It’s a sure mark of a story’s universal appeal when it jumps freely from one medium to another. The journey to Iscandar and back is one such story, having appeared in every form of modern media and thrived in all of them.
How many roads lead to Iscandar? You could take a different one every week of the year and still have some left over.
Film and Television
1. 1974 TV series
Obviously, this is where the journey begins. 26 episodes, broadcast from October 6, 1974 to March 30, 1975. As everyone should know by now, it was meant to be 39 episodes, but low ratings in its first month caused 13 of them to be stripped away. Ironically, this ignited the very fan fervor that was needed to create the conditions for a massive comeback. Series 1 has been issued on home video in every popular format, culminating with a Blu-ray set in 2012.
2. Space Cruiser Yamato
Few have seen this 1976 “interim” version of the story, an English-dubbed, 98-minute cutdown in which many characters were renamed, and poorly-advised acting choices dropped the respectability score to basement levels. But when Japanese fans learned a foreign version of Yamato existed, they clamored for one their own…and they got it.
3. 1977 feature film
With a runtime of 2 hours, 15 minutes, this edition did far more justice to the story than the Space Cruiser cut, and wrapped up with an alternate ending that hadn’t appeared on TV. The public reaction was the real story, though, with fans turning out in droves to see it on the big screen. This was the critical mass needed to break anime out of the just-for-kids mentality, and it changed the medium forever.
4. Star Blazers
The double explosion of the first film in 1977 and Farewell to Yamato in 1978 was loud enough to be heard around the world, and it was only a matter of time before other countries came calling. Westchester Corporation purchased syndication rights, then hired Claster Television to produce the English-language version. The 26 episodes were edited to soften violence, but the story still came through loud and clear. This repackaging was later sub-licensed to Italy and elsewhere.
5. 2010 Live-action movie
Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki first expressed a desire for a live-action version in the early 80s, but it would take much longer to appear. Directed by special effects guru Takashi Yamazaki, it opened in December 2010 and owned the Japanese box office for its entire first month. In the time since then, it migrated around the globe to finally get an American home video release from Funimation in April 2014.
6. Yamato 2199 Series
Far more than a reboot or a remake, this 26-episode retelling added many new characters and found many new ways to remind fans how big a role suspense and anticipation played in their enjoyment of the original. Made by members of the Yamato generation, it is both a love letter to their inspiration and an affirmation of its power. It is also available to US audiences on DVD and Blu-ray under the title Star Blazers 2199.
7. Yamato 2199: A Voyage to Remember
Released in October 2014, this compilation movie followed in the footsteps of the 1977 feature film and set the stage for an original spinoff film titled Ark of the Stars. Read all about it here.
8. 1974 Edition
Written by Arashi Ishizu and published in two volumes by Asahi Sonorama, this was a darker version of the story that went off in a direction all its own. The war with Gamilas has taken a greater toll on the characters, some of whom don’t make it all the way back to Earth, and a third galactic power named Bolzon plays an active role in the climax. Read a detailed review here.
9. 1977 Edition
Published as a tie-in to the feature film, this version was divided into three volumes with Yoshinobu Nishizaki indicated as the author, though it was almost certainly ghost-written by someone else. The volumes were published simultaneously in paperback, and repackaged in 1980. Each edition contained stills from the series and covered the entire story.
10. 1978 Cobalt Library Edition
After Asahi Sonorama, the next publisher to step up was Shueisha, which released three different novelizations in the fall of 1978, each geared toward a different age group. Written by Ken Wakasaki, this one was the most mature of the three, issued as a paperback with black and white stills.
11. 1978 Juvenile Edition
Highly condensed juvenile novels of the 1977 feature film and Farewell to Yamato both came out in hardcover from Shueisha, written by Michiru Maki. They contained color stills throughout and went on to become exceedingly rare.
12. 1978 Monkey Library Edition
Shueisha’s third offering came out the same day as the juvenile edition, aimed at a mid-level age group. Written by Kiyoshi Miura, it had a higher page count, stills and artwork.
13. Live-action novelization 1
This was the first of two novels from Shogakukan, written by Manabu Wakui. Meant for mature readers, it came out before the 2010 film and went through the entire story. The prose style was quite sophisticated as evidenced by its prologue and epilogue, both of which are translated here.
14. Live-action novelization 2
This was Shogakukan’s “Junior Cinema Library” edition, meant for younger readers and augmented with color stills. It was published one week before the film premiere.
15. Yamato 2199 novelization
Mag Garden, the publishing arm of Production IG, released a two-volume novelization of the new series in late 2013. It looked deeper into the psyche of the characters and stayed entirely on the Yamato side of the story. The adaptation was written by Takumi Toyoda and wraparound covers (combined, above) were painted by Naoyuki Katoh.
