Space Battleship Yamato 2199, Report 19

After the huge buildup to the TV broadcast debut of Yamato 2199 on April 7 (one year to the day since the theatrical premiere of Chapter 1), another buildup began instantly as the countdown to Chapter 5 entered its final week. That’s where we pick up with this report.

April 8: Niigata Museum Announcement

Niigata is a prefecture on the northwestern coast of Japan, almost directly north of Tokyo (think of a prefecture in Japan as a state in the U.S. and you get the picture). Niigata City is its capital, and though it hasn’t been particularly well-known to anime/manga fandom abroad, that began to change on May 5 when it became the first city in Japan to open a permanent museum dedicated to anime and manga.

With over 5 decades of TV anime and even more of manga and film, you’d think something like this would be old news by now, and in fact there are shades of it elsewhere–museums and galleries dedicated to the work of an artist or studio do exist already, and manga libraries have been around for a long while. But this is the first time the two mediums of anime and manga will have a mutual exhibition space, and Yamato will lead the way.

A Yamato 2199 exhibit filled with art and models will occupy space in the museum from its opening until the end of July. The 5-meter model will stay until it goes back into the summer hobby show circuit in June, and the great Naoyuki Katoh completed another live-painting event for the museum’s grand opening on May 4 (the finished mural is shown above).

A museum like this is long overdue, and will hopefully call to international visitors for a long time to come. Visit the museum’s official site here.

April 8: Space Battleship Yamato Ship’s Log Vol. 3

Three issues in, the words “Premium Fun Club Magazine” still appear at the top of the cover, so this appears to be permanent. Fan club or fun club, it’s one and the same. The publishing date for the issue was April 6; subscribers began receiving copies on april 8. Starting with a gorgeous wraparound cover (a landscape on the ill-fated planet Altaria from Chapter 5), this issue delivers 36 pages of greatness:

– music and race team news
– Chapter 5 story coverage
– an interview with the hosts of Radio Yamato
2199 character, mecha and background art
– Centerspread pinup by designer Masahiko Okura
– technical glossary
– “Goods Anthology” article on Yamato audio drama cassette tapes
– continuing biography of Yoshinobu Nishizaki
– profile of a modeler’s group. (See their website here.)

April 10: Animedia Magazine (May issue)

After a prolonged lack of attention, Animedia magazine (one of the few holdovers from the original Yamato boom years) finally devoted a page of coverage to 2199, presumably due to its new TV presence. In an article titled New Spring Numbers: Mystery Solving Stamp Rally, six new programs were profiled with Q&A featurettes in the form of a stamp rally. (Mimicking a real-life scavenger hunt where a participant’s card is stamped when clues are found.)

In this case, the brief Q&A was conducted with producer Nobuhiko Fujisawa, who had not been previously interviewed.

Can Earth be saved by just one battleship Yamato?

Q: Is it different from the original from 39 years ago?

A: The content is not the same at all. Although we follow the flow of the original story in the early stage of the solar system, we’re rebuilding the story in a way that covers the entire Yamato saga, the sequels as well as the first one, and original elements will increase as it develops!

Q: Why does Garmillas attack the Earth?

A: It’s still a secret. The insterstellar Garmillas nation expands its territory across all of space, but it seems there’s a surprise coming. The image of the opponents who the Earth army is presently fighting [in the first episodes] is just one unit entrusted with this part of the galaxy. Garmillas doesn’t use their whole army to attack Earth.

Q: Who is the woman Kodai and Shima encountered on Mars?

A: An important person who came from Iscandar. The messenger of Iscandar has changed form into a new interpretation that addresses some of the questions in the original. It’s also a new interpretation that the battle of Pluto was a diversionary tactic to attract the Garmillas and receive the messenger. The secret of the capsule brought by the messenger is revealed in the second episode, so don’t overlook it!

Q: Has the female crew increased?

A: Many more appear besides Yuki Mori. The original Yuki worked all alone as the nurse and the radar operator, and held many additional posts including making tea. Therefore, in this version it was decided to assign the roles of the original Yuki to other characters. It’s more natural to have several female crew members rather than just one.

The “Warp navigation” that Yamato made into a household word finally appears!

The purpose of Yamato‘s journey becomes clear in developments after the first two episodes, as the desperate struggle against the Garmillas advanced base in the solar system is depicted. Therefore, the highlight is faster-than-light travel, a characteristic of Yamato. There is “Warp navigation” and the deadly “Wave-Motion Gun.” It is the feeling of the staff to use the sound effects of the original work in both scenes. Even if it is old, the ear can thoroughly enjoy new wonders!

This work is a remake based on the first Space Battleship Yamato TV series made 39 years ago, broadcast in 1974. Moms and dads who watched the first episode were surprised that “the character design is different” and “the force of the battles is improved”!

