Ultimate Mark

Production Reference:
Char's Counterattack Theatrical Edition
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Translator's Note: Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack Theatrical Edition was an Animedia special issue published by Gakken in April 1988. Like the similar volumes devoted to Z Gundam and Gundam ZZ, it included some behind-the-scenes production trivia, but of more interest are the interviews with character designer Hiroyuki Kitazume and mobile suit designer Yutaka Izubuchi. These are accompanied by step-by-step explanations of their design process.


• Hiroyuki Kitazume

On this Gundam, Mr. Hiroyuki Kitazume was responsible for animation direction and character design. He talked to us mainly about the specific process by which he refined the characters. The captions are also reproduced as faithfully as possible from his comments, so don't miss them.

It's because of Gundam that I became an anime fan

—What were you doing when the first Gundam was broadcast?

Kitazume: I was still in school. I started watching Gundam in the middle, rather than from the first episode, but I felt it was different from previous robot shows and I kept on watching to the very end. At the same time, I'd say I was fascinated by Mr. Yasuhiko's artwork. Back then, many of Mr. Yasuhiko's drawings were being published (in magazines and so forth), and in an artistic sense, that's when I became really interested in this thing called animation.

I'd previously watched Space Battleship Yamato because it gradually became very popular, but I hadn't really been watching anime aimed at middle-aged audiences. I watched more works aimed at children. But after Gundam, I started watching (anime aimed at middle-aged audiences).

—Given those circumstances, how did you feel about working on Gundam ZZ and Char's Counterattack?

Kitazume: With Z Gundam, I'd never thought they'd make a sequel, let alone that I'd work on it as an animation director. So I had mixed feelings about it. I can't find the right word for it, but... um, simply put, I was happy. Or rather, I guess my feeling was, "Lucky!!"

As far as character design, ZZ was a direct continuation of Z. Even though Mr. Yasuhiko had already left (the show), characters from Z would still be showing up, so the overall atmosphere wasn't that far removed from Z.

Char's Counterattack was a theatrical feature, and the producer also requested that I redesign the characters, so when it came to the style I thought I'd try to create them in my own way rather than with Mr. Yasuhiko's atmosphere. As a fan, I've been watching Gundam evolve for a long time, and I had my own images of Amuro, Char, Bright, and the others, not in the sense of superficial design but in terms of my internal image of the characters. So I tried to draw them based on my image of the Gundam characters, with the nuance that they might seem like this after a few years.

—Was it hard work being an animation director?

Kitazume: Rather than being hard work, what concerned me most was making sure the characters' performance didn't lose the sense of real presence. All throughout, I tried my best to avoid camera angles that used excessively anime-like techniques, and depictions that showed anime-like action. What made the biggest impression was the work I did during the layout checks to make the camera angles closer to live-action ones.

I struggled to create characters who felt natural

Mr. Kitazume, as a Gundam fan drawing the characters in his own way, naturally went through many twists and turns with each character on the way to the final draft. Let's find out how that happened.

(Amuro) He seemed pretty weak during Z, perhaps because he'd had quite a shock. But this time, he rises up again to save the Earth, so I thought he might become more intrepid. Nonetheless, there's still some naivety left in his design.

(Char) After getting a full look at the internal state of the Federation Forces during Z, he couldn't leave Earth as it was, so he's trying to annihilate the people of Earth and purge the planet. I figured his ideas had become a bit devilishly prejudiced, so I thought he should have a villainous image and feel pretty scary. But he ended up not being so scary after all.

(Bright) I thought I'd try giving him a beard so he'd have a little more gravitas as a captain, but the director told me, "Bright couldn't grow a beard like that, could he?" Well, he's been showing up ever since the first series, so he's the same as always.

(Quess) She gave me the most trouble. I started out drawing her with the image of a somewhat unusual girl, and she was finally decided after resolving issues like making her softer and gentler, different from Four, a little more quirky, with wider eyes, etc.

