Hideyuki Tomioka is currently a Senior Managing Director at Sunrise, one of the largest and most successful animation studios in Japan. He has been involved with many of the company’s most popular and influential anime series, including Gundam Wing, Gundam: The Origin, Steamboy and InuYasha. Scoop had the opportunity to chat with him at Otakon in August 2017 to discuss his time working in the industry.
This interview was conducted with the help of a translator provided by Otakon staff.
Scoop: How has Otakon and your Washington, D.C. experience been for you?
Hideyuki Tomioka (HT): I’m actually in awe. I’m seeing so many American cosplayers – this must be the normal life at conventions over here! As much as I am surprised, I am also touched to see it all.
Scoop: Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to work for Sunrise?
HT: Back then, I came in during a time when Sunrise was making Fang of the Sun Dougram, and I actually came in as a driver. Back then, they actually needed people who could drive. I was good at driving, so I came in part-time doing that. I thought I would quit relatively quickly, but here I am 35, 36 years later! After Dougram, I was talking to the people who take care of management, thinking that they must be a bit slow! “What’s so hard about keeping schedule? I could do it much better than they could!” And they said “Really? Would you like to do it then?” So with that, I started in taking care of management and, oh dear, it was hard. There were many things falling apart! But because of that, I decided to try and do it perfectly. What I originally thought to be a very short-time stay ended up being much longer!
Scoop: What was it about anime that drove you to want to work in the industry?
HT: I liked animation already, since I watched it when I was small. After I graduated from middle school, I stopped watching it so much, but I got into movies around that time. So that’s where it came from.
Scoop: You worked extensively on Gundam Wing, which was the first Gundam series to see a lot of success in the United States. When you were working on Gundam Wing, did you expect it to become such a significant international hit?
HT: To be honest, I didn’t expect it to be such a big hit worldwide. But I do need to say that when we showed the first episode in Japan, I did feel that the response we got was substantial. So I can’t say I was surprised, either.
Scoop: Can you reflect a little on the kind of impact that Wing had on the Gundam franchise as a whole?
HT: Before Wing, we had the Universal Century Gundam series that Mr. [Yoshiyuki] Tomino had made, which included things like the original Gundam, Zeta Gundam, Double Zeta, so on and so forth. After that came G Gundam, and after that came Gundam Wing. But G Gundam and Gundam Wing were at a point where we felt that it didn’t have to made by Mr. Tomino to be Gundam.
What I believe is that, while G and Wing were on completely different spectrums – Wing was a lot more realistic while G had a lot of martial arts fighting action – I believe that it’s because of those series that we had the floodgates open for a whole new generation of Gundam series. Wing was the reason that, 10 years later, we saw Gundam SeeD, and then 10 years after that we saw Gundam 00, and 10 years after that we saw Iron-Blooded Orphans! So I would say that Gundam Wing was the reason that we have all these other Gundam series. The president of our company once told me, “Tomioka, thanks to you we have SeeD, it’s thanks to you we have these series, so thank you for making Gundam Wing.” I have a lot of pride in that – my pride lies in the fact that I made Gundam Wing.
Scoop: Do you have any other projects coming up soon that we should be paying attention to?
HT: As far as things people should be watching, I’d say Gundam: The Origin, which I’m the executive producer on right now. I want that to perform very well! We’re doing a screening of that here at Otakon, so I hope people enjoy it and continue to watch it. Outside of that, well… I can’t say too much at this point, unfortunately!