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The Conscience of the Otaking: The Studio Gainax Saga in Four Parts

Part 1 preface

[Animerica volume 4, issue 2; PDF scan]

Page 6

[caption left: “otaku: (oh-TAH-koo) n. Term used to refer to fanatical devotees of anime or manga. Japanese speakers might use this term in a pejorative sense to denote someone lacking in social graces and breadth who is obsessive about a certain subject. –The Complete Anime Guide”]

[caption right: “Tanaka from OTAKU NO VIDEO (aka Toshio Okada)”]

As Mel Brooks once said, “It’s good to be the King.” In our exclusive four-part interview, ANIMERICA talks with Toshio Okada, the otaku of otaku… the Otaking! Join us for the royal saga of the rise and fall and rise again of super-studio Gainax and more industry buzz than Robert Altman’s THE PLAYER. Interview by Carl Gustav Horn

A stalwart young man in a suit standing in a great corporate skyscraper and declaring that he will make the future; a pudgy, plaid-shirted fanboy with the meltdown eyes of madness squatting in a six-mat room, holding up an 8mm camera as if it were the ultimate weapon. Both are scenes from OTAKU NO VIDEO, the searing self-parody created by the legendary anime studio of fans-turned-pro, Gainax. And both are scenes from the life of Gainax’s principal founder and president until 1992, Toshio Okada, the otaku among otaku, the Otaking.

“I have been so called in Japan”, said Okada, during his recent visit to State College, Pennsylvania’s Otakon 1995, where this interview occurred, “half out of respect and half out of ridicule. In Japan, the word ‘otaku’ is always greeted with negative images, but this common sense does not hold true for the United States. I realized that the genuine pride of Americans who are otaku is nothing but pure and serious.” If that is so, it must be in large part due to the true legends Okada himself has written for the American fans: a man who started out selling fanzines in an oversized Char Aznable outfit is now a leading cultural pundit published in the weekly magazine of Japan’s largest newspaper; a man who entered college only to join a science-fiction club - dropping out as soon as he did - who now lectures at Japan’s most prestigious university.

But Okada’s defining moment came when, at the age of twenty-seven, with only a string of clever 8mm anime shorts and live-action SF parodies to his credit as a producer, he talked Japan’s multi-billion dollar toy conglomerate Bandai into giving his nascent studio, Gainax, the largest budget ever for a full-length, 35mm anime film: eight hundred million yen for THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE. In the megacorporate halls of Bandai, there were those such as WINGS‘co-producer Shigeru Watanabe, who fairly glowed with the infectious idealism of a film whose underlying theme was to be the lift-off of a band of youth who would show the whole world their talent, blazing over the limb of the Earth like a new dawning. That talent was indeed shown in the film, THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE, which swept the Japanese critics’ awards and which found a particular acclaim among the anime fans of the United States, but it took until September of 1994, seven years and six months after its initial release, before Bandai finally made its money back.

Gainax would go on to modest success with the OAV series AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER and overwhelming mass appeal with the TV show NADIA, but there is no denying that the stunning commercial failure of their greatest achievement always shadowed it - the studio today refers to HONNEAMISE dryly as their ‘little-known masterpiece’.

When I interviewed Toshio Okada at Otakon 1995, it was as (modestly) the greatest fan of the film in the English-speaking world getting to meet at last with the man who, together with WINGS’ writer/director Hiroyuki Yamaga, was the most responsible for the film’s very existence. I expected to have some of my otaku-esque questions about its production answered. I did not expect to find Okada taking personal responsibility for HONNEAMISE’s box-office catastrophe, offering revisionist theories on its inherent weaknesses. Charismatic and gregarious, Okada spoke freely and candidly, indifferent to shocking the perceptions of his American standard-bearer, who, like Eliot’s Magi, was beginning to wonder as the evening wore on whether he had come to this little town to experience a birth or a death.

At one moment contrite, and the next fiercely proud of HONNEAMISE, Okada’s statements about the film’s dubious advertising campaign and marketing plan suggest that it entered the theaters with one hand tied behind its back by others. These recollections and much more are included in this landmark interview, which amount to the largest document on Gainax ever published in the English language. In its four parts, Toshio Okada discusses the very earliest days of Gainax, its seizure of the moment, its life of chaos, its four-year hiatus from anime, an the place it is today - without Okada. Many of his remarks are bound to be controversial, demanding feedback from its other founding members who are still there, such as Yamaga and Hideaki Anno, writer/director of Gainax’s first post-Okada anime, the acclaimed new TV series NEON GENESIS EVANGELION. Hopefully, such responses can come to these pages in the future. But for the present, here is Toshio Okada’s own amazing story of fans who became giants; a story of ends as bitter as old blackness, and beginnings as fresh as the morning sun. Carl Gustav Horn Special thanks to fellow WINGS’ standard-bearer Neil Nadelman; to Gainax for their information on Daicon Film; and to the staff of Otakon 1995.

[Two faces of Okada. Kubo (right) and Tanaka (below) from OTAKU NO VIDEO]

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[caption top: “PLAYERS CLUB The faces and names you’ll need to know for this installment of the ANIMERICA interview with Otaking Toshio Okada.”]

[caption middle: 5 photographs, one anime girl

Hideaki Anno

  • Animation Director: THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE
  • Director: GUNBUSTER, NADIA, NEON GENESIS EVANGELION

Takami Akai

  • Character Designer: DAICON III AND IV OPENING ANIME
  • Assistant Director: THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE
  • Designer: PRINCESS MAKER

Mahiro Maeda

  • Continuity and Mechanical Design: NADIA
  • Production Design and Layout: THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE

Kazumi Okada

  • Toshio Okada’s wife, nee Kazumi Amano, and the inspiration for the character of the same name in GUNBUSTER. Mrs. Okada herself still works at Gainax in their merchandising department.

Shinji Higuchi

  • Assistant Director: NADIA, THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE
  • Storyboards: OTAKU NO VIDEO
  • Having left Gainax shortly after Okada’s departure, Shinji is currently back at Gainax, doing storyboards on NEON GENESIS EVANGELION

Hiroyuki Yamaga

  • Writer and Director: THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE
  • Producer: NEON GENESIS EVANGELION ]

[Middle left: AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER (action group shot of Noriko, Amano, Jung Freud, and the Gunbuster)]

Part 1

In Part One, Toshio Okada discusses the uncertainty over Gainax’s direction and the sense of closure that led to him leaving Gainax, as well as his opinions on the different kind of company Gainax is without him.

ANIMERICA: Why did you leave Gainax?

Okada: There are several reasons. Number one was that I had accomplished what I set out to do in animation and computer games. In the beginning, when I made the Daicon III and IV Opening Animation shorts, my dream was to someday make an anime movie, a robot anime and an anime TV series. They’re all completed - HONNEAMISE NO TSUBASA - ORITSU UCHUGUN (THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE - ROYAL SPACE FORCE), TOP O NERAE! (AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER) - which even now, I think was the best robot anime ever made, and FUSHIGI NO UMI NO NADIA (“Nadia of the Mysterious Seas”, released in English as simply NADIA or THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER). So there’s nothing more for me to do in anime. When NADIA was finished, I thought to myself, maybe that’s it. But there was one more thing - producing an anime just about me. I sort of wrote the basic script, and then my staff worked on it in secret. Then one day, I hear, “Okay, we’ve got the rushes! Time for the preview!”

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[Top left: MIRROR, MIRROR OTAKU NO VIDEO is the title of two semi-autobiographical videos, both released in 1991 - the titles, OTAKU NO VIDEO ’82 and OTAKU NO VIDEO ’85 refer to the events in the story. Both are available on a single English-subtitled tape from AnimEigo. Above, Misty-May, the General Products mascot - General Products being the Gainax company OTAKU NO VIDEO parodies.]

[Top middle & bottom: THE GIRL, THE RUBBER SUIT, AND EVERYTHING Originally formed in 1982 for the purpose of making SFX films, the 1981 Daicon III Opening Anime is sometimes considered their first production. Daicon film achieved the most fame for their 1983 Daicon IV Opening Anime, featuring the famous “bunny-girl”, (above) which won an ANIMAGE Grand Prix award. After their 1985 85-minute, 16mm SFX epic THE REVENGE OF YAMATO OROCHI (bellow), Daicon Film was superseded by the newly formed Studio Gainax.]

Okada: What preview? “OTAKU NO VIDEO ’82!” Huh‽‽ I was very surprised.

ANIMERICA: And that preview was on your birthday?

Okada: Yes, July 1st. So then I also made a second version, OTAKU NO VIDEO ’85. It sold through Toshiba EMI - hey… no one can sell my personal, private birthday video to all Japan and the United States! [LAUGHS] I was very happy with it.

ANIMERICA: What happened after that?

Okada: Well, then, when the Gainax staff asked me what we should make next, I said we shouldn’t make any more anime for two years. Hiroyuki Yamaga thought that maybe we should do something else. But Hideaki Anno disagreed. As he put it, we already had the staff, so he felt we should keep going with anime projects. So I then decided we should continue. Bu I didn’t really have any feelings from deep inside, and I didn’t really think we should continue in this kind of work if we didn’t have anything inside of us to support it.

ANIMERICA: Why did you think you had to wait two years before you could work on another anime project? Is that because you thought you’d need two years for a really good idea?

Okada: No, I meant we needed time to think about why we should make more aime, or perhaps we should move on to another genre. Gainax, after all, started out as Daicon Film, which was not an animation circle or club. Daicon Film was about live-action SF and tokusatsu special effects. We made two films, ah…

ANIMERICA: KAIKETSU NOTENKI?

