Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island – Interview with Director Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Voice Actors Tōru Furuya, and Shunsuke Takeuchi

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*This is a translated article by QooApp under the permission of SPICE. Reproduction in any form without permission is prohibited.

The retelling of the 15th episode of the original Mobile Suit Gundam TV anime; Cucuruz Doan’s Island will hit the Japanese theatres on June 3. This exclusive Interview probes into the reason for this decision and how the production team brought back this particular episode with director Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, the one and only art director of the original show, Toru Furuya, who voices over the series protagonist Amuro Ray and Shunsuke Takeuchi, who take the roles of the titular character Cucuruz Doan.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island - Interview with Director Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Voice Actors Tōru Furuya, and Shunsuke Takeuchi
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An Everlasting Theme in the Cucuruz Doan’s Story  

Q. I’d like to first ask the director, why did you want to retell the story of Cucuruz Doan now?

Yasuhiko: It’s a long story, but the fact is that coincidences and inevitability sort of bundled up together as a circumstance. I always had the story of Cucuruz Doan in my head, but it hit me that it was something no one had really touched upon.

Q. Wasn’t the Cucuruz Doan’s Island episode omitted in Director Yasuhiko’s manga Mobile Suit Gundam: THE ORIGIN?

Yasuhiko: I couldn’t afford to have it in. The episode was one of the first things to get axed when I decided to retell the original tv series.

Q. The episode definitely has a different tone to it, unlike anything else in the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime.

Yasuhiko: Quite so.

Q. Was the Cucuruz Doan’s Island episode chosen because of its stature as a completely isolated part of the anime’s narrative?

Yasuhiko: Even though it’s a part often overlooked and skipped in the overarching story, the themes that it touches are very timely and contemporary. I think that’s what piqued my interest.

Q. In a past interview with THEORIGIN, you mentioned how the story caught your interest, as well as expressing that the plot of the episode is analogous to the film Apocalypse Now, which aired in Japan in 1980.

Yasuhiko: If I recall, the two works showed up around the same period in time. I’ve always thought that both share very similar themes and plot points.

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Q. I see. I’d like to now ask Furuya-san; how did it feel playing the role of Amuro in the early parts of the anime? This was still the part in the story where he questions the reasons he fights, so was there any hardship going back to the mindset of a character’s early point in life?

Furuya: I won’t say that the role is difficult. I’ve had the honor of playing the role of Amuro as a 15-year-old kid for over 40 years, so acting as Amuro came very naturally to me. Although playing this role in the context of an anime has been a long time, I wouldn’t say there was any particular struggle in reprising the character.

Q. It’s true that Amuro does show up in a lot of different media nowadays. I’d like to ask Takeuchi-san how you went about tackling the role of Cucuruz Doan, knowing that the character is someone so much older than yourself?

Takeuchi: I feel like I had to give my all going in as the role. It definitely is a rare opportunity to challenge my voice acting abilities acting as someone beyond my age.

One thing I made a point to nail, was to depict the image of an adult when the show first aired rather than just playing a man in his thirties drawn in modern animation. That’s why I went back and watched the first Gundam series and took notes on how the anime and cast portrayed personality and maturity back then.

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Q. I’d like to ask the director, what was the deciding factor in having Takeuchi-san take the role of Doan? Was it because of his relatively low voice?

Takeuchi: I’d like to hear this as well.

Yasuhiko: (Taking a look over at Takeuchi-san) Oh, he does have a very nice voice. It felt like a glove that fits.

Takeuchi: I’m honored you think so.

Yasuhiko: And you’re only 24?

Takeuchi: That’s correct.

Yasuhiko: You have that kind of baritone voice and you’re only 24. That makes me wonder, when did you start in the industry?

Takeuchi: I started taking work when I was still back in high school, so that must have been when I was 16.

Yasuhiko: Did you already have this low vocal range when you first enter the industry?

Takeuchi: My voice gradually got lower over time but it was already in that voice register. Watching shows from the 70s and 80s and hearing the vocal performances in anime like the ones Yoshihiko-san and Furuya-san worked on really inspired me to become a voice actor.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like the stuff nowadays. A character with a gruff and mature voice was something I’ve always wanted to take on, so I’m very grateful the director chose me for the role.

