This interview is from a book called GIRL’S GUNDAM: No Boys Allowed published in 2009 that goes over all the male characters throughout the various Gundam series, but also includes interviews with some of Gundam’s creators about how they tried to tailor their shows to attract more women to watch their show. Yasuhiko dives into how they tried, all the way back in the original Gundam, to accomplish this.
I’m still astounded by the variety of ways Gundam‘s female viewers took the show and enjoyed it in ways I had never thought possible. We had planned out all these ideas of what would pull them in, but all that planning was completely unnecessary (laughs).
The character designs were decided one right after the other. Take Amuro Ray, for example, frizzy hair, space visible under his irises, cheerful, but simply put he wasn’t the handsome hero viewers had come to expect as the main character. As Tomino was thinking up his main character, I’d thought of a character of my own that would work perfectly in contrast to his. In short, we picked up what each other was thinking and made a snap decision. If Amuro wasn’t going to be a pretty boy, then why not give that role to his enemy? When we had worked together on [Brave] Raideen, even though Sharkin was the enemy, he was popular with women. We knew it could work out. Just being handsome wasn’t enough, though. He needed to have something to make him stand out or he would just be another pretty boy. That’s one of the reasons we hid his face with a mask. It added another layer that suggested there was more to him than meets the eye. It was a pretty simple addition (laughs).
Meanwhile, while Bright Noa was only nineteen years old, he always gave off the impression that he was older—like someone in middle management. That’s why we chose the hairstyle we went with for him. It looked like a hairstyle that would have a receding hairline once he got up in the years (laughs).
The characters just came one after another in that way. Of course, the agencies or broadcasting companies would do checks, but they overlooked a lot. Usually, it was impossible to get non-Japanese, plain look main characters onto shows, but we somehow managed to slip it by. We’d even prepared a back story for Amuro. His last name would be written with the kanji for summit (嶺), and he would be from Shimane prefecture. None of it was necessary though (laughs). Actually, Mirai Yamato and Hayato Kobayashi were born as Japanese characters in an attempt to “make up” for the main character not being Japanese. That’s why they’re plump, with short legs and smaller eyes (laughs).
Their uniforms were where we played around a bit. If we made the federation uniforms too close to military colors, they might feel uptight or just wrong, so we went with 19th-century a French tricolored-esq theme. For Zeon, we went with not Nazi but pre-war German-styled Prussian uniforms. They slightly resemble school uniforms here, but we were also thinking about how easy it would be to cosplay. It seemed like something assertive women would be able to convince their boyfriends to do couples cosplays (laughs). And wouldn’t you know it, people did cosplay. It was like, “Yes! They’re cosplaying!” We were so happy.
Thinking about it, Gundam aired during this transitionary period from hero stories to realistic hero stories. That’s why, even though we had a military setting, there were parts that weren’t as realistic. Take, for example, the quintessential evil villain cloak. We gave it to Char to make him look more evil but only had it flow down to the small of his back. The horns on his helmet are pretty dangerous, but he’s an anime character. We had to stick something on there (laughs). It was something we all struggled a lot with (laughs).
Thankfully, people took the absurdities and rolled with them for laughs. They called Char’s cloak a cockroach cloak and found him scurrying away to be cute (laughs). The female fans grew to like aspects of the characters that we weren’t expecting at all. They thought Garma, our narcissist baby character was cute and even accepted our freckle-faced weakling, Kai. Amuro was also a character that they felt they couldn’t leave alone. A lot of women said they wanted to talk care of him. Not only that, but it was around this time that yaoi was finding its way into the female fandom. It wasn’t just the same old guys putting out their standard fan works, it was a fresh new take, and it surprised me. Some people weren’t very open to it, saying it was making fun of the original work, but not me. It was a new addition to the fandom culture. Of course, there are always problems with copyrights and whatnot, but it was all okay in my book! Fangirling, yaoi, cosplay… the list goes on, but they’re all ways for everyone to enjoy Gundam. I hope they continue to enjoy it however they please.