I found this translation of an interview between Nagai and Neon Genesis Evangelion director Hideaki Anno on the EvaGeeks forum and figured I might share it here. Highlights include Nagai talking about his inspiration for Maō Dante, the two of them talking about the use of violence in their works and Anno saying things like "What would be ideal is that kids who watch it start to vomit".
Translation source: http://forum.evageeks.org/post/401342/Translated-interview-between-Nagai-and-Anno/
Original source: http://gettermario.dynamicforum.net/t974-entretien-go-nagai-hideaki-anno (French)
Interview between Go Nagai and Hideaki Anno. This is a double translation, from japanese to french, then from french to english. A lot of translation might be lost. This comes from the Devilman Tabulae Anatomicae book.
What was your first memory that you got from Nagai's manga?
Hideaki Anno : It was Harenchi Gakuen.
Of course… The prepublication in the Jump magazine?
HA : Yes. Of course, the first time it was the erotic aspect that pleased me… I was still young, so I didn't have a hardening penis, oh well… In brief, I was following the manga, and I arrived to the part of the "big battle". It was something unexpected, and for a child like me, it was shocking.
Gô Nagai : And what marked you?
HA : For example, this scene where a character faced schoolgirl prisoners, who's clothes were torn, were hiding their breasts and the crotch, and tells them "Hands up !" It's remarkable, like a comical scene. I think it was one of my first memories of your work. But your influence on me is incalculable, impossible to evaluate. After all, even in Evangelion, I couldn't get away from the Devilman influence…
GN : Oh yes ? I was told that there were similarities, therefore I went to see Evangelion in the cinema with that idea, but I didn't feel that.
HA : No, but I think I didn't do it consciously… After that, people made me notice : "Ah this is Devilman", etc…
GN : You read Mao Dante?
HA : I didn't discover it at the time of prepublication, but much later, in high school, when it was out in pocket format. I remember thinking "ah, indeed, it's a ‘pre-Devilman’ !"
GN : I told myself that it was a good idea to create a hero who wasn't necessarily good, that we could have a bad hero, that's where the inspiration came. At that time I was watching movies like Godzilla and I was really identifying myself to him. Without knowing why, through the eyes of Godzilla, I felt the need to crush tanks or to disperse crowds of people with kicks, i found that entertaining… It's in the same state of mind that I started writing Mao Dante.
Did you see the first Godzilla when it was out? [In 1954 – NDT]
GN : I don't think I've seen it when it was out, but at that time, I often drew Godzilla. I think I saw the film a bit later.
You both are from two different generations. What was your idea of a monster, when you were kids ?
HA : I wasn't a big fan of monster movies, not as much as Master Nagai… I didn't hate it, but for me war movies was rather my thing. After that, I started on hero stories like Ultraman.
GN : You were not watching Ultra Q, Ultraman's prequel?
HA : I saw it, but I couldn't get a hold of it. We were seeing only monsters, and scary stuff… We can conclude that I prefer giant heroes over monsters.
GN : Someone told me that Evangelion was visually inspired by Ultraman, is it true ?
HA : EVA is an "Ultramanian" character, sure. But to be honest, the visual inspiration also comes from Devilman.
GN : Really ?
HA : There's also some Shuten Douji in it. And also the idea that even demons and ogres with their scary faces. I think the thing we name "power" is something really scary. So when the design was to be made, I particularly insisted that he is scary-looking. If kids could start crying just by watching an episode, that would be ideal. To the point to make it an anti-hero, something which is scary. For that, Devilman was the perfect model. I had drawn a "rough" version of EVA which looked a lot like Devilman, with the curved back, la taille fine, a thick chest plate. It was the image that I made from Devilman. But EVA also has common points with Mazinger Z. Him too has a scary demonic face.
GN : For what is Devilman and Mazinger Z, I didn't have the intention to give them nightmare-esque faces, but that naturally came to me ! (Laughs)
HA : In Mao Dante, the ears of Ryo Utsugi become the eyes of a demon, right ? In the first version of EVA, when we looked at its eyes closely, we also noticed an influence from Mao Dante. Before that I did the Gunbuster ova, and for the robot design, I told myself that giving it two eyes was a bit dull. So I made it like a cyclop, but later I realized it was a mistake. Even with their shadow, robots like Mazinger remained recognisable, even if the eyes were no longer just two white shapes. In Gunbuster, with its unique eye, it didn't work well. I therefore told myself that next time, I will definitely make a robot with compound eyes, like an insect. For that, I coloured all of the body of the first version of EVA with a gloomy colour, except for the eyes, which I left in white, to attract attention.
