Ideon: Mechanical Designer Higuchi Yuichi

Original interview found in the 1982 March special release of Animec.


— Prior to this, you worked for Submarine as their art director. However, when you worked on Ideon, you took on the position of Submarine’s mechanical designer. Was there any reason for this?

Higuchi Yuichi: Ideon was the second anime I worked on as the main mechanical designer — the first was [Scientific Adventure Team] Tansar 5. It was a blessing to get the opprotunity to work as the main mechanical designer from the start. The amount of studying I had to delve into for Ideon was immense. I think I had a lot of personal growth between the beginning of the show and the final episodes. One memory from when I joined the planning stage was first meeting Tomino. I hadn’t adjusted to his personality yet so you can imagine my surprise when he handed me a mechanical design rough draft and said, “something like this.” I held in my hands a well-drawn draft. It was a strange feeling — like my job had been taken from me. Only after did I realize that was Tomino’s way of showing enthusiasm. It was eye-opening.

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At that time, Ideon was only the size of a truck or a tanker. In day to day situation, drivers or military personnel would man the individual vehicles, but when it came time to enter battle, the mechs would combine. That’s the absurd premise that came from the remains of the original rough draft. At the meeting with Tomino and the others, the goal was to create Ideon as a great god on a cosmic scale.

— You’re currently working on Galaxy Cyclone Braiger’s main robot, but what are your plans for the future? Where do you plan to take your designs?

Higuchi: I’m still working with the same company, so a lot of my work encompasses the financial aspects of illustrations and designs. I want to try to be apart of every step of the process, from planning to the inception of the idea. It’s most similar to a directors job in the movie industry. So far, the jobs I’ve worked on are packages or anime designs — exactly what you would expect from a designer. I want to be able to take direction of a piece and draw it myself. Deciding a genre, focusing in on a demographic, solidifying the final image; I want to try it all. I’m sure I’m not alone in this idea, but if there is a job you want to do, you want to be apart of all steps. If someone says they want to make a movie, of course, they can become a cinematography professor or an actor, but generally, they want to oversee everything. They want to be the director. In anime’s case, they can enter as an animator or take other routes, but in the end, they want to be the director. They want the feeling of choosing the protagonist and developing their story. I came into this industry through mechanical designs, but I hope to have more interaction with the planning process as a whole.

— During Ideon, did you work on anything aside from the mechanical designs?

Higuchi: I put a lot of thought into the world’s configuration. The robots in Gundam draw you in because they stand as their own character. Ideon, on the other hand, is a robot that is also a battleship. Rather than focusing on the robot’s movements, I emphasize the interior sections where the main characters interacted. It enables the viewer to see the difference in each character’s nature.

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— SF art in Japan lags behind its Western counterparts, but it felt like that knowledge was accumulated and led to an affect the barren SF movies here.

Higuchi: Riding with the current industry, I wanted to try creating something like Star Wars — but only to a minuscule amount (laughs). That’s why I was interested in working on Ideon. I knew my way around SF art and was invited to illustrate for Sunrise’s Ideon Complete Collection books. It was great practice for me. I worked with everything from pencil to watercolors to gouache and oil paintings. I’m not typically given that much freedom (laughs). They allowed me to work on the edge of experimental. Usually, with design and illustrations, you’re only guaranteed the final product. I was able to see what did and didn’t work when drawing. Because I had a taste of that process, I felt strongly about what image I wanted as my final product. That’s what happened with my work with King Records and the pin-up for this encyclopedia. From here on out I want Ideon to stick to styles like this. It’s not typecasting the art per say, it’s an adventure through varying compositions. You can tell by looking at the pin-up, but the character has his back facing front with a downward angle. This kind of shot composition isn’t something you see all that often. It separates the high and low points of the picture. Having the light hit at the angle it does isn’t very common, either.

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— I’m sure everyone is looking forward to seeing your continued work as an illustrator.

Higuchi: I think I’ll be passing down more illustration jobs to new hires and moving onto the business aspect, but I’m sure the desire to draw will remain. I could probably draw for another ten years, but I think the greatest feeling will be when children say, “I know that anime!” Of course, hearing that the rating are good isn’t bad, but I feel alive when I hear it straight from those that watched it.

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