Okada: [LAUGHS] No, KAIKETSU NOTENKI was my own private film, and I directed it on my own. The two films I meant were AIKOKU SENTAI DAI NIPPON (“Patriotic Task Force Great Japan”), and KAETTE-KITA ULTRAMAN (“The Return of Ultraman”). Making KAETTE-KITA ULTRAMAN was a very exciting experience for us, and during the production of HONNEAMISE, Yamaga planned that someday, we’d make a feature-length live-action film. So, my plan was always to make three anime productions and then move on to live-action. Because… well, for example, I don’t like the second series of UCHU SENKAN YAMATO (“Space Cruiser Yamato”). I thought YAMATO’s first TV series and the movie SARABA UCHU SENKAN YAMATO: AI NO SENSHITACHI (“Farewell, Space Cruiser Yamato: Soldiers of Love”) were very good, but after that, the second series just wasn’t necessary. And I think other anime fans would agree with me. Maybe somebody like sequels, but it’s no way of life for me. Challenge - new challenges, and change - are my favorite things. So that’s why after GUNBUSTER, I began to make computer games, such as Princess Maker. It was an entirely new and strange, yet pretty concept for a computer game - a simulation of your own daughter growing up.

ANIMERICA: Do you receive royalties for Princess Maker?

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[Right top: The triangle-beaked Gaos from the recent GAMERA film.]

[Right middle: Tokusatsu (short for tokushu satsuei, meaning special-effects photography) is the Japanese term for SFX films. Tokusatsu refers to live-action shows, not specifically the battle-team or sentai shows such as MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS (although the battle-team shows do fall into this category), but single-hero shows such as ULTRAMAN or KAMEN RIDER or films such as Keita Amemiya’s ZEIRAM, which utilize science fiction special effects.]

[Right bottom: KAIKETSU NOTENKI (above) finished in August of 1982, was a 8mm, 10-minute satire of a 1979 TV show beloved of otaku, Tsuburaya’s KAIKETSU ZUBATTO, which aired on Tokyo’s Channel 12, now the same TV Tokyo channel that airs NEON GENESIS EVANGELION. Kaiketsu (“Masterman”) is used much the same way we would call a superhero “Captain”. Zubatto is the sound effect of something slicing through the air, like a sword or whip. Notenki, however, is Osaka slang for “happy-go-lucky”. IN an additional irony, KAIKETSU ZUBATTO’s sponsor was also in Daicon Film’s future, the ubiquitous Bandai. In the show, wandering P.I. Ken Hayakawa, clad in a black leather (white in summer) cowboy suit, traveled the land with his guitar righting wrongs and searching for the killer of his friend Asuka, the “poor mountain-man scientist” who developed Ken’s zubatto-powered suit for use in space travel. The lead in KAIKETSU NOTENKI was played by Yasuhiro Takeda, co-chair of Daicon III with Okada, and now an executive at Gainax who has never quite managed to live down this role - but since Takeda and Okada are often mistaken for each other, Okada says, he seemed perfect. Daicon Film even made a sequel in February of 1984, KAIKETSU NOTENKI 2. An ultra-obscure in-joke in OTAKU NO VIDEO, caught not even by AnimEigo’s extensive liner notes, is the no symbol on Fukuhara’s apron, the emblem of KAIKETSU NOTENKI. Despite NOTENKI’s Tsuburaya origins (see KAETTE-KITA ULTRAMAN), both it, its sequel, and AIKOKU SENTAI DAI-NIPPON were released on VHS by Daicon Film and sold through General Products in the 1980s.]

Okada: No.

ANIMERICA: But you said it was your idea.

Okada: Yeah, but… I think it’s stupid, that someone thinks, “Oh, it’s my idea, so I must have the copyright.” Everyone at Gainax knows that it’s my concept, my game. It’s difficult to explain, but that’s the way I feel. Akai was the one who directed it, and he’s worked very hard on it. The idea just flashed, in two seconds…but it’s only an idea. The planning and the directing - that’s very hard work. So I felt Akai should have the copyright. I was president of Gainax then, and I had the idea, but that’s ordinary. I talked to Akai about it, and he said, “Oh! It’ll be a game!” So then Akai made it, he holds the copyright for it, and he’s made a lot of money off it. And that’s okay with me.

ANIMERICA: I understand.

Okada: And so, I guess I’ve otakuized the computer game genre as well as anime, with such games as Denno Gakuen (“Cybernetic High School”) and Battle Skin Panic, and software versions of SILENT MOEBIUS and NADIA. But that was enough for me, and then I had nothing more to do with computer games either. [LAUGHS] By that time, it had been two years since I had been able to decide on anything to do with anime. At that point, Takami Akai told me I should change my job. Because we’re friends - not ‘presidents’, not ‘producers’ - Yamaga is not a ‘director’. In the beginning of Gainax, we were all just friends. So, just like a role-playing game, the idea was that we’d switch jobs. Akai told me, “I’ll be the producer, you can be the creator, and Anno can be the director.” About then, Anno and I started talking about the base story of NEON GENESIS EVANGELION. But Yamaga had another plan. He wanted to make AOKI URU (BLUE URU), part two of HONNEAMISE. I couldn’t understand why it should be made at all. So I said to Yamaga, Okay, this is your plan…I can have nothing to do with it. So he was going to produce it on his own, and Anno was going to direct. But then the plan crashed, due to problems with money and staff. Finally, after all this, I was talking with my wife, and I asked her what she thought of the whole thing and how she felt. And she said, “I think you’re a stupid man, because you’re still president of Gainax, yet you’ve made nothing for two years. It’s not your way.” I was very surprised to hear that. [LAUGHS] And so I decided to leave Gainax.

ANIMERICA: Was this in 1993?

Okada: 1993…1992, I think. And then later, back in Osaka, I gave my friend Takeshi Sawamura a call, because I’d heard that he was now president of Gainax. And then I heard my friend Yamaga is president of Gainax, Huh? Yamaga? He’s a director! [LAUGHS] I start thinking to myself, he’s not that good at ordering around a staff, or a company. So I asked my friend Yasuhiro Takeda to call me up and explain, and he says, “Uh, I’m not on the main staff of Gainax now.” Huh? What’s happened in my - what used to be my company? And then the main staff explained it to me: “Okay, it’s just that now there are two presidents of Gainax, Mr. Sawamura and Mr. Yamaga. To the press, Yamaga will say, ‘I am president of Gainax’, and to the bankers and financiers, Sawamura will say, ‘I am president of Gainax’.”1

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[Left top: AIKOKU SENTAI DAI-NIPPON (“Patriotic Task Force Great Japan”), completed in August 1982, is a 8mm, 20-minute satire of Toei’s long-running and various “super sentai” series, such as KYORYU SENTAI JURANGER, footage from which is used in MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS. AIKOKU featured the typical four-man, one-woman team, with the code names “Ai Tempura”, “Ai Sukiyaki”, “Ai Harakiri”, “Ai Kamikaze”, and “Ai Geisha”. With their giant robot, they fight the sinister menace of “Red Bear”, which seeks to indoctrinate Japanese youth with the tenets of “Community Science” through crimson-colored books. Reportedly, a Russian attendee at Daicon IV reacted to AIKOKU with the typical good humor of the Brezhnev era, despite Okada’s insistence that the film had nothing to do with the Soviet Union.]

[Left middle: ANNO STRIKES A POSE According to Okada, the animator had made home ULTRAMAN movies even as a kid. But despite the more tolerant approach to fan use of copyrighted characters in Japan, as evidenced by its thriving dojinshi culture, it seems films - specifically series owned by Tsuburaya Productions, creators of ULTRAMAN - may be another matter. (Daicon Film’s 8mm 10-minute short, KAETTE-KITA ULTRAMAN, was subsequently never released to the public.) In fact, not even the title of Gainax’s Tsuburaya homage appears in the articles on Daicon Film published in the two main books on HONNEAMISE, although the B-CLUB COMPLETED FILE refers cryptically to Daicon’s very first production as being in the style of a “tokusatsu TV movie” about a “hard SF hero”. (This intelligence is accompanied by a not-so-cryptic short of the cast in their Monster Attack Team uniforms.) The film is, however, mentioned by title in the storyboard book, AILE DE HONNEAMISE: ANIMATE COLLECTION 07, on page 23.]

[Left bottom: A RIGHTEOUS ROLE MODEL Ultraman 80 vs. Space Ninja Baltan.]

Okada: Two presidents - and they don’t talk to each other about what they’re doing, and I don’t know, either. [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: Why, for the purposes of the media’s view of Gainax, would Yamaga be president?

Okada: I don’t know, because it’s very hard for me to ask Yamaga. If I asked him, he couldn’t really explain anything to me. [LAUGHS] So I can only wonder about it, but many people have said that Gainax has changed these last three or four years. Three months after I left, many other people left as well: Mahiro Maeda, Mr. Kanda, Mr. Murahama, and Shinji Higuchi - right now Shinji’s the SFX director of the new GAMERA film; he’s a very talented man. In those days, many talented and powerful people left Gainax. It used to be that we worked together, we talked together, we never got enough sleep - it was very hard, but we were like a family. That was Gainax. It was no ordinary company, and no bankers would finance such a company. But things have changed. Princess Maker 1 and 2 made a lot of money for Gainax, and it’s almost an ordinary company now.

ANIMERICA: They’ve got their finances under control?

