Interview with Yoshikazu Yasuhiko on Gundam: The Origin (Animage, June 2015/Vol. 444)

The following article was originally printed in The June 2015 issue of Animage. The interview has been translated by Hyun Park © 2017 Wave Motion Cannon

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Born in December 9th, 1947 in Hokkaido, Blood type: A. Not only he is a manga artist, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko is also a director, character designer, and animator. In 1970, he started his career as animator with Mushi Production. Afterwards, he became a freelance. As character designer, he worked on Brave Raideen, Combattler V, Zambot 3 and others. In Space Battleship Yamato, not only was Yasuhiko responsible for animation, he was also in charge of storyboard. In Mobile Suit Gundam, he worked as both animation director and character designer.

Following Mobile Suit Gundam, he worked on Crusher Joe, Giant Gorg, Arion, Venus Wars and others as a director. At end of 1980’s, he left the animation industry and became a manga artist, his representative works being Namuji,  Nijiiro no Trotsky (Trotsky of Rainbow ), and Oudou no Inu (Hound of the Noble Path). Since 2001, he has been serializing Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, the manga version of the Mobile Suit Gundam. Currently, he is in multiple roles as the manga artist, chief director, character designer, and storyboard for the OVA series adaptation of the same title.

This Month’s Story   -Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

Yoshikazu Yasuhiko has returned to animation field in 25 years while being active in manga field. Moblie Suit Gundam: The Origin is his own manga adaptation of Mobile Suit Gundam. Now he took the job as chief director of the OVA series of that manga. With its attractive visual and carefully crafted images, many fans are satisfied with OVA’s polished look along with the manga’s adaptation. On this month’s “I want to hear this person’s story”, we’ll listen to plenty of stories about the The Origin, his past works, and more. This interview took place: April 3rd, 2016 at Yoshikazu Yasuhiko’s residence in Saitama prefecture.

As I watched finished work, a thought of, “Oh, they made it into a fine performance” came across my mind.

Yuuichiro Oguro: I took a look at Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin – Blue Eyed Casval. It was wonderful.

Yoshikazu Yasuhiko: Thank you very much.

Oguro: I felt that Blue Eyed Casval has soft animation. Characters’ outer appearances, personalities, and expressions are all soft. i has that soft feeling reminiscent of ‘First Gundam’ to it.

(TL Note: “First Gundam” is a Japanese nickname for Mobile Suit Gundam TV series and its compilation feature trilogy, Mobile Suit Gundam I, Mobile Suit Gundam II: Soldiers of Sorrow, and Mobile Suit Gundam III: Encounters in Space.)

Yasuhiko: Hmmm… I wasn’t aware of the softness. I was making it with “normally-it’s-like-this” feel. If that’s soft, then animation nowadays is sharp and hard. Maybe I don’t know because I don’t watch it that much.

Oguro: I thought that Artesia’s expression and acting was soft and fantastic.

Yasuhiko: That is animation director’s merit, isn’t it? This time I have been giving directions from my home instead of going to the studio. I check key animations and write a memo that says ‘do it like this’, the rest I leave up to animation director. As I watched finished work, a thought of, “Oh, they made it into a fine performance” came across my mind. The difference between now and back then is that staffing is well padded. It’s first time I haven’t had to make corrections on key animations.

Oguro: I see.

Yasuhiko: Back when I was directing, I would do corrections by myself. This time I have staffers whom I can rely on working in the studio. I’ve got an animation director, mecha animation director, AD assistants… Even key animation is full of veterans. There are some young people, but even their skill-sets are high. So when I send out orders, either they meet or exceed what I wanted. And that is a new experience for me.

I wanted to forget about Gundam as it was over for me. It was a feeling that I wanted people to forget about Gundam and me.

Oguro: On the note of softness, Blue Eyed Casval has good taste and is easy on eyes. Other works that you’ve directed, Crusher Joe, Arion, Venus Wars and etc, have a heavy, oppressive feeling. I would have loved to watch the type of work that you’re making now back then.

Yasuhiko: Hmmm… Unfortunately, there are only unacceptable works from that time.

Oguro: The ones you directed by yourself are unacceptable to you?

