[EVA] Animerica: Return of the Otaking Part 2

Gwern Branwen gwern0 at gmail.com
Sat Aug 13 17:55:52 EDT 2011


http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5317066/eva/1996-animerica-otakingpt2.txt
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5317066/eva/1996-animerica-otakingpt2.html
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5317066/eva/1996-animerica-otakingpt2.pdf

# The Conscience of the Otaking: The Studio Gainax Saga in Four Parts

[_Animerica_ volume 4, issue 3; page 8]

[caption left: "**otaku**: (oh-TAH-koo) *n.* Term used to refer to
fanatical devotees of anime or manga. Japanese speakers might use this
term in a pejorative sense to denote someone lacking in social graces
and breadth who is obsessive about a certain subject. --**The Complete
Anime Guide**"]

[caption right: "Tanaka from **OTAKU NO VIDEO** (aka Toshio Okada)"]

> As Mel Brooks once said, "It's good to be the King." In our exclusive four-part interview, ANIMERICA talks with **Toshio Okada**, the otaku of otaku... the Otaking! Join us for the royal saga of the rise and fall and rise again of super-studio Gainax and more industry buzz than Robert Altman's **THE PLAYER**. Interview by **Carl Gustav Horn**

You may know him through his anime alter ego, "Tanaka", in **_OTAKU NO
VIDEO_**. But the real-life man is hardly less of a character--going
to college only so he could join a science fiction club, he formed a
small group of fan amateurs into **Daicon Film**, which amazed fans on
both sides of the Pacific with their "garage video" anime productions
and super battle-team live-action shorts. On Christmas Eve, 1984, the
former Daicon Film group went pro as **Studio Gainax**, the zealot
heretics who made **_ROYAL SPACE FORCE: THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE**
(1987), **_AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER** (1988), **_NADIA: THE SECRET
OF BLUE WATER_** (1989), and **_OTAKU NO VIDEO_** (1991). Conversant
with English, Okada was one of the key planners of AnimeCon '91, one
of the first major U.S. conventions to be devoted entirely to anime.
But in 1992 he resigned the presidency of Gainax and made his way to
Tokyo University, where the former dropout now lectures on multimedia.
Returning to the U.S. for Otakon in 1995, Toshio Okada gave his
first-ever interview to the English-language anime press. This
four-part account gives a rare and controversial inside angle on
Gainax, the most iconoclastic of all anime studios.

[caption bottom: "Misfits dreaming of a better world in **Otaku no
Video**. Note Okada's alter ego in the Char Aznable outfit (below)."]

[page 9]

[caption top: "PLAYERS CLUB The faces and names you'll need to know
for this installment of the ANIMERICA interview with Otaking Toshio
Okada."]
[caption middle; 5 thumbnails (one drawing for Sadamoto, 4 photographs):

Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
- Animation Director: **THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE**
- Character Designer: **THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE**, **NADIA: THE SECRET
OF BLUE WATER**, **NEON GENESIS EVANGELION**

Kenichi Sonoda
- Character Designer: **OTAKU NO VIDEO**, **BUBBLEGUM CRISIS**, **GALL FORCE**
- Creator: **RIDING BEAN**, **GUNSMITH CATS**

Hiromasa Ogura
- Art Director: **PATLABOR 1: THE MOVIE**, **PATLABOR 2**, **GHOST IN
THE SHELL**

Haruhiko Mikimoto
- Character Designer: **MACROSS**, **MACROSS II**, **MACROSS 7**,
**GUNDAM 0080**, **AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER**

Shoji Kawamori
- Mecha Designer: **MACROSS**, **PATLABOR**, **GUNDAM 0083**
- Writer/Director: **MACROSS PLUS**]

[caption left: "Nadia & friends from **THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER**"]

[caption middle right: "**INTERVIEW WITH TOSHIO OKADA, PART TWO** In
Part Two of the ANIMERICA interview, Toshio Okada discusses the
origins of Gainax as an anime studio, the genesis of **HONNEAMISE**,
and how Gainax's 'chaos strategy' worked for **GUNBUSTER** but not
**NADIA**."]

## Part 2

ANIMERICA: Your journey into the anime industry all sort of started
after you quit college in 1981, after only three days. Why? What
happened?

Okada: Well, after just three days I'd met the head of the
science-fiction club. After that there was no need for me to go to
school, because I only went to college in the first place so I could
join a science-fiction club. In those days, Japanese high schools
never had SF or anime clubs. I didn't really want to go to college...I
just wanted to join their club. So once I did, I never went to my
classes again. Then the college sent me a letter asking me if I wanted
to quit. [LAUGHS] So I said okay.

ANIMERICA: What college was that?

Okada: Ahhh...Osaka Electrical College? ...uh...I forget. [LAUGHS]
They taught economics, business and computer science. But I never went
to any such classes.

