Ultimate Mark

Production Reference:
The Anime: Mobile Suit Z Gundam
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Translator's Note: The Anime Special Collection: Mobile Suit Z Gundam, published in August 1985, was the first in a series of three Z Gundam reference books from Kindaieiga-sha. It included a selection of interviews with creators, animators, and production staff, which I've translated here.

Because the animation directors and production staff are less well-known to Western fans than the designers and scriptwriters, I've added notes about the careers of these staff members after their respective interviews.

The following text is copyright © Kindaieiga-sha.


Kenji Uchida

It's tough being a freshman producer

Z Gundam is a very difficult work for a first-time producer. It's my first time working with anime-world superstars like Mr. Tomino, Mr. Yasuhiko, and Mr. Okawara, and as a freshman producer, I have a great deal to learn. There are almost infinite benefits, but I feel there are just as many challenges.

The job of a producer is production-related, but unlike animation or episode direction, it's hard to define the range between where production begins and ends. The will to create a work like this—something that the director, myself, and the rest of the staff are all thinking about—is concretely manifested in various ways by the people like myself who do production. If the director is responsible for the content, then my job is actually to guide the entire thing while looking around from a higher viewpoint which includes that. In that sense, it's pretty rewarding, but there's more to be done.

Many of the staff this time, including the animation directors, are young people in their early twenties. In the production of Z Gundam, when I thought about how it would interpreted in product form and its representation in the mass media, I wondered what kind of thing we should be releasing now. While in many senses it's influenced by the previous work called Gundam, I decided we couldn't keep on doing it with the same sensibility. I think people of the generation who experienced the previous Gundam as viewers have gone on to see other robot shows born from the epoch-making Gundam. I really wanted to see what kind of work the people who had absorbed those influences would create. That's why I tried to gather a staff mainly of people from that generation.

In the broadcast portion from episode one up until now, I think Z Gundam has been able to faithfully represent the genre of the robot show. I'll continue aiming for an even higher standard from now on, and on the way to the final episode, I'll keep marching on alongside the staff in the form I have in mind.

I hope you'll look forward to seeing what will be born from this work and its combination of mobile suits and other realistic mecha, the human energy that controls them, and the people known as Newtypes and Cyber-Newtypes. Rather than getting caught up with only human drama or only mecha information, we'll be mixing them both, and working hard in the second half to make this the best of all real robot shows.

Translator's Note: After working as chief production manager on the Tomino-directed Xabungle, Dunbine, and L-Gaim, Uchida served as a producer on Z Gundam, Gundam ZZ, Char's Counterattack, and Gundam 0080, as well as assorted SD Gundam video and film releases. Uchida subsequently produced the Sunrise super robot series Raijin-Oh, Gambaruger, and Go-Saurer, and was credited with planning on Overman King Gainer, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, and the ∀ Gundam and Z Gundam: A New Translation films. From 2008 to 2014, he served as president of Sunrise. Born in September 1953, Uchida was 31 years old when Z Gundam began its broadcast run.

Chief Production Manager
Koji Takamori

I'd like to get more absorbed in the content

My first job at Sunrise was as setting manager on Gorg. Nowadays, I feel like I was more absorbed in the content back then. In the job of chief production manager, your priority is to maintain the schedule... It's pretty grueling keeping up with a schedule, after all. And since so many people are involved, it's difficult simply keeping track of the situation.

Perhaps that's why I can't watch programs objectively anymore, without thinking about anything. Watching the rushes, I moan about things like "Oh, we don't have a lot of pictures," and with the first print I'm worrying about whether there are any scratches. Usually I only understand the story and the quality of the work once it's finally on TV. But it's probably better to have a schedule, even if it's a little tight, because that draws a clear line for the staff. I think it's because of these schedules that anime is able to maintain its current level.

Moreover, since I started in the business, I've come to think there are two ways of making films. In short, there are the directors who are involved in the content of the actual film, and the producers who gather the talents that make the film. With movies, it's the directorial aspects that people superficially notice, but in a broader sense I've come to understand that there are other ways to get involved in making films.

