Animage June 1994, Interview with G Gundam’s director Imagawa Yasuhiro

First Build Fighters, then Gundam Wing, and now Mobile Fighters G Gundam has been added to the Crunchyroll anime catalog. This brings the Gundam lineup to a total of six shows (fore mentioned 3 as well as IBO, Unicorn TV, and 00) and hopefully, they continue the announcements. Until then, I’ve translated an interview from the June 1994 issue of Animage [here] found on the Anim’Archive’s Tumblr page that I hope everyone can enjoy.

Up until G Gundam, all previous shows had more or less taken part in the Universal Century. G Gundam was the first of its kind to break out of the UC mold and become a real Gundam spin-off. This interview was published about a month into the airing of the show, so it’s spoiler free!

I wanted to bring back the feeling I had when watching anime as a kid

— How was it that you became involved in Gundam?

Imagawa: When I was in high school I saw the first Mobile Suit Gundam and fell in love with it. I never thought that I would go on to direct a Gundam title. You never know what exciting things life has in store for you. I honestly believe this. Gundam isn’t this constricted series, rather, I wanted to make a series where I wasn’t caught up in the likes of mobile suits and gundams. When I first started, I was tied down by thoughts of “It’s Gundam, so I have to do X.”

— And after that struggle, you finally reached the world of Gundam Fighters.

Imagawa: I actually had other Gundam worlds planned up but, frankly speaking, when Gundam Fighters started production I knew this was the right decision. As a writer, I want to make something simplistic and even easier to understand. Something in the direction of a Gundam for children. One of the OVAs I’ve been working on recently is from a show that I watched when I was little. Some of my favorite shows are anime series that I happened to watch on TV as a child. So, it was a question of how was I going to show off these robots on TV.

— What do you need to think about when writing for a TV broadcast?

Imagawa: The opening for example. At the end of the Gundam Fighters’ opening, Devil Gundam appears. People watching the opening for the first time will probably think “What in the world is that thing.” I mean, it’s a gundam the size of earth with another gundam attached to its head. Looking over the finished storyboard for the opening, I had a feeling that it would be memorable. One of the memorable scenes in my childhood was the last part of the Science Ninja Team Gatchaman opening, where a giagantic tree-like monster appears. I remember that from all the way back then. Each week I eagerly tuned in thinking, “There is no way that isn’t Sousai X [an antagonist in Gatchaman].” It never showed up in the actual show, though (laughs). I think I was able to capture the same kind of eagerness I felt back then, in G Gundam’s opening. It’s an anime children can enjoy. Whether or not the Devil Gundam makes an appearance is a secret (laughs), I just want the kids to think “This is cool, I wanna watch it!” I believe I achieved that opening. I also wanted the anime itself to bring about that eagerness and understanding.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 9.53.47 PM

Blu-ray opening

— In a way, you are returning to your roots.

Imagawa: Robot anime since the first Gundam have changed quite a bit. It seems like somewhere in production it’s lost its way. I think this is especially true with mediums like OVAs, where creators can produce stylistic works that have an air of prestige to them. Of course, that includes me as well. On a stage like that, the viewer can get left behind. It’s very easy for a Gundam show to fall into that kind of prestige, and that was something I was very conscious about. I wanted to express my style in OVAs not G Gundam, I wanted to make a work that was for children. We wanted to bring back those viewers left behind by concluding the 1st episode on an interesting point and having clear animation. Robot anime isn’t just robots moving around, though. While fundamentally it is a show aimed at children, it wasn’t just child’s play. When I watched robot anime and tokusatsu* as a kid, there were a lot of emotions brought on by the drama that played throughout the show. The scenes when the hero came out and fought were so engrossing. “Aim for the Shochiku Shinkigeki comedy group,” was the kind of feel we were going for, but for that you make people laugh, keep them laughing, and eventually make them cry. The parts where you laugh would correspond with the robots and the parts evoking tears would be the drama. I was keen on concisely bringing that out. I wanted to show how interesting the anime could be, not on an enthusiast level, but on the level of someone a who isn’t even a fan. That’s why, I don’t like the term animation, I like to call it TV manga.

— So you plan to change how you work on OVAs and TV series?

Imagawa: This time, ideas that I haven’t done, haven’t wanted to do, or hated; I now wanted to try out. In its own way, it was a question of how much I was able to suppress my style.  I was able to find interesting techniques outside of what I had limited myself to, as well as step up to yet another stage and have fun creating a new world. Initially, I didn’t want to have Neo China as one of the locations because I love Chinese history. Were this an OVA, we would have to thoroughly pull the idea apart so not to be redundant. If you insert something you’re really interested in, it has the potential just to be another stereotypical theme centered work. My previous works, Mister Ajiko [director] and Pro Golfer Saru [storyboard] were very centered around cooking and golf respectively, but I wasn’t interested in that, in fact, I took some interest only after working on them.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 9.49.34 PM

— So you’re saying this work isn’t a very Imagawa anime?

Imagawa: Parts that I dared to stray from my norm were things like how to make an idol-like female character perform. Dealing with female characters is my biggest weakness, but I was able to grow fond of my first female character, Rain. I ended up having the ending include Rain as well, which is something I’ve never done up to this point. I kept thinking; I have to remember to draw it nicely (laughs).

— We’re looking forward to it. With that, a message to our readers.

Imagawa: This is by no means an anime aimed only at anime fans, but a piece intended for the general public that we put a lot of work into making interesting. It would be great if people who watch TV manga found it fun to watch as well. I didn’t just create another Gundam, so there is no need to get caught up in any preconceived notions, just go ahead and watch. I’m simply happy knowing I was able to animate my first Gundam title.

  • Tokusatsu is a type of Japanese live action or drama that heavily uses special effects. Examples of this are monster movies like Godzilla, superhero shows like Kamen Rider, or a mix of both like Ultraman and Super Sentai (think Power Rangers).

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