The Notenki Memoirs: Studio Gainax And The Men Who Created Evangelion

Fulltext annotated e-book of 2002 memoir by anime producer Yasuhiro Takeda, discussing Japanese SF conventions & fandom, formation & history of Gainax and its productions up to 2002, including the origins of Evangelion & the tax raid.
anime, NGE, SF
by: Yasuhiro Takeda 2010-12-272019-03-25 finished certainty: log importance: 2

An anno­tated e-book edi­tion of The Notenki Mem­oirs: Stu­dio Gainax And The Men Who Cre­ated Evan­ge­lion, a short auto­bi­og­ra­phy by a founder of Gainax who became active as a fan and in the anime/manga indus­try in the late 1970s; it describes the stu­dent fan club scene around SF con­ven­tions, the cre­ation of the famous Daicon video shorts, the found­ing of Gainax, its sub­se­quent suc­cesses & tra­vails (although with less empha­sis on Neon Gen­e­sis Evan­ge­lion than one might expec­t), ter­mi­nat­ing around 2001. Much of the infor­ma­tion Takeda dis­cusses may have appeared in Eng­lish-lan­guage sources before, but in obscure or miss­ing sources and never pulled togeth­er, and it is a valu­able source for non-Japan­ese-s­peak­ers inter­ested in that time peri­od.

For peo­ple inter­ested in the his­tory of the anime indus­try, Takeda fills in many gaps related to Gainax—it’s hard to think of any source which cov­ers nearly so well DAICON III, DAICON IV, Gen­eral Prod­ucts, or throws in so many tid­bits about sur­round­ing peo­ple & Japan­ese SF fan­dom. It is an invalu­able resource for any researcher, and I felt com­pelled to cre­ate an anno­tated e-book edi­tion in order to elu­ci­date var­i­ous points and be able to link its claims with ver­sions of sto­ries by other peo­ple (for exam­ple, )

Those read­ing it solely for Evan­ge­lion mate­r­ial will prob­a­bly be rel­a­tively dis­ap­point­ed: Takeda clearly finds NGE not very inter­est­ing, may have bad asso­ci­a­tions due to being tar­geted in the tax raids, and he was writ­ing this in 2000 or so—­too close to the events and still work­ing at Gainax to really give a tel­l-all, and it’s not a ter­ri­bly long or dense book in the first place. Nev­er­the­less, NGE fans will still find many rev­e­la­tions here, like the ori­gin of NGE pro­duc­tion in the fail­ure of the Aoki Uru film project (an ori­gin undoc­u­mented in any West­ern sources before Notenki Mem­oirs was trans­lat­ed).

Notenki Mem­oirs is an auto­bi­og­ra­phy by a founder of Gainax who became active as a fan and in the anime/manga indus­try in the late 1970s; it describes the stu­dent fan club scene around SF con­ven­tions, the cre­ation of the famous Daicon video shorts, the found­ing of Gainax, its sub­se­quent suc­cesses & tra­vails (although with less empha­sis on Neon Gen­e­sis Evan­ge­lion than one might expec­t), ter­mi­nat­ing around 2001. Much of the infor­ma­tion Takeda dis­cusses may have appeared in Eng­lish-lan­guage sources before, but in obscure or miss­ing sources and never pulled togeth­er, and it is a valu­able source for non-Japan­ese-s­peak­ers inter­ested in that time peri­od. Some of the sto­ries Takeda tells have also been dra­ma­tized by (who attended Osaka Uni­ver­sity of Arts at the same time) in his manga (commentary/allusions), which was adapted into a 2014 Japan­ese live-ac­tion TV show with cameos by anime/manga indus­try fig­ures; Shi­mamoto wrote about sev­eral events which are described in Notenki Mem­oirs and some clips from the TV show are included where appro­pri­ate.

This unoffi­cial elec­tronic edi­tion is derived from the 1st book print­ing by ADV, and for­mat­ted in Pan­doc (source); a 2018 EPUB edi­tion was made by Erisie. A scan is avail­able for any­one who wishes to check the orig­i­nal print book against this edi­tion.

Many of the for­mat­ting con­ven­tions differ­—­for exam­ple, in the book, end­notes are divided into bio­graph­i­cal end­notes and non-bi­o­graph­i­cal end­notes, and the lat­ter appear as a con­sol­i­dated sec­tion in the mid­dle of the book while the for­mer appear in the last sec­tion of the book; in this ebook, the notes appear inter­min­gled as end­notes (although one can tell the differ­ence: all bio­graph­i­cal end­notes start with the name in bold). The con­ven­tion report in the mid­dle of the text was orig­i­nally for­mat­ted as mul­ti­ple columns on a page with no white­space and pho­tographs inserted out of order; I have taken the lib­erty of inter­pret­ing large text as sec­tion titles and con­vert­ing the run-on para­graphs to list items. Sim­i­lar­ly, no attempt has been made to pre­serve the exact for­mat­ting on the page of the 2 linked chronolo­gies.

No attempt has been made to be slav­ishly exact to the prose (while strictly pre­serv­ing the sense): spelling errors are rife, and espe­cially in sec­tions set after GAINAX’s move to Tokyo, there are sen­tences where the trans­la­tor(s) appar­ently changed their mind half-way through; such sen­tences are silently copy­edited to some­thing more sen­si­ble. The Japan­ese edi­tion of The Notenki Mem­oirs has a num­ber of errors; work­ing with Google Trans­late to check the birth-year cor­rec­tions, they seem to have been already incor­po­rated into the ADV edi­tion.

Links to Wikipedia and the Inter­net are my own inser­tion, as are the addi­tional end­notes & com­men­taries & pic­tures signed “—Ed­i­tor”.

I’d appre­ci­ate feed­back about whether there are any allu­sions Takeda makes or inci­dents left opaque that you under­stand but I haven’t yet clar­i­fied in an anno­ta­tion?

Fur­ther read­ing:


The Notenki Memoirs: Studio Gainax And The Men Who Created Evangelion

[pg 190-191]

By (2002)

About the author:

Born 1957 in Osa­ka. Gen­eral Man­ager and Pro­ducer for GAINAX. Spent a total of six years (five years repeat­ing the same grade) in the Nuclear Engi­neer­ing Depart­ment of Kinki Uni­ver­si­ty. Takeda would go on to host sev­eral sci-fi events, includ­ing the near-mythic DAICON 3. In 2001, at the 40th Annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, he resigned as chair­man of the Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee, a post which he had held for 16 years. Cur­rent­ly, he is employed at the cre­ator-cen­tric stu­dio GAINAX, where he works dili­gently as the stu­dio’s sole bas­tion of com­mon sense. His cur­rent hobby is play­ing (more like prac­tic­ing actu­al­ly…) the .

Japan­ese edi­tion:

  • Pho­tog­ra­phy: Kazuyoshi Sakai
  • Yasuhiro Takeda Illus­tra­tion: Mit­sue Aoki
  • Writ­ing Assis­tance: Yu Sug­i­tani (EHRGEIZ), Yasuhiro Kamimura1 (), Takayoshi Miwa (PAQUET)
  • ISBN 4847014073
  • © 2002,

Eng­lish edi­tion:

  • Trans­la­tion & adap­ta­tion: Javier Lopez, Jack Wiedrick, Bren­dan Frayne, Kay Bertrand, Gina Koern­er, Hiroaki Fukuda and Sheri­dan Jacobs
  • Design & lay­out: Natalia Reynolds
  • Cover Design: Jason Babler
  • ISBN 1-4139-0234-0
  • Eng­lish text ©2005 pub­lished by , Inc., under exclu­sive license from Wani Books, Co. ()


[pg 3-4]

In the sum­mer of 2001, we hosted the 40th annual (SF2001) at the cen­ter in . It had been a full 20 years since , the very first sci-fi con we’d host­ed, and it’s going on 24 years since we first became active (as they say) in the biz. In the begin­ning, I was a kid who did­n’t think much about any­thing, who pre­ferred the plea­sures of the moment to any long-term uncer­tain­ties about the future. I was just a reg­u­lar kid.

What changed me was a series of encoun­ters, an unbro­ken pro­ces­sion of chance meet­ings that thrust me from my young and vig­or­ous but ulti­mately clue­less boy­hood, and trans­formed me into the man I am now.

More than any­thing, it was DAICON 3 that played the great­est role in many of these encoun­ters, and now here we were again, host­ing SF2001. I guess you could say the con­ven­tion marked an era in my own career, so I decided to treat the occa­sion as an oppor­tu­nity to syn­the­size the past two decades into the form of a record of my youth.

Nat­u­ral­ly, most of the things I remem­ber hap­pened to me per­son­al­ly, so those are the things I mainly write about. And there’s a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity that this account of mine may not even be accu­rate, in the sense of being based on hard, objec­tive facts.

At the very least I’m try­ing not to write any out­right lies, so please for­give me of any faults in my mem­o­ry, or if oth­ers hap­pen to remem­ber things differ­ent­ly. That’s just the nature of the beast.

I hope this book will serve as an aid to read­ers who want to learn the truth behind the rumors of how we got from DAICON to GAINAX, as well as infor­ma­tion on things they might want to know about us. Of course, if you do fall into that cat­e­gory you must be even more of a geek than I am…

Takeda’s class

Table of Contents

  • Pref­ace

  • The Com­plete Notenki Chronol­ogy

  • Osaka—The whole future was sci-fi

    • The end of my youth
    • My fate­ful uni­ver­sity accep­tance
    • Encounter with the sci-fi club
    • Con­fed­er­a­tion of Kan­sai Stu­dent Sci-Fi Clubs
    • First con­tact with a sci-fi event
    • Kan­sai enter­tain­ers
    • Hold­ing the 4th annual Sci-Fi Show
    • My first event
    • The road to host­ing the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion
    • For­mal can­di­dacy
    • The DAICON 3 deci­sion
    • Meet­ing Anno, Yam­aga and Akai
    • The open­ing ani­ma­tion
    • DAICON 3
    • After the party
    • Open­ing the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store
    • Ideon Fes­ti­val
    • The Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion revis­ited
    • Estab­lish­ing DAICON FILM
    • Kaiketsu Notenki
    • Aikoku Sen­tai Dainip­pon
    • Kaet­tekita Ultra­man
    • DAICON 4
    • The Osaka Phil­har­monic
    • Ken Hayakawa, Pri­vate Detec­tive
    • Too many sweat­shops
    • The day
    • After­ward
    • Chair­man of the Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee
    • Won­der Fes­ti­val
    • The found­ing of GAINAX
    • Yamata no Orochi no Gyakushu
    • Oritsu Uchugun Hon­neamise no Tsub­asa
    • Gen­eral Prod­ucts moves to Tokyo
  • Glos­sary of Terms2

  • Shout­ing! Run­ning! Laugh­ing! Cry­ing! Yasuhiro Takeda and the First Big Bash of the 21ist Cen­tury

    • In-depth cov­er­age on Yasuhiro Takeda, Chair­man of the Plan­ning Com­mit­tee for the 40th Annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion—S­F2001 & Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee
  • Tokyo—And then, mov­ing to the cap­i­tal

    • GAINAX House
    • Tokyo life
    • Third Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion
    • Sec­ond period of lethargy
    • Dragon Quest
    • _Ko­matsu Sakyo Anime Gek­ijo
    • Gamemaker GAINAX
    • Fushigi no Umi no Nadia
    • GAINAX, the anime pro­duc­tion com­pany
    • Olympia—the phan­tom project
    • What fol­lowed for Gen­eral Prod­ucts
    • PC game con­ven­tion
    • Mar­riage
    • The end of Gen­eral Prod­ucts
    • Okada leaves the com­pany
    • The new GAINAX
    • Aoki Uru
    • Reset
    • GAINA Mat­suri
    • Evan­ge­lion Eve
    • Shin­seiki Evan­ge­lion
    • Tax eva­sion and the birth of my daugh­ter
    • Mov­ing ahead
  • Glos­sary of Terms (2)

  • Exclu­sive inter­view with Hiroyuki Yam­a­ga, Takami Akai and Hideaki Anno—­Trial in Absen­tia! Yasuhiro Takeda—The Truth is in Here!

  • Glos­sary of Names

The Complete Notenki Chronology

[pg 11-16]

Every­thing you need to know about the his­tory of the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tions, Gen­eral Prod­ucts and GAINAX

  • 1957 Sep­tem­ber: Born in

  • The first-ever Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion (Meg-Con) was held in May, 1962

  • The were held in Octo­ber, 1964

  • 1964 April: Enter Tadaoka Ele­men­tary School

  • The first moon land­ing hap­pened in July, 1969

  • The was held in 1970

  • 1970 April: Enter Tadaoka Junior High school

  • 1973 April: Enter Seifu High School

  • (“Star Blaz­ers”) aired in Japan in 1974

  • 1976 April: Enter ’s Nuclear Engi­neer­ing Depart­ment

  • Star Wars came out in 1977

  • 1977

  • 1978

    • April:
    • August:
      • Make con­ven­tion debut at Ashino-Con (the 17th annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion)
      • Meet Takeshi Sawa­mura and Hiroaki Inoue
      • Intend to host a con­ven­tion, but give up because of exces­sive red tape
  • (“Mobile Suit Gun­dam”) aired in Japan in 1979

  • 1979 August: Hold 4th annual Sci-Fi Show in Miel­par­que Osaka Hall

  • 1980

  • The of Kido Sen­shi Gun­dam came out in 1981

  • 1981

    • March:
      • (Hi­roe Suga debuts in SF Hoseki mag­a­zine)
    • Spring:
      • (Toshio Okada drops out of Osaka Elec­tro-Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Uni­ver­si­ty)
    • August:
      • Hold the 20th annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion (DAICON 3) in Mori­nomiya, Osaka
    • Fall:
      • Start liv­ing with friends at ; my first period of lethargy
    • Octo­ber:
      • Drop out of Kinki Uni­ver­sity
      • Begin prepa­ra­tions for open­ing the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store
      • Sell videos of open­ing ani­ma­tion to clear DAICON 3 debt
    • End of year:
      • Hideaki Anno, Takami Akai and Hiroyuki Yam­aga par­tic­i­pate in the pro­duc­tion of the first two episodes of
  • 1982

    • Start of year:
      • Begin prepa­ra­tions for host­ing our sec­ond sci-fi con­ven­tion
    • Feb­ru­ary:
      • Open the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store
    • Spring:
      • Form the plan­ning com­mit­tee; rent an office
    • May:
      • Help out with Ideon fes­ti­val
      • Begin work on DAICON FILM pro­duc­tions (Aikoku Sen­tai Dainip­pon, Kaet­tekita Ultra­man and )
      • Start writ­ing “Tame ni naru Gen­eral Prod­ucts Koza” col­umn for Ani­mec mag­a­zine (Rap­port)
      • Hiroyuki Yam­aga par­tic­i­pates in Macross pro­duc­tion in Tokyo
    • July:
      • Ultra­man pro­duc­tion halted
    • August:
      • Kaiketsu Notenki and Aikoku Sen­tai Dainip­pon are com­pleted and shown at the 21st annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion (Tokon 8)
  • 1983

    • Jan­u­ary:
      • Hideaki Anno moves to Tokyo
    • March:
      • DAICON FILM com­pletes pro­duc­tion on Kaet­tekita Ultra­man
    • April:
      • Takeshi Sawa­mura joins Japan Tele­vi­sion Work­shop
      • Plan­ning for DAICON 4 begins in earnest
      • Begin pro­duc­tion on open­ing ani­ma­tion for DAICON 4
      • and help with open­ing ani­ma­tion
    • August:
      • Hold 22nd annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion (DAICON 4) at the Osaka Koseinenkin Hall
    • Sep­tem­ber:
      • Gen­eral Prod­ucts store changes loca­tion
    • Fall:
      • Begin project plan­ning for what will become
      • Nation­wide screen­ings of DAICON FILM pro­duc­tions held
      • Takeshi Sawa­mura quits Japan Tele­vi­sion Work­shop and starts work­ing for Gen­eral Prod­ucts
      • Hideaki Anno helps on pro­duc­tion of and the
  • 1984

    • Jan­u­ary:
      • Kaiketsu Notenki 2—Mi­natomachi Jun­jo-hen com­plete
    • April:
      • Open SID coffee bar inside the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store
    • June:
      • DAICON FILM pro­duc­tion Hayauchi Ken no Dai­bo­ken com­plete
    • July:
    • Decem­ber:
      • Host pre-event at the Osaka store
      • Gen­eral Prod­ucts cuts loose from Okada Embroi­der­ing and incor­po­rates; GAINAX, Inc. is founded
      • A por­tion of the Gen­eral Prod­ucts staff breaks off
  • 1985

    • Jan­u­ary:
      • A design stu­dio is set up at in Tokyo and pro­duc­tion begins on the Oritsu Uchugun pilot
      • shows up at the Orochi stu­dio
      • The first Won­der Fes­ti­val is held at the Tokyo Trade Cen­ter
    • May:
      • The new stu­dio is for­mally estab­lished at Takadanob­aba
      • Begin design­ing Oritsu Uchugun
    • August:
      • Sec­ond Won­der Fes­ti­val is held; after­ward, it’s decided to hold a Won­der Fes­ti­val every sum­mer
      • Shinji Higuchi and Showji Mura­hama join GAINAX
    • Decem­ber:
      • Yamata no Orochi no Gyakushu is com­pleted and released
  • 1986

    • Jan­u­ary:
      • The stu­dio is moved to Kichi­jo­ji-Hi­gashi in Tokyo, where pro­duc­tion begins on Oritsu Uchugun
    • August:
      • Appointed chair­man of the Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee
  • 1987

    Group shot in 1987, unknown source –Ed­i­tor
    • March:
      • Oritsu Uchugun shows in For­eign Film Branch the­aters
      • Takeshi Sawa­mura leaves Gen­eral Prod­ucts
      • GAINAX stu­dio loca­tion is moved to Kichi­jo­ji-Mi­nami
    • June:
      • Gen­eral Prod­ucts moves com­pany head­quar­ters to Tokyo and merges with GAINAX
      • Junichi Osako is made pres­i­dent of the Osaka store
    • August:
      • Estab­lish can­di­dacy for the fol­low­ing year’s con­ven­tion
    • Sep­tem­ber:
      • Pro­duce Mar­i­onette, a pro­mo­tional video for the musi­cian
    • Octo­ber:
      • Pro­duce Hyper Robot Compo, a com­mer­cial film for Vic­tor Tele­vi­sion
      • Hiroki Sato joins Gen­eral Prod­ucts
      • The cor­po­rate office is moved back to Kichi­jo­ji-Hi­gashi
      • The Gen­eral Prod­ucts Tokyo store opens for busi­ness
      • Plan­ning begins on
  • 1988

    • August:
    • Octo­ber:
      • The first vol­ume of Top o Ner­ae! goes on sale
    • Decem­ber:
  • 1989

    • Jan­u­ary:
      • Pro­duce Tomoy­asu Hotei Gui­tarhythm ani­ma­tion
    • March:
      • Pro­duce Fence of Defence Data No. 6 pro­mo­tional video
    • July:
      • Top o Ner­ae! com­plete
    • August:
      • PC game Denno Gakuen Sce­nario 1 goes on sale
      • Hiroaki Inoue leaves GAINAX
    • Octo­ber:
      • Komatsu Sakyo Anime Gek­ijo begins air­ing on Mainichi Broad­cast
      • The pre­miere issue of Cyber Comics comes out
  • 1990

    • Jan­u­ary:
      • Takeshi Sawa­mura returns as the new pres­i­dent of GAINAX
    • April:
    • May:
      • Hold PC game con­ven­tion
    • August:
    • Novem­ber:
      • Marry Hiroe Suga
  • The Gulf War hap­pened in 1991

  • 1991

    • March:
      • Fushigi no Umi no Nadia fin­ishes air­ing
    • May:
    • July:
  • 1992

    • Jan­u­ary:
      • Gen­eral Prod­ucts hosts its last Won­der Fes­ti­val; rights to the con­ven­tion are trans­ferred to
    • Feb­ru­ary:
      • Gen­eral Prod­ucts closes up shop
    • March:
      • PC game Fushigi no Umi no Nadia goes on sale
      • Plan­ning begins on
      • Toshio Okada leaves GAINAX
      • Hiroyuki Yam­aga is appointed pres­i­dent of GAINAX
    • Decem­ber:
      • GAINAX-NET online ser­vice opens up
  • 1993

    • June:
    • July:
      • Pro­duc­tion on Aoki Uru stalls out
      • Many GAINAX employ­ees leave
      • Plan­ning begins on
  • 1994

    • March:
      • Host GAiNA Mat­suri (GAINAX Fes­ti­val) at the Minakami Hot Springs in Gun­ma, Japan
    • July:
      • Move cor­po­rate office from Kichi­jo­ji-Hi­gashi to a loca­tion close to , Tokyo
    • Sep­tem­ber:
      • Takami Akai breaks from GAINAX and estab­lishes the inde­pen­dent AKAI game devel­op­ment house (later to become Nine Lives)
    • Decem­ber:
  • The hap­pened in Jan­u­ary 1995

  • The cult with sarin gas in March 1995

  • 1995

    • July:
      • GAINAX Forum opens on online ser­vice
      • The sec­ond GAINA Mat­suri is held at in
      • Japan Inter­net home­page goes up
    • Octo­ber:
      • Shin­seiki Evan­ge­lion begins air­ing on
  • 1997

  • 1998

    • Jan­u­ary:
    • May:
      • Undergo an audit from the Regional Tax­a­tion Bureau
    • July:
      • First daugh­ter—Yuki­no—is born
    • Octo­ber:
  • 1999

    • August:
      • Ai no Awa Awa Hour begins air­ing on DirecTV
  • 2000

  • 2001

    • August:
      • 40th annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion (SF2001) is held at the Makuhari Messe in

Osaka—The whole future was sci-fi

The end of my youth

[pg 18-21]

When I was a kid, I don’t think I was quite the geek I am now.

As far back as I can remem­ber, tele­vi­sion was always a part of home life. The same goes for comic mag­a­zines like and , which made their debut in this world long before I did. Since much of the anime and manga of my for­ma­tive years leaned toward sci-fi themes and set­tings, that genre became (and remains) my favorite. I was drawn in by the strange and pow­er­ful lure of futur­is­tic sto­ries—the future seemed so sub­lime, and filled me with long­ing. For a kid in those days, this kind of think­ing was par the course. But there were plenty of fun things to do besides watch­ing TV and read­ing comics, and I cer­tainly did­n’t spend my entire child­hood wrapped up in anime and man­ga.

In fact, there was really only one differ­ence between other kids of that era and myself—I liked read­ing nov­els. I’ve already for­got­ten what sparked that inter­est, but it was in the fourth grade or so when I became an avid read­er. While other kids were run­ning around the school­yard, I was run­ning back and forth to the library. (I don’t think it was a time when you bought the books you liked—if you wanted to read one, you just went to the library.) I was hooked on sci-fi and mys­tery. Of course, the sto­ries I read were adapted for grade­school­ers, and I sim­ply devoured them. To name a few, there were titles like and Sher­lock Holmes, and authors like 3 and 4—sci-fi nov­el­ists from the mid-’60s, whose works were con­sid­ered required read­ing. That’s not to say I did­n’t read other works. I explored almost every aisle of the library… with the result that I became a library assis­tant by the time I was in the fifth grade, sim­ply because I could stay there for hours on end. All I ever wanted was just a lit­tle more time to read. Look­ing back on it now, my only regret is that I never sought out any­one to share in my lit­tle world.

My first encounter with adult sci-fi books, the kind pub­lished by Sogen­sha or Hayakawa Shobo5, was dur­ing the sixth grade. My ini­tial attempt to fin­ish a ful­l-length novel was by read­ing , but to tell you the truth, I failed mis­er­ably. I only made it halfway through before I got com­pletely lost and tossed it out. My rea­son­ing was quite sim­ple: How can you be inter­ested in a book you can’t even under­stand? And why con­tinue to read a book if you derive absolutely no enjoy­ment from it? As for the book itself, sci-fi fans are likely to know that 6 is an entire series of nov­els. When a kid in the sixth grade picks up a book in the mid­dle of the series, it’s no won­der he can’t get through it.

But a lit­tle thing like that was­n’t enough to stop me from read­ing books. My next encounter was with Van Vogt’s 7. The main char­ac­ter is a gen­eral sci­en­tist who is described as both calm and cal­cu­lat­ing, a leader of men whose path stays true to his goal. I thought he was just the coolest, and the book was so cap­ti­vat­ing that it shaped my idea of what a sci­en­tist is and should be8. It’s also what spurred my ever-deep­en­ing inter­est in sci-fi. To this day, I still pull The Voy­age of the Space Bea­gle off my shelf at least once every two or three years. It never gets old, no mat­ter how many times I read it.

Think­ing back, I seem to recall that every time I tried tack­ling fic­tion, I’d tire of it almost imme­di­ate­ly. I just did­n’t read that par­tic­u­lar type of lit­er­a­ture. No, the only sto­ries that really got me excited were sci-fi, mys­ter­ies and adven­tures. I did read plenty of school books, though, and I still won­der why so many of those chil­dren’s sto­ries were so drea­ry, almost depress­ing. Maybe it was the shadow of vio­lence that dark­ened our time. It was, after all, the mid­dle of the Viet­nam War. Per­haps for us Japan­ese, the specter of bat­tle still lin­gered in our mem­o­ries, vivid and real. At the very least, it was­n’t some far-off drama like you see on TV today. Come to think of it, I was born in 1957, a mere 12 years after the end of the war in the Pacific.

Around the time I was in sixth grade, Apollo 119 landed on the moon. What’s more, it was broad­cast live. I was blown away. All I could think was, Right now, right this sec­ond, humans are stand­ing on the moon! I was glued to the tele­vi­sion, and praises for sci­ence flooded my mind. But what really sealed my faith in that most essen­tial field of study was the Osaka World Expo­si­tion in 197010.

I think peo­ple of my gen­er­a­tion will under­stand when I say that the Osaka World Expo was a sym­bol of our future, a glimpse of what sci­ence would bring about. As antic­i­pat­ed, the U.S. build­ing had on dis­play, and of course I went to see them. I stood in line for two hours to look at some rocks. But they weren’t just any old rock­s—they had been brought back from the moon. They car­ried the promise of a bright and pow­er­ful future; they seemed to glow with the con­fi­dence of that tomor­row.

After these early expe­ri­ences, I began to nur­ture a new belief some­where deep inside me, a belief that the future was sci-fi, and sci-fi was sci­ence.

Again, I don’t think there was any­thing espe­cially unusual about this feel­ing. Many chil­dren of that time—e­spe­cially boys—prob­a­bly felt exactly the same way.

My fateful university acceptance

[pg 21-23]

The decid­ing fac­tor in my cho­sen school path was my unwa­ver­ing faith in sci­ence. Kinki Uni­ver­sity11 was the scene of my col­lege career, and once there, I chose to study nuclear engi­neer­ing. The rea­son was sim­ple: The world was chang­ing, and the future would revolve around elec­tric­i­ty. Be it com­put­ers or what have you, my vision of the world to be was that elec­tric­ity would power every­thing. I was sure of it. And elec­tric­ity for the future meant nuclear ener­gy—or so my 18-year-old brain con­ceived.

At that point, I had­n’t done much research on the sub­ject, but after crack­ing the books I dis­cov­ered that nuclear energy was absurd. Har­ness­ing the power of the atom for energy was sim­ply ask­ing too much of human­i­ty. I started to think our future would be bet­ter served by insti­tut­ing an alter­nate source of elec­tri­cal pow­er.

It would be pretty hard to call Kinki Uni­ver­sity a first- rate school. My feel­ing at the time was that it was, at most, sec­ond-rate. for one thing, there were hordes of stu­dents in atten­dance, mak­ing the cam­pus a vir­tual wilder­ness of 4- and 5-s­tory dor­mi­to­ries. That’s the kind of school it was. At a time when Nihon Uni­ver­si­ty—the mother of all mam­moth uni­ver­si­ties in Japan—boasted an enroll­ment of 70,000 or so, Kinki Uni­ver­sity had at least 50,000 stu­dents of its own. There was even a cer­tain rumor, told in hushed and seri­ous tones, that if all the stu­dents were to actu­ally attend class, the school would run out of desks. No mat­ter how you sliced it, it was an enor­mous school, which is per­haps why in my fresh­man year I was­n’t able to locate the only club that I really wanted to join—the sci-fi club12.

Dur­ing the course of read­ing those sci-fi books through­out junior high and high school, I stum­bled across a pub­li­ca­tion called SF Mag­a­zine13, which alerted me to the exis­tence of these “sci-fi clubs”. When I say “stum­bled across”, that’s no exag­ger­a­tion. I lived in the coun­try, so it was only once in a blue moon that the local book­stores would even carry any­thing like SF Mag­a­zine. It goes with­out say­ing that you would­n’t find it in the school library, either.

Any­way, I had a vague notion that once I got into col­lege, I would join the sci-fi club. Maybe it was because I’d never had any close friends to share my love of sci-fi with. But I was­n’t able to make it hap­pen—the sci-fi club at Kinki Uni­ver­sity was­n’t an offi­cial school club14. Their exis­tence was­n’t even acknowl­edged by the uni­ver­si­ty, and as a result they were shunned, with­out even a clu­b­room on cam­pus. Hardly sur­pris­ing, since they weren’t even asso­ci­ated with the school. Their sta­tus being what it was, I failed to notice the pow­ers they’d put up at the start of the school year, and—at the risk of stat­ing the obvi­ous—was con­se­quently unable to join.

I wanted friends to dis­cuss sci-fi with, but it was­n’t to the point where if I could­n’t find any I’d think, I can’t take it! I want to die! or any­thing. So I left it at that and just stopped look­ing. I had other plea­sures in life besides read­ing. For exam­ple, in high school I played bass gui­tar in a neigh­bor­hood band. I was also pos­i­tively addicted to ski­ing, and would hit the slopes the minute the sea­son opened. So my fresh­man year was­n’t exactly mis­er­able. I had fun out­side of my obses­sion with all things sci-fi.

Encounter with the sci-fi club

[pg 23-26]

It was at the begin­ning of my sopho­more year that I started see­ing recruit­ment posters for school clubs, and more impor­tant­ly, the sci-fi club. At least! I had finally found a group of friends to dis­cuss sci-fi15 with.

I had assumed that I was extremely well-read, but after join­ing the club, I was sur­prised to dis­cover that my upper­class­men had read a lot more than me. The amount of read­ing they did was fright­en­ing. And once I began talk­ing to them, I dis­cov­ered the incred­i­ble amount of infor­ma­tion they actu­ally knew. Dur­ing the course of a sin­gle con­ver­sa­tion they’d jump from one topic to anoth­er, go back to where they’d start­ed, then take off in a differ­ent direc­tion alto­geth­er. It was noth­ing more than idle chit-chat, but it was incred­i­bly enter­tain­ing and I could­n’t get enough of it. I was always hang­ing around the sci-fi club. Of course we weren’t offi­cially rec­og­nized as a club by the school, so we did­n’t even have a room. We would hop from cafe to cafe, but inevitably, we’d end up at the Sun­set Inn16, a coffee shop near the school’s entrance. Just to give you an idea of how often we went there, even now, 20 years lat­er, the Sun­set Inn is still the default meet­ing place for the sci-fi club. A while back, I met up with some of the old crew from the Sun­set Inn. When I learned that some­one’s daugh­ter—still in grade school dur­ing our col­lege years—was now out of col­lege, it really drove home how much time had passed, And yes, of course I had to tell her, “Say, did­n’t you and I take a bath together way back when?” Any­way, it seems that in those days every sci-fi club or group through­out Japan had an old famil­iar meet­ing spot like ours. It just went with the ter­ri­to­ry.

Once my place in the sci-fi club was estab­lished, col­lege life was just plain fun. It had to be, with friends as crazy as mine!

Take, for exam­ple, Mizuno17. He’s a cop now, but he used to be one of my under­class­men. This guy read his fair share of sci-fi nov­els, but what he really loved were movies, and he saw a ton of them. For some rea­son, he was obsessed with that zom­bie flick, , which was play­ing in the­aters at the time. It was all he’d ever talk about, so we gave him the rather appro­pri­ate nick­name of “Zom­bie”.

Another of my under­class­men was Miwa18. Besides sci-fi, he liked , or Japan­ese comic sto­ry­telling. The sec­ond you gave him a top­ic, he’d burst into some funny sto­ry. Miwa later spent some time as a direc­tor for Gen­eral Prod­ucts.

And then there was Yasushi Okamoto19. He was an upper­class­man of mine (in fact, he was already an alum­nus by then), and we always called him “Mr. Yasushi” and stuff like that. He was already famous in fan cir­cles for emcee­ing and speak­ing at . This may sur­prise you, but I’m no good at pub­lic speak­ing—my face used to always turn beet red. Yasushi was a mas­ter, though, and it was he who taught me how to speak in front of crowds.

Aside from them, there was Ikeda20, an older guy in the same year as me who’d recently returned to Japan from Argenti­na, and an under­class­man named Toyama21, who works at GAINAX today. Since he first joined the sci-fi club more than twenty years ago, Toyama has had the nick­name of “Chest­nut head”, for no other rea­son than we all thought his face looked just like a steamed bun with chest­nut fill­ing.

All of the guys in our group were one step shy of cer­ti­fi­able. but from what I hear, our eccen­tric­i­ties mir­rored those of almost every sci-fi, manga or mys­tery club at the time.

I think our involve­ment with the club was more about dis­cussing and explor­ing sci-fi top­ics than actu­ally par­tic­i­pat­ing in big­ger fan-type activ­i­ties that drive it. No, scratch that. The main thing was just hang­ing out with friends and hav­ing stu­pid con­ver­sa­tions. That’s really all it was.

One of the mem­bers who joined at the same time as me was a guy named Goto22. He was one year older than me, and, boy, was he differ­ent. He was a mem­ber of the Sei­gun Soci­ety23, a cre­ative group based in . He’d writ­ten his own nov­els, and was the first sci-fi fan I’d met who actu­ally wanted to be a pro­fes­sional writer. Or rather, I should say he was the first per­son I’d met in my entire life who openly shared his vision with other peo­ple. It was quite a shock. Goto knew a lot of peo­ple, and not just from the Sei­gun Soci­ety. He had con­nec­tions to sci-fi fan­dom in places out­side of Osaka, and he hob­nobbed with the so-called “BNFs” ()24, who were well-known in the sci-fi com­mu­ni­ty.

One day, Goto came to me with the idea of form­ing a com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work between the var­i­ous uni­ver­sity sci-fi clubs through­out Kan­sai (the region around Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and Nara). He asked me to help him set it up, and from that point on, my life changed dras­ti­cal­ly. I’d always had a ten­dency to choose the sci-fi club over class­es, but that’s when I started going to school less and less. I guess you could say that one moment was the first step toward my future.

Confederation of Kansai Student Sci-Fi Clubs

[pg 26-29]

Back then, the world was in the mid­dle of a sci-fi craze. Almost every uni­ver­sity in Japan had sci-fi clubs, rang­ing from very small to extremely large.

I decided to help Goto, for the sim­ple rea­son that I thought it sounded inter­est­ing. I ran around to uni­ver­sity sci-fi clubs far and wide, mak­ing con­tact, hav­ing meet­ings, call­ing for the estab­lish­ment of a com­mu­ni­ca­tions orga­ni­za­tion, and just help­ing out where I could. The Con­fed­er­a­tion of Kan­sai Stu­dent Sci-Fi Clubs25 (or “the Con­fed­er­a­tion” for short) we estab­lished would later become the admin­is­tra­tive body for the 4th annual Sci-Fi Show, the first sci-fi event we would host.

It was as if, even then, the of the 1960s retained a glim­mer of their for­mer impact—rem­nants of resis­tance, like dying embers. I could feel some­thing of it as I trav­eled around in an attempt to drum up inter­est in the Con­fed­er­a­tion. In other words, they did­n’t seem to appre­ci­ate peo­ple from other schools sud­denly show­ing up and telling them this and that. The impres­sion I got was that their clubs were their busi­ness—their domin­ion. I sup­pose it was to be expect­ed, but since I’d never been a part of any stu­dent move­ments, even in pass­ing, I was ini­tially rather lost as to my next move. They started throw­ing around Eng­lish words like “orga­nizer” and “pro­pa­ganda”, words I’d never even heard before. But on the other hand, it did­n’t seem that the ones spout­ing those phrases had much of a clue what they were say­ing, either. It was­n’t long before I stopped inter­act­ing with those types.

At first, there were four or five schools (in­clud­ing Kinki Uni­ver­si­ty) par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Con­fed­er­a­tion. I was thor­oughly engrossed in it all, and work­ing so tire­lessly that I began hear­ing calls for me to run the “Sec­re­tariat”26. And that’s how I ended up becom­ing the first sec­re­tary-gen­er­al.

I don’t have any idea what Goto’s inten­tions were, but at this stage the Con­fed­er­a­tion did­n’t have any aspi­ra­tions of host­ing events or any­thing like that. It was really just a con­tact com­mit­tee for the sci-fi clubs in each par­tic­i­pat­ing uni­ver­si­ty. We put out a newslet­ter a few times a year, and that was the extent of it.

To be hon­est, I did­n’t really care what we were doing it for. It did­n’t mat­ter. The most impor­tant thing was that it was fun. And because it was all I did, I started skip­ping school more and more. But I never missed a chance to go to the cafes with friends from the club.

A typ­i­cal day for me involved wak­ing up and head­ing down to the usual cafe, where I would sip coffee and read some sci-fi. Once my friends began to arrive, we’d get all fired up by some kind of ridicu­lous con­ver­sa­tion. When the sun went down, we would move on to one of the local pubs and get even more fired up. That’s how it went every day, and it was fun. As for school, it’s no won­der that I had to repeat my sopho­more year. In the midst of all this, I would be attend­ing my first sci-fi event. I for­get exactly how this came about, but Miwa, my under­class­man and fel­low club mem­ber, had been active as a sci-fi fan since high school, and he reg­u­larly attended con­ven­tions27. After ask­ing around, I found that a lot of peo­ple in the club and the Con­fed­er­a­tion were reg­u­lars at those cons, too.

To all those who know about sci-fi con­ven­tions, I apol­o­gize for the unnec­es­sary expla­na­tion. But for those who don’t know, they’re fan-spon­sored events held annu­al­ly. There isn’t a fixed exec­u­tive com­mit­tee or board. What­ever group or orga­ni­za­tion wants to host one can raise its hands and be counted among the can­di­dates, and the for­mat is differ­ent every year. For that rea­son, the loca­tion for the con­ven­tion can be any­where within the coun­try, and the theme and pre­sen­ta­tion—even the date—change each time as well. At a met­ro­pol­i­tan-style con­ven­tion, in areas like Tokyo or Osaka, the meet­ing hall will be sep­a­rate from the lodg­ing. There’s no real need to reserve lodg­ings for this kind of gath­er­ing. And then there’s the resort-style con­ven­tion, where you may not be able to secure an ade­quately sized hall, or it may be held in a rural area where reserved lodg­ing is an absolute neces­si­ty. In those cas­es, an entire lodge is rented out for every­one, and the con­ven­tion is held right there. Those can be week­end events, and the late nights always turn into mas­sive drink­ing par­ties. You need sta­mina for those cons. But that’s why many peo­ple say that these are the only true sci-fi con­ven­tions.

The 2001 event marked the 40th annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. Many of the peo­ple who hosted the ear­lier Con­ven­tions are now big-name authors in their own right. Peo­ple like Sakyo Komatsu28, 29 and Masahiro Noda30 are the great-grand­fa­thers of the Con­ven­tion. It has always been hosted by ama­teurs, but in the sci-fi world the dis­tinc­tion between fan and author is a rel­a­tively small one31, and many pro­fes­sional writ­ers par­tic­i­pate right along­side the fans. An event like that would be unthink­able in other gen­res.

I did have a vague notion of what these events were, but I’d never thought of actu­ally par­tic­i­pat­ing in one, so it was some­what sur­pris­ing to learn that every­one else went to them. It was with the mind­set of Well, I’ll just go once and see what it’s like that I filled out an appli­ca­tion to a local con32 in .

First contact with a sci-fi event

[pg 29-31]

Unlike the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tions, local cons are put on by fan groups from a par­tic­u­lar region. (“Con” is of course an abbre­vi­a­tion of “con­ven­tion”.) Also unlike the annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tions, smal­l­-s­cale fan events are held at var­i­ous locales through­out the coun­try at any time of year.

The local con I went to was a two-day event held in Kagawa dur­ing (late April to early May). It was called the Sci-Fi Fes­ti­val 78, or “Seto-Con”. My mem­o­ries of the place itself are a lit­tle hazy, but I’m pretty sure it was some kind of munic­i­pal hotel close to . I think they rented the whole place out. There were lots of fans like us in atten­dance, but the recent­ly-de­buted Baku Yumemakura33 was also there for a panel dis­cus­sion. Even some of the more pop­u­lar BNFs showed up, pro­mot­ing their self­-pub­lished fanzines. And when I saw my friend Goto on stage mix­ing it up with the big boys, I was impressed all over again.

Peo­ple not in the know might won­der what the heck kind of sci-fi event this was, and in true fash­ion there were com­pe­ti­tions to see who could eat their the fastest, while in the main hall peo­ple were sit­ting around in cir­cles hav­ing lively dis­cus­sions.

When night came, they busted out the sake, and things really started to heat up. On one side of the room you’d have a group of girls whoop­ing it up in geek-s­peak, while else­where another group would be hold­ing a seri­ous dis­cus­sion on some sci-fi top­ic. There were even peo­ple who’d brought their used books and what­not to sell. All in all, it made for a pretty unusual atmos­phere… but I did­n’t mind one bit. In fact, I remem­ber think­ing, Yeah, I could get used to this.

It was at this event that I met some­one who would come to have a tremen­dous influ­ence on my life. His name was Toshio Okada3435, and we would later go on to host a Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion togeth­er, and later cofound both Gen­eral Prod­ucts and GAINAX. I first heard of him from Onishi, a friend of mine through my Con­fed­er­a­tion con­nec­tions. He was attend­ing Osaka Elec­tro-Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Uni­ver­si­ty, and said that some­one exactly like me had just entered his school. Onishi had shown up to this local con too, and that’s where he intro­duced me to Oka­da.

In those days, we did­n’t have the word “otaku” yet, but my first impres­sion of Okada was, Here’s a geek if I’ve ever seen one. With his girly long hair and his freak­ishly excited way of speak­ing, all I could think was, This guy is exactly like me?

Well, I guess he was like me, in a way. But still, it was­n’t exactly thrilling to be com­pared to a guy like that. I did­n’t talk to him much that first time we met, so it was­n’t like we became fast friends or any­thing.

Any­way, I remem­ber think­ing to myself that if a local con is this fun, just imag­ine how much fun a Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion would be! I had already put in my appli­ca­tion for the 17th annual Con­ven­tion (com­monly known as the Ashino-Con) to be held that sum­mer, and it was with bated breath that I awaited the oppor­tu­nity to attend,

Kansai entertainers

[pg 31-25]

And now, on to Ashino-con36.

The Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion sprouted from the idea of doing some­thing like the World Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion (aka World­con, which is held in the US) in Japan. The first one was held in . Con­ven­tions tend to have abbre­vi­ated nick­names, usu­ally “some­thing-Con” (this, too, was pat­terned after World­con). The 17th Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion was held at Lake Ashino, so its nick­name was “Ashino-Con”. In case you’re curi­ous, the one held in Meguro was called “Meg-Con”, and the one we would later host were nick­named “DAICON”. That was because they were held in Osaka, and the char­ac­ter used for the “o” in Osaka can also be pro­nounced dai.

Brim­ming with expec­ta­tion after the event in Kagawa, I headed for Lake Ashino by way of Tokyo. It was smack dab in the mid­dle of sum­mer break, and I had hatched an ambi­tious plan for a sum­mer trip. I would go from my native Osaka to Shi­na­gawa in Tokyo, where along with some friends from the club I would attend the Space Sci­ence Expo­si­tion37, hosted by the Japan Ship­build­ing Indus­try Foun­da­tion (now known as the Nip­pon Foun­da­tion). From there I would go on to Lake Ashino.

I guess I was no differ­ent from any other sci-fi fan out there. The Japan World Expo­si­tion in Osaka had me hooked, and I could­n’t get enough space and rock­ets stuff. The Space Sci­ence Expo­si­tion promised dis­plays of a moon lan­der, a moon rover and a Sat­urn rocket brought over from the US, so I fig­ured see­ing all that would get us even more fired up for the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. That was the plan, but in ret­ro­spect, maybe it was­n’t such a bright idea after all.

Ashino-Con was a three­-day event, but unlike local cons, it was attended by a large num­ber of pro­fes­sional writ­ers and edi­tors. They may say there’s not much differ­ence between a fan and a pro in the sci-fi world, but in Osaka there just aren’t that many chances to rub elbows with writ­ers. Tokyo was differ­ent though, and I just could­n’t wait to get to the Con­ven­tion, where I could hang around peo­ple I would­n’t nor­mally have the chance to inter­act with.

But as it turned out, it was­n’t so much fun. There was a party the first night, and I was able to have a con­ver­sa­tion with a writer. That was nice. But after that? My feel­ing at the time was, Ok, this is odd. It was­n’t sup­posed to be like this. It was as if the con­ven­tion had pro­vided the ves­sel, but it was up to us to decide what to put in it. I for one was unsat­is­fied. I don’t know whether it was because there was­n’t enough sci-fi to be had, or because the hosts weren’t pay­ing enough atten­tion to us, but I was let down nonethe­less. I’d been look­ing for­ward to spend­ing three days thor­oughly immersed in sci-fi, but there was­n’t enough of an effort to cater the Con­ven­tion to first-timers. I felt like the only fun I had was just hang­ing out with my usual crowd—and we would invari­ably end up stick­ing togeth­er. Which is why, on the after­noon of the sec­ond day, my bud­dies from the club and I went rid­ing on the . I mean, we’d come all this way to attend the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, and we ended up just wan­der­ing through the city. If sight­see­ing had been our rea­son for com­ing here, then I guess it was fun enough. Above all, I think it’s impor­tant to share expe­ri­ences with peo­ple—to eat from the same pot, as it were.

Still, while we were there, we decided we should­n’t waste the oppor­tu­nity to 38 (although in those days we did­n’t call it “cos­play”—we just called it dress­ing up in cos­tume). For one of the par­ties, we stole some toi­let paper from the bath­room and mum­mi­fied one of our bud­dies. The final touch was tak­ing the card­board roll in the mid­dle, cut­ting it in half, and tap­ing the halves over his eyes. Then we ran around say­ing he was a from Star Wars. But there was one snotty lit­tle kid who kept tear­ing off chunks from our friend’s cos­tume, say­ing, “You guys are weird.” We gave the lit­tle brat a good smack on the head for it, but then some­one stand­ing off to the side came rush­ing up and informed us we’d just whacked the child of none other than Arit­sune Toy­oda39. Oh well. I guess we’ve passed the statute of lim­i­ta­tions by now…

Fun aside, here I was, fresh from Seto-Con and the Space Sci­ence Expo­si­tion, and I’d had a whale of a time at both events. Ashino-Con, on the other hand, just did­n’t have a thing going for it. I feel bad for the hosts when I say this, but that’s really how much of a let­down it was.

Maybe they’d say the prob­lem was that my expec­ta­tions were too high, but it looked like we weren’t the only ones feel­ing a lit­tle bored. After din­ner one night, I got together with Okada and some of the other guys from the sci-fi club. Since we did­n’t have any place to hang out, we plunked our­selves down in front of some vend­ing machines and began one of our point­less con­ver­sa­tions. Okada and I had met for the first time only a few weeks ear­lier, but we started going off about things like, “What if Uchu Senkan Yam­ato (”Star Blaz­ers“)40 had been made in Chi­na?” We were just mak­ing things up as we went along, hav­ing a blast talk­ing and act­ing out sci-fi movies like Godzilla and Star Wars.

