June 1996 NewType Interview with Hideaki Anno

English translation of French translation of Hideaki Anno’s controversial NewType interview at the end of the TV broadcast
anime, NGE, interview
by: Hideaki Anno, Shinichiro Inoue 2012-06-142014-01-31 finished certainty: log importance: 1


The June 1996 issue of (pub­lished 10 May) included an inter­view by Shinichiro Inoue with , the direc­tor of the con­tro­ver­sial TV series which had just fin­ished with 2 unusual episodes on 20 & 1996-03-27, spark­ing a national dis­cus­sion & back­lash. This inter­view has been widely alluded to in Eva dis­cus­sions as Anno gave his ini­tial thoughts on how Eva turned out, what he & Gainax were try­ing to do, and their reac­tion to the pub­lic reac­tion.

We trans­late an unoffi­cial French fan trans­la­tion into Eng­lish, pro­vid­ing access to the full inter­view for the first time.

Hideaki Anno’s most (in)­fa­mous pub­lic com­ments on Evan­ge­lion came in 1996 in an inter­view with pre­em­i­nent anime mag­a­zine New­Type, in the wake of the end­ing of Evan­ge­lion. This inter­view has been alluded to by fans (“1996/05/10: New­type Mag­a­zine June issue con­tains the first in-depth inter­view with Direc­tor Anno fol­low­ing the con­clu­sion of the TV air­ing, in which Anno crit­i­cizes anime fans and otaku in par­tic­u­lar.”), briefly sum­ma­rized1, but never trans­lated into Eng­lish.

A French trans­la­tion of unknown ori­gin is avail­able on 2 web­sites; this has been trans­lated below by myself, with exten­sive aid and cor­rec­tions from Ebj and Mr. Tines’s acquain­tance; Stryker reviewed it for mis­takes.

Interview

No longer a child, not yet an adult… Being “four­teen years old” sym­bol­izes prob­lems of the heart.

Neon Gen­e­sis Evan­ge­lion is a great wave that started to rise, about ten years ago, in the sea of ​​Anime. Already 17 years had passed since the begin­ning of the first series of Mobile Suit Gun­dam. A time when teenagers filled the the­aters to see Space Bat­tle­ship Yam­ato or Galaxy Express 999. In other words, the years of the anime boom of the 1980s. For most part, our cur­rent read­ers were not born or were still babies; at that time, all teenagers accepted the car­toons unre­served­ly. Soon after, among these teens, watch­ing anime became some­thing “spe­cial”.

In the mid-80s, with the appear­ance of the OVA [for­mat], anime began to adapt to the needs of fans and, insid­i­ous­ly, became a kind that the gen­eral pub­lic could not fully under­stand.

Of course, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball are pop­u­lar. But these are works that are labeled “strictly for chil­dren.” Of course, the films of Hayao Miyazaki (and of Stu­dio Ghi­b­li) attract spec­ta­tors each sum­mer in the­aters. But there are always movies that we will watch with com­plete trust, even “fall in love” with. These are absolutely not the works made “for ani­me-fans”.

We argue that the gen­eral pub­lic, as well as the ani­me-fans, find them excep­tion­al. And each release of these films is eagerly await­ed.

Not only ani­me-fans, but also nor­mal kids, dis­cern­ing adults, and the fans of a decade ago who returned to ani­ma­tion, all enthu­si­as­ti­cally sup­ported Eva. And even now, though the TV broad­cast of the series has end­ed, the move­ment con­tin­ues to spread.

It’s been a month since the end of the series aired, since the last episode so fiercely debat­ed, with­out the mys­ter­ies explained. Now that he’s gone from hav­ing a busy sched­ule to a rel­a­tively more rou­tine one, we’ve man­aged to spend some time with the direc­tor, Hideaki Anno.


“My cur­rent mood…? I’m very tired (laugh­s).”

After say­ing this, Hideaki Anno began to speak to us and choos­ing his words care­ful­ly.

"The devel­op­ment of Evan­ge­lion gives me the feel­ing of a ‘Live’ con­cert. What­ever the story or the devel­op­ment of the char­ac­ters, I made them with­out a plan. Dur­ing the pro­duc­tion, whether lis­ten­ing to var­i­ous opin­ions or analysing my own state of mind, I kept ques­tion­ing myself. I got the con­cepts from this per­sonal stock­tak­ing [self-assess­men­t]. At first I had intended to make a sim­ple work fea­tur­ing robots.

