter 4. The prospect of internal strife and Dessler’s transcendental plans give a premonition of future trouble like a powder keg. At the same time, romance and emotion are depicted in detail on Gamilas, and the fact that it is not a simple setting is attractive from beginning to end.

Also, it is deeply impressive when the real intention of the original work is revealed with the daring words, “Person from Gamilas” rather than “Alien from Gamilas.” After re-evaluating the original text and building information that validates it from every conceivable angle, and after redrawing the global chart of the vast “Yamato Saga,” we begin a new voyage.

This is the true picture of Space Battleship Yamato 2199. If we trace the same route, it is inevitable that the landscape will be different even if it seems similar. We want the memories of the old voyage to be kept alive and treasured. Keep those memories in your heart, and for a short time let’s enjoy this new voyage together, a voyage offering both fresh spectacle and a new human drama.

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

The limited edition Chapter 4 blu-ray sold in Japanese theaters easily lived up to the standards of its predecessors with a bonus booklet (cover art shown at right, by character designer Nobuteru Yuuki) containing the storyboard to Episode 13. This episode depicts the battle between Yamato and Wolf Frakken’s Dimensional Submarine, brilliantly visualized by film director/designer Shinji Higuchi (who previously storyboarded Episode 3).

Bonus features on the disc consist of English subtitles, an audio commentary for Episode 13, a text-free opening title, promos for Chapter 2, and a video conversation between Director Yutaka Izubuchi and anime/manga master Yasuhiko Yoshikazu (the text of which was published in the July 2012 issue of Animage). Finally, the outer sleeve was another masterpiece by Yamato design veteran Naoyuki Katoh, shown below. The standard edition of the blu-ray is scheduled for release on February 22.

Finally, the disc also came with a 12-page booklet, which can be seen here.

Next up, the new wave of merchandise. A display at the Shinjuku Picadilly (where fandom’s pal Gwyn Campbell saw the film and shot these photos) gave everyone a look at the Gamilas (or “Garmillas” if you prefer) spaceship models coming later in the month. There was also another foil sticker for collectors, and the long-promised “collection sheet” was finally available as well. This was first announced with Chapter 1, an accordion-fold display book for all seven stickers with another amazing painting by the great Naoyuki Katoh. As we know now, it depicts Yamato in a flyby against the much larger Domelus III. This is, of course, the flagship of General Domel, which made its onscreen debut in Chapter 4 and will figure prominently in Chapter 5.

As these photos attest, the merch that came with Chapter 4 covered a wide range of categories. Some continued trends started with earlier waves (like the trading cards and bookmarks) while others struck completely new ground. Chief among these were the pilot’s helmet keyholder and a pair of 3D lenticular posters that practically leap out at you.

See the complete lineup of Chapter 4 goods here, and visit the manufacturer’s website here.

Continue to Part 2

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