As we con­tin­ued to enter­tain our­selves, a small crowd started to gath­er. They lis­tened to our silly con­ver­sa­tion and really started get­ting into it. That only encour­aged us, so we tried doing some­thing else. They got into that as well. It was the first time I real­ized how enjoy­able it was to per­form for an audi­ence. Or maybe I was just caught up in the moment. Either way, our lit­tle per­for­mance in front of the vend­ing machi­nes, which had started at around 10:00 at night, ended up going until sun­rise the next morn­ing—about eight hours, all told. By morn­ing we were almost ready to drop from exhaus­tion. Nei­ther of us even had the energy to get up and eat break­fast.

Before we knew it, there was talk of us being put on stage prior to the clos­ing cer­e­monies. Appar­ent­ly, some­one on the con­ven­tion staff had seen our rou­tine, and thought it’d be even more fun if we per­formed in front of a big­ger crowd. They’d already worked us into the sched­ule before pre­sent­ing the idea to us. As it hap­pened, the staffer in ques­tion turned out to be Mr. Komaki, who would later go on to be edi­tor-in-chief of Ani­mec mag­a­zine. Okada heard the pro­pos­al, and said (in our native ), “Hey, they gave us 30 min­utes! We could do this!” “For­get it”, I shot back. “I’m beat.” “What’re ya talk­in’ about‽ We’ve already come this far—how could we not do it?” I was about to retort with “Whad­daya mean, come this far‽” but he was so insis­tent that I had to give in.

Of course, nei­ther of us had been on stage before. But in a way, we had been rehears­ing all night long, and we had the jokes and the tim­ing down pat. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but again, our audi­ence ate it up. “Sci-fi standup” they called it, and from the looks of things, no one had done any­thing quite like it before. We were dubbed the “Kan­sai Enter­tain­ers”, and we would end up alight­ing a num­ber of differ­ent stages over the next sev­eral years. I guess we made quite an impact, because all of a sud­den it seemed like every­one knew our names.

With Ashino-Con com­ing to a close in that fash­ion (among other things), I could­n’t help feel­ing my future would be all about sci-fi. Or maybe it’s just that I learned how great it felt to be accepted by an audi­ence.

Holding the 4th annual Sci-Fi Show

[pg 36-38]

Our first stint as stage per­form­ers now over, those of us head­ing back to Osaka stood at the bus stop, talk­ing smack about the con­ven­tion while we wait­ed.

“The end was fun…”

“Con­ven­tions have been kinda rot­ten late­ly.”

“We could prob­a­bly do it bet­ter our­selves.”

“Yeah, we could.”

“Why don’t we hold our own con­ven­tion?”

And so forth. As for me, I was so unbe­liev­ably tired I just sat there on the bench, my mind unplugged. You would­n’t think it, but all that talk we were throw­ing around sparked some­thing inside us—­some­thing that would lead to us host­ing our own Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion.

By the time we arrived in Osaka, though, even I was all fired up to host a Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. The first thing we did was tell the guys in the Kinki Uni­ver­sity sci-fi club what we wanted to do… but the upper­class­men were unan­i­mously against it. Basi­cal­ly, they did­n’t think we could just jump in and host such a major event. They thought we should start slow, do a few smaller con­ven­tions, and then once we’d got­ten the hang of things we could move on to the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. The thing is, we did­n’t want to hold small events—we wanted to do the Con­ven­tion. So we did­n’t dis­cuss it with them any­more. But because of that, we later found our­selves run­ning into a real doozie of a prob­lem…

The next thing we did was take the topic up with the Con­fed­er­a­tion. We ran into a few bumps along the way, but in the end we all agreed to do it, and our Kinki Uni­ver­sity club would take the cen­tral role. The “few bumps” I men­tioned were, of course, dis­sent­ing opin­ions and calls for a more con­ser­v­a­tive approach from var­i­ous mem­bers of the other sci-fi clubs. But this was no time to break ranks. We met with the dis­senters and naysay­ers and some­how con­vinced them to get on board. A guy named Musa41 from the club at Osaka Pre­fec­ture Uni­ver­sity told me that I should write up a plan. I’d never writ­ten any­thing like that before, but I gave it a shot. I put my school­ing to good use and drew up a report, like I would have done for an exper­i­ment. (I was a sci­ence stu­dent, after all.) And in those days there were no , so I wrote the whole thing by hand.

When I showed Musa my grand scheme for host­ing the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, he said he had no idea I could write some­thing like that. I remem­ber not know­ing exactly what that was sup­posed to mean, but more than any­thing I felt relief that I’d now be able to count on his help. So that’s how it went, and lit­tle by lit­tle the Con­fed­er­a­tion as a whole decided to go along with it.

We found a hall and posted an announce­ment in Sci-Fi Mag­a­zine. That’s when the whop­per of a prob­lem reared its ugly head. We were con­tacted by an orga­ni­za­tion called the Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion42. Their full offi­cial title is the “Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee”. Founded in 1965 by Masahiro Noda and 43, the orga­ni­za­tion is sup­ported by the mem­ber­ship of sci-fi fan groups from all over Japan. I’d never even heard of it (though lat­er, I would go on to chair this com­mit­tee until 2001). Appar­ently there was a sys­tem in place whereby the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion could only be hosted by orga­ni­za­tions pre-ap­proved by the Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion, but I had no way of know­ing that.

Our biggest prob­lem was now with the upper­class­men, who we’d snubbed dur­ing the plan­ning stages. We new­bies lacked the lat­eral ties to fans that they had, nor were we a part of their infor­ma­tion net­works. Because of this, we were soon informed by Mr. Kadokura44, then chair­man of the asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee, that next year’s Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion was being held in . We were stunned.

When we got the full sto­ry, it was clear that we were in the wrong. We accom­pa­nied Mr. Kadokura to Nagoya to speak with the host for the next year’s con­ven­tion, and imme­di­ately with­drew with­out any fur­ther argu­ment. The prob­lem was, we already had the hall reserved, so we were at a loss for what to do next. But in good time, Space Force Club45 rep­re­sen­ta­tive Hiroaki Inoue46 had a bril­liant idea. Accord­ing to him, there was an event called the Sci-Fi Show47 that had orig­i­nally been spon­sored by Masahiro Noda. It had been held three times already, so sci-fi fans were well aware of it.

“Why don’t you guys hold your con­ven­tion under that name instead?” he sug­gest­ed.

My first event

[pg 39-41]

I first met Mr. Inoue at a reg­u­lar meet­ing for the Osaka chap­ter of the Space Force Club. I was­n’t in the club myself, but I’d heard that a top rep­re­sen­ta­tive was com­ing from Tokyo to attend the meet­ing—and since Okada was a mem­ber, I tagged along in order to intro­duce myself to Inoue. after that, I went all the way to Tokyo to meet with Noda and obtain his per­mis­sion to host the event. Once that was taken care of, I bor­rowed the big “4th Annual Sci-Fi Show” sign and set about get­ting prepa­ra­tions under­way. As it turns out, Inoue would later join me as one of the found­ing mem­bers of Stu­dio GAINAX

There was some­one else I met through the Space Force Club, a fel­low by the name of Takeshi Sawa­mura48. He had quite an unusual back­ground. His father had been a chore­o­g­ra­pher for bun­raku pup­pet the­ater, mean­ing he grew up sur­rounded by show busi­ness. He also told me he’d done some work as a child actor. He had all these sto­ries, like how he’d landed a role in ’s 49, only to get so scared by the huge Daima­jin statue that he broke down sob­bing and could­n’t per­form… or how he’d been a can­di­date for a role in 50.

Ulti­mate­ly, though, he did­n’t want to be an actor, so he did­n’t pur­sue it past child­hood.

Sawa­mura knew Okada through the Space Force Club, and Okada had told him some­thing about our Con­fed­er­a­tion. As soon as Sawa­mura heard about it, he went off and formed a sci-fi club at his own uni­ver­si­ty, and then peti­tioned to join the Con­fed­er­a­tion! That was the kind of guy he was, a real go-get­ter. Meet­ing Sawa­mura added a lot of energy to our later activ­i­ties. He was the most brazen of us all, almost larger than life. As it was only our first event, the rest of us would sort of hang back and hes­i­tate to inter­act with some of the pro­fes­sion­als around the stage, but not Sawa­mu­ra. He’d walk right up to them and start name-drop­ping some of the peo­ple he knew through his father, and before you knew it he was just chat­ting away.

After­ward, I said some­thing about how he sure knew a lot about show busi­ness, to which he replied, “I don’t know the first thing about it. All I did was throw out the names of some of my dad’s friends. That’s all it took.” Need­less to say, I was very impressed.

But get­ting back to the Sci-Fi Show, the Con­fed­er­a­tion was host­ing it and it was to be a stage-cen­tered event. The “Kan­sai Enter­tain­ers” made an appear­ance, but the rest of it was stuff like magic tricks, stand-up com­edy and sci-fi themed bal­let. Basi­cal­ly, any­thing we could think of. We packed that event as full as we could. Still grum­bling about how bor­ing Ashino-Con had been, we were deter­mined to make this one as fun as pos­si­ble for the atten­dees.

For the open­ing film51, we used the rocket liftoff scene from the Apollo 11 doc­u­men­tary film . Sci-fi writer Sakyo Komatsu was at the event, and I heard he was so sur­prised by our open­ing film that he won­dered aloud how in the hell we’d man­aged to acquire it. The sim­ple fact was, we’d bor­rowed the footage from the Japan Ship­build­ing Indus­try Foun­da­tion. They’d hosted the Space Sci­ence Expo­si­tion we attended on our way to Ashino-Con, and we learned that the Foun­da­tion owned a num­ber of space-re­lated items (espe­cially those deal­ing with NASA) they would lend out at no charge. We’d sim­ply bor­rowed it like you would some­thing from a library. It was inter­est­ing that our expe­ri­ence at the Space Sci­ence Expo­si­tion would even­tu­ally affect our Sci-Fi Show, though…

The Sei­gun Soci­ety helped with prepa­ra­tions for the show, which is how I ended up meet­ing Hiroe Suga52, the woman who would later become my wife. I say “woman”, but then, she was just a 14-year-old kid, still in the ninth grade. We met and that was the end of it. But it was still a real eye­-opener to meet some­one like her. My friends and I had­n’t got­ten into sci-fi fan­dom until col­lege, but here she was, still in junior high but nev­er­the­less quite involved in fan activ­i­ties. It was sur­pris­ing to meet some­one so young cre­at­ing her own orig­i­nal sto­ries, hop­ing to one day make it as a pro­fes­sional writer. I know I’m prob­a­bly bela­bor­ing the obvi­ous here, but when we met I did­n’t have the fog­gi­est notion that we would later end up togeth­er.

As for the Sci-Fi Show, we were able to get to par­tic­i­pate—in the cos­tume por­tion, no less. We would go on to col­lab­o­rate with them on Macross (dis­cussed lat­er), and they would even help out with the open­ing of the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store. In many ways, they’ve been a great “big brother” stu­dio for us, right up to the pre­sent. I have an espe­cially close rela­tion­ship with 53, and both my wife and I owe him a great deal. Of course, I had no idea at the time how close we would later become.

When all was said and done, I was quite pleased with how the Sci-Fi show turned out. We got a lot of pos­i­tive feed­back from the atten­dees as well. But we still had­n’t hosted the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion… which is why in 1979, we set our sights on DAICON 3.

The road to hosting the Japan Sci-Fi Convention

[pg 42-43]

Doing the Sci-Fi Show gave us both the con­fi­dence and the con­nec­tions we needed for the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. We even man­aged to gain a lit­tle expe­ri­ence—one of our upper­class­men’s many sug­ges­tions for such an under­tak­ing. The show had been the per­fect dress rehearsal for the Con­ven­tion.

Truth be told, though, while we were con­fi­dent we could make the Con­ven­tion a suc­cess, when it came time to actu­ally host the event, we quickly learned that we did­n’t know much.

First off, we did­n’t have the purest of moti­va­tions for host­ing the event. We did­n’t like Tokyo fans, did­n’t like the Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion, and we sure as hell weren’t going to stand for defeat at the hands of a bunch of Toky­oites. These die-hard fans all seemed to brag about the advan­tages of liv­ing in Tokyo, like how close they were to writ­ers, pub­lish­ers and other indus­try types. But what really got our goats was how no mat­ter what we said, they’d turn it around and start lec­tur­ing us. We just could­n’t stand their “Sure I know that—I know every­thing!” atti­tudes. It seemed like almost every Tokyo fan we bumped into thought he was bet­ter than every­one else, and would­n’t stop run­ning his mouth until he’d made him­self the king of the mole­hill.

In ret­ro­spect, I think maybe the fans them­selves—us includ­ed—were just child­ish. That prob­a­bly explains why ever sin­gle “debate” among sci-fi fans would quickly degen­er­ate into a shout­ing match, like kids fight­ing over a toy.

Another part of it was that we felt excluded as new­com­ers, even among the other Kan­sai fans. It was­n’t like we were run­ning around bit­ing every­one’s heads off or any­thing, but from an out­side per­spec­tive we prob­a­bly seemed like trou­ble­mak­ers. We cer­tainly did­n’t mean any harm, but look­ing back, I have to say we did have a lit­tle chip on our shoul­ders.

But I digress.

We did the Sci-Fi Show with the intent of eclips­ing the Con­ven­tion. Even then, there was the wide­spread idea that sci-fi was big enough to accom­mo­date any­thing, which is why we actively pro­moted anime and tokusatsu spe­cial-effects films that weren’t con­sid­ered “true sci-fi”54 by the old-timers. Most of the staff was a mix­ture of sci-fi and anime fans any­way, which I’m sure had an impact on our plan­ning. We were mov­ing fur­ther and fur­ther away from the approach of our upper­class­men… but on the other hand, it brought favor­able atten­tion from the pros. I guess they noticed the amount of energy we car­ried with us, even if our ideas were all over the place.

Sakyo Komatsu had appar­ently taken a lik­ing to us, and decided to throw us some work. He called and asked if we’d help out back­stage with Osaka Phil­har­monic Fes­ti­val55, a pub­lic sym­phony con­cert held at the Osaka Fes­ti­val Hall. We were basi­cally act­ing as gofers, run­ning around back­stage. We weren’t even close to play­ing any kind of admin­is­tra­tive role, but we still got to see what it felt like to be back­stage at a major event, and I think the expe­ri­ence was well worth it. We even got to see con­duc­tor in per­son. But the most pow­er­ful real­iza­tion of all was that some­one like Sakyo Komatsu had finally noticed us.

Formal candidacy

[pg 44-45]

Hav­ing resolved to host DAICON 356, we quickly announced our can­di­dacy57 at the next con­ven­tion. It goes with­out say­ing that this time we fol­lowed all the offi­cial pro­ce­dures and cur­ried all the right favors. DAICON 3 would be held in 1981, so we planned accord­ing­ly.

The staff for the Sci-Fi Show had been com­posed mainly of Con­fed­er­a­tion mem­bers, but as with any con­ven­tion, the inevitable always hap­pens. Either the vol­un­teers enjoy them­selves and decide to stick around, or they want noth­ing more to do with con­ven­tions and leave for good. It’s been the same in all my 20 years of expe­ri­ence, an end­less cycle of group­ing and regroup­ing.

As we Sci-Fi Show holdovers and other Con­fed­er­a­tion mem­bers were mak­ing the rounds of uni­ver­sity clubs in search of vol­un­teers, we ran into a few crotch­ety guys who told us to knock off all the “pro­pa­ganda”. We were only ask­ing if they wanted to do an event with us! At the time, I did­n’t even know what “pro­pa­ganda” meant, but I do remem­ber think­ing that those guys were idiots, not to men­tion rude.

Other peo­ple would say things like, “It’s not that I don’t want to do an event. I would­n’t mind help­ing out. It’s just, I’d rather do this sci-fan thing the right way, and not rush into things.” Our way of doing things must have seemed a lit­tle extreme from their stand­point.

I seem to recall quite a few peo­ple leav­ing the group after the Sci-Fi Show was over. After all, we’d assem­bled that staff from the same crowd we were talk­ing to here. But on the other hand, some of the guys who helped out have remained with us for 20 years now. As they say, to each his own. The most impor­tant thing was always the suc­cess of the event. It did­n’t really mat­ter whose feel­ings got hurt along the way—re­solv­ing fric­tion within the group just was­n’t one of our pri­or­i­ties.

Between Okada’s bizarre state­ments and Sawa­mu­ra’s over­bear­ing pushi­ness, we had our share of dis­cord and inter­nal strife. And of course you had peo­ple call­ing out things like, “What’s more impor­tan­t—school, with your so-called tests and reports, or doing the Con­ven­tion‽” We were that gung-ho.

At first, we mainly wanted to use Con­fed­er­a­tion mem­bers to staff DAICON 3, but one thing or another con­spired against us, and even­tu­ally we had to branch out and find vol­un­teers from var­i­ous clubs in the area. By the time we were fin­ished, the DAICON 3 exec­u­tive com­mit­tee felt more like a band of mer­ce­nar­ies.

The year before DAICON 3, we all trav­eled to the U.S. to check out World­con58 in Boston. We wanted to see with our own eyes the event that had started it all, and bring back as much of that atmos­phere as we could. We also seized the oppor­tu­nity to visit Dis­ney­land59 (Tokyo Dis­ney­land had­n’t even opened yet). We thought going to a theme park would give us ideas for plan­ning our own enter­tain­ment seg­ment for DAICON 3. We wanted our con­ven­tion to be enjoy­able for every­one.

Inci­den­tal­ly, all this fun meant I would end up repeat­ing my sopho­more year for the sec­ond time, but I could­n’t have cared less.

The DAICON 3 decision

[pg 46-47]

At Tokon 760 the fol­low­ing year, we announced our can­di­dacy for spon­sor­ship of the fol­low­ing Con­ven­tion, and were for­mally rec­og­nized. We were filled in on a num­ber of things by Mr. Kadokura of the Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion, whom we had met dur­ing all the hub­bub of the pre­vi­ous year. Inoue of the Space Force Club also gave us a num­ber of tips. With their help, we spent some time wheel­ing and deal­ing and gen­er­at­ing a buzz for DAICON 3.

We even made some pro­mo­tional items. At first, we threw around the idea of emblem patches and what­not, but after due con­sid­er­a­tion of our bud­get, we opted for some­thing that would give us more bang for our buck. We dis­trib­uted packs of cig­a­rettes (, a pop­u­lar Japan­ese brand) with a pic­ture of a on the pack­age.

The illus­tra­tion was done by Kitayama61, a guy from the Kinki Uni­ver­sity sci-fi club who dreamed of becom­ing a manga artist. He drew an amaz­ing image of a Pow­ered Suit with a big cig­a­rette for a bazooka and a lighter for his fin­ger. We also sold these cig­a­rette packs at DAICON 3 as offi­cial goods for the event.

This time around we played by the rules, and we glided into spon­sor­ship of the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion with­out a hitch. Even the nick­name for that year was a no-brain­er—it was the third Con­ven­tion to be held in Osaka, so the obvi­ous choice was “DAICON 3” (again, because the “o” in “Osaka” can also be pro­nounced dai).

Once our spon­sor­ship of the Con­ven­tion had been final­ized, our next step was to make Sakyo Komatsu hon­orary chair­man to the exec­u­tive com­mit­tee. We thought that since it was being held in Osaka, who bet­ter to ask than one of the biggest local lit­er­ary fig­ures around? But he turned us down cold.

“Nah, I ain’t gonna do it. But tell you what, I’ll intro­duce you to 62. Get him to do it.” Those were Komat­su’s exact words.

We asked Kan­be, and he accept­ed… but I still nur­tured the dream of hav­ing Sakyo Komatsu as our hon­orary chair­man. It would end up being another 20 years before he gra­ciously accepted for the 40th Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, which was hosted at the Makuhari Messe.

Actu­al­ly, after DAICON 3 was over, some­one brought up the idea of us doing another con­ven­tion. We jok­ingly respond­ed, “Yeah, sure. How about in, say, another 20 years?” Well, the 40th Con­ven­tion was­n’t in Osaka, as DAICON 3 had been, but imag­ine my sur­prise when I later found out we would indeed be host­ing the event again in 2001!

Meeting Anno, Yamaga and Akai

[pg 47-50]

Hav­ing secured the posi­tion to host the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, we began prepa­ra­tions for the even­t—and were faced with the deci­sion of the open­ing film.

For the Sci-Fi Show we’d screened bor­rowed footage, but for DAICON 3 we wanted (if at all pos­si­ble) to make our own orig­i­nal film. At that point, Okada spoke up.

“I met this guy named Nagayama63 at the 64 screen­ing, and he says he knows some­one who can make ani­me.”

Nagayama turned out to be a man of many tal­ents. He would later go on to the work for Gen­eral Prod­ucts writ­ing tech­ni­cal man­u­als for our do-it-y­our­self , and he even played a major sup­port­ing role in Yamata no Orochi no Gyakushu (“Orochi: The Eight-Headed Dragon”), a live-ac­tion DAICON film. Trag­i­cal­ly, he died in a car acci­dent the year of the Kobe Earth­quake (1995), but if he were alive today I’m sure we’d still be great pals.

Nagayama intro­duced me and Sawa­mura (I’m pretty sure he came along, too) to Anno65 and Yam­aga66 at a place called Solaris67, a sci-fi themed cafe in Kyoto. They had both just enrolled in the Osaka Uni­ver­sity of Arts68.

I had very lit­tle inter­est in anime back then, so I was­n’t expect­ing any­thing spec­tac­u­lar. When I was intro­duced to Anno, I said some­thing like, “They say you can make ani­me. What kind of stuff can you do?” At this, he whipped out a pad of account­ing paper and started draw­ing. After a bit, he held the pad up and flipped the pages rapid­ly. A Pow­ered Suit69 ran across the paper.

I was stunned. I remem­ber think­ing, This guy’s incred­i­ble! It’s hard enough draw­ing a sin­gle Pow­ered Suit with all the lines and com­plex shapes, but here he was ani­mat­ing one right in front of us. I’d seen a comic before, but this was the first time I’d watched some­one actu­ally make one. And for some­thing he had just drawn up on the spot, it was real­ly, really good.

That set­tled it—we were doing an anime for the open­ing film. And while Sawa­mura and I were get­ting all fired up and excit­ed, Yam­a­ga, who was sit­ting next to us, leaned back too far in his chair and crashed to the floor. The table was in chaos.

“What hap­pened‽” we cried, scram­bling to help him back up. “Are you alright?”

His respon­se: “I had the hic­cups, so I was hold­ing my breath to get rid of them. I guess I for­got to breathe again.”

A man who can make Pow­ered Suits moves, and another who col­lapses because he for­got to breathe. What a pair! It was a meet­ing I’ll never for­get.

Blue Blazes episode 07: Takeda meets Yam­aga & Anno to dis­cuss cre­at­ing the DAICON III anime

I actu­ally have another funny story about Yam­a­ga. When he was in junior high, he took an I.Q. test. After he had fin­ished, the teacher angrily called him aside.

“Now lis­ten there”, said the teacher. “I’ve had enough of your fool­ing around! There’s no way you could have made it this far with a score like this!” Appar­ent­ly, the test results showed Yam­a­ga’s I.Q. to be 40. Some­one with a score of 100 is con­sid­ered to have nor­mal intel­li­gence, so a 40 is ungodly low.

Almost no one in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion would ever get a score like that. But Yam­aga had­n’t been fool­ing around—he’d got­ten that score because he’d thought so hard about every sin­gle answer that he ran out of time. Accord­ing to the sto­ry, they even called his par­ents, wor­ry­ing them to no end in the process. Once we heard about this, we all started call­ing him “40”.

I met Akai70 some time lat­er. Yam­aga brought him in to help with the ani­me, but appar­ently Akai had been less than thrilled at the prospect of work­ing with a bunch of weirdos. I later found out that he had only agreed to come because we might actu­ally pay him for his work, and that was a heck of a lot bet­ter than sit­ting around study­ing. Yam­aga and Anno seemed to be in com­plete agree­ment with him on that. Since their fresh­man year, they had been tak­ing on jobs mak­ing video footage for var­i­ous pro­jects. Of course, these were non-pay­ing job­s—all they got were their pro­duc­tion expens­es.

Blue Blazes ep 07: Takeda decides to take Anno/Akai/Yamaga to meet Toshio Okada
Blue Blazes ep 08: Anno/Akai/Yamaga enter Toshio Okada’s mod­ernist house; enter­ing the bizarre house, they are met by creepy taxi­der­mied deer & bears.
Blue Blazes ep 08: Anno/Akai/Yamaga meet Toshio Okada: the short & portly Okada emerges from an ele­va­tor to greet them, exhibit­ing creepy & nar­cis­sis­tic man­ner­isms; pass­ing their fall­out shel­ter, he meets with them in his room/SF-library, where he explains his idea: an auda­cious SF ani­mated film freely pirat­ing any char­ac­ters or designs they want (Okada explains his fam­ily made its for­tune by bla­tantly pirat­ing brand-name cloth­ing like Lacoste polo shirt­s). Akai is awed by Okada, exclaim­ing, “This guy… He’s got dead eyes, but every­thing he says is so full of life—!”, while Anno believes they have entered the lair of the evil orga­ni­za­tion Shocker from Kamen Rider.

Whereas I had lost any future “vision” I had the moment I joined the sci-fi club (and instead ended up going wher­ever the wind might carry me), Anno, Yam­a­ga, and Akai had a clear idea of what they wanted to do.

They knew they had tal­ent, and that they were going to take the world by storm. Over the 20-plus years that we’ve been friends, they’ve done noth­ing but prove that tal­ent to me over and over again.

The opening animation

[pg 50-54]

Anno said he could make ani­me, but he had never attempted a cel anime71 before. That was­n’t a major prob­lem, because we had all kinds of peo­ple on our staff will­ing to offer up ran­dom infor­ma­tion. Appar­ent­ly, there was a shop called Ani­me­po­lis Pero72 that sold anime cels for insane amounts. Each sec­ond of anime footage burns through sev­eral cels, so if you have to buy each indi­vid­u­al­ly—and at a high retail markup—y­our bud­get is blown before you can even begin.

Blue Blazes ep 03: Honoo vis­its an art store with ani­ma­tion sup­plies in Umeda (Anime­po­lis Per­o?) to watch a TV loop of anime open­ings; Anno et al join him and Anno demon­strates his sakuga knowl­edge.

But we had a plan. We bought a sin­gle cel at Ani­me­po­lis Pero and took it to the vinyl yards in East Osaka73.

“’Scuse me, you have any­thing like this?” we asked the guy work­ing there.

“Sure do!” he replied, bring­ing out a roll of sheet vinyl. he said he’d sell it to us for ¥2000 a roll (about US $9 in 1981 dol­lars).

Now we’re talk­in’! we thought. We bought one, took it home, and cut it up. Then we tried paint­ing on it… and it was noth­ing like a cel. You could get the color on there alright, but as soon as it dried it would peel off. And if you stacked the cut pieces while the paint was still wet, they’d stick togeth­er.

But then again, it was­n’t like we had any other options. So we kept right on work­ing with the vinyl sheets. It was bad enough that this was our first-ever cel ani­me, but using the wrong mate­ri­als for the job only dou­bled the headaches.

Our pro­duc­tion site was an empty room in the factory/house where Okada’s fam­ily lived and ran their busi­ness, Okada Embroi­der­ing74. For ani­ma­tion paper we used B5 (176 × 250 mm) sized account­ing paper, we made our own tap75 by hand, and punched the holes for the tap into the cut vinyl sheets with a two-hole punch—the kind that office work­ers us.

Blue Blazes ep 08: hav­ing agreed to do the film, Okada intro­duces them to their staff of hun­dreds of work­ers housed in the Okada house; Akai pan­ics again, and Yam­aga runs after him, while Anno orga­nizes a screen­ing of Space Run­away Ideon to ensure that the work­ers have their “fun­da­men­tals down”
Blue Blazes ep 10: DAICON III film pro­duc­tion goes on; the women com­plain to Okada that Anno has not bathed in weeks (Anno argues that no one ever died of not tak­ing a shower and bathing is, strictly speak­ing, unnec­es­sary), and that while he does not smell ter­ri­ble (due to being a veg­e­tar­i­an), the knowl­edge of this still repulses them. Yam­aga makes Anno & Akai go to a bath­house. Anno & Akai reen­act the King Joe–Ul­tra­man sea fight from Ultra Seven 14-15, “West­ward, Ultra Gar­rison!”

Anno, Akai, and Yam­aga were work­ing ful­l-time on the open­ing ani­ma­tion. There were always oth­ers around as well, though, and things could get pretty cramped. What’s more, we did­n’t divide our pro­duc­tion process into the appro­pri­ate stages (un­like how we do now, as pros). Okada would dis­cuss things with Anno, Akai, and Yam­a­ga, and between the four of them they’d lay down the gen­eral out­line. Then Anno and Akai would get to work on draw­ing the frames and Yam­aga would be in charge of direc­tion and art. I don’t know what kind of “direc­tion” was going on exact­ly, but I strongly sus­pect it was differ­ent from what we would call direct­ing today. This was a home­made ani­me, after all. If I had to say who did what, I guess Okada was the , Yam­aga the direc­tor, Akai the char­ac­ter ani­ma­tor, and Anno the mecha ani­ma­tor. The rest of it was just grab­bing who­ever hap­pened to be there and forc­ing them to trace cels, slap on paint, or do what­ever the sit­u­a­tion called for. For the film­ing, we set up a tri­pod on a plat­form, fixed the cam­era in place and started shoot­ing frame by frame. And we did­n’t have a tim­ing sheet76, so Anno would just stand off to one side going, “OK, frame one… OK, frame two…”

By April of 1981 we’d begun pro­duc­tion on the line art, and by June or so we were paint­ing the cels. As it turned out, we were work­ing on that anime right up until the morn­ing of the con­ven­tion.

Okada was by far the biggest trou­ble­maker on the set. One day, he was hav­ing it out with the rest of the anime staff, argu­ing about a scene in the cli­max. A sig­nal fire is com­ing from a Pow­ered Suit, and the smoke from the fire is sup­posed to turn into the Ide Gauge77. But Okada did­n’t like it.

“The Ide Gauge is just weak!” he exclaimed. “It’s got no impact, We should defi­nitely have it form, like, a styl­ized ver­sion of a girl’s pussy!78 Now that would be impact! We need to do some­thing that’s never been done before—other­wise, there’s no point in doing this at all!”

He started going off about this and just would­n’t back down. The rest of the staff turned to Kazumi79 (this was before she mar­ried Okada, so she was still Kazumi Amano80 at the time) and begged her to say some­thing to make him stop. Even then, she was famous for her abil­ity to con­trol him.

“Well, if you really wanna do some­thing no one’s ever done before”, she began, “why don’t you have a shit-eat­ing con­test instead? You want impact? That’s impact.”

Okada did­n’t say another word, and the “pussy pro­posal” was thank­fully laid to rest. That, how­ev­er, would­n’t be the last time Okada chimed in with some insane sug­ges­tion. After that, every one of his wild ideas was answered with the chant, “Shit-eat­ing con­test… Shit-eat­ing con­test…”

Blue Blazes ep 10: Okada meets with Takeda, Anno et al to dis­cuss a change to the film. To have greater impact and ensure no one can repeat the DAICON III intro ani­me, instead of an Ideon icon being used in one scene, they will use a styl­ized draw­ing of a vagi­na. They are hor­ri­fied by the pro­posal but unable to deny that the change would ensure no one would ever repeat it; for­tu­nate­ly, Amano Kazuki (Okada’s future wife) intrudes and defeats the pro­posal with her com­mon sense.

We packed a large num­ber of stu­dent staffers into our lit­tle anime sweat­shop and set them to col­or­ing cels, but it’s still safe to say that the ones who actu­ally made the anime were Anno, Yam­aga and Akai. With every­one being ama­teurs and all, it’s no sur­prise that the process was so painfully slow. Like I said, it lit­er­ally was­n’t fin­ished until the last pos­si­ble moment.

We finally pre­sented the fruits of our labor at the open­ing cer­e­mony, and it was extremely well-re­ceived. We were hap­py. We had them hooked.

Blue Blazes ep 10: The open­ing of DAICON III and the screen­ing of the ani­me; the sound goes out but the audi­ence is still amazed.

Osamu Tezuka81 could­n’t make it in time for the open­ing, but he joined every­one for the night­time party at the hotel. Dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tions, he heard some dis­cus­sion about the open­ing anime and said he wanted to see it. So they scram­bled around for the footage and showed it again, right there on the spot. After­ward, Anno, Yam­aga and Akai intro­duced them­selves to Mr. Tezuka, and Yam­a­ga’s self­-in­tro­duc­tion was hilar­i­ous. Sit­ting ner­vously in front of this leg­endary man, he said, “My name is Yam­a­ga. That’s spelled yama plus the ga in (or”New Year’s greet­ings“).” He then pro­ceeded to draw the sym­bol for yama in the air, index fin­gers of both hands work­ing in tan­dem. (In case you don’t know Japan­ese, yama means “moun­tain”, and it is so sim­ple to write that chil­dren learn it in the first grade.) Yam­aga still intro­duces him­self like that.

I was­n’t there myself, but I heard that after Akai and Yam­aga showed Mr. Tezuka the film, he com­ment­ed, “Well, there cer­tainly were a lot of char­ac­ters in the film. A lot of char­ac­ters… How­ev­er, there were also some that weren’t in the film.” At first they could­n’t fig­ure out what he was get­ting at, but then it sud­denly hit them—they had­n’t used a sin­gle one of Tezuka’s char­ac­ters in their film!

Blue Blazes ep 11: While Osamu Tezuka had been in the orig­i­nal DAICON III audi­ence, he had made his dis­plea­sure known after­wards (cameo role of Tezuka played by Toshio Okada) because none of his char­ac­ters appeared in it.

For DAICON 4, not only did Mr. Tezuka make a spe­cial point of show­ing up in time to see the open­ing ani­ma­tion, he was also kind enough to help us with the con­ven­tion plan­ning. So you bet­ter believe we used some Tezuka char­ac­ters that time!

Our lit­tle open­ing anime for DAICON 3 gen­er­ated a lot of buzz. A mag­a­zine called Ani­mec82 fea­tured it in an arti­cle of theirs, and those who’d seen it were dis­cussing it with their friends. Pretty soon we started get­ting requests from inter­ested peo­ple, ask­ing us to make it avail­able to the pub­lic.

This was a good thing, because host­ing the con­ven­tion had plunged us into the red83. We decided to form a deficit relief com­mit­tee by sell­ing videos and 8mm reels of the film. For a group of ama­teurs, I have to say we were bend­ing over back­ward to cater to the fans. We included stick­ers with all-new illus­tra­tions, and we threw in sto­ry­boards and bonus items for free. The videos sold much bet­ter than we’d expect­ed. No only did they pull us out of the red, we even made a tidy lit­tle profit. That profit would later be invested in prepa­ra­tions for DAICON 4 and pro­duc­tion costs for the DAICON film series.


[pg 55-58]

The basic premise behind DAICON 3 was to cre­ate a meet­ing place for sci-fi fans, writ­ers and the like, where they could gather and have point­less dis­cus­sions about goofy things. DAICON 3 took that col­lec­tion of silly con­ver­sa­tions and turned it into a show. We’d make it loud, and we’d make it real. That’s the stance we took.

All told, there were 80 peo­ple on staff. While the main activ­i­ties were going on in the large hall, there were side attrac­tions84 all around. And then there was the deal­ers’ room85. Our pol­icy from start to fin­ish was to make sure atten­dees had fun, and to make the Con­ven­tion as excit­ing as we could. We blazed new trails with DAICON 3, tak­ing direc­tions that had never been explored by pre­vi­ous cons. It became a model of sorts for the main­stream Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tions of today.

The large hall had a max­i­mum capac­ity of 1500 peo­ple. We got so many appli­ca­tions that by spring we had to stop accept­ing new ones. There was a lot of hype sur­round­ing it before it even start­ed, due in part to the mount of press we received. News of the Con­ven­tion was posted in mag­a­zines86—even ones other than Sci-Fi Mag­a­zine—and the edi­tor-in-chief of Ani­mec was him­self a big sci-fi fan. I think a lot of it had to do with the sim­ple fact that there were a lot of avenues out there for pro­mot­ing our con, and they were quite busy doing so.

On the day of the Con­ven­tion, I was busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kick­ing con­test. For starters, the truck I’d rented for haul­ing things stalled out, and ten or so staff mem­bers on the scene had to drop every­thing and help push-s­tart it. Most of the staff was run­ning around like mad, but one guy—Kamimura87 from the Osaka Uni­ver­sity sci-fi club—just sat around watch­ing the cos­tume show. Even today, 20 years lat­er, that story is still told as an exam­ple of what you’re not sup­posed to be doing when you’re on the staff. Kamimura swears up and down it was an hon­est mis­take, but no one believes him.

Since most mem­bers of the staff were stu­dents, there were very few of us who actu­ally had dri­ver’s licens­es. Because of that, I was forced to play chauffeur to the trans­port team the entire time… on top of my other respon­si­bil­i­ties as a mem­ber of the exec­u­tive com­mit­tee. As we were pack­ing up after the Con­ven­tion, we soon dis­cov­ered that there was way too much stuff to fit into a sin­gle truck, so I rushed over to a nearby car rental agency and told them to rent me the biggest truck they had. The clerk pointed to a four-and-a-half ton long-bed mon­ster. I’d never dri­ven any­thing close that size before, but I went for it all the same. I lit­er­ally thought it was over for me when I had to back up to the load­ing dock at the con­ven­tion hall. I mean, none of the guys giv­ing me direc­tions could even dri­ve! As it turns out, I would later go on to drive almost every kind of vehi­cle pos­si­ble, every­thing from super-com­pact util­ity vans to four-and-a-half ton trucks like this one.

Another perk of DAICON 3 was the deal­ers’ room. We’d seen peo­ple mak­ing and sell­ing orig­i­nal items when we went to World­con for research, and we brought that idea back with us. When we’d gone to World­con, none of us could speak any Eng­lish, but we still had fun wan­der­ing through the deal­ers’ room. All you needed to know was that peo­ple were sell­ing every­thing imag­in­able—­some peo­ple were fash­ion­ing fan­ta­sy-style swords out of metal and sell­ing them right there! There were com­mer­cial deal­ers too, which was very inter­est­ing, because at that time in Japan, a com­mer­cial booth at a sci-fi con­ven­tion was a rare sight to see.

But even the deal­ers’ room can get pretty bor­ing if the only action is ven­dors sell­ing mer­chan­dise. So we asked a Star Trek88 fan club to set up a space where peo­ple could play a on PCs (in­ci­den­tal­ly, a PC was called a “My Com”89 back then, which was short for “my com­puter”). We built a cock­pit-like enclo­sure out of ply­wood and card­board and set up eight NEC PC-8001s inside. Some staff mem­bers dressed up in Star Trek garb to explain the game to inter­ested passer­s-by. In those days, hardly any­one had ever seen eight whole PCs in one place, so that attrac­tion drew quite a crowd.

The exec­u­tive com­mit­tee pro­duced all kinds of items to sell as offi­cial goods at the Con­ven­tion. Between the tiny mas­cot fig­ures (all hand-made, of course) and lit­tle Nahaha90 heads (’s91 manga char­ac­ter), the female mem­bers of the staff were like inden­tured labor­ers in some attic sweat­shop, work­ing fever­ishly to try and meet their quo­tas. We also had some Pow­ered Suits made out of . We weren’t call­ing them “garage kits” yet, but that’s pretty much what they were. We must’ve had a dozen or so vari­eties in all, and every sin­gle one was sold out within min­utes. That made quite an impact on Oka­da. He saw what a huge demand there was for lit­tle trin­kets. Appar­ent­ly, see­ing it first-hand was what gave him the idea to start up the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store later on.

DAICON 3 was a huge suc­cess. Now I knew for cer­tain that we’d gone in the right direc­tion with it. I think the rest of the staff was equally pleased with the outcome—DAICON 3 was the per­fect exam­ple of how things should be run. We’d lost a lot of peo­ple after the Sci-Fi Show, peo­ple who were fed up with the has­sle of work­ing on an event. But a lot of these staff mem­bers stayed on to work DAICON 3 as well, which shows how great the expe­ri­ence was for every­one. I had a fan­tas­tic time myself, and so did the atten­dees. DAICON 3 really exceeded all of our expec­ta­tions.

After the party

[pg 58-60]

Mis­steps aside, we’d man­aged to make DAICON 3 a grat­i­fy­ing expe­ri­ence. We had hosted the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion and DAICON, and both had been suc­cess­es. But I was lit­er­ally burned out­—that’s why I returned to school, still a sopho­more after six years.

Since enter­ing Kinki Uni­ver­si­ty, the only time I’d actu­ally gone to class was in my fresh­man year. I joined the sci-fi club at the begin­ning of my sopho­more year, and grad­u­ally went from skip­ping classes to not going at all. The rea­son: I’d finally made friends I could really talk to, the kind of friends I’d always dreamed of hav­ing. My days were filled with too much fun to be ruined by school.

Because I had­n’t been attend­ing class­es, my “return” to school was­n’t much of a return at all—and it was a fore­gone con­clu­sion I’d have to repeat my sopho­more year again. On the one hand, there were pro­fes­sors telling me I’d be bet­ter off actu­ally quit­ting the uni­ver­sity and reap­ply­ing, because at this rate I’d never be able to grad­u­ate. On the other hand were my par­ents, who kept nag­ging me to buckle down and get seri­ous about edu­ca­tion. But I did­n’t want to think about it. For the moment, I just returned to my pre-con­ven­tion lifestyle of hang­ing out in cafes, drink­ing coffee and read­ing nov­els. I basked in the absence of a con­ven­tion to plan; the truth of the mat­ter was, the Sci-Fi Show and the Con­ven­tion had worn me down to indiffer­ence.

I thought of quit­ting school for good and get­ting a job. I even went on a few inter­views. I thought since I’d been so suc­cess­ful orga­niz­ing differ­ent events that maybe I should make a career of it. I inter­viewed at two or three places for that kind of posi­tion, but it did­n’t work out.

Even though I was unable to find a job, I dropped out of school in the fall any­way. I had no inten­tion of reap­ply­ing. I just spent my days loafing about, not doing much of any­thing. I had been ablaze with enthu­si­asm, but for too long. Now all that was left of me were cin­ders.

There have been sev­eral times in my life that I’ve lost every ounce of energy and com­pletely deflat­ed, and this was the first. The rea­sons were differ­ent each time, but the result was always the same—ut­ter lethar­gy. I did­n’t feel like doing a sin­gle thing.

There was a three­-bed­room apart­ment in a place called Juso92 in Osaka that we con­verted into our base of oper­a­tions dur­ing the lat­ter stages of DAICON 3 prepa­ra­tions. It was the same area where the movie was later filmed. One of the staff mem­bers, Masa­haru Ueda93, was liv­ing there on his own.

Ueda was a mem­ber of the sci-fi club at Osaka Uni­ver­si­ty. As a high school stu­dent, he’d par­tic­i­pated in Ashino-Con. It turns out that when he first saw us he made a solemn vow never to get involved with our kind, but soon after that he ended up par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Sci-Fi Show. By DAICON 3, he was on board as a ful­l-fledged mem­ber of the staff. It was­n’t long after meet­ing him that I moved into his place, and for sev­eral years it was our den of oper­a­tions. We brought DAICON 3 to life in that apart­ment, which meant I was there pretty much all the time.

I con­tin­ued to stay in Ueda’s apart­ment even after the Con­ven­tion was over. In other words, I was . I had dropped out of school, was liv­ing ren­t-free in my friend’s apart­ment, and spent my days going to cafes in Umeda to read nov­els and shoot the breeze with my pals. That’s the kind of life I was liv­ing. No ener­gy, no dri­ve, no plans for the future.

I’d taken to drink­ing almost every day, either at home or in a pub some­where. It was about that time that peo­ple began to notice a for­eign man with steel clogs roam­ing the streets of Juso. It was , before he became a Hol­ly­wood star. I once saw a man of that descrip­tion myself, and I’m pretty sure now that it was him. Coin­ci­den­tal­ly, Anno would go on to cast Sea­gal’s daugh­ter in one of his . But I digress…

Opening the General Products store

[pg 61-65]

I was still con­tent to loaf around all day, but Okada, spurred on by the suc­cess of the deal­ers’ room at DAICON 3, was plan­ning to open a sci-fi spe­cialty shop94. I was­n’t par­tic­u­larly inter­ested in com­merce at the time, so I gave it lit­tle thought. That’s when he approached me.

“If you’re just going to sit around doing noth­ing, why not help me open up the store?” he asked. Hon­est­ly, I did­n’t want to do it, but it was­n’t as if I had any other prospects (not that I was really look­ing). Plus, this was a friend ask­ing for my help, so what else could I do? I reluc­tantly agreed to come on board. The store would be open­ing in Feb­ru­ary of the fol­low­ing year, so I promised I’d help out through April.

Gen­eral Prod­ucts was Japan’s first sci-fi spe­cialty store. The name was taken from 95, the novel by Amer­i­can sci-fi author 96, and ref­er­enced a trad­ing com­pany man­aged by a race of aliens known as Pup­peteers. We received per­mis­sion from Niven him­self to use the term for our shop.

I had no busi­ness expe­ri­ence what­so­ev­er, and I cer­tainly never imag­ined I’d be fit to work retail. Lit­tle did I know that we would later incor­po­rate Gen­eral Prod­ucts and that yours truly would become the com­pany pres­i­dent!

Once I actu­ally started work­ing for Gen­eral Prod­ucts, I soon found that it was a lot more than a retail busi­ness. We did prod­uct plan­ning and licens­ing97 nego­ti­a­tions with com­pa­nies like Toho98 and Tsub­u­raya99; we com­mis­sioned illus­tra­tions from pro­fes­sional artists like Hideo Azuma and 100; we even pro­duced our own mer­chan­dise. It was reward­ing work, and I had fun doing it.

To give an exam­ple, when we went to the Toho offices to ask for the rights to make a Godzilla model kit, they ini­tially turned us down. Around the same time we went to see Tsub­u­raya about some other licens­ing mat­ter and they agreed. The next time we met with Toho, their rep­re­sen­ta­tive was stunned to hear that Tsub­u­raya had given us the OK to use their trade­marked char­ac­ters. Even­tu­al­ly, nego­ti­a­tions were reopened and we secured the rights to do Godzil­la! It was really invig­o­rat­ing being part of deals like that, back when “garage kits”101 were just start­ing to crack the sur­face of tra­di­tional prod­uct rights busi­ness.

When­ever you start up a new busi­ness, there are always those who envy your suc­cess. Once, when we were vis­it­ing Kaiy­odo102, we got intro­duced to a model whole­saler who just hap­pened to be there. He took one look at us and said, “Oh, right. Those tight-fisted huck­sters.” He was prob­a­bly speak­ing out of both igno­rance and denial of the up-and-com­ing garage kit indus­try, but we took the insult as a call to arms. We would prove our­selves to peo­ple like him by chang­ing the face of the mar­ket—­some­day garage kits would be sold in every mod­el­ing store through­out Japan! And it did­n’t take long to make it hap­pen, either. By the time of Evan­ge­lion, our vision was real­ized in full.

I acquired both an increas­ing amount of stress and a grow­ing sense of ful­fill­ment as our place in the indus­try began to shift. What started as a mot­ley crew of ama­teurs became one of real pro­fes­sion­als with enough money to make things hap­pen. Hav­ing lan­guished in the wake of DAICON 3, I began to imag­ine that the next “fes­ti­val” com­ing to res­cue me from my lethargy was in fact Gen­eral Prod­ucts.

