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<nettime> Evangelion
Krystian Woznicki on Thu, 19 Feb 1998 23:32:56 +0100 (MET)


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<nettime> Evangelion


TOWARDS A CARTOGRAPHY OF JAPANESE ANIME
Anno Hideaki's >>Evangelion<<. Interview  with Azuma Hiroki 

by Krystian Woznicki
for BLIMP Filmmagazine

[33 281  Characters]

Since 1984, there have been only three major anime directors who deserve
intellectual/artistic appreciation: Hayao Miyazaki, Katsuhiro Otomo and
Mamoru Oshii. Remarkably, and this is perhaps most important and
symptomatic here, these three (especially Miyazaki and Oshii) seem to have
had to detach their imagination away from typical "anime" images or
narratives, as for example, mechanical gimmicks (=mechas) or pretty girls,
in order to lift their works on a new level of cultural acceptance. 
Miyazaki's TV anime series >>Conan<< (78) and the first long film >>Lupin
the 3rd : The Castle of Cariostro<< (79) received otaku's enthusiastic
support. It should be remarked that Miyazaki's appeal in those days
largely depended on his originally-designed  mechas and girls as well as
his skillful narratives. The  heroin of >>Lupin the 3rd : the Castle of
Cariostro<< is said to be an origin of the otaku's particular fetishism of
anime characters. However, Miyazaki seems to have changed his strategy
gradually during 80-86. >>Nausikaa<<(84), the first anime film which
succeeded in gathering interests from outside closed otaku circles, can be
considered a result of this change. His detachment from otaku-culture was
completed when >>Tonari No Totoro<< was released in 86. This film
contained no mechas nor pretty girls, but merely typical fantasy images.
Miyazaki's work,  just as he had intended, actually received broader
welcome as  "popular (=major, that is, socially recognized) cinema" and
won several prizes.
Otomo Katsuhiro was originally a comic author. Since his manga was already
internationally appreciated, he was able to  produce the film>>Akira<<
(86) comparatively separated from  anime's general situation in the 80's.
Correctly speaking, >>Akira<< is an animation, but not an anime. 
Oshii Mamorou's TV anime series >>Urusei-yatsura<<(81-8) was famous  for
both its cult appeal to otaku culture (absurd SF plot, pretty girls,
queer-designed mechas, images borrowed from Japanese folk stories) and his
approach as a director being influenced by 70's Japanese underground
theater (for example, Shuji Terayama). He frequently experimented using
abstract images, fast cut- ups, (seemingly) philosophical conversations or
overactive movements of characters, to deconstruct ordinary anime
patterns. We can say that Oshii in the early 80's took an ambiguous role
towards anime as a genre; he was the most "otaku" Anime director while, at
the same time, the most severe and intrinsic critic of otaku culture. His
film >>Urusei-Yatsura 2: A Beautiful Dreamer<<(84) is a meta-fiction
anime, and often referred  to as the film where Oshii's double strategy
was the most successful. After finishing this film/TV series, he started
to produce experimental animation films , or non-animated SF films. He
returned to directing anime in 1986 but this time he intended to make more
serious and intellectual animation, eliminating childish "services" which
filled typical animes. >>Patlabor 2 : The Movie<< (93) and >>Ghost in the
Shell<< (96) are the results of this change.
Considering the general anime situation in later 80's (that is, closed,
totally "fanzin"inzed situation; especially after the distribution system
of OAV -- original animation videos --- was established, all animators
indulging in the  financial freedom  to produce stereo-typical animes for
particular/ marginalized  fans without seeking any broader acceptance),
Miyazaki and Oshii's change, which also manifested itself in a kind of
hate towards anime fans seems totally justified. Nevertheless, it is also
true that they lost a lot of appeal compared to their early 80's work.  In
addition, we also should note that Miyazaki, Otomo and Oshii's similarity
in attempting to make animation closer to real films seems to stem from
their common detestation of the anime genre ("genre" here means no typical
images or narratives but distribution system, fan's acceptance and so on.
Miyazaki and Oshii intended to separate themselves from both anime works
and anime distributions). It is very ironical that almost all the best
results of Japanese animation come from such a  (pseudo)self-hatred.
Besides these three directors' works we can only find some
childish/fetishized animes approved by international otakus (a typical
example is >>Sailor Moon<<).

