The Anime, May 1984

Goodbye, Soldiers: Director’s Roundtable with Ishiguro, Takahashi and Yamada

This feature appeared in the May, 1984 issue of The Anime.

This roundtable includes spoilers for the endings of Orguss, VOTOMS and Mospeada; read with caution if you’re worried about 30-year-old spoilers

Noboru Ishiguro, director of Orguss
Noboru Ishiguro
Super Dimension Century Orguss
Co-founder of Artland Animation Studio, he’s created two works in the Super Dimension series. He’s currently in the middle of producing the theatrical version of Macross. He’s also looking forward to his next TV series.

Yamada, director of MospeadaKatsuhisa Yamada
Genesis Climber Mospeada
Freelancer. Mospeada was the first work which he served as Chief Director for. Considered by himself and others as primarily a fan of SF, his work is also very heavily SF-minded.

Ryousuke Takahashi
Armored Trooper VOTOMS
Supervisor for Studio Akabanten. From his work prior to VOTOMS, Dougram, he’s staked his position on the side of “real robots.” He’s already begun work on his next project.

Special Feature to Commemorate the Conclusion of these Robot Anime
Three directors talk about the last scene of each of their works.

The Anime: With your three TV series all ending around the same time, we’ve had you gather here today for a round table discussion meant to commemorate the smooth ending of their broadcasts. First, I’d like to have you talk about the endings of each of your shows.

Yamada: It’s a happy ending. It’s like it brings it back to the imagery of the opening of soaring through the sky.

Takahashi: Same here, pretty much. It’s a happy ending. Chirico and Fyana go off on a journey somewhere and Vanilla and Coconna look like they’re going to get married. [laugh]

Ishiguro: It’s a happy ending for us, too… I guess?

What lies behind a happy ending? Orguss VS VOTOMS!

The Anime: Orguss was pretty complicated, or how should I put it, it had a spacetime that was in chaos. [laugh]

Ishiguro: It was set on an Earth that was like a patchwork of all these different worlds stuck together, so they had to find some way to get it back to how it was before. If they didn’t, that wouldn’t be very nice to the audience. [laugh] But, even if they succeed, obviously all those parallel worlds would still be there, so that means that each of those characters in each of those worlds would be there, just with slightly different fates. We wanted to show all of the ways they might appear, so that’s why the ending was like that.

The Anime: As for VOTOMS, Chirico really changes and as things are getting really tense, it does a complete 180.

Takahashi: Chirico heads to where The Wiseman is with the intent of killing it, as The Wiseman is the mastermind behind the fighting. That’s what he did all that acting for. However, even though The Wiseman is gone, a year later war breaks out anyways. So that’s when he steals a spaceship. [laugh] He’s running away. Anyways, even if I simply call it a happy ending, Quent actually does end up exploding, and people were living there, so aside from the regular characters, people suffered quite a lot.

All three works have happy endings, but what each lingers on is key!

Yamada: We also left it at what would happen to the Earth from then on. There were people that were left on Earth that were like Stick, but the audience can interpret it however they like.

Takahashi: Even if it’s a happy ending for Chirico and them, nothing particularly constructive was ever said. [laugh] There were lines like, “The Wiseman was killed but war still happened,” and, “We weren’t meant to live in this world,” to which the question came, “Then, does a world without war exist?” Chirico just answers with a, “Yeah,” but the line that follows, “if there isn’t, then we’ll just make one,” was cut out. You can still say that the show ended with a complete rejection of the concept of “ruling over” something, though.

Ishiguro: I actually didn’t get to watch any of VOTOMS. The time slot it was in was a little bit too rough for me. [laugh]

Takahashi: I wasn’t watching it on-air either. [laugh] I only watched it through the rush prints and previews. It would show right at the time when we’d be in the middle of dubbing, so of course we couldn’t watch it during work… [laugh] I did see Mospeada about three times, though.

Yamada: Oh, you watched it!?

Ishiguro: I watched it too. When I actually do have a bit of free time, I watch a lot of stuff, so I’m watching it on video.

Yamada: Thank you. Compared to you two, I’ve still got a long way to go, so it makes me really happy.

L-R: Takahashi, Ishiguro, Yamada

Director’s Round Table
On each other’s works…

Yamada: I’d only catch Orguss once in a while, so after some time, I really didn’t know what was going on in the story. [laugh] But actually, I love HAL’s [Haruhiko Mikimoto] characters, so I was just happy to see them appear. [laugh] How many characters did he come up with for Orguss?

Ishiguro: HAL alone must’ve come up with about 25 to 30 of them. The rest was left to each of the teams…

Yamada: What about for VOTOMS? How many main characters did you have?

Takahashi: Hmm. I wonder which ones you’d consider main characters.

The Anime: The ones that just come to mind right away would be Chirico, Fyana, Ypsilon, Rochina, Gotho, Vanilla, Coconna… Hmm, were there around 20 of them!?

Yamada: Did you ever have them on screen all at once?

Takahashi: No, we didn’t. The fewest people that we ever had at the post-recording was two people.

Ishiguro: It must’ve been nice to only have two.

Takahashi: When there were a lot of people, there really were a lot. The sound was really all over the place. [laugh]

Ishiguro: For Orguss, when the scene would change, it was like, when everyone would stand up, you wouldn’t know what was going on anymore. [laugh]

Takahashi: Oh, I did see the episode of Orguss that aired on the 4th [of March].

