Translator's Note: Z Gundam Historica was a thirteen-volume "official file magazine" published by Kodansha between May 2005 and March 2006, to accompany the release of the Z Gundam: A New Translation movies. As well as story information on the original TV series and the movie adaptation, these books included interviews with many members of the staff and cast. I've translated a few of the most interesting ones below.
The following text is copyright © Sotsu • Sunrise.
In this corner, we ask staff from the time about secrets surrounding the birth of the TV series Mobile Suit Z Gundam and their feelings about the work.
This time, we talked to Mr. Akinori Endo, who was responsible for scriptwriting. We later came to understand that Mr. Endo actually played an important role in the theatrical edition of Z Gundam.
When I was in college, I was selected for a certain scriptwriting prize, and thanks to an introduction by one of the teachers who judged it, I got a part-time job at the Nikkatsu film studio. One of the producers I met there was friends with Producer (Masuo) Ueda of Surise (then Nippon Sunrise), who was in the middle of planning Super Robot Galatt. Through that connection, I was brought in as the lowest-ranking writer. Galatt ended after half a year, but I heard that the Gundam sequel Z Gundam was looking for writers, and Producer (Kenji) Uchida gave me an interview. I was then put in charge of "Hong Kong City" (episode 17).
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.
The dialogue was partial. It might be included, or it might not.
That was case-by-case, since a lot of the time the setting didn't exist yet. For example, when new mobile suits appeared, there was almost no detailed setting or explanation. When I asked what the Psycho Gundam was like, all they could tell me was, "It's a big Gundam." (laughs)
That was also case-by-case, of course. I got scolded the most during "Cinderella Four" (episode 19), which I did after "Hong Kong City." He was really critical of the first draft. But in the end, he said "Okay, you can write." Thinking about it now, he's really good at praising, or rather, at scolding you. (laughs)
In short, he thought the content was boring. "This won't do," he said. "It's wrong on a fundamental level."
That time, I felt like I wrote it in my own way at the last minute. Afterwards, I asked Mr. (Shinji) Takamatsu, who was the setting manager at the time, "What did the director say?" He replied, "He said that it's okay, since you're writing as hard as you can." Oh, I see. (laughs) I handed in the second draft, and that was the end of it. So I started to wonder, "Am I fired?" (laughs)
It's more the episodes themselves, not than the characters, that I get attached to. And rather than the characters themselves, I feel like I focus on the situations and drama they're involved in.
Director Tomino said he wasn't going to make an overall structure. He could have summarized the whole thing as a work, but that wouldn't be interesting. We'd have ended up making it rigidly, based on logic, and that way of working wouldn't have been any fun.
I don't think it was planned from the beginning. It probably happened when we were coming to the end.
I guess so... ZZ had also been decided, but I don't think what happened to Kamille was related to that. It was only Emma who was really affected by it. It seems she was written out because she had the same voice actor as Leina Ashta, who was going to appear in ZZ. I don't know whether or not he was joking, but that's what Director Tomino said. As for Kamille, I think that might been decided when he wrote the liner notes. At that point, he wasn't reckoning on the possibility that Kamille might show up again in ZZ.
I wasn't especially conscious of it as a writer, but I think Director Tomino was, hence the previous business with Emma. He was probably thinking about handing over the Argama, and that Yazan would reappear like that. Yazan is a character I created, but that idea came from Director Tomino. Of course, it was fun to have him show up, and the episode directors played with him in various ways. (laughs)
On ZZ, Judau's sister Leina died in the director's original plot. I timidly said, "That's going too far. Please do something about it." Somewhat unhappily, Director Tomino replied, "I understand," and he made a revision (to the liner notes). When he did that he wrote in big letters, "And then, thanks to the staff, Leina comes back to life." (laughs)
We hadn't imagined it at that point. But I think it's really great that she and Sayla get together.
My favorite is "Cinderella Four." It's not just because I wrote it, but I think it's really good in every respect. You could say episodes like that created Four's popularity, and made her the kind of character she became. After that, I feel it was a process of trial and error, and nothing was entirely satisfactory. I think now I could write in a far more interesting way. I feel Director Tomino covered for my inexperience as a writer.
