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Production History:
Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ
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The following is a record of the planning and development of the third Gundam television series, Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, which debuted in 1986. (While the series title is Gundam ZZ, the star mobile suit is called the ZZ Gundam; in both cases, ZZ is pronounced as "Double Zeta.") The following details are pieced together from a variety of sources, including:


Much of the setting art for this series also includes written dates, allowing us to place the drawings in chronological sequence. Sources for other specific details will be cited as we go along.

☆ Click the image thumbnails below to see them at full size! ☆


Even in the planning stages of Mobile Suit Z Gundam, it's said that director Yoshiyuki Tomino had envisioned the long-awaited followup to Mobile Suit Gundam running for two years. And in the November 1986 issue of Newtype magazine, Tomino claims he began planning for the second year of Z Gundam in the summer of 1985:

During Z Gundam, I also said that I started planning a sequel back in July, but nobody remembers that.

Officially speaking, however, the project was launched in October 1985. At this point the main sponsor, toy manufacturer Bandai, approached the Nippon Sunrise animation studio about a continuation of Z Gundam. In B-Club Vol.3, Tomino explains:

Ultimately, because Z Gundam was preoccupied with the idea of "the next Gundam," it became a strangely grown-up story. There are some parts that satisfy my own personal taste, but that doesn't mean it was fully accepted by the audience watching. After all, TV isn't supposed to be like that.

In the end, over the course of one year, we were unable to do anything more than scrape away the sediment of old Gundam. We were able to tell Kamille's story, but we never reached the point of talking about the Gundam world itself. It would be frustrating if Gundam ended here. Now, I thought, we have to go back to the previous Gundam once again! So when Bandai approached me to ask whether an extension would be possible, I immediately replied "it's possible."

This last-minute development caused some disruption to the studio's other plans. In a Japanese-language transcript of his appearance at Sunrise Festival 2012, Sunrise producer Kenji Uchida recalls:

At the time, we weren't thinking of continuing Gundam after Z Gundam ended, so now that I'd become a producer I decided to plan a work myself. I was working on a new project that would be an SF robot show based on plastic models. But now the Gundam brand had been established, the dynamics of the company and the sponsors made them wonder whether it might be better to continue that.

So the project I'd created during the second half of Z Gundam vanished, and they decided to do a Gundam sequel called Gundam ZZ. If Director Tomino had refused, I thought my own project might have gone through, but he said "Absolutely, let's do it!" and I resigned myself to it as well.

Tomino quickly drafted a proposal for "Z Gundam Part 2," accompanied by an initial story outline. Although this was intended as a direct continuation of the current series, like Z Gundam it would introduce a new protagonist and storyline. The enemy would be Axis, the group of Zeon remnants led by Haman Karn, who had just debuted with the October 12, 1985 broadcast of Z Gundam episode 32, "Mysterious Mobile Suits."

Autumn 1985
Z Gundam Part 2 proposal and Sunrise internal memo by Yoshiyuki Tomino.
Proposal document is dated October 1985. The memo, titled "Towards a continuation of Mobile Suit Z Gundam," is dated November 8.

Tomino's initial story outline begins similarly to the eventual animation. After Z Gundam's final battle, which ended with the defeat Paptimus Scirocco and the Titans, the damaged warship Argama takes refuge at a Side 1 space colony called Shangri-La. As in the animated version, Char is missing and Kamille is hospitalized, and a new hero named Judau Ashta becomes the pilot of the Zeta Gundam.

The story quickly diverges from the animated Gundam ZZ, however. In this version, pilot Emma Sheen survives into the early part of the new series. Judau is a juvenile delinquent and a member of a biker gang, and although the heroine Roux Louka appears in this outline, the little-sister characters Leina Ashta and Elpeo Ple aren't mentioned. And partway through the story, Char reappears as a member of Haman's forces, only to turn against her in the finale. A translation of this proposal and story outline can be found at Zeonic|Scanlations:

With its more serious tone, this story outline seems closer to the dark drama of Z Gundam than the slapstick comedy that would make the first half of Gundam ZZ so controversial. According to Great Mechanics Vol.6, this change in tone was a request from Bandai, aimed at bringing in younger viewers and boosting merchandise sales. Here, Katsumi Kawaguchi of the Bandai Hobby Products Department recalls:

Nowadays, Mobile Suit Z Gundam is highly regarded as a work, and the merchandise is also popular. But during the broadcast, we started seeing a merchandising decline around autumn. Nonetheless, it had been decided that Z Gundam would run for four cours, and to Bandai the Gundam brand was too valuable to abandon. So we told the Sunrise side, "We want you to do another sequel and continue the Gundam title." At that point we began discussing what we should do after Z Gundam was over. From then on, there was also talk within the company that "the story of Z Gundam is too difficult" and "the story is too dark." Based on those opinions, we talked with Sunrise about how we should proceed in the next year after Z Gundam.

Thanks to the success of the movies, Gundam had already transformed into a character that even children recognized. In that respect, our expectations may have been too optimistic. As a result, with Z Gundam we began to see a decline in a brand that had previously boasted steadfast popularity, and there was confusion within the company, as people said "It wasn't supposed to be like this." Thus there was talk that, to some extent, the upcoming new Gundam also had to consider children as part of the target demographic. So we said to Gundam's producer, Mr. (Kenji) Uchida, "How about a light Gundam that will be easier for kids to understand?"

With the formal approval of the project in November 1985 came a new mantra: "A light Gundam, an enjoyable Gundam, a Gundam for everyone," as Tomino phrased it in a B-Club interview. The idea of making the new series lighter and more accessible, while bringing back popular elements of the original Mobile Suit Gundam that Z Gundam had discarded, would drive many of the creative decisions as the production continued.

October 1985
Z Gundam Part 2 proposal and story outline, as reproduced in the 1996 laser disc "Memorial Box Type-1."
Proposal is dated "1985.10-8-14" and story outline is dated "1985.10.13-15."

Meanwhile, work began to design a new main Gundam and enemy mobile suits for the upcoming series. According to Great Mechanics Vol.6, this process was supervised by the Sunrise planning office. Koichi Inoue, then a member of the planning office staff, describes the situation as follows.

The order from our sponsor Bandai was that "Since Z Gundam was dark, we want the next Gundam to have a lighter style." Director Tomino would be creating the story and drama, so we left the content of the work up to him. As for what the Sunrise planning office was doing in the meantime, it became our job to decide the direction of things like the setting for the so-called mobile suits. Though Director Tomino gave us orders regarding the image of the mobile suits as characters, like "it should feel powerful," he didn't give us any detailed instructions about the overall mobile suit systems.

An initial design competition was held in late October, and some 30 concepts were submitted by various designers. Among them were Kazumi Fujita of the Shindosha studio, Z Gundam's main mechanical designer, and his studiomates Mika Akitaka and Hideo Okamoto who had supported him on the previous series. In Great Mechanics Vol.6, Akitaka recalls:

It wasn't a commission where they specified, "We want this kind of Gundam, so please base it on that design." It was something like "It looks like there's going to be a new Gundam, do you have any interesting ideas? If the plan is interesting, we'll adopt it."

Kazumi Fujita's submission wasn't chosen, and his participation in Gundam ZZ was ultimately very minimal. In B-Club Vol.7, Fujita comments:

Back when the design for the ZZ Gundam hadn't yet been decided, I drew a God Gundam that was a parody of Brave Raideen, and they gave the job to somebody else... (laughs) And personally, I was a little tired after doing this for a year, so I was itching to draw some manga.

Akitaka and Okamoto were also passed over for the job. But one of Akitaka's submissions, a three-part combining design inspired by the G-Armor from the original series, provided the basic concept for the later development of the ZZ Gundam.

October 1985
Some early Gundam design concepts reprinted in Bandai's "Mobile Suit Gundam MS Encyclopedia." Unfortunately, the book provides no further details on the designers or the time of creation.

New Gundam design plans by Kazumi Fujita and Mamoru Nagano. The symbol on Nagano's Gundam may be a reference to "Alpha Gundam," one of the series titles under consideration at that point.

New Gundam design plan by Hideo Okamoto. A small Seed Gundam combines with the G-Flyer to form the huge Assault Gundam, or Omega Gundam.

New Gundam design plan by Mika Akitaka. Much like Okamoto's concept, a small Core Gundam docks with G-Parts to form a larger Omega Gundam.

Another new Gundam design plan by Mika Akitaka. Here, the Core Fighter can dock with A-Parts or B-Parts to form a Core Booster. All three parts combine to become a G-Fortress which tranforms into a Gundam.

Work also began on the design of the enemy mobile suits. In the 1996 laser disc "Memorial Box Type-1," producer Uchida recalls:

We asked the concept-creation team Viscial Design to come up with some mobile suit ideas. I showed these to Mr. Tomino, and then requested designs from various people based on the concepts that came out of that. That's the way we did it. Because Viscial Design came up with the ideas, they really helped us out a lot. And although it ultimately didn't go as far as ordering actual designs, I recall approaching Mr. Kow Yokoyama and Mr. Masamune Shirow as well.

