2011: Michael House interview

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2011: Michael House interview

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Postby gwern » Sun Nov 27, 2011 1:59 pm

It's finally done: http://www.gwern.net/docs/2011-house

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Postby gatotsu911 » Sun Nov 27, 2011 5:48 pm

Will read this in detail shortly. Glad to see some of my suggestions made it in!
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Postby symbv » Sun Nov 27, 2011 10:14 pm

This interview is significant because it should settle quite a few of myths, speculations or misunderstandings in the west about Gainax, Anno and anime around Eva time, or at least it should help to restore some balance towards some of the conceptions that are often found among Eva/Gainax fans in the west (as shown by some of the questions and remark of being surprised by the interviewer) that is not shared (or much less noted) by the fans in Japan. It is great that Michael House seems to be an honest and sincere interviewee, never overstating his contribution or scope of work (he confirmed he was a peripheral insider all along, and never did more than his assigned work as some liked to speculate), and gave the answer to the best of his actual memory (instead of letting any ego or nostalgia to cloud his look back) - what a long disclaimer he gave at the beginning :p

He did not even try to give some story about his questioning of the use of words like "apostle" and "angel" but instead focused on word choices from a professional point of view. He also reasonably understood the whole thing as all part of the artistic license and something just came up in Anno's head. This should settle some speculations about a presumably religious westerner raising objection about use of religious words and themes in Eva.

His answers basically confirm almost everything I understand about Gainax, Eva and Anno at that time, although he gave more details on various specific issues. For example, he confirmed what I knew or expected:

- They were always behind schedule and fighting with budget, though I did not know it started to go over budget by ep.9

- They would treat a gaijin translator staff as just a translator "black box" and Gainax chaotic and pressurized environment would allow no time to go over the deeper intricacies of translation (and context), and the main aim was, besides convenience, to make sure no awkward or incorrect English (or German) came out.

- People were paid poorly even in those days.

- The interviewer speculated House might be involved with all those Nadia, KareKano, Aoki Uru; I always wondered how he could have involved in so many things in his brief stint in Gainax. Good that Hosue himself confirmed that in fact he was not involved in those at all.

- It is good to see that House cast doubt on some of the rumors spread by "an Italian" or the "Kaibunsho", because those "bad blood" with Tatsunoko or TV Tokyo were rarely discussed among fans in Japan, if at all.

- Most fans in Japan knew Gainax never owned anything they made before Eva, so owning a part of Eva is very important to Gainax. It is good that finally fans in the west could be level on understanding of this bit of Gainax history. It is good to know which companies own those anime owned by Gainax though (and how Toho got into bad grace with NHK). I also like how House confirmed that some product placement like UCC and Yebisu could be more some freewheeling unsolicited initiative by Anno than something really well-planned business moves (something I doubt could have happened in say America)

- Good to see House doused some cold water on the censorship conspiracy theory. In Japanese sources, there were documentation about some complaints of violence in ep.18 and sex in ep.22 but at that time most complaints were more about the deteriorated animation quality. And as House said, the tax evasion case could be a lot more of an headache to Gainax then. The interviewer even speculated the move to midnight slot could be construed as some censorship, but as my translation of the interview with Fukashi Azuma, a TV Tokyo producer involved in Eva at that time, showed, and House confirmed, the move was often a business consideration related to ratings.

- I am not sure how those people quoted by the interviewer came with their statistics, but I am with House (which is also the understanding by fans in Japan) that the first airing of Eva had around mid to high single digit rating and it was considered very good by TV Tokyo, the smallest of all commercial national networks, and that the rating got higher near the end of the series.

- It is good to see House confirmed what I suspected all along, that Anno really did plan to put a positive spin to the story and had Shinji etc to come out with their problems overcome, but he painted himself too far into a corner to do that (it is interesting to see how soon he realized that though), although I also suspect that it has a lot to do with the mental state of Anno at that time that he could not come up with a more optimistic development of the characters and the story.