I don't remember much about that. I created a structure eight or nine years ago, at the request of a Sunrise producer. I showed it once to Director Tomino, but at the time we only got as far as him giving me criticisms and corrections.
When I was doing mine, I began by figuring out how to broadly divide it into three parts. The story wasn't detailed enough that you could go right ahead and make a compilation.
Back then, there was no time for looking back like that. But recently, now that the movies have been decided and the magazines are paying attention to it again, I've come to feel that it really was a great work.
I had a lot of doubts, and there were times when I lost my way. I still have doubts now, and it's a time when I'm thinking about resetting myself once again and moving forward, but Z Gundam is one of the things that made me think that. (1) I'm watching it again after 20 years. Now that I've changed once more, I think I'd be really happy if I encountered this kind of work again. In that case, I think I could create something really good, without working as feverishly as I did back then.
After this interview, Mr. Endo sent us a proposal he composed for a movie version of Z, dated May 8, 1998. Indeed, the first part had the tentative title "Heirs to the Stars," the second part was called "Lovers," and the third part was called "Mitsudomoe". (2) Mr. Endo included the following comment.
This surprised me since I didn't remember it at all. It made me keenly aware how unreliable human memory is. When I saw the subtitle for the next movie, "Lovers," in the theater, I remember thinking, "It's appropriate for the contents, but it's not Mr. Tomino's naming style. Who the heck came up with that?" And now I have to laugh.
(1) Soon after this interview, Endo returned to anime, with series structure and scriptwriting credits on the 2007 animated version of Moonlight Mile. It's possible that this is what he means by "resetting myself."
(2) A mitsudomoe (三つ巴) is a heraldic symbol made up of three swirling comma shapes, similar to the Western triskelion. Metaphorically, it means a three-sided battle or a romantic threesome, but I think choosing a specific translation would involve a certain loss of nuance.
As the first filmed sequel to inherit the Universal Century worldview, Mobile Suit Z Gundam required the management of a huge amount of setting, including mecha, characters, and locations. The setting manager, Mr. Shinji Takamatsu, served as a pipeline among the staff, and later directed works such as After War Gundam X. This time, we asked him what was happening behind the scenes at the time of broadcast.
Looking at the name alone, many people mistakenly think it's a creative job. You could say it's a setting-related production assistant.
In the case of Z, Director Tomino did the series structure, but after that I ordered scripts and was present during the script meetings. When the scripts were done, I met with the director and the storyboard artists, and during those meetings I figured out which parts required setting and put them on a list. I explained the background art to the art director, and character and mecha setting to the appropriate designers, placing orders according to the schedule. Then I collected their completed work and took it back to the animation workplace. That was the work flow.
It wasn't a creative job where I myself was creating setting, but it was a role that required a complete grasp of a huge amount of setting, so it was very difficult.
Originally I'd aspired to be an episode director, but two years before Z, during Armored Trooper Votoms, I started working at Sunrise as a production assistant. I was assigned to Studio 1, and stayed there for some time. On the first floor, Studio 1 was working on Director Ryosuke Takahashi's series, and on the second floor, Studio 2 was doing those of Director Yoshiyuki Tomino. After that, they had me help with Round Vernian Vifam, and I was a production assistant on Panzer World Galient. Towards the end of that, at the end of 1984 or January of the following year, Producer (now Managing Director) Kenji Uchida invited me to transfer to Studio 2.
The first thing I participated in was the animation meeting for episode 1. At that point, they were going to be on the air in a few weeks, so I didn't participate in pre-production (the work prior to photography). My predecessor, Mr. Nobuaki Yoshimura, had continued on from the previous program Heavy Metal L-Gaim and was managing the setting for Z, but they called me in when he left due to illness. Thinking about it now, I wonder why they didn't send in someone else from Studio 2.
For that reason, I joined in the middle, and by the time I'd transferred to Studio 2 they'd already created a huge amount of setting art. So it was a tough start. I couldn't place orders or explain things to the designers and other staff members if I didn't understand them myself. In the second half the staff expanded, and I had to keep track of who I'd ordered what from and when it was due. So I was always in a hard-pressed state.
