A STORY OF COMMUNICATION:
The Kazuya Tsurumaki Interview
PROFILE • Kazuya Tsurumaki
Director. Born February 2, 1966 in Niigata Prefecture, Japan.
His representative work as an animator is "Fushigi no Umi no Nadia (Nadia - The Secret of Blue Water)". He debuted as producer on "Nadia Cinema Edition", and as director on "Gunbuster! Shinkagaku Kouza". He served as Director Anno's right-hand man as Deputy Director of the TV series "Evangelion", where he took a particularly active part in the SF settings. Mr. Tsurumaki also participated as the production and art director and setting assistant for various episodes.
-- So, "Neon Genesis Evangelion" is finally complete.
Why did you decide to conclude the series in the form of a movie?
KT - Yes, it's finally over. I honestly think it would have been best simply to end it with the TV series. Frankly speaking, I feel that everything after that was a bit of unnecessary work, although I guess normally one should feel happy about having their work made into a movie.
-- Do you feel that the time you were able to put into the project showed up in the degree of completion of the finished work?
KT - I wonder.... I mean we certainly had enough time, but the psychological uplift I felt during the TV series just wouldn't come back to me. I'm sorry to sound so retrogressive, but it's just that the feeling of tension during the TV series was probably the best of my life.
-- What do you mean by "feeling of tension"?
KT - It felt really good toward the end -- after finishing the work for episode 16, and especially from episode 20 onward. Of course, physically I was dead tired, but my mind was still sharp as a knife. I felt that I was utilizing my natural abilities to their maximum potential.
-- Episode 16 made quite an impression, and seemed to mark a turning point for Evangelion.
KT - That's because it was the first episode where the direction of drawing from the inside like that appeared.
[Note: Episode 16 "Shi ni itaru yamai, soshite (A Fatal Disease, and then...). Part A consisted of action scenes concerning the 12th Angel, while Part B depicted Shinji's mental and emotional struggles inside his inner universe after being trapped inside the Angel. Mr. Tsurumaki handled the story boards, production and setting assistance for this episode.]
-- Did you plan the episode to portray Shinji's inner feelings from the start?
KT - No. That episode was situated close to episodes 10, 11 and 12, and was originally just another episode in which an Angel appeared. However, amidst the flow of the mysteries surrounding the Angels gradually being resolved, we decided to insert an episode where an Angel appeared to take an interest in humans.
-- I see.
KT - The first draft of the scenario was actually a dialog between Shinji and the Angel. However, we felt it would be too anti-climactic to have an Angel start talking like some pulp fiction alien (speaks while tapping his Adam's apple with his hand) "Your analog mode of thought is incorrect." So we came up with the idea actually used in this episode, which was to have Shinji converse with himself.
-- There was a line in that dialogue -- something like, "We can't weave our lives only out of things we like...." That line was pretty intense. I would have thought it would strike right to the heart of anime fans, but there was almost no reaction from anyone. (laugh)
KT - Well, most people don't pay close attention to the dialog when watching a TV anime. That is to say, we hear the words, but they don't enter our minds. I'm that way too. Hideaki Anno understands this, and started to incorporate expressions that convey the message to the viewers in a more direct manner. Thus, elements which attempted to somehow convey the message within the bounds of the story gradually became fewer, and expressions which were more introspective or emotionally expressive became more frequent.
-- Up to that point, you had tried to express the theme through the medium of what was happening to Shinji,
but then the message became more direct.
KT - Right about the same time as we were doing episode 16, Hideaki Anno was working on episode 14, which has that poem-like monologue by Rei Ayanami. It was probably about then that we began to see the direction of "Eva" -- that we were moving toward that kind of introspective story. That's why we made Part A of episode 16 like a normal story. By this meaning, the boundary between Parts A and B of episode 16 could be considered the dividing line between the front and back of "Evangelion". [Note: Episode 14 "Zeele, tamashii no za (SEELE, Throne of Souls). At the start of Part B, Rei's inner feelings are depicted by a poem-like monologue.]
-- What did you think about developments during the second half of the TV series?
KT - I didn't mind it. The schedule was an utter disaster and the number of cels plummeted, so there were some places where unfortunately the quality suffered. However, the tension of the staff as we all became more desperate and frenzied certainly showed up in the film.
-- I see.
KT - About the time that the production system was completely falling apart, there were some opinions to the effect that, "If we can't do satisfactory work, then what's the point of continuing?" However, I didn't feel that way. My opinion was, "Why don't we show them the entire process including our breakdown." You know -- make it a work that shows everything including our inability to create a satisfactory product. I figured that, "In 10 years or so, if we look back on something that we made while we were drunk out of our minds, we wouldn't feel bad even if the quality wasn't so good."
KT - So, no matter what the final form, I feel it was great just being able to make it to the end of the TV series.
-- The conclusion ultimately took the form of a movie with two separate spring and summer releases.
KT - I was aghast when I found out it wouldn't be concluded only with the spring release, and that our work would be extended until summer. After seeing the reaction of the fans to the spring release, I was pretty depressed. That's when I started having those feelings of doubt again that, "I knew it - just a lot of unnecessary work." It was really a shock.
-- You served as director for this movie "THE END OF EVANGELION".
KT - Director in title only -- the work was no different from producing the TV episodes. That's why I'm credited as producer of the episode 25' portion.
-- Did you work at all on the final episode?