If broken down, we could say that two aspects about Anno Hideaki 's
>>Evangelion<<are crucial  in this context. In the first place
>>Evangelion<< contains not only mechas and pretty girls but many kind of
otaku "services."  Anno borrowed or sometimes parodied innumerable images
from 70 - 80's Japanese animes, SF films or comics as for example the
protagonist father's uniform is obviously designed as a parody of the
costume aesthetic in >>Space Battleship Yamato<<(74). Gainax (formerly
Daicon Film) started its career by making parody anime films in a typical
"postmodern" manner. >>Evangelion<< succeeds in using a lot of otaku
clichs, only to inverse their functions: For example, such comical
characters as  Asuka or Toji must not be seriously injured in an ordinary
anime. Anno intendedly breaks such kind of implicit
expectation/regulation. This attitude towards anime as a genre, in
criticizing it, seems to oppose Miyazaki's or Oshii's eliminative
strategy. (Maybe, in part,  it is rather close to Oshii's  early 80's
work). 
As Anno himself remarks, in >>Evangelion<< he does not want to make
animation film closer to real films. Instead, he attempts to make the most
of anime's abstractness (which results from an unavoidable limit of
information's quantity in one frame). The narrative devices in
>>Evangelion<< and their metaphorical meanings should receive our entire
attention here. Especially  Anno's use of angels as an abstract enemy
should deserve our entire attention here: >>Evangelion<< tells the story
of three children unreluctantly entrusted with saving their city (if not
the world) from aliens, which neither can be identified, nor in their
intention be understood. Then, there is  Rei Ayanami, who represents a
new image/type of child's solitude (which can neither be reduced to Otaku
nor Ko-girl). Together  with Shinji and Asuka, we see her on sunny school
days' mornings, while miles under the city an artificially created urban
infrastructure, their working place,  is the downward spiral into the
realm of government conspiracies and military research strategists: Tokyo
3 in the year 2015.

by Azuma Hiroki : Krystian Woznicki

SOMETHING LIKE ANIME

Krystian Woznicki: So Anno changed the original plot of the story when he
saw the news about the invasion of Aum's hide out by the police. Did he
change it because it was too close to reality?

Azuma Hiroki: Yes, he said so.

KW: But did why he change it? What is the problem with >>Evangelion<<
being so close to the Aum case?

AH: Anno thought that the original scenario will not be suitable for
broadcasting.

KW: So he feared censorship.

AH: A kind of censorship. But this is very typical of the anime situation.
TV animations are supposed to be seen by youngsters under 15, 16 years
old. And I think, if it this wasn't the case, then Anno would have thought
that its obvious similarity with the reality would decrease
>>Evangelion's<<imaginative potential.  But anyway, the original scenario
is so shockingly close to the political motivation of the Aum Shinrikyo
group, they fight against the upshot of the enemy, without knowing what
the enemy really is. The angels change their form for example into
pyramids, into shadows. I asked Anno about such abstract characteristics
of the angels. He said that this reflects the feelings of his generation.
For his generation the enemy is not political. It is also not definite. I
mentioned to Anno that such abstract characteristics of the enemy are very
close to the  conception of Aum as enemy (e.g. poison gas) which he
admitted. He also admitted the similarity of  >>Evangelion<< with Aum.
Nevertheless it is too simple to conclude that Anno was sympathetic  with
Aum. He emphasizes the closedness and exclusiveness of this group. They
lost any contact with reality. In Anno's view this again is very close to
the situation of anime fans. In fact >>Evangelion<< criticizes anime fans,
and anime culture: it begins with ambiguous flirtations with conditions
central to Aum, and ends with its critique as launched on the situation of
anime fans.  

KW: Why do you think that Evangelion's flirtations with the Aum case are
so essential to its "cultural meaning"?  

AH: As you may know there was this particular case with Oe Kenzaburo. He
is said to have been surprised when Nihon Seki Gun [Japanese Red Army] got
Assama Sanso Jiken: in 1972 the Japanese Red Army stayed in a house close
to Mount Asama. They fought with the Japanese police and army. This affair
was very close to the novel >>Kozui wa waga tamashii ni oyobi<< which Oe
Kenzaburo wrote and wanted to publish at that time. However Oe had to
change the plot as it was too close to reality. The original plot is said
to have been partly changed. Although I am not sure that Anno is
comparable to with Oe, it seems unquestionable  that he  is one of the
smartest storytellers in Japanese culture of the 90's.    