Okada: Yes, and they’ve got control of their work. They’ll say, “This month we’ve got to do the DOS/V version of that game, next month, that screen saver, this month’s for Princess Maker 3, and that month of EVANGELION episode 5.” [LAUGHS] They’re very controlled, and I think it’s a good thing for the Gainax staff, because now their creative plans can be under control too. In my day, one year we would make so much money, and - ha, ha, ha - next year, very poor. One month we’d be making films [BERSERKER SCREAM] every, every, every day! But next month we wouldn’t have any work [CRY OF DESPAIR]. That’s the way it was. But now, things are under control. And I really think it’s very good for the staff. But… it’s not my way.

Next: In Part Two of the ANIMERICA interview, Toshio Okada discusses the origins of Gainax as an anime studio, the genesis of THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE, and how Gainax’s “chaos strategy” worked for GUNBUSTER, but not NADIA.

Part 2 preface

[Animerica volume 4, issue 3; PDF scan]

Page 8

[caption left: “otaku: (oh-TAH-koo) n. Term used to refer to fanatical devotees of anime or manga. Japanese speakers might use this term in a pejorative sense to denote someone lacking in social graces and breadth who is obsessive about a certain subject. –The Complete Anime Guide”]

[caption right: “Tanaka from OTAKU NO VIDEO (aka Toshio Okada)”]

As Mel Brooks once said, “It’s good to be the King.” In our exclusive four-part interview, ANIMERICA talks with Toshio Okada, the otaku of otaku… the Otaking! Join us for the royal saga of the rise and fall and rise again of super-studio Gainax and more industry buzz than Robert Altman’s THE PLAYER. Interview by Carl Gustav Horn

You may know him through his anime alter ego, “Tanaka”, in OTAKU NO VIDEO. But the real-life man is hardly less of a character–going to college only so he could join a science fiction club, he formed a small group of fan amateurs into Daicon Film, which amazed fans on both sides of the Pacific with their “garage video” anime productions and super battle-team live-action shorts. On Christmas Eve, 1984, the former Daicon Film group went pro as Studio Gainax, the zealot heretics who made ROYAL SPACE FORCE: THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE (1987), AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER (1988), NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER (1989), and OTAKU NO VIDEO (1991). Conversant with English, Okada was one of the key planners of AnimeCon ’91, one of the first major U.S. conventions to be devoted entirely to anime. But in 1992 he resigned the presidency of Gainax and made his way to Tokyo University, where the former dropout now lectures on multimedia. Returning to the U.S. for Otakon in 1995, Toshio Okada gave his first-ever interview to the English-language anime press. This four-part account gives a rare and controversial inside angle on Gainax, the most iconoclastic of all anime studios.

[caption bottom: “Misfits dreaming of a better world in Otaku no Video. Note Okada’s alter ego in the Char Aznable outfit (below).”]

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[caption top: “PLAYERS CLUB The faces and names you’ll need to know for this installment of the ANIMERICA interview with Otaking Toshio Okada.”] [caption middle; 5 thumbnails (one drawing for Sadamoto, 4 photographs):

Yoshiyuki Sadamoto - Animation Director: THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE - Character Designer: THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE, NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER, NEON GENESIS EVANGELION

Kenichi Sonoda - Character Designer: OTAKU NO VIDEO, BUBBLEGUM CRISIS, GALL FORCE - Creator: RIDING BEAN, GUNSMITH CATS

Hiromasa Ogura - Art Director: PATLABOR 1: THE MOVIE, PATLABOR 2, GHOST IN THE SHELL

Haruhiko Mikimoto - Character Designer: MACROSS, MACROSS II, MACROSS 7, GUNDAM 0080, AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER

Shoji Kawamori - Mecha Designer: MACROSS, PATLABOR, GUNDAM 0083 - Writer/Director: MACROSS PLUS]

[caption left: “Nadia & friends from THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER”]

Part 2

In Part Two of the ANIMERICA interview, Toshio Okada discusses the origins of Gainax as an anime studio, the genesis of HONNEAMISE, and how Gainax’s ‘chaos strategy’ worked for GUNBUSTER but not NADIA.

ANIMERICA: Your journey into the anime industry all sort of started after you quit college in 1981, after only three days. Why? What happened?

Okada: Well, after just three days I’d met the head of the science-fiction club. After that there was no need for me to go to school, because I only went to college in the first place so I could join a science-fiction club. In those days, Japanese high schools never had SF or anime clubs. I didn’t really want to go to college…I just wanted to join their club. So once I did, I never went to my classes again. Then the college sent me a letter asking me if I wanted to quit. [LAUGHS] So I said okay.

ANIMERICA: What college was that?

Okada: Ahhh…Osaka Electrical College? …uh…I forget. [LAUGHS] They taught economics, business and computer science. But I never went to any such classes.

ANIMERICA: And how was it that you came to meet Hiroyuki Yamaga?

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[caption left: “ART IMITATES LIFE…IMITATES ART The Otaking himself, mimicking a pose from OTAKU NO VIDEO where he holds up a kit of the little girl who appears in the Daicon III Opening Anime.”]

[caption middle left: “LIFTING OFF Hiroyuki Yamaga designed the storyboards for the opening credits for the classic TV series SUPERDIMENSIONAL FORTRESS MACROSS, which contains a carrier takeoff, just like this scene from the opening sequence of THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE.”]

[caption bottom left: “SIN CITY One of Kenichi Sonoda’s ‘rejected’ mecha designs [above] and one of his ‘approved’ storefront designs [below] for the garish pleasure quarter in WINGS, which, according to Yamaga, was based on an actual such area in Osaka.”]

Okada: He was on the staff of the Daicon III Opening Anime. At first, Hideaki Anno and Takami Akai were the only two people on its main staff–Anno drew the mecha and the special effects, and Akai drew the characters and most of the motion. But then Yamaga appeared, and said he’d do the backgrounds. Then they all went off to Artland to study professional filmmaking, and worked on the original MACROSS TV series. Anno studied mecha design, and Akai had wanted to do characters, but he couldn’t because Haruhiko Mikimoto already had such an advanced technique. So when Akai realized he wouldn’t get the opportunity to do anything on MACROSS, he went back to Osaka. And it was there that Yamaga learned how to direct–his teacher was Noboru Ishiguro [see ANIMERICA, Vol. 3, No. 8, for details on Ishiguro’s legendary career in anime–Ed.], Yamaga designed the storyboards for the opening credits of MACROSS.

ANIMERICA: Wow! I knew he had worked on MACROSS, but I didn’t know exactly what he did… Is it true, by the way, that when you were in America to research WINGS, you saw ROBOTECH?

Okada: Yeah, we were very surprised. Suddenly, in our little hotel room, on our little TV, there’s a little Minmei. And, the voice-actor was saying [IMITATES “RICK HUNTER” VOICE], “Oh, Minmei, Minmei…” AAAAAAAHHH!!! [LAUGHS] We couldn’t believe it, and had a good laugh.

[Neil Nadelman of The Rose gives some details in passing about the trip. “His enthusiasm is contagious, and I was honestly sad to have to leave the con on the last day. You see, he’d just finished a hilarious story about when he and two other key staff members of the Honneamise production were in Florida back in 1986 for rocket launch research, and they saw an episode of Robotech on TV….” –Editor]

ANIMERICA: So after Anno and Yamaga worked on MACROSS, what happened?

Okada: They went back to Osaka, in 1983, to make the Daicon IV Opening Animation. Of course, those people on the MACROSS staff, who would later become very important people in the industry, were quite angry with them. But, as Anno and Yamaga explained to Ishiguro and Shoji Kawamori, they had to go back to Osaka so they could make amateur films again. [LAUGHS] At first, the plan for Daicon IV Opening Anime was to make a fifteen-minute short in 16mm. I liked the screenplay–no dialogue–but the idea of portraying an original world, well, that was the beginning of what would eventually become THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE. We thought we were strong enough to take on such a project, but Yamaga couldn’t deal with the storyboards, and Anno couldn’t deal with the animation–in the end, it was just impossible. So we quit, and decided to make the five-minute, 8mm film that became the Daicon IV Opening Animation. But when that was done, it was quite natural that Yamaga and I began to talk about the original plan, with the idea of making that film in a professional way. At that time, we were thinking of WINGS as a 30-minute movie.

ANIMERICA: How did Yamaga have the idea for WINGS in the first place? Was it a short story, or was it always going to be a movie…?

Okada: Well, sometimes a good idea…no, not just sometimes. Good ideas always flash–just flash–you don’t know how, or why, it just comes–and a not-so-good-idea is the kind that comes from only thinking, thinking, thinking, and writing, writing, writing. I don’t know where the idea for that first 15-minute concept came from; it just flashed. It might have come during one evening we spent sleeping inside this ancient temple in Tokyo with the Daicon IV animation and convention staff. We were talking about, what kind of film we would like to make, and I said something like, “Hmmmm…flash…haaaaaaaa!” And someone else said, “Oh, yes that’s good…haaaaaaa!” [LAUGHS] and then we were all saying “haaaaaaaa!” And so the fifteen-minute concept was completed. It’s like I said, there was no producer,

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or director, or animation director–just friends who loved animation and science fiction. That’s all.

[caption top right: “GAINAX GIRL GUNBUSTER‘s bubbly yet determined heroine Noriko Takaya (above). OTAKU NO VIDEO’s famous ’Misty May’ (close kin to”bunny-girl" of the Daicon IV Opening Anime) aside, Noriko’s brief but bouncy walk up the road (amply demonstrating her braless status) in GUNBUSTER‘s opening credits instituted a new phrase into anime jargon–the ’Gainax bounce’.“]

[caption middle right: “WELCOME BACK The somber tone of the heart-wrenching conclusion to GUNBUSTER was underlined by Gainax’s decision to ‘film’ the episode in black and white (all of the episode’s cels were simply painted in grey tones) to give a ‘documentary’ feel to the animation.”]

