TOONZONE NEWS: What was the genesis point in deciding to produce an adaptation of The Origin?
OSAMU TANIGUCHI: That’s a tough one [thinks] …I’m not even sure what it was! [Laughs, discusses with Akitaka] It’s a really difficult question to answer. I think Yasuhiko wrote the manga with the aim of taking it overseas and increasing the popularity of Gundam abroad. But when he wrote the manga it was different, there were different events that happened in the manga. He wanted to take these new ideas and put them on screen. The idea of doing that came about roughly five years ago.
TOONZONE NEWS: There are currently several animated Gundam projects including Iron-Blooded Orphans, Build Fighters and Thunderbolt. How do you feel The Origin relates to these in terms of its unique voice?
OSAMU TANIGUCHI: Well, firstly, Orphans and Build Fighters aren’t Universal Century so there’s a clear distinction there, and Thunderbolt takes place during the One Year War. Small skirmishes that take place as part of the war, kind of a side story. The other key difference is that Orphans and Build Fighters are made for television while The Origin and Thunderbolt are OVA and theatrical releases, so there’s a difference in scale.
TOONZONE NEWS: With recent productions like the parody series Gundam-san we’ve seen some of the long term actors replaced with younger ones, but with The Origin how important was it to you to keep actors like Shuichi Ikeda in their original roles?
OSAMU TANIGUCHI: It was important to keep the same actors. There was a proposal at the time to change all the voice actors but we couldn’t change them for Char and Amuro. Or rather, if we had changed them it would have been a lot of pressure on the new actors. The two of them are still young enough, their voices are still good so we didn’t need to change them. If they had been ill or sadly passed away we would have had to replace them but thankfully that wasn’t the case.
TOONZONE NEWS: It was recently announced that after concluding the Char and Sayla chapter that The Origin will continue on to adapt the Battle of Loum and the start of the war. With the franchise’s 40th anniversary soon approaching, are we headed towards a full adaptation of the core story?
OSAMU TANIGUCHI: It’s a possibility; it’s something we have thought about. But it needs to work in a business sense, that it will sell on home video or otherwise we won’t be able to do it.
TOONZONE NEWS: To carry on from that line of thought, we’ve seen adaptations of Unicorn and are seeing an adaptation of The Origin. Should fans be expecting that sources such as the manga serialised in Gundam Ace is where things will be drawn from in future?
OSAMU TANIGUCHI: [Laughs, discusses between Akitaka and their interpreter] There isn’t a Gundam Ace title we currently want to adapt. Gundam titles aren’t solely published by Kadokawa, so if any publisher prints a story interesting enough there’s always the possibility that it could be animated in future. But there’s nothing particularly strong in Gundam Ace at the moment.
MIKA AKITAKA: Unicorn and The Origin are slightly different because it’s not that they were always going to be animated but there was the notion somewhere in the back of the mind that they might be.
TOONZONE NEWS: Of the episodes produced so far, what are your personal favourite scenes?
MIKA AKITAKA: For me I think it would be the opening prologue to the series, where the Federation Magellan and Salamis are fighting the Zeon Musais.
TOONZONE NEWS: If I may say, that’s one of my favourites too. [All laugh]
OSAMU TANIGUCHI: The final scene of episode two for me. It was quite hard to realise, being a hybrid of computer graphics and 2D animation. It’s the scene where Char says goodbye to Sayla and although they will meet again it doesn’t happen for a long time, making it an important turning point in the story. The combination of factors means it stays with me.
Also, in the first episode during the scene where Deikun dies a glass breaks. The reason that sticks with me is because the animator for that sequence is someone I brought on to the production and after he’d animated it the director said “No”, he didn’t like it. So then the person I’d brought in and who had worked so hard found their work rejected.
Also from the first episode, an animator I respect very much, Tomonaga-san, who directed the recent Lupin III TV series and the car chase in Castle of Cagliostro, directed the scene where Kycillia appears which I think was really well done.
TOONZONE NEWS: If I may interject again, I do agree many of the scenes in the first episode such as that Kycillia scene and the ship battle stick in the mind because they very dynamically show what this story is about.
OSAMU TANIGUCHI: It was hard though with Tomonaga-san as he came on board directly from Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, so he was still in that mindset. [laughs] Which was amazing but difficult.
TOONZONE NEWS: A question for Akitaka-san. The Origin manga designs were done by Kunio Okawara. How much freedom were you given to reinterpret them for animation?
MIKA AKITAKA: I tried to respect Okawara-sensei’s designs as much as possible but Yasuhiko-sensei had already changed them slightly. So I aimed for something in between that fits both of their designs. The hardest thing is when they’re not in the manga. Yasuhiko-sensei draws in 2D but that doesn’t always work in 3D so my job is to make them work which can be difficult.
TOONZONE NEWS: As someone who has worked on earlier series such as ZZ and 0083, what is your opinion on modern Gundam designs?
MIKA AKITAKA: I think it’s natural that they change over time. That was then, this is now. What’s surprised me recently is 00. Ebikawa’s designs feel new and epoch making.
TOONZONE NEWS: I definitely agree with that sentiment. As a designer he’s a personal favourite along with your own designs for the likes of the Doven Wolf and Gerbera Tetra.
Gundam has a rich and long history in Japan and Asia but is relatively new in the UK. What kind of response have you seen from fans here and is there a message you’d like to impart to them?
OSAMU TANIGUCHI: Before I came here to this event I didn’t realise how well Gundam had gone down here. I didn’t think it was particularly popular here or in North America though I’d never seen for myself. Of course it’s really popular in Japan and Asia. I think if people here could start with either The Origin or Orphans or Thunderbolt but from there get into the history of Gundam and go back through to see all the stories including the starting point First Gundam then they’ll be able to enjoy it for years to come because there’s already thirty seven years of history for them to enjoy.
MIKA AKITAKA: I think the same thing. I didn’t realise how popular Gundam was overseas. I knew that the models sold but I didn’t think that there would be as many as there are on sale here. It made me feel that Gundam has made it here. I hope that people will continue to watch The Origin, Iron-Blooded Orphans and the new Gundams that will no doubt be released in the future.
Toonzone News would like to thank Osamu Taniguchi and Mika Akitaka for answering our questions, Anime Limited & Sunrise for facilitating this interview, Kerry Kasim & Eri Suzuki for on-site liaising and Bethan Jones for interpreting.