0080 War In The Pocket: A Story About The Children Left Behind – Director, Takayama Fumihiko

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

Merry Christmas!

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

Day Five – Setting Production, Horiguchi Shigeru and Production Advancement, Nakayama Koutaro


What kind of work were you doing before 0080?

Takayama: I worked on storyboarding with Kubo (Tsuguyuki) at the Japanese • American collaboration anime company PAC (Pacific Animation Corporation) — although we were essentially subcontractors. After I’d finish up my work, I’d laze around or play pachinko. If I wasn’t doing that, I’d head over to a paper company in Ichigaya twice a week or so that paid per days work. I didn’t have a phone, and I hardly had any connections.

— That’s when producer Uchida (Kenji) requested you?

Takayama: Apparently, Takanashi (Minoru) from Bandai and Sugita (Atsushi) showed Uchida the stuff from my time working on Macross. I don’t actually remember agreeing to work on the anime when Uchida first met with me, though. I told him I’d never seen Gundam and the only giant robot show I knew about was Gigantor. I did know a little more about Gundam than I let on, but my experience with it was from my days working at Topcraft. The women in the office were fans of Yasuhiko (Yoshikazu), and when Gundam would air they would gather in the president’s office and watch. I’d stop by and watch a couple episodes here and there. I was surprised to receive the formal request to participate on 0080, regardless.

— And you took the job.

Takayama: One reason was that I thought I might be able to draw a story about children. Macross was a story of adolescence in love, there wasn’t much margin to bring in children, but this time, I thought, just maybe I could. But, I also had no idea what exactly a director did. I had this vague image that they presided over the general production of the anime, but further investigation was necessary. I felt like directors were people that needed to be on top of managing, they were talented people that would guarantee resources to be used efficiently. An important job that I did not think I had the aptitude for.

— Everyone on staff had to present a prototype, correct?

Takayama: At first we could only choose between a brief representation of all six episodes or a complete first episode. I handed in a prototype of the first episode. The concept was Amuro looking behind the small fry enemies at the mass of bodies killed just before. Seeing the plight of his friends and family, he screams “Let’s fight!” and the Federations white thing kills the bad guys. I sent that scenario thinking it could be a good fit for a single episode out of six. It never saw the light of day (laughs). The best prototype was Yamaga (Hiroyuki). Two people meet online and chat using only their usernames, but one of them is a Gundam pilot, and the other is, well, you get it. I found it interesting, but we weren’t sure if anime fans were ready for that kind of story, we’d be walking into the unknown, so we didn’t use it. I think Yuki (Kyosuke) also submitted a prototype, but I don’t remember.

— And so Uchida’s special ops infiltration prototype was all that was left.

Takayama: There weren’t restrictions, per se, but Gundam titles had an unspoken agreement that it would be better to have a Gundam show up. However, having characters from the original without the original staff was not a good idea. That’s why Uchida’s story about a Gundam to hand over to Amuro was good. When that prototype was entrusted to me, I made the protagonist a young boy who witnesses the failed mission and handed over to Yuki.

— How did Yuki come to work on 0080?

Takayama: Depending on who you ask the story differs, but Sato Junichi was reading Yuki’s SF novel Touyama Sakura Uchuu Chou: Yatsu no Na wa Gold and told Uchida that Yuki was meant to create anime. With that, Uchida invited him on, and he even wrote the novel version of 0080. In the first draft, he had the idea to have Barnie record a video message. I was impressed by that. I decided to build on it and have Al be like The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf. He would lie, and the adults would believe him, but when he told the truth, they wouldn’t believe him. I thought it was a pretty clever idea. Then Yamaga and I got together and hammered out the episode by episode screenplay.

— So, Yuki wrote the majority of the prototype and Yamaga wrote the episode screenplays?

Takayama: Yes, but I can’t remember if Yuki already split the prototype into six episodes or not. He might have written it as one long story and decided where to split it afterward. Just how the episodes should proceed was left up to everyone.

— What was it exactly that made you want to draw a story focused on children?

Takayama: I had a plan to make a story all my own about a family drama. A boy in a broken family finds refuge when an older brother and sister figure show up in his life. The boy considers that as his second family and finds a new place he belongs. But in the end, in exchange for his real family coming back together, his second family ends in a miserable fashion, he is left in the world with that experience behind him. It’s a bit reminiscent of The Cloven Viscount by Italo Calvino on a deeper level, but that was something I was aware at the time of writing.

— What kind of story is that?