Yasuhiko: That’s right. Whether it’s now or then, it seems like my capability is still insufficient, the lack of manpower was overwhelming.

Oguro: Let’s talk about that later and let’s focus on The Origin – In the beginning, what were your thoughts when discussion arose for manga adaptation ?

Yasuhiko: Even though I’ve said it in other articles several times, that was when Takayuki Yoshii was the CEO of Sunrise. As his life work, former CEO Eiji Yamaura took quite a time to persuade Yoshii, and he finally persuaded both him and I about the project. It was in May of 2000 that we reached an agreement. At first I refused the pitch by saying, “I’m making living as manga artist now and there are tons of things I wanted to draw in the future. And I’m not joking.”

Oguro: Around that time, what was your stance on Gundam franchise?

Yasuhiko: I wanted to forget about Gundam as it was over for me. It was a feeling that I wanted people to forget about Gundam and me.

Oguro: You had done everything in the feature trilogy.

Yasuhiko: Yes. Even though I withdrew during the TV series production, I thought that there wasn’t much more to do because I had done retakes for the feature version.

(Interviewer note: Yasuhiko was unable to finish the final episodes due to hospitalization. He returned for feature trilogy and demonstrated his skill in new cuts.)

I thought people might take me as a fool if I made it as an animation again.

Oguro: While having that thought, what made you to decide to draw The Origin?

Yasuhiko: I said to CEO Yoshii, “In case if we take the show overseas, do you think they would understand the content? I want to spread Gundam with manga, not with animation”.

Oguro: The feature trilogy is a compilation of edited TV episodes, so people can’t understand the story without prior knowledge.

Yasuhiko: That’s right. I am fine with whether it’s going to sell overseas or not. When the first TV series didn’t do well, it was difficult to accept as a member of the staff who made the show. I had thoughts like, “No wonder… It’s difficult to understand and it’s full of contradictions.” I had put my heart into making it . After it was made, I never imagined that a younger generation would watch it again through rerun after rerun. People who knew our situation understood what it was like. We made it in a cold room with a terrible schedule. Since the AD disappeared during the TV production, we were like, ‘We hope that you enjoy the inclusion of these new scenes’, and older fans were considerate. However, young people who are so used to current animation, they would say things like, “What the hell is this? This show is old.” – obviously that’s brutal. So, that’s why I became interested in drawing the manga. At first, I told them that it would take three years.

(TL Note: When Mobile Suit Gundam TV series was aired in Japan first time in 1979, its TV ratings were not good. Eventually fan demand requesting broadcasters for reruns made the show popular.)

Oguro: So you thought that you could make 43 episodes of content into a manga in 3 years?

Yasuhiko: Yeah. However, that took 10 years instead. I’m the one who stretched it.

Oguro: The goal of The Origin was only to make First Gundam enjoyable to people who were seeing it for the first time.

Yasuhiko: That’s right. I thought it would act as a support for the feature trilogy. However when I rewatched them, because they are a TV series rehashed, they are difficult to understand as CEO Yoshii pointed out. It wouldn’t be good if I don’t make edits and draw it myself. With that in mind, a condensed story simply doesn’t work out. Rather, adding in an animated prequel made it clear for me as a storyteller explaining why the story turns out this way because of a certain character’s past.

Oguro: Was there any plan to make an animation adaptation of The Origin during the manga serialization?

Yasuhiko: There was no such plan. Around second half of the serialization, CEO Yoshii suggested something like, “How about we make it as animation?”, but it wasn’t like ‘Let’s make it,’ he was more like ‘How about it?’ and I said, “If there is someone who wants to make it, then how to we do it?” I had no intention of making it by myself. I already made the TV series, features, and spent ten years drawing the manga. I thought people might take me as a fool if I made it as an animation again.

Oguro: When he suggested an anime adaptation, was the image of a complete adaptation of The Origin manga what came to mind?

Yasuhiko: It was the complete adaptation. There was instance when CEO Yoshii said that it would be interesting to make animated prequel which was never told in manga. I thought it was a good idea, and also felt that it should be made. Due to various circumstances, I was able to make the prequel.

Oguro: Did you plan to participate as chief director at beginning of the adaptation?

