Sound Director

Sadayoshi Fujino

In the seventh in our series of relay interviews with the staff of "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THE ORIGIN" (hereafter referred to as "THE ORIGIN"), we have Sound Director Sadayoshi Fujino. He is a veteran sound director who has been involved with numerous Gundam works, starting with "MOBILE SUIT Z GUNDAM." We talked to him about how he got a handle on this story about the Universal Century's past, and what it was like in the studio during the post-recording of episode 1.
- First of all, please tell us how you got involved with "THE ORIGIN."
Fujino: At the relatively early stage when it was decided to make the anime adaptation, Mr. (Hideyuki) Tomioka of Sunrise approached me, and around then Mr. (Takashi) Imanishi also got in touch and I formally joined the team. Actually, my recollection is there was quite a bit of time between my getting the call to join and actually starting work. This is a monumental project for Sunrise, so I was waiting and wondering if maybe it wouldn't go so smoothly.
- In concrete terms, what form did the work actually take?
Fujino: The comics were serialized for many years, so I already understood the characters and the story itself. Maybe because of that, it was easy to form an idea of the direction the project would take. At first, I was told that out of the long manga source material they wanted to make four episodes from the "past chapters," which are the origin of Char and Sayla.
What concerned me was that the actors originally played the characters more than 35 years ago, and those characters would be appearing again, so I was wondering what to do about that. As those 35 years passed, film has evolved and become really beautiful, but the creators still have the feel of what it used to be like. So it's a new work that still respects those aspects, and there was a desire to make certain things about it new.
Also, since it's set in the past, there are also characters who actually appeared in the original filmed work but never spoke. For example, the young Casval and his father Deikun didn't say a word. In portraying such characters, they would be newly recreated, so that was a bit of a relief. If the work consisted entirely of past characters appearing one after the other, and you had to bring in a new cast while still using the same characters from the older work, that would become very difficult. When there's no preexisting impression of the sound, but there are visual elements remaining from the filmed work, it softens the impression a bit even if you add a new voice. I think that makes it easier to add them into the work.
- So when it comes to changing things so they're new, while still matching the existing filmed works, it gives you a kind of cushion.
Fujino: That's right. By putting together a completely new cast with a cast that you have strong previous impressions of, you can make many aspects more comprehensible. You hear Deikun's ideology here and there in First Gundam, but it's never actually spoken in Deikun's own words. That kind of new element and, for example, the appearance of a younger Degwin makes you think, well, couldn't we create a new image of his voice here? Because everyone wants to cherish things of the past, after all.
I myself first worked on the Gundam series with "MOBILE SUIT Z GUNDAM." After that, I worked on "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM ZZ," "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM: CHAR'S COUNTERATTACK," and the "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM: MS IGLOO" series along with Mr. Imanishi. So I've been involved with the story of the Universal Century for a long time, and I think that must be why I was asked to take part in this project.
- When you read the scripts, what image did the project conjure up for you?
Fujino: Up until now, we've had 35 years of First Gundam-related side stories. For instance, even when they focused on the Federation, essentially they always depicted the sorrow of those who were doomed by the internal state of Zeon and their respective thoughts as well. They were not just simple tales of good and evil, but exhibited deeper, grander themes. Sometimes I am involved with Gundam works that aren't part of the Universal Century, but I can see that those elements live on in those works as well. You could describe these elements as fundamental, and they are being depicted in the story of Casval and Artesia, which in a sense is the starting point. When I read the scripts for these four episodes of the past chapters, I could really see how they are the starting point for First Gundam. It's not a simple revenge tragedy. I felt they depicted this story of swirling love and hate truly skillfully.
- What did General Director Yoshikazu Yasuhiko and Director Imanishi tell you about the creation of the world view?
Fujino: Even Mr. Yasuhiko and Mr. Imanishi said something like, "This depicts one person's revenge tragedy, but that's not where the story ends." Well, by now, the world view of the Universal Century has become very understandable, and we can recognize it as something like an actually existing history, can't we? The thoughts and emotions in this world have been portrayed by various creators as if they actually existed. Because the story takes place in such a world, it won't end up as a simple revenge tragedy. So the idea is to tackle the origin of that firmly established world, and make something overflowing with realism, with even more advanced animation technology.
- In terms of sound, did you try to envision it alongside other Universal Century works?
