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Gio's Note: Hideaki Anno, in case you don't know, is a member Gainax, responsible for the equally psychedelic anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. Everything after this is the content translated and compiled by Mark Neidengard, who is awesome and even made thorough footnotes and translator's notes.

Date: 1998/11/08

Anno Hideaki vs. Ikuhara Kunihiko
Text by Kimata Fuyu, Photos by Higuchi Hiroaki
[translation by Mark Neidengard, from Newtype Magazine, October 1998]

What the Avant Gardesmen Have to Say

Constantly injecting new stories and excitement into the business, Anno Hideaki and Ikuhara Kunihiko discuss the state of anime production. Perfected, only to await collapse?! Amidst such unfavorable circumstances, they discuss their thoughts and hopes as members of the literary avante garde[*0].

"There isn't anyone trying to make 'me-anime' now, is there?" (Anno)


[Ikuhara] I know "KareKano" ("Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou") is just about to start, but have you decided on anything like a regular style?

[Anno] Regular style?

[Ikuhara] Something like a set pattern.

[Anno] No, not really. I haven't decided, or should I say, it hasn't come to me yet.

[Ikuhara] Did you think of making it at the outset?

[Anno] Somehow, nothing but an inkling came to me. There was no epoch-making "That's It!" Although, I _am_ thinking of stopping being limited by the bounds of time and space. (brief silence) Let's see...methodology... For "KareKano", if I try to do interesting things with a methodology that doesn't depend on the number of cels, it'll turn out just like "EVA". I'm tired of reusing cuts and depicting using freeze-frame rhythm. That was how I did "EVA". It's what I did since the "Top (wo Nerai!)" days. But, not counting on the number of frames, the methodology that shows things most effectively is exactly that. It's not a new methodology at all. To put it bluntly, settling into creatorhood may let you stay alive in life, but I just can't stand the thought.

[Ikuhara] Can't stand it?

[Anno] Yeah, can't stand it. Maybe it's okay for people over 50 to get set in their ways as creators, but I intend to fight it as much as possible. Or so I say, and yet no matter how much I speak of seeking a new methodology, I can't leave the original work to people walking on the street. What I'm talking about is the influential work known as "Macross"[1]. In those days Yamaga (Hiroyuki), me, Sadamoto (Yoshiyuki), and Maeda (Mahiro) all began to get involved with anime because of our student part-time jobs. I could say that was how huge the talent of director Ishiguro (Noboru), who used that kind of unknown youngsters, was; the result of sensibilities drawn from deep within. Creators in those days had substance.

[Ikuhara] I agree about the younger generations. It's hard when people don't think of anime as a venture. That's why there aren't any sure-fire aesthetics.

[Anno] The reason the game business prospered and grew so fast is because it was a venture. But games have finally tanked too. It happened pretty fast, didn't it? Our generation is naturally a shallow one, and there's noone who's trying to overturn things. There isn't anyone trying to make "me-anime" now, is there?

[Ikuhara] I just don't know about the people who'll be getting into the business from here out. This is a generation that loves both cel anime _and_ digital anime. I personally get uncomfortable when the two are mingled.


[Anno] The first time I saw "Virtua Fighter"[2], I thought, is _this_ what anime is up against? It was quite a shock. That's when I realized I'd have to level up somewhere other than the visuals, I guess right before I did "EVA". Visual impact is anime's strong point, but since games had followed on anime's heels, it had become a time when a methodology no different from the others just wouldn't cut it. All the cards had already been dealt, so we had no choice but to change the combination, or turn over cards that were thought to be taboo. That's what I mean when I say that "EVA" didn't use even a single new methodology.

[Ikuhara] Ah, like what the media talks about as creatorhood when discussing animated works. But that's just an illusion, and actually in the anime business no such thing as a creator is anywhere to be found. All there are are people who were brought along by the founding of the system. The people who devise the form of the anime of today.

[Anno] Right.

[Ikuhara] The people who accomplished soemthing are all 50 or older. Those people are almost all associated with the early days of Toei Douga or Mushi Pro[3]. The people who came after that are all no good, they haven't done a thing. It's not that they haven't _made_ anything. It's that they didn't build the system at all. They're just riding on it, on the system that the people of the previous generation made.