[caption bottom right: “WHAT’S MY LINE On board the Luxion, Noriko meets the friendly Smith Toren…say, doesn’t that sound familiar? You guessed it, Noriko’s doomed love was named after none other than the already legendary founder of Studio Proteus, Toren Smith. Although Smith did not voice the role himself, he did make his mark in anime history as the voice of one of the bridge operators.”]

ANIMERICA: Something else I wanted to ask you about WINGS…Naghatsumih City, where the Space Force is headquartered, isn’t the capital, but rather an industrial town…is that meant to symbolize Osaka?

Okada: Yes, exactly. Because in those days in anime, the hero would always live in the capital city, and that seemed stupid to me. [LAUGHS] In American movies, the hero may be from Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, even Alaska. Not just Washington, D.C.–many, many places. But in Japanese animation, it’s always Tokyo, or just a generic city, with no character. I hate those kind of movies.

ANIMERICA: Yamaga’s from Niigata, on the west coast, isn’t he?

Okada: Yes. Niigata’s a very, very, very, country place, and half the year it sees over thirty feet of snow.

ANIMERICA: Yamaga said recently that the opening of WINGS, where Shiro is running out in the snow to the waterside, is just what the scene would look like in Niigata.

Okada: Well, I don’t really know, because that scene was drawn by WINGS’ art director, Hiromasa Ogura, and Ogura had never been to Niigata. So, if Yamaga says, “It is Niigata”, well, he’s the director, so maybe it’s so. But it’s not like you’re just using a camera, like a live-action film. If Yamaga told Ogura, “Okay, now you must draw Niigata’s sea and beach”–what if Ogura didn’t know what it should look like? He’d have to say, “Okay, I’ll draw a sea and a beach–is this okay?” [LAUGHS] Maybe it looks like Niigata, but maybe not.

ANIMERICA: What exactly did Kenichi Sonoda do on WINGS?

Okada: Kenichi Sonoda designed some of the ‘sin town’, the pleasure town.

ANIMERICA: That sounds like a good job for him.

Okada: [LAUGHS] Nice, yes. He made lots of designs for it. At first, he was supposed to be one of the main mechanical designer. But I couldn’t use his mecha designs because they were too fantastic. So Yamaga told him we couldn’t use his designs, and he asked what he could do instead. And Yamaga said, “You…mmm…maybe you’d…maybe you’d like the pleasure town?” Then Sonoda’s designs were very good! [LAUGHS] He designed everything there, and we looked them over and we were like…okay! Okay! OKAY! His most famous design was a shop front with a canopy like a skirt, and columns like women’s legs. [see previous page, bottom thumbnail]

ANIMERICA: Did you write the screenplay for the next Gainax production, AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER?

Okada: I wrote the base story, then I gave it to Yamaga and told him to write the screenplay. And Yamaga said, “Okay, this is my kind of work! But don’t hope for a good screenplay. I’m going to make a stupid robot-girl anime.” [LAUGHS] I said, like…okay, okay, okay! Then he asked me what I would like. And I told him that I like space best as the setting for everything. We talked for more than three months…I talked, he asked, he talked, and I’d say no…no…no. Then he went back to Niigata, and about a week later he sent me

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[caption left: “THE MIGHTY GUNBUSTER One of the largest robots in anime (aside from transforming ships such as the Macross), the Gunbuster stands between 200 and 250 meters, depending on your estimate, and features such tongue-in-cheek contraptions as the amazing Buster Shield, which looks like a Dracula cape!”]

[caption left bottom: “NADIA vs NAUSICAA The TV series NADIA was Gainax’s first real smash hit, winning the ANIMAGE Grand Prix (readers’ poll) award in 1991. Its main character, the enigmatic circus acrobat Nadia, was the first to actually push Miyazaki’s beloved heroine Nausicaa out of the long-held top spot in ANIMAGE’s favorite characters poll.”]

his screenplay–and when I read it, I was laughing all over the place. And I called up Yamaga, and told him “You’re a good screenwriter!” And he said, “No! That screenplay is stupid!” [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: So did Yamaga end up writing the screenplay?

Okada: Yes, but Anno changed everything!2 [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: I see. It’s like you say–chaos.

Okada: To me, GUNBUSTER was a science-fiction film. But to Yamaga, it was a stupid robot-action girl film. [LAUGHS] So he sent the script to Anno. And Anno thought, “Ah! This is a real mecha anime!” And he cut up Yamaga’s screenplay, then asked me, “How do you want to make it?” But everyone else on the staff was telling him, “Make it this way! That way! This way! That way!” Anno was so confused, he gave it to Higuchi and told him, “You can draw the storyboards any way you like!” So, Higuchi drew the storyboards…with no screenplay. Nothing but a theme: science-fiction-stupid-girl-action-robot-mecha! [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: Is that why it’s a comedy at the start, and a drama at the end? It’s so different, Part One from Part Six.

Okada: Part Six was the very first idea I had for the film–and it would be at the very end, I told Yamaga. That last scene, “Welcome Back”–it’s so far from the idea of a stupid-comedy-action-parody-girl-robot-film. At that point, every fan is sobbing–Yamaga was so ashamed of himself! [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: Maybe GUNBUSTER was so successful because it had a little something of everything.

Okada: Yes. Somehow, I thought the ‘chaos strategy’ ended up giving the screenplay a stronger structure. That’s why I think maybe we could have changed WINGS. But that was all ten years ago. [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: So you’re saying you learned how to make chaos work?

Okada: Yeah. It’s [the] only way I know how to make a film.

ANIMERICA: OTAKU NO VIDEO seems to have a pretty strong structure. It’s chronological, and you more or less wrote it by yourself. Is it true that in OTAKU NO VIDEO, the characters of both Tanaka and Kubo symbolize you?

Okada: Yeah. They’re two sides of my mind. Sometimes I think just like a Tanaka, and sometimes just like a Kubo. Sometimes I’ve taken people aside and told them, “You must become otaku…otaku…otaku…” But other times it’s been people telling me, “You must see this…see this…see this!”

ANIMERICA: Wasn’t NADIA’s story originally by Hayao Miyazaki? Is that the real reason it seems to show so much of his influence?

Okada: Yeah. The original story was going to be called “Around the World in 80 Days by Sea”. That was Mr. Miyazaki’s plan, fifteen years ago. And the Toho people held onto it, and showed it to Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and told him, “You make it.” And Sadamoto says [IN A GLAZED VOICE] “Yesssss…” [LAUGHS] NADIA was a very hard experience. At first,

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[caption right: “UNDER THE SEA NADIA (currently available from Streamline under its alternate title. THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER) is also the name of the 39-episode TV show’s heroine: a 14-year-old girl working as a circus acrobat in 1889 Paris, pursued by a flamboyant gang of thieves after her pendant, the ‘Blue Water’. Nadia joins up with Jean, a young inventor, on a globe-spanning quest to unlock the secrets of her pendant and her forgotten past, secrets connected with a lost civilization whose super-technology may mean either the conquest of the world or its salvation. Inspired by Jules Vern’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, references to the turn-of-the-century novel include Captain Nemo and his ship, the Nautilus, as well as the show’s ‘steampunk’ flavor.”]

[caption middle-bottom right: “THE NAUTILUS”]

[caption bottom right: “EVIL IS AS EVIL DOES NADIA’s fearsome world-conquering Gargoyle organization. Nadia’s spunky sidekick, King, the lion cub”]

[caption bottom: “Toshio Okada explains the screenwriting process for GUNBUSTER”]

Sadamoto was supposed to be the director. But after two episodes, he said “Okay, that’s enough for me!” and went back to character design and animation direction, and Anno took over.

ANIMERICA: But in comparing, say, OTAKU NO VIDEO’s structure to NADIA, you might say…

Okada: NADIA was true chaos, good chaos and bad chaos! [LAUGHS] On NADIA, Anno didn’t direct the middle episodes, Shinji Higuchi did. And some episodes were directed in Korea–why, no one knows exactly. [LAUGHS] That’s real chaos, not good! What I mean to say is, controlled chaos–that’s good. Controlled chaos is where you’ve got all the staff in the same room, looking at each other. But on NADIA you had Higuchi saying, “Oh, I’ll surprise Anno”, hide, and change the screenplay! Screenplays and storyboards got changed when people went home, and the next morning, if no one could find the original, I authorized them to go ahead with the changes. No one can be a real director or a real scriptwriter in such a chaos situation. But on GUNBUSTER, that chaos was controlled, because we were all friends, and all working in the same place. But on NADIA, half our staff was Korean, living overseas. We never met them. No control.

ANIMERICA: Was NADIA the first Gainax film to have Korean animators?

Okada: No, we used Korean animators even on GUNBUSTER. But we had never before used a Korean director or animation director. It was real chaos, just like hell.

Next: in Part Three, Okada gives his own criticism of his greatest production and greatest failure, THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE, discussing the Japanese response to the film, the self-symbolic nature of the narrative, and contrasting Hayao Miyazaki’s creative control with Gainax’s chaos.