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Q. I had the pleasure to see the movie before this interview. Takeuchi-san’s performance in the film was spot on.

Takeuchi: Thank you!

Q. Having said that, was the recording session, particularly nerve-wracking for you?

Takeuchi: There certainly were some hurdles throughout the recording sessions. Though I felt like I was motivated by Furuya-san’s performance, and how he practically just became 15-year-old Amuro in a second. It really cleared my mind of any doubts I had and so I essentially followed his lead, since his performance gave me a good jumping-off point for me to do it on my own. I can only hope I can inspire someone like that in the same way in 40 years’ time myself.

Q. Furuya-san, this might be hard to answer, especially when he is just right beside you, but what did you think of Takeuchi-san’s performance?

Takeuchi: I need to hear this one as well!

Furuya: Well the recording sessions were held on an individual basis, so I never really got to hear the other cast’s performance until the video was edited. So the natural thing to do was to look at the undubbed footage and just imagine what that character would sound like. I had an image in my head as to how Doan would sound in action, and so when I heard the real thing for the first time yesterday it really clicked with that image in my head.

Q. I understand that the recording sessions had to be done like that because of the current circumstances.

Takeuchi: I would have definitely wanted to be in the same booth with the order.

Furuya: Just like how Takeuchi-san put it, he really put much effort into following my performance. It’s a very difficult thing to account for since we had to do each of our lines separately without the context of the other in a conversation. Because I just acted out Amuro by myself the way I always have, it’s amazing how well the small nuances came through to make the character seem as though they’re in the same room.

Yasuhiko: Like how it’s been said, the recording session went with Furuya-san recording first and the lines for Doan being recorded afterward. When we were doing the parts for Amuro, we still hadn’t decided on who to voice Doan.

Furuya: Oh yeah, that’s right.

Yasuhiko: We had a rough time deciding on that. 

Q. It must have been great to hear that you were going to be playing Doan then.

Takeuchi: I was very happy to hear the news. One of the things I’ve thrived on ever since I started out was to be a voice actor people can rely on like a pinch hitter. I know that some voice actors will be called upon because of particular lines and I thought to myself “That’s the kind of actor I want to be”. This opportunity wasn’t quite something like that, but when I heard that I got the role I remember being almost ahead of myself with how eager I was asking around what they needed me for.

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New Yet Nostalgic Moments of The White Base Crew Members

Q. So in the film, the entire crew of the White Base shows up, which hasn’t happened in some time. Was there something different in how the characters conversed, with some of them portrayed by the new cast?

Yasuhiko: What you would call the staples for Mobile Suit Gundam have always been Furuya-san, Furukawa-san and Ikeda-san. So those roles stayed the same but the other voices were all re-casted. Since the re-casts were recent, we also wanted a story where all of the crew members would be present. I’m glad we were able to do that.

Q. Though the casts were new, the banter and interactions with the characters felt very diegetic. What did the two voice actors think of this after watching the whole movie?

Takeuchi: It is amazing seeing the leaps in the technology and graphics of the film while still retaining the original image and feel of the original Gundam anime. The film oddly felt like a traditional performance piece in how the core fundamentals never change, but everything around it evolved. I think there’s a sort of beauty in that.

Q. The moments with Amuro and Bright come to mind. Even though the pictures are new, it was nice how you could still pinpoint the moments and say “hey I remember how that part went!”.

Takeuchi: Mhm.

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Q. Even just with the small stuff like the gunperry airships actually flying was nice. What did you feel about the moments with the White Base crew, Furuya-san? Are there any sentimental moments to the reunion?

Furuya: It certainly was nostalgic, watching each and every one of the crew’s personalities still shine through a different voice. The film reminded me of how Amuro and Bright’s relationship was back in the first anime, and how they used to bounce off of each other.

Q. I guess that’s the sort of weird tension the two characters had with each other?

Furuya: I think so.

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Q. Both of them have a sort of naive side since they haven’t known each other for long. 

Furuya: Especially when the story of the movie takes place around the time when Mirai and Bright are both very young.

Yasuhiko: There was a conscious effort in having more moments in the film with Bright on screen. We gave him a lot more lines to say throughout the runtime. 