Takayama: The Cloven Viscount is a story of a Turkish viscount that gets split in two during a battle. One half is good, and the other half is bad, and they get into various shenanigans. It’s technically a fairy tale, but Calvino obviously wrote it for adults and the war-torn area is impressively realistically portrayed because Calvino served in the military. When the viscount returns to normal, he thinks the world will get better, but when he returns to normal, the world remains as it was. In the end, one of his good friends departs on a journey leaving the viscount behind. It closed with “But already ships were vanishing over the horizon and I was left behind, in this world of ours full of responsibilities and will-o’-the-wisps.”

— That’s a rather depressing story.

Takayama: Another, more direct, story is Hope and Glory directed by John Boorman. It’s a movie about a boy living in London during WWII. Ok, I don’t know what Yuki or Yamaga thought about it, but Steven Spielberg’s movie Empire of the Sun didn’t have that much of an effect on me. The scene that Spielberg did influence was where Al meets his father and crushes his paper cup. That was from Jaws.

— Knowing all about movies is your thing, isn’t it?

Takayama: A lot of times it’s just a coincidence. The other day, I was watching The Last Adventure and the last scene where Alain Delon’s character dies, I was reminded of Steiner’s death. It’s a story about three characters played by Joanna Shimkus, Alain Delon, and Lino Ventura and their adventures. Alain Delon’s character likes Joanna Shimkus’s character, Laetitia, but she likes Lino Ventura’s character. Partway through the story, Laetitia dies, and in the end right before Alain Delon’s character passes, Lino Ventura lies to him and says Laetitia wanted to live with him. Nozawa Nochi dubs Alain Delon and when he said, “What a liar,” I smiled and started laughing. I was yelling at the screen with my head in my hands. It was a complete coincidence.

— What kind of conversations did you have with the character designer?

Takayama: I left the girls up to Mikimoto Haruhiko. The old guys were another story since Mikimoto felt he wasn’t in his element and needed reference material. I gave him several photos of supporting characters. The Cyclops Team had very few members, so we had the idea to pair up each character with an item. Misha liked to drink, so he had a flask. Garcia had his bandana, knife, and Mexican flag. We thought about having the captain have cigarettes that he didn’t smoke, very manga like, but his on-screen time was so little we didn’t want to make his item difficult to identify.

The way Mikimoto colored his characters was charming, but as anime characters, it was highly complicated to animate. Most of the animators had a rough time. The leadoff batter, Itaru Saito faced some challenges as episode one’s animation director, but Kuboka Toshiyuki had worked with Mikimoto during Gunbuster and had experience working with him. I think after episode two the character designs became easier to work with. If Kawamoto Toshihiro had no picked up on Kuboka’s method, I fear production would have ceased.

— There were a lot of impactful mech scenes.

Takayama: I handed over all of the editing to Iwataki Satoshi, and he had at it. The scene where the Kämpfer takes off, and the jet effects are shown, Iwataki had a hand in that. It leaves mark on you. Inano (Yoshinobu) took part starting from episode two, and he also helped a lot. During episode one, Inano was working in Sunrise Studio 5 on the Starship Troopers OVA and couldn’t overlap, but once that was finished, he came to join us. He’s also fast. By himself, he could finish fifty or sixty cuts at a time. There were never many corrections needed aside from the occasional face fix, it was a blessing.

The last thing that stuck with me was the man in charge of the opening scene of episode one, Iso Mitsuo. For me, the late 70s and the first half of the 80s were covered with animators, and I realized that I tried to reach out to talented animators and was glad that talented animators like him were still hiding out there.

— I heard Iso wrote you notes?

Takayama: Yes. On the rough layout of rough draft keyframes, he would write how exactly he wanted it. I would in turn reply with a message of equal length. With our sending letters back and forth, Izubuchi (Yutaka) said we were like that the black and white goat from that nursery rhyme, always sending letters (laughs). Oh man, I remember when the Hygogg and the Z’Gok E emerged out of the ocean with their booster jump, and in the plume the suddenly changed directions. Iso’s memo for that said, “There’s a gap in the air here. I want to expand on that.” Iso added a lot of ideas with his keyframes.

— For the key animation of episodes one and six, Ohara Hidekazu joined the team.

Takayama: I actually knew Ohara from when we both worked at Topcraft long, long ago. I was pretty sure he had a kid that was just about to enter elementary school, so it seemed only natural to give him the classroom scene in episode one and the scheme school assembly scene in six.

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— I saw that the Gundam mangaka, Kondo Kazuhisa, was credited as the visual setting assistant.

Takayama: On Bandai’s recommendation, Kondo drew our image board for us. The scene where Al and Bernie first meet was drawn line for line from the storyboard. Rather than stick to the original art, we used the release art to get a little hype started.

— If you don’t mind, I’m going to start asking about the story. The start of episode one, the Arctic battle, was a real hook.

