~SF Magazine August 1996~

This is a reconstructed version based on a discussion between Hideaki Anno and Nozomi Omori(*1) at the SF Seminar '96 held on April 28th.

*1) A Japanese translator, book reviewer, critic, and anthologist who focuses on science fiction.

The World of Neon Genesis Evangelion

Omori

I'd like to start with a topic about why we talk about anime in a science fiction seminar in the first place.

Personally, I have been advocating the "New Real Science Fiction" since last year. At the core of this new Sci-Fi is

  • "The Devil in Soliton" by Katsufumi Umehara

  • "Hyperion" and "The Fall of Hyperion" by Dan Simmons

  • "Neon Genesis Evangelion"

Of those works, Eva is the most representative of Japanese Sci-Fi today, and at the same time, it can be said to be at the forefront of modern Sci-Fi. If you talk about science fiction today, I think it's indispensable. But Anno-san probably doesn't think so.

Anno

Nope.

Omori

You don't. You don't have to agree with me at all (laughs), it's up to the viewer. Sci-Fi geek have their own way of watching Evangelion. So I'd like to analyze here a different view of Evangelion than the way anime geek sees it.

Anno

Thanks. By the way, I'm at a loss, probably here's not the right place for me.

Omori

I heard that you joined the SF convention at Hammacon(*2).

*2) Japan SF Convention held in Yokohama

Anno

So far, that was the last one.

Omori

I was surprised to hear in the waiting room earlier that there's an episode called "Magma Diver," and that title is actually based on David Prynne's "Sundiver" (laughs).

Anno

Yes, it was taken from "Sundiver", but no one noticed. I haven't read it. I just read the cover blurb and thought it was cool. When you dive into the sun, there's something there. That's cool. I haven't read it though.

Omori

That's keen. If you have that sense, you can live well as a Sci-Fi geek (laughs). Now I'd like to survey the audience here.

Who in the audience is unfortunate enough to live in an unfortunate living/economic environment to have never seen a single episode of "Evangelion"? Please raise your hand.

Oh, that's not much, about 20%. Then, please raise your hand if you bought all three LDs?

Anno

Seriously? That's not as bad as I thought.

Omori

There are about the same number of people with a 0% synchronization rate and those with a 100%+ synchronization rate (laughs). That's an ideal distribution.

There may be some people who have never heard of it, so I'd like the director to explain it in a few words. What kind of anime is "Neon Genesis Evangelion"?

Anno

Oh well, I don't know.

Omori

In a nutshell, it's like a robot animation?

Anno

Hmmm, there's a robot in it. I can call it a robot animation, maybe.

Omori

For example, what if one of your relatives asked you "Shu-chan, what kind of animation have you been making lately? or something like that.

Anno

Well, I'd answer I'm making a robot animation (laughs).

Omori

What if they ask "Like in Mazinger Z?"

Anno

If they ask that, I'll tell them that it's like 'Gundam'. Gundam is famous, so if I say so, they'll understand.

Omori

A robot anime like Gundam?

Anno

Hmmm, well, it's quicker. It's easier to understand.

Omori

Gundam, in terms of Sci-Fi history, was an anime that achieved a certain degree of Sci-Fi realism, not the promised space combat of TV anime. From the space colony setting to the Minovsky particle that brought about the need for melee combat. Back in the day, robots didn't need any logic to fight.

Anno

So they've brought something like that to the table, and they've succeeded.

Omori

Yes, properly reasoned, and that's what made Sci-Fi geek love it.

Anno: Also, throwing away the word "robot" was a big deal. No matter how you look at it, it's a robot, but it's a mobile suit. It's so cool, isn't it?

Omori

Earlier, in a conversation with Omiya Nobumitsu(*3), Okada Toshio talked about it, didn't he? No matter how you look at it, it's just an ordinary building, but the AUM truth teach calls it "Satyam" (laughs). They said, "This is similar to Gundam, isn't it?"

*3) He was the chairman of the executive committee of the Japanese SF convention "TOKON8" in 1982.

Anno

Yes, I think the way you use words is important. That's because it's a semiotic theory. I think so, too.

Omori

That's why it's called a humanoid battle weapon. And in the case of Eva, the kanji characters have a big impact.

Anno

It sure does. I'm not good at kanji, but it looks cool. It's good now we have a word processor. My rough drafts are all in hiragana. I don't know kanji very much.

Omori

It is groundbreaking in the sense that they used kanji with attention to typographic matters. For example, the way you put the chyron.

Anno

I was aiming for the coolness of the thing.

Omori

I think that's one of the reasons why it's so popular. Even in modern science fiction, the measure of "coolness" is becoming very important. It's because cyberspace and cybernetic space were so cool that William Gibson was so popular.

Anno

Yes, that's cool.

Omori

But if you think about not only the naming but also the framework of science fiction, the point is the fact that Eva is presenting a big theme, a big story about God and humanity. In the Japanese Sci-Fi of the 80's, there was a thought that the story should be no longer about a god or humanity. That you can't have reality in a big story like that. In the case of Eva, however, the vision of human evolution is clearly at the root of the story.

Anno

I got inspired by Mitsuse Ryu(*4) when I started.

*4)Japanese Science Fiction Writers

Omori

Oh, it was Mitsuse Ryu? Rather than Komatsu Sakyo(*5)?

*5) One of the leading science fiction writers in Japan, as well as one of the leading novelists of post-war Japan.

Anno

Not Komatsu-san but Ryu Mitsuse for that time.

Omori

He's famous for "Ten Billion Days and a Hundred Billion Nights"(*6).

*6) A science fiction novel by Ryu Mitsuse

Anno

Yes he is. I read it again. Japanese Sci-Fi of that era was good, wasn't it? If I say so, it sounds terrible now, though. It's just that I rarely read.

Omori

In that sense, Mitsuse Ryu's sense of naming is also quite-

Anno

Good, right?

Omori

Yes, it is. It also has challenges that seem to anticipate cyberpunk. However, Mitsuse's world is more oriental in its view of impermanence, but Evangelion is more Western.

Anno

I'm not into Western civilization, you know. Somehow I don't trust Western civilization very much.

Omori

Is that as something to be denied?

Anno: It doesn't relate to me, so I can use it. If I were a Christian, I'd be too scared to use Christian stuffs.

Omori

Indeed. You don't have any attachments, so you can use the name of an angel. Like let's use this name because its sense of language sounds nice.

Anno

To equate apostles and angels is so much to complain about from a westerner's point of view. There is an American worker in our company, and he scolded me for many things, saying it was wrong. That's normal. But I didn't care about that and just did it.

Omori

On the other hand, I thought of it as a story to climb the human evolutionary ladder, from Clarke's "The End of Childhood" to Sakyo Komatsu, and more recently, Gregg Bear's "Blood Music".

Anno

I don't know. I don't think what I was trying to do was that big of a deal.

Omori

It does look like it's a big deal (laughs).

Anno

Oh yeah?

Omori

Because you say "Instrumentality of Mankind" (laughs) .

Anno

Only the wording is exaggerated. It's just cool when it's written in kanji:

人類補完計画.

<Original JP site: http://anime-room.jp/modules/evangelion/eva-doc/siryou4-1.htm#top>

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