KW: But do you really think that the parallels to Aum are characteristic
of, or say, unique about >>Evangelion<<? For instance the case you just
mentioned has occurred in various cases of recent film productions e.g. in
the case of Fukui Shojin's >>Rubber's Lover<< whose production goes back
to 1992 and which shortly after Aum came to fruition. Out of the fear to
provoke misreadings Fukui changed some parts, as he feared those to be
mistaken for  a sympathetic account of Aum. >>Rubber's Lover<< is, on
various levels,  permeated with an ambiguous critique of Aum, such as
their concept of the self, enlightenment through  isolation, etc. >>Angel
Dust<<  made about two years before Aum happend describes certain
conditions that became dominant in the Aum phenomena: again isolation,
brain-washing, extortion. But the aspect of circulation, as it is linked
to the mode of reception is perhaps  unique about >>Evangelion<< and on
this level also comparable with Oe's case: >>Evangelion<< was broadcasted
at 6:30 p.m. in the afternoon on a major channel, reaching millions of
people whereas the films just mentioned are usually seen by a limited
audience. By the way, how popular was Oe at that time?  

AH:  I think that he was even more popular than he is now. But I admit
that the closeness to Aum is not the privilege of >>Evangelion<<. The
point is that >>Evangelion<< is an intrinsic critique of Aum. Anno's
career is so close to that of Aum. The Anime fan is the typical type of
Japanese otaku. The Aum affair tackled the cultural territory of the
Otaku. 

KW: The film makers just named are on this level not really comparable
with Anno. Although they can be said to furnish certain otaku
tastes/preferences Japanese independent film is just not the media of this
major youth cultural movement.

AH: The problem with Otaku is not that they are underground but major and
at the same time completely closed, "anti-social" and isolated. Their
number is very high...

KW: ...and they are "alone but not lonely." (laughs)

AH:  I think that this phenomenon is very new in Japanese cultural scene
of the 80's: the multiplication in number does not mean that they
socialize and get open. Anno is very conscious about such closeness. In
other interviews [mit einschlaegigen Animemagazinen] he says that in the
beginning of making >>Evangelion<< he wanted to enlarge the number of
otaku. It was some kind of master plan for  "otakuzation" in order to
break the closedness. But towards the end [of the production process] he
had to break that pattern and to diffuse it. This change, that occurred in
less than half a year is very important to Japanese culture, because it
clearly shows that one typical strategy to implode a closed/specialzed
cultural terrain necesserily results in failure. The series >>Evangelion<<
can be divided in 2 parts. The first part is a well made Sci-Fi anime. The
characters are described as happy and communicative; typical Sci-Fi anime
characters such as Asuka. Rei is of course very exceptional. The first
part seems to develop into a happy ending, which is of course the most
desirable plot for anime fans. The way they watch these films is a process
of identifying with the characters. They want to be Shinji or Asuka. But
the later part diverges from such a typical pattern. The reviews and
comments of Anime fans published in their respective magazines show their
disappointment with the later episodes, since there is no hope for a happy
ending and no space for their identification with characters. The mystery
of the >>Evangelion<< world gets increasingly critical and complicated.
This is obviously not a typical Anime plot anymore. Another level is the
level of imagery. The speed of cut ups is very high towards the end. When
I asked Anno about influences he did not mention Nouvelle Vague, although
I expected him to say Godard. He named Okamoto Kihachi, a filmmaker of the
Japanese Nouvelle Vague, who was actually influenced by Godard.

KW: How did Okamoto "import" Godard's innovations? 

AH: I asked a film critic, who also appreciated >>Evangelion<<. He said
that the speed of cut ups is way faster than in Okamoto; in that sense is
Anno closer to Godard. In the beginning the cut ups are not recognizable
as such, which underscores `the expectations of Anime fans, who prefer and
seemingly can only enjoy a rather linear narrative. In episode 19
Evangelion punches the enemy, the black  Evangelion. This scene is very
violent and brutal. Such cruel imagery cannot be accepted by Anime fans.

