Gundam Creator Yoshiyuki Tomino Celebrates 80th Birthday

The visionary director of the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam series, Yoshiyuki Tomino, turns eighty years old today on November 5, 2021. Chiemi Kurosaki, one of the animation directors for Gundam Reconguista in G, drew an illustration celebrating the occasion.

Newly drawn Illustration by Chiemi Kurosaki

Yesterday he was honored as a Person of Cultural Merit at The Okura Tokyo in Toranomon, Tokyo. Sponsored by the Japanese government, the Order of Culture honors select people who have made outstanding cultural contributions, and is considered one of the highest honors in Japan.

Yoshiyuki Tomino is one of the pioneering creatives in the anime industry having debuted on Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy in 1963 as a writer and storyboard artist. The director would go on to staff for other Mushi Productions works like Wandering Sun and make his directorial debut with the 1972 Triton of the Sea.

Tomino began his long standing relationship with legendary anime studio Sunrise with directing works such as the 1975 historical-adventure series La Seine no Hoshi and their “super robot” mecha anime Brave Raideen, Invincible Super Man Zambot 3, Invincible Steel Man Daitarn 3, along with producing Chōdenji Machine Voltes V in collaboration with Toei Company.

The director would go on to pair with the studio again to create the 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam series, ushering in a new sub-genre of mecha anime works. Gundam moved away from simple “good vs evil” storylines and depicting mecha as “superheroes” but as realistic war machines with grounded, nuanced political narratives, to be later dubbed the “Real Robot” genre.

Tomino has since become a star player in the genre directing a multitude of original mecha anime and Gundam titles with Sunrise such as:

  • Space Runaway Ideon (1980)
  • Combat Mecha Xabungle (1982)
  • Aura Battler Dunbine (1983)
  • Heavy Metal L-Gaim (1984)
  • Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985)
  • Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ (1986)
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Char’s Counterattack (1988)
  • Mobile Suit Gundam F91 (1991)
  • Mobile Suit Victory Gundam (1993)
  • Brain Powerd (1998)
  • Turn-A Gundam (1999)
  • Overman King Gainer (2002)

Released in 2014, Gundam Reconguista in G celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Gundam franchise and saw the return of Yoshiyuki Tomino helming an entry for the first time in fifteen years since 1999’s Turn-A Gundam.

Amid mixed to negative reception, the director is currently retelling the series in the form of five compilation films. The film series was announced in November 2018 as a part of the Mobile Suit Gundam 40th Anniversary Project. The compilations were to include new scenes and newly recorded, updated dialogue. Gundam Reconguista in G III: A Legacy from Space released July 22, 2021 to Japanese theaters. The untitled fourth installment is currently in production.

First in a trilogy of anime films helmed by director Shukou Murase, Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway’s Flash or Hathaway is the official sequel to the 1988 Mobile Suit Gundam Char’s Counterattack movie. The project was announced in November 2018 to celebrate the Gundam 40th anniversary, adapting the Yoshiyuki Tomino-penned novel series of the same name. The novels were originally released from 1989 to 1990, as a follow-up to Tomino’s Mobile Suit Gundam Char’s Counterattack: Beltorchika’s Children novel, published by Kadokawa’s Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko imprint.

Opening to Japanese theaters June 11 the Hathaway film has earned record box office sales with 2.2 billion yen in revenue, with over 1.07 million tickets sold, becoming the second highest grossing Gundam film. Hathaway sits behind the 1982 Mobile Suit Gundam III: Encounters in Space’s cume of 2.3 billion yen at the box office.

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