Space Battleship Yamato 2199 Report 7, Part 2

May 23: TV Bros Magazine

For every periodical that catches our attention as anime fans, Japan has countless others that come and go without much overseas notice. This is one, a large-format weekly akin to TV Guide. Tokyo News Agency is the publisher, and it covers the Kanto region (prefectures surrounding Tokyo). The issue sported 2199 cover art seen nowhere else, which promoted an 8-page lead feature with interviews conducted between the movie releases.

Space Battleship Yamato

Full Power Special Feature

Talk about performing Yamato

Daisuke Ono (Susumu Kodai) X Kenichi Suzumura (Shima Daisuke) Special Talk

Two people who precisely play the guiding roles of Susumu Kodai and Shima Daisuke in Yamato 2199 appear on the color page! From the topic of Yamato‘s appeal to the story of the “Ono Field,” (!?) this must-read discussion expanded freely!

About their Yamato experience and the “Ono Field”

Interviewer: Please talk about your first Yamato experience.

Suzumura: I first saw Yamato in reruns as a child. It was after the SF boom of Japanese anime that Yamato created. I already loved “Super Robot” anime, and when I first saw Yamato, I wondered “doesn’t a robot show up?” In fact, it was actually an anime that avoided that.

Interviewer: You weren’t satisfied with Analyzer?

Suzumura: Sure. (Laughs) But I was at the age where I wanted to see the robot knock down the bad guy, and even Dessler didn’t seem to be such a bad person. I think the Yamato experience was too “adult” for me at the time.

Interviewer: I see. And you, Mr. Ono?

Ono: I’m younger than Suzu, so my Yamato experience was even less. I grew up in Kouchi, and there weren’t many opportunities to watch TV. All I could do was sing the theme song from my childhood. So my first Yamato experience was the theme song.

Suzumura: Everyone can sing that theme song.

Ono: Yeah. It strikes a chord with the Japanese, it’s remembered by every generation.

Interviewer: And this is a situation where the cast is “reunited” with Yamato. Tell us your impressions of each other’s role.

Suzumura: When Ono-kun and I heard he got the role of Susumu Kodai, we were surprised. [Original voice actor] Kei Tomiyama’s image of Kodai is strong…

Ono: Incredibly strong…

Suzumura: But though the image of Kodai’s character is a hard one, it also has a rowdy side, which came about due to the characteristics of Tomiyama-san’s voice. I tried to figure out how Ono-kun was going to deal with that, but I had no idea. I suspect he had thought long and hard about [how to play] Kodai, so it was a bit of a surprise when we went into the recording studio and Ono’s own Kodai came out of an “aww, the hell with it!” kind of attitude. (laughs) But I think that’s great.

Ono: Thank you very much.

Suzumura: Ono-kun has a special ability that allows him to paint his surroundings in his own colors, meaning that however far away he is, he can always convert his location into his “home”. It’s an incredible power.

Interviewer: I see.

Suzumura: I refer to it as the “Ono Field.” (laughs) I think he has great ability for expression. The feeling is reflected in the show.

Interviewer: So we’ll feel a different sort of appeal when we watch Kodai. Mr. Ono, what is your impression of Mr. Suzumura?

Ono: My impression of Shima Daisuke on the original crew is that his role was to restrain Kodai’s hot-blooded recklessness, but in this new version there is a part where Shima takes it upon himself to volunteer as a moodmaker.

Suzumura: So the atmosphere and characterization of Kodai and Shima are reversed in the new version.

Ono: That’s right. At times when tension builds on the bridge of the battleship, Shima brightens things up and puts them in perspective. When the tension builds up during the recording of such scenes, his touch diffuses that and creates a warm feeling.

Suzumura: Hey, that’s a good way to put it. (Laughs) But I thought hard about playing Shima. He was originally performed by Hideo Nakamura, whose acting style and vocal quality are completely different from mine. So when preparing for the role, I didn’t dare look at the original Yamato. What did you do, Ono-kun?

Ono: I was very conscious of Kei Tomiyama at first, and Koichi Yamadera played him, too [in the Playstation games and Yamato Resurrection]. I was worried about how to inherit Kodai, but things change quickly with Yamato. I thought that my playing the role would tie into the future [of the franchise], so I felt better about not tracing Mr. Tomiyama.

Suzumura: Uh-huh.

Ono: Besides, the appeal of Yamato is extremely important to the staff now.