A variety of early mobile suit design concepts were reprinted in the first editions of Bandai's "Mobile Suit Gundam MS Encyclopedia". The caption states that these were drawn during the program's planning stages, but there are no further details on the designers or the time of creation.

Early mobile suit design concepts reprinted in the MS Encyclopedia.

Mobile suit designs by Makoto Kobayashi, as reprinted in B-Club Vol.16. The date is unclear, but the B-Club feature claims that these were drawn "at an early planning stage."


The new Gundam wasn't scheduled to appear until partway into the series, and work on the opening episodes proceeded in the meantime. According to Matteo Watz, the scripts that ultimately aired as Gundam ZZ episodes 3 and 4 were completed on November 19, 1985. In an interview with B-Club recorded the following day, Tomino reports that the scripting of the sixth episode (which aired as episode 7) was already in progress.

Continuing the system established in the second half of Z Gundam, these scripts were written by the rotating team of Akinori Endo (then known as Meigo Endo) and Yumiko Suzuki, based on Tomino's story outlines or "liner notes." The transition from Z Gundam to the new series was fairly smooth, requiring only minor adjustments to the ending of the previous series. Discussing the conclusion of Z Gundam in Z Gundam Historica 03, Endo comments:

Gundam ZZ had also been decided, but I don't think what happened to Kamille was related to that. It was only Emma who was really affected by it. It seems she was written out because she had the same voice actor as Leina Ashta, who was going to appear in ZZ. I don't know whether or not he was joking, but that's what Director Tomino said. As for Kamille, I think that might been decided when he wrote the liner notes. At that point, he wasn't reckoning on the possibility that Kamille might show up again in ZZ.

Tomino had been deeply involved in the scripting of Z Gundam, especially in the first half of the series, but this time he left much of the story creation up to Endo and Suzuki. In an interview in the March 1986 issue of Animage, Endo compares the length of the director's "Tomino memos" in the two series:

On Z, there would be three or four pages of word processor manuscript, but this time there's sometimes just one line.

—One line?! (stupefied)

Like "An episode where the ZZ appears." (laughs)

The creation of background art setting for the Shangri-La space colony was also in progress at this point. This was the responsibility of art director Shigemi Ikeda, a newcomer to the Gundam series who had previously worked with Tomino on Blue Gale Xabungle, Aura Battle Dunbine, and Heavy Metal L-Gaim. In the interview book "The Complete Works of Yoshiyuki Tomino 1964-1999," Ikeda explains that he was particularly intrigued by the idea of the space colonies.

Director Tomino had already created some pretty precise setting ahead of time, on the assumption that the colonies really existed. It was more in-depth than the setting we'd previously been seeing in Gundam. For example, given a diameter of 6 kilometers, clouds should form within the colony at an altitude of 1 kilometer, and there was even setting for their light and barometric pressure. The previous setting was meant to produce visuals, so the artwork was always made for the sake of expedience, but instead I was told to create the stage first and then the story would proceed from there.

—As the Gundam series continued after that, was it essentially inheriting the setting created for Gundam ZZ?

When it came to the colonies, yes. To me, the colonies were a truly interesting part of the Gundam series. As the works accumulated, we were able to think about the details of things like the glass surface and how repairs are made.

In Animedia's "Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ Part.2," Ikeda discusses the real-world inspiration for the colony setting:

We decided in our discussions to make Shangri-La an American-style town. So it's in the image of Los Angeles, with the uptown area modeled on Beverly Hills. During the actual work, I balanced my imagination against reality. In an anime world, our preconceived notions of what a colony has to be like don't apply, and there are things it would be pointless to show to people who don't understand it.

After bringing his worldbuilding imagination to the space colony setting of Gundam ZZ, Ikeda would go on to become a mainstay of the Gundam series. He subsequently served as art director on Char's Counterattack, Gundam 0080, Gundam F91, V Gundam, The 08th MS Team, ∀ Gundam, Gundam Seed, Gundam Seed Destiny, Gundam UC, and Gundam The Origin—a body of work that may represent the greatest contribution by a single individual to the overall series.

November 1985~January 1986
Shangri-La cityscapes by Shigemi Ikeda. Dated November 8 and November 9, 1985.

Shangri-La space colony views and diagrams by Shigemi Ikeda. Dated November 28 to December 2, 1985.
Shangri-La is divided lengthwise into a prosperous "Yamanote" district, an ordinary residential area, a lower-class downtown and factory district, and a massive junkyard that spills out onto the colony's windows.

Shangri-La spaceport views and exterior of Judau's house by Shigemi Ikeda. Dated December 2 to December 5, 1985.

Shangri-La landscapes by Shigemi Ikeda, featured in the opening episodes. Dated January 8 to January 13, 1986.

Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, the legendary character designer of the original Mobile Suit Gundam and Z Gundam, wasn't involved in the new series. Hiroyuki Kitazume, who had served as an animation director on the previous series, was chosen to replace him. In an interview in the 2009 Blu-ray "Memorial Box Part.II," Kitazume recalls:

While Mobile Suit Z Gundam was airing, I recall there was a competition in the summer for the character design of a new program. This was a new project that wasn't part of the Gundam series. I also participated in this competition, but after that, my current producer (Kenji) Uchida told me I should wait because it was still a little tentative. Then, in the autumn—around October or November—I heard that an extension of Z GUNDAM might have been decided.

—And then they chose you without a competition?

I'm not sure what the process was that led to them requesting me. On Z Gundam, Mr. (Yoshikazu) Yasuhiko did the character designs, while I did the animation direction for individual episodes, but they said Mr. Yasuhiko wouldn't be involved with Gundam ZZ. Nonetheless, Bright and other characters designed by Mr. Yasuhiko would be appearing in the program, so the order from Producer Uchida was to create new characters that wouldn't feel out of place when they were sharing the same screen.

Ever since I was animation director on individual episodes of Z Gundam, I'd been drawing in a way that blended Mr. Yasuhiko's characters with my own previous drawing methods, so I thought it would be good to design them as an extension of that.

In an interview in his 1988 art book "Light Pink"—brought to my attention by Petsu-chan and Jefferson Taylor—Kitazume explains that he was suffering from a thumb injury as the production began. As a result, his initial character designs were drawn as roughs, and the cleanup wasn't completed until after the animation work had already begun.

Late 1985
Undated rough designs for Judau Ashta, Leina Ashta, and Elle Vianno by Hiroyuki Kitazume.
These appeared in an issue of Bandai's Mokei Jōhō magazine published on January 1, 1986, so they must have been drawn before the end of 1985.

First and second drafts of Mashymre Cello, and setting art for Damar and Chimatter, by Hiroyuki Kitazume.
First draft of Mashymre appeared in the aforementioned issue of Mokei Jōhō. Damar and Chimatter setting art is dated December 28, 1985.

Finally, Mamoru Nagano, who played an important role in the early stages of Z Gundam, had been selected as the mechanical designer for the new series. By the middle of November, he was already producing drafts of the new Gundam and a variety of enemy Neo Zeon mobile suits.

November~December 1985
First draft of new Gundam by Mamoru Nagano, and another candidate design by Makoto Kobayashi. According to B-Club magazine, these were both submitted in design meetings in mid-November 1985, and share a similar concept of a support mecha that docks with the Gundam's back.

Though B-Club Vol.4 identifies this Kobyashi design as a ZZ idea sketch, in a 2022 Twitter thread Kobayashi says that "the design was requested with the order requirement 'the next Gundam program after ZZ,'" rather than for Gundam ZZ itself.

Neo Zeon mobile suit design roughs by Mamoru Nagano. These include Galluss-J (also identified as "Sazu"), Sol, and an unidentified machine with the inscription "Haman Karn's." Galluss-J draft on the right is dated November 13, 1985.

Neo Zeon mobile suit design roughs by Mamoru Nagano. Left to right: Hamma-Hamma, Emnine, Gaza-D, and unidentified "ground combat MS." The Emnine is described as "a male MS that forms a pair with the Hamma-Hamma."

Endra and Gwanban sketches by Mamoru Nagano. These warships made brief appearances in the final episodes of Z Gundam. Endra setting is dated November 12~13, 1985.

Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ

By the end of 1985, the title Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, which Tomino had alluded to in his November interviews, had been officially decided. The new series would inherit Z Gundam's time slot of Saturdays at 5:30 PM.

An announcement in Bandai's Mokei Jōhō (model information) magazine, published on January 1, 1986, revealed that the first episode on March 1 would be a prelude special reviewing the previous two series. This also served to buy the production staff an extra week, although it resulted in a little confusion as to the episode numbering.

Throughout December, mechanical designer Mamoru Nagano continued to refine his design for the lead mobile suit, now named the ZZ Gundam. By the third draft, it had evolved into a combining and transforming design based on Mika Akitaka's earlier concept. In the March 1986 issue of Newtype magazine, Nagano describes the concept as follows:

This time, I designed the main mecha according to the requests of Nippon Sunrise and the sponsors. The primary requirement was that, no matter what, it had to look like a Gundam. Its silhouette is close to that of the original Gundam, but its upper and lower parts transform into two fighter craft. Instead of shuttle-type machines like the Zeta Gundam, these give the strong impression of being heavily armed fire-support mecha. The Core Fighter is stored inside the body, sandwiched between these two machines. It was supposed to be a small machine like the Vifam's pod, rather than the original Core Fighter.

