When Bandai Entertainment was making ready to license Mobile Suit Gundam in North America in 2006, director Yoshiyuki Tomino had an uncommon request: Delete episode 15.

Tomino has by no means been coy about his dislike of “Cucuruz Doan’s Island.” The fifteenth episode, which initially aired in 1979 throughout Mobile Suit Gundam‘s preliminary run on Nagoya Broadcasting Network, was a very off-model episode of an already strained manufacturing.

Still, Bandai complied, and the consequence was that episode 15 has by no means been launched outdoors of Japan. Overseas DVDs, Blu-rays, and streaming variations of Mobile Suit Gundam all skip over the episode as if it by no means occurred.

The notorious “skinny Zaku”

If Tomino had not tried to hide “Cucuruz Doan’s Island,” it will most likely be a forgotten footnote within the present’s historical past. But since he did, the thriller round Gundam‘s “lost episode” has solely grown. Now, even a feature film primarily based on the episode is slated to open in theaters in 2022.

How did the director’s least favourite episode turn into so widespread, and was it actually so unhealthy to start with? Let’s discover the historical past of Mobile Suit Gundam‘s misplaced episode.

What’s Wrong With “Cucuruz Doan’s Island?”

There has by no means been an official cause given about why “Cucuruz Doan’s Island” was excluded from all abroad releases. However, we are able to glean clues from a Q&A with the director held at Anime Expo New York on September 1, 2002. Anime News Network columnist Mike Toole was in attendance, and requested Tomino face-to-face about why “Cucuruz Doan’s Island” was neglected.

“I asked that it be skipped,” Tomino mentioned by means of a translator. “There’s a reason, but since the staff is still alive, I can’t talk about it.”

Tomino has by no means been extra direct than this, so we will not know for positive what his cause was. However, the preferred fan idea is that the episode merely is not as much as Tomino’s requirements.

From a story perspective, “Cucuruz Doan’s Island” is a facet story to the principle plot of Mobile Suit Gundam. Protagonist Amuro Ray lands the Core Fighter on an island the place he encounters a deserter from Zeon, the enemy nation in Mobile Suit Gundam. After he was shocked to seek out he’d orphaned three civilian kids in fight, Cucuruz Doan leaves the battle and as an alternative makes use of his Zaku to defend the youngsters and their caretaker, a younger girl. It is the one time within the sequence that we meet a personality who is not affiliated with both facet of the battle.

There’s nothing mistaken with the plot, however the animation is one other story. Doan’s cell go well with is a spaghetti-slim Zaku that hardly resembles the proportions of the heavyset enemy grunt go well with seen elsewhere within the present. A very low level is on the episode’s 18-minute mark, when ​​Doan’s Zaku’s shoulders are flipped, displaying the spike armor on the mistaken facet. Another well-known second renders the Gundam’s head as hilariously inflated. Still, episode 15 is much from the one episode to have humorous animation errors. Is it a lot worse than the rest in Mobile Suit Gundam?


Look out, it is a Gorndom!

“Cucuruz Doan’s Island” was just one casualty in a sequence of challenges plaguing the 1979 TV sequence’ manufacturing. In the 2019 NHK documentary Making Gundam: The Inside Story, the manufacturing workforce on Mobile Suit Gundam spoke extensively about their difficulties creating the sequence, from a scarcity of assets to a scarcity of time. One of the largest blows to the workforce got here halfway by means of, when artwork director Yoshikazu Yasuhiko confronted an prolonged hospital keep. The analysis: pleurisy, a critical lung an infection presumably accelerated by overwork. Without Yasuhiko to maintain keyframes cohesive, Gundam‘s artwork turned more and more inconsistent in his absence.

“It was so hard to watch,” he mentioned in Making Gundam, “I felt so bad. I couldn’t give it my undivided attention. Every time I did I thought, ‘oh no, that’s wrong’ or ‘oh, that’s so bad.’ I was in a private room with a bed and kept pulling the blanket over my head until I was completely underneath unable to watch anymore. I would sneak a peek and see a terrifying Gundam staring back at me and think of how terrible it was. I feel bad for the people that worked on it, that’s just the conditions they had to work with.”