Translator's Note: Takamori served as chief production manager on Z Gundam, Gundam ZZ, Char's Counterattack, and Gundam 0080, as well as assorted SD Gundam video and film releases. He went on to become a producer on Sunrise works such as Goldran and Dagwon.

Setting Manager
Shinji Takamatsu

A production assistant for the series as a whole

There are few companies that have the position of setting manager, and I think the job may be unique to Sunrise, which produces a lot of setting. It doesn't mean I create the setting myself, but I'm a production assistant responsible for setting, and in my case I also do script-related work. It's my duty to deliver the scripts, storyboards, and setting materials. In this position, I meet frequently with Mr. Tomino and the scriptwriters, which means I naturally have a greater awareness of the complicated story and setting related to Gundam than the other people on staff.

I took over the job of setting manager around episode 6, but a huge amount of setting had already been created before that, so my first task was to get a complete grasp of it all. However, there were parts of this initial setting that I still don't fully understand, so sometimes it's been difficult to maintain consistency later on.

The toughest part of this job is when I have to place orders with the designers for the characters, mecha, and background art required for each episode. I'd like to reflect the sorts of things Mr. Tomino said during the meetings, and the opinions of the people who came up with the setting ideas, but it's hard to communicate their intentions properly because they were delivered verbally.

It's true of most of the current staff, but I was also in the position of a viewer during the previous Gundam. At the time I never imagined getting a job in anime or joining Sunrise, so now that I'm working on Gundam and asking Mr. Yasuhiko to make Amuro character sheets, it suddenly feels very strange.

Translator's Note: After serving as a production assistant on Votoms, Vifam, and Galient, Takamatsu became setting manager on Z Gundam and then went into storyboarding and episode direction during Gundam ZZ and Dragonar, not to mention Gundam 0080 and the SD Gundam series. After serving as series director on Mightgaine, J-Decker, and Goldran, he took over as director on the second half of New Mobile Report Gundam W and went on to direct After War Gundam X. Takamatsu remains active in the industry to this day, most recently as director of the Teppen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! anime. Born in December 1961, he was 23 years old when Z Gundam began its broadcast run.

Mechanical Animation Director
Yorihisa Uchida

I want the viewer to gasp at the mecha scenes, too

My job is basically to standardize the mecha across all the episodes. However, since the schedule is pretty tight, I can't go as far as correcting the movement, and it's all I can do just to tinker with the drawing and the timing.

So 5:30 PM on Saturday is a scary time for me. When I watch the broadcast, it feels like I keep saying "argh" because I can see all the things I didn't completely fix. I think the studiomates I'm watching it with don't need to worry because they don't notice, but since I'm seeing it from the key art stage onwards, it's very painful for me when I notice something I wasn't able to fix.

What bothers me about the mecha this time is that they all move in pretty much the same way. It would be nice if each mobile suit had slightly more distinctive movements. As for the mecha's faces, I tend to draw these fairly tightly, so if anything I prefer sharp faces. My favorite mecha are things like the Hyaku-Shiki, Gaplant, and Hyaku-Shiki, which look good with sharp faces. I also like the Messala and other transforming mecha, because it's fun animating their overall bodies.

I always worry about how to make scenes of explosions in outer space look cool. In animation, the smoke can't really keep spreading out indefinitely, so we often make it scatter in all directions with rays of transmitted light. I thought that might create a Star Wars-style visual effect, but in fact it ends up looking like overly pretty fireworks.

Combat on the lunar surface was also tough. The dust the mobile suits kick up shouldn't settle right away, but on the other hand, it would look weird if it kept drifting around forever. So we did it with the sense that it blows up dramatically for a few seconds, then settles down appropriately. The key animators worked really hard on it, and I think we were able to create an interesting sense of speed.

