Shoji Kawamori on What is, and What is NOT, “Canon”

Originally Written by Renato on February 25, 2009

Fans all around the world tear their hair out over which version of which story in the Macross franchise is the “real” one, and which is the “dramatization” or “parallel world” version of events…. In Japan, most fans are rather chill. Why not just relax, everybody? Just over 20 years ago, Shoji Kawamori was kind enough to sit down and answer some fan questions, and among them, he gave us some insight into his philosophy of media-based storytelling. The takeaway from all this, is… You’re thinking about it too hard.

The following is part of a transcript from an interview with Shoji Kawamori on “Macross 7 Fun Net” from September 24th, 1998.…aku/5000hit.HTM

Click the “Read More” link to read the words of wisdom from Kawamori himself, which I have translated for your pleasure.

Macross 7 Fun Net is one of those dinosaur fan-sites. Seriously, it needs a cosmetic update. Still, I came across this gem of an article yesterday while reading a quote from it in the recently-published mook “Chaos Anime Taizen” (details on which can be found here). The book contains a long essay on the mind of the Floating Head himself, but a particular quote from this particular interview caught my eye, so I had to check out the full text.

Basically, the first half of this page introduces an issue which will be recalled again and again throughout the three pages of text.
We all know that Kawamori never likes to do the same thing twice, hence all the Macross series being so vastly different. Well, how Kawamori chooses to address this is by playing the “movie-within-a-movie” card, over and over. Yeah, we know about DYRL being made in 2031, and Macross Zero became “Bird Human” in 2059. But here’s the jewel right here:

 次は「愛・おぼえていますか」何ですけど、この時以降エキセドルのデザインが緑色になっていますね。 これは歴史の流れ上どういう風なことになっていますか。

 これがねぇ・・・よく雑誌とかで聞かれて説明しても理解してもらいにくいところなんだけど・・・。  例えば、第次世界大戦があって、それをもとにした映画がたくさん作られてるわけじゃない。それぞれフィクションだよね。 ベースは本当にあった戦争だけども、それぞれ違うのがある。  例えば、大河ドラマだと織田信長にしても徳川家康にしても、いろんな徳川家康がいたり、いろんな織田信長がいたりするわけだよね。 それは歴史をひもといて、推測してその作者の意図によって演じる役者も違えばキャラクターの えがき方もちがう。言ったセリフも違う。そういう感覚なんだわ。
 だから、一応年表で発表する時にはその時代に公開された映画という設定で 「愛・おぼえていますか」があるんだけども、じゃあシリーズが本当にあっ た事じゃないんですか、と。シリーズも本当にあったであろうが落ちてきて、 そこから何らかの歴史があったのをシリーズというストーリー化された物がオンエアさ れたシリーズと。で、映画と。  で、また「マクロス」ような事件があった、のをもとにしたのが 「マクロス」っていうテレビ。そういう捉え方なんだな、全部。
 そうそう、そういう解釈。だから、映画の「愛・おぼえていますか」 だけじゃなくて全部がフィクションって設定。
「愛・おぼえていますか」の予告編で「今回の映画で主役をやらせていただきますリン・ミンメイです。 」って・・・。映画が大ヒットして、それで版も作られた、と。
 そうそう。それがなかなか理解してもらえない。どうしても本当のことは別にある、 って考え方をする。そういう歴史を研究して後から作られたとかさぁ。 そういうのを推理しながら、いろんな制約の中で・・・に限るとか、 おもちゃが出るとかそういう中で組み上げられた物語っていう考え方なんだよね。 だから、いろいろ違って全然いいんじゃないかって思う。
 「MACROSS PLUS」も同様ですか。
 同様、同様。だから、あれに類似した事件は何かあったんだろうと。 シャロンっていうようなバーチャルリアルティのキャラクターがいたのかも知れない。 おそらくいただろう、と。

Next, I’d like to ask about DYRL. The design for Exedore is green all throughout the rest of the Macross shows. How is this explained in terms of the timeline?
You know, this is something I have trouble getting people to understand in magazine interviews. For example, youve got World War II, and then you have lots of movies based on that event, right? They are all fictional. Theyre all based on a war that actually took place, but they are all different. For example, in period dramas you have Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu, but there are so many Oda Nobunagas and Tokugawa Ieyasus. The producers look at the real event and adapt the character according to their wishes. The actors and lines also change, so the character changes. Its that kind of feeling. OK, so in the timeline you have a movie called DYRL that was released, does that mean that the TV series is the true story? Well, you have the SDF-1 that supposedly fell from the sky, and then a story was made about the subsequent history and was televised. Then that became a movie. Then later, there was a Macross 7 incident, and a TV series was made about that. Thats basically how I see it.
So Macross 7 is also a TV series broadcast within the Macross timeline?
Thats right, thats the interpretation. Its not just the movie, they are ALL works of fiction.
None of them are real?
None of them are real.
In the teaser for DYRL, there is a line that goes, “I am Lynn Minmay, I will be playing the lead in this movie.” It does make you feel that there was a TV show which then became a movie.
Exactly. Thats what I have trouble getting people to understand. The real truth is somewhere else. They studied the history and made the fiction after the fact. While reasoning the facts, they have to make many compromises, like the limitations of a TV format, like the fact they have to sell toys, and so they have to adapt the story that way. So, in that respect, it doesnt matter if all the productions differ.
The same goes for Macross Plus, too?
Yeah, that too. You have a similar incident that occurred. There may have been some virtual reality character like Sharon. Like, she probably did exist.

So there you have it. The rest of the interview is very interesting too, but here is a very clear-as-crystal statement of how much Kawamori cares about continuity, or canon.

Disclaimers: I’m not trying to push any agenda or anything, I just thought I’d share this.
Secondly, since the whole Ohnogi embargo I wonder if people are weary of this kind of interview. Particularly because this one has not been published but on one fansite. Well, as I stated earlier, it was quoted in a book recently, and here is a little shred of proof that Kawamori at least did speak to the fansite admin:…aku/3000hit.HTM

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Renato Rivera Rusca

Renato Rivera Rusca is a graduate of Japanese Studies at Stirling University in Scotland and has conducted postgrad research on Japanese popular culture in Osaka University and Kyoto University. He has lectured at the Manga Faculty at Kyoto Seika University and has participated in many projects involving the Kyoto International Manga Museum since its inception. He is a lecturer at Meiji University, Yokohama National University, Okayama University, and is Assistant Producer of animation at Studio Machiken.