Yes, and I rewatched the entire old series on video. There was also a seven-year gap before Z, and at the time there was no precise official material to fill it. Instead, there was a variety of original setting such as MSV and the side stories the magazines came up with, as well as the Z world that Director Tomino was independently imagining. It was hard work reconciling all of these.
First of all, there were memos by Director Tomino with synopses of each episode. We'd have script meetings based on these, and figure it out based on the resulting final draft. There were some things that didn't come up until the final draft. But there were also elements such as Axis that foreshadowed things that would appear in the second half. Though they were probably clear in Director Tomino's conception, at that stage many of them were indistinct to me. Nonetheless, I had to communicate that to the workplace. That was really hard.
It seems that Director Tomino had some clear images of things like a giant evil Gundam. (laughs) The episode where the Psycho Gundam appeared was a turning point, and having a big Gundam show up, along with the drama of Four's story, got the staff on site all fired up to create it as they focused on the presentation techniques and angles.
In terms of mecha, I started placing orders around episode 10, when the story setting had shifted to the Moon. That was around when new machines like the Nemo and Hyaku-Shiki appeared, and the Rick Dias turned red. (1)
No, the Hyaku-Shiki was originally a design for the Zeta Gundam drawn by Mr. Mamoru Nagano, but I recall that at first it was painted red. However, Director Tomino told us that "Char isn't red anymore." He may have already written in his novels that the Hyaku-Shiki was golden, but I think that's how it went on site.
Speaking of which, by the first episode there were already about 50 pieces of background art setting. I wondered, "Why so many?!" But most of it was never used again in the following episodes. The setting for the colony neighborhood where Kamille was living, the airport, the school... They made all of this, and then it was only used up through episode 2. (laughs) But they still hadn't finished the setting for the Argama's interiors, so it was something of a critical situation. (wry laughter)
No, I wasn't one of the brains, so I wasn't in a position to hold forth in the workplace. But after meetings, I often had to take questions from the designers and writers in Director Tomino's place, and explain things by saying "I think it's something like this." They felt like they couldn't ask Director Tomino about every trivial little thing, so everyone came to ask me instead. (laughs)
In Studio 2, Mr. Toshifumi Kawase went from setting to episode direction, and Mr. Kunihisa Sugishima who did setting on L-Gaim did the same thing, so there were precedents. It didn't always work like that, but it felt like it might be easy to get a chance to become a director. In that sense, the fact that I kept saying "I'd like to be an episode director" might have been the reason Producer Uchida brought me in to handle setting for Studio 2.
I'd never worked as an assistant episode director, but since I'd been able to witness the creative parts, I'd seen how you ran a meeting about scripts, and what kinds of conversations Director Tomino had with the storyboard artists when he ordered storyboards. So I'd learned a lot.
That's right. I learned a tremendous amount in that year, and I'm grateful they gave me this job.
Yes. That was always a secret, but it recently became public. (laughs) There happened to be a gap in the staffing for that episode, so I volunteered and they let me do it. Z was the work that let me debut as an episode director, so it's deeply memorable in that sense as well.
Hm, I'd be lying if I said it didn't. Perhaps you could say that I made something like Gundam X because I was raised on a slapdash Gundam. (laughs) But the truth is, Z was a major work to me, and it's had a big influence on me ever since.
To be honest, I still haven't seen it. I'm afraid that if I look back on it, I'll end up remembering a lot of things I've tried to forget. (burst of laughter) But I want to see it eventually, and I think I really have to. Perhaps I'll watch it when all three parts are out.
To me, it's a work in which I invested tremendous energy in my youth, so I have powerful memories of it. I and the rest of the staff were all in our late twenties, and we created it with the recklessness of youth. I hope you can feel the excitement of that workplace.
(1) Initially, only Char's Rick Dias is red. It isn't until episode 9 of Z Gundam that this becomes the standard color for the mass-produced version as well.
