English translation of French translation of Hideaki Anno’s controversial NewType interview at the end of the TV broadcast
The 1996-06 issue of NewType (published 10 May) included an interview by Shinichiro Inoue with Hideaki Anno, the director of the controversial TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion which had just finished with 2 unusual episodes on 20 & 1996-03-27, sparking a national discussion & backlash. This interview has been widely alluded to in Eva discussions as Anno gave his initial thoughts on how Eva turned out, what he & Gainax were trying to do, and their reaction to the public reaction.
We translate an unofficial French fan translation into English, providing access to the full interview for the first time.
Hideaki Anno’s most (in)famous public comments on Evangelion came in 1996 in an interview with preeminent anime magazine NewType, in the wake of the ending of Evangelion. This interview has been alluded to by fans (“1996/05/10: Newtype Magazine June issue contains the first in-depth interview with Director Anno following the conclusion of the TV airing, in which Anno criticizes anime fans and otaku in particular.”), briefly summarized1, but never translated into English.
No longer a child, not yet an adult… Being “fourteen years old” symbolizes problems of the heart.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is a great wave that started to rise, about ten years ago, in the sea of Anime. Already 17 years had passed since the beginning of the first series of Mobile Suit Gundam. A time when teenagers filled the theaters to see Space Battleship Yamato or Galaxy Express 999. In other words, the years of the anime boom of the 1980s. For most part, our current readers were not born or were still babies; at that time, all teenagers accepted the cartoons unreservedly. Soon after, among these teens, watching anime became something “special”.
In the mid-80s, with the appearance of the OVA [format], anime began to adapt to the needs of fans and, insidiously, became a kind that the general public could not fully understand.
Of course, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball are popular. But these are works that are labeled “strictly for children.” Of course, the films of Hayao Miyazaki (and of Studio Ghibli) attract spectators each summer in theaters. But there are always movies that we will watch with complete trust, even “fall in love” with. These are absolutely not the works made “for anime-fans”.
We argue that the general public, as well as the anime-fans, find them exceptional. And each release of these films is eagerly awaited.
Not only anime-fans, but also normal kids, discerning adults, and the fans of a decade ago who returned to animation, all enthusiastically supported Eva. And even now, though the TV broadcast of the series has ended, the movement continues to spread.
It’s been a month since the end of the series aired, since the last episode so fiercely debated, without the mysteries explained. Now that he’s gone from having a busy schedule to a relatively more routine one, we’ve managed to spend some time with the director, Hideaki Anno.
“My current mood…? I’m very tired (laughs).”
After saying this, Hideaki Anno began to speak to us and choosing his words carefully.
“The development of Evangelion gives me the feeling of a ‘Live’ concert. Whatever the story or the development of the characters, I made them without a plan. During the production, whether listening to various opinions or analysing my own state of mind, I kept questioning myself. I got the concepts from this personal stocktaking [self-assessment]. At first I had intended to make a simple work featuring robots.
But even when the main scene became a high school2, it did not differ compared to other productions in the same style. At this point, I did not really think of creating a character with two faces, two identities: one shown at school, and the other inside the organization he belongs to [Nerv]. The impression of ‘Live’ concert that gives me the birth of Eva, was the team joining me in developing it, in the manner of an improvisation: someone plays the guitar and, in response, the drums and bass are added. The performance ended with the TV broadcasting ending. We only started working on the next script once the previous one was done.
It took longer than usual. When we finished a screenplay, we went back and checked it against the previous ones. When we said: ‘Ah, I thought so, that’s wrong there’, we made corrections to the storyboard. In fact, with the last episode approaching, we have not even been able to finish on time.”
In conclusion, Evangelion has two faces: one face narrative, and another that would be like a documentary on the state of mind of Hideaki Anno. This refusal to lie to himself about the things he wanted to achieve is shown [in the series] by the mark of his iron will.
