We spoke with legendary animator and filmmaker Hideaki Anno, creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shin Godzilla, and many more iconic works, to discuss his influences and pressures as a creative.
There is a lot of Christian iconography in Evangelion. Do you consider yourself to be a religious man?
“Fuck no. I just think it looks badass. Remember when that one angel exploded into this like, giant fuckin’ cross, and everybody was all, ‘awww no way!’ It was kinda like, ‘Jesus WHO?’ You know?”
Do you consider yourself to be an otaku?
“Yes, absolutely. Godzilla and Ultraman were like a mother and father to me, respectively.”
So getting to direct Shin Godzilla was a pretty big deal for you, I imagine.
“You have no idea. When Toho reached out to me and asked if I would like to helm the ‘Shin’ series of films, I was already wearing my Kamen Rider outfit. Sometimes I sleep in it, actually.”
A lot of people theorize that Shinji Ikari in Evangelion is a self-insert character. Is that true?
“Incorrect. I really saw myself more as Pen Pen– the warm water penguin who lives in Misato’s freezer! He’s so cute.”
You worked with Hayao Miyazaki for a number of years– what was that like?
“Getting to work under a master like him really helped me hone my craft to an unparalleled degree. Though sometimes he would hit me over the head with a newspaper and call me a stupid otaku. It’s okay though, I deserved it.”
Is there a dream project you’d love to work on?
“Yes– as much of an honor as it was to direct for properties such as Godzilla and Kamen Rider, one day I would very much like to adapt Tom and Jerry. I like when Jerry eats the big wedge of cheese and his body retains the shape of the cheese. (laughter)”
What made you want to revisit Evangelion with the ‘Rebuild’ series of films?
“Fuck man, can I be real with you for a sec? Am I allowed to be real here? Initially, I knew that if we made more movies that had more robots and more cute girls, we’d sell more toys. I mean, I know I’d buy more toys, at least. But I ended up getting all personal with it and shit, and ended up making four of the fuckers. I honestly just can’t help myself sometimes.”
Let me ask you an age-old question that’s been plaguing the internet for years: Rei or Asuka?
“Again, I am going to have to say Pen Pen. He’s so cute!”
Would you ever pilot a giant robot or mech suit if given the opportunity?
“If a stern, yet distant father figure were to order me to do so– absolutely.”
Who is your favorite kaiju?
“King Ghidorah. I sometimes imagine one of its three heads swallowing me and digesting me whole– purely for research purposes, of course.”
Is there anything you would change if you could go back and do Evangelion all over again?
“All over again? I just told you, I already did that. Six times. And hell, I’ll probably go back to the well again if obsessive fans truly demand it from their hearts.”
Well a lot of people debate over what the true ending to Evangelion is: the introspective final two episodes, or the film End of Evangelion?
“You people HAVE to move on from this, I swear. I mean, I thought I was bad, being an obsessive otaku and all, but the original series ended nearly 30 years ago. Truthfully I don’t even remember what happened at the end. A bunch of people clapping or something, sure that’s great, cut and wrap. Moving on.”
What inspires you to animate?
“I love cartoons, and I also love digging deep into personal traumas. Combine the two and it’s like, ‘hey who got chocolate in my peanut butter?'”
The legendary short film you animated with your friends back in the early 80s for Daicon IV still ripples throughout the internet. What inspired you to make that?
“I wanted to toss in as much licensed IP and commit as much copyright infringement as possible. That was really it. Star Wars fighting Gundam fighting Batman— you could almost call it the ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny.”
Why do you feel that your other series, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, has less staying power than Evangelion?
“Probably because even I don’t remember that. Was that me?”
If you could have any special ability, what would it be?
“The ability to turn invisible so nobody could ever talk to me and ask me about what the ending of Evangelion actually meant.”
What do you think of Hayao Miyazaki’s return from retirement yet again?
“I coulda told you that he was gonna do that, dude’s a total workhorse. People say that I’m the self-flagellating one, but I’m not so sure.”
What was it like to voice act as the main character for The Wind Rises?
“It was a little different, obviously. I’d like to think my performance totally blew out Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s from the English dub, though. I think it’s pretty clear I can do anything he can do at this point. That’s right, it’s official: me and Joseph Gordon-Levitt got beef.”
Do you miss working with Studio Gainax?
“It’s whatever, honestly. I helped built that place with my own two hands, and then I did it all over again with Studio Khara. Just get in the robot, and do it all over again. Or at least that’s what I tell myself in the mirror every morning.”
So, what’s next for you?
“Honestly man, I’m just gonna be straight chilling for a while, not gonna lie. I made my monster movies, I remade my cartoon, I’m tired dude. Catch me outside with a fuckin’ beer in hand or something, I dunno.”