The store opened as planned on Valen­tine’s Day 1982, one year after DAICON 3. On open­ing day we were greeted by a line of 200 cus­tomers. Among them were two future GAINAX employ­ees: Hiroki Sato103, who later joined the staff for the next Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion and cur­rently works as a com­pany direc­tor, and Jun Tamaya104, now a game direc­tor. Much lat­er, Sato told me that he remem­bered Okada and I pass­ing out “I ♥ Sci-Fi” stick­ers to the peo­ple in line. He said Okada was telling peo­ple to take only one sticker each, whereas I was cheer­fully hand­ing out fist­fuls to who­ever would take them. He says he still has his sticker from that day. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I remem­ber none of it.

We were com­pletely sold out soon after our doors opened for busi­ness. We’d pre­pared what seemed to be an ade­quate quan­tity of pro­duct, but the unex­pected level of patron­age had quickly depleted our stores. Over half of the cus­tomers entered the store to be greeted by noth­ing but empty shelves. The night after open­ing day, some part-timers and I stayed in the shop and labored long into the night churn­ing out huge num­bers of our own vac­u­um-formed garage kits. After 3:00 AM my body com­pletely gave out, so I laid a sheet of card­board on the floor and used it as a bed. Just as I was falling asleep, some­one burst in the store. Still grog­gy, I opened my eyes… and was greeted by the boot of a police­man in my face. Our store was on the ground floor. The sec­ond floor was an apart­ment. The neigh­bors liv­ing above us had appar­ently reported us for mak­ing too much noise. But the cops did­n’t do any­thing. They just said some­thing like “it’s already so late, even if you do quiet down it won’t make much of a differ­ence”, and then left.

All the fuss notwith­stand­ing, the grand open­ing of Gen­eral Prod­ucts had gone pretty well105. But I don’t know any of the finan­cial details. I was just a reg­u­lar employee with a nom­i­nal monthly salary of ¥80,000 (about US $360 in 1982 dol­lars). The com­pany itself existed only as a part of Okada Embroi­der­ing.

April came rolling around, and Okada approached me ask­ing, “So, what’re you gonna do now? You can quit, but you’ve got noth­ing else lined up. Why don’t you stick around and help out at the store?” I was more than happy to do so. I’d grown rather fond of the busi­ness of plan­ning and pro­duc­ing garage kits, and I don’t think I could have quit. It was differ­ent from doing con­tract work. I dis­cov­ered the joy of man­u­fac­tur­ing your own designs, and see­ing that suc­ceed in the mar­ket­place.

Some of the stu­dents from the sci-fi club that I’d met through DAICON 3 built garage kits for us part-time. I think for them it felt more like a con­tin­u­a­tion of the Con­ven­tion than an actual job. The ones who did the pour­ing for the plas­tic cast­ing106 were mainly guys from the Osaka Uni­ver­sity club. Most of them repeated at least a year of school. On aver­age, they grad­u­ated within five or six years, but there were some who dropped out, never to be heard from again.

Late at night, it’s easy to mis­take a botched piece of resin for a rice crack­er, and a few of us got burned on that one. Plus, we were always spilling the epoxy liq­uids on the floor and mak­ing sticky messes of our shoes when we walked over it. Basi­cal­ly, it was a great time.

One of the Osaka Uni­ver­sity stu­dents was a guy named Gyoten107, a very unusual name indeed. Just look­ing at the kanji char­ac­ters, I had no idea how to pro­nounce it. So I asked him. When he told me it was pro­nounced “Gyoten”, I teased him about it, say­ing it sounded like some Bud­dhist monk’s name. But as it turned out, he really did grow up in a Bud­dhist tem­ple! After he grad­u­ated from col­lege he worked as a teacher for a while, and then became a pro­fes­sional monk him­self. That’s what he’s doing now. It’s really weird to look back on those times and think about what an inter­est­ing gang of char­ac­ters we had work­ing at the store.

Ideon Festival

[pg 65]

Through an intro­duc­tion from Mr. Komaki108, the edi­tor-in-chief of Ani­mec mag­a­zine, we were com­mis­sioned to pro­mote the the­atri­cal ver­sion of the Densetsu Kyo­jin Ideon ani­me. Any­way, we thought up an adver­tis­ing plan at SUNRISE, and also came up with a few pro­mo­tional items for the film. Part of the plan was for Okada and myself to appear on TV and in per­son as the so-called “Devil Twins”, in order to ensure the film’s suc­cess.

It was then that we became acquainted with anime direc­tor 109 as well as 110, who was still a col­lege stu­dent.

To this day, if some­one men­tions the Ideon Fes­ti­val111, I imme­di­ately get red in the face. I don’t know if it’s because we were young and stu­pid, or because we just got too car­ried away, or what.

The Sci-Fi Convention revisited

[pg 66-68]

Amidst these events and pro­jects, a lot of differ­ent things started hap­pen­ing at once; in order to talk about them all, I’m going to have to jump back and forth a bit.

While I was help­ing Okada set up the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store, I was still free­load­ing off Ueda, liv­ing ren­t-free in his Juso apart­ment. Things were going quite well with the store, but my per­sonal life was going nowhere. It turns out that Sawa­mura and another of my friends, Nishi­gaki112, could­n’t stand to see me like that any­more, and had got­ten together to hatch a plan. They ordered me to move out of Ueda’s place, and even went so far as to locate a cheap apart­ment for me.

I haven’t told you about Nishi­gaki yet. He was another mem­ber of the Osaka Uni­ver­sity sci-fi club. He used to play rug­by, and stood a burly six feet tall. In truth, he was the very embod­i­ment of a gen­tle giant, and was affec­tion­ately referred to as “mus­cle­-head”. He was quite pop­u­lar in the sci-fi club. Maybe a lit­tle too pop­u­lar—it took him eight years to grad­u­ate! Nishi­gak­i’s father did busi­ness in the Momodani area of Osaka since way back when, and every­one seemed to know him. In fact, we found out about the shop space for Gen­eral Prod­ucts through one of his con­nec­tions.

Any­way, it would be about another month before my apart­ment was ready, so I decid­ed—though I for­get the exact rea­son why—to move out of Ueda’s place and stay with Okada and his par­ents. Only this time, it was­n’t exactly free­load­ing. After all, Gen­eral Prod­ucts was owned by Okada’s fam­ily busi­ness, Okada Embroi­der­ing. On top of that, it was only a tem­po­rary thing for me until I could secure a place of my own. Liv­ing with Okada also made it eas­ier for me to work at the store, mainly because I could dis­cuss busi­ness with him when­ever the need arose. In the mid­dle of all this, we some­how decided that we would do another Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion.

I think the impe­tus came from one of our coffee shop dis­cus­sions. All of us remain­ing sci-fi club­bers were chat­ting it up as usual in some cafe in Umeda, and I recall some­one pip­ing up, “hey, let’s do the Con­ven­tion again!” I thought to myself, What, again? Talk about a waste of time, but every­one else was still ecsta­tic over the suc­cess of the last Con­ven­tion. Their eyes sparkled with antic­i­pa­tions as they began to chant, “Yeah, let’s do it!” Why are you telling me all this? was my feel­ing at the time… but the fact is, they were all look­ing up to me and count­ing on me to make it hap­pen, and it was kind of flat­ter­ing. They kept bad­ger­ing me, and finally I relent­ed.

I was still feel­ing some­what slug­gish even then, so part of me wanted to do some­thing to wake myself up. A con­ven­tion prob­a­bly would­n’t be a bad way to get the jump­start I need­ed. I started feel­ing more and more pos­i­tive, until I was finally psy­ched about it. If we’re going to do this, I thought, we need to make this the best con­ven­tion in all Japan. And how, you may ask, were we going to make this the “best”? Sim­ple—we would have the cra­zi­est con­tent, the most activ­i­ties, and, of course, the most peo­ple. That was our goal.

It was a mat­ter of com­mon sense that uni­ver­sity sci-fi club mem­bers should be the peo­ple run­ning things. See­ing as how Okada and I were busy with the store, the role of head of the exec­u­tive com­mit­tee fell this time on Nishi­gaki, who was still a stu­dent and sci-fi club mem­ber him­self. It was­n’t our inten­tion to sit behind the scenes and pull the strings, but that’s just how things worked out. Even if Nishi­gaki had­n’t been cho­sen to head the com­mit­tee, I’m sure he still would have played a piv­otal role as a mem­ber of the core staff.

The next Con­ven­tion’s loca­tion had already been decided on, so we set our sights on the fol­low­ing year. We began to pre­pare our­selves for can­di­dacy to host the Con­ven­tion in 1983. With two years before the actual event, how­ev­er, there was­n’t much prepa­ra­tion to be done. Even so, we had sev­eral dozen staffers ready and stand­ing by.

To us, mak­ing the “best” con­ven­tion in all Japan meant that we had to have 4,000 atten­dees. Why 4,000? Sim­ple—the Osaka Koseinenkin Hall, which is where we planned to hold the event, had both a large and medi­um-sized hall. Between the two of them, there were 4,000 seats. For that many atten­dees, we fig­ured we’d prob­a­bly need more than 200 peo­ple on the staff, in which case we’d need to start scout­ing and train­ing them. One way to do that would be to hold a minor local event prior to the main show, but the prospect of plan­ning another con­ven­tion was less than thrilling. That’s when some­one posed a bet­ter idea—­mak­ing our own inde­pen­dent films!

Establishing DAICON FILM

[pg 68-71]

In the spring of 1982 we set up the DAICON 4113 exec­u­tive com­mit­tee, estab­lish­ing at the same time the inde­pen­dent film pro­duc­tion group DAICON FILM114. Our pri­mary goal was to train the DAICON 4 staff, but the “offi­cial” rea­son was to make films for pro­mo­tional screen­ing at next year’s Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion in Tokyo.

Mak­ing a film is itself a kind of event. The idea is to cre­ate a pro­duc­tion process where you and the staff grow and learn to work as a team. We thought that some­thing like pro­duc­ing a film—a worth­while activ­ity in and of itself—­would be the per­fect way to build a work­able chain of com­mand, and also keep the staff moti­vated for an event that would­n’t hap­pen for another two years.

There was some­thing else we had going for us. When we sold copies of the DAICON 3 open­ing ani­ma­tion to cover our mount­ing debts, we ended up not only com­ing out of the red but also mak­ing a tidy profit to boot. We were now in a posi­tion to turn that profit into work­ing cap­i­tal for the films.

This is back­track­ing a bit, but when Stu­dio Nue115 saw the DAICON 3 open­ing ani­me, they con­tacted us with an “urgent busi­ness” mat­ter to dis­cuss. They wanted peo­ple to work on the pro­duc­tion of their new orig­i­nal TV anime Cho­jiku Yosai Macross116 (also released in the U.S. as one of three story arcs for ), which was still in the plan­ning stages. So when pro­duc­tion began for the new show, Anno and Yam­aga went to Tokyo to join the staff117. It was their first pro­fes­sional gig, and the expe­ri­ence would prove use­ful in pro­duc­ing their own ama­teur work.

Dur­ing the Macross pro­duc­tion, Stu­dio Nue called up ask­ing for more peo­ple who could han­dle the work—which is how I ended up meet­ing 118. As it hap­pened, Akai knew a fel­low, Hiroshi Yam­aguchi119 (who is now a famous anime scriptwriter), and Yam­aguchi intro­duced us to Mae­da. In that same way, I was also intro­duced to Yoshiyuki Sadamoto120, who was from the same uni­ver­sity as Mae­da. Sadamoto and Maeda were still stu­dents when they were hired onto the Macross pro­duc­tion team.121 Lat­er, they would both return to help us with the DAICON 4 open­ing ani­ma­tion. I think it would be safe to say that the core of GAINAX was formed by this point. We’d all come together through our mutual involve­ment in the oh-so-lit­er­ary sci-fi clubs in the area, but it felt more like being in a sports club. Every­one had so much ener­gy!

Now that the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store was open for busi­ness, we used our cus­tomer base as a pool to scout new tal­ent. If some­one showed inter­est in what we were doing, or even if they just seemed to have a lot of time on their hands, they were imme­di­ately propo­si­tioned and added to the staff. Gen­eral Prod­ucts func­tioned both as a hang­out for DAICON 3 vet­er­ans and as a place to find poten­tial recruits.

The first three films we planned were Aikoku Sen­tai Dainip­pon, Kaet­tekita Ultra­man and Kaiketsu Notenki. We also intended to do a few live-ac­tion films, includ­ing a ver­sion of Thun­der­birds, but in the end it was reduced to these three. We got to work on pro­duc­ing them… all at the same time!

Most of the plot­lines were ham­mered out over drinks at the local pub. With tal­ent like Okada, Sawa­mu­ra, Anno and Akai at the core of these admit­tedly rather silly back­-and-for­things, the films turned out to be a snap to pro­duce. It was actu­ally a work­able sys­tem.

We rented some office space in Umeda for the DAICON 4 exec­u­tive com­mit­tee to use. Film pro­duc­tion was under­way in Ueda’s Juso apart­ment, Gen­eral Prod­ucts was open for busi­ness, and every­thing was mov­ing right along. My first period of lethargy was finally over.

Kaiketsu Notenki

[pg 71-72]

This122 was a par­ody of hero shows, with yours truly play­ing the main role. It was orig­i­nally intended as a satire of Toei’s old tokusatsu (“spe­cial effects”) TV series 123 with 124 as the indomitable Zubat.

Now, I had per­son­ally never seen Kaiketsu Zubat—I’d never even heard of it. But Okada was a huge Zubat fan, and it was his idea to do the par­o­dy. As for me play­ing the lead, that was Sawa­mura and Akai’s idea. The rea­son, I’m ashamed to say, has to do with the main char­ac­ter’s name. Notenki means “care­free” in Japan­ese, and appar­ently my face is so jol­ly-look­ing they just had to use it in their par­o­dy. Heh.

Unlike the other two films, which were shot on 8mm125, Notenki was done on video­tape126 partly because it would acquaint the staff with shoot­ing and film pro­duc­tion on a sim­ple, easy-to-use for­mat.

Another thing about this film was that it had no direc­tor. Maybe I should­n’t say there was no direc­tor; that was­n’t exactly the case. The direc­tion would just change hands from one scene to the next. That’s why there are about a dozen names listed under “Direc­tor” in the end­ing cred­its.

At first, I really hated the fact that I got stuck play­ing Notenki… but after four pro­duc­tions, I have to admit that I still have the cos­tume. Despite the fact we were doing a sim­ple par­ody of a hero show, I must say that after years of play­ing the char­ac­ter I feel decid­edly more hero­ic. Of course, when I tell friends about this they all laugh at me (I guess I would laugh, too). Oh well. It’s a lit­tle-known fact that many actors who played heroes in the past tried to keep their roles a secret. After all, no mat­ter how you look at it, “masked hero” shows are lit­tle more than after­noon the­ater for kids. Some of the actors in the Godzilla movies kept their involve­ment hid­den for years before finally admit­ting to it in pub­lic. It’s the same with ama­teurs.

I guess all I’m try­ing to say is that even after all these years I’ve still got a soft spot in my heart for Noten­ki. I even appeared in the cos­tume show at the 2001 Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion along with my three­-year-old daugh­ter Yuki­no, for whom I’d com­mis­sioned a cute “lit­tle Notenki” cos­tume127. She had a won­der­ful time doing it, and keeps ask­ing me when we can go on stage together again. I might have cre­ated a mon­sters…

Aikoku Sentai Dainippon

[pg 72-75]

Com­pared to Notenki, pro­duc­tion on Dainip­pon128 was a seri­ous under­tak­ing. We put a lot of care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion into the props, cos­tumes and cast­ing, and we made Akai the direc­tor.

The show was about a squad of heroes, which meant we had a lot of lead roles to fil­l—­five in all. We gave the char­ac­ters silly names, like Ai , Ai , Ai , Ai , and Ai . Nat­u­ral­ly, the actors we cast were all rank ama­teurs. For the role of Ai Kamikaze (the lead­er) we cast Shuichi Hayashi129, a guy from the Osaka Uni­ver­sity sci-fi club who was more than a lit­tle odd. I heard he was orig­i­nally from the city of in north­ern , and while he looked com­pletely nor­mal, he was the most hard-core geek you’d ever meet. He stud­ied Ger­man in col­lege just so he could read the books in their orig­i­nal lan­guage130. The char­ac­ter of Ai Geisha was played by a fledg­ling nurse who I hear is now mar­ried to a hos­pi­tal direc­tor. All told, the cast break­down was three from Osaka Uni­ver­si­ty, one from Kinki Uni­ver­si­ty, and one from a nurs­ing col­lege. Sci-fi author 131 even made a cameo.

This film was a par­ody of Toei’s sen­tai (fight­ing squad) series132 of TV shows, and at the very least, our explo­sions were every bit as good as the orig­i­nals. If you’ve seen the film you’ll know what I mean. Explo­sions were our thing. True, it was just a par­o­dy, but that’s no rea­son to take the easy way out by set­tling for cheap store-bought pyrotech­nics. At first, we fol­lowed up with some con­tacts and found a spe­cial-effects explo­sions expert, but we weren’t impressed with the results. They weren’t what we’d hoped for. Because the explo­sions used real gun­pow­der, they were a step up from ordi­nary fire­crack­ers, but not enough of a step up. We demanded more explo­sions! This hic­cup in the project was prob­a­bly what kicked our fledg­ling inde­pen­dent film pro­duc­tion group into high gear for the first time. We decided to make our own explo­sives133.

Most of the pro­duc­tion staff were col­lege stu­dents, and many of them were sci­ence majors of one sort or anoth­er. This was a lucky break for us. What we did was (and still is) rather ille­gal, so I’ll have to omit the details134. Suffice it to say we suc­ceeded in man­u­fac­tur­ing our own explo­sives, and because of that, our lit­tle 8mm spe­cial-effects film turned into some­thing truly amaz­ing.

Of course, explo­sions weren’t the only draw for the film. We were ama­teurs, but we took the pro­duc­tion very seri­ous­ly. A lot of effort was put into both the props and the cos­tumes.

We filmed all over Osaka, from the then-empty lot on the Osaka Uni­ver­sity cam­pus, which was ear­marked for a new med­ical research hos­pi­tal, to var­i­ous parks around the city, includ­ing the one by and the one where the World Expo of 1970 was held. We got a lot of onlook­ers while film­ing in the Osaka cas­tle park, and ladies sell­ing sou­venirs at nearby booths were extremely sup­port­ive, always cheer­ing us on. When one of those nice ladies asked us when our “show” would air, one of the staff mem­bers responded with “Some­time next April.” What a meanie.

We also met up with kinder­gart­ners on field trips, which led to a num­ber of impromptu “PR” ses­sions. I remem­ber one lit­tle kid pip­ing up that he’d never heard of us or this show, to which a fast-talk­ing staff mem­ber shot back “That’s because it’s still a secret; this is a secret TV show start­ing next year, so be sure to watch us when we get on the air!” He was a meanie, too.

Our film finally pre­miered the fol­low­ing year at Tokon 8135, the 21st annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. On the whole, it was well received, but one sec­tor of the fan com­mu­nity denounced the film, com­plain­ing of “anti­so­cial” and even “right-wing” story ele­ments. What an idi­otic thing to say. It was just the kind of half-wit­ted argu­ment sci-fi fans love to toss around. Seri­ous­ly, the whole point of our film was sim­ply to make you laugh, and crack jokes about what fools we were mak­ing of our­selves onscreen. If you gave it half a sec­ond’s thought (if you even had to think about it at all) you’d real­ize that Dainip­pon cer­tainly was­n’t try­ing to foist any kind of nation­al­is­tic ide­ol­ogy off on the audi­ence—we were just hav­ing fun. I guess that con­cept was lost on some of the more mar­ble-headed mem­bers of the sci-fi com­mu­ni­ty.

But maybe it was more sub­tle than that. Maybe some peo­ple who did­n’t like our group saw the film as their chance to get in a hit. Old school sci-fi fans cer­tainly did­n’t mind telling us that spe­cial-effects films and anime were not “true sci-fi”, whereas our posi­tion was that they were.

As a side, the theme song for the film used the music from the pre­vi­ous year’s , to which we wrote our own silly lyrics. Even now, there are a lot of sci-fi geeks who sing our lyrics at karaoke instead of the real ones.

Kaettekita Ultraman

[pg 75-77]

Today, this film’s136 offi­cial title is DAICON FILM-ban Kaet­tekita Ultra­man, reflect­ing that it was our ver­sion of the Ultra­man char­ac­ter. Now, 20 years since its orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion, it has actu­ally been released on DVD with Ultra­man-orig­i­na­tor Tsub­u­raya Pro­duc­tion’s full per­mis­sion. I’m still very proud of this work. It’s a fine exam­ple of an inde­pen­dent, 8mm spe­cial-effects film. But it was a long and windy road to suc­cess.

Since the project was orig­i­nally Anno’s plan, we made him the direc­tor. When I first heard the pitch, my thoughts were, This sounds like fun and I really want to do it… but can we? Still, we were linked by the com­mon goal of mak­ing next year’s Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion the best in all of Japan, so there was no way we’d let our­selves be done in by some­thing like this. The fin­ished prod­uct ended up quite good, and I’m per­son­ally proud that we decided to tackle the pro­ject. It was­n’t easy, but it was a great expe­ri­ence.

Ultra­man was the largest in scale and by far the hard­est of the three films to pro­duce. I think it was our karma for doing three films simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. Pro­duc­tion on the film even ground to a halt at one point, but in the end we pulled it off. The pro­duc­tion site may have been pop­u­lated with paper-bag­ging vol­un­teers, but there was a sense of every­one being there because they all wanted to cre­ate some­thing.

We did­n’t fin­ish it in time from Tokon 8, but the fol­low­ing year we showed it at a spe­cial screen­ing party to rave reviews. You can still buy the DVD from GAINAX, and if you watch it I’m sure you’ll get a sense of the amount of energy we had back then.

Peo­ple always ask me what the “Kaet­tekita” part in the title means, so maybe I should answer that ques­tion here. The world means “returned” in Japan­ese, so the over­all sense of the title would be “Ultra­man is back!” To under­stand what that means, you’d have to know that Anno had already pro­duced two Ultra­man short films for class projects at the Osaka Uni­ver­sity of Arts. In the sec­ond of those films Ultra­man leaves Earth to return to space, so in the third film he’s come back. That’s all it was.


[pg 77]

Get­ting back to the topic at hand, the major prepa­ra­tions for DAICON 4 were well under­way. (It was­n’t like we focused all our atten­tion on mak­ing movies, you know!) Thus far, the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion held in Kobe and hosted by Yasu­taka Tsu­tui137 had attracted the largest num­ber of atten­dees. It was viewed almost rev­er­en­tially among fans, which mean if we wanted to make DAICON 4 the best in all Japan, we had to outdo this one.

Our basic ideas for the Con­ven­tion were the same as with DAICON 3. Today man­ga, anime and spe­cial-effects films can gen­er­ally be included in the cat­e­gory of sci-fi, but back then any­thing that was­n’t a novel was­n’t seen as “true” sci-fi, and was gen­er­ally looked down upon. Even now, 20 years lat­er, there are still peo­ple who cling to this out­dated defi­n­i­tion of sci-fi. What we wanted to do was intro­duce those pari­a­hed for­mats into the main­stream, and judg­ing by the cur­rent state of affairs in the sci-fi world, it looks like pop­u­lar opin­ion has won out in our favor. But it was a lot of work get­ting there. We took plenty heat for our ideas, for rea­sons that would be unthink­able from today’s per­spec­tive.

The Osaka Philharmonic

[pg 78-79]

One of our plans for the Con­ven­tion was to get the Osaka Phil­har­monic to play for us. Thanks to Komat­su’s ear­lier intro­duc­tion we had the con­tacts in place, so with­out fur­ther ado we headed over to their office to nego­ti­ate. We did­n’t even make an appoint­ment. We just showed up on their doorstep ask­ing if they could put on a per­for­mance for us, so they did­n’t even believe us at first. Who would? Here we come out of the blue, ask­ing the entire Osaka Phil­har­monic to play for our club par­ty.

“Do you kids have any idea how much it costs for the entire orches­tra to do a sin­gle per­for­mance?” we were asked. No, we did­n’t. “How about the con­duc­tor? Who’ll do it? And what about the score?” We were absolutely clue­less.

“We don’t know any­thing. We haven’t even thought it through, yet. You tell us”, we said.

In the end, the Phil­har­monic arranged for us to meet with a con­duc­tor… but the guy would­n’t lis­ten to a word we said. We had all kinds of music ideas already picked out, but he was­n’t hav­ing it. We went back and forth with him until he just gave up and left the bar­gain­ing table.

What we’d wanted was music from Star Wars and Star Trek, scores, themes from Ultra­man, Gun­dam, and Yam­ato… stuff like that. But with no con­duc­tor we were dead in the water. We decided to take the mat­ter up with one of the music pro­duc­ers from Toho that we knew through Gen­eral Prod­ucts (as you can see, all kinds of good con­nec­tions came from the store). He was kind enough to intro­duce us to another con­duc­tor, and this time the guy imme­di­ately under­stood what we wanted to do.

But we still had no musi­cal scores. Back to Toho’s music depart­ment. We were able to acquire some scores from them, but the con­duc­tor had to tran­scribe the rest from old s, with the help of local music stu­dents. After fil­ing an appli­ca­tion with JASRAC (), our prepa­ra­tions were in order.

We asked Osamu Tezuka to be the com­men­ta­tor for each piece of music, and he gladly accept­ed. But after­ward, he was stunned to learn that almost none of the Con­ven­tion staff had actu­ally seen the orches­tra per­form. “Why did­n’t you let them lis­ten?” he asked me, and I replied that they had work to do. “Their sat­is­fac­tion comes from a job well done”, I said. Maybe some peo­ple would think that’s sil­ly, but if you ask any of the staff present on that day, they’d give you the same answer.

Ken Hayakawa, Private Detective

[pg 79-80]

Some­one had the idea of play­ing on the fact we’d done Kaiketsu Notenki (a par­ody of the TV show Kaiketsu Zubat) by invit­ing the real McCoy to appear at the Con­ven­tion. The show’s main char­ac­ter, Ken Hayakawa (aka Zubat), was played by actor Hiroshi Miyauchi, so we hunted down the loca­tion of his office and paid him a vis­it, trav­el­ing all the way to Akasaka, Tokyo.

The first time we met Miyauchi we were blown away. He was exactly like his onscreen per­sona. I’m talk­ing an hon­est-to-good­ness hero. And we were sit­ting right next to him. Every sin­gle one of us who met him became an instant fan.

We told him about our plans for the Con­ven­tion and about our Zubat par­o­dy. At the end, I capped it off with our request: Would he be so kind as to appear at the Con­ven­tion in full char­ac­ter, dressed up as Ken Hayakawa him­self?

“Sure”, he said. “No prob­lem. I still have the cos­tume, in fact.”

It was amaz­ing. He was­n’t put off in the least by our crazy request. How­ev­er, Miyauchi was shrewder than we thought. Guess who ended up foot­ing the bill for that out­ra­geous cos­tume of his!

Too many sweatshops

[pg 80-81]

Since the open­ing ani­ma­tion for DAICON 3 had gen­er­ated such an enthu­si­as­tic respon­se, we sim­ply had to do another one for DAICON 4. The atten­dees would expect noth­ing less, and the staff was rar­ing to go. Even Yam­aga left his work on Macross to help us make it.138

If the DAICON 3 anime had been “hand­crafted”, then DAICON 4’s was an indus­trial pro­duc­tion. We rented our own ded­i­cated pro­duc­tion stu­dio in Mori­nomiya, right near Osaka Cas­tle. The stu­dio occu­pied an entire floor of an old build­ing called the Hosei Kaikan139, which means “Sewing House” in Japan­ese (it was man­aged by a cloth­ing man­u­fac­tur­er’s union). Nishi­gaki, the head of the exec­u­tive com­mit­tee for the Con­ven­tion, secured it through one of his con­nec­tions, and we packed the main staff in like sar­dines.

That’s not just a metaphor. The whole build­ing would be locked down promptly at 9:00pm, and no one could get in or out until the next morn­ing. Nat­u­ral­ly, we weren’t work­ing on the kind of sched­ule where we could just pick up and leave every night at 9:00, so the major­ity of the staff would end up get­ting locked inside. Imag­ine it—the mid­dle of the sum­mer, locked inside an old build­ing, with the air con­di­tion­ing shut off to save pow­er! I’m not kid­ding when I say it was con­di­tions for the anime staff. They had to paint cels long into the hot nights, drown­ing in rivers of sweat. It was pretty much your night­mare pro­duc­tion site.

As before, pro­duc­tion on the anime was­n’t fully com­pleted until the morn­ing of the Con­ven­tion itself. We had orig­i­nally planned to play it simul­ta­ne­ously in both halls, but with only one com­pleted reel, we were forced to show it on a sin­gle screen and stag­ger the screen­ing times.

With two hall­s—one seat­ing 2500, the other 1500—we had plenty of stage events planned. That meant we needed stage set­tings, and lots of them. We orga­nized a car­pen­try team to build the back­drops, then stuck them inside a rented ware­house with all the mate­ri­als and told them to get crack­ing. This ware­house did­n’t have air con­di­tion­ing either, but they worked at it day after day. The locals sim­ply assumed that a bunch of col­lege kids had got­ten together and started up a sign-mak­ing busi­ness. Peo­ple would come by and offer them com­pli­ments: “You kids are young, but you sure do work hard!” It was nice.

In addi­tion to those two “sweat­shops”, there were sev­eral other loca­tions around town where var­i­ous groups were con­tin­u­ing with other prepa­ra­tions for the Con­ven­tion—so many in fact that I could­n’t keep track of them myself. Not that it was my job to do so or any­thing…

The day

[pg 82]

The actual day of DAICON 4 was filled with a bewil­der­ing num­ber of events all run­ning simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. There­fore, I was only able to per­son­ally expe­ri­ence the few I was in charge of.

One thing I can say for sure is that every­one who attended was very excited about being there. Many peo­ple who came to that event have since gone on to become pro­fes­sional authors, ani­ma­tors, and edi­tors. Even now, when I meet peo­ple for the first time, a sur­pris­ing num­ber of them break the ice by say­ing they went to DAICON 4, or even bet­ter, that they got my auto­graph at the Notenki screen­ing par­ty. It was a large even­t—with a turnout of 4,000—and it really made an impact.

[Lit­tle Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Explod­ing Sub­cul­ture (ed. Murakami 2005) includes 2 reduced pho­tographs scanned from the Offi­cial After Report of 22nd Japan SF Con­ven­tion DAICON IV (DAICON IV Com­mit­tee, August 1, 1984), which are repro­duced below:

Plate 2f; Cos­mic Enter­tain­ers Fair, a cos­tume pageant that gath­ered “the best in the uni­verse”
Plate 2g; Toshio Okada address­ing four hun­dred atten­dees at a din­ner party



[pg 82-85]

After DAICON 4, I did­n’t expe­ri­ence the same sink­ing feel­ing in the pit of my stom­ach that had plagued me after DAICON 3. I was still so busy with my work at Gen­eral Prod­ucts that there was­n’t any time to get depressed.

Another thing was that DAICON FILM, the Con­ven­tion’s exec­u­tive com­mit­tee, con­tin­ued their film pro­duc­tion work even after the event. They kept mak­ing movies and show­ing them at spe­cial screen­ings around the coun­try. Among their pro­duc­tions were Kaiketsu Notenki 2140 and the pup­pet show Hayauchi Ken141. Still, it’d be hard to say that they were able to main­tain the same level of pas­sion that they’d demon­strated in the months before DAICON 4. I guess there’s a limit to how far you can take ama­teur pro­duc­tion work. They began to lose steam once the thought of DAICON 4 was no longer there as a moti­vat­ing fac­tor.

Sawa­mura had since grad­u­ated col­lege and had got­ten a job work­ing for Japan Tele­vi­sion Work­shop, a pro­duc­tion com­pany based in Tokyo. But after DAICON 4, he quit his job and moved back to work for Gen­eral Prod­ucts. He was made pro­ducer of Akai’s first 16mm film pro­ject, Yamata no Orochi no Gyakushu142, or Orochi the Eight-Headed Dragon (I’ll just call it Orochi from here on out). They planned on mak­ing it their last inde­pen­dent film, and they wanted to go out with a bang.

DAICON FILM and Gen­eral Prod­ucts were sep­a­rate orga­ni­za­tions, but our busi­ness rela­tion­ship was very close. Gen­eral Prod­ucts employ­ees like Sawa­mura and myself were involved in the mak­ing of the films, and the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store was the peren­nial hang­out for DAICON FILM employ­ees. So when DAICON FILM ran out of money halfway through the film­ing of Orochi, Gen­eral Prod­ucts, which had really hit its stride, step­ping in and financed the remain­der of the film.

Part of the rea­son why DAICON FILM kept going after DAICON 4 was because of a mis­taken belief that the party would never end. Even Gen­eral Prod­ucts had no more than a hand­ful of employ­ees, and DAICON FILM’s main staff was com­prised of col­lege stu­dents who would even­tu­ally grad­u­ate or lose inter­est. It was just a mat­ter of time before the whole thing ground to a halt, but no one under­stood that then. As staff mem­bers began to drop like teeth from an old comb, it became more and more painful to be a part of things. But it turned out this was just one more step along our path toward becom­ing film­mak­ers. Once we were able to over­come this phase, we shed our ama­teur skins and became ful­l-fledged pro­fes­sion­als in the indus­try.

One inci­dent that springs to mind was a minor mutiny within Gen­eral Prod­ucts itself. Led by me, sev­eral Gen­eral Prod­ucts employ­ees descended on Oka­da. He was the one who’d started the com­pany in the first place, and what’s more, it was formed as a divi­sion of his fam­i­ly’s Okada Embroi­der­ing Cor­po­ra­tion. Our beef was that lately he had­n’t been ful­fill­ing his respon­si­bil­i­ties as head of the com­pa­ny. We gave him an ulti­ma­tum: Shape up, or we’ll ship out.

I have no idea what Okada’s real thoughts on the mat­ter were. From where I stood, it just looked like he was sick of run­ning the store.

“If any­one’s going to quit, it should be me”, he said in response to our threat. “If all of you were to leave, the com­pany would go under for sure. I’ll quit, so you guys keep going, OK?”

He looked as though all the wind had left his sails. But the next day he just came in like noth­ing ever hap­pened. The issue never seemed to be for­mally resolved.

Lat­er, dur­ing the film­ing of Orochi, the same prob­lem once again reared its ugly head. This time it was all of the rest of the employ­ees against Okada and me. Same sto­ry—if we did­n’t get our acts togeth­er, they’d quit. Appar­ent­ly, they were upset about the fact that Okada and I did all our plan­ning at the coffee shop next door.

“You two do noth­ing but sit around chat­ting and drink­ing coffee all day”, they com­plained. “We can’t take it any­more!”

I snapped. Maybe I just did­n’t like tak­ing the heat myself, but for what­ever rea­son, I felt betrayed. I thought we were all on the same team, but now this.

In the end, we never could come to a res­o­lu­tion. Sev­eral of the mem­bers left to form their own com­pa­ny—which oddly enough, con­tin­ued to accept sub­con­tract­ing work for Gen­eral Prod­ucts. A few years lat­er, our two com­pa­nies would merge, and then split once again.

I learned some­thing from this expe­ri­ence. The sim­ple act of peo­ple gath­er­ing around some­one they feel they can trust and try­ing to talk out their prob­lem can cause emo­tions to come into play and actu­ally make the prob­lem much, much worse. Which is a shame, because most of the time, the ini­tial prob­lem was some­thing quite triv­ial.

Inci­den­tal­ly, one of the part-time illus­tra­tors was a manga artist named Sonoyan (bet­ter known as 143144). Lat­er, both of us would end up mov­ing to Tokyo and liv­ing in the same neigh­bor­hood. I guess we just can’t get rid of each oth­er!

At the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store we also sold fan comics on con­sign­ment from none other than 145, who was still an ama­teur at the time.

Okada was work­ing with Yam­aga on some OVA (orig­i­nal video ani­ma­tion) project around this time, but they did­n’t tell me much about it146. You know the rest of this sto­ry—the project would turn into GAINAX’s first com­mer­cial film, 147148, aka The Wings of Hon­neamise149. As for Anno, he’d long since moved to Tokyo and was mak­ing quite a name for him­self as a pro­fes­sional ani­ma­tor.

Chairman of the Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Association Committee

[pg 86-87]

For the 24th annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, or “Gat­a­con Spe­cial”150, I nom­i­nated myself as can­di­date for chair­man­ship for the Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion com­mit­tee. I already had close ties with the Asso­ci­a­tion, and received enough votes to win the posi­tion.

We had been hold­ing some­thing of a grudge against the Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group ever since they shot down our first Con­ven­tion plan, forc­ing us to hold the Sci-Fi Show instead. And when the DAICON 3 open­ing ani­ma­tion won the Seiun Award151 but was denied the prize on the grounds that it had­n’t been screened in gen­eral the­aters, that grudge turned into open hos­til­i­ty. We were, in effect, robbed of the Seiun Award and had to accept an Hon­or­able Men­tion instead.

Among the many sci-fi fans I met at this time was a fel­low named Kak­izaki152. Every time I spoke with him, he’d tell me the same thing: “If you were chair­man of the Fan Group, you would­n’t be hav­ing these prob­lems.” As it turned out, Kak­izaki was the head of the exec­u­tive com­mit­tee for Gat­a­con Spe­cial, and he did noth­ing but sing my praises to the Fan Group com­mit­tee. But I have to con­fess that was­n’t all we had going for me. Most of the “aye” votes came from fic­ti­tious fan clubs that we made up, just so they could “vote” in the elec­tion! Yep, we rigged it, and Kak­izaki knew all about it.

Any­way, I won the elec­tion, and I served as the com­mit­tee chair­man for over 16 years. But after all those years, I get the feel­ing that all I really did was just make things a lit­tle eas­ier for Mr. Kadokura and Mr. Maki153.

I was­n’t able to get a hold of Kak­izaki for a very long time, and then in July of 2001 I received news that he had suc­cumbed to an ill­ness. Tragic indeed that I would not hear from him again.

Wonder Festival

[pg 87-89]

Because of Gen­eral Prod­ucts’ suc­cess in devel­op­ing and expand­ing smal­l­-lot licensed model prod­ucts, other garage kit mak­ers154 soon sprang up and fol­lowed suit. There had been pirated prod­uct lines in exis­tence before Gen­eral Prod­ucts came along, but I believe we were the first smal­l­-lot pro­duc­tion group to seek licens­ing for our prod­uct lines and sell them with offi­cial sanc­tion.

When new garage kit mak­ers started pop­ping up, the last thing on our minds was accus­ing them of being copy­cats. Instead, we pro­posed get­ting every­one together for some kind of direc­t-sales event. After all, we finally had friends on our block! What we came up with was Won­der Fes­ti­val155.

We’d been called “tight-fisted huck­sters” for mak­ing our garage kits, but we’d started a rev­o­lu­tion. Model shops that had pre­vi­ously been con­tent to sell kits from the big-name mak­ers like and were now begin­ning to develop and mar­ket their own orig­i­nal designs. From the begin­ning, our goal was to make the things we wanted our­selves, because we just weren’t sat­is­fied with the range of prod­ucts man­u­fac­tured by big-name mod­el­ers. Pre­dictably, those big-name mod­el­ers did­n’t show one bit of inter­est in garage kits.

We were also com­plete ama­teurs when it came to dis­tri­b­u­tion, but we did know how to orga­nize a suc­cess­ful 4,000-per­son event, so we did­n’t hes­i­tate for a moment when it came time to plan Won­der Fes­ti­val. We knew we could do it, and do it well.

We decided to hold the first Won­der Fes­ti­val in Tokyo. It was just the log­i­cal thing to do, con­sid­er­ing the advan­tages a venue in Tokyo would hold—not only for the future pop­u­lar­iza­tion and mat­u­ra­tion of the garage kit indus­try in gen­er­al, but also for our busi­ness in par­tic­u­lar. Remem­ber, we were the same guys who’d made DAICON 4 the grand­est Con­ven­tion in all of Japan, just so we could thumb our noses at Tokyo! We could­n’t resist hold­ing a lit­tle “pre-event” event in Osaka right before the actual one in Tokyo. We held it at the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store, and it was a huge suc­cess. We had peo­ple lined up out­side like it was the grand open­ing.

The first Won­der Fes­ti­val was a great suc­cess for us, but it was still very smal­l­-s­cale. We rented out half of a floor of the in . We did­n’t need more space sim­ply because there weren’t that many garage kit mak­ers around at the time, and ama­teur deal­ers were almost nonex­is­tent. Another thing that made this one differ­ent from other events of its kind was that we charged admis­sion. Unable to fore­see the impact of an admis­sion fee on atten­dance, we decided to keep it small just in case.

But we need­n’t have wor­ried—we would soon be shriek­ing in delight! So many peo­ple showed up that we had to shuffle them in and our in shifts. Lat­er, we would increase the scale of the event and begin hold­ing it bian­nu­al­ly—one in sum­mer and one in win­ter. We con­tin­ued to use the Tokyo Trade Cen­ter, but with each sub­se­quent Won­der Fes­ti­val we’d have to rent our more and more floor space, until finally we ended up rent­ing out the whole damn build­ing. And the place still over­flowed.

Since Won­der Fes­ti­val was held twice a year, it felt like we were in a per­pet­ual state of event plan­ning. It also brought back the par­ty-like atmos­phere we had first expe­ri­enced dur­ing the prepa­ra­tions for the Sci-Fi Show. Won­der Fes­ti­val held a lot of mean­ing for me per­son­al­ly, and also drew vol­un­teers from the rest of the DAICON 4 staff. It even cap­tured the eye of copy­right license hold­ers, who went on to draft amend­ments to the licens­ing sys­tem that would grant sin­gle-day licenses to all ama­teur deal­ers reg­is­tered for the event, a truly Her­culean move for copy­right law.

-After the breakup of Gen­eral Prod­ucts, toy­maker Kaiy­odo took over as the main spon­sor for Won­der Fes­ti­val, and they still con­tinue in that role today.

The founding of GAINAX

[pg 89-93]

Amid the prepa­ra­tions for Won­der Fes­ti­val, both Okada and Yam­aga began set­ting their sights on pro­fes­sional ani­ma­tion pro­duc­tion. Startup cap­i­tal was sup­plied by Gen­eral Prod­ucts to the tune of two mil­lion yen (about US $8,500 in 1984 dol­lars).

Okada also recruited Hiroaki Inoue, one of the guys we’d met ear­lier through our sci-fi fan group activ­i­ties. Back then, Inoue was work­ing for Tezuka Pro­duc­tions, and we were count­ing in him to bring in some much-needed pro­fes­sional expe­ri­ence. All we’d ever attempted to pro­duce by way of anime was an 8mm inde­pen­dent short. Anno and Yam­aga had worked pro­fes­sion­ally as ani­ma­tors, but just as low-level pro­duc­tion site employ­ees, not as plan­ners, pro­duc­ers or direc­tors. If they were going to do this ani­me, they were going to have to do every­thing them­selves, from start to fin­ish. And Okada was still a rank ama­teur. Not only did he not know the first thing about pro­duc­ing an ani­me, he did­n’t have any direct indus­try con­nec­tions. That’s where Inoue came in.

Pro­duc­ing this new anime pro­fes­sion­ally meant get­ting a bud­get, and one place we could pitch our project was Bandai. There was a guy there by the name of Shigeru Watan­abe156, whom we’d met through con­tacts at Gen­eral Prod­ucts. Ini­tial­ly, he’d been in charge of Bandai’s Real Hobby series157, but he’d since trans­ferred over to their Emo­tion film label (later to become Bandai Visu­al). We decided to use Watan­abe to get our foot in the door.

The tim­ing was per­fect. The plan made it all the way to the office of the then-pres­i­dent of Bandai, Mr. Makoto Yamashina158. As it turns out, Yamashina wanted to advance their anime film pro­duc­tion any­way, so Oritsu Uchugun was changed from an OVA159 project to a the­atri­cal film pro­duc­tion, and the bud­get was accord­ingly upped from the orig­i­nal ¥40 mil­lion (about US $167,000 in 1984 dol­lars) to a whop­ping total expense allo­ca­tion of ¥800 mil­lion (US $3.3 mil­lion)!

There was, how­ev­er, resis­tance within the com­pany toward this foray into film­mak­ing. As a result, the project became a two-stage plan where we would have to start off with a pilot film. If the project was deemed suffi­ciently sales-wor­thy, we would be allowed to pro­ceed with pro­duc­tion of the main film.

The trade name for our new pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny, GAINAX, was reg­is­tered at the ear­li­est stages of the Bandai ani­ma­tion pro­ject. Basi­cal­ly, we needed a cor­po­rate ves­sel to hold the pro­duc­tion funds, so that’s what GAINAX became. The his­tory of the name itself is now the stuff of leg­ends. Believe it or not, it does­n’t come from any for­eign word­s—it’s 100% pure Japan­ese. In the of , the word gaina means “big”. Even now, the city hosts a fes­ti­val called Gaina Mat­suri, which means “Big Fes­ti­val”. Both Akai and Yam­aga knew about this gaina word, and as the story goes, they each inde­pen­dently came up with the idea of using it for the com­pany name, with­out con­sult­ing with each other first. The “X” at the end was just stuck on to make the name look more like “the name of an anime robot” (I know, I know… that’s a pretty silly rea­son). Any­way, that’s how we got “GAINAX”. There’s some­thing else, though. I recently learned that in the the word gaina means “rowdy” or “loose can­non”! Rather fun­ny, because that’s not too far from the mark, either…

As we were reg­is­ter­ing GAINAX, we decided to go ahead and ride by incor­po­rat­ing Gen­eral Prod­ucts. It had, until then, remained a divi­sion of Okada Embroi­der­ing. We did­n’t make Gen­eral Prod­ucts the pro­duc­tion com­pany from the start because we still intended to dis­band the bridge cor­po­ra­tion GAINAX as soon as the film pro­duc­tion was com­plete. It was­n’t our inten­tion to found a new com­pa­ny. Inci­den­tal­ly, we hired Masahiro Noda on as at that time, and he’s still with us today.

For a while, peo­ple were under the impres­sion that GAINAX started out as a sub­sidiary of Bandai, but that’s a mis­take. The fact is, Gen­eral Prod­ucts cap­i­tal­ized the new com­pany and reg­is­tered it, but Bandai paid all the pro­duc­tion expens­es. I was the one who per­son­ally handed in the reg­is­tra­tion forms for both cor­po­ra­tions. I got an accoun­tant to show me the ropes on the paper­work and to go through the entire process, and then I marched down to the Sakai attor­ney gen­er­al’s office and sub­mit­ted the forms in per­son. I found it extremely inter­est­ing.

Before reg­is­ter­ing, we had a dis­cus­sion and fixed the date of the found­ing on Christ­mas Day, but I got con­fused and jumped the gun. I actu­ally com­pleted the reg­is­tra­tion on Decem­ber 24, mak­ing the found­ing date Christ­mas Eve instead.

Another funny thing was that I listed the same busi­ness activ­i­ties on the reg­istries for both cor­po­ra­tions, mean­ing that anime pro­duc­tion was­n’t actu­ally listed under GAINAX. I’ll never hear the end of that one.

The start­ing lineup of busi­ness exec­u­tives for the two com­pa­nies was Okada as pres­i­dent of GAINAX, INC., and me as pres­i­dent of Gen­eral Prod­ucts, Inc. That was it.