ANIMERICA: And how was it that you came to meet Hiroyuki Yamaga?

[page 22]

[caption left: "ART IMITATES LIFE...IMITATES ART The Otaking himself,
mimicking a pose from **_OTAKU NO VIDEO_** where he holds up a kit of
the little girl who appears in the Daicon III Opening Anime."]

[caption middle left: "LIFTING OFF Hiroyuki Yamaga designed the
storyboards for the opening credits for the classic TV series
**_SUPERDIMENSIONAL FORTRESS MACROSS_**, which contains a carrier
takeoff, just like this scene from the opening sequence of **_THE
WINGS OF HONNEAMISE_**."]

[caption bottom left: "SIN CITY One of Kenichi Sonoda's 'rejected'
mecha designs [above] and one of his 'approved' storefront designs
[below] for the garish pleasure quarter in **_WINGS_**, which,
according to Yamaga, was based on an actual such area in Osaka."]

Okada: He was on the staff of the Daicon III Opening Anime. At first,
Hideaki Anno and Takami Akai were the only two people on its main
staff--Anno drew the mecha and the special effects, and Akai drew the
characters and most of the motion. But then Yamaga appeared, and said
he'd do the backgrounds. Then they all went off to Artland to study
professional filmmaking, and worked on the original **_MACROSS_** TV
series. Anno studied mecha design, and Akai had wanted to do
characters, but he couldn't because Haruhiko Mikimoto already had such
an advanced technique. So when Akai realized he wouldn't get the
opportunity to do anything on **_MACROSS_**, he went back to Osaka.
And it was there that Yamaga learned how to direct--his teacher was
Noboru Ishiguro [see _ANIMERICA, Vol. 3, No. 8, for details on
Ishiguro's legendary career in anime--Ed._], Yamaga designed the
storyboards for the opening credits of **_MACROSS_**.

ANIMERICA: Wow! I knew he had worked on **_MACROSS_**, but I didn't
know exactly what he did... Is it true, by the way, that when you were
in America to research **_WINGS_**, you saw **_ROBOTECH_**?

Okada: Yeah, we were very surprised. Suddenly, in our little hotel
room, on our little TV, there's a little Minmei. And, the voice-actor
was saying [IMITATES "RICK HUNTER" VOICE], "Oh, Minmei, Minmei..."
_AAAAAAAHHH!!!_ [LAUGHS] We couldn't believe it, and had a good laugh.

ANIMERICA: So after Anno and Yamaga worked on **_MACROSS_**, what happened?

Okada: They went back to Osaka, in 1983, to make the Daicon IV Opening
Animation. Of course, those people on the **_MACROSS_** staff, who
would later become very important people in the industry, were quite
angry with them. But, as Anno and Yamaga explained to Ishiguro and
Shoji Kawamori, they had to go back to Osaka so they could make
amateur films again. [LAUGHS] At first, the plan for Daicon IV Opening
Anime was to make a fifteen-minute short in 16mm. I liked the
screenplay--no dialogue--but the idea of portraying an original world,
well, that was the beginning of what would eventually become **_THE
WINGS OF HONNEAMISE_**. We *thought* we were strong enough to take on
such a project, but Yamaga couldn't deal with the storyboards, and
Anno couldn't deal with the animation--in the end, it was just
impossible. So we quit, and decided to make the five-minute, 8mm film
that became the Daicon IV Opening Animation. But when that was done,
it was quite natural that Yamaga and I began to talk about the
original plan, with the idea of making that film in a professional
way. At that time, we were thinking of **_WINGS_** as a 30-minute
movie.

ANIMERICA: How did Yamaga have the idea for **_WINGS_** in the first
place? Was it a short story, or was it always going to be a movie...?

Okada: Well, sometimes a good idea...no, not just sometimes. Good
ideas always *flash*--just *flash*--you don't know how, or why, it
just comes--and a not-so-good-idea is the kind that comes from only
thinking, thinking, thinking, and writing, writing, writing. I don't
know where the idea for that first 15-minute concept came from; it
just flashed. It might have come during one evening we spent sleeping
inside this ancient temple in Tokyo with the Daicon IV animation and
convention staff. We were talking about, what kind of film we would
like to make, and I said something like,
"Hmmmm...*flash*...haaaaaaaa!" And someone else said, "Oh, yes that's
good...haaaaaaa!" [LAUGHS] and then we were all saying "haaaaaaaa!"
And so the fifteen-minute concept was completed. It's like I said,
there was no producer,

[page 23]

or director, or animation director--just friends who loved animation
and science fiction. That's all.

[caption top right: "GAINAX GIRL **_GUNBUSTER_**'s bubbly yet
determined heroine Noriko Takaya (above). **_OTAKU NO VIDEO_**'s
famous 'Misty May' (close kin to "bunny-girl" of the Daicon IV Opening
Anime) aside, Noriko's brief but bouncy walk up the road (amply
demonstrating her braless status) in **_GUNBUSTER_**'s opening credits
instituted a new phrase into anime jargon--the 'Gainax bounce'."]