The director Anno influenced Eva by revealing his own “problems of the heart” …
“The reason why the main character is fourteen years is that he is no longer a child but not yet an adult. He lives alone, but is attached to others. In past centuries, he would soon celebrate his coming of age. Back then, life expectancy was fifty years, so people had to grow up in fourteen years. Today, we live more than seventy years, and although the age of majority in Japan is twenty years, most people still depend on their parents at that age.
One could wonder if it’s the parents making them dependent, or, about parents, what age should they decide to be of majority. Considering ‘age fourteen’ as that in which an independence of mind starts manifesting, I found it proper to include this in my work.”
The “Human Complementation Project” is an allegory for the world of animation.
“Speaking of improvisation, when I added the ‘Human Complementation Project’ that appears in the second episode, and which was going to become the fulcrum/pivot of the plot, I still had no idea about what it was going to ‘complement’. [note: the Japanese term is hokan, which means literally ‘fill a void’ –French Editor [The English translation is usually “Human Instrumentality Project”, to create an allusion to Cordwainer Smith’s SF organization, “The Instrumentality of Mankind.” –Editor]].
It’s just a verbal bluff (laughs). In the world of Eva, the human population was cut in half, but as a rule, we can say that the worlds where the population has been decimated are typical of cartoons. I think worlds isolated and torn to shreds, where because of a past disaster humanity has been decimated, are characteristic of Japanese animation.”
By the way, Mr. Anno has already made a similar comparison here two or three years ago. In the world of Gundam imagined by director Yoshiyuki Tomino, Char [Aznable] 3 who, like Don Quixote, is struggling to free people trapped in the world of Space Colony (entertainment companies), is the embodiment of the director.
In Eva, the generals of the regular army cannot destroy an approaching enemy, and must call the group of amateurs Nerv (director Anno in the center of Gainax) … The transposition is rather interesting.
“Really? … Well, whatever the viewpoint, Nerv is a group of amateurs. It looks like an army, but it is not one. I did not want to make a military group. I found it odd that anime magazines readjust the image of Misato in writing that she is a ‘skilled soldier’. I think she is more adept at many other things… If she is competent, do not tell the military! Hence when we look at them, her strategies are a little haphazard. Nothing but luck.
Honestly, the only person who plans her strategies a little bit is Ritsuko. Misato blurs the line between subjective and objective, and in the way she does things, she resembles me in many ways…despite what Masami Yuuki wrote in your February issue in reference to episode 7, she’s not that uncompromising, just as Nerv isn’t.”
Now, we synchronize with the world imagined by Anno, Tokyo-3 in 2015. The city without a shadow of life (the world of animation) became a little more cheerful with the arrival of immigrants who watched Eva. But on the other hand, the fact is, the anime-fan inside Hideaki Anno felt rising frustration… The problem of “heart” was born with the society of comfort. We will explore later what people may be missing.
“Human Complementation Project” is a term that looks very “SF”. In fact, its true function was the “complementation of the shortcomings of the heart” of the people of our time. We were unable to hide our surprise at such a concept.
At the beginning of the series, nobody would’ve thought about “what people may be missing”. What could’ve been the inner travails of the director, that would lead him to describe that as “the heart”?
“About the problem of the heart, I did not realize it immediately, but part of Japan and America can meet most of their desires, right? I think this is a problem that’s come up after we’ve found a degree of calm. For example, some extremely materialistic people do not bother to consider whether they make themselves disliked by others or not. I think we should live more fundamentally [essentially]. In our current material security, the problem of the heart becomes a very current topic.
Finally, in the course of making Eva, I got where I got for a number of reasons I could never really explain. But as far as the original stories of episodes 25 and 26 (the last ones), I managed to finish episode 25 as far as the script was concerned. Unfortunately, I had to abandon episode 26 while it was still at a very early planning stage. I’m reworking the episodes 25 and 26 that will be sold on LD [LaserDisc] and video next year, but as far as episode 26 goes, that’ll be a complete revision, so that it’ll be more ‘visual’. I’ll do it again by deconstructing the original plan.