Furuya: I see.

Yasuhiko: In The Origin, he only had one or two remarks here and there. I wanted him to have more presence in this movie. 

Daily Life Scenes Rarely Found in a Gundam Movie

Q. The Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island film features scenes with children and of course parts where they interact with Amuro, where he is almost like a big brother to them. It takes time fleshing out that mundane, everyday life aspect of the story. Why did you decide to include these daily life scenes in a mecha military science fiction movie?

Yasuhiko: In a sense, the children on the island are the protagonists. The cast for the kids all were shot individually just like any of the adult characters. When we have them all chat and make a lot of noise, it was important that we could isolate each voice channel from the other. At first, I was worried about how the process would go, but all of them were great to work with.

Takeuchi: Things went swimmingly because how everyone doing the role of the children was all well-coordinated despite how many characters there are. 

Furuya: All of them are able to deliver that youthful energy to their acting. 

Q. That certainly comes through in the movie.

Yasuhiko: The art team did an amazing job in conveying that feeling by portraying the kids doing menial tasks and day-to-day chores. This is hard work that often goes unnoticed. Much so since the more flashy animations are simpler to do if the animator gets the hang of it.

Takeuchi: The scene where everyone is gathered at the table was extremely detailed. The actors and animators in charge really did a great job.

Yasuhiko: It’s definitely something the animators should be proud of. It’s something I’ve been saying in many places. To put it bluntly, the child actors in Japanese movies seem almost unnatural with deliberate and polite acting. I wanted to do something to let people know that anime films can do way better.

Furuya: I think the realism in the expression of the characters sort of brings out that comical nature and innocence in how they’re portrayed, which is something very unique to Yasuhiko-san’s directing.

Yasuhiko: This is about Furuya-san, and not to be flattering, but in his acting, it felt as though Furuya-san actually rejuvenated. Instead of Amuro as the crew member of White Base and the pilot of the RX-78-2 Gundam, the film shows him as a brother-like figure to the children. I found moments like that in the film to be touching.

Furuya: Thank you for the compliments.

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Q. There certainly is a side that can never be seen from Amuro unless he was around kids or those who are younger than him. Especially since most of his interactions in the anime series are with people like Char who are older and more mature than he is.

Yasuhiko: We brought up Bright Noa a few minutes ago, but at this point, Amuro more or less thought of himself as an elite as he’d already seen some action as an involved member in the war going on in the plot. So when Bright tells him to go out and do something so mundane that it makes him come down to the sensibilities of the children he meets on the island. It’s a very symbolic part of the film.

Cucuruz Doan, The Man Who Leads the Kids

Q. Last Question and it may be a little complicated. The story of Doan was finally adapted into a movie for the first time in 43 years since its airing on TV. In this new take, what do you think of ‘The One Year War’ depicted in Mobile Suit Gundam?

Yasuhiko: No one can really say who began the war and it’s even harder to believe something so grandiose could end in a year. The fact is that the declaration of Zeon as a principality made war inevitable. The idea is that the daily lives of the youth are being destroyed by a greater force coming forth.

I think that the First Gundam series really dwells on the human drama that stems from daily life and juxtaposes it with the context of The One Year War. It’s a series that overlaps the situation of our actual world as well. So adapting the story of Cucuruz Doan felt like a necessity. Among the Gundam series, this one is at its best when depicting the intimate struggle between daily life and war.

Takeuchi: I would describe it as the culmination of struggles as people are caught in something larger in scale than their own life, and the choices they made were thrown into the circumstances of war. Every character has their own reasons and war is only the result when both sides see no outs to the dilemma. I think in that ambiguity, it’s very difficult to even call anyone in the Gundam Series a villain, especially when they all have a clear purpose for joining the war. I believe that The One Year War shows the importance of their individual thoughts and personal interpretation. 

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Q. It’s true that the stories of Gundam are never cut and dry with vice and virtue.

Takeuchi: In the movie, Doan and Amuro find themselves as enemies of opposing forces. Though their purposes separate them, Doan, as the person and not the soldier of Zeon, took Amuro in as a child just like the ones he takes care of on the island. His time interacting with the local children helps him learn how to think like a human and see things in someone else’s shoes.