Okada and Yam­aga actu­ally moved to Tokyo to begin pro­duc­tion of Oritsu Uchugun, set­ting up a stu­dio at Takad­ababa in . I remained in Osaka, and the run­ning of Gen­eral Prod­ucts was left entirely up to me, both in name and in fact. Some peo­ple left the store alto­geth­er, but I was­n’t one of them. Just because I remained in Osaka did­n’t mean that I’d bro­ken off busi­ness rela­tions with Okada and the rest of the boys at GAINAX. For one thing, shoot­ing for Yamata no Orochi no Gyakushu was still under­way in Osaka, and I was still actively par­tic­i­pat­ing in the project as both a scene direc­tor and gen­eral staffer. The thought of mov­ing the Gen­eral Prod­ucts head­quar­ters to Tokyo was­n’t even a con­sid­er­a­tion at that point. I still felt con­nected by our activ­i­ties as a group, and thought of the split head­quar­ters as noth­ing more than a new arrange­ment. Other mem­bers of the group may have felt differ­ent­ly… I don’t know.

I listed myself among the board of direc­tors for GAINAX when I reg­is­tered the com­pa­ny, and now I’m the only remain­ing found­ing mem­ber of the board. All the peo­ple who worked on Oritsu Uchugun were in their 20s at the time. We were all just babes in the woods, but by now every one of those peo­ple has gone on to become a suc­cess­ful ani­ma­tor or direc­tor.

Now that I’m on the top­ic, there’s a char­ac­ter in Top o Ner­ae! (“Gun­buster”) who was based on one of these peo­ple dur­ing GAINAX’s early stages. The model for Cap­tain Tashiro was our sound direc­tor Atsumi Tashiro, a vet­eran who had also been in charge of sound for Uchu Senkan Yam­ato (“Star Blaz­ers”). He was exactly like Cap­tain Tashiro.

Yamata no Orochi no Gyakushu

[pg 94-96]

As the GAINAX team was just start­ing pro­duc­tion of Oritsu Uchugun Hon­neamise no Tsub­asa (“The Wings of Hon­neamise”), the Osaka gang and I were keep­ing our­selves busy with Yamata no Orochi no Gyakushu.

Unlike the pro­fes­sion­als at GAINAX, we had to rely almost exclu­sively on help from vol­un­teer ama­teurs. DAICON FILM had com­pletely run out of funds for the movie by this point, and Gen­eral Prod­ucts was forced to put in some cash to keep the project afloat, leav­ing us with no money to pay the staff. They really were vol­un­teers, and we could­n’t even afford to feed them—ev­ery­one brought .

Because of all this, we began to see con­flicts aris­ing from a lack of com­mit­ment to the pro­ject. Akai was the direc­tor and his whole rea­son for involve­ment was most likely resume-build­ing—he wanted to go pro. Sawa­mura was the pro­duc­er, and his pri­mary con­cern was just com­plet­ing the thing. He was work­ing hard to see that hap­pen. I, on the other hand, was sim­ply hav­ing a good time with it. As a scene direc­tor and all-around staff mem­ber, I had learned to enjoy being in front of the cam­era, but I had other respon­si­bil­i­ties, too. The Gen­eral Prod­ucts store was­n’t going to run itself, so devot­ing myself exclu­sively to film pro­duc­tion sim­ply was­n’t an option. On top of that, a lot of the vol­un­teer staff mem­bers began assert­ing their own inter­ests, cre­at­ing even more dishar­mony on the pro­duc­tion site. Despite any differ­ences in moti­va­tion, we were all sup­posed to be gath­ered together for the pur­pose of cre­at­ing this film and mak­ing it as good as we pos­si­bly could, but that just was­n’t how things turned out.

I per­son­ally did­n’t care whether we were pro or ama­teur. All that mat­tered to me was the strength of our com­mit­ment and what we wanted to get out of it. My old action-ori­ented atti­tude of “Act first, talk later” was still the same as it was when we were orga­niz­ing the Sci-Fi Show.

But the sit­u­a­tion was differ­ent. This was the largest project DAICON FILM had ever under­tak­en, both in terms of scope and vol­ume, and it was our first time work­ing with . It was one new, untested thing after anoth­er, and it seemed like no mat­ter how much footage we shot, we just could­n’t fin­ish the thing. It became too try­ing for the staff, many of whom had joined for no other rea­son than to expe­ri­ence some­thing new, and one by one they started drop­ping out of the pro­ject. I wanted to say, “You were the ones who signed up for this, so you might as well stick it out to the end”, but truth be told, I did­n’t really feel like chas­ing after them. Among the staff mem­bers who stayed were Shinji Higuchi160, Anno’s friend from Tokyo, and Sawa­mu­ra’s for­mer class­mate Showji Mura­hama161, who was still in col­lege.

Despite all the strug­gles, the Orochi project was mov­ing toward com­ple­tion. And I can’t say we did­n’t have some good times, too. But we ran out of money before the com­ple­tion of sound pro­duc­tion, and the project stalled while we waited for addi­tional funds.

Gen­eral Prod­ucts was­n’t in a posi­tion to invest any more money into the pro­ject, and we did­n’t know what to do. After a lot of con­sid­er­a­tion, we finally decided to sell off the video rights to Bandai.

After a long string of bru­tal set­backs and unfore­seen trou­bles, Yamata no Orochi no Gyakushu was finally com­pleted in 1985. It would be DAICON FILM’s swan song.

The end of our ama­teur film pro­duc­tion also meant the loss of a plat­form for our group activ­i­ties. With Orochi fin­ished, Akai moved to Tokyo to join the Oritsu Uchugun Hon­neamise no Tsub­asa pro­duc­tion as an assis­tant direc­tor. I sent Higuchi and Mura­hama to the Tokyo pro­duc­tion site as well, because Higuchi had dis­tin­guished him­self as a spe­cial effects direc­tor and Mura­hama had worked his tail off. As for me, I returned to my usual work at Gen­eral Prod­ucts.

Fol­low­ing the com­ple­tion of the Fushigi no Umi no Nadia film, Mura­hama would leave GAINAX, and together with Mahiro Maeda, Hiroshi Yam­aguchi, and Shinji Higuchi would go on to found the anime pro­duc­tion stu­dio GONZO. 162 joined stu­dio GONZO the fol­low­ing year.

Oritsu Uchugun Honneamise no Tsubasa

[pg 96-98]

GAINAX was able to fin­ish up the pilot ver­sion of Oritsu Uchugun at the stu­dio in Takad­ababa, but for the actual pro­duc­tion they needed a big­ger place, so the stu­dio was moved to Kichi­jo­ji-Hi­gashi. I myself was so wrapped up in Gen­eral Prod­ucts mat­ters that I don’t really know what things were like on the pro­duc­tion site, but I did see the first trial screen­ing in per­son. The fin­ish­ing touches had­n’t yet been applied, but that did­n’t mat­ter. I was blown away. I’m ashamed to say I even cried. It was that mov­ing.

The fin­ished Oritsu Uchugun began show­ing in Toho For­eign Film Branch the­aters through­out the coun­try in March of 1987. I went to a the­ater in Osaka and saw it again. Look­ing back, I kind of regret not being more involved in the pro­duc­tion of the film. It really was amaz­ing, and it would’ve been nice to have been a big­ger part of it, but I was in Osaka, giv­ing Gen­eral Prod­ucts my full atten­tion.

It’s com­monly believed that while Oritsu Uchugun was a well-made film, it was a fail­ure at the box office163. That’s com­pletely untrue. It may not have been a huge hit, but it cer­tainly was­n’t a flop. Not a sin­gle the­ater can­celed its run, and at some loca­tions, it actu­ally had a longer run than ini­tially planned. I think a false appre­hen­sion prob­a­bly emerged because a few peo­ple voiced their own unfounded assump­tion­s—that a story as com­plex and sub­tle as this could­n’t pos­si­bly draw crowds, and from there the rumors just took on a life of their own.164

Regard­less, this was a big-bud­get pro­duc­tion. For an ani­ma­tion bud­get in Japan at the time, ¥800 mil­lion was a huge chunk of change. It would have been large even for a live-ac­tion Japan­ese film. The bud­get scale meant that reclaim­ing all the pro­duc­tion costs at the box office sim­ply was­n’t fea­si­ble.

With a suc­cess­ful anime pro­duc­tion and an estab­lished rela­tion­ship with Bandai under their belts, it would’ve been a real shame to just dis­solve the com­pany at that point. Okada, Inoue, and the rest of the assem­bled GAINAX staff also expressed their fer­vent opin­ions that the com­pany should be allowed to con­tinue on. But the huge stu­dio needed for the the­atri­cal pro­duc­tion was too expen­sive to main­tain, so GAINAX had to move once more—this time back to the tiny stu­dio in Kichi­jo­ji-Mi­na­mi.

General Products moves to Tokyo

[pg 98-99]

The flip side of GAINAX’s new suc­cess was the ever-wors­en­ing state of affairs at Gen­eral Prod­ucts. The Won­der Fes­ti­val had expanded beyond belief, and slowly but surely the garage kit indus­try was grow­ing larger and more entrenched. Despite all that, Gen­eral Prod­ucts items weren’t doing very well in the mar­ket­place.

We still had some hits, like our life-size Kamen Rider mask165. It was some­thing every­one thought of doing, but only we could actu­ally pull it off (we made it out of soft vinyl166, a mate­r­ial that was still a rar­ity in the garage kit world). But even with suc­cesses like this, the future of Gen­eral Prod­ucts was still cloudy.

To make mat­ters worse, as pro­duc­tion on Orochi con­cluded Sawa­mura and I started to dis­agree pro­fes­sion­al­ly, and he ended up leav­ing the com­pany while Oritsu Uchugun was show­ing in the­aters.

In short, Gen­eral Prod­ucts was in trou­ble.

I also started to believe that if I con­tin­ued doing busi­ness in Osaka, I would even­tu­ally hit a brick wall. Work­ing in the char­ac­ter busi­ness meant get­ting approval from licen­sors. And all the licen­sors were in Tokyo. Plus, there was the bian­nual Won­der Fes­ti­val, also in Tokyo. And by now, Gen­eral Prod­ucts was hurt­ing so bad finan­cially that even the cost of going to Tokyo three or four times a year was get­ting to be a major drain on the com­pa­ny’s resources. Won­der Fes­ti­val was rapidly becom­ing the store’s pri­mary source of invest­ment cap­i­tal, and there did­n’t seem to be any­thing I could do about it.

I had to face facts. After much ago­niz­ing, I finally decided to move Gen­eral Prod­ucts oper­a­tions to Tokyo. I left the Osaka branch store in the care of Junichi Osako167, one of the guys who’d been on the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion staff, and the rest of us merged with GAINAX. Inci­den­tal­ly, that same Junichi Osako is now a nov­el­ist.

Some mem­bers of my staff weren’t too keen on leav­ing Osaka, so they left the com­pany instead. This left us with a com­bined staff of about ten employ­ees.

Shouting! Running! Laughing! Crying! Yasuhiro Takeda and the First Big Bash of the 21st Century

[pg 111]

In-depth cov­er­age on Yasuhiro Takeda, Chair­man of the Plan­ning Com­mit­tee for the 40th Annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion-S­F2001 & Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee

[Photo of the con­ven­tion hall for the 40th Annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion-S­F2001 (2001-08-17–2001-08-19) –Ed­i­tor]
  • Date: Aug. 17–19, 2001
  • Loca­tion: Nip­pon Con­ven­tion Cen­ter (Makuhari Messe) in Mihama-ku, Chiba

The year was 2001. It was the first year of the new cen­tu­ry, a time that many sci-fi fans had dreamed of. It was also the first time in 13 years that GAINAX would host the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. Yasuhiro Takeda, Gen­eral Man­ager for GAINAX, put his genius to work as the Chair­man of the Plan­ning Com­mit­tee—but he would also step down as Chair­man of the Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee, a posi­tion he’d held since 1986. It was a proud moment for Mr. Takeda, and we were right there with him. It was a proud moment for Mr. Takeda, and we were right there with him. We now present an in-depth report of the 56 hours we spent with the now ex-Chair­man, from the day before the con­ven­tion right up until he said his good­byes.

Friday, August 17th. Weather: cloudy, partly sunny.

[pg 111-112]

  • 11:30 AM I arrive at the con­ven­tion site, accom­pa­nied by a fel­low edi­tor from mag­a­zine. Mr. Takeda, along with some other GAINAX staff who are help­ing out with the con­ven­tion, and approx­i­mately eighty vol­un­teers are already gath­ered in front of the “Sci-Fi Hall”, where the main part of the con­ven­tion will be held. The air is abuzz with chat­ter. We had met with Takeda once before to dis­cuss our report, but we opt to intro­duce our­selves again. When asked if there is any­thing he would pre­fer not to be report­ed, his imme­di­ate answer is, “Not at all. Feel free to report any­thing.” Well then! He won’t mind if we talk about a lit­tle of this, or touch on some of that, will he? I thought to myself. Alright, let’s get this report under­way!
Sakyo Komat­su, a major player in Japan­ese sci-fi, is shown here prior to inau­gural greet­ings.
  • 11:35 AM A reminder is given to the con­ven­tion staff on how things should be run. “One per­son’s neg­li­gence makes the entire staff look bad. Pay atten­tion and work.” Harsh words, but there are no signs of ner­vous­ness among the staff. On the con­trary, every­one seems in a good mood, anx­ious for the momen­tous event that is about to begin. I can’t decide whether they seem more like school kids about to go on a field trip or otaku head­ing to a Comiket fan-comic con­ven­tion. I guess every­one loves a good par­ty!
  • 12:05 PM Peo­ple start set­ting up for the con­ven­tion. Staff mem­bers keep acci­den­tally step­ping on the lines that exhibitors have put out to aid in set­ting up their dis­plays. “Hey, don’t step on that!” Takeda keeps yelling angri­ly. “It’s times like these that tell you a lot about a per­son, the kind of per­son­al­ity they have. You can tell some peo­ple just once not to step on’em, and they’re care­ful never to do it again. But oth­ers will just keep on step­pin’ on them, no mat­ter how many times you tell them not to.” Does step­ping on the lines just get on his nerves, or is it some­how con­nected to a dark event in his past? Takeda returns to the sec­ond floor and has a smoke by him­self.
  • 12:30 PM Takeda and the oth­ers receive and inter­nal-use phones to aid in their prepa­ra­tions. The Sci-Fi Hall itself is a huge area, some 36,000 square feet, and the con­ven­tion is also rent­ing the Inter­na­tional Hall. The bicy­cles and phones are indis­pens­able in allow­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion to quickly pass between the var­i­ous divi­sions. It’s just too bad every­one won’t be run­ning around in Notenki cos­tumes… I hurry after them, my head filled with the kind of ridicu­lous day­dreams only a hard­core otaku would have.
  • 1:30 PM The energy level of the staff has begun to grad­u­ally rise. The male staff mem­bers are putting up tents and erect­ing stages, while the females make lit­tle pack­ages of pro­gram books and name tags for the atten­dees. Mr. Takeda rides around on one of the bicy­cles, giv­ing out detailed instruc­tions. “Here I am, the com­mit­tee direc­tor, and I still have the urge to poke my nose into every lit­tle thing”, he admits. “I’m not sure why, though.”
  • 3:00 PM Takeda leaves the con­ven­tion site to pick up his wife, sci-fi nov­el­ist Hiroe Suga, and their daugh­ter Yuki­no. He has lunch while out. After­ward, Mrs. Suga joins the staff. The entire fam­ily is work­ing to put this con­ven­tion togeth­er. I tip my hat to them.
  • 4:25 PM A meet­ing is held in one of the sec­ondary offices to decide who will be work­ing where. Tomor­row promises to be another chaotic day, and Takeda and the oth­ers all look seri­ous. “There’s just too many things to think about”, he gripes.
  • 5:00 PM Another meet­ing is held to dis­cuss the open­ing and end­ing cer­e­monies. “It’s the day before the con­ven­tion, and noth­ing’s been decid­ed. Every­one’s still scram­bling all over the place.” Uh, come again?
  • 6:40 PM Din­ner con­sists of pre-pack­aged meals, after which the next day’s assign­ments are announced. Takeda gives out orders using a hand­held mic.
  • 7:50 PM Takeda returns Yukino and Mrs. Suga to the hotel.
  • 9:10 PM Uni­forms and nametags are handed out to staff. Takeda calls out each per­son by name and gives them their uni­form. Like always, he’s mak­ing the crowd laugh.
  • 10:00 PM Orders are given to begin con­struct­ing a . This piece of art was set­tled on by merit of its best being able to reflect this, the grand­est sci-fi con­ven­tion of the year 2001. It will be placed squarely in the mid­dle of the Sci-Fi Hall.
The day of the con­ven­tion. A meet­ing is held to ham­mer out the remain­ing issues.
  • 10:30 PM Prizes are sorted for use in the quiz shows as well as the 40th anniver­sary con par­ty. Takeda is start­ing to look tired. We’d like to help, but every­one’s expres­sions are so deathly seri­ous that we find our­selves unable to approach…
Con­struct­ing the mono­lith
  • 11:00 PM Prepa­ra­tions con­tin­ue. Takeda rides around the place on his bicy­cle, occa­sion­ally stop­ping for a smoke in the des­ig­nated smok­ing areas. Every­where he goes, peo­ple gather around him. He chain smokes and chats cheer­fully with them.
  • 2:30 AM The mono­lith is finally fin­ished. It looks bet­ter than planned, and even Takeda seems sat­is­fied with it.
  • 3:00 AM Takeda checks every­thing over one last time. His eyes look tired, and his legs barely have any energy as he ped­als the bike. It looks like weari­ness has finally caught up with him. He heads off to the hotel, and to bed.

Saturday, August 18th. Weather: cloudy, afternoon showers

[pg 112-114]

  • 6:00 AM Takeda is awak­ened by a phone call from Mr. Takami Akai, who is in charge of the open­ing ani­ma­tion. He tells Takeda that, “It won’t be ready for the open­ing cer­e­monies, but will prob­a­bly be ready for the clos­ing.” Con­sid­er­ing the other projects Mr. Akai is work­ing on for this event, it is decided to can­cel the anime alto­geth­er.
  • 6:50 AM Takeda shows up at the hall wear­ing the same type of uni­form he dis­trib­uted to every­one the day before. He eats a bento for break­fast, a gloomy look on his face—I sus­pect he’s still trou­bled by the mat­ter of the open­ing ani­ma­tion. Staff mem­bers are con­stantly com­ing to him for fur­ther instruc­tions, and I won­der if being relied on like this is actu­ally a source of inspi­ra­tion for him.
  • 7:05 AM After break­fast, Takeda gives the staffers their instruc­tions. It’s an impor­tant lec­ture, detail­ing how to keep a 1,700-par­tic­i­pant, 300-guest event run­ning smooth­ly. Every­one lis­tens intent­ly, their faces earnest.
Takeda takes a quick break and eats with Yuki­no.
  • 7:50 AM The prepa­ra­tions that have been going on since yes­ter­day appear to have reached the final stage. Many of the staff mem­bers worked all night to get every­thing ready. Takeda spot checks, rid­ing around on his bicy­cle and call­ing out to peo­ple. He also checks on the recep­tion desk, which is located in the inter­na­tional con­fer­ence hall on the 1st floor.
  • 8:15 AM Takeda has a cup of coffee at a cafe next to the recep­tion desk. “Man, I gotta apol­o­gize to every­one at the open­ing cer­e­mony”, he says sad­ly. I knew that can­cel­ing the anime had affected him, and watch­ing him is even start­ing to mak­ing me feel down.
  • 8:30 AM Mr. Akai shows up look­ing men­tally and phys­i­cally exhaust­ed. It’s decided to post the open­ing anime on the con­ven­tion’s web­site at a later date. Takeda looks some­what relieved at hav­ing finally fig­ured out how to deal with the sit­u­a­tion. Phew! I’m happy for you, Mr. Takeda! I think, imag­in­ing myself strik­ing a tri­umphant pose.
  • 8:35 AM prepa­ra­tions for the open­ing rehearsal begin inside the con­ven­tion hall. Takeda gives detailed instruc­tions regard­ing the light­ing, audio and video footage to be used.
  • 8:55 AM Rehearsal for the open­ing cer­e­mony gets under­way.
  • 9:00 AM Doors open to the pub­lic.
  • 9:15 AM Inside of one of the wait­ing rooms, Takeda holds a meet­ing with Sakyo Komat­su, the hon­orary head of the plan­ning com­mit­tee. Komat­su, who will be deliv­er­ing the open­ing speech, has actu­ally declined this posi­tion in the past, so it’s lit­tle won­der that Takeda was so insis­tent on get­ting him to accept this time around. Takeda also greets Tsukasa Shikano and writer Haruka Takachi­ho, both of whom are in charge of the open­ing act. Takeda takes this oppor­tu­nity to hand every­one in the room his busi­ness card. He’s vis­i­bly dis­ap­pointed a moment lat­er, when Mr. Komatsu looks at the card and says “Wani Books? I did­n’t know they were still around.” On the other hand, Mr. Komat­su’s card (which was made espe­cially for this event) was an ad for , the pop­u­lar comic run­ning seri­ally in Comic GUM. Wow!
  • 9:30 AM Takeda checks on the recep­tion area. A few hun­dred peo­ple have already gath­ered around the entrance. The crowds and the excite­ment remind me of , when vis­i­tors line up for the tra­di­tional New Year’s visit to a shrine. Prior prepa­ra­tions and an effi­cient staff ensure that the admit­tance of par­tic­i­pants goes quite smooth­ly. Takeda has a big smile on his face.
  • 9:45 AM Takeda enters the con­ven­tion hall to wit­ness the open­ing cer­e­mo­ny. Every­thing is set and ready to go. Takeda him­self appears calm and ready to take on every­thing that comes that way. No won­der he’s earned him­self a nick­name “the big guy”. Sor­ry, I don’t mean to sound cocky…
Takeda runs into manga artist Kenji Tsu­ru­ta.
  • 10:05 AM The open­ing cer­e­mony begins and Takeda’s speech kicks off the event. “This thing is run­ning for 30 non­stop hours, and there are a whole lot of things going on! So have fun, but don’t push your­selves too hard, OK?” He con­tin­ues, say­ing “Sci-fi fans tend to be pretty cliquish. Too cliquish, real­ly, because they’re always stay­ing within their own groups. That can make an event like this pretty exclu­sion­ary and actu­ally raise the aver­age age of the par­tic­i­pants (which this year was 36). Fol­low­ing this con­ven­tion, I will be retir­ing from the posi­tion of chair­man of the Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee. Doing this will hope­fully give a younger gen­er­a­tion the oppor­tu­nity to work on this event, and make it acces­si­ble to a much wider audi­ence. I look for­ward to comb­ing back again—as an atten­dee, this time—and enjoy­ing an all-new Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion.” The audi­ence applauded appre­cia­tive­ly.
With author Masaki Yama­da.
  • 10:20 AM Sakyo Komatsu makes his open­ing speech. Takeda stands at the rear of the stage and watch­es, his face full of emo­tion.
  • 10:25 AM Mr. Komat­su’s speech ends, and Takeda comes back out onstage after. He’s sup­posed to go over gen­eral dos and don’ts with the audi­ence, but sud­denly he bows and starts apol­o­giz­ing! “There’s some­thing I have to apol­o­gize for”, he begins, snick­ers already com­ing from the audi­ence. “We could­n’t get the open­ing anime ready in time…” Sud­den­ly, every­one bursts into laugh­ter and applause! Those sci-fi fans sure love it when things go wrong! Watch­ing Takeda apol­o­gize so sin­cerely must’ve been like see­ing some of the very enter­tain­ment they’d come here for! Phew, good thing huh? (Well, not that good, I guess…)
  • 10:35 AM The open­ing cer­e­mony con­cludes, and Komat­su, Takachiho and Shikano per­form the open­ing act, Kyoyou (“Edu­ca­tion”). Mean­while, Takeda chats with the staff back­stage.
  • 12:10 PM Takeda eats lunch with his daugh­ter Yukino at a restau­rant on the 1st floor. Things have been pretty intense for him all morn­ing, but it seems like he’s finally been able to catch a breather. His face is one of con­tent­ment as he looks at his daugh­ter.
  • 1:00 PM Takeda vis­its the green­rooms next to the restau­rant and chats with some of the guests.
  • 1:40 PM Takeda moves on to the main event area. He hears from the staff that every­thing went well at the recep­tion.
  • 1:50 PM The Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee calls a meet­ing in the con­ven­tion hall. They are meet­ing to vote on recip­i­ents of the Seiun Awards. They also dis­cuss the loca­tion of the next con­ven­tion, which is sched­uled for 2003. As Tochigi pre­fec­ture is cho­sen as the con­ven­tion site, the event is nick­named T-CON. Takeda speaks on a num­ber of differ­ent issues, includ­ing Gifu pre­fec­ture being given pref­er­ence for the site of the 2004 con­ven­tion. Final­ly, he moves on to the biggest agenda fac­ing the Com­mit­tee—re­vis­ing the rules and reg­u­la­tions for hold­ing a Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. The debate becomes increas­ingly heat­ed—e­spe­cially when Takeda him­self decides to enter the fray. Chair­man or no, Takeda isn’t afraid to speak his mind (which earns him more than a few com­plaints). Just watch­ing the pro­ceed­ings is enough to make me pretty ner­vous. The debate rages, going past the sched­uled end time of 3:30 pm to finally con­clude at 4:00. At the end of the meet­ing, Takeda for­mally announces that today he will be resign­ing from the Com­mit­tee. Ms. Noriko Maki is named a can­di­date for the posi­tion of Com­mit­tee chair­woman.
  • 4:20 PM After the meet­ing, Takeda goes to the main office and inter­views with Anime Par­adise168. He com­ments on the theme of the 2001 Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion and the future of GAINAX.
  • 4:35 PM Takeda is a pan­elist on “The Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee—­Past and Future”, held in room 205 of the Inter­na­tional Con­fer­ence Hall. This project aims to shed light on the 40-year his­tory of the con­ven­tion, includ­ing that of pre­vi­ous Com­mit­tee chair­per­sons and exec­u­tive direc­tors. Upon learn­ing that Takeda has held his chair­man’s posi­tion for 16 years, orig­i­nal Com­mit­tee chair­man Masahiro Noda exclaims, “Takeda is like !” Takeda flashes him a wry grin. Per­haps it was exhaus­tion, but when the topic turns to the ori­gins of the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, Takeda decides to get in a lit­tle shut­eye. He must be pretty exhausted after that Fan­dom meet­ing, huh? I think to myself. As soon as the topic shifts to the more recent his­tory of the con­ven­tion, how­ev­er, he sud­denly begins talk­ing rather ani­mat­ed­ly. He even tosses out a suc­ces­sion of “behind-the-scenes” sto­ries, some of which sim­ply can­not be reported to the gen­eral pub­lic! The reac­tions of those present was split between stunned silence and peals of laugh­ter.
  • 6:00 PM Takeda moves on to the Sci-Fi Hall. There is a lot of activ­ity here, as the area is jam-packed with a vari­ety of differ­ent events. Takeda bikes around the square exchang­ing busi­ness cards with par­tic­i­pants. Every­where he stops, a crowd gath­ers. Man, Mr. Takeda sure is pop­u­lar! I think to myself. I guess he does­n’t have to wear a weird cos­tume to get atten­tion any­more… Just then, I turn and see the mono­lith. Whoa! Peo­ple have been throw­ing money offer­ings at it! And some­body ded­i­cated a mini-mono­lith next to it, too! I imme­di­ately vowed to con­tact Mr. Clarke and tell him that I’d send him some pic­tures of the sight. Takeda is run­ning around, happy as a child at play. “Wow. You can never tell what a sci-fi fan’s gonna do, huh?” he asks.
  • 6:40 PM Takeda goes to the recep­tion area. He greets Hiroyuki Yam­a­ga, Pres­i­dent of GAINAX, who is dressed as a char­ac­ter from Abenobashi Shoten­gai (“Mag­i­cal Shop­ping Arcade Abenobashi”). The two chat for a while.
  • 7:30 PM After check­ing things out in the hall, Takeda heads for the Makuhari Prince Hotel, which is located right next to Makuhari Messe. There, he attends the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion 40th Anniver­sary par­ty, which is being held in the Prince Hall.
Lis­ten­ing intently to Mr. Noda’s speech at the 40th anniver­sary par­ty.
  • 8:15 PM The party gets under­way. Takeda makes the open­ing speech, which is fol­lowed by a toast from Mr. Noda. Takeda looks a lit­tle more relaxed now that points on today’s agenda are (for the most part) taken care of. “If I eat, I’ll just end up get­ting sleepy”, he says, and begins chat­ting with the guests and par­tic­i­pants. He finally breaks down and eats when Noda decides to field a com­ment from each and every woman at the par­ty, which takes an inter­minably long time. Takeda wolfs down food as if he were throw­ing coal into a fur­nace. In the last 30 min­utes of the par­ty, he gives party gifts to all par­tic­i­pants.

  • 10:00 PM After the par­ty, Takeda returns to the event hall for an inter­view with Osaka Nikkei News­pa­per. Dur­ing the inter­view he com­ments on the fact that many sci-fi fans are from Osaka, and relates every­thing from DAICON FILM to the found­ing of GAINAX. He speaks non-stop for about 40 min­utes.

  • 10:45 Takeda takes a break at a smok­ing area located behind the main office. He chats for a while with his sis­ter and other fam­ily mem­bers who were present for the fes­tiv­i­ties today.

  • 10:55 PM Takeda goes to the Sci-Fi Hall and talks to manga artist Mrs. (who is dressed up in cos­tume). He does­n’t waste time exchang­ing busi­ness cards here, either. Before you know it, all 200 of his cards are gone. With a start, I real­ize that some­one has coiled a sacred rope around the mono­lith. Takeda is speech­less.

The mini-mono­lith gets blessed? What’s going on here‽
  • 11:30 PM Takeda takes a short break at the Amaz­ing Cafe. Then he’s on his bike again and mak­ing the rounds.
  • 12:00 AM Takeda has to be back here early tomor­row, so he decides to head back to the hotel. He makes a quick stop by the main office, upon which the staff imme­di­ately points out that arrange­ments have yet to be made for the clos­ing cer­e­mo­ny. An impromptu meet­ing gets under­way.
  • 12:30 AM Takeda returns to the hotel.

Sunday, August 19th. Weather: clear

[pg 115-116]

  • 8:00 AM Takeda is awak­ened by an e-mail mes­sage on his cell phone. The sub­ject line “sil­ver” makes him jump right out of bed—he had com­pletely for­got­ten about the bal­loons! Come 4:00 this morn­ing, the Sci-Fi Hall was already sup­posed to have been dec­o­rat­ed… with sil­ver bal­loons that should have been inflated by 6:00 yes­ter­day. Takeda runs fran­ti­cally for the event hall. Once there, he picks up a helium tank and makes his way unsteadily to the cen­ter of the hall. He’s rar­ing to go, but the weight of the tank slows him down a bit, and it’s no prob­lem for us to fol­low him. A crowd of curi­ous onlook­ers has gath­ered, eager to see what’s going on. Takeda belts out instruc­tions, and the staff begins to blow up a pile of bal­loons. Takeda belts out instruc­tions, and the staff begins to blow up a pile of bal­loons. Takeda inflates them so quickly that for a moment I think to myself What is this guy, a street per­former?
He moves around slowly with a helium tank.
  • 8:45 AM The staff gath­ers in the cen­ter of the hall to dis­cuss the clos­ing cer­e­mo­ny. Once the details are all ham­mered out, Takeda makes for the smok­ing area behind the main office. There, he talks with Tet­suya Kohama from Tokyo Sogen­sha while smok­ing two cig­a­rettes he bummed from one of the staff mem­bers. Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, Takeda men­tions the idea of Notenki Mem­oirs to Mr. Kohama, who quips “Are you try­ing to win the Seiun award or some­thing?” Takeda laughs it off, but then I start to won­der. C-could it really be? Is that what he’s after‽
  • 9:30 AM Takeda looks quite con­tent as he watches the sil­ver bal­loons go up in the air, one by one. He tells me that from the very begin­ning, he knew that sil­ver would be the color for this event. When I ask him why, he says “2001… It just sounds sil­ver, you know?” Hmm.
  • 9:50 AM Takeda drops by the recep­tion desk on the 1st floor. He and the staff hold a meet­ing in the lounge adja­cent to recep­tion. The top­ic—­clos­ing cer­e­monies.
  • 10:10 AM Takeda holds another meet­ing inside the con­ven­tion hall, again regard­ing the clos­ing cer­e­monies. It’s decided to end the con­ven­tion with footage of the mono­lith, from its ini­tial con­struc­tion to how it appears now. Uh, can you really just run with some­thing like that? I think to myself, but it appears my wor­ries are unfound­ed. Not a sin­gle con­cern is raised, and the staff sim­ply sets about its prepa­ra­tions. I’m just amazed at how they can move so quickly to make this vision a real­i­ty!
  • 10:15 AM Takeda meets with Mr. Sakyo Komatsu to dis­cuss the clos­ing speech.
  • 10:20 AM Takeda real­izes that he has­n’t had break­fast yet. He dashes to the main office hop­ing to score a ben­to, but they’re already gone. Dev­as­tat­ed, he grabs a few cook­ies to tide him­self over.
  • 10:25 AM Takeda goes to room 301A in the Inter­na­tional Con­fer­ence Hall. He takes part in a Q&A ses­sion about the his­tory of sci-fi con­ven­tions, titled “The First Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion”. He speaks exten­sively on the sub­ject, and every­one present lis­tens intent­ly.
  • 12:10 PM Rehearsals for the clos­ing cer­e­mony begin at the con­ven­tion hall. It looks like some of the ideas for the cer­e­mony are being employed here for the first time, and Takeda is giv­ing his staff some rather detailed instruc­tions. I stand there, stunned by how fast they can get things done. They sure are spry for their age! (Sor­ry.)
At Bang Ippongi’s booth.
  • 12:50 PM Takeda goes to the recep­tion area on the 21st floor to pick up his daugh­ter Yuki­no. Now his whole fam­ily is here! His mother comes up to me and says hel­lo, which I thought was very nice of her.
  • 1:15 PM Prepa­ra­tions for the clos­ing cer­e­mony begin. Takeda and Yukino go to a green­room and change into their Notenki out­fits for the cos­tume show. I move closer, try­ing to con­tain my excite­ment. There it is—the leg­endary Notenki! But I had no idea the actual cos­tume was so… (delet­ed). I work up the nerve to ask Takeda how long it’s been since he last wore the suit, and could almost visu­al­ize one of those anger marks you see in manga and anime pop­ping up on his fore­head. “Not since the movie…” he replies. I knew it.
  • 1:25 PM Takeda and Yukino head back­stage. They return a moment lat­er, Takeda scream­ing “I messed up! The inde­pen­dent films’ awards cer­e­mony comes before the cos­tume show!” He scram­bles to take off the cos­tume and change into a suit. There’s not much time, how­ev­er, so he ends up keep­ing his Notenki pants on under his slacks. Heh heh.
No one knows he’s still wear­ing the Notenki cos­tume under­neath his slacks.
  • 1:40 PM The first part of the clos­ing cer­e­mony begins. The awards cer­e­mony kicks off with­out a hitch, as if the mad rush back­stage had never occurred. Takeda changes into his Notenki out­fit again. By this time, he is quite sweaty.
  • 2:00 PM The cos­tume show begins. At the show’s cli­max, the Notenki father and his daugh­ter come onstage. Yukino seems a lit­tle embar­rassed by the wild cheer­ing from the audi­ence, but then she strikes the famous Notenki pose! That gets her another round of applause. Good job, Takeda! She’s now offi­cially a sci-fi fan!
  • 2:15 PM The Ankoku Seiun Award is announced. “Unfin­ished open­ing anime” wins the Project cat­e­go­ry, and the Mono­lith wins Freestyle. Takeda proudly receives the award in his Notenki cos­tume.169
  • 2:25 PM Takeda returns to the green­room and changes into a suit again, this time for the Seiun Award cer­e­mo­ny. He changes, by the way, right in front of Mr. Komat­su, Takumi Shibano, Takayuki Tat­sumi and Shinji Maki.
Here they come! The orig­i­nal Notenki and mini-Notenki!
  • 2:40 PM Quick meet­ing about the clos­ing speech with Mr. Komat­su.
  • 2:45 PM The sec­ond part of the clos­ing cer­e­mony begins. Takeda chats with Akai and Yam­aga back­stage while the Fanzine Award is announced. He tries to pla­cate Mr. Komat­su, who is pretty much bored and ready to go back to the lounge.
  • 3:20 PM The Seiun Award is announced. Takeda presents awards to the win­ners from each cat­e­go­ry. For the Japan­ese Fea­ture-Length cat­e­go­ry, Hiroe Sug­a’s Eien no Mori—Hakubut­sukan Waku­sei is cho­sen! This makes the third time in con­ven­tion his­tory that Mr. Okada pre­sented his wife with this award. Fol­low­ing her accep­tance speech, Suga tear­fully addresses her hus­band, now poised to retire as chair­man. “We thank you for your hard work these past 16 years”, she says.
Takeda presents his wife with the Seiun Award, trig­ger­ing a round of applause.
  • 3:50 PM The award cer­e­mony con­cludes. Noriko Maki is brought onstage and intro­duced as the next chair­man of the Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee. She deliv­ers a speech and, with tears in her eyes, presents Takeda with a lovely bou­quet.
  • 4:05 PM Mr. Komatsu deliv­ers the clos­ing speech, at which point the con­ven­tion offi­cially comes to an end. See­ing Hiroe’s and Mak­i’s tears, Takeda sniffles “Almost made me wanna cry, too.”
  • 4:15 PM Clean­ing of the Sci-Fi Hall begins. Halfway through clean­ing, Takeda begins fill­ing out forms for “YUCON”, a sci-fi con­ven­tion to be held in next year, as well as “T-CON 2003”, which will be held the year after that. As of next year, Takeda will be just a par­tic­i­pant at con­ven­tions.
  • 5:10 PM Takeda takes pic­tures with all the staff mem­bers in front of the Mono­lith, which has become both the sym­bol and fun­ni­est sub­ject of this con­ven­tion.
  • 6:00 PM con­ven­tion offi­cials and staff mem­bers attend the after-par­ty. Now that every­thing is done, every­one looks happy and con­tent. Takeda makes a speech to start the par­ty. “Great job, every­one. The con­ven­tion went well, with­out too many mishaps.” And then there was com­plete silence. Takeda qui­etly places his left hand on his hat and pushes it down, cov­er­ing his eyes. He bites down, the small­est of sounds escap­ing his lips. Wow, Takeda is cry­ing! A mur­mur spreads through the crowd… and then peo­ple are push­ing their way for­ward, cam­eras in hand, hop­ing to snap a photo of this moment. Oth­ers stay where they are, laugh­ing and applaud­ing. “Hey, enough already!” Takeda says, grin­ning through his tears and shoo­ing away those respon­si­ble for the flurry of flash­es. He moves to speak again, the voice catch­ing in his throat. “I… I just want to say thank you for putting up with all my selfish demands over the past 20 years.” Thun­der­ous applause echoes through the hall. “This will be my last time to host a Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. But if another event comes up in the future, I hope we can all get togeth­er, like this, and have some fun.” Speech fin­ished, Takeda raises his glass in toast.
  • 7:23 PM Takeda chats with the staff while key peo­ple from each sec­tion make their speech­es. Says Shinji Maki, “I did­n’t know pas­sion was in Takeda’s blood.”
  • 7:35 PM Takeda makes the final speech, bring­ing the evening to an infor­mal close. “You’re wel­come to stay here and drink all night if you like, but remem­ber—y­ou’re not crash­ing at my place.” To the very end, Takeda never for­gets to make peo­ple laugh.
Takeda is com­pletely speech­less… but why are those peo­ple in the back laugh­ing?

Reporter’s note

[pg 116]

I can’t count how many times dur­ing the com­pil­ing of this report I would think to myself, Wow, Takeda does stuff like this, too? It did­n’t mat­ter what was going on—­Takeda was always get­ting involved, adding input, tak­ing an active role, and even giv­ing pep talks if need­ed. He made peo­ple laugh, and was never afraid to poke fun at him­self. I’m reminded of when Takeda said to me, “I love being here, in the cen­ter of it all. I love it.” These past three days have taught me exactly what Takeda meant by that. When I con­fided in him that this was to be my first sci-fi con­ven­tion, he responded “Don’t think of it as a real sci-fi con­ven­tion. Sure it’s going to be ener­getic and a lot of fun, but a real con­ven­tion is when every­one gets together in some lit­tle crowded room and just talks, noth­ing but sci-fi.” In other words, even if it’s just sci-fi lovers get­ting together and mak­ing some noise, that’s enough. Place does­n’t mat­ter, for­mat does­n’t mat­ter—what mat­ters is actively par­tic­i­pat­ing, not just observ­ing the pro­ceed­ings from afar. You have to be there in the thick of things, talk­ing and laugh­ing and get­ting to know one anoth­er. I really feel that these are the ideals that have kept Takeda going all these years.

Of course, attend­ing a sin­gle sci-fi con­ven­tion was­n’t enough to under­stand every­thing that Takeda has accom­plished over the past two decades… but it was enough to let me catch a glimpse of it, and I was grate­ful for the oppor­tu­ni­ty. When I caught sight of those tears dur­ing his final speech, I found myself want­ing to call out, “Thank you for all your hard work! Start­ing next year, you’ll finally be able to enjoy these con­ven­tions. You’ve earned it.”

Tokyo—And then, moving to the capital


[pg 118-119]

Our first out­post in Tokyo was a small dwelling that would later become known as “GAINAX House”170. It was a sin­gle home occu­pied by sin­gle men from both GAINAX and Gen­eral Prod­ucts.

Not too long after the move, we became acquainted with another otaku who had come from North Amer­ica (Canada, actu­al­ly). His name was 171 172 173, and his love of manga had brought him all the way across the ocean to Japan. He’d run out of money some­where along the way, how­ev­er, and was hav­ing a hard time of it.

Appar­ent­ly, Okada had met Smith dur­ing our Osaka days. The Cana­dian had vis­ited the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store in Momodani with sci-fi author J.P. Hogan, who was in Japan for the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. Nat­u­ral­ly, after hear­ing his for­eign friend was down on his luck, Okada sug­gested we put him up at GAINAX House.

Toren went on to be a suc­cess in his own right, later return­ing to North Amer­ica and becom­ing pres­i­dent of a pub­lish­ing com­pany in the US. He is one shrewd fel­low—not only did he make plenty of man­ga-re­lated con­nec­tions while he was here, but he snagged him­self a beau­ti­ful Japan­ese wife to boot. I still remem­ber one morn­ing, shortly after we woke up; the door to Toren’s room opened and out walked a young lady we’d never seen before!

Make no mis­take, GAINAX House was a den of rabid bach­e­lors. Nobody cleaned or even straight­ened up—ev­er. When we received a visit from Hiroe Suga (who for a time was stay­ing at a board­ing house in Tokyo and work­ing as an author), she was lit­er­ally “sick­ened” by the smell. The color drained from her face and she beat a very hasty retreat.

Ulti­mate­ly, we elected to move out of GAINAX House. When the land­lord came by to give the place a once-over and release us from our con­tract, he was stricken speech­less. Almost imme­di­ately after we vacat­ed, the house was demol­ished.

Tokyo life

[pg 119-121]

Fol­low­ing Oritsu Uchugun, GAINAX found itself involved in a num­ber of differ­ent pro­jects. In addi­tion to cre­at­ing a pro­mo­tional video for the BOøWY song “Mar­i­onette”174 and TV com­mer­cials for Vic­tor’s “Hyper Robot Compo”, they were work­ing on sales pro­mo­tions and plan­ning for their next the­atri­cal release. Sadamoto and Maeda took the lead on that assign­ment, even turn­ing out a pilot film before the project was put on indefi­nite hia­tus.

Then GAINAX was com­mis­sioned by Bandai to do an OVA for Masamune Shi­row’s 175, with Akai sit­ting in the direc­tor’s chair. They even pro­duced a live action pro­mo­tional video for it. The idea for the video sup­pos­edly came from a life-size mask of Bri­areos Heca­tonchires (a char­ac­ter from Apple­seed), made by Fuyuki Shi­nada176. They also bor­rowed a replica from manga artist “Mr. I”, often referred to as SUEZEN177 . Mr. I was one of the ani­ma­tors on Wings of Hon­neamise, and had appar­ently received the jeep from anime guru 178 . This con­nec­tion would lead to GAINAX pub­lish­ing an entire CD-ROM’s worth of jeep­-re­lated art and research com­piled by both SUEZEN and Otsu­ka.

Mean­while, hav­ing com­pleted the move to Tokyo, Gen­eral Prod­ucts con­tin­ued to pro­duce its line of garage kits and other mer­chan­dise, as well as pre­pare for upcom­ing Won­der Fes­ti­vals. We only had four employ­ees, but when the day of the Fes­ti­val rolled around, we could always count on the help of for­mer Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion staff mem­bers. Among the loyal were [Ya­suhi­ro] Kamimu­ra, who was then work­ing for NTT, and Sato, who had been employed by the city of Osa­ka. Those two would even­tu­ally join GAINAX. In fact, I imag­ine you’ll see their names on many of the prod­ucts put out by the com­pany today.

Dur­ing this peri­od, one of Bandai’s pro­duc­ers struck a deal—if GAINAX could come up with an anime that “would be able to sell at least 10,000 copies”, then Bandai would gladly fund the pro­ject. Upon hear­ing this, Okada179 got to work on a pro­posal for (“Gun­buster”)180. The plan was to have Shinji Higuchi direct, 181 pro­vide char­ac­ter designs, and to release the whole thing as three 2-part OVAs. For some rea­son, though, the project stalled. By the time they finally got the green light, Higuchi had other com­mit­ments and was unable to direct. As fate would have it, Anno decided to give the ini­tial script a read­-through, and became so fired up that he vol­un­teered to fill in for Higuchi. This would mark his pro­fes­sional debut as a direc­tor.

Gun­buster turned out to be a very diffi­cult endeav­or. The major­ity of Bandai’s atten­tion was focused on the first 182 OVA, which was being pro­duced at the same time, so Gun­buster was rel­e­gated to side-pro­ject sta­tus.

Nonethe­less, Anno became com­pletely obsessed with the pro­ject. For the first episode, he stuck pretty closely to the orig­i­nal script, but with each sub­se­quent episode his own unique touch became increas­ingly appar­ent. For the last episode, he did the unthink­able—he filmed the episode entirely in black and white on color film. Delib­er­ately doing so cost the stu­dio a lot more mon­ey, and a whole lot more effort than was nec­es­sary.

Dur­ing pro­duc­tion, the stu­dio became increas­ingly cramped, and so GAINAX—along with Gen­eral Prod­uct­s—­moved back to the Kichi­jo­ji-Hi­gashi stu­dio, where it had ear­lier pro­duced Wings of Hon­neamise. This stu­dio was three times as large, giv­ing the anime pro­duc­tion staff plenty of room to grow. Gen­eral Prod­ucts fol­lowed suit and increased their own staff as well.

Third Sci-Fi Convention

[pg 121-123]

The next Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion was held in Kanaza­wa, and of course I attend­ed. Once there, I was approached by the staff for the fol­low­ing year’s Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion (prob­a­bly because I was Chair­man of the Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion at the time) and the first words out of their mouths were, “We can’t do it!”

You pack of spine­less wimps! I felt like scream­ing. Now that I’ve had time to calm down and think about it, though, I won­der if skip­ping one con­ven­tion would’ve been such a big deal. How­ev­er, my ini­tial reac­tion was to imme­di­ately assem­ble the troop­s—specifi­cal­ly, Okada and Inoue. The three of us decided there would indeed be a Con­ven­tion, and that we would host it our­selves. In a way, our atti­tude toward those quit­ters was one of pride, some­thing along the lines of, “If you’re just going to give up, then we’ll show you losers how it’s done!”

