As some of you may have noticed, Toho has recently announced that Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi, both of whom have collaborated together previously on Neon Genesis Evangelion and Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo, will be co-directing the new Japanese Godzilla film, slated for 2016. Given the high profile of both individuals (and Anno in particular) this was a bit of startling news which, were it not for Toho's completely serious approach to the press release and follow-up later today, might have been mistaken for an April Fool's Joke. But it's not completely out of nowhere.
Hideaki Anno, who's by far best-known for heading the controversial (and extremely important) science fiction anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, has long admitted his passion for tokusatsu (Japanese special effects) films. One of his earliest directorial features was an Ultraman fan film and this manga examining his domestic life relates his detailed obsession with classic tokusatsu shows like Kamen Rider and Super Sentai. And although Anno loves animation and considers it the primary medium for telling stories like Evangelion, he's also said that he believes Japan should be even prouder of Godzilla.
As such, it's not all that surprising that Anno would be eager to take on a project like Godzilla, given the chance. And it's not all that surprising a company like Toho, which has worked with Anno before on Nadia: The Secret of the Blue Water and which distributed the Studio Ghibli films by Anno's mentor and friend Hayao Miyazaki, would seek out an accomplished director who also happens to be an enormous fan of the genre.
I was interested to see if Anno himself has said anything about the deal since it was announced. And indeed, he has. Yesterday, he published a statement on the official Evangelion website, which has been translated into English by fans at the EvaGeeks.org forums. Below is an excerpt about why he took the job:
I'm also starting work putting together a visual effects fantasy film. This all started at the end of January, 2013. A representative from Toho contacted me directly, saying, "We'd like to direct a new Godzilla film." At the time, I was still recovering from EVA 3.0, and right on the spot, flatly refused the offer, "It's impossible. Even to begin work on the next EVA is impossible."
Eventually, it was Toho's sincerity and the enthusiasm of my ally, Director Shinji Higuchi, and I decided to take the job as Director that March. My prayer is that this will not be just a repeat of science fiction visuals of the past, and the wish we put into the Tokusatsu Museum Exhibit, was to embody the idea of giving back to the creators and artists who came before us, which was our intention and our responsibility. And when that epiphany occurred to me, my resolution was to undertake this task.
Now, one does because they can, not because they cannot. I made my decision because this is a new, once-in-a-lifetime chance. This is not EVA. This is not an original creation of my own, and is something I've never done before — this is why I decided to do it.
He also later elaborates on what he believes are the chief challenges of working on a Godzilla film, noting the lower budgets the Japanese film industry often must work with in comparison to Hollywood as well as the need to stay true the original films' "satirical" intent (a likely callback to the allegorical heritage of the first film). He also states that while this will probably result in a delay of Evangelion 3.0+1.0 (the final entry in the rebooted Rebuild series) that he is fully committed to finishing both projects, although it sounds like the last film took a pretty heavy emotional toll on him.
I don't know about you but I'm pretty excited to see what Anno's going to cook up. He's not a perfect director but he's got a great sense of horror and intense action that I think could add a lot to a new Japanese Godzilla film.
UPDATE: The above excerpt has been replaced with a better translation from later along in the same discussion thread.