But even when the main scene became a high school2, it did not differ com­pared to other pro­duc­tions in the same style. At this point, I did not really think of cre­at­ing a char­ac­ter with two faces, two iden­ti­ties: one shown at school, and the other inside the orga­ni­za­tion he belongs to [Nerv]. The impres­sion of ‘Live’ con­cert that gives me the birth of Eva, was the team join­ing me in devel­op­ing it, in the man­ner of an impro­vi­sa­tion: some­one plays the gui­tar and, in respon­se, the drums and bass are added. The per­for­mance ended with the TV broad­cast­ing end­ing. We only started work­ing on the next script once the pre­vi­ous one was done.

It took longer than usu­al. When we fin­ished a screen­play, we went back and checked it against the pre­vi­ous ones. When we said: ‘Ah, I thought so, that’s wrong there’, we made cor­rec­tions to the sto­ry­board. In fact, with the last episode approach­ing, we have not even been able to fin­ish on time."

In con­clu­sion, Evan­ge­lion has two faces: one face nar­ra­tive, and another that would be like a doc­u­men­tary on the state of mind of Hideaki Anno. This refusal to lie to him­self about the things he wanted to achieve is shown [in the series] by the mark of his iron will.

The direc­tor Anno influ­enced Eva by reveal­ing his own “prob­lems of the heart” …

"The rea­son why the main char­ac­ter is four­teen years is that he is no longer a child but not yet an adult. He lives alone, but is attached to oth­ers. In past cen­turies, he would soon cel­e­brate his com­ing of age. Back then, life expectancy was fifty years, so peo­ple had to grow up in four­teen years. Today, we live more than sev­enty years, and although the age of major­ity in Japan is twenty years, most peo­ple still depend on their par­ents at that age.

One could won­der if it’s the par­ents mak­ing them depen­dent, or, about par­ents, what age should they decide to be of major­i­ty. Con­sid­er­ing ‘age four­teen’ as that in which an inde­pen­dence of mind starts man­i­fest­ing, I found it proper to include this in my work."

The “Human Com­ple­men­ta­tion Project” is an alle­gory for the world of ani­ma­tion.

"Speak­ing of impro­vi­sa­tion, when I added the ‘Human Com­ple­men­ta­tion Project’ that appears in the sec­ond episode, and which was going to become the fulcrum/pivot of the plot, I still had no idea about what it was going to ‘com­ple­ment’. [note: the Japan­ese term is hokan, which means lit­er­ally ‘fill a void’ –French Edi­tor [The Eng­lish trans­la­tion is usu­ally “Human Instru­men­tal­ity Project”, to cre­ate an allu­sion to SF orga­ni­za­tion, “The Instru­men­tal­ity of Mankind.” –Ed­i­tor]].

It’s just a ver­bal bluff (laugh­s). In the world of Eva, the human pop­u­la­tion was cut in half, but as a rule, we can say that the worlds where the pop­u­la­tion has been dec­i­mated are typ­i­cal of car­toons. I think worlds iso­lated and torn to shreds, where because of a past dis­as­ter human­ity has been dec­i­mat­ed, are char­ac­ter­is­tic of Japan­ese ani­ma­tion."

By the way, Mr. Anno has already made a sim­i­lar com­par­i­son here two or three years ago. In the world of Gun­dam imag­ined by direc­tor , Char []3 who, like Don Quixote, is strug­gling to free peo­ple trapped in the world of Space Colony (en­ter­tain­ment com­pa­nies), is the embod­i­ment of the direc­tor.

In Eva, the gen­er­als of the reg­u­lar army can­not destroy an approach­ing ene­my, and must call the group of ama­teurs Nerv (di­rec­tor Anno in the cen­ter of Gainax) … The trans­po­si­tion is rather inter­est­ing.

"Re­al­ly? … Well, what­ever the view­point, Nerv is a group of ama­teurs. It looks like an army, but it is not one. I did not want to make a mil­i­tary group. I found it odd that anime mag­a­zines read­just the image of Mis­ato in writ­ing that she is a ‘skilled sol­dier’. I think she is more adept at many other things… If she is com­pe­tent, do not tell the mil­i­tary! Hence when we look at them, her strate­gies are a lit­tle hap­haz­ard. Noth­ing but luck.

