Ideon: Director Tomino Yoshiyuki And The Mystery Of The 6th Civilization


The original interview can be found in the 1982 March special release of Animec. This interview took place and was published after the run of the original Space Runaway Ideon TV series and prior to the release of the movies The Ideon: A Contact and The Ideon: Be Invoked (they were a double feature.) Spoilers for the original series and Zambot 3 are present, so be careful!

Feature image for this article is fanart by Yamada Yuuji (twitter: @mechaimaging & pixiv).   WordPress, unfortunately, crops images oddly so the full version can be found here!

The Mystery Of The 6th Civilization

— Ideon is very entertaining.

Tomino Yoshiyuki: In what way?!

— (Laughs) It’s very popular.

Tomino: Ah, yeah. That’s because the magazines decided to promote it left and right for us.

— What were you aiming for with Ideon’s story?

Tomino: Hmmm, a story of reincarnation. It doesn’t fuss with all the tiny details. On the surface, it looks like a story of power relations, war, and the struggle between two races, but it lingers back to the same question — why is Ideon there? It’s a story of humans — intelligent beings — that wanted to take the power of reincarnation into their own hands. It’s all very dream-like and not based on science at all.

Taking that story into space, we arrived at space immigrants in the Andromeda Galaxy. Although, it might have been better if we didn’t name it after a real galaxy.

— Karala does mention Earth.

Tomino: That’s not a problem. The intelligent beings would have absolutely called their own planet Earth. Lifeforms from a water environment would call their home planet something like Aqua, so those from a land environment would most likely name it Earth. When Karala talks about their home she isn’t explicitly saying the Earth we live on, but a continental-based planet.

— Ideon is a planetary story, but unlike previous generations, the new SF trend is to have the setting in such-and-such galaxy at so-and-so planet.

A Story in the Stars

Tomino: In my mind, Ideon just takes place somewhere amongst the stars. It’s the same when the Buff Clan refers to the galaxy. They aren’t necessarily talking about our same galaxy. We proceeded through production under the assumption that there wasn’t a real connection.

— So, what exactly is Ide?

Tomino: Ide has stirred up quite a lot of criticism, but it’s like Japanium from Mazinger Z. What exactly was Japanium?

— It’s Mazinger Z’s power source and the base for Aphrodite A’s body, or am I wrong? My Toei knowledge is lacking.

Tomino: It’s a name, that’s all there is to it. Ide acts as a way for viewers to more or less connect a name to an idea. Ide is Ide. If I had to put the idea in a sentence, I’d say “The collection of intelligent beings’ knowledge.”

(Editor: Wait, he isn’t talking about Newtypes, right?)

— As of this interview [July 24th, 1981], Ideon is left in its giant transformed mode after assumingly using its true power to take on the Earth mechs.

Tomino: It hasn’t touched its true power.


— What?! It hasn’t? I thought it harnessed the emotional energy and released all of its power!

Tomino: That’s what you think, right? But that’s wrong.

— Wouldn’t the support mechs be in the way in that case?

Tomino: Exactly. Right now those support mechs are nothing but a nuisance. At a specific moment, Ide will start to work as an actual energy source. Parallel to this, Ideon will refuse to respond, causing the docked parts to break off.

The 6th civilization, that created Ideon and the Solo Ship, was looking to make a machine that could harness the power of Ide inside of it. They hypothesized that if they gathered up their collective wills, they would be able to utilize it as an energy source and low-and-behold it worked. However, when they did that, their bodies simultaneously perished. When Ideon started up using the thoughts of the 6th civilization — that energy “Ide” — it’s like it had a will of its own.

— So it wasn’t an accident, but the 6th civilization’s desire to be destroyed by Ideon?

Tomino: I’m not sure the humans — the 6th civilization — would view it like that. Ideon and Solo Ship aren’t finished products, so it’s possible they questioned what would happen if either held such power.

— At present, only the support mechs are available, and their screens only resemble the Ide symbol.

