Kunio Okawara Retrospective at The Ueno Royal Museum From August
Kunio Okawara (L) and Koji Igarashi (R)
The Ueno Royal Museum will hold a retrospective of mechanical designer Kunio Okawara’s 40 year career from August 8 to September 27. Last week Okawara held a press conference at the Tokyo International Forum with animation researcher Koji Igarashi to discuss the popularity of his designs, his relationship with toy makers and thoughts on his career.
A Human-sized Char Custom Zaku and Mobility concept car (Codename: Machina) parked at the conference
Okahara is best known for his mechanical designs for Mobile Suit Gundam and Armored Trooper VOTOMS but did you know he also did industrial design for public and private firms? Maybe that’s what gives his robots their real-world sensibility and charm.
“In the beginning I wanted to establish my position as a mechanical designer. Before I turned 60 I busted my ass and took on any job that came my way.”
After graduating from Tokyo Zokei University as a textiles student he worked for a clothing maker then joined Tatsunoko Production where he learned draw color backgrounds. They asked him to help with mechanical designs for Science Ninja Team Gatchaman which led to work on Hurricane Polymar, Go-wapper 5 Go-dam and others. Later as a freelancer he worked for Sunrise where he became involved on a little show called Mobile Suit Gundam, and the rest is history.
The exhibit has toured Japan since 2008. When Okahara visited he was impressed to see “Families with children as young as the parents must have been when they first saw Gundam. It made me realize that even fans grow up and that I wanted my works to be seen by a wider audience.” He was pleased by the upcoming Ueno exhibit, saying “People who grew up watching Gundam are now industry planners. It’s a pleasure to collaborate with them. They help give his old man a good life.”
EX・Machina Corporation is developing a miniature concept car called the Machina. Okawara worked on the design for what they envision as a rideable smartphone or portable information terminal.
When asked about the Machina, Kunio Okawara answered that the vehicle “should be able to do what a full-sized automobile can’t. When they go to market I’d like to add the Federation or Zeon logo.”
Igarashi compared Okawara to a wrecking ball. “He never compromises his work, always makes his deadlines and is open to new projects. He’s the rope holding up that big steel ball, flexible yet strong.”
The exhibit will feature art from Mobile Suit Gundam, Fang of the Sun Dougram, Blue Comet SPT Layzner, Armored Trooper Votoms and other iconic shows.
Event curator Igarashi promises work from mainstream titles as well as lesser known designs that you won’t see anywhere else. Visit the exhibit to see how one man revolutionized robots on the screen and in the real world.
Okawara poses with his past and his future on either side.