Translator's Note: These interviews and comments from some of Z Gundam's main creators appeared in the laser disc Mobile Suit Z Gundam Memorial Box Part 1, released in February 1994.
The interview with Yoshiyuki Tomino and Hideaki Anno, recorded in November 1993, makes for an interesting comparison with their conversation in the July 1994 issue of "Animage" magazine. You can find a translation of that interview on the Wave Motion Cannon website.
For more context on Tomino's ideas about autism, I'd recommend this discussion on the Mobile Suit Breakdown podcast.
YOSHIYUKI TOMINO PROFILE
Born November 5, 1941, in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. After graduating from the cinema department of Nihon University's College of Art, he joined Osamu Tezuka's Mushi Production in 1964. He debuted as an episode director on several episodes of Mighty Atom. After leaving the company in 1967, he served as a freelance director on works like Triton of the Sea, Brave Raideen, Super Machine Zambot 3, and The Unchallengeable Daitarn 3. As chief director of 1979's Mobile Suit Gundam, he became a leading director of the anime world. He is also active as a novelist.
HIDEAKI ANNO PROFILE
Born May 22, 1960, in Yamaguchi Prefecture. A graduate of Osaka University of Arts. He worked as an animator on works such as Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and Royal Space Force, and directed Aim for the Top! GunBuster and Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. As a director, he has high regard for Director Tomino.
"At the time, I was enthralled by the woman who became the model for Kamille."
Anno: The planning of Z Gundam started a year before the broadcast, that is, around February of '84. That was around the final episode of Aura Battler Dunbine, and just before the first episode of Heavy Metal L-Gaim, which began in March. The preparations started at a much earlier stage than the usual TV anime. Why was that?
Tomino: Z Gundam began directly after L-Gaim, right? With L-Gaim, we inserted a special episode to introduce the program, but we didn't have that with Z Gundam. There wasn't even a single week's gap. I can't believe we pulled it off. I've gotten old, and now I don't have that stamina and energy. It wouldn't have occurred to me just one year ago. But there's one important thing about that story.
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) As a person who wanted to do something new, fundamentally I hoped it would go well. But once a few of the L-Gaim scripts were done, I realized I'd built up the worldview more than I wanted, so maybe I'd have to go on to Gundam after all.
I started getting serious around February of '84. 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.
Anno: There was later a film about Camille Claudel, but at the time, nobody knew her name. She was a woman who spent half her life in mental hospitals. Kamille also has a mental breakdown in the final episode, so was that influenced by Claudel?
Tomino: Of course it was. At the time, I instinctively used someone like Claudel as a model in reaction to L-Gaim, but now I can explain it better. The position of her master Rodin in relation to Camille Claudel is also that of the Zeta Gundam to Kamille Bidan. (1) I think that construction is the easiest to grasp.
While the relationship between Claudel and Rodin was romantic, it seems that she actually created half of Rodin's works. But to the public, it seemed that Claudel's own works were made by Rodin, and so she broke down out of frustration. Rodin, on the other hand, went down in art history as a result. But thinking about him as a single human, there's no way that Rodin came into existence by himself. There must have been people like Claudel as well.
Likewise, Gundam can't be created only by the Gundam itself. (2) In short, the relationship between Claudel and Rodin is a sample that symbolically expresses the relationship between an object and the person it represents. That's why I was enthralled by Camille.
Anno: In your comments at the time, you said that "To me, young people today all seem like Kamille."
Tomino: That's how I felt. In Rodin's day, there must have been plenty of people who became depressed, and ended up in hospital as it worsened. But in modern times, there are some people for whom that can become customary. (3) Thanks to changes in value systems and lifestyles, you'll notice that what would once have been seen as nonconformism has now become customary in the situation of Tokyo.
My apologies for the rather confusing example, but to me, convenience-store onigiri don't taste like onigiri. But children today say they're delicious... Even the sense of taste, which seems immutable, has changed completely between 30 years ago and today. In the same way, things that once felt abnormal have crept into our sense of the ordinary. I don't know if that's good or bad.
When I was making Z Gundam, I felt there were many boys like Kamille, and as an old man I could't see that as a desirable phenomenon. I can say this because, to me, this work has become part of the past, but in the long run things that change as a matter of custom don't really matter. In the end, the important thing is that people's mentality is a product of the way they've been raised, and recently I've come to feel the aspects that change with customs don't matter very much.
Anno: Nowadays, the middle- and high-schoolers who watched Z Gundam are entering the workplace, right?
