Ultimate Mark

Production Reference:
Gundam ZZ in Newtype
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Translator's Note: The following interviews with Gundam ZZ chief director Yoshiyuki Tomino and mechanical designer Mamoru Nagano appeared in Kadokawa's Monthly Newtype anime magazine during the production and broadcast of Z Gundam and Gundam ZZ. As is often the case, Tomino's interview transcripts have been edited for publication into single essays in his own voice.

From Monthly Newtype, January 1986

Translator's Note: The date of this interview is unknown. Given the production details Tomino mentions, it seems to be around the same time as his November 20 interview in B-Club Vol.3.

The planned title of the new series is "ZZ"

Regarding the next series of Gundam, we're working on it with a feeling somewhere between a new series and a program extension. I don't know when it will finally be decided, but I'm thinking about a new name. I believe the expression "ZZ" would be very symbolic. I really like it as a way to express the idea of a new Z, while also thinking of it as a continuation. The name itself is easily said, but it took me a whole month just to think of it. (laughs) Logical names like "Alpha Gundam" and "Epsy Gundam" were also candidates, but given the implication of a continuation, I think "ZZ" is the most appropriate. And the story itself is also like that. (1)

We've currently written up to the first three or four episodes of the story, and I think this will work. There originally wasn't a TV series scheduled for '86, so honestly we're doing this in a panic. The atmosphere in the studio is as if we'd just entered the home stretch of a 10K race, and then were suddenly told we had another 10K to go. (laughs)

In the first issue of "Newtype," I discussed Newtypes in Z, because I wanted to talk about Newtypes in "Newtype." But ultimately, Z was a story about acknowledging reality. The way the Titans were portrayed would have been an interesting theme for a novelist, but it was a subject that was hard to understand in a TV anime. Here, we were depicting the power games of politicians and ambitious people. I'm grateful that I was able to do something I'd never been able to do before. Having a boy like Kamille as the protagonist may also have made it less approachable for girls, since he was a type that's difficult for girls to understand.

The goal is "a light Z, an enjoyable Z"?!

Z was a work that I made just as I pleased. With the new series, on the other hand, I want to look at Z from a new point of view. In that sense, this continuation worked out very well, and I'm thankful for that. With ZZ, I created a story plan with a simple structure by way of reaction. I want to make a light Gundam. I'm going to give you Newtypes, even it gets a little pudding-brained! (laughs) (2) The protagonist is a boy of the same age as Amuro, and I feel his image is somewhere between Jiron from Xabungle and Daba from L-Gaim.

As for the main mobile suit, "ZZ" won't necessarily be the name of the main mecha. The concept is that of a successor to the Zeta Gundam. Mr. Mamoru Nagano is currently working on the design, but it won't be a so-called "Nagano mecha." Rather, its image is closer to that of the original Gundam, and I think it follows the lineage of orthodox mobile suits. It's scheduled to appear in the story around Golden Week, instead of right at the start. (3) Of course, suddenly changing the leading role—well, that's what a pudding-brained world is like, right? (laughs)

The main villain will be Haman Karn's Axis. As far as Haman, I think it would be nice to depict her in a way that draws the sympathy of the fans, like Koros in Daitarn 3. I don't dislike Scirocco, the main villain of Z, but he was a character that was hard for teenagers to understand. In a TV anime, it's no good showing a villain who doesn't take action in person. (4) The directorial intention was that I wanted to express human evil. In a way, he was my ideal character, the one I'd most like to portray. But on the other hand, it was difficult for teenagers to understand. It's not until you reach your forties that you truly realize people like Scirocco exist... (laughs)

Translator's Notes

(1) I normally translate 作品 (sakuhin) as "the work," but this is one of those cases where that might sound like "the working process" rather than "the creative work of art."

(2) The term Tomino is using here, パープリン (pāpurin), is apparently from a 1970s gag manga called Todai Icchokusen, in which people's brains are scrambled like pudding (プリン) by the "Perfect Perfect" (パーペキ) beam.

(3) A weeklong series of public holidays that begins on April 29. The ZZ Gundam eventually debuted with the broadcast of episode 11 on May 10, 1986, but this may have been pushed back a week by the addition of a special prelude episode.

(4) Literally 「本人を動かさないで敵に見せる」, "showing a villain without moving the person in question."

From Monthly Newtype, March 1986

Translator's Note: This article, and the accompanying illustration, were republished in Kadokawa Shoten's "The Five Star Stories Outline" in 2001. The image shown here is taken from this reprinted version.

