Imagawa, Director of
Mobile Fighter G Gundam
by Chris, Dale
6th and 8th, Yasuhiro Imagawa delivered lectures on anime in Addison,
Texas, as well as in Miami, Florida. What follows is a report on
the lecture, as well as the question and answer sessions from Texas
and Miami. For the Miami appearance, Mr. Imagawa delivered his lecture
in a conference room at Florida International University. After
being introduced by an official from Japan's Consul General office,
Imagawa opened the discussion by joking that he wanted to buy Star
Trek toys in America, but they were too expensive. Mr. Imagawa
began his lecture by discussing the differences between commercial
anime, which is used to sell products, and noncommercial anime,
which is not. He then mentioned he was surprised that Gundam
Wing did better here than the original series, and that the
original series was canceled. He hopes that everyone watches G
Gundam so that it doesn't get canceled like the original series.
For the discussion on G Gundam, Imagawa began by showing
some clips from the series. First up was a textless version of the
show's second opening sequence.
then went on to say how Mobile Suit Gundam revolutionized
the robot anime genre. He said that as a child, there was something
he found wrong with super robot shows, and he said that was the
monster-of-the-week storylines. He said that super robot shows were
just half hour commercials for the sponsors to sell toys, but Gundam
changed all that. He said that the show's military robots added
a sense of realism to a genre that was dominated by invincible super
robots. He also said that the show's serious story added drama and
a love story, which allowed the series to crossover and become something
for adults as well as children. He also mentioned that the Gundam
model kits were sought for their militarism and customized by
fans to create new variations. He said that the high sales of model
kits allowed for more creativity and less interference from sponsors.
However, the way Gundam was created changed in the early
'90's. Apparently, model kit sales decreased in the second half
of the runs of Gundam ZZ and V Gundam. Bandai, having
acquired Sunrise, decided that it was time to either reinvent Gundam
or simply put an end to the franchise. They decided on creating
a new universe with lots of Gundams instead of one or two, and thus
was born G Gundam.
were shown of episode 25, along with a customized narration by Master
Asia's voice actor (no subtitles though). The audience laughed hysterically
at more ridiculous suits like the Nether Gundam and Viking Gundam,
but they paid close attention to more serious clips of the God Gundam
fighting the Zeus Gundam and Cobra Gundam. Imagawa said that he
really liked the militaristic tone of the original series and Z
Gundam, and he was shocked that Bandai told him he couldn't
do a series like that when he came aboard the project. He said he
was shocked when he was told about the Gundam Fight and the customized
national Gundams like the Shining Gundam, Gundam Maxter and Gundam
Rose. He also said that at this early point the story was merely
about the Gundam Fight, so he created the Devil Gundam story and
the conspiracy around it to add more depth. He joked that when the
show first began airing, he feared obsessive Gundam fans
would stab him in the back of a dark alley for what he had done.
The show was a hit in ratings and model sales, especially with kids
who weren't even alive when the original series aired and knew nothing
about Gundam. Despite its popularity, much of the staff was
discontent and left early on. Also, Imagawa said he was at odds
with Bandai on the Gundam designs. They wanted designs that could
easily be made into toys and objected to designs like the cloak
on the Master Gundam. Imagawa insisted on the design, and the Master
Gundam became one of the biggest selling kits. Also, the high kit
sales prompted the creation of the God Gundam and Rising Gundam
in the second half of the series. In closing, Imagawa said he was
surprised that more than eight years later G Gundam's models
were still popular.
next moved on to discuss his 1987-89 TV series, Mr. Ajikko.
The TV series was a manga adaptation and followed the adventures
of a genius boy chef who competed in cooking contests with master
chefs. Surprisingly, Imagawa said that the show was the inspiration
for the live action cooking show Iron Chef, which became
a hit in both Japan and America. Imagawa then showed nearly ten
minutes of clips (no subtitles) from Mr. Ajikko, and the
crowd laughed hysterically at the ridiculousness of them. The clips
ranged from the opening sequence to parts of the first episode,
as well as clips from later on in the series. He said that the show
was originally meant to run a standard 26 episodes, but because
it was so popular it eventually ended up running a full 100 episodes
before ending. He said that he was hesitant to direct a manga adaptation,
but he was allowed to add many things that weren't in the manga.