Tomino: I'm not conscious of it in the creative process, but my works certainly reflect their times. When I'm making a work, I feel it's controlled by my own tastes and intentions. But if you look at it from a seven- or eight-year distance, even at my lowest ebb, you can understand that "it's from that time." Even if I disavow or deny it, it's a reaction to its era, so that era remains in every part of the work. It's unfortunate, but it won't be a masterpiece, because a masterpiece is something timeless.
Anno: Üso, the protagonist of V Gundam which is currently on the air, is depicted as a very sincere child. (4) Has there been a change in your view of young people?
Tomino: It doesn't seem that different, does it? I think this whenever I make something, but I don't want to be pulled along by the times. Now that I've become an adult who is finished with raising children, I thought I'd depict the image of my ideal child... exactly the way I'd like children to be. Where children are concerned, the aspects in which I'd like them to resemble Üso are shown clearly in the work.
The problem is whether there's an environment now which could produce this kind of ideal child. If you ask me, we're in a world where a child like that could never be born, so there's no guarantee that Üso could become so independent. If V Gundam weren't a fantasy, Üso would end up dead in the final episode. But we're making a fantasy. Looking at it seven or eight years later, everyone will probably say "Tomino was depicting that point in time with V Gundam, after all." I can already imagine them saying "The bubble had burst, and he was trying to contrast this child Üso with the adult world that everyone had messed up, but in the end he couldn't reach any conclusions." (laughs)
I was able to depict Kamille because, at the time of Z Gundam, Japan was still in a dreamy state. People said "You can't have an ending like that in a robot show," and I could reply "Yeah, I know. That's why I did it. Shouldn't there be at least one work like that?" But I couldn't say that this year, or the next. The whole world is darkened by a continuing recession. If Kamille showed up now, it would be unbearable. (laughs) That's why Üso says "Keep on living, no matter what!"
Anno: Wow, V Gundam is good!
Tomino: To me, any consideration of serious matters through my works ended with Z Gundam. The reason I made Char's Counterattack was because, when the Z Gundam plan was decided, I realized "from here on, I'll probably have to do two or three series before I can settle things between Char and Amuro." That's why I withdrew Char in the middle of Z Gundam. (5)
Anno: It's not easy, is it? Recently, I watched all of Z Gundam again for the first time since the original broadcast. Now I have my own experience as a director, I've come to understand it, but it seemed pretty confusing. In particular, when Haman appeared in the second half, I wondered how things were ever going to be resolved.
Tomino: I guess they weren't. (laughs)
Anno: At the time, I couldn't understand the protagonist Kamille at all. Looking at it again, I vaguely understood him, saying "Oh, even though he's the protagonist, this person is in the role of a bystander." And what's more, you also have Scirocco watching from the sidelines, Char playing the part of Lieutenant Quattro, and Amuro ashamed of being pathetic for seven years. They're all in a state of confusion. (laughs) And meanwhile, Amuro and Char see their own past selves in Kamille. We often see depictions of the same mistakes being repeated, so were you trying to say "We can't help repeating our folly?"
Tomino: That wasn't clearly articulated, so those depictions aren't well organized and appear confusing. I'd like to say "They actually have this kind of hidden meaning, so you should think of them this way," but I'd be lying. (laughs) As for Kamille, that's correct in terms of his initial setting, but I had a problem. I didn't really understand the process of becoming autistic, in which introspective problems are repeatedly presented in the mind. (6)
When I was depicting Kamille, I couldn't follow that psychological process because I was trying to depict him by including characters who never should have entered the dramatic space, such as Char and Amuro. As a dramatist, I didn't understand the process of becoming autistic, and that's another reason he's hard to understand. I'm a TV creator, after all, so the artist's way of making things suits me better and I think I'm good at it. To me, Kamille Bidan was certainly a character who carried a heavy burden.
Anno: Maybe that burden was too heavy. I think the character of Four Murasame, on the other hand, worked very well. Where did she originate from?
Tomino: She's linked to Kamille's ongoing story. I wanted to depict Kamille as simply as Four, as just "an autistic kid." I only have a sensory recollection of Four now, but I really liked her. There's one thing I realize now, though. After I made Four, Kamille didn't work anymore. (laughs) I remember that he was absorbed by her.
Anno: In the end, the two of them have the same nature, right?
Tomino: Four's representation was supposed to be simple, but that wasn't the case. All the character creation modeled on Camille Claudel was concentrated in Four and Kamille. They became firm, fleshed-out characters. At the time, I was doing a novelization for Kodansha, and when I'd finished five volumes the editor said to me, "The parts with Four Murasame were a real highlight, so it's good." Back then, I was just happy to hear it, but on further reflection I had nothing after that. (laughs) In the end, that's all there was to Z Gundam. I remember being crestfallen that I'd written five volumes, when two would have been plenty.