Part 3 preface

[Animerica volume 4, issue 4; PDF scan]

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[caption left: “otaku: (oh-TAH-koo) n. Term used to refer to fanatical devotees of anime or manga. Japanese speakers might use this term in a pejorative sense to denote someone lacking in social graces and breadth who is obsessive about a certain subject. –The Complete Anime Guide”]

[caption right: “Tanaka from OTAKU NO VIDEO (aka Toshio Okada)”]

As Mel Brooks once said, “It’s good to be the King.” In our exclusive four-part interview, ANIMERICA talks with Toshio Okada, the otaku of otaku… the Otaking! Join us for the royal saga of the rise and fall and rise again of super-studio Gainax and more industry buzz than Robert Altman’s THE PLAYER. Interview by Carl Gustav Horn

You may know him through his anime alter ego, “Tanaka”, in OTAKU NO VIDEO. But the real-life man is hardly less of a character - going to college only so he could join a science fiction club, he formed a small group of fan amateurs into Daicon Film, which amazed fans on both sides of the Pacific with their “garage video” anime productions and super battle-team live-action shorts. On Christmas Eve, 1984, the former Daicon Film group went pro as Studio Gainax, the zealot heretics who made ROYAL SPACE FORCE: THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE (1987), AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER (1988), NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER (1989), and OTAKU NO VIDEO (1991). Conversant with English, Okada was one of the key planners of AnimeCon ’91, one of the first major U.S. conventions to be devoted to anime. But in 1992 he resigned the presidency of Gainax and made his way to Tokyo University, where the former dropout now lectures on multimedia. Returning to the U.S. for Otakon in 1995, Toshio Okada gave his first-ever interview to the English-language anime press. This four-part account gives a rare and controversial inside angle on Gainax, the most iconoclastic of all anime studios.

[Bottom: THE ROYAL SPACE FORCE’S TRIUMPHAL PARADE ON SHIRO’S RETURN FROM SPACE]

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[caption top: “PLAYERS CLUB The faces and names you’ll need to know for this installment of the ANIMERICA interview with Otaking Toshio Okada.”]

[caption underneath: 3 photographs, 2 anime characters

Yuji Moriyama

  • Best known as the writer and director of the parody anime PROJECT A-KO that was much more popular than a drama such as WINGS at the time they were both released; the irony is that that Moriyama was also one of WINGS’ animation directors.

Haruka Takachiho

  • Sometimes called the ‘Godfather’ of Japanese SF fans, Takachiho is the creator of the anime movie and OAV series CRUSHER JOE as well as DIRTY PAIR and DIRTY PAIR FLASH. A longtime friend of Gainax, he is known for his remark that the unknown intellectual strength of Japanese SF - beyond giant monsters, robots, or space opera - could be found in WINGS.

Shiro Lhadatt

  • The 21-year-old protagonist of WINGS (shown here as a wide-eyed 15-year-old), who begins as an introverted slacker who consciously avoids the world, and ends up making history. A large part of WINGS concerns itself with Shiro’s observations and actions as he slowly develops moral awareness; but he rarely states his feelings explicitly. Shiro’s worldview was based on that held at the time by WINGS’ director, Hiroyuki Yamaga, who was only a few years older than his character. Shiro’s appearance was reportedly based on actor Treat Williams (HAIR, PRINCE OF THE CITY, THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD).

Lequinni Nondelaiko

  • The 17-year-old anti-heroine of WINGS is one of the most unusual female characters in anime; a woman with perfect esteem for God but none for herself. Lequinni’s dream that space flight will usher in an age of peace for mankind is what revives Shiro’s own dreams of ascent, and there is a mysterious link between the two even at the end; yet their entire ‘relationship’ is based on a lack of real communication, and when the illusion shatters, it does so violently.

Hayao Miyazaki

  • President of Studio Ghibli and Japan’s most respected anime director; also Japan’s top-grossing director since his 1993 film PORCO ROSSO. Miyazaki’s career in the industry dates back to the 1960s, but his breakthrough film was 1984’s NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF WIND.

]

[Bottom left: SHIRO AND LEQUINNI LOOK TOWARD THE SKY, AND THE FUTURE]

Part 3

In Part Three, Okada gives his own criticism of his greatest production and greatest failure, THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE, discussing the Japanese response to the film, the self-symbolic nature of the narrative, and contrasting Hayao Miyazaki’s creative control with Gainax’s chaos.

ANIMERICA: When you look back at it, how do you see WINGS now, after all these years?

Okada: Uhh…the screenplay is not very strong.

ANIMERICA: Could you explain?

Okada: Our goal at first was to make a very ‘realistic’ film. So we couldn’t have the kind of strong, dramatic construction you’d find in a Hollywood movie. WINGS is an art film. And at the time, I thought, that was very good, that this is something - an anime art film. But now when I look back, I realize…this was a major motion picture. Bandai spent a lot of money on it. It was our big chance. Maybe if I’d given it a little stronger structure, and a little simpler story - change it a little, make it not so different - it could have met the mainstream. Then ordinary people would have said, “Oh, it’s a fantastic movie, a good movie.” But it ended up an ‘art’ film.

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[Left middle: HOW MUCH IS THAT ROBOT IN THE WINDOW? Bandai is Japan’s largest toy company (their ‘toy’ division logo is shown above); according to THE NEW YORK TIMES, they bankroll half of the anime shows currently on television, including such top-rated hits as SAILOR MOON and DRAGON BALL. Bandai financed and owns Gainax’s first two productions, THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE and AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER, while Gainax’s current TV show NEON GENESIS EVANGELION has no association with Bandai, highly unusual for a mecha show. The perception of Gainax as Japan’s hottest ‘unsigned’ anime talent and Bandai’s desire to produce its first film were among the unique circumstances that led to WINGS being made in 1987. Their president then and now is Makoto Yamashina, who said of WINGS, “I don’t understand it in the least. Therefore it has to be terrific.”]

[Left bottom: THE MORNING AFTER Shiro and Lequinni confront the morning after after his attempted rape. Lequinni’s apologetic manner in the English version of WINGS, in which she newly takes the blame for Shiro’s attack on her, was blasted as sexist by many U.S. critics who screened the film.]

[Bottom middle: SIM WORLD: WINGS’ alternate universe was created from the ground up - everything from trains and rockets to money, clothes and toothbrushes were redesigned for the film as features of a brand-new world that mirrors our own in many ways, but is far from exactly the same.]

ANIMERICA: Did you think that it would be successful, a hit?

Okada: No. Because in order for me to have said it was successful, a hit, WINGS would have had to have made four billion yen.

ANIMERICA: Five times its budget? Is that what Bandai said?

Okada: Not only Bandai. Bandai’s opinion of how much money we had to make varied. But all of the marketing data said that we had to get back five times our costs within the Japanese theaters. But we didn’t get back the money. No, I mustn’t say we. Bandai didn’t get back the money. And of course, it was my responsibility. I was the producer of that film.

ANIMERICA: In the storyboard book of WINGS, Yamaga talks about STAR QUEST, the first English version of WINGS, that premiered in Los Angeles in 1987. He talks about the phone calls he got from the dubbing studio in Los Angeles, asking, “Can we change this?…Can we cut this?” He says he was very confused, because he didn’t know they were going to be changing things around. When you went to Los Angeles to see STAR QUEST, did you know that something was wrong?

Okada: Yeah, Because this was our first film, neither Yamaga nor myself had any right of final cut. Bandai had right of final cut, of dubbing, of distribution throughout Japan and the whole world - so they could change it by themselves. As for what happened, I’m not surprised. In Bandai, there are some people who know about making movies, but most there don’t. And there are some people who want to have political power within that company. So someone says, “Oh, this movie, it’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine.” And someone will say, “It’s going to be mine for the United States.” And someone will say, “It’s going to be mine for the United Kingdom.” And so, such people changed WINGS without talking to us.

ANIMERICA: You know, for the past three years, American fans have voted WINGS the best anime film ever made on the rec.arts.anime annual poll. Americans seem to love it or hate it - it’s one or the other. And to this day, there are detailed discussions on the Internet about the meaning of the film, the meaning of particular scenes, and when you say that you regard the screenplays as weak, I think it may be possible that Americans may look differently at WINGS than the Japanese. How did Japanese critics react to the film? What did they think?

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[Left top: LOUIE, LOUIE The rowdy Royal Space Force making the most of their leave time in the pleasure quarter (above). Though some viewers will overlook the humorous undercurrent of the film and see only the serious story, sharp-eyed observers will note no less than three possible references to the 1978 movie NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE. Can you spot them? (Hint: they involve a flying bottle, push-ups and a vomiting scene.)]

[Left bottom: THE RIGHT STUFF Former aimless slacker Shiro undergoes intensive astronaut training after accepting the role as pilot of the rocket (above) and prepares for liftoff (below).]

Okada: Japanese movie critics only review live-action movies. The Japanese art scene doesn’t address anime, and its critics have nothing to say about it. And when it comes to the anime magazines, all they ever say is “It’s good, it’s good, it’s good!” That’s all. ANIMAGE, NEWTYPE - they’re all the same. They’re just merchandising magazines. They do have a “Reader’s Voice Corner”, where people write in their opinions. Some readers liked WINGS, but in those days PROJECT A-KO was what most anime fans thought of as good, and such money-making anime was the type that was promoted in the industry, which put WINGS in a very difficult place. Some people said “It’s very good!” But almost all said, “I can’t understand it.” And I can’t…I can’t understand why they can’t understand. It is a very simple film. Maybe it’s difficult for them.

ANIMERICA: I understand that Yamaga once said that Shiro never changes - it is his perception of the world that changes. In that respect, the film seems very balanced, as far as good and bad.

Okada: I call it realistic. Looking back, the film isn’t about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ sides. It is realistic - but therefore also not so dramatic.

ANIMERICA: Probably the one thing people discuss most about the movie in America is the attempted rape scene - what does it mean, why did he do it…there are all kinds of theories. I think it’s because it’s so very shocking, so sudden.

