"Congratulations on your graduation, Anno!" Megumi Ogata looks back on 25 years with Hideaki Anno and Shinji Ikari.

Interview 2021/3/23 21:00

"EVANGELION: 3.0+1.0 THRICE UPON A TIME", the latest and final volume of the "Rebuild of Evangelion" series, has finally been released. The story, which began in 2007 with ":1.0", ":2.0" (2009), and ":3.0" (2012), has finally come to an end. Many of you must have been shaken by the shock and emotion.

"Congratulations on your graduation, Anno," says voice actress Megumi Ogata, who has played the main character Shinji Ikari for 25 years since the start of the TV series "Neon Genesis Evangelion". Now that a period of time has passed, Ogata's encounter with Shinji has been guided by luck, fate, and choice. She talks about the 25 years she spent with Shinji and General Director Anno.

Please note that this article contains descriptions of the development of the film.

"I'll miss it, but I can't help it. It's ending," Anno told me.

The TV series "Neon Genesis Evangelion" started broadcasting in 1995, and every time a new one is released, it has been a social phenomenon.

In 2007, the "Rebuild of Evangelion" series began, and with "Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time," people have been wondering, "What kind of ending will we get?"

However, the release of the film had to be postponed due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection, and it was finally released on March 8. It became a huge hit, grossing over 3.3 billion yen within 7 days of its release, as fans rushed to see it.

Ogata expressed her relief, "Anyway, I'm glad that we were able to release the film without any problems."

"If the film had been released in June of last year as planned, I might have felt more loss and various other feelings. There was a long period of time when we couldn't release the film, so now I'm glad that people can finally watch it," she says with joy. At the same time, after she watched the completed film, she says, "I felt that Anno was sincere in his response."

Shinji is a 14-year-old boy who is forced to fight Angel as the pilot of EVA-01. This series has depicted Shinji's emotional struggles and growth through his fierce battles, but there must be people who feel a sense of loss as the "Rebuild of Evangelion" series comes to an end. Ogata herself says, "Rather than feeling a sense of loss, I feel as if I'm being left behind at the age of 14," revealing her honest feelings at the moment.

“When we started post recording this film, I asked Anno if it was really going to end. And Anno replied that it was going to end. I told him, 'I'm going to miss it,' and he said, 'I'll miss it, but I can't help it. It ending.' (laughs). At that time, I was heading to the studio with mixed feelings, thinking, 'This is really the end, I'm glad, but I'm also sad, but I'm also glad.' I felt that way even more because I had only received the first half of the script. But now I feel like I'm still 14 years old and left behind. This is because, from the middle of the film onward, Shinji becomes a "Kyogen-mawashi" (a role that appears to help the audience understand the story's progression) and helps guide the people around him. Maybe that helps me to feel that way," she says.

She smiles and says, "I feel like I'm sending Anno off with 'Congratulations on your graduation,' when he said, 'It's over.'

Ogata also talks about Shinji's role as the "Sender".

“I thought about this when I was working on "Rebuild of Evangelion," but Eva often depicts the spiritual world, and it's not always clear how much of the story is reality. I'm not sure if Shinji really sees everyone off actively or not. I think it would be more accurate to say that he sent them off because they all graduated after he confronted them and asked them about their feelings.”

This time Shinji isn't just sulking and being quiet.

General Director Hideaki Anno, the creator of this work, has devoted himself to the creation of "Evangelion," which can be said to be his very soul. What was it like to spend time working with Anno, a director who puts his whole heart and soul into his work? Ogata smiles happily and says, "Once we started working on the Rebuild of Evangelion series, Anno smiled almost all the time when he faced me. So, on the contrary, I thought, 'That's scary, why is he smiling?' I wondered what was wrong with him.“

“When we were working on the TV series, he was even more tense. Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki, and Masayuki were getting skinnier and skinnier every week. I wondered if they were all going to be okay," she says, referring to the changes over the years.

Ogata has a great sense of trust in General Director Anno. Nowadays, there are many anime productions that go through postrecording when the pictures are not yet ready. However, in the 1990s, when the TV series "Neon Genesis Evangelion" started, "all anime studios used to do postrecording when the pictures were 100% done."

“In the beginning of "Eva," the pictures were 100% complete before the postrecording. Gradually, the number of pictures decreased, but even then, Anno would explain in great detail, 'This scene is going to be like this,' or "This is how I want you to act.' Then, the footage would actually come out just as he had said. I know that's how he approaches his work, so I trust him a lot.”

Before the recording of this film, Ogata had her first experience.

"One day, I got a call from Khara, Inc. saying, 'We'd like to discuss the scenario,' so I went there and had a meeting. Anno said, 'I want to know your opinion on how to deal with Shinji's inability to speak at the end of 3.0.' "I told him, 'I'll do whatever Anno decides,' but he said, 'Now I feel more like Gendou than Shinji. The only people who understand Shinji's feelings now are Ogata and (assistant general director) Ikki Todoroki' (laughs)."

She continues with her memories.

