A follow up to the previous post. Despite the latest (3rd) reboot movie isn’t getting the best feedback from the public, at least there does not seem to be suspicions of a compromised work because of who worked on it. It happens that with popular franchises the original creators move on, and so they lose that kind of original intent and creativity. They become a commercial endeavor. But in the case of Evangelion Hideaki Anno and most of the original staff have always been at the helm, and are still there doing these reboots. So if they ruin it, at least they have the right to (and hopefully a good motivation too, these aren’t guys that do things lightheartedly and without passion).
There was an interview with Anno’s co-director and co-genius, Kazuya Tsurumaki, I think it was included in a booklet that they gave to the people who went to the theatrical release of the second Eva movie, and that I always considered quite interesting. Both for the interpretations on the series, as well as the insight about the production. I firmly believe that Evangelion became a masterpiece especially because it was “art through adversity”. The time and budget restraints forced the staff to stay focused and not take breaks. In Tsurumaki’s words this built a tension that sharpened their focus. It’s as if art becomes a fever, an obsession, and it takes over everything else. Or something that grasps you and drags you onward, willingly or not. Art as possession.
The other aspect that was crucial for the building of Evangelion is that they worked on it in a kind of postmodern active way, since they were continuously incorporating the way the public reacted into the development of the series. It wasn’t a closed and fixed project built in an authorial ivory tower, it was always ongoing, developing and integrating the feedback from the outside, reacting to it. It included that type of recursion and self-observation, putting at the center of the actual development that interplay between Anno, the fictional context, and the public.
I’ll add here a number of quotes that are pertinent to the aspects I consider interesting and that share themes that I brought up on this blog before.
Interview with Tsurumaki (highlights mine):
— So, “Neon Genesis Evangelion” is finally complete.
Why did you decide to conclude the series in the form of a movie?
KT – Yes, it’s finally over. I honestly think it would have been best simply to end it with the TV series. Frankly speaking, I feel that everything after that was a bit of unnecessary work, although I guess normally one should feel happy about having their work made into a movie.
— The conclusion ultimately took the form of a movie with two separate spring and summer releases.
KT – I was aghast when I found out it wouldn’t be concluded only with the spring release, and that our work would be extended until summer. After seeing the reaction of the fans to the spring release, I was pretty depressed. That’s when I started having those feelings of doubt again that, “I knew it – just a lot of unnecessary work.” It was really a shock.
This is interesting because it says that TV series stands on its own and doesn’t require the sequel movies. Those movies were done mostly to meet demands from the fans that were raging at how the TV series ended. And that’s also what triggered Anno’s “vengeful” response.
Tsurumaki says he also felt depressed after the TV series was over, because the work itself failed. The fans refused the ending and they got insults instead of praises. The earnest message they tried to send was completely lost AND deprecated.
— Do you feel that the time you were able to put into the project showed up in the degree of completion of the finished work?
KT – I wonder…. I mean we certainly had enough time, but the psychological uplift I felt during the TV series just wouldn’t come back to me. I’m sorry to sound so retrogressive, but it’s just that the feeling of tension during the TV series was probably the best of my life.
— What do you mean by “feeling of tension”?
KT – It felt really good toward the end — after finishing the work for episode 16, and especially from episode 20 onward. Of course, physically I was dead tired, but my mind was still sharp as a knife. I felt that I was utilizing my natural abilities to their maximum potential.
— What did you think about developments during the second half of the TV series?
KT – I didn’t mind it. The schedule was an utter disaster and the number of cels plummeted, so there were some places where unfortunately the quality suffered. However, the tension of the staff as we all became more desperate and frenzied certainly showed up in the film.
— I see.
KT – About the time that the production system was completely falling apart, there were some opinions to the effect that, “If we can’t do satisfactory work, then what’s the point of continuing?” However, I didn’t feel that way. My opinion was, “Why don’t we show them the entire process including our breakdown.” You know — make it a work that shows everything including our inability to create a satisfactory product. I figured that, “In 10 years or so, if we look back on something that we made while we were drunk out of our minds, we wouldn’t feel bad even if the quality wasn’t so good.”
The last part especially explains the postmodern-like process of self inclusion in the work, and so the typical breach of boundaries. What is meaningful is that it’s not an artsy formality, or a divertissement, but it incorporates a real struggle, so infusing the sense into the fictional story. A sense of truthfulness.
