Imagine being able to walk into a movie theater in 2023, to see the original Space Battleship Yamato movie on a big screen. Fans in Japan got to live that dream in December, along with a nice wave of activity to accompany it, including the most welcome news of all as 2023 came to an end.
December 3: Otacruz anime event
The month began with a party in Hokkaido. The host organization was Otacruz, described as a group of entertainers who love anime, game, and tokusatsu songs and perform them live. You can see them doing their thing in numerous video clips here.
It is unknown whether or not any Yamato songs were performed at this event, but since they also hosted a model kit exhibition and Hokkaido is the home of modeling club HOBAS, there was a ready-made Yamato experience within walking distance.
See a photo gallery of the HOBAS display here
December 7: Final Yamato LD game, download version
Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story! After 38 years of obscurity, this astonishing artifact lives again! As of today, fans could download it directly to their Switch consoles from the Nintendo store in Japan. If they held out for another week, they could obtain the physical version.
Here’s what the Nintendo store had to say about the game:
Yamato launch! Fire the Wave-Motion Gun and save the Earth!
The laserdisc animation game Space Battleship Yamato was released by Taito as an arcade game in 1985. This game is a port of the arcade version with HD remastering and higher image quality.
Space Battleship Yamato is launched! This time, the mission is to destroy the invading enemy fleet, reach the water planet Aquarius, and stop its warp. Repeat the warp to Pluto, the space cavity, Aquarius, and Fortress Uruk, avoiding obstacles and enemy attacks while shooting them down and firing the Wave-Motion Gun to save the Earth!
What is an LD (Laser Disc) Game?
One of the game genres played in arcades in the mid-1980s, LD games used a laser video disc to display images. Because they displayed live-action and animated footage over an extended time, they were characterized by their ability to present detailed and beautiful images, which was not possible with video game graphics of the time.
In LD games, the game progresses when the player takes action in response to instructions that appear on the screen at certain moments. If the player misses an action, the game switches to a failed image, and after a certain number of misses, the game is over. This system is still used in some games as a quick time event (abbreviated as QTE).
Keep reading for more!
December 7: Wallet preorders open
Wondering what to get for the fan who has it all? This handcrafted leather wallet might do. Created by Ojaga Design studio, it was offered for preorders from the A-on Store from today through January 7 with the finished product scheduled to ship on March 22. Price: a cool 39,600 yen (a little under $300 as of this writing).
Photo posted on Twitter by forest_fu
December 8: Space Battleship Yamato 4k premiere
Your theater is now open. Please enter and take your seats.
After its premiere in August 1977, the first Yamato film returned to theaters many times over subsequent years. But never before has it been seen like this. Digital engineers pored over the negative frame by frame, removing flaws and enhancing colors to get it as pristine as modern technology could make it. And fans rewarded them handsomely for their efforts, filling seats in 36 theaters for three weeks.
Photo posted on Twitter by Hiro
As usual, the Shinjuku Piccadilly (in Tokyo) put on a commemorative display in its lobby, and everyone captured it with their cameras for global appreciation. See a photo gallery here.
