Yoshinobu Nishizaki X Hideaki Anno, 2008 Interviews

2008 was a momentous year in Space Battleship Yamato history. Executive Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki had just re-entered public life as the year began, and in just a few short months he would announce the start of work on Yamato Resurrection, which had lain dormant since 1994. At the beginning of 2008, Bandai Visual was preparing a remastered DVD box set of Series 1 that came bundled with a brand new 1/700 Yamato model kit. This unprecedented project was spearheaded by lifetime fan Hideaki Anno, who had gained great fame for directing Nadia and Evangelion. Things lined up perfectly for Anno and Nishizaki to appear together for promotional purposes.

They conducted two interviews that were published a month apart, both of which are presented here.

Weekly Playboy magazine

Shueisha, February 25 2008

Weekly Playboy is not unlike its American counterpart, if you discount the manga featured within its pages (which, surprisingly, is suitable for general audiences). It also covers news, sports, and entertainment with a few pages of comparatively tame cheesecake photos. The Anno/Nishizaki interview covered four pages and was otherwise unrelated to the rest of the content. In addition to some interesting memories, there was also the hint of the Yamato project that was to come after Resurrection.

Legendary TV Series Space Battleship Yamato in a DVD Box! Two great masters of anime come together to celebrate its release!

Interviewer: Space Battleship Yamato, the landmark series of the anime world, is being newly-released in a DVD box. We’re talking about this with Yamato‘s Producer, Yoshinobu Nishizaki, and famous director Hideaki Anno. Mr. Anno, you have your own Yamato to talk about?

Anno: I supervised the making of a Yamato model kit for the DVD box.

Nishizaki: I was in charge of the video color-correction and Mr. Anno consulted with me.

Interviewer: Great! A collaberation between two giants! What did you think of the kit?

Nishizaki: I’m satisfied with it, even though it isn’t exactly like the prototype. The extended shape of the bow is very smart.

Anno: I think it’s the best model that’s been done. The very first one had a windup motor, so you had to cut it off and modify it. But no one will have to tinker with this kit. Well, somebody will… (laughs)

Interviewer: Mr. Nishizaki, how did Yamato production start?

Nishizaki: At first I hit on the idea of a flying battleship. There was a prototype of this in a magazine called Boy’s Club at the time. The ideas coalesced into Space Battleship Yamato. It began 34 years ago, in 1974. Mr. Anno, when did you first see it?

Anno: I was an eighth-grader. I was already a fan of battleships, but when I saw the anime it was unprecedented. At the time, though, we didn’t say “anime,” it was “TV manga.” I was fascinated just by the opening title. It was something adults would not be embarrassed to watch. I did ‘missionary work’ for Yamato at my school. I drew my own poster and put it up on the campus to spread the word! (Laughs)

Nishizaki: The staff and I were very particular about making it as photographic as possible. If we could find anyone who could describe a real battleship I’d say “I’ll be there in 30 minutes,” and jump in my car. However, our ratings were bad. We had planned to do 39 episodes, but we were reduced to 26. Heidi of the Alps was on another channel, and that was everyone’s popular pick.

Anno: A whole family would watch Heidi together. But as for Yamato, it was just me (laughs). But my father was soon tempted, too. After all, it was a program adults could enjoy. The first episode was a big surprise, and I became an instant fan. When the second episode came on, I put my cassette recorder next to the TV. I loudly begged my parents for one to help with English study. After listening three times I could repeat all the dialogue (laughs)!

Nishizaki: The sound effects were very good. Which did you like best?

Anno: The main guns firing. In fact, we used that sound in Nadia and the Secret of Blue Water. Those sounds should be preserved for posterity!

Interviewer: By the way, did you actually use that cassette recorder for English study?

Anno: (Laughs) No, only for recording Yamato! I also recorded the commercials. I can recall all the catchphrases even today.

Nishizaki: Was Yamato the model for Nadia?

Anno: Your favorite works are always your model, whether or not you admit it. But Yamato‘s influence was big, especially on the spaceships.

Not Just Anime: Yamato‘s Story Made a Deep Impression

Interviewer: Why did you make Yamato the basis for the story? Why not the Nagato?

Nishizaki: Yamato was a tragic figure for those of us who experienced World War II. In fact, I once went to the China Sea to find the spot where it sank.

Interviewer: You went searching for Yamato?

Nishizaki: We found the exact spot, but the waves were too high to get a good picture.

Interviewer: Was it an expensive trip?

Nishizaki: Yes, because we searched with sonar. We detected the three biggest pieces of the hull.

Interviewer: Nishizaki’s dynamic connection! By the way, there is a rumor that Dessler was modeled after you. Is that true?