Okada: That scene wasn’t good technique. When I said the screenplay was weak, I was referring to such things. If WINGS had a stronger structure, the audience could always follow Shiro’s mind, his heart, his feelings. But sometimes the film is undercut by a weak screenplay, and the audience ends up saying, “Oh, why, why, why? I can’t understand Shiro - and of course, Leiqunni [LAUGHS] - what am I missing?” I think the audience gets confused at three points in the film: the first scene, which is Shiro’s opening monologue, the rape scene, and the prayer from space. Why? The film needed a stronger structure. A little more. A few changes, and the audience would be able to follow Shiro’s thoughts. But right now, they miss it, and that’s a weakness. It’s true that there will be ten or twenty percent of the audience who can follow it as it is, and say, “Oh, it’s a great film! I can understand everything!” But eighty percent of the audience is thinking, “I lost Shiro’s thoughts two or three times, or maybe four or five.” Those are the kind of people who will say, “The art is great, and the animation is very good, but the story - mmmm…”

ANIMERICA: Well, as an ‘art’ film, if you compare WINGS to, say, the animated version of Miyazaki’s NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF WIND - which compresses a very long manga into a movie, and an ending where the protagonist becomes a messiah…I understand Yamaga has said specifically that he did not want an ending like that - that he did not want Shiro to become some kind of higher being. He would still be a human being. Even though he’d gone into space, he’d be the same person.

Okada: I know that we wanted to make it a very realistic film, so Shiro’s speech from orbit never hurt anyone, and he came back from space to the planet, lived a long time, and died as an ordinary person. That was his only story. The film was Gainax’s call to the world, of how we would be. The story of the anime is explaining why we are making anime in the first place. The lift-off of the rocket

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[Left top: WINGS OF DESIRE ANIMATE COLLECTION 07: AILE DE HONNEAMISE is the thickest book on WINGS yet available, with a dramatic wraparound cover illustration by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, which Manga Entertainment used for its U.S. video release of the film. The book contains 150 pages of the film’s storyboards, with literally thousands of design drawings; a 20-page color section of background and concept paintings; extensive staff interviews (in Japanese)l a timeline of Daicon Film and Gainax’s production history. As an extra bonus, there’s a small foldout poster of the Royal Space Force going crab-netting (no kidding!). Currently available in import only, ANIMATE COLLECTION 07’s sticker price is ¥1500. Contact Books Nippan for more information at 1.310.604.9702 (ask for the animation department). ISBN: 494396607-1.]

[Left bottom: THE NEVER-ENDING STORY: ANIMAGE and NEWTYPE are Japanese animation magazines that, along with similar publications such as ANIME V, ANIMEDIA, MEGU and others, are relied on by fans to keep up with their favorite anime. Aside from the glossy ads sported by each publication, the ratio of content-to-fluff varies according to each magazine; of the magazines covering all formats (OAVs, TV series, movies) ANIMAGE is generally accepted as the best source for more literary in-depth coverage (partly due to their status as Hayao Miyazaki’s long-time publisher for the NAUSICAA manga), the heavily GUNDAM-focused NEWTYPE (the name is no coincidence) is held as the epitome of splashy art direction, while ANIME V eschews TV or movie coverage to focus completely on OAVs and other video releases.]

Okada: was only a preview of our future, when we were saying to ourselves, “Oh, we will do something!” But those feelings are mostly gone, just like memories, just like the person you were when you were young. It has almost gone away. But there is still the real thing, the film we made, that tells our story.

ANIMERICA: DIRTY PAIR creator Haruka Takachiho once cited WINGS as an example of the kind of high caliber of Japanese science fiction that most Americans don’t realize exists [ANIMERICA Vol. 2, No. 5 –Ed.].

Okada: Well, of course. WINGS began as a science fiction convention’s opening film, after all, Four months after Daicon IV, I started thinking about what kind of film we had to make, and so it was in late 1983 or early 1984 that I found the name “Royal Space Force”.

ANIMERICA: Yamaga has said (in AILE DE HONNEAMISE) that he was in a coffee shop in August of 1984 and heard someone ordering “Royal Milk Tea”, and the title “Royal Space Force” just clicked for him.

Okada: Even Gainax’s staff can get confused about this story. There’s also a woman at Gainax who says it was she who got the idea for the title, and I think I found the concept. And Yamaga says it was he. No one knows what’s the real story. In the end, we all just thought about the title “Oh, that’s it! That’s it.” So, no problem. But interviewers always think, the director’s the director. They never realize that at Daicon Film, or Gainax, there is no director, and no producer, and no animators, and no accountants3. Everyone did those jobs, in the good old days of Gainax. So, what Yamaga says, the media likes to think these things are the facts, and so ‘history’ is made. But, in truth - no one knows, because WINGS was made in that kind of chaos.

ANIMERICA: What do you think makes Gainax so different from other anime studios? You’re saying there’s a lot of chaos…

Okada: Yeah. Gainax is not a professional film studio. Gainax is a super-amateur film studio, a super-otaku film studio. [LAUGHS] So it is different from the other anime studios. GIANT ROBO was an example of another studio wanting to make an anime with that Gainax ‘touch’ or ‘feeling’. But their staff doesn’t have the confusion of ours. A Gainax animator thinks not only about motion, but about the editing, the lighting - that’s very difficult, and because we do it, we are amateurs, as opposed to a professional studio with a strict division of labor. We all worked on all aspects.

ANIMERICA: But - even though you are, as you say, ‘amateurs’, you still made WINGS. There are many anime films which you can see once or twice, and you’ll never get anything more out of it. But WINGS you can see again and again, and notice more details - not just in the artwork, but in the political, the social, the economic - you find more and more layers.

Okada: Yeah. Well, actually, there’s another reason for the design complexity. Take, for example, Hayao Miyazaki’s films. They’re very simple to understand, yet very interesting and very good. That’s because Miyazaki is a strong controller. One man does all the storyboard, the screenplay, directs the animation - he maintains control over everything. But in WINGS, or even GUNBUSTER, we didn’t have that kind of control, because neither Yamaga nor Anno are that kind of strong director, as Miyazaki is. On a Gainax anime project, everyone has to be a director. Therefore, everyone’s feelings and everyone’s knowledge are going into it, creating all that detail. That’s the good side of how Gainax’s films are different from others. But we have no strong director, and that’s the weak side.

Page 27

[Right: WAX ON, WAX OFF As shown in the famous scene in OTAKU NO VIDEO where the film’s protagonists (read: Gainax) get dissed by a drunken passerby for waiting in line overnight for NAUSICAA‘s premiere, Gainax is a great admirer of Hayao Miyazaki’s work (Gainax’s own Hideaki Anno also worked on NAUSICAA as key animator, a point that was emphasized in WINGS’ theatrical trailers). Okada, however, told a story at last November’s AnimEast convention in New Jersey about a strange interlude their studio had with the director while WINGS was still in the planning stages. Miyazaki apparently knew something of their fan work (WINGS co-producer Shigeru Watanabe confirms that his company had Miyazaki look over the four-minute ‘pilot film’, THE ROYAL SPACE FORCE, that Gainax made in the spring of 1985 as an outline for their proposed feature film, i.e., WINGS. Miyazaki’s reaction was that Gainax indeed had talent, but that Bandai was going to have to give them a lot of money) and invited some of Gainax’s principle staff over to his home. Instead of discussing working together with Gainax on their anime movie, though, Miyazaki, in the best KARATE KID fashion, set the young men to doing chores, including fixing his roof. Afterwards, Miyazaki brought forth his proposal: he was interested in directing a live-action remake of his 1978 anime TV show FUTURE BOY CONAN, and, having observed Gainax’s work around his house, asked if they’d be interested in working on the film as stunt men. Okada further maintains that months later, during the production stage of WINGS, Miyazaki would often appear in the dead of night (anime studios are busy around the clock) and talk members of Gainax’s crew into leaving to work instead on his own movie, LAPUTA (1986).]

ANIMERICA: So you see the screenplay of WINGS as weak because of this chaos?

Okada: Yeah. That’s why I saw to myself, oh, maybe we can make just a little change in it. Because to make big changes, to have a really strong structure, we’d have to stop all the chaos, and instead of Yamaga, I’d have had to have hired a real director, the kind who can make all the decisions, just like Miyazaki. Anno, Sadamoto…they’re only animators. But when it came down to finishing a film, everyone went to work painting the cels! Yamaga, Anno, Sadamoto, even me and my wife, and fans who came to Gainax. “Welcome to Gainax Films! You’re safe in here! You’re safe! Now you must paint!” [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: Incredible

Okada: That’s chaos. I think WINGS is a great film, but it has two faces - a good and a bad one. And the bad face is its weak point - it couldn’t make very much money for Bandai.

ANIMERICA: I think that may be true if you only see WINGS once, but if you see it more times…

Okada: Yeah, but, most people never see it twice. We are the super-amateur film studio. But we had to compete in the battlefield of the professionals. And on that battlefield, you get one shot at the audience. We dismissed that when we designed the film, but after it wa released, Bandai couldn’t make their money back - it became their weak point. [LAUGHS] We made a good film - and maybe that should have been enough. Maybe so. But I’m afraid it’s a…so… [SCREAMS] I’d make a few changes, perhaps.

Next: The conclusion of the ANIMERICA interview with Toshio Okada, where he discusses the dubious ad campaign for THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE, why he wanted Ryuichi Sakamoto for its soundtrack, his concept for a sequel and the “shocking truth” behind Hiroyuki Yamaga’s concept!

Part 4 preface

[Animerica, volume 4, issue 5; PDF scan]

Page 8

[Captions and preface repeated from previous parts; omitted.]