[Anno] Yeah. They can't seem to overturn it.


[Ikuhara] Well, there are currently a lot of people who talk about digital as a technique to make the presentation of anime more radical, but I think they're making a horrendous mistake. Wouldn't that just make using digital a technique for overhauling the presentation of cel anime that has taken 30 years to establish? That's no way to change the system of the animation production houses. It's just an attempt to go on riding the system we've already got.

[Anno] Oshii (Mamoru)-san says "Now that the pioneers of anime have died, it will die with them." He says the history of anime ended long ago.

[Ikuhara] Once there was a time when people were groping, saying "What methodology do we use to express ourselves?" The way things are expressed in modern anime comes from a fixed way of negotiating with the production houses, a way made by working backwards from cost-performance.[6]

[Anno] That's limited animation[5] for you.

[Ikuhara] Yeah. And what about our aesthetics? The aesthetics of people like us who find shadows fixed on the back side of cels beautiful are being processed through cost-performance. If cost-performance changes, my aesthetics are supposed to change too. Of course, the people who created form in the midst of such groping were the people of the first generation who created Japanese anime.

[Anno] The origin was stuff like Disney animation, and we're just extensions.

[Ikuhara] Thanks to the impending spread of digital, the aesthetics on screen will change. Because my emotions will get more and more messed up when that happens, I think the emotions that that we now consider beautiful will fall apart.

[Anno] No, but, I can't stand CG shadows.

[Ikuhara] Oh, really?

[Anno] I hate them see...I guess they're just not crisp or something.

[Ikuhara] Come again?

[Anno] So, with brush shadows, when you make them fluffy, I just can't take it. It's just not manly. (laugh) Girlishness when trying to express aesthetics just sucks. Shadows should be crisp and definitive. "Seaweed" shadows weren't popular in the original robot anime.

[Ikuhara] "Seaweed"?

[Anno] When depicting the aesthetics of mecha, the wavy shadows.

[Ikuhara] But weren't those shadows cutting edge for expression in those days? "The human body is far better than CG." (Anno)

[Anno] Yeah, well, I can stand Sakano (Ichirou)-san[7] and the other guys with good sense using them, but with everybody else they look like nothing more than seaweed. You wouldn't think anything but that the mecha had camouflage markings. Those aren't shadows. When we did "Ouritsu (Uchuugun)", it was totally counter to that. The shadows were crisp, and the highlights[7] did nothing but give the impression of light. If cel anime targets aesthetics it's all over. Both clothing and skin are the same except for color. Just give it up, and go for the gusto in some different area. No matter how hard you struggle, there are just some things you can't fight your way out of. The people who created the system at the outset understood this.

[Ikuhara] I guess it's through that trial and error that the anime of today is made.

[Anno] Recently I watched some "Kinchuu" ("Kingiyo Chuuihou!")[9]. As research for "KareKano". I thought that perhaps that was what gags and shoujo manga were. But it felt a little old.

[Ikuhara] Old? It feels like things are divided into the the time before and after "Sailor Moon". I feel like it really infected the tastes at Comiket.

[Anno] Yeah. Whether something's major or not at Comiket amounts to whether or not it gets made into erotic stuff. After all, the sex industry is strong no matter what era it is. As Tsurumaki (Kaguya) said, earnestly value all things equally. Both Hiromatsu Junko and Ayanami Rei. I can't express it in words, but I feel the same chasm within myself.

[Ikuhara] I think it's the feeling of antisepticness. The impression that they don't smell like anything is good.

[Anno] Yes, yes, exactly.

[Ikuhara] Apparently stuff like unnecessary hair, or nose hair, isn't absolute. Of course, in pictures the characters don't actually have nostrils (laugh). I bet everyone would start hating pictures of girls if we drew nostrils on them.

[Anno] Cel anime fans are more sterile than that.

[Ikuhara] The idols of a decade ago felt really sterile. But recently actresses and TV talents are feeling less remote and more realistic.

[Anno] Does that include us, by any chance? It's an existence where courage and familiarity seem to be draining away.

