'Battleship' to relaunch 25 years later

Iconic sci-fi toon series “Space Battleship Yamato” is about to relaunch 25 years after the last installment was seen, according to producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki, who made the original “Yamato” TV show and four feature toons. Abroad the series is also known as “Space Cruiser Yamato” or “Star Blazers.”

For the new pic, Nishizaki, who has been in legal trouble in the intervening years, has set up a toon house, called Yamato Studio, in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward — the heart of the Japanese anime industry — with a staff of 40.

Among Nishizaki’s collaborators are veteran character designer and animator Tomonori Kogawa, who will be the pic’s general animation director, and Toshio Masuda — the veteran helmer who was general director on four previous “Yamato” feature toons.

Set in 2220, the pic will depict the evacuation of 300 million people from Earth to avoid certain death from an expanding black hole. The Yamato, a space battleship, is leading the rescue fleet when it is attacked by an alien force.

“Space Battleship Yamato” began life in 1974 as a 26-episode TV series, helmed by animator Reiji Matsumoto. The series was a hit, leading to the production of the four “Yamato” features, which appeared in theaters from 1977 to 1983. Two more TV series were produced, as well as three smallscreen specials.

However, in September 1997, Nishizaki and his company, West Cape Corp., filed for bankruptcy. That December Nishizaki was arrested on drug charges and he later sailed to the Philippines while on bail. He was arrested on his return, and weapons were seized from his yacht. Nishizaki has spent much of the past decade in and out of jail and battling in courtrooms. In 2004 he reached a settlement with Tohokushinsha, Bandai and Bandai Visual over their “Yamato” copyright dispute, with the three companies recognizing his right to make another “Yamato” pic.

Nishizaki was released from prison in December 2007. The toon is skedded for release in 2009.

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