Two leading characters of Japan, Gundam and Hello Kitty. “Gundam vs Hello Kitty Showdown Project” began on Mar. 28, 2019, to celebrate their 40th and 45th anniversary respectively.
The project had many highlights with various companies getting involved and the special promotion video co-starring Gundam and Hellow Kitty was one of them.
The final episode (episode 3), was released on the project's YouTube channel on Jan. 15, 2020.
We had an interview with director Im Ga-Hee, the key man of promoting the project, Taniguchi Osamu, deputy general manager of Sunrise's IP Headquarters Planning and Production Department 1/producer of Studio 5, and Yamada Shuuhei, creative director of Sanrio License Headquarters Design Division.
They told us about the background of the production that will help you further understand the special promotion videos along with a surprise inside-story about “Gundam”.
[Coverage・Composition: Ishijima Eiwa]
■Startling news! “Mobile Suit SD Gundam” is here!
―― Finally, the 3rd episode has been released. It surprised me to see the memorable “Mobile Suit SD Gundam” (*1). What was the background of its appearance?
*1: “Mobile Suit SD Gundam” is a chibi Gundam series in the late 80s to mid-90s, expanding in toys, manga, anime, game, etc. It was centered on comedy and parodies and was popular among the children, becoming the anchor products of Gunplas and toys. SD is an abbreviation of Super Déformer (French for deform).
Im: The 3rd episode being set in a warzone in the Gundam world, we had to give Kitty-chan some moves. However, as I said in the last interview, we were forbidden to give Kitty-chan weapons or make her hit someone.
Im: We thought of giving her a barrier to reflect the attacks, but we still had the problem of the ricocheting bullets. We couldn't let them hit anyone.
Yamada: That's right. Kitty-chan can't hurt anyone even if it was from the reflecting attacks.
Im: I asked myself, “How could they become friends with Kitty-chan?”, “What kind of effect of the ricocheting bullets, rather than damaging the Gelgoogs, would the fans be excited with?”. That's how I got the idea of the Mobile Suits turning into SD form and become friend when hit by the ricochets.
Taniguchi: This idea truly blew my mind. Only Im-san would have been able to think of such an idea.
Im: But I still was worried if the Gundam fans would enjoy regular size Gundams and SD Gundams on the same screen.
―― Excuse me for my unfamiliar example, but I remember them together on the screen in “Yume no Maron-sha: Uchuu no Tabi” (Dream Maron Company: “A Space Odyssey”) (*2).
*2: “Mobile Suit SD Gundam MK-IV Yumeno Maron-sha: Uchuu no Tabi” was an OVA by director Amino Tetsuro in 1990. The SD Gundams wind up in the One Year War in the regular size Gundams world. It was well known for the designs of the Mobile Suits from the First Gundam re-arranged into “Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket” style.
Im: Yes, they have. To tell you the truth, there are not many drawings of SD Gundam left to refer to from those days, so we used “Yume no Maron-sha: Uchuu no Tabi” and products of SD Gundam as reference for the animation.
―― Were there any points you kept in mind for animating the SD Gundams?
Im: I went over the question, “How should we put the SD Gundams in motion?”, many times with the animation director and the original designer. Each of the chibi-Gundams has its differences. Some have very mechanical looks, others are very character-like.
―― I see. Many of the recent chibi-Gundams seem to have a more angular design to them.
Im: We had the idea of moving them in a more mechanical manner and keep the Mobile Suit taste. However, since they were going to become friends with Kitty-chan, we decided to go with the cuter approach.
―― So that's how they became the balloon-like old-style SD Gundams.
Im: That's right.
Yamada: I really have to thank the director for coming up with this idea.
Im: It's my pleasure, haha.
■Experienced creators and major studios were also in on the project!
―― Taniguchi-san, you said that you want people to enjoy the high-quality animation in the last article.
Taniguchi: For example, we asked the art studio “Aoshashin” to take care of the background art such as Kitty-chan's house in watercolor style. Kaneko Yuuji-san, who was in charge of the background art of “Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan”, “Kill la Kill”, and “Blade Runner Blackout 2022”, was especially into it and kept putting out ideas.
Im: Actually, not only Kitty-chan's room but the outer space background was also drawn with analog techniques.
―― Really? I thought that was digital art.
Taniguchi: The background art of this anime was all painted with paints and brushes and scanned digitally.
Im: We aimed for warm images to match the character of Kitty-chan.
Another interesting point was Kaneko-san asking us what kind of space do we want.
―― What does “what kind of space” mean?
Im: Each of the Gundam series has different styles of drawing space. For example, “Unicorn” has a real-touch and the recent “Twilight AXIS” has many colors of outer space gases.
The First Gundam has a strong blue color and we recreated it along with the number and shapes of the stars in the sky. I learned a lot from the samples of each style of space.
Taniguchi: It takes time for the paint to dry enough to be scannable, so it would be difficult to recreate it as a TV anime series. We were lucky that this was a special promotion video with a long span of production.
It has become a quite rare animation, I hope everyone would zoom in on the background and enjoy the fine touch of the art.
Taniguchi: We usually ask Asahi Production for the shooting of the Gundam series, but for this project, we asked Mad House, who are strong in particle effects such as the heart-shapes.
Mad House isn't usually working on Gundam projects, so they were also quite excited.