- Good to see House confirmed again what I have long thought -- that all those foreign sounding words (e.g. Children) or names or symbols were more for the consumption by the domestic audience. And consideration about the western world was little if at all.

- House confirmed the negative reactions by Japanese fans regarding FLCL, which kind of started the reputation of Gainax being the "weirdo studio" among otakus.


And House said "I also thought Yamaga had directed episodes 4 and 10 of Macross, but it’s been a long time since I broke out either my LaserDisc set or Macross: Perfect Memory, so I may be wrong". My source showed that Yamaga only directed ep.9 of Macross TV (same info could be found in Japanese wiki entry of Macross).
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Postby Azathoth » Sun Nov 27, 2011 10:41 pm

Interesting to see that my thoughts on EoTV are basically confirmed here: Anno still wanted to believe in the possibility of a happy ending even if it was narratively infeasible, a complete non-sequitur. EoE then becomes the "true end", if you like, the end which is accurate to the story as written and not the original concept.
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Postby 1731298478 » Sun Nov 27, 2011 11:47 pm

Excellent interview, gwern! Thanks very much for conducting and posting it. A great read. Interesting to learn why Anno used dual titles for the episodes.

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Postby gwern » Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:01 am

View Original Postsymbv wrote:This interview is significant because it should settle quite a few of myths, speculations or misunderstandings in the west about Gainax, Anno and anime around Eva time, or at least it should help to restore some balance towards some of the conceptions that are often found among Eva/Gainax fans in the west (as shown by some of the questions and remark of being surprised by the interviewer) that is not shared (or much less noted) by the fans in Japan. It is great that Michael House seems to be an honest and sincere interviewee, never overstating his contribution or scope of work (he confirmed he was a peripheral insider all along, and never did more than his assigned work as some liked to speculate), and gave the answer to the best of his actual memory (instead of letting any ego or nostalgia to cloud his look back) - what a long disclaimer he gave at the beginning :p


Indeed. At some points I had the odd impression I was actually talking to myself or to Carl Horn.

This should settle some speculations about a presumably religious westerner raising objection about use of religious words and themes in Eva.


I don't remember anyone but me discussing that particular quote, and it was always pretty obvious that it was House.

- They were always behind schedule and fighting with budget, though I did not know it started to go over budget by ep.9


Indeed. Not sure if I recently found a similar Okada quote or not, though.

- The interviewer speculated House might be involved with all those Nadia, KareKano, Aoki Uru; I always wondered how he could have involved in so many things in his brief stint in Gainax. Good that Hosue himself confirmed that in fact he was not involved in those at all.


I didn't know exactly when House started at Gainax or what connections he might've had before then (didn't know how he got to Gainax from AnimEigo either). Cover the bases, and provide something of a chronological framework.

- It is good to see that House cast doubt on some of the rumors spread by "an Italian" or the "Kaibunsho", because those "bad blood" with Tatsunoko or TV Tokyo were rarely discussed among fans in Japan, if at all.


Well, we already have Okada on the Tatsunoko 'lost cels'; immano/RJN thinks he can get around to digging through old issues of _Man-Ga!_ where he remembers reading that in January or so. Until then...

- Most fans in Japan knew Gainax never owned anything they made before Eva, so owning a part of Eva is very important to Gainax. It is good that finally fans in the west could be level on understanding of this bit of Gainax history. It is good to know which companies own those anime owned by Gainax though (and how Toho got into bad grace with NHK). I also like how House confirmed that some product placement like UCC and Yebisu could be more some freewheeling unsolicited initiative by Anno than something really well-planned business moves (something I doubt could have happened in say America)


You may remember V's long theory on Gunbuster merchandising and Anno forming Khara.