"This time, Shinji wasn't just sulking and keeping quiet. He was determined to accomplish what he set out to do, but he didn't accomplish anything. On the contrary, he has dragged a lot of people into it, and he doesn't know why, but it turns out that everyone around him is like a stranger. He had only one friend among them who talked to him, but he lost that friend right in front of him. He was told that if he pulled out the spear, things would go back to normal, so he did his best, but it turned out to be worse. With all of that on his shoulders, he couldn't talk anymore. I told him how I felt about his feelings, and as I sorted them out, I exchanged opinions with him, saying, 'I think it will be alright if we can set up a situation where we can overcome these problems.'"

"In the field of animation, voice actors work at the very end of the process, so it's almost never the case that we are asked for our opinions at the scenario script stage, long before the recording script. This was my first experience," she says.

It seems that General Director Anno also had complete trust in her.

"The 'non-acting' is what actors do, and I was able to experience many things with the mind of a 14-year-old."

Ogata has been playing Shinji for 25 years, and playing the role of a 14-year-old boy has been a very special experience in her life.

Ogata mentions the age of 14.

"In the course of our lives, we may think, 'This word made people hate me. Then, I'll seal this,' or 'I shouldn't express this kind of emotion.' I think we become adults by putting on armor on our bodies one by one. Fourteen years old is the age when you can understand society from the same perspective as adults. In other words, even though they don't have armor yet, they are able to see the structure of society and various human relationships. Because they are defenseless, there are things they cannot fully accept, and they are very fragile."

This is what she says about her job as an actor.

"In the first place, I believe that the job of an actor is not to act. Everyone lives in their armor, and acting. I don't think there is anyone who lives their life with their true feelings exposed. It's not easy to take off the armor and communicate. However, professional actors are able to remove the armor they are wearing at any time. In addition, we voice actors need to remove our armor in a way that transcends age and gender."

"I look at every single event that happens in our society and ask, 'Instead of trying to make a public stance or maintain the appearance, what would I think if I removed all my armor and I was ......14 years old at that moment? What would I say?' I've been asking myself these questions for a long time. I don't think I'm a very good actor, so that's the only way I can survive as an actor. I thought that was the value of my existence," she says, referring to the practice of removing her armor on a regular basis."

"I suffered the most in my mid-thirties. Now, as a routine, I am able to return to the state I was in when I was 14 years old."

As an instructor, Ogata often teaches people who want to become voice actors, but she says, "There are so many women who want to play boy roles, but only a few who can really play boy roles," she says clearly.

“Don't get me wrong, I think boys will always be stupid like junior high school kids (laughs). But when a woman plays the role of a boy, she tends to look at it from a woman's perspective, because girls have been "women" ever since they can remember, and it's actually the most difficult thing to remove that armor. I probably have a unique person. I've always had a "Chu-ni" (*1) in my heart (laughs).”

She laughs, "I think that's why I've been playing a lot of roles with 'Chu-ni Sickness'(*1)' since 2010, besides Shinji, because I have that part of me." (laughs)

"Through Shinji, I have had a tremendous experience. Until then, the main character in robot anime would have stood up and said, 'I'll protect the earth!' But Shinji says, 'I'm scared, I'm scared, it's impossible.' But that's normal. My job was to 'represent a 14-year-old with a sense of reality.'

It was hard, but I was very happy to be able to experience many things with the mind of a 14-year-old," she says, rejoicing in her encounter with Shinji.

*1) Both of them are a slang term that refers to the factors that cause people to say and do things that seem to be typical of adolescents, and also to people who make fun of such behavior. Typically, it is used to describe behaviors such as behaving in an unnaturally mature manner, being overly sarcastic, or thinking of themselves as special and different from normal people.

My first rebel led me to meet Shinji. I have so many people to thank for that.

Because of Ogata's dedication, Shinji's pain, loneliness, and fear reached the audience, and a "legendary" character was born in the history of Japanese anime.

However, I was surprised to learn that when the audition for the TV series came up, her agency turned it down due to scheduling reasons. Ogata talks about her connection with Shinji.

(She played the role of Mamoru Chiba's boyhood in the movie "Sailor Moon R.") "When I participated in the 'Sailor Moon' TV show trip, Anno was there and asked me to audition for the role. If I hadn't gone on that trip, I might not have been cast as Shinji, and that would have been a really, really big loss," she says with a sincere smile.

“I think that everything in the world is about how you connect with the opportunities you get. The agency had its own ideas and they had already turned the offer down once. But it was such a great honor to be asked directly by the director to take the audition. At the time, I was still a newcomer, so I knew I shouldn't go against what the agency said. That was the first time I rebelled and asked them to definitely let me take this chance. It was my first rebel (laughs). If I hadn't rebelled like that, I wouldn't have been able to go to the audition, so even if it was luck and fate, it was because I chose to move forward there that I was able to meet Shinji. I'm really grateful that I've been able to come this far because so many people have guided me to make that choice,” she says wholeheartedly.

Interview and text by Orie Narita

<Original JP site: https://moviewalker.jp/news/article/1025469/>