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Production History:
Mobile Suit Gundam F91
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The following is a record of the planning and development of the second original Gundam movie, Mobile Suit Gundam F91, which was released on March 16, 1991. The following details are pieced together from a variety of sources, including:

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In addition to Kodansha's "Gundam F91 Perfect File," which provides dates for many of the rough character and mechanical design sketches, Bandai's "Gundam F91: The Official Edition" was especially helpful because it includes an extensive behind-the-scenes account by setting production staffer Koichi Inoue. I've translated the latter here:

Since Inoue's account forms the backbone of this production history, I'll be focusing largely on art and design elements, which were Inoue's main concern during the movie's production.

☆ Click the image thumbnails below to see them at full size! ☆

HEISEI GUNDAM

The project that would eventually become Gundam F91 began taking shape in early 1989. According to setting production staffer Koichi Inoue, early planning started in February 1989—almost a year after the theatrical release of Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, and one month before the debut of the original video series Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket.

Char's Counterattack, which depicted the end of the rivalry between Char and Amuro, had concluded the storyline of the original Mobile Suit Gundam. While Gundam 0080 returned to the "One Year War" setting of the original series, by April 1989 the decision had been made to set the next project in a new historical era, with an entirely new cast of characters.

This notion was in keeping with the spirit of the times. After the death of Emperor Hirohito, his son Akihito took the throne on January 8, 1989, beginning a period officially known as the Heisei era. To mark the start of the new era, many creators set out to renew their stories and characters, and the ten-year-old Gundam series was no exception. Though the new project had no formal name as of yet, the earliest known concept design—by Junya Ishigaki of the Sunrise planning office—was captioned "Heisei Gundam."

Guided by veteran Gundam director Yoshiyuki Tomino and Sunrise president Eiji Yamaura, this project was intended to lay the foundation for the next ten years of the Gundam saga. But it remained unclear whether it would take the form of a movie or a television series. If it was to be a TV series, then it would debut in April 1990, a deadline that loomed larger as the planning progressed.

February~April 1989
Early mecha designs by Junya Ishigaki. "Heisei Gundam" dates from February 1989. RX-277 and RX-278, recently posted to Ishigaki's @gakky1967 Twitter account, are dated April 12 and April 13, 1989.

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Some of Yoshiyuki Tomino's early ideas for the story, and his reasoning for launching a "second series of Gundam," were recorded in a May 1989 planning memo. The recent 4K Remaster Box gives a brief description of this memo, including a couple of quoted excerpts. Translations of this text can be found at Zeonic|Scanlations:

By July, Tomino had settled on a premise and completed a 20-page story outline. It focused on new heroes named Seabook and Berah, and a new enemy organization called the Crossbone Ban (later "Crossbone Vanguard"), which sought to establish the nation of Cosmo Babylonia based on a doctrine of aristocracy. In August, scriptwriter Tsunehisa Ito joined the project to turn this outline into a TV series structure—or a movie screenplay, if it ended up being a theatrical feature.

That same month, the studio approached Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, the character designer and animation director on the original series. After the disappointing reception to his Venus Wars movie earlier that year, Yasuhiko had essentially retired from animation to concentrate on his manga career. Since he was now busy working on his own manga, Yasuhiko's involvement on this project would be limited to character design.

Meanwhile, Kunio Okawara was selected as mechanical designer, completing the reunion of the three legendary creators from Mobile Suit Gundam. On August 4, he completed a sleek design for a new Gundam, inspired by the stylish lines of modern automobiles.

Summer 1989
Early Gundam design by Kunio Okawara, dated August 4, 1989. A Core Fighter connected to the backpack was initially considered.

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Early Federation mobile suit concepts by Kunio Okawara, featured in "Kunio Okawara Gundam Design Works." These are divided into older and newer models, plus reconnaissance types, a concept that was later used for the enemy Crossbone Vanguard instead. They appear to precede the August 4 designs shown below.

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Early Guntank and Guncannon designs by Kunio Okawara, dated August 4, 1989. Revised Guncannon, later known as G-Cannon, is dated September 26.

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Okawara then began working on designs for the enemy Crossbone Vanguard. Tomino requested that they abandon the traditional "mono-eye," and use ancient Babylonian artwork and medieval European armor as reference. The large, round eyes of Babylonian art reminded Okawara of the goggle eyes of gas masks, inspiring the distinctive faces of the Crossbone mobile suits. Meanwhile, the Crossbone Vanguard were also given a trademark weapon, in the form of a launchable spear called the "shot lancer." These elements can be seen in Okawara's draft designs from October 1989.

