Ark of the Stars program book interviews

Daisuke Ono

Voice of Susumu Kodai

On this long journey of two years and nine months, I want to pass on what was cultivated here to the next generation.

When I first heard about a new work, I wondered which it was going to be, a story before arriving at Iscandar, or a story about coming back from Iscandar. I was surprised to feel relief at having finished the voyage, and anxiety and excitement at the same time. Then I heard it would be a story on the way home and I did a double-take. Moreover, a new enemy of Yamato would appear. That was an unexpected development I didn’t know about.

As you can see in the key visual, Kiryu is in the center of it. This also surprised me at first. I thought, where’s Yuki? But then I came to understand that it expressed the theme of this movie. It think it means “connecting to the next generation.” In fact, the younger generation such as Kiryu and Sawamura play an active role in this movie. Sawamura is the type who races with passion. Isn’t it heartwarming when you superimpose him over Kodai’s former self? That’s how I feel.

As for Kodai himself, a scene comes out in which he is officially entrusted with command of Yamato. Kodai commands a battle against Gatlantis in the first half of the movie, and there’s a scene of Sanada watching him with a grin. That was impressive to me. Sanada could be thinking, “we may be able to leave the ship to him.”

A good generational change is taking place, and not just in the story. It’s also true on the acting side. The voice actors in the generation younger than me say, “Yamato 2199 is fascinating.” That’s a wonderful thing, and I’ll advance the ship actively on my own to convey the wonder of this work to the next generation. My fellow voice actors are also ready for this, and I was impressed when Director Izubuchi ended our launch meeting with the words, “A journey has no end.”

This time, the most impressive scene was when Kodai tells Lerelai, “You must believe in tomorrow. We believe in it, too.” She’s from the Jirel race, which is nearing extinction. They’ve reached a place where they’ve given up on the future. It seems very much like Kodai to say such a line to her. Until now, I had a strong impression that the Kodai of 2199 is slightly introverted and sort of a shadow character. This provides a glimpse of his passionate side. Can optimism be considered foolish? This seems to be his true self, and he gives that earnest impression. I think such parts relate strongly to the theme of “understanding aliens and also each other.” If that wasn’t the case, the part where he shares his feelings with Berger, who was recently an enemy and becomes an ally, couldn’t be done.

I’ve participated in this work for two years and nine months. I’ve met a lot of people on the staff and in the cast, and it feels like the journey has been blessed with all these people. In other productions, the director would take the trouble to involve himself in the animation direction and such, and in my mind the Yamato production really is full of people that I like. I want to pass on what was cultivated here to the next generation. The journey goes on. Everyone, let’s continue traveling together on Yamato by all means.

Eriko Nakamura

Voice of Mikage Kiryu & Melia Rikke

I, myself, am a huge fan of this work. Even now, I can’t forget the first line I said.

I played Mikage Kiryu, who first appeared in Episode 20 of the TV series. I was simply told, “You might be cast in a work called Yamato 2199.” But at that stage, I was already excited. I’d caught the name from Megumi Ogata, who I really admire as my sempai [mentor], when she described it as a work which had an influence on her, so it was something I was personally interested in. When I first heard this story, I felt I had to watch it.

First of all, I watched Yamato 2199 from the beginning and became so addicted to its charm that I myself became a fan. And so, even now I can’t forget the first line I said: “Fire reaction on deck 6. It’s from a Garmillas gun!”

Although I was cast quite late in the second half, of course Mikage Kiryu was on Yamato the whole time. The first challenge was to fill that gap. For example, one part that gave me a hard time was the original Garmillas words, and the names of planets and cities didn’t come out smoothly at first. For someone like me, it was amazing that the other actors already understand words from the Garmillas or Gatlantis languages. Because Mikage is supposed to be a linguistic expert, it’s lucky for me she interpreted them both into Japanese so I could speak! (Laughs)

But as a linguistic expert, I felt that I should be careful with sound. For example, she writes in her diary in this movie. She’s been recording her own voice in a recorder. After all, for her it’s important to record sounds.

