Interview: Gundam Wing Executive Producer Hideyuki Tomioka

by Jordan Ramee & Zac Bertschy,

Hideyuki Tomioka has had a long and extremely impressive career - he was the Executive Producer for Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, a show that's still one of the most popular series in the Gundam franchise. He was the producer for several other famous shows including After War Gundam X and Inuyasha, and even served as producer on Katsuhiro Otomo's sprawling steampunk fantasy Steamboy.

After an incredible career like that, we were excited to chat with Mr. Tomioka at this year's Anime Boston.

You're listed as a producer on every iteration of Gundam Wing, all the way through its entire production -- were you deeply involved on every iteration of the series (TV, OVA, movies) or were there some projects you were more directly involved in than others?

You have sharp eyes! But yes, I was the Executive Producer for all of it. I was equally involved in every iteration of Gundam Wing.

You may have noticed, for the TV series, initially there were actually three names printed under "Producer." The first is actually the producer on the broadcasting station side. The second name was a fellow producer at SUNRISE. This was still early in my career, so they wouldn't give me either top or solo billing. So that second name was kind of like my superior at SUNRISE. My name was always third. But by the time we got to Endless Waltz, I'm pretty sure I might have gotten solo credits.

In the OVAs and the films, you may have also noticed other names. That's the case because of merchandise. Usually the top billing is given to Bandai because they're the ones producing the merchandise and typically proposing the project.

How do you feel about the evolution of the Gundam franchise in most recent history?

So, just to cover a little Gundam history, for those fans who may not be familiar, in the beginning, only the original creator, Yoshiyuki Tomino, handled Gundam. He was the only one that actually produced any Gundam and, of course, you have in order: the first and original Gundam, and then Zeta, ZZ, Char's Counterattack the movie, and then Victory Gundam. All through that, that was all Mr. Tomino. And then, the year after Victory Gundam, you had G-Gundam, which was directed by Mr. Imagawa of Giant Robo fame and produced by Mr. Minami of Cowboy Bepop fame. G-Gundam was a completely different kind of Gundam series. Then, a year after G-Gundam, I started work on Gundam Wing.

Now, G-Gundam had this weird reputation because it was so different in comparison to the original Gundam series. Part of what made G-Gundam so unique and different was that it had all these new mobile suits that were duking it out. So when it came time for Gundam Wing, which came right after, our sponsor Bandai literally came to us and said, "We want at least five new mobile suits in this series. And as long as their model kits sell...[everyone laughs]

What was most surprising about the whole thing is that this was the only thing that they requested. They didn't give any instruction or direction in terms of the story or plot. All they said is, "We want five mobile suits, and we want those five mobile suits to be so spectacular that they sell a lot of merch, and that's it." So, that was kind of unique. Of course, now they say what type of story they want to be told and what type of characters they want to be included, but back then, that was it. Just five mobile suits.

As producer, part of my job is picking the creative team, so I chose the director that I thought was the most successful and best at the time: Masashi Ikeda. And of course, screenwriter Katsuyuki Sumizawa. After the success of Gundam Wing, the president of SUNRISE at the time came to me and said, "Good job! Now we can make even more Gundam series!" And, of course, soon after we had Gundam Seed, Gundam 00, and Iron-Blooded Orphans, so I take it as a point of pride that I had a hand in helping to create the longevity of the Gundam franchise.

Do you keep up with recent Gundam productions, and have any impressed you?

So, first of all, going back to what I said about longevity, I haven't actually really seen any of the newer, more recent Gundam series. However, after working on Gundam Wing, I worked on Gundam X, and then together with creator Tomino, we worked on Turn A Gundam. For me, those three series are kind of the beyond all, end all for Gundam.

So I have watched some of the newer Gundam, but I can't say that I necessary have a lot of resonance with them or feel strong emotions for them, either positive or negative. Clearly, I can see that the newer directors and producers have worked really hard on them, and have a lot of passion for Gundam. I don't want to put any of them down, but I feel like they've taken what's Gundam and rearranged the formula in new ways. So there's not one recent series I can point to for having impressed me.

Thanks to Hideyuki Tomioka and Anime Boston for this opportunity.

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