The voyage abandoned!? By the “Choice” of Yamato‘s crew!?
Introduction by Ryusuke Hikawa
It is the year 2199. Space Battleship Yamato has emerged from the Milky Way mother galaxy and advances into the nothingness of intergalactic space. Iscandar is still far away in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Various factors continue to delay the voyage schedule, and it is a time when the mission seems difficult to accomplish.
Chapter 5 summarizes the block corresponding to TV series episodes 15-18 (of 26). It also contains magnificent elements that were not in the first series, and following Chapter 4, which showed the whole aspect of the “Yamato saga,” it further escalates the surprises. Elements of the past, such as the encounter with the Domel fleet, encountering the alien creature on Planet Beemela, and the depiction of Sanada’s true feelings from the past about Mamoru Kodai’s mission, are skillfully interwoven with the exhilarating capture at Planet Balun in one sweep.
There are two main factors that make the voltage go up. First is how this block isn’t simply the broadcast version, but also captures a certain “verisimilitude.” Another is the variety of sporadic “material” elements that show an organic connection and demonstrate originality from start to finish. Originally, episodes 15 to 20 in the first series were all self-contained. Yamato underwent various trials centering around the sense of loneliness as they approached General Domel’s new post, the intermediate supply base on Planet Balun. Because home video decks were prohibitively expensive at the time, consideration was given to the audience in the middle part, and many episodes were produced that are now considered to be masterpieces.
On the other hand, for people who have pushed their way deeply into the “Yamato world,” in terms of the “introduction, development, turn, and conclusion” style of story structure, we’re realizing things we dreamed about in the “development” phase. Since the writer observed the overall plot that takes over near the end of the production in particular, many wild fancies were produced in his mind, like a parallel world.
I’ve forgotten which documents I saw and talked about with the young Yutaka Izubuchi (now the series director) at that time of about thirty years ago, and I haven’t dug up any of that data recently, but the new developments of 2199–an enemy infiltrator sets up a mind attack on Yamato‘s crew; Gamilas partisans and the wife of General Domel; political infighting on Planet Garmillas; a rebellion occurs on Yamato–are close to what I remember. The scale of the interstellar Garmillas nation and the means of each solar system’s rule were speculated upon by fans, and one point that left many mecha fans dissatisfied was that Yamato and the Domelus III never exchanged gunfire. In this way, 2199 now captures “the pursuit of possibility” as “the driving force of a voyage into the unknown.”
In contrast, although speculating on secondary material referenced in discarded documents could become trivial when seen from a limited viewpoint, I sense a sincere hand behind it, aiming for greater heights. If I were compare it to cooking, some of the ingredients were repeated from before according to plan, but others are new, inspired by the original cuisine. After thoroughly examining their equivalent and sifting through them with a large knife, serving the meal becomes part of the “flow,” and after it has been recooked we can call it “the latest dish.”
This spring, Yamato 2199 appeared on “5 Day” (named for the 5pm Sunday evening time slot on Mainichi Broadcasting System), and it feels very significant for it to be referred to as on-air TV anime. One of the big reasons is that the first Yamato production to be understood, dissected, and rebuilt in the 21st century is now part of the flow that broadcast Mobile Suit Gundam Seed and Fullmetal Alchemist, and will surely be absorbed by a young audience. The miracle of timeless imagery that accelerated the heartbeat of this writer’s generation is now “commonplace.”
The question that must be asked is, in the end, does this succeed as a new work for a new generation? In a way, the classification of media, the possibility of losing, and different generational sensibilities are a multi-layered obstacle that obstructs the course of Yamato 2199. Breaking through it and achieving it all is to grasp a “hope for the future.” While holding onto the hope that spreads outward from this multi-layered work, with anticipation in my heart from the first part of the voyage to the last, I’d like to ascertain everything with people who are interested in Yamato.
Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.
“At last, I was able to go back to the work that had been my starting point 23 years ago.”
Aya Hisakawa (voice of Kaoru Niimi)
When I saw Farewell to Yamato as a child in primary school, it became the cause for my goal to be a voice actor. When I was in junior high, I painted Kodai, Yuki, and Yamato in the sunset with watercolor, and for my graduation proceedings, I wrote, “I want to become a voice actor.”
After graduating from high school, I went to Tokyo to enter training school, and I decorated my TV with a Yamato plamodel I brought from home. “I want to work on that someday,” was my goal. Finally, Yamato was written into my schedule in the summer before last, but at the time I thought it was the story of Queen Himiko of the third century or whatever. (Laughs) However, I was surprised to hear later that it was “that Yamato.” At last, I was able to go back to the work that had been my starting point 23 years ago.