GN : (Laugh)
HA : Also, this first version of EVA also had red circled eyes, like Mazinger Z.
Ah, yes it's the « make-up » that Mazinger Z had in his first apparitions in JUMP, no ?
HA : Yes. I like it when the outline of the eyes are red… The Mazinger Z of that time was particularly good. I really liked the fact that it didn't have a nose.
GN : At first, I was drawing without the nose that gave off the impression of a mask. After that, I noticed that they gave him a nose in the anime.
It's a particular way of drawing a face…
HA : It must be impossible to render these things in three dimensions. I like the face without relief, that it's possible to do only in drawings.
Takeshi Nagai : Without a doubt the designers of the anime didn't understand how to give off the same effet like in the manga.They must have been really embarassed!
HA : On that subjet, Shôetsu Hanetsu, the producer of Mazinger Z, did an excellent job, don't you think ? To come back to the Mazinger just like Master Go Nagai was drawing, it's neck collé d’un bloc sur le torse, et si je puis me permettre, au-delà de la forme ou du dessin, cela crée une sensation de décalage, d’inadéquation, qui me plaît beaucoup. (pas sur comment traduire)
Yes, the neck of Mazinger Z of Master Nagai was very different from the TV version !
HA : Like the Mazinger that I was recopying, i didn't really progress in drawings. (Laugh)
GN : (hollow laugh)
HA : Still concerning the face, I love Mazinger Z in profile towards the first episode in the prepublication. It's his first appearance and Kouji discovers it with a stunning cry.
GN : The scene in the house of the grandpa, is that it ?
HA : Yes, it really marked me. That must be why I gave the same kind of eyes to the first version of EVA. When I brought these rectifications on the original drawings, I couldn't prevent myself from drawing the eyes in the style of Master Nagai.
And in the first episode of Evangelion, the first appearance of EVA is a big shot on his face, right ?
HA : Euh yes, that's it. (Laugh) Sorry.
GN : Fancy that ? (Laugh)
HA : I was disappointed when the prepublication of Mazinger Z in Jump was stopped….
GN : … Ah yes. Even before Mazinger was transfered to Terebi Magazine, I already had the impression of not been able to draw Mazinger with my ideas freely anymore, so I kinda neglected Mazinger Z.
HA : The manga that was appearing in Terebi Magazine wasn't bad, but however, the tv version, it wasn't it… I was watching, but at that time I was in CM2, and me and my friends had the impression that it was for little kids, and that they were taking us a bit for idiots. Same for the Getter Robo anime The manga of Master Ken Ishikawa was like a bible to me. In the anime of Mazinger Z, there was only one episode that I liked, the n°32 ("Le Cerbère de la Terreur"), where Mazinger Z was hurled in the sky by en hanging on to the "breast-missiles" [Aphrodai Ace - NDT]. In my memory, it's the only scene that fascinated my childish heart. And for Getter Robo, it's the episode where they were forced to pilot de visu…
The one where the robot gets decapitated ? (N°30 : "When the Phoenix resurrects")
HA : That's all. It's the only episode I liked, the one where Getter Robo is defeated. That seemed plausible to me. Also, I really liked the opening song too.
[… Back to the subject of Go Nagai's Mazinger Z manga]
HA : I also remember that the angles of the Breast Fire weren't pointy, they were round, and that pleased me. I loved that. It's also why I didn't buy the Soul of Chogokin toy. I decided not to take it. A Mazinger with pointy breast fire, for me, it isn't Mazinger Z. I also preferred the white pilder, but I believed the front surface was also part of the pilder. And some time after, I realized that the front was a cover. That gives it a perfect front. And when we look at Mazinger's head, we see that it takes as model the harmony of the human skull without changing anything. That makes me think a lot of Devilman this way. What corresponds to Mazinger Z in Devilman, is the bald area of his skull. The only fundamental difference is that Devilman doesn't have any armour on the mouth. We can see that both characters were made at the same time.
GN : That's true, Devilman's design is really weird… Why did I draw it like that?
Back to Mazinger Z, the one from the televised version had a beneficial side, but the manga... We could call it an impulsive idiot! It's rather destabilising for young readers… Don't you think it's closer to a monster?
HA : Yes, the Mazinger Z from the manga was frightening because of that. Also, the one from the TV had blue rocket punches and legs, right? I don't like this version. I prefer it when the arms and legs are black and gleaming.