(Chan) Since she has the role of Amuro's girlfriend, I drew her with a cute feeling. But even though she's Amuro's lover, she's also a mechanic, so I went in the direction of a simple and straightforward person who doesn't express her feelings directly.

(Hathaway) I was thinking of him in comparison to Amuro, so the first one I drew looked too grown-up. He gradually became more childlike, and I think he ended up just right.

(Gyunei) I didn't get his image, so for the time being I drew him with the idea that, as a Cyber-Newtype pilot, he might seem pretty scary. But he was more of a naive elite.

The characters don't provide any flashy highlights, but close-ups were avoided as much as possible to make the camera angles similar to live-action ones. The images were based on a policy of depicting the characters' psychology through their actions and performance that reflects their intentions, and conveying the situation through density of movement. However, they were also supposed to look natural. Even if you don't notice this as you're watching, after you've seen it, Mr. Kitazume says he'd be happy if you realize that it's different from other anime.

☆ Click the image thumbnail below to see it at full size! ☆ Captions are listed below from right to left ☆

◂▾ At first, since I'd heard the setting was that Amuro was about 30 years old, I drew him with the long face of a young man. I also made his eyes smaller.
◂▾ The previous version looked too much like a 30-year-old, so I shortened his face and tried to make him look a little younger.
◂▾ Because his eyes got bigger when I shortened his face, I corrected that here. A cleaned-up version of this became the final draft.

▸ At first he looked like a shojo manga character, and his expression was stiff.
▸ And here, he'd become too intense...
◂ I drew this one to create a slightly gentler feeling.
▴ And here, I brought out more of his naivety.
▸ At first, Char's costume had a "supreme commander" image...
▸ I was also thinking of that here, but...
▸ I did this one trying for a slightly more normal feeling.

▸ Quess was the most difficult. I drew this thinking that she should look a little unusual because she's a 13-year-old Newtype.
▴▸ This was the next one I drew. I made her more gentle than before, but this time she wasn't distinctive enough.
◂▴ With this one, I was asked to correct the roundness of her face, the length of her eyelashes, and her downcast eyes.
◂ So I slimmed down the outline of her face and made her eyes a little wider, or rather, brighter, and this was the result.

☆ Click the image thumbnail below to see it at full size! ☆ Captions are listed below from right to left ☆

◂▴ I drew this because at first I didn't know what Gyunei should look like, but he looks like an obvious villain, so I was told to knock that off...
▴ He has a naive side, but I drew him like this because he's also a sharp and capable elite.
◂▴ After that, I made some minor adjustments to match him to the other characters.

◂▴▸ I made Hathaway realistic to match Amuro, but I was told they both looked too grown-up, so I changed Amuro as well.
▴▸ Here, I made him more childlike. After a few adjustments, this became the final draft. I was initially trying not to use too many round faces, but...

◂ It seems the director had a straightforward image in mind for Chan, but I drew her to be cute...
▸◂ Around this point, I was thinking she lacked weight as a character, so I consulted portrait photos as reference.
▴▸◂ Then I came up with this. She doesn't stand out, but I wanted to create the feeling that she's always in Amuro's shadow.

▴▸ Since Bright is also the captain, I tried giving him a beard, but the director said he couldn't grow one like that...
▴▸ Here he is without the beard. The expression in his eyes wasn't very good, and it felt sinister, so I fixed it.
◂ This is what I turned in after fixing his eyes.

Mr. Kitazume didn't really talk about Nanai. It seems she was decided with almost no revisions.

Rezin was also decided quite smoothly, so he had no particular comments. She was a character with a clear image.


• Yutaka Izubuchi

We asked Mr. Yutaka Izubuchi, who was in charge of the mobile suit design, about the job of mecha designer. What kind of position does this job, which is indispensable in mecha anime, occupy in a work?

The designer just provides raw material

—What were you doing when the first Gundam was broadcast?

Izubuchi: I was working on Daltanious (broadcast on Tokyo Channel 12 starting in March 1979) at (Sunrise's) Studio 2. They were making Gundam at Studio 1, and my feeling was "I wish I could do something like that." In the robot shows of the time there was nothing that realistic, or rather, nothing that cut like that. As I watched it, I was thinking "Wow, must be nice."

