Two guests that con-goers were most excited to see and meet this year were Kengo Kawanishi and Masakazu Ogawa. Edmonton, where Animethon takes place, was used as the background for Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans in episodes 24 and 25. To celebrate the show, Animethon invited Kengo Kawanish, who played Mikazuki Augus, and Masakazu Ogawa, the President & CEO of Sunrise Beyond and producer of Iron-Blooded Orphans, to come to talk and meet with everyone. During this special panel, con-goers got to watch both episodes 24 and 25, which showed many places that residents highly recognized, and also held a Q&A session with their interpreter after the showings, which we’ll review here!
Animethon 26 Panel - Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans with Masakazu Ogawa & Kengo Kawanishi
How did it feel for you two to watch episodes 24 and 25 again?
What I feel most of all is nostalgic. This actually aired in 2015 to 2016, so three to four years ago. To think back to the work I did back then, who I was back then, and to be able to now sit here with you and rewatch it makes me a little shy. But it makes me really happy, too.
I have to agree, It’s been three or four years already. Yet in those years between then and now, I was still involved with Iron-Blooded Orphans in one way or another. In one way it seems time passed so fast, and yet looking back it evokes a lot of memories in me.
In the climax of season 1, we have the battle between Mika and Ein and Kudelia’s speech. Can you share any memories or impressions of when you recorded those episodes?
One thing I do remember is that in that scene in the parliament when Kudelia is giving her speech. When we record the dialogue we’re all together, but we do a practice take and then we do the actual take. The voice actress kept reading the dialogue and mispronouncing certain kanji. As you saw, it’s a very serious scene. She didn’t realize she had mispronounced it every take, and the rest of us are in the back listening and trying to suppress our laughter.
Mr. Ogawa, in the desperate battles at the end of season 1 which takes place in Edmonton, why Edmonton?
There are a couple of reasons, one being that the director really wanted to have a scene of a forest with snow falling, and there’d be a train running through it. This train was supposed to run from Alaska to somewhere else, and they would be transporting the mobile suits via rail. So, I was looking up a lot of places on the Internet and I fell in love with your beautiful cityscape and also there are snow-covered forests in between, so that’s kind of how we ended up with Edmonton.
In addition, and this was before we chose Edmonton, the director and I got together and talked about how there are so many series that use America as a backdrop, and it’s not fun to keep using America. Since there’s so many things that make Iron-Blooded Orphans distinct from other series, we figured why not be different about the setting as well? So that’s why we chose Edmonton.
Do you love Edmonton even more now?
Yes. This is the first time I’ve gone around a locale for an anime I was such a big part of. I’ve also been invited to conventions overseas before, but this is my very first time in Edmonton and in Canada, so I have to agree that Edmondon’s beautiful, and it was really fun to walk around and pose for photos with these little figures that represent Mika, Ein, and Orga.
For me, I often get asked if I went location scouting and that’s how I got all the images. But the truth is, and I’m a little embarrassed of it, but I was so busy at that time so all of the images that we used in the anime were actually things that I looked up online. I had no time to actually come here when the production was going on. Also, for me, most of the other Gundam series I worked on took place in outer space or on Mars...so it was a very new experience for me to use something that actually exists. But there are lots of changes, so...when I go back to Japan, I feel like I have to tell everyone else who worked on Iron-Blooded Orphans that you have to go Edmonton now while you can still see all the spots.
Kawanishi-san, what was your impression of Mikazuki when you first landed the role? And were there any challenges in terms of bringing him to life?
I won the role through the audition, but at the time, I really felt like I had blown the audition. I didn’t have a very good grasp of Mikazuki, so I wasn’t sure. When I got the call, I was very happy, also thought, “Oh my god, how am I gonna get into the character? How am I going to become the character?” At the time, there was no script, so until I got the script, I didn’t really do more research or really learn more about the character. When I went to record at the studio for the first time, I was looking forward to it, but also anxious as well.
