Every now and then I whizz through cyberspace to starblazers.com, where the US licensees Voyager Entertainment are aided and abetted by dedicated fans to maintain a shrine to one of America’s best-loved early anime series, Star Blazers, originally known as Space Battleship Yamato. The latest treat is Tim Eldred’s photo-journal and report on Yamato Party 2009, an approximately annual Japanese fan gathering. This year it celebrated the series’ 35th anniversary.
Yamato may seem dated now, but back in 1974 it was revolutionary. Yoshinobu Nishizaki’s epic TV series introduced the work of artist Leiji Matsumoto to American fans, though his manga remained hard to get for many years after its US debut in 1979. Its arrival in America, two years after the founding of the first American anime club, the Cartoon/Fantasy Organisation, triggered a wave of fan enthusiasm that started out small but persistent and built until fans were manning Star Blazers rooms and hosting screenings at American sf and fantasy conventions. Many of those bright-eyed young fans are still around, older, wiser, but no less passionate about the show they fell in love with so many years ago. They still like to party, as Eldred’s report on this year’s event in Japan proves.
The series has a fascinating backstory and a huge publishing and toy catalogue, and it’s documented in loving detail on the website. You’ll find translations from Japanese source material, histories, lists of merchandise and publications long out of print, and lots of pictures. Of course, you can also buy the latest releases there, but the amount and quality of free material on the site far exceeds most distributors’ promotional efforts. It’s a shining example of how these things can be done when the industry has a knowledgeable and devoted fanbase to draw on.