It's well known that Mr. Mamoru Nagano of Five Star Stories designed the Hyaku-Shiki, Rick Dias, Qubeley, and so forth. This time, we talked to Mr. Nagano about Z Gundam.
That's right. 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, the two of us were always talking about it. Because Mr. Yoshikazu Yasuhiko was doing the characters, he asked me to devote myself to design and create images for all the other visuals.
A little later, Mr. 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, or rather from Z onward, was completely my creation. The concept was mobile suits with movable frames and complex joints, and the designs by Mr. Kazumi Fujita and others were all made according to that format. That's why I was credited with "Design Works."
At first, the staff side was working with the idea of making a completely renewed Gundam, without being bound by the old series. But of course the people around them couldn't accept that, and expressed opinions like "Nagano's designs are too difficult." That's why the Gundam Mk-II and Hizack, which resembled the old series, were created.
Even now, a lot of people say they want to make their own Gundam. However, from the beginning Gundam belonged to Mr. Tomino, and if Mr. Tomino gives the OK by saying "This is a mobile suit," then I think it must be fine. Anyway, Mr. Tomino and I were somewhat dissatisfied, and finally we thought we'd make one more bold move in the form of the Qubeley and Hambrabi. (wry laughter)
My rough sketches of the Gundam Mk-II and Hyaku-Shiki were refined by other people, but in my own designs there's no such thing as "a revision suggested by someone else." (laughs) If you tell me "Fix this," for example, because you don't like this part of the Rick Dias's arm, I'm going to smile and say "I understand," and then pop up with a completely different design. That's just the kind of person I am. (laughs)
If even one part is no good, it's 100% no good. Mr. Tomino understands that, too. That's the kind of relationship we have. Looking at it superficially, you might think that it's merely a relationship of mutual trust or that we're connected by our likes and dislikes, but that's not it. I don't mean to be mysterious, but whether or not you understand the significance of designing without any "revisions suggested by someone else," it's that one point that connects Mr. Tomino and me.
It was like that with Brain Powerd as well. Mr. Tomino said that "anything Mr. Nagano turns in will be fine," and whatever Mr. Tomino said, I did. On the other hand, we often got angry with each other and even came to blows, and sometimes Mr. Tomino's wife had to intervene. The truth is, that's what it's like when you're creating something.
I drew the original for Yazan Gable's model sheet. (1) I drew an outfit for Yazan, and Mr. Yasuhiko was so amused that he simply redrew the head. (laughs) From the neck down it's my design, but from the neck up it's Mr. Yasuhiko. We did some fun things like that. It was the kind of generosity you don't see anymore. The company wasn't compartmentalized.
During L-Gaim as well, as long as I was available, it felt like I could help out at any of the studios on the directions of the planning office. "Yesterday I was at Studio 1, and today I'm at Studio 4?" (laughs) The staff weren't as specialized as they are now. The voice actors came to the studio as well, and we'd all go to the wrap parties together.
Gundam is full of gaps in which fans can create "my own Gundam." That's why Gundam has continued to this day. But putting that aside, it's good as a creative work. The fact that the theatrical edition of Z is attracting 600,000 viewers is also an accumulation of what Gundam has achieved since Z. During First Gundam I was in the position of a receiver, and in Z I was a sender, so there are things I know because I've experienced them in life and because I was there on the scene.
Meanwhile, there are now young people enjoying Z games at game centers, and saying things like "Mr. Nagano made this!" "Oh, really?" I think that's fine, if you accept it at face value. It's nice that this lets you judge for yourself whether it's interesting or not.
(1) Nagano's comment makes it sound like he did the original design for the character, rather than just a model sheet depicting a new costume, but I think the Japanese phrasing is vague enough to be interpreted either way.
Mr. Hiroyuki Kitazume was an animation director on the TV version of Mobile Suit Z Gundam, and went on to do character design as well on Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ and Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack. At present, he is creating the manga C.D.A. Portrait of a Young Comet. We asked Mr. Kitazume for key points on the animation and his memories of the TV series.
