The latest (9/20 2018) issue of Famitsu includes an interview with mecha designers Miyatake Kazutaka (Mazinger Z, Space Battleship Yamato, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross) and Ishiwata Makoto (Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, Valvrave the Liberator, Gundam UC 0096: Last Sun), who discuss Japanese mecha design and Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner M∀RS. While the two did not participate in the game, they contributed to the limited edition’s booklet with their own original Orbital Frame designs. The interview was conducted on the museum ship Mikasa at the Mikasa Park in Yokosuka.
— ファミ通.com (@famitsu) September 4, 2018
The interviewer begins with asking Ishiwata what he thinks of Miyatake, and Ishiwata answers that Miyatake changed his life, and speaks of how the mechanical designs in Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, especially those of the Zentraedi spaceships and Destroid Monsters, had a great influence on him. Miyatake says that he designed the Destroid Monster while consulting with Itano Ichiro, who was still an animator at that time, who told him that they would not be able to animate it, but he persuaded Itano with the help of Kawamori Shoji.
The two are next asked of their first impressions of Zone of the Enders 2. Ishiwata says that the first time he saw a video of it, he was impressed by the designs being perfectly balanced between ornamental and functional. Miyatake says that Orbital Frames are real-style designs, but leave an overall impression of being super robots *1: While most real robots *1 are designed through the inclusion of numerous aspects that evoke realism, ZOE2 does not do that, but instead start with and thoroughly pursue a specific image or symbol, and that he finds this approach interesting.
*1 “Real robot” refers to more realistic, hard sci-fi mecha like those that appear in series such as Gundam, Macross, or Votoms, while “super robot” refers to more colourful, super hero-esque mecha like Mazinger Z (Tranzor Z), Grendizer (Goldrake), or Golion (Voltron).
The interviewer next asks the two what they considered when designed their original OFs.
Ishiwata says that he kept two aspects which he considered indispensable in mind: The cockpit being between the legs, and the Egyptian mythology motif. He based his designed on the sphinx, but was not very familiar with the sphinx to begin with, and so also made it an homage to the 1975 super robot anime Brave Raideen.
Miyatake says that when he received the request, he got the impression that he was being told to go crazy on the design. He decided that he would do the design seriously, but do a specific part silly, but then realised that he has been seriously doing silly things for 50 years, meaning that he would just have to do what he usually does. He was inspired to become a mecha designer by 2001: A Space Odyssey which he first saw in a cinema when he was 18, 50 years ago, and wanted the design to also be based on the work of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. His contribution is expressed through both text and art, and is supposed to look like Starship Library, a column he used to write for SF Magazine. His OF’s design is supposed to be based on the sun god Ra, but he also included Mesopotamian elements, and made it as a “final boss” type of design. The “something silly” he included was the text.
Ishiwata is asked if he feels Miyatake’s influence when making designs, and he says that he once, when designing a spaceship, subconsciously designed the keel as something looking clearly like it came out of Macross, and it ended up looking like an homage to Vrlitwhai’s ship from Macross. Miyatake says that if Ishiwata is influenced by anything, it isn’t by Miyatake himself, but by their hometown of Yokosuka. He recites an anecdote of how his grandmother brought him to a nearby port to sketch ships, and tells of how Kawamori Shoji, who is good at automobile designs, knew how to “look” at cars from a young age due to how his father was a designer for Isuzu, who worked on cars such as the Isuzu Florian, and says that he thinks that the environment Ishiwata grew up in probably influenced him far more than Miyatake did.
Miyatake also recalls how, back when he was a child and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force was still known as the Coastal Safety Force, America gave Japan two frigates, which were named Asakaze and Hatakaze. Of the two, Hatakaze had a demonstration cruise from Yokosuka to Yokohama, and Miyatake rode on it with his grandfather. This experience, which stimulated all of his senses and left a lasting impression on him, later helped him with his work on Space Battleship Yamato.
On hearing this, Ishiwata recalls that he too had had experience with ships as a child, having ridden on JMSDF ships thrice, and that he still remembers how they smelt. His house was also in front of an American military port where aircraft carriers docked, with the USS Midway being there when he was a child, and he says that his experience growing up around ships may have influenced him. He says that experiences are important for a designer, as it gives them a feeling of security: For example, when designing ship cannons, people who have never seen one in person cannot tell how big they are supposed to be.
Part 2 of this interview is available here