Since this was essentially a gift to the fans, let’s see what they had to say. Here’s a selection of reactions posted on Twitter…
Photo posted on Twitter by getachan1
The origin of how I discovered anime! Everything is so nostalgic. – syunsuke@86
There is no dust on the picture, and the audio is very clear. The Blu-rays that were available until now have become a thing of the past. – Yoshinori Nozawa
The heavy monaural sound that resonates deep in your eardrums and the best music that scratches your nerves! And the sound of glass breaking! That’s it! That’s Yamato sound! – Hiro
46 years ago in the summer, I went to see it in Ikebukuro with my older sister and younger sister. At that time, there were probably lines in front of major theaters when you’d exit. Captain Okita’s final scene moved me to tears in a different way now that I’m older. – zen_eno
This is my first time seeing it. The origin of the Yamato universe that continues today. This is groundbreaking for an anime that was created over 40 years ago. It’s a compilation of 26 TV episodes and it’s packed with excitement, but toward the end I was overwhelmed with emotion. – Tora3_Skywalker
When I was in my first year of junior high, the drama version was played every day on the school PA during lunch break, and my brain absorbed it like a sponge. Wave engine, warp, Wave-Motion Gun, tachyon particles…everything is so nostalgic. – deepspacediverz
It had the grandeur of a space opera with an arranged accompaniment to the famous song. Although there is no direct connection to this work, I can’t help but think that Gundam came after this. – Toras
It’s a feast for the eyes, but at the same time has a strong Showa feel. For me this is the third time-slip movie into the Showa era following Godzilla Minus One and Gegege Mystery of the Birth of Kitaro. Showa is hot right now! – getachan1
Photo posted on Twitter by poyo_bamboo
I don’t like the editing of the movie version, so I almost never watch it. It’s been about 30 years. To be honest, it’s “average.” However, if you read the remastering interviews in the pamphlet, you will understand that this is actually amazing. – merumeru1701
It was my first time seeing the Showa era Yamato in a movie theater. Although the original footage was from a TV anime, I once again thought there was a lot of effort put into the drawings. I was surprised that the sound source became a clear monaural source. I was very happy to see that the customers were young people and families with children. – okki_anime_suki
The 4k remastered version of Yamato made me cry. Looking back, I think that both Godzilla and Yamato translated the trauma of the Japanese people into entertainment, and sent a message to “don’t forget nuclear war” in the medium of movies and anime. I’ll also be watching Farewell to Yamato next month! – appleraich
I went home after watching it for the second time today. The Shinjuku Piccadilly was almost full. Ikebukuro during the day was also full, and people had to line up to leave. After all, it’s a movie from 50 years ago, right? I don’t know about anyone else, but I think this one was a great success. – AnalyzerAU09
While many new movies are being screened, it feels great to have the entire [Shinjuku Piccadilly] lobby space used for Yamato. In addition to Yamato fans, there were also young people who stopped by to see it, and they spoke in a way that suggested they knew it was Yamato. Even beyond the age group, Japanese people still refer to it. – ratax100
The 4k remaster of the Yamato movie has been released. When it came out in 1977, I think the biggest hit factor was the surprise of people saying, “I can’t believe they drew this much!” In fact, [Animation Director] Noboru Ishiguro was praised highly by his peers for the “detail of the first bridge,” and I think its impact is suitable for 4k conversion. Also, it feels like the photographic material I’ve personally touched is right in front of my eyes. It was my fervent wish that I could somehow see the beautiful materials in motion, with all the details drawn on them. I am overwhelmed with emotion. – Ryusuke Hikawa
December 8: Theater handout, week 1
As we’ve seen from the remakes, theaters have their own way of incentivizing hardcore fans to buy more tickets; they offer a new handout at the start of every week a film is in theaters. The same strategy was applied to Yamato 4k with a different giveaway for all three weeks.
The week 1 handout was an A4 size illustration card of the original movie poster.
Photos posted on Twitter by Yamato_music_FE
December 8: Space Battleship Yamato 4k Blu-ray, limited edition
Also just like the remakes, you could buy the movie on the spot at your theater and take it home that very day. It came with a standard Blu-ray and a separate 4k Blu-ray, both featuring optional mono/simulated stereo soundtracks, ads and trailers, an insert booklet, and the original 1977 footage known as the “Starsha death version.” (Keep reading if you don’t know what that is.)
This limited edition (also sold in a few stores) came with a reproduction recording script for the entire film, including the revised scenes for the 1977 release.
December 8: Space Battleship Yamato 4k program book
The program (referred to locally as a “pamphlet”) was designed to do double-duty for both Yamato and Farewell, which would open on January 5. This full color 24-page beauty was designed in the style of the 1978 Farewell program and contained interviews on the 4k restoration process.
See it from cover to cover here.
December 8: Theater goods
It wouldn’t be a Yamato movie without merch, so let’s all go to the lobby and get you some!
