Sunrise is an anime production company which is truly representative of Japan, and has hordes of die-hard fans all over the world. Sunrise is a member of the Bandai Namco Group and has continually been motivated to create numerous hit series over the course of its 40-year history, the crowning jewel of which is the Gundam Series. We spoke with Ogata Naohiro, the producer behind Studio 1, about their stance towards anime production. Don’t miss the production secrets he told us about the latest installment in the Gundam Series, “Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt” (from now on referred to as Thunderbolt)!
It is covered with many of the model suits which Sunrise has created over the years. They really make you feel the creativity of this company and its long history of SF robot anime
――Can you tell us about the direction Sunrise has now taken, and will continue take in the future?
Our company has a long history, so I understand that people would think that “Sunrise only makes this sort of anime”, or so on. I guess the first thing people think is that we’re “a company which makes robot anime”. However, in recent years we have started creating original shows such as “TIGER & BUNNY” (*1) or “Love Live!” (*2). We also adapt other works into anime, adding our own personal color to these legendary works. All of these things form part of Sunrise’s current direction.
*1: A hero anime which stylishly depicts the activities of a group of superheroes
*2: An anime which depicts the coming of age of a group of female school idols
――The variety of anime you work on has really expanded, hasn’t it? I think a lot of people must have been surprised when they realized that “Love Live!” was being made by Sunrise.
That’s right, ten years ago it would have been unthinkable for Sunrise to be making shows like these. If ten years ago I had been asked to define Sunrise’s identity, I would have answered “robots” and “SF” without hesitation. But these days our work style is to take on new challenges, while still making our main series, Gundam. Sunrise has 10 studios, and each one of them adds its own personal touch. From now on we would like to be even more flexible with our work.
――The Gundam Series has been around for a long time, and you’ve been making it in periodic intervals in order to meet the expectations of the fans. How did you decide the right timing for this new introduction into the series?
Sunrise is not the only one responsible for Gundam, since it is one of Bandai Namco Group’s most important IPs. Therefore, the strategies followed in producing it are decided by the group as a whole.
There are many plastic models of Gundam robots placed around the meeting room
――Could you share with us the details of how you decided to make your latest anime adaptation, Thunderbolt (*3)?
It all started when a certain mecha robot designer expressed their desire for us to make this anime adaptation. At that time Sunrise was still producing robot anime, and our staff was making a lot of progress. So making use of this momentum, we felt it would be good to work on at least one robot anime. This was just around the time when Bandai Namco Group was thinking about their media mix approach to Thunderbolt, so our opinions seemed to coincide and it was settled that we’d work on the anime.
*3: The latest installment in the Gundam Series, taking place during the One Year War. It’s a production based on Mr. Yasuo Ohtagaki’s popular manga.
In the present, Sunrise is moving with the times by challenging itself to work on all-new productions
――Clearly, you must have had a very detailed meeting with Mr. Yasuo Ohtagaki?
The screenplay was created by exchanging ideas with him in a very detailed manner, and he entrusted us with the task of drawing the storyboards, etc. Many of the finer details were handled by us. In Thunderbolt, Mr. Yasuo Otagaki refined the unique worldview of the first Gundam (the original series), so in a sense it is a sort of parallel world. However, as an anime we also wanted to think about the traditional Gundam fans by making a lot of the designs, such as their suits and uniforms, in a style which is very close to that of the first Gundam.
The area where 3D development takes place. They can give volume to the mobile suits and see how they would actually move
――With such a long history behind it, this show really follows its own course, doesn’t it?
We keep a storage of all documents and materials from the last 40 years related to Gundam and its connected franchises. Using these as our foundation, we can use a variety of these references to meet our current needs. Specially since Gundam is a series which all spans the same period of time, called the Universal Century. Thanks to all these reference materials, we’re able to fit Thunderbolt into this timeline and make it even more complex.
Validating the 3D models. One of the appeals of 3D is that it allows for a seamless form of model building
――The Gundam Series is very focused on detail, so I suppose that many other of the Gundam shows also require detailed arrangements?
Well, for example, Mobile Suit Gundam UC (*4) includes mobile suits (from now on referred to as MS) whose movements and weapons require a lot of planning, and many careful meetings. Fans who like Gundam MS watch the show with a full understanding of all the changes and evolutions of the MS, and the connection this has with the evolution of the show itself. That’s why we must design all the action with a firm understanding of all the possibilities and functions of each different MS, how these have changed, and how they are represented in each installment of the show. We must do this so that the world view of the show doesn’t contradict itself and collapse. Animators want to work by following their feelings, so it’s hard to find the right balance when working within these limitations.
*4: A hit anime which became popular for its overwhelmingly beautiful visuals. It will be released in many formats, such as on blu-ray, by internet streaming, by TV broadcast and in advanced screenings in theaters.They have several studios working side by side, and each one creates high-quality productions in its own characteristic style
Delivery start paid from March 24
FRI’s eye: The perfectionism of Sunrise, the anime production company -part two-
Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.