Along with an understanding of the broader context of the subject, the most vital ingredient to good anime coverage is a reliable source. So when US journalists actually interview people on the production side in Japan, it’s generally worth noting unless the interview consists entirely of fluff. This is the third of what will hopefully be a couple more posts archiving articles from Newtype USA’s [inside] series of articles written by Amos Wong. This one features Gainax president Hiroyuki Yamaga on beating game companies in their own arena to stay afloat financially, seeing Eva mentioned in pop culture, and his opinion on the best way to target overseas fans.
Note: Pictures are scans of the article made on my crappy scanner, which cover the article text but not the entire page. Apologies for that. Scans after the jump, along with comments on the contents of the article.
-While he doesn’t give the year or the exact production, Yamaga does mention on the third page an instance of being approached by an unnamed famous manga company to do a 40-minute OVA production. He gave them a projected budget of 100 million yen (~$1 million), getting rebuffed by the company due to the high price, and finding out it cost more or less the same amount at the studio they eventually got to do it. That might be high end, but it’s a lot more money per minute of animation than a modern TV show, where one 20-minute episode can have a budget ranging from 10-30 million yen. Either OVAs cost more in general, or this was a project before digital made things way cheaper. Given that it was a “famous” manga and got an OVA rather than a TV series, I’m inclined to think it was at least partially the latter. (Unfortunately, OVA budgets don’t come up as much in more modern news because, even with a recent spike in OVA count, TV dominates the number of minutes of animation being made.)
-“I guess we didn’t really start thinking about how to run the company effectively, like a company should be run, until maybe two or three years ago. Seriously.” Yamaga seems like a fun interview.
-Evidentially, the studio was pretty bad at negotiating contracts. Yamaga mentions that Evangelion was the first anime project to make money for the studio due to their crappy contract terms. Before that, they survived by making games with art leaps and bounds above what was available at the time (Princess Maker is mentioned by name). This probably has more than a little to do with why splitoff gonzo spent the better part of a decade focused on games before doing Gatekeepers in 2000.
-The Hideaki Anno part of the interview (starts from page 7) was more interesting than I expected. There’s some neat stuff there about what he learned doing a couple of live-action movies (Love and Pop, Shikijitsu). His well-documented regrets over Nadia, as well as his “comedy as its base” interpretation of Kare Kano, subjects I’ve had a mild interest in, also came up.
-The Eva live-action movie is high-level hindsight comedy.
-My favorite part of the article are Yamaga’s comments on pages 5 and 6 about the nature of stories getting the green light. The whole “I really like French wine […] give me the stuff that the French people like.” sentiment is pretty much exactly how I feel about anime; I like it because it is what it is. It’s not a perfect medium, but nothing is, and cheap attempts to ditch that identity to change around customer bases is less likely to succeed than just making something for Japanese viewers and taking the bonus if the rest of the world bites (like what happened most recently with Attack on Titan).