Because Kaoru Niimi wears glasses and her description says “the subordinate of Sanada and a psychology counselor,” I wondered whether I should make her an energetic, intelligent tsundere-type. [Translator’s note: tsun-de-rei is a common anime archetype whose emotions bounce between “tsuntsun” (aloof) and “deredre” (lovestruck).] However, when director Izubuchi told me, “no this girl causes a coupe d’etat later,” my mental attitude toward developing the character collapsed there. (Laughs)
The whole story is complete in Mr. Izubuchi’s head, but he doesn’t tell us detailed information. The technique of mystifying the viewer is also used on the voice actors, and I think I enjoy the trouble we’re in. I realized this when I worked on Rahxephon. (Laughs) It was revealed in Episode 7 when Niimi communicated with Serizawa that she’s in an anti-Okita group. But my question was, “why would I start a coup d’etat against Sanada’s life?” It would be more intentional if the future event was known, so why couldn’t Mr. Izubuchi share information? There are places in 2199 where the actor’s calculations do not stand, and we dare to enjoy such “Izubuchi magic.” Since sound supervisor Tomohiro Yoshida guides our performance on the spot, the story is satisfied even if I don’t organize my feelings.
Although I have reason to think I could have fit into other roles, I was lucky to obtain the role of Karou Niimi, which was not part of the original. For those who took over original roles such as Susumu Kodai, Yuki Mori, and Captain Okita, I think there is an ambition to reinvent the character in one’s own color. But because I am a character who nobody previously played, there is no sense of incongruity. That was very lucky! (Laughs)
Recordings start at 10:00 am, but I arrive on the scene at 8:00. I’ve been thinking about appearing in Yamato for 23 years. But because of this 23-year story, I might get nervous or overly enthusiastic. Therefore, I arrive two hours early in order to calm down. I stand before the mike with the consciousness of a pro, but when Kodai-san fires the Wave-Motion Gun, my heart is filled with jealousy of Mr. Daisuke Ono. (Laughs)
Since there are so many cast members, the studio is divided between Yamato and Garmillas. So only our lines tell us what the enemy is doing, and when I get to see the finished film, I’m surprised. “This is what happens?” In the scene where the crew was surprised to see Melda on board in Episode 10, the cast was just as surprised in the studio. “She’s that beautiful?” (Laughs) Therefore, I think it was appropriate to divide the recordings.
When Niimi spoke for the first time in Episode 3, I talked like an intellectual at first. Then Mr. Yoshida told me, “a softer adult feeling.” There is a differentiation with Yuki, and how she became an adult woman becomes clear later because of her relationship with Mamoru. And I didn’t understand the explanation of the Wave-Motion Gun at all. (Laughs) I was nervous because it was my first line, and when I practiced with my neighbor Cho-san [voice actor for Analyzer] several times after the test, he was worried that, “Aya is too serious.” (Laughs) I was serious with the lines in Episode 13, in conflict with Kodai about not hitting the pinger, but I didn’t understand them well, either. (Laughs)
In the original, I was impressed by Analyzer’s state of mind when he was in love with Yuki in Episode 9, and I admired how it was expressed this time. The heavy theme of whether a robot has a heart is impressive. There was a request for this story from a YRA [Radio Yamato] listener named Shiro Shinta, and I realized shortly afterward that it was Sanada. I noticed it even earlier than Houchu Otsuka [Sanada’s voice actor]. (Laughs)
Episode 14 shows the fantastic, dreamlike view of the world that Mr. Izubuchi is good at expressing. I think a great thing about this work is how the relationships on the Garmillas side are very clear. After Niimi’s relationship with Mamoru becomes apparent in Episode 17, I came to understand what kind of eyes she saw Susumu Kodai through the first time. Although I am now imprisoned on the charge of coup d’etat, I also want to go to Iscandar. As for Toshihiko Seki, who plays Itou, he asks, “Am I unable to go to Iscandar now? I want to go, too!” I’m worried about him. (Laughs)
2199 would be a good work even if I were to see it as a single Yamato fan. Because I, who watched Yamato in my childhood thinks so, I’m confident I can convince even those who loved the previous works. And even if someone who never watched the original sees it, I think they’ll be impressed by 2199 in many ways.
Interview with Mecha Designer Junichiro Tamamori
“This work is intended to repay the favor to the original production staff
Interviewer: First, please tell us about the process by which you came to draw Yamato.