The deci­sion to spon­sor the event had been made in the absence of an exec­u­tive com­mit­tee, and our prepa­ra­tions con­tin­ued with­out any orga­ni­za­tional frame­work. Nev­er­the­less, there were still deci­sions to be made, like choos­ing a venue and assem­bling our staff.

For the locale, we set­tled on Mizukami Hot Springs in Gunma Pre­fec­ture. We decided to go with a so-called “resort-style” con­ven­tion, rent­ing out both a hotel and the Mizukami town hall. As for the staff, we’d recently moved our base of oper­a­tions to Tokyo… though of course, we looked for­ward to see­ing them on the actual day of the Con­ven­tion. For­tu­nate­ly, other for­mer staff mem­bers were already liv­ing in Tokyo, hav­ing found jobs there after grad­u­a­tion.

We even­tu­ally orga­nized an exec­u­tive com­mit­tee, a mixed bunch com­posed mostly of for­mer DAICON staffers like myself, and a num­ber of peo­ple from the Space Force Club. Led by Inoue, this cub is ded­i­cated to the works of sci-fi author Masahiro Noda, who also hap­pens to be GAINAX’s audi­tor. (In­ci­den­tal­ly, since Noda refers to him­self as the “Com­man­der-in-Chief” of the Space Force, the mem­bers of his fan club also give each other mil­i­tary ranks.) These two groups formed the core of our staff, and we got the rest of the help we needed through our var­i­ous con­nec­tions. It was basi­cally the same old rou­tine from our DAICON days. The only real differ­ence was that we were no longer col­lege stu­dents.

We decided to dub this Con­ven­tion “MiG-Con”183 in a play­ful abbre­vi­a­tion of the venue’s name—Mizukami, Gun­ma. MiG-Con differed from DAICON in that we did­n’t have time to for­mally train the staff. Also, as far as events go, we could­n’t seem to come up with any­thing too ter­ri­bly mind-blow­ing, so we decided to focus on visual con­tent instead. Now that we were pros, we had plenty of con­nec­tions in the indus­try, and we fully uti­lized them.

One attrac­tion we put together was the “Mys­tery Train”. Con­ven­tion-go­ers tak­ing the train from Tokyo to Mizukami would first receive a send-off at Ueno sta­tion by some cos­tumed mem­bers of our staff. Once aboard, they would be enter­tained by a mock hijack­ing at the hands of an “evil orga­ni­za­tion”. Upon arrival at Mizukami, guests would be greeted by more cos­tumed staff mem­bers.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, our mixed staff did­n’t func­tion as well as we’d hoped. Most of the mem­bers were vet­er­ans of either the Space Force or DAICON, and even though we were all vol­un­teers, the DAICON group tended to act like self­-ap­pointed “instruc­tors” to the oth­ers. That may have had some­thing to do with it.

I’m sure there are some mixed feel­ings about the whole expe­ri­ence, but luck­i­ly, ten­sions never boiled over and the event went off with­out a hitch.

Second period of lethargy

[pg 123-124]

Shortly after MiG-Con came to a close, vol­ume 1 of Gun­buster hit store shelves and enjoyed imme­di­ate sales. That’s when I began to give seri­ous thought to leav­ing Gen­eral Prod­ucts and GAINAX. I could­n’t tell any­one why, though. How could I explain to them that my girl­friend (who I would later mar­ry) had dumped me? I was actu­ally think­ing of mov­ing to and work­ing on a farm or some­thing184. I was dis­tract­ed, and unable to focus on my job.

When I was going through my first bout of lethar­gy, it was the found­ing of Gen­eral Prod­ucts and the sub­se­quent DAICON 4 prepa­ra­tions that brought me back to life. As luck would have it, at some point dur­ing my pon­der­ings of farm life in Hokkaido, I lost the urge to quit Gen­eral Prod­ucts. I’ve come to refer to this sit­u­a­tion as “the mon­key with its hand in the jar”. Imag­ine a mon­key that can’t remove its hand because he’s hold­ing onto some­thing inside a jar. If the mon­key would just release its grasp on what’s inside, it would be free. The anal­ogy here is that some­times the solu­tion is just to let go—and when you do that, you can finally see what you’ve been hold­ing all along.

Dragon Quest

[pg 124-127]

I’m sure every­one who reads this knows how much of an influ­ence Japan’s Dragon Quest (aka Dragon War­rior) series has had on role-play­ing games, or RPGs. Gen­eral Prod­ucts had nego­ti­ated a mer­chan­dis­ing deal with Dragon Quest maker , and our prod­ucts were man­u­fac­tured and on the mar­ket by the time we moved to Tokyo.

The first thing we did was approach Enix about acquir­ing the licens­ing rights. “If this is about Mr. char­ac­ters”, our con­tact per­son began, refer­ring to the manga artist whose char­ac­ter designs were used in the game, “I’m afraid we can’t help you.” I replied that it was­n’t the char­ac­ters we want­ed—rather, we were inter­ested in pro­duc­ing var­i­ous items and equip­ment appear­ing in the game. His respon­se: “Hmm, inter­est­ing. No one’s ever approached me with some­thing like this. Let’s get together some­time. I’d like to hear more.”

From there, we for­mu­lated a plan for mak­ing repli­cas of swords, keys, and other items. Among these was a ful­l-size replica of the Sword of Loto (or Sword of Erdrick in Dragon War­rior) made out of soft vinyl. It was sold as a do-it-y­our­self kit, but you can still occa­sion­ally find the ful­ly-assem­bled item for sale. All this just goes to show that the garage kit indus­try was still in its infan­cy… Any­way, Enix actu­ally ended up using one of our model swords in a TV adver­tise­ment for . Expand­ing on that con­cept was the “Dragon Quest Fan­ta­sia Video”185, a live-ac­tion spe­cial effects film depict­ing sev­eral famous scenes from the Dragon Quest series. The projects also included a musi­cal clip fea­tur­ing a full orches­tra.

The video was pro­duced by GAINAX, with Takami Akai han­dling direc­to­r­ial duties. Gen­eral Prod­ucts was in charge of the cast’s equip­ment, and the bulk of the film­ing was done on sets con­structed at in . I was under the impres­sion that since I was a pro­ducer I’d be able to sit around all high and mighty, but that’s not quite how it turned out. Maybe it had some­thing to do with my past expe­ri­ence on sets, or maybe I just could­n’t leave well enough alone, but some­how I ended up becom­ing an assis­tant direc­tor. Not the assis­tant direc­tor, mind you, but the third assis­tant direc­tor. A gopher, in other words.

I sup­pose it was a lit­tle awk­ward to have a pro­ducer also act­ing as an assis­tant direc­tor, but for some rea­son, I decided to involve myself with the spe­cial effects as well. Back when we were still pro­duc­ing our own inde­pen­dent films, I had never super­vised that par­tic­u­lar ele­ment, but some­how, I was able to swing it on Dragon Quest. I learned a lot from a fel­low named Onoue186, our key sup­plier of mate­ri­als on set. He’s still in the spe­cial effects busi­ness, work­ing on sev­eral cut­ting-edge pro­jects.

We also had a life-size (or close to it) model of the Dragon King’s head. It had been made by Fuyuki Shi­nada, who gained noto­ri­ety for his design work on the Godzilla films. One day, Shi­nada was star­ing intently at a three­-foot long model tank sit­ting in a cor­ner at Nikkatsu Stu­dio. Final­ly, he turned and said, “This is the #61 from , isn’t it? I won­der if they’d get angry if I took it…” He seemed half-se­ri­ous about tak­ing the thing home with him, but he gave up after it proved to be too heavy.

Inci­den­tal­ly, the head por­tion of the Dragon King had been cut and sculpted from a kind of board called kapok. It’s often used in spe­cial effects, but can dou­ble as a com­fort­able bed on late nights at the stu­dio. Those big blocks of foam were just the right size. If they had­n’t been cut yet, we’d sleep on top of them, and if they had been cut, we’d nes­tle inside the hol­lowed-out area. The larger props were made some­where in the stu­dio in Cho­fu, while the small ones were actu­ally man­u­fac­tured in my Kichi­joji apart­ment (where sev­eral for­mer DAICON staff mem­bers who went pro spent many night­s). Work on the film pretty much went on from the wee hours of the morn­ing until very late at night. Dirty, scruffy-look­ing men were going in and out of my place all night long, and when we opened the win­dows in the morn­ing, the smell of thin­ner (which we used with adhe­sives) was over­pow­er­ing. The neigh­bors started to com­plain, and I was even­tu­ally evict­ed. Luck­i­ly, this occurred after pro­duc­tion on the film was com­plete.

The film’s debut was held at the in Mai­hama. It played to the accom­pa­ni­ment of a full orches­tra, con­ducted by Koichi Sugiyama187. For me, it’s amaz­ing that this entire project began with a sim­ple inter­est in garage kits! But this is exactly how our busi­ness devel­oped and expand­ed.

Komatsu Sakyo Anime Gekijo

[pg 127-128]

It was around this time that GAINAX pro­duced a rather unique work called Komatsu Sakyo Anime Gek­ijo (lit. “Sakyo Komat­su’s Anime The­ater”)188. This anime adap­ta­tion of Mr. Komat­su’s short­-short novel­las was financed by Bandai, and aired as a daily TV series. Yam­aga was put in charge of the script, and we asked manga artist 189 to pro­vide the char­ac­ter designs. The series was released for sale and rental, but sur­pris­ing­ly, it never caught on, remain­ing a sort of “phan­tom project” in GAINAX’s body of work.

The orig­i­nal plan was to make Shinchi Hoshi Gek­ijo, as Hoshi’s name was prac­ti­cally syn­ony­mous with the short­-short. We pre­sented the idea to Mr. Hoshi190 at a hotel in Gin­za, directly after he met with his pub­lish­er. We asked him to con­sider an anime ver­sion of his works, but he imme­di­ately responded with a flat-out “No.”

“I’ll be per­fectly hon­est with you”, he said. “I don’t want any­one else touch­ing my work—at least not while I’m alive. Wait until I’m dead. I won’t offer any com­plaints then.” So much for nego­ti­a­tions.

We were left search­ing for some­one to turn to, and after giv­ing it some thought, we decided that Sakyo Komatsu would be our next best bet. When we approached him with­out idea, we told him what had hap­pened with Hoshi, to which he replied, “Yeah, that sounds like him.” And just like that, he accepted our offer.

Inci­den­tal­ly, even though Mr. Hoshi passed away sev­eral years ago, we still haven’t worked up the courage to tell his fam­ily about the promise he made…

Gamemaker GAINAX

[pg 128-129]

Even with an under­tak­ing like Dragon Quest to keep us busy, we still decided to move ahead with our pro­duc­tion of Gun­buster. Vol­ume 2 sales were impres­sive, so it was only log­i­cal that we con­tinue with Vol­ume 3. If it had­n’t sold as we’d hoped, it was pos­si­ble the last vol­ume would have just been can­celed. But things were going well for us, and GAINAX was on the brink of a major turn­ing point.

I had been admit­ted to Kichi­joji Hos­pi­tal after injur­ing my knee on a ski­ing vaca­tion191. Akai came to visit me while I was recu­per­at­ing, and it was dur­ing one of our con­ver­sa­tions that he sug­gested we make our own PC game. He had bought a com­puter back when we were still in Osaka, and he’d been a gamer ever since. He played all sorts of games, but felt that most were unin­spired both in terms of graph­ics and over­all pro­duc­tion. Akai believed that with the know-how GAINAX had already accu­mu­lat­ed, we would be able to score it big in the gam­ing indus­try. Hav­ing no objec­tions, I went along with his plan.

Our first PC game, Den­nou Gakuen (“Cyber School”)192, was a hit. Aside from the pro­gram­ming and music, Akai did every­thing him­self, so we already had the advan­tage of low pro­duc­tion costs. And just as he’d pre­dict­ed, the enhanced graph­ics of our game made a big impres­sion on the mar­ket.

We used pretty much the same setup for sub­se­quent titles. Char­ac­ter designs were com­mis­sioned from var­i­ous ani­ma­tors and manga artists whom we had pre­vi­ously dealt with, either through GAINAX or Gen­eral Prod­ucts. Our third PC title used char­ac­ters from Gun­buster.

In this way, apply­ing the exper­tise we’d acquired through anime pro­duc­tion, GAINAX also came to spe­cial­ize in game-mak­ing. Grad­u­al­ly, the num­ber of staff mem­bers work­ing solely on PC games began to increase.

Fol­low­ing his work on the game ver­sion of Media Work’s Silent Mobius193, Akai would pro­duce his mas­ter­piece—the “nur­tur­ing sim­u­la­tion” game Princess Maker194195. This title actu­ally spun off an entirely new genre of games, wherein the play takes the role of par­ent and makes deci­sions that affect the behav­ior and fate of his or her fos­ter child. Princess Maker had a huge impact on the PC game mar­ket, which by this time had reached a plateau and was in dire need of a new hit. Princess Maker was also a major source of income for GAINAX, which, fol­low­ing com­ple­tion of Gun­buster, had no new projects in the works.

Fushigi no Umi no Nadia

[pg 130-132]

I guess you could say it was Nadia196 that gave GAINAX its name recog­ni­tion in main­stream Japan—up until then, only hard­core fans knew the com­pa­ny. This marked a seri­ous turn­ing point for us.

Mean­while, ten­sions had peaked within the com­pa­ny. Things had turned sour between Okada and Inoue as they fought for com­pany lead­er­ship. But the ensu­ing power strug­gle came to an abrupt halt when Okada invited none other than Sawa­mura to head up GAINAX.

We were all taken by sur­prise. Shocked, even. I mean, this was Sawa­mura. When it came to run­ning Gen­eral Prod­ucts, he and I could­n’t have dis­agreed more. Maybe Okada did­n’t feel like he could talk to me about it first. I don’t know. At any rate, there were those in GAINAX who saw this as a move on Okada’s part to try and con­sol­i­date pow­er, but the truth is, he really strug­gled with his deci­sion. He appar­ently con­sulted Yam­aga and Akai about how to resolve the sit­u­a­tion, at which point some­body brought up Sawa­mu­ra’s name. “If he isn’t doing any­thing right now, maybe he would­n’t mind com­ing and giv­ing us a hand”, or some­thing to that effect, and the wheels were set in motion.

Else­where, Inoue was fly­ing solo and busily advanc­ing his own pro­jects. 197 had been invited to join a pitch at NHK for a new tele­vi­sion pro­gram, and they in turn had requested set­tings and spe­cific char­ac­ter designs (which, inci­den­tal­ly, were based on a pro­posal already sub­mit­ted to NHK).

Of course, I think that TAC had actu­ally invited GAINAX (hav­ing already pro­duced Gun­buster) to assist with the pitch, and not just Inoue. It seems, how­ev­er, that Inoue viewed this as an oppor­tu­nity to strike off on his own. He decided to bypass Okada, whom he no longer con­sid­ered trust­wor­thy, and had Sadamoto and Maeda secretly work on the set­tings, char­ac­ter designs, sto­ry­boards and so forth.

It goes with­out say­ing that all this even­tu­ally came to light, but the pitch had already con­clud­ed, and NHK had decided to go with the idea that Inoue had pre­sent­ed. That idea was Nadia, and pre­lim­i­nary cal­cu­la­tions showed that the bud­get for the project would drive GAINAX well into the red.

Okada, Sawa­mura and myself attended the Nadia pro­duc­tion meet­ing at NHK. In no uncer­tain terms, we demanded that either Inoue step down from the project or GAINAX would with­draw. Think­ing back, it was­n’t the smartest move we ever made. There was a pro­ducer from Toho in atten­dance, and I would­n’t be sur­prised if he bears a grudge against us to this day.

They had already filled the direc­tor’s posi­tion, but he said some­thing like “This isn’t at all what we talked about in our first meet­ing”, and promptly dropped out of the project198. Anno would later be cho­sen as his replace­ment, and the rest of the staff—as well as NHK and Toho—sided with GAINAX rather than Inoue. In one fell swoop, Inoue had both left the project and quit his posi­tion at GAINAX.

The whole thing was just han­dled so reck­less­ly. I think the entire mess could have been avoided had there been more com­mu­ni­ca­tion between Okada and Inoue.

In any event, GAINAX was brought on to pro­duce Nadia, and was left fac­ing an impos­si­bly large bud­get. All said and done, the com­pany ended up some 80 mil­lion yen in the red, and was denied any of the rights asso­ci­ated with the pro­ject. In this sense, Nadia both is and isn’t a “GAINAX” pro­duc­tion.

Some years lat­er, Dis­ney would that fans in both Amer­ica and Japan would claim was prac­ti­cally a car­bon copy of Nadia. Sev­eral peo­ple asked us if we planned to sue, but the only response we could give was, “Please take this up with NHK and Toho.”199

Numer­ous sto­ries have already sur­faced about the var­i­ous mishaps that occurred dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of Nadia, so I’ll refrain from going into them here. Suffice it to say that behind each of these events, sev­eral other events were simul­ta­ne­ously tak­ing place…

We never did acquire any of the rights to the ani­me, but a point was made of let­ting us have the rights to , some­thing for which we are still deeply grate­ful. The PC game, which we pro­duced in-house, went on to set record earn­ings for us.

GAINAX, the anime production company

[pg 132-136]

Even while Nadia was dri­ving GAINAX into debt, it was teach­ing us the ins and outs of anime pro­duc­tion. More­over, it was intro­duc­ing the GAINAX “brand” to audi­ences all across Japan. Of course, it would­n’t be until Evan­ge­lion that we would receive nation­wide recog­ni­tion, but I think Nadia was the first of our projects to have a major impact on anime fans. Nadia took those who had liked our work on Gun­buster and turned them into out­right GAINAX fanat­ics.

Money losses aside, the good thing about pro­duc­ing an anime pro­gram that ran on NHK for an entire year was that it was easy for us to find spon­sors. We actu­ally worked on a num­ber of other anime projects along­side Nadia in an attempt to defray the pro­duc­tion costs, but unfor­tu­nate­ly, things did­n’t go as planned.

Among the projects we worked on were Naki no Ryu200, 201, Mod­ena no Ken202, 203, and 204. Of the­se, only Otaku no Video was orig­i­nal205. For a time, we had more than enough to keep our­selves busy. Unlike other pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies, how­ev­er, we weren’t receiv­ing these pro­jects, fronting all the costs our­selves and then reap­ing the profits.206 In fact, some of these com­pa­nies would pool just enough money to pay for the pro­pos­al, and then farm out the bulk of the actual anime over­seas. Oddly enough, some of these shady pro­duc­ers remain active in the busi­ness even now. While vet­er­ans of the indus­try would not be so eas­ily fooled, the sim­ple phrase “Anime sure looks profitable right now…” is enough to deceive any num­ber of clients new to ani­me.

Recent­ly, a cer­tain prospec­tive has sur­faced that claims to have sev­eral of the anime indus­try’s big-name staffers attached to it. Seri­ous­ly, the amount of tal­ent listed is enough to make you think, With a staff like that, this would be one amaz­ing pro­ject! But of course, the whole thing is a put-on, a kind of bait meant to lure oth­ers in.207

To stray off-topic for a moment, fol­low­ing the suc­cess of Evan­ge­lion, many of the con­ver­sa­tions that took place at anime pro­duc­tion meet­ings went some­thing like this:

“So, what kind of project is this exact­ly?”

“The story is a lot like Evan­ge­lion.”

“Real­ly? Sound great. The thing is, the story can’t end like Evan­ge­lion.”

“Oh sure, of course. The end­ing is a lot differ­ent.”

“Well, we look for­ward to see­ing it.”

It’s true. On sev­eral occa­sions, I per­son­ally had peo­ple ask me, “It’s like Evan­ge­lion, except for the end­ing. What do you think—­could GAINAX do some­thing like this?”

Things are a lot bet­ter now, but at that time GAINAX was still quite weak in terms of its admin­is­tra­tion, which meant that projects tended to hit more than a few snags. While Money Wars was being made, for exam­ple, the defi­cien­cies in our admin­is­tra­tion became painfully clear when the com­pany we hired to pick up the slack was unable to com­plete pro­duc­tion. For a while there, it looked like we were going to go bank­rupt. Our spon­sor was­n’t going to just turn the other cheek with an excuse like, “They took the money and ran!” so we were forced to do the work our­selves. When Money Wars was first screened, how­ev­er, our spon­sor turned to us and said, “I don’t care what you guys have been through—there’s no way we’re going to set­tle for that.” So we went back and worked on it a sec­ond time, and a third time, before it was begrudg­ingly accepted with some­thing like, “Fine. I guess this is as good as it’s going to get.”

By com­par­ison, Hono no Tenko­sei, Naki no Ryu and Otaku no Video all turned out well. We also ended up learn­ing some­thing, based in no small part on the degree to which the staff mem­bers devoted them­selves to their job­s—we learned that we were unable to take on projects for which the sole aim was profit. There had to be more to it than that. Take Hono no Tenko­sei, for exam­ple. It was based on the work by Shi­mamoto208, who was so involved in the project that he even over­saw the show’s open­ing theme.

The truth is, it did­n’t mat­ter where we sub­con­tracted our work. If we could­n’t over­see all phases of a pro­ject, we had no busi­ness being a pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny. But there would be some harsh lessons to learn before this sim­ple truth was finally dri­ven home.

We were still stuck in a period of suc­ces­sive losses when the call came to work on the 209 (mo­tion pic­ture).

Group TAC had already been sub­con­tracted by Toho to pro­duce the film, so GAINAX’s posi­tion was some­thing like sub­-sub­con­trac­tor. That being said, GAINAX still con­tributed many ele­ments to the film, such as the sto­ry, the char­ac­ters and so on. TAC had, as usu­al, secured a healthy bud­get for the pro­ject. I think their impe­tus for send­ing Nadia our way was to help us recoup the losses we incurred dur­ing pro­duc­tion of the tele­vi­sion series.

There was, how­ev­er, one stick­ing point—Anno stated that he would not be involved with the pro­ject. Work­ing as direc­tor on the orig­i­nal series had burned him out on all things Nadia. Luck­i­ly, a con­ver­sa­tion with Okada and Mr. Tashiro210 from TAC changed his mind, and he agreed to come on board.

We came up with the basic plot, and Sadamoto designed some new char­ac­ters, but at the actual pro­duc­tion phase, things just weren’t hap­pen­ing. Sawa­mura vol­un­teered to step in and take over the pro­ject, but it was no good. Things con­tin­ued to wors­en, until finally we had to just apol­o­gize and tell them we could­n’t do it. We had already received a 50 mil­lion yen advance, how­ev­er, so of course TAC’s first ques­tion to us was, “What about the mon­ey?” Our respon­se:

“We’re sor­ry, but we don’t have it. We’ve already spent it all. Please for­give us.” And that was how we bailed out of the pro­ject. Our over­all losses were in the neigh­bor­hood of 80 mil­lion yen, but thanks to the 50 mil­lion we received as advance pay­ment, our actual total losses on Nadia were 30 mil­lion. Inci­den­tal­ly, TAC went on to com­plete the project rel­a­tively quickly and on a small bud­get.

Lat­er, we would end up scor­ing a major coup with Evan­ge­lion, and return all 50 mil­lion yen to TAC. So it’s not as if we held on to their money indefi­nite­ly—it’s more like we bor­rowed it until Evan­ge­lion came along. Luck­i­ly, they were will­ing to over­look the cost of Sadamo­to’s char­ac­ter designs and the edit­ing of all that tele­vi­sion footage. We gladly pock­eted the sav­ings and returned them the rest.

Olympia—the phantom project

[pg 136-138]

It was around this time that Okada sug­gested we pull out of anime alto­geth­er.

None of our ani­mated titles were turn­ing a profit—w­eren’t even accept­ing any new pro­jects. Our in-house ani­ma­tors were kept on, but found them­selves with noth­ing to do.

Okada was the one who had wanted to mimic the prac­tices of other pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies, but our attempts to treat pro­duc­tion in that man­ner con­sis­tently lost mon­ey… and now he was say­ing that we should quit.

You’ve gotta be kid­ding me! I thought to myself. You frick­in’ idiot!

I decided to give Okada a good talk­ing to. I was joined by Akai, who pointed out that GAINAX’s involve­ment in anime was the very thing that gave it its foothold in the gam­ing indus­try. Drop­ping anime in favor of games was pre­cisely the wrong way to go about things. What’s more, we were deter­mined to let Anno have another crack at mak­ing an ani­me.

We all headed to Mat­sumoto to ham­mer out the details of our next pro­ject. The rea­son we chose that locale was that our brain­storm­ing ses­sion would dou­ble as a week­end retreat, and we always did those in Mat­sumo­to. Once there, we all began toss­ing out ideas, and the first major snag we hit was Olympia211.

The sto­ry­boards for the project were included in the very first col­lec­tion of draw­ings we received from Sadamo­to, which meant that the details of this thing had already been thought out to some degree. We came up with some good ideas of our own, but think­ing back on it, the way that we came up with them was a lit­tle odd. We had just started to get a good grasp of the story when some­body piped up, “Okada, you’re not help­ing. Why don’t you sit this one out for a while?” Things started get­ting back on track, but almost imme­di­ate­ly, it was “Anno, now you’re not help­ing. Just hang back for a bit, OK?” Final­ly, it ended up being just Yam­a­ga, Akai and myself bang­ing out the frame­work for the pro­ject. It might have been wrong, but it was the most expe­di­ent way to go about things.

But then we hit a snag, and every­thing came to a screech­ing halt.

I think if the same thing hap­pened now I’d be able to do more, but back then I felt almost help­less, as if I’d been backed into a cor­ner. Final­ly, we all agreed that the project was unsal­vage­able, and the whole idea was scrapped. I feel like it was my fault, that I was inex­pe­ri­enced as a pro­duc­er.

Fol­low­ing this inci­dent, Okada announced that he would be leav­ing GAINAX.

What followed for General Products

[pg 138-142]

To recap, GAINAX’s anime pro­duc­tions con­sis­tently failed to recoup their invest­ments, while soft­ware sales and the profits earned through Won­der Fes­ti­val meant that Gen­eral Prod­ucts was… well, it was so-so.

In either event, it was decided to go where the profits were. More peo­ple were hired on to work at Gen­eral Prod­ucts, and plans for expan­sion were put into place. The first thing we did was set up an edi­to­r­ial depart­ment.

Hiroshi Ueda212, a staff mem­ber from Osaka, used to always say, “Some­day, I’m gonna be a mag­a­zine edi­tor.” And when he elected to make the move to Tokyo, the first pro­posal that came up was a mag­a­zine “filled with noth­ing but Gun­dam man­ga.”

Ueda’s dream of becom­ing an edi­tor was finally ful­filled, due in part to some con­tacts he’d made while work­ing on Hon­neamise. Those con­tacts worked for Bandai, which had been mak­ing for­ays into pub­li­ca­tion with the mag­a­zine B-Club and other such pro­jects. Con­sid­er­ing the pub­li­ca­tion rights involved in mak­ing an all-Gun­dam man­ga, Bandai was the only name that came to mind as a vehi­cle that could get the project off the ground.

The idea was pitched, and a short time later Cyber Comic213 was born.

Dur­ing his time at Gen­eral Prod­ucts, Ueda was uti­lized for his edit­ing skills rather than any ani­me- or garage kit-re­lated pro­jects. And now, as edi­tor for Cyber Comic, he had begun to recruit a small team for his bur­geon­ing depart­ment.

As it turns out, how­ev­er, the edi­to­r­ial frame­work that was set in place was rather lack­ing. Dead­lines for manga artists would be post­poned, yet the edi­tors would still be unable to get to it in a timely fash­ion. The pro­duc­tion process on their end was differ­ent from that of ani­me, but it brought with it the same kind of pit­falls.

With the depart­ment such as it was, books were con­stantly pub­lished behind sched­ule. And given that Bandai had money invested in this ven­ture, it’s safe to say that they were none too pleased with the results. Final­ly, our con­tact (a man­ager of some depart­ment or oth­er) stated that Cyber Comic would be con­tin­u­ing with­out the ser­vices of Gen­eral Prod­ucts.

Nat­u­ral­ly, we could­n’t sit back and do noth­ing. After all, this was the start of an entirely new busi­ness ven­ture for us—we could­n’t bear to be pulled from the project just because our edi­to­r­ial staff had been drag­ging their feet. We did some inter­nal reor­ga­ni­za­tion and went back to Bandai, say­ing basi­cal­ly, “Look, this is how things are now, and this is how we could do the job for you.” Bandai, how­ev­er, was quick to find a replace­ment. Their reply was a sim­ple, “For­get it. It’s over.”

So, we had our idea for a Gun­dam man­ga, and we were able to get it off the ground. It’s just too bad we could­n’t see it all the way through.

On a sim­i­lar note, we had also begun work on ARIEL Comic, an anthol­ogy series in the same vein as Gun­dam that fea­tured a giant, beau­ti­ful fight­ing robot as its pro­tag­o­nist. It was based on the 214 nov­els by sci-fi author 215, we had met through the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion… and it unfor­tu­nately suffered from the same sched­ul­ing prob­lems that had plagued Cyber Comic. The peo­ple on the edi­to­r­ial staff sim­ply weren’t that good at their jobs, and it was­n’t long before they had ceased to do any sort of fol­low-up with the authors. When dead­lines really got tight, the edi­tor would hole up in his house for days and do it all him­self. Even as our tenure on Cyber Comics was at its end, we were going up to Asahi Sono­rama to bow out of ARIEL Comic as well, telling them “Sor­ry, but we can’t do it.” We were, in essence, sug­gest­ing that we shut down our edi­to­r­ial depart­ment alto­geth­er; we just did­n’t have the nec­es­sary skills to keep it run­ning.

The depart­ment con­tin­ued on for another two or three years, but it was a dis­as­ter. Here’s an exam­ple of how much of a dis­as­ter it was—they were hir­ing more peo­ple. They had­n’t even asked us first. They just went out and hired them. Sure, they came back with expla­na­tions like “But we were short­handed”, to which we replied, “If you’re short­hand­ed, the first thing you do is let us know about it. Don’t just go hir­ing peo­ple.” We had to explain this to the depart­ment more than once which made us devel­op… not so much a sense of dis­trust, as a seri­ous doubt in their abil­ity to get the job done.

We spent a lot of time address­ing the sit­u­a­tion, but noth­ing ever pro­duced any results. The edi­to­r­ial staff had taken to lit­er­ally lock­ing them­selves in their apart­ments, and one time we even had to climb in through the win­dows and drag them out to talk. The next day, they would­n’t come out at all. So much time was spent drag­ging ret­i­cent employ­ees out of their houses and into the office that we started refer­ring to it by a spe­cial term: “sal­vaging”.

Those on the edi­to­r­ial side that finally tired of this and quit soon began mak­ing out­ra­geous claims, like “I was the one that launched Cyber Comic”, or “Yeah, I made Den­nou Gakuen.” My sym­pa­thies to employ­ers who hired them based on those claims.

We had recruited quite a few peo­ple to work in our edi­to­r­ial depart­ment, but need­less to say, none of them were par­tic­u­larly good at what they did. They could­n’t even man­age the most basic of func­tions, like sched­ul­ing and meet­ing dead­lines.

In any event, we ended up mak­ing other con­tacts and bring­ing them to work on Cyber Comic. One of these was Ikuto Yamashita216, who would later assist with the design work on Evan­ge­lion. In the end, the edi­to­r­ial depart­ment offered the com­pany noth­ing more than a larger cir­cle of con­tacts.

In stark con­trast to this, our games divi­sion was still turn­ing a profit. Not a huge profit, but it was a steady enough income that we could con­tinue with our hap­haz­ard hir­ing meth­ods.

When all was said and done, the profits from games were not applied to anime pro­duc­tion—rather, they were used to take the com­pany in differ­ent and ever-ex­pand­ing direc­tions. It’s some­thing I look back on with a lin­ger­ing regret.

There was a trend for us to do every­thing pos­si­ble our­selves. We would use a big man­ual type­writer-look­ing thing to write up our own scripts, come up with our own designs and even print out our own proofs.

Of course, this expe­ri­ence was not all bad. GAINAX cur­rently has its own DTP ()217 depart­ment that func­tions quite well, but the skills of its staff were, in a way, forged by the expe­ri­ence of endur­ing all the tri­als of ear­lier, hand­s-on pro­duc­tion. Our approach in build­ing up the depart­ment was hardly the most expe­di­ent, how­ev­er, and it ended up con­sum­ing almost all expend­able funds from both GAINAX and Gen­eral Prod­ucts. But it is not my intent to point fin­gers and say that so-and-so is to blame. I only wish to explain that the way things were run back then was the result of a lack of under­stand­ing regard­ing our sit­u­a­tion.

It was the great­est fail­ure in our attempt to expand the scope of our com­pa­ny.

PC game convention

[pg 142-145]

This isn’t to say that we used all the profits from our PC games to staff the edi­to­r­ial depart­ment. We were also hir­ing pro­gram­mers and graphic artists in an attempt to strength our gam­ing depart­ment. Even I uti­lized my mea­ger con­nec­tions to bring some new peo­ple into the fold. Once our games took off and the Gen­eral Products/GAINAX name became known, we placed an ad and began inter­view­ing peo­ple for posi­tions. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there was a very high ini­tial turn­around, and peo­ple were con­stantly com­ing and going within the depart­ment.

Today, there is a large num­ber of sub­con­tract­ing firms capa­ble of han­dling graph­ics and pro­gram­ming, but back then, that sim­ply was­n’t the case—we had no choice but to hire all these peo­ple to work in-house. Truth be told, we were also dri­ven by our total enthu­si­asm for CG.

Unlike the edi­to­r­ial depart­ment, our gam­ing depart­ment never went bel­ly-up. A major part of its suc­cess was due to Akai and Tamatani—Akai ran the show and Tamatani was his sec­ond-in-com­mand. Tamatani had been around since the Osaka days, work­ing as a staff mem­ber at the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tions, and he had also been to Osaka Uni­ver­sity of Arts. In other words, he actu­ally had the abil­ity to cre­ate things. The gam­ing depart­ment was meant to be a place of cre­ation. Those with the skill or desire to blaze new trails stayed—the other left.

Our ini­tial prod­ucts were mostly “strip quiz” games fea­tur­ing orig­i­nal char­ac­ters and graph­ics by Akai. The response to these was quite good. Lat­er, we com­mis­sioned orig­i­nal art­work from ani­ma­tors and manga artists out­side our com­pa­ny, and devel­oped a game using Gun­buster as its theme. Steadi­ly, the num­ber of games that we were pro­duc­ing began to grow.

The differ­ence between anime and games is that in the case of the lat­ter, almost every­thing is done in-house, from plan­ning to pro­duc­tion, right up until the game is ready to sell. This isn’t to say we weren’t fre­quently behind sched­ule—we were. It’s just that sched­ule man­age­ment and qual­ity con­trol were a lot eas­ier to han­dle on the gam­ing side of things. And if some­thing missed its release date, any losses incurred tended to be min­i­mal.

Peo­ple had defi­nitely taken to the GAINAX brand of PC games. It’s just unfor­tu­nate that there weren’t many chances for us to come face-to-face with them.

We had all been to the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion before and walked around the area where con­ven­tion-go­ers are wel­comed. Sim­i­lar­ly, at Won­der Fes­ti­val (which we used to pro­mote our garage kit­s), it was very easy to meet and have direct exchanges with our con­sumers. We felt that this kind of inter­ac­tion was extremely impor­tant.

Think­ing back to our own days as con­sumers, we imag­ined that the buy­ers of our prod­ucts were prob­a­bly eager to meet the peo­ple who had made them, and that they were just as eager to meet the peo­ple behind the games as the ani­me. So we took the seem­ingly log­i­cal next step and cre­ated the PC game con­ven­tion.218

Unlike now, the PC game mag­a­zines of the time were still at the height of their enthu­si­asm for the gen­re, and the erot­i­cal­ly-themed “” had­n’t yet entered the main­stream. This com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors meant that a lot of game mak­ers were still doing the leg work to achieve recog­ni­tion, so I thought we might be on to some­thing with the idea of a gam­ing con­ven­tion.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there weren’t that many peo­ple with us any­more who had con­ven­tion expe­ri­ence. A lot of work went into get­ting things into place, but they just could­n’t rise to the occa­sion. I was extremely dis­sat­is­fied with the event as a whole. Look­ing back (and con­sid­er­ing the lack of expe­ri­enced staffers we had), I think that the very idea of our attempt­ing a PC gam­ing con­ven­tion was an error, and was what led to its unfor­tu­nate result. I got the impres­sion that those peo­ple kind enough to show up were not so much fans of PC games as fans of GAINAX itself.

Actu­al­ly, there were a few good things that came of the con­ven­tion. Vis­i­tors had the chance to meet Robert Wood­head219 in the flesh, as well as speak with some rather famous writ­ers and edi­tors from var­i­ous gam­ing mag­a­zines. It was quite the unusual expe­ri­ence, but I think that peo­ple came away from it feel­ing rel­a­tively sat­is­fied.

In any event, based on vis­i­tor reac­tions and our own feel­ings about the event, GAINAX’s PC game con­ven­tion was the first and last of its kind.


[pg 145-146]

In Novem­ber of 1990, I mar­ried.

Mean­while, though pro­duc­tion costs were dri­ving both Gen­eral Prod­ucts and GAINAX squarely into the red, we were still hard at work on Nadia, which was air­ing all over Japan. Our PC game Silent Mobius was being crit­i­cized by ven­dors (in that games based on manga just don’t sel­l), but despite that, it went on to sell like gang­busters.

Per­son­al­ly, I felt that the future of the com­pany was start­ing to look pretty good. Cou­ple that with the fact that I had been dat­ing Hiroe Suga for some 10 years (which is not to say that it had­n’t been with­out its ups and down­s—our rela­tion­ship had been punc­tu­ated by my peri­ods of lethar­gy, yet we some­how man­aged to rec­on­cile), I decided that it was high time I set­tle down and get mar­ried.

Hiroe had become a pub­lished sci-fi author, and things on my end were look­ing up both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­al­ly.


[pg 146-147]

Both GAINAX and Gen­eral Prod­ucts looked like they were on the rebound, and it was decided that we would try and expand into the Amer­i­can mar­ket.

Japan­ese anime had­n’t yet entered the Amer­i­can main­stream as it has now, but our desire to give it a shot was­n’t so much a desire to blaze new trails as it was a kind of hunch. Our think­ing was, It does­n’t mat­ter where these guys are—the needs of otaku are the same the world over.

To us, it did­n’t mat­ter if it was via garage kits or ani­me, we just wanted to start get­ting our prod­ucts over­seas. Hot on the heels of that thought was, We’re going to need another base of oper­a­tions, which entailed set­ting up a sub­sidiary com­pa­ny. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, we could­n’t find the right peo­ple for the job. I was at an absolute loss for ideas.

Sawa­mu­ra, on the other hand, was still run­ning around with guns blaz­ing. He vol­un­teered him­self to go to Amer­i­ca, reg­is­ter­ing our sub­sidiary in Texas because of the favor­able tax breaks avail­able there. He also wasted no time in recruit­ing some of the locals for his staff. I could­n’t really put my fin­ger on it, but some­thing seemed off about Sawa­mu­ra’s behav­ior.

Our plan was for GAINAX USA to estab­lish a mail-order ser­vice for not just our toys and garage kits, but our entire line of ani­me-re­lated goods, and to ship them to every state in the U.S.

Con­cur­rent with our prepa­ra­tions to open our State­side store was the deci­sion to host an ani­me-style event right there in Amer­i­ca. This first ful­l-fledged anime event in the States was dubbed [The con­ven­tion for Japan­ese anime was held in in 1991. It was orga­nized by GAINAX, but the man­age­ment was car­ried out by local vol­un­teer­s.][I do not under­stand Japan­ese so I can­not be sure, but there seems to be a YouTube video of a short video of the trip, DAICONFILM - 快傑のーてんき in USA. –Ed­i­tor], and manga authors and anime artists alike flew in from Japan to attend as spe­cial guests. We pre­pared a wealth of anime (on both film and video), and screened them non-stop, 24 hours a day.

The event was a suc­cess, and a lot of peo­ple showed up. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, many of the staff mem­bers did­n’t really care about the con­ven­tion. Peo­ple from all strata of the com­pany went over to Amer­ica to help out, but—amount of peo­ple we had on staff notwith­stand­ing—they did­n’t turn out to be par­tic­u­larly use­ful. The whole thing turned out to be a kind of train­ing ses­sion-cum-o­ver­seas vaca­tion. Of course, there were sev­eral Amer­i­cans on the staff as well, and it was thanks to their dili­gence that the event went as smoothly as it did. Behind the scenes of Ani­me­con’s suc­cess, how­ev­er, was the fact that GAINAX USA was not doing well at all…

The Amer­i­can staff that had been involved with Ani­me­con would later regroup and even host sev­eral ani­me-themed con­ven­tions across Amer­i­ca, some­thing which made me very happy indeed.

The end of General Products

[pg 148-150]

It was around New Year’s of 1992 that I announced that this year’s Won­der Fes­ti­val would be the last.

The announce­ment came so sud­denly that the peo­ple in atten­dance were com­pletely shocked, but the news was an even big­ger sur­prise to the staff. Truth be told, it was some­thing of a shock to myself as well.

It seems that the impe­tus behind our pulling out of Won­der Fes­ti­val was Akai him­self.

“How long are we going to keep sell­ing prop­er­ties based on other peo­ple’s char­ac­ters?” his argu­ment went. “We’re sup­posed to be a com­pany that devel­ops its own prop­er­ties, are we not?” And he had Okada’s back­ing.

The day of the announce­ment, Okada and Akai both came down to the con­ven­tion grounds, That’s strange, I thought. After all, I was the one giv­ing out the orders and ensur­ing that prepa­ra­tions were run­ning smooth­ly. The two of them called me aside, say­ing they had some­thing to tell me. They made their case, spout­ing off a list of rea­sons, and then ended with, “So yeah, we want to pull out of Won­der Fes­ti­val. What do you think?”

Huh‽ I thought, but their argu­ment made sense. There was really noth­ing I could say in response. I’d already made up my mind—I agreed with them. I mean, we could­n’t very well go on sub­sist­ing on the intel­lec­tual prop­er­ties of oth­ers indefi­nite­ly. Sales on our own Gen­eral Prod­ucts garage kits were hurt­ing. Kaiy­odo and other man­u­fac­tur­ers had hopped board the bur­geon­ing garage kit trend, but we just could­n’t put out the kind of mer­chan­dise that would give us the break we need­ed. What’s more, we weren’t even run­ning the retail shop any­more—we’d decided to close it until all con­struc­tion was com­plete.

Even now, I can’t recall my exact thoughts on the mat­ter. Why was I so quick to agree? Maybe I was burnt out. Maybe I was tired of ped­dling garage kits that never pro­duced a break­out hit. Even so, the rev­enue that the Won­der Fes­ti­vals pro­vided was noth­ing to sneeze at, and I would later regret the deci­sion to pull out. As time passed and things within the com­pany sta­bi­lized, I thought it would be kind of nice to start devel­op­ing a line of garage kits and pro­mo­tional goods again—and in fact, GAINAX-NET now offers mod­els for sale.

At any rate, the announce­ment that this would be our last Won­der Fes­ti­val went out that noon across the entire build­ing. The news was most defi­nitely unex­pect­ed—even I had no idea that, just a few hours ear­lier, Akai and Okada had been con­tem­plat­ing such a thing. Every­one in atten­dance was stunned.

That same day, we had a meet­ing to dis­cuss hand­ing the reins over to Kaiy­o­do. We would allow them to use the Won­der Fes­ti­val name, and give them the molds to all the garage kits we had man­u­fac­tured. Kaiy­o­do, for their part, would be in some­thing of a bind if the fes­ti­val were to dis­ap­pear alto­geth­er. At the same time, there was some con­cern on their end as to whether they would be able to coor­di­nate an event like this. In terms of hav­ing the nec­es­sary resources to pull it off, though, they were prob­a­bly the only ones capa­ble of tak­ing over for us.

There was a lot of bad blood when Gen­eral Prod­ucts first opened its doors, with insults and insin­u­a­tions on both the Gen­eral Prod­ucts and Kaiy­odo sides. By this time, though, the hatchet had already been well and truly buried. For those ele­ments on our side that remained in Osaka, con­sid­er­ing Kaiy­odo as ene­mies with­out ever really get­ting to know them, the sit­u­a­tion was prob­a­bly some­thing like sib­ling rival­ry. As garage kits grew increas­ingly pop­u­lar, how­ev­er, even those two fac­tions finally called a truce. I think the fact that Miyawaki220 221 (who is some­times called the “young hus­band of Kaiy­odo”) and I are the same age may have had some­thing to do with that.

Right up until the last day of the Won­der Fes­ti­val, it had never entered my mind that we would quit doing them; I had already reserved the loca­tion for the upcom­ing sum­mer. As a staff mem­ber, how­ev­er, my main oblig­a­tion was to help the Fes­ti­val in any way I could. I turned the reser­va­tion over to Kaiy­o­do.

To look on the pos­i­tive side, Gen­eral Prod­ucts prob­a­bly did­n’t have the means to con­tinue mak­ing garage kits any­way. Quit­ting both won­der Fes­ti­val and garage kit-mak­ing alto­gether meant that the com­pany no longer had a rea­son to con­tinue oper­at­ing. As such, it was decided to incor­po­rate what remained with GAINAX. I sup­pose you could say that by this point, Gen­eral Prod­ucts’ use­ful­ness had dwin­dled.

Okada leaves the company

[pg 150-153]

The dis­so­lu­tion of Gen­eral Prod­ucts had hardly drained me of my deter­mi­na­tion. On the con­trary—now that it had com­pletely merged with GAINAX, I was busily putting plans in motion and work­ing toward the future.

On the other hand, fol­low­ing our abortive attempt to get our orig­i­nal anime Olympia ready for pro­duc­tion, Okada had­n’t done a sin­gle bit of work. It looked like he was doing a lot of talk­ing with Yam­aga about pos­si­ble future pro­jects, and noth­ing more.

What’s more, since read­ing a book in the Bessatsu Takara­jima series about re-in­vent­ing your­self, he had begun speak­ing with an affected Tokyo accent, pick­ing up girls and tak­ing them to dis­cos, and act­ing in a wholly unchar­ac­ter­is­tic man­ner. Well, putting aside my own impres­sions from the moment, a very real prob­lem was devel­op­ing here, in that Okada had taken to spout­ing off all kinds of whim­si­cal ideas but not actu­ally doing any­thing to real­ize them. In fact, as I men­tioned pre­vi­ous­ly, he was­n’t doing any work at all.

One day, I finally said to him, “We’re cut­ting your salary. Some­one who does so lit­tle around here has no busi­ness mak­ing this much.” It was actu­ally Sawa­mura who orig­i­nally gave the order—it was my job to relay the mes­sage. At first, Okada protest­ed, but in the end he gave in.

Now, cut­ting his salary is fine and all, but in my opin­ion, it’s strange that he should even be retained on the pay­roll. My thoughts at the time were, Okada should just quit. Here is my rea­son­ing: Okada is the com­pany pres­i­dent. He’s the face that we present to the pub­lic. If our own pres­i­dent is doing any work, it would only be a mat­ter of time before peo­ple—both inside the com­pany and out­—be­gan keep­ing him at arm’s length.

Which is why I ended up going to him again and stat­ing point-blank, “You should quit.” He refused. “You need to quit”, I coun­tered. “Well, I’m not going to”, came his reply. We went round like this, over and over again, I don’t know how many times. Then he started to waver.

“Alright, I’ll quit.”

“Wait, I can’t quit.”

