Yamato Year 2014, Part 2

Back up to Part 1


Justice League United #2 (DC Comics)

Justice League United is a star-spanning series in DC’s “New 52” lineup that follows a team of interplanetary super-heroes (roughly akin to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy) in their outer space adventures. Issue #2 (which went on sale June 18) was penciled by British artist Mike McKone, and featured this double-page flashback of a space battle. Some of the participants in this scene should catch the eye of Yamato fans. Let’s isolate them for a better look.

First (at right), here is the back end of a Gamilas multi-deck carrier taking a broadside. Detail-wise, it’s not a precise match for either the originals or the 2199 versions, but the contours are unmistakeable.

Next, we have a hybrid of two recognizable ships. The larger one is the drill missile bomber (named Galunt in Yamato 2199) with a wider wingspan and bigger tail fins.

Slung underneath is a red version of Dessler’s flagship from series 1 mashed together with the Gamilas drill missile.

The last one is the hardest to spot: a pair of Galman Dimensional Submarines from Yamato III with redesigned bows, lurking upside-down behind the largest object in the panel.

The thing that makes this possible is a 3D drawing app, such as Google Sketchup, which turns a CG model into line art to be manipulated and rendered at will. Like CG in mecha anime, it has become a time-saving device for comic book artists. With this tool, machinery and background elements can be “borrowed” rather than drawn by hand. The technique is easily recognizable by its precise linework, which often stands apart from character drawings. (Characters can be rendered with similar tools, but that’s another topic altogether.)

Whether or not this technique balances out as a positive is really up to the reader, but it does place the onus upon an artist to have some knowledge of source materials when choosing from a pre-fab library of CG models. In this case, the presence of multiple Yamato mecha with structural modifications indicates that the artist has some awareness of this. Regrettably, the artist did not respond to a request for comment.

Space Pirate Captain Harlock Dimension Voyage

Champion Red, a monthly manga anthology published by Akita Shoten, caught the eye of Leiji Matsumoto fans with the October issue (published August 19), which featured the first chapter in a brand new Captain Harlock series that stands out from its predecessors in several ways.

Most significantly, you will notice that it isn’t drawn by Leiji Matsumoto. Instead, the artist’s name is Kouichi Shimahochi, with Matsumoto credited as the supervisor. The story is titled Dimension Voyage, and though it begins as a remake of the original Space Pirate, it seems positioned to accomplish a goal Matsumoto has flirted with for many years: to bring all the Harlock mythos together in one story.

Shimahochi’s art is striking in the same way as Keisuke Masunaga‘s work in the Matsumoto universe; it identifies and enhances the core of the style while also updating it with modern techniques (the same approach taken with Yamato 2199). The arrival of the new manga lead to a commemorative model kit box (above left), and the first paperback collection (above right) arrived in January 2015. It can be ordered from Amazon.co.jp here.

But hold on, this is a Space Battleship Yamato report, isn’t it? Yes indeed…

Voyaging across dimensions means we’ll be in for crossovers in this tale, and the first Yamato crossovers are sprinkled throughout manga volume 1. Above left, we see the Cosmo Cleaner D (presumably a hologram) displayed as a monument in Megalopolis city, which would be a fitting tribute to a machine that once saved Earth. Above right is young Tadashi Daiba unmistakably wielding a Cosmo Gun.

What makes this possible, despite Leiji Matsumoto no longer being associated with Space Battleship Yamato, is the wording of a legal agreement signed in 2004. It allows him to use elements that he himself designed, with the limitation that he cannot use Space Battleship Yamato terminology in commerce. From this we can deduce that these two particular items are Matsumoto designs – which explains why they were changed for Yamato 2199.

Then there is this spread, which features spaceships last seen in the still-unproduced Cosmo Super Dreadnought Mahoroba series…and the return of G [Great] Yamato. Originally conceived in 2000 and serialized in Gotta Comics under the name New Space Battleship Yamato, Great Yamato was the series that began the copyright dispute that eventually lead to the settlement mentioned above. This is the first appearance of Great Yamato since then, and perhaps not the last.

Yuki Hijiri originals

Speaking of Yamato manga, something pretty special popped up out of nowhere in August when five original pages of Yuki Hijiri’s “lost” Yamato manga (1974-75) appeared on Ebay in France. Precisely how they got there is an unsolved mystery, but rumor has it that the entire body of work was sold off to a Mandarake store in Japan several decades ago. Once such a treasure enters the collector’s market, anything goes.

