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Hideaki Anno Details His Falling Out With Gainax

posted on by Kim Morrissy
Khara has distanced itself from Gainax following Gainax representative director's arrest

Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno wrote an article for business magazine Diamond in reaction to Gainax representative director Tomohiro Maki's arrest earlier in December. Anno expressed his sympathy to the victims of Maki's alleged acts of quasi-forcible indecency and reiterated Khara's earlier statement distancing the production team of Evangelion from Gainax. He also wrote in detail about the circumstances in which he cut ties with Gainax.

Hiroyuki Yamaga, alongside Hideaki Anno, and Toshio Okada, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Shinji Higuchi, Yasuhiro Takeda, and Takami Akai, co-founded Gainax in 1984. Anno wrote that it was originally a company founded with friends for the purpose of creating the Royal Space Force - The Wings of Honnêamise film. At the time, he focused purely on creating things and had no involvement with the management side of the company. This was the case even though he was the company representative on paper for a time.

The success of the Evangelion TV anime in 1995 marked a turning point for the company. Until Evangelion became a hit, Gainax had been teetering on the edge of folding and was too small to produce a TV series. In fact, Anno revealed, he had been considering producing Evangelion at a different studio at the time, and chose Gainax as the lead studio primarily for old times' sake. (There were in fact only three employees at GAINAX continuously working on the show, with most of the production taking place at the much larger Tatsunoko Production.)

Evangelion ended up bringing in so much money that nobody in management knew what to do with it. Anno notes that at the beginning, the main staff that worked on Evangelion didn't receive any of the enormous profits beyond the initial commission fee, so the staff negotiated with King Records to receive some of that money. According to Anno, Gainax continued to reap profits from Evangelion by setting up merch deals, while squandering much of the money on poor investments into failing projects. As for the production staff, they were rarely informed of business matters, and their wages remained low.

The hard division between the animation production staff and the management side culminated in then president Takeshi Sawamura's arrest in for tax fraud in 1999. Anno claimed that he only heard about it after the fact, and that he was put into a position where he had to apologize publicly for it.

After that incident, then company president Hiroyuki Yamaga asked Anno to put his name down as representative head on paper so that investors could regain trust in Gainax. Anno acquiesced. At first, he did not concern himself with the finances of the company, but through examining the paperwork, he came to realize that there were many people on the company's payroll who hardly contributed anything. Anno writes that this happened around 2003 or 2004. Around this time frame, he began thinking about making another Evangelion anime, because his only other ideas for original anime felt like hollow imitations to him.

When it came to the matter of which studio to lead the production of the Rebuild films, Anno decided against doing it at Gainax. "There are a number of reasons for this," he writes. "It would be hard to bring in a fresh vibe at the studio that made it in the past, there was another TV series being planned at Gainax at the time, and the younger generation of staff would continue to hold back on expressing themselves out of deference to me as their senior. But the biggest reason was so that I could control the production budget and ensure that the staff and employees could get the benefits and returns that they were owed."

After setting up Khara, Anno formally left Gainax in 2007. He had remained as an employee in name as a favor to Yamaga, but after 2007, he saw no meaning to it anymore and left. Nevertheless, he still had a great deal of goodwill towards Gainax, and when organizing the rights for Evangelion, he allowed Gainax to retain the rights to merchandising for the original series while Khara would get royalties on properties that Anno was involved in as the director and/or original creator. It was, in his opinion, a "win-win situation."

Nevertheless, the deal did result in Gainax receiving less money from the Evangelion IP, even as they continued to use the name for leverage. Meanwhile, the bad business decisions on Gainax's end piled up, and in 2012, they stopped paying back Khara the money they were owed.

Then, in 2014, Gainax begged Khara for a loan of 100 million yen (approximately US$1 million), saying that if they did not receive the money in three days they would "go under." Because it was Anno's old friend Yasuhiro Takeda asking for money, Anno agreed to pay up, but as a condition, Gainax would have to transfer the rights to handling the merchandise and royalties to Khara one year earlier than originally planned. Other than that, Anno wrote that there was no interest or other conditions on the loan.

Not only did Gainax not pay back the loan, they also sold off the rights for Gunbuster, Diebuster, and FLCL, three works that Khara staff had been heavily involved in, without telling anyone at Khara. Anno wrote that he only ever received the royalties he was due for Evangelion, and that to this day he has not received the royalties he is owed for Gunbuster and Nadia - The Secret of Blue Water, among other works. Meanwhile, Gainax was creating new companies, like Fukushima Gainax (now Gaina) and Gainax West, and making shady business deals overseas, again without telling Khara. When the payments from Gainax stopped coming in, Anno was left in the dark about what was going at the company, and Yamaga was not returning his calls.

Eventually, when Anno found out that Gainax was secretly selling off production materials (key animation, storyboards, etc.) of the anime he and others now at Khara had worked on in the past, he decided to take action. "I could have shrugged off the loan that never got repaid, but we were anxious to preserve the production materials we had poured blood, sweat, and tears into." In 2016, Khara sued Gainax for 100 million yen and won the case in 2017. To this day, Anno claims that Gainax has not contacted him with an apology or explanation for what happened.

Gainax's representative director was Yamaga until October, when he was replaced by Tomohiro Maki, a man whom Anno says he does not know and has never met in person. Maki has been a board director of the company since 2015. When Maki was arrested for alleged indecent acts, Anno wrote that the misleading coverage of this news led some people to assume that it was Anno who was arrested. On top of this, misleading reports that refer to Gainax as simply the "Evangelion production company" in the headlines have damaged the Evangelion brand. In the days that followed, some business dealings with Evangelion even got retracted due to the misleading reports.

Anno concludes by expressing his disappointment that Gainax has not attempted to take responsibility for putting a person like Maki into a position of power, arguing that it is the current management ranks at Gainax that allowed this situation to happen in the first place.

"I am disappointed, not as a manager at a company that lent them money, but as a friend from our university days," he wrote. "And my biggest disappointment is that I'll never be able to regain the relationship with them that I had in those days gone by."

Update: An earlier version of this article stated that Gainax sold the rights to Nadia - Secret of Blue Water when it was FLCL. This has been corrected.

Source: Diamond Online

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