Suzumura: Yeah, the people we work with really love Yamato, old and new. Because they chose us, we must believe in ourselves. That’s why I think I’m ready to perform for Yamato.

Ono: Yes. But to play the role of Kodai comes with enormous pressure.

Suzumura: Because the senior actors are from the Yamato generation, they always tell us “do your best.”

Ono: That’s right. But of course when we go into the afreco, it’s not only me. It feels like everyone plays a role together. That lightens the pressure like on the Yamato bridge, and it’s a great experience.

What’s their impression of playing the famed Yamato “Warp” and “Wave-Motion Gun” scenes?

Interviewer: Mr. Ono, did you watch Yamato anew?

Ono: After I was chosen for Kodai, I watched the first movie. Although it was a digest version, the essence of Yamato was concentrated in it. It’s very brash, but also very cool, and it seemed the dynamic depiction was the real thrill of Yamato.

Suzumura: The setup is improved in Yamato 2199 and the little things are explained more consistently, but they haven’t forgotten that the drama and dynamic presentation are the real thrill of Yamato. There are some great parts.

Ono: The amazing warp and Wave-Motion Gun scenes also appear this time.

Interviewer: Those scenes are coming up soon. Mr. Suzumura, what was it like to perform the warp?

Suzumura: Yamato gives us the opportunity to use words like “warp” on a daily basis, but the word “warp” causes a stir in regular Japanese culture. It’s a heavy part of the show…I was really nervous.

Ono: We tried it in various ways.

Suzumura: At first I blurted out “warp” naturally, but the director said, “I want the intonation of ‘warp’ to be impressive.” So I performed it as “Waaarp,” tracing the original Shima.

Interviewer: I think that’s a special sense of accomplishment. How did the rest of the day go after the warp scene?

Suzumura: I was proud! I said, “I’ll say ‘waaarp’ again next time!”

Interviewer: Has it changed your outlook on life?

Suzumura: Of course it changed my outlook! (Laughs) When I said that line, I felt myself warping to a different dimension.

Interviewer: (Laughs) Mr. Ono, you got to fire the Wave-Motion Gun.

Ono: It was a long-awaited scene, so it was a pleasure. Although the whole sequence was in the original Yamato, I performed the shot carefully. I shuddered with fear of the Wave-Motion Gun; it felt natural and I think it would have a considerable psychological impact.

Interviewer: I think it certainly would be a feeling of considerable tension. What was it like the night before shooting the Wave-Motion Gun?

Ono: Well, I took an early bath, and when I got out I was worried about whether or not I should take a breath at the moment of pulling the trigger. So to cover the bases I reviewed the DVD in the middle of the night to do some image training. Then I fell into a deep sleep like Nobita [from Doraemon].

Suzumura: Oh, me too!

Ono: That was the first time I got up in the middle of the night worried about afreco.

Interviewer: That makes it an intimate scene. We’ll have to pay close attention!

If you missed [the original] Yamato, you can still understand this new version.

Interviewer: By the way, what’s the atmosphere like in afreco?

Ono: Yamato 2199 is supposed to make you feel like “This is the essence of Yamato!” During the recording sessions, Suzu-san in particular would say, “This is a Yamato line!” and explain famous lines of dialogue or Yamato trivia. That is why I can have confidence acting my role, knowing that we are here in the true heart of Yamato.

There are senior actors, including Mr. Sugo in the role of Captain Okita, in addition to my generation, who don’t know the original Yamato. We each play a role in the afreco. The atmosphere is exactly like Yamato‘s bridge, and it’s very stimulating.

Suzumura: It’s a really nice job. There’s a good feeling of tension that is a valuable experience.

Ono: In addition, because there’s a solidarity in carrying Yamato on our backs together, it’s also a job that relieves my pressure. It allows me to have an experience I haven’t had on other jobs.

Interviewer: Finally, please tell me about the appeal of Yamato 2199.

Suzumura: Yamato 2199 brings the newest sensibilities to the original Yamato. Though that sounds simple, it is a very difficult concept. Since it was a product of its time in terms of concept, designs, and music, the first question I had was, “Will it really fit in these times today? It’s nostalgic, but really new at the same time.”

It’s a wonderful work, and I think that will all be settled once you see it. It’s because the original Yamato was a great thing, and isn’t old even if you watch it now. Therefore, you can watch Chapter 1 no matter what age you are, and I think you’ll find something in it to enjoy.

Ono: Since it also has the dynamic presentation of the original Yamato, I have no doubt that you can look forward to it!