And final­ly: “Tell you what—let me make one more game. Then I’ll quit.” By that point, I’d had enough.

“If you just can’t find it in your­self to quit”, I said, “then I’ll quit. Who’s it going to be, then? You or me?”

It’s not like I had any other busi­ness prospects lined up. But I’d made up my mind, and was ready to let the chips fall where they may. Of course, I was still in debt and had a car loan hang­ing over my head­—if I quit, it would­n’t be long before I was out wan­der­ing the streets. I was aware of all this, but at the same time I had to stand my ground. I knew that if Okada remained, I would­n’t even want to stay at GAINAX.

In the end, Okada gave in. He agreed to leave the com­pa­ny.

Until then, Okada had not been regarded very fondly by his co-work­ers. Some time ear­lier, there had been a meet­ing to dis­cuss what direc­tion the com­pany should take in the future. Okada had come wan­der­ing in and announced some­thing to the effect that he had no inten­tion of quit­ting. At this, Yam­aga stood sud­denly and glared at me angri­ly. He said some things like “This is a seri­ous dis­cus­sion. What did you invite him for?” and “I can’t even talk with him in the same room” and stormed out. I’d say Okada found him­self in a pretty rough spot that day.

What I did­n’t know was that fol­low­ing this meet­ing, Okada had talked things over with his wife, Kazu­mi. He’d decided that he could­n’t hold on to his posi­tion indefi­nite­ly, and that at some point he would have to leave the com­pa­ny.

In his book and at var­i­ous other places and times, Okada’s com­ment on his depar­ture has been some­thing like “I sim­ply ran out of things to do at GAINAX. For this rea­son, I decided it was time for me to step down.” But Okada, isn’t it true that you quit because, espe­cially after every­thing that hap­pened, you could­n’t (as you your­self men­tioned) hang on to your post forever?

Our plan was for GAINAX to focus on cre­at­ing new and bet­ter ani­me—and per­son­ally speak­ing, the relent­lessly vocal Okada was a hin­drance to that plan. He would go on and on about the details of each pro­ject, and believe that what he had to say was hav­ing an effect on every­one. On me. But truth be told, he just made things more diffi­cult. It’s one thing to talk a lot if what you’re say­ing is focused on the future and grounded in real­i­ty. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, what Okada had to say by that point was about as unreal as you could get.

Okada’s wife Kazu­mi, how­ev­er, remained with the com­pa­ny. Any prob­lems we had with Okada stayed with Okada, and had noth­ing to do with his wife.

As a side note, some shrewd fans have opined that Kazu­mi’s con­tin­ued pres­ence at GAINAX has allowed Okada to retain some mea­sure of influ­ence in its oper­a­tions…

The new GAINAX

[pg 154-155]

Okada’s absence cre­ated an open­ing, and Yam­aga stepped up to join Sawa­mura as GAINAX’s co-pres­i­dent. Fol­low­ing Okada’s depar­ture, Akai had said “Con­sid­er­ing the his­tory of GAINAX’s found­ing, it would be extremely odd if Yam­aga were not named the next co-pres­i­dent.” And this is exactly what hap­pened, with Yam­aga now being held account­able for the com­pany he helped cre­ate.

In actual fact, though, the ones that really ran the show were Sawa­mura and Akai, with Sawa­mura han­dling day-to-day oper­a­tions and Akai hav­ing the final say on all things pro­jec­t-re­lat­ed. Yam­aga had become the new “face” of GAINAX, but lit­tle more. The flip side of this was that, for all his influ­ence, Akai was still regarded as a reg­u­lar employ­ee. We were all aware that this setup was a bit uncon­ven­tion­al, but our method­ol­ogy could never be called “the norm”. To this day, we con­tinue to do our jobs with the same mind­set we had in our stu­dent days, quite removed from the nor­mal soci­etal ways of thought. With Okada gone and Sawa­mura and Akai run­ning things, it was busi­ness as usual in terms of our PC game oper­a­tions. We even began oper­at­ing an online ser­vice called GAINAX-NET222. And all the while, we were back on track devel­op­ing new anime pro­jects. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it appears that Sawa­mura and Akai were start­ing to butt heads with one anoth­er.

I say “appears” because the prob­lem did­n’t man­i­fest itself in pub­lic argu­ments—rather, it was that the two had very differ­ent ideas on how things should be done. At one point, Akai won­dered aloud if he should just quit, but noth­ing ever came of it. Lat­er, when our offices moved to Kichi­jo­ji, the dis­agree­ments between Akai and Sawa­mura became more pro­nounced, and Akai for­mally stated his intent to resign. He has since returned to work for GAINAX, where he is one of the com­pany direc­tors223. I still think it’s a shame we had to part ways in the past, though.

Aoki Uru

[pg 155-158]

One of the new anime projects were con­sid­ered fol­low­ing Okada’s depar­ture was an idea of Yam­a­ga’s called Aoki Uru. This sto­ry, set ten years after the Oritsu Uchugun movie, was to por­tray the con­tin­u­ing saga of the fighter pilots. The project is cur­rently on hia­tus.224 It was devel­oped as a sequel to the the­atri­cal Oritsu Uchugun, but set some 50 years lat­er. The rea­son for this was that with no recur­ring char­ac­ters or sto­ry­lines to deal with, it would be eas­ier for poten­tial investors to under­stand the premise.

As always, we got together for a brain­storm­ing ses­sion, where it was decided that Anno would direct and Yam­aga would pro­duce and pro­vide the script, which had four planned acts. He turned out the first of the acts, while Sadamoto fin­ished up the char­ac­ter designs. The plans for the main mecha were drawn up by Masamune Shi­row and Kazu­taka Miy­atake from Stu­dio Nue.

For me, this was not so much a period of lethargy as it was a time of not hav­ing a clear-cut sense of pur­pose. I did­n’t know how to act, and to tell the truth, Aoki Uru had become some­thing of a bur­den. I lacked moti­va­tion, and the sense of energy I had back when I started doing the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tions was all but gone. I was just doing as I was told. Over­all, I think I found pro­duc­ing Aoki Uru to be more of a chore than any­thing.

The major prob­lem with Uru was that it was designed as a the­atri­cal release, and we were unable to foot all of the pro­duc­tion costs our­selves. If we funded the project in its entirety and it was a hit, then we would reap all of the profit­s—but the sim­ple truth was, we did­n’t have that kind of mon­ey. We were faced with the dilemma of hav­ing to begin work on the pro­ject, but not hav­ing enough funds to see it all the way through. That was when Akai issued his procla­ma­tion.

To me, it was like sud­denly get­ting my march­ing orders. The memo laid down a cer­tain date, and said that if pro­duc­tion on Aoki Uru did­n’t begin in earnest by that date, then Akai would be sev­er­ing all ties with me, pub­lic and pri­vate. I still had­n’t quite found my rhythm yet, but let me tell you, I cer­tainly sprang into action.

It took a lot of effort, but Anno got his staff and the nec­es­sary prepa­ra­tions were made to begin pro­duc­tion. I’m sure I must’ve looked like some ele­men­tary stu­dent who’d barely fin­ished his sum­mer home­work on the very last day of vaca­tion, hold­ing it up to his mother and brag­ging, “There! How ya like me now?” But Akai’s (very adult) reac­tion was to encour­age me by say­ing, “This is where the project really gets under­way. Please keep giv­ing it your all.”

And so, though we lacked the funds nec­es­sary to com­plete it, pro­duc­tion began on Aoki Uru.

It was slow work, but work nonethe­less. Even while we were out try­ing to raise funds for the pro­ject, how­ev­er, we were hav­ing to pay the staff their salaries, which meant that a lot of money was going out, and noth­ing was com­ing in. I decided to go out and find the money myself—in other words, take out a few poor man’s loans. I went to I don’t know how many loan sharks, and ended up secur­ing some 8 mil­lion yen. As a result of bor­row­ing mon­ey, how­ev­er, my day-to-day exis­tence would end up becom­ing rather pathet­ic…

After a while, it became obvi­ous that if we did­n’t meet our bud­get—and soon—pro­duc­tion would be com­ing to a screech­ing halt. But noth­ing seemed to work out right. We would­n’t raise any more cap­i­tal, and the staff just was­n’t mak­ing any progress. Even Anno had lost his moti­va­tion. Anno, myself, and all the rest of the staff had worked so hard on this pro­ject, but we had noth­ing to show for it.

As for myself, I still felt like I was lack­ing a sense of direc­tion. Again, it was the mon­key and the jar—I could­n’t see the thing I held for what it was. Maybe it was a mis­guided sense of pride that had caused this. Maybe I’d thought that I could solve all these prob­lems on my own; or rather, I’d placed too much con­fi­dence in my own abil­i­ties, think­ing that if I just put my mind to it I could do any­thing, no mat­ter how impos­si­ble the task. It’s not at all an uncom­mon phe­nom­e­non, and an easy trap to fall into if a per­son does­n’t truly know them­selves and their lim­i­ta­tions. That sort of mis­guided pride can make a man become less than worth­less.

Gen­eral Prod­ucts had closed shop. We’d pulled out of Won­der Fes­ti­val and garage kit mak­ing alto­geth­er. We weren’t even tak­ing on any sub­con­tract­ing work for anime pro­duc­tion. We did con­tinue to make PC games—Akai had seen to that—but there was­n’t a lot of work tossed our way. With mere pen­nies com­ing in, we were hav­ing a hard enough time just pay­ing every­one’s salaries.

Final­ly, the order came down for us to halt pro­duc­tion on Aoki Uru. We were sim­ply inca­pable of tak­ing the project any fur­ther.


[pg 158-161]

After the Aoki Uru project got put on hold, I began to think about leav­ing the com­pany again. In a sense, I was respon­si­ble for what had become of the pro­jec­t—it was my own worth­less­ness that had brought about its fail­ure. I fig­ured GAINAX would be bet­ter off with­out me.

“Come on, just hang in there another two years”, Sawa­mura told me when I approached him about leav­ing. “I’m work­ing on some things to help us get the com­pany back on track, and I’m sure I’ll be doing and sug­gest­ing some pretty out­ra­geous things. I’m gonna be count­ing on your sup­port, no mat­ter what hap­pens.”

I really had no rea­son to turn him down. Not only that, but I felt a kind of daunt­less courage in his deter­mi­na­tion to rebuild GAINAX. I was ready to roll up my sleeves and do what­ever it took.

All along, I’d been think­ing that I really needed to do some­thing to fix the sit­u­a­tion. Our con­ver­sa­tion came at just the right moment. It’s that mon­key and the jar again—the sec­ond I agreed to say on, all that anx­i­ety just dis­ap­peared. It was like let­ting go of what­ever I’d been hold­ing onto, and sud­denly my hand was free. I no longer had the desire to quit.

Sawa­mu­ra’s first act was to essen­tially press the reset but­ton on the whole com­pa­ny. When Aoki Uru was post­poned, we were dan­ger­ously short of funds. We had enough cash to han­dle the day-to-day costs for the time being, but it was clear that if some­thing did­n’t change, we’d end up run­ning the com­pany into the ground.

Despite the fact that we had no work com­ing in, we still had to make pay­roll. If we did­n’t get rid of all the employ­ees hired dur­ing our expan­sion phase, we could for­get about anime pro­duc­tion—we’d be lucky to say alive.

Some­thing had to be done, but Sawa­mura and I were hardly the most com­pe­tent of man­agers. We just could­n’t fire peo­ple, even if they were a drain on the com­pa­ny. So Sawa­mura called every­one together and made an announce­ment:

“Mak­ing Aoki Uru is a major under­tak­ing for GAINAX… but we sim­ply don’t have enough mon­ey. The project will be put on hold indefi­nite­ly. Fur­ther­more, in the future there may be times when pay­roll checks won’t be paid out due to lack of funds. Any­one who can’t live with that need­n’t come in to work tomor­row. We will pay every­one’s salary up through next mon­th, though. If you want to leave, there’s no need for you to for­mally announce your res­ig­na­tion. But if you do intend to stay, please let us know.”

And that was that. From the very next day, some peo­ple just stopped com­ing in to work, with­out any dis­cus­sion or fuss. I thought it was bril­liant. All those employ­ees we had­n’t been able to cut loose had done the dirty work for us. I imag­ine many of the peo­ple who left that day would have a few choice words to say about the inci­dent if asked, but I was more depressed about it than any­one. I was actu­ally quite shocked at some who chose to quit, peo­ple who’d been with us since the Osaka days. Even employ­ees that were squarely in my camp stopped com­ing in after that day, and some of them I haven’t seen or heard from since. As for the ones who stayed, it did­n’t nec­es­sar­ily make them any more trust­wor­thy, but since they decided to stick by us when we were down, I made up my mind to place my trust in them.

Dur­ing this mass exo­dus, I was liv­ing in a rather nice apart­ment, the one that my wife and I had occu­pied since our wed­ding. After the com­pany shake­up, how­ev­er, my salary shrunk, assum­ing I even received a pay­check at all. It got so bad that I could­n’t keep up with the rent, so I sent my back to Kyoto to live with her par­ents and started bunk­ing in a one-room apart­ment main­tained by the com­pa­ny. We called it “the sleep room”, because that’s all it was. There were three bunk beds packed into 100 square feet of space. The worst thing about it was that some­times guys would go out drink­ing and miss the last train, so they’d come over to the apart­ment to spend the night, bring­ing women in with them!

I had to bor­row against my salary for my liv­ing expens­es, so every sin­gle pay­check was used up before I even got it. Once I paid the loan amount and then the inter­est on the loan, I was broke again, so I’d have to bor­row from my next pay­check just to pay the bills. My life became an end­less cycle of bor­row­ing money I could­n’t pay back.

At some point I moved out of that apart­ment and into a tiny room inside the actual com­pany build­ing. It was maybe 50 square feet, and the inte­rior resem­bled a tool shed. I lived and worked there for close to a year, until it became too mis­er­able to con­tin­ue. I told them I was in dire straits and needed a raise, so they bumped my salary up enough that I was able to rent a lit­tle apart­ment. In a sense, my sit­u­a­tion was about as bad as it could get, but over the next six months or so, I grad­u­ally started to feel a hint of opti­mism. I think what hap­pened is that I finally hit rock bot­tom, and from there, you can only go up.

Before the end of the sec­ond year, I began to acquire a vague sense of my role in the com­pa­ny. I say vague because I still could­n’t point to any­thing in par­tic­u­lar to call my “job”, but I did acquire a firmer sense of my place in the over­all orga­ni­za­tion. After almost two years of walk­ing in the dark, there was a speck of light at the end of the tun­nel.

The com­pany would recov­er. We were still fly­ing below the radar, but things were slowly on the mend.

GAINA Matsuri

[pg 161-162]

Even at rock bot­tom, you still have to work. Fol­low­ing the big com­pany shake­up, Akai sug­gested we have some kind of event, and we were grate­ful for the dis­trac­tion.

After all, events were our roots. They had always come before every turn­ing point in our evo­lu­tion, and we got our start at the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tions, after all. Since we weren’t doing the Won­der Fes­ti­val any­more, I think it was just a way for us to go back and redis­cover our roots. That was the plan for GAINA Mat­suri, or GAINAX Fes­ti­val225.

The event itself was strictly smal­l­-s­cale, with only 200 atten­dees over a sin­gle day and night. We went to the Minakami Hot Springs in Gunma and stayed at the same hotel we used for MiG-Con back in 1988. It was designed to be noth­ing more than a small get-to­gether for GAINAX fans, so it was­n’t a big pro­duc­tion by any means. I think every­one had a good time stay­ing up all night for the fes­tiv­i­ties, though.

We even held a sec­ond GAINAX Fes­ti­val the next year in Itako, Ibaraki, where we screened the first two episodes of Evan­ge­lion three months prior to their air date. The open­ing sequence as well as other ele­ments weren’t quite ready yet, so the screen­ing showed only the raw episodes, but with only 200 peo­ple given the oppor­tu­nity to see the show at such an early stage, I’m sure it was a pre­cious mem­ory for every­one who attend­ed. I remem­ber reac­tions to the early being extremely pos­i­tive. That night was truly “Evan­ge­lion Eve”.

All in all, I was in good spir­its for the sec­ond GAINAX Fes­ti­val, and see­ing the warm reac­tions to the show served to reaffirm my faith in the future of GAINAX.

Evangelion Eve

[pg 162-166]

Sawa­mu­ra’s plan for jump-s­tart­ing GAINAX had worked like a charm, and all the dead­beat employ­ees we could­n’t deal with our­selves were now gone. It seemed like as soon as they left, though, they started mak­ing up sto­ries about how they’d been sin­gle-hand­edly respon­si­ble for GAINAX’s suc­cess­es.

The fun­ni­est story I heard was about an ex-GAINAX employee who tried to pull the wool over Sony’s eyes. Appar­ent­ly, this per­son marched into Sony’s office and announced that he’d man­aged to lure all the peo­ple involved in the Princess Maker project away from GAINAX and formed his own com­pany with them. Sony was right in the mid­dle of devel­op­ing the PlaySta­tion, and had just announced the plat­for­m’s release. It just so hap­pened that GAINAX had been com­mis­sioned to pro­duce Princess Maker 3 for the PlaySta­tion, so when the Sony guy heard about every­one on the Princess Maker team leav­ing GAINAX, he was under­stand­ably shocked.

The guy called us up in a panic and asked what had hap­pened. I reas­sured him that noth­ing had hap­pened. The direc­tion and char­ac­ter designs were all Akai’s work, and he was still with the com­pa­ny. Even Hashimo­to, the one who did the pro­gram­ming, was still with us. I informed the dis­traught Sony man­ager that every­one who had ever had a hand in the game was still securely employed by GAINAX, and he had noth­ing to worry about. He seemed sat­is­fied after that, but what I find amaz­ing is that a com­pany like Sony could be so com­pletely taken in by such a bla­tant lie. I sup­pose it’s because they were just start­ing to enter the game mar­ket, and did­n’t real­ize that the for­mer GAINAX employee had been try­ing to pull a fast one.

Ex-em­ployee trou­bles notwith­stand­ing, GAINAX was finally begin­ning to recov­er. And the Evan­ge­lion project was tak­ing shape.

For Anno, I think Aoki Uru being put on hia­tus was a weight off his shoul­ders. I’m sure he’d been just as anx­ious about it as I was, tor­mented by the thought that as the direc­tor he needed to be doing some­thing to fix things, even though he did­n’t know what to do. But after we put the project on hold and all that pres­sure was gone, I’m sure he felt a lot bet­ter.

Anno knew a guy from named Otsuki226, and as the story goes, the two were out drink­ing one day when Otsuki sug­gested to Anno that they work on a TV anime project togeth­er. Anno agreed on the spot, came back to the office and promptly announced it to every­one. Nobody even bat­ted an eye­lash. We all just accepted it with­out fur­ther thought. I remem­ber think­ing OK, so Anno’s made the deci­sion then, and that was that. No sur­prise, noth­ing out of the ordi­nary.

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on every­thing, I’ve finally real­ized that our strongest asset has always been our abil­ity to make snap deci­sions. We were deci­sive in col­lege, and we were still deci­sive at GAINAX. It was our defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic as a team. No mat­ter what you’re doing, whether it’s a show or an event or what­ev­er, the peo­ple who are able to get things done are the peo­ple who have the strongest drive to take action.

We had no trou­ble start­ing up another project right away. All the out­side staff we hired on for Aoki Uru were now gone, but Anno and the rest of the gang were still there. They went on a retreat to Mat­sumoto in Nagano and before you knew it, they had a project plan all drawn up. Still, it would take over a year to go from project start to broad­cast.

Anno had been run­ning on empty ever since Nadia fin­ished, but Evan­ge­lion seemed to be just the thing to get him up and run­ning again. And once he puts his mind to some­thing, he goes all out. King Records had already secured a times­lot, so once they fin­ished lay­ing down the plot, the only thing left to do was make the show.

One of the key themes in Aoki Uru had been “not run­ning away”. In the sto­ry, the main char­ac­ter is faced with the daunt­ing task of sav­ing the hero­ine, who’s been abduct­ed. He ran away from some­thing in the past, so he decides that this time he will stand his ground. That same theme was car­ried over into Evan­ge­lion, but I think it was some­thing more than just trans­pos­ing one show’s theme onto anoth­er. I really think Anno inher­ited some­thing from Aoki Uru—the deter­mi­na­tion not to run away from prob­lem­s—and what we saw in Evan­ge­lion was maybe just a reflec­tion of those feel­ings.

It was right around this “Evan­ge­lion Eve” period that we decided (at Akai’s sug­ges­tion) to move our facil­i­ties. The build­ing we were in was pretty old, and we’d just dis­cov­ered that a por­tion of it was slated for demo­li­tion because of a munic­i­pal road expan­sion project in the works. Decid­ing to stay in the city of Musashino, we rented a three­-s­tory build­ing and moved every­thing there.

But dis­agree­ments between Akai and Sawa­mura had reached a crit­i­cal point. Pro­duc­tion on Akai’s Princess Maker 3 had already been approved, and he was also sup­posed to be a pro­ducer on Evan­ge­lion. Soon after the move, how­ev­er—right as the anime depart­ment was build­ing seri­ous momen­tum on the Evan­ge­lion pro­jec­t—Akai broke off from GAINAX to form his own com­pa­ny, tak­ing with him con­trol of the Princess Maker 3 pro­duc­tion.

This isn’t to say that Sawa­mura and Akai had some kind of falling out. It was­n’t like that. It’s just that GAINAX had been oper­at­ing with two men at the helm, and that’s one man too many. Each of them wanted to steer the com­pany in a differ­ent direc­tion, and when their differ­ences in opin­ion became too pro­nounced to ignore any­more, Akai left. Some­time after­ward, I asked Akai why he’d been the one to leave instead of Sawa­mu­ra, and he said, “I could see that Sawa­mura was inter­ested in doing a num­ber of things with Yam­a­ga, and con­sid­er­ing the ideas that those two had, I could see myself butting heads with Sawa­mura at some point. After I thought it over, it seemed bet­ter to leave before the fight­ing start­ed.”

Shinseiki Evangelion

[pg 166-167]

I don’t think it’s nec­es­sary to restate what a tremen­dous sen­sa­tion Evan­ge­lion caused when it started air­ing on TV. They called it a social phe­nom­e­non. It sold record num­bers of laserdiscs in Japan, and the DVD is still sell­ing well today.

That’s the Evan­ge­lion every­body knows, but it sure was­n’t smooth sail­ing for us dur­ing the pro­duc­tion phase. When Otsuki brought the pro­posal to a cer­tain unnamed toy com­pa­ny, the guy there told him a robot with a design like that would never sell. He said the legs were too skin­ny, and then pro­ceeded to give Otsuki a lec­ture on the prin­ci­ples of robot design. Otsuki is bit­ter about the inci­dent to this day. In the end, acquired licens­ing rights to the mer­chan­dise, and the other toy com­pany would later license from Sega or work through them to dis­trib­ute Evan­ge­lion mod­els.227

We had a num­ber of other prob­lems as well. Book pub­lish­ers rejected our pro­posal to have Sadamoto do the manga series, on the grounds that he was too passe to be bank­able! Pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies refused to help with the pro­duc­tion of the ani­ma­tion. I per­son­ally felt con­fi­dent that the show would be a hit, although I never imag­ined this amount of suc­cess. But not Anno. He was a true believer right from the get-go. He even promised to buy me a new build­ing from the earn­ings! His faith in the project was unshak­able.

With Evan­ge­lion, GAINAX began sell­ing more games and soft­ware than we ever had since our found­ing, and other com­pa­nies rode the same gravy train with their own Eva-re­lated prod­ucts and pub­li­ca­tions. Any­thing that had “Evan­ge­lion” in the name sold like hot­cakes.

Tax evasion and the birth of my daughter

[pg 167-171]

But we never did get our new build­ing. We were never able to. In May of 1998, GAINAX was audited by the (NTA) of Japan under sus­pi­cion of .

It was about 8:00 in the morn­ing and I was still asleep in my apart­ment when I heard the door­bell ring­ing. I had­n’t got­ten to bed until 5:00 that same morn­ing, so it me it was like being woken up in the mid­dle of the night. When I opened the door I saw two NTA offi­cials stand­ing there, flash­ing their cre­den­tials. I invited them in, and the three of us spent about two hours talk­ing in my room. One of the two kept look­ing around the place for damn­ing evi­dence, but of course there was none. I kept think­ing how differ­ent it was from the girls in Marusa!! (a TV drama about under­cover tax inves­ti­ga­tors that aired in Japan in 2003). Yeah, I sup­pose it would be…

Any­way, the head inves­ti­ga­tor who showed up at the com­pany was even fun­nier. He took one look at all our com­puter and started spout­ing off about how we’d been taken to the clean­ers by the com­puter sales peo­ple. “Look at this! There’s a com­puter on every desk!” he exclaimed. “If they told you that you needed a com­puter for every sin­gle per­son, then you’ve been had. What a crock!” Maybe he really hated com­put­ers, maybe they were get­ting in the way of the inves­ti­ga­tion, or maybe that guy was just really behind the times. Who knows.

When they finally informed us that GAINAX was under inves­ti­ga­tion on sus­pi­cion of tax eva­sion, I was com­pletely stunned. I have to admit, I was aware of the fact that we were doing some shady account­ing, but I had no idea how much money was involved. When they told me the amount, I was flab­ber­gast­ed.

For about a year after that ini­tial raid, I was forced to make almost daily trips to the Tokyo Regional Tax­a­tion Bureau, the Tokyo Met­ro­pol­i­tan Gov­ern­ment Bureau of Tax­a­tion, and the Musashino Munic­i­pal Gov­ern­ment Tax Divi­sion office. We even had our bank accounts frozen, and the guy han­dling our case at the Tokyo metro office informed us that if the com­pany went under, it was­n’t their prob­lem. When we com­plained, it was always the same sto­ry: “You still have mon­ey, don’t you?” or “Once the pres­i­dent of a com­pany gets arrest­ed, the com­pany could go down at any time” and so on. And every time, our accounts would get frozen again.

To be per­fectly blunt, before all this hap­pened I had absolutely no inter­est what­so­ever in the com­pa­ny’s finances. I guess I left it all up to Sawa­mu­ra, but that really was­n’t the whole sto­ry. I think it was my care­less atti­tude about money that really landed us in that mess. I just assumed that some­body would take care of things, and my lack of inter­est fos­tered a dan­ger­ous dis­re­gard for mon­e­tary mat­ters. Now I main­tain direct con­trol over the com­pa­ny’s finances, though my grasp of the whole process is far from per­fect. I’m still grop­ing my way through the brush and bram­ble of account­ing and tax laws, and learn­ing new things all the time—which is pretty amaz­ing when you con­sider how much I used to hate study­ing. But since I had to work hard to fix what had hap­pened, I fig­ured I might as well learn some­thing in the process.

The tax eva­sion itself was all Sawa­mu­ra’s deci­sion, but after every­thing was said and done, I real­ize that the only rea­son he did it was because it was so hard to run the com­pany with no mon­ey. Before Evan­ge­lion, GAINAX had been in per­pet­u­ally dire finan­cial straits. We’d been liv­ing hand to mouth ever since the com­pa­ny’s found­ing, and our account­ing—if you could even call it that—amounted to lit­tle more than col­lect­ing pay­ments and deduct­ing costs, some­thing on the level of run­ning a lemon­ade booth at the state fair. Sawa­mura under­stood our finan­cial sit­u­a­tion bet­ter than any­one, so when Evan­ge­lion took off and the money really started rolling in, he saw it as pos­si­bly our one and only oppor­tu­nity to set some­thing aside for the future. I guess he was vul­ner­a­ble to temp­ta­tion at that point, because no one knew how long the Evan­ge­lion goose would keep lay­ing golden eggs. I don’t think he pur­posely set out with the goal of evad­ing tax­es. It was more that our level of account­ing knowl­edge was­n’t up to the task of deal­ing with rev­enues on such a large scale.

But all in all, I did­n’t suffer too much in the after­math of the tax brouhaha at GAINAX. I did­n’t have any mon­ey, of course, but the rea­son I was­n’t overly focused on it was because my wife and I were expect­ing our first child in July of that same year. With a new baby on the way, I just did­n’t have time to think much about tax prob­lems.

And sure enough, when July rolled around our first daugh­ter was born. We named her Yuki­no. But unfor­tu­nate­ly, she was admit­ted into the infant ICU imme­di­ately after she was born, and later her mother joined her in the hos­pi­tal. For sev­eral months the doc­tors had no idea what the cause of Yuki­no’s phys­i­cal prob­lems were, but I’m sure they did every­thing humanly pos­si­ble to find out, run­ning every sin­gle test they could run on an infant. They even checked her DNA. I was wor­ried sick about my daugh­ter, but I could­n’t leave Tokyo in the mid­dle of the tax audit, so for about six months I was forced to com­mute back and forth to Kyoto, leav­ing every Fri­day night and return­ing the fol­low­ing Mon­day morn­ing.

My wife, of course, had been liv­ing in Kyoto for the entire time that all this was hap­pen­ing. About three months after Yukino was born, she took her to St. Joseph’s Hos­pi­tal in Kyoto on the advice of a nurse who worked for Pub­lic Health. The diag­no­sis they came back with was that Yukino was in dan­ger of devel­op­ing cere­bral pal­sy. The good news was that she would be able to walk and talk and there did­n’t seem to be any trou­ble with her cog­ni­tive func­tions. Her mus­cu­lar devel­op­ment would just be a lit­tle slower than the norm. Even now she’s under­go­ing phys­i­cal ther­apy to keep her phys­i­cally sta­ble.

Those first six months after Yukino was born felt like an entire year to me. Every wak­ing moment was spent wor­ry­ing about her, and even the weekly trips back to Kyoto felt like an eter­ni­ty. My wife and Yam­aga both tell me that I changed after becom­ing a father, and I have to agree that it was one of the major turn­ing points in my life. In fact, my daugh­ter Yukino has prob­a­bly been the one thing to keep me going at GAINAX since the shake­up, and I owe her a lot.

Moving ahead

[pg 171-172]

So, what is GAINAX like today? Our prodi­gal son Akai has returned to the fold, and is cur­rently one of the com­pany direc­tors.228 Yam­aga is pres­i­dent, and I am, as always, the gen­eral man­ag­er. I don’t think that will ever change. Even Anno finally made it to the board of direc­tors after help­ing found the com­pany and work­ing here for 16 years as a film direc­tor.229

Yam­aga is cur­rently cook­ing up a num­ber of inter­est­ing and unusual TV anime pro­jects. He even directed one of them——mark­ing the first time he has sat in the direc­tor’s chair since work­ing on Oritsu Uchugun 14 years ago. Mahoro­matic was very well-re­ceived, and inci­den­tally marked his direc­to­r­ial debut on a tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion.230 Yam­aga is also active in quite a few projects as a direc­tor, scriptwriter, or pro­duc­er, demon­strat­ing his ded­i­ca­tion to the vision of run­ning GAINAX as a cre­ator-cen­tric com­pa­ny. These past sev­eral years have only reaffirmed our belief that GAINAX’s value as a pro­ducer and rep­u­ta­tion as a com­pany stem directly from our cre­ative tal­ent, and cre­at­ing shows is exactly what we plan to keep doing.

It has now been 24 years since my ini­tial joy at dis­cov­er­ing a sci-fi club in col­lege where I could share my pas­sion with fel­low enthu­si­asts. That youth­ful exu­ber­ance is still with me today.

Trial in Absentia! Yasuhiro Takeda—The Truth is in Here!

[pg 176]

Exclu­sive inter­view with Hiroyuki Yam­a­ga, Takami Akai and Hideaki Anno

Takeda is not just the pub­lic face of GAINAX, he’s also the leg­endary fig­ure we know as Kaiketsu Notenki… No! I mean, he’s Direc­tor of Man­age­ment. Phew! Any­way, we’ve always won­dered what it is about this man that draws peo­ple to his side. What is the secret of his almost oth­er­worldly appeal‽ To find out, we con­ducted this closed-door inter­view with Hiroyuki Yam­a­ga, Takami Akai and Hideaki Anno, the three men rumored to know every­thing there is to know about this sem­i­nal fig­ure in the world of sci-fi. Read on!

Initial Encounters

[pg 176-182]

Inter­view­er: Thank you all for com­ing. This inter­view is going to be a part of Mr. Takeda’s upcom­ing book, The Notenki Mem­oirs. The book is going to be writ­ten in the first per­son, so what I’d like to get from you all today are your takes on Mr. Take­da. You three seem to know him the best, and I think that if you can give us your impres­sions of Takeda as a per­son, it will help the read­ers gain fur­ther insight into his char­ac­ter and draw them into the book even more.

Akai: First off, the name “Yasuhiro Takeda” prob­a­bly isn’t going to con­jure up any imag­ines in the minds of most peo­ple—e­spe­cially when you com­pare him to Mr. Okada, and those two are always togeth­er. I mean, they might know who [Takeda] is, but you really don’t hear peo­ple going, “Hey, it’s the Kaiketsu Notenki guy!” which is kind of sur­pris­ing, if you think about it.

Inter­view­er: In the book, Mr. Takeda talks about his first impres­sion of each of you. Would you mind telling me your first impres­sions of him?

Yam­a­ga: Akai, you weren’t there that first time, right?

Akai: That’s right.

Anno: OK. Well, I got a phone call from Mr. N… That’s Tat­suto Nagaya­ma. He has since passed away, but any­way, he called me up and said, “There’s a guy I want you to meet.” It was at a cafe in Kyoto called Solar­is, and Yam­aga and I went out there togeth­er. Takeda was already there, as well as Mr. Sawa­mu­ra. They said that they needed our help in mak­ing an orig­i­nal anime for the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, or some­thing like that.

Yam­a­ga: No, remem­ber? First, they wanted us to come up with a logo for DAICON 3.

Anno: Hey, yeah. That’s right! They wanted us to make the logo. Then they said some­thing about want­ing to make an ani­me…

Akai: Mr. N prob­a­bly told Takeda some­thing like, “Say, I know these guys who can make ani­me—­movies, even! They’re hard work­ers, and they go to film school. I’ll intro­duce you!” Now, I don’t wanna talk bad about the dead or any­thing, but Mr. N was the mas­ter of exag­ger­a­tion.

Anno: Yeah, he really enjoyed singing the praises of oth­ers, huh?

Yam­a­ga: Any­way, I came up with I think five differ­ent ideas for the logo and took them to Takeda to get his opin­ion. I guess that was the first time I really talked to him.

Anno: I remem­ber he kept empha­siz­ing that he wanted to see a Pow­ered Suit in motion. I asked some­one at the cafe for some paper and sketched out some­thing then and there, say­ing “This is how it would move.”

Hiroyuki Yam­aga Born in Niigata in 1962. Pres­i­dent of GAINAX. Directed the the­atri­cal fea­ture Royal Space Force—Wings of Hon­neamise as well as Mahoro­matic and Mag­i­cal Shop­ping Arcade Abenobashi.

Inter­view­er: I’ve heard from some peo­ple that the Pow­ered Suit you drew was run­ning, while oth­ers have said that it was fly­ing…

Akai: It was run­ning, right?

Anno: I think I used four sheets of paper in total… But yeah, I just made it kind of run in place.

Yam­a­ga: You could­n’t have done some­thing too com­pli­cat­ed, could you? I mean, you were draw­ing it right there at the cafe counter. I guess this is a good exam­ple of the “leg­end” get­ting all blown out of pro­por­tion! (laughs)

Anno: Yeah.

Yam­a­ga: Peo­ple seem to think that Anno drew up some awe­somely maneu­ver­able Pow­ered Suit bin, like, two sec­onds or some­thing!

(all laugh)

Inter­view­er: So, the con­ver­sa­tion shifted from you doing the logo to being asked to do the open­ing ani­ma­tion?

Anno: Mmm, some­thing like that. We did­n’t really dis­cuss any of the par­tic­u­lars.

Yam­a­ga: Exact­ly. There was no defi­nite plan at that point. It was more like, they just wanted to meet us first. But when Anno drew up that Pow­ered Suit right in front of them… well, it cer­tainly made for a pow­er­ful first impres­sion.

Anno: It was almost like an inter­view, huh?

Yam­a­ga: If you think about it, the way we do busi­ness now is pretty much the same as it was back then. It’s like, “Yeah, we kind of know what we want, but let’s meet this per­son before we ham­mer out any of the details.” So when­ever we meet with some­one for the first time, it’s more of a “Hey, how are you? type of thing [than an actual busi­ness meet­ing].”

Anno: Yeah.

Inter­view­er: What were your first impres­sions of Takeda and the oth­ers?

Anno: Let’s see… They were almost like, what, a type of peo­ple we’d never dealt with before. The only friend we had that was even com­pa­ra­ble was Mr. N, so we were pretty curi­ous about them.

Yam­a­ga: I guess you could it was­n’t an excit­ing first meet­ing, but it was­n’t alto­gether unin­ter­est­ing, either.

Akai: Okada was the only one who had any spe­cific requests. Takeda would just be there next to him, watch­ing every­thing and going “Waha­ha!”

Yam­a­ga: The way I remem­ber it, Okada joined us much lat­er. I seem to recall Sawa­mura and Takeda tak­ing me to Okada’s place, talk­ing about an ele­va­tor that was in the house or some­thing.

Anno: We’d heard that Okada’s place was like that base in Thun­der­birds… and as it turns out, his place had an ele­va­tor and really did look like that base.

Akai: I think it was around fall, after we’d fin­ished work­ing on DAICON 3, that we started talk­ing about how we should stay on close terms with them… You know, Takeda, Okada, Sawa­mura and the oth­ers. They were an inter­est­ing group of peo­ple, and it’d prob­a­bly be fun to keep work­ing with them. We talked about that, let’s see, at that late-night cafe next to the board­ing house we used to live in.

Inter­view­er: Even hav­ing read his book, I’m not so sure I com­pletely under­stand every­thing that Takeda does while work­ing on a pro­ject. For exam­ple, can any of you tell me what he was doing dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of the open­ing ani­me?

Akai: That’s what we wanna know! (laughs) As far as we can remem­ber, Takeda would come by every now and then, make a lot of noise, do the odd bit of col­or­ing, knock over some paints and brushes and what­not, scratch up the occa­sional cel, and get yelled at by every­one else. That’s about it.

Yam­a­ga: I remem­ber explain­ing to him over and over what kind of event the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion was, and what it was all about. Right up until the day he went there and saw it for him­self, he just could­n’t get it.

Akai: And when we got there, he was already stand­ing in line! We were like, “Hey!” Lat­er, when we were show­ing the movie inside the hall, Takeda cracked some joke onstage. There was this loud rum­ble as one thou­sand peo­ple started crack­ing up. I think that was his first time expe­ri­enc­ing some­thing like that. After that, there was no turn­ing back.

Anno: I always had fun at those con­ven­tions, y’know? I was more into sci-fi back then.

Akai: I’ll tell you what really gave me a shock about being part of that group, though—they’ll look right at you and start talk­ing smack like they’re really enjoy­ing them­selves.

Yam­a­ga: A lot of the talk about Takeda back then was about his girl­friend, Kan-chan. She’s his wife now.

Akai: Yeah, she was the vic­tim of some pretty raunchy humor.

Anno: These days, peo­ple would use the word “sex­ual harass­ment” to describe what used to go on. Of course, back then, we did­n’t even have that word! (laughs)

Akai: Peo­ple would just treat her like one of the guys, even though she was this cute lit­tle teenag­er. I won­der how that got start­ed…

Yam­a­ga: I blame Take­da. (laughs)

Akai: Yeah, that’s what it was. Ol’ Takeda was try­ing to put the moves on her, which amused Okada and the oth­ers to no end. They’d invent new lyrics for songs, putting in all kinds of words you’d have to cen­sor if I said them here. Hmm, all this over a pair of big tits. (laughs)

Yam­a­ga: I remem­ber when she was still in high school, and Takeda would bring her along to one of our hang­outs. Okada would start belt­ing out some off-color song, and Kan-chan would just get mad­der and mad­der. It was a pretty weird sit­u­a­tion… Hey, do you remem­ber when Takeda used to call us all “mis­ter”? It was back when we were work­ing on the open­ing anime for DAICON 3. The sec­ond that con­ven­tion was over, though, “mis­ter” went right out the win­dow and he started call­ing us by our last names! (laughs) I always remem­ber stuff like that.

Akai: The men­tal­ity at the time was like, once you got to know each other well, you had to adhere to an almost famil­ial struc­ture. I used to hate that.

Anno: Yeah. Takeda can be pretty bossy some­times.

Yam­a­ga: He was worse back then!

Anno: Like a politi­cian or some­thing.

Akai: When­ever some­thing bad hap­pened, every­one would always go straight to Takeda and com­plain. Why? It’s not like he can make things bet­ter for them. The flip side of this, though, is that Takeda used to ask me, “How come every­one comes to me with their prob­lems‽” Now it’s like it’s his offi­cial job. (laughs)

Takami Akai. Born in Yon­ago, Tot­tori in 1961. Direc­tor of GAINAX. Tal­ented in a vari­ety of fields, includ­ing illus­tra­tion, ani­me, video games and tokusatsu. Counts Den­nou Gakuen and Princess Maker among his direc­to­r­ial cred­its. Was the char­ac­ter designer for the TV anime (“Crest of the Stars”).

Anno: He used to tell me how he loved being num­ber one, noth­ing can beat num­ber one. When I told him I liked being num­ber two, he got this huge grin and said, “Yeah, that works for me!” (laughs)

Akai: Takeda has this image of being the “boss” of the group, but I think that in a way, Okada and Sawa­mura had a lot to do with that. They both have the desire to moti­vate peo­ple and get them work­ing, but they don’t like to hear com­plaints.

Anno: Yeah, they seemed like they could­n’t care less about fos­ter­ing any kind of coop­er­a­tive atmos­phere. And they really did­n’t like peo­ple com­ing to them with their prob­lems.

Akai: I won­der if they made Takeda their go-be­tween for that kind of stuff…

Anno: If you think about it, they did seem to always keep Takeda out there in the fore­front.

Akai: Hey, yeah! And do you remem­ber how they used to call him “boss” and stuff like that? Next thing you know, the younger staff mem­bers are treat­ing him with all kinds of respect, and then he really was the boss. The way the whole thing went down, I think Takeda’s role was actu­ally rather pas­sive. I think that’s the kind of per­son he is.

Every­one: Aah…

Akai: Hey, I’ve got an idea! Let’s play “Takeda the Punch­ing Bag!” Every­one takes turns beat­ing on the thing, whap whap, and then goes home feel­ing refreshed. The punch­ing bag just sits there and takes it.

Yam­a­ga: Sounds great!

Akai: See, Takeda isn’t the kind of per­son who got where he did out of a burn­ing desire to accom­plish some­thing. I think he is where he is because of… I don’t know. I don’t want to say he’s “slow”, but maybe that’s one way to put it. Slow, but in a good way. See, tech­ni­cally he’s in the same league as Okada and Sawa­mu­ra, but com­pared to those two he’s not so atten­tive. So if some­thing were to crop up, some prob­lem, I doubt he could come up with an appro­pri­ate course of action. But I think that is actu­ally a source of strength, and what has got­ten him to where he is today.

Yam­a­ga: You always know just the right way to say it! Way to go, Akai!

Akai: Uh, I was try­ing to come up with a witty remark, but I could­n’t quite get it to work. I’ve got an idea, though! I’ll get back to you when it’s ready.

(all laugh)

Akai: Takeda is, how can I put this? It’s like his life con­sists of being backed into cor­ner after cor­ner, bit­ing bul­let after bul­let. If a job comes along, peo­ple instantly take the best parts for them­selves and toss Takeda the scraps. But they end up bit­ing off more than they can chew, and Takeda is the one who has to apol­o­gize.

Yam­a­ga: At DAICON 3, the biggest mys­tery in terms of inter­per­sonal rela­tion­ships had to be the Sawamura/Okada con­nec­tion. It’s still a mys­tery.

Anno: Hmm.

Yam­a­ga: Heck, I asked Takeda him­self about it, and even he could­n’t really explain it! It’s prob­a­bly the biggest mys­tery in our whole group. It might even be the key to explain­ing how Takeda got where he is today…

Akai: I guess all we really have is con­jec­ture, but I per­son­ally think they have a kind of love-hate thing going on.

Hideaki Anno Born in Ube, Yam­aguchi pre­fec­ture in 1960. Direc­tor of GAINAX. Directed Shin­seiki Evan­ge­lion (“Neon Gen­e­sis Evan­ge­lion”) and Top of Ner­ae! (“Gun­buster”) and live action films Love & Pop and Shik­i­jitsu. Mar­ried manga artist Moy­oco Anno in March of 2002 and they are sooo in love! ♥

Yam­a­ga: Takeda, Sawa­mura and Okada were always together in those days… but that’s not to say they were oper­at­ing in any cohe­sive fash­ion. Instead of, say, a tri­an­gle, a bet­ter sym­bol of their rela­tion­ship would be one line and a sin­gle, for­lorn dot.

Akai: It’s like Takeda was the cat­a­lyst that allowed Sawa­mura and Okada to func­tion, you know? We’d be in a lot of trou­ble if we got caught talk­ing about Sawa­mura and Okada behind their backs, but if we started talk­ing smack about Takeda, it’d just get laughed off as a joke. (laughs) I sup­pose it was that kind of inter­per­sonal struc­ture that led to Takeda becom­ing a leader for us.

Inter­view­er: Was that your stance from the begin­ning? To treat Takeda in a sim­i­lar fash­ion?

Akai: Hmm. I don’t think Anno is the type of per­son who’d con­cern him­self about how to “han­dle” oth­ers.

Anno: Nah, I really don’t. There’s no need to even think about that out­side of the work­place. Actu­al­ly, I’m not all that sen­si­tive to inter­per­sonal rela­tion­ships in gen­er­al. When it comes to stuff like that, I just kind of nod my head, “Uh-huh, OK.”

Yam­a­ga: Takeda is defi­nitely in a class all his own.

Akai: He’s kind of a genius, real­ly. Even if you could explain in what way he’s a genius, not many peo­ple would get it. If I had to try to sum him up in a sin­gle phrase, it would be “He really can’t do much of any­thing—and that’s what makes him so influ­en­tial.” See, the mean­ing just does­n’t come through. I’m not try­ing to talk bad about him. I’m being sin­cere when I say that inep­ti­tude is its own form of great­ness.

Anno: Absolute­ly. I feel that’s a great advan­tage for him. All things con­sid­ered, I think he’s an incred­i­bly strong per­son.

Akai: Of course, none of us could weather that type of crit­i­cism. Could you imag­ine if some­one called you inept? I imag­ine Takeda him­self would­n’t be too thrilled about it, but he’s big enough to sim­ply shrug it off.

Yam­a­ga: He’s unflap­pable! Unwa­ver­ing in the face of the abil­i­ty, rank or social stand­ing of oth­ers!

Akai: He’s a class act.

Yam­a­ga: Yeah. When it comes to apol­o­giz­ing to oth­ers, he’s sec­ond-to-none!

Akai: Takeda really does­n’t like to be called this, but “rear guard Takeda” and “mop-up man extra­or­di­naire” are two nick­names to describe what he’s all about. When­ever a mem­ber of his staff mis­han­dles some­thing, he rushes to the client and starts wring­ing his hands, exhort­ing “Please accept my sin­cer­est apolo­gies!” He gives these deep, polite bows but the guy’s going com­pletely bald! (laughs) He just keeps on nod­ding his head, but the whole time, he’s really thumb­ing his nose at every­thing and every­one. I tell you, the guy is bril­liant.

Yam­a­ga: Takeda’s really no good at nego­ti­at­ing, but he’s defi­nitely the guy you’d want to take with you to a busi­ness meet­ing. He’s absolutely phe­nom­e­nal at mak­ing new friends. Not me, though. I’m just too dry for my own good.