Hon­est­ly, the only per­son who plans her strate­gies a lit­tle bit is Rit­suko. Mis­ato blurs the line between sub­jec­tive and objec­tive, and in the way she does things, she resem­bles me in many ways…de­spite what Masami Yuuki wrote in your Feb­ru­ary issue in ref­er­ence to episode 7, she’s not that uncom­pro­mis­ing, just as Nerv isn’t."

Now, we syn­chro­nize with the world imag­ined by Anno, Toky­o-3 in 2015. The city with­out a shadow of life (the world of ani­ma­tion) became a lit­tle more cheer­ful with the arrival of immi­grants who watched Eva. But on the other hand, the fact is, the ani­me-fan inside Hideaki Anno felt ris­ing frus­tra­tion… The prob­lem of “heart” was born with the soci­ety of com­fort. We will explore later what peo­ple may be miss­ing.

“Human Com­ple­men­ta­tion Project” is a term that looks very “SF”. In fact, its true func­tion was the “com­ple­men­ta­tion of the short­com­ings of the heart” of the peo­ple of our time. We were unable to hide our sur­prise at such a con­cept.

At the begin­ning of the series, nobody would’ve thought about “what peo­ple may be miss­ing”. What could’ve been the inner tra­vails of the direc­tor, that would lead him to describe that as “the heart”?

"About the prob­lem of the heart, I did not real­ize it imme­di­ate­ly, but part of Japan and Amer­ica can meet most of their desires, right? I think this is a prob­lem that’s come up after we’ve found a degree of calm. For exam­ple, some extremely mate­ri­al­is­tic peo­ple do not bother to con­sider whether they make them­selves dis­liked by oth­ers or not. I think we should live more fun­da­men­tally [essen­tial­ly]. In our cur­rent mate­r­ial secu­ri­ty, the prob­lem of the heart becomes a very cur­rent top­ic.

Final­ly, in the course of mak­ing Eva, I got where I got for a num­ber of rea­sons I could never really explain. But as far as the orig­i­nal sto­ries of episodes 25 and 26 (the last ones), I man­aged to fin­ish episode 25 as far as the script was con­cerned. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I had to aban­don episode 26 while it was still at a very early plan­ning stage. I’m rework­ing the episodes 25 and 26 that will be sold on LD [LaserDisc] and video next year, but as far as episode 26 goes, that’ll be a com­plete revi­sion, so that it’ll be more ‘visual’. I’ll do it again by decon­struct­ing the orig­i­nal plan.

Episodes 25 and 26 as broad­cast on TV accu­rately reflect my mood at the time. I am very sat­is­fied. I regret noth­ing."

The mes­sage con­tained in the lat­est con­tro­ver­sial episodes of Eva.

March 4, after the end of the dub­bing of the episode 25. At the ini­tia­tive of the voice actors, the tech­ni­cal [an­i­ma­tion] team, which assem­bled the remains of episode 26, is invited to a “farewell party” near the record­ing stu­dio Tavac in Okubo, Tokyo.

"At that point, the script for the last episode was not yet com­plete. It would be the fol­low­ing week. In essence, there remained three days in the sched­ule. But in the end/as a mat­ter of fact, I did­n’t need draw­ings to rep­re­sent my vision of things. In truth, I would’ve been just as happy to explain myself by spo­ken word. I would’ve done it, but alas, it was rejected4. With­out cels, we made do by using the sketches of the sto­ry­board in their place. It was­n’t a mat­ter of hav­ing time to make them or not. In any event, we ended up doing with­out ani­ma­tion on cel. Cels are sym­bolic rep­re­sen­ta­tions. After hav­ing drawn Asuka with a mark­er, as soon as Yuko Miya­mura gave it her voice, it was more Asuka than ever. I even came to detest myself for hav­ing wasted time on cels at all [un­til then].

But that does­n’t mean never going through com­put­er-aided draw­ing. I just wanted to show that, as far as ani­mated draw­ings as a means of expres­sion went, using sketches could work. I meant a mes­sage to those mis­guided fools who have expres­sions like: ‘since it is not on cel­lu­loid, it is unfin­ished’ or ‘because it’s not on cel­lu­loid, it is slap­dash’5. To destroy at all costs the kind of ideas that I myself had held. Once you hold the prej­u­dice that you can’t use any­thing but cels to rep­re­sent char­ac­ters, you’ve finally become a fetishist… the first time we showed this was through what the ‘lines’ in episode 16 nar­rat­ed.