Fall 1989
Early Crossbone Vanguard officer mobile suit concepts by Kunio Okawara, dated September 25 and October 2, 1989.

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Early Crossbone Vanguard mobile suit concepts by Kunio Okawara, featured in "Kunio Okawara Gundam Design Works." These appear to be candidates for the recon mobile suit Ebirhu-S.

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Early Crossbone Vanguard designs by Kunio Okawara. Den'an-Gei, Ebirhu-S, and Den'an-Zon are dated October 2, October 12, and October 16 respectively. "Heavy bomber" type, later known as Berga-Dalas, is dated December 18.

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MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM F-91

It was still uncertain whether the new Gundam project would be a movie or a TV series, but—partly because it would be difficult to establish a new setting and characters in a single movie—Sunrise president Yamaura asked the staff to make preparations for the TV option. A formal TV series proposal was drafted in September 1989, but in mid-October the decision was made to produce a movie instead.

Based on Inoue's account, this decision seems to have been mostly due to time constraints: "By the time October began, it was hopeless. An April TV series was impossible." However, in "Great Mechanics 8," feature writer Mamoru Ishii provides a different explanation:

Director Tomino was originally planning the plot for this project on the assumption that it would be a new Gundam TV series. However, the situation also meant that it was a fairly risky time to start a new Gundam TV series.

In the second half of the 1980s, the TV anime that had flourished in that decade started being replaced by variety shows due to declining ratings, and the number of shows broadcast had decreased dramatically. In particular, the real robot animation that boomed after the success of "Mobile Suit Gundam" had almost disappeared. Moreover, because of various factors such as the popularity of home game consoles, sales of toys themselves were gradually decreasing. Bandai, and the other companies involved, concluded that "at present, it would be unwise to launch a new Gundam TV series."

The production abruptly changed course, and at Tomino's suggestion, they decided to condense the first cour (13 episodes) of the planned TV series into a theatrical film. Ito began working on the first draft of the screenplay, which was due at the end of November. Yasuhiko, meanwhile, delivered an initial round of character designs.

It's unclear at what point the title Gundam F-91—pronounced "Formula Ninety-One," and initially written with a hyphen—was adopted. This title, however, reflected the idea that this new work would represent the standard (or "formula") for Gundam in 1991.

November~December 1989
Early character designs by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.

First drafts of Zabine Chareux and Dorel Ronah are dated November 11, 1989. First draft of Rees Arno is dated November 19.

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First drafts of Leslie and Monica Arno, Dorothy Moore, and Iron Mask. These are all dated December 12, 1989.

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First drafts of Annamarie Brougia, Minmi Editoh, and Cosmo Eigesse. Annamarie and Minmi drafts are dated December 18, 1989. Cosmic's design was subsequently changed, and this concept was used for Roy Jung instead.

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First drafts of Seabook Arno and Cecily Fairchild, initially called "Cecile." Seabook sketches are dated December 18, 1989. Cecily's pilot suit is dated December 27, and the other sketches appear to have been drawn around the same time.

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Okawara was now working on designs for the Crossbone Vanguard's space warships, and the Space Ark which would serve as the heroes' mothership. The Space Ark was originally intended to be a medium-sized vessel similar to the Pegasus class from the original series, but Tomino wanted it to be able to enter a space colony, so it was reconceived as a smaller training ship.

By January 1990, Okawara had largely completed his designs for the mobile suits that would appear at the beginning of the story, as well as an early draft of Berah's personal mobile suit. At this point, the idea of the "beam shield" had also been introduced—a new gimmick for the mobile suits that was intended to showcase the transparent colored plastics that Bandai could now use in its Gunpla products.

Late 1989~Early 1990
Crossbone Vanguard battleship concepts. "Image rough" on the left is included in "Kunio Okawara Gundam Design Works," but appears to bear the signature of a different artist. Designs on the right are by Okawara, and top two are dated December 9, 1989.

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Early Space Ark designs by Kunio Okawara. According to laser disc liner notes, the rightmost one dates from January 1990.

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Crossbone Vanguard mobile suit designs by Kunio Okawara. Revised Den'an-Zon and early draft of Vigna-Ghina are dated January 9, 1990.