Takayama: The one who suggested we start off with an action scene was Izubuchi. Once as a kid I went to go watch a re-release of Toho monsters movies, but a lot of the movies started off with a big explosion or a fight. I hated when media started off like that from then on and was apprehensive about starting off 0080 that way, but I was outnumbered (laughs).

— Episode one also had the fallen Zaku drawn into the background.

Takayama: From the get-go, we planned to have the fallen Zaku drawn on the background so that in episode six, during the repair scenes, we could use it and have a cel of rain overlapping it. It was the perfect way to breathing life into a dead “body.” Everyone was worried because, not only does it take time to do that, but it also takes away the mech aesthetic. Because of that, we moved back to drawing the mechs on cels starting episode two.

— Another part at the beginning of episode one, a strong scene was when the Jukon makes its approach, and the silhouette suddenly appears.

Takayama: Yeah, that was good. In that same vein of thought, we wanted to have it that when the mobile suits had air come out of their filter, the hue around them slightly contrast. If you got close, you saw a brilliant display of depth. But when we tried with tracing paper, all of it just turned white. We couldn’t get the effects we wanted. It’s probably simple with digital photography animation technology.

Speaking of photography animation, when the Hygogg is moving through the water, the jet effects were drawn by the unit director, Takamatsu (Shinji). Using masking to composite everything, he drew the smoke like effects into the background. It was a technique used by Miyazaki Hayao in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind for the clouds.

— What request did you make for the background art?

Takayama: At first I wanted to have everything done in watercolor, but that proved more difficult than expected and didn’t come to fruition. I asked for Chris’s house be designed like an American house while Al’s house be more Japanese. For Al’s bedroom, I wanted it to really feel like a kid lived there. A skylight, a bed that folds up like some kind of secret base.

For the desk, I wanted them to be slanted since a lot of schools around the world have desks like that. A collection of various countries elementary schools helped to give hints as to how to design them. Something we were careless about, like Al’s door that was meant to open inwards but accidentally also opens outwards.

— In episode four there are a wide range of mobile suits that make their first entry of the show in that battle.

Takayama: For the longest time I thought that scene was Bandai’s idea, but I was recently talking to Izubuchi, and I’m pretty sure he wanted to show more mechs (laughs). We had originally planned to have battles in episode one, two, four, and six, but after we finished up half of the screenplays and episode one’s storyboard we realize we would be bloating the scenes. So we ended up just having many mechs get defeated after only just showing up in episode four (laughs).

— Why was the OP started from episode two?

Takayama: The storyboard for the OP was by Morikawa Shigeru. We didn’t have any allowance for movement, so I requested still pictures. After the initial title page, I asked if it could be a wall with children’s doodles of robots and whatever else he could envision. Tsukiji Shiro, an acquaintance of Uchida, was the one who drew everything.

— Where did the idea for the war photo album come from?

Takayama: I took the idea from the opening of John Milius’s movie Dillinger. I liked that while the happy tune of ‘Gold Diggers of 1993’ played in the background, photos of The Great Depression flashed on screen. Another hint to the photo album was the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men published by movie critic/writer James Agee and photographer Evan Walker. I wanted to create my own photo album. I talked it over with Kuboka (Toshiyuki) while looking at WWII photos and we decided what he would draw from there. The picture of the girl holding a flower wreath was Kuboka’s idea.

— What arrangements were made for the music?

Takayama: Shiina Megumi was my request. I’m a fan of her clear voice. As far as the lyrics went, I wanted the opening to be about a boy who had been entrusted with the futures hope — a cheerful song. The ending was to be like an adult looking back on their childhood with a twinge of regret. The closest song I had in mind was Bruce Springsteen’s My Home Town. As far as lyrics went, I gave Hasegawa Ryusei’s ‘A City Called Churchill’ as reference material. The reason we had the OP play during the sixth episode wasn’t because it’s what’s standard in the business, but because we wanted to make sure we didn’t get cut short.

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— And the fallen Zaku remained where it was?

Takayama: That’s right. Of course, there were concerns about leaving it as is and we planned to have a scene where they failed to recover it due to its positioning on the slope. If I remember correctly, Sato Junichi was supposed to insert that scene into episode two, but he would have had to cut the flow. In the end, we decided, “ah, forget about it” (laughs). I mean, as long as they retrieved the weapons it was fine (laughs).

— For episodes two and five, Sato Junichi was credit as co-storyboarder as well as Takamatsu Shinji who received the same credit for episode five.

