This is the second part to an interview with Studio KHARA founder Hideaki Anno which was released in the Studio KHARA 10th anniversary celebration book. You can read Part 1, which addresses the whereabouts of KHARA’s conception here.
In this second part Hideaki Anno addresses the motivations behind Japan Animator Expo and also the future of the Evangelion brand.
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Aiming for a future that only KHARA can realize
At last, we’d like to ask you about the prospects of your visual creations.
Hideaki ANNO: I think that each work and each project is done in a separate way. As I said earlier, the studio is a “box.” That’s why we do with what is available at the time. I think it’s better to have plans that maintain the size of the “box.” The project we’re working on right now, The Dragon Dentist, is the touchstone of this studio.
About the Japan Animator Expo, which laid ground to The Dragon Dentist, was it a way for you to try to showcase this “box”?
H. Anno: My motivation was instead to pay tribute to the industry. I mainly wanted to come back to the principle that animation is a fun thing. There’s more than late-night anime and Ghibli works. I’m wondering if we can go back to an ambiance close to the ’80s where there was of everything. Back then, before the economic bubble, there were a tremendous amount of projects to the point where you’d tell yourself: “What?! There’s even something like this?!” This kind of chaos was really fun. This atmosphere was overflowing with personality and variation. Can we try to get something close to it once again? Even to a lesser degree?
Another goal was to uncover new individual talents. Maybe those who aren’t directors but try it out will achieve compelling results or try out something experimental.
Did Khara also carry this project?
H. Anno: Yes. Since it’s not a commercial project and profitability is put aside, it was hard for us to make it by ourselves. Thankfully, DWANGO took part in the project, and by sharing the financial cost, we were able to do something interesting. Even though we didn’t make ends meet, we have delivered a result. As such, I’m grateful we did it. We made contacts with lots of people and studios which will make for an enriching future. If we’re only doing Eva, we’re going to be labeled as “the studio that does Eva.” But I plan on doing many different things.
The Dragon Dentist has become a feature film project, does this mean the pilot film fulfilled its purpose?
H. Anno: I didn’t have such a defined goal. I thought it would be nice to make a pilot version of it. I grew the field without plowing the seeds, and I left that task to others. Regarding visuals, we had a wide range of expressions, even stop motion animation by Studio dwarf (episode 18 Ochibi-san), that was amazing. Usually, that kind of short film isn’t made this way.
We would like to know about future business perspectives.
H. Anno: I think that business schemes depending on packaging will face having a hard time to recoup their costs. I have read a lot about the three Evangelion movies, but concerning Blu-Ray sales, the second one had the highest. Of course, because it is Eva, it keeps selling, but the market itself has shrunk. When possible, distribution will be done through theaters, that’s how it will go for the time being.
Even though the business aspect wasn’t your goal, did you feel like you were managing the distribution aspect?
H. Anno: What I wanted the most out from Japan Animator Expo was a global distribution. By connecting to the Internet, it could be seen anywhere. English is the most used language for communication in the world; English subtitles were essential. By using that English translation, it is possible to do a French translation, an Italian one, a Chinese one, and so on. The project wants to showcase what’s fantastic in Japanese animation, so it’s the ultimate goal to share it with the whole world. It was about promoting its distribution without thinking about the business aspect. If KHARA’s brand name gets remembered through it, it’s even better. This year (2016), staff will be attending various events, and I count on doing more branding. I want people to acknowledge that it’s KHARA that’s making the new Evangelion movies.
During Animator Expo, it’s mostly the third short film, ME!ME!ME! which got excellent reviews abroad.
H. Anno: It has almost become a classic. Because it doesn’t have any lines, you can loop the music, once done I had only one idea in mind: “This, this is good for distribution” but the result far exceeded my expectations. It got exceptionally well received in Europe and the USA and was also watched a lot in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Its access is on a whole other scale, which led me to understand that there is a global need for Japanese animation of this kind. Because the promotion is also research, it is a good thing that allowed us to gather information up to a certain point.
Including such an attempt, I guess Khara drew a lot of attention as a provoking company.
H. Anno: It is not my intention to be provoking, and I have no feelings against the existing system, which may seem odd, doesn’t it? It’s about embracing what there is best right now. We need to think about the business of anime and characters that bring something to the industry and go on from there. Regarding KHARA, what has been rewarding, more than the establishment of actual EVANGELION STORE, has been the maturity of the goods market.
Indeed, commercializing goods through colors and design rather than characters is a development that has drawn lots of attention. It has been a breakthrough in the goods market.
H. Anno: In the first place, the basis of the animation’s business was to recoup costs through the fees of secondary rights. Once the TV run was over, so were the goods. But with the appearance of anime fans following Space Battleship Yamato’s broadcast, the business developed in such a way to care about those precious fans and maintain offering goods according to their needs. I feel that as long as it is possible to keep on going, it’s good to do so.
Regarding Eva, is there anything else you have to say about what’s to come?
H. Anno: We are making concrete progress on Shin Evangelion. I’m sorry for making fans wait so long. I hope to have the time to get it done now. Once it’s over, I hope other creators will do other Eva. Obviously, because I want them to be appealing works, it won’t be without specific conditions, but I will not confine them to what my works have established. Just like Gundam, which keeps continuously supporting the animation world, Eva can become a new pillar. After all, it is the purpose that led me to resume through the New Theatrical Versions. I want to maintain this pillar, which carries the animation world. The more pillars there are, the better for the environment will be, won’t it? That’s how I see it. Rather than for my company, I do this for the wellbeing of the animation industry. Gundam can be enjoyed through various works, and it would be nice if Eva can develop in the same way. I think it’s better if there is a diversity in the works.
Japan Animator Expo has already released some variations of Eva.
H. Anno: Indeed. The point about “Let’s show the possibilities of Eva” was admirable, right? Especially being able to verify that the world of Eva can be expressed through the use of Real CG and photorealism, that was a really good thing (episode 12 evangelion:Another Impact (Confidential)). It’s with this kind of thing that I want to grow the brand and make a pillar out of it. If people believe my goal is to make money, being an anime fan myself, I understand the feelings of those who hate it, but if we don’t make any money, we can’t do more projects. If we do not have ample means of production, we can’t create freely. For this reason, it is essential to use money, and I want to use a lot of it to be able to create interesting things. For these purposes, Eva is a good title, and I don’t wish to KHARA to limit itself to anime but to keep offering other works to the world.
At last, can you tell us how you imagine KHARA ten years from now?
H. Anno: I think the animation industry will go three ways: works aimed at children works for maniacs and works of entertainment aimed at the widest possible targets. Eva is a work whose story targetting maniacs has encountered a large success, and this is one path at which KHARA is aiming. When works target children, it is believed they should be mass-produced like in a factory. I don’t want KHARA to be a factory but a workshop where artisans meticulously manufacture works. We are lucky enough to have numerous directors and artisans, and I think we will do our anime one by one with our means. Rather than expanding and becoming a factory, I’d rather think about how to create a multitude of workshops. Concerning how we will sell the accomplished works and where to find the next production’s finances, it will all depend on the works’ quality. Anyway, I want to keep creating high-quality works which will make a reputation for our company’s skills.
14th September 2016 at Khara
Translation by Fabrice Renault
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