Yes. After watching First Gundam, I decided to become an animator and entered a vocational school. But as a student, I was strongly influenced by older Toei Animation anime like Mr. Hayao Miyazaki's Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun. Toei Animation wasn't taking applications from newcomers, so when I saw Mr. Tomonori Kogawa's character sheets for Combat Mecha Xabungle published in the magazines, I thought I definitely wanted to work on that animation. At the time, Studio Bebow (a key art and animation studio founded by Mr. Tomonori Kogawa) didn't have any positions for newcomers either, but I asked them and they hired me anyway.
Right. At the time, it felt like the Bebow drawing style was the product of mutual influence, with Mr. Kogawa at the core. So Mr. Onda's new artwork for Z also feels satisfying to me.
Yes, it was completely different. Gundam has a special position among Director Tomino's works. It's surely the realistic drama that makes Gundam what it is, so I think the performances shouldn't be anime-style movement, and should have an awareness of human beings. Director Tomino didn't give us any instructions about things like character expressions, but he often said that it wasn't enough for us to simply draw according to the stage directions written in the storyboards.
When I was a student, I was extremely fond of Mr. Yasuhiko's drawings, and I used to imitate them. But after two and a half years at Bebow, naturally I'd been influenced by Mr. Kogawa, so I could no longer mimic Mr. Yasuhiko's drawings as well as I did in college. I thought that if I tried to force myself to imitate him even though I couldn't draw that way, it would have killed the performance and the drawing. So I decided I just had to draw as well as I could at the time, and try to smoothly combine Mr. Yashiko's drawing style with the techniques I'd learned at Bebow.
I guess so. I thought Four was going to be popular. They say that a normal anime has about 3,000 to 3,500 drawings, but that wasn't enough for a work like Z, so we'd do more than 4,000. Our initial assumption was normally that the overall tone should be "Please try to be restrained," but depending on the situation, we'd say "This is an important scene, so don't worry about the number of drawings."
Yes. 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.
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.
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." In his interview in volume 7, Mr. Toshifumi Kawase said that "They let me experiment," and I think that's what it was like.
Yes. At the stage when you're drawing with a pencil on paper, anime just consists of individual two-dimensional drawings. When it's completed as a continuous film, that adds the element of time and the flow of performance. That's a whole different dimension. So, no matter how carefully you in-between your animation from sheet to sheet, it won't necessarily look good when it's filmed. On the other hand, even if the sheet-to-sheet animation is poor, sometimes it looks well-made when it's filmed. That's why, when the work was done, I always looked forward to seeing the rush films.
With the addition of color, backgrounds, music, and the actors' voices, your drawings come to life. Because they're reborn as something different from the work you did at your desk, there were surprises every single time. But manga is black and white, and what's printed is exactly what you drew at your desk. So once it's in a book, you're never going to say, "Wow, it's turned into something really well-made!" (wry laughter) In that sense, I feel I'm still not tired of animation work.
No. When I was first asked to do a Z manga, I thought that, if possible, I'd like to try drawing the undepicted parts from my own imagination. So I asked whether I could depict Char's past. I was about 26 or 27 when I was involved with Char's Counterattack, so when I was animating a Char who was in this thirties, I didn't find his behavior convincing. But watching it after some time had passed, I was surprised by how realistic Director Tomino's character construction actually was.
It makes sense to me now that a single person can't live their whole life with the brash feelings of youth. There will be twists and turns, and their thinking will change. So now, in my own way, I have a more realistic understanding of Char's character, and that things might have been like this or happened like that in the time of Z as well.
Well then. When I was born, something from 20 years ago would feel really ancient, but nowadays it probably wouldn't seem that old. I think that's the result of a revolutionary change that began with Gundam, thanks to the craftsmanship of Director Tomino, and it will continue to shine despite the passage of time. Superficially, I guess the animation may look old now, but the Gundam worldview itself is unchanged and is still relevant to the present day.
These days, the single word "Gundam" encompasses a variety of items, so there are also many ways of enjoying it. Gundam has already been established as a cultural genre, so I think it's fine to enjoy it in whatever field you like.
Mobile Suit Gundam is copyright © Sotsu • Sunrise. Everything else on this site, and all original text and pictures, are copyright Mark Simmons.