Published by the Futaba Company, Great Mechanics DX is a quarterly magazine devoted entirely to the fine art of anime design. Its primary focus is mecha, but since every aspect of anime production is connected at some level, discussion ranges across a variety of related topics. This was the first magazine to begin Yamato 2199 coverage, and the editors consistently excelled in depth and quality. (See the Yamato 2199 Media Index to find each of their past articles.)
They maintained their reputation with this issue, the first magazine to feature in-depth coverage of the 2199 movies when it was published September 16, 2014.
Translator’s note: “compilation” is one possible interpretation of the Japanese word Soshuhen, which more literally translates to “omnibus volume” or “summary version.”
Space Battleship Yamato 2199
To a New Voyage
This fall, a Yamato 2199 compilation film and a new feature film will be released in event screenings in quick succession. Truly, the last quarter of 2014 will be the age of 2199. Here, we convey the details we presently know about both of these films through interviews with official participants.
Written and edited by Kenichiro Nanba and Hajime Ichigaya
Composition, A Voyage to Remember
Scriptwriter for episodes 6, 13, 19, 20, and 23
The original Space Battleship Yamato boom was ignited by the 1977 compilation film shown in theaters. Along with Mobile Suit Gundam, it probably set the standard for theatrical versions for many people. A theatrical film is not just an omnibus that captures the essence of the work, it can also be considered a reference point in time. Here, we talk about the composition of this compilation with Mr. Shigeru Morita, who is a member of the writing team, and hear about the essence of the 2199 compilation.
The first concept was to tell the story from the Garmillas point of view!?
Interviewer: The Yamato 2199 compilation film A Voyage to Remember summarizes the original series in about two hours, with four or five minutes of new shots. However, the characters have increased significantly compared to the original compilation movie, and there are many other components as well, such as the story on the Garmillas side. It seems like this will be more difficult than the original work.
Morita: That’s right. I met all of the production staff while working on Code Geass Lelouch of the Rebellion R2. It was a compilation film spun around emotional lines of the main characters, with a fairly distorted structure that could be hard to follow. At first, I wondered if 2199 could use this technique.
For example, it could follow the flow of Kodai’s emotions. Furthermore, there was talk about seeing it from the Garmillas viewpoint, told from the perspective of Domel’s thoughts, for example. So I tried some test configurations. Although there was no shortage of material since the Garmillas side expanded in 2199, the important Yamato side became thinned out.
Because this compilation has the important role of preceding the new feature film Ark of the Stars in December, there was some concern that it shouldn’t hammer out too much of its own color and be too different. So as a result of examining various cases this way, we went back to the plan to make it an orthodox compilation film.
Interviewer: In the old days, a feature film that was a compilation of a TV animation series was considered fan service, but for people who watch it in the current home video age it becomes a gateway into the work, so in a sense it creates a standard for 2199 into the future.
Morita: The truth is that the late director Noboru Ishiguro looked back on the 1977 film compilation of the original 1974 series and said that he didn’t like the influence it had. But after [Director] Takao Kato and I reviewed the work of the compilation movie, we noticed that most of it did not differ from the parts made by the director.
You have to be careful, since if you don’t decide to make cuts, it just turns into a simple digest. So, once we’d lifted the lid on that, we felt better. I also think the structure of the ’74 version was solid.
At the same time, my thoughts were not wrong. I keenly realized that it was very difficult to surpass the previous work. The impression was, “When we embarked on this adventure, we were surprised to find ourselves dancing on Director Ishiguro’s palm.” (Laughs)
Director Takao Kato (L) and Shigeru Morita at the October 11 premiere. At right, Morita enjoys the perks of fame.
Yamato has the leading role in the Yamato compilation
Interviewer: What specific guidelines were carried out?
Morita: The battle scenes are the highlight of 2199, but conversely it would be painful to show them all equally, so the configuration makes the battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster the focal point. In that case, if it was depicted from the Garmillas viewpoint as I said before, Domel’s presence would become too big. That might turn it into Space Battleship Domelaze III. (Laughs)
This time, Yamato is the hero of the story. It is mainly constructed around the viewpoint of Yamato itself, not necessarily individuals such as Kodai and Okita. The story on the Garmillas side increases over the latter half, but that’s the natural flow of works like 2199.
A large cleaver was wielded to reconstruct it as one movie
Interviewer: This work explains itself without enhancements or new footage, but it’s also huge, and I’d think reconfiguring it down to two hours would be quite difficult.
Morita: Since this compilation will become a standard for the future of 2199, I thought in various ways about new viewers and wondered, “Will they understand this, or be thrown off by it?”
Since I’ve watched both 2199 and the original work extensively, there’s an unconscious tendency to build up some parts we’ve shot, so I realize they’re not explained to a certain degree by the story or the concept work. But I can’t expect the the younger generation of Yamato beginners to get it. So I’ve shown it to young people who don’t know Yamato in order to get their opinions. While taking the results into consideration, I repeatedly cut the film down to its final form in the editing studio.