[caption middle right: "WELCOME BACK The somber tone of the
heart-wrenching conclusion to **_GUNBUSTER_** was underlined by
Gainax's decision to 'film' the episode in black and white (all of the
episode's cels were simply painted in grey tones) to give a
'documentary' feel to the animation."]

[caption bottom right: "WHAT's MY LINE On board the _Luxion_, Noriko
meets the friendly Smith Toren...say, doesn't that sound familiar? You
guessed it, Noriko's doomed love was named after none other than the
already legendary founder of Studio Proteus, Toren Smith. Although
Smith did not voice the role himself, he did make his mark in anime
history as the voice of one of the bridge operators."]

ANIMERICA: Something else I wanted to ask you about
**_WINGS_**...Naghatsumih City, where the Space Force is
headquartered, isn't the capital, but rather an industrial town...is
that meant to symbolize Osaka?

Okada: Yes, exactly. Because in those days in anime, the hero would
always live in the capital city, and that seemed stupid to me.
[LAUGHS] In American movies, the hero may be from Boston, Chicago, Los
Angeles, New York, even Alaska. Not just Washington, D.C.--many, many
places. But in Japanese animation, it's always Tokyo, or just a
generic city, with no character. I hate those kind of movies.

ANIMERICA: Yamaga's from Niigata, on the west coast, isn't he?

Okada: Yes. Niigata's a very, very, very, country place, and half the
year it sees over thirty feet of snow.

ANIMERICA: Yamaga said recently that the opening of **_WINGS_**, where
Shiro is running out in the snow to the waterside, is just what the
scene would look like in Niigata.

Okada: Well, I don't really know, because that scene was drawn by
**_WINGS_**' art director, Hiromasa Ogura, and Ogura had never been to
Niigata. So, if Yamaga says, "It is Niigata", well, he's the director,
so maybe it's so. But it's not like you're just using a camera, like a
live-action film. If Yamaga told Ogura, "Okay, now you must draw
Niigata's sea and beach"--what if Ogura didn't know what it should
look like? He'd have to say, "Okay, I'll draw a sea and a beach--is
this okay?" [LAUGHS] *Maybe* it looks like Niigata, but maybe not.

ANIMERICA: What exactly did Kenichi Sonoda do on **_WINGS_**?

Okada: Kenichi Sonoda designed some of the 'sin town', the pleasure town.

ANIMERICA: That sounds like a good job for him.

Okada: [LAUGHS] Nice, yes. He made lots of designs for it. At first,
he was supposed to be one of the main mechanical designer. But I
couldn't use his mecha designs because they were too fantastic. So
Yamaga told him we couldn't use his designs, and he asked what he
could do instead. And Yamaga said, "You...mmm...maybe you'd...maybe
you'd like the pleasure town?" *Then* Sonoda's designs were very good!
[LAUGHS] He designed everything there, and we looked them over and we
were like...okay! Okay! OKAY! His most famous design was a shop front
with a canopy like a skirt, and columns like women's legs. [see
previous page, bottom thumbnail]

ANIMERICA: Did you write the screenplay for the next Gainax
production, **_AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER_**?

Okada: I wrote the base story, then I gave it to Yamaga and told him
to write the screenplay. And Yamaga said, "Okay, this is my kind of
work! But don't hope fora good screenplay. I'm going to make a stupid
robot-girl anime." [LAUGHS] I said, like...okay, okay, okay! Then he
asked me what I would like. And I told him that I like space best as
the setting for everything. We talked for more than three months...I
talked, he asked, he talked, and I'd say no...no...no. Then he went
back to Niigata, and about a week later he sent me

[page 24]

[caption left: "THE MIGHTY GUNBUSTER One of the largest robots in
anime (aside from transforming ships such as the _Macross_), the
Gunbuster stands between 200 and 250 meters, depending on your
estimate, and features such tongue-in-cheek contraptions as the
amazing Buster Shield, which looks like a Dracula cape!"]

[caption left bottom: "NADIA vs NAUSICAA The TV series **_NADIA_** was
Gainax's first real smash hit, winning the ANIMAGE Grand Prix
(readers' poll) award in 1991. Its main character, the enigmatic
circus acrobat Nadia, was the first to actually push Miyazaki's
beloved heroine Nausicaa out of the long-held top spot in ANIMAGE's
favorite characters poll."]

his screenplay--and when I read it, I was laughing all over the place.
And I called up Yamaga, and told him "You're a good screenwriter!" And
he said, "No! That screenplay is stupid!" [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: So did Yamaga end up writing the screenplay?

Okada: Yes, but Anno changed *everything*! [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: I see. It's like you say--chaos.