Yasuhiko: It wasn’t planned that way at first. I would do the scenario check, but I was planning to have other staffers do the rest. When I did that, the boss, (Yoshiyuki) Tomino’s new work (Gundam: G Reconquista) started off as TV series and we turned ours into OVA to balance it out.

Oguro: It’s said that it was you who selected (Tsukasa) Kotobuki-san as character designer. I was surprised when I heard him announced as the designer of the show.

Yasuhiko: His manga was serialized in Gundam Ace and caught my attention. His work has a new allure that I can’t draw. If I was younger, I would have attempted a conscious effort to adapt his style.

Oguro: At first, Kotobuki-san was supposed to design both Casval and Artesia?

Yasuhiko: Yes. When I asked him to them draw as they currently are, I thought he was lost for a bit. Perhaps he was too conscious of something. I understood because I’m a draftsman, but if I just start pointing out “This is wrong, that is wrong,” then it would suck all the energy out of it. So he would use petty tricks and the picture would end up looking lifeless. I didn’t want to do that, so I decided to divide the work. I’m sorry that I nominated him to draw main characters, since I ended up taking over. Now I have Kotobuki-san to handle upcoming new main characters. So he’s drawing them with no hard feelings.

Oguro: Is the freshness that you requested being demonstrated?

Yasuhiko: I do think it’s demonstrated. Except I found out later that he’s a manga artist with a fair share of sales behind him. I’m sorry if he cannot move forward as ‘Kotobuki the manga artist.’ I encouraged him by saying, “Keep on making manga whenever you can.”

When you were making First Gundam, you were making it with a view of “It’s a show that depicts humanity as it is.”

Oguro: The plan was to make the prequel in OVA format first.

Yasuhiko: Yes. (Takashi) Imanishi-san and I have been checking (Katsuyuki) Kamisawa-kun’s scenario. However, it’s not good to have two directors, so we divided the position. I draw storyboard and do the checks at home while director Imanishi handles the production at studio. Separate residence is working out really well.

Oguro: Let’s go back to manga version of The Origin. As you started to draw, was there a case where you started to have a deeper affection for the work or having a strong feeling toward characters, etc?

Yasuhiko: Frankly, before I drew the work, I had a heavy feeling and thought, “Oh boy, have I taken on a big task!”

Oguro: Because it had been over within yourself for awhile, so you felt weighed down.

Yasuhiko: That’s it. Still, as I drew it out, I was surprised that I got back into it. Perhaps my affection has came back to life again. There are various things known about Gundam, and I thought that those things were different from what I knew. It’s a joy to express those differences. Not only I can say it with words, but I can also tell the story with pictures. I’m telling it in terms of ‘It was like this. Now you get it?’

Oguro: About those differences, for example, the view that Gundam is a hardcore war story?

Yasuhiko: That, as well as the notion of ‘Newtypes are a theme’. Such a notion is not a theme though…

Oguro: So Newtypes are not a theme, then?

Yasuhiko: I don’t think it’s a theme, because such a thing was added in middle of production.

(Interviewer note : Concept of Newtype is implemented during the production of “First Gundam”)

Oguro: Newtypes are one of the motifs in First Gundam.

Yasuhiko: Yes. The way that Yoshiyuki Tomino thought of it was great. It wasn’t called an ESPer, instead he came up with the name Newtype. But, people such as critics, made it into a theme. That notion was spread around and added another misconception. Because I was trying to distance myself from animation, I didn’t see how it all happened. However, the Gundam 20th anniversary edition magazine came out. I was featured in the magazine, but when I flipped through it later on, I found it was full of stuff that I hated. I had feeling of, “This is how it turned out?” Those articles kept things hazy.

(Interviewer note: Yasuhiko is referring to a limited-run magazine, “G20”, which was published by ASCII in 1998.)

Oguro: So it was it written as “The theme is Newtype”?

Yasuhiko: Yes.

Oguro: But to you, Gundam is about depicting a spectrum of human emotions?

Yasuhiko: Just depicting humanity as it is. There is no other way to depict humanity. Things like ‘innovation defines people’ is not a theme. They’re only words or an antithesis.

Oguro: When you were making First Gundam, you were making it with a view of “It’s a show that depicts humanity as it is.”

