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

1995 interview of former Gainax president Toshio Okada on Gainax’s history, Wings of Honneamise, Aoki Uru, etc.
anime, NGE, interview, SF
by: Toshio Okada 2011-10-032011-10-03 finished certainty: log importance: 2


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 (aka )”]

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 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 . 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 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]

Page 7

[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 TSUBASAORITSU UCHUGUN (THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISEROYAL 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!”

Page 24

[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).”]

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; 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?

Page 22

[cap­tion left: “ART IMITATES LIFEIMITATES 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 [IMITATESRICK HUNTERVOICE], “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,

Page 23

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

Page 24

[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,

Page 25

[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]

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 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]

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 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.

Page 24

[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?

Page 25

[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

Page 26

[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 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 [?] 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$39.73/$49.68.

GUNBUSTER U.S. Ren­di­tions; Sub­ti­tled VHS; three 50-min. vol­s.; Cat­a­log Nos.: USR-VD1/USR-VD3/USR-VD5; US$69.60 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$29.83 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 $79.55. 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 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. An inter­est­ing arrange­ment in light of Gainax’s later embez­zle­ment and Sawa­mura going to jail. –Ed­i­tor.↩︎

  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.

    –Ed­i­tor↩︎

  3. The last was per­haps not the best idea in light of the embezzlement/tax eva­sion scan­dal. –Ed­i­tor.↩︎