Character designer Nobuteru Yuuki

Interview from Space Battleship Yamato 2199 Pia

As the character designer of the Space Battleship Yamato 2199 series, Nobuteru Yuuki has also been active as an animator and animation director. He can also be considered a key man on the visual side of the series. We spoke with him just before his work on Ark of the Stars went into full swing.

The assertiveness of his drawing hand
was sought for the remake

Interviewer: Were you surprised when you first got the offer to do character design for 2199?

Yuuki: I was surprised that it wasn’t Nishizaki’s Space Battleship Yamato. I was in talks for that about twenty years ago, but at that time it seemed to be a sequel to the Yamato saga. But eventually it flowed into this story, and that’s how I came to participate in it.

[Translator’s note: Yuuki’s reference here is to the first development phase of Yamato Resurrection in the early 90s.]

Interviewer: Were you extra-conscious about the designs when you were doing them?

Yuuki: The present work had to be faithful to the original anime. I’m good at making things very neat, but I can’t really match the ferocity of the animators who made Yamato. That may just be me making a self-assertion that “I can’t do that!” Director Izubuchi and I both think that perhaps only our generation, who longed to be the animators who could express designs with such minimalism, can make that assertion. Therefore, to newly remake Yamato now, I thought we should approach it from the animator side.

Interviewer: If the thought is, “Only I can draw this character,” you can’t go only halfway.

Yuuki: That’s right. The view I had in common with Director Izubuchi was that “I knew Yamato in real time” was the prerequisite. It’s not good enough to judge Yamato by looking back at it from the end of its history.

That’s why the word from Director Izubuchi was, “This is our homework.” Of course, parts had to be changed or omitted to make it now, but I had to thoroughly scrutinize the parts I would inherit. To that end, it was most important to know the atmosphere of those days. If I were to change Yuki Mori this way, or increase the crew that way, I’d certainly be tampering with something time-tested, so I had to understand the importance of the change. A change made without understanding would make it entirely different. The outside appearances are somewhat different, but I think I was able to keep the spirit of the original intact. Different people are going to judge differently what changes are good or bad, but I think that in 2199, for us and the people who mark what makes up the community, we’re going to feel that we got it pretty close.

Fascinated by the power of an animator’s picture

Interviewer: This time you also worked as an animator and an animation director. And it seems you said, above all, “I definitely want to draw Captain Okita’s death scene.”

Yuuki: Because present-day anime is made systematically, it’s hard to get feeling into a picture. No matter what shot you look at, it’s very cleanly made, and good scenes are finished with the expectation that they’re good scenes. But for the anime that we watched, good scenes come from the animators having an “ah-ha!” moment and then drawing on their illustrative abilities to finish it as a good scene. (Laughs)

Though there is direction, of course the pictures will be different. Some are different from the character models! I like that! (Laughs) You can draw a character that isn’t identical to the model, but is still true to the shot, and I think I prefer that. Therefore, I could never draw Captain Okita’s face in his death scene exactly like it is on the model. If another animator drew that face, it would look like an ordinary scene. (Laughs) The face would have no impact if that happened. Toyoo Ashida (who was responsible for that shot in the original) drew Captain Okita’s face with 180 degrees of difference. (Laughs) Modern anime doesn’t have that brute force. So such a scene can’t be drawn using the model sheet. In fact, it’s better not to.

If I’d drawn Domel and Captain Okita’s struggle in the Battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster using the model sheets, it would also become ordinary. I have no choice but to rely on the power of directing to liven up a scene. I can’t depend on the power of the picture. Therefore, I draw a picture that is only true to that scene. I think that’s the original job of an animator. Therefore, I absolutely had to draw the death scenes of Domel and Okita myself. Only I could do it.

Interviewer: Finally, what about the movie Ark of the Stars, which you’re now working intently on?

Yuuki: It’s different from the TV version. As the production supervisor, I’m asking to see every shot. In for a penny, in for a pound. (Laughs) Since I did character design for TV, I couldn’t see everything since I was a little bit removed from the center, which was regrettable. I intend to be fully involved in Ark of the Stars so there will be no regrets.

The End

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support

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Read our 2012 interview with Nobuteru Yuuki here.

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