Episodes 25 and 26 as broadcast on TV accurately reflect my mood at the time. I am very satisfied. I regret nothing.”
The message contained in the latest controversial episodes of Eva.
March 4, after the end of the dubbing of the episode 25. At the initiative of the voice actors, the technical [animation] team, which assembled the remains of episode 26, is invited to a “farewell party” near the recording studio Tavac in Okubo, Tokyo.
“At that point, the script for the last episode was not yet complete. It would be the following week. In essence, there remained three days in the schedule. But in the end/as a matter of fact, I didn’t need drawings to represent my vision of things. In truth, I would’ve been just as happy to explain myself by spoken word. I would’ve done it, but alas, it was rejected4. Without cels, we made do by using the sketches of the storyboard in their place. It wasn’t a matter of having time to make them or not. In any event, we ended up doing without animation on cel. Cels are symbolic representations. After having drawn Asuka with a marker, as soon as Yuko Miyamura gave it her voice, it was more Asuka than ever. I even came to detest myself for having wasted time on cels at all [until then].
But that doesn’t mean never going through computer-aided drawing. I just wanted to show that, as far as animated drawings as a means of expression went, using sketches could work. I meant a message to those misguided fools who have expressions like: ‘since it is not on celluloid, it is unfinished’ or ‘because it’s not on celluloid, it is slapdash’5. To destroy at all costs the kind of ideas that I myself had held. Once you hold the prejudice that you can’t use anything but cels to represent characters, you’ve finally become a fetishist… the first time we showed this was through what the ‘lines’ in episode 16 narrated.
A cartoon is composed of simple signs and therefore from the outset, it is a fake world, right? Nothing but an optical illusion. Nobody would imagine that it’s a documentary. Trying to integrate a documentary aspect into the film, that’s my personal feeling of being ‘Live’. I think the deconstruction of these signs is rare in cartoons that are shown on TV. When we aired our line drawings, some people in the industry called our work shoddy, even though it was impossible to consider it such. Disregarding the intent of making that linework into a ‘representation’ [of something] implies that it doesn’t communicate any idea at all, any concept at all. Under these conditions, the last episode wouldn’t be any better than a jumble of slogans [aphorisms/sentences]… Me, I think that, by looking at it methodically, one can find other things in it, too.”
The 26th episode that some diehard fans rejected…sure, it’s true that some fans were frustrated by the absence of continuity with the original story. But on the Internet, among other things, we have read some very scathing criticisms.
But this too is a fact: [other] viewers who watched the last episode (which registered audience records) have exclaimed to themselves, “Evangelion is truly brilliant!”
“Among the people who use the Internet, many are obtuse. Because they are locked in their rooms, they hang on to that vision which is spreading across the world.”
What you should know so as not to take anime fans for idiots
“But this does not go beyond mere ‘data’. Data without analysis [thinking], which makes you think that you know everything. This complacency is nothing but a trap. Moreover, the sense of values that counters this notion is paralyzed by it. And so we arrive at demagogy.
For example, someone mentions my name, saying, ‘Anno is dead’.6 If that person were next to me, perhaps I might hit them. On the message boards [Internet] someone can still make a rebuttal, but this remains at the standard of toilet graffiti. One does not need to sign it. It quietly arrives directly at your door. It’s so convenient that careless people use it without remorse, without stopping [for consideration]. Obviously, not all Internet users are not like that. But as it is very difficult to find honest people [in it], I simply don’t have the freedom to devote time to it. I just want to say ‘come back to real life [réalité] and get to know the world’. For example, when it was decided to redo episodes 25 and 26, the news spread quickly from Gainax’s server across the Internet. If we had not set the tone, completely outlandish rumors would have emerged. But by revealing the information, plenty of incoherent statements like ‘they make it for the money’ were thrown in our faces.
