While it’s often easy to identify a TV show’s character or mechanical designer, often the actual design process is a collaborative, iterative exercise. When it comes to designs created by particularly expressive or unique artists, often their original designs will have to be “toned down” and simplified to make for easier animating in a fast-paced TV production environment.
Kunio Okawara broke new ground in mechanical design for the original Mobile Suit Gundam (1979), but when production began for the sequel, Mobile Suit Gundam Zeta (1985), a crew of mechanical designers was assembled to create new mobile suits. In addition to Okawara, no less than Mamoru Nagano (Five Star Stories), Kazumi Fujita (Blue Knight Berserga, Macross II), Makoto Kobayashi (Dragon’s Heaven, Space Battleship Yamato 2199), and Kazuhisa Kondo (Gundam 0080) joined the staff to help create an eclectic assortment of giant robots. Fujita, then just 21-years old, beat out both Okawara and Nagano in a design competition for the titular Zeta Gundam.
Despite some competition for the titular mobile suit of the next sequel, Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ (1986), Kobayashi was given the nod to go ahead with the final design. B-Club Magazine #16, published in late 1987, published early drafts from Kobayashi’s ZZ Gundam process.
Kobayashi’s ZZ Gundam
Originally submitted in November, 1985. This first version wasn’t designed to be a transforming combination mobile suit, but did have a fighter that docked on its back.
After getting approval on the initial design, Kobayashi bulked it up and added a transformation sequence, including a middle mode similar to the VF-1 Valkyrie’s GERWALK, from Super Dimension Fortress Macross.
Revisions to the transformation design and refinements to its appearance, with the most notable difference seen in the legs.
Further refinements, including work on the face. This head design of this one was deemed a bit too “villainous” but praised for the “dynamic” style of the head’s megabeam cannon.
Other Mobile Suits
Kobayashi also worked on creating additional mobile suit designs for the show, although it’s unclear if any of these were further developed.
Kobayashi’s Super ZZ Gundam
Kobayashi continued to refine the ZZ Gundam for publications like B-Club and Hobby Japan, doubling down even more outrageous proportions. Perhaps the most dramatic version was his Super Double Zeta Gundam, which existed in at least two variations.