May 1997 AnimeLand Interview with Hideaki Anno (English)

English translation of a French anime journalist’s interview of Hideaki Anno on anime and Evangelion in 1996-10-04.
anime, NGE, interview
2012-02-282012-02-28 finished certainty: log importance: 1

Fan trans­la­tion of an 1996-10-04 inter­view with anime direc­tor Hideaki Anno shortly after the end of Neon Gen­e­sis Evan­ge­lion TV but before the movies, pub­lished in 1997 in the French anime mag­a­zine Ani­me­Land, and trans­lated into Eng­lish here.

This Anno inter­view is notable for Anno dis­cussing his reac­tion to the pub­lic reac­tion to Evan­ge­lion, his atti­tude towards cel­lu­loid & ani­ma­tion (vis-a-vis the exper­i­men­tal end­ing), and deny­ing that Chris­tian­ity was a more than super­fi­cial theme.

From the May 1997 Ani­me­Land, issue #32]{.s­mall­cap­s}, pages 19–21; , orig­i­nal scan (thanks to Emile Kroeger who received my pur­chased copy & scanned it for me). Trans­la­tion by myself, Paper­ma­chine, and immano.

Interview Hideaki Anno

[Page 19]

[Im­age, right, of Hideaki Anno with short black hair, thin mus­tache and beard, wear­ing a hoodie vest, rolled-up over long-sleeved white shirt, flash­ing a V-sign.]
[Right cap­tion: “Yay, guys, I’m going to be in Ani­me­Land!”]
[Cap­tion mid­dle-right: “I had been in Japan for three weeks already, and I still had­n’t had any response from Gainax about the long-awaited (or rather, long hoped for) inter­view with the undis­puted Mas­ter of Otakus: Hideaki Anno. Then at long last, the much awaited phone call came in, I’d have an inter­view on Fri­day, Octo­ber the 4th, at the very Gainax Stu­dio. And just in time, as I’d leave Japan on Sun­day, the 6th!”]

AnimeLand: Where does your pas­sion for ani­ma­tion and manga come from?

Hideaki Anno: From my child­hood. My world had been rocked by it, but also by live-ac­tion series.

AL: Japan­ese ani­ma­tion has become a huge suc­cess in Europe, but it is also crit­i­cized for many rea­sons, such as its con­tent or its graphic style. What do you think?

HA: Orig­i­nal­ly, and even today, Japan­ese ani­ma­tion are prod­ucts of ordi­nary [current/habitual] con­sump­tion, cre­ated for the Japan­ese pub­lic. It is indeed amus­ing to see the suc­cess of ani­ma­tion abroad, but I think that fans every­where have the same tastes. Ani­ma­tion is a uni­ver­sal lan­guage.

AL: Let’s talk about visu­als for a moment. Usu­ally the char­ac­ters have large eyes. Where do the young ladies with large eyes and overde­vel­oped chests come from?

HA: It all depends on the tastes of each ani­ma­tor. Some char­ac­ters are made to be sexy, oth­ers not. It should also be known that ani­ma­tors com­mu­ni­cate con­cepts through the char­ac­ters’ faces, and espe­cially the eyes. It is there­fore nor­mal that the eyes of char­ac­ters are very impor­tant.

AL: Well, the fans seem to appre­ci­ate it.

HA: Of course, it’s the same for­mula which made “Idols” just as pop­u­lar. They are not really humans, they are only a sketch on a piece of paper, inca­pable of doing any­thing real­ly, and [they are] out of the reach of their fans. For exam­ple, when a boy makes love with a woman in an ani­me, it is only part of a sce­nar­io, it is noth­ing more, and the fan knows, he steps back from what he sees.

AL: Yet, there are some fans that no longer go out with real girls…

HA: It is true that some fans of ani­ma­tion dis­play unfor­tu­nate behav­ior.

AL: And yet you con­tinue to cre­ate this kind of char­ac­ters for them.

