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Honey-chan got to talk to a legend this past weekend at Anime NYC, in between her shopping spree on the dealers’ floor, building Gunpla, and taking countless pictures of great cosplay she got to meet and talk to Shuko Murase, the man leading the Gundam franchise for years. He may have gotten his start with Witch Hunter Robin in 2001, but has been integral to many Gundam series such as Gundam Wing, Gundam Victory, Gundam F91, Mobile Suit Gundam Zeta A New Translation: Heirs to the Stars, and now the new movie, Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway.
Interview with Shuko Murase
This is the 20th anniversary of your directorial debut working on Witch Hunter Robin. Looking back on it, what do you remember and learn from the experience?
I’ve been so busy; I haven’t even had time to think about the fact that it is the 20th anniversary of my debut. The only thing is I’ve heard it [Witch Hunter Robin] was popular in the states but unfortunately it wasn’t as popular in Japan. So, I don’t get asked about it much in Japan, however, when I come to the United States or hear from others that have been to the states, that Witch Hunter Robin is very beloved. I am very, very grateful to know that. Personally, I always wanted to continue the work but that didn’t happen. I hope that one day, in some way, we can bring the next installment.
Do you think there has been something lost in the detail of the designs as the industry has leveraged 3D animation in places where it used to be 2D?
I consider myself an illustrator at heart, so this is a little personal to me. I do believe that no matter how good 3D art gets you still lose things in the quality of the detail. I think that there are details that are more impactful when drawn. But it’s kind of sad to say the rigors of the production process in Japan right now kind of require us to use 3D. I also think, however, we can use 3D to help preserve the way we used to draw 2D and enhance 2D and not as a substitute for traditionally drawn animation.
What is it about the Gundam franchise that allows it to endure drawing in new fans in every generation?
I think that the production company [Sunrise] and its stance that you don’t just have to tell stories in the Universal Century timeline allows you to have all these works that are part of the Gundam world because you have the use of the Mobile Suits tying things together. So, whether it is Wing or The Witch from Mercury, we have the creative freedom as a production team to tell new stories that attract new viewers.
Is there another genre that you’d like to work in?
Gundam started out as one of many robot genres in anime. I feel though, unfortunately, the robot genre in anime has died out and that Gundam is really the only one left. I never went out looking to work on a Gundam series, my directing Gundam was serendipitous. Because at this point I honestly can’t imagine working on another franchise.
You said that some of the scenes in Hathaway were examples of you wanting to “do-over” or “get right” that “didn’t work as well as you wanted” in other series. What are some examples of that?
I think this thought is universal and not unique to the Gundam franchise works that I’ve been a part of. I always try to fix what I’ve thought. I did go quite right in my current project. I think it didn’t go well in the previous project and I’ve been doing this for several decades. For example, I tried to fix in Ergo Proxy what I felt I didn’t do well in Witch Hunter Robin. I feel like I’m on a constant quest to avenge myself.
Director Tomino-san the Father of Gundam said in regard to Gundam Hathaway, don’t make this about Newtype, make this about youth. How did you follow that advice?
Those are the exact words that Director Tomino-san told me. I went with producer Ogata-san to see Tomino-san and pay our respects when we found out that we would be making Hathaway. I do feel that Director Tomino-san has changed over the years because he had written the Hathaway novels quite a few years before. I say this with the utmost respect and humbly, but I feel he may have forgotten a little bit about the plot of the story. Because when I read the novels, he may have wished deep down that it wasn’t a story about Newtypes…it’s all about Newtypes. I feel if you remove all the stuff about Newtype from the plot, it’s not going to come together. To give an example you have a scene between Gigi and Hathaway by the pool at the hotel where they just briefly contact, and all this information gets exchanged. I think that another theme to this story is a story where Newtypes exist, but the world has come to be because the past generation has made mistakes and the film takes place where the consequences of the past generation are playing out. I certainly took Director Tomino-san’s advice but it’s one of those situations where, with all due respect, I disagree.
Gundam has been around for a long time, do you think any of the characters from the original series will have their stories continued in the future?
I am afraid I’m not in a position where I can talk about it very much. I mean that even Gundam Hathaway is an adaptation of the novels that Director Tomino-san wrote as a sequel, not a direct sequel to the original series but they follow the events following Char’s Counterattack. So none of us have even thought about what those continuation stories would be like. I think that might be because we all think that Director Tomino-san might come back and create those stories on his own.
The character of Gigi Andalucia to us, and many fans, was one of the best parts of the film. The mannerism and even the voice acting of Reina Ueda-san reminded me of Holly Golightly, Audrey Hepburn’s character from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Was that intentional?
I have watched a few of Audrey Hepburn’s movies so perhaps there is a lingering influence from them. But it certainly wasn’t anything deliberate. Going back to Gigi herself, Director Tomino-san penned a lot of detail about her mannerisms and her personality in the novel. I did very carefully lift that from the original work but also the mannerisms of the people around me and kept that in mind for what you see on screen.
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