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Ito's first screenplay draft, originally due at the end of November 1989, wasn't completed until after the new year. In the meantime, Tomino drew dozens of "image boards" depicting key scenes from the story, providing visual reference for the designers and extra motivation for the scriptwriter.

Late 1989~Early 1990
A selection of Yoshiyuki Tomino's image boards. The mechanical designs are based on Okawara's early drafts, and the Gundam and Vigna-Ghina are only vaguely defined at this point.

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Tomino's original notebook pages, as reproduced in the "World of Tomino" exhibition catalog. These image boards weren't drawn in a specific story sequence, and it's now unclear what order they were meant to be viewed in.

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Yasuhiko, too, was finalizing his designs for the main characters. The studio now had enough material on hand to create an official proposal for the movie version. This was completed in February 1990, and then submitted to Bandai and the film production company Shochiku.

January 1990
Revised character designs by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.

Second drafts of Seabook Arno and Cecily Fairchild, dated January 20, 1990. Revised Cecily heads at top right are dated January 29. Cecily's design has been adjusted to make her seem less villainous.

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Second drafts of Rees Arno, Dorothy Moore, and Dwight Camry, all dated January 20, 1990. Rees's face and body proportions were made more realistic, so she wouldn't look too cartoony on a large screen.

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Revised Iron Mask designs, and second drafts of Zabine Chareux and Gilles Krueger. Iron Mask at top left is dated January 20, 1990, and Zabine sketches—now with an eyepatch, as suggested by Tomino—are dated January 29. Gilles was subsequently made somewhat younger, and this concept was used for Meitza Ronah instead.

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Crossbone Vanguard normal suit, dated January 24, 1990, and additional uniform designs.

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Character size comparison charts. The proportions of the characters are somewhat more realistic than a typical TV production.

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BABYLON'S GUNDAM

Meanwhile, with Ito's screenplay still undergoing revisions, the production schedule was getting very tight. Though Tomino wasn't yet satisfied with the screenplay, he decided that the first half would work as it was. In order to get the animation process started, he took the unusual step of starting on the storyboards even though the script wasn't finished.

Tomino began storyboarding on January 26, 1990, giving the story the tentative subtitle Babylon's Gundam. According to Inoue, the director delivered his initial batch of storyboards ahead of schedule on February 7, putting immediate pressure on Yasuhiko and Okawara to complete their designs for the huge number of characters and mobile suits which appeared in the opening minutes of the movie.

January~February 1990
Opening pages of Yoshiyuki Tomino's storyboards, dated January 26, 1990, and bearing the subtitle "Babylon's Gundam."

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Storyboards on the left, leading up to the main titles, are dated January 31 and include a variety of new subtitle ideas such as "Babylon War." Sequence on the right, originally placed a few minutes into the story, later became the opening shot.

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Another hard-working designer was art director Shigemi Ikeda, who began working on the Gundam series with Gundam ZZ, and has supervised the location designs and background art for almost every subsequent installment. Ikeda was responsible for designing all the movie's hyper-detailed warship interiors, space colonies, and urban locations, bringing Tomino's world setting to life.

Warship bridge and hangar designs by Shigemi Ikeda. Interior designs for Space Ark above, and Zamouth Garr below, were later repurposed for the 1993 TV series Mobile Suit V Gundam.

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Frontier I and Frontier IV colony exteriors by Shigemi Ikeda, and details of Frontier IV's port section and window construction.

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Frontier IV building designs and cityscapes by Shigemi Ikeda.

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With storyboards and finished setting art now arriving, the animation process finally began around February 1990, under the supervision of a trio of animation directors. Toshimitsu Kobayashi was a Sunrise regular who had worked on every Tomino production from Blue Gale Xabungle onwards. Takeo Kitahara, who also did the animation layouts, was a 25-year industry veteran best known for his work on the Lupin III and City Hunter series. The relative newcomer Shuko Murase, who first drew attention for his work on Sunrise's Yoroiden Samurai Troopers, would later serve as character designer for New Mobile Report Gundam W and director of Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway.