Akai: Lis­ten­ing to me, I know it sounds like all I’m doing is bad­mouthing Takeda, but I’m really not. That’s not my inten­tion at all. I’m prais­ing him. I’m lit­er­ally singing the man’s prais­es.

Yam­a­ga: And another thing—when I eat with him, every­thing tastes great for some rea­son.

Akai: Yeah, isn’t that strange? None of the restau­rants he’s taken me to have been bad. And it’s not because he has a list of all the great places in town or any­thing. If he tells you “the food here is good” and you sit down at the table with him and start eat­ing, sure enough, the food is good. For some rea­son, it all tastes good. You know what else? He may be sorely lack­ing in what soci­ety deems “tal­ent”, but he’s extremely charis­mat­ic, to the extent that it enables him to run with the “intel­lec­tual elite” such as our­selves. You could put him in a room full of gifted eccentrics and he’d end up being their leader. I don’t know any­one but Takeda who could pull that off.

Yam­a­ga: I think that since becom­ing a par­ent, he’s con­sciously taken on that sort of role. Being picked on (by Akai) dur­ing Aoki Uru (“Blue Uru”) prob­a­bly had a pretty big impact on him. (laughs)

Akai: Hey, he was the one who was all fired up about mak­ing Uru! But though that whole pro­duc­tion, I con­stantly had to push him to fin­ish what he start­ed.

Anno: Back then, his motto [at­trib­uted to ] was “God, grant us hard­ship!” We were all like, “Yeah, I’ll give you hard­ship, alright…”

Akai: Things were pretty tough for all of us on Uru, but he was the least affected of us all. That’s why I think he’s a genius. Any nor­mal Japan­ese per­son would’ve just bailed out on that project alto­geth­er.

Yam­a­ga: The only rea­son I was so rough on Takeda back then was because Akai ordered me to be. And that order is still in effect! (laughs)

Anno: I knew that Takeda had wanted to direct some­thing ever since work­ing on Fushigi no Umi no Nadia (“Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water”), which is why I sug­gested he work on the spe­cial fea­tures for the Nadia box set. He should be able to han­dle it, I thought. It was­n’t a huge pro­ject, and it was the per­fect oppor­tu­nity for him to make his debut as a pro­duc­er. He was very excited when I offered him the pro­ject, but I ended up doing all his work! Takeda would go out and talk busi­ness, but later those same peo­ple he’d been nego­ti­at­ing with would call me with ques­tions! Why‽

Yam­a­ga: He was just there for show, real­ly.

Anno: Yeah. After a while, he was rel­e­gated to a kind of half-assed mes­sen­ger boy. He did­n’t seem to mind.

Akai: All three of us ended up work­ing on it as pro­duc­ers.

Anno: We do tend to mix-and-match pro­duc­ing and direct­ing duties on pro­jects, huh?

Akai: Sawa­mu­ra, Okada and even Takeda would really only move into action when some kind of prob­lem came up. You could­n’t do some­thing like that at another com­pa­ny.

Anno: Some­thing bad hap­pened? Go see Take­da. Got some­thing you don’t want to do? Go see Take­da. That’s just how it goes.

Akai: Hmm, this con­ver­sa­tion just can’t seem to stay on a pos­i­tive note. (laughs)

Yam­a­ga: It’s like, we can’t even talk about the guy with­out it turn­ing into a bad­mouthing ses­sion.

Akai: Well, you know some peo­ple say “Well yes, I talk bad about so-and-so, but never behind his back!” Well, I don’t wanna talk behind his back, so bad­mouthing it is!

(all laugh)

Akai: He’s a lov­able guy. That’s the thing I really like about him.

[Hi­royuki Yam­aga (mid­dle), Takami Akai (left) and Hideaki Anno (right) eat­ing at a restau­rant and dis­cussing Yasuhiro Takeda & Gainax with unnamed inter­view (Ya­suhiro Kamimu­ra?), c 2000? –Ed­i­tor]

Anno: Yeah. There’s no way you can hate a guy like that.

Akai: We like keep­ing him hap­py. And I think it’s encour­ag­ing for him to keep going as our leader.

Yam­a­ga: You can learn a lot about human inter­ac­tion by watch­ing him inter­act with oth­ers. Pay atten­tion to the way every­one relies on him, the way things start to func­tion around him. It’s really fas­ci­nat­ing.

Anno: Takeda is the best per­son to turn to when you need help. He under­stands you. If you say to him, “Please, do some­thing!” it’s like he feels oblig­ated to help. And he will find a way to make things hap­pen. We all know we can rely on him… he’s like our ulti­mate weapon. If Takeda can’t do any­thing to help, then there’s noth­ing that can be done. What­ever prob­lem you’ve got, it’s unsolv­able.

Yam­a­ga: That’s also why he tends to shoul­der some of the more unpleas­ant aspects of the job…

Anno: He’s the be-all, end-all. If he can’t help you, noth­ing can.

Akai: You know, every­one talks smack about him, but at the same time, we all depend on him. Inter­per­sonal rela­tion­ships are a com­pli­cated thing, I guess.

Yam­a­ga: When­ever the three of us talk about him, Akai ends up talk­ing the most and Anno just sits there remain­ing silent. Akai is the real Takeda observer among us… Still, I think Anno should con­tribute some­thing, just to be fair.

Anno: Unlike you two, I was­n’t around dur­ing GAINAX’s “for­ma­tive” years. I mean, I was there, but I was just work­ing on titles. I delib­er­ately chose not to get involved in the goings-on of the com­pa­ny. My think­ing at the time was, I’d rather be devoted to my work, cre­at­ing some­thing mean­ing­ful, than wor­ry­ing about per­sonal rela­tion­ships and what­not. Any­way, back when I was work­ing on Evan­ge­lion, Takeda and Mr. Otsuki from King Record had some kind of dis­agree­ment, and I took Mr. Otsuk­i’s side. Lat­er, I was at a bar with Takeda when he sud­denly burst into tears. (Ev­ery­one hangs on Anno’s words) Up until that moment, Evan­ge­lion was the only thing I cared about. But after I saw Takeda cry, the whole thing seemed so point­less. See­ing that side of him… I remem­ber think­ing what a won­der­ful thing it was. That one sin­gle tear washed away any lin­ger­ing ill will between us. He’s an incred­i­bly great guy, and I’m really very fond of him. When I had to pick a host for my wed­ding recep­tion, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted it to be Take­da.

Akai: You’ve kept quiet this whole time, and then sud­denly you whip out the best story of the night! Aargh, I’m so jeal­ous! (laughs)

  1. Kamimura is a Gainaxer who joined after DAICON 3; see Takeda’s cap­sule biog­ra­phy of him lat­er. –Ed­i­tor.↩︎

  2. The glosses of terms/names have been included inline as foot­notes. –Ed­i­tor.↩︎

  3. British nov­el­ist who has writ­ten a num­ber of sci-fi sto­ries set in the near future, sup­ported by actual sci­en­tific the­o­ry. Two of his best-known works are and . He cur­rently resides in Sri Lan­ka. [Clarke died 2008-03-19. –Ed­i­tor.]↩︎

  4. An Amer­i­can sci-fi nov­el­ist. His sto­ries are extremely enter­tain­ing and often con­tain pow­er­ful mes­sages con­cern­ing human nature. Among his more famous works are , and .↩︎

  5. The major­ity of sci-fi books put out in Japan in the 1960s and 1970s came from two pub­lish­ing com­pa­nies: Sogen­sha and Hayakawa Shobo. Hayakawa Shobo in par­tic­u­lar seemed to be sin­gle-hand­edly sup­port­ing the world of Japan­ese sci-fi with its SF Mag­a­zine and related pub­li­ca­tions, prompt­ing Japan­ese writ­ers to com­ment that the very genre would fall apart if any­thing hap­pened to Hayakawa Shobo.↩︎

  6. A sci-fi series by , widely con­sid­ered to be the ori­gin of the “space patrol” and “” gen­res. The mas­sive scale of the Lens­man series has earned it many fans. All seven vol­umes have been pub­lished in Japan­ese, and in 1984 the story was adapted into both an series. Inci­den­tal­ly, Gray Lens­man is from the mid­dle of the series.↩︎

  7. A sci-fi adven­ture novel by that recounts the adven­tures of the sci­ence explo­ration ves­sel, the Bea­gle, and a group of sci­en­tists onboard. This book employs tremen­dous imag­i­na­tive skill in the way it details the var­i­ous encoun­ters the crew has with alien life forms.↩︎

  8. The main char­ac­ter in The Voy­age of the Space Bea­gle is a Nex­i­al­ist, a so-called “gen­eral sci­en­tist” who stud­ies sci­ence as a whole with­out focus­ing on any one field. In the con­text of this sci­ence-heavy novel he qual­i­fies as a super­hero. I went into a sci­ence major hop­ing to become a Nex­i­al­ist myself.↩︎

  9. On July 20, 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 touched down on the moon, bring­ing mankind into direct con­tact with another plan­e­tary body for the first time in his­to­ry. The live broad­cast of the land­ing was a sen­sa­tion in and of itself. There was also quite a stir at the 1970 World Exhi­bi­tion in Osaka, when the United States Pavil­ion dis­played moon rocks that were brought back with the space­ship.↩︎

  10. The 1970 World Exhi­bi­tion was held in the Kita-Senri area of Osa­ka. The host­ing of the Osaka World Expo was linked to Japan’s unprece­dented growth fol­low­ing the end of WWII, and was seen as a tremen­dous accom­plish­ment by Japan as a whole. The theme for the fair was “Progress and Har­mony for Mankind”, a slo­gan devel­oped in part by Japan­ese sci-fi author , who worked on the Expo­si­tion’s theme com­mit­tee. A mood of exhil­a­ra­tion and hope for the future swept across Japan, bring­ing count­less crowds to the Expo­si­tion. School­child­ren com­peted among them­selves to see who could go to the fair the most times! In fact, the num­ber of atten­dees was pur­port­edly equiv­a­lent to half the pop­u­la­tion of Japan at the time.↩︎

  11. A pri­vate uni­ver­sity located in the city of Osa­ka. It prides itself on hav­ing one of the largest stu­dent pop­u­la­tions of any uni­ver­sity in Japan. The Uni­ver­sity is so large, there’s a say­ing about it: “If you throw a stone in south­ern Japan, you’ll hit a Kinki Uni­ver­sity stu­dent.” Famous grad­u­ates include the sumo wrestler and the actor Hidekazu Akai. The road lead­ing from the near­est train sta­tion to the uni­ver­sity gates is pop­u­larly known as the Oya­fuko Dori, (“the street where kids for­get all about their par­ents”)! Lit­er­ally packed with par­lors, coffee shops, and video-game arcades, the street is remark­ably suc­cess­ful at pre­vent­ing stu­dents from reach­ing their class­es.↩︎

  12. Most sci-fi clubs are con­nected to uni­ver­si­ties, and some of them pub­lish their own and pri­vate trans­la­tions of for­eign sci-fi nov­els. How­ev­er, most of these clubs are made up of slack­ers like me who just want some­one else to chat with about hard­core sci-fi top­ics. Around the mid-1980s, many of these clubs began to merge with man­ga, ani­me, gam­ing and (“spe­cial-effects fea­tures”) clubs. Inci­den­tal­ly, at karaoke out­ings, today’s club mem­bers seem to sing noth­ing but songs from 1970s anime pro­grams… despite the fact that most of them weren’t even born when those shows came out!↩︎

  13. A Japan­ese sci-fi mag­a­zine pub­lished by Hayakawa Shobo since 1959. In the early 90s, there were as many as four sci-fi related mag­a­zines in print, but only SF Mag­a­zine has con­tin­ued its unin­ter­rupted pub­li­ca­tion of peri­od­i­cals to date. Some peo­ple mea­sure the devo­tion of sci-fi fans by whether or nor they read this mag­a­zine.↩︎

  14. An offi­cial school club has spe­cial ben­e­fits, like a reserved room in the stu­dent activ­i­ties build­ing, a guar­an­teed booth (in a good loca­tion) at the school fes­ti­val, and even a small bud­get for club activ­i­ties. In con­trast, non-offi­cial clubs like the sci-fi club don’t really help to improve the school’s image, so it’s diffi­cult for them to obtain endorse­ment.↩︎

  15. This does­n’t nec­es­sar­ily refer to review­ing sci-fi nov­els or any­thing brainy like that. I just found it amus­ing to get all fired up talk­ing with peo­ple who shared my inter­est in sub­jects that most peo­ple avoided like the plague. It was all geek-s­peak for the most part.↩︎

  16. A coffee shop located right by Kinki Uni­ver­si­ty’s front gates. At some point, our sci-fi club just started to meet there (ru­mor has it they still do today, 20 years lat­er). It was a hang­out for the manga club, too. The shop seemed to be doing pretty well, see­ing as how their busi­ness expanded sev­eral times while I was in school and even more after I left. About three years ago, the owner opened a lodge in .↩︎

  17. Kiyoshi Mizuno (1958–) He started out one year behind me at the Kinki Sci-Fi Club. How­ev­er, the story soon changed when he learned I would have to repeat a year. From that point on, he treated me entirely as an equal. Actu­al­ly, he seems to be tougher on me than any­one else I know. He’s a hard­core fan of spe­cial effects (tokusatsu) and hor­ror films, but is cur­rently work­ing as a police offi­cer.↩︎

  18. Moto­hiro Miwa (1960–) My junior dur­ing the sci-fi club years at Kinki Uni­ver­si­ty. He was the first per­son I met who was active in the sci-fi fan com­mu­nity out­side of uni­ver­si­ty, and I met a num­ber of peo­ple through him. Miwa later joined Gen­eral Prod­ucts as designer/editor. He loves mak­ing lame puns, which earned him the nick­name “The King of Humor”. He’s the mas­ter when it comes to find­ing the weird­est toys you’ve ever seen. He mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­peared in 1988.↩︎

  19. Yasushi Okamoto (1952–) A for­mer mem­ber of the Kinki Uni­ver­sity sci-fi club. He hosted var­i­ous events dur­ing his time with the club, includ­ing the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. Okamoto was very well known in his time, and was involved in a wide range of sci-fi fan activ­i­ties before Takeda and the oth­ers stepped onto the scene. He is often remem­bered for his rapid-fire quips in Osaka-ac­cented Japan­ese. Even today, many of the old-school sci-fi fans often remark, “If Okamoto was here right now, I’d bet he’d say…” This man was my teacher in the art of sto­ry­telling.↩︎

  20. Hideki Ikeda (1953–) My senior in the sci-fi club. They say he spent three years in Argentina because of his father’s busi­ness. Ikeda was the type of per­son who could­n’t rest until the mat­ter at hand was done and done well. The log­i­cal man­ner in which he always pre­sented his opin­ions made a last­ing impres­sion on me.↩︎

  21. Shohei Toyama (1960–) Mu junior in the sci-fi club. His dis­tinc­tive appear­ance is to blame for his nick­name—“chest­nut head”, a moniker that has stuck to this day, more than 20 years lat­er. He still works for GAINAX, where appar­ently only a few peo­ple know his real name. The per­son­al­ity and appear­ance of Charichanmi from the anime Oritsu Uchugun (“Wings of Hon­neamise”) were actu­ally adopted from this man.↩︎

  22. Toshio Goto (1956–) My senior in the sci-fi club. Because he was forced to repeat a year, Goto and I were actu­ally in the same grade at the time of our ini­tial meet­ing. He writes nov­els under the pen name of Shu­nichi Goto (which may actu­ally be his real name—I’m not so sure now). Goto was the first per­son I met who had the deter­mi­na­tion to make it in his cho­sen field.↩︎

  23. A long­stand­ing ama­teur writ­ers’ group that used to oper­ate in Kyoto (they’re cur­rently based in Osaka). The Soci­ety was founded in 1971 and many of its mem­bers join as a first step toward a pro­fes­sional writ­ing career. Sci-fi authors Hiroe Suga and Ryo Mizuno were once mem­bers.↩︎

  24. The term “BNF” refers to non-pro­fes­sion­als who became well known through the active roles they once played in the fan com­mu­ni­ty. The title was meant to show respect, but is often used as a term of ridicule instead. Within fan­dom, BNFs were well known as writ­ers and crit­ics, even though they tended not to be pro­fes­sion­ally pub­lished. They held a great degree of influ­ence with their fel­low fans, which set them some­what apart from the (Comic Mar­ket) writ­ers of today.↩︎

  25. An orga­ni­za­tion that linked all the uni­ver­sity sci-fi clubs in the Osaka area. Every month they met and pub­lished a newslet­ter to keep peo­ple up-to-date on cur­rent events in the sci-fi scene. At its height (around the time of DAICON 4), there were nine par­tic­i­pat­ing schools: , , , , Ote­mon Uni­ver­si­ty, , the , the , and the . In the 1980s, every­one seemed inter­ested in inter-club activ­i­ties and the Con­fed­er­a­tion even sup­plied vol­un­teer staff for events like the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion and DAICON FILM pro­duc­tions. How­ev­er, the Con­fed­er­a­tion seemed to lose moment after DAICON 4 and qui­etly dis­solved a few years lat­er.↩︎

  26. Because groups like the Con­fed­er­a­tion don’t have an estab­lished head­quar­ters, some­one takes the job of “sec­re­tariat”, and serves as a con­tact for those out­side the group. Basi­cal­ly, the sec­re­tary-gen­eral func­tions as a coor­di­na­tor between groups.↩︎

  27. This refers to the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tions, gath­er­ings of sci-fi fans in the tra­di­tion of World­con, Amer­i­ca’s inter­na­tional sci-fi con­ven­tion. There have been over 40 Sci-Fi Con­ven­tions, the first of which was held in Tokyo in 1962. The annual event is gen­er­ally held dur­ing sum­mer break, and is attended by ama­teur groups from all over Japan. Each year, the con­ven­tion takes a differ­ent form. Some­times it’s like a retreat at a hot springs, and other years it’s a for­mal con­ven­tion with lec­tures and stage per­for­mances. Many pro­fes­sional writ­ers, manga artists, trans­la­tors, and pub­lish­ers attend, and it’s not uncom­mon to see some peo­ple’s involve­ment with the Con­ven­tion actu­ally jump-s­tart their careers. Start­ing in the early 80s, “con reports” by such well-known indi­vid­u­als as manga artist served to draw atten­tion to the Con­ven­tions. That, cou­pled with the sci-fi boom of the 1980s, made it a time of focused media inter­est in the event. The Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee gov­erns the orga­ni­za­tion of each Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, even though the event host changes every year.↩︎

  28. Sakyo Komatsu (1931–) Sci­ence fic­tion writer. He is a lead­ing fig­ure in Japan­ese sci-fi cir­cles, thanks to works like (aka “Japan Sinks” or “Tidal Wave”) and (“Bye-Bye Jupiter”). He was one of the exec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­bers at the 1970 Expo in Osaka, and has been active in a wide range of sci-fi activ­i­ties. It was while appear­ing as a guest at a cer­tain sci-fi show that Komatsu met me and some of the oth­ers who were active in sci-fi fan cir­cles at the time. He’s been quite fond of us ever since. Because Komatsu was work­ing mainly in Osaka (my home­town), I would often solicit his advice when orga­niz­ing events. He was made hon­orary head of the plan­ning com­mit­tee for the 40th Annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, which I hosted in 2001.↩︎

  29. Yasu­taka Tsut­sui (1934–) Sci­ence fic­tion writer. Author of sev­eral works, includ­ing , Kazoku Hakkei and Kyoko Sen­dan. Tsut­sui was made hon­orary head of the plan­ning com­mit­tee for the 1975 Japan Sci-Fi Fes­ti­val (“SHINCON”), which brought in more than 1,000 par­tic­i­pants. The level of enter­tain­ment incor­po­rated into this event sig­nifi­cantly affected the direc­tion of future Sci-Fi Fes­ti­vals. In 1993, his Dan­pitsu Sen­gen was released in protest of the lan­guage con­trol acts in effect at the time (lifted three years lat­er, in 1996). Tsut­sui has appeared in var­i­ous movies, the­atri­cal plays and TV dra­mas.↩︎

  30. Masahiro (Koichi­ro) Noda (1933–) , sci­ence fic­tion writer and trans­la­tor. He is also the pres­i­dent of Japan Tele­vi­sion Work­shop Co, Ltd. Noda orga­nized the very first Japan Sci-Fi Fes­ti­val, and is quite well known in Japan­ese sci-fi cir­cles. Self­-pro­claimed “Com­man­der-in-Chief” of Uchugun (aka the Space Force Club—see below), he has trans­lated sev­eral space operas, and he has penned his own orig­i­nal nov­els. He is also a wide­ly-known col­lec­tor of pulp mag­a­zines. Noda is a skilled TV pro­duc­er, and the cre­ator of the chil­dren’s show “Hirake! Ponkikki”, which owes its pop­u­lar­ity to the main char­ac­ters, and Mukku. He remains a fer­vent sup­porter of the sci-fi fan scene, and his fan club “Uchugun” is still in oper­a­tion. Noda lent me a help­ing hand in get­ting Gen­eral Prod­ucts off the ground. He has played the role of com­pany audi­tor since GAINAX’s found­ing.↩︎

  31. The Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion was orig­i­nally estab­lished by bud­ding sci-fi authors who had­n’t yet made names for them­selves. it was to pro­vide an oppor­tu­nity for them to pub­li­cize their work, and to allow fans to inter­act with each oth­er. Many authors and edi­tors owe their pro­fes­sional debuts to such fan-to-fan inter­ac­tions at the Con­ven­tions. Since pro­fes­sional authors are them­selves enthu­si­as­tic fans, many attend sim­ply to meet like-minded peo­ple to social­ize with. It’s very com­mon for the Con­ven­tions to fea­ture recre­ational times when authors, edi­tors, and fans all casu­ally sit togeth­er, drink­ing sake and con­vers­ing. It’s diffi­cult to imag­ine some­thing like that hap­pen­ing under any other cir­cum­stances.↩︎

  32. The Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion only hap­pens once a year, so cer­tain fan groups in each area often host their own regional con­ven­tions known as “local cons”. Most of these small con­ven­tions are held at reg­u­lar inter­vals and form a focal point for fan activ­i­ties in the area.↩︎

  33. (1951–) Sci­ence fic­tion writer. Yumemakura is famous for his “fan­tas­ti­cal fic­tion”, which includes both the Kimeira and Maju-gari series as well as Onmy­oji (which became quite pop­u­lar). He is also well-known for his love of out­door activ­i­ties, such as fish­ing and moun­tain climb­ing, and he has writ­ten sev­eral essays and travel reports. I have known him ever since his pro­fes­sional debut, and we remain on good terms. We tend to run into each other at con­ven­tions and the like.↩︎

  34. Toshio Okada (1958–) Pres­i­dent of Otak­ing Co., Ltd. Since our first meet­ing in 1978, Okada has been the sin­gle most influ­en­tial per­son in my life. He opened a sci-fi shop called Gen­eral Prod­ucts in 1982, and later helped found GAINAX, even­tu­ally becom­ing its pres­i­dent. After step­ping down from the com­pa­ny, he was an adjunct instruc­tor at (1992-1997), lec­tur­ing on the cul­ture of Japan. Okada cur­rently works as a writer, and occa­sion­ally appears on TV as a guest com­men­ta­tor. He is the author of Boku­tachi no Sen­nou Shakai and Otaku-gaku Nyu­mon.↩︎

  35. Okada describes his early col­lege days before meet­ing Takeda in “Con­science of the Otak­ing, part 2”, Ani­mer­ica:

    "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."


  36. The 17th annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, held in the sum­mer of 1978. About 400 peo­ple attended the three­-day, two-night lake­side camp held at in . The Con­ven­tion itself was orga­nized as a loose col­lec­tion of inde­pen­dent events put on by var­i­ous atten­dees, and was pur­posely planned not to feel like a tra­di­tional con­ven­tion.↩︎

  37. The (now known as the Nip­pon Foun­da­tion) hosted the Space Sci­ence Expo­si­tion in Tokyo and Shi­na­gawa in 1978. The theme was space explo­ration, and the event fea­tured many fas­ci­nat­ing exhibits that were sim­ply irre­sistible to sci­ence buffs. Among those exhibits were a real rock­et, a mock­-up of the space shut­tle (which was still under devel­op­ment at the time), and a lunar explo­ration vehi­cle.↩︎

  38. Short for “cos­tume play”, this sim­ply refers to the act of putting on a cos­tume and pre­tend­ing to be a fic­tional char­ac­ter, usu­ally from some well-known work. These days, cos­play is prac­ti­cally syn­ony­mous with the ama­teur comics con­ven­tion, Comiket (Comic Mar­ket), but the whole cos­play tra­di­tion with­out a doubt began with the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion­s—which usu­ally included a cos­tume “fash­ion show” some­where on the sched­ule of events.↩︎

  39. Arit­sune Toy­oda (1938–) Sci­ence fic­tion writer. Known for the ancient his­tor­i­cal motif that runs through his books. His works include Pachakama ni Ochiru Hi and Mon­gol no Zanko. Toy­oda also writes for tele­vi­sion and radio. Among his more notable scripts are Tet­suwan Atom (“Astro Boy”) and Eight Man (aka “8 Man”, or “Tobor the 8th Man”).↩︎

  40. At Ashino-Con, Okada and I indulged in a live sto­ry­telling ses­sion that began with us play­ing off the ques­tion of what the space bat­tle­ship Yam­ato (from the famous TV anime Uchu Senkan Yam­ato, AKA "Star Blaz­er­s") would have been like if it had been built and flown by the Chi­nese. These nar­ra­tives retold the Yam­ato story with absurd gags, like the sound of a gong when­ever the ship took off and a dragon sym­bol on the gun tur­ret. There were many other vari­a­tions, includ­ing an Amer­i­can ver­sion, a Russ­ian ver­sion, and, of course, a Cow­boy ver­sion. We also bor­rowed lib­er­ally from other sto­ries, act­ing out famous scenes from var­i­ous movies, excelling par­tic­u­larly at retellings like "The gun tur­ret that melted under ’s breath", "The Orion dock­ing at a space sta­tion" (based on 2001: A Space Odyssey), and of course, "The mole goes active and departs its con­tainer on the ." We branched out with such clas­sics as " vs." and " heads through the Mys­ter­ian Dome", com­ing up with new ideas on the fly and get­ting bet­ter each time we per­formed.↩︎

  41. Ikuo Musa (1958–) A for­mer mem­ber of the Osaka Pre­fec­ture Uni­ver­sity Sci-Fi Club. He was of great help to me with sev­eral sci-fi events, and put his excel­lent writ­ing skills to use in the pub­lish­ing of sci-fi related newslet­ters.↩︎

  42. The offi­cial name was “The Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee”. It is a coali­tion cre­ated to facil­i­tate inter­ac­tion among fan groups all over Japan. It was estab­lished in 1965 at the urg­ing of the famous Japan­ese sci-fi author, Takumi Shibano, among oth­ers. The Com­mit­tee con­venes once a year to decide who will host the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion and to deter­mine the win­ner of the —Japan’s high­est honor for sci­ence fic­tion writ­ers. A chair­man and an office man­ager are also appointed to coor­di­nate the exchange of infor­ma­tion among mem­bers. ↩︎

  43. Takumi Shibano (1926–) A grand­fa­ther fig­ure in Japan’s sci-fi scene. He pub­lished the very first Japan­ese sci-fi fanzine, Uchu­jin, which would later be the start­ing point for many of Japan’s sci­ence fic­tion writ­ers. In 1962, Shibano both chaired and orga­nized the first Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. He then went on to found the Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee in 1965. The Com­mit­tee would serve as a plat­form on which ama­teurs could orga­nize sci-fi events and activ­i­ties through­out Japan. He still par­tic­i­pates in almost every Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion as well as the World Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion (or World­con). Shibano is ded­i­cated to pro­mot­ing inter­na­tional exchange in the realm of sci-fi fan­dom. He has also trans­lated many books under the pen name of Rei Kozu­mi.↩︎

  44. Junichi Kadokura (1947–) A sci-fi fan who was chair­man of the Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee dur­ing our prepa­ra­tions to host our first Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. He works for a com­puter com­pany ful­l-time, and is also a well-known music col­lec­tor. Kadokura has a great knowl­edge of music and audio in gen­er­al, and has con­se­quently done audio/visual work for many sci-fi events.↩︎

  45. This fan club was estab­lished by famed sci-fi writer and trans­la­tor, Masahiro Noda, who pro­claims him­self Com­man­der-in-Chief of the club. The other mem­bers also use mil­i­tary ranks in address­ing each oth­er. Noda is a TV pro­duc­er, and his club also func­tions as sup­port staff for var­i­ous TV-re­lated events. The club makes it a point of not lim­it­ing their activ­i­ties exclu­sively to the realm of Noda’s writ­ing. This is a phi­los­o­phy that found favor among the DAICON mem­bers, and the two groups often coop­er­at­ed. Many Space Force Club mem­bers have gone on to become pro­fes­sion­als in the visual media, pub­lish­ing, and game indus­tries. The club is still active, host­ing events such as “Sci-Fi Christ­mas” each year.↩︎

  46. Hiroaki Inoue (1958–) An anime pro­ducer I met at an event orga­nized by the mem­bers of Uchugun, the fan club estab­lished by author Masahiro Noda. Inoue came into the anime indus­try through Tezuka Pro­duc­tions. Okada later invited him to par­tic­i­pate in the found­ing of GAINAX, but Inoue ended up leav­ing after the pro­duc­tion of Oritsu Uchugun (“Wings of Hon­neamise”) and Top o Ner­ae! (“Gun­buster”). We fell out of touch for about a decade, but got together again when GAINAX and A.I.C. (An­i­ma­tion Inter­na­tional Com­pa­ny, where he cur­rently works) col­lab­o­rated on an anime pro­duc­tion. He is known through­out the indus­try for his famous greet­ing, “Hey, so-and-so! What’s hap­pen­ing?” He still plays an active role in Uchugun as the club’s leader. [Inoue rarely speaks to the press and even more rarely is that mate­r­ial trans­lated into Eng­lish. One of those few is a 2003 talk at MIT, “Hiroaki Inoue on Com­put­ers and Japan­ese Ani­ma­tion”, where he dis­cusses anime pro­duc­tion and the switch-over to dig­i­tal ani­ma­tion. –Ed­i­tor.]↩︎

  47. An event started by Masahiro Noda in 1973. Back then, sci-fi con­ven­tions tended to be rather solemn and aca­d­e­mic, focus­ing on the inde­pen­dent work of the attend­ing mem­bers and fea­tur­ing panel dis­cus­sions about major nov­els. In con­trast, the Sci-Fi Show was more like an enter­tain­ment expo, thanks to Noda’s TV pro­duc­tion expe­ri­ence. The first three Sci-Fi Shows were orga­nized by Noda and held in Tokyo, but he allowed us to orga­nize the fourth one.↩︎

  48. Takeshi Sawa­mura (1959–) For­mer pres­i­dent of GAINAX. He met Toshio Okada at an event put on by Uchugun, and later became one of the core Sci-Fi Show staff mem­bers. His out­go­ing per­son­al­ity made him a dri­ving force behind the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion and other events hosted by DAICON FILM. After grad­u­at­ing from Ote­mon Uni­ver­sity in 1983, he went to work for Japan Tele­vi­sion Work­shop Co, Ltd., the pro­duc­tion com­pany run by Masahiro Noda. Sawa­mura would later join Gen­eral Prod­ucts, after which Toshio Okada would invite him to become the pres­i­dent of GAINAX. He left GAINAX in 2000. Inci­den­tal­ly, the char­ac­ter of Nekker­out from Wings of Hon­neamise was mod­eled after him.↩︎

  49. A pseudo-his­toric sci-fi film pro­duced by Daiei in 1966. An eight-me­ter tall statue of a god comes to life and res­cues farm­ers from oppres­sion. The metic­u­lously crafted minia­tures used in the destruc­tion scenes became leg­endary among spe­cial effects fans. Daima­jin is mar­keted in the U.S. by ADV Films.↩︎

  50. A TV sci-fi series from based on the manga by . Rock­et­man Ambas­sador Magma fights mon­sters manip­u­lated by an evil alien called Goa. Nao­sumi Yamamo­to’s music in this series is quite impres­sive.↩︎

  51. A few years before DAICON 3, the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion began a tra­di­tion of show­ing a short film dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mo­ny. It was prob­a­bly intended to be an ini­tial hook into the con­ven­tion. The con­tent would vary from mon­tage-type com­pi­la­tions using exist­ing footage to works show­cas­ing exper­i­men­tal com­puter graph­ics. I found that if the Con­ven­tion made the film them­selves, it was much eas­ier to keep every­one moti­vated through­out the plan­ning stages, right up to the day of the con­ven­tion itself. For DAICON 3 in 1981, we did a -an­i­mated open­ing ani­me. This pro­duc­tion was all thanks to the help of Hideaki Anno and many oth­ers.↩︎

  52. Hiroe Suga (1963–) A sci-fi author and also my wife! She made her pro­fes­sional debut at age 17 with the short story “Blue Flight”. She received Seiun Awards for her works Merusasu no Shonen and Sobakasu no Fig­ure. In 2001, she received an award from the Mys­tery Writ­ers of Japan, Inc. for her book Eien no Mori Hakubut­sukan Waku­sei. She is also a mas­ter of Japan­ese clas­si­cal dance. Suga has helped out with all of the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tions that I’ve worked on. She cur­rently resides in Kyoto with our beloved daugh­ter (I live apart from them right now because of my job). [A curi­ous com­ment; Takeda had finally moved out of the GAINAX build­ing by the tax eva­sion inves­ti­ga­tion in 1998, but by 2002 (year of pub­li­ca­tion) still had­n’t rejoined his fam­i­ly? –Ed­i­tor.]↩︎

  53. Haruka Takachiho (1951–) Nov­el­ist asso­ci­ated with Stu­dio Nue. Well known for his works and . His pas­sion for anime has at times led him to write some rather bit­ing cri­tiques on the sub­ject and the works within it. For exam­ple, his “Gun­dam is not sci-fi” com­ment in OUT Mag­a­zine (1980) caused a storm of con­tro­versy in anime fan­dom. I am on pretty good terms with Takachi­ho, and often see him hang­ing around the GAINAX offices.↩︎

  54. Some fans are picky about what is true sci-fi and what isn’t. Even if the defi­n­i­tion of sci­ence fic­tion is rather vague, it does­n’t stop some peo­ple from get­ting into heated debates over it—­some­times for noth­ing other than to prove how they them­selves are “true fans”. The debates tends to hinge on whether a given show con­tains a “sense of won­der” (vis-a-vis sci­ence), but the phrase itself is equally hard to define. You often hear twisted crit­i­cisms like, “The film was well-done, but mediocre as a sci-fi.” In con­trast, other fans are sim­ply keen on things that haven’t been done before, and are will­ing to embrace almost any new con­cept as “sci-fi”.↩︎

  55. Sakyo Komatsu and some other impor­tant indi­vid­u­als from Osaka orga­nized an event to pro­mote the . One of the goals was to help bring orches­tral music to the local pub­lic. Komatsu had been impressed with the suc­cess of our first Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, and offered to let us help out behind the scenes.↩︎

  56. DAICON 3 was held at Osaka’s Mori­nomiya Piloti Hall on August 23-24, 1981. All told, there were about 1,500 peo­ple in atten­dance. The event was unique for the time because of the cel-an­i­mated open­ing ani­me, the unprece­dented size of the guide­book, sales of orig­i­nal mer­chan­dise, and simul­ta­ne­ous events includ­ing show­ings and sem­i­nars.↩︎

  57. The Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tions are man­aged by groups of vol­un­teers who are selected by a vote at the Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion meet­ing the year pre­ced­ing the Con­ven­tion in ques­tion. (Now they’re selected two years in advance!) In order to avoid lengthy dis­cus­sion and con­flicts between rival groups at the meet­ing, under the table nego­ti­a­tions are encour­aged before hand.↩︎

  58. World­con was the orig­i­nal model for the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. World­con has been held every year since 1939, except for a brief hia­tus dur­ing WWII. We went to Nore­as­con Two, held in Boston in 1980. World­con is mainly held in the U.S., but goes over­seas every four years. A group of Japan­ese fans is work­ing to host the 2007 event in Japan.↩︎

  59. We vis­ited Dis­ney­land in the U.S. to study event orga­ni­za­tion, both how to orga­nize the staff and how to pro­vide seam­less enter­tain­ment for vis­i­tors when sev­eral events are run­ning simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. We also vis­ited the then new­ly-opened Tokyo Dis­ney­land just before DAICON 4. Our con­cept of cre­at­ing “alter­nate worlds” within DAICON 4 was largely influ­enced by what we saw at Dis­ney­land.↩︎

  60. This was the nick­name for the 19th annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, held at Asakusa Kokaido in Tokyo in August 1980. About 1,300 peo­ple attend­ed. The host for DAICON 3 would also be cho­sen at this event, and our staff worked very hard to win the hon­or.↩︎

  61. Hitoshi Kitayama (1959–) My under­class­men at Kinki Uni­ver­sity as well as a mem­ber of the Uni­ver­sity Sci-Fi Club. He had been a mem­ber of our staff since the Sci-Fi Show. Kitayama was always there to help out with DAICON FILM, though I never had the chance to work closely with him. He once aspired to be a manga author, but now works at his fam­i­ly’s auto shop, doing restora­tions (and lov­ing it) on bro­ken-down autos.↩︎

  62. Musashi Kanbe (1948–) Sci-fi author whose witty and ver­sa­tile style has allowed him to cover a broad range of gen­res in his works. A res­i­dent of Osaka, he served as hon­orary chair­man to the exec­u­tive com­mit­tee for DAICON 3. In 1986, he won the Award for his title Warai Uchu no Tabi Genin.↩︎

  63. Tat­suto Nagayama (1960-1995) Helped form the anime pro­duc­tion group "SHADO" dur­ing his high school years. I met him while he was attend­ing school in Kan­sai. He and Hideaki Anno are from the same town, and it was Nagayama who intro­duced me to Anno and his friends. An aspir­ing cam­era­man and writer, "Mr. N" (as he was affec­tion­ately known) helped Gen­eral Prod­ucts by writ­ing the instruc­tion man­u­als for many of its prod­ucts. We all thought he bore a strong resem­blance to a seal. He played the role of the sus­pi­cious archae­ol­o­gist in Yamata no Orochi no Gyakushu, and later received pub­lic­ity for news pho­tos he took in the after­math of the in 1995, but he died trag­i­cally in a car acci­dent later that year.↩︎

  64. A live-ac­tion tokusatsu, or "spe­cial effects" TV show pro­duced by . It pre­ceded even . The show was in black and white, and since it was rarely rerun some vol­un­teers orga­nized pub­lic screen­ings. It was­n’t com­mon to have a VCR at home in those days, so the screen­ings drew many view­ers.↩︎

  65. Hideaki Anno (1960–) Movie direc­tor and mem­ber of GAINAX’s board of direc­tors. He was still enrolled at the Osaka Uni­ver­sity of Arts when he par­tic­i­pated in the pro­duc­tion of the DAICON 3 open­ing ani­ma­tion. One of his spe­cial­ties is ani­mat­ing com­plex action scenes with mecha and lots of explo­sions. One of the most talked-about sequences he has done is the famous “God Sol­diers” scene in direc­tor Hayao Miyaza­k­i’s Kaze no Tani no Nau­si­caa (“Nau­si­caa of the Val­ley of the Wind”). He played a role in the found­ing of GAINAX, and made his pro­fes­sional direc­to­r­ial debut with the OVA Top of Ner­ae! (“Gun­buster”). After his tremen­dous suc­cess with the TV series Shin­seiki Evan­ge­lion (“Neon Gen­e­sis Evan­ge­lion”), he went on to pur­sue his inter­est in live action, pro­duc­ing Love & Pop, Shik­i­jitsu and sev­eral other films.

    Anno is a big fan of spe­cial effects films and sev­eral main­stream anime titles, espe­cially the clas­sics Uchu Senkan Yam­ato (“Star Blaz­ers / Space Bat­tle­ship Yam­ato”), Ultra­man, Kamen Rider (“Masked Rider”), and Gun­dam. He usu­ally lum­bers around slow­ly, in almost the same man­ner as the God Sol­diers he ani­mated years ago. In fact, the only time he seems to show any real energy is when he’s doing an Ultra­man or Kamen Rider impres­sion. Anno eats nei­ther meat nor fish, and is thus often assumed to be a veg­e­tar­i­an. This is actu­ally a mis­con­cep­tion—in fact, he dis­likes green onions, pep­pers, and many other veg­eta­bles. Basi­cal­ly, he eats an extremely unbal­anced diet.↩︎

  66. Hiroyuki Yam­aga (1962–) Movie direc­tor and GAINAX’s cur­rent pres­i­dent. Orig­i­nally from Niigata Pre­fec­ture. Directed Oritsu Uchugun (“Wings of Hon­neamise”), GAINAX’s first com­mer­cial film. While he was still a stu­dent at the Osaka Uni­ver­sity of Arts, he helped cre­ate the DAICON 3 open­ing movie, along with Hideaki Anno and Takami Akai. Yam­aga has been with GAINAX since the begin­ning, and was only 22 years old when he directed the com­pa­ny’s cin­e­matic release. From the time he was an ele­men­tary stu­dent, Yam­aga has pro­claimed that he would become famous some­day. On one occa­sion, he sup­pos­edly went so far as to tell one of his neigh­bors in Niigata that her house would one day be demol­ished to make the park­ing lot for the “Hiroyuki Yam­aga Memo­r­ial Hall.” Since it is very hard to tell what he is think­ing just by look­ing at his face, he is often com­pared to the pup­pets from the 1960s TV show, Thun­der­birds. Yam­aga assumed office as the pres­i­dent of GAINAX in 1993. Despite a 14-year absence, he returned to the direc­tor’s chair for the pro­duc­tion of the recent GAINAX titles Mahoro­matic and Abenobashi Mahou Shoten­gai (“Mag­i­cal Shop­ping Arcade Abenobashi”).↩︎

  67. A sci-fi themed cafe that used to be in Kyoto. The owner was appar­ently into sci-fi and had dec­o­rated the inte­rior of the cafe with sci-fi film posters and mod­els of space­ships. It was a favorite gath­er­ing spot for local sci-fi fans. As a mat­ter of fact, Nagayama used to work there part-time. I used to drive Hiroe home to Kyoto on a reg­u­lar basis, and we would often stop by the cafe on these trips.↩︎

  68. A pri­vate col­lege located in Minami-Kawaguchi in the south of Osa­ka. Anno, Akai and Yam­aga were class­mates in the Visual Con­cept Plan­ning Depart­ment. The time when these three met is often con­sid­ered the begin­ning of GAINAX. Unlike Kinki Uni­ver­si­ty, the Osaka Uni­ver­sity of Arts is located very far from any train sta­tion, and the cam­pus is up on a hill, sur­rounded on all sides by fields. No video arcades or cafe shops can be found any­where near­by. And since a film screen­ing or live per­for­mance is always hap­pen­ing some­where on cam­pus, attend­ing class in cos­tume is not con­sid­ered unusual at all.↩︎

  69. This refers to the armored com­bat suit fea­tured in Robert A. Hein­lein’s novel Star­ship Troop­ers. The shape of the suit isn’t described in the book, but the Japan­ese paper­back edi­tion con­tains illus­tra­tions by Stu­dio Nue, and their con­cept influ­enced the designs of many anime robots there­after. The phrase “Pow­ered Suit” is a gen­eral term, but among Japan­ese sci-fi fans it specifi­cally means the suit designed by Nue for Star­ship Troop­ers. This com­pli­cated Pow­ered Suit appeared as the main mecha in the DAICON 3 open­ing ani­me, and Anno’s dynamic ani­ma­tion was a sen­sa­tion, to say the least.↩︎

  70. Takami Akai (1961–) Game direc­tor and illus­tra­tor. Orig­i­nally from Yon­ago in Tot­tori Pre­fec­ture. Akai is cur­rently a mem­ber of GAINAX’s board of direc­tors. While a stu­dent at the Osaka Uni­ver­sity of Arts, he met Anno and Yam­a­ga, and together the three cre­ated the open­ing ani­ma­tion for DAICON 3. Though he is of a fairly diminu­tive stature, Akai is a mul­ti­-tal­ented indi­vid­u­al, and an absolute genius when it comes to mod­els, illus­tra­tions, movies, spe­cial effects and games. He took the gam­ing world a giant leap for­ward when he cre­ated the PC game Princess Mak­er, giv­ing rise to an entirely new genre of “nur­tur­ing sim­u­la­tion” games, wherein play­ers make deci­sions that will affect the main char­ac­ter’s actual per­son­al­i­ty.

