Space Battleship Yamato 2199, Report 18

During the original heyday of Yamato, Exec Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki created a marketing machine like no other. By thinking outside the box and finding cross-promotional opportunities where no one had thought to look before, he made Yamato a household name and forged a path that made anime itself into a pop cultural mainstay.

As this one-week stretch of Yamato 2199 promotion will demonstrate, the Nishizaki spirit is alive and well.

March 30: MBS Character Festival, Osaka

The first floor lobby of the Mainichi Broadcasting System’s headquarters in Osaka became a wonderland on March 30 to kick off a week of family-oriented events for spring break. Yamato 2199 was a prime beneficiary of that, so it played a major role in the festivities during the week-long countdown to its April 7 TV premiere.

The website (above left) communicated the tone of the event at a glance. The character in Captain Okita’s uniform is the network’s primary mascot, named Lion-chan. (See the rest of the zoo here.)

Together with his pals, which now includes Yuki Mori of the Yamato Girls cosplay team, Captain Lion-chan welcomed everyone to a weekend of celebration.

The 5-meter Yamato model, originally built in 2009 for Resurrection and brought back to life for the summer 2012 hobby show season, was returned to the public eye where it belongs.

The events stage across the lobby played host to performances throughout the weekend, including an all-Yamato crew stage show. See the action on YouTube here and here.

Handouts and special gifts are almost always part of a Yamato event; this time fans could walk away with a commemorative MBS clear file, or the flyer shown below.

Shown here are various popular MBS radio personalities doing their own cosplay for a TV commercial to promote the character fest. For those keeping score, Captain Okita is portrayed by Jun Hamamura, Kodai is Yuichi Uwaizumi, Yuki is Kazue Sakurai, and Shima is Mitsufumi Kondo. Whether or not those names mean anything to you, you now know more than you did one minute ago.

Wherever you turned, Captain Lion-chan and his furry pals were there to brighten your day. And just in case you’re thinking it’s time for an older fan to slip out the door…

‚Ķthe great Naoyuki Katoh was there for the first two days to perform a live painting exhibition. That name should ring a big bell by now–he was a founding member of the famous Studio Nue, which did the groundbreaking mecha design for Series 1 and went on to set a standard of excellence for SF illustration in Japan. Last August, he painted a giant-size Yamato over two days at Chara Hobby 2012, and he put brush to canvas again to create the centerpiece of this new event.

As before, Katoh put in two six-hour sessions (on the 30th and 31st) to fill the canvas. What made this one different was that spectators could watch him from around the world, since the entire thing was sent out live on Ustream. Each of the sessions was recorded and can be seen any time.

Click here for the first and here for the last. All the intervening parts are there, too, so you can watch Yamato emerge one brushstroke at a time.

Captain Lion-chan approves!

Many of the photos above came from this Japanese blog, titled “Sergeant Whale’s Logbook.” The writer is a big Yamato fan and a terrific artist, so make it a regular stop in your Yamato-related web searches.

April 1: Hyper Hobby #176

The May issue of Hyper Hobby crammed all the latest news into four pages, which included more of the theater goods coming up for Chapter 5. They also made good on their promise to complete the new list of 26 questions answered by Chief Mechanical Director Masanori Nishii, which shifted their focus to the Garmillas side of Chapters 3 and 4.

Question 14: Why was the position of the bridge on the Naska-style mid-size Gatlantis carrier moved from the left side to the right?

Nishii: This was decided by Director Izubuchi. The normal position of the bridge of an aircraft carrier is on the right side. The old mid-size carrier had a bridge top and bottom, but since there was no purpose to having one underneath, it was refined to be only on the top.

Question 15: Some Garmillas ships have guns with barrels and others do not. Is there a difference in their power and use?

Nishii: My interpretation is that the ships with gun barrels are newer models. Those like the Kelkapia class are older, and the Meltoria class that appeared in the dimensional fault (Episode 10) is a newer-style ship.

Question 16: Prior to the Domelus III, was there also a Domelus I and Domelus II?

Nishii: The name Domelus is related to the embarkation of Domel, and the Domelus III is the one for his present cruise. Although it doesn’t appear on screen, naturally Domelus I was his first ship, and a Domelus II must also have existed.

