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Interview: Legendary Evangelion Illustrator Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

by Manu G.,

During FicZone, a recent anime, manga and videogames event in Granada, in the south of Spain, we sat down to talk with Yoshiyuki Sadamoto about his current projects, hoping to get his thoughts about the anime industry after finishing the Evangelion manga. The world-famous character designer talked with us about his involvement in the new FLCL series, as well as Gainax's Aoki Uru project, which seems to be delayed again.

After all these years working on Evangelion, how do you feel about the series?

As an anime industry worker, for me Evangelion has been just another job, and I need to get work apart from Evangelion to keep going. It's a franchise I don't really want to work on anymore at this point – but it's an important franchise in Japan and there are many fans, so I take it seriously.

It seems like Hideaki Anno is also resting from Evangelion and he's more focused on the live-action market.

The thing is, I don't understand what's cooking inside Anno's head (laughs).

Since Wolf Children in 2012, we haven't seen you working on any anime, even Bakemono no Ko, which is interesting as you've worked in every one of Hosoda's films. What is this about?

I just wanted to devote myself to draw, I wanted to focus exclusively in finishing the Neon Genesis Evangelion manga.

As you surey know, there's a FLCL sequel on the way. Are you involved in the new project?

The original project was carried out between Gainax and Production I.G while the new series depends exclusively on Production I.G I asked them if they were going to use my designs, credited as such in the production. There wouldn't be any problem working that out but I haven't heard anything from them yet – we'll see what happens.

What's your opinion about the series coming back?

As an artist, I feel affection for FLCL, but beyond that I don't have an opinion as long as my work is respected.

What's the process like, deciding to resurrect a property like FLCL?

The fans are important, of course. Fans want their series to come back, as in the case of FLCL, and it's great they can fulfill their desires. But the people who really determine whether or not a series returns are the sponsors. Evangelion or FLCL, for example, are series which had a lot of success. They're series with zero risk to sponsors, and they know they'll be making money if they take part in those kind of returning projects.

As an artist, the feeling that shakes me is “why do we spend money on projects that aren't new ideas or new stories?” I know that's how the industry works, but I wonder.

When you have to work on projects with not much support from sponsors, how is it done?

To work on original things you need money, and if you want to work in new anime, you are going to ask to sponsors that probably are going to say no to you. So when it comes time to make certain projects and you need a certain amount of money, you just have do it with less money.

I don't want anyone telling me what I have to do, so I think the best way possible to avoid this is to go slowly. First you come up with the manga. Once the manga is successful enough, someone will come along willing to make the anime. That's how it works.

How has it been working for Gainax all these years?

Working in Gainax as part of the team... it's very liberating. For example, when I worked with Hosoda, I went to ask permission to work with him despite being at Gainax. They said yes, so I could do it without any problems.

In addition, it's a policy that enhances their young artists. The idea is that if someone has talent, you have to support him to do new things with more responsibility, even as a director. Gainax is very liberal and avant-garde in this field, and that's something I love.

In fact, you are working in a project at the studio, Aoki Uru, where you also work as a character designer. How's the movie going?

As I said before, it's something that depends on money. In this case, I'm really committed to the movie, I just love it. It is a slow process and lack of money is a real problem. Anyway, although I can not say anything about it right now, even if the current director leaves the project, I will stay involved in it.

So it is the current release date (2018) still going to happen?

You know, the previous release date was for last year... I don't know (laughs).

Speaking of financing anime - are you aware of crowdfunding? Do you think it's a realistic way of getting money?

There are already many projects choosing this route. But they're short animations, which have a duration of ten or fifteen minutes. You can do things like that, but for large projects like Evangelion you need much more money than what you get by crowdfunding. It is a trend that will continue, but it's not viable for big productions.

What is the future of funding anime productions, then?

Right now, video and music companies are very important in terms of funding and they represent a high percentage for the financing of anime. But I think the future belongs to platforms like Amazon or Netflix. They're taking a chance on anime and I think they will change the thinking about how it's done. Doing their own productions for their own platforms, the trend of funding anime productions is going to change.

What are your current projects?

I'm working in the smartphone video games market, as well as costume design for a live-action movie. Also, I'm involved in a pretty small anime project, so there are four or five things at the very moment that keep me busy.

Will we see you again taking action in such a long manga as Evangelion?

I'm 54 right now. If It's going to take me another twenty years It would end when I'm 74... I think that's kind of difficult (laughs).

Thanks to the FicZone organisation for providing the opportunity for this interview. Japanese translation by Michie Yamaya.

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