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


Mamoru Nagano leaves "ZZ"!
A close-up on the situation and his future activities!

Mamoru Nagano was supposed to be solely responsible for the mecha design for Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ. At the end of December of last year, however, the situation suddenly changed. The Nagano mecha—including guest mecha as well as the main mecha, the ZZ Gundam (provisional name)—have completely disappeared from the screen. Newtype hastily attempted to interview Mamoru Nagano about this matter.

"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. This wasn't my own concept, so the main mecha designed by somebody else that appears in the show will probably inherit the same mechanism."

The mecha on these pages that he drew for us is now no more than an original mecha that could be called a "Nagano Gundam." As soon as it was announced in the January issue of Newtype that Mamoru Nagano would be in charge of the mecha design, expectant cries of "We want to see it right away!" came in large numbers from enthusiastic fans. Ordinarily, a rejected draft like this design is destined to be buried in the history of anime. This time, we decided to go ahead and publish it, because we didn't want the passionate voices of all these readers to be completely wasted. Until the actual "ZZ" appears in the coming year, we'd like you to think of this mecha that's no longer related to the anime series as a dream for a single month. (1)

"I wasn't trying to pursue heavy metal-style coolness here. (2) Smart design lines aren't characteristic of mobile suits, and if I tried for the same level of coolness, it couldn't compete with heavy metals. I wanted to demonstrate that the crude image of the mobile suit is on its own different level of coolness. (3) This design was stopped when it was about 70% done, so it's frustrating that it's in a half-finished state... But if you aren't satisfied with this mecha, please look forward to The Five Star Stories when it begins in the next issue."

Translator's Notes

(1) The original Japanese text says that the actual ZZ Gundam will appear "next year," but this may be a typo for "next month" or "next issue."

(2) Nagano is referring here to the mecha he designed for the 1984 series Heavy Metal L-Gaim.

(3) The Japanese term 武骨 (bukotsu) means something like "awkward," "rough," "rugged," or "uncouth."

From Monthly Newtype, August 1986

I'd like to keep making ZZ like ZZ until the end

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 as far as I'm concerned, even if the Elpeo Ple character shows up and acts out the drama of a meeting between fellow Newtypes with Judau, it certainly won't follow the same pattern as the two previous works. I want to show it with ZZ's unique storytelling.

After episode 22, the story itself will enter a terrestrial chapter. But I don't think we'll be meeting old characters or using the Audhumla as a base as we did in Z. When I decided to do Gundam as a continuing series, it was because I wanted to make it a single historical chronicle. It's true that there are some who'd like the old characters to reappear, but when it's not necessary for the camera to show old characters like Amuro and Kamille, I think we'll try our best to hold back. Going back to my earlier comments, that point is probably the direct reason why ZZ is being rejected by people who expected it to be "something that's like Gundam."

At the moment, bearing in mind factors such as audience reaction and the broadcast duration, I'm considering three patterns for the ending. In particular, it could become an entirely different story depending on the length of the broadcast run. But I'd like to continue the series like the current ZZ to the very end. By doing so, I want to underscore the contrast with the previous works in this time slot (from Xabungle to Z Gundam), and expand the range of patterns and feelings within the works themselves.

To tell the truth, there are many people who are more fixated on the previous image of Gundam than we are, and don't accept ZZ itself. That makes it a little difficult. One way or another, I intend to show them the breadth and range that robot shows originally possessed.

ZZ's ultimate goal: The drama that can only be created by combination

First, to ensure there's no misunderstanding, I'd like to say that I was the one who first suggested we make the ZZ a combining mecha. At the point when it was decided that we'd produce Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, and make the work in its current form, I told the companies involved that I'd like the main mecha to be a combining mobile suit. That was because, as I said earlier, I wanted to show the fun and range that robot shows originally had, and which they've lost sight of over the the last few years. In that sense, I'm personally elated that ZZ episode 11 depicts the "combination" in that way (see film).

To those who are hung up on the Gundam of the past, I'd like to say "What's wrong with combining?" I want you have more fun with anime. I'd like you to let go of old images and just cherish the anime genre.

To tell the truth, I wanted to devote an entire episode to a combination of "docking plus drama." But the majority of the young people animating the Gundam in the actual studio have never made a combining robot show before. So I'm somewhat dissatisfied with the quality of the final product in areas such as the layout during the docking process, and the application of perspective to the parts. If you're writing a script, all you have to do is say "the ZZ combines." You can do it in one line.