Okada: To *me*, **_GUNBUSTER_** was a science-fiction film. But to
Yamaga, it was a stupid robot-action girl film. [LAUGHS] So he sent
the script to Anno. And *Anno* thought, "Ah! This is a real mecha
anime!" And he cut up Yamaga's screenplay, then asked me, "How do you
want to make it?" But everyone else on the staff was telling him,
"Make it this way! That way! This way! That way!" Anno was so
confused, he gave it to Higuchi and told him, "You can draw the
storyboards any way you *like*!" So, Higuchi drew the
storyboards...with *no screenplay*. Nothing but a theme:
science-fiction-stupid-girl-action-robot-mecha! [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: Is that why it's a comedy at the start, and a drama at the
end? It's so different, Part One from Part Six.

Okada: Part Six was the very first idea I had for the film--and it
would be at the very end, I told Yamaga. That last scene, "Welcome
Back"--it's so far from the idea of a
stupid-comedy-action-parody-girl-robot-film. At that point, every fan
is sobbing--Yamaga was so ashamed of himself! [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: Maybe **_GUNBUSTER_** was so successful because it had a
little something of everything.

Okada: Yes. Somehow, I thought the 'chaos strategy' ended up giving
the screenplay a stronger structure. That's why I think maybe we could
have changed **_WINGS_**. But that was all ten years ago. [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: So you're saying you learned how to make chaos work?

Okada: Yeah. It's [the] *only* way I know how to make a film.

ANIMERICA: **_OTAKU NO VIDEO_** seems to have a pretty strong
structure. It's chronological, and you more or less wrote it by
yourself. Is it true that in **_OTAKU NO VIDEO_**, the characters of
both Tanaka *and* Kubo symbolize you?

Okada: Yeah. They're two sides of my mind. Sometimes I think just like
a Tanaka, and sometimes just like a Kubo. Sometimes I've taken people
aside and told them, "You must become otaku...otaku...otaku..." But
other times it's been people telling *me*, "You must see this...see
this...see this!"

ANIMERICA: Wasn't **_NADIA_**'s story originally by Hayao Miyazaki? Is
that the real reason it seems to show so much of his influence?

Okada: Yeah. The original story was going to be called "Around the
World in 80 Days by Sea". That was Mr. Miyazaki's plan, fifteen years
ago. And the Toho people held onto it, and showed it to Yoshiyuki
Sadamoto and told him, "*You* make it." And Sadamoto says [IN A GLAZED
VOICE] "Yesssss..." [LAUGHS] **_NADIA_** was a very hard experience.
At first,

[page 25]

[caption right: "UNDER THE SEA **_NADIA_** (currently available from
Streamline under its alternate title. **_THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER_**)
is also the name of the 39-episode TV show's heroine: a 14-year-old
girl working as a circus acrobat in 1889 Paris, pursued by a
flamboyant gang of thieves after her pendant, the 'Blue Water'. Nadia
joins up with Jean, a young inventor, on a globe-spanning quest to
unlock the secrets of her pendant and her forgotten past, secrets
connected with a lost civilization whose super-technology may mean
either the conquest of the world or its salvation. Inspired by Jules
Vern's **_20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA_**, references to the
turn-of-the-century novel include Captain Nemo and his ship, the
_Nautilus_, as well as the show's 'steampunk' flavor."]

[caption middle-bottom right: "THE _NAUTILUS_"]

[caption bottom right: "EVIL IS AS EVIL DOES **_NADIA_**'s fearsome
world-conquering Gargoyle organization. Nadia's spunky sidekick, King,
the lion cub"]

[caption bottom: "Toshio Okada explains the screenwriting process for
**_GUNBUSTER_**"]

Sadamoto was supposed to be the director. But after two episodes, he
said "Okay, that's enough for me!" and went back to character design
and animation direction, and Anno took over.

ANIMERICA: But in comparing, say, **_OTAKU NO VIDEO_**'s structure to
**_NADIA_**, you might say...

Okada: **_NADIA_** was *true* chaos, good chaos and bad chaos!
[LAUGHS] On **_NADIA_**, Anno didn't direct the middle episodes,
Shinji Higuchi did. And some episodes were directed in Korea--why, no
one knows exactly. [LAUGHS] That's *real* chaos, not good! What I mean
to say is, *controlled* chaos--that's good. Controlled chaos is where
you've got all the staff in the same room, looking at each other. But
on **_NADIA_** you had Higuchi saying, "Oh, I'll surprise Anno", hide,
and change the screenplay! Screenplays and storyboards got changed
when people went home, and the next morning, if no one could find the
original, I authorized them to go ahead with the changes. No one can
be a real director or a real scriptwriter in such a chaos situation.
But on **_GUNBUSTER_**, that chaos was controlled, because we were all
friends, and all working in the same place. But on **_NADIA_**, half
our staff was Korean, living overseas. We never met them. No control.