Producer Nobuhiko Fujisawa, what really evolved from the original?

It’s not only the picture that changed, but also the setting and story was rebuilt in a form that added current science and SF historical research that validates the original. For example, although the distance to Yamato‘s destination, the Large Magellanic Cloud that contains Iscandar, was 148,000 light years in the original, but it was changed to 168,000 light years in accordance with current astronomical data.

Are any concepts used from the original?

It is now understood that the sunken battleship Yamato is scattered in pieces. However, the half-buried figure of Yamato is indispensable. Therefore, we left the concept of that scene in 2199 by using the disguise of a sunken battleship. We give strict priority to its “Yamato-ness” like that.

But can Yamato beat Garmillas with just one warship?

The mission of Yamato becomes clear in the second episode. The first purpose is not to fight against Garmillas, but to make an unprecedented grand voyage from Earth to Iscandar and back. To make it succeed, spirit will be important. As Captain Okita said in the first episode, “Even if I’m the last one alive, I will never despair.”

Also, do your best to GET STAMPED!

April 10: New Type Ace #20

The May issue of New Type Ace put Yamato 2199 right up front with a foldout poster of Kaoru Niimi by artist Masato Natsumoto, three pages of Chapter 5 coverage, the ninth “Yamato Lessons of the Past” column by Ryusuke Hikawa (read it here), and 30 pages of manga by Michio Murakawa with a rare color title page. Chapter 13 of the manga continues his adaptation of the Pluto episodes.

See the pages and the foldout poster here.

April 10: Yamato 2199 Official DVD Guidebook

As the first publication of Mag Garden Co., this was timed to coincide with the broadcast debut, a 24-page primer for those who hadn’t yet been introduced to the series. Focused entirely on the setup for Episode 1, it provides an introduction to characters, mecha, and basic concepts using what has become standard artwork for each.

The DVD Guidebook title comes from its unique bonus feature, a Region 2 DVD containing on-camera interviews with the voice actors for Kodai and Shima, the first half of the first episode, and the 2012 promo trailer for the series. Naturally, a book like this for each episode would have been a welcome addition to the publishing lineup, but although DVD-based periodicals are common in Japan, no further volumes have been announced.

April 12: Yamato Crew Premium Night

This event has become a tradition that will almost certainly continue to the end of the series; the night before a new chapter premieres, members of the Yamato Crew Premium fan club (or “fun club” if you go by the magazine) enjoy access to a sneak preview screening in just three theaters, one each in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. This gives them first crack at all the new theater goods and the opportunity to buy exclusive products. This time, the exclusive was the set of three posters shown at right.

Premium night is also where the first news of the next chapter goes public. Thus, it was learned on April 12 that Chapter 6 would arrive on June 15, a month earlier than expected, and Chapter 7 would follow on August 24. Poster art was displayed, and a new foldout flyer went into circulation.

The inside of the flyer featured a stunning new image by Michio Murakawa (above left) that we’re likely to see again somewhere. Above right is a blurb about the TV debut and a list of forthcoming video and music products.

April 13: Chapter 5 Premiere

Chapter 5, The Sorrow of Intergalactic Space, drew fans from all over Japan to twelve theaters for a big-screen viewing of the spectacular episodes 15-18. Friend-of-the-site Gwyn Campbell was there, and submitted this account:

Saturday, April 13 brought with it the opening of Chapter 5 of Yamato 2199, meaning that once again fans young and old were lined up bright and early at Shinjuku’s Picadilly Cinema to catch the latest installment of the ongoing adventure and hear a few choice words from some special guests.

Since the guests this time around were from the Yamato side of things, once the screening had finished, MC Osamu Kobayashi asked that anyone in the crowd who hadn’t been to a Yamato talk before copy what everyone else did, render an Earth Forces salute as the guests walked onto the stage: Yoshimasa Hosoya (voice of Cosmo Falcon captain Saburo Kato), Daisuke Hirakawa (voice of Kato’s wingman, Hiroki Shinohara) and Yutaka Izubuchi, the series director. Seeing as both actors played characters from the Air Corps, they were also welcomed on to the stage to one of my favorite Yamato 2199 tunes “Cosmo Tiger Wan-Dah-Bah” from episode 6 (where the fighter squadron launches en-masse to attack the Garmillas base on Pluto).

Kobayashi started things off by congratulating Izubuchi on the commencement of the TV broadcast, a comment which brought the crowd to their feet for the second standing ovation that morning.

Izubuchi: I actually thought it might rain [therefore increasing viewership percentage], but unfortunately it was sunny! (Laughter) But we managed to get about 5.8% viewership [applause and shouts]. The highest was in Hokkaido where it actually did rain and we got 8.8% [applause]. So everyone, please pray for rain for tomorrow [for the Episode 2 broadcast]! But this is all thanks to everyone’s support. We got especially favorable coverage in the newspapers.