Suzumura: There’s a famous scene coming up that will make people go, “really? Did they just do that??” and I want to say that I am very much playing the role while thinking, “this is great!”

Interviewer: It will be a pleasure to see Chapter 2 and the rest of them. I can’t wait for the release!

Director Yutaka Izubuchi

Long Interview

Photography: Haruki Nakagoshi

©2012 Space Battleship Yamato 2199 Production Committee

Refining Yamato for the modern world out of love for Space Battleship Yamato

Interviewer: What circumstances lead to you becoming the director of Yamato 2199?

Izubuchi: When taking the job as director, I thought the first Yamato was a very well-done work, and it would still be so as a remake for the present day. The original was undoubtedly epoch-making. At the time when anime was just “TV manga,” it certainly had the feeling of taking a step forward. It might not be apparent by today’s standards, but for its time its design and documentation were very well thought out, even as a work of sci-fi.

However, it’s also clear that there are certain places where many people ask, “what’s going on here?” So I thought these inconsistencies could be corrected in a remake. But from the beginning, I didn’t want to make the new version totally different just because today’s visual expressions are superior to the old days.

Interviewer: For example, it is accepted that the spaceships of Mobile Suit Gundam, like the Musai and Magellan, were brushed up for later works. Since a new Yamato would be superior in terms of visuals, I think it would be accepted without having to make strange, futuristic design changes. It sounds like you felt strongly about that.

Izubuchi: Even if it could be said that I tampered with the visuals, the main premise of a flying battleship is not changed in the end. Conversely, its analogue feeling might possibly seem new.

Interviewer: With respect to the originality of the previous work, your thought was to bring new life to it. The treatment of the Wave-Motion Gun is a good example.

Izubuchi: For instance, the Wave-Motion Gun was never deliberately fired at other people in the first series. The lesson was always shown that its use required strict attention. But after Farewell to Yamato, it came to be used against fleets of other people with relative ease. It became a convenient weapon rather than a weapon of last resort. It’s supposed to be reserved for use specifically when it comes to a crunch. If we called on it right away, we’d be throwing away its appeal.

Interviewer: When Yamato continued as a series, some say that its flavor gradually turned into something different from the first work. I’ve heard that your stance for this remake is to remain faithful to the original spirit.

Izubuchi: Furthermore, even in thinking about the things that seemed funny or strange, if the fun is lost by changing them, I’ll attach a reason so they don’t have to change. Conversely, if we can make it more fun by adding a modification in Yamato 2199, then we’ll actively change it.

One example is the Iscandarian Ulyssia, who came to Earth a year ago. She exists this time as a new element in the story. In the original Yamato, Sasha brought the plan capsule for the Wave-Motion Engine, and the period in which they built it was too short. I was worried about how it could be incorporated into Yamato in the high ceiling of the underground city. So rather than changing the flow of the story, we added the concept of Ulyssia.

So, as for Ulyssia, where is she? By adding a new concept such as this, a chemical reaction occurs and new appeal is added to Yamato 2199. This is how we make a positive change.

Interviewer: Love is the right motive for a director, and considering other points such as your creative ability, there’s no doubt that director Yutaka Izubuchi is a rare person.

Izubuchi: There is also the sea on Pluto, and the floating continent. Even when I saw them as a 10th grader I knew there were no such things, but they had great appeal. Before the previously-sunken battleship leaves the solar system on a new journey, I kept the scene where it was sunk again by the Reflection Satellite Gun, since I realized later in life that it was an important scene depicting a crisis.

Therefore, I decided to try Gamilasforming [planetary reconstruction] on the Pluto base. An expert in astrophysics participated on the staff this time, and taught me that, “the idea is very interesting, but because Pluto is low-mass, it wouldn’t retain water.” (Laughs) But we couldn’t take this excellent scene out of Yamato, so instead, “Let’s go!”

The floating continent is also the result of Gamilasforming, with the explanation that it’s a chunk of land warped from the Gamilas homeworld. I left this situation in because, “if we don’t have this, it’s not Yamato!”

Interviewer: Rather than simply fill in the discrepancies, you don’t hesitate to work hard for the “Yamato-ness.” This seems to be the consensus of the Yamato 2199 staff.

Izubuchi: But the way we present scenes we’re not able to remove won’t necessarily be the same. We’ll eliminate parts where it’s hard to attach logic, or condense similar stories into one.