It can be a tidy rationalization to say that Yasuhiko’s hospitalization was the explanation for the issues with “Cucuruz Doan’s Island,” besides that it is troublesome to pinpoint precisely when through the manufacturing the hospitalization occurred. Yasuhiko drew the character sheet for Cucuruz Doan, and due to this fact was not less than partially concerned with the episode. However, we do not know if Mobile Suit Gundam episodes had been produced within the order they aired, and the character sheet certainly contains Yasuhiko’s handwritten “#?” within the nook. What we do know is Yasuhiko is credited as animation director as late as episode 30. Even if he was out of fee for episode 15, it will actually be unfair accountable the episode’s points on one particular person.


Anime Friend credited for key animation within the episode 15 credit

Another idea is that Tomino was unhappy with the animation produced by the Korean manufacturing firm credited for key animation for “Cucuruz Doan’s Island.” Gundam analysis podcast Mobile Suit Breakdown famous the credit score to Anime Friend, a former Tatsunoko Pro subsidiary in South Korea, within the credit to this and only this episode of the unique Gundam sequence. By eliminating this episode from distribution, Tomino might get rid of all of Anime Friend‘s involvement with the present.

Still one other chance – and essentially the most far-fetched – entails the title of the younger feminine caretaker on the island. Her title is spelled with the identical katakana as “Loran,” the protagonist of Turn A Gundam, although the similarities finish there. Perhaps Tomino did not wish to have two characters within the Gundam canon with the identical title? We’re all of the choices right here. The credit score to this one goes to George Horvath, writing for Land of Obscusion.

It’s irritating to conclude, however we merely do not know why “Cucuruz Doan’s Island” received the chopping block, and it is uncertain there can be solutions so long as the employees is alive, as Tomino defined at Anime Expo New York 2002. And so the thriller lives on, solely serving to gas Gundam followers’ outsized curiosity within the episode.

Gundam‘s Streisand Effect

As of this writing, “Cucuruz Doan’s Island” nonetheless has by no means been launched abroad. Conversely, this merely implies that extra folks find out about it than they’d in any other case. It’s the Streisand Effect in motion: the extra Tomino makes an attempt to cover the episode, the extra notorious it turns into.

“Cucuruz Doan’s Island” might need been a forgettable throwaway episode, a consequence of a low finances and a strained animation workforce. But the thriller round its concealment has proved irresistible and is ceaselessly used as an Easter Egg for followers. Here’s a shortlist of Gundam merchandise that reference the episode:


    They’re not attempting to cover it!

  • Gundam Build Divers Episode 8 options an in-game occasion that takes place on an island that’s clearly the identical form and measurement as Cucuruz Doan’s island.
  • The 2017 OVA Gundam Build Fighters: Battlogue units the climactic battle between Sei and Tatsuya on—the place else?—Cucuruz Doan’s island.
  • Doan’s Zaku is featured within the Gundam Extreme Versus video games as the first non-Char Zaku. It seems to be like a daily Zaku this time, however its assaults are merely punching and rock-throwing, identical to within the episode.
  • In the Gundam Battle sequence for the PSP, Cucuruz Doan’s Zaku seems as a special unlockable unit. This one preserves the off-model skinny look and options an expanded moveset with weapons like Small Rock, Middle Rock, and Fire Rock primarily based on Doan’s penchant for rock-throwing.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin MSD Cucuruz Doan’s Island is a manga by Junji Ohno that expanded the episode’s storyline right into a five-volume manga. The sequence was serialized in Gundam Ace journal from 2016 to 2019.
  • And after all, the newest and most high-profile challenge can be Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island, slated to open in 2022. The director can be none apart from Mobile Suit Gundam artwork director Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. It’s not too quickly to guess that he’ll have a a lot smoother time engaged on this than on the preliminary episode. Will the anime’s “worst episode” turn into its finest film? Anything is feasible.

The extra time passes, the much less “lost” Gundam‘s misplaced episode truly is. As of 2020 there lastly has been an official English language release of the episode: the UC Libraries Blu-ray release of Mobile Suit Gundam, which incorporates the primary and solely official English subtitles for the episode. This Japanese release is import-friendly since Japan and the US are in the identical Blu-Ray area (although at roughly 17,000 yen or about $150, it is not precisely low-cost.) The excellent news is that English audio system can lastly take a look at this forbidden footnote in Gundam historical past and see for themselves if it is actually as unhealthy as they’ve heard.

Tom Aznable supplied analysis help on this text.

Lauren Orsini runs a Gunpla modeling for learners weblog referred to as Gunpla 101.

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