[Ikuhara] If so, the place that the people who recognize the feeling of sterility are carrying with them in their thoughts will disappear.

[Anno] That's why I'm going with the cel anime system.

[Ikuhara] There's somewhere where we'll give up, isn't there. We're trying to fulfill our own ambitions virtually. I suppose if we were doing it for real we should be trying to make more properly ideal cities and better human relations. I can't really say it in anything but pedestrian terms, but, like with things like the Aum[*1] incident, I can understand the feelings of the people who want to reorganize the world.

[Anno] In order to see a made-up drama, there are even people who neglect their real lives, right? That kind of person does things like become a seiyuu fan.

[Ikuhara] I bet what they really wanted was to touch an anime character.

[Anno] For something that could connect the virtual and the real, I too turned to the seiyuu. But that was a mistake. That's why I tried to show something different in "KareKano". But altering the existing system is tough.


[Ikuhara] On this point, Anno-san and I differ in our way of creating. I'm not trying to connect anime and voice that much. But if I have a sentiment close to that, I think it's the complex about the body. I have moments where I think that, not just anime, but _nothing_ can win against the human body. A while ago I was watching the Nagano Olympics on TV. There was this girl who was nothing special during her interview, but who became sublime when she started skating. It was only for instant while she was doing it, but I felt like God was dwelling in her body. A moment when I thought there was nothing more beautiful in the whole world. And it's not like her body changed, either. It's that kind of complex towards the human body that I've got. Even though my work is in anime, I have moments when I doubt we matter compared to a real body. When counting on the actors to do something, I wonder if what I'm actually looking for is corporeality.

[Anno] Yeah, that happens.

[Ikuhara] Could it be that what I'm seeking in the middle of a production is not the show, but the corporeality itself? "I have moments where I think that _nothing_ can win agains the human body." (Ikuhara)

[Anno] Yeah. This past New Year's there was a part at Higuchi (Masatsugu)'s[10] place. We watched some American specials, and in _every_ case the CG was an utter bore. This special on the lives of stuntmen was more interesting. The human body is by far better than CG.

[Ikuhara] I guess the reason Anno-san has been expressing an interest in the little theater recently and why I've been saying the same for a while, is because of this feeling of demanding corporeality. When I feel a real body right before my eyes, I feel like, it's all over, time to throw in the towel.

[Anno] Yeah, that's right.

[Ikuhara] Now this beauty of the physical body only exists at infrequent moments. Only for the moment of the drama is one an actor - after it's over one is someone else.

[Anno] The first time I realized that was with Noda (Hideki)'s[11] drama. I thought, this is the real thing! Before that, within myself I felt that the only thing that gave the feeling of corporeality in the anime dimension were the seiyuu. That's why I kept on trying to express life. But I was deluding myself.

[Ikuhara] Hahahahaha. Well, not only is that the case for Anno-san, but also in the so-called little theater boom of the 70's. A renovation right down to the roots. They couldn't touch anything with their hands, the people of that generation. Their path was pre-made, and they couldn't create anything by themselves. It was the first virtual generation.

[Anno] Miyazaki (Hayao)-san said that we're the "first generation to value the the virtual and actual equally", but I say "What about you?".

[Ikuhara] He may not be a generation, but he's certainly foremost among it. (laugh)


[Ikuhara] I'll state up front that all Japanese fictional works, even for the little theater, are all manga.

[Anno] Yeah. It's the manga-ization[*2] of the nation. Dramas are the same, nothing but either manga with an extremely tenuous grasp on reality or documentary-like variety shows.

[Ikuhara] I can't say precisely what I mean by manga-like, but for one thing, such works can only show the totally familiar or the astoundingly distant. Aren't all popular songs that way? They can't speak to anything but minutae like someone's dress shirt, or about things like the edge of the universe that are so far away they can't be spoken of except in the imagination. They don't speak at all to the yawning gap in between. That's how I feel the world of manga is.

[Anno] Perhaps we can be at ease in a fake world because we know it's a lie from the outset. That's how the creators of manga where you'd think "There wouldn't really be a teacher like that" make drama. That's how works like "Denpa Shounen", where you never know what's going to happen next, work.