- Good to see House doused some cold water on the censorship conspiracy theory. In Japanese sources, there were documentation about some complaints of violence in ep.18 and sex in ep.22 but at that time most complaints were more about the deteriorated animation quality. And as House said, the tax evasion case could be a lot more of an headache to Gainax then. The interviewer even speculated the move to midnight slot could be construed as some censorship, but as my translation of the interview with Fukashi Azuma, a TV Tokyo producer involved in Eva at that time, showed, and House confirmed, the move was often a business consideration related to ratings.


How could the tax evasion have been a problem *during* broadcast when it was due to Eva merch profits, which could only begin in earnest after the series finished, and any investigation would take a while anyway?

I had not seen the Fukashi Azuma material: http://forum.evageeks.org/post/507064/Tangent-School-Life-oversaturating-genre-Haruhi/#507064

- I am not sure how those people quoted by the interviewer came with their statistics, but I am with House (which is also the understanding by fans in Japan) that the first airing of Eva had around mid to high single digit rating and it was considered very good by TV Tokyo, the smallest of all commercial national networks, and that the rating got higher near the end of the series.


I cited the sources.

- It is good to see House confirmed what I suspected all along, that Anno really did plan to put a positive spin to the story and had Shinji etc to come out with their problems overcome, but he painted himself too far into a corner to do that (it is interesting to see how soon he realized that though), although I also suspect that it has a lot to do with the mental state of Anno at that time that he could not come up with a more optimistic development of the characters and the story.


Yes, this didn't surprise me either - I've always argued EoTV was supposed to be 'happy' in some sense. On the other hand, House's claim that HIP was retconned midway through surprised me. I need to go through the episodes at some point and see whether there was any clear foreshadowing of the 'original' HIP or whether House is just wrong on that (possibly confusing it with the Adam/Lilith and Kaworu businesses, which pretty clearly are retcons).

And House said "I also thought Yamaga had directed episodes 4 and 10 of Macross, but it’s been a long time since I broke out either my LaserDisc set or Macross: Perfect Memory, so I may be wrong". My source showed that Yamaga only directed ep.9 of Macross TV (same info could be found in Japanese wiki entry of Macross).


I looked and found that too.

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Postby symbv » Mon Nov 28, 2011 4:36 am

Gwern, it was you who conducted the interview? I beg your pardon if I sounded insolent ^_^ I guess you were trying to sound out all the typical speculations and most wanted to ask questions to House since such opportunity did not come that often?

View Original Postgwern wrote:I don't remember anyone but me discussing that particular quote, and it was always pretty obvious that it was House.

I have heard talks about "presumably religious westerner raising objection about the religious themes and words in Eva" before I joined evageeks, so it was from some other western sites I heard about such speculations.

View Original Postgwern wrote:You may remember V's long theory on Gunbuster merchandising and Anno forming Khara.

Actually I was yet in EGF when V was around. I joined quite some time after V's permban. Though I have heard some misconceived assumptions from western fans about what Gainax owns and its financial condition in those 90s days.

View Original Postgwern wrote:How could the tax evasion have been a problem *during* broadcast when it was due to Eva merch profits, which could only begin in earnest after the series finished, and any investigation would take a while anyway?

Japan law enforcement was known for long period of probing and case-building before actually making arrest. The arrest may have been only made in 1999, but I guess the inconvenience and pressure felt by Gainax from authorities as well as media was really a headache, particularly given they were already far behind schedule and over-budget.
View Original Postgwern wrote:I had not seen the Fukashi Azuma material: http://forum.evageeks.org/post/507064/Tangent-School-Life-oversaturating-genre-Haruhi/#507064

Of course you had not. It is more a general comment towards a common view held by many western fans suspecting Eva got re-run in midnight only (or mostly) because of censorship reason. I have been arguing the midnight anime was more about ratings long before I translated Fukashi Azuma interview, but his interview helps a lot to settle the matter.

View Original Postgwern wrote:I cited the sources.

It is not a comment that aimed at the interviewer (you) either. It was just my curiosity as to how people like Carl Horn got those >1 million views stats. I am more with Bochan Bird in this case regarding the ratings of Eva when it was first aired.

