~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.

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THE SQUIRREL CAGE(*1)

1) The short story "The Squirrel Cage" (1966) is famous as a symbol of "New Wave science fiction" (*2). It also won the first (1970) Nebula Award for Best Foreign Short Story in Japan.

*2) is a movement in science fiction produced in the 1960s and 1970s and characterized by a high degree of experimentation in both form and content, a "literary" or artistic sensibility, and a focus on "soft" as opposed to hard science.

Omori

In the case of science fiction fans, I suppose it's possible that they overreact to names chosen just because they sound cool. Especially when the title of the last episode, "The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World," appeared in the preview at the end of episode 25, there were many SF fans who were excited and said, "Oh, I'm glad I read SF" (laughs). Because they were able to tell the young anime fans who didn't know anything about it, "I didn't expect them to bring Harlan Ellison in the last episode. Don't you know it? Everyone knows about it. He's the coolest writer of the American New Wave science fiction." All science fiction fans are grateful to Anno (laughs). Did you choose the term "Instrumentality of Mankind" because of the sound of the words?

Anno 

Yes, that's right. I haven't read that much Smith(*3), and I haven't read much SF lately. "Ender's Game" was the last one I read. I'm sorry that someone like me has come here.

*3) it could be not Smith but Ellison.

Omori 

However, unconsciously or not, I feel that there is a very high rate of synchronization with modern SF, for example, Dan Simmons' Hyperion, which I mentioned earlier. This work, along with its sequel, dominated the Japanese science fiction scene last year, and again, while using and quoting the necessary elements and parts of typical science fiction, it succeeded in creating a modern reality at the same time. Moreover, an important common feature is that this novel also avoids the ending, or rather, various mysteries appear, but it doesn't properly give answers to them (laughs).

Anno

I guess it's a trend. It's all happening at the same time. I've heard that a lot lately in movies.

Omori 

In the case of anime, there have been many works in the past where the ending was avoided, or rather the ending was not given properly for various reasons. But in the case of science fiction novels, the mysteries up to that point are usually solved when they reach the end. In exceptional cases of unresolved science fiction, such as some of the New Wave science fiction works, the fact that the mystery is not resolved is interpreted as meaningful. In the case of Hyperion, however, the story is not completed in one book, but there is a sequel called The Fall of Hyperion, which develops the story on a grand scale again, but it doesn't end, and then there is another work called Endymion. And this time, apparently, it's going to be a trilogy (laughs). There is a suspicion that this one may never end, but it is highly evaluated in spite of that. This work also has a very high meaning of being in the science fiction genre, as it quotes from previous science fiction works.

In the case of Eva, robots are launched from an underground base with a lot of noise. There are many typical scenes that would make anime fans very excited. However, when making an anime that can also be appreciated by adults, these parts are usually the first to be discarded. For example, you can see this in Mamoru Oshii's "Ghost in the Shell", an anime adaptation of Masamune Shirow's "Ghost in the Shell", or in Katsuhiro Otomo's "Akira". Even though there is a difference between theatrical animation and TV animation, you have to abandon the otaku side of animation, the part that they like very much, and "pursue the possibilities of animation as a form of visual expression". In this sense, I feel that Evangelion shows a great deal of respect for its birthplace as a TV animation.

Anno 

Well, it's animation, and animation is animation. But I can understand why Mamoru Oshii and others discard such things. He doesn't like anime, he doesn't believe in its potential. I also stopped believing in anime, and that's how I was able to create my current works. This is a difficult thing to understand, but when I think about animation, I think, "Oh, I can't do anything," and that's when Evangelion was born.

Omori 

So you're saying that you believe in the possibilities of animation?

Anno 

Yes, I do. I don't know why I get so wrapped up in it.

Omori 

Did you believe in it when you were working on GunBuster?

Anno 

Yes, I did. I thought that there was something in anime. There was a science fiction animated film called "Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise" that I was working on with Toshio Okada, and at the time it was not evaluated at all by the public.

Omori 

I chose it as number one in Kinejun's (*4) top ten Japanese films (laughs).

*4) A film magazine published by Kinema Junpo.

Anno 

Yes, you were the only one who voted for it, weren't you?

