With season 2 of Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans hitting Toonami airwaves—and season 1 coming to Blu-ray/DVD 11/14 (pre-order here!) —we sat down with Gundam IBO producer Masakazu Ogawa to talk about the inspiration and themes behind this dramatic and surprisingly realistic mecha anime, in this translated interview:
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us about your involvement in Iron-Blooded Orphans?
Ogawa: I was in charge of the production team and worked with the director to create this show.
Can you tell us a little bit about how the Iron-Blooded Orphans project came about? Was there a different approach to developing this series in comparison to other Gundam series?
Ogawa: Director Nagai and I started working on the idea five or six years ago, after Gundam 00. The idea went on hold for a while, then we decided to start it up again two to three years ago. This time, we really wanted the story to focus on young boys rather than on a broader world-wide issue, as we have done in previous series.
Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans’ director and writer team, Tatsuyuki Nagai and Mari Okada, have worked together on previous anime projects like Anohana and The Anthem of the Heart, both of which are quite tonally different from the Gundam franchise. What did you hope that these two staff members would add to this series?
Ogawa: These two are known for creating series that impact and resound with viewers. Since our story focuses on teenagers’ lives, we wanted a piercing and impactful story that would speak into the hearts of viewers. They did a great job with that.
Are there any specific themes or inspiration from previous Gundam series that you wanted to maintain in Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans?
Ogawa: Characters are fictional, but we always create realistic characters that seem to be actually living within the story. They go through life or death situations and can die in the story. We wanted to keep this part consistent with previous Gundam series.
In the series, there are moments in which Kudelia strives to do what seems right until she is served harsh reality by Mikazuki. The contrast between their points of view is quite striking. Was this character meant to parallel the viewers’ perspective in these types of situations?
Ogawa: Kudelia always talks about things idealistically. She lives in a world that’s slightly apart from reality and different from other people. In a sense, she does represent the viewers’ perspective, especially in the first season. She is a character that grows and develops within the series, so I hope the viewers will watch her grow.
The Gundam franchise has always introduced very real-world issues of war and peace, and Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans focuses on many specific themes including slavery, child soldiers, and class divisions. What was the reason for adding these particular intense themes into the story of Iron-Blooded Orphans?
Ogawa: Japan is currently a relatively peaceful country, and war is not something people see in everyday life. However, we wanted to convey current, real-world issues through the series. It was difficult to figure out how to integrate those issues in, but these intense themes make the series more realistic.
The Gundam mechas are always very iconic in each show, but in Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, the models seem to be a lot more rugged and war-torn than the sleek look in other shows. There also seems to be more of a focus on close combat weapons like spears and axes as opposed to blast cannons and lasers. What was the reason for this approach?
Ogawa: The mechas are intentionally more war-torn this time to give off a more militaristic feel. Also, the main characters begin as poor teenagers, so having them ride in sleek and polished mechas wouldn’t match. As for the weapons, with blast cannons and laser beams, you defeat opponents instantly. We used more close combat weapons, such as spears and axes, to allow for more actual combat, which parallels how the characters struggle through their own circumstances.
Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is the first Gundam series to play on American television in over ten years and it is coming out to North American home video. Could you please give a message to North American fans?
Ogawa: This series is about teenagers in a realistic world. They are living as normal teenagers trying to figure out how to live their lives. We watch them as they struggle to live, to survive, and to grow. We have feedback from our Japanese viewers. Since this is definitely an impactful series, I hope the North American audience will watch, enjoy, and let us know what they think.