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Vice Interview: Yoshiyuki Tomino

Anime Vice interviews the creator of Gundam at New York Anime Festival 2009.

I had the honor of interviewing Yoshiyuki Tomino at this year’s New York Anime Festival. He is the famous anime creator, director, novelist, and song writer who created Mobile Suit Gundam, among other popular anime like Brave Raideen, Space Runaway Ideon, Overman King Gainer, and many more. He is the father of the “ Real Robot” genre of mecha anime, a man who once held the title of “Kill ‘Em All Tomino”, a founding father of anime as we know it.

So as you can imagine, I was pretty nervous talking to this legend, being a Gundam otaku and all. Tomino was my first interview ever, so I had to hit the ground running as they say. I did not want this to be a normal interview though, I would not ask the same questions every single interviewer had asked him in the past. To help find the best of the best questions I went to the internet, to get questions from the fans themselves. My thanks go out to the men of /m/ who were nice enough to provide me with a great deal of these questions.

Even though I was nervous, this interview turned out great. I am extremely honored to be able to have this experience, and have learned a great deal more about this legend in the process. You can either watch the video above, or read a cleaned transcript below.
Anime Vice: Given how popular Gundam is in America, if given a chance would you consider working with an American studio instead of a Japanese one?

Tomino: No, thank you.

Anime Vice: Your most recent project was the Ring of Gundam short film, many fans are wondering what kind of message you are trying to convey with that short film?

Tomino: Ring of Gundam is actually a small preview of what Gundam would be like if we continued making Gundam, and what fans could expect. It’s like a trailer.
      Ring of Gundam 
Ring of Gundam 
Anime Vice: Would you like to continue telling that story in the future then?

Tomino: If I could find financial backers, absolutely.

Anime Vice: Fantastic! I know one of the reasons why you wanted to make the Zeta “A New Translations” trilogy was so that you could change the ending, are there any other parts of the Gundam universe that you would like to go back and change?

Tomino: No.

Anime Vice: That’s good.

Tomino: Why is that good?

Anime Vice: I love the original, and the New Translation movies as well, but I think the original is perfect the way it is.

Anime Vice: Now on that note, do you have any plans on directing a double zeta “A New Translations” trilogy as well?

Tomino: I haven’t heard anything about any sort of possibility of me directing one.

Anime Vice: Ok, it’s probably never going to happen then. How are your American fans different than your Japanese fans?

      Average Gundam fan 
Average Gundam fan 
Tomino: I personally haven’t been to many of the events in America, so I don’t think I can comment on the difference between the fandoms. What I can say about having attended Gundam anniversaries ten years ago and twenty years ago is that anime is definitely reaching a wider audience here in America, Gundam in particular. In addition to that manga and anime is becoming more mainstream here as well.

Anime Vice: What do you see are the greatest advantages of using animation as a storytelling medium? What do you see as the greatest disadvantages?

Tomino: It is possible using anime to do the story creation in a much more logical stepwise fashion than live action. But I have to say, given that how there are a lot of Hollywood movies that use CG techniques, one might think that they picked up a logical “anime-like” production process. However, that is not, unfortunately, true. I think they attempt to imitate animation as a production process, but they fail.

There are two main disadvantages to animation. One in particular is due to hand-drawn cells, because you can not move the cells easily without going over budget. The budget constraints really limit what you can do with hand-drawn cells. I think the other main disadvantage is that animation gives off the illusion of freedom. The freedom to do anything you want, the freedom to create any type of environment, creatures, ect; but it is very hard to achieve control over the process. I believe a lot of people have lost sight of the fact that the beauty of animation is that you can control the production process in a very logical manner, and unfortunately, a lot of that has now been lost.

Anime Vice: Speaking of Hollywood, what would you say to a Hollywood director who says he/she wants to make Gundam into a live-action film?

Tomino: I would not be able to accept such an offer, because I don’t believe there is someone who has more talent than I do in the Gundam franchise. They might understand Gundam as a concept, but Gundam is more than just robots. That is where I think a lot of people fail to see the true deeper meaning of the work.

Anime Vice: If given the opportunity, would you direct it?

Tomino: In the process of creating the Ring of Gundam short film, I realized I do not work well with the live-action filming process, nor do I have a lot of experience working with live-action, so I can not accept the position. Although I do have one director in mind.

Anime Vice: Who would that be?

         Stanley Kubrick  
  Stanley Kubrick  
Tomino: Stanley Kubrick.

Anime Vice: Very nice, though I have faith that you would be able to direct it.

Tomino: Actually, Ring of Gundam is CG, however we actually did have elements of live-action filming that were later transformed into CG; and through that I discovered that there are certain live-action techniques that I do not have, willingly, because I do not work with this medium. Because of that, I do not believe I would be the best choice for a live-action Gundam film.

