My Thoughts at the Moment
by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, manga artist/character designer, Neon Genesis Evangelion (translated by William Flanagan)
Over and above designing characters...
Q: You did the character designs for the animated version of Evangelion, and I'm sure that there were various points you paid special consideration to each character, so to start with, please talk about Shinji.
A: In a normal giant robot animated show the main character s noted for his enthusiastic battle spirit. And in Eva, the main character does pilot a giant robot, but Shinji is not noted for his enthusiasm, so I had to come up with a different heroic interpretation. Rather than a reflection of a hero, sort of a refraction of a hero.
Q:He's sort of a dry character.
A:He's a product of our era. I started out trying to create a character that would tap into the consciousness of today's anime fans.
Q:As a product of our era, you mean the attitude that, "my life is my own, and I'm not interested in the opinions of others," right?
A:He's a person who doesn't want to be interested in the opinions of others, but actually he's very interested. He's the kind of character who would encase himself in a shell of his own making.
Q:A sort of delicate character.
A:I wanted a sort of clean image that a woman tends to project. But also a character that is cold, unambitious--the type who would commit suicide, but can't bring himself to do it. It was my intention to create a wistful character who had given up on life.
Q:Did you have a model for his face?
A:Not particularly. The image of a hero in Japan is like Ushiwakamaru, the strong champion whom no adversity will affect. When you say "hero" in Japan, it conjures the impression of a man, just prior to middle age, accomplished at arms, with a burning spirit. Or maybe you think of a bishonen (beautiful yount man). In the beginning I gave Shinji longer hair, so in the dramatic scenes, it could hide his face or wave in the breeze. But when I drew that, he looked a little too wild--and so delicate the slightest pressure would break him. So finally I tried for a look where you could see the forehead through the bangs, shorter hair--the look of a boyish young girl. Speaking in concrete terms, his eyes are a girl's eyes. I drew them exactly as I drew Nadia's (the heroine of Gainax's 1990 TV series Nadia) eyes. He's a male Nadia, just as if I had given Nadia a masculine makeover. Lengthen the eyelashes and change the hair style, and you have Nadia.
Q:You don't draw characters out of any love of simplicity.
A:That's right. Our aim was to be the antithesis of all the giant robot animated shows around us. It's not a world where the wind blows through your hair while you declare your pourpose in a booming voice. Especially in the past one or two years, this type of refractive feminine character has not been seen. I wanted to tell the tale of a main character taken from my own life, so I designed a character straight from the more stoic part of myself.
Q:So instead of someone pushing you to draw, you added pieces of yourself to draw the characters.
A:I think that the theme of the animated version is that the main character's attitude changes little by little. I think that in the anime, Anno wrote the script in his own words, and that is why the change occurs. And the reason for the subtle changes between the animation and the manga is that Yoshiyuki Sadamoto is writing the script using Anno's characters. I think the anime is...I can't say cuter, but it has the feel of an honors student. The manga is a little more twisted...the feeling of a flunk-out. I think the reason behind this is that Anno was his class president in elementary and junior high schools, and flunking out was something he couldn't do, whereas I never had that problem. (laughs)
Q:You're saying that twisted sensibilities are a subtle difference?
A:According to Anno's thought process, a twisted person is one who puts on a cool face, but once you see the inside, you get to the crazy portion, just like all the young people today. My approach is the opposite. On the inside the characters are stoic and earnest, but the outside is twisted, just like a child. So I could never write the anime scripts in my own voice. My Shinji is quite a bit different than that. In the end it is his resistance, his refusal to listen to what Misato has to say, but he still makes the right decision. I think that approach is where our methods differ the most.
Q:What about Rei?
A:I played around with a character, Ukina, in a story I wrote a long time ago in Newtype called Koto no Oni ("The Ogre on the Desert Isle"). You take her, give her shaggy, bobbed, wolf-like hair, and you've got Rei. Really, I just played with her a bit--the way the eyes are drawn, the basic character is the same. Her character was locked in as translucent, like a shadow or the air. The kind of girl you can't touch. The girl you long for, but there is nothing about her that you can grab a hold onto.
