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↩︎