Miyatake interview from “SDF-1 Macross: Thorough Dissection”

Originally written by Renato on September 19, 2015

As we board the hype train leading up to Kazutaka Miyatake’s exhibition of original artworks, let us look at a recent interview with him conducted earlier this year for the “SDF-1 Macross: Thorough Dissection” book — you know, the one which also doubles as an enormous 1/2400 scale papercraft model of the Fortress Exceeding Space and Time itself (the cover of the book stoically assures us that it is genuine “Deculture Scale”, no less).
The translation starts right after the jump! (I tried to be as accurate as possible, and that is why the four in-text notes are oddly numbered: there are two #3’s, and there is no #1. )

“Working on Macross was nothing but fun!”
Interview with Kazutaka Miyatake, from the “SDF-1 Macross: Thorough Dissection” book.
[Translated by Renato]

The beginnings of “Super Dimension Fortress Macross”:
Shortly after the establishment of Studio Nue, we were doing design work for toy companies, but (scriptwriter, Kenichi) Matsuzaki said that we should make our own project. So we got together with an advertising agency, and (designer, planner, director Shoji) Kawamori and I decided to brew a few ideas over the new year holiday, and when we presented them to each other at the beginning of the year, we both ended up with the same “reverse knee-joint” design. So we put that design in the project called “Genocidus”. We conceived the Gerwalk as a design that would surpass the MS from Mobile Suit Gundam.
The name GERWALK was thought up by Matsuzaki. He made it up of some technical jargon.
It seemed like the model kit manufacturers liked the Gerwalk concept, but the toy makers said, “A reverse knee-joint mecha is too much of a risk for us, so please make it into a humanoid robot, even if all it does is just stand there.” The advertising agency Big West also liked our idea and they tried to get it approved, but there was no convincing the toy companies.
Around that time, Big West’s Onishi-san took us to see a preview screening of the movie “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980 release). In the opening battle on planet Hoth, I saw these chicken walkers (AT-STs) walking around and I felt so gutted (that there was already a reverse knee-joint mecha). The conceptualization was either at around the same time, or we were first. On the train back home, I decided that we had to concentrate on getting our plan sold and made into some visual media even if we had to throw out the concept for Genocidus.
We decided that it would be too much work and too tough to plan out and realize hardcore sci-fi, so we approached it as a comedy, which would be lighter work and easier to do. Before “Macross”, we submitted a project plan called “Megaload” (meaning a “heavy load”). So from that point on, Megaload progressed towards realization more smoothly than Genocidus.

The Birth of the Macross
The approach we had was basically, “Anyway, let’s just do something weird!”, so we made a giant ship. And we wanted to make it so that [in the story] it just so happens to turn into a robot because of various circumstances.
We didn’t want it to look like a lie even if it was made visually, so to keep the audience from saying “There’s no way it can be that big”, we decided to keep the size limit to around 1km. It’s more realistic to have fractions in the number, so we made the setting out to be 1.2km. Since it’s so huge, we made it so that it was actually a ship that fell from outer space and was modified by humans, and even in the early planning stage we had the story setting that when the Macross (at the time it was still the Megaload) moves out, it fails to make the fold above ground and takes the surrounding area with it into space. So then the displaced citizens put pressure on Captain Global to “recover all of the houses and shops, everything that has been flung into space,” and Global uses the military to recover it all and bring it inside the ship, since he doesn’t want to anger the public. Aside from the propulsion section, there’s a lot of open space in the ship, so the citizens build their city there. We figured that if we had 1.2km that would be enough for a single block of a shopping street.

The reason why the two arms of the Macross were naval vessels.
Originally the idea of the UN Spacy was that firstly a space barge would be modified and used as a space carrier loaded with fighter jets, which was the ARMD-01. However, that ended up getting destroyed by the Zentradi. So instead, the attack carrier Prometheus and amphibious assault ship Daedalus, which were brought over in the space fold, ended up being placed as the arms where the 01 and 02 would have been. The Macross is 1.2km, but the fighters that the characters ride in are only around 10m. That means that when we see them launch, the Macross is too huge to really take in the sense of scale. In other words, a frame of reference is needed – so if we put the fighters on top of a regular aircraft carrier, we can then use it as a stepping stone to compare with the size of the Macross and understand the difference. Additionally, at the time of broadcast, the typical aircraft carrier had two prongs at the front (Note 2: Newer aircraft carriers from the 1970s had “bridle retrievers” at the front of the flight deck, that would retrieve the “bridles”, which where the clips that would pull the aircraft along the catapult), which, when combined with the rounded front, almost seemed like three fingers, and because the bridge is on the right, we made that the left hand. With regards to the right hand, we figured that having two aircraft carriers would be boring, so we thought to make it like a punching fist, and the Daedalus was designed to have a giant gantry hatch at the front, which would also serve as a Destroid hangar.

The idea of the Daedalus Attack
In the show, we made it so there is a malfunction with the barrier (Note 3: In any case, a regular pattern of the show is that when each of the various functions of the Macross are used, they break and then cannot be used again), and the operator girls are left screaming as they try to control the pinpoint barrier. So in the pinpoint barrier we had come up with an original shield concept, but then Kawamori suddenly said “Hey, we can use this to attack!” He explained, “By using the pinpoint barrier – which is much stronger than Earth physics – to shield the front of the ship, you can ram the enemy ship as in a ramming attack (as a type of naval attack strategy during the age of sail, people used to put some protrusions onto the front of their ships to ram the enemies), open the hatch and deploy reaction missiles, and it’ll be cool.”

What I like about the Macross ship
In the first episode, in the scene where the Buster Cannon is fired, the bow turns as it opens up [separates], as it would in the normal firing sequence. I like that (Note 4: Aside from the opening, it is the only time we see the main gun being fired in cruiser mode). Apart from that, from a design point of view, the specific placement of the Buster Cannon is a bit difficult to understand in Storm Attacker mode. It’s difficult to see, but when in the firing position, the main section of the bow [the “barrel” of the main gun] lowers a bit. I think that is also an interesting point of the design.

Working on “Super Dimension Fortress Macross”
During the initial broadcast, there was supposed to be another show afterwards, but they couldn’t make the broadcast deadline, so suddenly we had to run our first two episodes one after the other. Because of that, our schedule became much tighter overall. It was bad enough that the show especially took a lot of work to animate [compared to others] as it was, but now we were in a no-win situation. Even without that, for Studio Nue it was a whole new ball game anyway. Looking back now, it’s quite embarrassing just how amateurish the show feels, but I guess we were at the very frontlines of otaku culture then. What Kawamori and I were very particular about, was that “Macross” be grounded in Navy themes. Even though it looks more like it’s about planes, I want people to realize that it is not just about the air force. I don’t know how truthful this is, but apparently, during the filming of Top Gun (1986), the director showed the pilots some scenes from the Macross movie, and asked, “Can you fly like this?” And the pilots responded, “Yeah, we can do that same stuff”, and that’s how you got those scenes. So it’s not just that Macross is influential, it’s also that people are actually replicating it visually. In any case, working on Macross was honestly nothing but fun, and it was great.
(January 2015, at Yokosuka)

The following two tabs change content below.

Renato Rivera Rusca

Renato Rivera Rusca is a graduate of Japanese Studies at Stirling University in Scotland and has conducted postgrad research on Japanese popular culture in Osaka University and Kyoto University. He has lectured at the Manga Faculty at Kyoto Seika University and has participated in many projects involving the Kyoto International Manga Museum since its inception. He is a lecturer at Meiji University, Yokohama National University, Okayama University, and is Assistant Producer of animation at Studio Machiken.