Epic stories, fleshed-out casts, operatic drama, mature themes and imaginative worlds are all the trademarks of a Tomino anime. His style has gone on to inspire other creators such as Kawamori Shoji and Anno Hideaki, and other anime titles like RahXephon and Five Star Stories. Of course, in the storytelling universe, trying to tell the story you wish to create is an epic in and of itself. No one knows this better than writer/director/creator, Tomino Yoshiyuki.
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, November 5th, 1941, Tomino grew up with a love for movies. This led to a major in film when he attended college. However, upon his graduation in the early 1960s, Tomino found that the film industry could not offer him any jobs. So, he took the next best thing he could find: a job in Tezuka Osamu‘s Mushi Productions. There he got his first job working the storyboards for Astro Boy in 1964. Eventually, this lead to his first directorial job for Tezuka’s Triton of the Sea in 1972.
After his work on Triton, Tomino wound up pulling freelance jobs for a newly-founded studio (comprised mostly of ex-Mushi Pro staff) called Sunrise. There, he got his hands on directing his first giant robot series, 1975’s Brave Raideen. Raideen was a success, giving Sunrise a market in mecha series. Their sponsors requested more robot shows based on upcoming toy lines, with Tomino at the helm. He was never a big fan of giant robots and was bothered by the fact that his creativity was being stifled by profiteers. Tomino was even more aggravated by the creation of Star Wars, seeing as how foreign film groups could make films like that in live-action and Japan was stuck using animation. So, for 1977’s Zambot 3, Tomino set a rather morbid super-robot story which ended in a bloodbath, something that would be common in a majority of his works. This gave the angry director the now infamous title, Tomino “Kill ‘Em All” Yoshiyuki.
In 1979, after the kiddie-friendly Daitarn 3, Tomino was ready to flex his creativity in spite of what Sunrise’s sponsor (toy company Clover) said. He took the company’s upcoming super robot toy “Gunboy” and set it in his own universe; a dismal war-torn future Earth, where there was no “monster of the week,” no special attacks, where the robots were merely tools of an epic war, the pilots were anything but heroes and the lines between good and evil were thin and gray. He renamed the robot “Gundam” and set out to create the anime the way he wanted. In April of 1979, Mobile Suit Gundam took to the television screens. However, Clover still pulled the strings, and Tomino’s work was once again skewed by both sponsors and audiences. The show failed to make it up to its expected fifty-episode run.
However, in 1982, hot off the heels of Space Runaway Ideon (which is credited as the inspiration for Evangelion), Sunrise decided to give Gundam another chance to reach an audience, this time in movie theaters. Tomino helmed the project, editing out parts that his sponsors had demanded he put in, and set on telling the story correctly. The movie trilogy went on to become box-office smashes, and the Gundam series became Tomino’s trademark. The dark, epic-nature, as well as its more practical usage of robots, led to a mecha boom in the ’80s with the rise of “real-robots” like Votoms, Macross and Dougram.
Tomino went on to write several fantasy and science-fiction novels (many of which take place in Dunbine‘s “Byston Well,” and Gundam‘s “Universal Century”) and create more shows, such as Xabungle, Dunbine and Heavy Metal L-Gaim. But demand for Gundam led Tomino back to his overblown creation. Under pressure from fans and Sunrise, Tomino returned with Zeta Gundam in 1985. To this day, the Gundam franchise continues to move forward and is hailed as the “Star Wars of Japan.”
Tomino would later say, “As a creator, I did not find any need to tell anymore stories about Gundam. But as a producer, I had no choice. The audiences demanded it. But I did not like it.” Many people attribute this reason to Tomino’s “Kill ‘Em All” nature being most prevalent in the series.
Throughout the ’90s, Tomino had found time to create other anime, such as 1998’s Brain Powerd and 2002’s Overman King Gainer, both of which were hits. He is still creating to this day with a much older and more laid-back view of the anime world.
Though Gundam will be the best thing he is known for, audiences cannot deny the explosive imagination and darkly human nature of all his works. At the 2002 Big Apple Anime Fest in New York City, a plucky young fan got a chance to ask Tomino Yoshiyuki, “Is there a single prevalent theme in all your works?”
A smiling Tomino responded, “That humanity is beautiful.”
Ashita no Joe
Aura Battler Dunbine
Heavy Metal L-Gaim
Invincible Steel Man Daitarn 3
Invincible Superman Zambot 3
Mobile Suit Gundam
Mobile Suit Gundam I
Mobile Suit Gundam II: Soldiers of Sorrow
Mobile Suit Gundam III: Encounters in Space
Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack
Mobile Suit Gundam F91
Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ
Mobile Suit Turn-A Gundam
Mobile Suit Victory Gundam
Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam
Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: A New Translation -Heirs to the Stars-
Overman King Gainer
Space Runaway Ideon
Star of La Seine
Tales of Byston Well: Garzey’s Wing
Triton of the Sea
Walker Machine Xabungle