ANIMERICA: Was **_NADIA_** the first Gainax film to have Korean animators?

Okada: No, we used Korean animators even on **_GUNBUSTER_**. But we
had never before used a Korean director or animation director. It was
real chaos, just like hell.

> Next: in Part Three, Okada gives his own criticism of his greatest production and greatest failure, **_THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE_**, discussing the Japanese response to the film, the self-symbolic nature of the narrative, and contrasting Hayao Miyazaki's creative control with Gainax's chaos.

-- 
gwern
http://www.gwern.net
-------------- next part --------------
# The Conscience of the Otaking: The Studio Gainax Saga in Four Parts

[_Animerica_ volume 4, issue 3; page 8]

[caption left: "**otaku**: (oh-TAH-koo) *n.* Term used to refer to fanatical devotees of anime or manga. Japanese speakers might use this term in a pejorative sense to denote someone lacking in social graces and breadth who is obsessive about a certain subject. --**The Complete Anime Guide**"]

[caption right: "Tanaka from **OTAKU NO VIDEO** (aka Toshio Okada)"]

> As Mel Brooks once said, "It's good to be the King." In our exclusive four-part interview, ANIMERICA talks with **Toshio Okada**, the otaku of otaku... the Otaking! Join us for the royal saga of the rise and fall and rise again of super-studio Gainax and more industry buzz than Robert Altman's **THE PLAYER**. Interview by **Carl Gustav Horn**

You may know him through his anime alter ego, "Tanaka", in **_OTAKU NO VIDEO_**. But the real-life man is hardly less of a character--going to college only so he could join a science fiction club, he formed a small group of fan amateurs into **Daicon Film**, which amazed fans on both sides of the Pacific with their "garage video" anime productions and super battle-team live-action shorts. On Christmas Eve, 1984, the former Daicon Film group went pro as **Studio Gainax**, the zealot heretics who made **_ROYAL SPACE FORCE: THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE** (1987), **_AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER** (1988), **_NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER_** (1989), and **_OTAKU NO VIDEO_** (1991). Conversant with English, Okada was one of the key planners of AnimeCon '91, one of the first major U.S. conventions to be devoted entirely to anime. But in 1992 he resigned the presidency of Gainax and made his way to Tokyo University, where the former dropout now lectures on multimedia. Returning to the U.S. for Otakon in 1995, Toshio Okada gave his first-ever interview to the English-language anime press. This four-part account gives a rare and controversial inside angle on Gainax, the most iconoclastic of all anime studios.

[caption bottom: "Misfits dreaming of a better world in **Otaku no Video**. Note Okada's alter ego in the Char Aznable outfit (below)."]

[page 9]

[caption top: "PLAYERS CLUB The faces and names you'll need to know for this installment of the ANIMERICA interview with Otaking Toshio Okada."]
[caption middle; 5 thumbnails (one drawing for Sadamoto, 4 photographs):

Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
- Animation Director: **THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE**
- Character Designer: **THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE**, **NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER**, **NEON GENESIS EVANGELION**

Kenichi Sonoda
- Character Designer: **OTAKU NO VIDEO**, **BUBBLEGUM CRISIS**, **GALL FORCE**
- Creator: **RIDING BEAN**, **GUNSMITH CATS**

Hiromasa Ogura
- Art Director: **PATLABOR 1: THE MOVIE**, **PATLABOR 2**, **GHOST IN THE SHELL**

Haruhiko Mikimoto
- Character Designer: **MACROSS**, **MACROSS II**, **MACROSS 7**, **GUNDAM 0080**, **AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER**

Shoji Kawamori
- Mecha Designer: **MACROSS**, **PATLABOR**, **GUNDAM 0083**
- Writer/Director: **MACROSS PLUS**]

[caption left: "Nadia & friends from **THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER**"]

[caption middle right: "**INTERVIEW WITH TOSHIO OKADA, PART TWO** In Part Two of the ANIMERICA interview, Toshio Okada discusses the origins of Gainax as an anime studio, the genesis of **HONNEAMISE**, and how Gainax's 'chaos strategy' worked for **GUNBUSTER** but not **NADIA**."]

## Part 2

ANIMERICA: Your journey into the anime industry all sort of started after you quit college in 1981, after only three days. Why? What happened?

Okada: Well, after just three days I'd met the head of the science-fiction club. After that there was no need for me to go to school, because I only went to college in the first place so I could join a science-fiction club. In those days, Japanese high schools never had SF or anime clubs. I didn't really want to go to college...I just wanted to join their club. So once I did, I never went to my classes again. Then the college sent me a letter asking me if I wanted to quit. [LAUGHS] So I said okay.

ANIMERICA: What college was that?

Okada: Ahhh...Osaka Electrical College? ...uh...I forget. [LAUGHS] They taught economics, business and computer science. But I never went to any such classes.