A car­toon is com­posed of sim­ple signs and there­fore from the out­set, it is a fake world, right? Noth­ing but an opti­cal illu­sion. Nobody would imag­ine that it’s a doc­u­men­tary. Try­ing to inte­grate a doc­u­men­tary aspect into the film, that’s my per­sonal feel­ing of being ‘Live’. I think the decon­struc­tion of these signs is rare in car­toons that are shown on TV. When we aired our line draw­ings, some peo­ple in the indus­try called our work shod­dy, even though it was impos­si­ble to con­sider it such. Dis­re­gard­ing the intent of mak­ing that linework into a ‘rep­re­sen­ta­tion’ [of some­thing] implies that it does­n’t com­mu­ni­cate any idea at all, any con­cept at all. Under these con­di­tions, the last episode would­n’t be any bet­ter than a jum­ble of slo­gans [aphorisms/sentences]… Me, I think that, by look­ing at it method­i­cal­ly, one can find other things in it, too."

The 26th episode that some diehard fans reject­ed…­sure, it’s true that some fans were frus­trated by the absence of con­ti­nu­ity with the orig­i­nal sto­ry. But on the Inter­net, among other things, we have read some very scathing crit­i­cisms.

But this too is a fact: [other] view­ers who watched the last episode (which reg­is­tered audi­ence records) have exclaimed to them­selves, “Evan­ge­lion is truly bril­liant!”

“Among the peo­ple who use the Inter­net, many are obtuse. Because they are locked in their rooms, they hang on to that vision which is spread­ing across the world.”

What you should know so as not to take anime fans for idiots

"But this does not go beyond mere ‘data’. Data with­out analy­sis [think­ing], which makes you think that you know every­thing. This com­pla­cency is noth­ing but a trap. More­over, the sense of val­ues that coun­ters this notion is par­a­lyzed by it. And so we arrive at dem­a­gogy.

For exam­ple, some­one men­tions my name, say­ing, ‘Anno is dead’.6 If that per­son were next to me, per­haps I might hit them. On the mes­sage boards [In­ter­net] some­one can still make a rebut­tal, but this remains at the stan­dard of toi­let graffi­ti. One does not need to sign it. It qui­etly arrives directly at your door. It’s so con­ve­nient that care­less peo­ple use it with­out remorse, with­out stop­ping [for con­sid­er­a­tion]. Obvi­ous­ly, not all Inter­net users are not like that. But as it is very diffi­cult to find hon­est peo­ple [in it], I sim­ply don’t have the free­dom to devote time to it. I just want to say ‘come back to real life [réal­ité] and get to know the world’. For exam­ple, when it was decided to redo episodes 25 and 26, the news spread quickly from Gainax’s server across the Inter­net. If we had not set the tone, com­pletely out­landish rumors would have emerged. But by reveal­ing the infor­ma­tion, plenty of inco­her­ent state­ments like ‘they make it for the money’ were thrown in our faces.

I real­ized my own hypocrisy when I let myself be con­vinced that, not know­ing our finan­cial sit­u­a­tion, this kind of talk was only fair. What­ever they say, I do not think you can see other neg­a­tives in Evan­ge­lion! (Laugh­ter) By not pay­ing atten­tion to child­ish ideas which they are sub­jected to, we take the ani­me-fans for being stu­pid. They do not leave their [com­fort­able lit­tle] world. They feel safe. They have noth­ing solid in them­selves on which to rely.

That’s why I tried to go to the res­cue of Japan­ese ani­ma­tion. I do not say, like [Shu­ji] , to ‘throw away your books and flee the city’, but to go to town and meet peo­ple. Why can I say that? Well, I noticed what I was miss­ing for me, in my heart. For twen­ty-one years I have been an ani­me-fan, and now, thir­ty-five years old, I notice with sor­row: I’m noth­ing but an hon­est fool (laugh­s)."

Unwill­ing­ly, the inter­view comes to its end. We are cur­rently con­sid­er­ing due fol­low-ups to this inter­view with Direc­tor Hideaki Anno. We’d like to con­tinue it in the spe­cial sup­ple­ment to the next issue.

Doubtless, you also want to dis­cuss things with Hideaki Anno. Your let­ters and post­cards to New Type are wel­come, if they con­tain ques­tions or crit­i­cal opin­ions. The direc­tor will most assuredly reply to your com­ments in a future inter­view.