I would say in terms of challenges, even in the heat of battle, Mika’s not very outwardly emotional, so all he has in his head is to do the minimum necessary to follow or fulfill Orga’s commands or take down the enemy. There’d be a scene where I’d want to react by raising my voice or shout, but that’s not Mika, so I had to learn to suppress my own automatic reactions so I could carry through Mika’s actual emotional state.
Ogawa-san, please tell us why you picked Tatsuyuki Nagai-san to direct and Mari Okada for the series composition.
The director and I knew each other and we had worked together on projects before. Even before the official green light was given, like three or four years before that, we had [talked about that] if we get a chance, let’s work on the next Gundam series together. It was actually the director who picked Okada-san, mostly because we’re pretty comfortable with each other and can freely share ideas. The titles that the director and Okada-san had collaborated on before, they’re very good at bringing clear, very emotion-evoking images that really touched people’s hearts. So I thought that if we had a team of the two of them, that Iron-Blooded Orphans would be a profound series as well.
In season 2, Mikazuki’s body undergoes several changes, but his loyalty towards Orga does not. Do you think he changes at all as a character throughout the whole series of 50 episodes, or not? And if so, how do you think he does?
I definitely think maybe tiny parts of his personality are influenced by his environment, and he does change. Like, you may have seen towards the end of the second episode that we showed he’s given homework and he actually does study. But I feel that at his core never shifts. One of those aspects is his relationship with Orga and his relationship with other characters never really budge, ever since episode 1. So I think only a little bit about him changes.
Ogawa-san, there’s a lot of death in Iron-Blooded Orphans. Did you envision the series ending the way it did at the very beginning of production?
Actually, yeah. And at an end-of-season special event [for season 1], everyone was talking about there was a lot of sacrifice, but it was all for the good and it was all for the best. The director and I, because we knew how we wanted to series to end and how it would be, we were like, “Oh my, in a year from now, at the end of season two...everyone’s going to hate us.” There were times in season two where we struggled getting through the story, because it does get a lot darker, but I feel like the director put his all into it and I think it came out just as we had envisioned it from the very beginning.
Kawanishi-san, please tell us if you have any mecha or characters you particularly like.
In terms of mecha...I have to say it’s gotta be Barbatos. In terms of characters, there are so many that I like, so it’s hard to pick. If I really have to pick one, it’s not so much just the character but I really get along with and close to the voice actor did his voice as well. So, it’s probably Orga.
Ogawa-san, there’s been a spin-off title called Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans: Urdr-Hunt that was announced back in January. I believe we have a sneak peek. [A bit later on, the audience would be shown a trailer of the spin-off Mobile Suit Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans: Urdr-Hunt.]
In terms of timeline, Urdr-Hunt actually takes place right after the end of season 1 and before the first episode of season 2.
In terms of the backdrop, it takes place on Venus and the blond youth, Wistario, is the main character. It’s kind of like he gets caught up in a treasure hunt race, but you’ll hear Tekkadan being mentioned. Fans of the series and those who haven’t seen it will like this, because it can also be seen as a stand-alone. And, I gathered up all of the Iron-Blooded Orphans’ original staff to put it together.
It’s actually going to be released on a game app platform, too. But there’s so much content and so many video images, so it’s not going to really seem like that at all.
What would you like fans who watched the entire series to have felt or gotten out of watching Iron-Blooded Orphans?
In general, how the story unfolds and the attitudes of the characters or their world views, I feel like there might be a tie-in to real life. It’s hard to put into words, but I feel like if you walk away after watching Iron-Blooded Orphans that there’s something that remains with you that you can apply to real life, then I think that we’ve really done our job.
If you watch it, you’ll see that these characters live their lives to the fullest. No matter what your reaction is to the ending or to the story to the general, if you can walk away and think about what you watched, then I think that’s the type of title I was trying to make- something that would stick in your heart and at least make you think about things. So, I hope that’s what you get out of it.