During the TV broadcast of Mobile Suit Gundam, the series received ongoing coverage in the bimonthly anime magazine Animec. In addition to episode summaries and setting art, Animec's "Mobile Suit Gundam Special Collection" features included a series of four interviews with director Yoshiyuki Tomino, in which he discussed the details of the story and its production.
Of these, the interview in Animec Vol.8 is particularly interesting. Though it was published in November 1979, just after the broadcast of TV episode 31, the questions from Animec editor Masanobu Komaki about the world background appear to draw on the original setting notes, which weren't released to the general public until the end of the year. The resulting interview is a rare case in which Tomino submits to a detailed cross-examination about details of the Gundam setting.
The following text is copyright © Rapport K.K.
Translator's Note: This interview took place on October 8, 1979, the day after character designer and animation director Yoshikazu Yasuhiko was hospitalized as a result of overwork. Tomino mentions this early in the interview, but it seems the full implications aren't yet apparent.
How will Mobile Suit Gundam end?
General Director • Yoshiyuki Tomino
By the end of January, Mobile Suit Gundam will be over. How will Gundam end? Will its many mysteries be explained? Its fans have many questions. Once again, we visited the battlefield-like production site to discuss Gundam with its chief director, Mr. Yoshiyuki Tomino. <Komaki>
Komaki: I'm sorry to disturb you. But it seems that Gundam will now be only three cours...
Tomino: To be precise, it's three cours and one month. The broadcast will continue until the end of January. Since the decision came so late, we'll have to revise the entire ending. The atmosphere has suddenly changed, and it seems that the final ten episodes or so will be severe.
Komaki: That's a pretty tight schedule, isn't it?
Tomino: Unfortunately, if it's ending in January, then the animation needs to be pretty much done by the end of December. But it's going to be a rather painful New Year because everything is running late. What's more, I was told today that Mr. Yasuhiko has collapsed. It seems he was rushed to the hospital last night. They say it was overwork. After all, he'd become very popular...
Komaki: What about the animated version of Asahi Sonorama's Crusher Joe that's starting in the Spring?
Tomino: They're saying that?
Komaki: Rumor has it that Mr. Yasuhiko is supervising the animation, and you're directing.
Tomino: I don't know anything about that. First of all, there's no way Sunrise could do Crusher Joe right now.
Komaki: I'm coming today with some questions from our readers. Our encyclopedia includes items that people can figure out from watching on TV, but I'd like to ask you to explain some parts that can't be inferred from the TV series.
Tomino: Those are the worst, aren't they? There are some things I can't explain... and I still haven't resolved the matter of Char's scars. (1)
Komaki: I guess that's because you can see them in some posters and not in others. After hearing you talk at the Gundam Festival, I reviewed the video, but it seems like they weren't there after all.
Tomino: That's right. They weren't there. But I never said they were there in episode 2, did I? If you want an after-the-fact explanation to make it all consistent... No, I'm just making it worse. (laughs) He doesn't have any scars after all.
Komaki: Well, then. I heard earlier that Amuro's father Tem Ray may still be still alive. Is he going to show up?
Tomino: Tem Ray will definitely appear. He'll be reunited with Amuro, and then they'll separate again. It's completely unconnected to the Gundam story, and it may seem unrelated to the main plot, but I feel it has a very important position in regard to Amuro's own issues. Tem Ray should have appeared by the time this issue is published.
Komaki: I think this may just be a phrasing issue, but is Zeon Zum's real name Zeon Deikun?
Tomino: His formal name is Zeon Zum Deikun. Zum is his middle name. Please write it as ダイクン, not 大君. (2) Kanji characters aren't used at all in Gundam.
Komaki: Before the attack on Side 7, there was supposedly something called the One Week Battle. (3) Could you please tell us about it?
Tomino: Sides 1, 2, 4, and 5 were all attacked simultaneously. The battle lasted one week, so it's the One Week Battle.
Komaki: And of these, the Side 5 front was called the Battle of Loum? (3)
Tomino: That's right. Side 5 was the only one that survived the One Week Battle, so friend and foe alike gave this the special name of the Battle of Loum. It's a topic that we haven't addressed at all, but in addition to the purely physical descriptions "Side 1" and "Side 2," each Side was also given a nickname, and Side 5 was known as "Loum."