[Ikuhara] I read the feeling of seeking variety and such as wanting to seek corporeality.

[Anno] Yes, a world where something is done with the body alone. Nothing else befits a documentary. A world that shows nothing of creation.

[Ikuhara] Take "Utena" and "EVA". They take a fragment of our work and talk about us introducing impact into our animation, saying it's like Terayama Shushi[12]'s work or something. It's nothing that narrow, is it? I think that what appears in our works is the complex about the body that people who make made-up anime feel.

[Anno] I use the word "lifelike-ness". Compred to that, cel anime is pretty and virtual. Because I feel a sense of thwarted life in current cel anime, I want to try to peek at it from a slightly different direction. Like trying not to use any of the established seiyuu.

[Ikuhara] There are times when I want to stay away from impactful stuff and deal with the illusion. Saying one thing after another, I think everyone's deluded. Directors, animators, seiyuu, the audience, everyone is deluded while making and watching anime. I wonder if things aren't just fine that way? I don't want to brood over it. The first time I saw Terayama, I really loved it. My country bumpkin complex and my intelligencia complex give me my drive. Now that I think about it, that delusion was a godsend (laugh).

[Anno] In the old days, I had never seen anything like real impact, and thought the whole thing was absurd.

[Ikuhara] That's how it usually is.

[Anno] Adjusting a set in real life was such a pain. Anime and movies are much cooler.

[Ikuhara] That's why people quit doing theater when movies were invented. And that was precisely why I was so shocked when I saw Terayama. The pleasure of corporeality being possible. The pleasure of fiction. The kind of pleasure that makes strip-tease more engrossing than pornography.

[Anno] In real life, bad things happen, like rowdy neighbors at a shop, but impact isn't virtual, is it?

[Ikuhara] Movies are recordings, whereas the stage is a sort of "incident".

[Anno] Just like the difference between a war you're in and a war you see on TV.

[Ikuhara] It seems we can't savor the interest of becoming the people on the scene.

[Anno] That's because impact is tough stuff. Movies can't offer anything more than a pseudo-experience.

[Ikuhara] What propelled the 70's little theater boom was the feeling of wanting to be in the middle of things, wasn't it. How much of being in the middle of things is left these days? People worry about things that aren't yet firm and solid.

[Anno] I thought of a lot of different stuff for "KareKano", but it seems impossible to do impactfully under the current system. All the same, starting around episode 9 a lot of inexperienced kids appear, the kind for whom it's their first time in front of a mic. We'll see what happens.

[Ikuhara] That could be interesting.

[Anno] Kuni-chan, you should come on too, as a teacher or something.

[Ikuhara] I've gotten used to doing things halfway, but can I really? (laugh)

[Anno] Ah, I don't need anyone who only does things halfway. (laugh)

[1] Superdimensional Fortress Macross ('82). With Mikimoto Haruhiko's characters, Kawamori Shouji's mecha and such, the talent of the young animators became evident and started a boom. Afterwards OVAs, movies, and toys were created.
[2] Virtua Fighter ('94). Sega's fighting game. With polygon images and real-life shots, it became a major hit. Not stopping at arcade sales, it's also availble in a home version for the Sega Saturn.
[3] Toei Douga. Established in '57. The mighty anime creation house that gave us such things as "Dragonball" and "Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon". Mushi Productions, established in '63 by Techou Daimushi. Created such things as "Tetsuwan Atom".
[4] Oshii Mamoru. Anime director. Specializes in nonsensical worlds and visual expression that tries to dismantle fiction. Major works include "Urusei Yatsura Beautiful Dreamer" and the "Mobile Police Patlabor" series.
[5] Limited Animation. Anime that, for economic and time-related reasons, must skimp on use of "commas". A second of animated film is made from 24 commas. Full animation would use a different image each comma, but limited animation might keep a frame before the eyes for 2-3 commas. To the human eye, that sort of trick still looks sufficiently like motion.
[6] A way made by working backward from cost-performance. Methods used today in Japan's anime industry, such as using cels to merely slide a character a step or two at a time to produce the effect of motion, reuse of commas (limited animation), and reusing cels in other shows (the bank system).
[7] Sakano Ichirou. An animator known as "Sakano Circus" who depicted speedy and frequently moving mecha action. Principle work is "Superdimensional Fortress Macross".
[8] Highlights. Transparent lighting.
[9] "Kingyou Chuuihou" ('91). TV anime. Product of Toei Douga. Anime taken from the shoujo manga serialized in "Monthly Nakayoshi". The series director was Satou Junichi.
[10] Higuchi Masatsugu. Special Effects director for the "Gamera" series. Assisted with the visual continuity for "Fushigi no Umi no Nadia" and "Neon Genesis Evangelion".
[11] Noda Hideki. Musician, producer, actor. Was interviewed along with Anno in the May issue of this magazine. Principle works: "Kill", "Rolling Stone" (for the stage).
[12] Terayama Shushi. Musician, author, poet, movie director, and so on, he was a many-faceted multicreator. In high demand, he not only did drama on stage, he did street theater and participated in experimental drama. Principle works include "Kegawa no Marie", "Shintokumaru" (theatrical), "Cast Off Books! Return to the City!" (movie). Died in '83. J.A. Seazar, who contributed to the music for "Shoujo Kakumei Utena", worked in Terayama's Theater Observatory "Ceiling Gallery".