ANIMERICA: And how was it that you came to meet Hiroyuki Yamaga?

[page 22]

[caption left: "ART IMITATES LIFE...IMITATES ART The Otaking himself, mimicking a pose from **_OTAKU NO VIDEO_** where he holds up a kit of the little girl who appears in the Daicon III Opening Anime."]

[caption middle left: "LIFTING OFF Hiroyuki Yamaga designed the storyboards for the opening credits for the classic TV series **_SUPERDIMENSIONAL FORTRESS MACROSS_**, which contains a carrier takeoff, just like this scene from the opening sequence of **_THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE_**."]

[caption bottom left: "SIN CITY One of Kenichi Sonoda's 'rejected' mecha designs [above] and one of his 'approved' storefront designs [below] for the garish pleasure quarter in **_WINGS_**, which, according to Yamaga, was based on an actual such area in Osaka."]

Okada: He was on the staff of the Daicon III Opening Anime. At first, Hideaki Anno and Takami Akai were the only two people on its main staff--Anno drew the mecha and the special effects, and Akai drew the characters and most of the motion. But then Yamaga appeared, and said he'd do the backgrounds. Then they all went off to Artland to study professional filmmaking, and worked on the original **_MACROSS_** TV series. Anno studied mecha design, and Akai had wanted to do characters, but he couldn't because Haruhiko Mikimoto already had such an advanced technique. So when Akai realized he wouldn't get the opportunity to do anything on **_MACROSS_**, he went back to Osaka. And it was there that Yamaga learned how to direct--his teacher was Noboru Ishiguro [see _ANIMERICA, Vol. 3, No. 8, for details on Ishiguro's legendary career in anime--Ed._], Yamaga designed the storyboards for the opening credits of **_MACROSS_**.

ANIMERICA: Wow! I knew he had worked on **_MACROSS_**, but I didn't know exactly what he did... Is it true, by the way, that when you were in America to research **_WINGS_**, you saw **_ROBOTECH_**?

Okada: Yeah, we were very surprised. Suddenly, in our little hotel room, on our little TV, there's a little Minmei. And, the voice-actor was saying [IMITATES "RICK HUNTER" VOICE], "Oh, Minmei, Minmei..." _AAAAAAAHHH!!!_ [LAUGHS] We couldn't believe it, and had a good laugh.

ANIMERICA: So after Anno and Yamaga worked on **_MACROSS_**, what happened?

Okada: They went back to Osaka, in 1983, to make the Daicon IV Opening Animation. Of course, those people on the **_MACROSS_** staff, who would later become very important people in the industry, were quite angry with them. But, as Anno and Yamaga explained to Ishiguro and Shoji Kawamori, they had to go back to Osaka so they could make amateur films again. [LAUGHS] At first, the plan for Daicon IV Opening Anime was to make a fifteen-minute short in 16mm. I liked the screenplay--no dialogue--but the idea of portraying an original world, well, that was the beginning of what would eventually become **_THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE_**. We *thought* we were strong enough to take on such a project, but Yamaga couldn't deal with the storyboards, and Anno couldn't deal with the animation--in the end, it was just impossible. So we quit, and decided to make the five-minute, 8mm film that became the Daicon IV Opening Animation. But when that was done, it was quite natural that Yamaga and I began to talk about the original plan, with the idea of making that film in a professional way. At that time, we were thinking of **_WINGS_** as a 30-minute movie.

ANIMERICA: How did Yamaga have the idea for **_WINGS_** in the first place? Was it a short story, or was it always going to be a movie...?

Okada: Well, sometimes a good idea...no, not just sometimes. Good ideas always *flash*--just *flash*--you don't know how, or why, it just comes--and a not-so-good-idea is the kind that comes from only thinking, thinking, thinking, and writing, writing, writing. I don't know where the idea for that first 15-minute concept came from; it just flashed. It might have come during one evening we spent sleeping inside this ancient temple in Tokyo with the Daicon IV animation and convention staff. We were talking about, what kind of film we would like to make, and I said something like, "Hmmmm...*flash*...haaaaaaaa!" And someone else said, "Oh, yes that's good...haaaaaaa!" [LAUGHS] and then we were all saying "haaaaaaaa!" And so the fifteen-minute concept was completed. It's like I said, there was no producer,

[page 23]

or director, or animation director--just friends who loved animation and science fiction. That's all.

[caption top right: "GAINAX GIRL **_GUNBUSTER_**'s bubbly yet determined heroine Noriko Takaya (above). **_OTAKU NO VIDEO_**'s famous 'Misty May' (close kin to "bunny-girl" of the Daicon IV Opening Anime) aside, Noriko's brief but bouncy walk up the road (amply demonstrating her braless status) in **_GUNBUSTER_**'s opening credits instituted a new phrase into anime jargon--the 'Gainax bounce'."]

