Macross Goes Worldwide: An Interview with Shoji Kawamori and Hidetaka Tenjin at Otakon 2023

Macross Goes Worldwide: An Interview with Shoji Kawamori and Hidetaka Tenjin at Otakon 2023
Macross co-creator Shoji Kawamori and Macross visual artist Hidetaka Tenjin at Otakon 2023
Photo by Coop Bicknell

There’s been nothing but buzz around the anime“>Macross series since the announcement of the historic licensing agreement made between BIGWEST and Harmony Gold in 2021. That buzz turned into an eruption of cheering following the anime Expo 2022 announcement that almost every entry in the series would be making its way stateside on Blu-ray for the first time. A year later, anime“>Macross had its grand international takeoff celebration at Otakon 2023; filled with multiple industry-related panels, exclusive merchandise from Udon Entertainment, and sneak peeks at collectibles from Bandai that are guaranteed to destroy your wallet. However, a party like this wouldn’t be complete without the attendance of series co-creator and Vision Creator Shoji Kawamori along with his wingman, anime“>Macross Visual Artist Hidetaka Tenjin.

As a longtime fan of the anime“>Macross series, I was thrilled when presented with the opportunity to speak with both creatives. As I prepared for the interview, I was curious to learn how their experiences as anime fans had influenced their work. However, I was even more eager to ask some of the burning questions that had popped into my mind as I worked on other anime“>Macross-related articles, such as Kawamori’s thoughts on a production anecdote made by original anime“>Macross series director Noboru Ishiguro or the role Tenjin played in the inclusion of official English subtitles on a handful of Japanese home video releases. These questions made for an incredibly spirited discussion—one filled with an Itano Circus of enthusiasm and the occasional chuckle for good measure.

Kawamori-san, as a huge anime“>Gundam fan in your youth, how does it feel to know that Sunrise is the studio behind the next Macross, a series you created? How do you think that a younger version of yourself and the other members of Gunsight [A college anime“>Gundam fan club that Kawamori was a member of alongside future anime“>Macross staffers Haruhiko Mikimoto and Hiroshi Onogi] would react if that news somehow traveled back in time to you?

Shoji Kawamori: *chuckles* I’ve been a big fan of Sunrise‘s works since my middle school days, and if I was able to tell my Gunsight friends what would happen in the future, I think we’d all be thinking about the possibilities that Sunrise‘s creators would introduce into anime“>Macross. That’s definitely something I’ve been having lots of thoughts on.

Speaking of traveling back in time. Tenjin-san, you’ve previously spoken about going from running a anime“>Macross fansite to working on anime“>Macross Zero. What was going through your mind as a fan when you were asked to work on one of your favorite series? Especially one that was about to celebrate its 20th anniversary at the time?

Hidetaka Tenjin: I would say that I couldn’t believe what was happening. But at the same time, as a fan, I felt that I had a responsibility to represent my fellow anime“>Macross fans in my work. So I think I kind of had two things happening there at once.

It’s not every day you see fresh tuna in the sea of stars.

For Kawamori-san, I have one specific question about the production of the original anime“>Macross. In an interview director Noboru Ishiguro gave, he spoke about the spirited discussion you all had over the scenario of episode 4, where Hikaru and Minmay are trapped in the bowels of the Macross. He focused on the desperation of the situation but mentioned that you and your collaborators talked about “Thinking without boundaries” when approaching the situation. What did you mean by “Thinking without boundaries?”

KAWAMORI: I believe that is referring to how huge intergalactic battles were a big deal back then. But at the same time, also contrasting the life of an ordinary young man within the context of this gigantic thing that’s going on in the background. I believe that’s what Ishiguro-san meant regarding something he didn’t see back then, what he meant by “thinking without boundaries.”

Kawamori-san, in previous interviews, you’ve mentioned how some weren’t too crazy about anime“>Macross 7 when you first introduced it. With those experiences in the rearview mirror, what was going through your mind when you heard not only that 7 is well-liked by international fans but that they erupted into cheering any time it was mentioned at official U.S. panels? Why do you both think the fans are so explosively fond of anime“>Macross 7?

KAWAMORI: So I feel that fans over here are very vocal, and I’m thrilled to see people cosplaying [anime“>Macross 7‘s main character] Basara and everything. But in Japan, I feel the difference is that war is kind of seen as a taboo topic. Then you compare that to here in the States, where there’s a stronger tie between the military and the civilian population. I was originally quite curious about how anime“>Macross would be seen through the eyes of someone who has seen wars, who may have also experienced wars, and those in the U.S. who have taken part in war. Knowing that people have experienced it and are fully aware of the power of modern war machines, I’ve been very curious about how they will perceive anime“>Macross.

Members of the Gaijin Butai. From Left to Right – Gwyn Campbell, Renato Rivera Rusca, and Adrian Lozano at a Macross Delta Announcement Event.
Photo courtesy of Adrian Lozano

While we’re on the topic of international fans, Tenjin-san, what made you ask, “Why don’t we bring on some of the Gaijin Butai to help out with this upcoming anime“>Macross Frontier movie Blu-ray set?” and provide the English subtitles for anime“>Macross Delta a few years later? I believe those moments led us to where we are today in many ways.

KAWAMORI: *chuckles* Gaijin Butai!

TENJIN: *chuckles* Smart guys! Now that I’ve been overseas, I’ve had the chance to make lots of international friends. I would say that the pure passion that they possess is something very different from Japanese fans. I feel that the fandom is a bit different in Japan, where anime is going down a bit more of a moe path, and a large number of fans heavily cherish it. I was kind of scared when there was cool mecha stuff going on at the same time, and it wasn’t being given a fair shot. I believe there were so many revolutionary things in anime“>Macross, for instance, culture and what happens when two cultures collide. Ultimately, I wanted to introduce something new into the formula by bringing on the Gaijin Butai.

Lastly, for both of you, after years of having to maneuver around the “less-than-legal” ways in which many anime“>Macross fans have fallen in love with the series, what does it feel like to be finally able to say, “You’ll be able to pick up the official English release soon”?

KAWAMORI: We’ve wanted this to happen for a long time; we wanted this to happen sooner, but there are no “ifs” in history, right? We can’t go back to the past and make sure that things do or don’t happen in a certain way, but I believe we are entering a new era where we can talk more openly. Before, we could not say some things out in the open. However, I think we can use the bandwidth we’ve gained from the “less-than-legal” stuff you’ve mentioned and project that into the future. So what would the future bring? We’ll be able to talk more about that and take more action in the future.

TENJIN: The release of the DVDs and Blu-rays coming onto the roadmap along with everything that happened two years ago; those were things we couldn’t even imagine back then. It’s all thanks to the Gaijin Butai that you mentioned earlier and the ability to work with Creative Sphere over here in the West. So I believe that we’re coming into a new age where we could work with people over here and around the world to make things.

*excited laughs from everyone in the room*

Special Thanks to Otakon’s on-site translator for their linguistic expertise and assistance throughout the interview.

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