Sunrise Producer

Osamu Taniguchi

Here begins our series of relay interviews with the staff of “MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THE ORIGIN”!

For our first installment we have Mr. Osamu Taniguchi, on-site producer at Sunrise’s Origin Studio. He talked to us about what kind of work they are creating with the anime version of “MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THE ORIGIN,” focusing on the 90-second trailer video for the first episode “Blue-Eyed Casval,” which was released a few days before this interview.
- In adapting “MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THE ORIGIN” (hereafter referred to as “THE ORIGIN”) to anime, what kind of work is being created?
Taniguchi: It’s not a remake of “MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM” -- what people now call “First Gundam.” Our position is that it’s an anime adaptation of the “THE ORIGIN” manga, which Mr. (Yoshikazu) Yasuhiko worked on for many years. An important point was that we create the anime with as much respect for the manga source material as possible.
Also, if you watch the 90-second trailer video that was released for episode 1, you will see that we took on the new challenge of using CG to depict the mecha. There are many differing opinions when it comes to the use of CG for mecha, but since the director is Mr. (Takashi) Imanishi, who runs Sunrise’s top CG team, D.I.D., we thought we could make the best use of Director Imanishi’s special talents by employing CG. You could say these two elements are distinct characteristics of the anime version of “THE ORIGIN.
- For the anime version of “THE ORIGIN,” it was announced that “Chronicle of Char and Sayla” would be adapted into four episodes. But in concrete terms, how much of the story will be depicted?
Taniguchi: Basically, we begin with the childhoods of Casval and Artesia starting from the death of Zeon Deikun, then Casval’s entry into military academy as Char, up until he temporarily leaves and then joins the Zeon Forces. Just as in the 90-second trailer for episode 1, we also touch on the Battle of Loum just a little bit. It’s as if we partially reorganized the so-called “past chapters” of the comics, from volumes 9 to 12, and spread them out over four episodes. Even in terms of naming, the staff had different ways of referring to it among themselves, but we ended up calling it “Chronicle of Char and Sayla” given everything that’s included in it.
- It was announced that Mr. Yasuhiko’s role would be that of a general director, but in concrete terms, what is the nature of his involvement?
Taniguchi: At present, mostly main character rough designs and storyboards. He also checks on other key elements of the work. Naturally he checks coloring on the characters, mecha design, and CG modeling, but he also does things such as checking background art and making art setting arrangements. Basically, we get Mr. Yasuhiko and Mr. Imanishi to do all the same things. Mr. Yasuhiko has been out of the anime field for a rather long period of 25 years, and the work process itself has changed in that time, so in those areas he works together with Director Imanishi.
- Further, Mr. Imanishi is well versed in military matters and knowledgeable about CG, so is the work portioned out in that sort of way?
Taniguchi: The division of tasks between Mr. Yasuhiko and Mr. Imanishi isn’t specifically defined, but somehow it seems a separation of duties has been possible. For example, based on Mr. Yasuhiko’s rough character designs, Mr. Imanishi and Mr. Takuhito Kusanagi together create new costume designs by adding military details like epaulettes and lapel badges. With the mecha too, Mr. Imanishi takes the designs worked on by Mr. Hajime Katoki and Mr. Mika Akitaka as a foundation and adds a military flavor to them, making them feel more precise. Director Imanishi is deeply knowledgeable about military matters and CG, and he has infused that knowledge into this project.
- Does the story follow the same path it does in the manga?
Taniguchi: They are basically the same. But Mr. Yasuhiko has said that it’s fine for the anime to be different, and to lead by example, he has storyboarded some situations that are different from what happens in the comic.
Regarding the storyboards, Mr. Yasuhiko and Mr. Imanishi drew them, and Mr. Yasuhiko said, “Mr. Imanishi, you should include your own visualizations too.” So we’re not slaves to the manga, and the staff have a certain degree of freedom. If they can make good changes, then we want those changes, and that’s how the work proceeds.
- You’ve assembled a talented staff for this outing, and it’s already being talked about by the fans.
Taniguchi: Yes, that’s right. We have Mr. Kiyoshi Egami and. Mr Ichiro Itano on episode direction this time, Mr. Shigemi Ikeda on art direction, Mr. Katsuyuki Sumisawa writing screenplays, Mr. Hiroyuki Nishimura as chief animation director, Mr. Sadayoshi Fujino as sound director, and many others. We’ve assembled a large crew that’s giving it their all. Also, Mr. Takayuki Hattori is involved with the music. So I think we can expect some impressive music like we get in epic historical dramas, and I’m looking forward to that too.
