Interview With Naohiro Ogata
Location: Anime Boston 2019
Interview Date: 4/20/2019

Naohiro Ogata HeadshotOn The future of Gundam:

Naohiro Ogata: We’re in a partnership with Legendary Pictures to develop the Gundam Hollywood movie. In terms of Gunpla, we’ve recently sold our 500,000,000th Gundam model kit. The trend we’re seeing for 2019 is that overseas sales will surpass domestic sales.

We’re also celebrating the 40th anniversary of Gundam this April. Most of the special projects and titles we’re releasing in commemoration of this 40th anniversary have a heavy bent towards overseas sales, not just domestic.

For example, Gundam is enjoying a lot of popularity in the rest of Asia right now. We currently have a series set in mainland China. In 2018 we set a new record for Gunpla sales in the US.

On Ready Player One:

Naohiro Ogata: During production, I only got to see the splices of where the Gundam would come out. I had no idea how they were going to use those scenes in the final product. When I saw the film in its entirety, I was like “Wow, I’m glad they used the Gundam in the most dramatic scenes.”

On Gundam Thunderbolt:

Naohiro Ogata: I can say is that part of the reason you haven’t seen more Thunderbolt is that we’re waiting for more of the original manga story to be developed. We would like to do more Thunderbolt but we don’t want to do it without having more material. Part of the problem is the creator is experiencing tendinitis. When we have more of the manga, we hope to announce more about Thunderbolt.

Anime Herald: Sunrise and Aniplex have worked jointly on numerous anime, including City Hunter: Shinjuku Private Eyes. From your perspective, what is it like working with Aniplex?

Naohiro Ogata: I hate to make a blanket statement, since it will depend on which title we’re working on and which particular staff are paired on the project. For City Hunter, specifically, it was a joint and collaborative of a project, in terms of being as equal as possible.

Sunrise does a lot of joint projects, mostly within the group holdings such as Bandai Namco Arts. We do work with Aniplex, which is not one of our larger groupings. In a good way, that helps us realize how different our corporate identities are. We can each balance out our strong points and make a better product in the end.

Anime Boston 2019 - Opening Ceremonies - Naohiro Ogata

Image Credit: Samantha Ferreira

Anime Herald: Gundam’s 40th anniversary is being celebrated in numerous ways, such as the watch promotions with Seiko and G-Shock, Uniqlo shirts, The 40th Anniversary mix album, a tie-in with Hello Kitty (which is celebrating it’s 45th anniversary), Baseball (Go Swallows!), and a pair of live concerts. Were you surprised by the range of ways Gundam is being celebrated?

Naohiro Ogata: I am kind of surprised, only in the sense that until now there haven’t been that many collaborations in general. In some ways that’s because Gundam was a very protected brand, not only on the company side. The fans were very protective of Gundam. We didn’t receive many offers for collaborations, but we didn’t actively seek out promotional collaborations [, either]. Now, the fans that have supported us for years are becoming more open to collaborations. Because they can accept it, we’re becoming more open on the company side. We can still protect the brand while having these international collaborations.

In the past, you would never see a Gundam wielding a baseball bat. That’s because it was nixed on the company side. Perhaps the best thing that has come out of this 40th Anniversary is that both the company and the fans have matured, and are now more accepting of these joint projects.

Anime Herald: The current Gundam project is “Beyond.” There are five new projects, including a new movie trilogy “Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash.” Do you have any thoughts about the sheer workload involved in all these projects?

Naohiro Ogata: [Am I] Worried? Yes, but perhaps not in the way you think we are. I am sure you are familiar with the battleground the anime industry is, with the schedules the way they are. We are undergoing a revolution with new workplace rules. You cannot work the long hours the way you used to. It’s a good thing, preventing people from committing suicide or dying from overwork. Back in the day, we used to have to do multiple all-nighters to make sure we got something up onto the screen, small or big. That’s not an option anymore.

We’re now more outward facing with the international market. This definitely means we need to put more out more quickly. That’s going to increase the workload, not just with Gundam Beyond, but overall. One of the possible solutions is like with this Hollywood collaboration, [where] we’ll have to start producing more Gundam overseas.