Staff Highlight

Staff Highlight: Yoshiyuki Tomino, Chief Director

This is the first in a series of blog posts focusing on key staff members of Turn A Gundam. My sources include various written and video interviews, audio commentaries, and individual research.

Yoshiyuki Tomino needs no introduction. A legendary figure in Japanese animation, he’s the creator of Mobile Suit Gundam and has been involved in many anime throughout his career. Between 1979 and 1994, Tomino directed six Gundam entries and then proceeded to distance himself from the franchise. Turn A Gundam marks his glorious return.

Turn A Gundam‘s executive director.

Below is a highlight of info and fun facts pertaining to his time on Turn A Gundam.

  • He went out of his way to recruit a celebrated supporting staff: he regrouped with many of his old script writers and animators, retained music composer Yoko Kanno, brought on CAPCOM character designer Yasuda Akira, and convinced visual futurist and Hollywood legend Syd Mead to provide mechanical designs.
  • Known for his eccentric personality and demanding nature in the studio. Often pushed his staff to their limits and notoriously had a temper. However, Tomino was reportedly tame during Turn A Gundam‘s production, possibly due to an illness.
  • Routinely handed out “Tomino Memos”, which included broad storyline notes for future episodes. Script writers and production staff would use these notes to come up with scenarios and plot structure, which would then be given to Tomino to review and approve for storyboarding.
  • Habitually edited or altered many of the scripts and storyboards handed to him. This is corroborated by Sunrise producer Hideyuki Tomioka, who estimates that Tomino edited 70% of the scripts.
  • If episode production had setbacks and added delays to the schedule, Tomino would take it upon himself to fill in shoes and get the job done, even if it meant losing out on sleep. Despite this, he’s only officially credited to have drawn storyboards for 23 episodes and wrote the script for 1 episode.
  • Tomino’s known to credit himself using pseudonyms. He’s an accomplished lyricist as Rin Iogi and a screenwriter and storyboarder as Minoru Yokitani.
  • Wrote the lyrics to “Turn A Turn” (OP1), “This is a private conversation, miss“, “Spirit of the Moon“, “Moon’s Cocoon” (ED2), and co-wrote the lyrics to “Century Color” (OP2).
  • Would instruct voice actors and actresses to speak “normally”, rather than in a forced tone to fit a character. His philosophy was that voice actors encompass the characters themselves, so he advised them to avoid overthinking their roles. This gave confidence to early-career actors, such as Romi Park.
  • Tomino’s anime are well-known for including very unusual character names (dubbed “Tomino names” by fans). This is because he wants to show how integrated cultures and norms are in far-future societies. This tradition is continued in Turn A Gundam, with characters having strange names such as Meme Midgard and Agrippa Maintainer.
  • Once made a comment suggesting that he’d like to remake the show in 20 years’ time.
  • Once proclaimed that the show would be a massive hit in 50 years.
  • According to rumor Tomino does not like the Turn A Gundam novelizations, despite the fact that Harutoshi Fukui idolizes him.
  • There’s reason to believe that Tomino did not want Turn A Gundam to be a Gundam anime. This is fueled by rumors of Turn A Space, which would be an anime encompassing all of Tomino’s filmography rather than being tied specifically to Gundam. He has since described Turn A Gundam as an anime which accepts all Gundam series, denoted by the Ɐ symbol: a mathematical symbol representing universal quantification.
  • Has a family, including children and grandchildren. His two daughters are supportive of his endeavors. In the mid-90s one of his daughters was a director at a theater company, which allowed her to invite voice acting talent to audition for Tomino’s anime. This is how Romi Park and Rieko Takahashi were scouted. Tomino’s other daughter is a professional dancer and in 2014 provided dance choreography for Gundam Reconguista in G.
  • Not at all related to Turn A Gundam but still an amusing anecdote: Tomino has reportedly praised idol anime Love Live!, including its main character Honoka. He even watched the movie with his granddaughter at the Tokyo International Film Festival.

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