[Caption bottom: “Yoshiyuki Sadamoto’s vision of BLUE URU, the as-yet unproduced sequel to THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE”]

Page 9

[Caption top: “PLAYERS CLUB The faces and names you’ll need to know for this installment of the ANIMERICA Interview with Otaking Toshio Okada.”]

[Caption middle left: 2 photographs, one drawing:

“Ryuichi Sakamoto Celebrated composer who shared the Academy Award with David Byrne for the score to THE LAST EMPEROR, Sakamoto is well known in both the U.S. and Japan for his music, both in Yellow Magic Orchestra and solo. Koji Ueno, Yuji Nomi and Haruo Kubota composed original pieces for WINGS under Sakamoto’s direction, while Sakamoto personally composed the four main themes–the”Opening“,”Leiqunni’s Theme“,”Royal Space Force Anthem“, and the”Prototype C“–of which”Out, to Space“, played during the march-of-history sequence, is a variation. Yamaga says he did the ‘rough’ of this scene–available on the ROYAL SPACE FORCE box set–as a personal guide for Sakamoto to compose to.

Jo Hisaishi Miyazaki’s musical composer on most of his films, including MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO; LAPUTA; NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF WIND; PORCO ROSSO and KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE.

Nausicaa The heroine of what is arguably Miyazaki’s most beloved film, NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF WIND, Nausicaa is the warrior princess of a people who live in a world which has been devastated by ecological disaster. Nausicaa eventually manages to build a better life for her people among the ruins through her nobility, bravery and self-sacrifice.“]

[Caption bottom left: “The latest from Gainax (though without Okada), the recently concluded TV series NEON GENESIS EVANGELION”]

Part 4

In Part Four, the conclusion of the interview, Toshio Okada discusses the dubious ad campaign for THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE, why he wanted Ryuichi Sakamoto for its soundtrack, his concept for a sequel and the “shocking truth” behind Hiroyuki Yamaga’s!

ANIMERICA: There’s something I’ve wondered about for a long time. You know, the ads for the film had nothing to do with the actual film!

Okada: [LAUGHS] Toho/Towa was the distributor of THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE, and they didn’t have any know-how, or sense of strategy to deal with the film. They handle comedy, and comedy anime–what you would call cartoons. And they were thinking that this film must be another NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF WIND, because NAUSICAA was the last “big anime hit”. But when they finally saw WINGS, they realized it was not another NAUSICAA [PANICKED SCREAM] and they thought, “Okay, Okay…we’ll make it NAUSICAA in the publicity campaign!” [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: At one time, the film was to be called “LEIQUNNI NO TSUBASA” instead of HONNEAMISE NO TSUBASA (THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE). What brought on the title change?

Okada: Okay, you should understand that in Gainax, no one ever refers to this film as THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE. To them, its one and only title is its original one, ORITSU UCHUGUN–“THE ROYAL SPACE FORCE”. But Bandai said to us, “If you really want to call it that, it’s fine–but we’ll stop our involvement with it.” So, we had to think about another title.

ANIMERICA: Bandai thought it was a bad title?

Okada: For them, a good title is NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF WIND. [LAUGHS] That’s a real title for an anime movie. It should be, “Something of Something”.

Page 24

[Caption top left: “IMAGE IS EVERYTHING WINGS‘ad campaign, as orchestrated by its panicked release company, was modeled to make the film seem more like its successful predecessor, NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF WIND (shown above). Rather than a film about man’s first foray into space, the ads portrayed WINGS as a sort of romance/mystical crusade to find a lost ’holy book’ which would save the land.”]

[Caption bottom left: “THE KIDS ARE ALLRIGHT STREETS OF FIRE (1984) is a somewhat retro-styled musical drama that features Michael Pare as a moody, leather-jacketed hero and Diane Lane as an enigmatic rock star who is kidnapped by a ruthless biker gang led by an obsessed Willem DaFoe. LEONARD MALTIN’S VIDEO AND MOVIE GUIDE entry reads: ‘This “rock’n’roll fable” us actually a 1950s B-movie brought up to date with a pulsating rock score (principally by Ry Cooder), state-of-the-art visuals, and a refusal to take itself too seriously.’ Stunningly photographed on a soundstage, STREETS OF FIRE combined the look of the lush 1961 film adaptation of the musical classic WEST SIDE STORY with the music video style of the only three-year-old MTV; a blend that made its mark on ’80s style and music. Along with MEGAZONE 23’s obvious reference to the film (a theater marquee in the animation displays the name of the film prominently), the opening song of the classic ’80s OAV series BUBBLEGUM CRISIS,”Konya wa Hurricane“, closely echoes one sung by the fiery Lane in STREETS OF FIRE.”]

ANIMERICA: Like FUSHIGI NO UMI NO NADIA (“Nadia of the Mysterious Seas”)?

Okada: Yeah. Exactly. So it was necessary that we came up with something like THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE.

ANIMERICA: Where did “Honneamise” come from? I’ve always wondered why they chose something that sounds French.

Okada: Yes, it’s French, but it doesn’t mean anything. [LAUGHS] When they ordered us to come up with another title, all we could think was that we were going to make an utterly meaningless title, “Honneamise”–meaning nothing.

ANIMERICA: Well, wasn’t the name of Shiro’s kingdom, “Honneamano”?

Okada: Yes, but we came up with that after the new anime. –“Oh, THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE…? What is Honneamise? Ah! Oh yes, it’s the country’s name!” [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: You just liked the sound of “Honneamise”?

Okada: It wasn’t that it sounded right to us, but that it was a meaningless sound–so, we liked it. [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: Like “Kodak” or “Haagen Daz”–those names also have no meaning.

Okada: [LAUGHS] Yeah.

ANIMERICA: I like the little legend that was made up about “Honneamise”, to explain it–about a bird who one day tried to fly to heaven and was turned by God into a fish for his temerity.

Okada: Yeah. Mr. Yamaga was drinking some whiskey, and thinking, “Oh, yes,–the meaning!” The publicity people had told him that his new title had to have some kind of story behind it. He said to them, “Oh, yes–but–but–I’ll have to have some drinks before I can come up with one!” [LAUGHS] And they said “Ohhhhhkay!” That’s all.

ANIMERICA: So you chose that meaningless title because you didn’t want to call it anything else in the first place?

Okada: Yes. On the LD box set, it’s finally called THE ROYAL SPACE FORCE.

ANIMERICA: Concerning the music, why did you want to have Ryuichi Sakamoto for WINGS’s music? Were you a fan of his?

Okada: No, no. [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: You just thought he’d be good?

Okada: It’s not that, but…in Japan, at that time, he was the only choice for an original movie soundtrack.

ANIMERICA: Why do you say that?

Okada: Composers for ordinary anime music can make a pop song, something

Page 25

[Caption top right: “COULD THE WORLD OF WINGS BE AT ALPHA CENTAURI? Although there is no indication of ‘extra’ suns in the original film to account for Alpha Centauri’s trinary system, the idea of WINGS’ story taking place around our nearest neighboring star is truly intriguing.”]

[Caption bottom right: “OKADA THE AUTHOR Along with teaching multimedia at Tokyo University, Okada has just recently released his first book. BOKUTACHI NO SENNO SHAKAI (‘Our Brainwashed–or Brainwashing–Society’) is an analysis of Japanese society published by the Asahi Shimbun press, also the publisher of AERA magazine, for which Okada is a regular columnist. In the book, Okada argues that interactive communications are creating an inevitable ‘paradigm shift’ in Japanese society that will eventually move the average Japanese away from the tradition of regarding others‘values as most important, to regarding one’s own values as most important. This will happen, Okada maintains, because such phenomena as the Internet bypass the hierarchical ’brainwashing’ of the mass media–TV, movies, etc.–and create an environment where everybody, as Okada puts it, can try to brainwash everyone else (WIRED has referred to this as the transition from ‘one-to-many’ to ‘many-to-many’). He goes on to describe how this will create new types of voluntary societal groupings: once people acknowledge their own values as foremost, they will seek out those who share those values, and social development will then revolve around study and coordination of said values, similar to Internet usegroups. While this kind of societal shift has been noted by writers examining American society, Okada’s extending it to the traditionally less individualistic Japanese society may make it a more radical concept to his particular audience. A review in the March ‘96 NEWTYPE reported that the book, targeted at ’thoughtful’ 25-to-35-year-olds, has been reaching unexpected audiences, such as junior-high and high-school students, as well as being found in the business sections of many bookstores. At Otakon ’95, Okada announced that he was also writing a book on otaku outside of Japan.”]

in the enka [Japanese “country music”–Ed.] style–you know, just songs, like an opening theme. But they can’t do orchestration, or a sad melody like “Leiqunni’s Theme”. I didn’t really like Sakamoto’s style back then, or even now. But I know his talent, his ability to construct a strong score, and write an entire orchestration. That’s why I chose him.

ANIMERICA: Why not, for example, Jo Hisaishi, who composes the scores for Miyazaki’s films?

Okada: Jo Hisaishi always writes one or two melodies, and the rest of the soundtrack is constructed around them. You can see that in NAUSICAA and LAPUTA. But his kind of style wouldn’t have worked for WINGS. As I said–for better or for worse, the film has a very differentiated structure, and we needed a score to match that. So I told Sakamoto, “Don’t make the soundtrack all by yourself. You should direct it, but get a staff with real musical talent, young or old, and incorporate their work.”

ANIMERICA: Like harmony within the chaos. I see. Were you ever planning to make a sequel to WINGS?

Okada: Back during the 1987 premiere, Yamaga and I were talking about the next story of WINGS. It would be that world, a hundred years later. A spaceship from the world of WINGS then journeys to our present-day Earth, from their homeworld, four light-years from us.

