Ultimate Mark

Production Reference:
Mobile Suit Gundam Blu-ray Memorial Box
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Translator's Note: This essay by Gundam director Yoshiyuki Tomino appeared in the Mobile Suit Gundam Blu-ray Memorial Box released in 2013. This box set includes reproductions of several rare planning documents, as well as two 124-page books filled with archival material.


Among the documents reproduced in the "Historical Materials" book are Tomino's original story structure for the first six episodes, and the famous Tomino Memo outlining the planned plot for episodes 22 through 52. This leaves a sixteen-episode gap, which Tomino addresses in the following essay. After the essay translation, I've added a supplemental note regarding the production credits for the first part of the series.

First, a quick note on two Japanese terms which are heavily used in the text. 構成 (kōsei) is often translated as "composition," but rendered here as "structure." 演出 (enshutsu) usually means "episode director," but when discussing theater it corresponds to the English term "staging." In the loosest sense, it includes every aspect of performance and dramatic representation, and in most cases here I've glossed it as "dramatization."


Original Story • Chief Director   Yoshiyuki Tomino

A question arrived from the editor responsible for producing this booklet. "Director, isn't there a story structure written by you for episodes 7 through 21? These exist for the episodes before and after, and we presented them when we made the laser disc box, but..."

When they put it like this, I began wonder why they didn't have it. Most of the early setting still exists as memos recording what I was thinking at the time, and it's become a habit of mine to keep them. But it's also a habit of mine that, barring unforeseen circumstances, I don't re-read the ones I keep, because I have the feeling that I don't want to be influenced by past works when I'm creating new ones.

I had to admit I supplied the previous materials only in response to that particular request, and I didn't recall thoroughly ransacking all my documents. So I now tried searching the bookshelves in my storeroom once again.

But my memory wasn't mistaken. The only early setting and story structures from First Gundam were the ones that had previously been released. Then, as I looked through old documents and publications, it finally came back to me.

"I didn't write a story structure for the block of episodes from 7 to 21. That's why I can't find it."

I also remembered the reason. I recalled this as I was scrutinizing the credit titles from the TV series.

While we were producing this block, as I was having the scripts written, I was also drawing storyboards and working on episode direction and animation production. This was a time when we had momentum and couldn't imagine the program being cut short, so I left the writing of scripts to the scriptwriters. Of course we held meetings, but I didn't have any time to write the story.

For that reason, this became a period in which the story had a high degree of independence, where distinctive characters appeared and ridiculous developments took place. I was burdened with the hardship of having to apply my energies to dramatizing this as a single storyline centered on the White Base. I had completely forgotten about that.

I didn't come up with episodes like the one where Amuro deserts the White Base. Likewise the one with the war refugee Persia and her child, or the one where Matilda suddenly appears. I remember being furious because I couldn't figure out how to connect these to the story of the White Base.

However, when character designer Yoshikazu Yasuhiko drew this ridiculous character of a beautiful woman in man's clothing, I really fell for her. She had transformed in the process of materializing the concept from the script. This served as the element that inspired the dramatization of "Miss Matildaaa!"

The story of Garma's death in battle originally began from the point where his lover Icelina appears, and I was nauseated by what I thought was really cliched scripting work. I wondered if we could make this more like a war story, and I thought it was absurd to follow it with an episode where the mere civilian Icelina is caught up in the fighting. As a result, I really struggled with the handling of "Icelina, After Love."

Reminiscing like this, I also recall how I created an ingenious device in the drama of Amuro's reunion with his mother Kamaria in episode 13. The idea that there was a man living with Kamaria wasn't written in the script, but to add cinematic depth, I used the stealth technique of putting a man in the background onscreen. I invented that as a method to keep the writer from complaining that I'd changed the script. At the time, I had a bad reputation as a storyboard man and director who ignored the script, so this was a strategy for avoiding that. I chuckled to myself that I'd pulled it off smoothly. I remember that sort of thing well.

From here on, I was balancing the writing leadership and the production situation, and as we tried to produce suitable scripts we ended up with highly independent episodes.

This produced that legendary couple, Ramba Ral and Hamon. Because I'd left it to the writer, first they presented their unique idea and narrative, and then the dramatic task of conforming it to a Gundam-like story fell to me. I was fired up as I dramatized this couple. Ral, who says, "My promotion will secure the livelihoods of my subordinates," and Hamon, who says, "I really liked you, boy," as she tries to kill Amuro. Until I die, they'll be my ideal man and woman. I was able to imagine that because the partnership of Ral and Hamon was created in the script.

But as I was doing this work, I was thinking about the themes and destination point of the overall series. At the risk of being misunderstood, I thought that the sensibilities of writers with only live action-style ideas might be inappropriate for anime, and weren't right for the pseudo-SF narrative of a robot show. Thus I decided to write a story structure after episode 21. I remembered that detail.

