SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO 2199 Movie Update
Besides watching a fantastic remake unfold into a modern anime SF masterpiece, one of the most interesting things about SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO 2199 (宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199, Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199) was observing its growth as a marketing phenomenon in Japan. That growth continues non-stop with two new movies, the first of which opens today.
YAMATO 2199 Chapter 1 arrived in theaters April 7, 2012 — noteworthy for syncing with the date of IJN Battleship Yamato’s demise in 1945 — with an all-or-nothing campaign. Knowing that their core audience could only be fans of the 1974 original, the YAMATO 2199 Production Committee focused all the initial marketing energy on them rather than the unsold youth, and that decision proved to be the right one. After all, people of that same generation were making the new show itself with tremendous respect for the original.
When Chapter 2 premiered June 30, everyone came back and brought their kids along. Positive word of mouth brought in younger viewers as well, and their numbers grew with every subsequent release. By the arrival of Chapter 7 in August 2013, participating theaters had almost doubled, a mountain of merchandise had accumulated, the series was running concurrently on TV, and an ever-expanding sphere of promotion found one foothold after another. That’s exactly how the original Yamato saga became one of the biggest success stories in Japanese pop culture history, and it was extremely gratifying as a fan to see it reach those heights again.
It’s been over a year since the first run of YAMATO 2199 came to an end, but since that end included the promise of a brand new feature film for 2014 we still had something to look forward to. The next big announcement came in April of this year, when it turned out we would actually get two films: a compilation titled SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO 2199: A VOYAGE TO REMEMBER (宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199 追憶の航海, Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 Tsuioku no Kokai) on October 11 and an original story titled SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO 2199: THE STAR-VOYAGING ARK (宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199 星巡る方舟, Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 Hoshi Meguru Hakobune) on December 6.
Since that announcement, the promotional machine has steadily picked up pace to quickly achieve its previous momentum. Advance ticket sales and home video pre-orders opened up as soon as the first teaser trailer appeared in May, and since they are a major source of production revenue the incentives have increased ever since.
In May, buying an early ticket would get you a set of mini-art prints. If you held out until August, you could get a mini-Yamato model kit. If you buy now, you’ll score a pair of clear files with some brand new mecha art. Concurrent with this, the number of public events with a YAMATO 2199 presence has built up to a frequency not seen since the BE FOREVER YAMATO campaign in the mega-summer of 1980.
A traveling 2199 art exhibition has been on the move since April, but the pinnacle so far has been an alliance with the Japan Tourist Bureau that links YAMATO 2199 to the Japan Sankei (the three most beautiful tourist destinations), which is about as mainstream as it gets. September’s highlight was Bandai Namco Anime Camp, an enticing name for a weekend-long outdoor concert that brought YAMATO 2199’s song catalog to a live stage in Odaiba, Tokyo.
This past week saw the final countdown to the compilation film, A VOYAGE TO REMEMBER, and promotion was at fever pitch. The series is still in reruns, but the advertising promises a different experience than what the small screen can offer. This experience has been outlined in a series of 1-minute Youtube videos presented by staff members, uploaded once per day during the final week.
Each of 2199’s seven chapters set traditions that VOYAGE will maintain. It will have its own line of theater merchandise, a special Premium Night for Yamato Crew fan club members (a chance to see the film one day before everyone else), an exclusive Blu-ray of the movie on sale right there in the cinema (the standard edition comes out in November), a series of staff and cast appearances and “Yamatalk” lectures, a “Secret File” freebie with insider info (three editions, only one given out per week), and more.
Something else that’s particularly gratifying for longtime fans is the full awareness of history on the part of those bringing us the film. The single most critical element in the success of the original was an impromptu guerilla marketing campaign in which the early fan groups were called upon to spread the gospel. They were supplied with posters and encouraged to pester the media, and it achieved exactly what it was supposed to by boosting awareness and laying the groundwork for the 1977 compilation movie to become Japan’s first anime blockbuster.
There’s no specific need to do that again, but the Yamato Crew fan club is still paying homage with a “cheerleader kit,” posters and stickers meant to promote both of the new films. This kit is provided merely for the cost of postage, and fans have been asked to get photos of them in public places for the next issue of the fan club magazine. A compilation movie is one thing, but an original feature film with all its inherent production costs, is quite another.
New events, products, and promotional gimmicks will only increase between now and the December 6 release of THE STAR-VOYAGING ARK — which will undoubtedly make use of the same traditions. Speculation is high that it will also become the bridge to even bigger things, namely a remake of the second Yamato story, known to American fans as The Comet Empire. All the early signals are there and the marketing apparatus is in place. Back in the 70s, they called it Yamato Fever. Now, those of us observing the saga’s 40th anniversary have found it to be incurable.
For more information on SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan:
- The Miyagawa Legacy
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 1: The Anime Classic That Nearly Wasn’t
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 2: From Valley to Peak
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 3: ARRIVEDERCI YAMATO Goodbye Dark Ages, Hello Global Village
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 4: We’re Off to Outer Space
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 5: THE NEW VOYAGES Plural
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 6: BE FOREVER YAMATO…and the Kitchen Sink
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 7: SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO III: The Ground Shifts
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 8: FINAL YAMATO: The Legacy Begins
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 9: Dessler’s War and More: SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO IN THE 80s
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 10: The Rollercoaster: SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO in the 90s
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, Part 11: The Leiji Matsumoto Renaissance, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO in the 21st Century
- YAMATO REBIRTH: An Eyewitness Account of the New Beginning
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: RESURRECTION
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: Triumph and Tragedy
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO on Australian DVD and Blu-ray
- Win Tickets to SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, CURE or ZOMBIE ASS at Japan Cuts!
- J-POP Summit Festival Announces Japan Film Festival of San Francisco
- Bluefin Bandai Tamashii Nations Space Battleship Yamato 2199 in Feb 2014
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO Finally Hits North American Theaters in October 2013
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO North American Presskit
- Live-Action SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack in April
- STAR BLAZERS 2199 on Blu-ray and DVD this Month
- STAR BLAZERS 2199 Vol.2 Blu-ray and DVD in April
- Win the SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack!
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO Celebrates 40th Anniversary with Two 2199 Movies
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO 2199 Event in Osaka
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO 2199 Partners with Japan Sankei
- SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO 2199: ARK OF THE STARS Update