Toei Chairman Noriyuki Tada on the Yamato movie

Como le va started out as a free magazine in 2009, aimed at the aging Showa generation (born in the mid-20th century) and distributed in train stations along specific rail lines. The covid pandemic moved the publisher, Conex-eco, to transform it into a free online magazine. Their mission statement is, “We want to be a magazine about a healthy aging society. Instead of lamenting the negatives, we will strive to be a light that brightens the future of Japan.”

Space Battleship Yamato is, of course, a milestone of the Showa era, and so on March 4 (2023) the magazine invited Toei Pictures Chairman Noriyuki Tada to share his memories of the 1977 Yamato movie as part of an ongoing series of essays titled Movies Never Die: A True Story of Toei’s Chivalry / The Half-Century of Toei as Seen by Noriyuki Tada, the Fifth President.

See the original article here.

Noriyuki Tada, Chairman of Toei Co., Ltd. talks about behind-the-scenes of the big hit Space Battleship Yamato in 1977

Noriyuki Tada was born in Hokkaido in 1949. He graduated from Chuo University Faculty of Law in 1972, and joined Toei Company, Ltd. in April of the same year. In 1997, he assumed the post of Hokkaido Branch Manager. After working in Hokkaido for 28 years, he transferred to Tokyo and was appointed as head of the Film Advertising Department. In 2014, he became the fifth president and representative director, and upon his retirement in 2020, he became a director and advisor. In June 2021, he assumed his current position as Chairman of the Board.

In 1977, he worked with Yoshinobu Nishizaki of Office Academy on the Space Battleship Yamato series, and with Haruki Kadokawa on Proof of Humanity, the second film by Kadokawa Haruki Office. The first films in which Toei collaborated with other companies were all big hits.

When I was about 27 years old, I was hospitalized for three months after damaging my liver. When I was in the hospital, I had nothing to do and had too much time on my hands, so the only thing I could enjoy was TV. At that time, there was a rerun of Space Battleship Yamato that aired every evening from around 6:00 pm.

It was interesting. It was the first time I got hooked on anime. The ending always said, “XX days until the extinction of Earth.” When Yamato was first broadcast on TV, the ratings were poor. It was the same pattern as Evangelion. It was cancelled due to poor ratings. Then it became popular after the movie was released.

I think I was the only one in Hokkaido who knew about Space Battleship Yamato at that time. I was watching it every day while I was in the hospital. Well, it’s partly because I was the youngest.

The movie version of Space Battleship Yamato would be released by Toei Pictures. It was a commercial failure on TV, so Yoshinobu Nishizaki of Office Academy, who had been turned down by major film companies for distribution, turned to Toei President Shigeru Okada. After seeing the film, President Okada confirmed that it was interesting and decided to distribute it at Toei.

Tokyu Recreation, of which Okada was also president, managed the box office in Tokyo, but could not distribute the film to other areas, so Toei’s Western Film Department would distribute the film through its theater chain, which usually played foreign films.

One day, the deputy manager of the foreign film department told me, “We’re going to do a film called Space Battleship Yamato.”

I said, “I know, it’s interesting.”

He asked me, “What should I do?”

I said, “I’ll go and sell it.”

A movie theater had been decided on at the head office, but its capacity was too small, so we switched to Sugai Kogyo’s Cinema 5. In the meantime, an American film, Black Sunday, was scheduled to be released. The film was cancelled due to its graphic depiction of terrorism. Then, the cinemas that were scheduled to show Black Sunday rushed to ask us for Space Battleship Yamato.

One of the reasons for the increase in the number of nationwide theaters was the fact that so many had been left empty due to the cancelled screenings. The film was originally scheduled to be screened at two theaters in Sapporo, but was expanded to include Hakodate, Asahikawa, and Muroran. This was the beginning of a nationwide release, which was followed by more regional bookings.

Space Battleship Yamato was released [in Tokyo] on August 6, 1977. In Hokkaido, it was released on August 13, one week later. On the evening before the Tokyo premiere, fans lined up at theaters to get free animation cels. Yamato was the first Japanese film to have an all-nighter.

More than 20,000 fans lined up. Space Battleship Yamato eventually earned 900 million yen in distribution and 2.1 billion yen at the box office. The number of spectators was more than 2.25 million. It became the driving force for Toei Western Pictures, the distributor, to make a great leap forward. It was also the beginning of trendsetting films that changed the term “manga movies” to “anime.”

It was the first film to use such methods as advance tickets with special offers, cel giveaways, and opening-day greetings as promotion. The publicity was also a major achievement. Manga movies for children became anime for young people.

Mr. Nishizaki was originally from the music field, and he made full use of radio’s All Night Nippon and other programs to promote Yamato. He was one of the first multimedia artists in Japan. The queue was probably created by the concept of an audience lining up at a concert venue.

The second film, Farewell to Yamato, was released in 1978. It was much more popular than the first and grossed over 2.1 billion yen. The third film, Be Forever, was released in the summer of 1980, and would also attract an audience of 10 million.

The pioneers of multimedia in Japan were Yoshinobu Nishizaki and Haruki Kadokawa. They both worked in a different field from the existing film industry. President Okada said, “What the public wants is constantly shifting. In order to keep up with this, we have to try to incorporate completely different ideas into the market.” His collaborations with Mr. Kadokawa and Mr. Nishizaki was the result of putting this vision into action.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *