The following is a record of the planning and development of the first Gundam sequel series, Mobile Suit Z Gundam, which debuted in 1985. (For the purposes of this article, I'm using Z Gundam to refer to the animated series, and "Zeta Gundam" to refer to the star mobile suit.) Because there are few unified accounts of its production history, the following details are pieced together from a wide variety of sources, including:
The booklet included with the laser disc Memorial Box Part 1 reproduces the text of several planning memos from the early stages of production. Much of the mechanical design art also includes written dates, allowing us to place the drawings in chronological sequence. Sources for other specific details will be cited as we go along.
☆ Click the image thumbnails below to see them at full size! ☆
Despite its early cancelation, Mobile Suit Gundam had become a belated hit, leading to a popular trio of compilation films and several rebroadcasts of the TV series which earned progressively higher ratings. It was also a merchandising success, especially in the form of Bandai's plastic model kits, or "Gunpla." Throughout the early 1980s, Nippon Sunrise produced a succession of "real robot" series in the Gundam tradition, and Bandai soon replaced toy companies such as Clover as their main sponsor.
In early 1983, Bandai extended its Gunpla product line with an original Mobile Suit Variation series. In hindsight, it seems clear that momentum was building for a full-fledged animated followup. But in an interview in the Winter 2018 issue of Great Mechanics G, Masuo Ueda, the producer of the Gundam III movie and several later sequels, recalls:
After Mobile Suit Gundam, Sunrise's board of directors, Director (Yoshiyuki) Tomino, and Mr. Yoshikazu Yasuhiko all declared that they'd never make another Gundam. They said they'd done all they could with it, so Gundam was sealed. We used to say that "the day we make Gundam again is the day Sunrise goes under." So when Z Gundam started up, I thought we must be in trouble, and that Sunrise was going bankrupt. (laughs)
Director Yoshiyuki Tomino, however, was soon making independent plans for a sequel. According to the interviews and materials in the 1994 "Z Gundam Memorial Box Part 1," Tomino began considering possibilities for a "Gundam II" in February 1984, shortly after the launch of the TV series Heavy Metal L-Gaim:
About half a year before I started those memos, midway through the broadcast of Dunbine (around the autumn of '83), I anticipated that Gundam might be restarted as a business. Nobody had talked to me about it yet, but I began planning a "new Gundam" on my own initiative. I'd done Blue Gale Xabungle and Dunbine over two consecutive years. Considering the situation at that time, I thought Gundam might resurface, and that it would keep going indefinitely as a business. After doing two robot shows, I had a general idea what to do. So L-Gaim was partly a sacrificial throwaway before doing Gundam. (laughs)
It took some time for Tomino to settle on a story. One early idea was a prequel, "Alpha Gundam," set more than 30 years before the original series. Another concept, dubbed "Char's Counterattack" or "Zeta Gundam," was a followup taking place 30 years later. Translations of some of Tomino's early planning memos can be found at Zeonic|Scanlations:
Even before the story had been decided, it was clear that some kind of Gundam sequel was in the works. When the 23rd annual Plastic Model Trade Show opened in Shizuoka on May 17, 1984, the Bandai booth featured a banner boldly announcing Char's Counterattack: Gundam, billed as a new novel written by Yoshiyuki Tomino.
Confusingly, the rest of the display featured mechanical designs and prototype models from Bandai's unrelated MS-X series. This was a planned continuation of the Mobile Suit Variation line that was ultimately canceled in favor of the animated sequel. Technically, then, none of the projects featured in this display actually materialized.
Contemporary magazine coverage of the Shizuoka show.
By the end of June 1984, the basic building blocks of the story—the lead character Kamille, the Zeon remnants based in the asteroid belt, an Earth Federation unit known as the Titans that was created to suppress the emergence of Newtypes—were in place. In his "Memorial Box" interview, Tomino recalls:
The name Kamille Bidan appeared in my memos around June, and by that point it was definitely serious. Discussion of the next project for the following year would happen around June or July. In order to firm up the plan by then, I'd been searching for a name for the protagonist since the end of spring. I ended up with the name of Camille Claudel, an apprentice of the sculptor Rodin. When I learned about her personal history, I decided to use Camille as a man's name. In fact, everything about the character of Camille Claudel was transferred over to Kamille Bidan. It was somewhat unfortunate for Z Gundam as a work, but I needed a character like Kamille to bring back the feelings that had flown from me during L-Gaim.
While the story was taking shape, veteran Kunio Okawara, the mechanical designer for the original Mobile Suit Gundam, was put to work visualizing the next generation of mobile suits. At this stage of the project, it was unclear who the enemy would be and the idea of the Gundam Mk-II hadn't yet been introduced, so Okawara had no particular guidelines for his design explorations. It was obvious, however, that some kind of Gundam would be involved.
Enemy mobile suit concept designs by Kunio Okawara, featured in "Kunio Okawara Gundam Design Works."
Early Gundam concept designs by Kunio Okawara. According to "Kunio Okawara Gundam Design Works," the designs on the right with traditional V-shaped antenna were commissioned as a supplemental order, because the initial ones didn't look enough like Gundams.
By July 1984, Tomino's plan for a new animated TV series was complete. The first draft of his Z Gundam: Char's Counterattack proposal was completed on July 17, with subsequent updates on August 4 and August 20. At this point, the story setting, major characters, and general storyline were close to their final form. A translation of this proposal can be found at Zeonic|Scanlations:
One major complication had been introduced, however. To keep up with rivals such as 1982's Super Dimension Fortress Macross and the Transformers toy line, Bandai wanted the new Gundam series to feature transforming mobile suits. Tomino seems to have embraced the idea, and according to Z Gundam setting manager Shinji Takamatsu, he later drew inspiration from the American Transformers cartoon as well. In "Z Gundam Memorial Box Part 1," Takamatsu comments:
Director Tomino has a great appetite as a dramatist, continually incorporating things he likes into his own works. Around that time, he heard that Transformers, which hadn't yet been broadcast in Japan, was becoming popular in America. So he had a video sent over and watched it together with the staff. When he saw the mecha transformation scenes, he said "That's it! Let's do this kind of instant transformation in Gundam as well!" That was the origin of transforming mobile suits like the Asshimar and Messala. I remember being surprised, because I'd expected that Gundam mecha would transform via an orderly process like the docking scenes in the original series.
However, if the new series was to launch in March 1985, taking over L-Gaim's Saturday evening time slot, there wouldn't be enough time to design a transforming lead Gundam. Thus the plan was to begin the story with a Gundam Mk-II created by the Earth Federation, and an Epsy Gundam used by the rebel forces (playing the same role as the Rick Dias in the final version). Their technology would be combined to create the titular Zeta Gundam, which would debut in the second half of the series.
The proposal was approved, and production work began in earnest. The production of Z Gundam would be handled by Sunrise's Studio 2, which had produced a continuous series of Tomino-directed robot shows since 1982's Blue Gale Xabungle. Starting with Xabungle, and continuing through 1983's Aura Battler Dunbine and L-Gaim, Studio 2 had built up a stable of energetic young animators and episode directors—most of them in their mid-twenties—who now formed the core team of the new series.
First-time producer Kenji Uchida, who had worked as chief production manager on Xabungle, Dunbine, and L-Gaim, was responsible for assembling the staff. In an interview in the 2009 edition of "Z Gundam Hand Book 4," Uchida recalls:
At an early stage, the request from Director Tomino was, "I'd like to work with young people. I want to prepare a new generation of staff." Since this was my first year as a producer, I thought I'd be able to work with the veterans who made First Gundam like Mr Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Mr Kunio Okawara, and Mr. Hiroyuki Hoshiyama, so I was a little disappointed. (laughs)
However, through the preceding works, Sunrise had been able to cultivate young episode directors like Mr. Yasuhiro Imagawa (all of whom have now gone independent and become acclaimed directors), and new talents like Mr. Hiroyuki Kitazume had also emerged. With them as a core, I then made my choices by relying on recommendations from reliable people, and working from instinct based on my own experience.
Of this younger generation of staff, my impression was that many of them were actively intrigued by the idea of making a sequel to Gundam. First they had to meet Mr. Tomino's demands, which was a high bar. (laughs) But they'd accumulated a certain amount of experience on previous works, and now they must have been exhilarated that they could take on the challenge of Gundam for themselves.
Though many aspects of the production relied on newer and younger staff, the character design was entrusted to Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, as in the original series. In an interview in "Z Gundam Memorial Box Part 1," Yasuhiko says:
The autumn of '84 was drawing to an end when they approached me about Z Gundam. I clearly remember that it was a cold day. The broadcast was supposed to start in March '85, so there really wasn't much time to do the work.
At the time, I'd begun the work of directing and animating the theatrical anime Arion (released in March '86), for which I had drawn the original story. I'd also been asked to handle the setting for the TV anime version of Dirty Pair, which was scheduled to air in the autumn of '85. So I temporarily declined, because I was physically unable to take it on. But Mr. Masanori Ito, who was then the president of Sunrise, persuaded me that both Z Gundam and Arion were absolute priorities. Mr. Tsukasa Dokite took over the character design for Dirty Pair, and I finally became involved with Z Gundam.
However, once I joined the staff, I had hardly any opportunities to meet with Mr. Tomino. When I drew the character setting and sent it in, it was usually okayed in one pass. "If we're working together," I said, "I'd like to have a little more communication." A couple of times, I went in person to Mr. Tomino's office without an invitation.
While it's possible to reconstruct the mechanical design process in considerable detail, thanks to the designers' use of written dates, there's far less documentation of Yasuhiko's work. The dates on his early drafts suggest that these were created around the same time as Tomino's series proposal.
Rough character designs by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. Left to right: Kamille Bidan, Fa Yuiran, Char Aznable.
Left to right: Bright & Mirai Noa, Jerid Messa, Paptimus Scirocco.
Left to right: Jamitov Hymem, Bask Om, Kacricon Cacooler, Melanie Hue Carbine.
Second-draft character designs by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, dated August 20, 1984. Left to right: Emma Sheen, Reccoa Londe, Jerid Messa, Haman Karn.
Additional character designs by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, dated August 20, 1984. Left to right: Blex Forer, Abu Dabia, Amuro Ray, Hayato Kobayashi, Fraw Kobayashi.
Additional character designs by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, dated September 19, 1984. Left to right: Katz Kobayashi, Letz Kobayashi, Kikka Kobayashi, Mezun Mex (second draft).
Yasuhiko's rough designs were finalized with almost no modifications. However, since the final coloring was in the hands of color designer Kiyoko Takashima (now Kiyoko Imanishi), former villain-turned-hero Char Aznable underwent an unexpected costume change. In his "Memorial Box" interview, Yasuhiko comments:
It was simply a matter of one color, but I'd assumed that Char's AEUG uniform would have red fabric sleeves. When I saw the colored version, I was surprised that it had become sleeveless. Wasn't he someone who didn't want to show his skin?
There were also a couple of characters who were originally meant to play major roles in the series ended up being largely or completely omitted from the animation.
Rough character design and final setting art for Char Aznable by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. It appears the pink arms and legs in Yasuhiko's rough were intended to be skintight fabric. The additional model sheet at far right confirms that Char's uniform is now sleeveless.
Final setting art for Mezun Mex and Abu Dabia by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. Mezun appears only in the first episode of the TV series, and Abu Dabia appears only in Tomino's novels.
Meanwhile, some early visuals for the new generation of mobile suits were provided by rising star Mamoru Nagano, Tomino's creative collaborator on L-Gaim. In Z Gundam Historica 09, Nagano describes how he became involved in the upcoming Gundam sequel:
It had been all but decided when I started on L-Gaim. At the time, Director Tomino and I were working in the same room, so when it was decided that they'd be doing Z Gundam, the two of us were always talking about it. Because Yoshikazu Yasuhiko was doing the characters, he asked me to create images for all the other visuals and devote myself to design. A little later, Tadashi Nagase joined in on the SF setting, and the three of us thought about colony and spacecraft setting as well.
The basic design of the mecha that appeared in Z Gundam, or rather from Z Gundam onward, was completely my creation. The concept was mobile suits with movable frames and complex joints, and the designs by Kazumi Fujita and others were all made according to that format. That's why I was credited with "Design Works."
Nagano explains the background behind his early mobile suit design sketches in Z Gundam Ace 001:
I drew this model sheet around the halfway point of L-Gaim, but in fact I'd been secretly drawing Zeta Gundam designs with Mr. Tomino even before that.
—Had the plan been completed when you drew this setting, or did you have any orders from Director Tomino?
No, it was truly the initial stage when we had nothing at all, so Mr. Tomino didn't give me any restrictions. I drew this because he said I could draw whatever I liked. At the time, the sponsor Bandai had tremendous influence on the design of new mobile suits, and there must have been pressure and demands from within Sunrise as well. But it seems Mr. Tomino had a very strong desire to create a completely new kind of mobile suit.
This is what I drew when he asked me to create a new robot, not just a Nagano version of the Gundam. It's very nostalgic, but when I look at it now, it's terrible! It cracks me up to think that I was calling myself "the greatest mecha designer" back then. (laughs) Still, Mr. Tomino told me "For now, you're all the staff I want," so I went ahead and started with the mecha design.
—Speaking of Z Gundam, I believe the element of "transforming mobile suits will appear" was there from the start of planning. Did you have that in mind when you were drawing?
Mr. Tomino was utterly obsessed with transforming and combining, but I complained that I didn't want to do it. The Valkyrie designed by Mr. Shoji Kawamori, which appeared in Super Dimension Fortress Macross, already existed. I didn't want to be a copycat. Why do something like that, I asked, in a work with Gundam's hard-earned name value? I couldn't persuade him, though. So, for the time being, I started working by designing non-transforming mobile suits.
According to this Mamoru Nagano profile by ace interviewer Ollie Barder, the design sketches below were created on the eve of Tomino's visit to the Worldcon convention in Anaheim, California, at the end of August 1984. It was here that Tomino first publicly announced that a Mobile Suit Gundam sequel was in production. (This blog article by Dave Merrill includes some reminiscences of the convention, plus a rare photo of Tomino in a Mickey Mouse hat.)
Early "Zeta Gundam" design sketches by Mamoru Nagano, which later became the basis for the mobile suit Hyaku-Shiki. Though Nagano wasn't interested in designing transforming mobile suits, there are some references to transformation in the notes on the second sketch.
The amount of mechanical design work involved, along with Tomino's mandate to develop a new generation of talent, required producer Uchida to recruit a variety of new designers. In his "Z Gundam Hand Book 4" interview, he explains:
At the time, the environment wasn't subdivided as it is now into main mecha, guest mecha, and props like vehicles and firearms, each with their own specialized designers. In most cases, the rule was that a single designer would design virtually all the mecha for an individual series, and it was Mr. Okawara who handed this enormous task during First Gundam.
This time, however, Mr. Okawara wouldn't be completely responsible for the mechanical design the way that Mr. Yasuhiko was for character design. I began by searching for new mecha designers, and we ended up with the young Mr. Kazumi Fujita designing based on Mr. Okawara's plans. In a Gundam series, it's an absolute necessity to have lots of mobile suits appear throughout the story, and in Z Gundam we'd also added the major concept of mobile suit transformation. Naturally, we were also getting requests for products from the sponsor Bandai, so the burden of meeting all these demands would be too much for a single designer. As a result, we ended up having a variety of people participate.
In fact, at the time I also approached Mr. Masamune Shirow, who is now famous for Ghost in the Shell. He could draw really natural-looking transformations, and his designs were attractive, so I thought he would be perfect. But he was still teaching art at a high school in Osaka, so unfortunately this never came to pass.
It's unclear when the concept designs below were created, but we can clearly see an attempt being made to break away from the aesthetic of the original series. Based on Ollie Barder's interview, I suspect most of them were drawn after the Nagano designs shown above.
Mobile suit concept designs by Kunio Okawara. According to the Summer 2018 issue of Great Mechanics G, rather than specific machines from the story, these were intended to explore general design directions for the new series.
Similar mobile suit concept designs by various other designers. I believe these include Kazumi Fujita and Makoto Kobayashi.
Further development of Kazumi Fujita's concept design. This eventually became the transformable mobile armor Gaplant.
By the last months of 1984, preparations for the launch of the new series were in full swing. After an initial announcement in Bandai's MJ magazine on November 1, 1984, an official Mobile Suit Z Gundam production announcement event was held on November 19. Preliminary mobile suit designs soon began appearing in anime and model magazines, as anticipation built for the sequel.
November 19, 1984
Director Yoshiyuki Tomino speaks at the Z Gundam production announcement. On the left of the photo is Sunrise producer Kenji Uchida.
One of the first new designs revealed to the world was the Gundam Mk-II, the star mobile suit in the first half of the series. In Great Mechanics Vol.5, Satoru Matsumoto—later senior managing director of Sunrise, but at the time, the Bandai manager responsible for Gunpla planning and production—reveals that this placeholder Gundam was originally going to be derived from the Mobile Suit Variation model series:
When we asked what should we do until the Zeta Gundam appeared, we decided to introduce a Gundam that would be a continuation of the MSV line, which up until then had been cultivated with models. But when it came to using MSV, there were dissenting opinions from the internal staff and Director Tomino. In a sense, MSV had been created as an imitation of the original. And on the marketing side, there was also a concern that audience awareness might be too low.
Thus, while the model-original MSV series was incorporated into the new story to raise awareness, after MSV there was another Gundam that would become the basis for the Gundam Mk-II. The work began by establishing this as the main hero mecha.
Makoto Ishii, the author of the Great Mechanics Vol.5 feature, goes on to explain:
The MSV Gundam that Mr. Matsumoto mentioned above, which became the basis for the Gundam Mk-II, wasn't a Gundam that had been announced to the public. It was modeled on an "enhanced Gundam" that had been drawn as a plan situated after the Full Armor Gundam and Heavy Gundam.
A variety of ideas by different designers were considered, but ultimately Okawara's earlier designs were selected as the basis for the new Gundam. With input from Mamoru Nagano and mechanical animation director Yorihisa Uchida, the Mk-II was brought to completion by the newcomer Kazumi Fujita—then just 20 years old—who eventually became Z Gundam's main mechanical designer.
Gundam Mk-II early designs by Kunio Okawara. According to "Kunio Okawara Gundam Design Works," this was created by reusing parts from Okawara's previous roughs.
Gundam Mk-II interpretations by Mamoru Nagano, Yorihisa Uchida, and Kazumi Fujita. (The second Fujita version includes notes by Yoshiyuki Tomino.)
Uchida's drawing is dated November 11, 1984. Fujita's drafts are dated November 5 and November 12.
Final Gundam Mk-II setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Front and back views are dated November 15, 1984. Head views are dated November 24.
Additional setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Hatch details are dated December 1, 1984. Beam saber and foot details are dated December 13.
The other mobile suits featured in the first few episodes—based on designs by Okawara, Nagano, and manga artist Kazuhisa Kondo, with refinements and supplemental details by Fujita—were completed just before the end of the year. Like the Gundam Mk-II, these were updated descendants of machines from Mobile Suit Gundam, reinforcing the connection to the original series. Rather than the classic Gelgoog, the Galbaldy-β was based on a design from the canceled MS-X line.
Rick Dias early design and final setting art by Mamoru Nagano; additional setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Final front view is dated October 26, 1984. Rear view with weapons is dated November 29, and detail art is dated December 27.
Hi-Zack early designs by Kunio Okawara and Kazumi Fujita; final setting art by Fujita.
Final setting art is dated October 30, 1984.
Galbaldy-β sketch, first draft, and final setting art by Mamoru Nagano; additional setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
First draft was apparently completed on November 4, 1984. Revised front view with modified skirt armor is dated December 7, and detail art is dated December 30.
GM II early design by Kazuhisa Kondo, final setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Final setting art is dated December 30, 1984.
Nagano and Fujita also tried their hands at an upcoming enemy machine used by the villain Paptimus Scirocco, which eventually became the transformable mobile armor Messala.
The multitalented Nagano, who had been working alongside Tomino during the production of L-Gaim, collaborated closely with the director on setting elements such as new pilot suits and panoramic cockpits. Thanks to the broad scope of his contributions, Nagano was ultimately credited with "design works" on the series. However, the reaction to his designs was decidedly mixed. In Z Gundam Ace 001, he recalls:
No matter what, we couldn't create something that seemed dubious from the start, so of course I put on the brakes and the result was the Rick Dias and Galbaldy-β. In short, they were designed to retain the image of the previous work. Nonetheless, there was a strong backlash, and people said "These aren't mobile suits." But Mr. Tomino persisted and gave the designs his OK, saying "If we get them out there, we've won." But after that, there was problem after problem related to the designs, and in the end I left the Z Gundam team practically on the eve of the broadcast.
Based on the dates on his setting art, Nagano's contributions to the series seem to have ended—at least for the time being—in December 1984.
Late 1984~Early 1985
Pilot suit and equipment designs by Mamoru Nagano, with notes by Yoshiyuki Tomino.
Final design is dated November 29, 1984.
Pilot suit setting art and directions for animators by character designer Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.
Animation directions are dated February 19, 1985.
Mobile suit cockpit and linear seat designs by Mamoru Nagano, with notes by Yoshiyuki Tomino.
Linear seat design is dated November 16, 1984.
Rick Dias cockpit setting art by Mamoru Nagano, Gundam Mk-II cockpit by Kazumi Fujita.
Dated November 28 and December 5, 1984.
The collaboration between Nagano and Tomino also extended to the heroes' flagship Argama. For the most part, the rest of the spacecraft and warships were designed by Fujita, with the Shindosha studio contributing some minor vehicles and support craft.
Argama sketch by Mamoru Nagano, two sketches by Yoshiyuki Tomino.
Nagano sketch was created prior to October 29, 1984. The first of Tomino's sketches is dated November 22.
Argama final setting art by Mamoru Nagano, dated December 1 to December 12. This is some of the last design work Nagano created before leaving the production.
Salamis Kai (Bosnia) sketch by Yoshiyuki Tomino, final setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Tomino sketch is dated November 20, 1984. Final setting art is dated November 28.
Temptation and Alexandria setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Dated November 28, November 29, and December 3, 1984.
Two other people who played important roles in creating the updated world of Z Gundam were art director Junichi Higashi, and "setting base" advisor Tadashi Nagase. Nagase's role consisted of backing up the Gundam setting with real-world scientific research. In an interview in "Z Gundam Memorial Box Part 1," he describes his involvement as follows:
Once upon a time, I was part of an SF fan group called Crystal Art, the predecessor to Studio Nue. I was a friend of Mr. Kenichi Matsuzaki, who was writing scripts for the original series, and I assisted when Minori Shobo published the book "Gundam Century," an investigation of the Gundam world spearheaded by Mr. Matsuzaki. Some time afterwards, I received a phone call from Director Tomino, who had read some of my scientific articles that were being serialized in a magazine. We ended up discussing various things, and he consulted me during Z Gundam as well.
The work itself consisted of giving suggestions on the science aspects as we checked the scripts and storyboards at Director Tomino's office in Iogi. Examples of my suggestions that actually made it onto the screen include the ballute system for atmospheric entry and the mass drivers on the lunar surface. Both were ideas published in science magazines at the time that were incorporated into the Gundam world. Many other ideas connected to the Gundam world were introduced in a serial called "The Alpha Era of Gundam," which began running in the first issue of Newtype magazine.
Higashi, meanwhile, was responsible for designing the backgrounds, including space colonies and other indoor and outdoor locations. Though his role was inherited by Shigemi Ikeda in Tomino's subsequent Gundam works, Higashi would later return to the series as art director of 1992's Gundam 0083 and 1994's G Gundam.
Green Noa 1, Green Noa 2, and Banchi 30 colony setting by Junichi Higashi. (The first Green Noa 1 illustration includes notes and corrections by Yoshiyuki Tomino.)
Green Noa 1 interior sketches by Yoshiyuki Tomino, final setting art by Junichi Higashi.
Tomino sketches appear to be dated November 16, 1984.
Two installments of Nagase's "Alpha Era of Gundam" serial, as reproduced in "Z Gundam Memorial Box Part 2."
In the meantime, work continued on the Zeta Gundam, the transformable mobile suit which would take the spotlight in the second half of the series. The idea was that this machine could enter Earth's atmosphere to attack the planet from outer space. Okawara's concept designs, modeled on America's recently introduced space shuttle, conveyed a sense of near-future realism.
Bandai also submitted a design by Katsushi Murakami, the creator of many legendary robots for live-action superhero series. According to "Gunpla Generation," its flight form was inspired by the atmospheric entry capsules from Robert A. Heinlein's novel "Starship Troopers." Murakami's design was later repurposed for the sinister Psycho Gundam.
"Shuttle Gundam" and other Zeta Gundam concept designs by Kunio Okawara.
Zeta Gundam concept design by Katsushi Murakami, Psycho Gundam setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Psycho Gundam setting art is dated April 12, 1985.
Ultimately, it was Kazumi Fujita's design that was selected for the Zeta Gundam. Its "Wave Rider" transformation was based on a plan devised by Okawara, and later refined with the help of Kazuhisa Kondo and Masahiro Oda. After four months of revisions, the Zeta reached its final form in April 1985, and Fujita continued adding weapons and supplemental details throughout May and June.
Though an early version of the Zeta appeared in silhouette form in the first opening credits, the design hadn't yet been completed, and so this teaser was based on one of the early draft versions.
December 1984~June 1985
Zeta Gundam designs by Kazumi Fujita. Left to right: image sketch, rough design sketch, transformation process.
Image sketch (posted on Pinterest by @aglet6409) is dated December 5, 1984. Early design was also drawn in December.
Early designs for the Zeta Gundam's Wave Rider form. In the second of these, the mobile suit's head protrudes from the top, as in the transformation process shown above.
Zeta Gundam early design by Kazumi Fujita, head detail widely attributed—perhaps incorrectly—to Mamoru Nagano.
Fujita's design is dated January 11, 1985. This head detail was used as the basis for the original opening sequence.
Revised transformation process. In this version of the transformation, the "flying armor" on the Zeta's back is a single unit that slides over the mobile suit's head to cover its chest.
Further design revisions and head design exploration.
Near-final draft dated March 1, 1985, and final setting art by Kazumi Fujita. The date of the final mobile suit setting art is variously reported as April 12 and April 21, but from what I can see of the date, I think the latter is correct.
Final transformation process by Kazumi Fujita, dated June 11, 1985.
While Fujita was finalizing its star mobile suit, Mobile Suit Z Gundam made its long-awaited debut. The first episode, "Black Gundam," aired on March 2, 1985. Its broadcast was preceded by the first volume of Tomino's Z Gundam novels, published about ten days earlier and covering the events of the first five episodes. Throughout the series, the release of new novel volumes was synchronized with the animation, providing supplemental story information and a somewhat altered version of the plot.
February 1985~February 1986
Mobile Suit Z Gundam novel covers by Mamoru Nagano. These were released over a span of exactly one year, from February 19, 1985 to February 19, 1986. In the first volume, a message from the author explains that these are a continuation of the animated story rather than his previous Gundam novels.
The new series was introduced with the bold opening theme "Zeta, Toki wo Koete" (Zeta, Beyond Time). Adapted from the 1972 song "Better Days Are Coming" by American singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka, the opening featured new lyrics penned by Tomino himself under the alias "Rin Iogi." The ending song, "Hoshizora no Believe" (Believe in the Starry Sky) was likewise based on Sedaka's 1976 song "Bad and Beautiful."
In Z Gundam Historica 05, music producer Junji Fujita, then the head of King Records' Starchild label, explains how this international collaboration came about:
In the case of Director Tomino, I think that rather than being a song lyricist, his lyrics are an extension of the novelist's or filmmaker's role. There's the concept of the work, and then he proceeds by turning its inner world into a poem. So every time, Director Tomino always asks to meet face-to-face with the composer to explain his lyrics and the content of the work. He wants the composer to know what the work is about, and understand every word of the lyrics, when they compose the music.
—In that case, during Mobile Suit Z Gundam, Director Tomino must have met with Mr. Neil Sedaka when he worked on the composition of "Zeta, Toki wo Koete."
Right. At the time, I'd become a department head, so I was no longer directly on the scene. But the director in charge, (the late) Mr. Tatsuo Oba, went with Director Tomino on a rush trip to New York. The choice of Mr. Neil Sedaka was originally due to Director Tomino's request for a major international figure, so we started by consulting a sub-publisher that managed overseas music rights. It's unfortunate, but if Mr. Oba were alive, he'd probably be able to tell you more about the details of what was happening on the scene.
—I'm very sorry about Mr. Oba. Nonetheless, it's noteworthy that Director Tomino had time to go to the U.S.
It seems he took along some work in progress, and was writing and checking things on the plane going there and back. Still, I think Director Tomino believes he can't convey his ideas without meeting the composer in person and explaining them. So he'd always meet directly with the composers of his songs and have discussions with them.
Both songs were arranged by Hiroya Watanabe and featured vocals by Mami Ayukawa, who had debuted with the second opening for the previous L-Gaim. In a 2007 Japanese-language interview with Mynavi News, Ayukawa explains that Z Gundam's opening was a last-minute replacement recorded just before the TV broadcast:
It's true. It really was just in time (for the broadcast). I remember the recording really well. Director Tomino also came to the studio, and gave me direction on the vocals. [...] Actually, "Zeta, Toki wo Koete" was originally written as a B-side, and it wasn't going to be the opening song when we started recording. At first "Hoshizora no Believe," which became the ending song, was supposed to be the opening. But as we were recording, the director started saying "Hm, this song's better... How about it?" That was certainly the voice of authority. As a singer, I'm delighted that it came about as a result of my singing as he was directing me.
The background music for the series was composed by Shigeaki Saegusa, who would go on to provide the music for Gundam ZZ and Char's Counterattack as well.
Scenes from the first opening, "Zeta, Toki wo Koete." The slashing pose of the Gundam Mk-II, and the lineup of returning First Gundam characters, establish a connection to the original series.
The Zeta Gundam, whose design was not yet finalized, was previewed in the form of a mysterious silhouette.
Animator Yasuomi Umetsu was responsible for the opening and ending sequences, and gives Yasuhiko's characters his own distinctive look.
The opening concludes with a dramatic explosion.
Scenes from the ending, "Hoshizora no Believe." The animation here is a simple running loop, with bouncing Haro.
The script for the first episode was co-written by Hiroshi Onogi and Tomino himself, under the alias "Minoru Yokitani." On the original series, Tomino had worked extensively on the episode storyboards, but here his pseudonymous contributions were mainly in the scriptwriting area. The director co-wrote 22 episodes of Z Gundam, almost all of them in the first half of the series, before entrusting the writing duties to a two-person team of Yumiko Suzuki and Akinori Endo (then known as Meigo Endo) working from Tomino's plot outlines.
In an interview in Z Gundam Historica 03, published in July 2005, Endo describes the scriptwriting process as follows:
First, there were Director Tomino's liner notes. Based on those, the scriptwriter would create a structure (plot). We'd have a meeting with Director Tomino about the plot we'd made, receive various criticisms and instructions, and then start working on the actual script. The script would be rewritten from a first draft to a second draft, and maybe a third draft depending on the situation. Once it was fairly complete, Director Tomino would take over. That was how we went about it.
In the 1994 "Z Gundam Memorial Box Part 1," Suzuki describes the process in similar terms:
In the case of Z, though I was called a scriptwriter, I think it would be more accurate to say that I adapted the stories that Mr. Tomino thought up. At any rate, my job was to figure out how to manifest Mr. Tomino's world. First I'd receive the story, then I'd adapt it, and then the director would take over. We started out with four or five writers, but they all quit along the way. In the end all the writing was being done by myself and Mr. Endo, who joined in the middle.
And in the 2009 edition of "Z Gundam Hand Book 4," Producer Uchida discusses the fluid nature of the overall series plot:
At first, Director Tomino created something like a series structure under his pen name Minoru Yokitani, but that doesn't mean the story was originally fixed all the way to the end. Of course he must have had some assumptions as a director, but first and foremost, Director Tomino is the type of dramatist who values the feeling of a live performance. So once the series begins and the characters and drama get moving, he looks at the reaction as he decides the subsequent developments.
With Z Gundam in particular, more than ever before, he seemed to be very consciously using that feeling, drawing out the power of the young staff who gave form to their own self-expression and training them as they made it. So as he was talking to the scriptwriters and episode directors, he'd sometimes see a sketch drawn by Mr. Kitazume, say "Oh, that's good," and incorporate that into the character along the way. He was creating without deciding too much in advance.
But since it was a long series broadcast over the course of a year, there was some confusion among the writers responsible for each episode, and the plans they had in mind couldn't be reconciled with those of the director. Sometimes I'd intervene to coordinate between them, but ultimately some of them ended up dropping out. In that sense, I'm still grateful to Mr. Endo and Ms. Suzuki for hanging in there until the end.
Though its development had begun with the return of the character and mechanical designers from the original series, Z Gundam also showcased the talents of a new generation. The animation director on the first episode was Hiroyuki Kitazume, with Yasuhiro Imagawa serving as episode director and storyboard artist—roles they had each played on previous Tomino series such as L-Gaim and Aura Battler Dunbine. Both were relative youngsters, born on the same day in 1961.
While Yoshikazu Yasuhiko was responsible for Z Gundam's character design, the fact that he wasn't involved in the animation presented some challenges for the staff. Kitazume, who had recently established his own animation studio after spending more than two years working under the legendary Tomonori Kogawa at Studio Bebow, found it hard to emulate Yasuhiko's style. In the 2005 book "Mobile Suit Z Gundam Nostalgia," Kitazume recalls:
When I asked about the project, they showed me Mr. Yasuhiko's character sheets, although they were still preliminary drafts. That's when I first found out that Mr. Yasuhiko was doing the character designs. After that, I was a little puzzled to learn that he wasn't joining the animation staff.
When I was at Studio Bebow, in the animation stage it was fine to simply interpret things based on the style of Mr. Kogawa or Mr. Nagano, but we didn't have that this time. The only hints we had were Mr. Yasuhiko's character sheets. And in that situation, it was vexing that we had to make the characters he'd designed move in animation. And what's more, I was responsible for animation direction on episode 1.
—The number of character sheets varied depending on the character, right?
Yes. The protagonist Kamille was easier, since we had several pages of expression sheets, but there were only a few characters like that. For most of the characters, we had to draw them based on our own imagination.
I think if Mr. Yasuhiko had been in charge of animation direction for the first episode, we'd have been able to expect a collection of his revisions afterwards, and we could have devoted ourselves to drawing to match that. But with only the character sheets, I thought I couldn't draw in a way that made it seem like Mr. Yasuhiko himself were drawing it. So rather than doing the impossible, I could only offer my own interpretation based on Mr. Yasuhiko's drawings, just like I used to do. I thought that was the best I could offer.
In a booklet interview from the second DVD volume—excerpted in the Winter 2018 issue of Great Mechanics G—Kitazume elaborates further:
I was influenced by Tomonori Kogawa, who uses a lot of low angles. I thought it might work really well if I could combine that kind of three-dimensional, sketch-like solid drawing with Mr. Yasuhiko's delicacy and character nuances. The biggest difference may be the application of shadows. Mr. Yasuhiko's shading feels delicate, with an emphasis on nuance, while Mr. Kogawa applies shadows three-dimensionally with an awareness of the light source—what he calls plane-surface shading. When it came to the shading, I decided to use a method influenced by Mr. Kogawa.
Kitazume's interview in Z Gundam Historica 10 also provides some insight into Tomino's working process on Z Gundam:
They'd deliberately include extra running time in the storyboard stage. The actual broadcast was about 22 minutes, but I recall the storyboards were almost 25 minutes long. During the editing process, I heard they'd make the scenes that looked good in the finished film as long as possible, and cut the ones they didn't like.
—During the animation meetings, did you get any performance directions or detailed instructions from Director Tomino?
No. Director Tomino was focused mainly on checking the storyboards and checking the film once it had been completed, and he wasn't involved in the actual animation and episode direction meetings.
—Does that mean, for example, that you and the other people in the studio came up with the effects used during Newtype rapport, in which their bodies are enveloped in auras and space turns red?
Yes. At the time, when scenes like that appeared for the first time, they were mostly left up to the staff in charge. When similar scenes came up afterwards, we'd say "The last time we did this, we did it this way, so please do the same thing."
Final setting art for Kamille by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. With five pages of model sheets, including many expressions and directions for animators, this was the most fully documented of Yasuhiko's designs.
Revised key art from the first episode of Z Gundam, which was supervised by animation director Hiroyuki Kitazume. Collections of corrected artwork were circulated among the animation staff as supplemental reference material.
Yorihisa Uchida, another young animator with an aptitude for robot action, filled the newly created role of "mechanical animation director." In an interview in "Z Gundam Nostalgia," Uchida explains how this came about:
At the time, Sunrise didn't have many animators who could draw mecha in an interesting way. We didn't even enjoy drawing them ourselves. "This isn't going to be much fun," I thought, so I asked the producer Mr. Kenji Uchida, "Couldn't you create a position that can supervise all the mecha animation?" And that's how I was appointed as mechanical animation director.
While the duties of a regular animation director were rotated episode by episode, Uchida was responsible for supervising the mechanical animation for the entire series, which limited the scope of his ambitions. In the first volume of The Anime: Mobile Suit Z Gundam, published while the series was still on the air, Uchida comments:
My job is basically to standardize the mecha across all the episodes. However, since the schedule is pretty tight, I can't go as far as correcting the movement, and it's all I can do just to tinker with the drawing and the timing.
In this same interview, Uchida discusses some of the technical issues that came up in the early episodes:
I always worry about how to make scenes of explosions in outer space look cool. In animation, the smoke can't really keep spreading out indefinitely, so we often make it scatter in all directions with rays of transmitted light. I thought that might create a Star Wars-style visual effect, but in fact it ends up looking like overly pretty fireworks.
Combat on the lunar surface was also tough. The dust the mobile suits kick up shouldn't settle right away, but on the other hand, it would look weird if it kept drifting around forever. So we did it with the sense that it blows up dramatically for a few seconds, then settles down appropriately. The key animators worked really hard on it, and I think we were able to create an interesting sense of speed.
In "Z Gundam Nostalgia," Uchida also addresses topics like the depiction of transforming machines....
It was a little different from the representation methods of so-called "orthodox robot anime." In super robot works, the transformation scenes are flashy, and the background changes. But mobile suits are mecha treated slightly more like tools, so when it came to the representation method and the cutting, we tried to differentiate them by drawing in a more matter-of-fact way. Personally, I prefer flashy movement, so it felt somewhat unsatisfactory.
... and the application of dramatic shadows.
On Z Gundam, we'd decided we were going to use black for the shadows in outer space. Thus we could sometimes avoid difficult details by filling them in with black. I'd actually intended for us to draw the space scenes with a clear light source but, partly because this idea didn't really permeate the animation staff, we only applied distinct shadows for the first 20 episodes or so. From the middle of the story to the second half, I don't think we were putting in shadows at all. Even though we were adding blacks, we were placing the black areas like a decorative pattern, without a definite light source.
In his interviews, Uchida explains that he was deeply impressed by the movement of the mobile suits in the original Gundam, but was ordered by Tomino to create a different style of movement for the new series. He elaborates on this in an interview for the 2009 Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ Memorial Box:
Regarding the drawing, Director Tomino told me the following right after Z began. He wanted us to stop depicting the mecha with the slight flexibility they'd had in the previous Gundam. I think Director Tomino wanted them to be more rigid. But this was a very high-level request, and an extremely difficult task for me as well. In the depiction of mecha, flashy action with exaggerated poses is relatively easy, but making them look subtly realistic is quite hard, and it requires a lot of skill.
Despite his frustrations with his new role, Uchida went on to serve as mechanical animation director on Gundam ZZ and Metal Armor Dragonar, and this position has since become a standard feature of mecha anime.
Char's Rick Dias provided most of the mecha action in the first episode. Its depiction shows the hallmarks of Z Gundam's mechanical animation style—bold black shadows, intense detail, and exaggerated, angular poses.
Examples of firing and explosion effects, provided as reference for the animators.
Mobile suit key art from the opening animation was also circulated among the animation staff as supplemental reference material.
Following the departures of Okawara and Nagano, the role of principal mechanical designer had now been inherited by Kazumi Fujita. A junior member of the Shindosha studio, Fujita was only 20 years old when the series debuted. In addition to his own creations, Fujita reworked many by other designers, giving the series a unified aesthetic. In a May 1986 interview in B-Club magazine, Fujita recalls:
I joined Z Gundam to do cleanup for Mr. Okawara and Mr. Nagano, and we'd only talked about me doing guest mecha and warships. But because Mr. Okawara and Mr. Nagano left in the middle, I ended up doing it all myself. As well as mobile suits, I also had to do guest mecha and accessories, so it was really tough. It was taking a lot of time at first, but by the time I'd gotten the hang of it, other people had started contributing mobile suit designs.
