How much of a Hayao Miyazaki purist are you? Have you never once set your Spirited Away DVD to the English-dubbed audio? Do you cringe at the thought of watching Castle in the Sky Laputa with its reworked soundtrack? Do you actually pronounce warrior princess Nausicaa’s name with the “shi” sound it contains when rendered in Japanese text?
Even if you answered yes to all those questions, it’s unlikely you’ve got as much love for the Studio Ghibli cofounder as Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno. Why? Because for Anno, even movies directed and written by Miyazaki himself don’t have enough Miyazaki-created content.
Anno recently appeared at the Niconico Chokaigi, a pop culture event organized by otaku-centric video-sharing website Niconico Douga. Those fans who weren’t crushed in the stampede when the gate opened got to hear the famed director of Evangelion give his opinion on where he feels the Miyazaki magic shines brightest.
“In the area of Miya-san’ works,” began Anno, using the nickname he has for the Studio Ghibli legend, “it’s got to be the storyboards that are the most interesting…The storyboards are his masterpieces…That’s because they’re 100-percent Miyazaki.”
For those not familiar with the term, storyboards are a series of annotated illustrations that are used to set up the major shots in producing animation. They look sort of like a comic book, albeit with less defined artwork and lots of technical details sharing space with the drawings.
▼ Storyboards from Castle in the Sky Laputa
But despite Miyazaki’s well-deserved reputation as a tireless artist who’s always willing to do frontline work, even he can’t single-handedly make an entire movie at the caliber Ghibli strives for. At some point, his storyboards get passed off to staff animators to work on, and that’s where Anno’s interest starts to dip.
“When I see the finished anime, I find myself thinking, this wasn’t how things moved in the storyboards…In the course of going from storyboard to film, the amount of Miyazaki content becomes lower as other people have to get involved in the process. Well, it can’t be helped.”
▼ Yeah, this is OK, we guess.
But despite Anno’s long-standing respect for, and professional relationship with, Miyazaki (Anno was an animator on 1984’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and also voiced the lead character in Miyazaki’s directorial finale The Wind Rises), Anno doesn’t try to copy his mentor’s style of extremely polished storyboards. “I purposely try to keep my own storyboards from being too complete,” he explains. “I just put in the essential points of what will be interesting, and the direction from their changes depending on the individual who handles the next step. My part is to provide the raw materials.”
This more open approach might be something Anno developed during his time with Gainax, an anime studio formed of fans turned pro in which individual roles were vaguely defined during the organization’s early days. “I want to leave some space in my storyboards to let them become more interesting. I want the anime to change like a living thing…[and] to keep searching, as much as possible, for a more interesting way to handle it.”
Still, when it comes to Miyazaki’s works, Anno is happy when they’re as close to the creator’s vision as possible. So what’s his favorite Miyazaki title?
Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind, but specifically the manga, the beginning of which predates the anime, written and drawn by Miyazaki himself.
“It’s a work made with 100-percent Miyazaki. It’s the best,” asserts Evangelion’s creator. Considering that the talented Anno himself animated the anime version’s God Warrior scene, perhaps the most visually striking moment of the film and one that still wows audiences three decades later, that’s high praise indeed.