Interviewer: It seems we’ll be able to enjoy the wonder of these choices and refinements. Is there any struggle between the fan in you and your position as the director?

Izubuchi: There’s no conflict between the fan in me and the director in me. I intend to make this Yamato for myself and the “fans of my generation.” But tastes are different, so I think it will be hard to satisfy everyone. What I keep in mind is to make a work for those who are the greatest common denominator.

As much as I think “it was just like this in the old work, too,” I also think that the new production should have its own persuasive power. In practical terms, there’s no small number of scenes which ask all the fans, “Please, just translate it in your own mind. The old show was like this, too.”

Interviewer: You work in feelings of unease to the extent that it causes misunderstandings in order to intensify the drama. You’ve made use of this in the depiction of the characters.

Izubuchi: In the original work, the spotlight is on Kodai and his reckless behavior, but there is also Okita, Yuki, and Shima. There aren’t many turns for even a main character like Sanada. So, this time around we center it on Okita, with Kodai in the role of the young lead. Because it is set on a ship with a large crew, we aim to establish more of an ensemble drama.

In the middle stage, I intend to give some importance to the “cause of Gamilas.” It makes for bad dualism to describe the other party one-sidedly, so there are good and bad people on either side. I think about the extent of what a “Yamato” production has to do in this day and age.

But even if we give meaning to the cause of the Gamilas side, their policy is still one of colonial expansion, so I don’t intend to change the fact that the only choices they offer are to be occupied or wiped out. They have their version of “truth,” but it isn’t the only “truth.”

Interviewer: Since we’re talking about chapter 2, the first volume came out on DVD and Blu-ray May 25 (containing the first two episodes). I’d like you to talk about some of the highlights again.

Izubuchi: I created the battle scenes at the beginning for the battle of Pluto [Operation M], so by all means I’d like you to enjoy them. Originally, I wanted all of episode 1 to cover the engagement in the Pluto sea. (Laughs) [Translator’s note: “Pluto sea” here refers to the sector of space around Pluto.] So we could tell that story as a prequel OVA. The first contact scene with Gamilas will come out in the future, too. I’d like to carefully depict that.

Interviewer: And finally, I’d like to ask you about the highlights of chapter 2 (episodes 3-6).

Izubuchi: Since the drama begins to revolve, the new characters will become active. And talking about Yamato, I think you know that the warp and the Wave-Motion Gun will be shown properly in Episode 3. After that comes the battle with the Reflection Satellite Gun at Pluto. This approaches the same area as the original, so you should pay close attention.

In the previous work, it could be said that the special forces invaded and destroyed the gun, inspired by The Guns of Navarone. I can’t describe what we’re working on now, but because I want to show the air corps in action, it will change how Yamato strikes at the enemy base.

Interviewer: If it develops like the original, the heroic aspect of Kodai will be over-emphasized. It doesn’t sound like this setup will match that.

Izubuchi: Since the battle scene has been changed instead of depicted like the original, I think you will enjoy it in a different way.

Interviewer: It seems there is a secret in how the Reflection Gun is used. But we also want to pay attention to the love story.

Izubuchi: Why are you so curious about that?

Interviewer: That’s personal. (Laughs)

Izubuchi: I see. (Laughs) There are a lot of female characters on the ship this time, so there could be more love stories. Rei Yamamoto can be regarded as a new character, maybe she’ll have a role in a love story.

Interviewer: The love story atmosphere may emerge later, but we didn’t get much of a feeling for it in the first chapter. The only one who plainly says, “We’re together” at this point is Ota.

So, since you’ve given us a new appreciation for the original Yamato, let’s say goodbye using some favorite Yamato words.

Izubuchi: “Gamilas has no need for a vulgar man.” (see footnote)

Interviewer: Yes! Dessler-Soto [Leader] BANZAI! I want to pay attention to all the scenes in Yamato 2199! Thank you very much, director Izubuchi!

Footnote: The reference to a “vulgar man” goes back to Episode 11 of the original series, in which Dessler listens to Talan explain the space-mine strategy to prevent Yamato from leaving the solar system. Dessler sarcastically wishes them luck and a corpulent officer laughs loudly, “the leader also enjoys a joke!” Without changing expression, Dessler hits a button and the man plunges into a trap door that opens beneath his feet. Dessler says flatly, “Gamilas has no need for a vulgar man.” The well-known Star Blazers line is, “I can’t stand a man who laughs at his own jokes.”

Isao Sasaki Special Interview

I sing Yamato! I speak!