The mobile suit designs for the first nine episodes were already completed when the first episode was broadcast. One particularly eye-catching newcomer was the Hyaku-Shiki, which became Char's personal mobile suit. Based on Mamoru Nagano's early design sketches, and cleaned up for animation by Fujita, its most distinctive features—its shiny golden exterior, and the hyaku (one hundred) characters on its shoulders—were bestowed by Tomino himself. In Animedia's Z Gundam Complete Record, setting manager Shinji Takamatsu reveals:
At first we talked about making it a successor to the Nemo, called the Type 00100. It originally didn't have the hyaku characters on it, but during a mobile suit meeting with Bandai, Mr. Tomino suddenly decided to announce "we'll put a hyaku character here." The golden color was also because of Mr. Tomino, who said "Char's red colors are antiquated, aren't they? Let's make a golden Char."
As setting manager, the production staffer responsible for placing orders with writers and designers and then delivering their work to the studio, Takamatsu worked closely with Tomino. Takamatsu joined the Z Gundam around the start of broadcast, after the original setting manager had left due to illness, and began placing orders around episode 10. In a 2021 Japanese-language interview on the Sunrise World website, he recalls:
Around the time of Z Gundam, Mr. Tomino was at his most eccentric (wry laughter) so it was pretty tough. I was in charge of setting and script management, so I was doing everything from arranging script meetings to ordering setting, but for a full year Mr. Tomino was giving me hell every day. Still, being able to see Mr. Tomino's work up close was really educational, and I'm very grateful I was able to debut as an episode director on a Gundam work.
As for my directorial debut, they were suddenly missing an episode director, so they needed a pinch hitter. When they asked "Don't we have any directors?" I raised my hand, with the baseless self-confidence of the young, and said "I wanna do it!" That was episode 31, "Half Moon Love." Naturally, since I was a total first-timer, the editors, the sound crew, and of course Mr. Tomino all harshly told me it was no good. It was a pretty bitter debut, but after that I started doing storyboards and episode direction as a regular on Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ. Thinking about it now, I think he made good use of a complete amateur.
After debuting as an episode director, Takamatsu went on to become a series director in his own right. He would later take over during the second half of New Mobile Report Gundam W, and then direct After War Gundam X.
Marasai early designs by Kunio Okawara, Makoto Kobayashi, and Kazumi Fujita; final setting art by Fujita. According to B-Club Vol.3, its name was changed from "Domingo" to "Marasai" after setting art was completed.
Final setting art is dated March 2, 1985.
Hyaku-Shiki setting art by Kazumi Fujita, based on Mamoru Nagano's early "Zeta Gundam" concept design. According to setting manager Shinji Takamatsu, Tomino came up with its distinctive shoulder markings in the middle of a meeting with Bandai staff.
Front view is dated March 2, 1985. Detail art and Mega Bazooka Launcher are dated March 5 and March 15.
Nemo early design and final setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Front and rear view setting art is dated March 2, 1985. Detail art is dated March 6.
As Z Gundam completed its first cours (a block of roughly three months), and the narrative shifted from space to Earth, familiar characters from the original series began to reappear. Even the mascot robot Haro returned in the form of a mass-produced toy version.
Bright Noa, the former captain of the White Base, had already made a guest appearance in the second episode, and became the new captain of the Argama after his return in episode 10. By episode 17, almost all the main cast of First Gundam had paid a visit to the new series, with one notable exception—Char's sister Sayla Mass, who eventually made a non-speaking cameo in episode 37.
Character setting art for Bright (episode 2) and Amuro (episode 6) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.
Character setting art for "Haro the II" (episode 8), Kai (episode 9), and Hayato (episode 12) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.
Character setting art for Katz, Letz, Kikka, Fraw, and Amuro (all from episode 13) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.
Character setting art for Mirai and her children (episode 17) and Sayla Mass (episode 37) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. Sayla's sheet is labeled "someone who shouldn't be there."
These early episodes also featured guest appearances by several mobile suits from the Mobile Suit Variation and MS-X series, giving these Gunpla spinoffs official recognition (and providing Bandai with an opportunity to repackage some old model kits).
Updated renderings of the Zaku Recon, Zaku Cannon, and GM Cannon were created by manga artist Koichi Tokita. According to "Gunpla Generation," the prototype YMS-08A was also meant to appear, but since it was cut it never received a proper name.
The starting lineup of mobile suits had emphasized continuity with the previous series, but Z Gundam also showcased a diverse variety of new aesthetics and design ideas. Chief among them was the introduction of transformable mobile armors and mobile suits, of which the Zeta Gundam itself was only one example. The Messala and Gaplant, introduced in episodes 10 and 14, were the first completely original Kazumi Fujita designs to appear in the series.
Gaplant final setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Mobile suit form is dated January 25, 1985, and mobile armor form is dated March 26.
Messala rough and final setting art by Kazumi Fujita. A note in the rough draft, addressed to director Tomino, suggests the term "mobile former" for this transforming mobile armor.
Rough is dated March 9, 1985. Final setting art is dated March 13 and 14.
Asshimar early design by Kunio Okawara, final setting art by Kazumi Fujita. This was Okawara's last contribution to the series.
Final setting art is dated March 22, 1985.
In addition to mobile suits and transformable mobile armors, Z Gundam fleshed out the world setting by introducing new kinds of support vehicles and equipment. These included various devices for atmospheric entry, as well as flying motherships and transport hovercraft inspired by the Gaw carrier and Do-Dai YS from the original series. Transport craft like the Do-Dai Kai and Base Jabber would become regular features in subsequent Gundam works.
The giant Garuda-type carrier aircraft, introduced in episode 12, remained enduringly popular and reappeared in the later sequels Gundam ZZ and Gundam UC. Its elaborate hangars include storage for transport hovercraft and booster-equipped space shuttles—the latter can be launched into orbit from beneath its wings.
Flying Armor and ballute (balloon parachute) setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Dated March 12 and March 16, 1985.
Garuda carrier setting art by Kazumi Fujita, and interior layout sketch (probably by Yoshiyuki Tomino).
Setting art is dated March 18, 1985.
Do-Dai Kai and Base Jabber setting art by Shindosha.
Dated March 27, 1985.
Space shuttle setting art by Shindosha, HLV and launch pad setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Shuttle is dated March 27, 1985. HLV and launch pad are dated April 13.
The Earth episodes reached a dramatic crescendo with the introduction of the artificially enhanced Cyber-Newtypes—described in Japanese as kyōka ningen, or "enhanced humans"—Rosamia Badam and Four Murasame. Four's Cinderella romance with Kamille, which plays out in a lovingly rendered Hong Kong setting, was also the Z Gundam debut of scriptwriter Akinori Endo (then known as Meigo Endo), who wrote all but one of episodes 17 through 20.
In an interview in the 2009 edition of "Z Gundam Hand Book 3," Endo recalls:
I was still a rookie in the second year since my debut, so I was just writing what the director told me to. On my second episode, "Cinderella Four" (episode 19), the first draft was really bad and I remember getting a terrible scolding from the director. Aside from that, I've never really experienced Director Tomino's anger in person, but he said "Go rewrite it" and "I'm asking you to do this because I think you can write." So I thought I had to make up for it properly.
In the end, the second draft of episode 19 received the OK, but I was too scared to ask the director about the results directly. At the time, picking up the manuscripts was the role of Mr. Shinji Takamatsu, so I was relieved when he later told me "It's okay, because you wrote as hard as you could."
According to Animedia's Z Gundam Complete Record, Four's image was largely the independent creation of character designer Yasuhiko:
Four Murasame, the first or second most popular character in Z Gundam, initially had the purely Japanese name Saeko Murasame. In his script, Mr. Endo wrote her with a more childlike image. When Mr. Takamatsu read this, he associated her with a black-haired Japanese girl, and Director Tomino had yet another image. So it seems that all of them were surprised when her character sheet was completed.
In addition to Kamille's romance with Four, Amuro also received a new love interest in the form of resistance operative Beltorchika Irma. Though Yasuhiko's model sheets for these characters are undated, most of the mechanical designs for the corresponding episodes were completed in April 1985, so they were probably drawn in the spring of that year.
Character setting art for Rosamia Badam (episode 14), Beltorchika Irma (episode 15), and Four Murasame (episodes 17 and 18) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.
Hong Kong setting art from episode 17 by art director Junichi Higashi. Based on the aerial view, the so-called "New Hong Kong" is an extension built onto the western side of Hong Kong Island.