16. Family Picture Story Show
A trio of very early, very raw publications accompanied Series 1 in its first months on the air. This was the rawest of the bunch, a set of flash cards that looked only a little like the anime, accompanied by a flexi-disc containing none of the original character voices, music, or sound effects. It didn’t even go all the way to Iscandar, since that part of the story hadn’t aired yet – but it pointed the way. Get an inside look at it here.
17. Sonosheet book
Next up was this children’s book from Asahi Sonorama, named after a flexi-disc containing the Yamato theme song that was included inside. The art was a little less rough than the Family Picture Story Show and the story went about the same distance, but it’s still one for the history books. See it from cover to cover here.
18. Big Picture Book
The third of the early books was far and away the best, produced by design house Studio Nue and containing some actual stills from the show. Again, since the series was still on the air at the time, the latter half of the story was not included, but this book’s unique place in Yamato history makes it a real collector’s item. See it from cover to cover here.
19. Starsha space love
This children’s book was published in 1978, a highly simplified 16-page look at the Yamato story from Starsha’s point of view. It contained eight elaborate paintings that were reproduced in a giant 18″ x 24″ format, which made it the Imax of Yamato storybooks. Read more about it and see it from cover to cover here.
20. Roman Album #1
This was the book that pushed anime publishing out of the notion that children were the only consumers. The turning point could be found within the pages of the book itself, which started with the basic design of a kid’s book (large art images with minimal text) and evolved into a mature fan’s dream, page after page of pristine model sheets and broadcast data. Read more about it here.
21. Terebi Magazine special
Published in 1977, this was an excellent full-color guidebook to the TV series, organized by subject with half the page count devoted to Yamato and Earth, roughly a quarter going to Gamilas and Iscandar, and the balance devoted to a retelling of the story. In deference to the movie, there was no episodic breakdown of the series.
22. Anime Cartoon Masterpiece books
This all color, two-volume retelling of the TV series was formatted with minimal text and color stills. Many episodes were not covered, but there was still material that was cut from the feature film. Shogakukan Publishing utilized this format for many other children’s books based on movies and TV shows, including both anime and live-action. There were a total of 7 Yamato volumes up to and including The New Voyage.
23. Yamato Encyclopedia
Keibunsha is a well-known imprint of Japan’s biggest publisher, Kodansha, a name most often associated with a line of thick, sub-compact paperbacks called Encyclopedias. Keibunsha Encyclopedia #31 was a grab-bag of stills and artwork in both color and black & white that organized everything in the story. Also included was an episode guide and production notes.
24. Complete Collection of Records Visual Story volume
Also known as the “Silver Books,” Complete Collection was a trilogy published in 1978 that is still the most complete work on Series 1 ever produced. It was divided into design, photo-story, and script sections, which were repackaged in separate volumes the following year. In the days before VCR’s were common, this was the best way to relive the series on paper.
25. Complete Collection of Records TV Script volume
Another way to relive the whole adventure was to read it in script form. All 26 episodes were presented herein.
26. Perfect Manual 1
This first of two volumes was a welcome do-over of the first three Yamato Roman Albums. This was particularly true for Series 1, which got far better and more complete coverage here (84 pages worth) than it did in Roman Album #1. This included a full-color story guide and extensive model sheets.
27. Big Encyclopedia
This was one of the best books of the production years, a fantastic grab-bag of data on the Yamato saga in general and Series 1 in particular. Highlights included sample storyboards from each TV episode, a timeline of events and trivia from the production years, and a round-table discussion with members of the original Yamato fan clubs (which can be read here.)
28. Perfect Collection LD set guidebook
The first portion of this lavish publication offered a complete cover-to-cover reproduction of the original 16-page pitch book from 1974, which was produced for prospective licensors and has never been reprinted elsewhere. Following that was an episode guide and a few pages of original artwork. The entire second half of the book was devoted to model sheets.
29. Yamato guidebook
This full-color pamphlet was an insert from Dengeki Hobby magazine, published to commemorate the 2008 DVD box set for the first TV series, which included a new 1/700 Yamato kit. Six pages were dedicated to the model with an episode guide filling the balance. View the entire magazine from cover to cover here.
30. Yamato 2199 scripts
The Yamato Crew editions of the 2199 DVDs and Blu-rays each came with facsimiles of the recordings scripts for their requisite episodes. Along with Chapter 3 in October 2012, the Yamato Crew website offered a storage box for all 26 volumes.
31. Yamato Plan Records Collection
About two months after the conclusion of Yamato 2199, Kadokawa Publishing finally delivered a substantial book on the series, a 128-page volume with an episode guide, design sheets, model photography, and more. (“Records Collection” intentionally echoes the title of the famed “silver books” published by Office Academy on the original series.)