At this point, the design of the main Gundam was still unresolved. The decision to produce a movie instead of a TV series meant that there would be a one-year gap with no new Gundam animation, and Bandai decided to launch a spinoff series to fill this merchandising void. The Gundam design that Okawara had created in August 1989 was repurposed to become the namesake mobile suit of the Gundam F90 model series, which would debut later in 1990, and a new design was now required to replace it. In "Great Mechanics 8," Inoue says of the original design:

That was an extremely orthodox design, created on the assumption of a TV version and meant for a back-and-forth exchange with Bandai, which would be making the products. However, because it was meant for such a back-and-forth exchange, it didn't depart from preconceived notions and ended up being close to the traditional Gundam image. In short, it was a 'sterotypical Gundam.' But when it was decided to change the form of the production from a TV series to a movie version, we decided to take a little risk and change the design more drastically.

Starting over with a clean slate, the staff experimented with eliminating Gundam trademarks such as its V-antennas, double chest intakes, and slender calves. On January 30, Okawara completed a new concept in which the chest sported a huge radiator that resembled an automobile's grill. This dramatic departure from Gundam orthodoxy met with the approval of Tomino and Sunrise president Yamaura.

January~February 1990
F91 Gundam drafts by Kunio Okawara, dated January 9 and January 16, 1990.

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Gundam concepts by Junya Ishigaki. Undated "study design" on the left was recently posted to Ishigaki's @gakky1967 Twitter account. "High mobility type Gundam" on the right seems to have been created around the same time as the Okawara designs above.

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Okawara's radical new F91 Gundam concept, dated January 30, 1990. This also features a beam shield and back-mounted weapons inspired by the Nu Gundam's fin funnels.

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Another draft dated February 7, 1990. Subsequent versions returned to the Gundam's traditional slim legs.

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Once the basic design was established, Tomino went on to request additional gimmicks. He wanted the new Gundam to have a duplication ability, similar to the so-called clone techniques used by fictional ninja, and asked that they give it a mouth which could "shout" at dramatic moments. Character designer Yasuhiko was asked to take a pass at the design, refining the appearance of its face and giving the Gundam a sleek, glamorous style more suitable for animation.

After multiple rounds of detail revision, Okawara finally completed the F91 Gundam in May 1990. Berah's personal mobile suit, the Vigna-Ghina, was finished around the same time.

February~May 1990
F91 Gundam draft by Kunio Okawara, dated February 1990 according to the 4K Remaster Box. "Gundam F91 Perfect File" claims that this was the basis for the Yasuhiko sketches below.

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Undated F91 Gundam sketches by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. These include many adjustments with animation in mind, as well as detailed studies of the Gundam's unmasked face.

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Later F91 Gundam drafts by Kunio Okawara. Version in the middle, and Vigna-Ghina on the right, are both dated May 14, 1990.

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At some point during the Gundam's design process—and apparently after the completion of the official movie proposal in February 1990—Tomino made one more request. He wanted to reduce the size of the mobile suits themselves, which would have particular implications for future Gunpla merchandise. In "Great Mechanics 8," feature writer Mamoru Ishii describes Tomino's reasoning and the reaction from Bandai:

For some time, the director had found it vexing to stage scenes that combined human beings with 18-meter giant humanoid weapons. Because the size of the mobile suits was too large, it was difficult to compose images in which humans were positioned near the mobile suits.

When mobile suits and humans were sharing the same screen, if you were trying to show the humans' gestures and facial expressions, then the mobile suit's face wouldn't fit within the screen. On the other hand, if the entire mobile suit including its face were onscreen, then the humans would end up being too small. Director Tomino came up with the idea of miniaturizing the mobile suits as a solution to this problem. In fact, on Gundam F91, the director had combined humans and miniaturized mobile suits in the image boards he initially drew.

"Honestly, when the idea of miniaturizing the mobile suits came up, I was rather surprised. In terms of mobile suit design, there were mixed feelings in the workplace, and if the mobile suits ended up being downsized then you wouldn't be able to put them alongside the existing product lineup."

This is how Hirofumi Kishiyama, who was responsible for Gundam F91 product development in the Bandai Hobby Division, recalls those times. For the previously discussed staging reasons, Director Tomino wanted to reduce the mobile suits to a size of 8 or 9 meters. The problem was that if the mobile suits were miniaturized that much, it would be impossible to put them next to the Gunpla which had previously been released in a uniform scale, creating confusion for the customer.

As a compromise, Bandai proposed changing the standard scale for the Gundam F91 Gunpla series. Where previous 1/144 scale models were about 12 centimeters high, and 1/100 scale models were about 18 centimeters high, the new series would be in 1/100 scale at an in-between size of 15 centimeters. This meant that the height of the average mobile suit would now be 15 meters.

