Notenki Memoirs Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, August 05, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Translated by:Javier Lopez, Jack Wiedrick, Brendan Frayne, Kay Bertrand, Gina Koerner, Sheridan Jacobs
What They Say
The story behind the greatest anime of all time!
A tell-all account of GAINAX and a behind-the-scenes journey into the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, the memoirs of a man who experienced it all leaves no stone unturned.
Yasuhiro Takeda, a member of the GAINAX company since its inception, brings to light the truth about everything from the untold stories of Eva to the GAINAX tax evasion scandal that plagued its production. Including a series of stunning revelations and miraculous encounters, the history of this driven company and its founding members presents more than a few insights into the anime world of movie-making and the secrets to unimaginable success.
A 200 page memoir that covers Japanese sci-fi conventions, garage kits, sentai warrior films, GAINAX, and of course Evangelion. While not everyone may be a fan of EVA or GAINAX, any anime fan interested in the culture that bred these types of shows will find this book quite interesting.
The copy I received was an unbound, copy print so I won’t grade this aspect of the release, but I can describe the packaging for those interested. The cover uses a familiar illustration of an EVA using lots of red and yellow colors. Inside there is a prologue, table of contents, and glossary of names as well as terms. There is also an article about the 40th Annual Japan Sci-Fi Convention for which Takeda was the Chairman. Also included in an interview with Hiroyuki Yamaga, Hideki Anno, and Takami Akai.
The translations is done very nicely and I imagine was a tough task, seeing the 6 translators listed in the credits. The conversational tone that I would expect from a memoir is kept in tact, with only a couple of words that I thought were questionable. Having the glossary of terms and names translated is a big plus also. Overall a great job.
Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
To me Evangelion is like an anime fable or story of legend. There has always been stories and discussions out there talking about how crazy the times were at GAINAX went they put that show out, as well as the phenomenal success it brought the company and how Eva changed the face of anime. Well now GAINAX producer Yaushiro Takeda presents us with his memoirs of growing up as a sci-fi geek in Japan, going to conventions, running a licensing company that made garage kits, and of course, the crazy times at GAINAX.
The book is split up into two parts. The first deals with Takeda living in Osaka before he moved to Tokyo. He grew up a big fan of sci-fi, but it was when he attended college that his geekdom turned into full-fledged fandom as he found the school’s sci-fi club. Soon he was helping set up sci-fi conventions, including DAICON 3 and 4, and it was at these conventions that the ideas started forming about how they could profit off of all of this. At first Takeda and his club started making money, and actually turning a profit, when they began selling the opening promotional animation to these cons. This eventually lead to the opening of General Products (named from Larry Niven’s Ringworld), Japan’s first sci-fi specialty store that paved the way for character licensing and garage kits. The success of General Products paved the way for the capitalization and registering of GAINAX, an anime production company created in 1984 for 2M Yen ($8.5K in 1984 dollars).
As GAINAX started to get more and more work, it became harder for General Products to remain in Osaka. That is when Takeda moved the store to Tokyo, which ultimately led to GP’s demise, but also GAINAX’s rise to the top. What is amazing as you read this Tokyo section about GAINAX, is that they were able to stay alive all those years. Each and every anime they made ended up in a loss of money. Wings of Honneamise would have been a success had it not been for it’s bloated 800M Yen budget, an amount that was more than most live-action movies at that time. Nadia, Gunbuster, each successive anime losing money again and again. Nadia ended up being a learning experience for the company, as they had no licensing rights to anything from the anime, except for the video game rights. Luckily they were kept somewhat afloat with their gaming production side of the business.
Then came the battle to make Evangelion. Companies didn’t believe that skinny robots would sell as toys. Book publishers didn’t want Sadamoto to work on the manga. They were getting no help from companies for production. It was all Anno’s “faith” that kept the ball rolling, creating one of the most influential and profitable anime series ever. However, even after success, GAINAX ran into trouble after the were investigated for tax evasion. The total mismanagement of the company is really amusing to read, even though I bet it was a real headache at the time. Loss of money, bad management, fighting for space in a resistant market, it is a wonder that GAINAX is still around and producing anime.
The book reads in a very conversational tone, making it feel somewhat personal and a quick read. Takeda covers about as much information as he feels comfortable with, never going into details that would insult another, but he keeps things interesting at a very brisk pace. The best parts for me in the book were the little anecdotes about some of the famous people in the anime business. For example, his introduction to Anno in which Anno drew a flipbook comic on the spot for a Powered Suit, Toren Smith (Studio Proteus) living in the “GAINAX House” for a short while, Masamune Shirou having his fancomics sold at General Products, the “pussy proposal” in which a producer said that a weapon had to look more like a woman’s vagina. It’s these little moments that made the book enjoyable to me.
While I don’t get the feel of a “tell-all account” of GAINAX and Evangelion, as is advertised on the back of the book, Yasuhiro Takeda does provide some really interesting info on the Japanese sci-fi culture and how it fueled the anime and manga industry in the 80s to help turn it into the big business it is today. In fact, most of the book is how Takeda went from a sci-fi geek who read a bunch of books to running a couple cons of the Annual Japan Sci-fi Convention, DAICON 3 and 4, to then heading up General Products, the company that would eventually fund the beginning of GAINAX. The little anecdotes and stories in between about meeting certain famous industry people provide a lot of entertainment and a few laughs.
This is really a story about a geek from Osaka who embraced his love for sci-fi and became a big time producer for a big time anime production company. A must read for those interested in the culture that allowed this industry explosion to happen.
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Text/Translatin Rating: N/A
Age Rating: All
Released By: ADV Manga
Orientation: Left to Right