The Zeta Gundam made its first appearance—albeit only in its Wave Rider form—at the end of episode 21, "A Pulse of Zeta." Kamille's return to space in this episode marked the beginning of a new stage in the story. The mid-series transition was formalized with a new opening theme, "Mizu no Hoshi e Ai wo Komete" (To the Planet of Water With Love) in episode 24, "Counterattack."
Like the original opening and ending, the new theme was adapted from a composition by Neil Sedaka, in this case an unreleased song titled "For Us to Decide." It was arranged by Koji Makaino, who had composed all the music and theme songs for Xabungle, with lyrics by Masao Urino. This was also the debut of vocalist Hiroko Moriguchi, who recounts the process in a 2021 Japanese-language interview with Bunshun Online:
When I appeared on an NHK music program called Kachinuki Kayou Tengoku, someone from a record company got in touch and asked whether I'd like to audition for a Gundam theme song. When I auditioned, I was scouted by a director from King Records who said my voice was really good, and things happened quickly after that. I auditioned in May, we recorded in June, I moved to Tokyo in July and made my debut in August. It all went by so fast that at first I thought it must have been a trick. (laughs)
—That must have been a tight schedule.
Yes. I recorded it while I was still going to high school in Fukuoka. Even now, I remember how during the recording the director said "You don't need to think about singing the song well. I want you to sing the words carefully, and pay attention to the endings of words. It's a song you'll be able to sing even after you become an adult, and for decades afterwards." When he asked if I understood what the title meant by "the planet of water," I was in such a state that I replied "Mercury?" and he told me very nicely that it was Earth. He passed away in his forties, but I still think of him every time I sing this song.
In an interview in Z Gundam Historica 06, Moriguchi mentions that Tomino made another visit to New York to discuss this second opening with Neil Sedaka:
The other day, when we were making a pamphlet for my 20th debut anniversary concert, my mother, who keeps a scrapbook from various magazines, showed me a special feature article from the time of Z. [...] According to this article, Mr. Oba and Director Tomino went to New York and spent hours in a Gundam meeting with Mr. Neil Sedaka. Mr. Oba said, "Once Neil Sedaka had fully grasped Gundam's worldview, he created a composition with this sense of scale."
The new opening animation revisits many of the images from the previous one, with some subtle shifts that reflect the darkening tone of the story.
Scenes from the second opening, "Mizu no Hoshi e Ai wo Komete." It begins where the previous one ended, reusing the same Gundam Mk-II animation with updated backgrounds and explosion effects.
The Zeta Gundam is now revealed in all its transforming glory.
The imagery of Char and Kamille is now darker, in some cases literally.
The other characters also receive makeovers in the distinctive style of animator Yasuomi Umetsu.
As Z Gundam entered its second half, a few new characters were added to the cast, and some heroes and villains received new looks. A more elaborate "formal uniform" for the enemy Titans had been introduced at the end of the first cours, and Jerid and Scirocco were now updated accordingly.
Among the new additions were the hyper-aggressive Titans pilot Yazan Gable, whose design was modeled on the rock star Sting, and a pair of orphan children named Shinta and Qum whom Char inexplicably brings back from an ill-fated trip to Earth.
Though Yasuhiko's model sheets are undated, most of the mechanical designs for the corresponding episodes were completed between May and July of 1985, so these were probably drawn in the spring and summer of that year.
Titans formal uniforms (episode 13), new costumes for Scirocco, Jerid, and Fa (episode 21), new Katz uniform (episode 22) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.
Character setting art for Mouar Pharaoh (episodes 12 and 21), Sarah Zabiarov (episode 21), Yazan Gable (episode 24), and Shinta & Qum (episode 27) by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.
With the onscreen debut of the Zeta Gundam, the second half of the series began showcasing an ever-wider range of flamboyant mobile suit designs. In an interview in The Anime's "Mobile Suit Z Gundam Part 2," mechanical designer Kazumi Fujita describes the Gabthley, which debuted alongside the Zeta Gundam in episode 21, as a personal breakthrough:
At the time of the initial Mk-II, I wasn't sure what to do, but with the Hyaku-Shiki and Marasai I had a little more leeway. I started playing around with the Messala, and then I suddenly leveled up with the Gabthley.
In the first half, I had a lot of work adapting and finishing roughs by other designers. Frankly, it was annoying and depressing that they weren't completely original. Self-deprecatingly, I worried that I was just a cleanup man. But as I found ways to get my own stuff out there as well, I started feeling better about it. At the beginning, I was still an amateur in some respects. But when I started playing with the Gabthley, conversely, I began to accept that "This is my job!"
—Was the design challenging at that turning point?
No, not really. With the Gabthley, I was looking at a fashion magazine, and I saw a photo of a widely flared skirt. I said "That's an interesting box," and I kept in my sketchbook. Then, when I was drawing a rough of the Gabthley for a presentation, I drew it without thinking about the logic of mobile suits and so forth. I only did one more revision after that, so it was easy to create.
Previously, I'd started out with logic, saying "This part's like this, so I have to do it like that." But this time I put all that aside and just drew as I felt, so I designed it purely to my own taste, and it was amazing! It suddenly clicked. Since it was meant for Jerid, I drew the forehead like a pompadour. I don't know about the front view of the face, though.
Though other designers were involved with many of the mobile suits featured in the second half of the series, Fujita describes the Gabthley, Palace Athene, and Dijeh as his own complete originals. The Psycho Gundam Mk-II, based on Katsushi Murakami's original design, was also radically updated by Fujita.
Gabthley sketch and final setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Final setting art is dated May 17 and 21, 1985.
Palace Athene setting art, full armor equipment sketch, and final setting art by Kazumi Fujita. First glimpsed in episode 28, this machine reappears with its full armament at the end of the series.
Initial setting art is dated July 22, 1985. Full armor sketch and final setting are dated September 12 and 24.
Dijeh early designs, and final setting art by Kazumi Fujita. This machine was originally intended for use by the Zeon remnants returning from the asteroid belt, but was repurposed for the hero Amuro Ray.
Final setting art is dated August 31, 1985.
Psycho Gundam Mk-II setting art by Kazumi Fujita. This was Fujita's final creation for the series.
Final setting art is dated October 12~15, October 16, and November 9, 1985.
Other machines in these later episodes were refined by Fujita based on ideas and rough designs by other creators. Among them was Masahiro Oda, who had played a key role in developing the Mobile Suit Variation series and was now a regular contributor to Model Graphix magazine. In the January 1986 issue of Model Graphix, Oda describes his role in the creation of the G-Defenser, a power-up mecha for the Gundam Mk-II:
After the Zeta showed up, there were a lot of people who thought the Mk-II's equipment would be inadequate. So around April or May of this year, I suggested giving the Mk-II additional armament. What I came up with was a G-Armor you could wear while walking. It was designed to be a fighter-attacker on its own, as well as a transport craft wrapped around the Mk-II, and the system folded up so the Mk-II could fight in mobile suit mode while wearing it. I think I drew about four drafts and then handed it over to Mr. Fujita, who turned it into the G-Defenser. All I was thinking about was ensuring it wouldn't be too big when turned into a model, but in the end Mr. Fujita made it look really cool.
The mid-series replacement of the main robot was a tradition that had been followed by every Tomino robot show since Xabungle, but not all of them had been fortunate enough to get an upgrade in the process.
G-Defenser rough design by Masahiro Oda, final G-Flyer and "Super Gundam" setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Oda's rough is dated May 1985. Final setting art is dated June 15, 1985.
Another source of ideas was a group of college students who called themselves "Viscial Design." In a 2022 Japanese-language interview on the Sunrise World website, former member Takanori Tsukada recalls:
Viscial Design was a group with five members including myself, created to make things like SF mecha designs, stories, and illustrations. We didn't have any kind of company organization, and it was purely a gathering of friends. We were originally making on SF dōjinshi, and about 30 years ago, we were exhibiting at Comiket to distribute a dōjinshi we'd made focusing on Sunrise works. Incidentally, we weren't yet calling ourselves Viscial Design at this point. Mr. Koichi Inoue, who belonged to the Sunrise planning office back then, randomly came by our booth in the Comiket hall. He talked to our leader Mr. Shigeru Horiguchi, who later joined Sunrise along with me, and said "If you like, why not come and work for us?" Our relationship with Sunrise began with that invitation.
—Mr. Inoue was also searching for new talent, right?
