Kunio Okawara

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Kunio Okawara
大河原 邦男
Okawara Kunio "The World of Gundam" at Opening Ceremony of the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival (22431137765).jpg
Born (1947-12-26) December 26, 1947 (age 74)
OccupationFreelance mechanical designer; mostly for anime

Kunio Okawara (大河原 邦男, Ōkawara Kunio, born December 26, 1947[1]) is a mechanical designer in the Japanese anime industry. Okawara was the first in the industry to be specifically credited as a mechanical designer. He designed mecha for the Gundam and Brave Series franchises, as well as those of numerous Super Robot and Real Robot shows.

He was born and currently lives in Inagi, Tokyo, where he works out of a studio in his home.


Formative years[edit]

Okawara attended Tokyo Zokei University as a student in its graphic design department, moving to its textile design department one year later. Following graduation, he had been assigned by his school to a position as a fashion designer at the apparel company Onward Kashiyama Co. Ltd., where he also drew display backgrounds for their specialty store. Through the experience of drawing background art, he was led to take an art position at the animation company Tatsunoko Production; there, he (on suggestion from art director Mitsuki Nakamura) was assigned to design the enemy mecha for Science Ninja Team Gatchaman[2]—soon devoting his time to that brand of design almost exclusively thereafter during Tatsunoko's production of Hurricane Polymar and Tekkaman: The Space Knight. This would prompt Nakamura to found the internal Tatsunoko "Design Office Mechaman" with Okawara (which later spun off from Tatsunoko), where Okawara would receive the first ever recorded industry credit of "mechanical designer." Ultimately, he would go on to design of the title mecha of the show Gowappā 5 Godam, hitting his stride at the company.[3]

With Sunrise[edit]

Following the first two Time Bokan series in 1978, Okawara would leave Tatsunoko Production as an employee, striking out on his own as an independent contractor for "mechanical design." In addition to handling occasional design contracts from his old employer, he became a fixture at the studio Nippon Sunrise (one half of the studio that would later become Sunrise, Inc.). His first assignment from the studio would be principal mechanical design on the Super Robot show Invincible Steel Man Daitarn 3, directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino. Tomino would soon ask Okawara to continue to work with him on a new robot-oriented television project that he had tentatively named "Gunboy." In a then unheard-of move, Tomino instructed Okawara to design more "realistic," practically-designed title mecha for the series, closer to lines of the Mobile Infantry Powered Suits described in the Robert A. Heinlein novel Starship Troopers, rather than the fanciful iron giants depicted since the airing of Mazinger Z. The result would be [2]Mobile Suit Gundam: a show which would cause a model kit boom in Japan and spark a new interest in mecha design, as well as originate the entire Real Robot genre prevalent among televised anime in the 1980s.[3]

Following Mobile Suit Gundam, Okawara would continue to design mecha for later entries in the emerging Gundam franchise as well as many later Real Robot shows emerging from Sunrise. Notable in the 1980s alone were his works on Combat Mecha Xabungle, Fang of the Sun Dougram, Armored Trooper VOTOMS, Galactic Drifter Vifam and Blue Comet SPT Layzner. The late 1980s and early 1990s would soon see him joined by other mechanical designers working on various entries in the Gundam franchise such as Kazumi Fujita, Yutaka Izubuchi, Mamoru Nagano, Mika Akitaka, Makoto Kobayashi and Hajime Katoki, all of whom would provide their own "take" on Okawara's original work. Okawara himself would take note, their designs in turn inspiring him to expand the scope of his own.

In the early 1990s, many of Okawara's designs made an unexpected turn back toward those of classic Super Robots with Brave Exkaiser,[3] the first show in Sunrise's Brave Series funded by Transformers manufacturer Takara. As the series of shows continued, Okawara would go on to design the principal robot for every entry in the Brave Series, culminating in his design of almost every robot seen in The King of Braves GaoGaiGar—the series' final televised entry—as well as the show's OVA sequel, The King of Braves GaoGaiGar FINAL.

In 2004, Okawara's fame as a mecha designer led him to be contracted by the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa (Ishikawa) to design a type of head-mounted display used in the museum's "SYS*O17" electronic exhibit, created by Mathieu Briand. While describing the exhibit to museum management, Briand had referred to the subtle shape of Gundam's mecha when describing the displays he had intended to use; this in turn had led to the museum bringing Okawara into the project.

Current projects[edit]

Today, Okawara continues to design various title mecha in the Gundam franchise, most recently those related to Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn.

History of works[edit]

(Listed chronologically)

  • Artist (enemy mechanical design)
  • Mechanical design (Tatsunoko Mechaman Design Office)
  • Mechanical design (Tatsunoko Mechaman Design Office)
  • Primary mechanical design (Tatsunoko Mechaman Design Office)
  • Principal mechanical design
  • Selected works: Daitarn 3
  • Principal mechanical design
  • Principal mechanical design
  • Mechanical design
  • Selected works: Exkaiser, King Exkaiser, Dragon Kaiser, Great Exkaiser
  • Mechanical design
  • Selected works: Fighbird, Busou Gattai Fighbird, Granbird
  • Mechanical design
  • Selected works: Da-Garn, Da-Garn X, Great Da-Garn GX
  • Mechanical design
  • Selected works: Might Gaine, Great Might Gaine, Might Gunner, Great Might Gaine Perfect Mode
  • Mechanical design
  • Mechanical design
  • Selected works: Deckerd, J-Decker, Fire J-Decker
  • Mechanical design
  • Selected works: Goldran, Great Goldran
  • Mechanical design
  • Selected works: Fire Dag won, Super Fire Dagwon
  • "Original Mechanical Designer" (actual mecha redesigned by Hajime Katoki)
  • Principal mechanical design
  • Selected works: GaoGaiGar
  • Mechanical design
  • "Original Mechanical Designer" (token credit; no actual work done?)
  • Head-mounted display and control trigger design
  • Guest mechanical design
  • Selected work: Chronos Zero
  • Original mechanical design (most of the actual mecha designs, including those for the eponymous mobile suit, were done by Hajime Katoki)

When asked what the favorite of his works was during an interview, Okawara chose his designs for Shippū! Iron Leaguer.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-24. Retrieved 2011-02-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b AFA 08 About Okawara 2008 Retrieved 2008-04-22
  3. ^ a b c Barder, Ollie. "Kunio Okawara, The Man Who Designed 'Gundam' And Created The Profession Of Mechanical Design". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-12-31.
  4. ^ Barder, Ollie. "'World Of Tanks Blitz' Looks To Japan For Its New Creative Edge". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-12-31.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]