Takeshi Nagai : At the time, that made people (From Toei Animation) really perplexed : "All black, really ? " or more "You also want lines that thin?", etc… (Laughs)
GN : And the underwear that they gave Devilman in the animated version, too... I could never really accept that. I was telling myself : "Hmm… that doesn't really suit him".
M. Otsuki, what was your first encounter with Go Nagai's work?
Toshimichi Otsuki (Evangelion producer) : Me too, it was the "Big Battle" in Harenchi Gakuen, the scene where a girlfriend of Jubei went to look for her underwear who someone threw somewhere, you see? That traumatised me. Also, in Mao Dante, the scene where Ryo Utsugi while crawling on the ground, realized that he was cut into two, the fact that they took his lower body. That too, traumatised me.
GN : Sorry, if the only thing I did was traumatise you! (Laughs)
TO : There's this scene as well, in Violence Jack, when Takuma lifts up the body of a person when suddenly, finds out that the lower body wasn't there... When I read that, I immediately thought of Mao Dante. People cut in two seems to be a leitmotiv in your work, isn't that right, Mr. Nagai?
GN : Sorry. (Laughs)
That's also how Akira Fudo gets done for, the hero of Devilman.
I also remember the first time I discovered Baron Ashura. That reminded me of the character, Toranotsuke in Gakuen Taikutsu Otoko ("The kid who got bored at school"): the one who had half of his face burnt with sulfuric acid, you see? Generally, he wears a bandage on his face, but sometimes it got loose, and we could see half of his face... I thought that had to be Baron Ashura's prototype.
GN : Yes, I think that's right. My idea was to create embarassment with a face that was half handsome and half horrible.
TO : In your work, there are frightening images of disfigured characters, torn bodies or human-dogs, which were very scary, and in addition to that, there were frights that we prefer not to talk about, generally speaking. It's the kind of things we prefer not thinking in our everyday life. In Devilman and Mao Dante, the memory that in the past, humans were the prey of demons, it's really something terrifying.
GN : Whether it comes from our memories or elsewhere, we have this kind of memories in us.
TO : It actually exists by the way. There was a time when humans were preys, without a doubt. I think that's why we started using our hands, making fire etc... so as not to be eaten! It's something that we have forgotten, but something still says in our memory, as a species. At that time, we were simians, we were attacked by saurians, et since these beasts were a source of fear, we got used to the idea of demons.
Hideaki Anno : I like well the concept of "freaks" who counter attack, for example in Mazinger Z. For me, the mechanical beasts are like an army of "freaks", also, they're led by a crazy scientist! As a kid, I loved to see the crazy scientist who was oppressed and started shouting "Forward for the world's conquest!"
GN : It's a bit the same thing with demons, right? From a historic point of view, most of people who were identified to demons were tyrannised. I expressed that unconsciously... I maybe go that idea somewhere, to say ... Who knows that can happen to me in another life?Anyway, whatever happens, I cannot be on side of those with power, I'll naturally be for the ones opposing power.
HA : It's true in Devilman, we have more sympathy for the demons.
GN : And even if Satan was identified as the big evil, I wonder if he's as bad that. Et puis au final. At the end of Devilman, we can also reach a conclusion that God is the evil one.
Satan too opposes power : He opposes God...
HA : In your works, there are many stories putting in scene those who can't adapt to society and who oppose power, or are oppressed. In Kikai-kun and Omorai-kun, this kind of character is prominent.
GN : That's true... if I dare say. It's certain that I like characters that are a bit marginal.
HA : When I was small, I never really understood the process of destruction that happens in the second part of Kikai-kun. Today when I re-read it, it's so evident that's it's hard not to see it.
Cannibalism Cannibalism is evoked…
GN : The family in Kikai-kun is also absurd, with the mother with a lot of husbands.
Takeshi Nagai : It seems at that time, Kikai-kun was popular enough with young children, and this kind of scene made them perplexed... Well, I suppose! (Laughs)
HA : I was one of these young children.
GN : Oops, sorry ! (Laughs)
[They're back to the Mazinger Z manga]
HA : When Aphrodai Ace is cut in half, it's rather frightening to notice that she's bleeding a lot even when she's only a robot. It's a strong image!
GN : I have tendency of considering blood the limit between life and death. With that said, in Mazinger Z, we could consider that as fuel leaks.
