The Witch from Mercury Character Design 【Mogumo】
Mobile Suit Gundam The Witch from Mercury is the first new Gundam TV series in seven years. The story begins with the encounter between Suletta Mercury, a girl from Mercury who has transferred to the Astiacia High Specialized Academy, and Miorine Rembran, the only daughter of the school’s chairman. What kind of turmoil will this encounter cause?
The original design of the charming and unforgettable characters was created by Mogumo, an up-and-coming illustrator. We asked Mogumo about the background of his participation in this project, his design work, and the points he was particular about.
How Mogumo became a character designer for 【The Witch from Mercury】
-First of all, could you tell us how you came to participate in the animation production as a character designer?
mogumo When I had a chance to greet the people at Namco Bandai Filmworks, they asked me if I would like to participate in the planning competition for the next Gundam anime. I entered the competition as a member of Morion Airlines (design planning team). To be honest, I didn’t think I would be accepted, but I immediately responded because I thought I would never have such a chance again.
-How did you feel when you were actually selected as a member of the production staff?
Mogumo Of course there was pressure, but when I heard about the planning competition, I heard the words 「create a new Gundam that has never existed before」 and 「take on a variety of challenges」. At that time, I was more excited than anxious, thinking that it would be fun to participate in the competition.
-What kind of image did you have in mind when you submitted your illustration for the competition?
Mogumo: It was decided in advance that the main character would be a girl, so I started with that illustration. I thought that the standard Gundam series storyline is that of an immature boy who grows up by riding in a Gundam, so I drew a standing illustration with the image of an independent, commander-type woman in mind, trying to go the opposite direction.
-So you drew a picture that was very different from the current image of Suletta.
Mogmo Yes, her character is the opposite at the time (laugh). Suletta’s personality was decided later (by the producers). At that time (during the competition), I just put together in my mind what I thought was a cool image of a woman and designed it.
-Did you draw the illustrations for the project competition based on requests from the creators, who said, 「This is what we want you to draw」?
Mogumo: No, there were almost no requests from the creators. Basically, I drew the illustrations freely by myself. I thought of various settings, such as the main character’s rival witch and so on, with HISADAKE-san, who is working on a coterie magazine with me, and we put them together as a proposal and submitted it together.
Mogumo joins The 【The Witch from Mercury】
-What was your impression of 「The Witch from Mercury」 team when you actually joined the project?
Mogumo: We didn’t have a chance to communicate directly with them, but had weekly online meetings. Everyone was always quick and courteous and really helpful. On top of that, they doing a lot of other work as well, which made me worry too, wondering when they were taking a break. I felt Their attitude and passion for creation.
-What kind of communication did you have with Director Hiroshi Kobayashi before you settled on the current character design?
Mogumo: During our meeting, Director Kobayashi said that he wanted to make 「The Witch from Mercury」 a Gundam anime that would last for decades. That really struck a chord with me. In all of my past work, I had never worked on a design with such a strong sense of purpose, and I was reminded of the importance of Gundam as a work of art and of the weight of my involvement in its newest work. From that point on, I was conscious of the fact that I would not dare to incorporate designs that are trendy today. I tried to create designs and silhouettes that were as timeless as possible.
Also, since being loved for a long time means being loved by a wide range of generations, I wanted to create a design that was simple enough for even small children to understand, but yet satisfying enough for adults to look at.
Uniform design for Mogmo 【The Witch from Mercury】
-Mr. Mogumo, you also designed the school’s uniform, didn’t you?
Mogumo Yes. At first, I imagined the uniform design based on the uniforms of classical foreign military academies, but as the worldview of the anime was being decided, I strengthened the sci-fi elements and settled on the current form. The loose lines around the arms are a distinctive feature, and I wanted a silhouette that reminded me of the capes worn by witches, so that’s how I ended up with that shape. Director Kobayashi also asked me to design a pants style, which I thought was interesting because it is a style not seen in many other animations.
-The length of the uniforms and the way they are worn differ depending on the character. Did you consciously design these differences as well?
Mogumo: Yes, I did. It’s also a part of the character’s personality, so I made detailed adjustments.
-Who was the most difficult character for you to design?
Mogumo Well, …… it took me a long time to design every character, and it was very difficult (laugh). But I would have to say Suletta. She is the main character, and I discussed with Director Kobayashi to come up with a simple but memorable design.
I couldn’t get over the image of an independent character that I first drew in the planning competition, and it was difficult to adjust the design as the character settings changed to suit the animation. A simple girl from the countryside with a simple appearance but a strong core who does things when she has to – it took me more than half a year to solidify that image as my current character design.
What Mogumo keeps in mind when designing
-I think it was those twists and turns that led to your current character design, which is unforgettable once you see it. By the way, what kind of work does Mr. Mogmo start with when he works on a character design?
Mogumo: I am not good at designing characters based on information about their appearances alone. First, I delve into the character’s personality and inner life, and then I imagine the character’s role in the design, including meta elements such as villainous characters or characters who seem to be a biting dog at first glance but later play an active role. We then decide on a single characteristic, such as silhouette or clothing, that can be considered the character’s selling point, and work from there. Finding them is a difficult task, but it is also a very enjoyable time.
-As you were working on the design, did you have some kind of standard concerning the 「Gundam-ness」 and 「newness」 that you were looking for in your own mind?
Mogumo: I tried not to think about that too much. If I was conscious of them, I would inevitably be influenced by past works when designing.
Did you rather work on the design by drawing on thematic keywords such as witches?
Mogumo: Yes. Sometimes I would sort of think of past Gundam works and think, 「Maybe this design is too much,」 or 「Maybe I should make it more unique」. But most of all, I was conscious of whether or not the design would fit in with the world view of 「The Witch from Mercury.
Mogumo’s favorite Gundam work
-What was the most impressive Gundam work in your mind?
Mogumo: The first Gundam I ever saw properly was 「IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS,」 and my personal favorites are 「Mobile Suit Gundam 00」 and 「Mobile Suit Gundam 0080 War in the Pocket」. Especially in 「War in the Pocket,」 because the main character does not directly fight, the disturbing situation surrounding his daily life is conveyed in a realistic manner, and the helplessness and sadness of the main character is very familiar to me. I feel that this is one of the reasons why I came to like the world of Gundam.
My impression of the Gundam series as a whole is that the creators involved have an unshakable confidence that 「this is fun」 and 「this is cool」 packed into their works. I think this is one of the main attractions of the Gundam series.
-It is true that all of the animation works have not been left behind by the times, and they continue to be talked about.
Mogumo: Yes, they have been completed as works that will remain universally. I think that’s really great.
-Lastly, what kind of expectations do you have for 「The Witch from Mercury」 in the future?
Mogumo: The creators are taking on a lot of challenges with this new Gundam. In a sense, it is a turning point from the previous series, and I think it will be a work that will serve as an entry point for new Gundam fans. I would also be happy if my character could be the catalyst for people to become interested in 「The Witch from Mercury」.
Thank you for watching. See you soon.