The September 2013 issue of Hyper Hobby magazine (published in August) contained this brief but enlightening interview with two prominent producers from the Yamato 2199 Production Committee whose job it was to steer the ship through the unsteady waters of public promotion. Here they discuss the unusual responsibility of turning a legacy back into a living legend.
Producers talk about 2199!!
Before the premiere of Chapter 7, we look aback on the voyage of Yamato 2199 as a production. We spoke with producers Mikio Gunshi of Production IG and Yoshihiko Fujisawa of Bandai Visual!
I want you to thoroughly enjoy the festival of Yamato 2199
Gunji: The planning process goes back to about five years ago. The production committee formed and plans for both Resurrection and the live-action movie took place. Of course, the production committee was different for 2199 than the movies. I was involved in 2199 this time, and planning for a “remake of the first TV series” took place. Although the Xebec company in our group came up with the plan, the TV series required a long time because of various reasons, and it somehow saw the light of day last year. (2012).
Fujisawa: Although planning started five or six years ago and scripts were written, its destiny was uncertain. When Production IG took charge, it was decided to tackle it in earnest at last.
Gunji: IG “took full responsibility” in 2011. The original licensor, Voyager Entertainment, declared its consent and I started building the production committee.
Fujisawa: As the project leader, IG reached out to the Bandai Group companies and talked with Bandai Visual as a video manufacturer. Formation is complex depending on the composition, but despite the large and small problems that are always there at the beginning, I think it went well for the committee.
Producer Fujisawa’s favorite character is Yasuo Nanbu. He is in love with
Yuki Mori, and his character was strongly depicted when he clashed with
Kodai over tactics.
Gunji: I think it was officially started in early 2011.
Fujisawa: Well, from there the heat built up for about half a year and the information ban was lifted in November 2011. Director Izubuchi issued the startup declaration, the starting ceremony was held February 18 2012, and Chapter 1 started the theatrical trend on April 7.
Gunji: In the silent stage at the beginning of 2011, Bandai Visual proposed the scheme for simultaneous development of screenings and blu-ray sales.
Fujisawa: Since a similar scheme for Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn had been successful for our company, I thought this form would be good. Since Gundam and Yamato have a similar level of notoriety and a deep fan base, I proposed to the committee that it might work very well. Yamato 2199 was being made in a TV series format from the start, so we would eventually try to get it on TV.
But first, I wanted to provide everyone with a festival. I wanted to give people in their 40s and 50s who had seen the old version a place where their passion for Yamato could come out. I don’t think there are quite as many people from the Yamato generation who came up together on the net. There was the thought they they could have a special place to visit and share, and their passion could increase if they had a festival to participate in.
Gunji: The situation to broadcast it on TV had not been decided at that stage.
Interviewer: Going to a theater and standing in line together to see a movie…that certainly has a place in their memory.
Fujisawa: I thought how nice it would be for everyone to go to the theater where people of the same age could get excited talking about the same topic at the same level.
Interviewer: The first event screening wasn’t as successful as the more recent ones, either.
Fujisawa: Not as much as now. Yamato spread slowly, after all. It took a while to be recognized. Young people will spread things on the net in a heartbeat, but there wasn’t much of that, either.
Gunji: We started with about 2,000 Twitter followers in the beginning. [Translator’s note: as of mid-August 2013, the number was well over 18,000.]
Fujisawa: It spread slowly and gradually, but it was a steady expansion.
Gunji: There was an upward rise in box office proceeds at the event screenings, and also in product sales. The number of limited-edition theater blu-rays increased each time, but they couldn’t keep up with the increase in visitors. Although various circumstances caused difficulty, in many cases it increased perfectly. But the number of buyers has increased beyond the base. Please emphasize that. (Laughs)
Interviewer: It must have been hard to call out those fans in their 40s and 50s and make the appeal to them.
Hilde Shulz is excited by the leader who drove her father to his death.
With this change of perspective, Yamato 2199‘s multi-dimensional
Fujisawa: Conversely, the promotional strategy for Chapter 1 was simple.
Gunji: Because we needed to inform fans of the original first, we had to distribute the information in places where they are present. To appeal to young people, we first had to select and concentrate on ways to reach the original fans.
Fujisawa: Such as sports newspapers and weekly magazines, and specialized notices to hobby magazines and fan clubs centered around the original work.
Gunji: Although it is anime, we didn’t think too much about anime magazines. (Laughs) We went after paper media such as magazines and newspapers, and wanted articles to be written by the editorial departments of business magazines. Though it was anime, we didn’t promote it as anime.
Fujisawa: In many cases, Yamato fans only like Yamato, and they’re the kind of people who seldom look at other anime. Although it changes depending on the person or at what stage they graduated, I think a lot of people didn’t watch anime any more after graduating from Yamato. Our goal was to get such people to see it this time. Most of our forces were focused just before the Chapter 1 premiere. We thought a lot about ways to make Yamato stand out in the modern 21st century.
Gunji: In fact, Okita is not a perfect person, and even makes a mistake in Episode 6. Based on information received from Kato without knowing if it was correct, he said, “Even if information is uncertain, we can’t win if we don’t take risks.” According to General Director Izubuchi, “No, that’s what combat is like.”
It means that both friends and foes make mistakes. I also like military history, but although both sides make mistakes, there is the part where the one who makes fewer mistakes wins. When you look back from the present at everything in the 2199 project up until now, including the nationwide TV broadcast, it may seem as if it was all planned out in advance. But in fact, it didn’t progress intentionally. It has the image of gradually expanding as various factors came into play and everyone’s pieces of wisdom fit together.
