Otakon 2018 – Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans panel

The host opened the panel with a call to cosplayers to join the staff for photos at the end of the panel. They also plugged the boxsets available at the booth. The limited edition is available online which includes the Barbatos gunpla. After introducing the guests, they asked them to talk about how long they have been in the industry.

    Bosch: I’m Johnny, I’m the voice of Orga. I have been doing this for many years now, Got started off as a power ranger and I transitioned into voice over. Vash was my first anime, then Bleach and Code Geass and plenty of other things.

    McCarley: Hi, everybody! I’m Kyle. I’m the voice for Mikazuki. I’ve been doing this for a few years now. This show in particular is special to me since it’s my first lead role in an anime series. Gundam Wing was my jam when I was a kid so I was pretty stoked about doing this show.

    Daymond: I’m Robbie Daymond and strangely enough, I started out as a power ranger as well. I was nine years old in my underwear. I’ve been doing voice over work for about 10 years. I started dubbing anime in 2014 as Tuxedo Mask in Sailor Moon and I’ve been doing great shows ever since including this one.

    Matsukaze: *English* Nice to meet you. My name is Masaya Matsukaze. *Japanese* I’m Mega Ranger and I’m saving the Earth! I’m really happy to be here today.

    Ebikawa: I’m actually the mecha designer on the series. My name is Kanetaka Ebikawa. Pleased to meet you.

    Nagai: Nice to meet you. My name is Tatsuyuki Nagai, the overseeing director for the series. Again, nice to see you all.

    Q: Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans was a new collaboration between you and writer Mari Okada for whom you worked on for titles like Ano Hana and Anthem of the the Heart. Both which were very different from the Gundam series. How did your collaboration on Iron Blooded Orphans compare to working on those different projects?
    Nagai: So until now, on the titles that we’ve previously collaborated on, it’s always been kind of a shared project. We equally worked on all the parts, kind of split everything half and half. But in this one I think we each kind of took the lead a little bit more on different aspects of the series. For example I worked more on the battle scenes and the sci-fi aspects of the series. While she handled personal scenes which is of course the everyday ordinary life part of the story.

    Q: Can you explain how the mecha design process works and do you incorporate specifications from the plot or characters when you create the specific design.
    Ebikawa: So of course yes absolutely, even from the early preproduction meetings. When I first meet with the director in this case director Nagai to my left I act like. So the mecha that you want me to design what kind of characters pilot these mechas. For example you know if the character’s a very strong character I want to reflect that in the design a little so I’ll create a powerful looking mobile suit. I always think that the mecha should reflect the personality and the status of a character so that’s those are the things I really focus on.

    Q: Like Barbatos, Mika goes through so many physical changes in season two but his loyalty to Orga is unwavering. Do you think he actually changes as a character over the series or do you see him as more steadfast and unchanging?
    Kyle: I think Mika definitely has an arc to him. He experiences a lot of growth throughout the series. Even though he seems to always have that stoic, almost ruthlessness to him from the very beginning of the story all the way through to the end. You can actually see at least in his interactions with the people closest to him a softening throughout the series. And you can see him kind of explore more of his emotional side as he grows.

    Q: Orgas’ decisions guide the fate of Tekkadan throughout the series and many of his ideas like becoming the king of Mars are really so wild and desperate. How do you personally feel about Orgas’ decisions and burdens during season two? Did you agree with or understand his position?
    Johnny: I don’t know I think with most decisions anyone makes, you know it’s that first gut feeling and you kind of go for that. But then eventually you can get tunnel vision and not see really the things that are going on around you. But you’re so determined to reach that end goal and then you start to realize it when it’s too late. You know or think bad things are starting to happen. So I think, my feeling was just that, yeah that just that like he was just going on, continuing to go on this gut feeling. And then he’s seeing things falling apart around him and then it takes you know the rest of the group to kind of help bring it all back together. So they’re on that same path together, for him to realize it to you know. If that makes sense.

    Q: I guess on that one to did you, when you guys were you know also recording this did you have like any personal feelings about his decision too? Like as playing the characters and being in that situation.
    Kyle: I think that’s one aspect of Mika that didn’t ever change he was never going to be the decision maker. He was always Orga what do you want me to do, I will do that period that’s it. So which is really not fair to Orga I hate to say. Hey you’re responsible for what I do, but even there was that scene that we did in the live dubbing thing earlier. That we kind of touched on where Orga’s like feeling responsible for Mika. And he was like what are you talking about, no I’m… it’s my fault that I didn’t do what you asked of me. It’s not your fault that you were asking too much or something. And I feel like that’s an aspect of Mikas’ character that was consistent from the very beginning of the show all the way through the end.
    Johnny: Orga’s like the football coach, You know he’s got a game plan and he’s got to do this to get the touchdown but it doesn’t always work out you know. And you’re the quarterback.