Get a better look at all five pages here.
Read the entire manga in English here.

Rediscover Space Battleship Yamato

This book was published December 4, and if you’re thinking the cover image looks a little “off,” there’s a reason for that. The Japanese title loosely translates as Now Talking Space Battleship Yamato, and it’s the most recent in a long line of unauthorized textbooks on the saga. (Thus, they don’t use licensed art on their covers.)

Published by Take [Bamboo] Shobo, it lists three authors (M. Takehara, Agila, and M.D.) and reviews the entire history of Yamato in 220 pages. It is the first of its kind published since the arrival of 2199, and covers all the stalled productions, such as Yamato 2520, Dessler’s War, and New Yamato.

The enticing blurb on the inner dustjacket sleeve reads as follows:

The universe is infinite, teeming with the variety of life. A work fades away, and another work is born…the breath of human drama is handed down from person to person for eternity. What is the “excitement” that Space Battleship Yamato ignites in our hearts? Here, the untold stories and themes of the work are thoroughly analyzed. Now, the greatest mysteries of Space Battleship Yamato are revealed. “Cast off…Yamato, launch!”

Since it consists of 100% Japanese text, it will be of interest to completists only, and if you happen to be one of those you can order it here.

Ship’s Log issues 6-9

Four issues of the quarterly Yamato Crew Premium “Fun Club” magazine appeared right on schedule (February, May, August and December), with a cover run that used all the promotional key art for Ark of the Stars.

The bulk of their content was occupied with Yamato 2199, but each issue still has something for the old timers, such as articles about vintage collectibles, occasional interviews with production veterans, and an ongoing biography of Yoshinobu Nishizaki. For more info, access entries about them in the Yamato 2199 reports via our media indexes here and here.

Other stuff

Yamato Resurrection Garage Kits

Team Strike was the first company to start making resin garage kits for Resurrection in 2010, and they added two more to their lineup on January 17: the Cosmo Zero Type 21 and the SUS battleship. This brought their Space Battleship Yamato “Imagination Series” up to a fleet of ten.

Get a good look at all of them at Team Strike’s website here. Click on the buttons indicated above to reach the photo galleries.

See all the models in a smaller gallery here.

Secret History

Noriyoshi Ohrai is a very accomplished SF/fantasy painter whose work has graced posters and book covers for decades. He had a major gallery show in 2014, which was accompanied by all manner of publicity. In this case, an article was published in the Miyazaki Daily Newspaper (and subsequently shared on Twitter on March 19) in which he revealed that he was once commissioned to create a painting for Farewell to Yamato in 1978. The blurb reads as follows:

In describing this painting of a battleship in his lifework, Mr. Ohrai did the illustration for the anime Space Battleship Yamato. However, because he used the dimensions of the real battleship Yamato from World War II, it did not meet the demands of the client. Compared with the anime Yamato, the length of the hull is shorter and the muzzle is also smaller. Conversely, it is closer to the actual size of the Yamato that has appeared in a recent TV series.

Assuming that last line refers to Yamato 2199, it wasn’t very carefully researched, but the crossing of paths between the series and one of Japan’s greatest SF artists was a previously unknown bit of trivia.

Green Universe, the art book that accompanied the gallery exhibition, was published November 29 by Genkosha. It is a substantial collection of Ohrai’s art from decades of work: movie posters, book covers, self-generated pieces, etc. Star Wars, Godzilla, and many more well-known titles are included. The page shown above right demonstrates that he actually did two Yamato paintings in 1978, neither of which saw public display until 2014.

Click here to see enlargements of these paintings: top | bottom

Order a copy of Green Universe here.
See a blog dedicated to Mr. Ohrai’s work here.

Mandarake auction #1, April 5

Once in a great while, a truly unique Yamato artifact emerges from the vault of history, and ripples of wonder expand across the ranks of fandom. This happened not just once but three times in the month of April via Mandarake’s online auctions.

The first appeared April 1: an original Space Battleship Yamato plan book from summer 1973. Written by Eiichi Yamamoto prior to Leiji Matsumoto’s involvement, it is believed only 80 copies were made of this 45-page document, and all had to be assembled by hand at a cost of about $100 each.

