Honey-chan could not have been luckier or more excited to land this interview. She got some one-on-one time with anime legend Shoji Kawamori, the man who created the Macross franchise. He designed the iconic Valkyrie fighter that transforms into three distinct vehicles. Shoji was the director for the film “Super Dimensional Fortress Macross - Do You Remember Love.” He was even the creator of the Diaclone toy line. You may have heard of Diaclone by it’s by other name: Transformers. Honey-chan was obviously thrilled to interview this great legend of anime.
Interview with Shoji Kawamori: Director, Mecha Designer, & the Father of the Macross Franchise
What does the Macross franchise mean to you?
This (Macross) is the very first work I created, so it is something that is a very big part of me and that includes the pitch we made 38 years ago. I am very grateful that people not just in Japan, but in the United States and all over the world still think of the show fondly.
Please take us back to the beginning of Macross development. How did the idea for Macross come about?
It actually wasn’t an easy pitch and before that we were working on a hardcore science fiction story without humanoid mechs but a Gerwalk* one. We were having a hard time getting our pitch sold because most clients insisted on having a humanoid robot. So, as a dummy, we came up with the precursor to Macross: Megaroad.
*A Gerwalk mecha has the body of a jet with protruding arms and legs
Whose idea was the transformable fighter?
The Megaroad (later Macross) pitch had a better bite to the client so we shifted all our attention there. I was in charge of the story and co-worked on various ideas like the variable fighter or Valkyrie. The main sponsor of an anime at the time was a toy company. I presented the idea of the variable fighter and showed them the prototype of the Valkyrie. It was because of that we were able to sell the show to them.
Was there a clear idea about great battles, love triangles, robots, and idols when you came up with the story?
It was always in my mind to mix the big picture space battle with the small personal dramas. The mixture of the two was uncommon in anime back then. The idea of adding of an idol into that came from Haruhiko Mikimoto; he was my classmate in college and we actually had a lot of production meetings in class. He was the one that was sketching various character ideas, one was a Chinese girl that worked as a waitress at a Chinese restaurant. One of the sketches of her had her singing. I thought why not just have her sing, but be an idol.
Was finding your idol, the voice of Lynn Minmay (Mari Iijima), hard? How did you know she was the one?
The casting for Minmay was decided after we were greenlit for production. We were already into the animation at the time. Victor Entertainment scouted Mari Iijima and she was chosen through auditions after looking at several candidates. When she was finally cast we knew that this was the voice.
Music plays an important part in the whole franchise; was that planned? Was the Minmay Attack just a way to add music to the climactic battle or was it intended as something more?
The idea that I had up front was that an ordinary co-ed, Lynn Minmay, would sing and shock the cultureless giants, the Zentradi. The idea that the singing would bring the war to and end was something that was added on later. The idea of inserting choreographed singing into an anime was a very difficult task. But I was very new and fearless, and didn’t realize how difficult a task it truly was and that is the reason it was done.
Despite my own fearlessness, the people around me vehemently opposed the idea. But having the privilege as the creator of the story I pushed through the idea that there would be all this singing.
The franchise has been around for almost 40 years and multiple series expand on the original universe. What do you think the key to its popularity is?
I think a big part is the input of many talented staff including the character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto, all the composers, the talented cast members and also the talented animator Hideaki Anno. I also think the big picture of the grand space war versus the personal love triangle was something that was uncommon in robot anime. A story that was once a boy’s world got accepted into a much more diverse audience of females and males. I think the ensemble cast with the inclusion of Minmay, a Chinese; Roy Fokker, an American; and Claudia Black, [a person of color], led to acceptance by a worldwide audience.
Do you think music has the power to change the world?
I do think there is power in music. If you look at the real-life inspiration of Minmay's music, the song Lili Marleen, it reached out to enemy soldiers in World War II. It might be more of a dream to see music stop a space war but I do think there is something fundamental to its power.
Is Macross ready for another series?
There are many ideas for more Macross and it really is dependent on the client giving us the green light.
Strong female characters have been in Macross since the beginning. Do you think that Macross has been ahead of popular television and movies by having the second-in-command of Super Dimensional Fortress -1 be a woman? Do you think this has an effect on children seeing strong women in positions of power?
I think my own inspiration for having strong female characters in Macross comes from a lot of my reading of shoujo manga. A lot of shoujo manga creators are very talented with their art and their creation of a story. I think it is an inspiration to see strong women established in anime and like to incorporate them into my own stories as well.
You can even see in “Top Gun” that they had a woman in authority, but Macross still came first with a woman as a second-in-command.
One final question. Do you sing the Macross classic song “Do You Remember Love?” at karaoke?
[Laughing] No, not when there are so many more talented singers out there than I.