HA: You need to under­stand that Japan­ese ani­ma­tion is an indus­try that is, for the most part, male, and as is quite evi­dent, every­thing is made for their grat­i­fi­ca­tion. Fur­ther, it is more grat­i­fy­ing for us to draw this sort of char­ac­ter, rather than old grand­moth­ers.

AL: So actu­al­ly, ani­ma­tors draw their ideal woman on cel­lu­loid?

HA: It’s much eas­i­er. Char­ac­ters in ani­ma­tion do not cheat. They do not let you go for anoth­er. Ani­ma­tion is on cer­tain points, very close to the pornog­ra­phy indus­try. All your phys­i­cal needs are met. You can watch dif­fer­ent ani­ma­tions and find any­thing you desire.

AL: Japan­ese ani­ma­tion is tra­di­tion­ally dom­i­nated by heroes or mas­cu­line char­ac­ters. Yet for a while now, we’ve been see­ing a total inver­sion of roles.

HA: On the one hand, half the pop­u­la­tion is wom­en, on the other hand, Japan has not known a war in nearly two gen­er­a­tions, which is to say that we have more and more strong wom­en, and men who become weaker over time.

AL: Do you doc­u­ment [re­search?] when you pre­pare to make a new series, like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for Nadia, for exam­ple?

[Page 20]

[Left cap­tion: “The three beau­ti­ful hero­ines in the OAV Top O Nerae Gun­buster”]
[Cap­tion mid­dle: “The beau­ti­ful and mys­te­ri­ous Rei from Neon Gen­e­sis Evan­ge­lion”]
[Cap­tion bot­tom: “‘Give me a smile…’, or, when Evan­ge­lion [Unit-01] vis­its the den­tist”]

HA: Not real­ly; let’s say that I take a basic idea and I develop it together with my ideas. That said, I have already read and seen many adap­ta­tions of Jules Verne.

AL: Have you received any com­plaints for using Chris­t­ian con­cepts in your work? The angels are sup­posed to rep­re­sent some­thing good, benign, which does­n’t seem to be the case in Evan­ge­lion.

HA: I am not famil­iar with many things in Chris­tian­i­ty, and I have no inten­tion of approach­ing it or crit­i­ciz­ing it either. Isn’t it said that Lucifer was an angel him­self before hav­ing fal­l­en?

AL: Imag­ine that a Euro­pean com­pany decided to buy the rights to Evan­ge­lion, and to change cer­tain scenes because of reli­gious con­cerns. Would you agree with cen­sor­ing these sce­nes?

HA: I don’t know, it would depend on the cir­cum­stances. After all, this series was made for a Japan­ese audi­ence.

AL: Evan­ge­lion is enjoy­ing great suc­cess in Japan at the moment. The end of Death and Rebirth should be dis­trib­uted at the same time as the lat­est work of Hayao Miyazaki [Princess Mononoke]. Aren’t you con­cerned about such a con­fronta­tion?

HA: Not real­ly. I think that the peo­ple will go see both. The sub­jects are entirely dif­fer­ent, and Hayao Miyazaki is just as famous, so I don’t worry myself over him.

AL: Amer­i­can and Euro­pean ani­ma­tion seem more and more smoth­ered by their laws and codes of dis­ci­pline, whereas Japan­ese ani­ma­tion offers more adult sub­jects and char­ac­ters. Don’t you believe that the con­tro­versy and the prob­lems that meet Japan­ese ani­ma­tion come from here?

HA: Actu­al­ly, I think that some cen­sor­ship is nec­es­sary, but it is not nor­mal that we should be ordered by a con­ven­tional [_bi­en-pen­sant] minor­i­ty. I do not think you can get away with any­thing for the so-­called well-be­ing and pro­tec­tion of chil­dren.

AL: Vio­lence seems to be more admis­si­ble for these peo­ple than the notion of sex. Does­n’t it seem back­wards to you?

HA: The legal con­text obvi­ously dif­fers between nations and eras. The only uni­ver­sal con­stant is the thirst of humans for sex and vio­lence. We need to try to man­age this with­out falling into the oppo­site extreme, and brain­wash­ing. Films are extremely influ­en­tial and pow­er­ful, espe­cially as pro­pa­ganda tools.