ANIMERICA: Wow! Interesting! So they’d be ahead of us technologically. Four light-years…so the world of WINGS is around Alpha Centauri?

Okada: Yeah. Four light-years away.

ANIMERICA: But you never pursued that idea seriously?

Okada: Well, no one asked me. [LAUGHS] But when we’d finished WINGS, and were at the “premiere” in L.A., Yamaga and I were always talking about what the next stage of the story would be, one-hundred years after the original. On Earth, it would be either the present day, or the near-future.

ANIMERICA: You could set it in the GUNBUSTER universe and really screw up the timeline. [LAUGHS] Is it true, by the way, that GUNBUSTER is the future of NADIA?

Okada: No, not really. The similarities are because Anno was trying to get an idea… “Ohhhhh…I’m not getting anything…” [LAUGHS] “I need a name for a spaceship…how about…something from…GUNBUSTER!” [LAUGHS] “How about Eltreum or Exelion?”

ANIMERICA: I think it’s more interesting to have NADIA be the past for GUNBUSTER. Because NADIA is already a parallel universe, and GUNBUSTER is definitely a parallel universe.

Okada: Yeah. I’m still interested in the hundred-years-later story of WINGS. But right now, it’d be almost impossible to make it.

ANIMERICA: What is BLUE URU about? What’s its story?

Okada: Have you ever seen STREETS OF FIRE?

Page 26

[Caption top left: “I, OTAKU What exactly is an ‘otaku’ to the Japanese? When asked in a 1994 interview, M.D. GEIST‘s creator Koichi Ohata explained the origins of Japan’s ’otaku’ as follows: ’First, I would like to explain the origin of the word otaku. Japan’s economy was stable in the 1980s, and the standard of living was high. In other words, just leading decent lives wasn’t a problem for most people in Japan anymore. Being content with their material needs and information, some young people just didn’t want anybody to meddle in their lives. They started to avoid self-assertion and conflicts with other people. To preserve their privacy and in order to devote themselves to only what they wanted to do, they tried to create a wall between themselves and [the] outside world. They feared to call other people by their names and recognize values of other people. Those who cannot call people by their names started to use the second-person word otaku (originally this word meant another person’s house or organization) to protect themselves. People laughed at them and started to call these shameful weirdos, otaku, whether they knew the people in question or not. The word otaku was a discriminatory word at first. As most otaku were also anime/comic fans, people began to recognize anime fans as otaku.

Currently, maniac fans in any field are called otaku, but this word was a discriminatory word when it first appeared. So I am not happy personally when people say I am an otaku. Anime fans in the U.S., however, love and enjoy animation, and they exchange their friendships among themselves. I feel that the word otaku, as used in the U.S., is different from the original meaning. I think ti is a good phenomenon that fans in the U.S. call themselves otaku. I want otaku in the U.S. to stimulate us anime creators the way it used to be.’“]

[Caption bottom left: “SMALL BLUE THING Yoshiyuki Sadamoto devotes a section to BLUE URU–Yamaga’s planned ‘successor’ film to WINGS–in his 1993 art book ALPHA. Incidentally, Yamaga’s recent description of the basic outlook of BLUE URU does not exactly match Okada’s. The July 1987 issue of the now-defunct Japanese anime magazine OUT gives BLUE HISTORY SHIROTZUGH as one of the many proposed ‘release’ titles for the film and this title is also given on page 31 of ANIMATE COLLECTION 07 with a somewhat different spelling.”]

ANIMERICA: STREETS OF FIRE? Yes.

Okada: That’s it.

ANIMERICA: What?

Okada: That’s it. There’s this girl singer, and this pilot comes with his airplane and takes her away, and then the hero, in his blue plane, comes to town [MIMICS TOUGH-GUY VOICE] “Uhhh! My girl has gone!” He gets very angry, gets some people together, and goes and saves her. [LAUGHS] That’s all.

ANIMERICA: This was Yamaga’s idea?

Okada: Yeah. So I said no. Never. I won’t make that film. [LAUGHS] Yamaga was very angry. [LAUGHS] But I said…

ANIMERICA: Oh, my God. That’s–that’s why, y’know, in MEGAZONE 23, they’re watching STREETS OF FIRE…!

Okada: Yes.

ANIMERICA: He really likes that movie?

Okada: Ahhhh… He thinks I do, too. [LAUGHS] So I said to him, if you don’t have any interesting ideas for me, the film isn’t going to get made. Yamaga is a very clever and talented man. But even he couldn’t come up with an idea he was really interested in, so instead he proposes this parody film.

ANIMERICA: Because he had no idea. he made a parody?

Okada: Because, in truth, he had neither the emotion nor the idea to make a new anime film. It was because of that I suggested to Gainax that they not make another anime film for at least two years.

ANIMERICA: Until you get new ideas…?

Okada: No. To have the right emotion. Not the “schedule” mentality, where you’re saying, “Oh, it’s spring, we’ve got to make a new anime film!” You should ask Yamaga some day, “Is it true that BLUE URU is STREETS OF FIRE? Okada says so.” He’ll be, “Uhhhh… Yes! No! Yes! No!” [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: Occasionally, I’ve asked Gainax’s translator [Michael House?] to ask Yamaga questions for me about WINGS, and Yamaga has responded, “You know, I don’t remember–it was ten years ago.”

Okada: That’s probably the truth. I almost forget myself, because we saw the film two or three hundred times, and had so many different ideas about it. So you forget.

ANIMERICA: The last time I got information on URU from Yamaga, he said that he did not yet know what the story was going to be. So maybe he discarded that earlier concept, threw it away.

Okada: No, when he gave the synopsis of URU to the Pioneer people–Pioneer LDC was to be URU’s main sponsor–the story was almost exactly the same as STREETS OF FIRE.

Page 27

[Caption right: “GAINAX SELECT FILMOGRAPHY: YOUR GUIDE TO THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF GAINAX!

All of Gainax’s five original productions are available in the U.S., with the current exception of NEON GENESIS EVANGELION (see ‘AnimExpress’ in Vol. 4, No. 3); however, the first several volumes of the series are currently available as Japanese imports. NEON GENESIS EVANGELION from Starchild/King Records; VHS/LD; 52 mins. (two episodes each); (Vol. 1) KIVA-249/KILA-149; ¥5,300/¥5,800.

THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE Manga Entertainment; English VHS/Subtitled; 119 mins.; Catalog No.: 7-800-634-797-3 (8)/7-800-635-253-3 (6); US$19.95/$24.95.

GUNBUSTER U.S. Renditions; Subtitled VHS; three 50-min. vols.; Catalog Nos.: USR-VD1/USR-VD3/USR-VD5; US$34.95 each. These subtitled tapes are now out of print; watch for re-release through Manga Entertainment in the near future.

THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER Streamline Pictures (distributed through Orion Home Video); English VHS; Eight volumes, approx. 100 mins per volume; Catalog Nos. (first two vols.): “The Adventure Begins”: #91193/“The Island Adventure”: #91223; US$14.98 each. THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER series condenses the original 39-episode NADIA storyline–essentially what was released in Japan as the condensed “The Nautilus Stories” LD Box.

OTAKU NO VIDEO AnimEigo; Subtitled VHS; 100 mins.; Catalog No.: AT093-002; US $39.95. Comes with extensive liner notes by translators Yoshida and Ledoux.

DAICON FILM Released through Daicon Film’s (and later Gainax’s) merchandising arm, General Products, Daicon Film’s video and LD stock passed to Gainax when General Products closed down in 1992. All of the Daicon Film releases are currently sold out, and Gainax has no plans to re-release them. The listings below are based on two catalogs of the now-defunct General Products. No information on KAIKETSU NOTENKI or KAETTE-KITA ULTRAMAN is available; note that the catalog video lengths given differ from those given in other sources. But, since GP did have a U.S. division, you may be lucky enough to find some of these used.

DAICON FILM COLLECTION LD

Contains Daicon III and IV Opening Anime, plus their pencil tests, and THE REVENGE OF YAMATA OROCHI. Laser disc; ¥16,000. WARNING: Any given copy may have drop-outs due to the ‘laser rot’ which affected older laser discs.

KAIKETSU NOTENKI 2

Said to contain a ‘special U.S. location’, this is the further adventures of the moped-riding, guitar-slinging hero. Beta/VHS; 30 mins.; ¥13,000.

AIKOKU SENTAI DAI-NIPPON ‘An army of red bears from the North are invading Japan. Save the sovereign nation! Patriotic Taskforce Great Japan!’ Beta/VHS; 30 mins.; ¥13,000.“]

ANIMERICA: You know, you haven’t changed much, compared to your pose in the AILE DE HONNEAMISE book.

Okada: Ah, yes. This is the stance from JO JO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURES BAAAAAA!!! When I was young, I was stupid…forget it. [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA thanks the staff of Otakon ’96, Neil Nadelman, Studio Gainax for their indulgence and information on Daicon film, and of course, Toshio Okada himself for making this interview possible.


  1. A very interesting arrangement in light of Gainax’s later embezzlement and Sawamura going to jail.

  2. Carl Horn mentions in 2007 that

    “It is sometimes difficult to discern the creative roles played in traditional Gainax projects. For example, even though Toshio Okada is officially credited as the writer of Gunbuster, Okada himself described to Animerica a process where the script was passed around through several people, including Yamaga—whereas at the recent Bandai Visual panel at FanimeCon, Mr. Maeda of BV asserted with Yamaga present that Yamaga had written the entire script based on Okada’s ideas. Of course, these points of view are not necessarily contradictory, but may depend more on viewpoint.”

  3. The last was perhaps not the best idea.