Evangelion 1.0 Interview: Kobun Shizuno

During the New York Anime Festival, we had the opportunity to talk to guest of honor Kobun Shizuno, the co-director of the new Evangelion movie series. The first of the four-film series (Evangelion 1.0: You Are Not Alone) opened to phenomenal ticket sales, quickly taking the top spot at the box office and even overtaking previous Evangelion films like End of Evangelion and Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth. Read on as Shizuno discusses the creation of the first film -- and plans for the future!

1. Whose idea was the new Evangelion movie series project, and how did it come to be?

The project came to be through director [Hideaki] Anno. All I know is after he developed the concept, he pulled together the team of which I am a part.

2. How did you come to be a part of the team?

When the TV show was still running 10 years ago, I wasn't a part of it, I wasn't even part of the anime industry at that point. It was partly because of Evangelion that I became interested in animation. In the intervening 10 years I worked on various projects, built my resume, and it was then a coincidence that I got the call. I'd always wanted to work on an Evangelion series but it was a miraculous coincidence that I got the call to be a part of the project and I was happy to be a part of it.

3. As an Eva fan, why do you think the show has been so popular for so long?

I'm actually not quite sure why it's so popular, or quite how I got so into the series as well. If I knew what it was I probably would have created my own series that would have been equally popular right now! All I know is it's the strong vision of the director and other collaborators on the project, but there's an indefinable "something" about it.

4. What was your role in the creation of the film?

What's really unique about the new Evangelion movies is that it's produced in a way like American animation is produced. We have voice actors record first and then match the visuals to the acting, whereas in Japan in the past, the cells are created first and the characters are matched to it. My main job is after all the art has been drawn, there's an editor who does the first pass edit, and I receive that and continue to work on it to make the visuals and story flow smoother.

5. In the past you worked on an American cartoon called G.I. Joe Sigma Six. What are the differences between working on animation for American audiences versus Japanese?

It's hard to say that one is more severe or relaxed; censorship is one of the biggest differences. In Japan people don't question seeing blood on screen or seeing people being assaulted or punched, especially scenes where a character points a gun at the viewer, no one raises red flags. All these limitations made working difficult, coming from a more relaxed setting.

6. Was it hard getting the original cast from the TV series together to do the films?

This is something that I wasn't involved with, but it seems that the director was able to just pick up the phone and everyone flocked back.

7. Without spoiling anything, what are some of the differences fans can expect to see between the original TV series and the upcoming movie series?

There's quite a bit of new visuals, some new designs, the coloring has been updated. Because we recorded the voice overs first, we were able to get a different sort of expression from the voice actors. There will be new plots and new stories involved as well. It's a brilliant work and I hope fans will really enjoy it.

8. What was the hardest thing about making the films?

I wouldn't say that there were any real obstacles or anything difficult; it was quite the opposite because the original Evangelion was such a huge hit in Japan that many of the staff in the intervening time have become the top of their fields within animation, so to be able to work with the top people in animation was an incredible opportunity, and I don't remember any true difficulties.

This interview was conducted by Gia Manry and Adam Ghahramani during the New York Anime Festival and made possible by Tenbu Productions LLC.