That year, she won first place for female characters in Tokuma Shoten's Anime Grand Prix, even though she had few appearances. I hadn't reckoned on that. Both the fact that it was confusing, and the fact that Four worked so well, were completely unplanned. But after Four, Kamile fell apart.
Anno: It would be nice if that sort of thing happened more in animation. Before Four, Kamille was preoccupied by petty things. But afterwards, he's taken on the whole burden of Char's and Amuro's roles.
Tomino: Oh, that's sad, come to think of it.
Anno: And then, once Haman and Scirocco show up, he's carrying four people's burdens. From episode 20 onwards, Kamille suddenly becomes very busy.
Tomino: Ha ha ha! That's something I hadn't expected. I'm very sorry about that. I guess we can understand why, in the final episode, he feels like taking a little rest.
(November 26, 1993, in Kamiigusa)
(1) Because this is written as Ｚガンダム in the original text, rather than 「Ｚ」 in quotation brackets, I think Tomino is referring to the mobile suit here rather than the series title.
(2) Again, the use of quotation brackets in the original text seems to indicate a distinction between the series title and the mobile suit.
(3) The Japanese term 風俗 (fūzoku), which Tomino uses several times in this passage, means "manners," "customs," or "public morals."
(4) The Japanese term 素直な (sunao na) could be translated as either "docile and obedient" or "honest and plainspoken." I suppose the latter may be more appropriate for the character of Üso.
(5) The Japanese term 引っ込める (hikkomeru) means "retract," "draw in," or "pull out." Presumably Tomino is referring to the character's reduced role over the course of the series.
(6) No, I don't get this either.
YOSHIKAZU YASUHIKO PROFILE
Born December 9, 1947, in Engaru, in Hokkaido's Monbetsu District. He studied in the humanities department of Hirosaki University, majoring in Western history, but in February 1970 he was forced to leave school just before graduating as a result of student protests. He then moved to Tokyo, and in 1971 he joined Mushi Production as an animator, working on Wandering Sun, New Moomin, and Little Wansa. In 1973 he became a freelancer, and served as a key animator and episode director on Soeisha's (now Sunrise's) Zero Tester. He did setting and animation direction on Brave Raideen, and his popularity was secured by his key animation and character design for works like Wanpaku Omukashi Kum-Kum, Super Electromagnetic Robot Com-Battler V, and Mobile Suit Gundam. He also directed the theatrical anime based on his own Arion and Venus Wars. Recently, he has been energetically publishing unique comics such as Namuji, Zinmu, and Rainbow Trotsky.
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. (1) 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. (2) 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.
As a creator, Mr. Tomino has his own image of Gundam, but I'm also attached to the original (First Gundam) characters as well. So when it came to the depictions of some of the characters, I thought, "Isn't this a little off?" The personalities of Hayato, Fraw, and so forth seemed different from the original. I felt that Amuro's demeanor was also a little wrong. And 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?
Even with the new characters, I couldn't quite understand Mr. Tomino's feelings. When it came to Kamille, I was given the explanation that he was fascinated by a photograph of Camille Claudel, but it seemed he could convey this only in the most prosaic terms. Since my attachment to Amuro had been so strong, perhaps it's my fault that I couldn't help comparing them. When I tried to discuss this in depth, Mr. Tomino ended up withdrawing, saying, "It's fine, because I understand it."
At that time, Mr. Tomino wasn't like he was when we were doing the original. It may have been a period when he was emotionally unstable. His guard was up, and he'd become very difficult. (3) The only thing on which I and Mr. Tomino agreed was that Hayato and Fraw would get married. We both had the same idea about that.
In the spring of '92, I finally saw Mr. Tomino again during a TV recording, and he'd become much more mellow. I remember being relieved that he'd finally gone back to the old Tomino.
(1) Arion, Yasuhiko's debut manga, was serialized in Tokuma Shoten's comic anthology "Ryu" from May 1979 to November 1984, ending right around the time he joined the Z Gundam staff.
(2) Dirty Pair was based on an SF novel series by Haruka Takachiho, for which Yasuhiko did the illustrations. The TV anime series eventually debuted in July 1985.
(3) The Japanese phrase 気難しい (kimuzukashii) can be variously translated as "fussy," "grumpy," "cantankerous," "whiny," "hard to please," and so forth. I've phrased it here as "very difficult," but you get the idea.