Nishizaki: That was probably an accident! (Laughs) I sympathized with the role of Dessler. He was faithful to his desires. Some said that in that way he resembled me very much! (Laughs)

Anno: Dessler’s a great character. A lot of anime villains would attack without reason, but with him there was always a good reason. He completely overturned the morality of anime works. His story did a lot to spread the Yamato worldview.

Nishizaki: Thank you. Even though 34 years have passed, Dessler is still everyone’s idea of the ideal villain.

Looking Back, Yamato Started it All!

Interviewer: The TV series went into reruns, and the movie was a big breakthrough. Mr. Nishizaki, when did Yamato Fever spread across Japan?

Nishizaki: When the movie was released in 1977, and there was a huge line at the theaters. I had to see it, so I went to the one in Shibuya.

Anno: I was in one of those lines. It wasn’t playing in my hometown, so I had to go to Shimonoseki to see it.

Nishizaki: If Yamato failed, I was thinking about quitting the anime business. So I’m really grateful the fans liked the movie and the TV reruns.

Anno: We fans should thank you. If not for Yamato, Japan might not have anime now. Neither anime fans nor Otakus would have been born. Yamato started it all.

Nishizaki: I’m glad the idea of a realistic anime was accepted.

Anno: When I first saw Yamato, I was at the age where we were expected to “graduate” from watching anime. Because I saw it, I continued watching after middle school. It was my whole life in high school. The first animation cel I painted was of Yamato. I shot it with an 8mm camera to make it look like it was flying forward. That was my first self-produced anime. Seeing Yamato got me into anime.

Nishizaki: Then, Anno, why don’t you do a Yamato? I’m thinking I’d like to remake the 39-episode version.

Interviewer: Wow! Anno, the megaphone of Yamato, would finally get to make one?

Anno: I don’t think I have it in me. I wouldn’t be able to do justice to Yamato without having experienced the Pacific War in any way. But if you do remake it, by all means make the battle at the Rainbow Galaxy twice as long, and show it in great detail!

Interviewer: Mr. Anno, how did you decide to make the new model kit?

Anno: I really wanted it to look like it does in the opening title. That’s my favorite version. After this I’d like to do the Andromeda and Okita’s battleship in the same scale. This project started out as a garage kit, so we might go that way in the future. Would there be any trouble getting permission and consultation?

Nishizaki: Not at all. I’m glad you took the trouble to make this new kit. It’s very well made.

Interviewer: Can I get your final comments on the new box set?

Anno: I think it would be great to see the entire TV series in one sitting. I’d like everyone to watch it, so they can reaffirm that this was the starting point of anime. It would be especially interesting for people who saw it the first time.

Nishizaki: Digital processing was used for the first time with this release, but it looks completely natural. I think Yamato is just as enjoyable as it ever was.

Interviewer: Thank you very much!

Otonafami magazine

Enterbrain, March 28 2008

Otonafami, or Weekly Family magazine is an all-purpose entertainment weekly that covers movies, TV, games, toys, anime, music, and more. Their interview was shorter (just two pages) but no less interesting than the first.

Yamato is a “Real Adult” drama

Interviewer: How is the quality of the bonus model kit with the DVD?

Anno: First I had Shoichi Manabe build a prototype model, but halfway through it we started talking about it becoming a plamo. [Translator’s note: a mass-produced plastic model.] The injection kit that came out of it made the most of the high technology cultivated by Bandai, and it’s remarkably good. It’s an ideal 3-D version. I asked Mr. Nishizaki to look at the color of the hull, the molding color.

Nishizaki: Yes, I did the color specification. As for the molding itself, Mr. Anno supervised it.

Interviewer: What is Yamato to you, Mr. Anno?

Anno: It’s the first work that hooked me. It’s a hard drama, not for young children. It could be best appreciated by adults, but I could enjoy it even as a junior high student.

Nishizaki: At the beginning, I was thinking the target age would be 13-14, so he was the perfect age for it. It had appeal up and down.

Interviewer: What was it that hooked you, Mr. Anno?

Anno: I was already drawn in by the opening. I watched the rising title and the following scenes every time. The presentation of battle in space was realistic, and I was really surprised at the many types of mecha. You could say it moved properly. It was really great.

Interviewer: The image of the warp was impressive.

Anno: It was the first time such a thing was done. And while the image of it was good, the description was even better. It took a whole episode and going beyond the speed of light was wonderful. After that, there was a whole episode devoted to firing the Wave-Motion Gun. I’m one for showing it in detail.

Nishizaki: From the beginning, we couldn’t get to Iscandar if we didn’t exceed the speed of light, so that was the first thing we had to attempt. Then we could show the power of the Wave-Motion Gun. It only became Yamato after those two things.

Interviewer: Where did the idea of the Wave-Motion Gun come from?