Photo posted on Twitter by the Yamato Production Committee
December 8: Movie review
Writer Yoshinori Nozawa was among the first (if not the first) to write a review of Yamato 4k, which was published on premiere day and had some delightful thoughts to share.
Read his review here
December 10: Concert news
In case the news has somehow eluded you, 2024 will mark Yamato‘s 50th anniversary on Earth, and on December 10 we got news of one way it will be celebrated. The Osaka Shion Wind Orchestra, conducted by Akira Miyagawa, will perform an anniversary concert on June 8 at Osaka Symphony Hall. Isao Sasaki will be there to sing you-know-what, so if your travel plans allow, this seems like a party not to be missed.
Photo posted on Twitter by Info_IsoSasaki
December 10: Theater talk event
Speaking of Miyagawa and Sasaki, their turn came up when it was time to choose the guests for this month’s talk show to commemorate Yamato 4k. As usual, the venue was the Shinjuku Piccadilly theater, and the topic was Yamato music. Among other anecdotes, Sasaki shared a little-known story about his first impression of the original theme, which was the result of a mishap.
Find out that story and more here
December 14: Taito LD Game Collection
The physical version of this milestone set was released today with the Final Yamato LD game sharing space on a tiny cartridge with two of its contemporaries: Time Gal and Ninja Hayate. It’s a definite measure of our times that games that once required a sitdown booth to play in 1985 can now fit on something no larger than a sim card.
For the truly hardcore, a deluxe version was also released with a book and a Blu-ray detailing what must have been an intricate making-of process.
Rather than requiring players to run through all of Final Yamato in timeline order, all four stages of the game are accessible from the start. Scenes from the film are appended by a lot of new animation created specifically for gameplay. If you want to know more, and see how those scenes play out, read a detailed article here.
The website Famitsu had this to say about it:
The game begins, of course, with the scene of Yamato‘s launch. Of course, since this is a game, you have to avoid obstacles or you will end up wrecking the ship before it leaves on its journey, which is a rather uninteresting outcome. After the launch, the player has four scenes to choose from. All of the scenes have many highlights, but the scene with the Cosmo Tiger (fighter plane) is particularly interesting.
One element that is not present in the other two games is a 3D shooting element. The directional buttons (or analog stick) are used to aim and shoot enemy aircraft and bullets, but the judgment is not very strict, so it is very exhilarating.
The Cosmo Tiger scene is a mixture of QT and 3D shooting, where the player follows the arrows displayed on the radar screen. The sense of speed of the images experienced from the pilot’s viewpoint matches the music titled FIGHT Cosmo Tiger II played in the background, which is very good! I can assure you that it is worth buying the Taito LD Game Collection just to play this scene.
Unlike some game systems, the Japanese version is 100% compatible with US-based Switch consoles and there’s plenty of English text to ease you through it. Order it today from Amazon.co.jp here or CD Japan here.
To see the game in motion, here are clips players have posted on Twitter:
December 15: Theater handout, week 2
When week 2 started, theaters lured fans back in with the second giveaway, a plastic ticket sleeve that had the 4k dates on the outside…
…and a reminder of what’s coming in 2024 on the inside. Photos posted on Twitter by ulead_q.
December 20: Star sighting
This one should impress you. On December 20, a singer named Yuka Uchiyae, who has performed a handful of anime themes, took her friend to see Yamato 4k. Here’s what she had to say about it on Twitter:
Today I went to see the 4k remaster of Space Battleship Yamato. I had the luxury of being with Kazuko Kawashima. I was moved by her wonderful singing voice, the music, and Yamato‘s worldview. It’s only because I watch it now that it really touches my heart.
If your heart didn’t skip a beat when you read the name “Kazuko Kawashima,” know this: she sang the unforgettable Universe Spreads into Infinity vocal that opens every Yamato story. Just imagine sitting next to her as that unforgettable voice opens the movie.
See the original Tweet here
That’s just the first half of this report! Click here to continue!