OUT Magazine reader’s comment, April 1983

To the true end of Yamato Final

On April 7, 1945 at 2:30pm, 176km south of the Kyushu Archipelago at North latitude 30 degrees, 43 minutes, 17 seconds by East longitude 128 degrees, 4 minutes, 0 seconds, the Imperial Japanese Navy second fleet flagship Yamato was sunk.

This fact is the starting point for Space Battleship Yamato. How many of the people now absorbed in Yamato on TV and in theaters know about this fact now? The end of Battleship Yamato was a singular tragedy in the world history of war. Against the offensive of 300 American aircraft, Yamato was exposed without the support of even one plane, and after only two hours of combat, it disappeared to the bottom of the sea. Of its 3,063 crew members, over 90% were killed in action with only 26 survivors. With more than three thousand dead from a single ship, this remains the biggest naval tragedy in history.

Those dead still sleep with Yamato, 360 meters down on the sea bed. Of the ten warships that participated in the operation with Yamato, seven were attacked and sunk with a total loss of 3,700 crew. It is said that those ten vessels shot down only ten US planes with just eight killed in action.

Leiji Matsumoto, whose father was a fighter pilot, was born January 1938 and says that he saw Yamato in Nagasaki. The biggest battleship in the world at that time, Yamato was said to be unsinkable and must have looked very brave to the eyes of the young Matsumoto. When he learned of the ship’s tragic end, I would think that he’d be overcome with regret. Leiji Matsumoto’s Space Battleship Yamato is depicted as a requiem sung to the Battleship Yamato.

The regrets about Yamato‘s defeat by an overwhelming air offensive with no support are enflamed by Space Battleship Yamato running freely through space. Whereas the battleship didn’t have a single plane to protect it, the space battleship has many craft, such as the Cosmo Zero and Black Tiger. Whereas the battleship shouldered high expectations but did nothing on its journey to Okinawa, the space battleship shoulders the fate of Earth as it travels to Iscandar for the Cosmo Cleaner.

The battleship is revived and safely finishes a journey of 298,000 light years, rescuing Earth from a crisis of extinction. Now it rests on the sea bed with three thousand people and can sleep peacefully by the achievements of the space battleship. Leiji Matsumoto made it as a requiem to the battleship, and the first Space Battleship Yamato movie brilliantly achieved this purpose with a big hit in theaters.

The problem is with the Yamatos that came afterward. It had already fulfilled the purpose intended by the author. When the TV series did not get satisfactory ratings, it was reduced from 52 episodes to 26 and was left unfinished. Even if Farewell to Yamato can be considered a requiem, The New Voyage and Be Forever no longer followed the original motif. Even if they were considered a requiem sung without permission, the song is irritating. Perhaps after Yamato was made so often, Leiji Matsumoto became dispirited by it and distanced himself from his creation. I would understand if he couldn’t commit himself to a Yamato that was no longer satisfying.

The degree by which Mr. Matsumoto concerned himself with on-site movie production bears this out. The original role he thought about for Yamato had ended. Even if a different purpose was devised, it would not be convincing to many people. If the story is missing a soul, it will not impress many people no matter how perfectly the animation is drawn or how magnificently the music is performed.

But it isn’t just about the viewer. Unlike live-action film, animation involves a large amount of personal work, such as artists drawing pictures and painters applying color. Over 100 people are involved in a film production. If their passion doesn’t permeate the whole, nothing fun can be made.

The first Yamato series had that passion because the author’s motif of a requiem for the tragic battleship unconsciously reached all the people who participated in the production. That passion was hot enough to be felt by those who watched it. That’s why Yamato remained in people’s hearts after the TV broadcast and had the support to become a hit in theaters.

The Yamato that opened on March 19 seems to be the finale. Based on the examples so far, I think don’t think it’s reliable that this is really the last one. It could remain silent for a couple years, and then we’ll hear, “The ‘final’ in Final Yamato was just a name, and I don’t remember saying that it would be the last one according to that name.” Because the title of the movie may not necessarily mean it is the last Yamato, I’d like readers to think about the original motif of Yamato once again.

Furthermore, it’s a worrisome point that the filmmakers too often ignored fans during the production process. With the line, “Earth‚Ķsuch good memories‚Ķ” Captain Okita’s family photo fell to the floor and he died in a moving scene. What was the intention behind reviving him? Why was it necessary to make four hours of animation that was cut down to a movie of two hours and thirty minutes? Don’t you care about the feelings of the key animators and inbetweeners working on this film, having them draw scenes you knew would be cut out?

As of February 3rd, I heard that some parts of the storyboard were not yet decided. If there was faith in the theme, it wouldn’t be like this.

I don’t think there is any hope that the enthusiasm of the production staff can be gathered into a consensus for Yamato any more, and that’s very unfortunate. If it aimed for just being a simple entertainment movie, it might generate a different kind of passion. As long as we use the name Yamato, we can’t get away from the original’s requiem, nor should we.

It’s well past time to stop idly using a title that recalls the real-life tragedy of the battleship Yamato to make money. To truly end it once and for all, I and 3,000 other people, thinking of the real-life Yamato‘s meaningless end, urge you not to go see the finale of the beloved Space Battleship Yamato.

– Yoshiro Kataoka
(39 years old, advertising agency employee)

Bibliography

Battleship Yamato Discovery by Toshiharu Mitsui, Japan Broadcast Publishing Association

Yamato Dictionary, Animage October 1982, Tokuma Shoten



Editor’s note: There are many emotional theories about Yamato. Mr. Kataoka’s opinion is calm, logical, and quite persuasive. It made me think. What do you readers think?

The End

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support

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