Translator's Note: Released by Ohta Publishing in April 2003, Mobile Suit Gundam 80/83/08 is a book dedicated to the three original video anime series set during and after the "One Year War" timeframe of the original Mobile Suit Gundam. It includes exclusive interviews with many of the key staff of Gundam 0080, Gundam 0083, and The 08th MS Team. I've translated some of these below.
The references to Gundam 0080 and Gundam 0083 as "80" and "83" are a stylistic quirk of the original Japanese text, which I've retained in my translations even though it's slightly annoying.
The following text is copyright © 2003 Makoto Ishii, Hajime Ichigaya, and Masaaki Okajima.
When the planning of "83" began, the person in the position of overall responsibility on the Sunrise side was Mr. Masuo Ueda. The production of this work was originally decided in the form of an offer received from Bandai Visual, but it could be said that the structure of Sunrise at the time ultimately determined the direction of the work.
Following the commercial success of "80," Bandai Visual said that they wanted to do a second video series. OVAs are an extreme case where the business hurdle is very low, and their creation will be approved as long as the video maker and production company both say "do it." However, at that point the production of F91 had also been decided. There were many at Sunrise who thought, when it came to making a Gundam OVA series, "In producing something aimed at the people who buy videos, won't we narrow the Gundam world itself?" People around me also responded, "Why make two Gundams?" I myself wasn't that enthusiastic. But as a business judgment, a "Go" was issued, and for the first time since "Encounters in Space" I felt that I was ready to do a Gundam.
At first, we were planning a strategy of releasing five or six volumes over roughly one year before F91, and then restarting the releases after its premiere. But the production fell behind, and the schedules got further out of sync as F91 reached its climax while we were still adding staff for "83." Somehow we managed to complete the first episode just in time, and we did an irregular sale as the "GXG UNIT" along with advance tickets for the movie. Then, once the movie was done, we began releasing the video series.
At the time, the main staff of Mobile Suit Gundam—Director Tomino, Mr. Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, and Mr. Kunio Okawara—were involved with F91, while the staff structure of "83," which was considered "non-mainstream," centered on younger people. But this was also part of Mr. Ueda's strategy.
As much as possible, I wanted to make it with a new staff, while incorporating a variety of elements. Ms. Kase, who first undertook the director's role, was a good action director. Since she was also a woman, I thought she might be able to create a different kind of Gundam series. But, under considerable pressure, things weren't going smoothly in the studio. Thus, partly to revitalize the workplace, I asked Mr. Imanishi—who has a deep knowledge of military matters as well as action—to participate. I'd known Mr. Kawamori well for some time, so I asked him to think up mecha design concepts. At the time, Mr. Hajime Katoki was doing setting for Gundam Sentinel, so I invited him to join with the feeling "Well, do it here too." (1)
If Mr. Tomino had been participating, the flavor of Gundam and of Tomino would have come across even if we weren't aware of it. Nobody else could imitate that, and if possible we wanted to go in a different direction, so we didn't consult Mr. Tomino during the production. Later he was pretty angry, saying, "Come and talk to me a little!" But if we'd gone to consult him, the staff would have felt the need to defend themselves. That would have made the work more rigid, so I thought it wasn't a good idea.
The consideration of the actual plan was led by both the Bandai Visual and Sunrise producers. But while there were a few requests from Bandai Visual, the concrete framework was constructed mainly by Sunrise. Here, the very first issue was the period setting for the story.
Since "80" was set in the same One Year War as Mobile Suit Gundam, we said we didn't want to—and couldn't—do that again. On the other hand, people had strong likes and dislikes about the era of Z Gundam and Gundam ZZ. If we wanted a new Gundam that was also close to Mobile Suit Gundam, then we assumed the story would take place between Mobile Suit Gundam and Z Gundam, and wondered how authentic we could make it look if we inserted something new that didn't appear in the official history. (2)
Thus the broad outline was decided. Then, as they shifted into production, the question became "How do we reproduce the elements of Mobile Suit Gundam in a modern way?"
Essentially, the question was how to make it based on Mobile Suit Gundam as the original work. We called it the "original work," but it was more like the original draft, so we proceeded by carefully reviewing it. (3) The story and the mecha were completely new, but I think you could say we were able to create them because the original work existed.
We analyzed the elements, saying "We absolutely can't leave this out" and "People will be happy if we have this kind of thing in the mecha." Then we created original setting such as an evil nuclear-type Gundam. We added these kinds of new elements little by little, but since we'd gathered so many people who loved Mobile Suit Gundam in the studio, there was always a tendency to lean towards Mobile Suit Gundam no matter what. In particular, after the change of director, I think the drama was a little weak because it turned into a story about the Delaz Fleet completing its mission with the bare minimum of personnel, and about trying to stop it.