This time, the quality of the drawing is generally very high, and I feel the character animation won't collapse because the other animation directors are working so hard. However, I don't want people to say the characters are good but the mecha isn't. Since they're working hard on the characters, I'd like the mecha to be well-balanced and interesting as well.

In the end, the people watching are probably focusing on the character drama. But as they're watching, I want to do things that make them think today's mecha scenes were amazing, too.

Translator's Note: Starting out as an animator on Trider G7, Uchida then served as a key animator on the Tomino-directed Dunbine and Yasuhiko's Giant Gorg. He went on to serve as mechanical animation director on Gundam ZZ, Dragonar, and Starship Troopers, and a key animator on Char's Counterattack and Gundam F91. After handling episode animation direction for episode 46 of Gundam ZZ, Uchida earned a variety of other character design and animation director credits, and served as a series director on the adult anime The Legend of Reyon Flair and Guy: Awakening of the Devil. Born in March 1960, Uchida turned 25 years old a few days after Z Gundam began its broadcast run.

Mechanical Design
Kazumi Fujita

I want the Zeta to show up looking cool

I tend to start going off the mecha designs I draw after I've finished them. Looking back on them later, I think I could have done this and I could have done that, and I end up disliking them.

It may be impolitic of me to put it this way, but when I design a mobile suit, I'm experimenting in terms of the concept and the design. With the Gaplant, I'd been thinking about those kinds of design lines for some time, with a protrusion on the back and a variable-wing vernier system, and I wanted to try them out. I wanted to see how they'd be reflected onscreen, along with that pointed silhouette. In that sense, the mobile suits I design all include some kind of experiment.

In some respects, the work called Gundam is inseparable from the plastic models. But since I'm of the generation that grew up buying Gunpla, there are things that interest me about the models, and things that left me dissatisfied. That's why my designs incorporate gimmicks and structural features that I think will make them more fun. In transforming mobile suits and mobile armors, I wonder whether the joints can also double as transformation gimmicks. Another aspect of this is how much I can change the silhouette even though it's the same machine before and after transformation. People like Mr. Okawara figured that out long ago, but I have to keep on experimenting as I do it.

The mobile suit concepts in the current Z Gundam are different from the previous Gundam, but I don't yet really know what kinds of mobile suits will be representative of the Z world. Thinking back on it, I have the feeling the Messala might be one of them. It's not yet definite, so I still can't really explain why.

The lead Zeta Gundam will finally appear starting with episode 21. In the setting, this Zeta has a long stabilator on its back. I also drew this in my cel illustration for this book, but it can suddenly extend to create a silhouette like that of a dorsal fin. I'll be happy if something like that can succeed as a new mecha theory and in a leading mecha. I really want the Zeta Gundam to be interesting.

Translator's Note: Fujita initially aspired to become an animator, working on Armored Trooper Votoms. He then joined the Shindosha studio and began doing illustration and mechanical design work for publications such as "Dual Magazine." After serving as main mechanical designer on Z Gundam, Fujita's work has appeared mainly in the form of guest designs for video series, magazine serials, and video games, including the Sega Saturn game Quo Vadis 2 and the OVA titles Macross II: Lovers Again and GaoGaiGar Final. Born in September 1964, he was 20 years old when Z Gundam began its broadcast run.

Animation Director
Hiroyuki Kitazume

I'd like to skillfully absorb Mr. Yasuhiko's characters

When the old Gundam was broadcast, I was one of the watching fans, and I was also a fan of Mr. Yasuhiko. I never would have thought I'd be working on Part II myself. Right now, I'm trying to absorb the unique ambience of Mr. Yasuhiko's drawings and make it my own without ruining it, which is pretty tough. At first I was just fumbling around, but recently it feels like, little by little, I'm getting the hang of it.

Emma is my favorite of the characters. I want her to be popular, so I talk about her a lot. I tend to put a bit more effort into the female characters, and I think it would be nice to present Fa as being cute and brave. Her courage emphasizes Kamille's weakness! So cool! Well, I'm trying to do that, but her treatment in the program is a little vague.

