Happy 80th birthday, Yoshiyuki Tomino! ‘Gundam’ Creator Discusses His Inspirations and Legacy in Rare Interview

Yoshiyuki Tomino’s Mobile Suit Gundam (1979) ranks among the most successful franchises in the history of animation: the various series broadcast total more than 750 episodes, plus streaming and direct video payments and more than a dozen feature films in theaters. . Almost 700 million Gundam model kits have been sold. A “life-size” (59-foot) RX-78F00 Gundam action figure currently towers over a themed amusement center in Yokohama, and a special exhibit, “The World of Yoshiyuki Tomino,” is touring museums in Japan until in 2022.

Tomino, who turns 80 on Friday, November 5, spoke about his most famous work in a recent email interview. He traced the origins of his watershed ownership to a childhood interest in outer space.

“When I was in the last year of elementary school, I discovered space travel (which meant going to the moon) by reading magazines for boys,” he recalls. “In college, I started studying rocket science – I got the knowledge I needed for my anime work before I finished ninth grade.”

The “life-size” Gundam statue erected by BANDAI in Tokyo [Photo: PinkTentacle.com]

The Gundam the stories take place in the not-so-distant future, when most of humanity left Earth for orbiting space colonies. The idea for the colonies came from the writings of American physicist Gerard O’Neill, who proposed to build structures at Lagrange points – stable places in the solar system where a spacecraft can maintain its position without expending energy.

“It was a wonderful idea from a space travel lover’s perspective,” adds Tomino. “I couldn’t help but embrace this idea when I built the Gundam world. In 1970, I already considered space colonies to be part of the real world, not science fiction. “

There had been giant robot sci-fi adventures in Japanese animation before Gundam. The first series like the 1963 Tetsujin 28-go (Gigantic in America) featured remote-controlled robots that the boy-heroes command to transport them or attack an enemy. A decade later Mazinger Z and other programs introduced robots that suggested the fusion of an oversized spacesuit, one-man spaceship, and samurai armor set, piloted by psychic teen warriors.

Mobile Suit Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam

Designed by Kunio Okawara, the Gundam the robots were beautifully designed, with every shape, angle and color carefully calculated, right down to the V-shaped antenna reminiscent of the crest of a samurai helmet. Tomino commented: “I still profess my respect for the talents of Mr. Okawara, 50 years later.”

Corn Gundam offered more than superior mecha designs. Like George Lucas’ Galactic Empire or Gene Rodenberry’s Federation, Tomino’s Gundam The universe offered filmmakers a place to explore politics, economic inequalities, ecology, evolution and prejudice. The rulers of the democratic space colonies come into conflict with the corrupt oligarchs in the Earth-based world government. The outcome of the struggles depends on the battles fought by heroic space-born pilots in their “mobile suits”.

“There has to be a war between nations if you want to produce giant humanoid machines and make them fight,” Tomino explained. “For the Gundam world, I had to think of a background in which these giant weapons could be produced; I had to make assumptions about economies, industries, and manufacturing capabilities. To introduce new mechanical weapons every week, I assumed prototypes were continually being designed and produced by a military-industrial complex. When you think about these things, you have to consider the economic issues. I think the creators of the contemporary film industry pay too little attention to these economic and political issues.

Gundam Reconguista in G

Gundam Reconguista in G

Currently, Tomino is reconfiguring his 26-episode series Gundam Reconguista in G (2014) in a cycle of five characteristics. “If you realize that the work you have been doing is not in a completed form, it is natural to want to correct it,” he said. “I think Reconguista in G will be completed next year. I thank all the companies involved for giving me this opportunity. I got this opportunity not because of my powers, but because of the support of the fans, which I also deeply appreciate.

Tomino has cut across more than one TV series. When the initial Gundam The program made its debut on Japanese television, its airing ended early due to low ratings. Tomino reworked the material into three theatrical films in 1981-82: the response was so enthusiastic that fans argued over the Gundam mockups in stores and established Gundam as one of the essential properties of anime.

Charles Solomon is an animation critic, historian, lecturer, and author whose books include Enchanted drawings: the history of animation, The art of frozen food and The art of wolf walkers. His next book, The man who jumped through cinema: the art of Mamoru Hosoda will be released next year.

Mobile Suit Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam

Tomino’s early anime credits include Osamu Tezuka’s work for Mushi Productions as a writer and storyboarder on the 1963 original. Astro boy series, and his directorial debut Sea newt (1972). His first meeting with the anime mecha came with Courageous Raideen (1975) before creating his own series, Daitarn 3, in 1978. Over the course of his nearly 60-year career, Tomino has received awards including Best Director at the Tokyo International Anime Fair (for Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: the heirs to the stars) and Animage Anime Grand Prix (for the series Mobile Suit Gundam and Ideon of Space Escape). He also created many themes and original songs for Gundam and other anime projects under his pseudonym, Rin Iogi.

by Tomino Gundam Filmography at a glance:

  • Mobile Suit Gundam (1979)
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: the movie (nineteen eighty one)
  • Mobile Suit Gundam II: Soldiers of Sorrow (1982)
  • Mobile Suit Gundam III: Encounters in Space (1982)
  • Zeta Gundam mobile suit (1985-1986)
  • Gundam ZZ mobile suit (1986-1987)
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Char Counterattack (1988)
  • Gundam F91 mobile suit (1991)
  • Mobile Suit Victory Gundam (1993)
  • Spin a Gundam (1999-2000)
  • Spin a Gundam I: Light of Earth (2002)
  • Turn A Gundam II: Moonlight Butterfly (2002)
  • Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A New Translation I – The Heirs of the Stars (2005)
  • Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A New Translation II – Lovers (2005)
  • Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A New Translation III – Love is the Heartbeat of the Stars (2006)
  • Gundam Ring (short, 2009)
  • Gundam Reconguista in G (2014)
"The world of Tomino Yoshiyuki" retrospective poster (Tokyo Museum of Art & Design, 2020-21)

“The World of Tomino Yoshiyuki” retrospective poster (Tokyo Museum of Art & Design, 2020-21)

About Robert Wright

Check Also

Memoirs of Mel Brooks, disturbing ‘Sex Cult Nun’ and Brené Brown

Looking for something good to read? USA TODAY Barbara vandenburgh Explore the shelves for this …