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.
"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 Combat Mecha 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.
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.
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.
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.
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