The final issue to be resolved was the Gundam's color scheme. As with the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Tomino wanted the Gundam to be all white; as with the original series, the sponsor insisted on adding a bit more color.

Preliminary all-white color schemes for evaluation purposes, and the final approved setting art for the F91 Gundam.

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SPACE CHILDREN

Though Tomino began storyboarding at the end of January 1990, and animation work began in February, it wasn't until the end of March that Ito completed his fourth and final screenplay draft, which bore the subtitle Space Children. As well as some differences in the character and organization names, the story had a greater emphasis on family drama versus battle sequences, and included a subplot revolving around the helium transport ship "Thousandth Jupiter" which played a role in the ending of the story. The ending itself was very different, as elements like the Bug killing machines and the mobile armor Rafflesia had not yet been introduced.

The story underwent many changes as Tomino continued working on his storyboards. Along the way, he incorporated suggestions from the manga artist Kohei Nishino, credited with "setting cooperation." According to Inoue's account in "The Official Edition," Tomino also consulted with a friend in America who advised him on English spellings. As a result, the Romah family name became "Ronah" so as not to evoke the Roman Empire, Tess Fairchild became the more masculine "Theo," and the enemy Crossbone Ban became the more logical "Crossbone Vanguard."

Not all of Tomino's revisions made it into the final movie. A sequence in which the enemy commander Iron Mask launches the blade from his helmet to intercept an incoming mortar shell, just like the "Eye Slugger" finishing move from Ultraseven, was ultimately eliminated at the staff's request.

Spring 1990
Left: Cover page of final screenplay draft by Tsunehisa Ito, completed in late March, 1990. Right: Iron Mask's infamous flying head blade, depicted in storyboards by Yoshiyuki Tomino dated May 11, 1990.

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Around this time, Sunrise and Bandai began promoting the upcoming movie, and the Gundam F90 model series which would precede it. The latter was featured in Bandai's booth at the 29th Annual Shizuoka Hobby Show in May 1990, alongside the new "High Grade" model kits released to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Bandai's Gunpla product line.

May 17~20, 1990
Bandai's booth at the 29th Annual Shizuoka Hobby Show. In addition to celebrating Gunpla's 10th anniversary, it showcased the upcoming Gundam F90 model line and provided a sneak peek of Gundam F91's mechanical designs.

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On June 19, a formal press event was held to announce the commencement of Gundam F91's production, along with details of the staff and story. Fan anticipation began to build for the reunion of Mobile Suit Gundam's best-known creators.

June 19, 1990
Staff lineup from the Gundam F91 production commencement press reception. Director Tomino, mechanical designer Okawara, and character designer Yasuhiko surround Hiroko Moriguchi, singer of the movie's theme song. At this point, the title is still written "F-91."

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There were a few matters yet to be resolved, however. For one thing, the movie still didn't have an ending. According to Inoue, in June 1990 Tomino gathered the staff to get their ideas for a "flashier" finale. As well as more fleet battles and a romantic closing scene, they suggested a mythological theme for the final enemy weapon, and setting advisor Kohei Nishino proposed the idea of a flying saucer-shaped killing machine that ultimately became the Bug.

By this point in the production, Okawara's health was beginning to suffer, and in July the legendary mechanical designer was hospitalized. Junya Ishigaki of the Sunrise planning office, who was assisting Okawara on the TV series Brave Fighter Exkizer, had also begun supporting him with his Gundam F91 workload. Ishigaki had previously contributed designs such as an updated version of the Jegan from Char's Counterattack. Now, with Okawara out of action, he was asked to handle the designs for the new ending.

Based on Tomino's image sketch, Ishigaki drew a rough version of the Bug. But his initial idea for Iron Mask's Medusa-like final weapon, the Medzack, was rejected for being "too cool." Once again, Tomino provided his own image sketch, which Ishigaki refined into the mobile armor Rafflesia. When Okawara returned from the hospital, he did a final cleanup on Ishigaki's designs, and the setting work was at last complete.

Left: Undated Jegan designs by Junya Ishigaki, recently posted to his @gakky1967 Twitter account. Right: Bug design drafts by Junya Ishigaki and Kunio Okawara.