Are you sitting down? The winning bid for this copy was 2,402,300 yen, which converts to just over $21,000 US. One would hope it is destined for a museum rather than a private collection, but appropriate museums are sadly few and far between in Japan.

See a gallery of sample pages here.
Read the content of the book here.

Mandarake auction #2, April 9

The second auction had a very different prize and a very different outcome. Prior to its listing on April 1, few people knew that an entire Yamato series was conceived, developed, and ultimately shelved in 2004. Even fewer knew that documentation existed for New Space Battleship Yamato, but the veil was lifted when the series proposal was offered for sale at Mandarake’s auction site.

Mandarake auction #3, April 9

At the same time, a character design package for New Yamato was also offered, 24 pages of original drawings by Nobuhiro Okaseko. Since he was the character designer of the original Yamato Series 1, it’s a fair guess that Okaseko himself was the seller for all three of these auctions (and it’s entirely possible that the sales netted him more cash than his actual employment tenure).

Anyway, the results of these two auctions were quite different from the first. Instead of the material ending up in the hands of a private Japanese collector (perhaps never to be seen again), they were won by Cosmo DNA itself and subsequently shared with the world.

Read all about it and see the entire translated New Yamato package here.

News from Tsuruga, April 17

If the name Tsuruga doesn’t ring a bell, make a virtual visit to the city here and enjoy the grandeur of the Matsumoto Symbol Road; a series of statues devoted to Galaxy Express 999 and Be Forever Yamato that has stood on the city’s main street since 1999 (there’s that magic number again).

This newspaper clipping was just an announcement that Tsuruga’s tour buses had been newly adorned with Yamato images, but it was a nice reminder that the Symbol Road is still there for ambitious travelers to discover.

Live Action Movie Jackets

Admit it: no matter what you thought of the live-action movie, the first time you saw Takuya Kimura zip up his jacket, you wanted one as much as everyone else. As of 2014, that niche had still not been filled by an official source, but private cosplay shops were still doing their best.

These jackets started to appear via online sources in July. They weren’t the first to appear in the collector’s market and the manufacturer’s name is still unclear, but the materials and workmanship of this particular version look to be spot-on, and prices for made-to-order versions are still less than $100 US. Somewhere, easy money is not being made by a mass-market licensor.

Asagaya Tanabata Festival, August 6-10:

According to Gotokyo.org, the Asagaya Tanabata Festival is known nationwide as one of the three greatest festivals of its kind in Japan. During the event, colorful bamboo decorations adorn the area in front of JR Asagaya Station. Quick input: Asagaya is a district on the outskirts of Tokyo, and “Tanabata” translates to “double seventh,” the 7th day of the 7th month. Read more about its history here.

Ten shopping streets around the station also feature papier-mâché ornaments and refreshment stalls, attracting a lively crowd each year. This was the 61st annual festival, and an eagle-eyed Twitter user spotted everyone’s favorite space battleship. What’s more, this was not the first time Yamato had a presence here. The Andromeda model shown at right appeared in 2011.

The rest of the festival is a riot of color and creativity that captures your attention no matter where you come from, since familiar cartoon characters from all over the world show up. See for yourself with a walk-through of the 2014 festival on Youtube here (3-minute version) or here (10-minute version).

Then visit the event’s official website and explore its photo yearbook to see what went on in previous years. You have to agree, any festival that would welcome Leader Desslok himself is worthy of your attention. (Photo above from 2013.)

Hollywood news flash, September 7

A wave of intrigue rippled through fandom around the world when the long-rumored live-action made-in-USA Space Battleship Yamato movie took another step closer to reality. Writer, director, and self-professed Star Blazers fan Christopher McQuarrie confirmed that the project has been greenlit with the goal of a 2017 premiere. Casting has not yet been announced.

Read about it at Anime News Network here.

It was just as newsworthy in Japan as in the English-speaking world with simultaneous coverage on Yamato Crew, Anime Anime, Cinema Today, Eiga.com and TV Groove. The September 8 edition of Sports Nippon is shown above left.

Yamato art in 60 minutes Twitter page

Leave it to the fans to come up with new angles on an old favorite. On October 2, a new Twitter feed was founded by an artist with the online handle “Umegrafix.” The concept is simple: Yamato fan art drawn in 60 minutes or less. Many have taken up the challenge, and their remarkable work is continuously accumulating here.