—What was it like being involved in a movie version of Gundam?

Izubuchi: I felt the first Gundam was complete in itself, and the feelings I had while watching it didn't last all that long, so I was able to think of it purely as a job. Many years have passed, but in the Gundam worldview, back then they came to a standstill as weapon systems. So I did it with the feeling it was a continuation of the first series.

—How do you think of the mechanical aspects of Gundam?

Izubuchi: They seem like giant mechanical infantrymen wearing space suits. So personally, rather than having them whoosh around at high speed, I prefer it when they glide with inertia and the action is more like a spacewalk.

—Please tell us about the design process in the movie version.

Izubuchi: A lot of things happened along the way, and by the time the job fell into my hands, there wasn't much time left. Anyway, the requirement was that it had to look like Gundam. Of course, Gundam was created by Mr. Yasuhiko and Mr. Okawara in the original series, so when the movie job happened to come to me it felt like I was just retracing their work. In particular, we followed the mechanical aspects of Gundam very closely.

At any rate, it's unfortunate that I didn't have much time. If I was going to do it, I'd have liked to handle the mobile suits, the warships, and all the other mecha as a total image.

—As a designer, what do you think are the highlights of this work?

Izubuchi: Designs are just raw material, right? For example, let's say you're selling fish in the marketplace. I think the people who cook them are like directors and animators. So I'm just supplying them with raw tuna, and at this point, I don't know whether they're going to turn it into boiled bones, sashimi, or sushi.

Well, if people feel like my designs fit into the Gundam world once the film is finished, then I'm happy with that. That's the extent of my job, especially when this time it's limited to just the mobile suits.

☆ Click the image thumbnail below to see it at full size! ☆ Captions are listed below from right to left ☆

ν (Nu) Gundam
This is setting for the ν Gundam. The head of the standing pose seems smaller than in the final draft. From these two versions of the head profile setting, you can see that it changed as well.

◂ The Sazabi was originally going to be named "Za-Nack." Here, the shoulder protrusions are smaller, and the setting gives a sturdy impression.
▴ Rear view setting for the Za-Nack, or Sazabi. It's very detailed.
◂ This is more or less its present form. The shoulder parts are bigger, and the horn-shaped thing on its forehead has shrunk.

α (Alpha) Azieru (Psycho Doga)
The writing on this setting says "A mobile suit that could be called the Neo Zeong." It was originally designed as the "Psycho Doga."

▸ A rough dated April 28, 1986. (1) Its design is based on the Zeta Gundam.
◂ Another rough dated April 28. It is labeled "Mass Production Type Zeta Gundam (Zeta One)."
◂ The label "Standard Zeta Mass Production Type (except for Amuro)" can be seen. This setting is from April 29, 1986. (2)
▸ A rear view of the Re-GZ. It looks pretty close to the final draft.
▴ A rough of the Re-GZ's Back Weapon System. "Zeta One" is written here as well.

◂ This still has two antennas. It is labeled as "Nemo II."
◂ The present form. Its performance is also described in detail.

Geara Doga
◂ The shape of the head is completely different, and it's carrying a backpack.
◂ Its present appearance. The head has changed from a hat to a helmet style.

▴ The Geon, ancestor to the Geara Doga. This version was hard to discard.

Royal Guard MS
▴ A mobile suit with a head just like a Kemurian. (3) I wanted this to show up as well.

High Mobility Light MS
◂ Is its head based on an American military cap?

Mobile Police MS
◂ This is a mobile suit used for maintaining public order.

▾ It seems to be carrying a club. Is this also an ancestor of the Geara Doga?

Other MS
▴ Nothing was written for this one, but maybe it's Zeon?
◂ This has a nostalgic kaiju feeling.

Translator's Notes

(1) This date should be April 28, 1987.

(2) This date should be April 29, 1987.

(3) A race of humanoids from the future featured in the live-action science fiction series Ultra Q.