Interviewer: Indeed, it was another kind of voyage.
Gunji: It is a voyage. The Production Committee for Yamato 2199 is on a voyage.
Interviewer: Although it was made with the intention of a TV series format, there are parts of the precise drawing quality that you can’t see unless you watch it in a theater. Was that intended?
Gunji: It was completely intended.
Fujisawa: Of course, production begins after the format has been decided, but I was also surprised at first when there was suddenly talk of putting a TV series in a theater. Obviously, making a movie is different from TV. It seemed to me that it would be a shame to put something in a movie theater that didn’t measure up, but that quality was produced by the commitment of the staff.
Gunji: Because a viewer reacts directly to the quality, a sense of togetherness is produced in the theater in the end. Although I think it is a “war” to make a certain anime work into a hit, part of “war” is “preparation,” and those with the most “preparation” and the fewest mistakes wins. It isn’t popular with the public to go through lengthy preparations in silence. I think we as the production committee are endlessly plugging away at determining how much preparation has to be done.
The Altaria annihiliation attack from the beginning of Episode 15. The Garmillas
national anthem resounds as the melody of destruction, then is conversely
heard as a song of solidarity from the subordinate Zalts people in Episode 19.
Fujisawa: We really discussed the selection of targets and the development of promotion.
Gunji: I visited the head office of Toyo Keizai [Oriential Economy magazine] to ask for their help. (Laughs) I asked them to please write a series of articles on something like, “Okita, the ideal boss.” [Click here to see Toyo Keizai‘s coverage of the series.]
Fujisawa: Is there someone who likes Yamato among the elites in every company?
Interviewer: That’s not your usual promotion point for an anime. (Laughs) The TV broadcast didn’t have any change in content, but captions were added.
Gunji: 2199 is a production that puts a lot of information into a TV format, and it is 30 seconds longer than a normal TV anime. From the viewpoint of the TV stations, there are a lot of characters and complex dialogue, and we hoped that by putting in captions and adding a recap, people who were watching for the first time could understand it without prior knowledge. There is certainly a lot of information. Since Yamato travels through space, there are also many changes in the stage and characters.
Interviewer: It’s all interesting, but even when I see four episodes back to back in an event screening, I go, “um, uh…” (Laughs)
Gunji: Therefore, when people who have seen it in a theater watch it again on TV, they’ll have a new appreciation of the various situations being set up in advance and discover a lot of new things.
Fujisawa: There may be parts you notice for the first time if you watch carefully. “Oh yeah, that’s it.” And because you have seen it, you understand how it flows.
Gunji: We’re getting off the subject by talking about the story, but in fact I was surprised by how greatly the structure affected the later part. The mind attack in Episode 14 foreshadowed the part in the Rainbow Star Cluster battle where Domel could not attack and sink Yamato until Yurisha was abducted.
Interviewer: Please tell me your two favorite characters.
Fujisawa: The characters other than main cast have good flavor. Like Hainy. [Frakken’s XO.] He’s an idiot.
Gunji: There’s Goer, too.
Fujisawa: Goer’s not a side character any more, he became a main one. Also Nanbu. Kodai, Okita, Domel, and Dessler are naturally attractive as main characters, but I think it adds good flavor that each Yamato character has a role to play, and since it’s an ensemble story everyone gets their spot, so we can even enjoy the supporting players.
Gunji: In addition, I think that each character has a purpose. Then I think there are a few places where an important factor of 2199 is “good and evil dualism.” For example, Hilde is excited when Dessler makes a speech in Episode 8. He’s the ruthless dictator who drove her father to his death, but Hilde is a daughter who gives her enthusiastic support. Although it looks glittery on the surface, it has the cynical complexity of reality.
Producer Gunji’s favorite single shot. “The radar rotates on the carrier in the
battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster, and the scene where the director has the
planes take off is also good.”
It isn’t said out loud, but it’s interesting when you get a glimpse of that glitter. At the beginning of Episode 15, the Garmillas national anthem is used as a “melody of destruction” by Gimleh, but it comes out as a symbol of unity in Episode 19. Looking at something like Shulz’s death, I think there are a lot of people who view the Zaltsians with pity as they’re ruled by the Garmillas. However, in other scenes, there are also Zaltsians who support Dessler, and in Episode 19 there are some who boast, “We’re Garmillans” who participate in the battle.
Fujisawa: However, they say “Zalts Banzai” at the end. Shulz and the others say “Zalts Banzai” at the end rather than “Garmillas Banzai.” There are various speculations about their positions. Since Celestella is also not a pure Garmillas person either, I think her position is complicated.
Gunji: Celestella speaks to Yuki Mori in Episode 22, and you get a glimpse of her thoughts in her criticism of Starsha. “Nothing is done by merely trying.” That’s her critique. I think one of the merits of 2199 is how it’s a drama which doesn’t state which of these doctrines is correct, but rather shows that “reality is complex.” I’m just looking at fragments, but it’s very interesting.
The 2199 TV broadcast began, and although a lot of school children are watching, I think such parts are too complex and I don’t think they understand it. But maybe it will stay in their hearts as they grow up.
Fujisawa: Since revival screenings are being carried out in four theaters now, you can also look back at previous chapters. Those who encountered Yamato on TV should go visit the theaters by all means. There will not be very many opportunities.
Gunji: It is being broadcast on TV, but I want you to thoroughly enjoy the theater festivals.
Fujisawa: Please witness the return of Yamato with your own eyes.
Read an earlier interview with Mikio Gunji here.
Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.