As for the old characters... Since Mr. Yasuhiko is the character designer, of course it feels like seven years later when he's drawing them. But that creates a gap when we're each drawing them based on our own image. So I keep pulling out books on the previous work for reference.

Anyway, as part of the animation staff, I'm doing the animation with more enthusiasm than any of my previous work. And as a fan, I'm looking forward to seeing how the scattered threads of Z Gundam's story will be tied up. Naturally, the impact of an anime can only be judged once you've seen the entire program, so I'd like to make it a work that anyone can watch and enjoy.

Translator's Note: After serving as an animation director on the Tomino-directed Dunbine and L-Gaim, Kitazume played the same role on eight episodes of Z Gundam and three episodes of Gundam ZZ, also providing character design for the latter. He was also the character designer and one of seven credited animation directors on Char's Counterattack, and made the jump to director on Relic Armor Legaciam. In addition to his numerous character design and animation direction credits, Kitazume provided character designs for Tomino's Gaia Gear serial novel, and created the manga Char's Deleted Affair and Z Gundam Define for Gundam Ace magazine. Born in July 1961, he was 23 years old when Z Gundam began its broadcast run.

Animation Director
Toshimitsu Kobayashi

Honestly, it's exhausting

I've been working on Studio 2's projects since Daioja. This is my first time working with Mr. Yasuhiko's characters, but I'm not really trying to make them look like his drawings. If I'm too conscious of that, I'll just get myself in trouble. (laughs) I don't have much of a sense for mecha either, so if it seems too difficult, I just leave it to Mr. Uchida, the mechanical animation director.

This is almost my first time doing the job of animation director, but it's sort of like being a handyman, standardizing the drawing style and correcting deviations from the setting. (1) (laughs) After doing episodes 2, 7, 12, and 16, I'm now struggling with episode 20. It feels like the episodes I'm responsible for are always the final chapter of a continuing story. It's a pity that it's never an episode of exciting buildup where a new story begins.

The character action consists only of walking and running, so most of the drama takes place inside the cockpit. I think it would be interesting if there were a few more character action scenes as well as mecha ones.

Of the episodes I was responsible for, episode 7 is my favorite. But in that episode, I screwed up by putting a Titans emblem on the arm of Lila's outfit. I was shocked when I saw the film.

It's tough having generally no cuts that provide amusing diversion, and since Z Gundam has a huge amount of setting, simply checking all of it becomes exhausting. But I think it's going to get more interesting in future, so please look forward to it.

Translator's Note: After working as an animator on the 1981 Mighty Atom series and Sunrise's Daioja, Kobayashi served as a key animator on Dunbine and an animation director on L-Gaim. He went on to do animation direction on eleven episodes of Z Gundam and seven episodes of Gundam ZZ. Kobayashi was subsequently an assistant animation director on Char's Counterattack and one of the three main animation directors on Gundam F91, and worked on several episodes of the SD Gundam series. He has continued working as an animation director—and occasionally a character designer—to this day, and was one of more than a dozen character animation directors on the first Gundam Hathaway film. Born in February 1960, Kobayashi was 25 years old when Z Gundam began its broadcast run.

Animation Director
Kisaraka Yamada

It feels like I'm being taught by the youngsters

If anything, I'd put myself in the veteran category. I drew Mr. Yasuhiko's characters a little bit during Reideen. Incidentally, during the old Gundam, I was working on Daltanious. But since the production of Z Gundam began, it feels like the staff and Sunrise itself have been rejuvenated. Perhaps it's related to that, but when I'm drawing the characters from the old work, I'm not conscious of the image of the old Gundam. I think of them as new characters created for the current Z. Otherwise, I couldn't draw them.