KT - As director, no. But I did help out with the cinematic coloring at the last moment.
-- How did it feel being able to do episode 25'?
KT - I didn't make any special effort just because it was going to be on the big screen, but tried to approach it with the same feeling as when making the TV series. I didn't want to become overzealous or anything.
-- So, you were able to work in a relaxed manner?
KT - I was probably more enthusiastic about episodes 1 and 2. Still, it was a tremendous task.
-- Were there any scenes that you really liked or gave special attention to?
KT - When Eva-02 takes the Lance through its left eye. It's actually quite difficult to express sensations such as pain like that, but when I watched the rush film I thought we did a pretty good job. It's not often that you get to feel that.
-- Changing the subject, the work "Evangelion" is said to essentially reflect Director Anno's mental images/landscape. Being involved in a project like this, were there any areas where you disagreed with Director Anno's way of thinking or doing things?
KT - I think that anyone who works as a director should have those aspects. After all, works containing these portions are the most interesting. In that sense, works that are billed as so-called "entertainment" aren't very entertaining to me.
-- So, you were in agreement all the way?
KT - Of course. However, that doesn't mean that I can synchronize with Shinji's feelings. It also doesn't mean that I can sympathize with Shinji's = Anno's feelings.
-- I see. Then, it's true that Shinji's feelings are Director Anno's feelings?
KT - To tell the truth I'm not sure, but at the very least I tried to work on the project from that viewpoint. That's why in the scenario planning sessions I was always saying something like, "Isn't that a little too hero-like for Shinji to say? Hideaki Anno isn't that much of a hero."
-- In episode 25' Shinji becomes completely despondent.
Does this mean that Director Anno had also experienced that?
KT - I think Hideaki Anno's tension after the TV series had ended had probably fallen to about that level.
-- Looking at the flow of Shinji's emotions, I feel some dissonance when watching movie episode 25' immediately after seeing episode 24.
KT - That may be true in terms of emotional flow. This is because from the viewpoint of the people making the movie, work on episode 25' started almost a year after episode 24. TV episode 25 is much more emotionally linked to episode 24.
-- Was this cinema edition made to match Director Anno's state of mind?
KT - I believe so. There was a time when Hideaki Anno clearly wanted to attempt a more cathartic development.
It didn't end up that way, but I don't think we lied.
-- When you say "lie", do you mean to suddenly conclude with something like "love saved the world"?
KT - Exactly. And we didn't do that with this movie. I feel no dissatisfaction at the ending. I really like it.
-- At the end of this movie, Shinji seems to have reached a sort of settlement regarding troubles of the heart.
KT - Well, my personal view is, "Do we really need to complement these troubles of the heart?" Regardless of whether or not we are complemented, have troubles, or find our answers, interpersonal relations exist, and the world goes on. I thought the last scene meant to say that life goes on, but I could be wrong.
-- In the end, Evangelion was a story about communication -- at least judging from that last scene.
KT - That was the intent from the start of the TV series. That was what I tried to produce from episode 2 onward.
-- Yes, that was the scene where Misato and Shinji talk while measuring distances from each other in Misato's apartment, right? Although they appeared to be getting along fine with each other, Shinji was thinking, "She seems okay, but....", while Misato was thinking "I wonder if he sees through me?"
KT - there were other scenes in episode 2 as well. For instance, when Misato talks to Shinji but doesn't enter his room. Even in episode 3, they are having a casual morning conversation, but are not looking at each other. Like they looking through a slightly opened door, but not connecting. This is the same between Shinji and Rei, and between Shinji and his father. It's no wonder there was a lot of distant, awkward communication.
-- I see. So, the theme remained the same throughout the series?
KT - That's right.
-- What are your thoughts looking back on Evangelion now?
KT - Well, I really liked the atmosphere while we were doing the TV series. A TV series is the only way you can get responses while still in the production phase. We'd take feedback like, "They didn't like today's episode," or "Wow! Today's episode was a big success!" and reflect it to the episodes we were currently producing. In this sense, it was like a live performance. Hideaki Anno probably felt terrible after reading that absurd e-mail criticism or having the series praised to death in an insulting manner in sub-culture magazines. But that's because "Evangelion" is a story about communication including misunderstandings such as these.
-- Now even businessmen are debating the mysteries of "Eva" in bars. (laugh)
KT - (laugh) For example, Hideaki Anno says that, "Anime fans are too introverted, and need to get out more." Further, he should be happy that non-anime fans are watching his work, right? But when all is said and done, Hideaki Anno's comments on "Evangelion" + "Evangelion" are that it is a message aimed at anime fans including himself, and of course, me too. In other words, it's useless for non-anime fans to watch it. If a person who can already live and communicate normally watches it, they won't learn anything.
-- But, don't all the people watching "Evangelion" now actually have this type of anime-fan complex? Doesn't everyone share some feelings of uneasiness at not being able to get along with the world.
KT - Yes, maybe that's so. Hideaki Anno's statements certainly are true when looking at the small circle of anime fans, but stepping back and looking at the much wider circle of Japanese people in general, we may find many of the same types of problems. They're not problems specific to just anime fans.
-- Finally, do you have some message for the fans?
KT - Don't drag the past around. Find the next thing that interests you.
-- Does that mean not becoming fixated on "Evangelion"?
KT - Yes. It's always better to let something that has finished end.
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