Episode Analyses

Turn A Gundam Staff, Production, and Episode Analyses – Episode #1 “Howl at the Moon”

Turn A Gundam‘s first episode was broadcast on April 9, 1999, after a production process that lasted over two years. It celebrated the Gundam franchise’s 20th anniversary as part of Sunrise’s “Big Bang Project” and marked the return of director Yoshiyuki Tomino to the series from a 5-year hiatus. This episode was selected by fan-poll to receive an audio commentary for the Blu-ray release.

Turn A Gundam‘s first episode was broadcast on April 9, 1999 on Fuji TV.

The episode begins with Loran Cehack, Fran Doll, and Keith Laijie descending onto Earth, sent by the Moonrace on a reconnaissance mission to scout out and integrate into society. You can hear Loran singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, a famous nursery rhyme, while the other two also hum their own rhymes. According to voice actress Romi Park, Tomino had not given her much singing direction, insisting that she just be herself. Tomino’s philosophy during Turn A Gundam was that voice actors & actresses are an extension of their characters, so he advised them to avoid overthinking their roles. There’s a scene shortly after where Loran is drowning and Kihel Heim and Sochie Heim come to his rescue—Romi Park ad-libbed this entire scene. Having nowhere to go, Loran is taken in by the wealthy Heim mining family, and after two years of service in the mines he’s invited to become the family’s personal chauffeur/butler. Much like Brain Powerd, Turn A Gundam‘s first episode has an abrupt time skip a little past the halfway point.

Several character plot threads and relationships are established and/or hinted at in the first episode. Sochie’s obvious curiosity and attraction towards Loran is made clear: she teases him, eyes him curiously, and spies on him as he meets up with friends. Loran, on the other hand, is smitten with Kihel, as she greatly resembles the queen of the Moon, Dianna Soreil. This character trait is actually significantly downplayed than it was in earlier drafts of the story. In Ring of Gundam (Turn A‘s name in early production) plot details, Loran has a very apparent crush on Kihel, who dies early on into the story; hence her name being a play on the Japanese word “Kieru” (消える, “to disappear”). Loran and Sochie’s anger from her death is what forces them to join the Earth Militia to combat the Moonrace invaders. Nevertheless, some of that original intent still remains in the final version of the story.

Guin Lineford’s an interesting character to analyze, especially in a Gundam title. Director Tomino has confirmed that Guin is gay, and he wanted the scriptwriters to come up with a running storyline with Guin referring to Loran as “Laura”. Tomino viewed homosexuality as natural and part of what makes humans interesting. He wanted Turn A Gundam to be a work that wasn’t trapped in society’s superficial idea of human sexuality and would instead embrace its mysterious nature. This is implemented from the get-go, as Guin takes a very forward interest in Loran’s affinity towards machines. I can’t recall if he ever even refers to Loran by his real name, to the constant confusion of several characters.

Part of what makes Turn A Gundam unique is its setting and premise. It’s set in what appears to be the early 1900s, with clear traces of Victorian-era aesthetic, a noticeable contrast from the far-future societies found in previous Gundam titles. The first episode establishes this wonderfully: the buildings are old-fashioned, the houses are half-timbered, the cars are old, the aircrafts are old, etc. The show is atmospheric by design, often relying on landscape and lighting to set the mood, and this is facilitated by its setting. People often compare it to Studio Ghibli’s patented style.

As such, tone and atmosphere are important aspects to Turn A Gundam, and music composer Yoko Kanno does well to exemplify that fact. The soundtrack features many recurring themes, chords, and notes, and very much utilizes leitmotif to create a sense of continuity. This is established in the very first episode in a powerful manner. The ending sequence is accompanied by the insert song “Moon”, which is sung and composed by Yoko Kanno herself. There are many renditions of this track throughout the show, including the second ending theme “Moon’s Cocoon”, and it has essentially been immortalized in context of the show by staff and industry people (and fans as well!).

“Moon” is sung and composed by Yoko Kanno herself. She provides vocals under the pseudonym Gabriela Robin.

Loran’s proclamation during the ending scene is, of course, equally striking. Having lived on Earth for two years, he pleas to his Moonrace brethren to hurry up and “come back soon!” It’s a no-barrels moment where he lets his raw feelings out into the night sky as he faces the Moon. There’s an interesting story regarding the voice recording of this scene that adds even more context: Tomino apparently wasn’t happy with the way Romi Park was delivering the lines, so she kept exasperatingly raising her arms and shouted the words until he was finally satisfied. This was not a totally uncommon occurrence in a Tomino-led studio; he often pushed his actors to be more loose with their natural emotion and delivery. Using an unfiltered raw take of the lines is fittingly apt for what Tomino was trying to achieve. Park, having a background in theater acting herself, was able to meet his theatrical demands. In fact, she is/was a member of the theater troupe that Tomino’s daughter is a director at!