View Original Postgwern wrote:Yes, this didn't surprise me either - I've always argued EoTV was supposed to be 'happy' in some sense. On the other hand, House's claim that HIP was retconned midway through surprised me. I need to go through the episodes at some point and see whether there was any clear foreshadowing of the 'original' HIP or whether House is just wrong on that (possibly confusing it with the Adam/Lilith and Kaworu businesses, which pretty clearly are retcons).

You mean when he said the following?
"Anno had been trying against reality during the first part of production to bring things around to his original intended vision. By the midpoint of the series, he finally gave up; note the changes in the avowed purpose of the Human Instrumentality Project, for example."
Does it count as retcon? My understanding of retcon is that it is a retcon if they changed the HIP details or purpose in a later work (say the movies) so that now it fits in the story in the movie in which the original details of HIP could not fit any more. But if Anno changes the purpose of HIP mid-series before he actually made the later episodes, I am sure if it is called "retcon".
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Postby C.A.P. » Mon Nov 28, 2011 6:54 am

Hey, three of my questions made it! And apparently he was joking around with two of them...

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Postby gwern » Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:27 pm

View Original Postsymbv wrote:Japan law enforcement was known for long period of probing and case-building before actually making arrest. The arrest may have been only made in 1999, but I guess the inconvenience and pressure felt by Gainax from authorities as well as media was really a headache, particularly given they were already far behind schedule and over-budget.


Mm. Takeda seems to imply it came as a complete surprise to him when the audit began in May 1998 (so long after EoE, even!) http://www.gwern.net/docs/2002-notenki-memoirs#tax-evasion-and-the-birth-of-my-daughter

Of course you had not. It is more a general comment towards a common view held by many western fans suspecting Eva got re-run in midnight only (or mostly) because of censorship reason. I have been arguing the midnight anime was more about ratings long before I translated Fukashi Azuma interview, but his interview helps a lot to settle the matter.


Those midnight runs were the ones "just before the release of the movies (1997)" according to your translation. The runs I was discussing with House were not those but the re-runs immediately following EoTV on the non-TV Tokyo stations outside Tokyo or whatever.

It is not a comment that aimed at the interviewer (you) either. It was just my curiosity as to how people like Carl Horn got those >1 million views stats. I am more with Bochan Bird in this case regarding the ratings of Eva when it was first aired.


I don't know where Bochan_bird was getting his numbers, but Horn was clear: "One can dig up copies of NEWTYPE from this period; they list the audience numbers." (This was what I was alluding to.) Odds are good Bochan_bird was getting his figures from Newtype as well - he seems to've been reading it at that time.

Does it count as retcon? My understanding of retcon is that it is a retcon if they changed the HIP details or purpose in a later work (say the movies) so that now it fits in the story in the movie in which the original details of HIP could not fit any more. But if Anno changes the purpose of HIP mid-series before he actually made the later episodes, I am sure if it is called "retcon".


Depends on what you count as 'later work'. To me, each episode is a work, so if I see a plot element revealed in one episode and then in a later episode turns out to be different from what is implied, and there's something like Evangelion ORIGINAL which says that the later episode was edited to that, that's a retcon. Even different versions of the same work can be retcons - Star Wars comes to mind, with Darth Vader not being Luke's dad until halfway through ESB's filming or something, or for an Eva example, remember Shinji reforming sans plugsuit?

(Hoo boy, did that retcon get a lot of discussion on the EML. If I never see it mentioned again, that will be too soon.)

Again, definitely something to watch the episodes carefully with an eye towards, because that part reads more like House's interpretation as opposed to passing on things he was told by other Gainaxers.

