Yesterday, I edited the first review of the live-action Space Battleship Yamato movie for Otaku USA magazine.
Today, I woke to find that producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki - who was to Yamato what Gene Roddenberry was to Star Trek – had died at age 75, drowned in a boating accident.
I’ll be eulogizing Nishizaki, perhaps my favorite all-time anime industry personality; a man equal parts Walt Disney and Scarface, at longer length at the Otaku USA website.
But for now, here’s a quick and dirty English translation of some thoughts on the man by Yoshiyuki Tomino, who was (of course) creator of Mobile Suit Gundam and an original staff member on the 1974 Space Battleship Yamato anime. It perfectly captures the deeply conflicted feelings that Nishizaki can bring up: how he changed the anime industry, pissed people off, inspired others, and did it all HIS WAY.
If I have to say it, producer Nishizaki is the kind of person I hate. I also have to admit he can be a likeable person, too. But I personally prefer not to like him.
Producer Nishizaki was the first person of his kind that I ever encountered in the anime industry. We (in the industry) were not used to meeting this type of person and everyone was stunned by his character. He was so pushy and he used his power to make the staff do whatever he wanted. Honestly, it scared us and we didn’t want him inside the world of anime.
But at the same time, I also thought that the world of anime would never change unless there was a producer who had good sense for sales and marketing. Maybe the reason I felt that way was because I also knew about the world of TV commercials.
Until that time, the anime world was just a gathering place for children. There weren’t so many people who were saying, “we have to take anime to the next level.” Which is what Nishizaki did…
I didn’t like the Yamato phenomenon when it became a hit. But at the same time I thought it was OK that people from outside the anime industry had come in. Instead of a creator, Nishizaki was more like a business person. The feeling of hate I had towards Yamato was more than just a reaction to his style of working. I felt like the times themselves had changed.
The anime industry started with Tezuka and his gang of manga-ka. We were offended by outsiders who used us for business. In that sense, you have to admit we were naïve. I had to accept the style of business that Nishizaki pursued.
We witnessed the process of Yamato getting more and more popular through TV and on-air. We wanted the TV version of Yamato to be a hit like a blockbuster movie and we wanted to create an original movie version. I envied Yamato’s success and thought that anime had a lot of potential. But I didn’t want Yamato to be the ONLY hit anime. So when I started working on Mobile Suit Gundam, I always felt in the back of my mind that “we need to beat that guy up”.
More than anything, I want everyone to copy and become like Nishizaki.
- Yoshiyuki Tomino
(quotes taken from Nishizaki memorial thread via 2chan, exact source: unknown)