Explaining the situations was the hardest part. “Who is this and why are they fighting” is the basic unknown information that stresses the audience, and the hardest part of making a compilation movie is figuring out how to get the explanation in. There isn’t enough time for things to follow each other one by one. For the fans who know it well, it could disrupt the rhythm of the viewing time. In certain digest works that I edited in the old days, I noticed that if the connection of a scene to BGM or the timing of certain sound effects is different from what you remember, it can be disconcerting. I’ve also taken that into consideration.
For a work that’s aiming for a broad audience, I felt that choosing what to leave in or take out was the most difficult part.
Interviewer: Still, it seems like a daunting task to summarize it in two hours. Even more so when many people have deep feelings about it.
Morita: I thought I had no choice but to shift the preconceived expectations of the audience. For example, “I won’t follow the first two episodes too carefully,” so I wielded a large cleaver. So people who have seen all the episodes might say, “why isn’t that scene in?” or, “Why did it start with this scene?”
However, I reached the conclusion that, “This is the only way” and configured it. The declaration from the creator side is, “This compilation won’t have the same sense of rhythm seen in the series.” It is an adventure of its own.
Interviewer: So, rather than a digest, it is intended to be a work unto itself.
Morita: That’s right. Under the assumption that we couldn’t have every single character show up, the methodology we used was that we’d append narration to the parts that absolutely couldn’t be cut out.
The greatness of digital editing
and seeing results on the spot
Interviewer: Are there any new scenes in the compilation?
Morita: There are retakes with art corrections. And some new lines of narration were added.
Interviewer: What kind of exchanges did you have with director Kato as it progressed?
Morita: At first I had suggestions like, “How about giving it this feeling?” and when talking with Director Kato that helped to decide the direction while making corrections. We had all sorts of discussions along the lines of, “How would this be seen from the Garmillas side?” adding in Director Kato’s ideas, coming up with the breakdown of what shots to use from what episodes. Combined with editor Emi Onodera’s assembly of the shots, we proceeded with the movie.
Interviewer: Was the composition for extracting shots written down? I heard that in the old days they patched storyboards together.
Morita: I’ve been asked to work on a number of compilations, but the truth is that, since this was script-based, there were lots of sections of the animation production I didn’t know about. (Laughs) In the case of Yamato, I used a piece of paper to ask questions like, “What episode does this scene come from?”
Since it would be unmanageable to get into detail about how many seconds to use from which scene, I roughly specified which scenes to use. I extracted scenes from the rough edit that was prepared, which gave it the feeling of boiling it down into detail in the editing studio.
This would be unthinkable in the old days of film where they would put in parts of several episodes on the fly, or flop scenes horizontally, or extend shots by two to four seconds. I think these are great times.
On the other hand, when I consider Director Ishiguro building up the Yamato compilation in that era, or director Tomino doing it with Gundam, I think, “The ability of people of that time was great, too.”
Does the compilation version serve as the new standard of 2199?
Interviewer: This production had a lot of elements and group editing. Did it become a work of considerable length?
Morita: The first version was over three hours. It was hard to cut an hour out of it. There was a methodology of shortening it in minute ways, but there were other places where I said “There’s no use cutting it loosely” and cut out important episodes in a single stroke.
In fact, similar shots and scenes were cut from the ’74 version. Stuff I thought was in there just came from my memory of what I’d seen on TV, filling in the gaps. The story materializes even if the scenes don’t have the same structure in the movie. I can’t reveal here specifically which scenes, so please look for it in the theater.
Interviewer: Each fan will have feelings about different scenes, and I think it they’ll think about it in various ways.
Morita: There was talk of doing two or three compilations, but that started going off the rails. Besides, if we had gone that route, it wouldn’t have made it more entertaining. As much as we wanted to keep as many characters in it as possible, in the end you need to be straightforward about what characters you use from what you’ve shot in order to make this work as a two-hour movie.
Conversely, there are some characters you don’t worry about even if they appear without explanation, and I think some experience is necessary to decide give and take in this area.
Interviewer: Considering what would be included in this compilation of 2199, what were the feelings of the generation familiar with the old work?
Morita: I think what changed the most from the original work to 2199 is that the sadness of the original has faded. There was a slightly tragic feeling even to the brave image of Yamato launching, and the lonely sight of Iscandar. This became somewhat diluted in the 2199 TV series and also this compilation. Of course, a lot has changed since that time, and you can’t simply compare the two, but in the end, I’m interested in how people feel upon seeing this.
A year has passed since it ended in theaters and on TV, and I’ll be glad if you can find new pleasure in 2199 from watching this.
Producer, Production IG
Although the development of a compilation movie and a new feature film can be considered a conventional business model for a hit property, it can be said that it is unusual for them to appear in rapid succession. So what is the goal? Here, we ask overall 2199 Producer Mikio Gunji about his outline for the new original feature film!
Mikio Gunji onstage at AniLawson, Sept 28
Deployment to connect the compilation movie
to a new one in a jump
Interviewer: Compilation movies and new feature films are often released, and either is good, but doing them as consecutive releases is quite a rare development.
