Yoshiyuki Tomino (born November 5, 1941) began his career in anime as a part of Osamu Tezuka's Mushi Productions, working on the storyboards and screenplay on Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy) in 1963. From the 1970s onwards, after the studio went bankrupt, for a while he was freelance, working on famous titles such as Kyojin no Hoshi (The Star of the Giants), The Adventures of Hutch the Honeybee and Heidi, Girl of the Alps. Later, he was one of the primary members of the famous Sunrise animation studio, and went on to direct the Super Robot series Brave Raideen in 1975, and Zambot 3 in 1977. Two years later, he went on to direct Mobile Suit Gundam, the veritable progenitor of the Real Robot Genre of Humongous Mecha. In the 1980s and 1990s, he went on to direct numerous other mecha series, along with the edited re-release of the first Gundam series, two direct sequels, two movies, and an Alternate Universe TV series for the 20th anniversary of the Gundam franchise.
Tomino is known as one of the first mecha anime directors to break out of the mold of the basic good versus evil characterizations that are especially prevalent in mecha series, and with Gundam and its sequel, established that the protagonists and antagonists are really not so different after all. Which is a one of the reasons why he earned the Fan Nickname of the Bald Wizard. The other one is, obviously, that he is bald.
However, Tomino is also known as "Kill 'Em All Tomino" for his frequent use of the "Everybody Dies" Ending; in a number of his series, much of the main cast gets killed during the Grand Finale. Among these series were Zambot 3, Space Runaway Ideon (where his two expies get killed off), Zeta Gundam, Victory Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, and Aura Battler Dunbine. Ideon probably holds one of the highest body counts in anime, and in fact can be considered as a spiritual prequel to Neon Genesis Evangelion in both the themes the series deal with, and also in the structure of its presentation (one TV series, and two movies). Further adding to his reputation are instances wherein characters were introduced merely to kill them off piecemeal within a few episodes, probably to provide instances of angst for the main character. The instances where this works, and when it doesn't is best left to the judgment of individual viewers.
It is alleged that the worst of his tendencies were due to bouts with depression. While a number of his series even in the 1980s did have happy endings, it wasn't until the mid-1990s, after Victory Gundam, that he finally worked through his problems, and consistently avoided killing off entire casts ever since. The later released compilation movies of Zeta Gundam (that he directed) even have had their plots altered to somewhat reduce the level of bloodshed.
Despite this reputation, Tomino has a habit of following a tragic series with a comedic one, following Zambot 3 with Daitarn 3, Ideon with Xabungle, Aura Battler Dunbine with Heavy Metal L-Gaim, and Zeta Gundam with ZZ Gundam to name a few. He's also been shown to have Papa Wolf traits, as seen when he delivered an epic "Reason You Suck" Speech to a group of people who disparaged Romi Paku for being Korean.
Love Hurts is also prevalent in Tomino's Gundam series. In at least two instances, the hero has killed or seen his Love Interest killed in battle, and the love interests of supporting characters have been killed in various senseless manners, or if they're lucky, as part of a Heroic Sacrifice. This leads to the thought that being a Gundam pilot isn't the most dangerous occupation in a Tomino series; rather, it's being a Gundam pilot's girlfriend. On the flip side, Characters in a comedy series seem to attract Harems, and get the implied Harem Ending. Notable examples are Jiron Amos who while implied to have picked Elche is left open for the possibility of having Rag too, Gainer Sanga who despite confessing his love to Sara holds a VERY close friendship with Cynthia Lane (Which Sara didn't seem to mind in the end), and Banjou Haran, who has ARTWORK of being flanked on both sides by beautiful women in their sexy underwear (Jetpacks, too, if we count the parting shot of Daitarn 3's first episode. Even Judau Ashta exhibits such charisma, attracting no less than six girls across his series (Elle, Roux, Chara, Haman, and the Purus) - the only way his ending could've been happier is if enough of them survived for him to Marry Them All.
Additionally, Tomino is also known creative approach to characters and their relationships, able to write individuals that no one else could come up with. But by the same token he also tend to write characters that no one in their right mind would ever include in their work. To many it has proven a double-edged sword, both his greatest strength and weakness.
He is also known for the very distinct way that he handles voice work within his shows with characters often having a distinct sound and way of speech to them, even when voiced by familiar voice actors. You can typically recognize it as a Tomino work just by listening to the characters talking. This trait can be somewhat divisive though as to some this creates a sense of realism in the dialogue, while to others it is nonsensical, lacking clarity and feeling like characters are shouting in each others faces, talking at each other rather than with. Like with the character writing, it is something that fans either loves or hates.
Urban Legends love to claim that Tomino despises all the Gundam shows he didn't make. Some say that he physically attacks anyone who dares mention Gundam Wing in his presence while others claim that when Gundam SEED's director asked for advice, Tomino responded by handing him a book about Turn A and slamming the door in his face. This mostly seems to be an attempt by old-school fans to frighten off perceived Noobs by telling them "The guy who made Gundam hates your stupid kiddy rip-off!", as these legends sprang into being mostly around the time Wing was first airing in America. In actual verified interviews, Tomino has said that he was unhappy with the Alternate Universe shows at first, but mellowed out when he decided that he should be supporting his fellow directors. Of course, this is reflected in ∀ Gundam, which acknowledges the Alternate Universes as part of its grand history.
As an aside, Tomino occasionally writes lyrics for some of the songs that appear in his shows; when he does, he uses the pseudonym "Rin Iogi".
Anime directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino (in rough chronological order) include:
- Yuusha Raideen (Directed the first 26 episodes. The rest of the series was directed by Tadao Nagahama)
- Zambot 3
- Daitarn 3
- Mobile Suit Gundam
- Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam
- Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack
- Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory (Didn't direct but worked on the story)
- Mobile Suit Gundam F91
- Mobile Suit Victory Gundam
- ∀ Gundam
- Gundam: Reconguista in G (His return to the franchise after 15 years)
- The☆Ultraman (He directed the last four episodes after Gundam ended its production.)
- Space Runaway Ideon
- Combat Mecha Xabungle
- Ginga Hyouryuu Vifam (Not directed, but he did write the original concept)
- Aura Battler Dunbine
- Heavy Metal L-Gaim (directed, original concept by Mamoru Nagano)
- Brain Powerd
- Overman King Gainer
Tomino appears as the main character in Gundam Sousei, a heavily fictionalised account of the production of Mobile Suit Gundam.
Books and manga written by Yoshiyuki Tomino include:
- Mobile Suit Gundam (1979-81 novels)
- Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985-86 novels)
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack - High Streamer (1987 novel)
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack - Beltorchika's Children (1988 novel)
- Gaia Gear (1987-91 novels)
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway's Flash (1989-90 novels)
- Mobile Suit Gundam F91 (1991 novel)
- Mobile Suit Victory Gundam (1993-94 novels)
- Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam (1994-97 manga, concept)
- Mobile Suit Gundam: Mikkai - Amuro to Lalah (1997 novel)
- Look for Avenir (1995 novel)