KW: Was there a controversy about this particular scene?

AH: Anno didn't speak  about this issue clearly. He just said that
somebody made a claim. TV producers, advertisers, ... I don't know. It
seems a delicate matter.
The later half of >>Evangelion<< is diviated from the typical Anime on the
level of both, narration and imagery. In this sense is >>Evangelion<< also
a critique of conventional TV animation as it has been cultivated until
now. 

KW: How does >>Evangelion<< relate to the >>Akira<< type of Anime, which
can be reduced to imagery, visual components only?

AH: I asked Anno about that and his answer was very clear. Animations such
as  directed by Otomo >>Akira<< and Oshii >>Ghost in the Shell<< are
becoming more and more obsessed with drawing a deluge of details into one
frame. Anno's style is completely different. 

KW: In Anno there is a remarkable shift towards reduction. The imagery is
very simplistic, yet sophisticated.

AH: Instead of multiplying information within one frame, Anno does
multiply information by the speed and rhythm of cut ups. In Anno the
information included in one frame is very limited.

KW: Sometimes we see a static image for 30 to 90 seconds or so. Sometimes
there is a minimal, mechanical movement on the vertical, horizontal axis
within this basically static image such as the descending movement of
escalators on which  people have "serious" conversations. The static
mechanicalness recalls the beginnings of this genre where stories are
narrated verbally to a large degree. 

AH: A static image followed by fast, almost shocking cut ups is so
characteristic for Anno. To him Otomo and Oshii's style is very limited
due to technical reasons. TV animators always work under difficult
conditions. Either there is a lack of time or man power. This may also
explain Anno's decision to work "simplistic." The type of animation as
pursued by Otomo and Oshii cannot be a counterpart to film, since it is
basically impossible for animators to come up with more information per
frame as are dispersed  in those  of a movie. Pursuing this direction
Anime cannot develop its original potential. 

KW: On the one hand it seems that they are trying to come closer and
closer to what movies show, in other words, to imitate the
representational potential of celluloid productions. Look for instance at
>>Magnetic Rose<<, Morimoto's episode in Otomo's >>Memories<<  which
reminds me so much of the last stage in Kubrick's >>2001<<: techno Sci Fi
meets baroque and rococo. In >>Magnetic Rose<< this ground is revisited.
The character's (all Western physiognomies) and the environment are drawn
very realistically. On the other hand there are things that can not occur
in reality; bizarre characters, imagery spaces,...

AH: But even this can't be the potential of Anime. Look at Hollywood's
recent attempt to introduce computer graphics into the process of film
making, leaving a lot of space for fantasy...

KW: That's an interesting correspondence.

AH: The correspondence between Hollywood and Japanese anime/manga is
another interesting story, but there were so many, many cases like this:
for example, it is known that James Cameron's >>T2<< was influenced by the
manga >>Kiseijyu<<. Again, this was not the potential of Japanese Anime.
In my view Anno opened up this potential. You know, he uses very
stereo-typical characters in >>Evangelion<< such as Shinji, Asuka, Misato,
although  Rei is very exceptional, no doubt. He succeeds in using these
stereo-typical characters [no facial particularities, no individual
characteristics] by describing the 90's. I was so surprised to see
>>Evangelion<< because... you know Murakami Ryu...

KW: Anno likes Murakami?

AH: He likes >>Ai to Gensso no Fashism<< [The Fascism of Love and
Fantasy].

KW: Yeah, exactly that novel because he uses the same names for Shinji's
school friends as Murakami did in this novel.        

AH: However Anno is most interested in the character that is named Zero.
Maybe Rei is Zero, as "rei" in Japanese means actually zero/0. But anyway
what I wanted to say is that Murakami published  a new novel called
>>Virus<<. This novel is not very interesting, but the point is that the
virus is introduced as enemy, as abstract enemy but materialistic.
Materialistic but abstract, this double character is very important to
Murakami and to almost all contemporary writers. As you know Anno's angels
have such double character. You can see that the angels get the form of a
virus in some of the episodes. >>Evangelion<< describes the concept of the
enemy in the 90's Japanese situation, such as Aum. In the 90's the
Japanese complain about things getting worse and worse in economy and
society, etc. Many have a very critical feeling about the Japanese
situation, while they  can not  trace the source of this development.
Their feelings circulate in vain, without identifying what/who the enemy
is. This condition is well described in >>Evangelion<<. 

