Interview: Yoshiyuki Tomino (Updated)

by Egan Loo, Jun 19th 2009

The anime industry can measure the far-ranging influence of creator and director Yoshiyuki Tomino not only by his long list of credits, but the equally long list of creators he inspired. Many of today's anime creators, such as Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno and Macross creator Shoji Kawamori, trace their passion for the art medium to watching Space Runaway Ideon, Mobile Suit Gundam, and Tomino's other classics as kids and teens. ANN interviewed Tomino to mark the 30th anniversary of his most well-known creation — the Mobile Suit Gundam space war epic — and his upcoming September 25-27 appearance at the New York Anime Festival.

Do you have future Gundam stories you still wish to tell?

I can't answer this question based on the whole franchise because it has become sort of a genre of its own, within which more artists are working now than before. Personally, I think it has to be a story that offers hope for the new generation — it has to be a story with a message like: "Don't despair about the near future." That's the theme it must have.

Many of your titles, such as Gundam, Dunbine, and Brain Powered, have been translated for English-speaking fans. There are others, such as Ideon and many of your novels, that have yet to be released in America. Which of your titles do you wish that more English-speaking fans would get a chance to see? And why?

There isn't a series that I want to be translated more than others. They were produced for Japan [originally], and if they weren't able to draw interest there, they would have been failures.

However, I'd love it if more people could see my works, even if it means I get feedback like: "The copy of Space Runaway Ideon: Be Invoked that I saw was great!" The way that [the story] was presented in this particular work may not be good — but it's a story where even though humans and aliens have been annihilated in a battle, there is still hope.

What do you think of the state of the anime industry today?

All I can think is, "well, that's how things go."

It would be self-righteous to say that I have ideals or hope [for the industry], so I try not to think about it. I've been in this industry for 45 years, and I'm just grateful for the experience.

It's not like everything is perfect, so I harbor no complaints.

You've visited America and, in particular, New York City before. What experiences are you looking forward to, this year?

I'm happy that I've been invited. When I think of New York, I think of Broadway. It's a learning experience just being in that kind of environment.

There are some who say that your philosophy in life has changed over the years. They point to the differences between the Z Gundam series and the Z Gundam movies that were made two decades later. Do you feel you have a more positive or negative outlook on life?

Until I was middle-aged, I liked to cram my frustrations into my works. However, my mindset changed when I realized that anime is an entertainment medium, and it has to be something people look forward to. That line of thinking is plain to see in the Z Gundam movies.

In other words, the films were an expression of the fact that by nature, all people have both a positive side and a negative side.

Just in the last four years, you have made cameos in the Japan Sinks and Shaolin Girl films. What other new careers would you like to explore besides animating and acting?

I've realized that if I don't learn more about the feel of live-action films, I can't be a leader in the future of film and animation, so I hope I can have more experiences like that in the future.

What are your thoughts on the increased use of computer graphics in anime, including in your own updates to earlier works, such as The Wings of Rean and the Zeta Gundam and Turn A Gundam movies?

It's an eyesore when live-action production staffers still use CG technology as if it is still a curiosity, when the technology behind anime production has been similar to the basics of CG work. I think it would be great if people could quickly dispense with that thinking and use the technology as if it were just another regular part of the production.

There are elements of the Japanese government, such as its defense ministry and the Japan Science and Technology Agency, that have openly used your works as inspiration for their projects. What are your thoughts on real life imitating your fiction?

I'm not sure about premise behind this question — I think that stuff is just rumors. If it's true, it's people who aren't connected to reality who make such a big deal out of technology like that. I think that it's just like the scientists who don't acknowledge that developing the atomic bomb was a mistake: [that line of thinking] is dangerous.

Do you have a message for your English-speaking fans?

I only have feelings of gratitude in my heart towards fans that have taken an interest in my works, even if just for a moment, I am truly grateful. So, as long as I can create works, I hope to invoke that sense of realism through anime and similar visual and expressive media. I believe that the symbolic expressive abilities of anime will always present new opportunities, so I look forward to what the younger generation will produce.

Update: This interview is a "pre-interview" that the Sunrise anime studio granted before the convention. Sunrise is offering ANN an opportunity at a full interview at the New York Anime Festival where more in-depth questions about more topics will be allowed.


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