However, Nagano's design was ultimately rejected. As explained in B-Club Vol.4:

The A-Mecha and B-Mecha transformation planned by Mr. Nagano would have produced problems when it was reproduced in three dimensions, so it was deemed NG (No Good).

At the end of December 1985, Nagano left the project. His design for the ZZ Gundam—along with all his other work, except for a few minor mecha designs featured in the opening episodes—was discarded, and a frantic scramble began to create replacements.

December 1985
Second draft of ZZ Gundam by Mamoru Nagano. Submitted in early December, this version is made up of a Core Base that forms the Gundam's body, a Core Fighter that becomes its chest, and weapon parts that attach to its back.

Third draft of ZZ Gundam by Mamoru Nagano, submitted at the end of December. The A-Mecha and B-Mecha that form the Gundam's upper and lower body can also combine into a C-Mecha.

Components and transformation process of Nagano's ZZ Gundam. This appears to be a slightly revised version of the third draft, with a different shield and rifle, and a more streamlined C-Mecha form.

Left: "ZZ Gundam Early Design" model by Tohru Kobayashi, from B-Club Vol.4.
Right: Illustration by Mamoru Nagano from March 1986 issue of Newtype, with an article about his departure from the project. This image is a reprint of the article in 2001's "The Five Star Stories Outline."

Aside from the Endra and Gwanban, which had already appeared in Z Gundam, Nagano's designs appeared only in the very first episodes of the new series. Due to the production schedule, Nagano's designs for the Galluss-J and ZZ Gundam were also depicted in the opening chapters of the Gundam ZZ manga adaptation by Toshiya Murakami, which was serialized in Comic Bombom magazine.

Late 1985
Petit mobile suit, middle mobile suit, and vehicle setting art by Mamoru Nagano, featured in opening episodes of Gundam ZZ.
Middle mobile suit sketch at top center is dated November 12, 1985.

Meanwhile, Hiroyuki Kitazume was finalizing his character designs. In an interview in the Blu-ray "Memorial Box Part.II," Kitazume describes the feedback he was receiving from Tomino.

When it came to the main characters, he had more criticisms of the costumes than the faces. In the initial roughs, I'd dressed them in simpler clothing. But he said that was no good. Since it was a TV program, the main characters had to wear more distinctive clothes.

Director Tomino gave me foreign catalogs of children's clothing and so forth, and then I designed their current clothes. But even though I used photos for reference, if you simply borrow trendy designs, they'll look outdated and unfashionable right away. So I designed fictional fashions, using those elements purely as inspiration.

In an interview in B-Club Vol.4, Kitazume describes the difference in performance and expression between the Gundam ZZ characters and those of the previous series:

This time, unlike Z Gundam, I want the movements of the characters to be pretty flashy. It felt like the emotions of the Z Gundam characters were concentrated in their faces (laughs), so the expressions tended to be repetitive. In Gundam ZZ, I want to express emotions through body movements as well. After all, lively youngsters will start moving before they talk. That's why there are lots of action poses in the character setting sheets.

Based on the dates on some of the final setting art, it seems that by February 1986 Kitazume had recovered sufficiently from his thumb injury to finish the cleanup of the main characters' model sheets.

Early 1986
Character comparison chart by Hiroyuki Kitazume. This includes all the major characters up through episode 7 or so.

Final setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume for Elle Vianno, Leina Ashta, and Mashymre Cello.
Leina and Mashymre setting is dated February 18, 1986.

Rough and final setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume for Roux Louka, the last of the initial main cast to appear onscreen.
Final expression sheet is dated February 25, 1986.

Following Nagano's departure as mechanical designer, Sunrise and Bandai hastily organized a new design competition. In a roundtable discussion in "Gundam Wars II: Mission ZZ," designer Makoto Kobayashi says he was notified about the competition on December 27, 1985, but he amends this slightly in a detailed account from the laser disc "Memorial Box Type-1":

I first heard about it when I was designing enemy mobile suits for Z Gundam. It must have been around December 28 (of 1985), because we were already exchanging year-end greetings. It seemed that, for various reasons, my predecessor's designs could suddenly no longer be used, and so they hastily contacted me. I met with the people from Sunrise around the 29th or 30th, and they said they wanted it by the 6th of the new year. (laughs)

By way of reference, Kobayashi and the other participants were provided with a transformation plan created by the toy design company TT Brain. As in Nagano's design, the Gundam was supposed to transform into a flight form, and separate into two fighter craft connected by a Core Fighter. It seems that this last feature wasn't included in TT Brain's design, however, and wasn't immediately communicated to all the designers. In "Gundam Wars II," Kobayashi recalls:

It turned out (Producer) Uchida hadn't told me everything. What about the Core Fighter? At first he said they didn't need one, and they'd be OK with just A- and B-Parts. But in fact there was a Core Fighter, and later I was told that even though there was a Core Fighter, people could also ride in the A- and B-Parts and use them to escape. I said, "Any more than this, and it's impossible!"

Working frantically over the new year, Kobayashi and the other designers, including Shindosha's Mika Akitaka and Hideo Okamato, were able to create a handful of design plans in time for the January 6 deadline.

January 1986
ZZ Gundam transformation plan by TT Brain, and Mika Akitaka's reinterpretation of it. Here, the Gundam can change into a Neo G-Armor form, and separates into the G-Sonic and G-Breaker. Akitaka version on the right is dated January 7, 1986.

Another design submission by Mika Akitaka. This version transforms into a G-Fortress form and separates into the G-Sonic, G-Breaker, and Core Fighter. The initial design is dated January 6, 1986, and survived to a second pass dated January 9~10.

Design submissions by Hideo Okamoto. The second one is dated January 7, 1986.

A cleanup of Mamoru Nagano's rejected ZZ Gundam design by Kazumi Fujita.

Only two candidates survived the initial competition—one by Mika Akitaka, and another by Makoto Kobayashi. After a followup round a few days later, the decision was made to proceed with Kobayashi's concept, a powerful design with a forehead cannon inspired by the wave motion gun from Space Battleship Yamato. In the laser disc "Memorial Box Type-1," Kobayashi recalls:

The basic concept they gave us at the time was that of a Gundam with an aircraft form, in which the A-Parts, B-Parts, and Core Fighter each had their own cockpit. As part of the order, they said they'd like the transformation to the flight form to be elegant and attractive, and our sponsor Bandai wanted it to retain the image of the original RX-78. They wanted it to look more powerful than the Zeta Gundam. I came up with a design based on that order, but that alone didn't look powerful enough. So I said "Okay, let's add a wave motion gun!" and put a high mega cannon in its head. I also thought it would be good to add some more artillery, to give it the feeling of an "aerial tank."

In Great Mechanics Vol.6, Koichi Inoue of the Sunrise planning office explains:

The determining factor in the design decision was the giant mega particle cannon in the forehead. That really had an impact. Mr. Kobayashi's unique illustrations also had a strong sense of presence. At the time he was creating examples of MSVs and other plastic models, and was active in the modeling magazines, but he could do design jobs as well. We also wanted to find new talent, so we asked him to draw some mobile suit designs.

At the request of Bandai's designers, Kobayashi then created a prototype model of his design. Completed in just five days, this fully transforming model demonstrated that the complex transformation and combination process would work in three dimensions.

January 1986
ZZ Gundam design plan by Makoto Kobayashi, dated January 6, 1986 (but mislabeled as 1985). In addition to their combining and transforming features, the separated parts can deploy their limbs in a manner reminiscent of Macross's Valkyrie fighters.

Second and third drafts by Makoto Kobayashi. Second draft, dated January 9, 1986 (but mislabeled as 1985), now includes a Core Fighter. Third draft, dated January 17, 1986, adjusts the head shape on the instructions of director Yoshiyuki Tomino.

ZZ Gundam prototype model by Makoto Kobayashi, as featured in B-Club Vol.5. This was based on Kobyashi's second design draft.

An equally urgent task was the creation of new enemy mobile suit designs to replace Mamoru Nagano's creations. It seems this was another aspect of the mechanical design competition, with the same deadline of January 6. The winner was Yutaka Izubuchi, an industry veteran who had previously created enemy mecha for "super robot" series such as Daimos, Daltanious, Trider G7, and Daioja, as well as guest designs for the Tomino-directed Blue Gale Xabungle and Aura Battler Dunbine.