Yasuhiko: Of course it is.

Oguro: In Encounters in Space, there are a lot of scenes that deal with Newtypes. What are your thoughts on those?

Yasuhiko: For Encounters in Space, I did animation corrections in those cuts. I only thought, “They’re not really that great.” Still, Gundam is Yoshiyuki Tomino’s concept, and just because Newtypes are in there, it doesn’t mean that theme would change.

Oguro: Even though the Newtype storyline comes out full front, the aspect of “Depicting humanity as it is” still remains.

Yasuhiko: It’s still remains. However, fans like various parts of Gundam, so they don’t talk about such thing specifically. For example, also (Mobile Suit) Z Gundam fans are there as well.

Oguro: That’s true.

Yasuhiko: It was the time of Z Gundam when I thought, “Gundam has turned into something else.” That’s because I was already involved in it.

Oguro: You were assigned to do character designs, right?

Yasuhiko: Because I was doing character designs, I read the storyboard, and I knew how the storyline was going to expand and I thought, “This is not right.”

Oguro:  Those were your thoughts on Z Gundam at that time?

Yasuhiko: I couldn’t put my heart into it at all. It’s fine to make a sequel, unlike Space Battleship Yamato, you can make it without bringing back dead characters. I thought if they do a sequel, then it’s their self-indulgence. I thought that they’d eventually make a sequel someday, however I didn’t want to get involved. Because I was already fulfilled by it.

Oguro: To you, Gundam was over with Encounters in Space.

Yasuhiko: It was over. It was over within me.

Oguro: Still, as the character designer, was Z Gundam different from First Gundam to you?

Yasuhiko: Earlier we had this talk of sharpness and hardness, right? Z Gundam is like those.

I never make things that are acceptable to me. That’s why I quit animation.

Oguro: I see.

Yasuhiko: It’s completely different.

Oguro: (Mobile Suit Gundam) F91 put you on the sidelines more than Z Gundam, right?

Yasuhiko: That’s right. No matter what other people say, I only drew characters. Still, people who don’t know the circumstance mocked F91 as if I was responsible for the whole movie. I wonder it’s that 20th year anniversary magazine. There was a writing by a critic that says, “F91 is the work in which Yasuhiko and (Kunio) Okawara participated. Having watched it, I understood that they are products of the bygone era.” He has no idea what he’s talking about.

Oguro: Even in First Gundam, Tomino-san tried to do sharp expression and solid drama. On the other hand, you wanted to draw soft, humanized characters?

Yasuhiko: Nope. Even Yoshiyuki Tomino wanted humanization. I learned such method of designing humanized characters from Tomino-san. What was expressed in animation until then was way too conventional and overly sweet. So maybe expressions feel sharp, but those are more natural. That was what I learned. The Origin is geared toward that naturalism.

Oguro: What do you mean by learning to drawing humanization specifically?

Yasuhiko: For example when designing crew members, it was pre-established to set a tall one as nihilistic, a fat one as amicable, and such until that time. Even if a protagonist fights with his buddy, you know they’re going to reconcile. However, Gundam was different. From protagonist’s personality, it was different from what was made back then. When Amuro confronts crew members, it gets to the point that he can’t go back to his friends anymore.

Oguro: In First Gundam, there is difference between what the character thinks and what the character says.

Yasuhiko: I think that First Gundam is the first show that depicted communication failure. A character’s intention is not directly addressed. That was impossible in anime until then. It certainly conveyed the feeling though.

Oguro: Even in hostile relationship, the feeling is conveyed.

Yasuhiko: It’s conveyed to both ally and enemy. A speech like ‘All right, I’m not going to lose this time,’ will get conveyed invariably. For example, in the episode where Amuro meets his mom, his feelings never get conveyed to the end. That is stunning. He tries to communicate his feelings fully, but it’s never is conveyed. That is what the world is like. I am saying that miscommunication is the theme in Gundam.

Oguro: It’s not about learning to depict humanization with spoken dialog, but rather  through the contents of Tomino’s storyline and storyboard.

It’s rewarding to see Tomino’s storyboard. It’s like seeing what’s underneath the surface.