Ultimately, since we couldn't escape very far from the world of Mobile Suit Gundam, there's always a sense in which it's a reduced reproduction. (4) Even more so in the limited medium of video. Honestly, it couldn't surpass the first, but we wanted to show various possibilities that Mobile Suit Gundam held.
It was because of that respect for Mobile Suit Gundam that it was a reduced reproduction. But that may be the flip side of the "heat" possessed by any work crowned with the Gundam name.
In a sense, Gundam is already complete in itself. As a creator, you always want to be making new things. There's also a lot of pressure in making a Gundam, and at the time there was a part of me that thought, if possible, I didn't want to do it. But strangely, once we started doing it I became enthusiastic, and despite the difficulties I gave it my all.
(1) In the original text, it's not clear whether these ideas are attributed to Sunrise in general or Ueda himself. I've generally assumed Ueda is taking personal credit unless otherwise specified.
(2) Here, I'm assuming these ideas aren't solely credited to Ueda since they're described as part of a discussion.
(3) In anime credits, there's a subtle distinction between "original work" (原作, gensaku) and "original draft" (原案, gen'an).
(4) "Reduced reproduction" (縮小再生産, shukushō saiseisan) seems like a gentler way of saying "lesser imitation."
After "80," Mr. Takanashi served as the producer on the Bandai Visual side for "83" as well. To a producer on the sales side, the fact that the best-selling volume of "80," where everything was trial and error, was the fourth one where the Gundam (Alex) appeared had great significance in marketing terms.
OVAs are mainly a visual business, so while "80" focused on human drama, the marketing lesson was "you've got to have a Gundam show up." I think that was factored into my very earliest discussions with Sunrise producer Ueda, and that's why we decided "83" should lean towards mechanical action. It's a work in which the Gundam appears from the first episode. But since there was only one Gundam in the One Year War, we said that if two Gundams were going to appear, it would have to take place after the One Year War. We also decided to create a clear structure of "a confrontation between good and evil Gundams." We started with this, as well as the intention of including a colony drop and a love triangle involving Zeon and Federation soldiers. (1)
With the marketing of "80" in mind, it was given the direction of being an entertainment work, unlike the human drama of "80." What kind of calculations were made from the understanding that the OVA medium could be commercially based?
Maybe other people made calculations, but I really didn't. The Gundam brand provides a certain peace of mind when you're working. (laughs) With Gundam versus Gundam from episode 1, even though the ending was a terrible cliffhanger, I thought we'd made something that met the customers' expectations. We asked the production side to work under the three strict constraints I mentioned above, so it must have been really tough for them.
Thanks to the precedent of "80," there were also slight changes in the understanding of the OVA business. The appearance of the third Gundam, the GP03, was a consequence of these changes.
At the time of "80," we really weren't thinking about turning the mobile suits that appeared into plastic models, but with "83" we were definitely more conscious of that. At first only two Gundams were supposed to appear, but I recall that the appearance of a third one was a request to Sunrise from the person in charge of the Bandai Hobby Department.
Because the schedule had been stretched out, a third unit seemed necessary to me as well in order to drive sales, so I said it would be a good idea. But Director Imanishi agonized over it. We found common ground with the notion that we had to have a pretty huge weapon for the final confrontation to stop the colony drop.
The planning of "83" began with the goal of producing a work that would outsell "80," or to put it another way, one that would better meet consumer demands. But of course, products don't sell based on marketing alone. The young "Gundam generation" staff of "83" worked hard to create their own Gundam film, and the result was a work whose visuals were of masterpiece quality. This also produced great results in business terms.
It outsold "80" at the time, and even now, if you ask whether "80" or "83" sells better on DVD then the answer will be "83." The way we thought about and constructed the story was totally different, so I don't think this tells you which is superior as a work, but in terms of entertainment value "83" has a far higher weight. That's probably because it better meets the customers' expectations.
The people on the staff really gave it their all, to the extent that I feel they overdid the visuals a little with things like the depiction of the mobile suits. It was the power of the assistant producer Mr. (Masahiko) Minami that made that possible. In every episode, the quality was comparable to that of a theatrical feature. There was a certain degree of freedom that you could only have with a video work, and I now feel it might have been good that this allowed us to work in such an extreme way.
(1) I've attributed these ideas to "we" since they seem to come from early discussions between Takanashi and Ueda.
Mobile Suit Gundam is copyright © Sotsu • Sunrise. Everything else on this site, and all original text and pictures, are copyright Mark Simmons.