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Published: April 26th, 2009
Article: An Interview with the Cast
It has been 14 years since the original series 'Neon Genesis Evangelion' aired on Japanese television screens and yet here they still are, making a tetralogy of new films under the moniker of 'Rebuild of Evangelion'. The original series found popular and critical acclaim, gaining fans all over the world for its action-packed yet turbulent and psychological storyline. The 'End of Evangelion', which most argue is a supplement to the final episodes 25 and 26 left us wondering 'what the heck just happened?' Well, these new films may not be an answer but 'Evangelion' director and creator Hideaki Anno has hinted at new characters, storylines and even a new conclusion. After the release of the first film, 'Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone', some fans have even speculated that this was not just a remake, but something even more as I will discuss in this article. Today, I managed to catch up with several of the cast members of 'Evangelion' to here their thoughts on the original series and the new films. Also, several of you lucky fans will have your questions asked by me and answered by the cast after the highly popular entry on our website, 'Ask the Eva Cast a Question'. Now without further ado…
Shinji Ikari never struck me as a confident figure. He sat there, slightly fidgety, not being able to focus his eyes on one point for too long. Rei Ayanami looks an altogether different person, staying still and calm, staring into the same space as I set up the recording equipment for this interview. Asuka Langley Sohryu (who's character's last name has been changed to 'Shikinami' for the new 'Rebuild' film, 'Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance') looks impatient almost, looking around the room the same way Shinji is but much quicker, leading me to the conclusion that she would rather be somewhere else. Also present are Misato Katsuragi, Ritsuko Akagi, Gendo Ikari and Kaworu Nagisa. "Okay," I said as I finally set my equipment up and had my notepad at the ready. "First question. 14 years yet here you guys are, making a new film. What do you make of it?"
Shinji leant forward, giving a weak smile before saying, "Well, it's just that, well, we had a great time with the original series and all the work we've done since then hasn't been quite up there with Evangelion. Don't get me wrong, we've worked with some brilliant people after the conclusion of Evangelion but when given the opportunity to work with Hideaki and the Evangelion series again, I didn't give it any second thoughts."
Asuka looked towards Shinji to check if he'd finished before adding her insights, "Evangelion has been the kind of film that 'Star Wars' was to Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher. We, or specifically I, could never get the career ball rolling again as an actor. I would have much preferred the Harrison Ford career path to be honest!" The cast members laughed briefly, knowing fully well that Star Wars was the career maker and breaker for two of the aforementioned actors. And we all know what Harrison Ford went on to achieve. Asuka waited for the laughter to subside before continuing, "So like Shinji, I jumped at the chance to be involved in Evangelion again, only to find that I wasn't even in the first movie! But just you wait and see, I'm pretty damn kickass in the second!" I smiled towards Asuka, happy that she was so frank. These were all people that she was obviously comfortable to be around and I guess when you work on a series as groundbreaking as Evangelion was, you make a few friends on set.
"Thanks guys," I said before clearing my throat. "Okay, next thing on my list. Did you ever expect the original 'Neon Genesis Evangelion' to be as popular as it became?"
"No," answered Rei immediately, causing a few chuckles around the cast. "Professionally, it was a challenge as an actor because of the psychological state of the characters but I never realised people related to them so well. It may have giant robots in it but the series has always been about people at heart and how they relate to each other. I wholeheartedly believe that's the reason why it was so popular."
"It definitely wasn't the giant robots that did it," agreed Misato Katsuragi. "To be perfectly honest, there were many other giant robot shows which had mecha which were far superior to the Evas. I mean what kind of robot runs on batteries that last only five minutes and can go berserk at any given moment? So the robots sucked. That left the plot and the characters and I feel it was both that made Evangelion what it was."
"Not only was it the characters," added Ritsuko Akagi who had been casually smoking a cigarette near the back of the room, "but rather their interactions with each other. If you look at Shinji's character and the way he interacts with the women in his life, for instance."