Fujino: I was conscious of that to some degree. It's not that I consider any work to be more important than the other, but for each work there was a difference in my awareness, in that I would think, "Well, it's this type of story, so I'll do it in this sort of way." The work proceeds as always, but on "THE ORIGIN," because of what it is, there's a huge pressure I'm feeling myself that comes from the sense of anticipation.
- When it comes to creating a new Universal Century story, does the work involved in creating sound become more intense?
Fujino: The texture of the sound has become digital, and the sound must be produced with spatial elements. Plus, we are creating things that don't exist in the real world. The person who's in charge of sound effects, Mr. (Mutsuhiro) Nishimura, studied under Mr. (Akihiko) Matsuda, who was in charge of sound effects for First Gundam. While staying conscious of what Mr. Matsuda did, he is constructing a world view through the sounds, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that turns out too.
- Many of the announced cast have commented that they were nervous, but what was the atmosphere like at the post-recording?
Fujino: It felt like the cast were all tense, I guess you could say, or bewildered. After all, our images of First Gundam are so strong, and I think there are things we can't separate from that. So I said I wanted them to perform without those attachments. In my case, I wasn't just involved in the First Gundam film series, but also in the game movies and so forth, so I can accept it in that separated way. But the actors didn't slip into it that smoothly. A big issue in this project was trying to lessen that sense of anticipation and pressure.
- So the influence of First Gundam really is huge.
Fujino: Yes it is. That's because everyone knows First Gundam. The previously created world always has an influence, and there's this turmoil, like, "Am I right for this?" or "I can't go this far." So it was difficult in that respect. I told them, "Don't worry about that, and please play it as this sort of character." But sure enough, it's very hard to shake off something that has you trapped or something you think is wonderful.
- You're pulled in by First Gundam.
Fujino: I think that while the work pulls you in, it's also true that you can't just imitate it. I myself can't imitate someone when creating a work, but I get influenced one way or another. It was hard to get them to sweep those aspects away and do the job in a pure way.
- Mr. Shuichi Ikeda played Char again this time. What were your impressions of that?
Fujino: The Char portrayed by Mr. Ikeda only appears for a little bit this time, but it was the first time Mr. Ikeda himself has played a past version of Char, and naturally it was his first time acting alongside the past chapters' cast as well. In that respect, he was looking forward to the post-dubbing for quite a while beforehand, and I heard from others that he was asking, "When do we start?" He must have been really looking forward to it as a new work.
- How was Mr. Ikeda as Char?
Fujino: Sure enough, he was amazing. It would not be overstating it to say that he's the one who created Char's personality. And it's wonderful that he has been able to continue playing Char. Even in the works I've been involved in, Char Aznable changed in "MOBILE SUIT Z GUNDAM" and "CHAR'S COUNTERATTACK," didn't he? I think he keeps a precise grasp on such forms of change, and performed this time as if to say, "This is the starting point."
- Were the cast influenced by the film footage?
Fujino: On this project we were able to able to do the post dubbing with a relatively good amount of art, but at any rate the completed animation was wonderful. The care that the artists put into their work really came through. Maybe because of that, I think the cast were thinking with each expression, "I won't be topped by the art!" and the feeling of the energy they were putting in in the recording studio came through as well. Once the post-dubbing was done, I think we could finally get an overall sense of how that created a synergy with the artwork.
- What were your thoughts when you were actually able to see the film footage and sound together?
Fujino: Wonderful is the only word I can use. They introduced new techniques in order to pursue realism in the animation, and by adding voices to that, the world you see becomes completely different. In animation from overseas, there are a lot of works where they really stylize the characters so they become far from what exists in reality. But I think Japanese animation is more like a dramatic comic, and we still try to show art with a touch of the real. The realism in that uniquely Japanese approach also affected the performers, and I hope people get a thorough sense of that.
- Finally, Mr. Fujino, please tell us some highlights of the work you saw.
Fujino: There are some famous quotes and scenes in First Gundam, aren't there? Like “Because he was a spoiled brat”, and, “Don’t take it personally. You can thank your father for this. ” Those were not delved into in detail in First Gundam. I think here we get a story about the past that makes the meaning of those words more clear. So those people who know First Gundam can be conscious of those aspects, and I hope those encountering the world of First Gundam for the first time can look forward to the depiction of the beginnings of that legendary story.
Also, it's being produced as an OVA, but from the very beginning, we produced the sound knowing it would also be seen in theaters, so I hope you will enjoy it at the cinema. Of course, you can enjoy it at home too, but to fully enjoy the sound, the cinema environment can't be beat. I hope absolutely that you will see it there.