— There was a line in that dialogue — something like, “We can’t weave our lives only out of things we like….” That line was pretty intense. I would have thought it would strike right to the heart of anime fans, but there was almost no reaction from anyone. (laugh)
KT – Well, most people don’t pay close attention to the dialog when watching a TV anime. That is to say, we hear the words, but they don’t enter our minds. I’m that way too. Hideaki Anno understands this, and started to incorporate expressions that convey the message to the viewers in a more direct manner. Thus, elements which attempted to somehow convey the message within the bounds of the story gradually became fewer, and expressions which were more introspective or emotionally expressive became more frequent.
— Changing the subject, the work “Evangelion” is said to essentially reflect Director Anno’s mental images/landscape. Being involved in a project like this, were there any areas where you disagreed with Director Anno’s way of thinking or doing things?
KT – I think that anyone who works as a director should have those aspects. After all, works containing these portions are the most interesting. In that sense, works that are billed as so-called “entertainment” aren’t very entertaining to me.
— So, you were in agreement all the way?
KT – Of course. However, that doesn’t mean that I can synchronize with Shinji’s feelings. It also doesn’t mean that I can sympathize with Shinji’s = Anno’s feelings.
— I see. Then, it’s true that Shinji’s feelings are Director Anno’s feelings?
KT – To tell the truth I’m not sure, but at the very least I tried to work on the project from that viewpoint. That’s why in the scenario planning sessions I was always saying something like, “Isn’t that a little too hero-like for Shinji to say? Hideaki Anno isn’t that much of a hero.”
— In episode 25′ Shinji becomes completely despondent.
Does this mean that Director Anno had also experienced that?
KT – I think Hideaki Anno’s tension after the TV series had ended had probably fallen to about that level.
— Was this cinema edition made to match Director Anno’s state of mind?
KT – I believe so. There was a time when Hideaki Anno clearly wanted to attempt a more cathartic development.
It didn’t end up that way, but I don’t think we lied.
— In the end, Evangelion was a story about communication — at least judging from that last scene.
KT – That was the intent from the start of the TV series. That was what I tried to produce from episode 2 onward.
— Yes, that was the scene where Misato and Shinji talk while measuring distances from each other in Misato’s apartment, right? Although they appeared to be getting along fine with each other, Shinji was thinking, “She seems okay, but….”, while Misato was thinking “I wonder if he sees through me?”
KT – there were other scenes in episode 2 as well. For instance, when Misato talks to Shinji but doesn’t enter his room. Even in episode 3, they are having a casual morning conversation, but are not looking at each other. Like they looking through a slightly opened door, but not connecting. This is the same between Shinji and Rei, and between Shinji and his father. It’s no wonder there was a lot of distant, awkward communication.
— I see. So, the theme remained the same throughout the series?
KT – That’s right.
— What are your thoughts looking back on Evangelion now?
KT – Well, I really liked the atmosphere while we were doing the TV series. A TV series is the only way you can get responses while still in the production phase. We’d take feedback like, “They didn’t like today’s episode,” or “Wow! Today’s episode was a big success!” and reflect it to the episodes we were currently producing. In this sense, it was like a live performance. Hideaki Anno probably felt terrible after reading that absurd e-mail criticism or having the series praised to death in an insulting manner in sub-culture magazines. But that’s because “Evangelion” is a story about communication including misunderstandings such as these.
— Now even businessmen are debating the mysteries of “Eva” in bars. (laugh)
KT – (laugh) For example, Hideaki Anno says that, “Anime fans are too introverted, and need to get out more.” Further, he should be happy that non-anime fans are watching his work, right? But when all is said and done, Hideaki Anno’s comments on “Evangelion” + “Evangelion” are that it is a message aimed at anime fans including himself, and of course, me too. In other words, it’s useless for non-anime fans to watch it. If a person who can already live and communicate normally watches it, they won’t learn anything.
— Finally, do you have some message for the fans?
KT – Don’t drag the past around. Find the next thing that interests you.
— Does that mean not becoming fixated on “Evangelion”?
KT – Yes. It’s always better to let something that has finished end.
More pertinent quotes follow.
What is the appeal of Giant Robot Anime?
“Giant robot anime” is an expression of children’s subconscious desires.
That is to say, the thing called “giant robot anime”
Is compensation for the complexes and various suppressions that children hold, a means of resistance, compensatory behavior.
Adults know “the difficulty of living.”
And, at the same time they also know “the fun of living.”
In order to live, even if they know it is a “lie”
They know that “hope” and the “dream” called “justice and love” are necessary.