The One Year War shows Amuro’s growth as he takes into account the important people in his life, such as Doan and the children on the island, as well as finding his own beliefs and understanding the importance of making his own opinions and values to live by. Amuro has his own view and Char has his own. It’s only when Amuro pieces the concept together, that he and Doan were able to, not reconcile, but understand that they had no reason to fight there and then. I think that The One Year War story is all about that.

Furuya: There’s always been an underlying anti-war message to the storytelling of Gundam as a whole and so Cucuruz Doan’s Island also follows suit in conveying that message by showing the impact of war on children and the importance of leading them down to a moralistic path. The idea that conflict can only be avoided by understanding the other side is also a big theme, in that the story makes it a point to give a voice to each side of the war. I think it’s an amazing part of Gundam that shines through especially in the One Year War arc.

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Q. It’s still a very relevant story for audiences nowadays as it was first written by Yoshiyuki Tomino and the new film is directed by Yasuhiko-san who had both experienced war personally and made this film under the current world we live in.

Takeuchi: To a certain extent, it is like how Furuya-san put it. It’s a little bit of a spoiler, but in the scene where the children first see the Zaku and cry out how “Now there are no enemies to be afraid of”, Doan remarks “That’s not what this is. Robot is something all of us should be afraid of” really is an evocative message for children of the next generation. It’s definitely something to think about when watching the film. 

Interviewer: Takashi Kato
Interview organizer: Nobuyuki Hayashi
Photographer: Masaaki Otsuka

About Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island

Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island is an anime film that premiered on June 3 in Japan. This film is an adaptation of the 15th episode of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, which aired in 1979.

The story of Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island is set after the Federation defense of Jaburo, with the Federation planning to renew offensives on Zeon’s invasion headquarters in Odessa. Amuro and the White Basehead to Belfast to resupply, but the White Base receives new orders: to head to the “Island of No Return” to search and destroy any Zeon stragglers.

Amuro set out on the island in search of Zeon spies, but find a group of children and a Zaku mobile suit on the supposedly uninhabited island. With the Gundam left behind, Amuro encounters a man who calls himself Cucuruz Doan. After uncovering the secret of the island, Amuro attempts to make his way back to the Gundam to escape.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island Staff & Production

Original story by Hajime Yatate and Yoshiyuki Tomino
Director: Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Screenplay: Toshizo Nemoto
Music: Takayuki Hattori
Character Design: Atsushi Tamura / Tsukasa Kotobuki / Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Art Director: Yūji Kaneko
Mecha design: Hajime Katoki / Kimitoshi Yamane / Kunio Okawara
Sound Director: Sadayoshi Fujino
CGI Director: Morihito Abe
Director of Photography: Ryō Iijima / Takeshi Katsurayama

Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island Cast

■ Cucuruz Doan – CV: Shunsuke Takeuchi
■ Amuro Ray – CV: Toru Furuya
■ Egba Atler – CV: Atsushi Miyauchi
■ Cara – CV: Fu Hirohara
■ Hayato Kobayashi – CV: Hideki Nakanishi
■ Johann Ibrahim Revil – CV: Hiroshi Naka
■ Elran – CV: Hiroshi Shirokuma
■ Staff Officer – CV: Katsuyuki Konishi
■ Bright Noa – CV: Ken Narita
■ Yun Sanho – CV: Koji Yusa
■ Uragang – CV: Makoto Yasumura
■ Sayla Mass – CV: Megumi Han
■ Fraw Bow – CV: Misato Fukuen
■ Gopp – CV: Naomi Kusumi
■ Mirai Yashima – CV: Satomi Arai
■ Selma Livens – CV: Shizuka Itou
■ M’Quve – CV: Takumi Yamazaki
■ Sleggar Law – CV: Tomofumi Ikezoe
■ Kai Shiden – CV: Toshio Furukawa
■ Ren – CV: Yōji Ueda
■ Marcos – CV: Yūma Uchida
■ Danan Rashica – CV: Yuu Hayashi

The original article was written by Takashi Kato and published by SPICE, which can be found here: https://spice.eplus.jp/articles/302479

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