Another thing about Mikage is that she’s familiar with old marine warships. With this, the listeners of YRA Radio Yamato were very helpful. I’ve been in charge of a lot of radio programs, but this is the only one that gets mail with reports like, “how amazing the third bridge is!” (Laughs) The people who talked to me in detail about the old days of marine warships like Battleship Yamato were very helpful.

Every heroine who appears in Yamato 2199 has strength. Isn’t it charming how strength is depicted as attractive to the very limit? I intended to be careful about that point when playing Mikage Kiryu. She has quite a strong-minded personality, and she finds a partner who can tame her for the first time. That would be Sawamura. Their first encounter was the worst, but somehow they have a good relationship in the end. But I don’t think they’ve quite reached the point where you can say that they’ve fallen in love.

In contrast to that is Berger’s lover, Melia. Because she was his sweetheart, clearly different from Mikage, I behaved as gracefully as I could. More than anything else, I think it was a happy time for Melia, and I played out that scene as if I was most at peace.

In my opinion as just one fan, I think this movie will become an acclaimed work. I feel honored to have participated in such a work, and I’ll be glad if this movie leads to another voyage of Yamato. Everyone, thank you for your support.

Yutaka Izubuchi

General Director / Script

With this movie, the work called Space Battleship Yamato 2199 reaches one end.

Interviewer: When was it decided to make Ark of the Stars?

Izubuchi: About the time we did the event screening of Chapter 5. The Production Committee consulted with me about making a compilation movie for the 40th anniversary of Yamato, but I didn’t think it would be possible to contain the series in a single movie to be shown at another event screening, and because I felt doubts that it could be done, I declined. But I suggested that if they wanted to make a feature film we should expand the story of the return home from Iscandar, and it took its present form. In the end, through various circumstances, Director Katoh made the compilation version.

From that stage, I began making preliminary arrangements for this movie. At first, I thought it would be necessary to make one character the storyteller. That became Mikage Kiryu, who plays an active role this time. We had her appear around the time of the Battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster, as a bit player in Episode 20. She’s in the technical group, because Sanada’s seat on the bridge was vacant.

In the middle of the battle, he goes to the third bridge to repair the Wave-Motion Shield, and since Niimi went to stop the drill missile, the seat on the bridge for a technical officer was empty. It was a chance to introduce a new character. That’s how Kiryu came in. Since she’s in the technical division, it would be easy to send her on a recon mission and give her an active role in the movie. Because, for example, we couldn’t do this for Miki Saijo at the radar.

Interviewer: Was Kiryu’s role in the movie decided at that point, too?

Izubuchi: It wasn’t decided at all at that time. No, it also wasn’t decided for certain that we would use her. Maybe, maybe not. It was just the feeling of planting a seed. But when we cast Eriko Nakamura in the role, there was quite a commotion on the net. She gets lead roles in other works, why else would we get her? It’s because I intended to have her play an active role as a heroine in the movie.

Interviewer: You have a script credit this time. Did you think up the story?

Izubuchi: I thought up the basic story. The only choice was to place it between episodes 24 and 25, after leaving Iscandar and before the decisive battle with Dessler. When I looked at how the episodes in the first half were connected, it was hard to find a place for it because, above all, Garmillas was still alive and well.

Interviewer: Were there other proposals before this story was decided?

Izubuchi: Some drafts were considered. In one, a person from Altaria, whose mother planet was destroyed by Gimleh, became a prisoner on another planet, a survivor who is forced to emigrate, and he hijacks the Garmillas prison ship to seek protection from Yamato.

I also thought about a story with the Autoplanet Goruba, which appeared in The New Voyage. But rather than a weapon of the Dark Nebula Empire as in the past, my feeling was to treat the Goruba itself as a living entity in the shape of a spaceship. I thought about a story in which there were two Goruba bodies, and one lost its memory. But the Goruba plan died of “adult circumstances.” (Laughs)

Of course, I was also thinking about Gatlantis as one plan. The reason I finally selected Gatlantis as the enemy was because of the feelings that came out suddenly when they appeared in the TV series. One reason is that we just left it with their relationship with Garmillas not overly explained. Well, I guess the biggest one may be the “adult circumstance” that models are way easier to develop. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Did the mecha reminiscent of Medaluza from Yamato 2 come up?