In the designer roundtable in "Gundam Wars II: Mission ZZ," Izubuchi describes how he was approached by Eiji Yamaura of the Sunrise planning office:

There were designs by Mr. (Mamoru) Nagano, and the rumor was that they were having trouble getting them past the sponsor. Then, right around the end of the year, I suddenly got a phone call saying "We're very sorry, but could you draw something for us?" I asked, how should I draw? And they said, about nine. Huh? Nine?! By when? And they said, they'd like them within the year. (laughs)

As it turned out, all nine of Izubuchi's designs were accepted. However, since he was already committed to doing character designs for Toei's live-action superhero series Chōshinsei Flashman, the final cleanup would be entrusted to the Shindosha studio. In the 2000 "Yutaka Izubuchi Mechanical Design Works," Izubuchi recalls the situation as follows:

Back then, I'd been working on designs for the program that was going to follow Z Gundam. I was quite confident in the designs, since it was a work with androids in it, but the project collapsed when they suddenly decided to do Gundam ZZ. (laughs) Then Mr. (Mamoru) Nagano, who was supposed to be doing Gundam ZZ, departed and they had to scramble to slap together some enemy mobile suits. So they placed orders with several designers and held a competition. I think I drew roughs of seven or eight enemy mobile suits at that point.

Although they were accepted, I said I could only take them as far as roughs, and couldn't do anything more than that. So Mr. (Mika) Akitaka of Shindosha was asked to do the cleanups. But when he did that, they were inevitably different from my own image, so I also made several revisions. It's terrible of him to say I only did the roughs. (laughs)

According to an editor's comments in B-Club Vol.5, Izubuchi's concepts were chosen because "they inherit from Mr. Kunio Okawara's designs, while also introducing a new sensibility." Each was given its own name and description by the designer, in some cases referencing classic live-action series such as Super Robot Red Baron.

January 1986
Neo Zeon mobile suit design roughs by Yutaka Izubuchi. Left to right: Baou, Zonos, and Rajasthan, which later became the Galluss-J, Zssa, and Hamma-Hamma.

Neo Zeon mobile suit design roughs by Yutaka Izubuchi. Left to right: Gyazam, Hiryu, and Batalou, which later became the R-Jarja, Bawoo, and Dreissen.

Mobile suit design roughs by Yutaka Izubuchi. Left to right: Zupang, Nuba, and a next-generation Federation Forces machine called the Highpass. The Zupang later became the Capule.

Prototype models were quickly created based on Kobayashi's and Izubuchi's design roughs. These were displayed to the public at the '86 Bandai Fair on January 28 and 29, 1986, and soon appeared in magazine previews to whet the appetites of eager Gunpla fans.

Early 1986
Preview images of prototype models (posted on Twitter by @sudori183). At this point the Batalou, Highpass, and Hiryu have been renamed Zomm, Zega, and Ryuji.

Photos of the '86 Bandai Fair from My Anime magazine (scans courtesy of @combattlerRickV). Shown here are the above prototypes, plus Makoto Kobayashi's handmade mockup of the ZZ Gundam.

Updated display models from the April 1986 issue of Comic Bombom, posted on Twitter by modeler @HayamiHitoshi. The ZZ Gundam was built by Tatsumi Chigusa, and the revised Zomm and Zega by Hayami himself, who says he was given only two weeks to complete them.

Meanwhile, Izubuchi's new designs for the enemy mobile suits were being refined and completed. The final cleanup was done mainly by Shindosha's Mika Akitaka and Hideo Okamoto, with Kazumi Fujita handling the Zssa, and freelancer Yoshinori Sayama finalizing the Dreissen and Capule. Izubuchi himself did the final art for the Bawoo, and stepped in to draw a model sheet for the head of the Galluss-J.

The last two of Izubuchi's original submissions, the Nuba and the Highpass, ultimately never appeared in the animation.

January~March 1986
Galluss-J revised rough by Yutaka Izubuchi, final setting art by Hideo Okamoto, and head views by Izubuchi.
Based on photo below (posted on Twitter by @hidhid421_) final setting is dated January 14, 1986.

Top: Zssa revised roughs by Yutaka Izubuchi, final setting art by Kazumi Fujita.
Bottom: Detail art by Mika Akitaka, Zssa Booster setting art by various Shindosha staff.
Detail art is dated February 1, 1986, and booster setting at lower right is dated March 1.

"Rajasthan" design roughs by unidentified artist (probably Kazumi Fujita), revised rough by Yutaka Izubuchi, final Hamma-Hamma setting art by Hideo Okamoto.

"Gyazam" design rough by unidentified artist, revised rough by Yutaka Izubuchi, final R-Jarja setting art by Mika Akitaka.
Final setting art is dated February 6~7, 1986.

Bawoo revised rough and final setting art by Yutaka Izubuchi.
Mobile suit form is dated March 5~7, 1986. Bawoo Attacker and Bawoo Nutter forms are dated March 12~14.

Revised "Zomm" rough by Yutaka Izubuchi, final Dreissen setting art by Yoshinori Sayama.
Izubuchi's rough is dated March 6, 1986, and final setting art is dated March 21.

Capule revised rough by Yutaka Izubuchi, final setting art by Yoshinori Sayama.
Final setting art is dated March 21.

Revised Highpass rough by Yutaka Izubuchi, additional roughs by unidentified artists (probably including Kazumi Fujita). The "A" versions are meant to be Federation Forces mobile suits, while the "B" versions are intended to be Axis machines.

In addition to the nine designs that Izubuchi submitted in the January design competition, he also did a rough for the Gaza-E (later "Ga-Zowmn") based on another artist's concept. The final cleanup was handled by Mika Akitaka, who also completed the Gaza-D and Cask (later "Catol") based on roughs by Mamoru Nagano and Makoto Kobayashi respectively. The recycled mobile suit Geze, which appeared in episode 5, was completed by Hideo Okamoto based on roughs by both Nagano and Kobayashi.

January~March 1986
Gaza-D final setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated January 21, 1986.

Top: Geze drafts by Mamoru Nagano and Makoto Kobayashi, final setting art by Hideo Okamoto.
Bottom: Detail art by Mika Akitaka, dated January 25, 1986.

Gaza-E design roughs by Yutaka Izubuchi and unidentified artists, final Ga-Zowmn setting art by Mika Akitaka.
Final setting art is dated February 11, 1986.

Cask design rough by Makoto Kobayashi, final setting art by Mika Akitaka.
Final setting art is dated March 14, 1986.

After completing his prototype model, Makoto Kobayashi submitted a third draft of his ZZ Gundam on January 17, 1986, and the design was then handed over to Shindosha for completion and cleanup. In Animedia's 1986 Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ Part.1, Mika Akitaka explains:

At the meeting in January, mine and Mr. Makoto Kobayashi's were the only ones remaining, and then they settled on Mr. Kobayashi's design for the overall line. Mr. Kobayashi's was a combination of A-Parts and B-Parts, so I added a Core Fighter and leg gimmicks. I did various things like making the leg parts look less like legs in G-Fortress form, and turning the A-Part's hands around to reveal nozzles.

—How long did it take until the final draft?

Only one month! I still had to do a lot of drafts, almost one a day... It would have killed an ordinary person.

As Akitaka and his studiomate Hideo Okamoto finalized the design, their main focus was refining it for toy production, perfecting the transformation and replacing the curved parts with flat surfaces that would be easier to reproduce in model form. In Great Mechanics Vol.6, Akitaka recalls:

At this stage, Mr. Kobayashi had already turned his ZZ Gundam design into a three-dimensional model that even included the transformation mechanisms, and also precisely fulfilled Sunrise's order. But he hadn't designed a Core Fighter, and with the technology of the time, it wasn't possible to make a product that reproduced the complex three-dimensional curved surfaces and the transformation using tiny hinges that were incorporated in Mr. Kobayashi's model. Thus, I arranged it so that it could be manufactured, while also inserting a Core Fighter.

The order at the time was that they wanted it to transform perfectly even at 1/144 scale. It had been frustrating for Bandai that, because the Zeta Gundam's transformation mechanisms were so complex, they couldn't create a product that transformed perfectly in 1/144 scale. So with the ZZ Gundam, they decided to revise the design to make a complete transformation possible even at 1/144 scale.

Shindosha's final setting art for the ZZ Gundam's mobile suit form, completed on February 18, was a "toy version" with relatively short legs so that the transformation would work properly. Character designer and animation director Hiroyuki Kitazume also drew an alternative version, with more heroic proportions, for use as animation reference.

As Akitaka continued working on the various components of the combining and transforming Gundam, he added a small detail to the Core Fighter's cockpit. In the laser disc "Memorial Box Type-1," he comments:

As you can see when you look at the original setting sheets, the director would sign the designs he liked with a "good" mark. I got a lot of "good" marks when I drew something that hadn't appeared in a previous Gundam. In episode direction as well as design, the feeling was "It's okay to fail as long you're trying something new," and he wasn't very happy when you did the obvious thing. So he was really pleased when I put a ZZ Gundam combination lever next to the Core Fighter's seat. He even wrote on the setting sheet, "Dear episode directors, you need something like this."

Early 1986
ZZ Gundam design drafts by Hideo Okamoto, and a slightly later version probably drawn by Mika Akitaka.

