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AsiaPOP hosts ‘mecha’ master Shoji Kawamori

His peg for robots and battleships? Skiing and innocuous items like tape dispenser
By: - Writer / Editorial Production Assistant
/ 05:31 AM September 10, 2017

Shoji Kawamori surrounded by fans

The birth of Gerwalk, or the transformable robotic fighter aircraft half-mode in the mecha animé franchise “Macross,” is a story that creator Shoji Kawamori loves to tell fans.

But at the recent AsiaPOP Comicon, the Japanese filmmaker-artist, who spoke animatedly and demonstrated how his fictional machines moved, sounded so enthusiastic it’s as if it were his first time to talk about the subject.

Since the first edition of AsiaPOP, Kawamori is perhaps the most accomplished of the guest creators. His work has not only reached blockbuster scale but also has notoriously inspired Hollywood duplication and other copycats.


Besides the very broad “Macross” universe, Kawamori has mechanical designs as well for “The Transformers” (he created the original mecha of Optimus Prime), “Vision of Escaflowne,” “Gundam Perfect Mission,” “Ghost in the Shell”—basically all the mecha animé we grew up with.

For the many fans of the master creator, his workshop and fan forum at AsiaPOP served a bigger purpose: to inspire creativity.

Shoji Kawamori introducing the birth of Gerwalk —PHOTOS BY FRAN KATIGBAK

Kawamori has previously gone on record saying he was never trained to direct films. He took up mechanical engineering in university, hoping for a future designing real-life, made-for-actual-use cars and aircraft.

When things didn’t pan out as planned, Kawamori instead used his engineering background for what was already a blossoming career as animator.

At the forum he explained how innocuous objects and random activities inspired his work, like an inverted tape dispenser that launched a battleship (its shape and form actually resembled the office item), and the downhill skiing motion that supplied Gerwalk’s humanoid movements.

Big surprise

This year’s AsiaPOP also brought in comic artists Alan Quah of Malaysia, Hong Kong’s Stanley Lau aka Artgerm, Americans Carl Potts and Rodney Ramos, and our very own Whilce Portacio. Tokidoki artist Simone Legno was joined by fellow pop toy designers Jason Freeny of the US and Filipino Quiccs Miaquez. (See related story on this page.)

Mohammed Khammas, CEO of Al Ahli Holding Group that brought AsiaPOP to Manila, said to expect more creators in 2018 especially from the film and entertainment industry.


Mohammed Khammas, the man responsible for bringing AsiaPOP to Manila —ALEXIS CORPUZ

“We have a big surprise for next year that we don’t want to announce yet, but you’ll definitely have huge producers coming in because we want to shed light on the process of creating a movie,” he said.

One of the trends which the comic convention aims to be influenced by is the rise of more independent producers.

“This has been happening for many years but now, because of the ease of production, there will be more people producing on their own and not relying on big networks to subsidize them,” explained Khammas.

“That’s something I wish to see more of, not just on the production side but also the storytelling side which is very important because that’s where everything starts.”

To a certain degree, said the Emirati CEO, the Con has become a recruitment ground for big studios as well. Last year an estimated 500-600 people tried to apply for jobs at Marvel, which has been known to hire a diverse set of project-based artists.

Judging by the bulk of portfolios sent in this year and the future prospects described by Khammas, job hunting at the Con may just become an exciting reality for those who dream of becoming great artists like Shoji Kawamori.

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