KUNIO OKAWARA PROFILE
Born December 26, 1947, in Inagi, Tokyo Metropolis. In 1965, he enrolled as a freshman in the textile design department of Tokyo University of Art and Design. After graduation he aimed to become a fashion designer, joining the apparel maker Onward Kashiyama and working on menswear designs. He subsequently worked at the baby clothes maker Kimuratan. In 1972 he changed course and joined Tatsunoko Production in order to enter the anime world. He debuted as a mechanical designer on Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, and went on to distinguish himself with a broad range of designs from serious mecha to comical things like the Time Bokan series. After going independent, he established a dominant position as a leading mecha designer. His major works include Mobile Suit Gundam, Armored Trooper Votoms, and Fang of the Sun Dougram.
I think it was around the autumn of '84 that I was asked to participate in this work. But I wasn't the main designer. That's because Director Tomino was thinking further ahead about the future of the work. During a meeting, we were told, "As we move ahead with this work called Z Gundam, we'd like the old staff to give way to the new along the way." (1) It seems Director Tomino interpreted this to mean that we needed to replace the staff from First Gundam, including himself, with a new generation in order to extend the lifespan of Gundam as a work.
Consequently, on Z Gundam, I merely handed over my work to young Mr. Kazumi Fujita, who became the main mecha designer. I think the handover was completed with the Gundam Mk-II. I drew a rough, saying "the Mk-II is something like this," and then Mr. Fujita put together the final design. It's sometimes assumed that the Zeta Gundam itself was my work, but it was an original by Mr. Fujita.
Other than that, on Z Gundam I was responsible for the transforming mobile suit Asshimar and an early draft of the Marasai. As well as Mr. Fujita, this work also includes designs by various people such as Mr. Mamoru Nagano, Mr. Mika Akitaka, and Mr. Makoto Kobayashi. The times may have demanded that kind of trend. When you do a work as major as Gundam, it becomes too much for one individual to manage. If the audience wants to see a variety of mobile suits, you can't handle that unless you have enough designers on hand. My policy is that "I myself am responsible for all the mecha in a single work," so it's probably good that I parted ways with Z Gundam.
I was very impressed with Mr. Fujita's talent, and he has a good sense for putting together designs. Transforming mecha often prioritize functionality, with the design coming second, but he completes the design and then makes it transform. It's rare for a person who's good at drawing to be good at transformation too. It's a pity he left the front lines of anime after that.
At the time, the director thought my mecha were behind the times. But if they're too radical, you'll have problems with strength and mass production when you turn them into toys. When you think about it, anime mecha is far removed from the world that Mr. Tomino prefers. If I'm thinking about toy production, I can't design purely to satisfy myself. As a designer, I find pleasure in keeping costs down and selling products. I could draw mecha which just had cool designs, but I can't do it when I consider the risk to the people who are paying for it. There are people who worry about that, and people who don't. Isn't that all there is to it? If I were truly behind the times, I wouldn't have been able to keep working on the front lines of the industry for the next ten years.
(1) I'm not sure who said this. Based on the next sentence, it seems that it wasn't Tomino, but in other interviews Sunrise producer Kenji Uchida says that Tomino specifically requested a younger staff for Z Gundam.
MAMORU NAGANO PROFILE
Born January 21, 1960, in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture. In 1978, he enrolled in Takushoku University. His aim was to become a rock musician, but in 1983, on the recommendation of a friend, he was hired as Sunrise's first in-house designer while still in school. His debut work was Round Vernian Vifam's Puppet Fighter. After doing guest mecha design for the TV series Giant Gorg, directed by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, he suddenly came into the limelight as the character and mechanical designer for 1984's Heavy Metal L-Gaim, directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino. His major works include the comic Fool for the City, published in Newtype magazine in 1985, and The Five Star Stories which began serialization in 1986. He is currently not part of the anime world.
The way I became involved with Z Gundam is very simple. During the planning in '84, I was the only person Mr. Tomino could freely use for design work.
I was working as a mecha designer on L-Gaim at that point. Starting from before the story was completely finished, I was his adviser, or perhaps conversation partner, as he refined the plan. Well, half of it was just idle chatter. At the time, as a director, he wanted to make a Gundam that would surprise everyone. He said he wanted to try making not just an anime-scale Gundam world, but one that wouldn't be out of place if, for instance, it came out of Hollywood. He didn't want to make a Gundam that looked like a Gundam, or mobile suits that looked like mobile suits.
