Translated from the movie program book
Takeo Kato, director & Shigeru Morita, composition
“The most important thing was, what is quality of Space Battleship Yamato 2199? It was to come back to its starting point.” – Kato
“In judging whether or not to cut a scene, I was the merciless one.” – Morita
Interviewer: First of all, please talk about the circumstances of how you both became involved.
Kato: Before I got involved, it was already decided that Mr. Morita would take part in the composition. When I came on board, he had prepared a video that was roughly edited, but it was only the first half.
Morita: When considering a composition, patching storyboards together is in fact the right method, but in my case, I thought it was quicker to edit with animation instead. So I made a rough version. I got as far as Pluto. I wanted to make a two-hour compilation of all 26 episodes. Part of me wanted to try it to see if it was even possible.
Kato: What I figured out was that if the whole thing was done with this tempo, it would be four hours long. One time I told Mr. Morita, “this will become the first movie,” but that was dismissed by the production side, of course. (Laughs) It was a true battle from there.
Morita: Most of it was a battle against scale.
Kato: At first, I wondered if we could successfully connect the first episode to the last one. If we did, it would probably become four hours. There was also the question of whether that would even be interesting. While we thought about that, we asked, what are the most important and attractive qualities of Yamato 2199? That’s what I realized – that it wouldn’t make sense without them. So the composition was redone in order to return to the starting point.
Interviewer: While, in a word, you can call it a “compilation”, I think there are several ways to make one.
Morita: The first thing we talked over was where to establish the point of view. That’s what we called it. Because the story of Yamato 2199 is basically “go to Iscandar and come back,” choosing where to place the viewpoint became the biggest problem. What if we were to choose the Garmillas perspective?
I also considered Yurisha’s perspective in the beginning. We finally settled on having to use Yamato‘s perspective, but we couldn’t depict the Garmillas side if we did so. It is a structural characteristic of Yamato that those two perspectives do not intersect.
There was also the opinion that we could divide it between the Yamato side and the Garmillas side, but when we gave it a try it turned out to be impossible to put it all in. So we expected that we couldn’t get a live feeling if we fleshed out anything but the “trip to Iscandar.”
Kato: At the stage around June, we had configured just the parts of core story into an hour and 40 minutes, and said, “let’s flesh it out from there.”
Morita: But just the essentials of the story were that length. There was just no margin for excess at all. (Laughs)
Kato: When we started work, we looked at the storyboards and were shocked when we looked for finished scenes and said, “This should be there,” but it wasn’t actually in the footage. That was often the case with 2199. Shouldn’t those storyboards have had X marks over them? (Laughs)
Morita: I assembled the composition with the assumption that we had those shots, so my shock was doubled. Mr. Kato saw a stunned look on my face many times. (Laughs)
Interviewer: Did you have a hard time sifting through it?
Morita: There are greatest-common-denominator scenes, of course, but the feeling was that it would be different for everyone. Certainly there were scenes where, “They’ll get mad at me if I cut this,” but after that was the problem of preparedness. Since I considered it my job to decide what stayed and what couldn’t, I was able to wield the editor’s blade with all my heart.
Kato: We worked on the cutting together, and whenever I was hesitant to make a judgment, it was Morita who made the best decision that, “We don’t need it.”
Morita: When I first wrote the script, my thoughts wavered this way and that, like, “This scene might be good here.” But if Mr. Kato said, “Not needed,” it was my duty to cut it. But I was more merciless when I started the work. (Laughs)
Interviewer: It’s surprising that you would be more merciless after being deeply involved in production of the TV series.
Morita: Why is that? (Laughs) But, if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be something I like. I’m accustomed to keeping my cool in the face of reality.
Kato: When we cut down the scale, I endlessly repeated myself by saying we could add this or that shot…and we’d go back and forth on it for two hours.
Morita: At first, I tried to carefully squeeze out as many seconds as I could, but it turned out that doing that wasn’t making it any shorter. It was useless not to cut large quantities in blocks.
Kato: Because there are so many shots, I shortened them considerably to pack in every second. But in 2199 there are lots of scenes which link to others which then link to still others, so it was hard deciding whether or not to cut something at a certain place.
Morita: In the end, you have to cut the bone to add the meat. And there may be many bones.
Interviewer: But there must be a limit to the number of bones you can cut.
Morita: Since the part about Yamato going to Iscandar and coming back is a bone, we couldn’t cut that. The rest was how to choose what meat to add. I think that leads to the qualities of 2199, as Kato says. As I said to him, even if we call it a compilation version, it’s still a single movie. We had to do it with the feeling of making a two-hour feature film. That became our stance. Therefore, though it could have the form of listing all the events from the first episode to the last, I didn’t think that method would be suitable for this work.
Kato: Therefore, I thought the opening scene should not be the battle of Pluto [from Episode 1]. Honestly, I was nervous about whether we could make ends meet, but I was reassured that Morita had the same opinion.
Morita: If we started with the battle of Pluto, I thought the rhythm of the work would absolutely be decided from there. Since the TV series was a remake, it started the same way as the first Yamato and gradually separated afterward.