 
KW: There are so many mysteries in this Anime. My impression is that Anno
constructed the story by implanting a deluge of details and sub-stories in
order to confuse the regular Anime viewer, who usually sets out to follow
and interpret the plot on all levels. 

AH: In my opinion Anno began  >>Evangelion<< with the idea to solve all
mysterious points finally. I think he changed his mind in the middle. He
decided not to solve the mysteries, but to multiply them, which would be
another way of criticizing the viewing habits of his audience. As all this
may seem very intellectual I have to say that Anno's intellectual
tradition (and I have a very strong impression about Anno being
intellectual) does not coincide with the intellectual movements of the
80's such New Aka.

ANNO'S EARLY YEARS

KW: Did you see >>Nadia<<? 

AH: Yes, but I don't think that it is so interesting. Talking about his
previous works... In the 80's, when Anno was 25, 26 he and his friends
made >>Honneamise  <<, Gainax 's [Anno's production team] first animation
film, which was not directed by Anno. Anime fans were very disappointed
about that because they couldn't find any beautiful girl. Gainax's second
work, the first animation film directed by Anno,  was a typical Anime
video called >>Top o nerae<<. It was made for Otaku : filled with
stereotypical features appreciated by Otaku. To Anno the making of this
Anime was very ironical... so he uses the word irony. His second work,
>>Nadia<<, was ordered by TV producers [NHK]. It was such a "scandal."
They wanted Gainax to make the TV version of >raketa<. In 1984 Miyazaki
Hayao made >Laputa<, which was an action comedy.

KW: What's the main character?

AH: The main characters are children. A12, 13 year old boy and girl
respectively. A very fantastic Sci Fi world, based on >>Gulliver's
Travel<<. In the fourth chapter Gulliver describes a fictional world, a
fictional country that moves in the sky with the help of some mystical,
technological power.  In Miyazaki's film this element is central and
reappears. >>Nadia<< was supposed to be the TV version of it, and on top
of it, rendered with Miyazaki's taste. Of course, Anno disliked this idea.
He wanted to do an original work, but it was impossible to do that within
the framework of this assignment. For example, he could not create any
cruel scene. After that he decided to make an independent film with
Gainax. 

KW: Could you just speak more about his background? How would he for
instance get such a big assignment [with NHK]? He obviously wasn't
completely underground at that time.

AH: In fact Anno's young years are very exceptional. Together with Gainax,
he was a sort of elite of Japanese animation. Early 80's they formed an
amateur group, when they were in their very early 20's; 21, 22. The group
was called Daikon Film. Daikon stands for >Osaka Sci Fi Convention<. It
was a convention for science fiction fans. It was a forum for amateur
animation. At that time there was avery close relationship between science
fiction and animation.    Anno's group was called Daikon Film because he
was asked to make the opening film for this convention. That was in 81,
82.  Daikon Film did two films for the >Osaka Sci Fi Convention<; first
for its third and than for its fourth convention. The second film won the
>>Animage<< Grand Prix, although they were amateurs. Then, Daikon Film and
the producer of the convention, Okada Toshio, then about 26, got together,
in order to start a professional group which came to be Gainax. He left
Gainax about 2,3 years ago because of some difference in direction.  Okada
is a critic now.   The unconventional character of >>Evangelion's<< latter
part very much contradicts Okada's point of view. 

KW: Did he say something about >>Evangelion<<?

AH: As I heard, during a meeting with fans Okada said that he did not see
>>Evangelion<<. (laughs) 

KW: That's a clear statement.

AH: Sure, but you have to understand that his complicated relationship
with Gainax also makes it difficult for him to comment upon it.

KW: Let's come back to Anno's career.