Along the way, the science writer Mr. Tadashi Nagase also joined us as a scientific research adviser. In our meetings with Mr. Nagase, the idea came up that, just as in real-world wars, we might not see a lot of major advances in the world of mobile suits over seven years. Thus, for the time being (and also to reassure the sponsors), we decided to include mobile suits that looked like mobile suits. First of all, I designed mobile suits that served as successors to the Rick Dom and Gelgoog that appeared in First Gundam. These were the Rick Dias and Galbaldy Beta. After this, Mr. Kunio Okawara and a very capable newcomer named Mr. Kazumi Fujita joined us and began designing the Mk-II and Hizack.
At that point, we hadn't heard anything about the story, and all they told us was, "Please make us a lead mobile suit called Zeta Gundam." I decided there was no way mine was going to transform, no matter what, but the Zeta Gundam I submitted wasn't used. Later on, it was published in a modeling magazine under the name "Epsy Gundam," and it became the model for the Hyaku-Shiki.
After that, I left Z Gundam. But they told me, "We'd like some mobile suits for the second half," so I submitted the Hambrabi and Qubeley. The Hambrabi was my own version of the Messala. In the planning stages, Scirocco and the Messala were supposed to be more important, and so all the designers were aiming to design the Messala. As for the Qubeley, if you take off the armor, its silhouette is just that of a Zaku. I think that's why a lot of people characterized it as "new but also basic."
I suddenly realized, however, that I'd designed all the mobile suits piloted by Char and Haman (the Rick Dias, Hyaku-Shiki, and Qubeley), so my pride was intact. On that note, I think Mr. Tomino is good at making use of people.
I think the fun and interest of the mecha in Z Gundam comes from the fact that all the participating designers stood their ground, with the conviction "I'm the greatest mobile suit artist!" Maybe that's the reason they produced such unusual enthusiasm and popularity.
HIROYUKI KITAZUME PROFILE
Born July 24, 1961, in Tokyo Metropolis. (1) When he was a high school student, he experienced topical works like Space Battleship Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam and aspired to become an animator, going on to join Mr. Tomonori Kogawa's Studio Bebow. After working as an animator on the theatrical version of Space Runaway Ideon, he distinguished himself on Aura Battler Dunbine and Heavy Metal L-Gaim, and played the role of visual lead for the animation of Z Gundam. He then did the character design for Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ and Char's Counterattack, and his abilities continue to bloom with recent works such as Moldiver, for which he also served as director.
I heard about Z Gundam just when I'd left Bebow, where I'd been for about two and a half years, and established Studio Pack. Mr. Kenji Uchida, who was serving as a producer for the first time, asked me if I wanted to try it. Having worked on Dunbine and L-Gaim, which were broadcast before Z, I felt an affinity for Tomino anime. I thought it would be a good match in terms of feeling, so I accepted. And personally, since I loved the original Gundam, I also wanted to try drawing in Mr. Yasuhiko's style... But when I asked for the full details, it turned out that Mr. Yasuhiko was only doing the character design, and wouldn't participate in the animation.
That made it pretty tough. If he were involved with the animation, then collections of his revisions would be distributed to the staff for reference purposes, but without that we had to draw relying purely on the character sheets. Thus, I worked with the idea that I could draw Mr. Yasuhiko's characters in a style that incorporated the clear skeletal three-dimensionality I'd learned under Mr. Kogawa... But of course, I was still inexperienced, and it didn't go quite as I expected.
Now I think about it, I feel that at the time, I was constantly working in situations that exceeded my own capacity and ability. At 23~24 years old, my experience was shallow, but I had to correct key art by people who had been working in the animation profession for much longer. It really felt like I was always just rushing headlong in a delirium. One thing that was particularly difficult was that, when I joined this project, they told me "Please get rid of the Bebow look." Part of what I had to offer was the look of the works that the studio had been handling at the end of my time there, so honestly it took me quite some time to figure out what I should do about it.
The thing I remember most from Z has to be episode 19, "Cinderella Four." My schedule was usually full just with animation director work, but on that occasion I was also able to draw a lot of key frames... It's definitely more fun to draw when you're in charge of the key art. Of course, I also enjoy the drawing itself, but the part that involves drama is even more fun.
It was a tough work in many respects, but during ZZ, I was truly happy whenever I received a "good" signature from the director. I was also able to learn a variety of things, and if I had the opportunity, I'd like to tackle a work like that once again.
(1) Kitazume's year of birth is misprinted as 1967 in the Japanese text.
Born September 8, 1953, in Ibaraki Prefecture. The producer of sequels such as Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, Char's Counterattack, Mobile Suit SD Gundam, and Mobile Suit Gundam 0080.
