Ultimate Mark

Production Reference:
Gundam ZZ Memorial Box
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Translator's Note: These interviews and comments from some of Gundam ZZ's staff and creators appeared in the laser disc Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ Memorial Box Type-1, released in November 1996.


In discussing the work called ZZ, we can't forget about Kenji Uchida, who served as producer. Over a limited time, he acted as a liaison between Director Tomino and the staff in the studio, working hard to create the series over the span of one year. We've asked him to look back on his memories of those days.

"It felt like, just before the finish line of a 10K race, being asked to run another 10K"

In the case of Gundam ZZ, we were approached about continuing Gundam at the very last minute, so I went to see Mr. Tomino for advice. In the studio, where we were in the process of wrapping up Z Gundam, it was good news that there would be another year of Gundam. But I remember him saying, "When you've run a 10K race in excellent time, and you have one lap left to go, being asked to run another 10K is a little tiring." (1) Nonetheless, being asked to do it for another year was the highest form of praise. We said "Okay, let's actively go for it."

So we decided to put together a proposal, but Z Gundam had been a work carefully crafted to carry the burden of the near-legendary first Gundam. If we were going to continue for another year, Director Tomino said, he wanted to change the style a little. I think Gundam ZZ was the answer that came from the director's own creative side, as well as consideration of the staff and the studio. When he told me about his initial concept, I also agreed with his ideas, and said "Let's do a second year."

That's roughly what it was like. But since we didn't have much time in production terms, as we were deciding the fine details I remember thinking "Well, we don't have time, so what should we do?" After all, we had less than three months between the formal decision and the start of broadcast, and we only had a single special program in between. It would have much easier if we'd had three special programs in the middle, like with G Gundam. (laughs)

Such were the conditions when we began the actual production work. But when I try to recall exact details from the time of broadcast, I can't remember many distinct particulars about Gundam ZZ itself. To me, Z Gundam, Gundam ZZ, and Char's Counterattack are a single set of memories, and I can't always distinguish clearly between them. After Char's Counterattack, I was responsible for Gundam 0080 and SD Gundam, and those are an entirely different set of memories.

"I feel you probably couldn't make a TV anime like "Z" or "ZZ" now"

Z and ZZ were actually the very first and second jobs I was responsible for as a producer. I'd had a run-up period working with Director Tomino as production manager on Xabungle, Dunbine, and L-Gaim, but Z Gundam was the first time I'd ever worked with Mr. Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, and I hadn't previously dealt much with Mr. Kunio Okawara either. So at the time of Z, I had my hands full trying to integrate the power of big names like Mr. Tomino, Mr. Yasuhiko, and Mr. Okawara into the film in a good way. But at the time of Z, I felt I was fine with that.

When we transitioned to ZZ, we decided to use a different combination than Mr. Yasuhiko, Mr. Okawara, and Mr. (Kazumi) Fujita. It was decided relatively early on that we'd go with with Mr. Hiroyuki Kitazume for the characters, but we had a hard time deciding on the mecha. Thus 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.

Ultimately, seeking an image that would contrast with the speedy feeling of the Z designs, we decided to go with a massive design created by Mr. Makoto Kobayashi. We're also truly indebted to Mr. Mika Akitaka for his help with the mecha designs in general.

But when I think about it now, I seriously believe we couldn't make a work like that anymore. The works of that time had more lines than modern ones, and used an unimaginable number of frames. It was an era when we could invest a tremendous amount of resources into a work. This was also true of Layzner, which we were working on at the same time, but we'd use 7,000 or 8,000 cels and were always way behind schedule. (laughs)

Anyway, in those days, there was an established understanding that if you made a good work it would be appreciated, including by people in the high-target audience. We could feel that the trend that started with Yamato and Gundam had become a real thing, and this was also reflected in the works. Naturally, looking back now, even the works of the time had their shortcomings, but I still think we all did our best at the time. It was probably hardest for Mr. Tomino. As the person who made the original Gundam, he did Z Gundam and Gundam ZZ amid terrible pressure and expectations.

Rather than making several works about a single character, it felt like Mr. Tomino was aiming to make Gundam an ongoing saga based on the era and the worldview he himself had created. I think that's why he chose Kamille as the main character for Z, and in the same way he chose Judau for ZZ. But eventually he also had to resolve things with Char and Amuro, and I believe that's why he made Char's Counterattack after ZZ.

(September 18, 1996, at Sunrise)

Translator's Notes

(1) The Japanese text doesn't specify who said this, but Tomino used exactly the same metaphor in a 1986 interview in Newtype magazine, so I assume Uchida is quoting him here.