HA : That directly influenced me, and that's why in my works, the robots bleed, and lose real blood. But for M. Ishikawa, it's different : he really likes to show viscerality.
GN : Ah yes, he loves that ! (laughs)
HA : When we have characters hose lose their original form and mixes themselves with one another, that's Ken Ishikawa. However, when we see bodies well cut in two with blood coming out, that's Go Nagai.
GN : In the cinema version of Evangelion, your use of viscerality isn't bad at all…
HA : That's right… We also introduced the concept of cannibalism. But it's hard to make it frightening in animation.
GN : I thought it was effective enough!
HA : What would be ideal is that kids who watch it start to vomit, but they didn't even get a small nausea. That should have made them sick. Because if I think it's better to show repugnant things just as they are. If we succeed to transmit the emotion that atrocious things are atrocious, it's mission succeeded. When someone tells me "It's too horrible, too violent", that pleases me, because it's a healthy and normal reaction. When they tell me "I cannot watch, it's too much", I say "Okaaaaay!" (Laughs).
GN : Actually, that looked very shocking. But when I draw these kinds of things myself, I don't have this kind of reaction. It's only when I'm the spectator that it looks horrifying. I don't know if that's the case for you and the others, but I have another personality when I draw. In these moments, the desire to provoke an impact to the readers is so intense that I don't even think of the other effects it could have.
Toshimichi Otsuki : Well, Anno is like you!
HA : In the sub-genre of giant robots, there's a type of image that stays : the robot which appears behind a mountain. I wanted to do this kind of thing in Evangelion, as a tribute to the scene of the Kingdan ambush in "The Great campaign of Mechanical Beasts", which I really liked. It's at this moment that I said to myself : "Damn, whatever I do, I cannot escape the Go Nagai influence."
GN : In any case, you had an excellent idea with the concept of getting the structure of an entire city underground!
HA : At first, the idea came to me from video games. Also, buildings are hard to draw, so I told myself that in the future, we could make them disappear underground, that would facilitate me! (Laughs) It was also a graphical problem. It's also why all those underground cities also contained entire forests. They are easy to draw, and they give an idea of the size of the robots, since they reach their ankles. It was before anything else a technical decision.
GN : Whatever it was, it worked well.
HA : Actually (with Evangelion), I only thought of renewing the genre. At its core, it's still Mazinger Z. I thought to myself how Mazinger Z would be if it was created today. With stuff like training the pilots in laboratories... However, this was quickly derailed.
Did M. Otsuki suggested something at that moment?
TO : No, nothing at all. But tell me, Anno, you will have to clarify me on a point : In the cinema version of Evangelion, the NERV fights against the army... As far as the intrigue goes, it reminded me of the war between the ministry of education and the shameless school, in Harenchi Gakuen. On one side, you got those who back up the total war, saying that it's justified, and on the other side, there are those who say it's going to be a massacre. When I watched the movie in the theatres, I told myself that this looked like a serious version of Harenchi Gakuen's ending...
HA : Actually, since the time when we produced the TV series which preceded the movie, I was thinking of the image of the society as enemy. So, in the end, characters linked to the government are actually a form of authority, from our point of view. It's a story which shows how adults destroy the lives of children. I cannot say I'm completely opposed to the system, but since my childhood, I always had this vague impression of being squashed by the pressure around me.
GN : Oh, i think kids of our time felt the same thing.
HA : I think that this emotion goes on forever since our time. These kinds of emotions are accumulating.
GN : When we see recent events, we tell ourselves that it's the same.
TO : Susumu-chan no Dai Shokku is no longer fiction.
[NDT : short story of Nagai putting in scene a lost kid in a world where adults kill their own kids, later re-written, red-drawn and integrated in Devilman.]
GN : Teachers too provoke incidents.
TO : They must be fans of bearded Godzilla. [NDT : a nudist teacher and obsessed in Harenchi Gakuen.]
HA : Who knows, there are maybe teachers who found their occupation by reading Harenchi Gakuen?
GN : I got that to their heads that it's a nice job!
HA : This, this makes our work hard.
GN : I sometimes have the impression that what I write becomes reality, despite me.
HA : I ask myself at what moment people started to value virtual things over real things. Maybe kids today think that virtuality has more value.
TO : I think that's the case. As a consequence, reality has less value in their eyes, they think it's easy to kill people. So that if we give reality its adequate value, it's hard to decapitate someone or do these kind of things...