The Gundam generation attempts a new Gundam image
At the time of production in 1985, people who had entered the anime industry after watching the original Gundam were just becoming active on the front lines. There were many such people on the production site, so their morale was high. Director Tomino had requested that we use young people for the scriptwriting, so I gathered some who were drawing attention as up-and-coming talents at the time. There were many who said "If it's Gundam, then of course..." But on this series, we had a great deal of staff turnover during the year, and ultimately it was only Mr. Meigo Endo and Ms. Yumiko Suzuki writing the scripts.
Even for Director Tomino, there must have been considerable pressure involved in making a sequel to Gundam, which had already become a legendary masterpiece. I, the rest of the staff, and the director himself, under heavy pressure to create something surpassing the previous work, were fumbling in search of a new Gundam world. Unlike in the previous series, Char, who served as a kind of spokesman for the work's themes, was now on the side of the heroes. I believe this wasn't just about featuring a popular character from the original work, but also symbolized the inner change in Director Tomino during the five years that had passed in between.
Born December 3, 1961, in Tochigi Prefecture. Debuted as a director on Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ. His works include Brave Express Mightgaine, and he is currently directing Brave Police J-Decker.
This was the work where I actually first experienced being a director
I was working as setting manager, a position where I was the middleman between the studio and the mecha and character designers. Looking back on it now, I feel that on Z Gundam, there was a strong impression that we were all creating the image of Gundam that existed in Director Tomino's mind. Having someone like myself, who was still inexperienced, playing the role of conveying the director's ideas and images to the designers caused some problems here and there.
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.
Since Mr. Yasuhiro Imagawa only did the storyboards for the opening of the second half of the series, I did the directorial duties. As my first time being a director, this is an important memory that led to my becoming a regular on ZZ.
Born in 1959 in Kanagawa Prefecture. He became a scriptwriter after winning a prize in a "Gekkan Scenario" contest, and is presently writing an ocean adventure novel.
Episode 19 far exceeded the writer's anticipation
I ended up being responsible for scripting more episodes of Z than anyone other than Ms. Yumiko Suzuki, but the ones I remember most were surely the Hong Kong episodes... especially episode 19, "Cinderella Four." When we're writing scripts, we anticipate their completed form as we work, but this episode in particular turned into a film that far surpassed what I'd imagined. I've been involved in several other works since then, but my expectations were never again betrayed in such a positive way. Of course, that must be because Mr. Hadame's storyboards were so wonderful. (2)
But Director Tomino was 38 years old when he made the first Gundam. I'm just about to turn 35, so I've been thinking that soon I'd like to encounter or create a work that will represent me the way Gundam represented the director. But it hasn't turned out quite the way I hoped... Eight years after the broadcast of Z and ZZ, I'm feeling impatient that I haven't distinguished myself yet. (laughs) I'll have to try harder, after all. (laughs) That also makes me think of Director Tomino, who put me to work back when I was still a novice writer.
Born October 12, 1961. Worked on Z following Korokoro Pollon and Nanako SOS. After ZZ, she began writing junior novels under the pen name "Yuki☆Misuzu."
The job of manifesting Mr. Tomino's world
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.
Since I was still a novice at the time, it felt like I was desperately trying to keep up with Mr. Tomino. Looking back, I think I learned a great deal about creating character setting and names. But honestly, as a fan of the old Gundam, I didn't want the characters from the original work to show up. It felt like Amuro, Katz, and the others were constantly being brought low, and it made me a little sad.
Looking back, of course the impression of Kamille and Four is very strong, and I think the drama of Z is symbolized by those two. Because of his complicated upbringing, in some respects Kamille was more oversensitive than other people, and that's why he awakened as a Newtype. If he'd been raised by an ordinary family, he'd never have turned out like that, and in that sense he was a character who implied the tragic nature of Newtypes.
Born in 1952 in Shizuoka Prefecture. After graduating from the science department of Tokyo Metropolitan University, he worked at a science and technology publishing house and became a science writer. Currently writing for journals like "Eureka" and "Gendai Shisō."
I was giving the Gundam world a scientific verification
The unfamiliar position of "setting base" was something like science research, supporting the era and world that serve as a background to Gundam by checking them against real-world science.
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. (3) 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.
Born December 8, 1958. A production assistant on Future Robot Daltanious, he became a setting manager as of Xabungle, an episode director on L-Gaim, and a director with Matchless Raijin-Oh. He is currently preparing a new work.