[caption middle right: "WELCOME BACK The somber tone of the heart-wrenching conclusion to **_GUNBUSTER_** was underlined by Gainax's decision to 'film' the episode in black and white (all of the episode's cels were simply painted in grey tones) to give a 'documentary' feel to the animation."]

[caption bottom right: "WHAT's MY LINE On board the _Luxion_, Noriko meets the friendly Smith Toren...say, doesn't that sound familiar? You guessed it, Noriko's doomed love was named after none other than the already legendary founder of Studio Proteus, Toren Smith. Although Smith did not voice the role himself, he did make his mark in anime history as the voice of one of the bridge operators."]

ANIMERICA: Something else I wanted to ask you about **_WINGS_**...Naghatsumih City, where the Space Force is headquartered, isn't the capital, but rather an industrial town...is that meant to symbolize Osaka?

Okada: Yes, exactly. Because in those days in anime, the hero would always live in the capital city, and that seemed stupid to me. [LAUGHS] In American movies, the hero may be from Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, even Alaska. Not just Washington, D.C.--many, many places. But in Japanese animation, it's always Tokyo, or just a generic city, with no character. I hate those kind of movies.

ANIMERICA: Yamaga's from Niigata, on the west coast, isn't he?

Okada: Yes. Niigata's a very, very, very, country place, and half the year it sees over thirty feet of snow.

ANIMERICA: Yamaga said recently that the opening of **_WINGS_**, where Shiro is running out in the snow to the waterside, is just what the scene would look like in Niigata.

Okada: Well, I don't really know, because that scene was drawn by **_WINGS_**' art director, Hiromasa Ogura, and Ogura had never been to Niigata. So, if Yamaga says, "It is Niigata", well, he's the director, so maybe it's so. But it's not like you're just using a camera, like a live-action film. If Yamaga told Ogura, "Okay, now you must draw Niigata's sea and beach"--what if Ogura didn't know what it should look like? He'd have to say, "Okay, I'll draw a sea and a beach--is this okay?" [LAUGHS] *Maybe* it looks like Niigata, but maybe not.

ANIMERICA: What exactly did Kenichi Sonoda do on **_WINGS_**?

Okada: Kenichi Sonoda designed some of the 'sin town', the pleasure town.

ANIMERICA: That sounds like a good job for him.

Okada: [LAUGHS] Nice, yes. He made lots of designs for it. At first, he was supposed to be one of the main mechanical designer. But I couldn't use his mecha designs because they were too fantastic. So Yamaga told him we couldn't use his designs, and he asked what he could do instead. And Yamaga said, "You...mmm...maybe you'd...maybe you'd like the pleasure town?" *Then* Sonoda's designs were very good! [LAUGHS] He designed everything there, and we looked them over and we were like...okay! Okay! OKAY! His most famous design was a shop front with a canopy like a skirt, and columns like women's legs. [see previous page, bottom thumbnail]

ANIMERICA: Did you write the screenplay for the next Gainax production, **_AIM FOR THE TOP! GUNBUSTER_**?

Okada: I wrote the base story, then I gave it to Yamaga and told him to write the screenplay. And Yamaga said, "Okay, this is my kind of work! But don't hope fora good screenplay. I'm going to make a stupid robot-girl anime." [LAUGHS] I said, like...okay, okay, okay! Then he asked me what I would like. And I told him that I like space best as the setting for everything. We talked for more than three months...I talked, he asked, he talked, and I'd say no...no...no. Then he went back to Niigata, and about a week later he sent me

[page 24]

[caption left: "THE MIGHTY GUNBUSTER One of the largest robots in anime (aside from transforming ships such as the _Macross_), the Gunbuster stands between 200 and 250 meters, depending on your estimate, and features such tongue-in-cheek contraptions as the amazing Buster Shield, which looks like a Dracula cape!"]

[caption left bottom: "NADIA vs NAUSICAA The TV series **_NADIA_** was Gainax's first real smash hit, winning the ANIMAGE Grand Prix (readers' poll) award in 1991. Its main character, the enigmatic circus acrobat Nadia, was the first to actually push Miyazaki's beloved heroine Nausicaa out of the long-held top spot in ANIMAGE's favorite characters poll."]

his screenplay--and when I read it, I was laughing all over the place. And I called up Yamaga, and told him "You're a good screenwriter!" And he said, "No! That screenplay is stupid!" [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: So did Yamaga end up writing the screenplay?

Okada: Yes, but Anno changed *everything*! [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: I see. It's like you say--chaos.