Nothing about working on Z is easy right now. By the end, I'm always thinking "It's exhausting!" and "This is so tough!" It helps that, aside from the main characters, all of Mr. Yasuhiko's characters are easy to draw. That's because they're all distinctly characterized. On the other hand, all four of the animation directors draw the main characters' faces differently. But from the beginning, the producer told us "I don't care about that, as long as you can express each person's individual characteristics." (2) So that was a relief.

Right now, my animators are often teaching me about the very detailed setting. They're all from the generation that used to watch it, so they understand the content better than I do. That makes me think about something Mr. Tomino has been saying ever since we started working on L-Gaim. "We won't survive if we can't keep up with the sensibilities of young people, so let's always stay in touch with them." That's what he said, and I really believe it.

Translator's Note: After starting out as an animator on series like Mushi Production's Tomorrow's Joe, Tatsunoko's Hurricane Polymar, and the Sunrise-created Reideen, Yamada served as an animation director on Gowapper-5 Gordam, Daioja, and the Tomino-directed Xabungle and L-Gaim. He then played the same role on ten episodes of Z Gundam and eight episodes of Gundam ZZ, and was one of seven credited animation directors on Char's Counterattack. Though Yamada went on to work on series such as Patlabor, Samurai Troopers, and Future GPX Cyber Formula, so far as I know, his last credited work was on 1993's Go-Saurer.

Animation Director
Akihiro Kanayama

Making comments isn't my specialty

I'm not good at making comments. Normally, I prefer to see the results of the work I was responsible for before I judge it.

In anime, I often end up feeling frustrated due to conflicts with the episode directors, but in the manga work I've recently been doing (Kattobi! Anime-maru, serialized in Kodansha's Comic Bombom), I'm enjoying that I can also put everything together like a director. If I really had the talent to become a director, I think I'd like to try directing live action as well, rather than just anime. That would be fun, wouldn't it?

A single panel of a manga feels very different from a storyboard. If each manga panel were thirty seconds, it would require about ten cuts in a storyboard. In manga, there's a large volume of information that has to be conveyed in each panel, but a storyboard would handle that through movement. That's the biggest difference.

On the current Gundam, it feels like the presentation of the individual scenes lacks tension and it's all flowing smoothly. On the other hand, it does flow really smoothly, and although that's what you'd expect of Director Tomino, it's a shame that the fundamental emotional impact is so weak. I suppose that's an interesting taiga drama-style method if you're watching it over the course of a year. So, rather than creating drama by revealing a single character's feelings in close-up, we're showing the situation in a fragmentary fashion, episode by episode. It's not interesting reading a manga by Mr. (Osamu) Tezuka in a magazine, but it seems fascinating when you read the compiled volumes. Though anime and manga are different, I think they're similar in that respect.

This time, many young animators are working on the staff, and I feel they're producing a work of a very high level. I think they really do a good job animating those complex mecha. But it seems like something of a shortcoming that so few of them can handle drawing facial expressions. That's probably a job for a veteran, but I can't sound too arrogant about it. I just say that I'm already busy, so I'll skip ahead and draw it myself... (3)

But people who can handle orthodox movement, as opposed to quickly drawing mecha with all those lines, are becoming scarce. There are many who can draw extreme perspectives, which is fine if you're doing it to create an effect, but sometimes they do it with no relation to the drama. So this time, we all made a promise not to use too much perspective.

Translator's Note: Originally a manga artist, Kanayama joined Osamu Tezuka's Mushi Production in 1965—one year after Tomino—and made his debut as an animator on Jungle Emperor. As a veteran key animator and animation director, and occasional character designer, he worked on numerous Sunrise productions before providing animation direction for ten episodes of Z Gundam and eight episodes of Gundam ZZ. Kanayama retired in 1998, and has since been the subject of several retrospective exhibitions. Born in February 1939, he was 46 years old when Z Gundam began its broadcast run.

Yumiko Suzuki

Can Kamille become a protagonist?