Top: ZZ Gundam "Toy Version" setting art by Shindosha, animation version by Hiroyuki Kitazume.
Bottom: ZZ Gundam head details by Hideo Okamoto, Neo Core Fighter cockpit design by Mika Akitaka.
"Toy Version" is dated February 18, 1986. Head detail is dated February 14, and cockpit is dated March 15.

Neo Core Fighter, Core Base, and G-Fortress setting art by Mika Akitaka.
These are dated February 15, February 21, and February 24, 1986, respectively.

The design of the new Gundam and its complex transformation mechanism was essentially completed by the end of February, and images of the ZZ Gundam and its various forms soon appeared in anime and modeling magazines. But one final adjustment was made after Makoto Kobayashi saw what Shindosha's artists had done with his design. In "Gundam Wars II: Mission ZZ," Kobayashi recalls:

I was shown (Mr. Akitaka's) cleanup about five days after it was finished. [...] They said, "Thanks to you, it's going to be like this." "It doesn't have a nose. Are you going to add it later?" "No, this is it..." "So is there a cockpit here?" "No, that part's empty." (burst of laughter) "Are you sure about this?" "Well, I'm fine with it. But how about you, Mr. Kobayashi?" (laughs) "I can't stand it," I said. I was pretty flustered, and I thought "This is serious." So I asked Sunrise to fix it.

The ZZ Gundam's beam rifle was hastily redesigned to include a backup cockpit, which would function as a protruding nose in its Core Top and G-Fortress forms. The new Gundam was finally ready for showtime.

February~March 1986
ZZ Gundam combination and transformation system manual by Mika Akitaka.
Dated February 26, 1986, these pages show the Core Top and G-Fortress with their original nose.

Preview images of the ZZ Gundam and its components, as published in contemporary issues of The Anime and Model Graphix.

Revised Core Top, G-Fortress, and mega beam rifle setting art by Mika Akitaka.
These are dated March 3~4, 1986.


The broadcast premiere of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ on March 1, 1986, was introduced by the famously paradoxical opening song "Anime Janai" (It's Not Anime). Like the ending song, "Jidai ga Naiteiru" (The Era is Crying), this was composed by Hiroaki Serizawa—composer and arranger of the theme songs from the 1985 anime Touch—and arranged by Shiro Sagisu, with vocals by Masahito Arai.

Lyrics for both songs were written by music producer and lyricist Yasushi Akimoto, who went on to become the producer of the idol group AKB48. In the "Gundam ZZ Book" included with the April 1986 issue of Newtype magazine, Akimoto and Tomino discuss the thinking behind the opening song:

Akimoto: Looking at the theme songs that others had previously written, somehow they seemed to be pandering to animation, or pandering to children. It felt like there were preconceived notions about what an animation theme song should be. So I thought it might be more interesting to set those aside and just say "It's not anime," singing in an animation program about how it wasn't anime.

Tomino: Oh, is that the only point?

Akimoto: No, there's one more thing. I normally don't watch much anime, but when you told me about the story, it didn't seem so far away, and I felt a sense of reality that it wasn't that much of a lie. So I wanted to say another meaning of the lyrics is that the story is so realistic, it isn't anime. As a result, I think I've created a work that I'm satisfied with.


Tomino: It's not an opening for a Gundam work. I actually made an opening in which I combined that song with Gundam imagery, but I was almost angry at how poorly the pictures matched. That's only natural, but it's still really good. What anime needs now isn't a Gundam opening. At a time when anime is a mess in many respects, I'd like to seriously think again about the anime genre, and I wanted a song that would be a call sign for that. If it's turning into something like that, I might make it look a little dirty by putting Gundam imagery on it, but I'd like to get that song out somehow.


Akimoto: As you said, I had no intention at all of writing a song about "Gundam." I feel I made a theme song about animation as a whole, starting with what an anime theme song means to me. It may have become a little incoherent, but I think it's a suitable song to grace one page in the catalog of animation theme songs.

Perhaps in reaction to these lyrics, the opening animation includes some images related more directly to the viewing audience, beginning with an aerial view of Japan and ending with a giant computer processor die. (Thanks to Space Bruce for correcting my original misidentification of this as a motherboard.)

March~May, 1986
Scenes from the first opening, "Anime Janai." Like most previous Gundam openings, it begins with a shot of Earth as seen from space, but here the focus is specifically Japan.

The opening continues with a depiction of human evolution, leading up to the Newtype protagonists Amuro Ray, Kamille, Bidan, and Judau Ashta.

Though Char is also depicted in the opening, he never actually appears in the series. The opening concludes with a lineup of the cast in front of a computer processor die.

After the appearance of the ZZ Gundam, the opening animation was updated as of episode 12 to show off the new Gundam's docking and transformation process, and Roux replaced Mashymre in the cast lineup.

Scenes from the first ending, "Jidai ga Naiteiru."

The first episode, "Prelude ZZ," was a special program reintroducing the Gundam world and reviewing the previous two series. The narrative began in earnest with the broadcast of episode 2, "The Boy From Shangri-La," which showcased the efforts of experienced staff members carried over from Z Gundam and previous Tomino-directed series. It was scripted by Yumiko Suzuki, who alternated the writing duties with Akinori Endo as in the second half of Z Gundam. In Animedia's "Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ Part.2," Suzuki recalls:

As a working method, the director gave the orders about the rotation. Since Mr. Endo was playing the central role in advancing the story, I had a lot of discussions with him. Personally, "The Boy From Shangri-La" was the story that made the deepest impression on me, since it established the direction for everything. I was also the one who named Mondo, Beecha, and so on.

The storyboards for this episode were a joint effort by veteran Toshifumi Takizawa—who had not only worked with Tomino on Heavy Metal L-Gaim, Blue Gale Xabungle, and Space Runaway Ideon, but also co-directed the two Ideon compilation movies—and Tomino himself, under his alias "Minoru Yokitani." It was directed by Kunihisa Sugishima, a former production manager who had directed five episodes of L-Gaim and nine of Z Gundam.

Another carryover from Z Gundam was mechanical animation director Yorihisa Uchida, who supervised the mecha artwork for every episode. In the Blu-ray "Memorial Box Part.II," Uchida comments:

The plan with Gundam ZZ was to make the Gundam's combination and transformation a selling point, so I think in ZZ the scope of what was permissible became broader, including flashy presentation. [...] The precision of the setting increased when we went from Z to ZZ. During Z, there were still some parts that were drawn impressionistically, but in ZZ we drew them in considerable detail based exactly on the setting. Even the smallest parts were now firmly defined in the setting. In that sense, there was a transition period between Z and ZZ.

Though this was one of only three episodes for which character designer Hiroyuki Kitazume served as animation director, his recently established Studio Pack played a major role in the animation of the series. One of its members, Naoyuki Onda, was responsible for animation direction on seven episodes of Gundam ZZ, and Studio Pack contributed key art throughout the series.

Early 1986
Left: Director Yoshiyuki Tomino and lyricist Yasushi Akimoto, from an insert booklet included with the April 1986 issue of Newtype.

Right: A group picture of Studio Pack from B-Club Vol.4. Back row from left: Naoyuki Onda, Hiroyuki Kitazume, brother Hiroyuki Yamada and Masashi Yamada, "mecha specialist" Morifumi Naka. Front row from left: Junichi Watanabe, Satoshi Iwataki, Hiroyuki Ochi, figure modeler Kazuo Ishii (not a studio member). Not pictured: Hiroaki Motoigi, who was then seconded to AIC.

In his interviews around the time the series launched, Tomino expresses some uncertainty about the long-term plot, as in this interview from the May 1986 issue of Animec magazine (recorded on March 6 of that year):

What I'm thinking in terms of the work is that if I can settle things with Amuro in Gundam ZZ, then I'd like to do that. But even so, I can't say anything right now, because I don't yet know whether Amuro will actually appear in ZZ.

—Will you be considering characters like Lalah or Four in the upcoming story?

I'm not thinking about that at all. Every time we do that, it gets more repetitive, right? So I wasn't planning anything like that. But what I'm wondering right now is, in short, how to develop the story from episode 20 onwards. Frankly speaking, it's giving me trouble.

ZZ is a work that belongs to the Gundam series, so there's a danger the program's viewers will reject it if it turns into a different story. In any case, so far it's only been decided to broadcast ZZ for two cours, so I don't yet know how long we can keep making it.

One recurring question was whether Char Aznable would reappear. In his initial Gundam ZZ story outline, Tomino had proposed bringing Char back in mid-series on the enemy side, but by the time the broadcast began he seems to have cooled to the idea. In an interview from the May 1986 issue of My Anime, Tomino replies to the editor as follows:

—This is story-related, but will Char reappear after the third cours begins?

He probably will. But if ZZ can earn some support as it is, then it's also possible Char won't appear. In that case, maybe Char is dead in a ditch somewhere. (laughs) This time, ZZ's audience are mainly children, so Char may not show up.