Garage kit handguns

It shouldn’t have taken 36 years for these to show up, but we can’t complain that they finally did. In December, these picture-perfect 1/1 scale gun replicas turned up in online auctions from a company named On Air Works.

They beautifully recreate Kodai and Dessler’s handguns from Farewell to Yamato (1978) and do a better job of it than any of their predecessors. Incidentally, the designation for Dessler’s pistol is the Smalta-PP-7 (which is even engraved in Gamilese on the barrel).

The Greatest Movie Ever podcast

Edging slightly into the new year, Cosmo DNA Editor-in-chief Tim Eldred (the guy writing these words) appeared on the January 4 episode of The Greatest Movie Ever with host Paul Chapman for an hour-long discussion on the live-action Yamato. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that there’s a case to be made for the opposing view.

Listen to the episode here, and clear some time to explore the many, many other excellent conversations in this long-running podcast series.

Hero’s Hill

This section gets harder to write every year, but it’s the goal of this website to record every note of Yamato history, even the tragic ones.

Koichi Tsunoda

Animator, January 14

Mr. Tsunoda (above left) contributed to some of anime’s most revered feature films, including Galaxy Express 999, Toward the Terra, Transformers: The Movie, My Youth in Arcadia, Queen Millennia and Mazinger Z. He served as an animation director on both Final Yamato and Odin. He died of cancer at 75 years old.

See a list of his credits here.

Ichiro Nagai

Voice actor, January 27

Few have voiced more beloved characters than Mr. Nagai, whose long and fruitful acting career put him in front of the microphone for Mobile Suit Gundam, Dragon Ball, Queen Millennia, Nausicaa, and many more. He was also the Japanese voice for both Yoda and Dumbledore. He distinguished himself in Space Battleship Yamato as the only actor to speak for two primary crew members: Dr. Sado and Chief Engineer Tokugawa. The cartoon above right, by anime director Hitoshi Nanba, reunites Mr. Nagai’s character with two other departed friends. He died of coronary artery disease at 82.

Read reactions from his colleagues here.

Read a list of his credits here.

Visit his Wikipedia page here.

Edward Hawkins

Superfan, April 23

Edward was one of the foremost Yamato collectors in America, amassing an enormous archive, helping many other fans to begin collections of their own, and founding spacecruiseryamato.com, one of the first Yamato websites to offer translated material. Based in Seattle, Washington, he also served as a key person in anime fandom in the northwest US. He died of respiratory failure at 49.

Listen to an extensive interview with Mr. Hawkins here.

Kouji Yada

Voice actor, May 1

Endeared to Yamato fans as Talan, the best soldier a Gamilon leader could ever ask for, Mr. Yada’s career began all the way back in 1965 and included roles in My Youth in Arcadia, Cyborg 009, Dr. Slump, Dragonball Z, Galaxy Express 999, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and One Piece. He also took on bit parts in Yamato, such as the fathers of both Kodai (Series 1) and Domon (Series 3). Mr. Yada died of kidney failure at 81.

See his enormous credit list here.

Derek Wakefield

Superfan, May 8

Derek was the founder of Earth Defense Command, the first Star Blazers fan club in Texas, and an early flashpoint for the state’s vibrant anime fan community. His knowledge of Yamato was second to none, particularly in the area of mecha and the military, to which he constantly added new dimensions. This made him an important collaborator on The Bolar Wars Extended, which he unfortunately could not see through to completion when he finally succumbed to long-standing health issues.

Read a heartfelt tribute to Derek by one of his closest friends here.

Shusei [Hideo] Nakamura

Voice actor, July 30

Starting out as a stage actor in the mid-1950s, Mr. Nakamura found his way to anime in the late 60s, carving out a niche for himself playing level-headed second-male-lead characters such as Yabuki in Tomorrow’s Joe and his most famous role, Daisuke Shima in Yamato. He was 79.

See a list of his credits here.

Yoko Yamaguchi

Lyricist, September 15

Ms. Yamaguchi was an award-winning novelist who also enjoyed a successful career writing song lyrics in the 1970s. She was the first female contributor to the Yamato music catalog, writing the words for two songs in Be Forever: Face in the Stars and Life of Love. She died of respiratory failure at the age of 77.

Visit her Wikipedia page here.

The End

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