  1. Edi­to­ri­al, “Truth or Cyber-graffiti” by Claude J. Pel­letier, Pro­to­cul­ture Addicts #41:

    When I heard that EVANGELION was cen­sored (see our arti­cle “Evan­ge­lion Con­tro­versy” on page 45), I was totally out­raged. How this could be pos­si­ble in our mod­ern world? And all this (we spec­u­lat­ed) in the name of reli­gious belief? What about free speech? How could a legal sys­tem go along with this? Well, maybe it did not and the TV sta­tion cen­sored the show itself to avoid offend­ing cer­tain sen­si­bil­i­ties. We can­not really know where the truth lies. I was par­tic­u­larly con­fused when my friend Miyako read me Hideaki Anno’s inter­view in NEWTYPE of June. He avoided the sub­ject of cen­sor­ship and skill­fully defended his work. His point of view made sense and he made some inter­est­ing com­ments about the Inter­net fans who exces­sively crit­i­cized the show.

    “I think the peo­ple who are very much involved with the Net,” Mr. Anno said, “have very nar­row views toward life and the world. They’re always in their rooms and don’t go out very often to com­mu­ni­cate in per­son. Because of their infor­ma­tion on the Net, they feel they know every­thing with­out search­ing the real truths.” They eas­ily and anony­mously say things that they would never say in per­son. “Their mes­sages are like graffiti in a pub­lic toi­let.” They attack other while they are stay­ing in a safe place. “They don’t have any­thing cer­tain to hold on… that’s prob­a­bly why they watch anime shows. (…) I would like to add and say to those fans, hey, go out and visit towns. I am 35 now and I am real­iz­ing the impor­tance of human con­tact lit­tle by lit­tle…”

    (This inter­view, pub­lished in the June issue of NEWTYPE, was made by Mr. Shinichiro Inoue. He encour­ages peo­ple to send com­ments and ques­tions to Anno-san by writ­ing to: Mr. Hideaki Anno, Monthly NEWTYPE Mag­a­zine, Kadokawa Shoten, Tokyo, 162–77, Japan.)

    ↩︎
  2. It’s actu­ally a mid­dle or “junior high” school; this is prob­a­bly a trans­la­tion error by the French trans­la­tor. –Ed­i­tor↩︎

  3. The French trans­la­tion calls him “Charles”; this is because “Char Azn­able” was orig­i­nally a ref­er­ence to French singer –Ed­i­tor↩︎

  4. The OST album Neon Gen­e­sis Evan­ge­lion Addi­tion was released 1996-12-21, well after this inter­view pub­lished 1996-05-10. The high­light of it is an audio drama “After the End”, which is

    a comedic par­ody in which the reunited cast tries to come up with ways to con­tinue Evan­ge­lion when pop­u­lar demand makes the stu­dio order them to pro­duce a third sea­son even though the TV series ended after a 26 episode run. Pre­sented as a “lost 27th episode”, the com­edy revolves around the char­ac­ters break­ing the fourth wall, and behav­ing as if they are really actors who por­tray the char­ac­ters on the series while at other times act­ing as if they are the char­ac­ters in the series. They try to increase the sex appeal of the series, change the show’s for­mat, and try to explain what the Angels actu­ally are. How­ev­er, when their efforts prove “unsuc­cess­ful”, they decide to give up on it. Humor­ous moments of the drama include Rei finally lash­ing out against Asuka’s abuse, the Evan­ge­lion pilots being changed to resem­ble Super Sen­tai char­ac­ters, Asuka and Kaworu inter­act­ing for the only time in the series, and the cast re-e­n­act­ing the first episode solely by their own vocal sound effects.

    It has been trans­lated and fan­subbed; the fansub/picsub can be down­loaded from Eva­mon­key.­com.

    Whether the audio­drama is due to Anno is unknown; it is gen­er­ally believed that he voiced the “Black Space God” char­ac­ter in it. –Ed­i­tor↩︎

  5. It may be inter­est­ing to com­pare Anno’s 1996 com­ments on cel ani­ma­tion here to Hayao Miyaza­k­i’s 1987 essay “About Japan­ese ani­ma­tion”, given the two men’s shared his­tory both before & after NGE.↩︎

  6. Around the end­ing of the first broad­cast, rumors were spread online that Anno planned to com­mit sui­cide at the end, or that he was dead. –Ed­i­tor↩︎