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Undated "Medsa-X" concept designs by Junya Ishigaki, recently posted to his @gakky1967 Twitter account.

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"Medzack Basooth" concept design by Junya Ishigaki, dated July 5, 1990, and recently posted to his @gakky1967 Twitter account.

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Rafflesia design drafts by Yoshiyuki Tomino, Junya Ishigaki, and Kunio Okawara. Tomino's and Ishigaki's drafts are dated July 7 and July 9, 1990, respectively.

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With these designs in hand, Tomino was able to finish storyboarding the new ending. The various delays and revisions had eaten into the schedule, however, and it would prove difficult to complete the movie by its scheduled release date.

July 1990
The final pages of Yoshiyuki Tomino's storyboards. The ending credits are accompanied by a curtain call of deceased characters. According to the dates on the last page, first draft was completed on July 17, 1990, and final version on September 24.

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MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM F91

The promotional effort for the upcoming movie began ramping up in final months of 1990. The first teaser trailer was released in August, establishing the final title as Mobile Suit Gundam F91 without a hyphen.

August 1990
Images from the first 35-second trailer, featuring final Gundam F91 title logo and an ominious morph between the faces of Iron Mask and the F91 Gundam.

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The first installment in the Mobile Suit Gundam F90 model series, originally planned as a placeholder product line while the movie was in production, was released in October 1990. It was accompanied by a manga serial in Bandai's "Cyber Comic" anthology, written by Hiroshi Yamaguchi and illustrated by Rei Nakahara, which was set three years before the upcoming movie.

The main gimmick of the F90 Gundam was its use of modular mission packs, with three included in the original 1/100 scale model. In theory there were 26 different types, one for every letter of the English alphabet. As it happened, the Gundam F91 model series was launched just two months later, and the F90 series didn't resume until the end of 1991. It's only in recent years, with the launch of the F90 A to Z Project, that Bandai is attempting to fill in the entire alphabetic lineup.

September~October 1990
Left: Cyber Comic No.023, published September 1, 1990, featured the debut of the Gundam F90 manga (written as "F-90" in the first installment). Center: Box art for 1/100 scale F90 Gundam. Right: F90 Gundam on display at 30th Annual All Japan Model and Hobby Show in October 1990, alongside teaser image of F91.

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On December 16, 1990, advance tickets for Gundam F91 went on sale as part of a special "GXG UNIT" promotion. Along with their movie ticket, purchasers received a special VHS cassette, with a preview version of the first episode of the upcoming Mobile Suit Gundam 0083. With its high production values and a setting closer to the original series, this original video series would prove to be a formidable competitor for fan attention.

At the end of the year, Kodansha launched a limited-run "Gundam Magazine" focused mainly on Gundam F91 and the ever-popular SD Gundam. Though it only lasted for six issues, the idea of an official magazine devoted to Gundam content would later be revived in the form of Media Works's "MS SAGA" and Kadokawa's "Gundam Ace."

December 1990
Left: Cover of "GXG UNIT" promotional videocassette (posted on Twitter by @AnimeV_H_S). Right: First issue of Kodansha's Gundam Magazine, published December 31, 1990.

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On the eve of the theatrical premiere, Kadokawa Shoten published a two-part novelization by director Yoshiyuki Tomino, titled Mobile Suit Gundam F91: Crossbone Vanguard. The two volumes were released on February 1 and March 1, 1991, just before the movie itself. Though their story is essentially identical to the animated version, the first volume includes several chapters of back story describing the domestic lives of the main characters and the history of the Ronah family who created the Crossbone Vanguard.

A few months later, Bandai rolled out one more multimedia tie-in product, a real-time strategy game for the Super NES titled Mobile Suit Gundam F91: Formula Wars 0122. Released on July 6, 1991, this game featured an original story that bridged the gap between Gundam F90 and F91.

February~July 1991
Left: Covers of Yoshiyuki Tomino's Mobile Suit Gundam F91: Crossbone Vanguard novels, illustrated by Haruhiko Mikimoto. Right: Cover of Mobile Suit Gundam F91: Formula Wars 0122 game for Super NES.

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Mobile Suit Gundam F91 was released in Japan on March 16, 1991—almost exactly ten years after the release of the first Mobile Suit Gundam compilation movie. It was accompanied by the short film Musha, Knight, Commando: SD Gundam Scramble. On July 25, a "Theatrical Edition" was released in VHS cassette form, but this wasn't quite the final form of the movie...