I realized my own hypocrisy when I let myself be convinced that, not knowing our financial situation, this kind of talk was only fair. Whatever they say, I do not think you can see other negatives in Evangelion! (Laughter) By not paying attention to childish ideas which they are subjected to, we take the anime-fans for being stupid. They do not leave their [comfortable little] world. They feel safe. They have nothing solid in themselves on which to rely.
That’s why I tried to go to the rescue of Japanese animation. I do not say, like [Shuji] Terayama, to ‘throw away your books and flee the city’, but to go to town and meet people. Why can I say that? Well, I noticed what I was missing for me, in my heart. For twenty-one years I have been an anime-fan, and now, thirty-five years old, I notice with sorrow: I’m nothing but an honest fool (laughs).”
Unwillingly, the interview comes to its end. We are currently considering due follow-ups to this interview with Director Hideaki Anno. We’d like to continue it in the special supplement to the next issue.
Doubtless, you also want to discuss things with Hideaki Anno. Your letters and postcards to New Type are welcome, if they contain questions or critical opinions. The director will most assuredly reply to your comments in a future interview.
Editorial, “Truth or Cyber-graffiti” by Claude J. Pelletier, Protoculture Addicts #41:
When I heard that EVANGELION was censored (see our article “Evangelion Controversy” on page 45), I was totally outraged. How this could be possible in our modern world? And all this (we speculated) in the name of religious belief? What about free speech? How could a legal system go along with this? Well, maybe it did not and the TV station censored the show itself to avoid offending certain sensibilities. We cannot really know where the truth lies. I was particularly confused when my friend Miyako read me Hideaki Anno’s interview in NEWTYPE of June. He avoided the subject of censorship and skillfully defended his work. His point of view made sense and he made some interesting comments about the Internet fans who excessively criticized the show.
“I think the people who are very much involved with the Net,” Mr. Anno said, “have very narrow views toward life and the world. They’re always in their rooms and don’t go out very often to communicate in person. Because of their information on the Net, they feel they know everything without searching the real truths.” They easily and anonymously say things that they would never say in person. “Their messages are like graffiti in a public toilet.” They attack other while they are staying in a safe place. “They don’t have anything certain to hold on… that’s probably why they watch anime shows. (…) I would like to add and say to those fans, hey, go out and visit towns. I am 35 now and I am realizing the importance of human contact little by little…”
(This interview, published in the June issue of NEWTYPE, was made by Mr. Shinichiro Inoue. He encourages people to send comments and questions to Anno-san by writing to: Mr. Hideaki Anno, Monthly NEWTYPE Magazine, Kadokawa Shoten, Tokyo, 162–77, Japan.)
It’s actually a middle or “junior high” school; this is probably a translation error by the French translator. –Editor↩︎
The OST album Neon Genesis Evangelion Addition was released 1996-12-21, well after this interview published 1996-05-10. The highlight of it is an audio drama “After the End”, which is
a comedic parody in which the reunited cast tries to come up with ways to continue Evangelion when popular demand makes the studio order them to produce a third season even though the TV series ended after a 26 episode run. Presented as a “lost 27th episode”, the comedy revolves around the characters breaking the fourth wall, and behaving as if they are really actors who portray the characters on the series while at other times acting as if they are the characters in the series. They try to increase the sex appeal of the series, change the show’s format, and try to explain what the Angels actually are. However, when their efforts prove “unsuccessful”, they decide to give up on it. Humorous moments of the drama include Rei finally lashing out against Asuka’s abuse, the Evangelion pilots being changed to resemble Super Sentai characters, Asuka and Kaworu interacting for the only time in the series, and the cast re-enacting the first episode solely by their own vocal sound effects.
Whether the audiodrama is due to Anno is unknown; it is generally believed that he voiced the “Black Space God” character in it. –Editor↩︎
Around the ending of the first broadcast, rumors were spread online that Anno planned to commit suicide at the end, or that he was dead. –Editor↩︎