We can communicate purely to children with no sense of difference between fiction and reality due to a characteristic of the means of expression called animation, namely, usage of the view of the world where everything are “pictures” drawn by people.
That is the greatest appeal that “giant robot animation” holds.
Anno, on the ongoing process of development and relationship with both the team and public:
“The development of Evangelion gives me the feeling of a ‘Live’ concert. Whether it was the story or character development, I made them without theory. During the development, while listening to various opinions, and analyzing my own state of mind, I kept questioning myself. I got the concepts from this personal stocktaking [self-assessment]. At first I thought I would produce a simple work featuring robots.
But even when the main scene became a high school, 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.”
This is also another example of metafiction and self-reflection, in fact in the first movie, “Dead & Rebirth”, the characters in the Anime perform a concert for the audience. So this becomes an idea/metaphor directly shown onscreen.
Anno, on his dissatisfaction about modern anime and lack of ambition:
“There is no longer room for absolute originality in the field of anime, especially given that our generation was brought up on mass-produced anime. All stories and techniques inevitably bring with them a sense of déjà vu. The only avenue of expression left open to us is to produce a collage-like effect based on a sampling of existing works.”
“The people who make anime and the people who watch it always want the same things. The creators have been making the same story for about 10 years; the viewers seem to be satisfied and there’s no sense of urgency. There’s no future in that.”
Anno, in 1995 (during production but before the 1st episode was broadcasted):
This is roughly the worldview for Neon Genesis Evangelion. This is a worlview drenched in a vision of pessimism. A worldview where the story starts only after any traces of optimism have been removed.
And in that world, a 14-year-old boy shrinks from human contact. And he tries to live in a closed world where his behavior dooms him, and he has abandoned the attempt to understand himself. A cowardly young man who feels that his father has abandoned him, and so he has convinced himself that he is a completely unnecessary person, so much so that he cannot even commit suicide.
And there is a 29-year-old woman who lives life so lightly as to barely allow the possibility of a human touch. She protects herself by having surface level relationships, and running away.
Both are extremely afraid of being hurt. Both are unsuitable-lacking the positive attitude-for what people call heroes of an adventure. But in any case, they are the heroes of this story.
They say, “To live is to change.” [This is apparently a quote of the last line of Miyazaki’s Nausicaa manga.] I started this production with the wish that once the production complete, the world, and the heroes would change. That was my “true” desire. I tried to include everything of myself in Neon Genesis Evangelion-myself, a broken man who could do nothing for four years. A man who ran away for four years, one who was simply not dead. Then one thought. “You can’t run away,” came to me, and I restarted this production. It is a production where my only thought was to burn my feelings into film. I know my behavior was thoughtless, troublesome, and arrogant. But I tried. I don’t know what the result will be. That is because within me, the story is not yet finished. I don’t know what will happen to Shinji, Misato or Rei. I don’t know where life will take them. Because I don’t know where life is taking the staff of the production. I feel that I am being irresponsible. But… But it’s only natural that we should synchronize ourselves with the world within the production. I’ve taken on a risk: “It’s just an imitation.”
— What was the reason you wanted to do an original work, despite these circumstances?
Anno: Of course, for myself (laughs). There is always a very personal reason for creating [something]. There is probably no need to say any more [than that] here.
— Even so, insisting on something original-?
Anno: It’s probably so my self-existence will remain within the film.
“Fundamentally, Eva is just my life copied out onto film. I’m [still] alive, so the story hasn’t finished.”
“The characters of ‘Eva’ are all composite personalities based around my own personality.”
“Shinji-kun is the current me.”
Shinji does reflect my character, both in conscious and unconscious part. In the process of making Evangelion, I found out what kind of person I am. I acknowledged that I’m a fool.
A Dream World That Hasn’t Forfeited its Goal
There are too many painful things for people to go on living in reality.
Animation, as a means to enjoy everything in a pure, fake world, is a
realization of dreams and has become entrenched in film.
In short, it is a thing where _even_coincidences_are_arranged_ and _everything_
judged cinematically unnecessary _can_be_excized_.
The negative feelings of the real world are no exception.
If the director so desires, even malice toward others could be introduced
straight into film.
I guess that’s one of the attractive things about anime.
_Changing_the_tribulation_of_reality_into_dreams_ and conveying that to the
people…is that what our work is?
For the sake of people who forget reality until the bill comes due, who
I guess that’s our job in the entertainment and service sector.