    Q: Gundam is a long and historic franchise. What do you think are the essential elements that are needed to make a show truly feel like a Gundam series? And how do you consider those when you’re directing?

    Nagai: So I think that the most essential parts of Gundam, what are the essential elements. That you have a youth, a young man who’s the main protagonist and he rides or pilots a cool mecha and wages war. But not only does he pilot a cool mecha but of course he’s in his teens. And so therefore he has a big heart that evolves or matures over the course of the series. Except that of course Mika, his heart never changes.

    Q: Which mechas were the most interesting to sign, to design?
    Ebikawa: Actually when I first found out that I was going be working on Iron Blooded Orphans, my request was actually that for once I want to actually work on designing the antagonist, the enemy like mecha. In particular I think I fell in love with the Graze-Frame. So another thing that’s unique to IBO, I want to say is that there are close combat scenes between the mobile suits and the other mechas. So you know, because there are many scenes with close combat what becomes important are the weapons especially blades, that kind of close combat type weapon so if you have a chance to rewatch the series I’d love if you can also pay particular attention to all the weapons that the different mecha wield.

    Q: And then as a follow up for that one. Is there a finished design in Iron Blood Orphans that was your very favorite?
    Ebikawa: So like I said I really love the Grazes. Even though I can’t say this is my number one favorite it’s the mobile suit that McGillis pilots which is the Grimgerde. It would have to be that one.

    Q: Going down the rest of them now, does anybody else have a particular Gundam design that was your very favorite like offhand if you had to say one?
    Matsukaze: Kimaris Vidar
    Robbie: Same, the Kimaris for me. I’ve never built a Gundam, I didn’t know what it was at all. And I’ve got all of my Gundam that I could get my hands on and built them. And when you do the panel lining with the pen or whatever I really like that because the Kimaris had all that white on it and the detail on the lining was so cool. So it was a great design and it was fun to built too.
    Kyle: Yeah I have to say Barbatos. I’m the same actually, I never built any Gunpla and I have a collection now Barbatai. Although it’s kind of a tossup after seeing season two because Bael is pretty baller, pun intended.
    Johnny: Well I was really hoping that Orga would bust out on mecha at some point, and he’ll be dirty and ugly. And maybe go down in battle, but it didn’t happen.

    Q: When did you find out McGillis’ betrayal of Gaelio and how did you react?
    Matsukaze: In Japan we do a weekly reporting according; as the series goes on. You see that the script for next week, at the previous week showing; recording and that was when I found out.
    Robbie: We also recorded in order, and I hadn’t, they would not clue me into the plot. I feel like sometimes the show’s really well written and that tricked me. I thought these guys were homies until the end. And I was hurt a little bit, when i got to see my robot in pieces. But I thought it was a very great turn that in essence fuels the second season.

    Q: How would you describe Mika and Orga’s relationship?
    Kyle: I feel like we started to touch on this on the last question that we answered. I think there, it’s definitely a familial bond but it’s not something you can really put a specific label on. It’s not like they’re brothers but it’s also not like Orga’s the father figure, somewhere in-between those two I think. Because they share a bond as equals but at the same time it’s like you’re the boss tell me what to do and I’m going to it period. Yeah that’s how I would describe it.
    Johnny: Yes. Very close , they’re very close. They’re like I don’t know parts of a body, the right hand and the left hand, you know they need each other to work together or whatever. But yeah It’s you know it’s almost, it’s in-between there, cause it’s like brotherly but not quite. And it transforms a little bit too, you know, but I don’t know, they kind of need each other to be whole I think.

    Q: And then Kudelia’s relationship Mika seems pretty complex, how would you describe their relationship?
    Kyle: I don’t know if I even know how to answer, what they’re relationship really is, because it’s it’s it is really complicated. And it’s something you never really get at understanding of where Mika’s thought process is with her. Even the first time that they SPOILER kiss in the middle of season one, I hope you’ve seen that. That like, it comes out of no where and it’s when he offers cause she gets all flustered and when he offers the explanation it’s just like you’re cute, so I thought I’d do it, sorry if you didn’t like it. But it’s not really that apologetic about it, and it’s like does he actually have romantic feelings for her and at the end of it all it’s that whole will they won’t they between him and Kudelia and him and Atra. And we know where that ends up I think. We’ve all seen the show, but so yeah I’d say it’s a really difficult relationship to understand, to explain and to understand even as an actor.