Im: I heard everyone at Mad House were saying, “What in the world is this project?”, “I want to be a part of it too!”, the same as in Sunrise, haha.
―― Were there any difficulties with the shooting?
Im: Our main theme was to create an anime with the essence of the First Gundam, so we kept the effects as limited as possible, unlike the recent animes.
The staff at Mad House seemed to have difficulty in deciding how to express the cuteness of Kitty-chan. The color of the explosions of the First Gundam being pink made it even more difficult to make the heart-shapes match yet stand out. We had many meetings with Mad House to get it just right.
―― You said you aimed for the First Gundam taste. Could you elaborate on that?
Im: We kept the style of the art of First Gundam, but we also updated it with the latest technology. For example, the coloring of the helmet was monochromatic. We made a difference in the tones for the front side and the backside and added brightness to the highlights.
Taniguchi: We asked Kotobuki Tsukasa-san, who was the animation director of “Mobile Suit Gundam THE ORIGIN”, to work on Amuro's animation.
Im: Kotobuki-san also agreed on our decision to keep the style of “Mobile Suit Gundam III: Encounters in Space” by Yasuhiko Yoshikazu. That's why the shades have a Yasuhiko-san taste to them.
We did change some parts such as the lines, animation of the pupil. These are also updating ideas from Kotobuki-san.
Taniguchi: You really did “elaborate”, haha.
Im: It was my first time to work on a project as a director. I really appreciated the ideas from everyone from each section.
The editing brought the animation to a higher level. I really enjoyed the production.
■A re-recording of the legendary scene?! Inside stories of the recordings and instrumentals.
―― How were Kitty-chan and Furuya Tooru at the recordings?
Im: As it was a special animation, at first, we had changed the lines a bit from the First Gundam. However, Furuya-san noticed the changes and asked us if he should read the original lines. I was surprised how much he remembers from back then.
―― The famous lines must all be in his head.
Im: It felt like he saw through me, haha. The sound director was Fujino Sadayoshi, who worked on many Gundam series since “Mobile Suit Z Gundam”. He also said the original sounded better and changed it back to the original.
In the many discussions, we decided to re-record the lines of the scene right after the death of Lalah, that Kitty-chan was watching on TV, in the 1st episode.
―― So that crying scene was a new recording!
Im: Yes, we had just one scene of him expressing the sorrow of losing his love. It's amazing how his acting matches well even with the animations of that time.
―― How was Kitty-chan's recording? I think it's rare for her to be in such a project.
Im: Kitty-chan wasn't used to voice for animations and seemed quite confused. She was more stern at the beginning, especially at the battlefield, she was more like “Kitty-senpai” towards Amuro. Fujino-san said, “Just act like your usual self”, and became as in the completed version.
―― Well, Kitty-senpai is actually 5 years senior to Gundam.
Im: The scene where she confronts Amuro in the 3rd episode was especially difficult since it was an important scene throughout the story. Her impression was quite different during the rehearsals where she acted more like Lalah.
After all, this is a Gundam and Kitty-chan collaboration, Kitty-chan should be always herself anywhere she goes, and I think we were able to keep her style.
―― The music at that scene was the memorable “Beginning” from “Mobile Suit Gundam III: Encounters in Space”, right?
Im: Actually… That was also another struggle…
―― What do you mean?
Im: Each episode was 2 minutes long with a total of 3 episodes. “Beginning” is a song that you want to fully listen to. It full potential is too hard to be shown in 2 minutes.
―― I can see the fans being disappointed if the musical masterpiece was cut off before it ends. How did you work it out?
Im: I thought of using other songs, but in the end, I asked them for an extension of the length of the show. That's why the last episode is longer than the other two.
―― I see. You really managed to end the series with a nice afterglow by not cutting the song. You really have to listen carefully to notice that the end is quite tight.
■What happens to the two after the ending?
―― My first impression was that it was an eccentric collaboration, but now I see it as a high-quality anime created by the many ideas of various people working together.
Taniguchi: I was glad that we could make this project also
a collaboration with many people and companies.
I have to thank Sanrio for being so tolerant. I hope you all would enjoy this fabulous collaboration.
Yamada: The collaboration animes of Sanrio characters were usually only one episode each. It was a nice change to be able to create a story of 3 episodes. Please take the time to watch the shows from the first episode.
――This is the last question. At the end of the 3rd episode, Amuro and Kitty-chan will be heading to A Baoa Qu. What will their story be like if there was to be a sequel?
Taniguchi: Well… This isn't answering the question, but I think there no way to continue the story. History would be re-written by Kitty-chan and everyone will live in peace, haha. But if I had the chance, I would love to make a sequel.
Yamada: Then let's work together again in five years to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hello Kitty and the 45th anniversary of Gundam!
Taniguchi: Great idea! But won't there be a different character collaboration then? haha.
Yamada: Then we'll make it a collaboration of three! Sanrio's motto is “Everyone is a friend”!
Im: I'll be looking forward to it!
As a new chapter of the showdown project, “2020 Gundam & Hello Kitty Love and Peace Project” will begin.
Gundam and Hello Kitty hope for a peaceful world with no wars, and together, create a world where everyone gets along through various collaboration projects and Twitter campaigns under the theme of “LOVE and PEACE”. Further developments are scheduled to be announced on the official website and Twitter.
(C)Sotsu・Sunrise (C)'76, '19 SANRIO (C) Sanrio Co., Ltd.