—Editor's Note: Gundam Secret Materials
Names of each Side (from initial setting):
Side 1 (Zahn), Side 2 (Hatte), Side 3 (Munzo), Side 4 (Moore), Side 5 (Loum), Side 6 (Riah), Side 7 (Toa), Luna II (asteroid Juno) (4)
Komaki: Side 6 seems to be a permanently neutral nation like present-day Switzerland, but will Side 6 appear in the story in the future?
Tomino: It will. For one thing, it will be involved in the story of Amuro's father. Please look for that in the show. When he was blown out of Side 7, it seems he was rescued by some kind of spaceship. He's now living at Side 6, and Amuro will be shocked at the way he lives.
Komaki: Based on his name, Amuro himself is of Japanese descent, isn't he?
Tomino: I honestly don't know. Because I'm Japanese, I'd like to think he's of Japanese descent.
Komaki: The third son of the Zabi family is missing. Did he perhaps die in battle?
Tomino: This also isn't covered at all in the Gundam story, but supposedly he was assassinated by a member of Zeon Zum Deikun's faction, as retaliation for the Zabi family wiping out the Deikun faction. You wouldn't know from the TV show. (laughs)
Komaki: Does the Federation's space force still exist?
Tomino: It does. You can assume it's in the airspace around Luna II.
Komaki: So Luna II is still operational? In Animec, we wrote that it was abandoned because the port was blown up and the chief executives escaped, but...
Tomino: Luna II is operational, but it's also okay to say that it was abandoned. It was definitely in that state for a while. But given its sheer scale, I don't think the Zeon forces had the capacity to completely capture it. When it comes to Luna II, they probably didn't completely destroy the base's functionality.
Likewise, after the Side 6 story, a colony called Texas will appear. It's a unique colony that was left in the area where Loum once was. The reason the Texas Colony is unique is because it was a tourist colony, which made it possible for the people of the space colonies to enjoy a lifestyle like that of American pioneers, and even camp outdoors. Perhaps it was ignored because it had no strategic value, although that may not still be true... Anyway, it's probably fine for one such colony to survive.
Texas is supposed to be virtually depopulated, and Char says, "The only people here are officials from the colony's management office. So it's almost uninhabited." In the same way, Luna II probably maintains the minimum functionality to allow it to be used again in the future. Even if it seemed like Luna II was abandoned for a while, you can think of that as a ploy to mislead Zeon.
Komaki: Even if a Side is uninhabited, the flora and fauna still need to follow a regular cycle. So you'd have to keep the rotation mechanisms and water sprinklers working in order to re-use it, right?
Tomino: Actually, in those terms, Texas is in a half-dead state. The automatic adjustment of the mirrors isn't working, so it's been stuck at sunset for about eight months. It's still rotating, but as we're depicting it, the interior of the colony is becoming a virtual desert.
Komaki: About those O'Neill space colonies, I've only read about them in translation, and the translation wasn't very good. I found a part where it said, "an island's population is ten million," but the contents were different...
Tomino: Okay, you've got me. If they eventually made a large type, it would hold a maximum of ten million people. And if ten million people lived at Side 7, the population density would be greater than Tokyo. But since Side 7 is the first colony at that site, there are probably only about ten thousand people there, so it's okay.
Komaki: Aren't there other colonies that are bigger?
Tomino: That's right. So then that's one more thing that isn't explained about the Sides. If we assume that a single Side is generally made up of about 40 colonies, then ten million times forty would be 400 million, and even if they built up to Side 7 there would only be 2.8 billion people. That's a little inadequate, isn't it?
Komaki: As for Side 3, the mirrors there are closed, and then electrical power is brought in using external solar cells, right?
Tomino: I'm thinking of omitting the development process, but there are some which were originally built as mirror types, and then the mirrors were sealed up and an artificial sun installed. I think that, before the war, Zeon was encouraging a lot of immigration, so there may also be pure closed types that were built as the population increased.
Komaki: Although the Zeon-type colonies can use twice the land surface, the energy loss from using an artificial sun would be considerable, wouldn't it?
Tomino: I'd like to think that we'll develop tremendously efficient solar cells. And what's more, the Solar System uses the colony itself to create an energy emission system. I really like the idea that, in short, something that wasn't created as a weapon ends up becoming one. (laughs)
Komaki: One of the original purposes for constructing colonies was to create solar power plants. If you made their beams really powerful, that would be quite a weapon. (5)
Tomino: Putting it simply, yes. And even though this isn't "Mighty Atom," if you built up the energy inside the sealed colony instead, when the confinement is released you could annihilate the Federation Forces with a six- or ten-kilometer-wide laser beam. Isn't that a wonderful idea?