Nishizaki: An illustration done by Leiji Matsumoto had a firing Wave-Motion Gun. All it took was some preparation. The engine room was its starting point, so we concentrated on how to make an engine room.

Interviewer: What’s the theme of Yamato?

Nishizaki: In the end, it is love.

Interviewer: Was there an influencing work?

Nishizaki: I don’t remember it, myself (laughs). The origin of the idea was to fly a battleship in space. Next came the youth drama of Kodai and Shima. I was very interested in having those two contrast each other. Then we made up the characters around them, like Dr. Sado.

Interviewer: How was the crew uniform decided?

Nishizaki: The first bridge was sort of dark. Therefore, for the crew to stand out, the uniform absolutely had to be white. That was the foundation, then red and green were added. There was a huge objection from Mr. Matsumoto when I was going to make Shima green, but I never gave in. I wanted to contrast the green with Kodai’s red. They had an extreme rivalry, he had to have green, so I think it was successful. Sanada was blue, and then we decided on the sub groups after dividing those three basic colors.

Anno: A good point about Yamato was the group drama. Not just the main character, but there was a spotlight on the balance of the surrounding people on the Yamato side. Then there was the story of the organization on the enemy Gamilas side. It was the first time that sort of thing was depicted in anime, and it was good to have a deeper view of the world.

Interviewer: What about the heroine, Yuki Mori?

Anno: I like her. She has the feeling of an adult woman. Her voice is also good. It’s smart, not fawning. She had a line in Episode 2: “That was most excellent.” Her way of speaking is great.

Nishizaki: I liked the image of Yuki Mori drawn by Mr. Matsumoto. A little more mature and a bit sexy. There were other women on the crew, but later there was just Yuki (laughs). The relationship between Kodai and Yuki was the image of first love. For example, when Kodai is looking at the empty communication screen in Episode 10, Yuki sees it and whether she says it or not you get the feeling that she likes him.

Anno: But love is not the main thing in Yamato. Love is one drama in a variety of others. Sanada also has a really good story when he and Kodai enter the Gamilas fortress. There was a character drama every time.

Interviewer: It was a collection of various stories.

Nishizaki: Yamato includes every type of person, including Captain Okita. Together, they build up to one thing. Both Kodai and Shima are children at first. They gradually grow up under Captain Okita’s influence. The growth drama leads up to the scene in Episode 24 when the gun is thrown away. Mr. Anno’s Gunbuster is also the growth story of the main character. Because it has such a great worldview, it’s my favorite anime work.

Anno: Thank you.

Interviewer: What is the purpose of Captain Okita?

Nishizaki: If not for Captain Okita, would there be any way to show the growth of Kodai and Shima? He is the one at the center. With that in mind, Kodai and Shima argue with each other and grow up as rivals. We could only write that progression because of Captain Okita.

Interviewer: Mr. Anno, how do you see the captain?

Anno: He’s my favorite. I like every one of his scenes. But it was lonely after he became bedridden. Still, “where shall I sink into the sea,” and “this is a good place,” are good lines, after all. The nice thing about Yamato is that the characters are all adults. Adults appearing in a work by adults.

Interviewer: What do you consider to be an adult?

Anno: The personality of the adults who were around during my childhood became clear when I turned 40. They had common sense that could tell good from bad, and they also had many virtues. Now I’m already 50 years old, but I haven’t turned completely into an adult. Today’s young people are more childlike. Yamato doesn’t carry the image of a present-day young person. I think it’s truly an an adult-made drama. I think, “if there was a story like this now…!”

Nishizaki: Is that so? (laughs)

Anno: I think, “If that was the scenario, I could surely make an adult drama!” It was a scenario that gave serious consideration to drama rather than careful designs. In Japan, adults are in decline. At least, they are rare in the anime industry and among politicians.

Interviewer: Could you depict a person like Captain Okita in current anime?

Anno: It would be difficult. You can’t depict an adult if you’re not an adult yourself. There would be no way to create an adult who is smarter than you are. (Laughs) I think it would be difficult now to make something like Yamato, or the first Gundam.

Interviewer: What kind of meaning does Yamato have?

Anno: I think it was an epoch-making work that became “anime” instead of “TV manga.” Considering both pre-Yamato and post-Yamato, that was the impact it made. I wouldn’t have continued watching anime if I hadn’t seen Yamato in real time, and I don’t think I would have worked in anime. It was fortunate for my life that I was able to see this work. I think many people in various industries feel the same way.

The End

Continue to our next Nishizaki article:

2009 interview from Animage Magazine

For anyone who hasn’t yet heard about the DVD box and model kit described in these interviews, you can learn all about both here.

And click here to read a 1998 interview with Hideaki Anno, Leiji Matsumoto, and Hiroshi Miyagawa.

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