My experience with Yoshiyuki Tomino begins with the Mobile Suit Gundam movies and ends rather abruptly after watching Zeta Gundam, at which point I became fully aware that I had not grown up in the eighties. In that regard, maybe I’m not the best person to report on a panel dealing with a creator whom I find to be more interesting than the shows he directs. The accepted notion among mecha fandom that one must always preface what they have to say with an anecdote exemplifying the depth of their involvement and knowledge of the genre (“I watched all of Gundam ZZ ... on fansubbed tapes ... as they were coming out”) sends me running in the opposite direction of all things mecha. Just let me admire the robots and keep me out of the eternal pissing contest.
Apprehension for mecha aside, Alain Mendez (@hisuiRT) does a bang-up job of running through some thirty-odd years of anime history in fifty minutes. Yoshiyuki Tomino wasn’t just this guy who descended onto the world the moment the universe decreed the necessity of Gundam; he had a fairly lengthy portfolio by the time Gundam happened. From adapting Tezuka manga, Triton of the Sea, to working on historical shojo anime, La Seine no Hoshi, years before Rose of Versailles stole all the credit, Tomino had put his work in before gaining recognition for dramatic space operas. Shows like exploding child anime Zambot 3 and Brave Raideen show the beginning of the trajectory Tomino’s career was going to take to arrive at its height. And then Gundam happens.
Titles like Space Runaway Ideon, Aura Battler Dunbine, Garzey’s Wing, and Overman King Gainer are peppered throughout a successful, if mildly tragic, filmography after Mobile Suit Gundam 0079. I say “mildly tragic” in that nothing else in Tomino’s repertoire took off quite like Gundam. Beyond another Byston Well thing and a purportedly weak Zeta Gundam movie series in the mid 00’s, Tomino has not been directly involved in anything else for awhile, nor has he achieved his goal of gaining mainstream acknowledgement for anything besides Gundam. Mobile Suit Gundam is a national treasure, while Garzey’s Wing only gets played at anime convention video rooms after 4 am on a Sunday.
The official Gundam works are all well and good, if not exactly my kind of thing, but credit to Mendez for presenting the panel in a way so that it doesn't feel like I have to have to known everything he was going to talk about beforehand. Denying the urge to linger on the minutae of each Gundam series, he gives a balanced and informative look at all the highlights and low points of Tomino's career. Alain only had to lay out one rambunctious audience member, so I'd like to say I have no complaints about how he handles the panel except that it's hard to hear him speak while talking over video. Genericon panels were presented in a lecture hall-style room, often with minimal to no equipment to amplify the speaker's voice, so perhaps he was hearing himself just fine, but I missed a lot of the points he wanted to make with the Overman King Gainer opening song blaring. With some additional consideration for voice projecting, Alain Mendez's panel is recommended for those without a militant interest in mecha.