Izubuchi: That’s because it caused the most damage in the fleet battle between Hijikata and Baruze in Yamato 2. It has the character of a battleship, and I thought the Medaluza stood out most as a flagship. Medaluza itself doesn’t appear this time, it’s one ship of the Medaluza type (Megaluda). The Flame Strike Gun is a weapon produced by the different technology of Gatlantis, and it had to be set up with great force.

Interviewer: I think fans will be happy about the appearance of Saito.

Izubuchi: I wanted someone to represent the people of the Earth side waiting for Yamato to return. Of course, he’s an officer rather than an ordinary man, but I thought we could understand Earth’s situation through him. Having Saito and Hijikata appear in the prologue and epilogue is intended to bring unity to the movie. When you watch it in that sense, the prologue and epilogue are both conversation scenes between Saito and Hijikata, and they have a similar composition. Both scenes are composed so that Hijikata has his back turned to Saito, not noticing him.

Interviewer: On the other hand, Berger was chosen as the main character on the Garmillas side.

Izubuchi: That’s because tying his fate to Yamato would break his character open, and by weaving in the sweetheart from his past, I thought we could dig into him for both yin and yang. In fact, I thought Berger might play an active part in the future, so we deliberately did not show him being killed in the Battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster. Berger’s carrier Lambea is shown sinking into a sea of clouds without an explosion. It’s the same with Baren, since he was not shown being killed in battle.

Interviewer: What’s the history behind the appearance of Lerelai, the Jirel witch?

Izubuchi: That’s one of the big gimmicks of this movie. It’s because I wanted to show the ruins of the Akerius civilization. When I thought about who would be the most appropriate caretakers of those remains, it was the Jirellians. As we saw with Mirenel in Episode 14 of the TV series, it’s one of the reasons they can show illusions to people.

We said in the TV series that Celestella and Mirenal were the last of the Jirellians, but in this stage Planet Shambleau becomes a place of pilgrimage for the Jirel people. Maybe there are people who hid there and survived? That’s the concept. Another reason we included the Jirellians is that the Earth, Garmillas, and Jirel are races with the same origin, and the theme is that they come from the same roots. It was certainly there in the theme of the TV series. When they analyzed a Garmillas captive in the original story, it was shown that the only difference from Earthlings was in fact their skin color. I wanted to dig deeper into that this time. So, while we end up with “What’s the standpoint of a Gatlantean?”, they still have to be an enemy.

I suppose they too are of a similar origin, and they may not have much motivation beyond being a savage, warlike race that needs to be fought and defeated, unwilling to negotiate, and who just attack at will, but I hope you’ll overlook that. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Fumihiko Takayama participated this time in the form of script cooperation.

Izubuchi: He came in as an observer. When a story composition enters the maze, everyone gets concerned and says “you should do it this way,” and I was very thankful for their solutions. Although, his saying “If we don’t do it like this, it’ll look wrong” instead ended up sending us into a labyrinth. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Which parts came from Mr. Takayama’s ideas?

Izubuchi: The part when Kodai discovers Battleship Yamato on planet Shambleau, and the drama that unfolds inside. Also, the magic of knowing what not to show. For example, we show that Saito has a large number of dog tags, which explains the the situation that a lot of people were killed in action over time without needing a line of dialogue. Or the German folk songs. These show our cinematic trust in each other. It’s a place where I can direct more effectively by leaving things out.

To tell the truth, I wanted to put Takayama in charge of the Iscandar episode of the TV series. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. But he finally got to participate in Yamato 2199 this time. I had him help me out a little with the storyboards as well as the script, and I thought that by including him in the animation direction, we’d get a proper cinematic look to it.

Interviewer: There was a different person in charge of each part of the storyboards, wasn’t there?

Izubuchi: I would absolutely come to a deadlock if I tried to do it alone. So I assigned them to people who would be good for certain parts. For example, the part with the space creatures like jellyfish went to Masahiro Maeda. The parts on board Yamato in the first half went to Kazuyoshi Katayama, who worked on the TV series. Because each part went to the most qualified staff members, I didn’t worry about the storyboard content at all.

