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Thursday, May 16, 2013

University Professor Becomes Scientific Advisor


"Taking Off 2.0" by Nobuteru Yuuki. ©SBY2199 Production Committee

With SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: 2199 now airing on television in Japan (Sundays at 5:00 pm on TBS), a remake of the 1974 original, some viewers may not be aware that a professor from the Faculty of Science at Kagoshima University is also serving as the Scientific Advisor on the new series.

Professor Toshihiro Handa of Kagoshima University.

Specializing in Radio Astronomy, 54-year old Professor Toshihiro Handa grew up watching YAMATO while he was a Middle School student. “I’m very honored to be involved, since this anime series sparked my interest in astronomy,” he stated.

The Faculty of Science at Kagoshima University, Kyushu.

Since it first aired in 1974, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO has garnered many deeply rooted fans. Like the original, the setting in this remake is the mysterious intergalactic nation of “Gamilas” polluting the Earth in attacks, leading to a fateful crisis in the year 2199.

The planet Gamilas, the center of the Great Gamilas Empire.

With total annihilation looming, Susumu Kodai, an officer in the UN Cosmo Force, boards the Yamato to find the planet “Iscandar” to retrieve a purification system to regenerate the Earth. The new series bowed in theaters and home video in 2012, and on television this past April, 33 years after the original.

The planet Iscandar, located 168,000 Light Years from Earth.

So, how did Professor Handa become involved in this new series? In 2008, the production committee approached National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, looking for “an individual who will enjoy helping us with sorting out facts,” and singled out Professor Handa, who was well known among his peers as an “anime lover.”

The colossal storm on the southern pole of Saturn from Episode 4.

Since then, he has engaged in numerous discussions concerning everything ranging from the visual design and animation with the animation staff, including supervising director Yutaka Izubuchi, in a myriad of topics such as “What would be the position of certain planetary bodies on January 1, 2199?” to “how would the Great Magellanic Galaxy appear when exiting the Milky Way?” Professor Handa would also reflect upon the celestial bodies rendered in CG, and lecture the staff on their relationships, as well as outline other scientific principals.

Looking back at the Milky Way Galaxy from Episode 14.

As an enthusiastic SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO fan, Professor Handa also knows that there has to be some artistic license, “If we adhere strictly to scientific principals, it will disrupt the narrative and world within it, so we need to be flexible in adapting this anime to some extent. However, the point of view from an astronomical standpoint is far more accurate and realistic than in the previous (1974) production.”

The Small Magellanic Cloud as seen in Episode 11.

Based on Professor Handa’s involvement, outdated astronomical terminology and designations used in the original series have been updated to reflect currently accepted standards, such as “Large Magellanic Galaxy” opposed to “Great Magellanic Cloud”, as well as terms concerning our own Galaxy, the Milky Way. Also, the original distance from the Earth to Iscandar was adjusted from 148,000 Light Years to 168,000 Light Years on the basis of new theories concerning the distance of the Magellanic Galaxy.

Detail of the Wave Motion Engine Systems Manual from Episode 3.

Another example of Professor Handa’s cooperation include even minor details, for example, the technical language and nomenclature seen in the operations manual for the Wave Motion Engine, even if on screen for mere seconds. Since there’s quite a distance between them, the Production Committee and the Professor, they stay in close communication via e-mail, including sending materials such as storyboards, and the staff’s concerns concerning scientific problems and principals. And every time he sees the finished work, “I can’t help but be impressed at their continued ingenuity.”

A beautiful, but dangerous Neutron Star featured in Episode 15.

As Professor Handa left Middle School for High School, YAMATO was the vehicle that opened up the cosmos to him, and prompted him in his longing to explore this unknown world. In closing, he said with hope, “Like myself, I would be pleased if this new series would inspire young people’s interest in astronomy and space.”

Written by Kei Mine
Originally published by Yomiuri Online
May 11, 2013
Translated by August Ragone

Stay tuned to this blog and the Cosmo DNA website for more news and information on SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO: 2199 as they develop!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great story! It's impressive that they pay so much attention to detail. I have been really enjoying the series so far.