It’s been one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year, and come next week, Japanese audiences will finally get a chance to see the big-screen adaptation of Space Battleship Yamato. Based on the popular ’70s anime of the same name, the movie is helmed by A-list director Takashi Yamazaki (Always—Sunset on Third Street) and boasts an impressive cast, including Takuya Kimura, Meisa Kuroki, Toshiyuki Nishida, Toshiro Yanagiba, Naoto Ogata and Reiko Takashima. But the project has been anything but smooth.
During much of production, the film was referred to archaically as the “Dream Project,” and quickly became the talk of the Japanese movie world because of its rumored ¥2 billion cost. The film was also supposed to be the comeback vehicle for Erika Sawajiri, who was chosen as the leading lady but lost out to Kuroki late last year after her former agency, Stardust Promotion, announced that it was terminating her contract.
Aside from a teaser trailer back in January, Yamato has been kept under wraps for most of the year, but the cast and crew recently attended a press conference and screening at Tokyo International Forum. Astoundingly, more than 100,000 fans applied for tickets to the event.
“We had a lot of problems along the way,” said Yamazaki, who joined the project after the departure of original director Shinji Higuchi. “It was a difficult journey, but Yamato was able to finally touch down safely. It’s risky to release a sci-fi film in Japan, but I thought it was a story worth telling.”
Kimura also appeared especially excited about the movie’s completion. “Finally, we are able to present this to an audience,” he said. “I’m hoping everyone will be moved by Yamato’s journey.”
Like the anime original, the film is a space opera set in the year 2199. It follows the adventures of a group of earthlings as they journey to the planet Iscandar to acquire a device to help rebuild their planet, which has been devastated after five years of battles against alien marauders. Kuroki, who admitted she hasn’t seen the completed film yet, said, “I hope the fans enjoy it. I appear more boyish than the original [character].” Adding an international touch to the film is the theme song “Love Lives,” by Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler.
One surprising departure from the source material was the decision to have actress Reiko Takashima (Abarenbo Shogun) portray the character Dr. Sawatari. On top of being a male, the original character is a womanizing drunkard. “In the anime, Dr. Sawatari provided comic relief in a relatively serious story,” said Takashima. “It was a lot of pressure for me, as a woman, to play that kind of role.”
Space Battleship Yamato opens nationwide on Dec 1.
Chris Betros is the editor of Japan Today (www.japantoday.com)