Interviewer: I heard that you’re recording music for this movie.

Izubuchi: There’s a new song for Ark of the Stars, of course, and some of the music from the TV series was re-recorded again. There seemed to be various adult circumstances there, due to the movie being in 5.1ch.

As for the music of the Gatlantis forces, new percussion flows through their scenes, and there is also a new tune in there, because we have a scene of a soldier beating a drum inside Megaluda that gradually turns into BGM. It was made for that.

Interviewer: Finally, please state your message for the fans.

Izubuchi: With this movie called Ark of the Stars, the work called Yamato 2199 reaches one end. The story of 2199 is basically one in which Yamato flies off to Iscandar and comes back to Earth. New characters such as Satio and Dagarm also appear inside the limited framework of the story near its end. The story was depicted with the idea that, “maybe there was such an episode.” I’ll be glad if you enjoy it.


Shoji Nishizaki X Taro Hakase

Executive Producer and Violinist

I think fans from the old days and new fans alike will be satisfied with the main theme by Mr. Hakase this time.

– Nishizaki

I played it with an intimate sound to stand up to that gorgeous orchestra.

– Hakase

Interviewer: First, I’d like to ask about the reason Mr. Hakase was appointed for the main theme.

Nishizaki: I happened to see Mr. Hakase on a TV program, and when I heard his powerful rendition of the theme song Passion Continent, I had never heard a violin used as a percussion instrument before. [See this impressive performance on Youtube here.] I like stringed instruments, and I thought I’d like him to play the music of Space Battleship Yamato sometime.

As for the music of Yamato, the original creator Yoshinobu Nishizaki had a strong commitment to extraordinary music, and he asked Hiroshi Miyagawa to create something great. I have also listened to it well, and it means a lot to me. The theme song is considered to be the most famous, and I definitely wanted Mr. Hakase to play it. Unexpectedly, he took it on willingly, and my wish finally came true.

Hakase: When I first heard this story, it was just an incredible feeling. I was crazy about Yamato as a kid. I’m 46 years old this year, and I can remember my feelings of excitement as a child. I think it’s a great honor, and when my work came together this year with my past life, I thought I just had to do it.

Interviewer: How did you first encounter Yamato?

Hakase: I was hooked by it during sixth or seventh grade. I collected the eraser figures and always drew pictures of Yamato. I can still draw it by heart.

Nishizaki: The first time I met you, I had you draw it in front of me. I was surprised to see you draw it smoothly in about 20 seconds. I was impressed that it was such a good picture.

Hakase: I also drew an imitation manga of Yamato. And because I loved classical music, I named the characters “President Beethoven” and “Admiral Mozart.” (Laughs) I had a friend who liked Yamato the same way, and we’d exchange and read our notebooks after we finished drawing in them. Being able to participate in a project for the work that absorbed me in my childhood, and playing that song on violin, really seems like a dream.

Interviewer: From the standpoint of a musician, what is the appeal of Yamato’s music?

Hakase: In a word, it is simply wonderful. Each character has a theme, made in the way of a so-called opera. So I guess it leaves a strong impression. At the time, it was just impressive to me, but when I became a musician, I understood what a great thing had been made.

I became very indebted to Mr. Miyagawa in my lifetime, and I’ve heard a lot of stories about Yamato. I’ve known Akira Miyagawa since I was 18, when we first met in the orchestra pit of the Four Seasons Theater Company. After that, we both became busy with concerts, and didn’t have any easy opportunities to work together. But we’d often find our names near each other on posters for Saturday night concerts. (Laughs) This time we were finally able to work together, and it was a good settling of accounts for me.

Interviewer: When you were playing, what points gave you trouble?

Hakase: Because it’s such a famous song, even while maintaining the old image I wanted to bring a sound to it that hadn’t been heard before. It’s suddenly very nostalgic when I hear it, and very exciting when I hear it well. The beat and rhythm has a contemporary feel, and Akira combines the worldview of his father with a gorgeous string and brass section. I wanted to include all that and make it a song for the present.