Anno Hideaki. Born '60 in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Producer, director. As a member of GAINAX, has been involved in numerous anime. "Neon Genesis Evangelion" became a runaway hit. In his new work starting in October, he tackles shoujo manga.

Ikuhara Kunihiko. Born '64 in Hiroshima Prefecture. Director. Was involved in the production of such things as "Kingyo Chuuihou!" and "Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon" at Toei Douga. Founder of the production company Be-PaPas. His latest work, "Shoujo Kakumei Utena", is heading toward a spring '99 theatrical release.

Translator's Notes
[*0] The word I translated as "avante gardesmen" is "gesakusha". Kyoko Selden, Senior Lecturer in Modern Languages at Cornell University, offers the following commentary on the meaning of "gesaku":

"It literally means 'playful writing,' but what I was trying to say was its implication differs from age to age. Takizawa Bakin first comes to mind when I think of late Edo gesaku (not that he was so playful but he is thought of as having been content with 'romance' rather than seeking to discover a more serious genre). In Meiji, of course there are the works of Narushima Ryuuhoku and others, as well as Tsubouchi Shouyou's cricitisms of gesaku as opposed to the Realist modern novel (and Bakin was one of his prime targets). Then there is the return to, or rediscovery of, gesaku in the recent decades. So I couldn't think of a single word that fits all cases. The term parodist occurred to me because I was thinking of Inoue Hisashi who claims himself as such. If there is an element that is common to all those authors, after all it must be the attitude of playfulness, whether expressed in comedy-of- manners type satire, literary or social parody, or aversion from the idea of modern novel. I'm aware that some use 'light literature' or 'cheap literature' as a translation of gesaku, but I wonder if either is best. I don't have a good single word definition, but the brief discussion with you this afternoon led me to think that gesaku, from Meiji on at least, has the connotation of posed, pretended, or deliberate playfulness as a tool of social criticism and/or of literary or stylistic flourish. It always comes with a gesture, a pose, a persona."
[*1] Ikuhara is referring to the release of sarin gas in a Tokyo subway station on March 20, 1995 by terrorists belonging to the Aum Shinri-Ki, under the leadership of Asahara Shoko.
[*2] Anno uses the phrase "ichioku sou-manga" here, in imitation of a famous phrase about the "idiotization" of the Japanese nation ("ichioku sou- hakuchi-ka") coined by Hanamori Yasuji, sharp-tongued critic and editor of the "Kurashi no Techou". Another corruption of this phrase likens the hard-working Japanese population to a beehive: "ichi-oku sou-hatarakibachi".

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Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena) is © Kunihiko Ikuhara, Chiho Saito, Shogakukan and bePapas/TV Tokyo and/or their respective copyright holders. The US release of the Revolutionary Girl Utena series and movie was © Central Park Media and now belongs to Right Stuf. The US release of the Utena manga is © VIZ. The various sources used in this site are noted where their content is presented. Don't sue us, seriously. Blood. Stone.