“Introducing” you to all 26 episodes sounds good, but we couldn’t take the same approach in this compilation. If it started the same as the TV series, it would create a sense of inconsistency if it deviated from there even just a little. To prevent it from becoming a work that is only compared to the TV version, I thought it was necessary to change the beginning of the compilation to make it different.
Interviewer: You both came to that conclusion on your own?
Morita: When Mr. Kato said we should do something bold at the beginning, I thought, “That might make a good movie.”
Kato: This is a movie of 2199, considered an overview of the work, and I didn’t think we would have a movie if we don’t show that from the start.
Interviewer: Kodai is in charge of the narration this time.
Morita: When we said it would be shown from Yamato‘s perspective, I thought Juuzo Okita should do the narration, since Captain Okita is the incarnation of Yamato, after all. But then it wouldn’t be very different from the TV series. In order to deliver this movie to young fans, I decided to ask Kodai (Daisuke Ono).
It’s not completely Kodai’s personal story, because if you begin to talk about Kodai’s feelings, it is no longer the story of Yamato. And if we made it the love story of Kodai and Yuki, it wouldn’t go anywhere. (Laughs) Kodai is certainly there in the center of the group drama, and has the lead role in Yamato to the end. He has that standing as a character, rather than Dessler or Domel. Besides, the drama of the Garmillas side increases from the middle.
Kato: Therefore, Yamato‘s perspective forms the first half, and it moves over the Garmillas side in the second half. I think it went rather well.
Morita: Generally, the Garmillas side has too many older guys. (Laughs) Zoellik runs away with it as soon as he comes out. When such people appear, you no longer know who the main character is, but with that said, doesn’t everyone like the Garmillas guys?
Kato: As for the matter of Zoellik’s active role in the assassination of Dessler, I intended to cut that out completely at first. It would be the same with the scene where Yamato meets Melda. But in order to include the part where she becomes a liaison to Yamato later, the meaning of her role would be lost if we didn’t have the first-contact scene. Even for someone who doesn’t already know the story, the ups and downs for that character would be completely lost if those scenes aren’t connected.
Morita: Even if we say that Yamato has the lead role, it wouldn’t be interesting if we don’t have a human story going on around Yamato. Even with a big climax, it would be hard to connect to it if it was just battle scenes.
Interviewer: Now that the work is finished, please give us your comment on it.
Morita: Once it was completed, I was amazed at how much it resembled the original  feature film.
Kato: I’m more conscious of a movie being a separate thing in and of itself.
Morita: I stopped myself from seeing the move until it was completed. But the composition was similar when it was finished and I reviewed it. As much as I fought against doing it, hoping to throw a curve ball, in the end we followed the same line of reasoning as the staff of the original show, pitching the ball straight down the middle, which felt honest.
Interviewer: Also, the form of bringing a climax to the Balarus fight and reaching Iscandar is composed a lot like the original movie.
Morita: Still, the scenes of Mamoru Kodai were cut this time. We went back and forth with notes on how to handle the last scenes. To be honest, we were uneasy about that. We thought a lot of fans would say, “that scene isn’t there!” But we couldn’t give every character a thorough treatment. So, to the fans who have a favorite character, “I’m sorry.” There are some parts for which I can only offer an apology. To those people, please just throw a stone at us. (Laughs)
Kato: Anyway, we packed it into two hours. We cut so we could pack, and we packed so we could cut. It was repeated endlessly. Despite that, I wanted it to have that 2199 quality. If new viewers who haven’t seen 2199 think of it as a “2199 compilation” rather than a “Yamato compilation,” I’ll be happy if they consider watching the TV series after seeing the movie. I intended to make it as clear as possible for people seeing it for the first time. I’ll be even happier if, by developing new fans, it creates an opportunity to connect with a new series. In that sense, we had an important role that we took as a serious responsibility.
Morita: It’s been several years since an anime was made with the form of SF mecha action like this. Could this compilation version and the new feature film coming in December become a touchstone for the future? As someone who entered this industry liking futuristic things like Yamato, I’ll be glad if it continues a little longer. I think it’s also possible that it might manfully go out at the top of its game. It’s a difficult spot to be in. (Laughs)
Born 1962 in Tokushima. A graduate of the Osaka University of Art, Department of Design. Currently an active freelancer. Participated in many works for Production Company Xebec. Directed the TV series Zoids and Zoids New Century/0, which combined 3D and hand-drawing. Has a reputation for works with hot battles. Feature film anime: Rockman.EXE the Program of Light and Darkness (director and storyboards, 2008), Major: the Winning Shot (director, 2008), Yamato 2199 Episode 18 (production).
See his other credits at Anime News Network here.
Born 1959 in Tokyo. Graduated from Waseda University Department of Law. Affiliated with Studio Nue. As a student, he participated in the editing of Gundam Century [Translator’s note: a pivotal early spinoff book], and became a writer of anime scripts dealing with special concepts. Has a solid reputation for incorporating realistic knowledge into mecha and the worldview of SF anime. He took charge of many Yamato 2199 scripts with battle scenes (Episodes 6, 13, 19, 20, and 23). His major works are Mobile Suit Gundam Seed and Seed Destiny (scripts and special concepts, 2002-04), Toward the Terra (scripts, 2007), and Arpeggio of Blue Steel (scripts and SF research, 2013).
See his other credits at Anime News Network here.
Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.