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Designer Profile – Kunio Okawara

Kunio Okawara is a famous anime technical designer from Japan. Most collectors will know less about him and more about his works through the classic anime Mobile Suit Gundam. Okawara was the man who created the original mech design for the RX-78 Gundam and MS-06 Zaku II in 1979. I don’t know when I exactly became aware of Gundam; it was some point in the early ’80s and my experience was based on really old and really simple models from Bandai. My first was the RX-78 Gundam, and I’m not even certain I had any others. I do know that I was heavily involved in Gundam in 1985 when Zeta Gundam models started making their way into the world. The cartoons were scarce, but the models were easier to come by. By 1987 I was in full Hobby-Japan-magazine mode and customizing my Gundam models with poly caps and B-joints or whatever was available at the time.

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All because of Okawara. While the name was never a household name, the designs were. He was to me what the modern day Transformer designers are to my son. A mythical godlike creature capable of tapping into a part of my imagination and transforming my world view. The man is amazing.

But his Gundam designs weren’t the only ones that captured my imagination. During my Japanese model-making days, there were others that had a huge impact: Fang of the Sun Dougram, Space Runaway Ideon, Combat Mecha Xabungle, Armored Trooper Votoms, Round Vernian Vifam, Panzer World Galient, Blue Comet SPT Layzner, and Metal Armor Dragonar. There are only two other mecha designers that I can name who had a bigger impact: Kazutaka Miyatake (Aura Battler Dunbine, Macross, Space Battleship Yamato) and Hajime Katoki (famed Gundam designer mentioned in the list below). But Okawara’s designs are those that I return to the most. They made that impression on me at the right time.

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When ThreeZero announced the FullMetal Ghost (read here and here ) it wasn’t a hoo hoo haa moment for me. It was a passionate, almost religious moment. Two of my favorite design groups, one modern and one classic, teaming up to make a toy in my beloved scale was something unexpected and magical. It wasn’t a dream come true, but something else, something important that spoke to my heart and the reason why I love toys and action figures and models.

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Okaware works with Tatsunoko Production, Nippon Sunrise, Sunrise, Inc. Nippon Sunrise eventually became Sunrise, Inc. and is, to date, one of the leading anime producers. Take a look at this list I pulled from Wikipedia to give you an idea of the works he’s involved in. This isn’t something that I’d normally do, but the list is so comprehensive and HUGE that it’s impossible to not use it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunio_Okawara:

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972-1974)
– Artist (enemy mechanical design)

Hurricane Polymer (1974)
– Mechanical design (Tatsunoko Mechaman Design Office)

Tekkaman: The Space Knight (1975)
– Mechanical design (Tatsunoko Mechaman Design Office)

Gowappa 5 Godam (1976)
– Primary mechanical design (Tatsunoko Mechaman Design Office)

Time Bokan (1976)

Blocker Gundan IV: Machine Blaster (1976)

Yattaman (1977)

Mechander Robo (1977)

Chogattai Majutsu Robo Gingaizer (1977)

Tobidase! Machine Hiryu (1977)

Gekiso! Ruben Gaizer (1977)

Invincible Steel Man Daitarn 3 (1978)

– Principal mechanical design
– Selected works: Daitarn 3

Uchu Majin Daikengo (1978)

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman II (1978)

Mobile Suit Gundam (1979)
– Principal mechanical design
– Selected works: Gundam (mobile suit), MS-06 Zaku II

Zendaman (1979)

The Ultraman (1979)

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman F (1979)

Muteki Robo Trider G7 (1980)

Time Patrol Tai Otasukeman (1980)

Tondemo Senshi Muteking (1980)

Space Runaway Ideon (1980)

Fang of the Sun Dougram (1981)

Yattodetaman (1981)

Saikyo Robo Daioja (1981)

Doraemon: The Record of Nobita: Spaceblazer (1981)

Kaitei Taisenso (1981)

Combat Mecha Xabungle (1982)

Gyakuten Ippatsu-man (1982)

