0080 War in the Pocket: Working on 0080 – Setting Production, Horiguchi Shigeru & Production Advancement, Nakayama Koutaro

The fifth installment to the six days of Gundam with Setting Production, Horiguchi Shigeru and Production Advancement, Nakayama Koutaro.

Day One – Producer, Uchida Kenji

Day Two – Character Designer, Mikimoto Haruhiko

Day Three – Mechanical Design Cooperator, Akitaka Mika

Day Four – Key Animator & Mechanical Design Cooperator, Iso Mitsuo

— How did the two of you come to work on 0080?

Nakayama: I was a new graduate. I’d just joined Sunrise and was assigned to work on 0080 in production advancement under Ichikawa Yukihiko and Fujimoto Yoshinori starting from episode two. Takamori (Kouji), who worked the production desk, showed us what they had completed of episode one and all I could think was, “I get to work on this?”

Horiguchi: For the longest time I worked in project planning, and when I told them I wanted to participate in a project, they put me on Starship Troopers in Studio 5. Nakagawa (Hironori) was the producer for Starship Troopers, but his team had just started the year-long TV series Jushin Liger, and so I got transferred mid-production to work on 0080. For that reason, I finished most of the settings and concepts by the time Nakayama joined.

Nakayama: There was a lot of setting and concepts to establish for 0080. It was my first time working on a project like this, so I didn’t realize at the time but once we finished making all six episodes we had enough materials for a 1-cour anime.

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Horiguchi: Yeah, if it were set in the modern time we’d be free to take reference from places and objects all around us, but Gundam doesn’t have that kind of setting. Using our surroundings as reference was nowhere near enough. We thought we could reuse modern day cigarettes as is, and director Takayama was transfixed on the idea (laughs), he even wanted name brand cigarettes. There was such a mass of small everyday objects that needed to be created — my heart went out to the designers so I helped draw when I could.

— Each of the mobile in 0080 was an original design. In the official roster, all of the suits are of different type and models, but that wasn’t the case initially, correct?

Horiguchi: When we first started, Izubuchi (Yutaka) filled us in on an idea to increase the resolution of the mobile suits that appeared. I wanted to see other mobile suits receive that treatment. I wonder if Izubuchi felt the same way? It wasn’t necessary to the story to change them, but we came up with the excuse that director Takayama wanted space battles, so we had to give the order for Izubuchi to recipe up a new design for the Gelgoog.

— During production, was there anything that you found particularly memorable.

Nakayama: The time I was in charge of production advancement by myself for episode five. It was just short of three thousand frames. We were able to attain such a small count because of Sato Junichi’s clever storyboarding. The arcade scene, overseen by Iso (Mitsuo), that episode had such astonishing movement. Iso put a lot of work into his layouts and wrote out his ideas or goals to which Takayama would respond with long passages. It was like they were exchanging letters. Episode five also had some production trouble, so Studio 5’s Kuboka (Toshiyuki) and Kawamoto (Toshihiro) upgraded to animation director, while Inano (Yoshinobu) and Akitaka (Mika) helped to redraw. Inano finished his work at an incredibly fast pace, and it was in part thanks to him that we were able to complete episode five in time.

Horiguchi: I most remember having a meeting about the screenplay. I went with Yamaga (Hiroyuki) in the middle of the night at a family diner in Mitaka to discuss the screenplay. I don’t recall much of what we talked about, but I do remember Takayama rejecting our ideas. Yamaga had worked with Takayama on Macross and was very thankful for his work, so he approached the situation with an air of respect. I was found myself speechless but wanting to move on with the conversation. Yet, we managed to get approval. It was a lesson on how much I should be willing to bend for ideas I had strong opinions about.

