Disclaimer: this is a repost of an article I wrote years ago on my personal blog. I’ve decided to slightly revise and edit it and share it here as well, as it’s a relevant topic to this blog.
Yoshiyuki Tomino is a prolific director with a career spanning multiple decades; as such, he is surrounded by hearsay and rumor by fans. This particular rumor was widespread in the English-speaking fandom during the 2000s but has since died down in recent years. This post is simply meant to discredit the basis of the rumor.
RUMOR: Tomino originally intended for Loran Cehack, the protagonist of Turn A Gundam, to be a girl but corporate interference by Sunrise and Bandai prevented him from doing so. What resulted was Tomino acting in “backlash” by having Loran cross-dress on multiple occasions. Some characters in the show even consistently refer to him by his female persona “Laura Rolla”.
As far as I am aware, this has only ever been speculation. Even well-established fan sites such as Tominosuki and Japanese subject-matter experts on social media have yet to corroborate the claim. It’s true that Tomino reacting to corporate meddling is nothing new, but Turn A Gundam serves as an antithesis to that — Tomino had much more free reign during its production than in previous Gundam projects.
The speculation stems from the opinion or idea that it simply “makes sense” — that Loran is more “effeminate” than the usual Gundam protagonist, that “Laura Rolla” is very “attractive” as a female character design, and that the story still would’ve flowed well had Loran been a girl. Now, I don’t necessarily disagree with any of that. Personally I’d have loved for Loran to be a girl! If you ask me, Turn A is structured in such a way that had Loran been female not much would’ve needed altering. But the “should’ve” or “could’ve” are irrelevant here, as there is little proof that it ever was a thing outside of fan wish-fulfillment.
I’m going to go into some detail disclaiming this rumor with some facts and counterpoints.
1. Turn A Gundam‘s character designs are by Akira Yasuda (“akiman”) of CAPCOM fame. The earliest archived concept art of Loran actually has him appearing more “masculine” than that of his final design. This is the easiest and quickest way to disprove the “Loran as a girl” theory, because if anything it reverses the timeline of the rumor mill.
To add to this, akiman has shared many drawings from various production materials in art books, pamphlets, on Twitter, and other outlets — not a single one of these sketches depict Loran as a girl, aside from the obvious Laura Rolla drawing. This leads to my next point.
2. As far as I know, none of the show’s staff members — producers, script writers, designers, voice actors & actresses, etc. — have ever mentioned that Loran was originally intended to be a girl. Now, it’s possible that they were simply not privy to this knowledge, but I feel like that’d be all too coincidental. I imagine a topic like this would’ve at least been brought up in the audio commentaries recorded for the 2015/16 Turn A Gundam Blu-ray boxes. The commentaries are very chaotic, intimate, and reveal a lot of insider info about the show’s production. Not even Loran’s voice actress, Romi Park, has ever hinted at the claim, which is odd because she is very outspoken about Tomino’s eccentric behavior and the many things he has said or done. It’s been nearly 20 years since Turn A aired, and not one staff member has come forward to admit that Loran was meant to be a girl? Hell, I would’ve expected Tomino himself to do it by now. He has a history of not giving a damn and speaking his mind when need be. He even blasted legendary designer Syd Mead in an interview in 2014 and lambasted his mechanical designs for Turn A as a “mistake”. Hmm…
3. The idea of the protagonist cross-dressing is nothing new to Tomino’s anime. For example, in episode 40 of ZZ Gundam, Judau cross-dresses to sneak his way into a perverted colony leader’s abode. Hilarity ensues. I feel that there is a bit of a ZZ Gundam retread in Turn A, more so than one would initially think. Obviously the show heavily references Universal Century Gundams as a whole, but some smaller facets from ZZ are distinctly brought to light. Aside from the cross-dressing bit, the Capule makes a return as the Kapool, a unit only prominently featured in a single episode in ZZ. In Turn A, the Kapool is one of the most widespread mobile suits among the Earth Militia and is piloted by one of the main characters. Its marine capabilities are also slowly discovered and utilized to great effect. One can also draw comparisons between ZZ’s Moon-Moon arc and Turn A’s Manuipich arc in the themes they cover; in a twist of fate, the fandom generally sees both arcs as low points in their respective series. If you examine Turn A from this angle, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say the cross-dressing aspect is just another pronounced ZZ retread.
4. Loran simply is different from the usual Gundam protagonist. I wrote a blog post surface-analyzing his role as a protagonist, which goes into some detail. He’s not brash, outspoken or outwardly, and he’s certainly not the stoic, serious-business type. He’s naive, innocent, honorable and less “manly” than the precedent, and frankly I don’t see anything wrong with that. Tomino plays around with this set of character traits and throws in cross-dressing as a running gag. It’s introduced as a tool to advance Guin’s political agenda.
5. Lastly, themes of dual identity and counterparts are important and central to Turn A Gundam. This is used as a way to escalate the ongoing chaos and confusion inherent to the plot. The viewer may know what’s going on, but the characters are often confused by all the names and terminology being thrown around.
- Loran <-> “Laura”. Is it Loran who’s the pilot of the White Doll or is it Laura? Who’s Laura Rolla anyway? The White Doll is piloted by a girl? Oh wow, she’s so pretty!
- Dianna <-> Kihel. Why do they look so similar? Is Queen Dianna actually Queen Dianna or is that Kihel? Later on in the story, Dianna and Kihel actually use the confusion they cause to their advantage. They even adopt a “two in one and one in two” strategy.
- The Turn A <-> “White Doll”, “Mustache”. What is the “Turn A”? What is a “Gundam”? Who’s calling it White Doll when it’s actually the Mustache (and vice-versa)?
- The Turn A <-> The Turn X. The Turn A and Turn X were literally rival suits meant to match each other in battle in the final years of the Dark History.
I think a big reason this rumor took off is due to the advent of the internet. Online communities were young and impressionable in the early 2000s. Image boards and forums allowed information to take off and circulate around easily. Citing sources was less of a concern to many people, because finding and searching through reputable resources was a lot harder than it is now. Plus it was a rumor that “felt right”.
The only real way to resolve this would be to ask Tomino in person, but it’s a settled case in my opinion. He’d probably look at you funny if you asked him.
Thanks for reading,