Yasuhiko: Yes. I wondered if such method of expression would exist. I wasn’t at the scenario meeting, so I still don’t know how much the screenwriter wrote or what’s in Tomino’s taste.

Oguro: About First Gundam’s storyboard, you thought it could be positive and amazing.

Yasuhiko: However, it was frustrating that I couldn’t put everything on screen. I intended to do as much as I could.

Oguro: I do think complicated emotions are conveyed because of your animation.

Yasuhiko: It’s certain that if I didn’t do touch up, then perhaps those emotions wouldn’t be conveyed at all. However I read the storyboard and thought, “I want to do this scene, but why can’t it be conveyed well?”

Oguro: Even checkeding the character acting and corrected expressions, there are expressions which are difficult to convey that are in the storyboard.

Yasuhiko: There are. Even though I didn’t have a lot of episodes to handle as animation director, I oversaw such important scenes, scenes like Amuro meeting his father. It’s rewarding to see Tomino’s storyboard. It’s like seeing what’s underneath the surface.

Oguro: In last part of episode 1, Char says, “No one likes to admit to them. To the mistakes caused by their youth…”, but you are not sure if that’s a hidden meaning, self-deprivation, or an inspiration.

Yasuhiko: Yep. I don’t know.

Oguro: On the other hand, it shows the height of its dramatic level.

Yasuhiko: My thoughts on the positive aspects to spotlight in First Gundam eventually became the motivation to draw The Origin. If those are forgotten, and distorted views are what First Gundam is all about, then I wanted to change those. To convey those positive aspects, I had to make necessary preparation. There are plenty of good parts that could use edits and rearrangements.

Oguro: Does Tomino’s method of humanization from First Gundam reflect on your subsequent creations?

Yasuhiko: I wonder how… They couldn’t be reflected. Afterwards, there are several works that I worked as main staff, but as you pointed out earlier, I never make things that are acceptable to me. That’s why I quit animation.

Oguro: Quite a few fans still support Crusher Joe and Arion though.

Yasuhiko: But I can’t accept it. There are several reasons, but ultimately it’s my own problem. I thought I was more capable, but I guess it wasn’t not good enough. It hurt when Animage stopped doing coverage of my work.

Oguro: I thought your story might turn in this direction.

Yasuhiko: Yep. I definitely want to talk about it.

Oguro: Go ahead.

Yasuhiko: The reason why I quit animation was becassue Animage magazine stopped caring about my work. Arion‘s production sealed the deal. They have that much presence, Animage magazine.

(Interviewer note: Anime magazines had far more influence on Japanese fans in 1980’s)

Oguro: At the time, Animage didn’t hype Arion that much.

Yasuhiko: That’s right. That was what I thought at that time, but when I see it now, I think it’s obvious why they didn’t promote it. For my previous work, Giant Gorg, they didn’t partner up for promotion. I knew Animage wouldn’t partner up, but I had no choice but to make Arion as a feature animation. And I was tormented by the silent treatment. Gorg‘s broadcast was postponed for half a year, and that was fatal. The atmosphere completely changed during the postponement. First, Nausicaa premiered and that same year, Macross (Do You Remember Love?) premiered as well. As an excellent animated feature, everyone went to watch Nausicaa. And otaku folks got passionate with Macross.

Oguro: I didn’t know that was all going on at the same time.

I made Arion in a half-dead state.

Yasuhiko: Mine wasn’t on either side. So it’s completely out of place. When you’re out of place, even Animage stopped showing interest. When Animage thought of who should be in charge of promoting Arion, Michio Yoko-san came aboard. Until that time, he had never worked on Animage.

Oguro: Yokoo-san came from a different department, right?

Yasuhiko: Yes. A person who doesn’t know much about animation was in charge. He was easily impressed and would always say, “Oh I didn’t know such method exists.”

(Interviewer note: Michio Yokoo was one of the editorial staff for Animage magazine at that time. He started his career with Tokuma Shoten’s men’s magazine department, then transferred to Animage editorial department)

Oguro: Animage back then was when Toshio Suzuki-san and Osamu Kameyama were the driving force. Around that time they were in charge of promoting Hayao Miyazaki’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

Yasuhiko: So even if they say, ‘We should do this way,’ there was no reason to follow them. Even though Yokoo-san didn’t know much about animation, he worked hard in his own way. On campaigning and other venues, Tomoko Kobayashi-san did a great work. Still, frankly, I didn’t want to make Arion.

