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Special Interview to celebrate being made into a movie

Nov 22, 2020

~Monthly Newtype June 1996~

Neon Genesis Evangelion is the first major wave in the sea of the anime world in more than a decade.

It has already been 17 years since the first series of Mobile Suit Gundam was aired. This was the era when teenagers packed theaters to watch "Space Battleship Yamato" and "Galaxy Express 999". The so-called anime boom peaked in 1980 and lasted for two to three years before and after. Many of today's Newtype readers must have been unborn or, at best, babies.

At that time, every teenager accepted anime without any resistance. But later on, watching anime became a "special thing" for a teenager.

Particularly in the mid-1980s, after original video animations, anime was subdivided to meet the needs of fans, and before we knew it, it had become a genre that "ordinary people" would never watch.

Of course, "Sailor Moon" and "Dragon Ball" are popular. But they are just for children.

And Hayao Miyazaki's (or Studio Ghibli's) films bring the ordinary people to theaters during the summer vacations. But they are not for anime fans at all, as a low-risk choice when you go on a date.

The film made for anime fans, and even the ordinary people says this is awesome, we have been waiting for such a film to be born.

That is Evangelion.

Evangelion received enthusiastic support not only from anime fans, but also from ordinary children, adults sensitive to cutting-edge culture, and former fans who returned to anime after a 10-year absence, and the movement continues to grow even after the TV broadcast ended.

It's been a month since the last episode, which ended without any of the mysteries being solved and caused controversy.

We were able to talk to director Anno Hideaki, whose schedule has finally returned to normal.

Anno: How I am now? ---Tired (laughs)

Anno began to speak, choosing his words carefully.

Anno: I worked on Evangelion as a live performance. I didn't do it theoretically, whether it was the story or the placement of the characters. As I worked, I took in various opinions and analyzed my own psychology, and I thought, 'Oh, this is how it should be. I found the words afterwards.

At first I thought it was going to be a simple robot anime. But if the story goes mainly in a school, it won't be the same as other robots anime. So I decided to make a protagonist with two identities: the school and the organization. I didn't think too much about it in the beginning.

As the staff gradually joined in, and when someone's guitar began to play, the drums and bass changed in response to the ad-libbing, the sense of live performance came alive in "Eva". The end of the performance is when the broadcast is over. That's why I can't start the next script until the previous one is finished. It takes me longer than in a normal production.

After finishing the script, I go back and review it. If I found a wrong part, I fix it on the storyboard. That's why we couldn't do the final episode until the last episode was approaching.

After all, the film Evangelion has two aspects: a story and a live documentary of Anno's own emotional journey. This is a reflection of his strong will "not to lie about what I want to do.

Anno had to face his own "mental problems" by getting involved in Eva.

Anno: I made the main character 14 years old because he is "more than a child, less than an adult". You can live alone, and you can live in the company of others. If it was centuries ago, you'd be regarded as an adult. In those days, you had only 50 years to live, so you had to be independent at age 14 or so. Nowadays, people have more than 70 years to live, so if you are Japanese, there are many people who are still dependent on their parents even when they reach 20 years of age.

There is also the problem that parents may be making you dependent on them. They want children to be children forever. Including that, I think 14 years old is appropriate for the theme of the film, because it's an age when you can be mentally independent.

Speaking of improvisation, in two episodes I came up with a word that would be the vertical axis of the story, the Human Instrumentality Project, but I hadn't decided what it would mean. I just liked how that kanji looks (laughs). In the world of "Eva", the population is halved, but it's a replacement theory, and the world where the human population is actually halved is the animation world. I think the anime industry is the same as the world of the anime, where there used to be a lot of momentum, but the number of people in the industry has been decreasing and it's a closed world.

Come to think of it, a couple of years ago, Anno said, "The world of Gundam is the mind-set of a director named Yoshiyuki Tomino. The world of "Gundam" is the mind-set of a director named Yoshiyuki Tomino, and Char, who struggles like Don Quixote to free the people in the closed world of the space colony (an anime company), is Tomino's own replacement theory.

It would be interesting to replace "Eva" with a story about a group of amateurs, Nerf, or Gainax, dominated by director Anno, taking on the challenge of a world where professional soldiers are unable to break through the current situation.

Anno: Is that so? By all accounts, Nerv is a group of amateurs. I make it look like a military formality, but it's not an army. I didn't want it to be an army. I think it's funny because anime magazines usually says Misato as a "quality soldier". It makes me wonder what makes her look quality. If she was, I feel sorry for the soldier. She makes plans in a willy-nilly way. It was all just a dumb luck. Ritsuko is the only one who has a decent strategy plan.

As for Misato, she is both subject and object, and she is partially similar to me in the real world. Earlier in the February issue of Newtype, Yuki Masami drew a picture quoting episode 7, and even though it's not that straightforward, Nerv has a similar meaning to it.

Here, Anno's mental is synchronized with the Tokyo-03 in 2015. After all, the city where there was no one else in the city describes the anime industry got slightly crowded with the immigrants who wanted to watch "Eva". At the same time, however, Anno was having a frustration towards some anime fans.

The word "Human Instrumentality Project" sounds from science fiction indeed. That is the "completion of the missing mind" of us modern people. To be honest, this concept a bit of surprised me. It is something that was not expected at the beginning of the program, something that people are missing. I wonder what kind of conflicts the director had to go through before he settled on a form of "heart".