HA : As for the images of girls, when I was small, I was more addicted to Yamaguchi Momoe (A Japanese "Idol" singer) than my girl classmates. People that we see on tv are more important than those who exist just two steps away from us.
It's a form of idolisation.
HA : Yes. But I'm not sure what's the goal of this kind of behaviour : to escape in a virtual world ? Or to consider it as real? We have to admit that virtual things have a big value, and those sensations that they give away could surpass those of reality.
TO : There's a sense of familiarity... There's also the kind of guys who dream of truly becoming Ultraman or Kamen Rider, and who can't wait anymore! "Quick, quick, I just got kidnapped by the Shocker Organisation and they rebuilt me as a cyborg!" And if he's a fan of Devilman, it's rather "Quick, demon, fuse with me!" In a way, they "reach the fusion". In the defense forces of Japan, in these days, there must be a good percentage, certainly dozens of percentage of soldiers, who are enrolled because they saw Godzilla movies, and they're "waiting for the monsters". What's certain, is that our generation grew up with TV and manga.
GN : From this point of view, we influence a lot the lifestyle of other people.
TO : No, I think it goes beyond simple influence. Me for example, I have the impression of being submerged by your works!
HA : Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (Another member of Gainax – NDT)) considers you simply like a God. His main reason for going to a party organised by Kodansha was to meet you. Me too, when I went to the ceremony of prize awards of Science-Fiction, that was for the same reason.
GN : Well, it looks like I find myself under big pressure!
You were saying earlier that reality was becoming like fiction. Isn't it the inverse, where fiction never lost sight of its sense?
HA : In our days, it's undeniable that we ask questions on the validity of fiction. Also, documentaries are becoming more and more interesting. To the point where reality itself become just as chaotic just like fiction. I explain myself : the things that M. Nagai wrote about 25 to 30 years ago have already materialized. Recently, I was wandering in Shibuya quarters, around 21 hours. I had the impression of being there. The "infernal earthquake of the Kanto planes" didn't happen, but it was as if I was in the slums of Violence Jack. There's an atmosphere of desolation. People who were found there had no place of work, and when they worked, it didn't bring them anything. It's before everything else a spiritual poverty.
GN : Yes, I wonder if I have visions from the future. I'm not saying that I was a medium, but maybe by utilising my imagination, without wanting it, I felt those in the form of images. For example, images that people who change into demons, it's the fact of possesing military power. Today, the auto defense force of Japan can go to a foreign place with blue helmets (NDT - This is normally not allowed by the Japanese constitution.) This kind of things made me feel an emotion of crisis, a bit if a "Devilman" era was going to begin. I asked myself if, from a point of view, the story of Devilman wasn't coming close to reality.
Takeshi Nagai : No one wants to see that happen.
GN : I partly wrote Devilman with the intention of alerting people. In our days in Japan, we are indifferent to armament compared to the past. I want to say that in this time, nothing other than talking about the problem of the army could cool down the ambiance. For some time, that's no longer the case.
TO : It's as if they were telling me earlier : It's "virtual". We're "waiting for the war", I think. I sometime ask myself if everyone doesn't want war.
GN : And I have the impression that this want for war is becoming reality. How did it happen, again? ... Yes, for the Japanese soldiers of the autodefense force sent to a foreign place can participate in military activities, we created rules of cooperation with the peace maintenance force from the UN. It will start like this. If we admit that it's acceptable to send army forces in large quantities, we are two fingers away from approving armed aggressions. What scares me, it's to extrapolate that.
"The big war" in Harenchi Gakuen corresponds certainly to that. If I remember well, the most important character of the minister of education held quite a warriorific speech. A speech which was acceptable by justifying it with honor.
HA : It's the adult's way of interpretation.
Now when I think about it, the hostility of M. Nagai towards those things was expressed in very frank ways, not metaphoric at all.
GN : I think that mangas has for occuptation to be simulations... But it's also the same thing for novels, anime, movies... Only if we work by taking reality as the sole model, it's not interesting. When I draw, it's to see till where I can go. If I don't let my imagination go wild, the mangas become lackluster. Even if I know that I'm drawing scary and horrifying things, I can't stop.
And when they oppose to those horrible things, or rather the injustice they represent, your characters go in deep anger. An anger which can be justified, for example those that Yamagishi feel during the "Great Battle".
HA : There are no misleading appearances.
Takeshi Nagai : At the time, you could write what you wanted…
GN : I still draw what I like.
Takeshi Nagai : But no, that's not what I wanted to say! (laughs)