Anime Expo 2011
Official Sunrise/Bandai Gundam Panel
by Gia Manry,
At the first-ever official Gundam panel in the U.S., Bandai Entertainment's marketing director Robert Napton revealed a special Gundam series guide for fans who stay through the entire panel. After a short video about the Gundam franchise, Napton introduced Sunrise's representatives: Gundam Division General Manager Shin Sasaki and Senior Managing Director Yasuo Miyakawa. Before opening up the audience question-and-answer session, Napton asked the representatives why they had chosen this particular moment to reintroduce Gundam to the country.
Sasaki responded that Gundam is now 30 years old and has been introduced in the U.S. already, but the series hasn't been as popular worldwide as it in Japan. Sunrise wanted to introduce the original series to the U.S. market in hopes of creating new Gundam fans.
Napton then asked how new Gundam series are developed, especially since the most recent shows— Gundam 00 and Gundam UC —are so different. Sasaki stated that Sunrise first selects a target audience. For Universal Century Gundam series they have to take into account the past history established by other Gundam shows, while for original titles like Gundam 00, aimed at the teen market, they want to make the shows more exciting and have them incorporate more popular culture, like pop music. But it's still all Gundam, so they always have to decide what to retain to ensure that the new shows are "still Gundam" while also expanding the universe.
Napton then opened up the questions line, which was immediately swamped with fans:
The first fan asked about a PlayStation 2 game which followed the adventures of the Gundam Thoroughbred, and whether a series expanding on them could be made. Sasaki said that there are no current plans, but it's entirely possible that those units will appear in other Universal Century Gundam series.
The next fan requested a steampunk Gundam series, to which Sasaki replied that since Gundam units require nuclear technology, a steampunk version is not possible.
A press member complained that he felt some shows were more geared towards merchandising interests than strong stories, and asked how Sunrise maintains a balance between the two. After a lot of discussion amongst the panelists (and, separately, the audience), Sasaki responded that the universe is diverse, so there are a lot of different target audiences. Gundam Seed was made for a younger audience, for example, so a lot of Universal Century fans have not come to accept the show yet.
The next fan asked about the CG series MS Igloo and whether more of it might be made. Sasaki asked him to make a strong petition to Bandai Entertainment for the show. The same fan then asked about series which are currently out of print in North America, and whether they might be reprinted. However, several of the series he mentioned turned out to already be in print, and Napton also noted that Bandai always tries to get more of those series. Bandai Entertainment president Ken Iyadomi asked the audience if they wanted Gundam ZZ, which resulted in an eruption of applause.
A young man asked if he could get more details on the upcoming series Gundam AGE and its target audience, since it appears to be aimed at young children. Miyakawa noted that the show will span 100 years, making it different from other Gundam series. The audience in mind is also broader, from young children to teens, to make it more accessible than traditional Gundam series.
A professed Gundam Seed fan asked a similar question, wondering whether the Gundam pilots themselves were children in the show. Sasaki replied that the main character is 14 years old, about the same age as traditional Gundam pilots.
After thanking the Sunrise representatives for releasing Gundam in the U.S., a fan asked if the new Gundam and other upcoming shows will be released simultaneously throughout the world, as with Gundam UC. Miyakawa responded that Gundam AGE will not be released simultaneously but they hope to get as quick a release as possible.
The next fan noted that Gundam UC maintains the old-school feel of Gundam's designs while still looking crisp and modern. She asked if it's difficult to keep that balance while producing the shows. Miyakawa told her that it's not more difficult, and they don't do any more or less work either way.
Another fan heard "on the Internet" that they will be adapting the manga Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin into an anime series, and wanted to know whether it will be a TV series or something else. Miyakawa said that the only decision that had been made so far was that the anime will be produced, but no other details yet.
A Fate/stay night cosplayer asked whether there would ever be a definitive, final battle between the characters Ray Amuro and Char Aznable. Sasaki replied that he'd love to see it himself, but that Sunrise doesn't know whether both of them are still alive currently.
The final question of the session: will Sunrise ever bring back the original creator, Yoshiyuki Tomino, to create a completely original, new Gundam series? The audience applauded the question while it was translated for the Sunrise reps. Sasaki said that there is no current plan, but as the original creator of Gundam, if there was an opportunity then Sunrise would like to pursue it.
Miyakawa and Sasaki offered some closing words to Gundam fans. Sasaki said that he was glad to have a first-hand feel of the fans who love Gundam in the United States. He also said that Sunrise wants to commit to delivering the new Gundam in the States as soon as possible and hopes for the audience's support. Miyakawa thanked the audience and noted that Sunrise hopes to create Gundam for the next thirty years as well. He added that he'd like to see another seventy years (making up a full century), but that he might not be around that long.
The panel closed with a promotional video, which was created specifically for this panel. The video featured animation from the upcoming Gundam AGE anime series.
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