Anime Vice: What company or creator would you like to work with if given the chance, be it in America or Japan?

Tomino: There is really no one studio per say I would want to work with. What is more important to me is that I am able to retain the creative control, so if there is any studio that has the technological ability or techniques that I use in my films, then it does not matter where I work.

The only one qualification that I require is that I hope that there would be a staff of people that truly understand the cinematic process and the cinematic feel of animation, which I do not believe is possible anywhere.

Anime Vice: Yeah, that is very hard to come by.

Tomino: So if it is possible, it really wound’t matter where I work.

Anime Vice: Now back to Gundam, how do you feel about Char, the antagonist, being more popular than Amuro, the hero?
Tomino: I do not have a comment either way on that. It’s fans personal freedom and opinion who they choose to like. What pleases me is that I succeeded in creating characters that people could feel so drawn to, and not just one character, but multiple characters.

Anime Vice: Would you ever make a story as dark as Victory Gundam, or Runaway Space Ideon again?

Tomino: The longer time passes, the more I do not feel the need to create such darker works, in fact right now my goal is to create entertainment for the masses. The very medium of anime lends itself to cheeriness, in converse to that I do not feel the need to produce anything that is too mature or for adults only.

I find it rather disappointing that worldwide animation and movies in general are becoming more serious. I want to continue seeing works that inspire events such as the ones today that bring people together in celebration of the medium. So even if it’s a horror movie, I want it to be a happy horror movie!

Anime Vice: I agree 100%, there are enough bad things that go on in the world already that we do not need to be bombarded with it on the television.

Anime Vice: Other than working on animation, what do you like to do for fun?

Tomino: I do not have any free time at all. Though two or three times a week I do go to the pool to swim some laps, but that’s about it.

Anime Vice: A lot of fans have asked me this question, and I probably already know the answer, but have you ever assembled a model from one of your shows?

Tomino: I believe there might have been two that I assembled.

Anime Vice: Do you know which ones they are?

Tomino: The first couple of models when the series just came out. The very first Gundam model, and maybe the second one, something like that. And unfortunately the more Gundam kits that came out, the more complicated they became, so they became a little bit beyond my capabilities.

Anime Vice: Do you still have them?

Tomino: Of course!

Anime Vice: Thank you so much for your time here with me.

Tomino: Thank you.
Nikoon Nov. 5, 2009 at 6:08 p.m.
Good interview. Fun to hear. 
Tomino/Kubrick teamup = divide by 0. Think 2001: A Space Odyssey but at the end, an asteroid hits and kills the star child.
Did my connection get choppy, or was there an edit at the end, after the last question and before the handshake? Is Sunrise trying to keep the hard-hitting questions away from us? Did Tomino unveil Idion 2? Tell us!
GodLen staff on Nov. 5, 2009 at 6:12 p.m.
@Niko: yes there was an edit, and it wasn't the only one. 
Nikoon Nov. 5, 2009 at 8:17 p.m.
@GodLen: That was the main one I noticed then. Sunrise is keeping King Gainer 2: Prince Gainer from us, aren't they?
HeeroYuyon Nov. 5, 2009 at 8:53 p.m.
@GodLen: How does it feel to shake hands with a god amongst men?
Also, what are you guys hiding from us in those edits!
Nikoon Nov. 5, 2009 at 8:58 p.m.
@GodLen: Tomino told you that Char and Amuro lived at the end of CCA, didn't he? DIDN'T HE?!
GodLen staff on Nov. 5, 2009 at 10:44 p.m.
@Niko: he didn't mention they got married.
GodLen staff on Nov. 5, 2009 at 10:52 p.m.
@HeeroYuy: You should ask Tomino that question.
GodLen staff on Nov. 6, 2009 at 2:39 a.m.
And guess what, November 5 is Tomino's Birthday as well. Everything according to plan....
Nikoon Nov. 6, 2009 at 9:08 a.m.
@GodLen: Oh wow. Wish I knew that yesterday. Celebrating the birth of time travel and Gundam's creator on the same day would be neat.
ethan staff on Nov. 6, 2009 at 9:39 a.m.
John_Martoneon Nov. 6, 2009 at 2:27 p.m.
So cool an interview. Every since you showed me the clips of ideon I've kinda wanted to check it out.
Though I will admit being a little weirded out by the idea of Kubrick doing a gundam live action.
Great questions!
giaon Nov. 6, 2009 at 3:23 p.m.
@John_Martone: And yet, I would totally watch a Kubrick live-action Gundam. I think it would make my brain explode though.
N15PCAon Nov. 7, 2009 at 5:15 p.m.
MAG is only game I'm looking forward to play on the PS3.

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