The jury is still out on whether or not the Rebuild of Evangelion movie series is a reboot, sequel, or some hybrid of the two. What we do know is that certain things that happened in the original Evangelion TV series and the franchise’s first three movies are repeating themselves. Protagonist Shinji gets press-ganged into piloting a giant robot to fight space monsters. His close friend Kaworu has a mysterious past and tragic fate.
And in the real world, working on the series casts creator and director Hideaki Anno into yet another a state of depression.
Rebuild of Evangelion got off to a fairly brisk start. The first of the four announced films premiered in September of 2007, and the next installment came less than two years later, hitting Japanese theaters in June of 2009.
Things started to slow down after that, though. Studio Khara didn’t release the third movie, Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, until over three years later, in November of 2012. Since then, the production house has been mum on the subject of when we’ll see the fourth, and supposedly final, Rebuild of Evangelion film.
▼ Poster for Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone
Considering the divisive reactions from viewers to Evangelion: 3.0, many fans assumed the long pause has been due to a reworking of the final film’s script and narrative. That doesn’t seem to be the case, though, as according to Anno himself, he took a long break between the release of the third movie and starting work in earnest on the fourth.
Or, rather, his psyche forced him into taking the break. In a post on the official Evangelion website, Anno describes his mental state following the release of Eva 3.0 thusly:
“…after it was released, I was broken. I fell into what’s called a depressive state, the natural result of having spent six years grinding down my soul making Eva again.”
Anno, who famously battled depression earlier in life and channeled much of those emotional trials into the creation of the Evangelion franchise, doesn’t elaborate on whether his latest bout with was triggered by lukewarm public reaction to the third Rebuild film, personal dissatisfaction with it, or simply having to once again spend so much time inside the head of the series’ troubled main character. He speaks of losing his sense of purpose, asking “What am I trying to make again? And why have I decided to make a fictitious, special-effects kind of film?” He also refers to having suffered from an unshakable feeling of fatigue and a “decaying psychological unease.”
▼ Some of the cherry scenery from Rebuild of Evangelion
It was all enough that Anno reveals that during the 2013 calendar year, he couldn’t bring himself to go to the studio even once, while acknowledging that his inability to do so undoubtedly caused difficulties for others.
That’s not to say Anno was completely idle in 2013, though. He was personally recruited by Hayao Miyazaki to voice the lead character in the Studio Ghibli co-founder’s directorial finale, The Wind Rises, which Anno says helped keep him tethered to the process of anime production.
In his message, the Evangelion creator also thanked his friends in the anime and sentai live-action production community for continuing to produce series that rekindled his love of those two genres during the year. And, as we now know, 2013 was also when movie studio Toho first approached Anno with the prospect of him directing a new Godzilla movie.
But while Anno felt he might be ready to start creating again, he also realized that both he, and his staff, needed to work on something other than the Rebuild of Evangelion films. “I felt that if I didn’t take a project that wasn’t Eva into myself, I wouldn’t be able to keep going forward,” he recalls as one of the reasons he agreed to helm the Godzilla project.
This need for a change of pace also led to the beginning of the Japan Anima(tor)’s Expo, a website where Studio Khara staff and other anime professionals can display short animation projects. Of course, some of the projects turned out to be Eva-related, but still, existing outside the official continuity for the series gave those involved much more creative freedom and room for risk-taking than the Rebuild films.
▼ Some of the non-Evangelion Japan Anima(tor)’s Expo shorts
Finally, Anno’s spirits got an additional boost during the 2014 Tokyo International Film Festival, which included a retrospective on his independent film projects stretching back to his high school days. “I was happy to be able to look back on them,” he writes in his message on the Evangelion website.
As such, Anno seems to be on the mend, although his comment that “Thanks to my wife and friends, I was able to remain in this world” gives a startling insight into just how deep his depression apparently was. As for the eagerly anticipated fourth Rebuild of Evangelion film, he says that, bit by bit, it’s getting closer to completion. He also says however, that he would be happy if everyone could understand that he’d like to take a little more time with the project.
He closes out his message with the following:
“I would like to once again express my gratitude to all the supportive people in my life, as well as to the fans who’ve supported my works and all the people who’ve watched them. It is because of you that I’m able to make anime and movies. Thank you.”
You’re welcome, Anno. Take care, and take your time with that last Eva movie, since as much as we all want to see it, I think we’ll also all be a little sad once the series is finally over.