— Urðr Hunt is set to be an Iron-Blooded Orphans spinoff story that you can enjoy in within the new app, but was that the plan from the start?
Ogawa: This project started up right around the time when the scenario meetings for the fifty episode TV series ended. We happened to talk with Fujihara, one of the game producers from Bandai Namco, and he brought up the idea of working together. There are a lot of IBO fans that are in their teens and twenties, and a great deal more than at least recognize the series. It only made sense to release something new for them in the form of a mobile game.
— However, you decided not to continue the TV series’s story.
Ogawa: There’s a lot of material encompassed in just the TV series. We had to talk with the animation director Nagai (Tatsuyuki) to see what elements we would proceed with to create a new story.
Even the PV music is a prototype, so it will change as well.
— And that’s when you came up with the idea of creating a completely new scenario for a mobile game?
Ogawa: Correct, but we initially didn’t plan on having the story develop to the level it has. The game element came first, so we thought the player could create a different independent group like the Tekkadan and have fun battling. Even with that, there would still be a good chunk of the animation that wouldn’t be accessible, which is where director Nagai proposed an entirely separate story in the same IBO world.
— Why did you decide to set it during P.D. 323?
Ogawa: By setting our story in-between the first and second season, we gave ourselves a lot more freedom than if we set it after the TV series. We had other ideas like starting the timeline from the first season and focusing on groups other than Tekkadan, like Gallahorn or another resistance group, but that would have been a whole mess of constantly cross-referencing the TV series for continuity. Instead, our story became one on Venus—Urðr Hunt.
— As the animation producer, what are the differences or difficulties, if any, working within an app’s limitations?
Ogawa: How we would connect the animation to the game was a crucial point of Urðr Hunt, but it’s something we’re still testing out. The animation directing is proceeding under Nagai while we’ve left everything to do with the game in the hands of the game director. Both of them can make the most of their skills that they’ve fostered up until this point and create something that compliments the other. Take for example, when a machine collapses and loses from taking too much damage. That’s kind of difficult to portray within the game, but far easier to do with animation. We’re testing our way through small details like that, little by little.
— So both the animation and gaming aspects are going to be intertwined?
Ogawa: Correct. Another big draw of Urðr Hunt is that it will be free for anyone who wants to enjoy the story.
— What can you tell us about how Urðr Hunt’s story came to be?
The main proposal was from Nagai, but we also have Kamoshida (Hajime), who worked as the settings researcher for the TV series, working on the story as well. As we proceed through production, we are checking the game and supplementary information against that of the TV series to ensure there are no continuity errors.
—Is there any specific design element you went forward with in regards to this project?
Ogawa: At first, because we are working on a mobile app with CG, we had lots of lines in the designs. The problem was that the animation parts increase, and suddenly we had a bit of fixing up to do (laughs). For the game, there are a lot of new mobile armor, with a lot of creative designs that are conversely difficult to recreate with CG. It was challenging to find a balance. That said, there was a lot more freedom with the designs than when working on the TV series. It felt very similar to when creating MSV (Mobile Suit Variations) with the variety of weapons prepared and the designs and settings that went into consideration.
— Is there any particular reason behind having Venus as the backdrop for the story?
Ogawa: In the original anime, the harsh realities of the world were part of the setup. The group had to fight through even more of it to reach their goal. We wanted to preserve that same world view, but because this is a game and not an anime, we were looking for content that would keep the players wanting more story. For fans of IBO, there are easter eggs here and there to enjoy, but it’s also content that will be easy for new players to jump into.
— Will any of the Tekkadan members make an appearance?
Ogawa: First and foremost, we wanted to focus on the new characters and their story. It does all take place in the same universe, however, so there will be references to them. It will be its own kind of fun to see how each of the characters “appears” in the game.
— How did you come up with Venus-born Wistalio Afam as the protagonist?
Ogawa: Nagai created the characters with the original draft being drawn up by Itou Yu. The main staff worked together to figure out how to apply everything in the draft into the animation. To start, Wistalio and Mikazuki have entirely different personalities. Even though Wistalio was brought up in the world of Iron-Blooded Orphans, he is still a cheerful, child-like character.
— Was there anything you hope to accomplish with Urðr Hunt?
Ogawa: As far as the whole project goes, I want people to enjoy the original story. On the other hand, when talking about the app as a whole, I want to let the fans have the freedom to enjoy the characters within the game. Kind of like a free mode where they could pick their favorite character and put them in whatever mobile suit they wanted. If we could have that in the game, people could fall in love with it even more.
— Urðr Hunt is just one of the animation additions to the Sunrise Beyond project that you have taken up the new position of president for. How does this all work into the project?
Ogawa: We’re taking the staff who worked on series like Gundam Age, the Build Fighters series, and Iron-Blooded Orphans and putting their power together for the Beyond project.
— Do you think there will be differences between making Urðr Hunt and making a typical TV series?
Ogawa: With the typical TV series, you have two seasons of twenty-five episodes with about half a year in-between each season. Compared to that, there are more time restrictions with Urðr Hunt. We’re currently grappling with sections that you can’t easily put on a schedule or double-checking minute details. Even for the first episode’s scenario, it’s jam-packed with so much more than a TV series first episode. We stretched it to the breaking point so, we hope everyone can look forward to it.
—The Gundam 40th Anniversary Project is also in full swing right now, and the Iron-Blooded Orphans app is another step into new territory for the franchise. What kind of vision do you have for animation projects from here on out?
Ogawa: There is, of course, the continuing drive to make Gundam that appeals to teenagers, but beyond that, we just want people to fall in love with Gundam whenever it’s right for them. This app is just one of the many trials to sprout from that desire.
Ogawa: Among all those enchanted by the fight scenes and drama, some will be able to find interest in Urðr Hunt. When you talk about the 40th Anniversary Project, it’s stuff like Hathaway’s Flash from the Universal Century or the Reconguista in G movies, but we also want to bring about a new kind of media with the IBO app. We’re expanding Gundam’s parameter just a little more.
— How is the project coming along?
Ogawa: The animation is proceeding smoothly. Whether you’re a fan of IBO or someone getting into the series for the first time through the app, I think there is a lot to look forward to. Nagai and the rest of the staff are working their hardest, so just hold on until its release.