AL: It is said that Japan suf­fers from a poverty of writ­ers, and that ani­ma­tion today is in cri­sis. What do you think?

HA: To con­ceive and realise a series is extremely oner­ous in our times. It is nor­mal that pro­duc­ers and spon­sors pay atten­tion to their invest­ments and want to recover finan­cial­ly, hence the sig­nif­i­cant (as in large) num­ber of remakes, or the (prac­tice of) min­ing the lode of a series till it’s dry/depleted. Nev­er­the­less I do not think that Japan­ese ani­ma­tion is in a cri­sis. It evolves and adapts to its audi­ence.

AL: And as for you, has Gainax given you free­dom of move­ment, or have you been lim­it­ed?

HA: No, Gainax exam­ined my project for Evan­ge­lion and told me, “OK, you have carte blanche.” I have never been lim­ited on any­thing, except per­haps time and mon­ey.

AL: Your series have always had enor­mous suc­cess. Do you think your posi­tion as a fan, or even an otaku, and your knowl­edge of the envi­ron­ment may have helped your work?

[Page 21]

[Top right cap­tion: “Wake up, it’s time!”]
[Up­per mid­dle right cap­tion: “What’s this on my cos­tume?”]
[Lower mid­dle right cap­tion: “Shinji and Asuka ready to con­quer the Japan­ese pub­lic”]
[Cap­tion right bot­tom: “The OAV Otaku no Video, inspired by Gun­dam and Yam­ato”]
[Cap­tion bot­tom: “A par­o­dic illus­tra­tion of numer­ous series (Daicon IV, Macross, Yam­ato etc.).”, art by Kenichi Son­oda of Gun­smith Cats, Can­non God Exaxxion and Gall Force fame.]

HA: I don’t know. I used com­po­nents that I liked and that appeared to me nec­es­sary to advance the sto­ry. I also worked in con­cepts that were pop­u­lar at the time. When I hear the crit­i­cism from fans about the end of Evan­ge­lion, I really won­der if we can say that I have as good a knowl­edge of the envi­ron­ment as you seem to say.

AL: Where did you get the idea of the EVAs?

HA: I was inspired by Japan­ese demons [oni]. I gave them a mod­ern appear­ance, but such char­ac­ters have been around a long time.

AL: It seems that there exists a sort of recur­ring mes­sage in your series, that one can­not live alone, or even sep­a­rated from a group or eth­nic iden­ti­ty. Why this mes­sage, addressed to otaku, who live at the same time in a rel­a­tively sep­a­rate world?

HA: You can find what­ever mes­sage you want to find in any film or series. I have not wanted to pass on this or that mes­sage in par­tic­u­lar, but the fact that you reflect on this is a good one. I made Evan­ge­lion to make me happy and to make anime lovers hap­py, in try­ing to bring together the broad­est audi­ence pos­si­ble.

AL: You are also a lover of “live” series, in the genre of Ultra­man, Godzilla, and etc… Have you drawn some inspi­ra­tion from these pro­grams?

HA: Clearly this genre made up some part of my film and tele­vi­sion cul­ture. I have not taken ideas from this gen­re, but I think that in my works you can find a num­ber of ele­ments rem­i­nis­cent of that genre.

AL: Do you con­tinue to watch these shows today?

HA: When my work gives me the time, I try to watch tele­vi­sion, or to go to the movies. It is clear that my pas­sion for this genre remains vir­tu­ally intact. Lately I have seen Gam­era 2, and it was very enjoy­able, this film was truly very good.

AL: What projects do you have after the two Evan­ge­lion films?

HA: I admit that I have not thought about this a lot late­ly, but I already have a vague idea run­ning through my head. I will begin to seri­ously work on it after August, and per­haps after a well-de­served vaca­tion.

AL: Thank you Mr. Anno.

Inter­view con­ducted and trans­lated by Pierre Giner