A full translation of this interview, and an accompanying one with scriptwriter Yumiko Suzuki, can be found on the TominoStuff blog:

As the series progressed, character designer Kitazume continued fleshing out the cast with new friends and foes. In B-Club Vol.9, scriptwriter Akinori Endo explains that the role of enemy officer Glemy Toto was drastically expanded, with an eye to taking Char's place as a secondary villain:

At first, Glemy was just named "Soldier A." This was when he first appeared in episode 9, "Judau in Space." [...] This has happened a lot since the days of Z Gundam, but in the next meeting, Director Tomino said "That's a character we could expand more, so let's flesh him out in various ways." [...] We ended up inflating Glemy's role in the form of Char Aznable in Gundam ZZ. So if you feel like he was initially a lightweight character but is gradually getting heavier, then please assume we planned that from the start.

Glemy isn't just Haman's subordinate, but is acting based on his own true objectives. As to what his true objectives are, that may be revealed at the end of the story. From the beginning, it was always possible that Char might not appear in ZZ. According to the setting, Glemy may actually be a descendant of the Zabi family, so Mr. Kitazume designed him with that in mind.

Other characters introduced around the end of the first cours include replacement Endra commander Chara Soon and acting La Vie en Rose captain Emary Ounce..

February~March 1986
Setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume for Glemy Toto and Chara Soon.
Glemy setting is dated February 18, 1986. Chara setting is dated February 24.

Setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume for Emary Ounce, and unused setting for La Vie en Rose captain and doctor.
Emary setting is dated March 15, 1986. Captain and doctor setting is dated March 13.

La Vie en Rose exterior details by Mika Akitaka, dated March 11, 1986.

Episodes 14 and 15, the two-part "The Phantom Colony," introduced the idea of a lost civilization that has reverted to a pre-technological state—an idea that would recur in later Gundam works, notably ∀ Gundam. In the May 1986 issue of My Anime, scriptwriter Yumiko Suzuki discusses the idea behind this memorable "side story."

There's a Sweetwater-type colony (an Island 1 colony, an early spherical type) called "Moon Moon" which is even older than Shangri-La. The setting is that it became obsolete with the spread of cylindrical colonies, and its existence has been completely forgotten. Its agricultural plants have also broken down, and now they're farming directly on the land inside the colony. Its people are ruled by a religion called the "Teachings of Light" which aims to get rid of machines and bring about a world without technology. The story begins when the Argama, pursued by the Endra, stops by for resupply.

The original plan was that it would have an atmosphere like Mothra... The founders of this religion (two female prophets) were also inspired by The Peanuts. (laughs) And at the end, the sleeping machines would all reawaken at once like in Daimajin... (laughs)

It really feels like blockbuster entertainment. I hope people will watch it for the fun of it, rather than the details of the story. In that sense, it may be the kind of story you could only see in ZZ. This is our first completely self-contained story, but unlike Z, on ZZ there's an increasing tendency towards stand-alone episodes, so there may be more like this in the future. That way, people who join us in the middle will also be able to watch it.

Like the aforementioned Tomino interview, a full translation of this interview can be found on the TominoStuff blog.

February~April 1986
Rough designs for the Moon Moon colony by Shigemi Ikeda, dated February 6, 1986.

Setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume for Rasara and Sarasa Moon, dated March 18, 1986. These twin priestesses were inspired by the fairies in the live-action movie Mothra, as played by the singing duo The Peanuts.

Setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume for Moon Moon inhabitants and Role the priest, dated March 18, 1986.

Final setting art for Moon Moon colony interiors by Shigemi Ikeda, dated April 7, 1986.

The main villain Haman Karn, at first shown only in the flashbacks of her fawning subordinate Mashymre, finally appeared in real time in episode 18. She subsequently switched to an elaborate new uniform with a crown-like headpiece. In the Blu-ray "Memorial Box Part.II," Kitazume cites this as an example of how he adjusted his designs for a younger audience:

I was thinking about the symbolic design of tokusatsu shows when it came to things like Haman's face decoration. After hearing about the direction of the work, I decided to try introducing some of the nuances of a hero show.

Glemy also received a new look around this time, reflecting his increasing prominence as a villain.

March~May 1986
Setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume. Haman's dress from episode 9 is dated March 3, 1986. Haman's uniform and aide, originally designed for episode 12, are dated March 17 and 18 respectively.

Setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume. These new costumes for Glemy and Haman, featured during Judau's infiltration of Axis in episode 18, are dated May 3, 1986.

Axis exterior and interior setting art by Shigemi Ikeda, dated May 3, 1986.

Two more recurring characters joined the enemy ranks during the second cours—Neo Zeon ace pilot Rakan Dahkaran, and the juvenile Cyber-Newtype Elpeo Ple. Character designer Kitazume had particular trouble with Ple, and in the Blu-ray "Memorial Box Part.II," he recalls:

I think I was given memos summarizing the distinctive traits of each main character, and I designed them based on that. In the case of Ple, what was written was something like "As a child, she has some fluffy aspects, but sometimes she can also be quick-witted..." It was pretty vague.

I drew a few drafts while I was fretting over it, and along the way I tried drawing one with long hair. It was around the third rough draft that I gave her a short haircut close to the current design. I thought that was a good direction, but I wanted to make it a bit more distinctive. Then Director Tomino suggested that I extend the sidelocks, and thus Ple's design was decided.

Despite Kitazume's struggles, his final design for Ple earned one of the director's coveted "good" marks, and she went on to become a popular and enduringly famous (or infamous) character. Animedia's Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ Part.2 provides the following explanation of the character's name:

Elpeo Ple is very popular, and her name also has a respectable basis. It was Chief Director Tomino who named her. When he was looking at a book, the director saw a description of a clan of adorable fairies, and he used their name just as it was. In other words, "the El People."

However, there was one problem in choosing this name. When the director brought it to the scriptwriter Mr. Endo, he rejected it, saying "Don't we already have an Elle and a Roux?" But the director was attached to the name Elpeo Ple, and in the end they used it anyway.

Though there are various other theories about the origins of this name, I felt this was worth mentioning here because it comes from a fairly credible source.

April~May 1986
Setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume for Elpeo Ple and Rakan Dahkaran.
Ple setting is dated April 28, 1986. Rakan setting is dated May 29.

Setting art for Elpeo Ple's Qubeley Mk-II by Yoshinori Sayama, dated April 9, 1986. Aside from the Zeon mark on its shoulder and a new beam saber design, it's unchanged from Mamoru Nagano's original drawings for Z Gundam.

The Qubeley Mk-II and its mysterious pilot make their first onscreen appearance in episode 17, when the Argama tests its newly installed hyper mega particle cannon on an abandoned colony.
Cannon design by Mika Akitaka and colony setting art by Shigemi Ikeda are both dated April 24, 1986.

After the frantic scramble at the beginning of the year, there was less activity on the mechanical design front. The ZZ Gundam itself debuted with the broadcast of episode 11, "Activate! Double Zeta," on May 10, 1986. Its appearance, followed by a one-week break, represented the imminent end of Gundam ZZ's first cours.

This also marked the launch of the show's flagship product, which was released as a 1/144 scale model in June, and a 1/100 scale transforming "Full Action" model the following month. To accompany the latter, mechanical designer Mika Akitaka designed an "Armament Enhancement Plan" for the ZZ's G-Fortress form. Another Akitaka original, the Ga-Zowmn Gunner Type, subsequently appeared in the kit manual for the 1/144 scale Ga-Zowmn.

Summer 1986
G-Fortress Armament Enhancement Plan and Ga-Zowmn Gunner Type illustrations by Mika Akitaka.
G-Fortress illustration is dated July 2, 1986.

Yutaka Izubuchi's initial lineup of enemy mobile suits continued rolling out over the course of Gundam ZZ's first half, ending with the onscreen debut of the Capule in episode 24. This episode also featured the Zaku Mariner, the first of the classic mobile suit variations which would populate the second half of the series.

Aside from Haman's new flagship, the battleship Sadalahn, Akitaka's only major new creation from this period was the Mega-Rider support vehicle used by the heroic Gundam Team. This was originally meant to transform into a mega launcher gun platform, but since it was too big to be released as a plastic model, Tomino advised Akitaka to eliminate the transformation gimmick.

April~June 1986
Mega-Rider rough sketches by Mika Akitaka and Yoshiyuki Tomino. Tomino's sketch appears to be a response to the leftmost of Akitaka's drafts.

Mega-Rider final setting art by Mika Akita, dated April 16 and April 28, 1986.

Mega-Rider cockpit interiors by Shigemi Ikeda, dated May 15, 1986.

Sadalahn final setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated April 19 and May 2, 1986. The second sheet refers to the use of ballute packs in episode 23, so it seems the idea of sending warships to Earth had been introduced by this point.

Sadalahn interiors by Shigemi Ikeda. Bridge is dated May 9, 1986. MS deck is dated June 9.


Around episode 23, "The Burning Earth," the story moved into a so-called "terrestrial chapter" as Haman Karn's forces—now formally known as Neo Zeon—descended to Africa to launch an invasion of Earth. As of episode 26, "Masai's Heart," the transition to the second half of the series was formalized with new opening and ending songs.