Q:The same type of stance that Kensuke and Toji feel about Rei?
A:Even more distant. The first time you see Rei, she is all bandaged up. The group Kinniku Shojo Tai has a song called "Hotai de Masshiro na Shojo" ("The Girl White with Bandages"). When I heard that song, an image popped into my mind, and I drew Rei according to that. I thought, "I'd like to draw a girl like that." This girl who is fated to pilot a robot. I wanted to draw her even before I heard of Shinji. There were two things that went into the decision to make her eyes red: one is the fact that she didn't have enough outstanding features, and the second is from a business standpoint, the makers of the game wanted her differentiated from the other characters, but personally I think it turned out to have a great effect. She's so quiet you can only tell her character from her gaze and her facial expressions, so she leaves the impression of having a strong stare.
Eva in the Manga and the Anime
Q:Concentrating on the story, where do you think the biggest difference is between the manga and the anime?
A:Well I did write the script of the manga using the anime as a base. And at the moment, I think they're pretty much the same. I've made the story more compact. I think even if you rephrase a sentence into less words, you're still saying the same thing. But the manga does have a different approach. Maybe I should say it has a different choreography. The main point is that the anime has quite a few different people writing the continuity, for example when the assistant director, Mr. Tsurumaki wrote the continuity for a particular script, and when Masayuki wrote a continuity for the same script, it came out to be a completely different program. I think there's a difference there.
Q:There are the differences of format. You can't draw a manga in the same way you would animate a show.
A:And that's the reason I tend to change the script entirely. I pick and choose what is easier to say in manga. The anime became a craze among the fans, and I wanted to lower the demographic to people of about 14 or 15 years old, but the content was so difficult, it just wouldn't dumb down. If I tried it would cease to be Evangelion. If that were to happen, there would be no reason left to do the book, so I went from the planning stage and came up with the book you're reading now. You see, what I wanted to do was exactly the same storyline that was contained in the TV series. But I thought it might make the comic easier to understand if you weren't bombarded with quite the quantity of information, and if you shined the spotlight directly on the main charcter's soul. I put my whole heart into seeing what kind of world the Eva world would be if seen through Shinji's heart. And then, what kind of world would you see if you shined a spotlight on the souls of the other characters. Also, manga is basically drawn by only one person, and it is impossible to fit the great load of content into the comic. The anime can end in hald a year, but the manga, even after abbreviation, could take years to tell the same story. So the idea is to simplify the story into small digestible chunks. For that reason you shine the spotlight on different spots than the anime, or you make the flow of the main character's emotions easier to understand. If you make the comic exactly the same as the anime, you will never be able to make up for the loss created by the abbreviation, and even though you have the same story, you have a very different product. On the other hand, since manga doesn't have voice actors or music, it will be a very different product, anyway.
Q:Well, it certainly seems like a different viewpoint looking on the same story. We see Shinji's thoughts which we never saw in the anime. Were his thoughts the same in both versions?
A:Most likely his thoughts in the comic are just my own impressions. If you asked Mr. Anno, I'm sure they would be entirely different, but unless I get into Shinji's head, I can't draw the comic. One of my weak points is I have to empathize with the character before I can draw. In the first episode of the anime, over and above the dramatic elements, Shinji's dialog was the most important part of the episode. That is what made me want to draw the comic. That is what made me purposely change his dialog. What I'm attempting to write is the piece of my life--the dialog of Shinji's that comes from inside me.
(Originally published in the Japanese edition of Neon Genesis Evangelion Vol. 2, in April of 1996.
Transcribed from a translation which appeared in the Neon Genesis Evangelion Vol. 2 graphic novel by Viz Communications. You ought to buy this if you care anything about the subject matter.