"Seeking the ultimate Gundam, by giving the RX-78 a wave motion gun"

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) That's how it happened. It was a so-called competition format, and I think they called in various mecha designers, as well as TT Brain, which came up with transformation and combination ideas for Gundams and other things.

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 Z 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."

Bandai gave this the OK, and around the middle of January I made a wooden model for the toy. This also confirmed whether the proportions really fit. Then Director Tomino sent me a rough. Since the wave motion gun was too big as it was, he asked me to shave it down, so I corrected it a little. After that, it was handed over to Shindosha, who did the final cleanup. But of course, the finished version they came up with had changed a little from my original intention. Speaking of it as a design for animation, I think I should have done it properly all the way to cleanup. So when the time came for me to draw my own illustrations, I changed it back pretty substantially.

Even in the "Gundam Team" illustration (a poster included with the October 1986 issue of Newtype), the feel of the ZZ in the back is rather different. Since the editorial department gave their OK, I tried drawing it in a form reminiscent of Mr. Kunio Okawara (who designed the RX-78). When I drew the picture, I was thinking of giving it the feeling of a "giant mobile suit." I was aiming for the impression that it was 30 or 40 meters, like the Psycho Gundam. There's also the Gordam that appeared in Gowapper-5 Gordam, a robot that didn't really move, but just tipped over and flew off with a roar. That was pretty cool, and I thought the ZZ could have that feeling too. So even in my illustrations, I stopped posing it too much. One might say it's like a humanoid version of the Psycho Gundam's mobile fortress form. Since it has so many attached parts, it would also look awkward if I put it in contrived poses.

Naturally, when I actually saw it onscreen, it was also different from what I'd originally imagined. I'd thought that the head high mega cannon would be more impressive, as powerful as a Solar Ray. But after firing one shot, all the ZZ's functions would temporarily shut down, and the Gundam Team would have to protect it in the meantime. Since it was originally based on the wave motion gun from Space Battleship Yamato, and the mecha from Z Gundam would still be involved in the story development, I'd thought it would be fine for it to be an "ultimate weapon."

(September 10, 1996, in Ekoda)

Illustrations by Makoto Kobayashi, as reproduced in the Memorial Box liner notes. On the right is the "Gundam Team" poster he discusses in his interview.



"At first, the mobile suit design was really tough"

Originally, during Z Gundam, I helped with the designs by supporting (mecha designer) Mr. Kazumi Fujita. When they decided to launch Gundam ZZ, they held a concept meeting, or rather a kind of audition, and he told me "Why don't you try out for it as well?" (1) At the time, I thought "Since last time it transformed, why not have it combine this time?" I drew a few roughs, and the idea was accepted. That was the direct cause of my taking charge of the mecha for ZZ.

After that, various things happened in a rather short span of time, and ultimately Mr. Makoto Kobayashi's design was adopted as the base for the ZZ. But Mr. Kobayashi's roughs didn't include a Core Fighter, so Mr. (Hideo) Okamoto helped me a lot when I was drawing my own roughs. Thus you could say the ZZ Gundam was a mobile suit completed with the help of many different people. Although they were rejected, Bandai also contacted Shindosha directly, separately from Sunrise, to request ZZ Gundam designs from us as well. I created some designs at that point, too. (2)

Even though the broadcast started in March, the decision was only made in December of the previous year. So there must have been a lot of confusion in the studio, and I didn't like any of the mobile suits I drew at the beginning. That was partly because my skills were underdeveloped, but mostly because we couldn't properly finalize any of them for time reasons. I don't really want to blame it on lack of time, but... I always thought that, if I had the opportunity, I'd like to draw the ZZ Gundam over again. So, before the decisive battle with the Quin Mantha, I redrew it for the Full Armor ZZ Gundam. At the time, the episode director scolded me, saying "The balance is totally different." But I remember replying, "Isn't it cooler like this?" (laughs)

As for the other mobile suits, another place where I made changes was the Hamma Hamma. The rough was by Mr. (Yutaka) Izubuchi, and the overall cleanup was by Mr. Okamoto, but for some reason I cleaned up the toes myself. (laughs)

Also, 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.

I have another anecdote about the Quin Mantha. At the time, I was absolutely forbidden to tell anyone, but the Quin Mantha doesn't have a neck. In fact, the Quin Mantha's head floats separately from the body, and in the setting this was supposed to be a new kind of anti-G cockpit system. I was told this was top secret because it would be used in the movie, so when the setting was created, they said "This will be used for publicity purposes, so you mustn't spoil it." I recall hastily adding parts that would make it look like it had a neck. But when I actually saw Char's Counterattack, I was astounded that they didn't use that setting at all. (laughs)

Quin Mantha rough design and final head setting art by Mika Akitaka, reproduced here for reference purposes.