He wasn't talking to all five of us at the time, so only Mr. Horiguchi went to talk to him at the Sunrise planning office. Then he reported back to the other members. The rest of them were already living in Tokyo, but back then, I was the only one still in the countryside. Then Mr. Inoue told us "We're doing this kind of work right now, so draw me something." He was talking about a mobile armor competition for Mobile Suit Z Gundam.
This came to me via Mr. Horiguchi, then I did some drawings and sent them in, and I'd hear back about them later... that's how I was working. By the way, at the time I drew something like a rough draft of the Methuss's mobile armor form, but later on when I visited Tokyo and saw the completed design, I found it had turned into a completely different transformable mobile suit. I said "Huh? Didn't you ask for a mobile armor?" and I was shocked to hear "We decided it would be better if it transformed into a mobile suit, so it became the Methuss." (laughs)
—So that was your first job for Sunrise.
That's right. Around that time, the other members were drawing base designs and rough drafts for the Byarlant and Dijeh. Mr. Kazumi Fujita and other designers cleaned them up and used them as designs in the story. Our job was to serve as idea-generating brains, and what we were doing was drawing lots and lots of roughs. After we handed over our rough drafts to Mr. Inoue, they were checked by Mr. Kenji Uchida, the producer of Z Gundam, and the ones he accepted were cleaned up by the people responsible for mecha design. That's why the things we drew were never returned with comments like "Please fix this part," and later on we were surprised when the Byarlant unexpectedly showed up in the story. (laughs)
While Tsukada claims here that Viscial Design did the base design for the Dijeh, Fujita describes it as completely his own creation in The Anime's "Mobile Suit Z Gundam Part 2." Meanwhile, in an interview for the now-defunct "Gundam Officials" website, former member Shigeru Horiguchi said that he drew roughs for the Methuss and Barzam.
Viscial Design subsequently contributed design ideas for Gundam ZZ and Char's Counterattack, and played a role in the planning of Blue Comet SPT Layzner and Dragonar. Though the group disbanded when its members graduated from college, Tsukada and Horiguchi were hired by Sunrise and went on to distinguish themselves as planners and producers.
Methuss final setting art credited to "Studio Kemu," based on concept by Viscial Design.
Barzam final setting art by Hideo Okamato of Shindosha.
Front view is dated July 31, 1985. Foot and weapon details are dated August 9.
Byarlant early designs, and final setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Leftmost rough by Viscial Design is dated July 3, 1985. Final setting art is dated September 6~13.
Though Mamoru Nagano had already left the production, Tomino also requested some extra designs from him after the start of the broadcast run, and Nagano obliged by refining some rough concepts he had created earlier in the series development. In Z Gundam Ace 001, Nagano recalls:
I'd already been away from Z Gundam for about half a year, but the producer Mr. Uchida came to me and said, "We have a lot of designs now, but we're having some trouble. Mr. Tomino says he'd like you to try one more time, so would you care to participate?" He said I should just do whatever I wanted, so for the time being I drew the Hambrabi and Qubeley. I think I must have finished the designs in a day or two. They're really terrible designs.
—Did you have any new orders from Mr. Tomino when you drew those two?
Nothing in particular, aside from "We'd like you to design enemy mobile suits." They just told me to draw them any way I liked. While the Galbaldy Beta and Rick Dias also reflected Mr. Tomino's intentions, he didn't have any input into the Hambrabi and Qubeley. They said they'd unconditionally use the designs I created, with absolutely no orders at all.
While he was at it, Nagano also created a new costume design for the Titans pilot Yazan Gable.
Qubeley early design and final setting art by Mamoru Nagano. According to Z Gundam Ace 001, this was based on Nagano's rough design for the Marasai.
Early design is dated April 26, 1985.
Hambrabi setting art by Mamoru Nagano. This was based on the Klux, Nagano's rough design for the Messala. Though "Gundam Wars: Project Z" claims it was originally intended as a design for the Methuss, Nagano's own comments seem to contradict this.
Final setting art is dated May 18, 1985.
New Yazan costume by Mamoru Nagano, introduced in episode 32. In the final setting art, character designer Yoshikazu Yasuhiko replaced Nagano's head drawings with his own versions.
As well as contributing to the development of the Methuss, Makoto Kobayashi provided rough designs for the clawed Gaza-C and Baund Doc, which incorporated some of the monstrous character of the mobile armors from the original series. In B-Club Vol.3, Kobayashi recalls the creation of the Baund Doc as follows:
There was a previous mecha called "Gampf" that I'd invented for a Bandai original project, and even gone as far as making a wooden model. This is the result of making it transformable. I'd originally imagined it changing from a mobile suit to a Grublo-like underwater armor, but since I didn't explain that, it ended up as a mecha that Rosamia Badam flew around in space. Right at that time, I was working on a regional expo for Fujitsu, and my room was a mess of putty scraps and dyes. But I think I drew it well. I remember that when Producer Uchida came to collect the design, he picked it up at the front door, saying "If I come inside, I'll die."
Kobayashi also did the rough design for The-O, the Zeta Gundam's final adversary. This too is discussed in B-Club Vol.3:
This was something I drew when they told me "We'd like you to design two mobile suits, with no need for transformations or special orders." I believe the design they didn't use was a Zaku with long skirts and a German army helmet.
Before The-O, I'd been drawing something with the thought that it would produce a good form if if I used the tail of a Porsche 928 as part of a robot. And I also thought it should hover like a Dom... but again, I forgot to mention it, so now I'm worried about how it will be used in the animation. The long tail stabilizer system and hidden arms weren't my idea, but I think they're great. I'll be happy if they make it look cool enough to give the Zeta Gundam a hard fight.
According to his interview in The Anime's "Mobile Suit Z Gundam Part 2," this steady flow of radical new designs also had a liberating effect on main mechanical designer Kazumi Fujita.
After the Methuss and Gaza-C, the constraints on my own Z designs have disappeared. "If this design got through," I think, "I can pretty much do as I like." But creators should have a conscience, and I took care not to confuse the children watching on TV.
Gaza-C final setting art by Yoshinori Sayama, based on concept by Makoto Kobayashi.
Baund Doc early design by Makoto Kobayashi, final setting art by Koichi Ohata. According to B-Club Vol.3, Kobyashi submitted his designs for the Baund Doc and Gaza-C around May 1985.
The-O sketches by various artists, early design by Makoto Kobayashi, final setting art by Yoshinori Sayama. According to this Twitter post from Kobayashi, the setting art was created by Sayama because Fujita had already left the production at that point.
By the time Z Gundam reached its halfway point, it was clear the series was a success, and planning began for an immediate continuation. In the first half of October 1985, Tomino completed a proposal for "Z Gundam Part 2." The Zeon remnants led by Haman Karn, who had just made their long-awaited debut in episode 32, "Mysterious Mobile Suits"—broadcast on October 12, 1985—would be the enemy in the new story.
It remains unclear exactly how much the decision to continue the story affected the ending of Z Gundam. In Animedia's Z Gundam Complete Record, we're told:
If Z hadn't been continued, the plan was that the final episode wouldn't end so tragically, but would be something lighter and close to a happy ending. We have Mr. Takamatsu's testimony that Director Tomino was talking about such a thing. According to him, in the first draft of the script Ms. Emma wasn't going to die, and it's possible that Ms. Sayla might have shown up as well. In that case, perhaps things could even have worked out for Emma and Henken. However, Kamille had to be retired because of ZZ, and the cast was drastically cut. Does that mean it was actually Judau who drove Kamille mad?
In any event, production of the followup series hastily commenced. Following an open competition, Mamoru Nagano was selected as mechanical designer, and two of his new spaceship designs made guest appearances in the final episodes of Z Gundam.
Some new elements from the end of Z Gundam that would play important roles in later works. Mineva Zabi setting art by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, La Vie en Rose and (I think) Gryps 2 setting art by Kazumi Fujita, Axis rough sketch by Yoshiyuki Tomino.
La Vie en Rose is dated September 4, 1985. Axis sketch is dated September 24.
Z Gundam Part 2 proposal by Yoshiyuki Tomino, Gwanban and Endra setting art by Mamoru Nagano.
Proposal document is dated October 15, 1985.
The serialization of Z Gundam ended with the broadcast of episode 50, "Riders in the Skies," on February 22, 1986. The following week would see the debut of a new series titled Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ. But that, as they say, is a story for another day...
Mobile Suit Gundam is copyright © Sotsu • Sunrise. Everything else on this site, and all original text and pictures, are copyright Mark Simmons.