A New Genesis? Shizuno talks "Evangelion 1.0"

Mon, January 14th, 2008 at 12:00am PST

TV/Film
Shaun Manning, Staff Writer

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Kobun Shizuno (right) at the New York Anime Festival, December 2007

Kobun Shizuno, co-director of the upcoming "Evangelion 1.0: You (Are) Not Alone," was the guest of honor at the first New York Anime Festival in December, when he addressed an excitable crowd about his past and upcoming projects. In addition to working on "Evangelion," a follow-up to the classic anime series "Neon Genesis Evangelion," Shizuno also unveiled a new film titled "Cross Climb," which will debut simultaneously in the US and Japan.

Describing his entry into the anime industry, Shizuno admitted he did not watch a lot of cartoons growing up, but developed a love for animation in his mid-twenties, at a time when he'd already decided to work in the field of visual arts. "Once I had decided that I wanted to work in the anime industry, I wrote down a phone number I saw on a commercial for an animation school," said Kobun Shizuno. "After a year of the animation school, I graduated and I did get work with a production company. I worked in the art production side for about half a year before I finally got the opportunity to do some directing.

"The Yoyogi Animation School, which is the school I attended, was a school for all aspects of animation production, not just illustration and sequential art," the director continued. "The course that I had enrolled in was more for production management-type positions. Those are the people who control the schedule, get the art in on time and are making sure the editor or the director review it and so forth. And they are also responsible for the financial aspects. And then of course there was the side I ended up being more interested in, which was the editorial work. I realized I was in the wrong division, but it was very interesting."

Two sides of Ruby, the star of Shizuno's upcoming "Cross Climb" - Cross Climb Project
Asked about hardships in the industry, Shizuno seemed completely unfazed. "I'm still kind of enamored of the process myself, because I was able to go directly into the industry and work my way up, which is just what I wanted to do," he said. "I don't really think about the challenges, I only focus on my own vision, and make sure I can produce works that are good for the fans but also really stretch myself. But technologically, animation going digital has really opened up a completely new world from the production side of things. We can do things now that we never would have thought were possible to do."

The panel moderator later quizzed Shizuno on what Hideaki Anno, once and future mastermind behind "Evangelion," was really like. The answer came slowly, through light laughs and long pauses. "He's a very hard-to-forget individual," Shizuno said. "I would say that he's just brilliant. If you ever get to meet him, or get to see him in action, you'll never forget his presence."

As to whether the new "Evangelion" film would pick up where the previous series ended or whether it would re-boot the story, Shizuno said it was something fans "have to see with your own eyes. "If I were to reveal that information, I'd get into a lot of trouble," he said.

Toward the end of the panel, Shizuno showed a the world-premiere trailer of another new film he's working on, titled "Cross Climb." The story centers on a young woman who has been jilted in love and turns to a popular new virtual gaming system that promises new experiences. A player can enter into any story-fantasy, romance, RPG, battle-but eventually the boundaries between the game and reality begin to break down, and it may be up to hero Ruby to either put things right or else usher in a brave new world.

From "Cross Climb," Ruby and Max - Cross Climb Project
Folliwing the panel, CBR News had a chance to pose a few questions to Shizuno directly.

CBR: How did you get involved in the new "Evangelion" movie?

KS: Actually, I wasn't involved in the "Evangelion" project from the very beginning. I received a call from the CG effects director, Masuo Shoichi, and he asked if I'd mind lending them a hand.

CBR: What aspects of the film were you responsible for?

KS: This "Evangelion" was produced in a manner that was unusual for a Japanese animation, in that we decided to give the voice actors more freedom of expression. So instead of the usual process where the animation was drawn first and then the voice-overs were recorded, we actually had the voice actors record the voices first and then matched the visuals to the voice over. Initially, my role was to make sure the visuals matched the mouth movements and the dialogue. And then I also helped re-takes and made sure that any new scenes fit in.

CBR: What sort of thing might we expect to see in the new film that might not have been possible in the old series, because of digital advancements in the last ten years?

KS: A lot of what you will see on screen is 3D CGI, whereas the old series is definitely 2D cells. I think the visuals have definitely advanced a lot. And in particular I think the fans will see that in the way the enemy characters are designed, and the monitor graphics and computer screens and so forth are a lot different than they were before.

Ruby Cross Climb Project
CBR: What can you tell us about the new film, "Cross Climb?"

KS: "Cross Climb" came together with the help of Mitsuharu Inoue, who was the producer on the project. Part of the concept was to have a worldwide release, so we are collaborating with foreign sponsors outside of Japan to help make that happen. We can't talk about that much of it right now, but what we can reveal is up at www.rubymax.cc.

There's also going to be some more information released around Christmas this year, and that will be on the website as well. As I say, it's not just going to be announced in Japan, but everywhere there on the website.

CBR: From the preview, it looks like the film is drawing together quite a few anime genres, such as RPG, fantasy, battle-I was wondering if there were any challenges associated with this.

KS: I would say the biggest challenge was that we definitely wanted to make it look multi-genre, but not be left with something that couldn't be pegged. We wanted to make sure that each genre would show itself within the work. I can't go into a lot of detail, but we had an exceptional team working on this and viewers will be able to see the fruits of that labor. People will see that there's going to be action, and drama, and in the end it's not really a melting pot but each thing stands out.

The "Cross Climb" trailer is available at www.rubymax.cc; "Evangelion 1.0: You (Are) Not Alone" was released in Japan in September but does not yet have an American release date.

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