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Postby symbv » Mon Nov 28, 2011 12:44 pm

View Original Postgwern wrote:Mm. Takeda seems to imply it came as a complete surprise to him when the audit began in May 1998 (so long after EoE, even!) http://www.gwern.net/docs/2002-notenki-memoirs#tax-evasion-and-the-birth-of-my-daughter

By then the authorities had already spent their time in building the case. Takeda might have been surprised by the raid but the authorities would have begun their move much earlier. Perhaps I was a bit rushed in saying their probing affected their work, but it is not inconceivable that the authorities could have started their work before EoE.


View Original Postgwern wrote:Those midnight runs were the ones "just before the release of the movies (1997)" according to your translation. The runs I was discussing with House were not those but the re-runs immediately following EoTV on the non-TV Tokyo stations outside Tokyo or whatever.

They are the same. The "non-TV Tokyo" outside Tokyo was allied with TV Tokyo to form a national commercial TV network (which House also mentioned). My interpretation of Azuma's interview is that he meant all the midnight re-runs since EoTV was first aired. In fact, most of other regions got their first airing of EoTV only after Tokyo started (or was about to start) its rerun (in midnight) in 1997 (when the movies were near release) - some got the evening time slots, some got the midnight time slots.


View Original Postgwern wrote:I don't know where Bochan_bird was getting his numbers, but Horn was clear: "One can dig up copies of NEWTYPE from this period; they list the audience numbers." (This was what I was alluding to.) Odds are good Bochan_bird was getting his figures from Newtype as well - he seems to've been reading it at that time.

I was just curious as to why the numbers seem to be quite different if both used the same source...


View Original Postgwern wrote:Depends on what you count as 'later work'. To me, each episode is a work, so if I see a plot element revealed in one episode and then in a later episode turns out to be different from what is implied, and there's something like Evangelion ORIGINAL which says that the later episode was edited to that, that's a retcon.

But if some details of certain plot element was changed in the middle so as to fit the story in the later part? I have a feeling that this would not be a retcon then.
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Postby Alaska Slim » Mon Nov 28, 2011 6:35 pm

View Original Postsymbv wrote:- Good to see House doused some cold water on the censorship conspiracy theory. In Japanese sources, there were documentation about some complaints of violence in ep.18 and sex in ep.22 but at that time most complaints were more about the deteriorated animation quality.

But what of the inverse? Did Evangelion in fact push upon censorship barriers? Did it lax them enough to ensure that other shows with sexual/violent themes (Cowboy Bebop, Serial Experiments Lain, Paranoia Agent) could be made? Or was it purely a matter of influence, not censorship?

View Original Postsymbv wrote:- It is good to see House confirmed what I suspected all along, that Anno really did plan to put a positive spin to the story and had Shinji etc to come out with their problems overcome, but he painted himself too far into a corner to do that

This brings even closer my re-occurring parallel of Hideaki Anno to Jack London and his re-write of To Build a Fire. I just hope this won't also mean finding Mr. Anno one day soon dead from a failed liver.

View Original Postsymbv wrote:-Actually I was yet in EGF when V was around. I joined quite some time after V's permban.


You can find it here, though considering even he calls it a "rumor", I'd say it's not worth reading.
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Postby Ornette » Mon Nov 28, 2011 7:30 pm

Did you know that Cowboy Bebop was censored by Tokyo TV when it was first aired in 1998, because of violence. Many episodes simply weren't broadcasted at all, less than half of them IIRC, then they showed an episode 13.5 called "Mish-Mash Blues", a recap episode, before the entirety was aired on WoWoW.

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Censorship elasticity, admittedly a relative thing. Bl

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Postby Alaska Slim » Mon Nov 28, 2011 7:53 pm

^ I had heard of that, but I also read that without Eva paving the way, Bebop's fate could have been far worse, such as not even seeing the drawing board.
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Postby symbv » Mon Nov 28, 2011 7:59 pm

View Original PostAlaska Slim wrote:But what of the inverse? Did Evangelion in fact push upon censorship barriers? Did it lax them enough to ensure that other shows with sexual/violent themes (Cowboy Bebop, Serial Experiments Lain, Paranoia Agent) could be made? Or was it purely a matter of influence, not censorship?