Question 17: In Episode 9, how did it come about that the connector standard for the Gamiloid Orta was the same as on Earth? Was the standard learned via a sample from an Earth ship acquired in the past?

Nishii: Since the civilization of Garmillas is completely different from Earth, the connector standards couldn’t possibly agree by chance. Sanada’s investigation may have had a hand in that. Because they needed to connect in order to analyze, we can assume that they made their own terminal.

Question 18: Melda received a physical examination from Dr. Sado in Episode 11. Was she wearing Garmillas underwear at the time?

Nishii: Yes, that was Garmillas underwear. It was not underwear made on Earth. Because the people of Garmillas are basically humanoid, the form of their underwear is not very different.

Question 19: Garmillas people can eat Earth food?

Nishii: Dr. Sado’s diagnosis found that despite the color of their skin, they have the same DNA sequence as humans, so there was no problem eating the same food as Earthlings.

Question 20: Domel attended the decoration ceremony in Episode 11 in formal dress. Why are different clothes worn during conduct at the front?

Nishii: Domel wears his field operation uniform at the front. That’s what he prefers to wear on the front lines, and because Episode 11 included a ceremony, clothes worn in the field would not be appropriate there. Dressing up means putting on the uniform normally worn by a general.

Question 21: How does the door of Domel’s air car open?

Nishii: The doors open outward in a gullwing configuration. Since the pillar that receives the doors rises with them, it is designed for easy entry and exit.

Question 22: Why was the crew who saw the illusions created by Mirenel gathered in the engine room?

Nishii: Because the engine room is one of the larger places in which people can gather. Because the entire crew count is 999 minus a few, they can’t all gather in one place. The engine room appeared incidentally, but there were other crew in the observation room, and I think the wind carried them all to places where they could gather groups.

Question 23: Is Balan a planet of the Akerius civilization? How can people of Jirel use it? Is Celestella able to use it?

Nishii: Akerius is an ancient prehistoric civilization that has become legendary. The facilities in the lower levels of the naval station are ancient ruins of Akerius. The races that inherited their civilization exist throughout space, and I think one of them is the race of Jirel, which is the home planet of Celestella and Mirenel. Those two survivors of Jirel have the ability for mind attack. However, Mirenel has a higher sensitivity and was better able to control the equipment.

Question 24: Is the naval station of Planet Balan the ruins of Akerius?

Nishii: The image is that the station was built around the ruins of Akerius. Rocks are double overlapped, the upper part was turned into a spaceport, and the base was built around it. The device used by Mirenel is in the long structure at the bottom.

Question 25: Why did Analyzer freeze when he received the mind attack of Mirenel?

Nishii: Isn’t it because Analyzer has something we would call a heart‚Ķ?

Question 26: In Episode 11, during the conversation in the air car, Talan speaks to Deitz as an equal. Is Talan an elite?

Nishii: They speak frankly because they have known each other for a long time, and I think they are close friends.

April 1: Premium Bandai website

Bandai started some buzz on its Premium site when it announced a Yamato goods present campaign, but held back on the details until April 10. Then it was announced that signing up for “Campaign 1” would put applicants on an email list to receive future news announcements, and 14 would qualify to win 2199 merch. Click here to visit the site.

April 2-5: Online interview

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the internet, Bandai’s Hirofumi Kishiyama conducted an extensive interview with Amiami, a popular blogging site. Mr. Kishiyama has been a plastic model developer for the Bandai Hobby Division since 1986 with credits to die for, such as Mobile Suit Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion. He’s now in charge of the Yamato 2199 line, and his interview was published over four consecutive days. It touches on over 30 years of modelmaking history and can be read in full here

April 1: Hakata Yakitori Yamato Restaurant

The Cafe Crew restaurant is no more, but a new Yamato dining experience has opened up in the Sengawa district in Tokyo to specialize in skewered chicken (Yakitori). Read about a personal visit in 2013 here

April 5: Newspaper Extra

Newspaper ads like those above had been appearing in newspapers for a few weeks, but if you were a subscriber to the Yomiuri Shimbun or the Asahi Shimbun in the Tokyo area, the April 5 edition of those papers came with something special.

This large-format poster folded out to twice the size of the newspaper with a giant Yamato on one side and one of two different collages on the back. One type was included in Yomiuri and the other in Asahi. And how could you get one of these beauties if you didn’t subscribe to either paper?