    Q: In your own words we did, Robbie you explained it a little bit earlier but how would you describe Gaelios relationship or feelings towards McGillis?
    Matsukaze: Oh yeah totally so many things that I had to deal with during the series. And now that it’s done and I’m looking back. I feel mostly, how does a military man as a friend and as a man. I think that’s how to best express my feelings.
    Robbie: I think I heard pride in there a little bit more than once. Yeah they were close as you could be with two people. They work together, they were almost family, he was suppose to marry I believe it’s the younger sister at some point. They were sort of had a arranged relationship, they were best friends, they grew up together. He was so, well we talked about betrayal, he was so hurt by the betrayal, and I don’t think he gets over it. And a lot of times one of those anime tropes where like you’re just not quite as good as this person you’ve looked up to right. And they’re always like I’m going to be better, but rarely do they ever get better. Like let’s be real, like y’all just never going to do it. But not always sometimes in a well written shorter anime, you get a full arc, where the character gets their arc, and not to spoiler season two but things happen. And so I think it hurts so bad because he thinks of him as a friend, he thinks of him as a brother, he thinks of him as a coworker. And then he is betrayed and to the worst kind of betrayal because it is. He’s a realization that they value themselves more than you know. And I think that’s the worst kind of betrayal that you can have in any kind of relationship. And have it become so clear to the point where I’m willing to fully kill you just to satisfy my needs that’s the worst kind of betrayal. So I think he deals with those feelings all through season two. Which I hope you guys buy and watch.

    Q: This, many Gundams do not have happy endings, but the ending of Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans season two stands out as first class particularly dark with a lot of death. Was this the ending that was envisioned from the very beginning? And then there’s some follow up.
    Nagai: So well to be honest to be very frank, yes when I first was thinking of the story my initial kind of idea was that everyone, everyone would die in the end. But you know over time I was like well maybe everyone doesn’t quite have to die. Not quite everyone and so I firstly then of course sifted to the story to have the characters who did not die live very fulfilling lives.
    Ebikawa: Actually I don’t know if I can really add anything to this question because I’m kind of in the same boat as a lot of the voice actors are, where I just find out what the next plot line is as the script is prepared. So I’m kind of on a weekly basis so I wouldn’t be able to tell you how earlier, how late this was determined. Although I did hear from director Nagai that at the very beginning that he was envisioning that everyone’s going to die.

    Q: So with that decision being made, what were the emotions that you hope the audience left with at the end of it all?
    Nagai: Well you know I myself kind of struggled with how, how was I feeling writing the story as the story unfolded onto paper. And I kind of, you know I wasn’t sure you know like I said I first envisioned all the characters dying and then all of a sudden they weren’t going to die so I kind of want each of you to take what you want and what you feel is you felt to be your opinion and not necessarily impose what I felt. Because I can’t really say myself what I wanted to feel out of this story so just take out of it what you will.

They opened the floor for audience questions.

    Q: Do you find that Mika’s usually one of the easiest roles to do? Like performance wise. Because there’s not a lot of vocal strain you have to do with it.
    Kyle: I suppose physically yeah, probably one of the easier ones, because you’re right it doesn’t get super loud or screaming most of the time, it’s all kind of contained. But emotionally he’s actually a little trickier than some other characters because of the fact that he is feeling something underneath that stoic resolve and it’s, it could be really tricky to try and capture that without showing too much of it or too little . If that makes sense.

    Q: I’m just curious about why you decided to use a medieval demonology X Ars Goetia to name the various Gundams for this story?
    Nagai: Well the simple answer would be cause those names are cool. But I mean the other part of that is that you know many recent Gundam series there’s a kind of set number of mobile suits that we have to put into the series and therefore we have to come up with names for all them and so it becomes really difficult to keep coming up with original names and you know in this case I figure I need 72 mobile suits that come up with. So it’s easy kind of pick up that tome and to pick things out of it.