Anno: I wasn't aware of the mental problem, but in Japan, the U.S. and some countries, material desires are almost always satisfied. I think the mental problem arises when people are already satisfied with their lives. If you have to worry about the foods for tomorrow, you don't care how others think about you, I mean, you'd work harder to make a better life. So in this age of satiation, the issue of the mind becomes a theme. I ended up there by going through Eva.

I couldn't draw it out for various reasons, but as far as episodes 25 and 26 (the last episode) in the original storyline, I even had the plot for episode 25. Episode 26 was abandoned at the plot stage. We'll rework the original episodes 25 and 26 in the video and LD that will be released next year, but for episode 26, we're going to rework it again visually. If I can't come up with anything, I'll take that plot apart and do it again. The episodes 25 and 26 that aired on TV were a direct reflection of how I was feeling at that point in time, so I'm happy with them. I don't regret it.

March 4. After the end of the voice recording of "Evangelion" episode 25, the staff and cast members held a party near the Tabak recording studio in Tokyo.

Anno: At that time, the script for the final episode was not yet up. It was all done the following week. We only had three days of drawing work in fact. To be honest, I don't think it even needed to be drawn up as an expression. In fact, it should have been fine for me to come out and talk. I thought that'd still work, but as expected, they refused to let me.

I used the non-cellucciated parts, the storyboard drawings, on purpose. It's not that I couldn't make it in time or anything. Anyway, I wanted to free myself from cell animation. Cell is just symbolism. If you see Asuka's picture with a marker and hear Miyamura's voice, it's more than enough to make it Asuka. I didn't want to get hung up on cells anymore.

But that doesn't mean we're going to go to CGI. I just wanted to tell that animation can function on line drawings alone as a medium of expression. I wanted to say something to those idiots who complain that "it's not a finished product because it's not celluloid" or "it's not celluloid so it's corner-cutting".

It's a liberation. I just wanted them to destroy the stereotypes that they have. It has gone beyond "I can't recognize her as a human being unless it's a cell," and it's almost a fetishism.

The first time I tried was in episode 16 when I made the line speak. Animation is just symbols, so it's a lie from the first place. It's fiction. No one thinks of it as a documentary.

But my own sense of live performance is that I want to put documentary in the film. It would be a rare way to destroy symbolism in TV animation. When the line drawings came out, some people in the anime industry called it lazy, but it's no good if they see it as lazy. They don't realize that we are aiming at it as an "expression," but the conception doesn't exist anymore in their minds.

I think there may be other ways, but in the last episode, it's still a pure word play.

Some of the core fans were in denial about the episode 26. Of course, it is true that there are fans who felt frustrated in that it did not depict the original storyline. I hear that there are many straightforward "verbal attacks" in online service(*1). On the other hand, this last episode recorded the highest viewership of "Evangelion", and the viewers who do not usually watch anime said, "Evangelion is amazing!

*1) A method of communicating data between a personal computer and a server (or node or host) in a host station using specialized software, etc., via a communication line and services provided by it. Its heyday was in the late 1980s and 1990s, when it gradually declined as the Internet was later opened up to the general public.

Anno: A lot of people from online service are stubborn and unable to think in a flexible way. Even though they're doing it in their own room, they get the impression that they're connected to the whole world. But that's just "information". There's no way to verify that information, but they feel like they have it all figured out. That comfort feeling is the pitfall. Besides, they've lost their sense of value for information.

Another thing is they can do it anonymously. For example, they would call me names and say, "Anno, kiss my ass." If I was next to him, I might hit him. If I said this, I'd probably get objections from online service, but that would be the graffiti-covered toilet. You don't have to write your name on it. It goes on and on in his room.

The system is great, but the people using can't master it well. Of course, it's not for everyone. But it's very hard to find normal people there. Anyway, I don't have time to be bothered by them now. I just want to tell them to get to know the world a little better and get back to reality.

For example, the story that episodes 25 and 26 will be retaken has already been sent to online service by Gainax. This is because if we don't give out accurate information, people will get a lot of fake information, but as soon as we give it out, we got some ridiculous statement that it's a money-making scheme. It shows they don't understand economic logic, and they don't realize the hypocrisy of their own hypocrisy in believing that they are justified in saying such things.

It seems to me that "Evangelion" has only its negative elements (laughs). Anime fans are made fun of because they don't realize how childish their ideas are. It's because they don't leave their room. They only stay in the safety of their own room.

Anime fans have nothing to be certain about in their minds. That's why they look to anime for help. It's not like Terayama Shuji's "Throw away the book, go to the city", but they have to go to the city and socialize with various people.

The reason why I can say that is because I am aware that I don't have anything in me... I'm so stupid that I've been an anime fan for 21 years and I've only realized that at the age of 35 (laughs).

Unfortunately, that's it all for this time. There's a lot more to hear and talk about. Newtype would like to hear from Anno several more times in the future, and we hope to introduce his comments in the next issue in the form of a separate supplement to the magazine.

If you'd like to "talk" to the director, send a postcard or letter to Newtype, it's okay to ask questions, feedback or criticism.

As long as you are willing to "talk" with him in the magazine, he will surely respond to you (*2).

*2) This project did not come to fruition.

<Original JP site: http://anime-room.jp/modules/evangelion/eva-doc/siryou3.htm#top>

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