The weeks leading up to the April 7 TV premiere of Yamato 2199 were packed full of promotion in Japan, both online and off. One of the participants in this was AmiAmi, one of Japan’s largest toy, hobby, and collectibles shops. Their web presence includes Amiblo, the company’s blog site, which comments on various facets of the trade. Starting April 2, Amiblo earned a lot of attention from Yamato fans when it featured a four-part interview with Hirofumi Kishiyama of Bandai’s hobby division, team leader in charge of development for the 2199 model kits.
The interview was published over four consecutive days as part of the countdown to 2199 on TV, and is presented here verbatim. You’ll see the terms “plamo” and “plamodel” come up frequently in the text. They’ve been around for decades, and are a contraction of “play model,” meaning a model sturdy enough to be played with as a toy after it is built. “Gunpla” is a variant of this, referring to plamo based on Mobile Suit Gundam, which is an industry unto itself.
Part 1 of the interview was originally published April 2, 2013. See the original post here.
All hands, prepare for the new launch of Yamato! The TV broadcast of Yamato 2199 finally begins on April 7! To celebrate the new voyage, Ami Ami brings you a Yamato gentleman from Bandai for four rounds beginning today, a special interview with the developer of Yamato 2199 plamodels! We asked Mr. Hirofumi Kishiyama to talk about the road leading to 2199 from the original work. He is a developer who has a history with Yamato and Bandai for over 30 years.
All hands, prepare for reading! Pay close attention to the launch of the new Yamato!
Hello! This is Quiet Mecha. I was allowed to conduct this special Yamato interview for AmiBlo just before the broadcast of Yamato 2199 in April! Since joining Bandai in 1986, Hirofumi Kishiyama has been engaged in plamodel development for over 20 years as the leader of Bandai Hobby Division’s 2nd plan development team. With both old and new Yamato plamodels lined up on his desk, he talked about secret development stories and the appeal of the 2199 plamodel series!
“I wanted to cooperate in the Yamato revival with the ‘special skills’ of Bandai.” The Yamato 2199 plamodel series that began several years ago
Interviewer: Nice to meet you. Thank you for your time today.
Kishiyama: Thank you as well.
Interviewer: 2199 is a remake of “First Yamato” which is now in release, but Bandai already released a Yamato plamodel before 2199.
Kishiyama: In January 2007, we launched the 1/350 scale Yamato plamodel that incorporated electric functions such as sound and LED lighting.
Interviewer: The 1/700 Yamato bonus model with the DVD box and a 1/500 Yamato were released after that, but I still strongly remember the impact of the 1/350.
Kishiyama: At the time, the 1/350 Yamato was unprecedented, and I worked on it with the commitment to make it a great model. At the time of production, I said to affiliated companies, “If it’s all right, I’d like to introduce this to appropriate people,” and I was given the opportunity to get brief reviews of the model from people in the filmmaking industry. Some of those who came to the presentation were in anime production; Yutaka Izubuchi, the current director of Yamato 2199 and Hideaki Anno, who made the hit anime Evangelion for Kadokawa, and Ryusuke Hikawa who was the chairman of the first Yamato fan club and is now a well-known anime/tokusatsu writer.
Interviewer: Those are eminent members who now stand at the forefront of the industry.
Kishiyama: Space Battleship Yamato began in 1974, and preceded even Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979 as a pictorial work that proved “anime is not kid stuff, it can have wonderful content that adults appreciate.” At the time, Space Battleship Yamato inspired many people who are currently working in the anime industry, and they came in from many directions. Director Izubuchi was a student in those days, and also a member of a Yamato fan club. At the time, he considered various ways that the contradictions in the work “are logical if you think of it this way,” and it seems he’s doing exactly that with 2199 now. I love Space Battleship Yamato myself, too, and when I’m around people like that, I realize that “I’m still a boy.”
