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
by: Hideaki Anno 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, pages 19–21; French tran­script, 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