(Interviewer note: Toshio Suzuki and Osamu Kameyama worked in Animage as editors since its launch. Toshio Suzuki became Studio Ghibli’s senior producer later on. Tomoko Kobayashi has been editorial staff of Animage since its earliest times.)

Oguro: You didn’t want to do feature adaptation for Arion?

Yasuhiko: If it could be done, then I didn’t want to do it. However, I had no choice but do it, because it was produced by Tokuma.

Oguro: The original manga was serialized in Tokuma Shoten and they were trying to make it a film project, so you had no choice but to make it.

Yasuhiko: That’s right. When people like Yasuyoshi Tokuma and Hideo Ogata ‘command’ that you make it, then there is no choice but do it. I know it’s old story, it’s like Masashige Kusunoki heading toward Minatogawa. You’re heading out just to be slaughtered. Still, I think that was the turning point for a changing era. Movies like Nausicaa are great, and works like Macross symbolized the beginning of new era. And I just wandered aimlessly by, making half-baked shows like Gorg. But even now I still hold some affection towards it.

(Interviewer note: Yasuyoshi Tokuma is Tokuma Shoten’s president at that time. Hideo Ogata is chief editor of Animage. Each of them is credited as producer of Arion)

Oguro: I think you put love and care into Gorg.

Yasuhiko: Back then I was just trying to rush it out to TV screen. Just like now, I was stuck at home doing layouts and animation direction. Not once did I even I attend a dubbing session. When things are like that, things fall between the cracks and get distorted.

Oguro: By not paying attention to the staff things became distorted?

Yasuhiko: There’s staff and voice actors. I saw the voice actors only once at a get-together trip. Because of my neglect, the contents of the show became hollow. Animation is made by consolidating various techniques, it’s not okay to say, “I will do everything on the screen.” Also about that, I think that time was a turning point for the industry. For example, a job called Mecha Animation Director became common, and not only that, mechanical designs have become extremely detailed to an insane level. Despite all that, I managed to survive. I thought, “Hell, things will be fine as long as I put in the effort!”

(Interviewer note: Shows before Super Dimnsional Fortress Macross never had animation director who’s specialized in mecha animation.)

I wanted to make a clean break from animation, but it’s ironic that I’m touching a peg bar like this.

Oguro: In your directorial works at that time, there are many cases where the protagonists felt helpless. In the finale of Gorg, characters are only waiting to die which left an impression on me. Even in Venus Wars, that tendency is obvious.

Yasuhiko: I was suffering from a complete feeling of stagnation. I thought about quitting animation after Gorg, but I couldn’t figure out how to resign. I made Arion in a half-dead state. Maybe I was flailing around when I decided to make Venus Wars. “Even if I receive funding, just make one more and be done with it all…” I didn’t know how far I should go on, but I was fully aware that in my current state I couldn’t. If someone had asked me what I wanted to do, I would have said there was nothing I wanted to do for myself. It was a time of stagnation for me.  Meanwhile rest of the world was in a Bubble Era.

Oguro: While rest of the world was floating in a bubble, you tried draw something that wasn’t.

Yasuhiko: Yes. But what’s out there for me? I’m not well suited for fantasy and I can’t hop onto the sci-fi train. There is no such thing as futuristic fantasy, so I have no idea of what I’ll end up doing. Either it ends up having Gorg-like apocalyptic view or revolving around youth who don’t know what life is about.

Oguro: About ‘young people who don’t know life is about’, have you tried to reflect days of your own youth?

Yasuhiko: No, I’ve never tried to reflect it, that’s not what I meant by that. When I was young, I thought we could change the world though.

Oguro: Oh I see. You participated in student movements when you were young.

Yasuhiko: Cold War ended in 1989, but even when it was over, what was there for the future? In this staggering world which cannot be helped, basically everything remains as it is no matter how many years pass by. Those were my thoughts in the 1980’s. So what came to mind were impoverished stories about youth living day to day without a goal. At that time, I wasn’t trying to become a manga artist. My only thought was leaving the animation industry.