Loran’s plea to his fellow Moonrace.

The first episode was applauded by many industry people. Sunrise CEO Takayuki Yoshii said it gave him chills he hadn’t felt since Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro. At an advanced screening, Syd Mead kept arbitrarily saying “great!” despite knowing little Japanese. Tetsu Kayama, the Marigul Management individual responsible for facilitating Tomino’s meetings with Akiman, was very supportive. Harutoshi Fukui—who’d later pen Gundam Unicorn—enjoyed it so much he sent a fax to Tomino saying it was an honor to be involved in such a work; he’d already been assigned to the Turn A novelization. In general, industry veterans also seemed okay with the idea of it being a story mainly about the humans rather than robots. Tomino himself was pleased with the first episode but was overwhelmed by the feedback he was receiving. In his mind, there’s no way the staff would be able to maintain such a level of quality for the show’s entire run.

Yoshiyuki Tomino, Syd Mead, and other staff members at the studio on the first episode’s air date.

Turn A Gundam Episode #1 Credits
Loran – Romi Park
Kihel – Rieko Takahashi
Sochie – Akino Murata
Guin – Gou Aoba
Keith – Jun Fukuyama
Fran – Kumiko Watanabe
Miashei – Noriko Kito
Michael – Tetsuo Kanao
Jessica – Chikako Akimoto
Ladderum Kune – Ikuya Sawaki
Dylan – Chou Katsumi
Sam – Hidenari Ugaki
Crew A – Kihachiro Uemura
Crew D – Ayumi Hasegawa
Little Girl A – Kazusa Murai
Little Girl B – Emiko Tanada
Driver – Toshihide Tsuchiya
Scene Boss – Takehiro Murozono
Miner A – Jin Horikawa
Female Guide – Yumi Fukamizu

Animation Director – Yoshihito Hishinuma
Key Animation – Seiichi Nakatani, Toshio Mori, Etsushi Mori, Yasushi Shingo, Takenori Tsukuma, Katsuhisa Yamamoto, Yoshiaki Tsubata, Dan Kongoji, Takao Takegami, Toru Yoshida, Tsutomu Sakamoto

In-between Check – Sachiyo Hirade
In-betweens – Kazuyo Tominaga, Keiko Abu, Setsuko Takenouchi, Taeko Watanabe, Fumiyo Mori, Miko Tomioka, Studio Cockpit, Nakamura Production, Studio Dub (Reiko Saito, Akira Maeda, Yoshiaka Wada, Yoko Kajita, Kazumi Inadome, Koji Yoshida, Seoul Dub, Shanghai Dub)

Color Setting – Miyuki Sato (EMUAI)
Finishing – EMUAI (Emiko Okui, Akiko Inoue, Toru Kawamura, Yuki Otsuka, Miho Suzuki, Junko Iida)
Finishing Manager – Fumie Maebayashi

Art Board – Yukiko Maruyama (Atelier Musa)
Backgrounds – Atelier Musa (Shuichi Okubo, Masaki Kato, Mayumi Okawa, Yasuomi Kishi, Tetsuo Shimono, Myong Chi Park)
Special Effects – Toshio Hasegawa (Marix)
Title Lith Work – Maki Pro

Photography – Asahi Production (Shinya Sawada, Atsushi Tamura, Asami Kumazawa, Noriaki Akitaya, Tomokazu Kaneko, Akihiko Fujino)
Assitant Editor – Nobuhiro Akiho (Jay Film)
Development – Tokyo Laboratory

Sound design – Koji Kasamatsu
Foley – Eiko Morikawa
Recording Adjustment – Yasuhiro Nakura
Sound Production – Rakuonsha
Desk – Yoshimi Sugiyama
Music Production – Yoshiaki Ota (Borderline Records)

Digital Effects – Sunrise D.I.D. (Hiroshi Furuhashi, Ken Iokawa, Kayoko Murakami, Makoto Takakura)
Video Editing – Qtec
Telecine – Makoto Imazuka
Video Editor – Tetsuro Fujita

Mechanical Design – Hitoshi Iwaki, Yoshikazu Miyao, Junya Ishigaki, Mahiro Maeda, Tsukasa Dokite
Setting Proof – Shigeru Morita (Studio Nue)
Title Logo Design – Daisuke Unno

PR Management – Schio Tamenaga (Fuji TV), Kaoru Asai (Sunrise)
Setting Management – Shigeru Horiguchi, Yoshitaka Kawaguchi

Episode Director – Tetsuya Watanabe
Animation Director – Tsukasa Dokite
Screenplay – Hiroyuki Hoshiyama
Storyboard – Minoru Yokitani
Assistant Episode Director – Masakazu Hishida
Production Desk – Yoichi Watanabe
Literary Coordinator – Tetsuko Takahashi
Setting Production – Koji Yasukawa
Production Secretary – Michiko Yamamoto
Production Advancement – Hiroyuki Sato

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