Photography: Michiko Hasuo

The strength of the Yamato theme is a national anthem that touches the Japanese soul.

“Because I grew up on Osamu Tezuka’s Mighty Atom [Astro Boy], I’ve loved SF since my childhood.”

Isao Sasaki’s speaking voice is no different from his great singing voice. We talked with Mr. Sasaki about reviving the theme song of Yamato for the first time in 38 years, along with the classic Scarlet Scarf.

Interviewer: I’d like to know what your impression was when you heard that Yamato would be newly revived in 2012.

Sasaki: In fact, rather than making Space Battleship Yamato as a new work in the present day, I thought it should be left as is. It is a masterpiece that dominated its time, and a great work that went out into the world. But when I heard the powerful words that Yamato 2199 would “create the same feeling as the starting point of the original Yamato,” I really looked forward to it.

Interviewer: Did you have a look at Yamato 2199?

Sasaki: There was a preview on the day I recorded The Scarlet Scarf, so I saw it. I simultaneously felt the strong will of the staff and felt that “I returned to the starting point of Yamato!” It is as effective as the original, and because it includes “adult subjects,” it’s even more fun.

Interviewer: Also, the “Miyagawa music” makes Yamato 2199 complete.

Sasaki: That’s right. “Yamato equals Miyagawa music” is probably what you and many other people think. Though [Hiroshi Miyagawa’s son] Akira Miyagawa is in charge of it this time, it is understood that his father is highly respected. Therefore, it will be good. Regarding the Yamato theme, my intention was to reproduce the song of Mr. Miyagawa as strongly as possible.

Interviewer: How was the recording of it different this time?

Sasaki: Mr. Miyagawa’s sound was intense. It wasn’t based on rhythm, but had a real “oomph!” that got you throbbing. (Laughs) But, when you ask Akira-san about it, this time all he had to do was wave his baton and the performers seemed to remember it. The difference from the previous work is that the tempo is a little slower, and overall it has a calmer atmosphere.

Interviewer: Is there any part of the singing that has changed over 38 years?

Sasaki: A classmate of mine had the impression that “a deeper voice brings a sense of weight to the ship.” When I was young, I sang in the recording until my voice gave out. (Laughs) Compared to that, I think this time there is an even greater sense of weight.

Interviewer: And The Scarlet Scarf?

Sasaki: For the original, I did that recording the day after the theme song, and actually my voice was quite hoarse, so it had a uniquely tragic feeling. The tempo is faster this time, which completely changes the atmosphere. I sang it with Akira. When I sing songs like Yamato over several decades, its peculiar pitch is ingrained into the body. We had to make sure we didn’t lose that, so I practiced a lot and met the challenge of the recording. But I’m still very tense when I sing these two pieces, and it feels like singing a national anthem. A “song” can be a serious thing.

Interviewer: If even Mr. Sasaki says it, it is so! I’d be grateful if you could give some tips on singing these two songs.

Sasaki: The beginning of Space Battleship Yamato is a resounding bass voice, so a soprano shouldn’t attempt it. After all, the music suits a deep vocal quality. As for The Scarlet Scarf, I still can’t sing it very well myself (smiles). Still, up until the chorus, the song is meant to be softly whispered to a woman. So, this may turn out to be the wrong trick to singing it, but I think it’s good to turn the volume down at night and listen to it softly (laughs).

Interviewer: Yes! I think it’s good to listen while drinking sake! So, for the future, Mr. Sasaki, please tell us what to expect from Yamato.

Sasaki: I think about whether or not it will send Japan out into the world more. When the songs of Ms. Saori Yuki were popular abroad, it was said that “The reverberation and beauty of Japanese is pretty,” and I think it’s a very important quality of Japan. As for the Yamato theme’s lyrics by Mr. Yu Aku and the soul-touching melody by Mr. Miyagawa, I naturally think of them as sending out this nation’s music to the world and asking, “What do you think?”

I have a feeling that this work will become a Yamato that lives up to an international sensibility. Therefore, when all the episodes of Yamato 2199 are completed, I’d like it to be edited into a 2-hour movie again. Maybe the year after next? By all means, I want to watch it in 3D! (Laughs)

Interviewer: I’m not very patient, but I’ll watch for it. For now, I’ll look forward to Mr. Sasaki’s singing of the Yamato theme!

The End

Special thanks to Tsuneo Tateno, Renato Rivera Rusca, and Neil Nadelman for translation support.

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