In that respect, the "docking plus drama" is handled well in episodes 12 and 13. But once you've established that pattern, it can turn into an "all-bank" drama in which you simply retrace it, the A-Mecha and B-Mecha combine, and then the bad guys shown up. (1) So I want the young staff, including the scriptwriters, storyboard artists, and key animators, to keep trying. On the other hand, I'd like the youngsters to speak up and say, let's add human depiction to a full-episode combination drama!

The task of establishing a showpiece docking scene, however, is difficult enough that it could be called artisanal. So it'll be impossible unless the people in the studio are consciously trying to make robot shows look like fun. Their job is to make the combination itself enjoyable to watch. You could call that the most important challenge of ZZ.

Translator's Notes

(1) A "bank" is an archive of stock footage, such as complex combination sequences, which is reused in later episodes.

From Monthly Newtype, November 1986

ZZ has the strength to create another year of a TV series

In my previous interview (in the August issue of this magazine), 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. If you ask me why, I didn't do it with any particular aim. Simply put, due to various factors, we wouldn't have been able to continue broadcasting ZZ as it was.

Nonetheless, I still wanted to try making a "light Gundam." For example, fans say that even though the first Gundam was really serious, there were also a lot of light and enjoyable parts. But at that time, in that era, anime itself was still something light and enjoyable. So, to match the era of seven or eight years ago, I created a work in which serious and light parts coexisted. But since Gundam, works that emphasized only the serious side have proliferated, and the original fun of anime has been lost. I think everyone must have forgotten how to make anime.

I sensed that impending crisis and, as I've said before, when it was decided that we could make a sequel to Z, I resolved "Let's make ZZ lighter! Even if it's outside the mainstream of the era, let's make a light Gundam!" I thought that methodology itself might be epoch-making, both for the viewers and for people in the anime industry.

That methodology, as I mentioned earlier, was rejected in the middle of the broadcast. But even though they'd been rejected, Judau and the rest of the Shangri-La gang remained light characters as originally planned. So even amid the current serious story, they still seem full of life. That's not especially unbalanced or unnatural. It's because the essential power of Judau and his friends surpasses that of the "Z Gundam-like" adult characters.

To be honest, this new way of working is easier. The way we were working at the beginning of ZZ was far more difficult. The younger staff don't understand that. But the atmosphere now is pretty good... it's becoming more fun, so as a result I think it worked out well, particularly in terms of creating a work for business purposes. (1) In that sense, when I think back on it now, the opinions of several staff members who told me "We can't keep going with the same atmosphere as the beginning of ZZ" were very valuable.

Anyway, between this October and the end of broadcast in January of next year, the story of ZZ will be very lively. It's something I'm really looking forward to as a creator, but ZZ will end with the feeling that things are about to get even more interesting. It's rather unfortunate, but given the development of the story, it can't be helped. And that doesn't mean the story itself will reach a complete conclusion.

Quite frankly, the reason is that I think Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ could be continued for another year.

Judau survives, departs, and then becomes a new protagonist (2)

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. In a positive sense, he can be a protagonist who doesn't think about anything.

Kamille, by comparison, was always brooding by himself. He's a character who makes you want to say, "If you're thinking on your own like that, then please stop." (laughs) While we're talking about the last episode, I'll just say there's still hope for Kamille. We'll end in a way that makes you anticipate he'll probably go back to normal.

Meanwhile, 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. As a creator, I'd really like to do that.

And Kamille, during his period of insanity, is also maturing. Kamille appears in episodes 34 to 36 of ZZ and, though supposedly an invalid, he'll seem very capable as he does things like sending Newtype messages to Ple in battle.

Why is Kamille better now than he was in Z? In short, it's because he's doing things by instinct rather than by reason. Previously, Kamille acted thinking only about other peoples' feelings, but in the end these were nothing more than other peoples' feelings as measured by Kamille's own standards. He was unable to react instinctively to other peoples' actions as Judau does.

Kamille's recovery! And a theatrical release under consideration for March '88!

For human beings, training is important in determining whether they can react correctly like that. If Kamille can recover from his current state and continue these instinctive reactions in his everyday life, I think he could become a good protagonist. So he's another character I'd like to try using as a protagonist once again.

The reason why I'm talking about a sequel is because I want to leave a record in print that I was thinking about this as of today, September 2.