April 5-7: MBS Countdown Booth

By walking through Akihabara station and stopping off at the Yamato 2199 countdown booth, that’s how! As locations go, there is hardly one more ideal than this, since the station sits on a junction of two major train lines and is frequented by the largest number anime fans, since it serves the famed Akihabara district.

The 5-meter Yamato model reappeared as the centerpiece, accompanied by a digital clock counting down to the TV premiere at 5pm on the 7th. TV monitors looped commercials and trailers, and posters for all five chapters adorned the back of the booth.

But the best part was the return of the Yamato Girls from last summer’s hobby show circuit, who turned up for a few hours on the 5th and 6th to hand out copies of the same color posters that circulated in the newspapers. (The posters were later offered for the price of postage to Premium fan club members via the Yamato Crew website.)

See footage of the countdown booth on YouTube here.

Click here to see more photos, or visit these Japanese blogs: Blog A | Blog B | Blog C | Blog D

As it turned out, two of the Yamato Girls had other duties for the weekend…

April 7: TV Broadcast Premiere

Episode 1 went on the air as planned with a very special companion program. A few days earlier, it was announced on the Yamato Crew website (and elsewhere) that a dedicated Yamato channel had been opened on Nico Nico, Japan’s version of YouTube. This allows Yamato Crew to create its own custom programming, and that’s exactly what they did for the premiere.

Half an hour before air time, a limited number of users could log on and watch two of the Yamato Girls, Yuki and Yamamoto, riff on the latest Yamato news, show off animation art, and read user comments as they scrolled across the screen.

Naturally, they went quiet when the episode started and watched it live. No part of the episode could be seen on Nico Nico, but for someone watching it on their TV, it didn’t matter. Afterward, another half hour of chatter followed with plenty of announcements for things to come in the near future, such as Chapter 5.

Shortly after this, it was announced that a web simulcast will accompany every episode, presumably to feature other members of the cosplay team who will no doubt be grateful for the job security.

The entire 90-minute presentation was recorded and can be viewed at the Nico Nico Yamato Crew channel here. (Note: recordings will only be viewable for one week after broadcast.)

Those who had already seen Episode 1 had something else to tune in for, the debut of the re-recorded Yamato theme by Project Yamato 2199. Fortunately for the rest of us, it popped up on YouTube a couple days later and can be seen here, as shown with the credit roll at the end of Episode 1. It was announced a few days later that the end title (which comes with a new song) had been designed by longtime fan favorite anime/manga great Kia Asamiya, and would be seen for the first time with Episode 2 on April 14.

In the end, all the effort put into promotion paid off handsomely with a 5.7% rating in the Kanto region (which contains Tokyo), reportedly the highest in years for a TV series in that coveted timeslot. It ultimately came in at #5 in the weekly anime rankings. (Read more about the ratings at Anime News Network here.)

The last business on April 7 was the reveal of the final four vocalists for Project Yamato 2199, whose identities were held back from the official site until their names appeared on the end credits of Episode 1. At the upper left is a singer/voice actress named Nana Mizuki; on April 8 it was announced that she had been selected to perform the ending theme for 2199 Chapter 7. See the full roster for Project Yamato 2199 on Anime News Network here.

And finally, there was a brand new Yamato image in a full page ad in the morning papers (above right).

When the TV broadcast was first announced for April 7, it started a wave of speculation about how the TV and cinema schedules would align. Going by the average gap of three months between theatrical releases, it was assumed that the movies would end in the fall, and the TV series might have to be suspended at some point in order to avoid running ahead. However, there is the interesting fact that if the TV broadcast takes a customary break on May 5 for Golden Week, it will conclude on October 6, which must have been the plan all along; that’s the anniversary of the original’s debut in 1974, which can hardly be a coincidence. So if that date is set in stone, what happens to the movies? We all got our answer a few days later.

The arrival of Chapter 5 on April 13 brought a flurry of news, starting with the release dates for BOTH Chapter 6 and Chapter 7; June 15 and August 24 respectively. The usual three-month gap between films had been shortened to two, which means the theatrical releases will end before the TV broadcast. We can only imagine the pressure this places on the production, especially with the most demanding episodes still to come. (Shown above is the flyer for Chapter 5 and two sides of a new foldout flyer for Chapter 6.)

Continue to Report 19

The End

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