As to whether or not that was a good thing, I can say definitively it wasn't a good idea. When I tried to write a story anticipating up to episode 52, the work only confirmed that I didn't have an SF-like sensibility and couldn't create new characters.

You might say, but wasn't there the story of Miharu? But the narrative itself was born from the uniqueness of the writers, at a time where I wasn't doing the story structure, so I'm not its original creator.

It's because the editor raised this question now that I'm remembering the working roles of the staff from this viewpoint. If this had happened a few years from now, I myself might have forgotten.

Because of this situation, the broadcast was terminated, and we weren't able to produce the longwinded story that I had planned. In the end, the fact that we were forced to use a dramatic structure that condensed my ideas for the production enabled us to create a nice finale. That was First Gundam.

It's late in the day, but I'd like to once again express here my heartfelt gratitude to each of the scriptwriters, in broadcast order starting with episode 7—Mr. Yoshihisa Araki, Mr. Kenichi Matsuzaki, Mr. Hiroyuki Hoshiyama, and Mr. Yuu Yamamoto.

(Written April 19, 2013)

Translator's Note: To illustrate the production situation Tomino is describing, here are the main staff credits for the first half of the Mobile Suit Gundam TV series. "Minoru Yokitani" is an alias for chief director Yoshiyuki Tomino, who storyboarded the majority of these episodes, directed two of them, and wrote episode 14 under his real name.

Episode Subtitle Script Storyboards Episode Director Animation Director Air Date
1 Gundam Rising Hiroyuki Hoshiyama Minoru Yokitani Shinya Sadamitsu Yoshikazu Yasuhiko April 7, 1979
2 Gundam Destruction Order Kenichi Matsuzaki Minoru Yokitani Ryoji Fujiwara Yoshikazu Yasuhiko April 14, 1979
3 Strike the Enemy Supply Ship Yoshihisa Araki Minoru Yokitani Eikichi Kojika Yoshikazu Yasuhiko April 21, 1979
4 Luna II Escape Operation Yuu Yamamoto Shinya Sadamitsu Shinya Sadamitsu Kazuo Tomizawa April 28, 1979
5 Atmospheric Entry Hiroyuki Hoshiyama Minoru Yokitani Ryoji Fujiwara Yoshinobu Aohachi May 5, 1979
6 Garma Strikes Yuu Yamamoto Kazuo Yamazaki Eikichi Kojika Yoshikazu Yasuhiko May 12, 1979
7 Core Fighter Escape Yoshihisa Araki Ryoji Fujiwara Ryoji Fujiwara Yoshikazu Yasuhiko May 19, 1979
8 The Battlefield is a Wilderness Kenichi Matsuzaki Shinya Sadamitsu Shinya Sadamitsu Kazuo Yamazaki May 26, 1979
9 Fly, Gundam! Hiroyuki Hoshiyama Minoru Yokitani Eikichi Kojika Yoshikazu Yasuhiko June 2, 1979
10 Garma Falls Yuu Yamamoto Ryoji Fujiwara Ryoji Fujiwara Yoshikazu Yasuhiko June 9, 1979
11 Icelina, After Love Yoshihisa Araki Shinya Sadamitsu Shinya Sadamitsu Manabu Oizumi June 16, 1979
12 The Threat of Zeon Kenichi Matsuzaki Minoru Yokitani Yuichiro Yokoyama Kazuo Nakamura June 23, 1979
13 Reunion with Mother Hiroyuki Hoshiyama Ryoji Fujiwara Ryoji Fujiwara Yoshikazu Yasuhiko June 30, 1979
14 Time, Be Still Yoshiyuki Tomino Minoru Yokitani Shinya Sadamitsu Kazuo Yamazaki July 7, 1979
15 Cucuruz Doan's Island Yoshihisa Araki Shinya Sadamitsu Minoru Yokitani Kazuyuki Suzumura July 14, 1979
16 Sayla's Sortie Yuu Yamamoto Minoru Yokitani Minoru Yokitani Yoshinobu Aohachi July 21, 1979
17 Amuro Deserts Kenichi Matsuzaki Minoru Yokitani Ryoji Fujiwara Yoshikazu Yasuhiko July 28, 1979
18 The Scorching Adzam Leader Kenichi Matsuzaki Shinya Sadamitsu Shinya Sadamitsu Kazuo Nakamura August 4, 1979
19 Ramba Ral's Attack Hiroyuki Hoshiyama Minoru Yokitani Susumu Gyoda Yoshikazu Yasuhiko August 11, 1979
20 Struggle for the White Base Yuu Yamamoto Minoru Yokitani Ryoji Fujiwara Kazuo Tomizawa August 18, 1979
21 A Hateful Battle Yoshihisa Araki Minoru Yokitani Susumu Gyoda Kazuo Yamazaki August 25, 1979