One more thing. The Sides rotate half or one-quarter as fast as the second hand of a clock, and it's impossible to draw that in animation. That being the case, we made the setting so that the closed type clearly equals "Zeon," so that at least we can distinguish Federation colonies from Zeon ones.
Komaki: One thing we've been wondering is, what's the position of espers in the Gundam world?
Tomino: This may be a really crude way of putting it, but they're treated the same way as present-day super-powered espers, or a little more advanced. The idea is that there are institutions that recognize their existence, but they're not commonly acknowledged. Otherwise the term "Newtype" would end up being muddied, so we're consciously avoiding that.
Komaki: Will the person Char brings in become a new rival?
Tomino: Yes, a girl named Lalah Sune will appear. This girl is the first precursor of the Newtypes. When Amuro encounters her in combat, the Newtype parts of their consciousness resonate with each other, and their awareness as Newtypes is magnified. These parts of them become especially expanded during battle. In other words, I'd like to end this in a way that raises the notion that, even though humans fight wars, it isn't totally pessimistic.
This is the true story of Gundam. Although it comes close to the esper theory, there's another major reason why we're avoiding the "esper" term. It's because I don't want the Newtype concept to be a singular one like the esper. I'd like to show the possibility that all of humanity could turn into Newtypes. Otherwise, we'd come away with the hopeless impression that the masses like you and I will ultimately be left behind. With Gundam, my greatest hope was to convey the idea that we ourselves could also change in this way. I think it would be nice if you could see how this is depicted on the TV screen.
Komaki: Director, you've previously taken the position that "If you watch the whole work, I won't need to say any more!" I'm sorry to be asking you about this and that in the middle of production, but please give us a general comment.
Tomino: I still hold that position, so that truly makes it tough for me. I really hate talking like this. (laughs) Very well. Anyway, the story of Lalah and Amuro is the conclusion to the narrative of Gundam.
Essentially, if you look at them with a hostile consciousness, they're just another enemy. But she's also a woman... As to why Amuro has to fight this enemy who shouldn't be an enemy, please watch the conclusion of the TV series for the details. That's all I want to say about it.
When Gundam is all over, there may be people who think they don't understand this or that. What's the One Week Battle, what's the Battle of Loum, what does this thing mean? But they don't mean anything at all. These are purely decorative words, and I'm confident people will accept that they don't need to understand them. That's why the thing I hate most is having to discuss them so bluntly in the middle of the process.
Komaki: Could you give us a message from the production side?
Tomino: In the case of Gundam, there's a lot of stock footage we can re-use. Nonetheless, the staff are terribly exhausted. It began with us being short-handed... it's just like the Federation and Zeon. What's more, proceeding with a drama on these themes frankly puts a lot of pressure on the staff. But even if animation director Mr. Yasuhiko collapses, and the drawing gets pretty bad, we have to stay on the air until the end of January. At the very least, our staff are in a position where we can't just broadcast a white screen.
Nonetheless, we're trying to advance the story of Gundam, and depict the upcoming Newtype storyline. It'll be up to the young people in the audience to come up with the answers after that!
Komaki: Thank you for letting me interrupt you at this busy time.
—October 8, 1979, 5:00 PM—
(1) This seems to be following up on a claim Tomino made at an earlier live event that Char wears a mask to hide his facial scars.
(2) Here, Tomino is distinguishing between phonetic katakana and Chinese kanji characters. The kanji version, "Taikun," is an archaic title used by shoguns in diplomatic relations with foreigners, from which the English term "tycoon" was derived.
(3) In English, these are both called "battles," but "Isshukan Senso" is literally "One Week War" and "Loum Sen'eki" is literally "Loum Campaign." The implication in this interview is that, rather than a separate event, the Battle of Loum was an extended conflict that began in the first week of the war.
(4) "Toa" was eventually standardized as "Noa."
(5) It seems the editor is thinking here of energy transmission from the colony, as opposed to the laser system that Tomino goes on to describe.
Mobile Suit Gundam is copyright © Sotsu • Sunrise. Everything else on this site, and all original text and pictures, are copyright Mark Simmons.