Interview with Hideaki Anno, Creator of Evangelion [2/2]

Interview with Hideaki Anno, Creator of Evangelion [2/2]

Hideaki Anno, creator of Evangelion, continues to test out challenging new projects in order to bring the appeal of animation to a wider audience. One can only admire his enthusiasm. In this second half of the interview, the director talked about his approach to animation, and what he sees as the future of the industry.

Hideaki Anno’s Profile:
Japanese film director and animator. Managing director of Khara Inc. After working as an animator on Macross: Do You Remember Love? and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, he started working on various animation projects. Then, in 1995, he directed the social phenomenon known as Evangelion, securing his place in anime history. He then went on to direct the Rebuild of Evangelion series, and announced the third film, Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, in November 2012. His work is followed by fans all around the world.

Expressing Your Own Views in Your Work.

──Your work with Evangelion has attracted a global audience. Are you conscious of this when you do your work?

I don't make a conscious effort to consider foreign audiences. I don't have much experience going abroad myself, so I don't know how to tailor my work in that way.

If you make something for a domestic Japanese audience, it adds a certain flavor - makes it unique, in a way. On the contrary, I think it’s precisely that foreignness that attracts audiences abroad. Many people are interested in works that offer a distinct culture. I think I can affect foreign audiences more by not consciously thinking about them. If you're too focused on making something for everyone, you end up with something flat. Something that's accessible to everyone often ends up being nothing special at all.

That's why I think it's best to push your own views and your own culture to the forefront of what you do, and that will end up being popular with a wider audience. That's really all you can do, anyway.

The Future of the Animation Industry

──How do you see the current state of the Japanese animation industry? Where is it headed? What needs to happen before it can progress?

I think the Japanese animation industry will begin to decline. It's past its peak. It will be in decline for a while and once it hits bottom, it will rise up again. What I'm most worried about is whether or not there will be enough people left to lift it back up at that point. Most animation production companies have just barely enough staff. With these conditions, it's only a matter of time before things fall apart. Maybe five years, maybe 10. Most people are saying that it won't last 20 years. Five years at the earliest, 20 at the latest.

The lack of staff and finances has gotten to the point that people recognize they won't be able to keep working as they are now. It's not the kind of leisurely atmosphere that Japan needs to make animation. We can't make animation at this scale without economic stability. When you're working as hard as you can just to feed yourself, you can't get joy out of your work. You're more focused on your next meal. That's the real problem.

The fact that Japan has been able to produce so much animation is testament to how wealthy we were. I think there's a decadence to the culture of animation and film. You can't make the things we do unless everyone is getting enough to eat, and the populace has the extra time and money to enjoy them. Up until now, Japan's affluence is what made that possible.

Now, many other Asian countries are acquiring more disposable income. I think the soil is rich there for animation to grow. On the other hand, if Japan keeps losing money, we won't be able to continue making animation anymore and probably just fade away. I don't know how the economy will turn out, but the number of animators is steadily decreasing. If less people are working in the animation industry, things will naturally taper off. It probably won't be an environment that lets us do the same type of interesting work that we can do now. But I think other countries in the world will take our place. I think animation will certainly live on somewhere, just not necessarily in Japan.

I get the impression that the contemporary Japanese animation industry is running solely on the remaining fuel of the past's enthusiasm towards animation. We need to be more flexible with our ideas, and think about how we can continue to make work that's compelling. That's what my project with Kawakami-san is all about.

──Have you considered offering your guidance to animators in other countries?

When I visited animation studios abroad, I got a strong sense of passion. However, I felt they lacked the technology that would allow that energy to take shape. Maybe if they came to Japan to study, they might be able to make up for that insufficiency. If they come here for just a few days, say hello, take some interesting lectures, and then go home, they won't take anything back with them. They should come and work in Japanese production companies, learn the craft, and bring what they learn back to their country. I think that would be much more efficient. Over the past half century, Japan has accumulated a large reservoir of knowledge. So why don't we make something like a study abroad program for those who want to learn from us? Acquiring knowledge and hands-on experience in an animation production setting, and then taking it back to their own country - that's the most effective way to do this.

A Debt of Gratitude Towards Animation

──From listening to you speak, I can really feel your deep love of animation. As the entire industry is in decline, what kind of work do you want to do?

My only redeeming quality is my ability to make animation and movies. So I want to continue doing interesting work in that field, but at the same time, as I'm nearly in my mid 50s, I want to express my gratitude towards the animation and tokusatsu works that inspired me as a child. The recent Tokusatsu 1 exhibition I worked on and my latest project are both expressions of that gratitude. Bringing animation to a wider audience, and supporting an environment that allows interesting works to continue to be made - that's how i want to express my gratitude. I will continue to make my own work at the same time. I want to do all that I can while I still can.

Tokyo International Film Festival Official Site
Khara Inc.

© 2007-2014 Khara Inc.

^1^ Tokusatsu: Special Effects Museum exhibit, directed by Hideaki Anno, now open at the Nagoya City Science Museum

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.Written by Kohji Sakurai, photo by Tetsuya Hara.

Interview with Hideaki Anno, Creator of Evangelion [2/2] 1
Interview with Hideaki Anno, Creator of Evangelion [2/2] 2
Interview with Hideaki Anno, Creator of Evangelion [2/2] 3
Interview with Hideaki Anno, Creator of Evangelion [2/2] 4
Interview with Hideaki Anno, Creator of Evangelion [2/2] 5
Interview with Hideaki Anno, Creator of Evangelion [2/2] 6

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