    Q: So in season two we through some mini character arcs for the members of Tekkadan, and there’s a flashback between Eugene and Shino, where Shino finally like comes to realize Eugene has an attraction to him. And it’s really ineffective how he reacts to it. But to have arcs like this, was it an unanimous decision or was there some kind of pushback for this?
    Nagai: So I originally came up with the arc, for that particular arc but in the end it is a group decision, so we would discuss it in the production meeting and or course we made sure that everyone was on board with it before we proceeded.

    Q: Were there any alterations that you made to your characters to kind of make them your own when dubbing?
    Johnny: Well I actually, when I saw some of the stuff with Orga his range is deeper, than my natural range and so I had find way to add that kind of characteristic to my voice without making it sound to fake or whatever. And this is a bad idea I wouldn’t recommend for anyone, but when I would drive to work I would shout all the street signs. So that I come into it and whenever I would speak then it sounds like I’ve been through wars, or been tired or exhausted. So I wanted to have that kind of in my voice, like you maybe hear it. I wanted at least for you to be able to feel that when I speak. I can’t really get that range unless I wake up early in the morning, and that’s the first thing I do. But there wasn’t an opportunity for that to be the first thing for me.
    Kyle: Seriously!!?
    Johnny: Bad idea though.
    Kyle: It’s a terrible idea. But that’s cool. I…I… come back to me.
    Robbie: We have a unique job because we have the framework of the Japanese and picture in front of us. And one of our main jobs is to stay true to that, but we also have to infuse it with our own acting and make it howable and easier for an English speaking audience to take it in. To be able to truly watch it, and it’s different than a sub you know what I mean. And they each merits but we have a wonderful framework to work on, but then we have to give it out own. Our own interpretation of it and that’s our main job.
    Kyle: I actually, cause we were recording this series both seasons kind of trailing just a few episodes behind as they were as the Japanese subtitles were being released on Hulu, Crunchyroll, wherever. And I was watching everything just before what we were recording, so I was kind of seeing it all, the whole develop as we were recording. Which is not something you always have the opportunity to do, when you’re recording a show like this. But I think that helps to try, hopefully stay true to what that Japanese framework was.

    Q: In the show the Gundams are depicted as much more brutal and frankly terrifying, than in other Gundam series before since. So what did you do as a director, to kind of infuse that into the show? To make someone you know feel scared of the Gundam almost, as you watch.
    Nagai: So actually as an example one first weapons that I tried to envisioned visually was the mace and you know with an actual mace too it’s a direct impact and direct pain. The pain sensation and I was kind of thinking in my head how can I depict that visually in an animated form. And so I think the way it was to focus especially on weapons and the direct kind of sensations that one would feel, obviously the mecha don’t feel but what would the audience like feel on themselves watching it.

    Q: I personally have almost all the suits to be very signature and unique. My favorite being the cheetah. When designing the suits themselves did you take any inspiration from armor or real life any body armor from ancient past or anything like that or very weapons for that matter.
    Ebikawa: So sure I mean the mobile suits are essentially armor, they’re just larger than life armor for the pilots. So I definitely draw inspiration from actually armor pieces, whether it’s ancient armor, art armor, body armor, like you said I try to keep on top of the latest innovations in body armor, and try to incorporate some of those. But in terms of Iron Blooded Orphans in particular, I guess I did draw more inspiration from the armor.

    Q: One of most distinct aspects Iron Blooded Orphans is the lack of vision weaponry and much more focus on physical weapons; swords and things of that nature. And what I was curious about was at what point in the planing process did that decision happen and how did that in form the show going forward.
    Nagai: So actually the decision I made from quite early on, almost the very beginning. And the reason why is I felt there are too many series that focus on beam weapons and not only that but with each subsequent series the beam weapons are getting more and more powerful. And it’s kind of like “Oh come on!!” I mean the sky can’t be the limit, so I was like why don’t we take a break from the beam weapons and focus on more physical weapons. And then you know the next series can maybe go back to that. But truth be told, personally I do prefer beam weapons.

    Q: My question is though even like in the show, physically and storyline wise you know Orga was older than Mikazuki, but Mikazuki seem like he had a deeper voice in himself, older sound. I was wondering like why does Mikazuki sound older than Orga even though he’s clearly like older than him.
    Kyle: Really, thats’s interesting, I don’t know if I heard anybody express that opinion before. I don’t know, there is least one moment I can think of where Mika, there’s a little bit of role reversal where Mika has to come and kind of snap Orga out of that thunk in season one. But no I think Orga is the mature one of the two of them for the most part.
    Johnny: I tried to make that pretty clear. Maybe one day I’ll walk in like this and it’s ah Mika come on. Sorry Orga. Actually I audition for Mika, my first thing was I was sent I think both for Mika and Orga. And listening to both of them, I was like Mika is definitely the one that is more, easier for me as far as my range and didn’t want to like do anything to the voice. I’ll just do the Mika one, and then next thing I know they’re like, they never received it or something and they’re like you didn’t send the audition in. So I scrambled and I had the Orga one, I was like oh I’ll just do this one. And then ended up getting that one.

