'Space Battleship Yamato' Producer Nishizaki Dies

Controversial Filmmaker Drowns in Boating Accident

TOKYO – Yoshinobu Nishizaki, controversial producer and co-creator of the original Space Battleship Yamato anime, died in a boating accident Sunday off the Ogasawara Islands, south of Tokyo.

Nishizaki, 75, fell from the boat – the 485-ton Yamato – as it was anchored just outside a port on Chichi Island, while getting ready to swim. He was rescued by a Coast Guard boat after 20 minutes in the water wearing a diving suit, but was pronounced dead two hours later.

Police are questioning the other eight people on board to try and establish the circumstances surrounding the incident.

It is not the first time Nishizaki has been in trouble on the ocean. In the late 1990s, after his production company went bankrupt and he was on bail for possession of multiple illegal substances, he reportedly smuggled an assault rifle, grenade launcher and other weapons and ammunition from the Philippines on a cruiser he owned.

He was arrested again in 1999 on drugs and firearms charges, later handing in weapons and munitions, including 30 Howitzer shells, to police.

Nishizaki created the first Yamato TV series with animator Leiji Matsumoto but the two later fell out over rights to the franchise in a dispute that also involved Tohoku-shinsha Film Corp.

A new live-action version of Space Battleship Yamato, starring Takuya Kimura and crediting Nishizaki as an author, opens in Japan on Dec. 1.