Interviewer: There is the impression that people who are Yamato fans love the work and are overflowing with knowledge. It must also be the case for prominent people who made anime their profession.
Kishiyama: At the time of the 1/350 model, since I received comments on an already-completed product, their opinions were not directly reflected in the product, but it lead to a thought of “definitely next time,” so various connections were made to influential people in the industry through the 1/350. If Bandai were to make Yamato products in the future, a stronger pipeline for cooperation to make better products was born there.
Yamato 2199 Director Yutaka Izubuchi made preparations for the broadcast over a period of four years. Space Battleship Yamato is a work with difficult circumstances, so talk of a remake came and went, came and went. Since such circumstances naturally happen at Bandai, I always went around saying, “if there is an opportunity, I’ll commercialize Yamato.”
I also work on Gunpla concurrently, so with regard to the question of “How do we maintain consistency?” in terms of transformations and designs, I suppose I have a “special ability” to reverse-engineer it from a three-dimensional object to its theoretical version. Even with regard to Yamato, I called on people in the industry from a short time ago and said that Bandai was cooperating on going at it from that direction, and maintained a connection even after the 1/350th scale Yamato.
Interviewer: Even for an anime design that doesn’t actually exist, its reality greatly increases and it becomes more mechanical when it is depicted as a solid object.
Kishiyama: During the design period of those four years, I think the setting of the aircraft hangar in particular changed greatly in 2199.
Interviewer: The cylinder is like a revolver in a handgun. The cylindrical hangar was announced in model magazines and various media, and became a topic.
Kishiyama: In the original, Cosmo Zeroes and Black Tigers came out of Yamato without limit. I guess it was hard on Sanada to assemble them all (laughs). Wherever questions and contradictions come out, director Izubuchi wants to solve them somehow in 2199, so it was devised in the design that a turret machine was equipped with a total of 32 planes all the way around the back and front.
Kishiyama: And the center of the turret is the shell of the Wave-Motion Engine. The center of the hangar is in the middle of a straight line from the Wave-Motion Engine at the stern to the Wave-Motion Gun at the bow. As we were verifying what parts of the axis of the wave-motion energy conformed or did not conform to the plans, we asked, “Why don’t we check the actual goods?” So while the anime was in production, we produced a prototype three-dimensional model using the design artwork and 3-D designs, having them help us with the confirmation work and establishing the designs using the real-world model. I was using the 2199 anime production for my purposes even before it was publicly announced. (Laughs)
Interviewer: So, they’d gathered a group of people together who loved Yamato and sought to thoroughly pursue the world view of crossing the line between anime and toys, between the flat and the solid.
Kishiyama: If there was a chance for a Space Battleship Yamato revival, I wanted to find a diagram for success as well as Bandai, so I continued to make proposals to the anime production side, and it lead to a friendly relationship over the last seven years.
“The plamodel business of Bandai was helped by Space Battleship Yamato. I wanted to return the favor with Yamato plamodels someday.”
Kishiyama: It was called “Bandai Models” in the 1970s before the Bandai group merged, and there was a subsidiary that became the forerunner of the present hobby division. When Yamato was broadcast in 1974, four products appeared: Yamato, Cosmo Zero, Black Tiger, and Analyzer. At that time they could be called plamodel because the robot had a windup motor for bipedal walking, and the plamodel of Yamato had no third bridge because a windup box was attached instead, and it could roll across a desktop. That’s what it was like.
Interviewer: Rather than requesting more detail and a reproduction of the original, it was mainly a time when a plamodel was a toy children played with.
Kishiyama: When you examine the documents of the time, plamodel didn’t sell well. The TV version of Space Battleship Yamato itself was planned to run for a year, and it was shortened to half a year, so the release of plamodel products finished there, too.