I looked towards Shinji who was visibly blushing at this point. He was definitely a reluctant main character. Which brought me to my next point, "So Shinji, how was it with the women and being somewhat of a main character in the series?"
"To be honest, I think a lot of fans didn't regard my character too well…"
Asuka quickly interrupted, saying, "Don't be so modest Shinji!"
Shinji laughed nervously, as if he were uncomfortable. "I don't know," he said. "It's a difficult one. There's a lot of psychoanalysis you can do there. My character…I guess you can say he's just trying to discover his place his life but instead, he's forced to find out straight away in the worst possible circumstances. He wants acceptance from the people around him but doesn't know how to go about it and he also wants acceptance from his father."
"Speaking of the father," I said, turning to face Gendo Ikari. "How does it feel to play one of the worst hated yet most misunderstood characters in the series?"
Gendo cleared his throat quietly, before propping up his glasses closer to his face. "I don't think my character is misunderstood at all," he began. "He is exactly like Shinji's character in the sense that he is always running away. However, the way he goes about trying to deal with his troubles is completely wrong. It's difficult to feel sorry for him whereas it's much easier to feel antipathy. Anyone who neglects his son in such a way is sure to come across as a hate figure. However, he is not as simple as that and there's a lot more to my character than meets the eye as fans saw in the 'End of Evangelion'. He resembles Shinji in that respect."
"Speaking about the 'End of Evangelion', was it a satisfying end to such a seminal series?" I asked next.
"I think it was," Rei answered. "For me, episodes 25 and 26 didn't really give too much away about what really happened. I'm happy the 'End of Evangelion' was released, it gave a real idea of the events that caused the Third Impact."
"At the same time, it really pushed boundaries," added Kaworu Nagisa, who is sat beside Ritsuko Akagi near the back of the room. "As well as the intense action scenes, it asked so many questions like 'why am I here?', 'what is the meaning of my existence?' and 'what is reality and what is a dream?' while at the same time leaving enough of the question unanswered so that whoever watches it can take what they want from it. It may have left some fans unsatisfied for not having a concrete ending but I feel that Hideaki Anno did what he wanted to do by leaving the ending ambiguous and open to interpretation."
"Thank you," I said. "Now Kaworu, what do you make of your character's relationship with Shinji's. Is it Shinji's character needing a friend or is it something more? A bit of romance maybe?"
Kaworu laughed, probably expecting this question to come up. "Shinji's character is very fragile at the point where mine enters. He will take anybody who is willing to open up to him. So when my character comes along, he is a friend to Shinji when nobody else is willing to ew. I don't think its romance but rather a fractured and discordant person having someone who seems to care about him."
"What do make of it Shinji?" I asked.
"Kaworu hit the nail on the head there," Shinji replied. "My character is simply devastated by what happened to his friend Touji as well as the apparent death of Rei. At the same time, every other person he could turn to like Misato or his father are distant to him because of their own problems. Asuka has been reduced to a catatonic state so Kaworu was the only person my character could turn to. Like Kaworu said, when everyone else is gone or has their own problems to deal with, here comes someone who actually seems to care at a point my character would turn to anybody. So we're not expecting another 'Brokeback Mountain' here."
"I think they're gay for each other," Asuka remarked snidely, causing laughter amongst the cast members.
"Or that," Shinji added with a smile.
Once the laughter died down, I left the topic of the original series. "So now, 14 years after the original series, here you are, making four new movies. How was the 1st new film for you guys?" I inquired.
"As you know," answered Misato, "the first new movie was a revisiting of the first 6 episodes of the original series. A lot of the scenes we did were almost identical to the original series. However, it was cool to see it with the added technology available as well as having a chance to shoot new scenes as well."
"It was just good to get another chance to star in Evangelion again," Rei noted. "While the first movie wasn't anything new bar a few exceptions, it will perk the interest in Evangelion again and hopefully it will be a treat for fans of the series."
"Okay," I said. "Hideaki Anno has hinted at a new storyline, new Eva units and new characters. Can you tell me anything about those?"