Z was Tomino-style entertainment
I forget the episode number, but as Z was approaching its end, Mr. Tomino praised my storyboards for the first time. (4) When they came back from the director's check, there was a note attached, saying "You're finally able to draw minimally acceptable storyboards. Keep trying." Now I think about it, that sort of thing really isn't praise at all. (laughs) But I felt I'd finally been recognized. Up until then, he'd done nothing but scold me, so of course I was happy. I'd really learned a lot about the basics, such as how to think about episode direction.
There's a notion that film always has to be entertaining, and the themes and ideas essentially don't matter. But my own feeling, influenced by Mr. Tomino, is that in the case of Z and Mr. Tomino's other works the themes and ideas are directly connected to the deeper parts of the drama. There are certainly aspects that are hard to understand, but when it comes to things like combat scenes, he's always trying to do new things, making use of the robots' gimmicks and exploring new ways to construct the action, rather than relying on tried-and-true methods. That's why, even though the drama in Mr. Tomino's films is driven by slightly obscure theories (laughs), you can watch it for 30 minutes without getting bored. I think that's also part of Mr. Tomino's style of entertainment.
Born May 4, 1960. A production assistant on Blue Gale Xabungle and Dunbine, he served as setting manager and episode director on L-Gaim, and directed episodes of Z and ZZ. Currently working on J-Decker.
With Z, I learned the pain of childbirth
Though I'd become an episode director on the previous L-Gaim, this was the work that gave me a taste of the fun and pleasure of episode direction. The director let me do as I pleased, correcting me when I went too far. On the other hand, Z was also the work that taught me how tough episode direction could be. (laughs) I was given a framework and a theme, and I had to learn how to work within that, and do things I wasn't very good at. It's different when you suffer and suffer to make a film (laughs). "The Gundam I loved wasn't like this!!" I learned the pain of childbirth. (laughs)
As someone who joined Sunrise after watching the old Gundam, there was some pressure, but the hardest part was that due to my own ineptness I couldn't express the work's world and themes. My apologies to the fans, but to me, Z was ultimately just a training ground. The director was also harsh, and after being scolded I'd sometimes be thinking "To hell with this!" (laughs) But thanks to that, I grew stronger as a director, so I'm grateful for the harsh treatment. I understand things much better now.
Born in 1960, in Aichi Prefecture. An anonymous director whose true identity is shrouded in mystery. As well as episodes 19 and 33, he also did storyboards for Mobile Suit Gundam 0080.
Director Tomino prefers drawings that don't look like anime
I'd been approached by various producers about doing episode direction for Sunrise works. Since I was curious about Director Tomino, I wanted to meet him just for the sake of it. But I had another job, so even if I could do it, the situation would only allow me to do the storyboards. Personally, I felt it was best if the person who drew the storyboards also directed the episode, so I thought that might not work. We discussed the idea that I'd only be storyboarding, and the director told me that was fine, since they had an established system for episode direction. In that case, I said, we'd give it a try. (laughs)
During our first meeting, they showed me the storyboards for episode 1, and my impression was that Director Tomino didn't want to use a lot of so-called anime-like cuts. I was anxious since this was my first time doing storyboards for a mecha show, but I had that in mind when I did them, and I was surprised that there were unexpectedly few revisions. I was worried about the combat scenes, but I'd been instructed to add dramatic moments that showed the characters' expressions, and I thought that was a good idea.
Though there wasn't that much work involved, it was a very educational job. The most important thing I learned from the director was speed. Rather than carefully rendering the storyboards and dialogue lines, he told me to think about how long it took me to do the work. The scales fell from my eyes. That lesson continues to be extremely helpful.
Born March 5, 1960. He began doing key animation with Xabungle, and first became mecha animation director on Z. His works include Bio Armor Ryger and Armored Police Metaljack. Currently working on Popful Mail for the PC Engine.
Being mecha animation director was tougher than I imagined
I'd been involved with Mr. Tomino's works since Xabungle, and I'd always thought that the mecha scenes could be better depicted. When I happened to say this to Producer Uchida before Z, he said "In that case..." and created the first mecha animation director position for me on Z. However, it was far tougher than I'd imagined. Many of the key animators were weak when it came to mecha, and it was all I could do just to cover for them in that area.
For example, in episode 1 of the old Gundam, when the Zakus land inside the colony, the soil beneath their feet slides due to their weight. I wanted to convey the weight and presence of the mobile suits and other mecha through the careful accumulation of these kinds of depictions, but it's unfortunate that I couldn't do it all by myself. In fact, Mr. Tomino asked me to "erase the old Gundam," but of course my impression of the original work was a strong one, and I couldn't help being drawn to it.
However, I think being involved for a long time not just in Z but in Mr. Tomino's other works has been a plus for me. Even on Z, whenever there was free time, I'd go to hear from the director about things like the mindset of an animator and how to approach the industry.