Once again, the new songs were composed by Hiroaki Serizawa, this time with arrangement by Kei Wakakusa and vocals by Jun Hiroe. Masao Urino wrote the lyrics for the opening, "Silent Voice," as he had done for the opening songs of Heavy Metal L-Gaim and the second opening of Z Gundam. The ending song, "Issenman-Nen Ginga" (Ten Million-Year Galaxy), featured lyrics by Tomino himself under the alias "Rin Iogi."

August 1986
Scenes from the second opening, "Silent Voice." Instead of the planet Earth, the opening begins with a spiraling galaxy. The frequent imagery of Haman, combined with the female vocals, might suggest the song is from her point of view.

Scenes from the second ending, "Issenman-Nen Ginga."

As the series entered its second half, the story began to shift in a more serious direction. In the August 1986 issue of Newtype magazine, Tomino reflects on the negative reaction to the first few months of Gundam ZZ:

It's already been on the air for more than one cours, which should have been enough time for both the staff and the viewers to grasp the atmosphere and pacing of the work... but in fact, I'm a little confused. As far as I can see from the letters I'm receiving, the people in the audience are showing a rejection of the work called Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ. In short, it seems the people who are expressing their feelings via letters and so forth would prefer something dark and difficult like the previous Z Gundam. [...] But I'd like to continue the series like the current ZZ to the very end.

But in the November 1986 issue, Tomino says he was ultimately forced to accept defeat:

In my previous interview, I said that I'd like to keep on making ZZ like ZZ, and that I wanted to go all the way to the end with that same atmosphere. But the current ZZ, especially from August onwards, has become fairly serious, with an atmosphere close to the previous Z. [...] Simply put, due to various factors, we wouldn't have been able to continue broadcasting ZZ as it was.

The serious new tone was confirmed with the shocking death of a major character in episode 28, the conclusion of the two-part "Leina's Blood," which was broadcast on September 13, 1986. As it turned out, even the staff felt this was too much of a dark turn. In Z Gundam Historica 03, scriptwriter Akinori Endo recalls:

On ZZ, Judau's sister Leina died in the director's original plot. I timidly said, "That's going too far. Please do something about it." Somewhat unhappily, Director Tomino replied, "I understand," and he made a revision (to the liner notes). When he did that he wrote in big letters, "And then, thanks to the staff, Leina comes back to life."

The second half of the series also saw the addition of some new staff members. A third scriptwriter, Hidemi Kamata, joined the writing team as of episode 29. Meanwhile, Shinji Takamatsu, who served as setting manager on Z Gundam and later played major roles on New Mobile Report Gundam W and After War Gundam X, made his official debut as an episode director with episode 24 of Gundam ZZ.

June 1986
Updated main character setting by Hiroyuki Kitazume.
Main character and cloak setting is dated June 15, 1986. Ple setting is dated June 23.

Setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume for Leina, Haman, and Mineva costumes featured in episode 27.
Leina and Haman setting is dated June 26, 1986, Mineva setting is dated June 27.

There were similar course changes on the merchandising side as well. While the first half of the series had introduced a parade of new mechanical designs, the second half focused on variations of existing mobile suits from previous series. According to Great Mechanics Vol.6, this was essentially a scheme to save money on plastic model production:

A variety of measures were taken to prop up the program as it entered its second half. A representative example was the question of how to merchandise Gundam ZZ products and sell them in large quantities without raising costs. In the second half of the program, the molds of mass-produced mobile suits that had appeared in the past were recycled to create new variations. Among these releases were the Regelgu, an improved Gelgoog, and the Gaz-L and Gaz-R which reused the Galbaldy Beta's molds.

Bandai also issued many orders compared to Z Gundam, such as situations featuring lots of mass-produced mobile suits. But Gundam ZZ was ultimately unable to stop the downward trend in both audience ratings and merchandising, and thus the program came to an end.

In May 1986, around the time the ZZ Gundam made its onscreen debut, a design meeting was held to consider ideas for the second half of the series. Here the production staff presented an outline of the upcoming story from episode 23 onwards, and a variety of mobile suit concepts were submitted by the Shindosha studio and the Model Graphix staff. The ideas presented by the Model Graphix crew are discussed in considerable detail in Gundam Wars II: Mission ZZ.

Autumn 1985~Spring 1986
Rough designs by Masahiro Oda. Originally created for Model Graphix magazine in Autumn 1985, they were used as reference in the creation of mobile suit variations for Gundam ZZ.

Near-final designs for Dwadge, Gaz-R, and Regelgu, as published in B-Club Vol.8.

The designs submitted by the Model Graphix staff were based on the idea that Haman's Neo Zeon forces would invade Earth by dropping mobile suits from space. Thus, these were meant to be updated versions of older machines that Neo Zeon had retained since the time of the One Year War.

However, the series production staff eventually decided to have the Neo Zeon warships enter the atmosphere and then fly around Earth under their own power, bringing their newest mobile suits with them. Thus, most of these classic mobile suit variations were reimagined as older machines that had been left on Earth after the previous war, and were now used by remnant forces of the old Principality of Zeon.

Several of the designs submitted in the May design presentation were adopted virtually unchanged, with mechanical designer Mika Akitaka completing his cleanup work in early June.

May~June 1986
Left: Zaku Tanker design rough. Though the artist is unidentified, the rounded forms are suggestive of Masahiro Oda.
Right: Final setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated May 30, 1986.

Top: Zaku Mariner design roughs by Kazuhisa Kondo, Masahiro Oda, Masahiko Asano, Asano again, and Oda again. Second and third versions are dated May 12, 1986. Fourth version is dated May 19.
Bottom: Final setting art by Mika Akitaka. Initially dated June 2, 1986, it was revised on June 14.

Left: Desert Zaku design rough by Masahiro Oda.
Right: Final setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated June 2 and June 13, 1986.

Left: Dwadge design roughs by Masahiro Oda, Masahiko Asano, and Oda again. Asano's rough is dated May 8, 1986.
Right: Final setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated June 2, 1986.

Left: EWAC-Zack design roughs by Hajime Katoki.
Right: Final setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated June 9, 1986.

Left: Regelgu roughs by Masahiko Asano. Second backpack rough is dated May 12, 1986.
Right: Final setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated June 9, 1986.

Left: Gaz-R rough by Masahiko Asano.
Right: Final setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated June 10, 1986.

Left: Sturm Dias designs for Model Graphix magazine by Mamoru Nagano, dated June 23, 1985.
Right: Final setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated June 11, 1986.

Other design ideas were rejected for various reasons. The "Zeta plus," an original design which the Model Graphix staff had been working on since early 1986, was passed over to avoid the confusion of adding extra Gundams.

Though Mamoru Nagano's Sturm Dias was accepted, his Hyaku-Neu was rejected for the same reason as the Zeta plus. And amphibious versions of the Methuss and the Gaza series were no longer necessary after the idea of dropping mobile suits from orbit was abandoned.

Early~Mid 1986
Left: Zeta plus design roughs by Masahiko Asano and Hajime Katoki. Asano's Wave Rider rough—the upper of the two versions—is dated March 10, 1986.
Right: Hyaku-Neu design by Mamoru Nagano.

Gaza Mariner and Methuss Mariner design roughs by Hajime Katoki.

Left: Desert Gelgoog, Desert Zaku Rommel Custom, and Zaku Diver designs published in 1988 MS Encyclopedia. Later categorized as "ZZ-MSV," they're described here as "designed when MSV appeared in ZZ."
Right: Zaku Desert Type Custom, included in ZZ-MSV lineup as of 2022 "Mobile Suit Illustrated U.C.0081-0090."

Two more submissions from the Model Graphix staff were adopted after undergoing further reworking. Two different ideas for an upgraded version of the Federation's GM series, the GM Plus and the Rick GM, were merged to create a single design known as the GM III. And Masahiro Oda's Zaku III, originally a minor update to the original Zaku series, became a completely new Neo Zeon machine with a variety of optional equipment.

According to "Gundam Wars II," Oda's ideas for the Zaku III were sufficiently extreme that they had to be cut back down to size:

Among the ideas considered in the initial plan were a mega cannon in the chest like that of the Geymalk, optional funnel containers, and brainwave communications jamming functions (these two ideas make this machine usable by both Newtypes and non-Newtypes). However, these were rejected because the machine was too all-powerful, and it needed a functional distinction from the Döven Wolf and Geymalk.

Cleanup of these two designs was completed by Yoshinori Sayama at the beginning of July.

June~July 1986
Left: GM Plus head roughs by Masahiko Asano.
Right: Rick GM roughs by Masahiro Oda and Hajime Katoki.

Left: GM III design roughs by Hajime Katoki. Second and third illustrations dated June 14 and June 18, 1986.
Right: Final setting art by Yoshinori Sayama, dated July 1, 1986.

Zaku III design roughs by Masahiro Oda, dated June 18 and June 21, 1986. Missile space in backpack can also hold "bio-bits" that disrupt Newtype weapons.