MC: What sort of reactions did you get when people found out you were in Yamato 2199?

Hosoya: Quite a few of my senpais were, jokingly, like “how dare you be in such a famous show!” But when I called my Dad to tell him, he was just like “oh, I see.”

Hirakawa: Well, of course I told people I was in Yamato but when they asked who I was playing’ and I replied, “Shinohara.” Everyone was like, “who?” So I just told them to shut up, even if they were my senpai. (Laughter)

MC: Well, the character really comes into his own from this point, especially in Chapter 5. He plays a pretty big part.

Hirakawa: Yes, and somehow he managed to make it back alive.

Izubuchi: ah, well everyone here has just seen Chapter 5, so I suppose its OK to talk about that.

Hirakawa: When I was first reading the script, the cast is split into roll A and roll B, and I was marked on the first but not the second. So I was worried about what this could mean! Could it be that Shinohara flew higher, more beautiful..and…kaboom? Once I’d calmed down a bit, I read the scene and exclaimed,”Thank goodness! He lives!” But then later, after the recording session, someone else in the cast said, “it would’ve been so much cooler if he had died.” (Laughter)

Izubuchi: Who said that?

Hirakawa: I…can’t say. (Laughter)

MC: (To Hosoya) It could be said that you play an important, maybe even main role in the series.

Hosoya: Well, I’m only on the “A roll” as well, but you could say that. (Laughter)

Izubuchi: Actually, you were on the B roll as well at first, but we cut the scene to reduce the running time. (Laughter)

Hosoya: So, [Kato] was going to be there when [Shinohara] woke up?

Izubuchi: Something like that. But we had Yamamoto, so…

Hosoya: When did those two become so close? 

Izubuchi: It just felt like things were moving that way, but you never know what might happen later on.

MC: It’s just because her brother was killed, and since Shinohara was in the same squadron, she is really upset and wants him to live, right?

Hirakawa: Wait, that sounds like he’s gonna get dumped!

Izubuchi: Well, not knowing is all part of the fun. (Laughter)

Hirakawa: Well, Kato seemed to be getting on really well with Makoto!

Izubuchi: Yeah, that was a big thing, right? They were together quite naturally.

Hirakawa: In the cafeteria, etc.

MC: And it was just the two of them.

Hosoya: [That scene] had a very…private sort of tone to it.

Izubuchi: But in the case of Kato, there was that scene after he punched the locker in episode two, and things have progressed step by step.

MC: So, its a conscious attraction?

Hosoya: Hmmmm…no, I don’t think it feels that way to me personally. I think the realization is just going to strike him at some point.

Izubuchi: That may be so. But what I always wonder is…who is fixing all those lockers? (Laughter) I mean, this time Yamamoto kicked one as well!

MC: (To Hosoya) When you approached the role, did you have a clear idea of how you wanted to play the character from the beginning, or did the director give you some advice?

Hosoya: I got the impression that he was the type of person who had worked his own way up through the ranks. When it comes to those who just get handed their positions because they are among the elite like Kodai, well, as Kato says, he will listen to Kodai’s orders because he is his commanding officer. He doesn’t respect people who are just handed their position, but rather those who pull themselves up through the ranks, much like himself. That’s an important part of the core of the character I play.

Izubuchi: I didn’t really offer him any advice. Both of them [Hosoya & Hirakawa] auditioned for the role of Kodai, and when I heard him [Hosoya], I thought he would make a good Kato so I had him do a few [of Kato’s] lines. I thought he could do the part just fine without any further input.¬†

Hirakawa: He had us read that very scene with Kodai. Actually, I read for Kato as well as for some Garmillas parts. I auditioned for quite a bit.

MC: Did you get any advice from the director [about how to play Shinohara]?

Hirakawa: When I first saw the character illustration, I saw that he had long hair and looked like a bit of a playboy, a bit of a lightweight. But in the studio, the director told me that while he may look that way, he was actually a pretty responsible guy and asked me not to play him like he had no substance.¬†After this, as the story progressed, there was this back and forth between him and Kato. Shinohara wasn’t always pushing to be first or anything. He would leave the important stuff to Kato, but would always have his back. That was the sort of feeling I got for the character.

MC: And then both your characters seem to have gradually been getting closer with certain female characters. In Kato’s case, he is a character that male viewers can look up to and aspire to, but doesn’t seem like the type that’s popular with the girls. But now, suddenly…

Hosoya: Well, I hope he manages to keep things going [with Makoto]. He’s a bit of an old fashioned guy and there’s not many girls that would support him. Actually, maybe it would be good if he could find a girl like Shinohara. (Laughter)

Izubuchi: What? Oh, the type who has his back?

Hosoya: Yes. Like I said before, Kato is the type that needs someone there to support him. 