Kishiyama: In fact, at the time Bandai models completely missed the supercar boom which took place in the late 1970s. [Translator’s note: a phase of toy culture when advanced car designs became the leading trend.] When performance was at an all-time low, it seems President Yamashina came to the factory in Shizuoka and said,”if this is how it is, I have no choice but to close down the model business.” Then the Yamato TV series was edited into a feature film that opened in 1977, and the plamodels abandoned the windup motors to be reissued. Also, this process lead to Farewell to Yamato, the second feature film, and Bandai had to seize the chance to continue its business, so there was an opportunity to re-evaluate Yamato. The employees at the time made a very impressive plamodel called the “image model.” The bow was very big when viewed from the side, but it had a visual image that captured the Yamato pass very well.
[Translator’s note: this refers to the forced-perspective “deform model” that imitated the iconic Yamato-passing-the-camera shape.]
Interviewer: Speaking of the Yamato pass, coupled with the depiction of the Wave-Motion Gun in the story, the image is that Yamato has a large bow.
Kishiyama: That was the basis of the planning for the deform, and when the “image model” was sent out into the world, it sold very well. Thanks to the favor of that example, it seemed Bandai didn’t need to give up its model business. I hadn’t joined the company at the time, and when you hear about this, it may sound like going overboard on the spirit of dedication to the company, but I had a real sense of “they were saved by Yamato at a critical time,” and I always wondered if I could repay the favor to Yamato with my work.
After such circumstances, I got to know Yutaka Izubuchi, who still loves Yamato, by making the 1/350 model in 2007. A movement started to try and make a new work of Yamato. It became possible for me to repay the favor to Yamato if I got involved and cooperated in the success of the project, so I was happy to help in the preliminary arrangements for 2199 with the technology of Bandai over several years.
“I want as many people as possible to know the signal of revival.”
Kishiyama: Chapter 1 of director Yutaka Izubuchi’s Yamato 2199 finally came to theaters in April 2012. Video sales started at the same time, and the broadcast was decided for 2013. 2199 is a rare work that was released to the public in theaters before the broadcast was decided. Usually an anime work only advances after it is decided “where, when, and how” it will be released, but 2199 took a considerable amount of time to see the light of day, even if you disregard the storyboarding. Thanks to that, it was revised many times and the quality was greatly improved. I think those who have seen the films know that its quality is very high for an anime work.
Interviewer: When I saw 2199, I was surprised by the visuals, which combine beauty and force with the atmosphere of the original. Even if it is digital, it takes considerable time and effort.
Kishiyama: When it was only released in theaters, you could say the signal fire of Yamato‘s revival was received only by those with the most sensitive antennae with respect to the information transmitted from the production side.
Kishiyama: In the case of Chapter 1’s release in 2012, there was a buzz among Yamato fans that “a new remake will be shown,” and the same buzz happened when the broadcast was announced in 2013. At the time of the theatrical release in 2012, the signal fire of revival hadn’t completely reached all the fans yet.
Interviewer: Even if it reaches people who habitually read hobby magazines and build plamo, the Yamato generation target also seems to have many people who don’t actively pursue it on account of work until it’s convenient for them at home‚Ä¶
Kishiyama: In the usual merchandising development of anime, you have to wait a while after the broadcast for video release, but if I think I want the video right away after seeing 2199 in a theater, I’m able to buy it. Even if I miss it, I can rent it if I wait a bit. In terms of video, a very fortunate situation has been provided for the fan.
Interviewer: Distribution has been enhanced through the official channels, but also on the web side. So far, I don’t think there’s been any project that planned for a “see it right away if you want to” environment.
Kishiyama: For 2199, we‚Äôre now starting a period of Space Battleship Yamato revival in an unprecedented situation where a number of opportunities to get to know this show have been prepared so that you can get to know it as you please. As for the revival of traditional content, it is favorably compared to Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, which is rated very highly by anime fans. Both are fantastically well-made works, and I think 2199 has the ability to revive Space Battleship Yamato with its high-quality content.
Interviewer: Therefore, I’d like as many people as possible to know the signal of revival through this interview and the plamodel.