Ishiguro: The one on Sunday at 2 in the afternoon!?

Yamada: Normal, healthy people wouldn’t be watching it then. [laugh]

Takahashi: I decided to myself that I’d watch it, so I did. Though, at 9:30 in the morning on Sundays [when Mospeada aired] I am, of course, still asleep. [laugh] But still, I watched it three or four times. I saw Macross over ten times. Oh, and I watch Vifam.

Ishiguro: I watch Vifam too.

Takahashi: It’s not that I watch it for fun, but because of my relationship with someone who I worked together with on Dougram [he’s referring to the director, Kanda Takeyuki], so I’ve got a duty to, in the best meaning possible. [laugh] We watch each other’s show and talk about them together while drinking. [laugh]

The Anime: But for you directors, it must be pretty hard to watch all of those.

Takahashi: Yeah, it is. I’m watching Vifam on video and VOTOMS through previews. That’s how it works out.

Ishiguro: It’s nice to have someone close to you like Takahashi has Kanda.

Yamada: [Sukehiro] Tomita, who works on Mospeada, also worked on Dougram, right?

Takahashi: He wrote a whole lot for it.

SF People and SF Idiots

Takahashi: For VOTOMS, we got it done rotating through one writer out of three for the screenplay. It was sort of like baseball, but not… [laugh]

Yamada: Are you the kind of person who decides on everything for a scene?

Takahashi: I am, comparatively. For example, [Yoshiyuki] Tomino is the kind of person who can make changes in ways that’d suit him if someone says to him, “Wouldn’t it be great to do it like this?” But I decide pretty precisely on everything aside from framing.

The Anime: Yamada, you showed us your notes, which were quite exact; were those the foundation for your show?

Yamada: Those notes must’ve been because it was my first time as chief director. [laugh] I was taking notes of everything that I noticed. I even wrote up to like five or six pages of notes for stuff related to the Invid. I do like SF a lot, and I’ve been reading it since I was in 3rd grade, so I guess it’s fitting.

Ishiguro: Are you somebody that reads a lot?

Yamada: I’ve been busy since I became a chief director so I haven’t had much of a chance. [laugh] The first SF books I read when I was in third grade were HG Wells’ War of the Worlds and Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which I received from my uncle.

Takahashi: To be honest, I’m a idiot when it comes to SF. [laugh] I read stuff like Hitomi Yamaguchi and Shuji Terayama. In other words, not exactly stuff you could call anime related. [laugh] Oh, and I also like period works by people like Shotaro Ikenami.

Yamada: Well, I’ve been moved to tears by some of the SF I’ve read. [laugh] Like The Poseidon Adventure, it was better than the movie.

Ishiguro: For me, I came in contact with SF during my high school years. I started on Osamu Tezuka manga, but I think it was just a bit after the time when they launched SF Magazine [published by Hayakawa Books].

Takahashi: I remember that when I was helping Ishiguro on Zero Tester that, at the time, Ishiguro was really in love with SF, and wanted to make something that was the real deal.

Ishiguro: Back then Mazinger Z and giant robot stuff was coming out, so you say that it was the period of time for those forerunners of SF anime like that. But nowadays, things have really changed… [laugh]

Yamada: When I see the books that Hayakawa puts out, I get the feeling that fantasy will become popular in the future. What do you think about that?

The Future of Robot Anime

Takahashi: There were plans to do something fantasy before VOTOMS, but it fell through in the middle of planning. It might not be something that’s possible yet in Japan.

Ishiguro: That might be true. But if you plan for something larger than fantasy, then it could probably be done, couldn’t it?

Yamada: Like something where you combined it with SF in a world with swords and magic. That might be good.

Takahashi: That doesn’t do it for me. It’s fine and all to think about your own future in a tiny apartment or go to cafes for no particular reason and quibble [laugh], but that sort of stuff doesn’t have anything to do with anime. When it comes to making anime, you’ve always got to start from the first step, and that’s why it’s always so tiring.

Ishiguro: For Orguss, in a certain way, it was a world of fantasy. In the beginning we had all sorts of different ideas for it but, I guess you could say that we made the best of it being so disorganized and that’s how we came up with it. [laugh] Robots appearing in something means that there is something mechanical as well as magical going on, so there’s something about it that won’t exactly blend. However, if you then have a key element that ties the two together, then I think it becomes very interesting.

Yamada: I personally don’t feel like there’s much of a difference between man and machine.

Ishiguro: That’s something particular to you, Yamada. For me, I’m someone who wants to depict the extension of life, or what the near future would look like.

Takahashi: The SF world of VOTOMS is one that I somewhat like. There’s a basis for the life and the world that the characters live in–it shares about 80 to 90 percent in common with the present. I think near future works function best when you can see the past in them. But if you make it into a world where they revived old technology, like Quent, you can end up with something a bit reckless and irresponsible. [laugh]

The Anime: On that note, what are your thoughts on modern robot anime?

Ishiguro: Toy design has gotten so advanced that even original [designs?] are allowed through. In that respect, it sparks creative drive. And there are young people with some amazing ideas after all, so something will probably come out that can only be done in TV anime.

Takahashi: I still haven’t seen anything appear that can replace robots. But if we emphasize the point of how mechanical they are like this, some swing back to that will likely occur…

Yamada: I want to try making something using organic, living robots.

The Anime: Thank you very much. We’re looking forward to your next projects.