AFA Kunio Okawara Panel ReportHakuro | November 30, 2008
On day one of AFA 08, Kunio Okawara, legendary mecha designer, gave a short talk and panel session. For those who are unfamiliar with him, he is the man behind many designs in the Gundam metaseries, including the second season of Gundam 00, which is currently airing. He has also worked on shows such as GaoGaiGar, Gravion and Votoms.
The man and his creation.
Before Okawara-sensei dived straight into the talk, he gave a brief introduction about himself. What was interesting to note was his choice of higher education. He had studied textile design in a school in Tokyo before he moved into the line that he is right now. He could very well been a costume designer for anime, for all we know. He also showed a short montage of several Gundam OP sequences, from Original Gundam to Gundam 00.
After the introduction session, he started to talk about the concept of his design process. For this example, he used a mechanical mouse to illustrate this point. A mouse was chosen, as according to the Zodaic, it was the Year of the Mouse. Looks pretty generic at first, doesn’t it?
Okawara-sensei then explained on how he would use the mechanical mouse as a basis and then modify the lines in order to create a whole new design, while keeping the original shapes. For example, he would use with circles and rounded edges to signify a ‘good’ mecha while spiked or jagged edges would represent somewhat of a ‘bad’ mecha.
The other patterns included curves and glossy edges to bring out a futuristic feel for a more streamlined version of the Mouse mecha. Other designs included a slouched version of the mouse, retaining its animalistic features to signify a more ‘Beast’ like appearance.
Other line modifications includes the use of curves and light catching edges to impart a streamlined design to give the mouse a futuristic feel. One interesting variation is the mechanical beast (kaiju) version of the mouse. Think of it as a feral mechanical mouse. Another one that caught my eye was the fantasy version with its scythe and helm.
Mechnical beast mouse
It was a very enlightening experience to see how a person work from just a basic design into multiple spectacular designs.
From the PS2 G Saviour game
He also touched briefly on the design process of the Alavatore, a mobile armour that appear in Gundam 00. It went through no less than 14 stages, in part due to the mobile suit found within the MA.
Original concepts of the Alavatore
After the talk was over, it was time for the panel session. Instead of answering questions from the audience, the queries picked from submissions from the AFA site were answered instead.
Writer’s Note: Please note that I am typing what were said by both Reiko-san and the translator in English. Any differences from the Japanese dialogue are unintentional and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Q. Are there any ways for aspiring designers to follow in your footsteps?
A. There are no qualifications needed in becoming a designer. There are various ways in becoming a designer. If you want to pursue this as a lifelong career, then your first success will likely measure out where you are heading in the future. For example, Yutaka Izubuchi (designer of Nu and Hi Nu Gundam and director of RahXephon) started as a kaiju (beast) designer while Shouji Kawamori (most of the Valkyries from Macross and director of Sousei no Aquarion) started with Studio Nue.
Q. Where do you draw your inspiration from when you lay out your designs?
A. When i designed the first Gundam, the animators and I concentrated very much on detail, this carried on up till today whereby the animators and i worked closely in order to achieve a standard amount of detail, which we would also use later on in the manufacturing process of the Gundam model kits. (Note: This was his translated reply)
Q. Which design came first, was it the Zaku or the Gundam?
A.Back in the day, merchendising was mainly focused on that of the ‘good guys’ rather than the bad guys. As such, during the planning for Original Gundam, the designs for the three original mobile suits of Operation V were given a higher priority than the Zeon suits. It took me about a week to do the design for the Zaku.
We will be adding more on his Q&A as the weeks go by, as soon as our team of writers become free and remember what he said. Until then, this is Hakuro, signing off.