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Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan's Island's Original Animator Unexpectedly Returned After Some Harsh Words

"Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan's Island" is a beautiful mecha-sized surprise that's landed in the hearts of many Gundam fans. The movie is an expanded remake of Episode 15 of the original "Mobile Suit Gundam." In the film, Amuro Ray and the crew of White Base have to contend with a mysterious Zaku pilot while stranded on an island. The initial episode aired in Japan but never made it over to Western audiences, and that might be because of its poor animation quality. Yet, fans will find no problems in animation with the "Cucuruz Doan's Island" movie, as Amuro's iconic RX-78-2 Gundam has never looked better.

The word "redemption" probably comes to mind with "Cucuruz Doan's Island," as it gives the series a second chance at granting an intriguing story with the detailed attention and animation its creators thought it deserved. That's why "Mobile Suit Gundam" animation director Yoshikazu Yasuhiko coming back to direct "Cucuruz Doan's Island" is fitting. Many heralded his direction as some of the series' highest points. Yet when it comes to the lowest animation quality points with "Mobile Suit Gundam," he didn't exactly mince his harsh words for the series.

Yasuhiko winced at the dip in animation quality in Mobile Suit Gundam

"Mobile Suit Gundam" started an international franchise that's still beloved today. But that doesn't necessarily mean its beginnings were a smooth sail through space for the show's production team. As detailed in NHK's "Making Gundam: Documentary" (via Infinite Potential YouTube), the production staff was so overworked and resources so limited that when Sunrise cut their number of planned episodes down, everyone cheered. However, production hit a low point when the team lost Yasuhiko. The animation director became hospitalized midway through the anime production because of a pleurisy lung condition. During this time, Yasuhiko tried to watch how the rest of the staff fared without him on "Mobile Suit Gundam," but observing the significant dip in animation was challenging.

"I couldn't stand to watch," Yasuhiko said in the documentary. "It was too painful, too frustrating. I sort of peeked at it, wincing at the lousy visuals. They were so bad, I pulled the blanket over my head."

"Mobile Suit Gundam" is one of the most crucial series within the entire franchise. After all, it's where everything begins. But the classic anime is also notorious for containing its share of animation errors and not-so-stellar quality, to the point of fans poking fun at it. But no one could deny that the anime shined with its story. In the case of the "Cucuruz Doan's Island" episode, its standalone but intriguing plot is what helped give way to a movie update. Yasuhiko noted to Forbes that Sunrise had zero issues with the director choosing to re-animate the old episode as a movie since the company views standalone stories as perfect film material within the franchise.

Yasuhiko's manga work led him back to Gundam

Yasuhiko's role as animation director on "Cucuruz Doan's Island" is cause for celebration. After the first series, he stepped away from directing in the franchise to focus on other projects and follow a life-long dream. According to an interview with Forbes, Yasuhiko always wanted to be a manga author. For roughly 10 years, including his time on "Mobile Suit Gundam," Yasuhiko balanced working in animation and manga. In 1979, he debuted his first manga work called "Arion" (via Anime News Network), which attempts to put his unique spin on figures in Greek mythology. Yasuhiko expanded more into manga as his time in animation waned. Some of his other manga include "Venus Wars," Joan," and "The Blood Lineage of the Heavens."

However, even in manga, Yasuhiko is linked with "Gundam." In 2001, he authored "Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origins," a series that retells the first anime series. According to his interview with Forbes, Sunrise approached him about authoring the manga, even though he had little interest. With repeated offers, Yasuhiko eventually accepted the gig. But he also thought of smoothing out and changing bits of the original story.

"We all knew back when we made 'Mobile Suit Gundam' that some of the story elements weren't exactly the best they could have been," Yasuhiko said to Forbes. "I also felt that I didn't have to follow the story of the original so closely. I was there when we made it, I knew how we made it within that crazy tight schedule and very limited resources." With the "Mobile Suit: Gundam: The Origins" manga a success, it made sense that Sunrise wanted to adapt it as an anime. And fortunately, Yasuhiko agreed to direct the adaptation, bringing him full circle in directing within the franchise.