32. Yamato 2199 program books
Just about all the movies released in Japan have slickly-produced program books, and each theatrical release of 2199 came with one of its own. Topping out at 48 pages with splashy, full-color artwork throughout, they combine into a single body of work that covers the entire series with style. See them all here.
Manga and Comics
33. Leiji Matsumoto manga
Originally serialized over seven issues of a monthly manga magazine titled Adventure King, this version was first issued in paperback July 1975 and has remained in print ever since. It skips a lot of the material seen in the anime, but adds new bits of its own (a shrouded Captain Harlock, for example) and even an original chapter, Eternal Story of Jura. Read more about it here.
34. Akira Hio manga
Akira Hio’s adaptation of Series 1 is easily the most off-center version of the story with script writer Keisuke Fujikawa re-interpreting and re-ordering many of the ideas. Some were rescued from rejected TV concepts, but others changed the plotline to such a degree that they became entirely new. Examine the many differences here.
35. Yuki Hijiri manga
This version was also published while Series 1 was on the air, gracing the pages of Tokuma Shoten’s Terebi Land magazine from November 1974 to March 1975. Hijiri created five regular chapters and one bonus, but his work was never reprinted afterward. Part of the reason was the comparatively short page count (less than 100), but it is also said that Executive Producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki thought the end product differed too greatly from the anime, and chose to let it fade into history. Fortunately, the fan community was there to bring it back.
36. Picture story
Written by Series 1 scriptwriter Keisuke Fujikawa and drawn by Leiji Matsumoto, this version was serialized over six issues of Fifth Grader magazine during the original broadcast. It retold a highly-condensed version of the story in just 29 pages and utterly vanished until it was rediscovered and reprinted here.
37. Anime comics
This 2-volume set from the Champion Graphic division of Akita Shoten Publishing retold the story of the film in anime comic form, color stills with word balloons for dialogue. Other volumes were published for Farewell to Yamato and Be Forever. Read more about anime comics here.
38. W.C.C. Animation comics
In the days before home video was commonplace, this series gave fans a chance to relive the anime in print form. Distributed by US-based Books Nippan, it was produced in Japan by Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s West Cape Corporation (W.C.C.) and rewritten by William Ross. While the story is intact, the formatting and presentation are fairly unique. Find out more here.
39. Star Blazers comic book #0 (Argo Press)
The first American Star Blazers comics were published by Comico, which consisted of spinoff stories. This series, published by the US office of Voyager Entertainment, stuck with the original material. The #0 issue (March ’95) adapted all of Series 1 in a single comic book, told through the pages of Captain Avatar’s journey. See it from cover to cover here.
40. Italian books
Anime got an earlier foothold in Italy than it did in the English-speaking world, and was already a major part of their pop culture while US fandom was still getting its shoes on. But Yamato made its way there via America under the Star Blazers title, and soon got its own print publications. Hardcover storybooks were published by Mondadori, and comic books (one issue per episode) came out from Atlas UFO Robot. Learn more about the Italian adventures here.
41. The Faraway Planet Iscandar Comic Anthology
Published as a tie-in to the first Playstation game, each chapter was an adaptation of a key TV episode, and each artist interpreted the story in their own fashion. It’s interesting to note that chapter 1, a vivid retelling of the battle of Pluto, was drawn by Michio Murakawa, who went on to do the manga version of Yamato 2199.
42. Yamato 2199 manga
Lifetime Yamato fan Michio Murakawa was the single best candidate to adapt Yamato 2199 for manga, and his version actually arrived first, debuting in New Type Ace magazine almost a month before the anime arrived in theaters. It currently continues in the online Nico Nico Ace magazine, which can be seen for free worldwide. The adaptation has been reprinted in paperback at the pace of two episodes per volume.
43. Red-Eyed Ace manga
Comic Blade magazine added a whole new chapter to Yamato history when the first professionally-drawn manga by a female writer/artist made its debut. Titled Red-Eyed Ace, it was a 2199 spinoff by Mayumi Azuma that told the story from Akira Yamamoto’s point of view. It ran for ten consecutive issues and reached paperback in June 2014.
44. Gameboy game
Nintendo Game Boy was a handheld cartridge-based system that made its debut in 1989. As video games went, it was about as basic as you could get; a roughly 4″ square black & white picture with highly simplified 8-bit LCD graphics and MIDI-style audio. But in 1992, it presented the first chance to experience the Journey to Iscandar in a fully-interactive environment. Crew members would issue instructions and it would be up to you to shoot down enemy ships, warp from one stage to the next, and get your hands on that Cosmo DNA. Read more here.
45. Cinemalize Simulation game
This was a CD-Rom manufactured for NEC’s PC Engine, released in 1992. The story was broken into 9 stages (just as the movie was cut down from 26 episodes) that take the player through all the major plot points with a mixture of limited animation and gameplay. Read more here.