MC: (to Hirakawa) What type of girl would Shinohara normally go for? Yamamoto’s type, right?

Hirakawa: Riiiight…well when it comes to a character like Shinohara, I get the feeling that he would go for just about anyone, so…I wonder what Yamamoto sees in him.

MC: Well, how about yourself? Which member of the crew is your type?

Hirakawa: I wonder…everyone has their good points. I suppose…Niimi.

Izubuchi: Ah, the older type.

MC: Do you mind if I ask why?

Hirakawa: Well…that scene…where she approaches Shima… (Laughter)

Izubuchi: We did FAR too many genga [layouts] for that scene! (Laughter) Actually, that scene was done by a veteran animator who has worked on Yamato shows, and he was pretty worried about how to handle it, and what the audience would think of Niimi’s character.

Hirakawa: [Aya] Hisakawa is really good at changing her tone when it comes to acting like that.

Izubuchi: And it takes place before Episode 18, right? So if you haven’t seen that yet, she can come across as a bit of a bitch. But she was doing her best to play the part she thought was necessary for the [Izumo] plan that she believed in. Over the course of Episodes 15 and 16, things in the Yamato really got a bit crazy.

Hirakawa: Yeah, you really didn’t know who was wrong and who was right.

MC: (to Hosoya) How about you?

Hosoya: Akira [Yamamoto].

Izubuchi: So you hit on your subordinates? (Laughter)

Hosoya: Put simply, I like her look.

MC: Oh, the short hair?

Hosoya: Yes, the short hair.

MC: Kinda boyish.

Izubuchi: I had no idea! (Laughter)

MC: How about personality-wise?

Hosoya: Personality-wise…Makoto.

Izubuchi: Then there’s no problem!

Hosoya: But looks-wise, I prefer Yamamoto’s style.

MC: Wow, you’re picky!

Izubuchi: But if we had a character who looked like Yamamoto, but had Makoto’s personality, don’t you think that would feel a little strange?

Hosoya: I like that sort of disconnect.

MC: So, going forward, can we expect more to happen with these characters’ relationships?

Izubuchi: Well…actually, there’s still a new character that hasn’t been introduced yet…

MC: Really? I wasn’t expecting that!

Izubuchi: And…well, someone falls in love, but we don’t overdo that side of things. It’s all in context. Actually, there was something I wanted to bring up, a scene in Episode 2 that those who have been watching the series since the beginning have no doubt already noticed. Is it okay if I just say it?

Well, in Episode 2, when they are boarding Yamato, Shinohara says to Yamamoto, “It’s a shame about Yamamoto.” He is referring to Akira’s brother. But in Episode 17 when Shinohara goes out on that recon mission, no mention is made of the brother. So there’s a disconnect there that I intend to address in the future. There are probably some people who wouldn’t have noticed this if I hadn’t mentioned it, but while watching Episode 16, there’s no real sense that people knew or remember Akira’s brother. But Shinohara made that comment in Episode 2, so it’s a little strange, right? Actually, I realized this myself while in the middle of making Episode 18. (Laughter) I thought to myself, “crap! There was THAT line in Episode 2!” So, I hurriedly started looking for a way to address this.

MC: I’m looking forward to that. In the meantime, everyone should rewatch Episode 2, just to make sure. Unfortunately we are almost out of time for today, so could I ask for a final comment from each of you?

Hosoya: The show first started at the cinema, but is now being broadcast on TV, so I’m really happy that a maximum amount of people will have the chance to see it. Personally, I’m also really happy that I’ve received this opportunity to be a part of such a historic production. Please let your friends know how interesting the show is. Tweet about it even, but don’t give away any spoilers!

Hirakawa: I’d like to thank everyone for coming today. Even though I myself am not exactly part of what is known as the Yamato generation, I’ve always seen Yamato as this hugely important work, and I’m very happy to have the chance to be involved with it now. [Shinohara] somehow seems to have made it back alive, so I hope I’ll be around for another couple of episodes. Please keep watching until the end.

Izubuchi: While I feel like we’ve finally achieved the right balance with the show, we are now already into its second half. While the middle of the show had plenty of human drama, some foreshadowing of what’s to come, a few callbacks, a mutiny and other things, I feel that, as well as the action scenes, we managed to pull everything together. And now with the end of Chapter 4 we have reached the Magellanic Cloud, so [the story] has been structured well. While we made each episode for television, it still works if you watch them in chapters, and I’m proud of that achievement.

We still have Chapters 6 & 7 to go, and only a short period of time to finish them in which is going to be tough, but I hope that everyone can enjoy these theatrical releases along with the TV broadcast. In the next chapter, Chapter 6, the members of the Air Corps that we have here today will have plenty to do, so please come and see it at the cinema.

(End of report)

See photos of premiere day here.

Click here to continue to part 2

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