Interview: Yoshiyuki Tomino

by Mark Simmons, Oct 23rd 2009
ANN: First, I'd just like to welcome you to New York, and congratulate you on the thirtieth anniversary of Gundam.

TOMINO: Thanks!

You've probably been asked this a lot recently, but how do you feel about the thirtieth anniversary?

It makes me feel I'm getting old, and I'm not happy about that. But I'm happy to have received a lot of compliments from people, and so there's nothing I'm really dissatisfied with. It's a difficult state of mind!

For the twentieth anniversary of Gundam you created Turn A Gundam, and now on the thirtieth anniversary you're creating Ring of Gundam. What are you trying to achieve that's different from what you were doing with Turn A?

There are some fundamental differences. But Ring of Gundam hasn't entered the actual production process, so I can't really explain what's different.

Regarding Turn A Gundam, I made it with the idea of affirmatively accepting all of the Gundam series. In other words, as a creative work, I wanted it to have an affirmative perspective.

In making Ring of Gundam, I'm not thinking about the previous Gundam series. I want to make a work whose main question is whether or not our twenty-first-century civilization can continue into the near future. A work whose theme is whether our current way of thinking can continue into the near future.

In thinking about whether our current way of thinking could continue into the future, I decided to make a story that said it might not. It's a negative theme, but I wanted to see if I could make the story a little lighter by making it as a Gundam series.

That's because Gundam is basically fantasy. I think that, in fantasy, even dark stories can be made in a light way.

(In English) I'm very sorry. I want to tell you about the story, [but it's] a very complex story...

So are fantasy stories a particularly good way of talking about dark aspects of the world?

That's the nature of fantasy stories, because fantasy stories were originally told to give people hope. They're pure fiction, but fantasy is a way of creating a story which gives people hope even though they know it's not true. Even for people who know it's fiction and a dream, it's a story of hope.

(In English) I have one example, thinking of fantasy. British people believe the stories of dragons...

(Continuing in Japanese) That is, they believe the stories about the knight who slays the dragon. Because of that, in the colonial era, the British had the heart to go and take control of colonies on the other side of the world.

The stories of knights and dragons express the hopeful heart of the British people. Fantasy can express things in such a way, so it's not always fiction. In other words, these old myths and legends may be fiction, but they express the hearts of the people who tell them... their "origin spirit."

And so I think a fantasy like Gundam can show a dark future in a light way.

In the pre-interview we did, you described the ending of Ideon as being a hopeful ending despite all the bad things that happen to the characters. Is that true of all your works, that there's always some hope?

When I created Ideon, I didn't understand the fundamental power of fantasy the way I do now. The ending of Ideon was still just a hopeless ending, and so it couldn't become a fantasy.

Going back to Ring of Gundam, [based on the 5-minute promotional clip for the series shown at New York Anime Festival] I gather that the character movements of Ring of Gundam are based on those of the actors, motion-capture style. Do you think this is closer to directing live action?

Yes. I feel that anime and live action are basically the same thing, and so I directed it like live action.

But when I actually tried it, I found one thing very confusing. The timing of live action movement is slower than that of anime. My mistake was that I couldn't calculate this difference in timing, and that can be seen in Ring of Gundam.

And so, in the current Ring of Gundam, there are a few directing mistakes because of the different movement speed. But it's already been filmed.

What stage of production is Ring of Gundam at?

It's finished for now.

So that promotional clip is all there is for now; were Ring of Gundam to enter into full-length production, how long would it be? Are you thinking TV series or movie or OVA?

I'm not sure, but I'd like to create a work about the length of one film. But we haven't found any investors, perhaps because they're afraid I'd make a lot of requests.

What other challenges did you have in integrating computer graphics into your work, aside from the timing?

I did take on one challenge with Ring of Gundam. I'd become uncertain about how to depict characters in CG. I didn't want to do it like Pixar, or like the 3D characters in current games. I thought there must be another way.

(In English) I wanted to challenge the drawing of CG characters. I believe that different drawing and design...

(Continuing in Japanese) But we don't have staff who can think of such new things. Right now we only have Pixar-like designs and game-like designs, and there's nobody who is artistic in the true sense. I think the ideal would be to represent hand-drawn anime as is. I'm recalling one really bad example...

 (In English) Astro Boy in 3D. Terrible!

(Continuing in Japanese) I think the original drawings are far superior to the CG characters. If I had a choice between a hand-drawn Mickey Mouse and a CG Mickey Mouse, I'd go with the hand-drawn Mickey Mouse. There must be something in between.


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