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Nakayama: There always are points of contention, like that, when working on any project. When I needed a retake done on the screen layout and took it to the Ikeda (Shigemi), the art director, he told me, “What you’re asking now if completely different from what you ordered during our meeting. I did what I was told, so I’m not changing it.” But the screen layout is essential, I couldn’t very well continue production without it, and pestered him. He screamed that he would never draw a retake, and yet, the next morning I found it finished on my desk. I was so thankful to Ikeda. The other day I had the chance to catch up with him, and he told me, “It’s lonely now that no one bites back.”

Horiguchi: (laughs). Speaking of struggles, I had a great deal of struggle getting setting designs from Izubuchi and Mikimoto (Haruhiko).

Nakayama: Many times, for other projects, I had to go to his house to pick up everything he had. While I was waiting for him to grab them, we would discuss movie recommendations, and even if I’d seen the movie, Izubuchi would take on the role of explaining it. Meanwhile, I was thinking, “hey, about those designs we asked you for…”

Horiguchi: During Char’s Counterattack Izubuchi was the main setting designer. I asked Uchida (Kenji) how in the world he was able to get all those designs out of him. He told me he stayed in Izubuchi’s house the entire time until he was finished (laughs). All of his calls and contacts went to Izubuchi’s place, and that did the trick.

Nakayama: What a plan (laughs).

Horiguchi: That was about all he could do if he wanted them finished. At the time I’d been interested enough in what other anime Mikimoto had worked on to look them up. As I expected, he’d worked on a ton of other things. I was stuck wondering what someone like me could do to receive what I needed. Well, he happened to be moving, and on the last day, I offered to help him. However, my motive was not to help him move, but to make sure he properly moved in his work desk (laughs).

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— In 1989 photo animation and the likes were all done on cel films, weren’t they?

Nakayama: That’s correct. The photos were 35mm, and the rush film was 16mm so we could print and check it. The shading and textures for the explosions and cockpit were all added with an airbrush. The cels that were given the airbrush technique had to be carefully taken care of because one little scratch would ruin the whole thing.

In episode six there is a point where a Zaku shifting around casts its shadow on the colony glass window. That shadow was applied with an airbrush. At first, we thought of using double exposure, but that would have been a lot of work on our animation photographers. Instead, we talked with Hoshiba Yutaka, our special effects person, and he accepted the job and prepared a mask film.

Horiguchi: Photography effects are all digital now so that double exposure wouldn’t be all that laborious, I guess. Probably the same for the designs as well. The markings and numbers on the airframes were no easy task, and yet we did all of it by hand. I remember that coming up in arguments a lot during 0080.

— We’re living in a completely different time.

Nakayama: We made 0080 on the cusp of the Shōwa and Heisei Era. There was a lot of security checks around that time as we awaited the funeral service for Hirohito, and our car got stopped in the middle of the night once. They asked us what we were doing out so late and when we said, “Working on Gundam” they happily responded, “Keep up the good work!” I got my second wind of Gundam’s reach that day (laughs).

Horiguchi: (laughs). I remember the traffic from that, everyone was out for the procession, but Takayama and I had a meeting we absolutely had to attend. Unfortunately, the only way we could both make it on time was if he squeezed on the back of my bike. I apologized and he just stone-faced told me, “It’s ok, we can both fit.” His nonchalant manner was unforgettable, but I still can’t believe that actually happened.

Nakayama: The director asked me — a penniless settings producer — if I had any cigarettes in that same emotionless tone (laughs). I remember wondering if he was short on cash he couldn’t even get cigarettes (laughs).

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— What are your final thoughts about working on 0080?

Nakayama: It was my first time being in charge of anything for a production, and even though it was hectic, it was a fantastic learning experience. Because of it, I had a lot of fun on my next production (laughs).

Horiguchi: It was also my first time in two years working on location, so I learned a lot. The list of staff secrets not discussed today could rival Santa’s naughty and nice list (laughs), but all together it was fun.

One thought on “0080 War in the Pocket: Working on 0080 – Setting Production, Horiguchi Shigeru & Production Advancement, Nakayama Koutaro

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