Okada: To *me*, **_GUNBUSTER_** was a science-fiction film. But to Yamaga, it was a stupid robot-action girl film. [LAUGHS] So he sent the script to Anno. And *Anno* thought, "Ah! This is a real mecha anime!" And he cut up Yamaga's screenplay, then asked me, "How do you want to make it?" But everyone else on the staff was telling him, "Make it this way! That way! This way! That way!" Anno was so confused, he gave it to Higuchi and told him, "You can draw the storyboards any way you *like*!" So, Higuchi drew the storyboards...with *no screenplay*. Nothing but a theme: science-fiction-stupid-girl-action-robot-mecha! [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: Is that why it's a comedy at the start, and a drama at the end? It's so different, Part One from Part Six.

Okada: Part Six was the very first idea I had for the film--and it would be at the very end, I told Yamaga. That last scene, "Welcome Back"--it's so far from the idea of a stupid-comedy-action-parody-girl-robot-film. At that point, every fan is sobbing--Yamaga was so ashamed of himself! [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: Maybe **_GUNBUSTER_** was so successful because it had a little something of everything.

Okada: Yes. Somehow, I thought the 'chaos strategy' ended up giving the screenplay a stronger structure. That's why I think maybe we could have changed **_WINGS_**. But that was all ten years ago. [LAUGHS]

ANIMERICA: So you're saying you learned how to make chaos work?

Okada: Yeah. It's [the] *only* way I know how to make a film.

ANIMERICA: **_OTAKU NO VIDEO_** seems to have a pretty strong structure. It's chronological, and you more or less wrote it by yourself. Is it true that in **_OTAKU NO VIDEO_**, the characters of both Tanaka *and* Kubo symbolize you?

Okada: Yeah. They're two sides of my mind. Sometimes I think just like a Tanaka, and sometimes just like a Kubo. Sometimes I've taken people aside and told them, "You must become otaku...otaku...otaku..." But other times it's been people telling *me*, "You must see this...see this...see this!"

ANIMERICA: Wasn't **_NADIA_**'s story originally by Hayao Miyazaki? Is that the real reason it seems to show so much of his influence?

Okada: Yeah. The original story was going to be called "Around the World in 80 Days by Sea". That was Mr. Miyazaki's plan, fifteen years ago. And the Toho people held onto it, and showed it to Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and told him, "*You* make it." And Sadamoto says [IN A GLAZED VOICE] "Yesssss..." [LAUGHS] **_NADIA_** was a very hard experience. At first,

[page 25]

[caption right: "UNDER THE SEA **_NADIA_** (currently available from Streamline under its alternate title. **_THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER_**) is also the name of the 39-episode TV show's heroine: a 14-year-old girl working as a circus acrobat in 1889 Paris, pursued by a flamboyant gang of thieves after her pendant, the 'Blue Water'. Nadia joins up with Jean, a young inventor, on a globe-spanning quest to unlock the secrets of her pendant and her forgotten past, secrets connected with a lost civilization whose super-technology may mean either the conquest of the world or its salvation. Inspired by Jules Vern's **_20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA_**, references to the turn-of-the-century novel include Captain Nemo and his ship, the _Nautilus_, as well as the show's 'steampunk' flavor."]

[caption middle-bottom right: "THE _NAUTILUS_"]

[caption bottom right: "EVIL IS AS EVIL DOES **_NADIA_**'s fearsome world-conquering Gargoyle organization. Nadia's spunky sidekick, King, the lion cub"]

[caption bottom: "Toshio Okada explains the screenwriting process for **_GUNBUSTER_**"]

Sadamoto was supposed to be the director. But after two episodes, he said "Okay, that's enough for me!" and went back to character design and animation direction, and Anno took over.

ANIMERICA: But in comparing, say, **_OTAKU NO VIDEO_**'s structure to **_NADIA_**, you might say...

Okada: **_NADIA_** was *true* chaos, good chaos and bad chaos! [LAUGHS] On **_NADIA_**, Anno didn't direct the middle episodes, Shinji Higuchi did. And some episodes were directed in Korea--why, no one knows exactly. [LAUGHS] That's *real* chaos, not good! What I mean to say is, *controlled* chaos--that's good. Controlled chaos is where you've got all the staff in the same room, looking at each other. But on **_NADIA_** you had Higuchi saying, "Oh, I'll surprise Anno", hide, and change the screenplay! Screenplays and storyboards got changed when people went home, and the next morning, if no one could find the original, I authorized them to go ahead with the changes. No one can be a real director or a real scriptwriter in such a chaos situation. But on **_GUNBUSTER_**, that chaos was controlled, because we were all friends, and all working in the same place. But on **_NADIA_**, half our staff was Korean, living overseas. We never met them. No control.

ANIMERICA: Was **_NADIA_** the first Gainax film to have Korean animators?

Okada: No, we used Korean animators even on **_GUNBUSTER_**. But we had never before used a Korean director or animation director. It was real chaos, just like hell.

> Next: in Part Three, Okada gives his own criticism of his greatest production and greatest failure, **_THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE_**, discussing the Japanese response to the film, the self-symbolic nature of the narrative, and contrasting Hayao Miyazaki's creative control with Gainax's chaos.


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