The Gundam series is Sunrise’s flagship, and “THE ORIGIN” is a preeminent title among all Japanese animation, so we were very careful when it came to staffing and there was a lot of pressure there. On the other hand, it wasn’t that we only brought them in because they were already exceptional, but we assembled the staff thinking we could also develop exceptional talent through working on the project. Thanks to the superior talent that came out of “MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM,” our generation is still able to produce Gundam series. With the continuation of the series in “MOBILE SUIT Z GUNDAM” and “MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM ZZ,” I think a lot of really wonderful talent was brought into the world, and that is the real history of Gundam. Our “THE ORIGIN” will also become a part of that history, and decades from now, I think people will say, “Oh, that’s the person who worked on ”THE ORIGIN” about the talent we cultivate here. We need superior, veteran people, and we need the power of younger staff as well, and it is through their working together that the culture and technology of animation can be passed down. That’s what I’d like to see happen.
- In the 90-second trailer, our attention is drawn to the fusion of Mr. Yasuhiko’s hand-drawn art style with CG. Did you have to go through a lot of trials to reach this stage?
Taniguchi: It was actually the “ORIGIN” team that created the commercial for the “Auris Char’s Custom” car that Toyota released. Mr. Imanishi drew the storyboards, D.I.D. created the CG, and chief animation director Mr. Nishimura did all the original drawings for the characters. Mr. Shigemi Ikeda was in charge of backgrounds. Also, the director of photography and the sound director are the same staff as “THE ORIGIN.” So the know-how from “Auris Char’s Custom” fed back into the production of “THE ORIGIN.” When that footage was shown within Sunrise, it got a good response, and it deepened our confidence too. So effectively we’ve been testing for more than a year, and it feels like we’re now going through various trial-and-error processes while we’re in production.
- So far we’ve mainly asked you about things that became clear with the 90-second trailer for episode 1. But if we were to watch it again, what should we particularly look for?
Taniguchi: The footage of Char’s Zaku that we were finally able to show you. Mr. Ichiro Itano was in charge of directing the Battle of Loum scene. But while Mr. Itano directed the scene, the CG was produced by D.I.D., so I think you can get a glimpse of how the CG team actualized Mr. Itano’s direction. For the scene where Char’s Zaku destroys a Salamis, the high level of precision in the actual modeling required several months to achieve.
Also, for the interior of the cockpit of Char’s Zaku, Mr. Hajime Katoki’s designs were modeled and included, and you can see that it is unlike any previous depiction of the cockpit.
Further, Mr. Yasuhiko drew many of the storyboards for episode 1, and his art is extremely meticulous. As if he were drawing layouts, we enlarged his storyboards and used them as reference for the layouts. The details he included, such as tiny hand movements and expressions, were referred to in making the characters fully come to life. You can definitely appreciate those fine movements in the video.
Also, I mentioned before about the care that went into the detailing of the costumes. For example, if you look again at the way they drew the Autonomous Republic of Munzo State Security Police uniform that Kycilia wears, you’ll surely understand. Of course, the costume Char wears in the cockpit, with the hornless helmet - that military uniform also includes a lot of fine detail. I’ve been involved in animation for over a decade, but this is the first time I’ve seen such a level of detail. If you watch the trailer again and look closely for those things, I think you will understand the depth of attention that went into them.
- And finally, do you have a word for the fans who are waiting to see the completed film?
Taniguchi: Gundam fans have always wanted to see the history of Char and Sayla. Until now it had only been depicted in a few cuts of “MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM,” but now it will finally be realized. Mr. Yasuhiko has talked about feeling the reaction while drawing “THE ORIGIN.” It’s different from the manga version, in that the anime flows chronologically. It’s been composed in a way that’s easy to watch and easy to understand. And I hope you will all look forward to enjoying the meticulousness of the production in “THE ORIGIN.”

Next up in the relay interview series will be scenario writer Mr. Katsuyuki Sumisawa.