[See a video clip of Taro Hakase recording the theme here.]

I was able to consult with Akira in various ways as he composed the orchestral backing for the song. Takeshi Haketa and I worked out the plan to make a rhythm track with violin. I think it went really well. But Akira’s orchestral arrangement was truly gorgeous, and it was difficult to stand up to it with one violin. It was a very intimate sound.

Another challenge was to play what is usually sung by voice. The biggest rival for me is a song. When I listen to this, everyone has an image in their head of the lyrics. For everyone else, it starts with “Sara-baaa.” For me it is “so-so-dooo”. How do I bring it close to “Sara-baaa”? It was very difficult. I told Mr. Haketa I wanted to play it as if hearing lyrics from a melody, since it was a big challenge. How could I play a melody corresponding to each word of the lyrics? I thought carefully about this while playing it.

Interviewer: Mr. Nishizaki, what did you think when you listened to Mr. Hakase’s performance of the theme?

Nishizaki: I was even more thrilled to hear it than I thought I’d be. Mr. Hakase performs the main theme for the movie, and I think fans from 40 years ago, and new fans of 2199 alike, will be satisfied. He made wonderful music while being extremely busy with concerts, and I’m very grateful. To tell the truth, I also had the feeling that I’d like him to play other music, but I gave up on it this time.

Hakase: I took the chance that came to me this time, and both Akira and I had our dream fulfilled.

Nishizaki: Because we’ll continue to make new Yamato works from now on, I’d definitely like Mr. Hakase to join us as a musician, arranger, and sound producer. I’ll go to London for that. (Laughs)

[Translator’s note: Taro Hakase lives in London.]

Interviewer: Mr. Hakase also participated in the Yamato 2199 40th Anniversary Best Track Image Album, which is now on sale. Was that one of your plans, Mr. Nishizaki?

Nishizaki: Mr. Hakase is responsible for the HATS label, and talks started with the general music manager, Mr. Otani. One way or another, that’s how it came to be.

Hakase: I’m proud of this album. It’s been 12 years since I launched the HATS label so that I could ask artists to make the music I want to hear. Meanwhile, my friends have increased, too. Facing the music of Yamato brought out their various colors. I’m proud that we could make a compilation work of such rare high quality. It’s really wonderful. They’re all about my age, and the studio was full of Yamato discussion.

My intention was to select the music to match the strengths of each participating artist. When I listened to the finished music, I was surprised by how different a violin sounds depending on who plays it. I think everyone will be able to feel that as well.

Nishizaki: I heard the music the other day, and it was amazing. I thought I wanted to use it in this movie if I could.

Find more of Taro Hakase’s performances on Youtube here.]

Akira Miyagawa

Composer, conductor

I arranged the religious music of the White Comet Empire into an aboriginal version this time. This could be done because the melody itself is so dense.

Interviewer: How much music is being made for this movie?

Miyagawa: Around forty pieces. Among them, about 20% is newly-composed, 40% is based on music from the TV series reworked for the movie, and the remaining 40% is new music based on melodies my father wrote.

There is the reservoir of music that was recorded for 2199, and I’ve adopted a means of adjusting the length to fit the scene. This time it’s being done based on such orders as, “fit it into this 40-second scene.” That’s the biggest difference, because it’s made according to the scene. At least we don’t have to worry about it being cut in the middle. Because a piece can be constructed to a predetermined length, the process is less frustrating for me. But conversely, some might listen to a piece that ends in forty seconds and say, “I want to listen to this music longer,” so maybe that will give me a different kind of frustration. (Laughs) At first there was no help for it, because I made the music to match the picture…so now I’m thinking about how to do it for a CD.

Interviewer: This movie gives Gatlantis a big close-up as the enemy. Will you newly remake the BGM from Farewell to Yamato for this?

Miyagawa: Half of the new music is arranged based on White Comet from Farewell to Yamato and another piece called Imperial City is also used.

Interviewer: Who is responsible for the selection of music to be used?

Miyagawa: It is sound supervisor Tomohiro Yoshida.