What does that mean? If we keep going like this, ZZ will get pretty interesting by the end. In other words, I can see a prediction that it will generate profits in business terms. If the product releases are handled well, ZZ will be successful. (3) And when that happens... that is, when we actually start talking about a sequel one year from now, I don't want it said that Tomino is just doing a job because he's following a line of business. So I'm declaring that at this point, I'm already planning a TV sequel. During Z, I also said that I started planning a sequel back in July, but nobody remembers that.

I believe even the current ZZ could work as a business if it continued for another year, but nobody realizes it. I also have a feeling the product releases are outdated, but you could call that the grumbling of a single frustrated director. (4) Under those circumstances, I didn't want ZZ to fail. Even if it was in a different form than originally planned, we made it successful as a work.

As for the movie, that's currently a blank page. (5) Anyway, from here on, the work won't progress unless we see a market opportunity. (6)

The content, meanwhile, depends a lot on the release timing. For example, the initial plan was to release it in the summer of '87. In that case, it would have been only half a year after ZZ's broadcast ended, so we'd have made it a work that included echoes of ZZ's content. But if it's released as a movie in the spring of '88, one year after the end of the broadcast, then even if it's still set in the same ZZ world, we'll have to adapt it more and change some subtle aspects.

That's what I'm thinking, at least. I don't think it's as simple as saying, "the next Gundam must be like this" or "if I'm making a Gundam, it'll definitely be like that." I'm just not that fussy about it. After all, if the timing slips by half a year or a full year, then we'll have to take that into account when making it.

In that sense, I can't call myself a creator. I feel I may be nothing more than a planner, making plans based on whether it's this year, or that year, or what kind of event we're doing at that point—movies or TV?

I want to call in the scriptwriter of Aliens for a Gundam movie!

In my heart, though, I think it's really important to do it that way. It seems obstinate, but as a planner, I have to consider that it could slip by half a year.

Still, I envy people who work like Mr. Hayao Miyazaki. He's an anime creator who is always working as both animator and a director, and he's never lost his abilities. I think it's because I don't have those abilities that I had no choice but to become a planner.

And as a planner, I'd really like to bring in James Cameron, the writer and director of Aliens. No, I'm saying this in all seriousness. It was his idea to completely discard the atmosphere and story of the previous work, and say "this time it's war." I want a single phrase with that kind of effect. Certainly there might be schedule and budget issues, but the consulting fee would be 10 or 20 million yen at most. We could bring Mr. Cameron to Japan for a week or so, have three or four days of meetings and brainstorming, and then we'd find the single phrase that would become our keyword. That's all it would take.

But they say they can't spend 20 million yen for that alone. (7) Something like that is impossible. That's the Japanese film industry for you. I think planning is a gamble, whether in movies or TV. If we don't have the courage to make those kinds of wagers, the industry itself will eventually collapse. That should be obvious, and it would be painful to do it only by data theory.

We have to be more adventurous. We have to take more risks. But we can't do that because we're stuck in the timid, narrow Japanese film industry. Call in more talented people from overseas, and invest some money in that. That would be better in the end, if we could create a work that becomes an asset. But I guess the movies will still get made, even without the human talent. (8)

(September 2, at Office Ai)

Translator's Notes

(1) I think Tomino means that it's more fun for the staff, rather than for the viewers.

(2) The Japanese term 主人公 (shujinkō) could also be translated as "main character" or "hero." It doesn't necessarily imply admirable qualities, so I've opted for "protagonist" here.

(3) The term Tomino uses here, 商品展開 (shōhin tenkai), could be translated as "product development," "product launch," or "product rollout." In the case of Gundam ZZ I assume he's talking about the Gunpla product line.

(4) Possibly a reference to the later Gundam ZZ Gunpla product line, which consisted mainly of slightly retooled versions of older kits. Tomino usually doesn't discuss the details of Gunpla releases, but the corresponding mobile suits featured heavily in the anime so he must have been aware of them.

(5) The term 白紙 (hakushi), literally "white paper," means a state where nothing has been decided and you're starting from scratch.

(6) The term 気配 (kehai) means a sign, hint, or indication, but apparently it can also be used to refer to a price quote in a stock market or financial exchange, so I've taken the liberty of interpreting it here as "market opportunity."

(7) It's unclear to me whether this idea actual reached the stage of direct negotiation with Cameron.

(8) I'm not sure if Tomino is referring here to the upcoming Gundam movie, or the Japanese film industry in general.