Complaints about "inappropriateness" in anime were not something new in Japan. But Evangelion stood out now because it was so well known, and it was clearly very different from other evening anime shown at that time. One key reason why shows like Lain could be made was the establishment of the midnight anime time slot, which we already knew came into being mostly thanks to Evangelion, because the concern about kids etc watching those stuff will have gone. Of course it did not prevent concerned parties like PTA to keep complaining (there were complaints about "grotesque violence" in Madoka, for goodness sake) but the pressure on the TV station or anime studio would be much less. I am pretty sure those shows would have no chance to air in evenings -- to me it is more like Evangelion pushed for the diversity by establishing a niche hour for such anime (and of course its contents) instead of actually pushing the censorship barrier. If we need to talk about pushing censorship barrier, Cowboy Bebop may be a better candidate. Besides the heavy censorship, to a large extent influenced by concerns regarding anime because of real life juvenile crime incidents and the "Pokemon Shock" (flashes caused sickness to kids watching the anime), it also helped push anime with those themes into the midnight hours.
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Postby Xard » Wed Dec 07, 2011 1:58 pm

Y'know, now I'm kinda sad only question I made was about Miyamura (I didn't believe any question I'd make would actually be asked if the interview was one day actually done, forgive my skepticism)

As I commented elsewhere Mr. House comes off rather bitter and cranky in terms of mood. You can also tell he doesn't have too high opinion on core GAINAX productions like Eva and FLCL... he disses Kare Kano too, oh well

Anyway, it was definetly interesting read. Not all that much new or undeducable information but it's cool to know Anno directed LA bits in Otaku no Video - I thought the bits were very Anno when I first saw the OVA... too bad he didn't know anything about Kare Kano

View Original Postsymbv wrote:- They were always behind schedule and fighting with budget, though I did not know it started to go over budget by ep.9


What surprised me is that it happened so early. I figured they went over budget around episodes 12-15 or so.

View Original Postsymbv wrote:- It is good to see House confirmed what I suspected all along, that Anno really did plan to put a positive spin to the story and had Shinji etc to come out with their problems overcome, but he painted himself too far into a corner to do that (it is interesting to see how soon he realized that though), although I also suspect that it has a lot to do with the mental state of Anno at that time that he could not come up with a more optimistic development of the characters and the story.


Possible influence of this matter on Rebuild is interesting thing to ponder at.

View Original Postsymbv wrote:- Good to see House confirmed again what I have long thought -- that all those foreign sounding words (e.g. Children) or names or symbols were more for the consumption by the domestic audience. And consideration about the western world was little if at all.


Well. this (and many other things) weren't exactly new information to regulars around here either.

View Original Postsymbv wrote:- House confirmed the negative reactions by Japanese fans regarding FLCL, which kind of started the reputation of Gainax being the "weirdo studio" among otakus.


the lampooning of idiotic fan criticisms in ep 6 were hilarious though :lol:


View Original PostAlaska Slim wrote:But what of the inverse? Did Evangelion in fact push upon censorship barriers? Did it lax them enough to ensure that other shows with sexual/violent themes (Cowboy Bebop, Serial Experiments Lain, Paranoia Agent) could be made? Or was it purely a matter of influence, not censorship?


Actually the controversy surrounding Eva did play a notable part in getting Bebop cancelled IIRC
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Mugwump: Goddamn it, Xard! Take me in your arms, you magnificent sex god bastard!
And don't forget to wear the Ran mask.
Eva Yojimbo: You really are the Otaku equivalent of a Catholic and Jew rolled up into one giant dakimakura of guilt.
Gob Hobblin: Sanctimonious, subtly racist, vaguely misogynist, somehow says something while at the same time saying...nothing, really, at all....

Nice, Xard. That's nice.


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