‘Evangelion’ Director, Hideaki Anno, Explains How He Finally Found His Ending
Hideaki Anno’s “Evangelion: 3.0 + 1.0: Three Once Upon a Time”, which begins airing on Amazon Prime on August 13, is the movie anime fans have been waiting for 25 years. The fourth and final theatrical feature film in the “reconstruction” of her flagship 1995-96 television series “Neon Genesis Evangelion” brings a definitive conclusion to this epic adventure.
A fascinating and complex work that mixes mecha battles with apocalyptic Christian symbols, Jewish mysticism and teenage angst, “Evangelion” (pronounced eh-van-GEH-lee-on, with a hard G) se ranks among the most discussed TV series in anime history. His influence is vast and includes Japanese animated fantasies and Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 sci-fi adventure “Pacific Rim”. And fans continue to debate its meaning, subtext, and details.
“My influence on other creators is not something I think about when working on a film,” Anno told me in an interview. “I decide what to do based on what works best for me and what interests me most at the time. The “Evangelion” project has been featured several times, so I made the new films for the cinema. I don’t think this kind of opportunity will happen again.
In the series, which takes place in the not-so-distant future, humanity is locked in a deadly struggle with strange and incredibly powerful creatures known as Angels. The only effective weapons against them are the Evangelions or Evas, gigantic cyborgs guided by psychic adolescents. The hero is Shinji Ikari, an insane 14-year-old who is enlisted by his brutal father to pilot Eva 01.
Despite its popularity, “Evangelion” never had a satisfying ending. The original series failed to resolve the complex plot, with its theological and ontological connotations. Shortly before “Evangelion” aired, Anno wrote that he created it after four years of severe depression when he was “a wreck, unable to do anything” and that “history is not over in my mind yet. “
“I don’t know what will happen to Shinji or (the other characters), or where they will go,” he wrote.
Anno was clearly not satisfied, as he continued to search for a conclusion, trimming the last episodes and reworking them in the feature film “Death & Rebirth” (1997) and again in the 1997 second feature film “The End. of Evangelion “.
In 2002, Anno announced plans for a “reconstruction,” a reinvention of history, unconstrained by the financial and technological limitations it initially faced. “Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone” (2007) was a flamboyant account of the first six television episodes. “Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance” (2009) and “Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo” (2012) took the characters and the story in completely new directions. Nine years later, “Thrice Upon a Time” brings the saga to a surprisingly optimistic conclusion.
Speaking from Tokyo via Zoom and a translator, Anno said, “For the reconstruction series, I wanted the first movie ‘Evangelion’ to be similar to the TV series, the second would gradually change the story, and the third and the fourth would be totally different, from the start I had no intention of doing the same as the TV series.
These four films showcase Anno’s skill in using new computer technology to create more powerful iterations of his original visions. In the television series, when the troops attacked Angel Ramiel, it destroyed the humans and their weapons in a series of mundane explosions; in “You Are (Not) Alone,” the audience can almost feel the heat as the Angel reduces tanks and missiles to glowing slag.
In the reconstruction, Anno also delves into the fragile psyche of his flawed and traumatized hero and the eccentric personalities around him. When Anno described his approach to the characters, he spoke with an intensity that crossed linguistic boundaries.
“In animation, nothing is real. But I wanted to bring more meaning to reality in this made up world – I wanted to make the characters more human, ”he explained. “There is a gap between what people say in real life and what they really mean. In animation, unless the characters are lying on purpose, they always say what they want to say. I wanted to reverse that: when the characters in ‘Evangelion’ speak, they don’t necessarily say what they mean. I wanted to add this human behavior to the animation.
“People think Shinji is an unusual hero,” he continued. “I think it’s due to the sense of reality that I brought, relying on my experience and my knowledge. But Shinji and the other characters aren’t just a reflection of me; they include elements of the personality of all the artists on the creative team.
The original “Evangelion” was a huge hit that helped reverse the slump in the Japanese animation industry: when the last episode aired in March 1996, over 10% of all TVs in Japan were plugged into it. “Evangelion” remains popular, with hundreds of millions of dollars in sales of videos and related merchandise. The new features continued this success: “Thrice Upon a Time” opened in Japan on March 3 and played for over 135 days in theaters there, earning over 10.22 billion yen (around 93 million yen). dollars) – despite the pandemic.
Reflecting on this continued popularity, Anno said, “As a creator, I want to create things that are entertaining but have depth. I didn’t want our show to be some type of entertainment that escaped reality, I wanted people watching it to feel encouraged to live their own lives.
Anno is moving into live action for his next project. In April, the Toei Company announced that he would be directing “Shin Kamen Rider,” as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the popular superhero franchise. Its release is scheduled for March 2023.
When asked what it felt like to say goodbye to ‘Evangelion’ after more than 25 years, Anno concluded, “I don’t feel the need to see Shinji and the other characters anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean to say that I never want to see them again: there may come a time when I will meet them again.
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