Anyway, though ZZ was really tough at first because of the lack of time, it got much easier in the second half. And while I was initially doing my work at Shindosha, by the time ZZ ended, I'd started working on the Dirty Pair movie in parallel and so I was always going in and out of the studio. But when I did Dirty Pair, I was surprised by the contrast with ZZ. It was so easy when product merchandising wasn't involved. (laughs)

By the way, you couldn't have curved surfaces on a toy back then. Since the craftsmen of the time used chisels for carving, there were some tapers that simply couldn't be made. But nowadays most of the molds are created using electrical discharge machining, so there aren't really any shape restrictions. Even on Martian Successor Nadesico, which I'm doing now, people keep saying "We couldn't have imagined something like this back in the day." Also, back then, Bandai would get estimates for each part when creating toys. They'd ask how much each one cost, and since that was directly reflected in the unit price, sometimes they'd ask me to cut it down.

"I consciously changed the design from the mobile suits of Z Gundam"

It's often said that the mobile suits of Z Gundam have a strong aircraft-like image. So when I was designing my own mobile suits, I consciously tried to return them to the image of tanks. At the same time, Director Tomino himself was also trying to demolish the previous image of the mobile suit, and it seems he was aiming for something different from Z Gundam.

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."

Anyway, the director's aim at the time was similar to what I was thinking. But I didn't actually meet him until relatively late, around episode 13. At the time, I was still a newcomer, so the setting manager was looking after me and tried to call me only when the director was in a good mood. (3) Director Tomino is a very strict person, so I guess he thought it would be a pity if the director crushed me. Studio 2 was doing the production at the time, and whenever the director came by, the atmosphere would change and nobody would speak. Then, at occasional intervals, you'd hear a voice shouting "You idiot!!" (laughs)

Back then, it made me pretty angry as well. But I think it's often misunderstood. The director is scary and harsh because of his firm belief that "This is how a professional should be," so in a sense it's completely natural. (4) But people ignore the context, gossip about the scary parts, and spread it through word of mouth. So that creates a lot of misunderstandings. In the end, I haven't worked with Director Tomino again since ZZ, but if I have the opportunity I think I'd like to assist him once again.

(September 11, 1996, at Red Company)

Translator's Notes

(1) The Japanese text doesn't specifically attribute this quote to Fujita, but that seems like a reasonable assumption given the context.

(2) I believe Akitaka is referring here to the alternate ZZ Gundam ideas that he and Okamoto submitted in January 1986, at the same time as Kobayashi's design.

(3) This protective setting manager would be Yasuhiko Kondo, who went on to leave Sunrise and co-found Studio Takuranke.

(4) I believe Akitaka's comment, 「とにかくプロはこうあるべきだ」っていう確固たる考えの上に成り立ってるもの, means that Tomino is strict because he thinks that's how he himself should behave, not that he's angered by the unprofessionalism of others. Although both could be true.


There were many twist and turns on the way to deciding the design of the ZZ Gundam. Here, we would like to look back on materials from the time to see this evolution. First, please be aware that the present condition of some materials may not be very good, since this work is ten years old.

Next Gundam Rough Sketches 1985.10
Here we present rough sketches for the main mecha of the upcoming series (the ZZ naming was not yet decided), which were created in the early stages of planning. The participants at this point included Mr. Mamoru Nagano and Mr. Makoto Kobayashi (designers who worked on Z Gundam), Mr. Mika Akitaka (then a member of Shindosha), and Viscial Design, which created ideas for combining and transforming toys.

☆ Click the image thumbnail below to see it at full size! ☆


Mamoru Nagano's Base Design 1985.10-11
Mr. Mamoru Nagano was placed in charge of the ZZ Gundam's design, and submitted several drafts. Some of his designs are presented below. For various reasons, Mr. Nagano ultimately stepped down, and in the end these designs never saw the light of day.

☆ Click the image thumbnail below to see it at full size! ☆


And Complete of Gundam ZZ 1986.1
At the end of 1985, Mr. Mamoru Nagano stepped down for various reasons. The design of the ZZ was decided in the form of another competition. Of the entries, we present here designs by Mr. Makoto Kobayashi, Mr. Mika Akitaka, and Mr. Hideo Okamoto. As we know, Mr. Makoto Kobayashi's rough draft was ultimately adopted, and it was accepted after being cleaned up by Shindosha.

☆ Click the image thumbnail below to see it at full size! ☆