Takayama: I’m too slow to work on the storyboards myself. I’m bad at drawing action scenes, but as a robot anime director, it was not something I could get away without doing. Those monthly releases were only made possible by all of the people who helped me. Sato actually didn’t work on episode two’s storyboards that much. In episode five there is the scene where Chay and Telcott are showing Al the shells they pick up, and he is on the verge of tears. Well, Al was supposed to be more melancholy, but Sato changed it to be more light-hearted. Once I saw it I realized it was better that way. On the other hand, I had to revise the scene of Barnie pulling out of the spaceport. The scene where Barnie sees a woman resembling Chris wasn’t in the original script. In the movie The Wild Bunch, right before they depart for a big assault they visit a brothel, that was the clue I needed.

Takamatsu helped the project along as unit director three times. I did most of the work for episode three, so Takamatsu requested that his name be credited as co-storyboarder. I was having to draw so many storyboards and constantly checking them, thinking back it wasn’t much fun. I wish my ego hadn’t been so big for stuff like the credit of episode three, Takamatsu deserved more.

— The reveal of Alex in its Chobham Armor was really something.

Takayama: The aim was to have it transform from lame to insane. Izubuchi’s design hit the nail on the head.

— Where did you get the idea to have Barnie’s lie about being born on Earth exposed?

Takayama: That came from The Great Escape (laughs). At the time Sydney’s destruction by the falling colony had yet to be stated as canon. On the other hand, Horiguchi (Shigeru), our setting producer, pointed out that Zeon would have their own accent. Because of that, we picked an English speaking zone that was known to have an accent, Australia.

— At the end of the first episode, the video camera played an important role.

Takayama: I had asked the Akitaka Mika, the camera’s designer, to make the digital storage similar to a floppy disk. He did not like that and told me that if we wanted to stand out as SF, we needed to distance ourselves from floppy disks. But, I wanted people to understand at a glance that it was storing data. I accepted the fact that it might not be the latest and greatest technology. We wanted to have one cut of Al’s figure as he watches the video message. Otherwise, it would give off a melodrama feel to it. We don’t know if Al watched the video, but the disk alone makes you know he can if he wants.

— What were your orders for the background music?

Takayama: I wanted music like Fancois Truffaut or Georges Delerue. I had the music from Small Change playing in my head during production. The movie starts off with children running up a slope, and the music that played then was phenomena. I wanted that same feel (the music was actually made by Maurice Jaubert). There are a lot of Al running scenes in the first episode, so I specifically asked Kashibuchi Tetsuro for music that ran alongside the children. I also told him that he didn’t have to think about this as a robot show and he asked me why I picked him in the first place. The reason was that in his score for Omori Kazuki’s Young Girls in Love reminded me of Georges Delerue and for this anime the closer to Delerue the better. Kashibuchi looked at me a said that Omori had requested music reminiscent of Delerue. He was glad that feeling got across (laughs).

— Why did you choose thirteen-year-old Namikawa (Daisuke) as the voice of Al?

Takayama: For a story centered around the despair of being the child left behind, it just didn’t seem right to cast an adult woman as the voice. Which is why we brought in the less-trained child voice actor. There is no doubting child voice actors made a huge impact with Grave of the Fireflies. Our sound director, Fujino Sadayoshi said that he was the only kid available and he was right. Because we chose to work with a child, we had to record on Sundays, the only day he didn’t have school. Those Sundays broke us (laughs).

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— What kind of things did you think about when drawing war as seen by children?

Takayama: Not once did I think of having it themed on their anti-war stance. They’re children with zero experience of what war contains. What wouldn’t stop bugging me was Kurt Vonnegut’s description in Slaughterhouse Five of being an American POW during the bombing of Dresden. “Do you know what I say to people when I hear they’re writing anti-war books? […] I say, “Why don’t you write an anti-glacier book instead?” His sarcastic words stuck with me. If at all possible, I wanted to keep away from a melodrama story of a hopeless situation with a depressed little boy. For that reason, I steered clear from modeling 0080 after Japanese famous war movies and strove to be more like foreign films.

— Looking back, how does it feel to have completed such a show?

Takayama: I don’t know if I had what you would call a reaction. I somehow got through working as a director despite not knowing much. 0080 is like an original song Uchida created. He brought in lots of people to gather up ideas, and I got to arrange things here and there (laughs). There are a lot of bits I’d rather not remember, but it’s been more than a quarter of a century since we unveiled 0080, and I took this interview as a means of standing in the courtroom of history.

— Was there anything that left a lasting impression on you?

Takayama: What I remember most is midway through the episode six’s the Shōwa era ended and Chief Cabinet Secretary Obuchi Keizo announced the arrival of the Heisei era. Kawamoto who was watching the news next to me muttered, “This anime was made on the cusp of two eras.”

There was also when we were dubbing episode five before days before the funeral service. If you walked around the streets surrounding the studio in Kabuki, that lively downtown area was empty. It was as if humanity had been annihilated and redrawn as the world of The Omega Man.

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