Tomino: Since the 6th civilization was destroyed for Ide, all that remained of them was the mechs they created. In order to make contact with the new intelligent lifeforms a few centuries down the road, and activate their presumed will, there needed to be something — Ideon or Solo Ship — for either the Earthlings or Buff Clan to find.

But there is one big problem that occurs. The inner workings of Ide are suddenly bombarded with an influx of two new life forms’ cultures, thought-processes, and desires. In the end, it’s a question of whether Cosmo and the others will destroy planet Buff or if the Buff Clan will wipe out the Earthlings aboard the Ideon. Will Ideon will repeat the actions it took towards the 6th civilization?

The Secret to Ideon’s Power?!

— It won’t come to that, right? You haven’t completely abandoned humanity, yet. Your name isn’t Ide. You aren’t the accumulation of the residual 6th civilization’s ideas.

Tomino: I think they have a bit more emotional strength than the average person, so as long as they can control it, they have some bragging rights. But I’ll have you know I toyed with the possibility of entrapping and utilizing physical power within the system. It’s possible for something like this to unleash an unimaginable power, but if that’s the case, all of the 6th civilization energy will leak out, the Ide will…uh, could manifest itself — like an Id.

— From Forbidden Planet?


Tomino: Yeah, yeah. Think of it like Id Monster.

(Editor: Well, this certainly is problematic, bringing up Forbidden Planet. It’s the kind of movie only hardcore SF anime fans would know about. It’s a creature based on a person’s subconscious with powers amplified by an extinct civilization. It’s an old SF film.)

— So, the 6th civilization possessed a special kind of culture? In SF stories there are generally two kinds of civilizations that appear. There are the types that focus so much on science there is no spiritual connection and the types that have developed special powers and don’t require science or technology. By mobilizing their scientific power, they were able to complete Ideon and Solo Ship by transferring their psycho waves but simultaneously managed to lose their sense of self when they passed away.

Tomino: You know, I actually wanted to try making a counter story to this. An alternate reality where they were able to successfully transfer their will and live as beings without the necessity of physical bodies. A story about the 6th civilization evolving to a new stage, but that would creep too much into dealing with god and his presence, so I didn’t want to do it after all.

— Tell me about Piper Lou’s barrier. No way that wasn’t connected to Ide’s power. The ship has a will of its own, right? It doesn’t know if the Earthlings are good or bad, but as far as children are concerned it manifested the power to protect them.


Piper Lou’s Power

Tomino: That’s correct. It’s not that Lou has special powers, but that he exists in close proximity to Ide. It’s a key plot point, and as we get closer to the end of the story, even Lou will start to realize this. When that happens, there will be a need for someone with closer ties to Ide’s power.

— That explanation sounds like you could just read “Genma Wars” and “Yoseiden” instead.

Tomino: Really? Anyways, if another person appears that is even closer to the Ide than Lou, the ending might change from having all the characters killed to maybe leaving Cosmo alive.

At current, Ideon isn’t moving. Ide was present in episode one when Ideon moved on its own. Cosmo’s thoughts awakened it. If it had been left to its own devices the whole time, both the Earthling and Buff Clan most likely would have already been obliterated. Because Piper Lou was there, that didn’t happen, though. If he realized the power inside himself, he would be able to move Ideon all on his own and be unstoppable!

Instead, a new character was necessary for that to occur. I thought about ending it with this new character trying to protect Cosmo and Ideon starting up as if to say “stop me if you can!” but that doesn’t have much of an impact, so I extended it to a story about the spiritual world. The story doesn’t end with all of them dying. They are all going out as spirits in search of a new planet. It’s been a story about all things passing through birth, death, and rebirth.

— So, a step further than Zambot 3?

Tomino: Yes, but initially I questioned whether it was a story I should create at all. It touches on some risky subject material, especially with the recent string of suicides among the younger crowd. If I presented it willy-nilly, it could have become a big mess. This is me rambling, but I like to think that the Ideon ends in our present time. There you have it. What we talked about today is all there is to Ideon.

— Thank you very much.


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