Oguro: Both Arion and Venus Wars were also drawn as manga, but they’re set as premise for an anime adaptation.

Yasuhiko: That’s right. I drew them in manga format instead of a production-pitch book. I was full of ulterior motives. I have written quite a few pitch books, but I realized that no one read them whenever I wrote them. If it’s a manga, then it’s easier to hand them a printed copy as a legitimate published work. If that manga sells a bit, then it’s an added bonus for me.

Oguro: Venus Wars has not been released on DVD domestically. Is it because you don’t allow a DVD version?

Yasuhiko: Yes, I don’t allow it. I asked people at Gakken (Gakushu Kenkyusha), “What happens if I don’t allow DVD version?” They replied, saying,”Then the DVD version won’t come out.” That’s how I want to be.

(TL note: Venus Wars is still not released in Japan in DVD or Blu Ray format. Gakushu Kenkyusha is a Japanese publisher that prints everything from educational materials to anime to manga)

Oguro: Even now, it’s still a no?

Yasuhiko: It’s still a no. I don’t want to see it; I don’t want to show it. It’s just too much. I feel sorry to staffers who made the movie.

Oguro: After Venus Wars, you started to draw manga totally unrelated to anime. When you became a manga artist, did you find what you wanted to draw?

Yasuhiko: I’ve found it. I felt truly thankful and I found it at the moment I quit animation, that is: illustrating about history, illustrating nonfiction. I draw that because it’s something that I can accept within myself.

Oguro: You’re illustrating a life of human being from history. And you find it rewarding?

Yasuhiko: I’ve been feeling it. I think about present Japan while drawing about the past. I draw stories of the past that remind us of the ‘present’. Therefore, I don’t think about things like, ‘What genre should I draw?’

The 1980’s was the darkest time in my life. In early 1980’s, there was a Gundam boom, but I only thought about quitting. On the other hand, 1990’s was rosy for me. I was happy that I get to draw what I want with subject choices. As 2000’s came along and I thought, “What should I draw next decade?” And I decided to draw The Origin.

Oguro:  2000’s has become the age of Gundam to you.

Yasuhiko: Yes. I thought, “How is it going to affect my happy manga artist lifestyle? This isn’t a joke,” but drawing The Origin was not a waste.

Oguro: It’s because the work became responsive. It lives up as a faithful comic adaptation of First Gundam, and it’s worth reading.

Yasuhiko: That’s what I say myself, but I think it’s true. A sense of accomplishment came across my mind. Even if some know-it-all critic wannabe starts to bash about The Origin, I am ready to stand up for it. But they barely say anything at all.

Oguro: Sounds like you have some subject matters that you want to draw in the future.

Yasuhiko: There are some. I already envision it as, “I can finish it as manga if I can tidy up that one and that one.” I wanted to make a clean break from animation, but it’s ironic that I’m touching a peg bar like this. I guess I left something behind in animation. Maybe a higher being in heaven is telling me, “Just do it. You didn’t finish it properly the first time.”

Oguro: I know I’m repeating myself, but I am happy to see your animation in The Origin.

Yasuhiko: Thank you very much. Back then when I was a director, I wasn’t comfortable. Now, it feels good watching things like all rush films. In old days, I had to put up with high stress, but now I don’t feel stress checking key animation. I’ve been having great thoughts. I owe it all to director Imanishi, to the staffers, and to Sunrise.

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  1. Thanks a lot for this “not so much about The Origin” article !

    Each time I read about his disdain/disgust of his past directed animations, I can’t help but look at my own Venus Wars DVD and sigh of relief. It’s certainly nothing incredible or original in terms of story but I’m glad such pieces of splendid animations were made back when it was still possible (the 80s). To watch Arion on DVD would be certainly beautiful.
    Though I’m a bit disappointed to learn that his mangas og this era were only thought as animation pitches.

    In short, a very interesting interview.


    • Actually I’m glad that he turned his pitch as published manga to convince sponsors to fund his idea. If he didn’t, then Arion and Venus Wars pitch would be stowed away in some file cabinet in Sunrise and being forgotten.

      Liked by 1 person

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