For over a decade I’ve wondered what it’d be like to see director Yoshiyuki Tomino in person. In November of 2019 I was finally able to make this dream a reality. Tomino attended Anime NYC as a Guest of Honor to celebrate the Gundam franchise’s 40th anniversary and to promote the first Reconguista in G film. I made the trip from California to New York for this rare occasion. In this post I’ll briefly reflect on my experience and provide commentary on the Turn A Gundam related question-answers.
The convention held two major events featuring Tomino.
- A panel celebrating Gundam‘s 40th anniversary with Yoshiyuki Tomino. The panel moderator essentially held a conversation with Tomino and honored his legacy. The floor was then open to audience questions on a first-come-first-serve basis.
- The U.S. premiere of the first Reconguista in G film, followed by an audience Q&A session with Tomino himself.
A press-only Q&A session was also conducted, as well as an autograph session in which attendance tickets were distributed by lottery.
Unfortunately, my application for a press pass was rejected. I was a little disappointed, but in retrospect it makes sense as this blog is not an official publication by any means. I was also not lucky enough to win a ticket for Tomino’s autograph session, which saddened me. I really do not like the logistical handling of this con; I traveled across the country to meet my anime industry hero and was not even given the opportunity to get his autograph because of a stupid lottery? I feel like such a system unfairly punishes hardcore fans who are willing to sacrifice their time to line up early. Other major anime conventions do that and it works fine, and in my opinion it is the only “fair” way. You don’t get on a ride at an amusement park by way of a lottery ticket — you line up.
But I digress. Attending Tomino’s panel was a magical experience. I can’t exactly put into words how surreal it was to see the man in person. When he walked into the room, I held back tears as the entire audience gave him a standing ovation and chanted his name. Tomino was in what appeared to be a very good mood, and this may have affected the way he answered questions. He was sassy, cheeky, and confident, and he mentioned more than once how much he loved the atmosphere and diversity of New York City. He seemed very fulfilled. The Q&A session that followed however was a bit of a mess. People ask the most inane and disrespectful questions at times. You are in the presence of one of the industry’s most legendary figures, please ask meaningful questions! Unfortunately (yep, again…) they ended the panel before I was able to ask a question.
The Reconguista in G (G-Reco) movie was great. I think the small little details, newly animated sequences, and added character dialogue go a long way in fleshing out character motives and plot. I especially feel it did a fantastic job at expressing Aida’s plight early on in the series. I excitedly await the remainder of the films. The original TV series was often criticized for being confusing and convoluted, but I was discussing with people whose first experience to G-Reco was this film and none of them felt that way. So, bravo Tomino! The Q&A session that followed was just as disappointing as the previous one. They specifically asked people to keep questions related to G-Reco, but I suppose people did not care. Rather disrespectful to Tomino, if you ask me.
For posterity, here are three questions I would have liked to ask Tomino:
- In the early 2000s you claimed you wanted to make a work called Turn A Space. What happened to that project and did it in any way lead to G-Reco‘s concept creation?
- Before G-Reco‘s final episode aired, character designer Kenichi Yoshida stated he had been working on the show for 8 years. Can you shed some light on how long G-Reco was in production?
- Turn A Gundam and G-Reco appear to reference the Japanese folktale “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”. Is this a conscious decision? If so, is it a story you’re particularly fond of?
Overall, this was an experience I will never forget. I met so many people from Twitter and other platforms. The energy in the line for Tomino’s panel was unreal. He brought us all together for this momentous occasion to celebrate the series that shaped our lives. This is my personal favorite anime convention I have attended. Thank you, Tomino.
Below are question-answers that involve Turn A Gundam in some capacity. My commentary is in red.
(Twitter user @TomAznable is transcribing the entirety of the panels and Q&A sessions featuring Tomino, so I highly recommend keeping an eye out. He’s generously provided me the script in advance to review.)
Question: Will we ever get a prequel to Turn A Gundam to see how Earth became as it was in the Correct Century?
Tomino: I haven’t even thought about that, and the fact that I haven’t thought of it already makes me feel like I probably can’t come up with a good enough story. I think of Turn A Gundam as already being fulfilled.
I wonder how Tomino would have answered this question had they asked about a sequel instead. In the early 2000s, Tomino went on record to state that he’d like to create a story called “Turn A Space”, presumably a follow-up to Turn A Gundam. There’s reason to believe that a sequel was planned or at least discussed. In the Blu-ray audio commentaries, Romi Park and Ryota Fujitsu (the moderator) both claim that the ending was left open-ended for a potential sequel. That said, knowing Tomino, it’s possible he might have answered this question similarly either way! For what it’s worth, a non-canon prequel manga by akiman titled Wind of the Moon exists, so that could satisfy some curiosity.
Question: My biggest question growing up has always been about the Dark History from Turn A Gundam, and the explanation of I guess what we like to call the “Turn A Bang.” Recently Bandai put out “Light of Life Chronicle UC.” Do you believe that all the Gundam series had the Turn A Gundam show up to reset everything?
Tomino: In some aspects I believe that you may have a point there; I do think that it’s because of something like Turn A that I was able to turn things around and create something like what you just saw.
Sorry, but this is a bogus question. I don’t understand why Gundam fans care so much for frivolous details that defeat the purpose of what the creator intended the audience to take away from their work. For the record, “Light of Life Chronicle UC” is written by Harutoshi Fukui and Tomino likely had nothing to do with it. Fukui is a well-documented Turn A Gundam fan, and he even wrote a novelization for the show, so it’s just his personal interpretation of how he views the Dark History.
Question: Looking back on all the Gundam series you’ve worked on, if you had the chance to go back and do something differently with them, would you? And if so, what would it be?
Tomino: In my case, with Char’s Counterattack and Turn A Gundam I had felt that there were things that I could more or less have done better, but what I came to realize is that even though I’ve had times when I’ve wanted to redo things they didn’t actually turn out too bad. So I don’t think I would actually go back and redo them, I think they’re fine the way they are.
I brought up Turn A because in terms of the design aspect, I may have asked too much of the designer Syd Mead. Visually everything perhaps came out a bit too artistic rather than Gundam-esque. I think that aspect I may have wanted to redo, but like I said before, I think it’s also fine to leave it as-is.
Tomino’s answer here is very interesting. He’s repeating the criticism he had for Syd Mead five years ago. It is true that Tomino gave Mead a lot of free reign during Turn A Gundam‘s production. He would send him details on what he wanted each design to accomplish and then allowed Mead to run free, as Tomino had great respect for him. It’s interesting that he not only regrets that decision but is vocal about his regret. My take is that ever since Turn A Gundam, he has worked closely with artists and designers such as Kenichi Yoshida and akiman (King Gainer, G-Reco) and he feels that intimacy allows them to more accurately bring his vision to life.
Thanks for reading