Neon Genesis Evangelion director and producer Hideaki Anno wrote an article (via Diamond Online) explaining why he left Gainax, and how they wronged both him and former staff.
The creation of the article seems to have been inspired by former Gainax President Tomohiro Maki being arrested on “semi-compulsory obscenity,” after allegedly taking nude pictures of a teenage girl working for Gainax as a voice actress.
This incident, as well as how it affected him, seems to have sparked Hideaki’s desire to be more open about his time working with Gainax. First, Hideaki emphasized that those arrested had “no relationship to “Eva“, referring to Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Hideaki explains how he felt management and creative endeavors did not work well together, and so focused on his work while avoiding “being involved with management.”
While he emphasizes that Gainax was the idea studio at the time, and that creativity was encouraged, “cost management was not enough.” While profits were always small, Neon Genesis Evangelion was a smash hit, granting “unprecedented profits.” After this however, Hideaki claims Gainax began to move “out of balance and in a weird direction.”
Hideaki then explains how Evangelion is now being produced by Khara Inc., and how headlines such as “Eva Production Company President, Arrested” could cause confusion. This has even resulted in damage, allegedly causing production on a planned Evangelion project to be cancelled.
Hideaki specifically mentions “the plan for ‘Evangelion’ that had already been decided was canceled,” which may indicate the project was only at the planning stages. Nonetheless, it is a devastating blow for Evangelion fans if true.
Hideaki then moves onto starting Khara, and his relationship with Gainax over the years. Hideaki initially only made money from royalties from his scripts and supervision, while Gainax seemed to profit from CDs and PC Games. Hideaki re-iterates he had little involvement with management, and so does not know the details.
Hideaki then moves onto the time when Gainax were accused of tax evasion. After the success of Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1995, the company was audited and later found to have concealed 1.56 billion yen of profits. Then president Takeshi Sawamura and tax accountant Yoshikatsu Iwasaki were arrested on July 13th, 1999 for tax evasion and fraud [1, 2, 3].
Hideaki claims that wasteful randomness had become the norm in Gainax, causing business plans to be lost, and costs to be ignored. In 1997, Gainax gained greater control over commercialization of Evangelion from the Eva Production Committee. This also resulted in increased revenue for Gainax.
In spite of spending a lot of money and having a large number of employees, a lot of plans “went astray without success, leaving only losses.” Hideaki claims that management and “the person in charge” did not regret the failure. Hideaki stated “I didn’t care because I had money.”
However, the staff who created the worked seemingly suffered the most- gaining “almost no return.” Profits continued to grow from games and other products after the broadcast of Evangelion, but waste was still allegedly greater than what they earned.
In 1999, Sawamura was then arrested for tax evasion. Hideaki (then Director of Evangelion) was asked to apologize to TV Tokyo (who were broadcasting Evangelion), despite not knowing the details about the case until later.
Yamaga Hiroyuki took over as Gainax President after Sawamura stepped down, requesting Hideaki become part of the Board of Directors, as people would not trust Gainax otherwise. He even stated it could just be in name, and that he would not have to do anything. Hideaki agreed.
However, the “loose management” continued, and Hideaki took to his duties as being part of the Board more seriously (around 2003 to 2004). Checking “documents and figures”, he discovered there was “huge bias in salaries. […] I’m appalled that some non-performing employees are paid much higher than their Eva staff.” Hideaki’s pleading to management for better pay and internal systems (even after his retirement) went unheard.
Despite several more “crises,” Gainax recovered in 2004 thanks to “two major clients” and revenue from Evangelion branded pachinko games. The wasteful habits still continued, with management allegedly starting business propositions that had “little or no prospects.”
Hideaki’s opinions were also “not taken up” during internal meetings, and soon he felt no point in continuing as Director, and halted an original project to focus on Evangelion. Though Hideaki does state his original project was “just a sub-style of Eva.”
As Hideaki moved onto his next Evangelion project (a new film, most likely Rebuild of Evangelion), and did not choose Gainax to produce it. Hideaki cites new ideas were difficult to pitch, another TV series was currently being planned, and the younger staff would most likely avoid working on the project.