Gunji: Basically, I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of 2199. As a bridge to a new feature film, a TV rerun would be a hop to the new movie, but our goal was to make a compilation as a jump to it.
Interviewer: Other works have had a flow from OVA [home video] to a feature film. Even so, since you have a lot of projects to do before the next production, the development of expanding the series was surprising.
Gunji: The fan frenzy was the best part. And since this year marks the 40th anniversary of Yamato‘s first broadcast, there was the thought that there should be a new feature film by the end of this year. There was another terrestrial broadcast rerun just in the Kanto region (on BS11), but I wanted you to refresh your memory with an event screening of a compilation movie to build expectations for the new work.
Interviewer: The compilation movie comes first, which is the norm, but there is also the method of putting in new scenes that weren’t on TV.
Gunji: The compilation movie progressed with the assumption that it would be a single movie, about two hours long. There are certainly enough reliable hands to put in a large number of new scenes, but that would make it more difficult to put it all into one movie, and it would take about two years.
Interviewer: Was it unthinkable to make it a larger scale project, like the Mobile Suit Gundam trilogy?
Gunji: Or maybe a three and a half hour epic like Ben Hur with an intermission? (Laughs) I never thought that would be the goal of a compilation movie. In the current cinema complex system, that would be quite difficult.
I think the Gundam trilogy was something you could only have done in that time. Video hadn’t propagated yet in those days, and it was a time when a compilation movie was a hit because you couldn’t see it again if you missed it the first time. Now you can watch it any time on Blu-ray. So when positioning the compilation movie under these circumstances, it was most suitable as a two-hour movie.
Interviewer: There was a hunger at that time for anime images, but now there is the assumption that you’ll see this all over again.
Gunji: At least [in the old days] I recorded the sound of the TV broadcast and took pictures of the screen. (Laughs)
Interviewer: Did the decision to do a compilation movie come out of the TV broadcast?
Gunji: It was decided before the announcement was made on the last episode about the new feature film. Once that production was decided upon, I had a feeling a compilation was called for. The proposal was examined in various ways and there were certainly twists and turns, but I thought it would make a good flow.
The new feature film is an episode on the way home that was not previously shown
Interviewer: For the new feature film Ark of the Stars, the story of an episode on the way back from Iscandar was unexpected, especially one involving Gatlantis. Also, Yamato is seen in the key art with the Wave Gun blocked up, in a state where there is no killer technique, so to speak. This is really interesting.
Gunji: From the talk that Gatlantis will be involved, I think all the fans’ imaginations have gone into overdrive with speculation. (Laughs)
Interviewer: Like, “Will we see Andromeda?” or “Will the White Comet and the dreadnought appear?” Of course, I imagined that. (Laughs) Please do it!
Gunji: I know exactly how you feel. But if we made the next story after the return to Earth, we’d need a lot of time to create the Earth fleet from scratch, and the timing of the release would be difficult. Instead of that, it’s a story where Yamato encounters Gatlantis on the way home to Earth. It emerged from the scene in Episode 11 of Garmillas fighting Gatlantis, and became the premise of the new work.
Interviewer: The Gatlantis ships that appeared in Episode 11 were hand-drawn. Will they be newly modeled?
Gunji: Because we’re working on one new movie, the fleet ships have been modeled for battle scenes. It’s cool, and the fun part is what kind of ships will appear.
Bu, despite the schedule and labor and such that I mentioned, we thought about a movie episode during Yamato‘s return journey that had not been seen before. Since it was known that the original work was to have an episode that depicted the journey home, it can be said that it was achieved on the 40th anniversary.[Note: see the original 39-episode draft for further information.]
Interviewer: The image of Yamato with the Wave-Motion Gun blocked up is shocking.
Gunji: I think it brings attention to the processing of the Wave-Gun muzzle covering. The dull light it gives off was Mr. Nishii’s idea, and I think it comes together as a very cool image. Looking at it expands the imagination.
Interviewer: A Garmillas battle carrier appears behind Yamato. Does it fight as an ally?
Gunji: I still can’t talk about it specifically, so just imagine how the battle carrier might be involved. I think we have plenty of battle scenes for those in the audience who enjoy them, and a lot of new mecha will appear, so look forward to that.
Interviewer: When you say new mecha, it might inflate fans’ expectations in the wrong direction. (Laughs)
Gunji: It is Yamato, and exposure will increase from here on, including the art exhibitions in department stores. Yamato may be found in unexpected places, and Yamato‘s appeal will be renewed, so I think you’ll enjoy the project as a whole.
Interviewer: I’m looking forward to it. But can you still have Andromeda appear, just for a quick glance?
Gunji: I want to see Andromeda, too. (Laughs) But Ark of the Stars has to become a hit first. As Yamato “revives” one step at a time, I think it will be important to show it to the whole wide world. As for the business side of cinema complexes nowadays, since actions can be substantially determined by the initial impact of box office revenue, I’ll be glad if everyone goes to see in in the theater on the first day. (Laughs)
Interviewer: Is that so?! Then I’m going on the first day.
Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.