The cast members of Evangelion looked around to see if there was anybody willing to answer that question. "Well," said Ritsuko Akagi, stepping up to the plate, "I'm sure most fans aware that there is a new character and I think her name and appearance has already been announced and if it hasn't, then it should be pretty soon. All I can really say on that front is to watch the new trailers if they want to catch a glimpse of the action from the new movie."
"A pretty democratic answer," I noted.
"We can't give away too much, you see," Misato added with a chuckle.
"Okay then," I said. "Now I've got a few questions from fans which they sent in via our website."
"Oh really?" asked Asuka. "This should be good!"
"Okay, first off. 'What do you make of Evangelion pairings in spin-offs and fanfiction?'" I asked.
"Pairings?" Shinji asked.
"You know, when they put two characters together in a story that isn't necessarily the canonical one if there is one," Asuka explained to Shinji. "My view is that the fans can take whatever they want from Evangelion. There are hints of different so called 'parings' throughout the series but nothing so obvious or definite."
"Well, if you ask me," said Misato, "after seeing the 'End of Evangelion', I kind of feel that the Shinji and Asuka angle was the one that Hideaki was going for. But don't quote that as gospel, I really have no idea if there even is a concrete, canonical pairing."
"Like Asuka said, there are hints of different pairings occurring. Some are less plausible than others but who's to say that Shinji's character can't be with Rei's or Asuka's?" Ritsuko added.
"I don't really think too much about it," Rei said. "Pairings don't often cross my mind as that important."
"You see, that's the thing," Gendo said. "These 'pairings' relate to the relationships between characters and Evangelion is almost all about those relationships. I think it's interesting to think about the 'what if'? How would the story differ if Shinji's character ended up having his relationship focused on somebody else? I love the idea of differing possibilities."
"Okay, thanks," I said. "The next question from a fan: 'Outside of work, how do you guys get on? Does Asuka still always call Shinji an idiot and is Rei as quiet as she is in the series?'" Shinji, Asuka and Rei all laughed at the question. "Off set we're good friends," Shinji replied. "And yes, Asuka does occasionally call me an idiot but only if I deserve it!"
"He does deserve it often!" Asuka laughed. "And Rei is anything but quiet! You should have seen her at the 'Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone' launch party!"
"Asuka!" Rei cried, although she did have a smile on her face.
"Looks like they get along fine," Misato chuckled.
"Okay, next question," I said. "If you'll excuse this one, it's rather blunt. 'Kaworu, are you actually gay?'"
"No," Kaworu replied blankly. The rest of the cast laughed at his quick reply. "I don't know where anybody would get that kind of idea," Kaworu added with a smile. Everybody laughed even more than that comment. Kaworu had obviously answered this question many times before.
"Next question. 'Some of us fans are speculating that 'Rebuild of Evangelion' is actually a sequel rather than a remake. The red oceans and Kaworu at the end of the film seeming to have met Shinji already. What is your take on this?'" I asked.
"Well, we can only speculate as well," answered Rei. "The red oceans seem to give a hint as well as the red blood streak on the moon in the final scene that seems reminiscent of the 'End of Evangelion' but we're not quite sure what Anno has in mind."
"It would be pretty awesome if it was a sequel though," Asuka said.
"Okay, final question before we wrap this up. 'Do you guys have any idea about the new ending for the 'Rebuild of Evangelion' series and if not, what do you expect to happen?'" I asked.
"None of us have any idea," Misato replied. "We'll find out when we get the scripts for the final two movies I guess."
"Anno doesn't like us getting ahead of the game," Asuka added.
"In terms of what we expect to happen," Gendo said, "probably the 'End of Evangelion', times a thousand."
"More like a million," Shinji added. "We honestly have no clue. We may have a few ideas after seeing the ending of the second 'Rebuild of Evangelion' movie but that's as much as we could tell you."
"Okay, thank you very much for you time," I said, happy to get the insight of the Eva cast themselves. 'Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance' is released in Japanese cinemas on the 27th of June, 2009. I personally cannot wait to see it.