…I [Anno] really hate the fact that animation – or at least Evangelion, the work I’ve been doing – has become merely a “place of refuge.” Nothing but a place where one escapes from reality – by becoming deeply absorbed in it, [people] simply ran from the pain of reality, and from there was hardly anything that came back to reality. To that extent I feel like [the work] did not arrive [at reality]. Steadily the number of people taking refuge [in the work] increases, and if this keeps up, in the extreme case, it would become a religion.
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…
In the second difference, as perhaps an inevitable result of that temporal compression, in ANNO the successful critique of anime was brought about by the logic of acceleration and multiplication, while in the case of MIYAZAKI and OSHII the critique of anime succeeded because of the logic of removal. The last half of “Evangelion” takes the form of a critique of previous anime works through developing all the narrative possibilities and anime-like expressions and pushing them to their limits; in other words producing a totality of the anime-like. Simply put, in the second half of “Evangelion” ANNO produces a super-complicated and super-high speed anime and thereby achieved a qualitative change. Several compositions were made for the purposes of constructing a 90’s savior narrative were rapidly inverted and were instead employed to tear to shreds the interactive communication among the characters. This means that for ANNO, he deliberately cut off communication with anime fans who supposedly can only appreciate works by identifying themselves with and investing their emotions into the characters….
Azuma: Finally, only one question about the “set up” of the work. The enemy called “Angel” has no concrete image. It might be a pyramid, a ring of light, a virus…. in what way did you intend that?
Anno: They were paradoxically presented as things without form. For me the idea of an “enemy” is ambiguous, because my relationship to “society” is ambiguous….. The adults of the previous generation taught us that, despite fighting against the system, they were not able to accomplish anything.
Anno only makes works for himself, and not for an audience. However, making works is still the only way he can relate to other people. This relationship is like a “masturbation show,” because other people are watching him act to please himself. They decide by themselves how they react to it. He does not directly “pleasure” others. It requires some narcissism to be an author; someone entirely lacking self-confidence wouldn’t “expose” themselves.
After the television broadcast finished, I became worse and worse, and went to see a doctor. I even seriously contemplated death. It’s like [I] was empty, with no meaning to [my] existence. Without the slightest exaggeration, I had put everything I had [into Evangelion]. Really. After that finished I realized that there was nothing [left] inside of me. When I asked [the doctor?] about it afterwards, [he said?] “Ah, that is an “identity crisis” (self-collapse) [自我崩壊].”9 It was a sensation as though I had taken something like extremely bad LSD. I was told, “It’s amazing that you were able to do that without medication.” Yeah, now, I feel very fortunate (laughs).10 In order to determine whether or not I really wanted to die, I went up to the rooftop of this building (the GAINAX building) and stuck my foot out, waiting to lose my balance and fall forward. I did it to personally determine [whether I wanted to live or die], [thinking,] if I really want to die, I should die here, and if I don’t want to die, I’ll step back. Well, it didn’t lead to my death, and so I’m here.
At first I was manic, but I rapidly developed a severe depression. I wouldn’t leave my office at work; I would leave only to use the bathroom, and I would almost never eat meals. A dilemma suddenly arose: I didn’t want to encounter other people, and yet I did want to encounter other people.
I don’t return home [at the end of the day], because the time and effort spent returning is bothersome. I just stay overnight here all the time; I don’t return home more than a few times in a year. At work, when I go to the bathroom, I go across the studio, I have to encounter people. I just wanted to think by myself, so I returned home for the first time in many months. My bed is never made, so there’s nothing to do but crawl into it. When I took my clothes off and lay down – I can’t put it any other way than extraordinarily terrifying, terrifying thoughts [怖い考え] – I had a sensation like my whole body was enveloped in such [thoughts]. When I was enveloped by this, I suddenly leapt to my feet and, in a panicked state, threw on my clothes, grabbed my bag, and went out onto the street, [crying,] “Taxi!” I went back to my workplace, I went back to my office at my workplace and slept. This is the “identity crisis.” I don’t have the feeling that I want to die, or anything like that. There’s nothing I can say [that can explain things]. On the other hand, that was how seriously I took “Evangelion.”
Anno says, “I kept to my house after the TV series of Eva. I lost the point of living. That time, Miya-san called me and say ‘Anyway, take a rest.'”
Postscript. Yesterday, when I was in a state of mental collapse after my latest work had ended, I was moved deep within my heart by an encouraging phone call I received. The words of concern proceeding from the receiver became joy on my end as, with a exaltant face, my whole body was buoyed. In secret, I rejoiced in receiving some recognition for myself. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.