Normally, he said, manga artists don't like anyone to change what
they have created in any way. Imagawa then moved on to discuss another
series he is well known for, the OAV Giant Robo. He began
by showing a few clips, which were dubbed in English. He said that
Giant Robo was a difficult series to work on and took ten
years to complete. He said that he was told to make a series totally
different from the manga, and he wasn't allowed to use any characters
from the manga. He compensated for this by adding characters from
different manga series made by the same artist as Giant Robo.
He noted that for a giant robot anime it had lots of martial arts
and was more of a hit in America than it was in Japan.
then said that over the year anime sponsorship has changed with
the advent of Pay-Per-View. He said that there was a scramble for
new content and it was quite hectic. He said that before, videos
and toys were a byproduct of a series, but now series were being
created to sell videos and toys. He also said that many copycats
show up when something is popular, i.e. shows with maids. He said
that he would rather create things that people imitate instead of
him being the imitator. He then moved on to his 2002 series Seven
of Seven, which recently finished airing in Japan. He showed
clips from the series, including the opening sequence and bits of
the first episode. The show revolves around a girl named Nana, who
has split and has six personality clones of herself. Nana is an
average student trying to get into the same school as the smart
boy she is attracted to, but her other selves cause trouble constantly.
Imagawa said he created this show because kids in Japan are changing.
He said that in Japan there is intense pressure to follow the fads
and do what the majority does, so he wanted kids to see that it
is good to be different and have different qualities. He finished
up by saying that he hoped the show would sell better in America
than it did in Japan.
two hour lecture ended, Imagawa answered a few questions. The first
question concerned his involvement in Berserk. He said that
he was involved very early on only as a story consultant, but the
producers kept his name on the show. Chris asked if there was a
negative reaction to G Gundam in Japan, and if that changed
over time. He said that the reaction was quite negative, and that
many sponsors and fans refused to acknowledge it as a Gundam
series. Despite that anger, the show was still a success. Someone
else asked if it was possible for a foreigner to break into the
anime industry, and he said it was, but that most of the foreigner
were Koreans. He said that Americans worked on Giant Robo,
but generally that's not the case since American and Japanese animation
had different foundations.
question was about what anime/manga inspired him, and Imagawa answered
that he was influenced by Tetsujin 28, Tom & Jerry
and many old Hanna-Barbera shows. He also cited an old anime about
kids with whales who ride the whales to travel into a dream world.
He said that there are many types of anime aside from giant robots,
and a lot of the stuff he makes is stupid. Another person asked
what series he thought brought about the most significant changes
in anime. Imagawa answered that for his generation it was Mobile
Suit Gundam and Space Cruiser Yamato. Finally, someone
else asked if he knew anything about a new Berserk anime,
and Imagawa said he didn't know about it. Another fan hijacked the
question and gave an answer, and the session ended. Afterwards,
Imagawa moved to a table for autographs, and he autographed a Shining
Gundam for Chris, as well as a Gundam Maxter that will be mailed
lecture in Addison, Texas, was nearly identical to the Miami one,
so here's what was asked during the question and answer session,
as noted by Sam:
member asked if the English used by Stalker (the announcer) in the
second episode was a reference to the Rocky Horror Picture Show,
and surprisingly, Imagawa confirmed this, saying that he was a big
fan of the cult film, and would think of some of his ideas during
the late Saturday showings. I personally was able to ask a question
about why he was chosen for the direction of G Gundam. According
to Imagawa, it was because Tomino wanted someone who would do something
very strange and bizarre, and that it could possibly be really amazing
in the process. He was very thankful to Tomino for giving him the
opportunity to create a Gundam series and be part of its
history. After this, he began an autographing session outside where
I was able to get my Episode Guide Vol.4 (which covers G Gundam)
signed, as well as a signed postcard of G Gundam. Overall,
it was a great little event, and hopefully his wishes that G
Gundam will be successful in America will come true.
are thumbnails from the appearance, so click on them to see the
nice full pictures that Dale took, as well as Sam's scan of one
of his autographed items.
Left: An official
from Japan's Consul General office introduces Imagawa.
Right: Imagawa and the translator, Mr. Hayashi.
discusses G Gundam.
Right: Imagawa shows a clip from G Gundam featuring Wong
Yun Fat and Master Asia.
shows a clip from one of his previous series.
Right: Imagawa laughs at a clip from Mr. Ajikko.
Left: A clip
from Mr. Ajikko featuring wrestling vegetables.
Right: A clip from Seven of Seven's opening sequence.
autographs a Shining Gundam action figure for Chris.
Right: Sam's autographed G Gundam postcard from the Texas
to Conventions & Appearances