The main reason however, was to ensure more control over production costs and pay for staff – especially to transfer the success of the film onto those who helped create it. This resulted in Khara being launched in 2006.
Hideaki stepped down from Gainax’ board prior to founding Khara. At the time, Gainax understood that “Eva belongs to Anno,” and the revenue from commercial royalties was decided after discussions. The copyright management and commercialization was left to Gainax.
Due to changes in policies in Gainax around 2008, the Evangelion revenue going to Gainax decreased. In 2012, management issues caused royalty payments owed to Khara to be delayed. Then Gainax President Yamaga and Director Takeda Yasuhiro visited the company directly to resolve the issue.
In 2014, despite Khara not being repaid for a large sum, Takeda-san (a friend of Anno’s since they were students) suddenly begged Anno to lend him 100 million yen in three days. Feeling more doubts towards Gainax’ management (though still wanting to aid the studio that helped him for so long, and his friends), Hideaki agreed on one condition.
That condition was the transfer of commercialization rights and royalty distribution of Evangelion would have to be moved forward one year. Gainax requested that the Evangelion film be postponed, and an agreement was made for an interest-free loan.
Anno said he was shocked by his own stupidity in this decision – lending money to them under these conditions. However, he said they were friends since they were students. As they are still part of the anime industry, he wanted to help, so he decided to lend them money. Also, he did work for them for a long time, so he wanted to do something in return.
He thought he could help their management. In 2014 he asked Yamaga to buy out the rights for FLCL, Gunbuster, and Diebuster. Because of the condition of Gainax, he thought it would be difficult for them to produce anything new for those titles, so he thought about the future of those titles.
In the beginning Yamaga was happy with this proposal, and as they were going to discuss the details for the buyout, all of a sudden they suggested a buyout price that was something like six times the previous offer. There was no reason or explanation of the rise in the offer. The negotiations ended there. Later, in 2015 the rights were sold to another company, without Hideaki knowing.
In the same year, there was a large number of employee layoffs at Gainax. Hideaki suspected Gainax had sold the rights to another company that would pay the most of those titles. Hideaki states he felt like Gainax had prioritized money over their creative works, or the staff’s feelings.
As the rights were sold off to another company, Hideaki needed to know what was going on with their management and the money he was owed for royalties. He thought he could help them more, depending on the situation. Gainax told him they have no problems with management, and that they will pay him back as planned.
In 2016 however, Gainax stopped paying the money back. Hideaki also received no response when asking for an explanation, even when he emailed and called Yamaga. Later, Hideaki learned through media and those involved that numerous companies with “Gainax” in their name appeared (such as Fukushima Gainax).
While the management team kept founding more companies with the name “Gainax”, Hideaki heard Gainax itself were going to sell themselves to a foreign company. As he was searching for the truth, that unnamed foreign company reached out to him, and asked if he would direct movies for them if they bought out Gainax.
Hideaki felt there was a danger of Gainax selling the copyrights of the titles and documents of their creations to third party companies, all while still waiting to be paid back.
In order to protect their documents from being provided to the third-party companies, Hideaki requested a provisional garnishment from Gainax on August 1st 2016 (which was implemented on August 26th). Hideaki states this needed to happen, as the Gainax management team and Yamaga had not explained any details to him.
Even after it was implemented, Gainax allegedly did not tell Hideaki their plans to pay him back. This caused Hideaki (in order to protect their documents and copyrights from being sold to outsiders) to to sue Gainax for 100 million yen. The case was won by Khara on June 23rd, 2017.
Despite the win, it was discovered that a “very important documents” from the creation of the titles Hideaki and other staff were involved with had previously sold to Fukushima Gainax (now Gaina) without the creator’s knowledge.
Those documents were obtained by Khara through hard work and money through numerous people, and kept by ATAC (the non-profit organization Anime Tokusatsu Archive Centre), and with the permission of the companies related to the documents.
Hideaki states the entire debacle had left him saddened, over the fact that the former management team were not trying to take responsibility on themselves for their employees, their titles, or their audience.
Hideaki also alleges that it has been more than three and a half years since Gainax stopped paying back Khara, and neither the former president or management team have reached out to or apologized to him and Khara.
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Image: Diamond Online