Left: Zaku III skirt extension booster and medium-range cruising backpack by Masahiro Oda, dated June 21, 1986.
Right: Final setting art by Yoshinori Sayama, dated July 2, 1986.

Mika Akitaka, meanwhile, was working on some new designs of his own. Among them was a Gundam-type mobile suit for Newtypes dubbed the G-V (pronounced "G-Five"), first proposed at the end of March 1986 as a Federation Forces mobile suit, and then revived in June as a candidate for the final enemy machine.

In an interview in the May 1987 issue of Model Graphix, Akitaka explains that the G-V was initially passed over due to the decision to focus on classic mobile suit variations:

I drew it because they asked me to submit a second-stage new mobile suit, following the Hamma and R-Jarja. In the end, they went with those variation models of old mobile suits (the Regelgu, Dwadge, and so on) for the second-stage mobile suits, so it was completely rejected.

—The second draft was in June.

Well, that one was drawn as the final mobile suit.

—Huh? Not the Quin Mantha?

Actually, they told me "draw one," but I brought them three. There was a Rick Dias-style one, a prototype of the Geymalk, and then this G-V. Since I'd gone to the trouble of doing three, they decided to use all of them. But the Dias-style one and the Geymalk prototype were combined into the current Geymalk. That left us one short, so I added the Jamru-Fin.

—Then where does the Quin Mantha come in? What's the story?!

After that, they told me "draw one final mobile suit" once again (laughs). That was the Quin Mantha, the real final one.

Along with the G-V, which was eventually renamed the Döven Wolf, Akitaka also completed designs for the Geymalk and Jamru-Fin. According to Animedia's "Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ Part.2," when the setting art was drawn, the Geymalk was envisioned as a giant mobile suit in the same class as the later Quin Mantha:

The reason it ended up being smaller is because the original plan was to release the Geymalk as a plastic model, and it couldn't be released in 1/144 scale unless it were about 20 meters in size. However, the maker cut the Geymalk from the release list in order to release variations of old mecha (such as the Dwadge) that appeared in the terrestrial chapter.

The Döven Wolf and Jamru-Fin, however, did make it into plastic model form. Their release in November 1986, alongside the Zaku III, marked the end of Bandai's Gundam ZZ product line.

June~July 1986
G-V roughs by Mika Akitaka, dated March 30, June 9, and June 23, 1986. Though the G-V initially had a Gundam face, the last of these includes ideas for new head designs in response to Yoshiyuki Tomino's order, "No more Gundams on the enemy side."

Döven Wolf final setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated July 9 and July 28, 1986.

Geymalk setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated July 4 and July 31, 1986.

Left: Jamru-Fin Mega Booster setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated July 12 to July 13, 1986.
Right: Jamru-Fin Big Booster illustration for model kit manual by Mika Akitaka. According to the kit manual, this is intended for use in Jupiter's gravity well.

The buk of Gundam ZZ's Earth-bound episodes were set in northern Africa, with an unusually detailed exploration of real-world locations and the social and ethnic conflicts that linger into the Universal Century. This section of the story culminated in a devastating colony drop on the city of Dublin, and the introduction of a new adversary in the form of Elpeo Ple's sinister doppelgänger Ple-Two.

June~August 1986
Left: Episode 24 character setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume. Taman & Anu are dated June 6, 1986.
Right: Episode 24 background setting art by Shigemi Ikeda, dated June 5, 1986.

Top: Episode 25 character setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume, dated June 11 and June 12, 1986.
Bottom: Episode 25 background setting art by Shigemi Ikeda, dated June 12, 1986.

Episode 27 background setting art by Shigemi Ikeda, dated June 25 and June 26, 1986.

Episode 30 character setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume. June Cocoo and Ghardaia guards are dated July 16, 1986.

Left: Episode 34 background setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated August 17, 1986.
Right: Ple-Two character setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume, dated August 29, 1986.

After the conclusion of the terrestrial chapter, the action returned to space as of episode 37, "Nahel Argama." Mashymre Cello, the enemy ace from the opening episodes of the series, reappeared with an updated look and a stylish new lieutenant. Chara Soon, Mashymre's successor as commander of the Endra, made her own return a few episodes later.

As its title suggested, episode 37 also marked the debut of the heroes' new mothership, the Nahel Argama. Something of a hybrid between the previous Argama and the White Base from the original series, this warship would reappear in updated form in the later series Mobile Suit Gundam UC.

August~October 1986
Mashymre Cello and Illia Pazom setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume, dated August 28 and September 1, 1986.

Chara Soon and Lance & Nee Gylen setting art by Hiroyuki Kitazume, dated October 7 and October 11, 1986.

Nahel Argama hangar sketch and final setting art by Mika Akitaka.
Hangar sketch is dated August 4, 1986. Final setting is dated August 28 and September 3.

Nahel Argama interior setting art by Shigemi Ikeda.

Mechanical designer Mika Akitaka delivered a last round of mobile suit designs as the series entered its final episodes. In addition to Mashymre's customized Zaku III and a mass-produced version of the Qubeley, this included the huge Quin Mantha which battled the Gundam Team in the penultimate episode. In the laser disc "Memorial Box Type-1," Akitaka recalls:

Though this may come as a surprise to many people, the rough for the Quin Mantha was actually done by Director Tomino. At first, the only thing decided about the Quin Mantha was that it was a Psycho Gundam-class giant mobile suit, but this was so vague that I couldn't figure out what to draw. So when I did my rough, I said "it's the last episode, so I'm sure some kind of Aura Battler-type thing will be fine."

The director called me in and told me off. "Saying that it's fine because it's the last episode isn't how a professional thinks!" He said, "I'll draw a rough, and then you can base it on that!" And that's how the Quin Mantha was created. That's why there are still traces of an organic design here and there.

The Full Armor version of the ZZ Gundam, which battles the Quin Mantha in episode 46, was the last of Akitaka's creations for the series. Though it wasn't included in Bandai's Gundam ZZ lineup, a plastic model was released in July 1987 as the first in the Gundam Sentinel series.

October~November 1986
Quin Mantha design rough and final setting art by Mika Akitaka.
Final setting is dated October 3 and October 10, 1986.

Zaku III Custom and Mass Production Type Qubeley setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated October 26 and November 1, 1986.

Enhanced ZZ Gundam and Full Armor ZZ Gundam setting art by Mika Akitaka, dated November 4, 1986.

The final episode of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, "Warrior, Once More," was broadcast on January 31, 1987. In a closing epilogue, the main cast gather to bid farewell to Judau and Roux as they depart on a multi-year voyage to Jupiter, and Judau is reunited at the last minute with his little sister Leina.

Also appearing in these final episodes is Sayla Mass, a heroine of the original Mobile Suit Gundam. After brief wordless appearances in Z Gundam and an earlier episode of Gundam ZZ, where she was revealed as Leina's savior, Sayla finally speaks in the closing episodes. As explained in the "All Gundam Guide" included with the November 1987 issue of Animedia:

Sayla wasn't intended to appear in Gundam ZZ. This is because they were trying to save her for the movie, and because Sayla's voice actor, Ms. Yo Inoue, was out of the country. But when it was decided to save Leina, who was supposed to have been killed, someone was needed to rescue her. After considering who this should be, the staff chose Sayla for the sake of fan service. That's how Sayla came to appear without saying a single word.

It was also necessary to let the viewers know about Char's whereabouts to create a connection to the movie version. This led to the conversation between Sayla and Bright in the final episodes. Ms. Inoue had also returned to Japan, but it was really the fans' voices that brought about Sayla's two appearances.

Sayla's voice actor, Yo Inoue, returned to Japan in time to record lines for the last two episodes. This was to be the character's final appearance in the Gundam series.

November 1986
Character setting art from final episodes by Hiroyuki Kitazume.
Main cast setting is dated November 19, 1986. Sayla and Leina setting is dated November 7.

Now that Mobile Suit Gundam had been revived with Z Gundam and Gundam ZZ, it was clear that the series would continue in some form. In an interview in the November 1986 issue of Newtype magazine, recorded on September 2, Tomino discusses the idea of returning to the Judau character in a future series:

ZZ has now gathered enough strength to continue for another year. So the last episode, in January of next year, won't be an ordinary finale. The Shangri-La characters will survive in good spirits and, in the last episode, I plan to end with the protagonist Judau Ashta setting off on a journey. Judau isn't like the previous Amuro or Kamille. I think he's a character with the potential to become a fine protagonist.


Judau isn't yet spiritually mature enough to understand his fellow Newtypes. But after he leaves on his journey and then returns, maturing both spiritually and as a human being, I think he'll become a good protagonist. That's the reason for sending Judau on a journey in the last episode. And then, after a one-year hiatus, a new Gundam will begin when he returns. Thus it won't be a continuation of ZZ, but a completely new story in which I want Judau to once again play the leading role.

Despite Tomino's prediction, this sequel never materialized. In fact, it would be more than six years until Gundam returned to television. In the meantime, the series would continue in the form of feature films and original video series. And the first of these, which eventually became the feature film Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, was already being planned before the end of Gundam ZZ...