Tamamori: Prior to the 21st Century, when I thought about what I really wanted to do, I remembered that I loved Yamato in my childhood‚Ä¶and I wished it could be something like that. But because Final Yamato came out while I was a junior high student, I didn’t touch Yamato after becoming an adult. I wondered whether Yamato was fading away, and it was a lonely feeling. Even though there were people who drew Yamato with CG in those days, I seldom met anyone on the net who drew by hand.
As activity increased around 2001, I opened a home page and announced Yamato Illustrations. The reaction was pretty good if I do say so myself. (Laughs) I did it energetically for a year or two and it caught the eye of [mecha designer] Yasushi Ishizu, and after he introduced me to [series director] Yutaka Izubuchi, I was given the opportunity to participate in 2199 this time.
Interviewer: Did you do any fan activities before then?
Tamamori: No, not really. Yamato was the first time I tried it.
Interviewer: It is said that you originally played an active role as an industrial designer.
Tamamori: From small things like teapots to big things like a 10-ton dumpcar. I also did development for a garbage processing machine. I was in charge of everything from household goods to mechanic.
Interviewer: What kind of work did you take charge of this time?
Tamamori: Conceptual and mecha design of the Earth side, and also layout supervision. It’s something like writing instructions for the animators who draw the original art.
Interviewer: Although I think the design of Yamato is the most important part of the work, what kind of points do you pay attention to?
Tamamori: Yamato‘s design is not something made by me alone, it came out of collaboration with all the other designers, so to speak. It is considered to be a consensus which gathered up and consolidated Yamato designs from various media over time. Rather than “I think Yamato would look cool like this!” I analyze what was drawn at the time and make it an overall form.
For example, when you look at the bow torpedo tubes, sometimes the pattern was to position them through the waterline in the original. I catch those things and think, “which is right?” But maybe, “none are right.” The interpretation I carry out is, “over the one-year voyage, differences may have been produced by repeated repairs.” The design supervisor confirmed the intention of Director Izubuchi and checked the original designs from the previous work, and I was allowed to put the line between the bottom and middle torpedo tubes. In that way, the policy is to make a design which preserves flexibility.
Speaking of interpretation, although Yamato‘s hull has conventional vertical lines at regular intervals, on the actual design sheet the explanation was given as: “when drawing this for anime, those are placed to represent the curved surface of the hull.” But looking at it another way, if thermal expansion is taken into consideration, the direction to make the outer structure look like plating makes sense. In other words, that dividing line was convenient for the circumstances of the art, but I was able to give it a factual interpretation. In fact, it happens on the space shuttle, but only on the outer wall where there is a joint, and it doesn’t occur where there is no underlying structure.
It is assumed the overall base was established after the first TV series and Farewell to Yamato, but the world expressed by plamodels [model kits] is also important. I incorporate the image and expression I get from plamodels into the design, too. As for the internal structure, I am conscious of the mechanic model from back then while making adjustments.
Interviewer: You were also particular about the rocket anchor.
Tamamori: I was especially aware of the rocket anchor when I bought a Farewell to Yamato book as a school kid, and when I first saw the design sheet, I thought, “cool!” But in the sequels that followed Farewell, the rocket anchor has no conspicuous activity. (Laughs) Although it’s a distinctive part, there were a lot of subtle cheats in the animation art because, first of all, there is no design that shows how it’s attached to the hull. (Laughs) I thought it would be a waste not to work it out properly when doing 2199.
When I considered that a large, precision model kit might appear, I thought a design that all the fans could understand was necessary. But those who harbor such feelings about the rocket anchor are very few. When director Izubuchi said to the media, “the rocket anchor plays an active part this time,” the reaction seemed to be very thin. (Laughs)
This time, along with the rocket anchor, the thing I was particular about was the high-mobility nozzles for Yamato‘s attitude control. I think it was remarkable that Yamato presented the concept of attitude control in space at the time, and the enthusiasm of Studio Nue, which dropped the required high-mobility nozzle into the design, was wonderful. Since I’m developing Yamato, I inherited that spirit, and I wanted to draw the high-mobility nozzle myself. I’m very satisfied that I was able to draw both that and the rocket anchor.
Interviewer: It seems that when Naoyuki Katoh saw your Yamato drawings, that’s when he decided to participate in 2199. [Translator’s note: Katoh was one of the key mecha designers at Studio Nue, and he now paints special projects for 2199 such as video package art.]
Tamamori: I’m very glad. For me, this work is my chance to repay the favor to the original production staff. In that way, I can return what I received from the original work. If it is received, I’ll be very happy. As for the direction of 2199, I think the basic idea is that Yamato is a mecha that moves and comes alive when it cooperates with people, and I’ll be glad if all the new fans find that interesting.