I've been working on Z Gundam from the beginning. Before production began, Producer Uchida was looking for young scriptwriters, and I came aboard thanks to him as well. But it was tough at first, and when I was trying out for it, they'd drop me if I wasn't good enough. So I wrote as hard as I could. Now that there are only two writers, it almost feels like we're immersed in the Gundam world. But Mr. Tomino is still picking on me and making me do lots of retakes.

I watched every episode of the old Gundam. Of course, I wasn't a complete maniac, but I was an anime fan. From that point of view, I feel the work is easier when the old characters show up, since their personalities fundamentally haven't changed that much.

Even now, though, I'm still worried that I don't know what to do with Kamille. Although he's the protagonist, he recedes into the background, and ends up getting pushed around a lot by Quattro and the other old characters. But Quattro returns to space around episode 17, and Amuro is unreliable... so I think he might have become a little more aware of himself as a protagonist.

I hear from the people watching it on TV that, if they don't know the old Gundam, they can't understand Z. That's a shame... The first cours is indeed dragging the old work along with it, but it seems the main story of Z will finally begin in the second cours. Please look forward to it. Kamille will also become a proper protagonist.

Personally, Kamille is my favorite character. His personality is as unconventional as Iwaki in Dokaben.

Translator's Note: Debuting as a screenwriter on Korokoro Pollon and Nanako SOS, Suzuki was initially one of five writers on Z Gundam, and the only one who made it past the halfway point of the series. She continued on as one of two main scriptwriters on Gundam ZZ, and subsequently became a novelist, writing under the pen name "Yuki☆Misuzu." Born in October 1961, Suzuki was 23 years old when Z Gundam began its broadcast run.

Meigo Endo (4)

Some day, I'd like to surpass Mr. Tomino

I joined Z Gundam with episode 17, just at a turning point in the story. This episode wasn't as deeply emotional as my debut work (episode 4 of Galatt), but in terms of the angles, I think it was well done. It's a pattern that couldn't be done in the old kaiju movies, and I really feel that the high-rise district in Hong Kong is just like that. (5)

Since I joined partway through, it ought to have been easier because the world of the work was already fixed. But even after about three days reading scripts and staring at a thick stack of documents, I still didn't understand all the details.

Nowadays, my own interpretation is that Z Gundam is a transitional story about where Newtypes might be going. While the old Gundam was a work that showed the nature of Newtypes, Z Gundam is a work that puts them on parade, showing us that there are various kinds of people... and that's as far as Z goes. If there's another Gundam after Z, at that point I think Gundam might be able to resolve the matter of Newtypes for the first time.

My current job working with Mr. Tomino feels like I'm learning every day, and it's a question of whether I wrestle it into submission, or get outwrestled. I think one day I'd like to come out on top. And in ten years—no, twenty—when I've reached Mr. Tomino's age, I'd like to surpass him. I feel that being able to work on Z Gundam, where I met Mr. Tomino, the work called Z Gundam, and the staff of Studio 2, has benefited me in many ways.

Translator's Note: Endo became a scriptwriter after winning a contest run by the magazine "Gekkan Scenario," leading to a part-time job at the Nikkatsu film studio and his writing debut on Sunrise's Super Robot Galatt. After working on Z Gundam and Gundam ZZ, he went on to write for series such as City Hunter, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Cyber City Oedo 808, Gundam 0083, and Moonlight Mile, not to mention the Five Star Stories movie and Hiroyuki Kitazume's ill-fated Relic Armor Legaciam. Endo has also written numerous anime tie-in novels, including a two-volume adaptation of Gundam ZZ. Born in October 1959, he was 25 years old when Z Gundam began its broadcast run.

Translator's Notes

(1) Kobayashi's previous animation director credits consist of just two episodes of "Heavy Metal L-Gaim."

(2) I believe Yamada means the characteristics of each character, rather than of each animation director.

(3) I think Kanayama means that he skips the usual revision process and simply redraws the key frames.

(4) Now known as Akinori Endo.

(5) I think Endo is speaking here of the visual presentation of the episode.