    Q: In an interview with Mari Okeda, she said you worked on the show for years before she was brought on. What decisions about the show had you already made during that period. And was there anything she changed your mind about, once she was brought on?
    Nagai: I’ve to say probably the most obvious change or evolution from before Mari Okeda was part of the project and after she joined the team was you know I was just kind of going for the very battle focus; war focus story she brought the whole idea of family and bonds into the story. So I think that was her biggest contribution was the friendships between and the relationships between the two characters.

    Q: Watching Iron Blooded Orphans one thing I really liked was Galelios voice acting especially when he’s very prideful, very honorable like always on top. Do you feel his personality in Iron Blooded Orphans mirrors his person or is that something in the show? Do you feel Gaelio’s personality is a make of you or do you think Gaelio’s just some character you’ve voice acting?
    Matsukaze: Obviously I’m not a military man, or a little rich boy. I’m just a common person, commoner. But in working all my roles I have to expand the commonality that I might have to the character diminish the differences I have.

    Q: As a director and story teller what is it do you usually find creatively fulfilling out of working on projects. And where did you find that in this show? Or did something else about it like speak to you in that way?
    Nagai: Well of course it’s my job, I mean it’s what I do for a living. But in addition I mean I think it makes me feel that something was really worth it, or was most fulfilling to me. Is to watch these characters that I came up with, who are all like my children live out their lives or act out their lives on screen exactly the way I initially imagined them in my head. And so it’s always, it’s what keeps me going day after day and probably the better part.

    Q: How do feel the story could have changed if McGillis had actually trusted more in his companions like Gaelio and Carta and actually brought them onto his quest against the corrupted government. I was just wondering how the story could have changed if McGillis had been more trusting and involving in his friends instead of being frank?
    Robbie: Well if you think he’s antithesis to Tekkadan, then I would say that it would be antithetical for McGillis to trust anyone. But if we’re in hypothesis land, I would say it would be tough I think the difference between McGillis and Gali Gali, Gali has a moral compass I think, it might be a little buried but he has ideals and morals. And I don’t think McGillis has any, he is after one goal. Even if McGillis asked him I don’t think he would have joined him. But could they, oh man they’d just decimated. Yeah I don’t think they would have stood a chance. I think the only thing that could have went up against McGillis was Tekkadan.
    Matsukaze: Definitely would have managed the Gjallarhorn much better.

    Q: I was wondering what was your inspiration for the character of Iok?
    Nagi: So actually when I first came up with the concept for him, he was supposed to a be a little bit more intelligent. But you know it was the brilliant acting ability of the Japanese voice actor Shimazaki-san who kept the, making the character kind of more more over the top and so initially I had for the character kind of ended up evolving along with them. He’s my kouhai by the way, he started after me.

The host mentioned that with all the death and political situations at the end of the series, what are the messages they wanted the fans to walk away with at the end of the series.

    Johnny: War is ugly. Don’t do it if you can avoid it.
    Kyle: I would say don’t lose hope.
    Robbie: Rise up, fight the power.
    Matsukaze: You know there are so many things, the most important thing is life is precious, and even if you’re risking your life, you have to protect your life and then therefore. People who are living in peace here, you really have to take care of the people
    Ebikawa: You know Gundam series are most well known forgiving cool mecha. For Iron Blooded Orphans in particular it’s not just that full mecha, it’s the story is quite brutal in some ways, but also very real and raw. And it goes places where a lot of, not just in Gundam but a lot of anime doesn’t go. And it touches on subjects that many series will not touch. So I think for those of you, even who have seen it already. Please go back and watch it one more time and really appreciate those aspects of the series.
    Nagai: So, what I want to say is the series is just full of adversity, but as Orga says himself in the story. Don’t ever stop, don’t stop and just keep proceeding forward, keep going forward no matter what obstacles are in your way, what problems you end up facing. And I think that’s the message I was really trying to relate to.

~ Transcriptions by Pearl A. Thank you! ~