By Aaron Clark on Friday, September 1st, 2017
Evangelion: 1.0 was released to theaters in Japan on September 1st, 2007, which means that ten years have passed, and to the frustrations of many fans, the series of films is still incomplete.
After years of spin-off video games and manga, such as Girlfriend of Steel, Ikari Shinji Raising Project, and Evangelion 2, it was actually quite exciting to hear that not only was Hideaki Anno directing animated works again, but that fans would be getting new Evangelion anime. If you’re not intimately familiar with Anno’s career, there was a period of time following his apparent exit from the production of Kare Kano (His & Her Circumstances) where he limited his time with Gainax, and instead focused on producing several live action feature films.
The first of these films, 1998’s Love & Pop was shot on handheld Sony camcorders, and featured ambitious, experimental, and kinetic cinematography. Almost in response to this, his follow up, 2000’s Shiki Jitsu was an art-house film emphasizing stillness, color, and symbolism. Finally, in 2004, Anno was tapped to direct a live action Cutie Honey film that was colorful, stylish, and a joy to watch.
Fans often questioned when or whether Anno would return to animation, and in August of 2006, we got our answer. Studio khara was formed for the purpose of producing a tetralogy of Evangelion films. The story goes that following his work on Cutie Honey, Anno wanted Gainax to produce a new Evangelion series, however at the time, Gainax president Hiroyuki Yamaga wanted to move forward with Hiroyuki Imaishi’s Gurren Lagann. Unable to accommodate the demands of both projects, Yamaga urged Anno to spin-off his own production company.
In the short term, it was fortunate, because we got both Rebuild of Evangelion, as well as Gurren Lagann in 2007. However, in the long run, I think it ended up being quite unfortunate for Gainax, as Anno pulled key creative talent away from Gainax to form khara, and similarly, Imaishi spun-off his own Studio Trigger, producing successful works like Kill la Kill that would have been right at home with Gainax. Over the years, khara would take full ownership of Evangelion away from Gainax, and would eventually win a lawsuit against Gainax, forcing them to pay residuals for the works of Hideaki Anno.
It’s crazy to think how things played out, especially when you consider that the original plan called for Evangelion: 3.0 and Evangelion: Final to be a double-feature to be released by Summer of 2008. Yes, that’s right, the original plan called for these films to have been finished nine years ago. You can argue that this was either overly optimistic, or khara just telling fans and investors what they wanted to hear, but it’s more likely that the production has grown, or ballooned, beyond what Anno had originally intended. The production of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion was very much an example of building the car while driving it, and Anno has repeated that pattern once again with Rebuild.
Evangelion: 1.0 apparently took about a year to produce, 2.0 took about two years, and 3.0 took about three. Anno burned out and took a four-year hiatus following the home video release of Evangelion: 3.0, and dabbled in a number of things, including voicing Jiro Horikoshi in Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, partnering with Dwango (NicoNico) to produce The Animator Expo, and directing the hugely successful Shin Godzilla.
And now, Anno claims to have recharged his batteries, and returned to Evangelion. The production of Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 has been confirmed and promoted multiple times, khara has recruited staff to work on the film, and promotional images have started to surface. When the film (along with the Rebuild series) will be finished is really hard to say, but it will certainly be a good, long wait until the official English-language version is finally released to home video. It pains me to take a wild guess, but given prior history, 2019 isn’t a bad guess for the film being in Japanese theaters. I don’t even want to hazard a guess when the English-language version will be released.
I wish Anno the best of luck. I’m hoping this last film is a satisfactory conclusion to the Rebuild series, and I look forward to what he will do creatively post-Evangelion… again.