Omori 

Right. And Okada or someone got mad at me for it. He said that if I hadn't voted for it, it would have been recorded in history as a film that didn't get a single vote (laughs).

Anno 

I'm not so sure about that. "GunBuster" was also in the top 10 of Kinejun, wasn't it? Well, it wasn't highly evaluated by the public at all, and especially by people in the animation industry. I was quite disappointed at that time.

Omori 

In "The Wings of Honnêamise", you thoroughly eliminated the otaku aspect, didn't you?

Anno 

Yes, the idea was to release it as a general film.

Omori 

It's a so-called typical Japanese teen-film.

Anno 

It's a good movie. It's not animation, it's a really good movie. But when it wasn't evaluated well, I thought to myself for the first time, "Maybe animation is hopeless". Then Original Video Animation started appearing more and more, and the animation world became more and more closed. I think it's the same with special effects films.

Omori 

No, it's the same as science fiction.

Anno 

I avoided using that word, but it's the same as science fiction, and just like science fiction, anime is becoming more and more closed.

Omori 

That's why I felt that the current situation of anime and science fiction are rather synchronized.

Anno 

Anime has become an industry where the creator and the buyer are fixed. So, if the creator makes something that feels good, the buyer will feel good too. If there are 10,000 people who are able to exchange a little over $100 economically with each other, then it's okay. It's an economy. In other words, both the creator and the buyer have stopped going out from there.

Omori 

That's exactly what Katsufumi Umehara, the author of "Soliton's Demon," was saying earlier. Science fiction, too, has become a closed world between the writer and the reader.

Anno 

I was fed up with seeing the animation industry closing down. With GunBuster, I tried to show something different that could be created by doing robot animation or science fiction. Also, negative opinions about parodies and such were becoming more and more widespread, so I wanted to try to show that even parodies can become a methodology.

I wanted to support the theory of parody. I didn't think about it that much at the time, but when I thought about it afterwards, I realized that our generation had nothing. The only thing we have is the TV, which is a square magic box in a 4.5 tatami mat room. From that box, we can watch all kinds of information, including news, in real time, such as Asama-Sanso (5), which is very important for our generation. We could watch gunfights, or in other words, kill each other, in real time. This was an amazing thing for a child. There was a device like this in the living room (he use the expression "cha no ma"(*6)), and although the word "cha no ma" may no longer exist, you could watch it in the living room.

*5) Asama-Sansō incident

*6) A room with tatami mats that serves as a living room and dining room in a Japanese style house. It is used for family meals and gatherings.

Manga and common experience in TV means that if you watch "Cutie Honey" on Saturday, when you go to school the next week, you won't be able to talk to your friends who are watching "It's 8 o'clock, All together!(*7)". In other words, you won't be able to socialize. I wanted to watch "Kikaider", but in order to talk with my friends, I had to endure watching "It's 8 o'clock, All together!" In order to talk to each other, we had to watch the same TV. I don't like "Kamen Rider" after episode 8, but I had to watch Rider 2 as well. If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to talk to my friends. Television is a common experience for us. It's the only thing that comes out as our words and our experiences. Anime, manga, and special effects TV programs are all we have.

*7) A comedy and public variety show that aired every Saturday at 8:00 p.m. on the TBS network from October 4, 1969 to March 27, 1971, and from October 2, 1969 to September 28, 1985.

I believe that this is the situation that created the so-called otaku. But there are so many people who don't want to admit that. I think that's wrong. TV is all we have. This time, I started from the point of wondering what we could do if we admitted that.

Omori 

It's true that we had to watch TV on Wednesdays to be able to talk (laughs). From last fall until March this year, Wednesdays were the day the world turned around. After the 6:30 p.m. broadcast of Eva, there were people who stayed on the phone until midnight, or people whose modems beeped and they went straight to the online service. It was definitely a common experience, or at least there was always the sense that we were sharing the same Eva experience.

Anno 

Well, I guess that became the culture. I mean, it's definitely not beyond the borders of subculture. But that's all we have, so I guess it can't be helped.

<Original JP site: http://anime-room.jp/modules/evangelion/eva-doc/siryou4-2.htm#top>

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