Armored Trooper Votoms (1983)

– Principal mechanical design
– Selected works: ATM-09-ST Scopedog

Round Vernian Vifam (1983)

Mirai Keisatsu Urashiman (1983)

“Mobile Suit Variations” model kit line (1983)
– Principal mechanical design

Panzer World Galient (1984)

Choriki Robo Galatt (1984)

MS-X manga series (cancelled) (1984)
– Principal mechanical design

Blue Comet SPT Layzner (1985)

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: Gundam Mk-II

Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ (1986)

Metal Armor Dragonar (1987)

Armor Hunter Mellowlink (1988)

Mashin Eiyuuden Wataru (1988)

Mado King Granzort (1989)

Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket (1989)

Mobile Suit Gundam F90 model kit series (1990)
– Principal mechanical design

Brave Exkaiser (1990)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: Exkaiser, King Exkaiser, Dragon Kaiser, Great Exkaiser

The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird (1991)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: Fighbird, Busou Gattai Fighbird, Granbird

Mobile Suit Gundam F91 (1991)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: F91 Gundam Formula 91

Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory (1991)

The Brave Fighter of Legend Da-Garn (1992)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: Da-Garn, Da-Garn X, Great Da-Garn GX

Hero Senki: Project Olympus (1992)

The Brave Express Might Gaine (1993)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: Might Gaine, Great Might Gaine, Might Gunner, Great Might Gaine Perfect Mode

Mobile Suit Victory Gundam (1993)
– Mechanical design

Shippu! Iron Leaguer (1993)

Brave Police J-Decker (1994)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: Deckerd, J-Decker, Fire J-Decker

Mobile Fighter G Gundam (1994)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: GF13-017NJ Shining Gundam, GF13-017NJII God Gundam

The Brave of Gold Goldran (1995)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: Goldran, Great Goldran

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing (1995)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: XXXG-01W Wing Gundam, XXXG-00W0 Wing Gundam Zero

Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team (1996)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: RX-79[G] Gundam Mass Production Ground Type

Brave Command Dagwon (1996)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: Fire Dagwon, Super Fire Dagwon

After War Gundam X (1996)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: GX-9900 Gundam X

Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz (1997)
– “Original Mechanical Designer” (actual mecha redesigned by Hajime Katoki)

The King of Braves GaoGaiGar (1997)
– Principal mechanical design
– Selected works: GaoGaiGar

Turn A Gundam (1999)
– Mechanical design

Betterman (1999)

Sunrise Eiyutan (1999)

The King of Braves GaoGaiGar Final (2000)
– Principal mechanical design
– Selected works: GaoFighGar, Genesic GaoGaiGar

Time Bokan 2000: Kaito Kiramekiman (2000)

Gravion (2002)

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED (2002)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: GAT-X105 Strike Gundam

Kiko Buso G-Breaker (2002)

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED X Astray (2003)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: YMF-X000A Dreadnought Gundam, CAT1-X Hyperion Gundam

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny (2004)
– Mechanical design
– Selected works: ZGMF-X56S Impulse Gundam

Super Robot Wars GC (2004)
– “Original Mechanical Designer” (token credit; no actual work done?)

“SYS*017” exhibit at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Ishikawa (2004)
– Head-mounted display and control trigger design

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam A New Translation: Heirs to the Stars (2005)

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam A New Translation II: Lovers (2005)

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam A New Translation III: Love is the Pulse of the Stars (2006)

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED C.E. 73: Stargazer (2006)

Kishin Taisen Gigantic Formula (2007)
– Guest mechanical design
– Selected work: Chronos Zero

Another Century’s Episode 3: The Final (2007)
– Mechanical design of Falugen Custom, variation unit from Metal Armor Dragonar

Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (2007)
– Mechanical design of GN-000 0 Gundam and others

Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn (2010)
– Original mechanical design (most of the actual mecha designs, including those for the eponymous mobile suit, were done by Hajime Katoki)