“Mr Anno had to make something new to keep the company going… so it was a bit of a rushed job,” says Takeshi Honda as he speaks about the original Neon Genesis Evangelion (aka Evangelion) series with MyM BUZZ at MCM London Comic Con on Saturday. It’s surprising to hear, given the huge impact the anime had on the industry and its popularity across the globe, something that has only grown since its release in 1995.
Takeshi Honda has been on board with the Evangelion franchise since it first began, working as an animation director on the original series, and then returning to work as a mechanical animator and key animation on the films Death & Rebirth, The End of Evangelion, 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, and 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo. But this is not the only thing that Honda has worked on, as he has credits on films such as Perfect Blue, Ponyo, The Wind Rises, The Boy and the Beast and A Letter to Momo. MyM Buzz met with the animator to discuss his long career in the industry.
How did you first become involved with Evangelion?
“I was actually involved in this other feature film Gainax was going to make but it actually didn’t quite happen, and right now it’s just up on the shelf. Mr Anno had to make something new to keep the company going, and was telling us, ‘Right we need to do something,’ so it was a bit of a rushed job in a way. He came up with the idea of Evangelion and he wanted to make a robot film with a high-school boy as the protagonist, kind of like in Gundam. So I was involved in this other film and I didn’t know what to do, whether I should go work on another project of this one and Anno told me that I should go work with him so I did.”
Evangelion seems like quite a personal project for Mr Anno. Do you think this is the case?
“That’s absolutely true! I think that’s why Shinji isn’t very popular, it’s always Asuka and Rei that people like.”
You returned to the series for the films, what was it like to work on them after being involved with the original series?
“I was very much involved in the TV series. I worked on characters and robots, but with the film version I only designed the robots in the first two films and then I did both on the third film so I gradually got more involved as the films went along.”
Were there any challenges, or perhaps benefits, when it came to the films since the animation industry has changed and developed a lot since then?
“If I take Evangelion as an example, the challenge was to make something that was better than the original. In a way the TV series was perfect, it was popular but we had to do something better than that. A benefit is probably that it’s been so popular over the years, I can’t really think of anything else!”
What was it like to work with Mr Anno on the films again, and how did you feel about the change to the feel of the series?
“Looking back, he was quite depressed when he made that first series. I think that the negative aspects Mr Anno’s character was a benefit to the original series. He was very much under stress and he wasn’t happy, so that was reflected on the work. With the new version he had just gotten married and he was more positive so that might have contributed to the changes. But, then again, he wasn’t totally positive about everything so it’s hard to say.”
You worked on the mechanical design for the first two films. How did that compare to your other roles in the franchise?
“The mechanical design isn’t quite what I did. Mr Yamashida did his work and I redrew it for animation. But comparing to other productions it’s difficult to say, but Mr Anno checks everything and his response to my work would be slower than other people. So I would do the work and Mr Anno had it, then I’d forget it and he would come back to me a while after asking to change things. I wish he would have told me earlier.”
Moving on from Evangelion, you also worked with Satoshi Kon on his films Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers and Perfect Blue. What was that like?
“Probably Millennium Actress is what I remember the most fondly. How it came about was that I met him up in a pub. We were having a drink and Satoshi Kon said he would call me master and wanted to know if I wanted to do this film. I was working on another film at the time so I couldn’t do it straight away, but I thought he would wait for me. He didn’t. He began the storyboards straight away and then showed them to me. I wasn’t annoyed by it at all; I was actually quite impressed and I thought that he worked so fast. I was genuinely impressed with how he worked, and it was a pleasure working with him because we would go out for drinks every night.”
Was it the same with Perfect Blue?
“I took on the job of Perfect Blue just before production began on the Evangelion film, so I had time but then I ended up working on both films in the end.”
You’ve also worked on a number of Studio Ghibli films, so you’ve worked with a number of prestigious companies. How did these experiences compare with each other?
“It’s hard to say. Obviously each studio is different so I can’t tell you that this one is different from that one. But, for example, Ghibli has its own style that is nice, and Khara and Gainax also have their own styles. So I think it’s how I can adapt to each studio that was important. Ghibli was fairly easy because I am a fan and I really like Miyazaki’s works so I was happy to go their way but sometimes there are studios that I can’t quite get on with, or I find it hard to get along with style wise. But it’s not about their style it’s more to do with me and them so I can’t talk about the differences that much.”
Would you be able to say which company you couldn’t work well with?
“I don’t really want to offend anyone, so maybe I won’t say who it is. Is that okay?”
Of course, don’t worry. You also worked on The Boy And The Beast by Mamoru Hosoda. Could you explain a little more what you did there?
“I worked on the original drawings for the film. I still feel like I was just a helping hand but I really enjoyed it.”
If you worked on the original drawings, did you have anything to do with the last fight that featured the really beautiful animation of the whale?
“No, unfortunately I didn’t go that far. That was the work of Toshiyuki Inoue, and he’s a great animator.”
You have also directed your own film called 20min Walk From Nishi-Ogikubo Station, 2 Bedrooms, Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, 2mos Deposit, No Pets Allowed. Why did you decide to have such a long title for it, and what was it like to work as a director on it?
“For the title Mahiro Maeda was involved in the film originally. I had a smaller title but he said that it didn’t work with the film so he came up with the longer title, and I can’t really say much on his behalf. I feel like my role was like an animation director; I created the characters, the props and the set. It’s actually set in my house and I wanted to make a comedy. The great thing about the project was that I could work with a number of animators I admire so I really enjoyed that. I drew about 1/3 of the film, and they did the rest.”
Who did you work with?
“Toshiyuki Inoue, Your Name’s Masashi Ando, Shinya Oohira, Hiroyuki Okiura, Shinji Hashimoto, Mahiro Maeda, Akira Homma, Maho Takagi and Sayaka Yamai. They were great people; I will never ever get these people on one project ever again!”
A lot of Evangelion fans would be interested to know, are you going to be working on the fourth Evangelion film?
“Yes, very much so.”