Born February 25, 1939. He joined Mushi production as the rental gekiga market declined. His first animation job was on Jungle Emperor: Onward, Leo! (6) He also worked on Tomorrow's Joe and Voltes V. Currently doing key animation for Weather Woman.
The appeal of neurotic "Yasuhiko characters"
I was at Sunrise for about ten years, but for the first half of that time I was working alongside Mr. Tadao Nagahama, and for the second five years with Mr. Tomino. (7) At the time of the first Gundam, I was working with Director Nagahama, and was part of the so-called "Nagahama faction." So I merely glanced at Gundam, and I didn't think it was a work that would become all that popular. The Nagahama works have a clear "kishōtenketsu" structure, and compared to them, I felt it ended without building up any excitement... (8)
Rather than the content itself, I feel the popularity of Gundam is largely due to the appeal of Mr. Yasuhiko's character designs. Mr. Yasuhiko's style may seem very individual, but in fact it isn't so much. He's someone who had a great ability to absorb different kinds of things. Originally this was from people like Master Osamu Tezuka, but he also incorporated various elements such as American comics, and the appeal was that it was the greatest common divisor. (9) There's also a neurotic aspect, which I can't do myself, but I think that actually has some appeal as well. The grim stares and nervous gestures were certainly right for the times.
The old work was rendered with fewer lines, but in Z the lines are finer and more numerous. Though the artwork is pretty, ultimately the original work had more power.
Born February 24, 1960. His first animation job was on Mighty Atom, and he was an in-between checker on Xabungle and a key animator on Dunbine. He became an animation director with L-Gaim. Currently working on Matchless Passion Go-Saurer and Slam Dunk.
Looking back on it now, I have the urge to redo it from scratch
Because I was a fan of the old Gundam, I felt a lot of pressure at the beginning. But it stopped being like that as I went along. (laughs) I was also glad that the characters from the original work reappeared. Although Char was a little weird (laughs), I could believe that Amuro and the others might be like that seven years later. But it seemed like Mr. Tomino's colors came out more strongly (than in the original work). Rather than the old Gundam, I think it was a successor to Ideon and Dunbine.
Though I'd been working on Mr. Tomino's series since Xabungle, it's one of my favorites among them. But since I only worked on the episodes I was in charge of, I didn't understand the story at all. If I do say so myself, I'm impressed I did such a good job without knowing any of the context. (laughs)
The work of an animation director was hard, though. There were many key animators with varying abilities, and unlike today, there were no layout checks. So I remember having trouble when it turned out the proportions were different later on. Around the middle, when rookies were involved, I started drawing the layouts myself and treating them like secondary key animators. But I myself had only just become an animation director, so looking back on it now, I have the urge to redo the animation direction from scratch. (laughs) (10)
(1) Takamatsu's title is mislabeled as "Chief Production Manager" in the Japanese text.
(2) Storyboard artist Junichi Sato was credited as "Kiichi Hadame" on this episode.
(3) Iogi is the name of a train station in Tokyo's Suginami Ward, one stop from the Kamiigusa station where Sunrise is based. This is also part of the alias "Rin Iogi" which Tomino uses when writing theme song lyrics.
(4) Kawase storyboarded and directed Z Gundam episodes 4, 8, 17, 22, 27, 34, 39, 44, and 50. He also co-storyboarded episode 46. It's not clear which of these episodes he's referring to here.
(5) A pseudonym for Junichi Sato, now best known as the original director of Sailor Moon and Ojamajo Doremi, and chief director of Sergeant Frog.
(6) Aired in the US as Leo the Lion.
(7) Tadao Nagahama succeeded Tomino as the director of the second half of Brave Raideen, and went on to direct the super robot series Com-Battler V, Voltes V, Daimos, and Daltanious. Kanayama served as sole or joint animation director on every episode of Com-Battler V and Voltes V, and a large portion of Daimos and Daltanious.
(8) The Japanese term 起承転結 (kishōtenketsu) is a widely used dramatic structure—roughly "introduction, development, turn, conclusion."
(9) "Greatest common divisor" is a mathematical term for the largest number that can be used to divide two or more other numbers. It's presumably used here in a similar metaphorical sense to "lowest common denominator," to mean something that's universally understandable.
(10) Kobayashi debuted as animation director on episode 42 of L-Gaim, and did one more episode towards the end of the series.
Mobile Suit Gundam is copyright © Sotsu • Sunrise. Everything else on this site, and all original text and pictures, are copyright Mark Simmons.