    In 1994, Akai left GAINAX to launch his own soft­ware devel­op­ment stu­dio, Nine Lives. How­ev­er, he returned to GAINAX in 2001 to become a mem­ber of the board of direc­tors. He again got the chance to show his incred­i­ble tal­ent when he did the char­ac­ter designs as well as some addi­tional art­work for GAINAX’s Seikai no Mon­sho (“Crest of the Stars”).↩︎

  71. Many anime fans back in the day had a strong desire to try their own hands at ani­ma­tion. A so-called “paper anime” only requires some draw­ings done on paper and an 8mm cam­era. Thus it is really cheap and sim­ple for indi­vid­u­als to cre­ate their own ani­me. How­ev­er, cel anime isn’t so easy. Paint and cels are expen­sive, and it takes more than a hand­ful of peo­ple to color the huge num­ber of cels required for any given pro­ject. The DAICON 3 open­ing anime was the first ani­mated fea­ture Anno and the oth­ers had ever attempt­ed. Lack of expe­ri­ence aside, the very idea of mak­ing a cel anime by hand in the first place was just absurd!↩︎

  72. The grand­daddy of all anime shops. The stores sold anime goods, used cels, and design sketch­es, and were usu­ally located next to Toei-affil­i­ated the­aters. This chain laid the foun­da­tion for today’s anime shops. Back then, they were the only places you could buy a blank cel and the right kind of paint to do an ani­me. The prob­lem for us was, the sup­plies were sold for hobby use, and buy­ing in bulk for a ful­l-length anime was far too expen­sive.↩︎

  73. East Osaka is home to many small fac­to­ries, includ­ing vinyl man­u­fac­tur­ing plants and other spe­cial­ized pro­duc­tion yard­s—e­nough to form large indus­trial dis­tricts. Each dis­trict is com­monly referred to by the type of prod­uct man­u­fac­tured there. Thank­ful­ly, these places wel­come ama­teur buy­ers. A real anime cel is made of film, but we did­n’t know that and used thin sheets of vinyl instead. The sheets ended up stick­ing together when stacked, and the paint would­n’t adhere very well, either.↩︎

  74. The embroi­der­ing com­pany run by Toshio Okada’s fam­i­ly, con­ve­niently located near Osaka Pre­fec­ture Uni­ver­si­ty. The Okadas own a large ware­house. With their per­mis­sion, we used one whole floor of the build­ing to make our ani­me. A large num­ber of our staff pretty much lived there dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of the DAICON 3 and DAICON 4 open­ing ani­ma­tions. Gen­eral Prod­ucts was also started through an ini­tial invest­ment from Okada Embroi­der­ing, and remained a part of the com­pany until it was incor­po­rated in 1984.↩︎

  75. A tool used to hold cel art dur­ing the draw­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy stages of an anime pro­duc­tion. It con­sists of three pegs on a ruler-like metal strip, which are used to align the illus­trated paper to the anime cel. We could­n’t even afford com­mer­cial-grade cels and paper, much less a proper tap, so we had to punch holes in the vinyl sheets with a plain, old office hole punch. We fab­ri­cated our “tap” out of card­board and short sec­tions of a paint­brush. It was­n’t par­tic­u­larly accu­rate, as there weren’t enough holes, but it did the job.↩︎

  76. A sheet of writ­ten instruc­tions used for pho­tograph­ing cels. The sheet con­tains a table describ­ing the cel num­ber for each frame and how to layer the cels. It’s an absolute neces­sity for any pro­fes­sional anime film pro­duc­tion, where ani­ma­tion and pho­tog­ra­phy are taken as two sep­a­rate tasks, but ama­teurs like us did­n’t know any­thing about that.↩︎

  77. The TV anime fea­tures a mys­te­ri­ous sym­bol that appears on the front screen of the Ideon’s cock­pit when­ever the Ide’s super energy is charg­ing. The DAICON 3 open­ing ani­ma­tion has a scene show­ing a glow­ing Ide gauge. Okada tried hard (but failed) to get us to replace it with a mark that rep­re­sents the female gen­i­talia instead.↩︎

  78. It is prob­a­bly unre­lat­ed, but it is amus­ing to note that dur­ing Gainax’s film 1997 , at a major cli­max, the pro­tag­o­nist & his mecha enter a giant Rei through a vagina in its fore­head.↩︎

  79. Kazumi Okada (1958–) A mem­ber of our staff since the Sci-Fi Show and a child­hood friend of Toshio Oka­da. The two were mar­ried just after the found­ing of Gen­eral Prod­ucts in 1982. So far, she is the only thing we know of that can calm the often explo­sive pas­sions of Toshio. Because of this unique abil­i­ty, she came to serve as some­thing of an “Okada Con­trol Unit”. She was also in charge of account­ing and gen­eral affairs for Gen­eral Prod­ucts and GAINAX, and han­dled all sorts of busi­ness mat­ters. She stayed on with the com­pany even after Toshio left, advanc­ing to her cur­rent posi­tion as man­ager of pub­lic rela­tions. She is a very petite wom­an, and at times a lit­tle air-head­ed, but adored by one and all. Inci­den­tal­ly, her maiden name is Amano.↩︎

  80. “Kazumi Amano” is also the name of one of the major char­ac­ters, noted for beau­ty, of the Anno-di­rected Gainax anime Gun­buster; she report­edly worked on Gun­buster. –Ed­i­tor↩︎

  81. Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989) The “God of Manga” truly needs no intro­duc­tion. You could even say he is the one who started it all for Japan­ese ani­mated TV pro­grams. All of us on the staff were over­whelmed with grat­i­tude when we received his praise for the DAICON 3 open­ing ani­ma­tion.↩︎

  82. An anime mag­a­zine pub­lished by Rap­port start­ing in 1978. The first edi­tor-in-chief was Masanobu Koma­ki. While major anime mag­a­zines were lean­ing toward “reviews” that read more like adver­tise­ments, Ani­mec became pop­u­lar among fans for its in-depth analy­ses and large pro­por­tion of read­er-con­tri­bu­tion pages. This hard­core mag­a­zine even did a fea­ture on our DAICON 3 open­ing ani­me, despite the fact that it was an ama­teur pro­duc­tion. Ani­mec also fea­tured columns by Okada and yours truly of Gen­eral Prod­ucts.↩︎

  83. DAICON 3 was pri­vately spon­sored by me and the rest of the staff. All told, it put us in debt to the tune of 2 mil­lion yen (about U.S. $9,000 in 1981 dol­lars). We had expected to be in debt, but this was a lot of money for a bunch of mere col­lege stu­dents, and repay­ing it was a heavy bur­den. We started sell­ing the open­ing anime on video in order to make up the loss. That was two years before any “OVA” () was ever released.

    [Hi­royuki Yam­a­ga, 2010 inter­view:

    “When we did Daicon III it was just me, Evan­ge­lion direc­tor Hideaki Anno, and [Takami] Akai, who worked on the Princess Maker series for Gainax. Staff from the Daicon con­ven­tion asked us per­son­al­ly,”Can you make us some kind of ani­ma­tion?" So that’s how Daicon III came about. When it came out, the con­ven­tion was hav­ing money trou­bles, even with 10,000 atten­dees, so they sold videos of the Daicon III open­ing, which saved them from bank­rupt­cy. So the staff of Daicon said, in two years we’ll have another one, why don’t you join as staff and make anoth­er? And that’s how Daicon IV came about."


  84. These included sem­i­nars for no more than a dozen peo­ple, all occur­ring simul­ta­ne­ously with the stage per­for­mances being held in the big hall. All through­out the con­ven­tion, DAICON 3 fea­tured sem­i­nars and other activ­i­ties in addi­tion to the main per­for­mances in the hall. It was very sophis­ti­cated for an event hosted by ama­teurs.↩︎

  85. This is the name of the mar­ket­place at a con­ven­tion. Many pri­vate clubs sell fanzines and other goods. Comiket (Comic Mar­ket) took this idea from the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tions, and basi­cally expanded on it.↩︎

  86. Back in the early 1980s, there were four sci-fi spe­cialty mag­a­zi­nes: SF Mag­a­zine, SF Hoseki, SF Adven­ture and Kosoten­gai. SF Mag­a­zine is in cir­cu­la­tion to this day, while SF Adven­ture is cur­rently pub­lished as SF Japan.↩︎

  87. Yasuhiro Kamimura (1962–) A mem­ber of the Osaka Uni­ver­sity Sci-Fi club who joined our group after DAICON 3. He over­saw pro­duc­tion of the inde­pen­dent films we were work­ing on. He found employ­ment with right around the time DAICON FILM went under. Though it seemed he had actu­ally got­ten one of those “respectable” jobs, Kamimura soon found him­self unable to sup­press his otaku blood and was ulti­mately invited to join GAINAX by yours tru­ly. He was put in charge of gen­eral busi­ness affairs. Coin­ci­den­tal­ly, Yasuhiro and I were born on the same day and have the same blood type. Not the dis­crim­i­nat­ing type, he is a will­ing fan of what­ever trends come along in the worlds of sci-fi, ani­me, and spe­cial effects. [See also the ANN Ency­clo­pe­dia. Kamimura is rarely ever men­tioned in the press but in 2010, Suzuki Shunji report­edly said (in the Japana­tor para­phrase) “that it’s almost cer­tain that Yasuhiro Kamimu­ra, a behind-the-scenes guy at GAINAX since the Daicon days, and his wife have quit the com­pa­ny.” A 2011-07-18 French inter­view lists him and his wife’s tenure at Gainax as 1985–Feb­ru­ary 2010. The Kamimuras appar­ently now spend their time han­dling Eva licens­ing, such as the very pop­u­lar DoCoMo cell­phones. Their other licens­ing com­pa­ny, Mamet­sub­uya, han­dles a manga writ­ten by Anno’s wife, Moy­oc­co, called Ochiba-san. –Ed­i­tor]↩︎

  88. A sci-fi TV series enjoy­ing an espe­cially devoted fol­low­ing of hard­core fans, com­monly known as “Trekkies”. These Trekkies com­prise a large per­cent­age of the total sci-fi fan pop­u­la­tion. In Japan, Star Trek was broad­cast in 1969 under the name Uchu Daisakusen, and reruns were shown over and over and over again, espe­cially in the Kan­sai area.↩︎

  89. One year before DAICON 3, NEC released its first per­sonal com­put­er, the . Affec­tion­ately dubbed “My Com” (for “My Com­puter”) in Japan, it became an instant hit among enthu­si­asts. How­ev­er, the Star Trek game writ­ten for it did­n’t make any sense to the major­ity of those who attempted to play it—even after care­ful expla­na­tions from fans of the show.↩︎

  90. One of Hideo Azu­ma’s manga char­ac­ters. Eas­ily iden­ti­fied by its big watery eyes and huge mouth (which is always open), the char­ac­ter has appeared in var­i­ous manga titles. Hideo Azuma was wacky enough him­self, and the silly char­ac­ter was well-known (but prob­a­bly not “pop­u­lar” in a gen­eral sense) among sci-fi fans. It also made an appear­ance in the DAICON 3 open­ing ani­me. because of Naha­ha’s sim­ple design, many hand-crafted char­ac­ter goods based on it have been sold at the SCI-FI Con­ven­tion. Gen­eral Prod­ucts pro­duced a floor cush­ion fea­tur­ing an illus­tra­tion of the char­ac­ter.↩︎

  91. Hideo Azuma (1950–) Manga artist who was tremen­dously pop­u­lar in the early 1980s. He was well known for his cute draw­ings and zany brand of com­e­dy. He has achieved an almost rabid fol­low­ing in the sci-fi fan com­mu­nity with works such as Fujouri Nikki (“Jour­nal of the Absurd”), which boasts an obses­sive­ly-re­searched col­lec­tion of anec­dotes appear­ing in sci­ence fic­tion sto­ries from all gen­er­a­tions and places. You could even say he is the man who intro­duced the ele­ments of (lit. “beau­ti­ful girl”), the and into the world of man­ga. Char­ac­ters from his titles Bukimi ga Hashiru Naha­hakan and so on have been made into all sorts of mer­chan­dise, some of which were pro­duced by Gen­eral Prod­ucts.↩︎

  92. A dis­trict of Osaka, one stop from Umeda on the Han­kyu line. It’s a major com­mut­ing hub where Han­kyu’s Kobe, Kyoto, and Takarazuka lines all meet. Ueda rented an apart­ment in Juso, which was the ideal gath­er­ing spot. It was eas­ily within walk­ing dis­tance of Ume­da. That meant we could go drink­ing in Umeda with­out hav­ing to worry about mak­ing the last train. The apart­ment was like a home away from home for staff mem­bers who lived far away or just did­n’t want to go home for one rea­son or anoth­er. This apart­ment helped main­tain a bond among mem­bers of the DAICON 3 staff well after the event was over, and that bond would even­tu­ally give rise to another bold pro­ject.↩︎

  93. Masa­haru Ueda (1960–) A mem­ber of the Osaka Uni­ver­sity Sci-Fi Club dur­ing his col­lege years. The 3-bed­room apart­ment he alone occu­pied would become our base of oper­a­tions while work­ing on our films and prepar­ing for the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. Dur­ing that time, there were staff mem­bers at the place 24 hours a day. He has worked with GAINAX and Gen­eral Prod­ucts off and on, but has always kept in touch with us over the years. Ueda was appointed Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee two years after I was elected Com­mit­tee Chair­man. He con­tin­ues to fill that office today. He had the rep­u­ta­tion of being quite the phi­lan­der­er, so he was often referred to by the nick­name , after the skirt-chas­ing pro­tag­o­nist from the old hit anime . He is a total book junkie.↩︎

  94. A spe­cialty store for sci-fi related goods. There were a few such shops in Osaka before Gen­eral Prod­ucts was estab­lished, but they all went out of busi­ness within a few months. Gen­eral Prod­ucts was the first suc­cess­ful sci-fi spe­cialty shop in Japan, despite rumors that it would­n’t last three months. Back then, most sci-fi shops sold imported goods from for­eign films, but Gen­eral Prod­ucts inno­vated by focus­ing mainly on its own orig­i­nal prod­ucts.↩︎

  95. A series of sci-fi nov­els writ­ten by Larry Niv­en. It’s the grand tale of an inves­ti­ga­tion team com­prised of mul­ti­ple alien species on a jour­ney through an enor­mous arti­fi­cial world. The world itself was cre­ated inside a gigan­tic ring with a diam­e­ter approx­i­mately equal to the diam­e­ter of Earth’s orbit (about 186 mil­lion miles across) and one mil­lion miles from inner wall to inner wall. Pub­lished in Japan in 1978, it received the Seiun Award the fol­low­ing year. The title is so pop­u­lar that sequels are still being writ­ten today.↩︎

  96. Larry Niven (1938–) Pro­lific Amer­i­can sci-fi author. His grandiose style and the over­all enter­tain­ment value of his writ­ings have won him great fame. In fact, the name of our store is a nod to Niven’s work­s—in his Known Space series, a race of tech­no­log­i­cal­ly-ad­vanced aliens known as oper­ates a com­pany called . The fan club, which our own store man­aged, was called the Fan Club, and the newslet­ter we put out was the Pup­peteer Tsushin (“Pup­peteer Bul­letin”). Niven him­self agreed to our use of these names.↩︎

  97. In order to sell a prod­uct based on any copy­righted sub­ject, per­mis­sion is required. In the past, such per­mis­sion was given only to estab­lished man­u­fac­tur­ers, and before Gen­eral Prod­ucts, it was unthink­able for a small garage kit com­pany to even ask. Gen­eral Prod­ucts also came up with the one-day licens­ing sys­tem, which allows ama­teur deal­ers to sell copy­righted mate­ri­als only on the day of a par­tic­u­lar event, and suc­cess­fully lob­bied many licen­sors in Japan to con­sent.↩︎

  98. A film com­pany that has pro­duced (and cur­rently holds copy­rights to) many giant mon­ster movies. Even in the early days of Gen­eral Prod­ucts, Toho was very coop­er­ate in per­mit­ting the man­u­fac­tur­ing of garage kits. Toho, in con­junc­tion with NHK and Sogo Vision, was also the anime pro­duc­tion house for the GAINAX TV anime Fushigi no Umi no Nadia (“Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water”).↩︎

  99. A famous pro­duc­tion stu­dio founded by the late Eiji Tsub­u­raya. Their Ultra­man prod­ucts are very pop­u­lar among fans of the live-ac­tion spe­cial effects genre. Gen­eral Prod­ucts has released many Tsub­u­raya-re­lated items over the years, includ­ing the Jet Bee­tle and Ultra Hawk model kits, a neck­tie pin with the insignia of the Sci­ence Spe­cial Search Par­ty, and even an Ultra­man t-shirt.↩︎

  100. Kazu­taka Miy­atake (1951–) Mechan­i­cal designer and illus­tra­tor for Stu­dio Nue. Made his anime debut with Zero Tester. Miy­atake has also worked as a mechan­i­cal designer in a wide vari­ety of media, includ­ing spe­cial effects shows, games, and man­ga. Among his mas­ter­pieces are (“Farewell Space Bat­tle­ship Yam­a­to—­Sol­diers of Love”), Cho­jiku You­sai Macross (“Super Dimen­sional Fortress Macross”) and Say­onara Jupiter (“Bye-Bye Jupiter”). He even designed sev­eral of the space bat­tle­ships that appeared in .↩︎

  101. Lim­it­ed-pro­duc­tion model kits for hard­core fans. They are often pro­duced in places like the design­er’s home or garage. Unlike mass-pro­duced model kits, garage kits have the feel of a hand-crafted prod­uct. Another differ­ence is that mass-pro­duced model kits require advanced design skills and thou­sands of dol­lars for each metal mold, while resin kits can be made for a few hun­dred dol­lars. With resin, it’s also pos­si­ble to cre­ate com­plex and detailed sur­faces that would be very hard to dupli­cate with a metal mold. This is just another rea­son why garage kits have cap­tured the hearts of hard­core mod­el­ers. The kits are pricey because of their small pro­duc­tion runs, but as they are made by fans for fans (who have a great knowl­edge of and inter­est in the sub­ject) they have remained pop­u­lar. Fin­ish­ing a garage kit model takes some fairly advanced assem­bling and paint­ing skills. Many of the cute girl fig­urines you see today are high­-qual­ity prod­ucts and sell quite well, but it’s ques­tion­able as to how many of them are actu­ally hand-built.

    [Ex­am­ples of Gen­eral Prod­ucts model kits, specifi­cally Gun­buster! ones, can be seen at Carl E. Lind­blom Jr.’s Gun­buster Index. –Ed­i­tor]↩︎

  102. A model shop in Osaka that entered the garage kit mar­ket at about the same time Gen­eral Prod­ucts did. Okada was a reg­u­lar patron of the shop. After Gen­eral Prod­ucts opened, the two com­pa­nies butted heads on a num­ber of occa­sions, but the rela­tion­ship improved through such events as the Won­der Fes­ti­val. Kaiy­odo took over the Won­der Fes­ti­val after Gen­eral Prod­ucts quit orga­niz­ing it, and thus the com­pa­nies became allies. In 2000, a col­lab­o­ra­tive project between Kaiy­odo and Furuta Seika for a prod­uct called the “Choco Egg” became a huge suc­cess. Kaiy­odo cur­rently dom­i­nates the minia­ture fig­ure mar­ket.↩︎

  103. Hiroki Sato (1964–) Anime pro­ducer and mem­ber of GAINAX’s . While employed with the Trans­porta­tion Bureau, he played an active role in DAICON FILM, putting forth what­ever spare time he had. I sought to employ his incred­i­ble knowl­edge of garage kits and mod­els, and ended up hir­ing him as the man­ager of Gen­eral Prod­ucts’ Tokyo branch in 1987. He was put in charge of all PR issues sur­round­ing Shin­seiki Evan­ge­lion (“Neon Gen­e­sis Evan­ge­lion”), and has been an anime pro­ducer for GAINAX ever since Kareshi Kanojo no Jijo (“His and Her Cir­cum­stances”). He is an extremely ded­i­cated indi­vid­u­al, and pours every ounce of his love into ani­me, mod­els and toys. His strict adher­ence to the Way of the Otaku may have seemed rather extreme at times, but despite his seri­ous­ness, peo­ple started to affec­tion­ately refer to him as ten­cho-san (lit. “store man­ager”).

    [Michael S. John­son vis­ited Gainax Feb­ru­ary 1999 and talked with staffers. He wrote:

    Anno objected to the restric­tions placed on TV anime by TV Tokyo after the Pocket Mon­ster inci­dent, so in protest, he decided to have noth­ing more to do with TV Tokyo and left the pro­duc­tion of Kare-Kano in the hands of Sato, who joined Gainax after hav­ing worked for the gov­ern­ment in a pub­lic works man­age­ment posi­tion.

    Takeda later men­tions that Sato had worked for the city of Osa­ka.

    Inci­den­tal­ly, John­son also described the phys­i­cal lay­out of the Gainax offices, which empha­sizes the extent to which they were a game com­pa­ny: “The ground floor, which we did­n’t see much of, was where devel­op­ment of com­puter games takes place. The sec­ond floor was where the ani­ma­tors worked, and the third floor was for man­age­ment… There are ~60 peo­ple who work in the main Gainax build­ing. Twenty on each floor. There were only four or five ani­ma­tors present when we vis­it­ed, because they gen­er­ally work dur­ing night until the morn­ing.” –Ed­i­tor]↩︎

  104. Jun Tamaya (1963–) He also came to us from the Osaka Uni­ver­sity Sci-Fi Club, and par­tic­i­pated in the pro­duc­tion of Dainip­pon, Ultra­man, and other DAICON FILM titles. He had a cer­tain knack for design that seemed to be inde­pen­dent of what­ever medium he was work­ing in. This abil­ity would land him a posi­tion at Gen­eral Prod­ucts, and later GAINAX, where he was named chief of CG art and played a vital role in the devel­op­ment of such games as Den­nou Gakuen (“Cyber School”) and Princess Maker. Tama-san is his nick­name, and a par­tic­u­larly apt one at that, as his phys­i­cal appear­ance is very round indeed. (Tama can also mean “ball” in Japan­ese.) He once prided him­self as the heav­i­est of GAINAX’s heavy­weights, but lately he has been watch­ing his weight because of dia­betes.↩︎

  105. Gen­eral Prod­ucts and Okada were fea­tured in the TV news pro­gram ズームイン朝! (“Zoom in the Morn­ing!”); a clip of the GP store can be seen on YouTube at “ゼネラルプロダクツ”. –Ed­i­tor↩︎

  106. One of the cast­ing mate­ri­als used to cre­ate garage kits. Two differ­ent liq­uids are mixed and poured into a mold, where they solid­ify after a few min­utes, form­ing a model part. Epoxy resin is a lit­tle tricky to han­dle because if it’s poorly mixed it either forms bub­bles or does­n’t solid­ify enough. Pieces of hard­ened resin have a nasty habit of look­ing like potato chips to exhausted peo­ple work­ing through the night, so han­dle with care!↩︎

  107. Takashi Gyoten (1962–) Dur­ing the early days of DAICON FILM, he was kind of like the boss of Osaka Uni­ver­si­ty’s Sci-Fi Club. He lived in an apart­ment close to the Uni­ver­si­ty, and it served as our base of oper­a­tions for a few months dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of Kaet­tekita Ultra­man. He went on to become a high school math­e­mat­ics teacher, and is now a Bud­dhist priest.↩︎

  108. Masanobu Komaki Edi­tor-in-chief of the cult anime mag­a­zine Ani­mec when it first went into print in 1979. Over the course of his edi­to­r­ial career he has earned a huge fol­low­ing for the in-depth nature of his pub­li­ca­tions. He is also famous for nam­ing the from the orig­i­nal Kido Sen­shi Gun­dam (“Mobile Suit Gun­dam”) TV series. Komaki also gave Okada and me a reg­u­lar col­umn in Ani­mec mag­a­zine, titled “Gen­eral Prod­ucts’ Tricks of the Trade”.↩︎

  109. Yoshiyuki Tomino (1941–) Famous anime direc­tor and cre­ator of Kido Sen­shi Gun­dam (“Mobile Suit Gun­dam”). Also directed the movie (“Char’s Coun­ter­at­tack”). GAINAX par­tic­i­pated in the pro­duc­tion of this film by con­tribut­ing mechan­i­cal designs.↩︎

  110. Mamoru Nagano (1960–) Manga artist and illus­tra­tor. His big break came when he did the char­ac­ter and mechan­i­cal designs for (“Heavy Metal L-Gaim”). His seri­al­ized man­ga, , has an ener­getic fan base and is now a well-estab­lished title. The Mor­tar Headd mecha appear­ing in the story have become a sta­ple among garage kit mak­ers, and even con­tributed to the devel­op­ment and sophis­ti­ca­tion of the model indus­try and its prod­ucts.↩︎

  111. Event which pro­moted the the­atri­cal release of . Okada and I made an appear­ance there as the “Devil Twins”, spoofing the twin char­ac­ters from the movie. Our per­for­mance, which included an omi­nous dance (com­plete with theme song), is embar­rass­ing to think about even now. Some­times peo­ple still ask me to come to their meet­ings as a guest of honor because they’ll be show­ing video footage of the Ideon Fes­ti­val. Oh, how I’d love to stran­gle them…↩︎

  112. Toshi­hiko Nishi­gaki (1959–) A for­mer mem­ber of the Osaka Uni­ver­sity Sci-Fi club. It was Nishi­gaki who was ulti­mately respon­si­ble for get­ting his club involved with DAICON. While in high school he was a mem­ber of the rugby team, but even though he is tall and built like a house, he is also a very good-na­tured per­son, a gen­tle giant, so to speak. Yanaran from Wings of Hon­neamise was mod­eled after him. His fam­ily owned an embroi­dery busi­ness in Osaka, which yielded many busi­ness con­nec­tions that he used to the great ben­e­fit of Gen­eral Prod­ucts and the DAICON pro­jects. Nishi­gaki was appointed head of the exec­u­tive com­mit­tee for the 22nd Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion (DAICON 4). He grad­u­ated from col­lege a whole eight years after enrolling. He cur­rently works for a semi­-con­duc­tor firm.↩︎

  113. The 22nd annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion was held at Osaka Koseinenkin Hall in 1983. The 4,000 or so in atten­dance marked an all-time high for the event. The site was arranged as an off­world colony, and atten­dees were treated as immi­grants to the plan­et. The colony was planned to the last detail, from the cre­ation of an “authen­tic” broad­cast sta­tion, right down to the print­ing of local cur­ren­cy. The two years spent prepar­ing for the event, cou­pled with the pro­duc­tion of three films in the inter­im, resulted in a very highly trained staff that helped make this rich and com­plex event a big suc­cess.↩︎

  114. A movie pro­duc­tion group estab­lished to pro­mote DAICON 4, and serve as a train­ing ground for the staff. The head mem­bers of this group were for the most part the same peo­ple who made up the DAICON 4 exec­u­tive com­mit­tee. How­ev­er, DAICON FILM con­tin­ued to make movies well after the event was over. Form­ing right after the end of DAICON 3, the group pro­duced two anime shorts and six spe­cial effects films in four years.↩︎

  115. A group of sci-fi artists estab­lished in 1974. Among its mem­bers are , , Haruka Takachi­ho, and Kenichi Mat­suza­ki. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, their activ­i­ties included illus­tra­tion, movie plan­ning and con­cep­tual sci-fi design work, as well as writ­ing nov­els and scripts. They’ve exerted an enor­mous influ­ence in the realms of anime and spe­cial effects films. Just like GAINAX and Gen­eral Prod­ucts, this group started as a club of col­lege bud­dies. The work Anno and the oth­ers had done on the DAICON 3 open­ing ani­ma­tion caught the atten­tion of Stu­dio Nue, who invited them to Tokyo to help out with the pro­duc­tion of the TV anime Cho­jiku Yosai Macross.↩︎

  116. A TV anime cre­ated by Stu­dio Nue that aired in 1982. It was ambi­tious for a sci-fi ani­me, com­bin­ing var­i­ous plot ele­ments, like a love tri­an­gle, an idol singer and of trans­form­ing into robots. Many tal­ented but inex­pe­ri­enced young cre­ators took part in the pro­ject, and the footage they pro­duced was top-notch. On the flip side, the pro­duc­tion site was chaotic and dis­or­ga­nized, and the labor short­age made some episodes rather painful to watch. A movie ver­sion was pro­duced in 1984, and other sequels to the show are avail­able in var­i­ous for­mats.↩︎

  117. Okada, Ani­mer­ica:

    Okada: He [Ya­m­a­ga] 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.


  118. Mahiro Maeda (1963–) Maeda had known Takami Akai in high school (both from the same town, in ), and had also worked with Yoshiyuki Sadamo­to, on the set of Macross, so he was a nat­ural addi­tion to the DAICON 4 open­ing staff. Lat­er, he was employed by GAINAX and using his excel­lent design skills, laid the ground­work for Fushigi no Umi no Nadia (“Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water”). After leav­ing GAINAX, Maeda became a key player for , and went on to direct such cut­ting-edge works as . His hand­i­work also appears in var­i­ous spe­cial effects titles, like and , in which he did the char­ac­ter designs for the mon­sters.↩︎

  119. Hiroshi Yam­aguchi (1963–) A scriptwriter who has worked on projects such as , Shin­seiki Evan­ge­lion and (“Blue Sub­ma­rine No. 6”). Takami Akai, Mahiro Maeda and he are all from the same home­town and remain very good friends. After com­ing to Tokyo as an ani­ma­tor and later gain­ing expe­ri­ence as an edi­tor for Stu­dio Hard, he dis­tin­guished him­self as a screen­writer. As far as char­ac­ters, he can eas­ily han­dle any­thing from the geeky goofi­ness of a hard­core otaku to the calm, steely com­po­sure of a hard­boiled detec­tive. Before mov­ing to Tokyo, he helped out with the pro­duc­tion of Aikoku Sen­tai Dainip­pon. Inci­den­tal­ly, he’s also the one who got Shinji Higuchi involved with DAICON FILM.↩︎

  120. Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (1962–) Manga artist and char­ac­ter design­er. He actu­ally made his debut as a manga artist while he was still a uni­ver­sity stu­dent. Also dur­ing his career at , he and his under­class­man Mahiro Maeda man­aged to par­tic­i­pate in the pro­duc­tion of Macross. And lat­er, Sadamoto had a hot Osaka sum­mer when he, Yam­aga and Anno were brought onto the DAICON 4 staff. After grad­u­a­tion, he went to work for , and helped to man­u­fac­ture prod­ucts mainly intended for for­eign mar­kets. How­ev­er, hav­ing directed Hon­neamise, Sadamoto played an impor­tant role in the found­ing of GAINAX. Inci­den­tal­ly, he is also in love with Euro­pean auto­mo­biles.↩︎

  121. Sadamoto later told his story about meet­ing Hideaki Anno through the Macross pro­duc­tion & Maeda in the “Yoshiyuki Sadamo­to’s First Meet­ing With Direc­tor Anno” sec­tion of the book Schizo.↩︎

  122. The trav­el­ing hero (played by yours tru­ly, Yasuhiro Takeda him­self) that was the inspi­ra­tion for the title of this book. It was made for video in 1982, and it has become my sig­na­ture per­for­mance. Once I vis­ited a client, and the recep­tion­ist said, “Hey, it’s Notenki!” That anec­dote has become a favorite joke among some of my friends. The plot of the film revolves around a pri­vate eye named Ken Hayakawa whose best friend Goro Asuka was killed by the evil orga­ni­za­tion of Backer. Ken vows to avenge his friend by trans­form­ing him­self into Kaiketsu Noten­ki. It was a direct rip-off of Kaiketsu Zubat (see next note). Kaiketsu Notenki was pro­duced as a fun project between the two tir­ing pro­duc­tions of Dainip­pon and Ultra­man. The movie was a no-brain­er—we made it to relax. We were young.↩︎

  123. A spe­cial effects super­hero TV series cre­ated by Toei in 1977, star­ring as a pri­vate eye named Ken Hayakawa, whose best friend Goro Asuka was killed by the evil orga­ni­za­tion of Dakker. Ken wears rein­forced suits of the kind devel­oped for space explo­ration, and becomes Kaiketsu Zubat to avenge his friend. Despite being such a low-bud­get show, the dar­ing story and visual arrange­ments were well-re­ceived by some enthu­si­as­tic fans. Kaiketsu Notenki was cre­ated as a spoof of the show after Anno showed a Zubat video to Toshio Oka­da.↩︎

  124. Hiroshi Miyauchi (1954–) Actor who played such roles as Shiro Kazami from , Akira Shin­mei (the “Blue Ranger”) from , Sou­kichi Banba from , and let us not for­get… Ken Hayakawa from Kaiketsu Zubat! Mr. Miyauchi seems to exude an aura of hero­ism.↩︎

  125. Most self­-pro­duced movies today are filmed on video, but in the early 1980s, dom­i­nat­ed. One film cas­sette lasts for 3 min­utes, and costs about $10, includ­ing devel­op­ment. The film can’t be reviewed with­out first being devel­oped, so you have no sec­ond changes with each shot. 8mm is much more diffi­cult to use than a video cam­era, mak­ing the film­ing expe­ri­ence far more stress­ful.↩︎

  126. Kaiketsu Notenki was filmed with a , which had just been released on the mar­ket. Although it was pur­port­edly “handy”, the cam­era itself weighed more than 22lbs, and the bat­tery only lasted 20 min­utes. Still, pro­duc­tion costs were much cheaper than with 8mm, and film­ing with the cam­era was so easy that even inex­pe­ri­enced stu­dents could take turns direct­ing and film­ing movies in a pretty laid-back atmos­phere.↩︎

  127. See the con­ven­tion report sec­tion for pic­ture. –Ed­i­tor.↩︎

  128. This self­-pro­duced film (the name means “Patri­otic Rangers of the Great Nation of Japan”) directed by Takami Akai was pro­duced by DAICON FILM in 1982. As the title sug­gests, it was a spoof of Toei’s Sen­tai (su­per­hero team) series. It was shown at the Tokon 8 in 1982 as a way of pro­mot­ing DAICON 4, which would be held the fol­low­ing year. This ama­teur movie was appre­ci­ated for its real­is­tic explo­sions and minia­tures. As you might guess from the title, the char­ac­ters were pretty crudely named, and the story was a no-brain­er. How­ev­er, we were puz­zled as to why some sci-fi clubs reacted to our film with anger… [Clips can be seen on YouTube: “愛國戦隊大日本”. –Ed­i­tor]↩︎

  129. Shuichi Hayashi (1962–) Mem­ber of the Osaka Uni­ver­sity Sci-Fi Club, orig­i­nally from Kyushu. He is a very hot-blooded indi­vid­ual. He joined our group just after DAICON 3 end­ed, and starred in DAICON FILM’s Aikoku Sen­tai Dainip­pon and Ultra­man. Dur­ing DAICON 4, he also played a cen­tral role as our stage man­ag­er. After that, he resumed his stud­ies and went on to become the head of R&D for a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals com­pa­ny.↩︎

  130. See also the anime _. –Ed­i­tor.↩︎

  131. Akira Hori (1944–) Though his pri­mary occu­pa­tion is work­ing for an engi­neer­ing firm, he is also a hard­core sci-fi enthu­si­ast and highly esteemed sci-fi author. Taiy­ou­fuu Kouten and Baby­lon­ian Wave are two of his great­est works. Since he is an alum­nus of Osaka Uni­ver­si­ty, we used that con­nec­tion to force him into the film­ing of Aikoku Sen­tai Dainip­pon. We had the honor of cast­ing this most illus­tri­ous indi­vid­ual as Gen­eral Fujiya­ma, but he would later request that we cut this scene.↩︎

  132. Toei’s first sen­tai (su­per­hero team as in , etc.) TV series was , which came out in 1975. All the shows in the series fea­tured five (oc­ca­sion­ally three) defend­ers of jus­tice in col­or­ful cos­tumes fight­ing against evil. As of 2002, 26 series had been pro­duced. Aikoku Sen­tai Dainip­pon mim­ic­ked the plot of shows in this genre.↩︎

  133. Dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of Aikoku Sen­tai Dainip­pon, we decided the cli­max would require some explo­sives. We asked another film pro­duc­tion group for help in cre­at­ing the explo­sions, but the results did­n’t look very con­vinc­ing, so we ended up mak­ing our own instead. It must be against the law to do some­thing like that, but the statue of lim­i­ta­tions should have expired by now… I hope! There were many mis­steps in the explo­sion-mak­ing process of the Dainip­pon pro­duc­tion, but we went on to do Ultra­man, and by the time we began work on Orochi, we had really got­ten the hang of it and finally achieved the results we were look­ing for.↩︎

  134. Toshio Okada dis­cussed explo­sives with Neil Nadel­man of fanzine The Rose: “Want to know the secret of mak­ing good live-ac­tion effects movies? Gun­pow­der bombs. But to make them really good you need to use gaso­line, for the nice explo­sions. Yes folks, here was a man telling us how to make bombs for fun and film.” –Ed­i­tor↩︎

  135. The 21st annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion held at Nihon Toshi Cen­ter in Tokyo in 1982. The num­ber of atten­dees was about 1,500. Like DAICON 3, Tokon 8 was a large, well-or­ga­nized con­ven­tion run­ning both stage per­for­mances and side sem­i­nars. The fol­low­ing year’s plans (for DAICON 4) would be final­ized at this con­ven­tion, so many mem­bers of our staff attended the con to pro­mote our group. After the cos­tume show (the final event of the con), we screened Aikoku Sen­tai Dainip­pon and fol­lowed it up with our own live per­for­mance.↩︎

  136. This self­-pro­duced tokusatsu film was com­pleted by DAICON FILM in 1983. It was directed by Hideaki Anno and the spe­cial effects were super­vised by Takami Akai. It was a seri­ous spe­cial effects movie based on Tsub­u­raya Pro­duc­tion’s Ultra­man. The film fea­tures an impres­sive story con­cept, backed by a com­pli­cated script and con­vinc­ing spe­cial effects. Anno played the role of Ultra­man with­out any make­up. Pro­duc­tion began at the same time as the Dainip­pon and Notenki films (which would be shown at the Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion in the sum­mer), but we were tak­ing such great pains in pro­duc­ing Ultra­man we were afraid it would­n’t be pos­si­ble to fin­ish it and Dainip­pon at the same time. Thus, Ultra­man was pushed off until the fol­low­ing spring. And thinks to Tsub­u­raya Pro­duc­tion’s gen­eros­i­ty, our ver­sion of Kaet­tekita Ultra­man is now avail­able on DVD from GAINAX. [Ex­cerpts are avail­able on YouTube, such as “戦え!ウル○ラマン カラオケ” or DAICON FILM - 愛國戰隊大日本&メイキング映像”. –Ed­i­tor]↩︎

  137. This is refer­ring to “Shin-Con”, the 14th annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion, held in Kobe in 1975. Yasu­taka Tsut­sui was mak­ing a name for him­self as a pro­fes­sional writer, and the pro­duc­tion of the con was a labor of love for him. How­ev­er, he appointed some­one else to the task of man­ag­ing the exec­u­tive com­mit­tee. The object of the Con was to pro­mote and famil­iar­ize peo­ple with sci-fi, and events included a talk by com­edy sto­ry­teller Bei­cho Kat­sura, a jazz per­for­mance from and a drama scripted by Tsut­sui him­self. It was very enjoy­able. The num­ber of atten­dees was about 1000, which at the time was very high, exceed­ing all pre­vi­ous cons and a few that were still to come.↩︎

  138. Okada, Ani­mer­ica:

    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.


  139. This old build­ing, located near Mori­nomiya, was man­aged by a labor union of apparel man­u­fac­tur­ers in Osa­ka. We were able to rent an empty floor for the sum­mer, thanks to one of Nishi­gak­i’s (the exec­u­tive man­ager of DAICON 4) con­nec­tions. Because of its con­ve­nient loca­tion, we often held meet­ings there. The prob­lem was that the build­ing closed in the evening, so our staff had to work through the night locked inside, endur­ing the sum­mer heat as there was no air con­di­tion­ing.↩︎

  140. A movie pro­duced by DAICON FILM from around the end of 1981 through Jan­u­ary 1982. The first Notenki was filmed on video cam­era, but this sec­ond movie was done on 8mm. The short win­ter days lim­ited the amount of time we had to film, so if you make a movie with a lot of out­door sce­nes, I don’t rec­om­mend doing it in the win­ter. I played the main role, ended up get­ting sick, and still had to work at the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store, so I was com­pletely exhausted the entire time. The sup­ple­men­tal title for this film was Minatomachi Jun­jo­hen (“A Har­bor Town Tale of Unspoiled Emo­tions”).↩︎

  141. In 1982, DAICON FILM pro­duced a pup­pet movie titled Hayauchi Ken no Dai­bo­ken (“The Great Adven­tures of Quick­-Draw Ken”). It was a live-ac­tion movie with pup­pets. Numer­ous scenes required spe­cial effects, so we rented a house near the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store and used that as our effects stu­dio. Anno and Akai opted not to par­tic­i­pate in this movie or Notenki 2, in order to give the younger staff an oppor­tu­nity to hone their skills. The film was made after DAICON 4, when the staff’s morale was start­ing to decline, and con­se­quent­ly, there was no push to pro­duce a sequel.↩︎

  142. Mon­ster movie directed by Takami Akai, which was pro­duced by DAICON FILM in 1985. Set in Akai’s home­town of Yon­ago, its plot cen­ters on a myth­i­cal mon­ster named Yamata no Orochi (“eight-headed dragon”) that tram­ples the city. This marked the pin­na­cle of DAICON FILM’s pro­duc­tion his­to­ry, and was filmed using incred­i­bly expen­sive 16mm film. The movie itself was hard to make because of the ever-ex­panded scale of pro­duc­tion and the short­age of staff. Even­tu­al­ly, we ran out of money and were forced to accept finan­cial sup­port from , who later dis­trib­uted this movie on video. The DVD ver­sion is cur­rently avail­able through GAINAX.↩︎

  143. Kenichi Son­oda (1962–) Manga artist. He is well-known for his recent titles (“Can­non God Exaxxion”) and . I first met him while he was still a stu­dent at Osaka Uni­ver­si­ty. He came to Gen­eral Prod­ucts hop­ing to con­sign some of his dojin­shi fan man­ga. For a while, he also worked part-time for our store, assist­ing with prod­uct devel­op­ment. He later moved to Tokyo and went on to become char­ac­ter designer for and , as well as an inde­pen­dent manga artist. One ques­tion that often comes up regard­ing this author is how the char­ac­ters in his manga can seem so intel­li­gent and wise, while the author him­self is such a sleaze. His nick­name is Sonoy­an.↩︎

  144. Toshio Okada, Ani­mer­ica:

    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.

    In his 2003 visit to MIT, Eri Izawa records Okada as say­ing:

    “If Amer­i­can ama­teurs were to make anime with com­put­ers, the online equiv­a­lent of dou­jin­shi man­ga, what would the Japan­ese com­mu­nity reac­tion be? Mr. Okada thought”They would prob­a­bly be hap­py." How­ev­er, one big differ­ence is that Japan­ese cre­ators don’t worry about copy­rights (un­like in the U.S.). Most man­gaka remem­ber copy­ing their favorite authors when they were start­ing out, so they don’t feel they can com­plain. Only high level pub­lish­ing or anime stu­dio exec­u­tives tend to com­plain about copy­right vio­la­tions. In fact, Mr. Kenichi Son­oda, who writes the “Bub­blegum Cri­sis” man­ga, appar­ently likes receiv­ing dou­jin­shi of his work, includ­ing erotic dou­jin­shi depict­ing his char­ac­ters in sex­ual sit­u­a­tions. “How lucky I am to be able to read this with­out hav­ing to write it myself!” is his appar­ent atti­tude."


  145. Masamune Shi­row (1961–) Manga author with a large fol­low­ing. He typ­i­cally puts out a low vol­ume of very high­-qual­ity work, and his style is char­ac­ter­ized by skill­ful­ly-wrought illus­tra­tions and well-de­tailed worlds. Among his more famous works are and (“Ghost in the Shell”). When he was still a stu­dent at the Osaka Uni­ver­sity of Arts, he used to bring his dojin­shi ver­sions of Apple­seed (only a fan work back then) in for con­sign­ment at the Gen­eral Prod­ucts store. Shi­row also designed the air­craft the main char­ac­ters fly in GAINAX’s PC com­bat flight sim­u­la­tor Aoki Uru (“Blue Uru”). [See later com­ment about Aoki Uru. –Ed­i­tor.]↩︎

  146. See pre­vi­ous Okada Ani­mer­ica excerpt; Okada dates the gen­e­sis of Wings a bit ear­lier:

    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, or direc­tor, or ani­ma­tion direc­tor–just friends who loved ani­ma­tion and sci­ence fic­tion. That’s all.


  147. GAINAX’s first movie, released in 1987. It was also the first the­atri­cal film Bandai ever pro­duced. It was scripted and directed by Hiroyuki Yam­a­ga. Yoshiyuki Sadamoto cre­ated the char­ac­ters, and together with Hideaki Anno directed the ani­ma­tion. On staff were some very well-known indi­vid­u­als, though they were all novices back then. They were later joined by Shinji Higuchi and Takami Akai, who had just fin­ished Orochi. The music was com­posed by [see next foot­note –Ed­i­tor] and the sound effects were done by vet­eran sound engi­neer Atsumi Tashiro. Most peo­ple read­ing this book have prob­a­bly seen the film.↩︎

  148. Okada, Ani­mer­ica:

    "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 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.”"


  149. Toshio Okada, “Con­science of the Otak­ing, part 4”, Ani­mer­ica:

    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”.

    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]

    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."


  150. The 24th annual Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion held in Niigata in 1985, known as the Gat­a­con Spe­cial Sum­mer Fes­ti­val. The rea­son for the “Spe­cial” was because it was the Gat­a­con fes­ti­val’s 10th anniver­sary. There were about 1,300 peo­ple in atten­dance.↩︎

  151. This annual award was first pre­sented in 1970. It des­ig­nates the year’s finest work of sci­ence fic­tion, and is awarded at the Japan Sci-Fi Con­ven­tion. There are eight cat­e­gories, rang­ing from short and long nov­els to comics and visual cre­ations in var­i­ous other media. The atten­dees of the con­ven­tion vote for the best work in each cat­e­go­ry. Next to the Nihon SF Taisho Award, it is per­haps the most pres­ti­gious award in the realm of sci-fi. (In­ci­den­tal­ly, the Nihon SF Taisho Award was estab­lished in 1980, and the win­ners are deter­mined by a group of pro­fes­sion­al­s.) In 1982, the DAICON 3 open­ing ani­ma­tion received more votes than any­thing else, but the Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion dis­qual­i­fied it.↩︎

  152. Kazuyoshi Kak­izaki Orig­i­nally from Niigata Pre­fec­ture, he is a hard­core sci-fi fan, and one of the so-called “BNFs” (Big Name Fan­s). Unlike most of the area sci-fi elite, he was actu­ally a good friend of mine and the rest of the DAICON 3 and 4 staffs. He was very tall, stand­ing over six feet. He was also a very open-hearted indi­vid­u­al, and the ladies really feel for him. When asked why he got involved with the DAICON staff, he replied “Because all sorts of prob­lems just seem to crop up around those guys. It makes things more enter­tain­ing.” He was the model for a char­ac­ter (also named Kak­iza­ki) who appeared in Cho­jiku Yosai Macross.↩︎

  153. Shinji Maki (1959–) Sci-fi researcher and crit­ic. He is famous for his col­lec­tion of old and rare sci-fi nov­els. Maki was the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Japan Sci-Fi Fan Group Asso­ci­a­tion Com­mit­tee when I announced my can­di­dacy for Chair­man.↩︎

  154. As garage kits came to be more widely rec­og­nized, the num­ber of garage-kit mak­ers increased and many local hobby stores started releas­ing kits under their own brand name. Book­store own­ers and avid read­ers don’t tend to write their own nov­els, but in con­trast, hob­by­store own­ers and avid hob­by­ists love to make mod­els. For these pricey kits, a maker need only place two or three mag­a­zine ads. The mar­ket estab­lished by Gen­eral Prod­ucts and Kaiy­odo is now boom­ing, thanks to some small stores in Shikoku and Kanaza­wa, as well as con­tin­ued enthu­si­asm from mod­el­ing clubs.↩︎

  155. The Won­der Fes­ti­val is like a flea mar­ket for garage kits. The event orga­nizer takes care of the licens­ing issues so that ama­teurs can sell their garage kits (of copy­righted sub­jects) on the day of the event. This spot-li­cens­ing sys­tem was first seen at Won­der Fes­ti­val. Only in the garage kit mar­ket are indi­vid­u­als allowed to com­pete on equal ground with the major man­u­fac­tur­ers. The Won­der Fes­ti­val con­tributed to the expan­sion of the garage kit indus­try by pro­vid­ing an oppor­tu­nity for both pros and ama­teurs to show off their wares side by side.↩︎

  156. Shigeru Watan­abe (1957–) A pro­ducer who is also on the board of direc­tors for . We met when Gen­eral Prod­ucts was still in busi­ness. At the time, Mr. Watan­abe was involved in prod­uct plan­ning for Bandai, and worked on such projects as the “Real Hobby Series”, a line of fig­urines mar­keted toward hard­core enthu­si­asts. He is also the one who arranged for Bandai to help fund the pro­duc­tion of our first the­atri­cal anime release. If it had­n’t been for him, Okada and Yam­a­ga’s dream of pro­duc­ing a fea­ture length motion pic­ture might never have been real­ized. For a time, he was actu­ally the pres­i­dent of Bandai Visu­al, but vol­un­tar­ily stepped down because he “[want­ed] to make ani­me, to be at the heart of the cre­ative process.” It was a move that made him famous through­out the indus­try. He is truly a man of char­ac­ter. Inci­den­tal­ly, he is the same age as me, and the two of us have gone out drink­ing together many times.↩︎

  157. A Bandai-pro­duced series of plas­tic mod­els that included Daima­jin, Ultra­man and Gam­era. Con­sid­er­ing the choice of sub­jects, the unpainted parts, and large vol­ume of ref­er­ence mate­ri­als, these kits were designed specifi­cally for hard­core fans.↩︎

  158. Makoto Yamashina The sec­ond pres­i­dent of Bandai Co. Ltd., one of the largest toy man­u­fac­tur­ers in the world. He is the com­pa­ny’s cur­rent chair­man, and is respon­si­ble for tak­ing it for­ward into the real of visual media. It is largely through his efforts that Japan’s anime indus­try has pros­pered.↩︎

  159. Short for “Orig­i­nal Video Ani­ma­tion”. OVA is straight-to-video anime intended to be sold through retail, instead of air­ing on TV or screen­ing in the­aters. OVAs tend to be tar­geted at hard­core fans who have high expec­ta­tions of qual­i­ty. The first prod­uct of this kind was