AH: When he was 24 Anno, Gainax  made a pilot film and some scenarios for
a commercial series.  Bandai commissioned that film and promised  to pay
800 Million Yen to Gainax for their next film, which was >>Honneamis<<.
Bandai totally  supported that film  and Gainax was able to invite
Sakamoto Ryuichi to make the soundtrack. Bandai showed >>Honneamis<< as a
world premier in New York. I saw it as a junior high school student.
This film, however, failed completely. It was very shocking to Gainax and
they decided to regroup some ideas. 
Until then they wanted to make classically intellectual anime. They
changed into more conventional Otaku anime, which were produced by Okada.
At that time they began to produce computer software. The most successful
result was a software called >>Princess Maker<<, which was a sort of
simulation soft, in which you can educate a girl. The final goal within
this program for instance is marriage. You could chose to make your
daughter a scientist, designer, or a "naughty girl". Many choices. In 1981
this software was a big hit. People seemed to enjoy the idea to have a
sort of a fictive, personal toy-girl. It was strictly Otaku business. Then
another turn occurs. Anno went to his hometown and is asked about his
profession. He was very ashamed to say that he was an anime director as
his output was mainly commercial. There was nothing he could be proud of.
Anno was very frustrated, and came up with the plan to make
>>Evangelion<<.


KW: What else has he been doing?

AH: Besides their own productions, Gainax was involved in a couple of
other projects, including >>Gundam<<,  but also >>Nausikaa<<.

KW: Miyazaki's >>Nausikaa<<?

AH: Yes, the scene of the robot in >>Nausikaa<< called Kyojin-hei [Giant
Soldier] was designed by Anno.

KW: In >>Nausikaa<< there is also a monster called Oumu [similiar
pronounciation to Aum], and the heroine, Nausikaa, can communicate by
telepathy. But there is something else, very trivial, very
mysterious...(laughs) Nausikaa, is wearing a very short  skirt, but no
underwear. We always see the skirt flying up...

AH:   I know.

KW: I came into an argument with a friend of mine, who said that she wears
skin-colored stockings. What do you think?

AH: Of course, you are right. It's a very important point. Now Miyazaki is
considered very healthy and adult. His works are suitable to be shown at
the school for educational purposes.

KW: He is a family anime director.

AH: But during the 80's Miyazaki was not received as such. The Dojinshi
market is of interest at this juncture.   

THE DOJINSHI MARKET 

KW: What is the Dojinshi Market?

AH: It's a market of manga. You could call it an independent market, or
black market,  where self-produced manga is sold. The manga is made of
characters copied from manga that can be bought at shops. Copying the
characters young people would make up original stories.  It all began with
a parody of a Miyazaki anime. In 1979 Miyazaki made >>Lupin the 3rd : The
Castle of Cariostro<<. The heroine was perceived as a cult character for
Otaku. Very pretty, a narrow vest, small lips; an Otaku idol. She is said
to be  the first person who was parodied by Otaku. In the middle 80's
Miyazaki changed his style. He would repress any sexuality. In 1986 he
made >>Tonari NoTotoro<<, which was incredibly successful. It made him a
major anime director. 

KW: Talking about the Dojinshi Market, isn't it important that the
original character is very simple? Aren't Miyazaki's characters rather
difficult to copy? 


AH: You should not underestimate Dojinshi writer's skills. Most
professional comic writer come from the Dojinshi Market. Many producers
and editors  follow Dojinshi Market trends, where they would pick up some
new talents. A friend of mine writes for an erotic magazine on the
Dojinshi market. I was very surprised to hear that he sold over  3 000
books. 

KW: Where can I buy Dojinshi books?

AH: There is a regular market held. The largest market is held twice in a
year. In 1996 it was held in Ariake in August and in December.  Of course
we can also buy these books in some underground book store. 
KW: So there is a distribution network?

AH: There are various shops, mostly specializing in manga, which deal with
such products. 

KW: Who produces the books?

AH: There is no producer, or say, the artist is his own producer. A friend
of mine even lives of that. 
He produces himself. He pays for his own print. He decides how many books
get printed, and he sells them. 

KW: Is it illegal?

AH: No, it's not. There are for instance many books on the Dojinshi Market
which parody >>Evangelion<<. Gainax allows it. The committee of the
Dojinshi Market, which may consist of some artists, pays a small amount to
Gainax as  a tribute. The expansion of the market is amazing though. As I
just said, my friend sold a couple thousands of his book. A professional
writer in the literary  field in Japan can not sell so many. 

KW: How is the relation between  the Dojinshi Market and the mainstream
anime market?

AH: For a 40 pages book a Dojinshi artist could make 3 million. That's
amazing. Some artists don't want to become "professionals."