Left: Gundam F91 theatrical poster, illustrated by Akira Yokoyama. Center: Cover of Theatrical Edition VHS release. Right: Promotional poster for home video release of SD Gundam Scramble.

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Due to Gundam F91's extremely tight production schedule, there were a number of scenes which weren't finished in time for the theatrical release. These were completed later in the year, and included in the "Final Edition" released in laser disc and VHS formats on December 19, 1991. The laser disc liner notes describe the changes as follows.

In the version recorded here, scenes that were deleted at the time of theatrical release for reasons such as the schedule (a total of 120 cuts) have been newly added, and the sound has been re-edited accordingly. Another 180 cuts have been updated for improved quality.

These new scenes, mostly revolving around the battle with the Bugs at the end of the movie, extended the total running time from 115 minutes to a full two hours. Including all the deleted scenes—not all of which were included in the Final Edition—Tomino's storyboards came to a total of 2,063 cuts across 903 pages.

Left: Cover of Final Edition laser disc, illustrated by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. Right: Cover art for Final Edition VHS release, also by Yasuhiko.

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Storyboards by Yoshiyuki Tomino for scenes which were newly included in the Final Edition. Top: Space Ark crew discuss their escape from Frontier I. Lower left: Bugs attack their civilian targets. Lower right: Seabook and Cecily enter colony to battle the Bugs.

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One element that had been included in Tsunehisa Ito's screenplay and Tomino's storyboards, but was omitted even in the Final Edition, was the helium transport ship "Thousandth Jupiter." In the middle of the story, its captain was supposed to surrender his ship to the Crossbone Vanguard, and Seabook would then use it as cover for his infiltration of the occupied Frontier IV colony.

Though a mechanical design was completed for the Thousandth Jupiter, and its captain appears briefly in a crowd scene, all the scenes involving the ship itself were cut during production. This deletion produced an infamously confusing transition in the story, in which Seabook suddenly appears in Frontier IV with no explanation.

Left: Storyboards by Yoshiyuki Tomino for deleted scene featuring Thousandth Jupiter. Center: Unused mechanical design for Thousandth Jupiter. Right: Character design for Thousandth Jupiter captain by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.

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Like the Gundam III compilation movie, Gundam F91 ends with an English-language message promising a continuation of the story. Indeed, the original plan was to follow up the movie with a TV series sequel. The following explanation is provided in the liner notes of the 2009 DVD release.

F91 originally started with the assumption that it would be a TV series. However, the medium was changed from television to film in the planning stages, and the movie was created as a summary of the opening part of the story. The plan was that the story of Seabook and Cecily would continue after this movie, up until the collapse of Cosmo Babylonia. This ending caption was inserted as a bridge to the never-depicted TV series continuation.

In the setting prepared for TV use, which never saw the light of day in the movie, there was a religious organization called the Cosmo Crux. With Meitza's niece Sherry Ronah as its figurehead, its purpose was to convey the spirit of Cosmo Aristocracy under the guise of a religion. One of Director Tomino's ideas was that Cecily would eventually gain popularity as Berah Ronah, and then, in the middle of a Cosmo Babylonia ceremony, make a speech exposing the deceptions of Cosmo Aristocracy. This would shake the foundations of the Crossbone Vanguard. But despite these preparations, for a variety of reasons the TV series was ultimately never produced.

With the TV series abandoned, the new setting of Gundam F91 largely followed suit. Mobile Suit Gundam Silhouette Formula 91, a spinoff model series accompanied by a manga adaptation, was launched in April 1992. And at the end of 1994, the manga artist Yuichi Hasegawa debuted the first iteration of his enduringly popular Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam series, based on a plot supplied by Tomino. But as far as the animated Gundam F91 was concerned, this was actually the end.

The closing scenes of Mobile Suit Gundam F91.

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A brief description of the "Phantom TV Series," from the liner notes of the 2001 Gundam F91 DVD release.

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Passing judgment on the artistic merits of Gundam F91 is beyond the scope of this production history, and I'll leave that up to the reader. But given the project's original goal—to lay a foundation for the next ten years of Gundam—I don't think it could considered a success.

As the Heisei era continued, the works created in the next few years would face the same paradoxical challenge of satisfying existing fans while appealing to new and younger audiences. And the way they ultimately resolved it would set the standard for decades of Gundam yet to come...