This interview is from the 1999 May release of Animage, so only shortly after the series began airing. It’s very short but I hope you enjoy it!
— What kind of meeting did you have with Tomino?
Okawara: There were plenty of meetings with Tomino when he was in his trial and error phase of the project. Everything related to the story, staff, and mecha designs from those meetings is a secret.
— What were you aiming to achieve with your designs this time around?
Okawara: I designed so the mobile suits’ function could be easily discernible from their silhouettes alone.
— What were some themes behind the mobile suits you designed?
Okawara: The Eagail that’s set to show up in episode nine features something I’ve always wanted to incorporate into a design—a spine. Another one was a gorilla type mobile suit that was basically weighed down by the beam gun on its back.
— Can you give us your impression on the overall story and world of Turn A?
Okawara: I believe it has far more depth than it might let on for the world of Gundam.
— What are your thoughts on Syd Mead’s designs? How do you feel about the mustache?
Okawara: Seeing a gundam with such an industrial design was a great learning opportunity for me. I’ve also always thought about changing up the position of the antenna to differentiate between gundams, but when it comes to the V-fin, it’s such an iconic part of the gundam—I don’t think his design is a design I could have come up with.
— What are your hopes for Gundam’s 20th-anniversary series?
Okawara: I think I want everyone just to enjoy the series.
Yasuda Akira aka Akiman
— What were your thoughts when you got the request to participate in Turn A?
Yasuda: 30% was “Oh man, am I really the right person for this?” The rest of me was thinking, “Oh, yeah, I’m so lucky!”
— When did you first really start working on the project?
Yasuda: Around August in 1998, but nothing had been announced at that point, so I was practicing a lot.
— What kind of requests were there from Tomino when it came to the character designs?
Yasuda: I wasn’t given any concrete requests. He kept saying he wanted to create a character who had their act together. His words kept ringing in my brain while I worked. There were actually a few of his words that stuck with me; “Don’t just throw bows on the girls,” “Don’t needlessly make them wear clothes that expose them,” “Follow the current fashion trends and think about clothes that emphasize the body line.” He said all of these to me after reviewing my first draft of the character designs. Thanks to him, I found the resolve to stop fixating on making “cool” or “cute” characters.
— Is there anything you try to keep in mind when designing?
Yasuda: I try my very hardest to design something that a lot of fans will enjoy for a long time.
— Who is currently your favorite character? Who was the most difficult?
Yasuda: Loran was far and away the most difficult. I had to completely throw away what I had always considered to be the building blocks for a protagonist and ask myself, “what does it mean to be the main character?” It was the first time I’d ever done that, and it proved difficult. Because of that, he became my favorite character. I did have a hard time adapting to designing outfits based on fashion from a hundred years ago.
— What is the difference between working on games and anime?
Yasuda: The roots behind designing for both is practically the same. Where they branch off is that in the world of anime, human drama plays a significant role in the entertainment. There is a lot more importance placed on facial expressions.
— What do you think of Syd Mead’s designs?
Yasuda: I wasn’t all on board at first, but it grew on me until finally, it struck a chord deep down in me. I couldn’t help but see how cool it was—it was such a strange transformation.
— As a fan of the Gundam series, which is your favorite one?
Yasuda: I like the first Mobile Suit Gundam. I might have been only a kid when I watched it first air, but I still have this attachment that I saw it air live.
— What kind of anime is Turn A Gundam?
Yasuda: An entertaining story. Watch it like it’s a fairytale of a future that could happen.
— What do you think about director Tomino?
Yasuda: God-like, maybe? Yells sometimes. Get careless and, click, that’s a picture taken. Interesting storyboards. A mess when it comes to schedules. He stands on his own two feet. Hard worker. Yep, that’s about it.
— Tomino has highly praised your designs, but what do you think is the most valuable part of a design?
Yasuda: If people see enough value in enthralling characters, then I want to believe that that is what is most valuable.