 
KW: How is the case with young upcoming novelists like Shinohara Hajime?

AH: Her case is exceptional. About 30, or 40 000 copies of her books get
sold. But in generally I am very pessimistic about the future of writers
like her and the literature situation in Japan.   So few readers...
Talking about the deplorable situation of Japanese culture and society in
the 80's  Genichiro Takahashi, a well known literary author, said that
Japanese literature has ceased to produce works that could be said to be
new, innovative or simply symptomatic of their time. This is why I was so
surprised by  >>Evangelion<<: the concept of angels, or the character Rei
are very new. As you said before Rei is a typical figure who was oppressed
and suffers self-disclosure. 

1) KO-GIRL, 2) OTAKU, 3) AYANAMI REI... 

KW: What is in your view the most specific aspect of Rei's character?

AH: Until now there were only two types  with the characteristics just
mentioned. One is the so-called Ko-girl [ko=baby]. As you know there are
so many Japanese high school girls who work as call girls, using
technological gadgets for their clothes. Their families are not poor at
all; family life is happy, but...They earn a lot of money in the
prostitution business, and spend it all on expensive cosmetics and
clothes.  

KW: Could Rei be a character in one of Murakami's novels?

AH: I don't think that Murakami could make such a character. 

KW: But take for instance Murakami's >>Almost Transparent Blue<< where the
characters are driven with negativity, self-destructive,..

AH: He describes a negative drive, but the characters are supported by so
many commercial and materialistic things such as money, drugs, cultural
products. But Rei has no relationship with materialistic/commercial
things. Her solitude is based on pure material such as the concrete walls
in her room, or the dirty floor. She has no clothes other than her high
school uniform. Again, in the Japanese intellectual discourse there are
two types of children's solitude. One is Ko-girl and the other is Otaku.
The Ko-girl is social and surrounded by commercial products. Otaku are not
social but surrounded by commercial things.Both are characteristic for
their dependence on media-networks: Ko-girls use telephones to find their
customers, while Otaku fill their room with computer software, videos, or
magazines to seperate themselves from reality. 
I think that those two types are, in a Japanese context, two poles of the
80's ornamentality. Rei represents a new type of solitude. Materialistic
and excluded from commercial things. 

KW: But take for instance Fukui's >>Pinocchio<<. There is a certain
parallel.

AH: Really?

KW: The main character is socially disconnected and is excluded from
commercial products. There is no ornament. He runs around in an
environment that vaguely resembles the ruins of WW2. Rei looks very much
like someone living in (civil) war territory. Unlike all other characters
she stays in an apartment building that looks run down, in a remote
(slum?) area. There is no name card on her door. It looks all completely
impoverished.  

AH: I agree that the image of the apartment in >>Pinocchio<< very  much
resembles Rei's residence. But the other point is that two images
intersect:  one is that of a refugee, post war childhood. The child has no
parents, no social relationship;  deprived of their native country. The
other image is one of scientific dis-ornament. Have you seen rooms of the
medical department at universities? For example there are very expensive
machines. But those precious machines are placed very rudely. It's all
very dirty and quite dark. Things are not locked. I was quite afraid that
everything was accessible without any warning or sign. It was all arranged
for the purposes of specialists.   

KW: Her room looks anyway like in a hospital. One reason is, because she
is wearing a bandage and has always blood all over her clothes/body.

AH:  In her apartment two images intersect. One is refugee, the other one
is scientific dis-ornament. The intersection of these two motifs recalls
the hide out of Aum called Satiyam. 

KW: I am trying to show that there are certain parallels and that Anno is
just also not entirely disconnected from the sub-cultural movements of the
last years.

AH: Of course such contemporaneity is very important. The point is that in
Anno all these images and motifs are very convincing and somehow brought
to the point.  

KW: On the other hand  Rei's character is quite realistic, whereas
>>Pinocchio<< is completely removed from reality, the fantastic character
of  a dream.
  
AH:  I think that Rei is even an international character.   

__________
Azuma Hiroki: Born 1971 in Tokyo/Japan. Ph.D. Candidate at University of
Tokyo with the subjects philosophy, art and literature. Writes theoretical
essays for Japanese publications such as >>InterCommunication<< and
>>Critical Space<< while contributing to popular magazines on cultural
issues. 



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