Hideaki Anno: The Final Challenge of Evangelion Is The Inside Look Into Anime Creation Fans Need
Amazon's two episode documentary takes fans through the four year development of Evangelion 3.0 +1.01 Thrice Upon A Time.
The promotional campaign of the documentary Hideaki Anno: The Final Challenge Of Evangelion was seemingly nonexistent due to the marketing of the anime's final film, Evangelion 3.0 +1.0 Thrice Upon A Time and Amazon Prime's acquisition of the three Evangelion rebuild movies. However, it's a documentary that is well worth the time of Evangelion fans.
Hideaki Anno: The Final Challenge of Evangelion is a two episode documentary by NHK, a Japanese public broadcasting corporation, chronicling the four-year development of Thrice Upon A Time.
Despite the cult classic status Evangelion has acclaimed within the anime community, it has been a labor of love that Anno has agonized over arriving at its conclusion for the last 25 years.
Just as the anime series and its subsequent movies encapsulate the inner machinations of its creator, the documentary looks outward and gets at the heart of who Anno is as a person and serves as a perfect viewing experience to Thrice Upon A Time.
When it comes to getting to know Anno the auteur and the human being, no interaction encapsulates him more than his candid immersion-breaking asides with the documentary's director, Aki Kubota. Each time the camera gravitates towards Anno, he would notice, wave his hand, and insist on capturing his crew instead. This escalated to the point of Anno voicing his displeasure with the documentary's filming. While on the surface, his comments are uncouth, there is a hint of wholesome sincerity in Anno's interjections.
Anno is filmed delegating the production of Thrice Upon A Time and making sure the final product is emotionally vulnerable while being original. However, he also delegates Kubota by suggesting ways to improve the documentary.
When Anno suggests Kubota capture a b-roll of a rainstorm and reposition herself to get the best angle of his production crew to demonstrate his innate desire to place himself last. Anno is meticulous in the creation of his work yet, in his own way, makes time to mentor both the documentary crew and his staff to create work they could be proud of. However, Anno's directorial method is a source of ire for his production team.
As a whole Anno comes off as a galaxy-brained director. It was rare to see Anno in the office, and even outside the documentary, he was seemingly prolonging production by focusing on macro details. Yet, even when he is seemingly off the clock, his brain still views the world in a directorial lens. His hover directing of Kubota felt like him imparting the message that time spent not focusing on work aids in how well the end results will be.
If Evangelion is the foreground of a painting, this documentary serves as the canvas to which each drop of paint was painstakingly drawn, stricken, and re-applied. In an attempt to make sure no creative decision is one made out of compromise, Anno insisted on multiple reshoots and re-recording of sequences. "One expects perfection but gets something broken. That's why it's fascinating," Anno said. "I push and push to see how far the work can go."
This mindset is the reason why production on Thrice Upon A Time was moving at a glacial pace, and his team isn't afraid to voice it.
"Most directors point the way a bit more," Daisuke Onitsuka, CGI director for Thrice Upon A Time said. "It'd be faster if he just told us what he wants."
Anno is a perfectionist crushed by the weight of fear that his message won't be properly conveyed to his audience.
When asked if he'll miss Evangelion, Anno curtly answers no faster than the question can leave Kubota's lips. And who can blame him? Anno and Evangelion fans have been in a feedback loop of trying to convey and decipher meaning into the anime for 25 years. Anno, just like Evangelion's protagonist Shinji Ikari, was able to come to terms with and accept what he has to give the world and now can begin to move on.
Hopefully soon, Evangelion fans can eventually join him in doing the same. Thrice Upon A Time served as the definite ending to the Evangelion series but its documentary was a definitive end to the series. For those who aren't quite ready to say goodbye to Evangelion, this documentary serves as another adieu for fans allowing them to see how much bringing Thrice Upon A Time across the finish line meant to Studio Khara and Anno.
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