Interviewer: For the story of this movie, White Comet is indispensable.

Miyagawa: I talked with Director Izubuchi about using the music for scenes in which Gatlantis appears, and we decided when to go with that melody. But because Gatlantis has a more primitive feeling than in the old days, I thought the original academic feeling wouldn’t be a good fit. I originally assumed that it would be played on a pipe organ and finished in a way that sound like religious music. I guess it feels like the melody my father played with the right hand has been flipped and played differently with the left hand in a so-called polyphonic approach.

But it fit unexpectedly well when I arranged it for this movie. It is like the original religious music, but finished in a way that reflects the aboriginal image of Gatlantis this time. This could be done because the melody itself is so dense. You could say it has the presence of every sound. Moreover, because it is strangely uncomplicated, a child can play it with one finger. When it’s that dense, it’s OK to cook it further.

Interviewer: When I mentioned White Comet you mentioned the pipe organ, and you famously performed it when you were still a high school student. After your impression that the pipe organ was too big, it seems like it would be very difficult to arrange it again.

[Translator’s note: this reference is to an earlier story Akira Miyagawa told about his struggle to perform the Comet Empire theme for his father. Read about it here.]

Miyagawa: It was previously changed for other musical instruments, and it did not change significantly from the original idea. When you hear that melody, you immediately think, “Ah, it’s that music.” This time I used percussion instruments to give it more primitive characteristics.

Interviewer: There’s a scene on the Gatlantis warship of a soldier banging a drum.

Miyagawa: That’s right. It’s quite interesting to try this kind of thing. If I were to make music for myself with such a barbarian feeling, I might make it with only a steady drumbeat, but this is the BGM of Yamato, so a theme is necessary there.

Interviewer: In the music of Yamato, you feel the strength of the melody in particular.

Miyagawa: Even with the ending theme song The Scarlet Scarf, it has the power to make you sing with abandon when you listen to it. My father made nine hundred such melodies in his day. I relive that vicariously when I create those kinds of melodies, otherwise I don’t think I could make Yamato music.

Interviewer: Speaking of the theme song, Haro Takase was in charge of the main theme, wasn’t he?

Miyagawa: We once worked together in the Four Seasons Theater Group when he was still a student at the Arts University. It’s been about thirty years since then. From the first time I met him, he made the impression of a “rich image of a violinist.” We both studied orthodox music, but I didn’t want to stay with that forever. I aimed very much for a crossover method. When I see his achievements now, I can strongly feel his strength of purpose and belief in oneself.

The finished music was wonderful. We were both busy, so the process of finishing it was separate from the BGM, but the people in charge of their various musical instruments gathered in the Yamato studio. It’s rare to do it in the traditional method of music production, to record the sound while playing it [as an ensemble]. I think there are few works that make music that way now. In that sense, Yamato is special, but not only in that way. The method of players gathering in the studio was common in the old days, and for us it was like a school. And there, we’d learn as we got mad at each other. That’s why even now I like to say that the staff showing up for the audio recording of Yamato was an extremely valuable experience.

There is no doubt that 2199 is a remake of a previous work, and though we’ll continue to incorporate new methods, we should also protect the things that need protecting. Communication is still necessary, because I think that’s what brings an ensemble together.

Interviewer: With this feature film, the work called 2199 reaches one ending. As a member of the staff who has been involved for a long time, what is your impression when you look back on it?

Miyagawa: When I did the 2199 TV series, I held the thought that I could finally reach the same place as my father, but when I tried doing this movie, I was resigned to being my father’s son. I was reminded that I inherited the same DNA. In the old days I sometimes felt like rebelling when I heard, “You’re the son of Hiroshi Miyagawa?” and it was complicated. I intended to move as far away from that as possible, but DNA wins in the end, and therefore I became the same musician. I ended up working on Yamato as a successor. And as such, all I can do is gird my loins and trust that you won’t end up thinking “like father like son” and that you’ll hear me in there.

What I inherited from my father will naturally be in the music that I make, especially when I imitate it. My father is my father, and I am me. I think I have no other choice but to resign myself to that idea.

The End

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support

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