46. Master Edition CD-Rom
In 1999, this product delivered a Series 1 virtual Yamato that you could explore at will. Though not strictly a game, it was a huge leap forward in terms of interactivity. Spread across four CD-Roms, it allowed the user to walk through several areas of the ship. Most rooms came cleverly-equipped with access to Series 1 anime clips, character and mecha databases, and more. A separate bonus disc contained sound clips and CG galleries. Read all about it here.
47. Playstation game
Released in 1999 with Leiji Matsumoto at the helm, this game was an interesting mash-up of anime and manga concepts in an expanded sim of the voyage to Iscandar. And it had something for everyone; fans who couldn’t penetrate the dense language barrier to play the game could still enjoy the cutscenes, which were a combo of hand-drawn animation and CG. The character designer, Keisuke Masunaga, went on to become a regular in Matsumoto anime projects. Read more about the game here.
48. Typing Warp
If you ever wanted to learn typing via the trip to Iscandar, this 2001 “Keystroke Heroes” computer game from Sourcenext had you covered. Typing Warp was entirely based on the journey to Iscandar with CG cutscenes and character animation. It consisted of 9 missions that incorporated typing skills into the gameplay. See more of it here.
49. Wonderswan game
Yamato for Wonderswan (2001) was similar in scope to the Game Boy and PC Engine games, but was a huge leap forward in terms of graphics and complexity. It was designed by the minds and artists behind the Playstation game, with general supervision by Leiji Matsumoto. Each of the game’s 17 levels played like an episode with new stories, characters, and multiple endings. Read more about it here.
50. CR Yamato pachinko game
Pachinko arcades are the top of the gaming world in Japan, loaded with gimmicks and anime licensing. The first CR Yamato game (CR stands for Card Reader, since they take prepaid cards instead of coins) made its debut in late 2007. It gave players yet another way to experience the journey to Iscandar with interactive bells and whistles (literal ones in this case) that included a Wave-Motion Gun that assembled itself right over the video screen and blasted the player square in the face. Read all about it here.
51. Pachislo game
The Yamasa Company entered the arena of Yamato pachinko games in 2010 with a video slot machine that (like the CR game) turned the journey to Iscandar into an interactive experience. The highlight of the game was an extensive collection of animated cutscenes that did an excellent job of recapturing the spirit of Series 1 in a fresh, energetic style. Find out more here.
52. Battlecard game
This was the latest in a growing number of virtual Yamato products, a downloadable game played on a cel phone, probably similar to other collectible card games, but with a Yamato twist. New game-expanding “cards” become available periodically for download from the official website. Encompassing both the original series and Yamato Resurrection, it was announced in May and its homepage went live in July, 2011. It has since been discontinued.
53. Music and drama single
This was the very first Space Battleship Yamato record, a single released in October 1974 with the OP/ED on one side and a condensed retelling of episode 1 on the other with dialogue and sound effects. That falls way short of the entire trip to Iscandar, but it was the beginning of a rich history of Yamato records.
54. Drama LP
Just before the 1977 movie changed everything, this LP provided an hour-long overview of Series 1 and was the first means of reliving the story on demand. An even better bonus was the largest collection of color stills that anyone had ever seen. When the movie finally did break, this album was the only major piece of merchandising on the shelves. Until it sold out, anyway.
55. Space Cruiser Yamato LP
Looking for a way to capitalize on the runaway success of their first Drama album, Nippon Columbia assembled this one from the English-language Space Cruiser Yamato dub and released it in a keepsake box that included a poster and a translated script book. It has survived into the modern age, being issued for the first time on CD in 2013.
56. Complete Collection box set
Two years of continuous record-breaking music sales convinced Columbia to experiment with this high-end box set in 1979. A 13-record set and an 8-cassette version both came in silver-foil boxes with a deluxe 90-page hardcover storybook to follow the action. In the days before home video, this was the only way to relive the series from end to end.
57 & 58. Radio Dramas
There were two radio dramas for Space Battleship Yamato in the glory days of 1977, but since they both predated the arrival of anime journalism, very little documentation remains. The first, broadcast in August ’77, was a week-long “Stereo Manga” dramatization on NHK FM. It had only the story in common with the anime; everything else (acting, music, and sound effects) was created in the broadcast studio. A much more authentic 4-hour show was produced by Yoshinobu Nishizaki for a popular show called All Night Nippon in December. This one had everything the first version lacked, including the music of the Yamato Symphonic Suite before it was released on LP.
59. YRA Radio Yamato
This was a weekly variety show starring Aya Uchida, the voice actress for Yuria Misaki, with Analyzer’s voice actor Cho as co-host. Uchida’s fictional counterpart had the same job in Yamato 2199, entertaining the crew with a shipboard radio show. The real-world YRA program ran parallel to the anime and kept continuity, which made it yet another road to Iscandar. Read more about it here.