Nausicaa: A Miyazaki and Anno Love Story

SHOWA 59 (1984)

With works such as Princess Mononoke and Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, Hayao Miyazaki has turned anime into one of Japanese culture’s crown jewels. Hideaki Anno continues to create hit after hit with the release of the Rebuild of Evangelion series. The two great men of Japanese animation are share a master-apprentice relationship, but are also rivals, says producer (and president) Suzuki Toshio of Studio Ghibli.

Hayao and Hideaki first met on the set of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Looking back, not only was Nausicaa Miyazaki’s breakout work, it changed the status of anime itself. It was the first time I’d been involved in the early stages of production. Top Craft, the studio that produced Nausicaa, was the predecessor to Studio Ghibli.

Five months before the movie’s release, we were beset by delays. In the fall of 1983, we declared a “state of emergency” at the studio. It was then that Hideaki Anno, a recent dropout from Osaka University of the Arts, showed up at our doorstep in Asagaya.


He looked like a warrior in training who’d just crashed a dojo. He even brought the keyframes for an anime had created. Hayao saw those sketches and hired him immediately. Most artists in the anime industry start by animating before moving on to key animation, so this was an unprecedented move.

Hayao didn’t simply like Anno’s art. He also loved his style. I remember he looked (well, he still looks) liked a terrorist― tall, almost foreign. When he spoke, he stared straight at you, eyes unmoving, unblinking. He had the intimidating intensity of a man about to be martyred for a greater cause.

When we hired him, the first surprise he sprang on us was the fact that he was homeless. He literally came to Tokyo with nothing but the clothes on his back. He’d been sleeping at his workplace. He drew cels all day and slept at his desk at night. Wake up, draw, sleep some more. That was his life.

Hideaki was in charge of the scene depicting the God Warrior’s disintegration. The God Warrior was this artificial colossus, large enough to fit a human in the palm of its hand. During Nausicaa’s climax, this gargantuan being disintegrates and crumbles. If you’ve seen the movie, you may remember that there were many small details and movements in that scene. It’s quite complicated. It’s a scene that had every key animator recoiling in fear.


Why did Hayao leave such an important and difficult scene in the hands of a complete rookie? Hideaki’s art was very good, but more importantly, the energy he exuded was so intense. Anno’s God Warrior was incredibly viscous in the way it collapsed. Every veteran animator knows how to make movements fluid― therefore, for a scene like that, it was necessary to find someone who didn’t know such techniques. I think Hayao’s foresight is really quite something.

The scene’s about 90 seconds long, but it took Hideaki around 3 months to complete. When Hayao checks his staff’s work, there’s often quite a lot of cutting and adding involved, but he left Hideaki’s work more or less untouched. They say that if Hayao had tried to edit Hideaki’s scenes, the movie would have never been released (laughs). In the final product, that scene is basically all Hideaki’s work.

Nausicaa was the only Miyazaki that Anno worked on. Four years later, he crashed through our doors again when Isao Takahata was making Grave of the Fireflies. He never came back after that. Like a warrior in training, once he’s learned the master’s tricks, he would leave and go somewhere else.

When Neon Genesis Evangelion aired in 1995, I was very happy that it was an instant hit. When Hayao saw the Evas, he said, “Those are God Warriors.” I thought so too. Last year, during the Hideaki Anno exhibit at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, I wrote that “The origins of Eva are Ultraman and the God Warrior.” We made a special tokusatsu short for the exhibit called “The God Warriors Appears in Tokyo”, in which God Warriors destroy Tokyo.

When I meet Anno, he sometimes tells me that he wants to create a sequel to Nausicaa. According to him, he considers Evangelion a continuation of Nausicaa, done in his own way. It’s amazing how much he was influenced by Nausicaa. Those short three months he spent at our office ended up defining everything about him.


Hayao often praises Hideaki for his frank, straightforward style. I think it’s because Hayao’s a straightforward, honest person. Hideaki seems to like Hayao too. Every once in a while, he’ll come visit us. He’s comfortable around Hayao.

Anno is ruthless in his criticism, though. Evangelion: Death and Rebirth was showing in theatres around the same time as Princess Mononoke. Everyone billed it a showdown between master and pupil. When Anno was asked about Mononoke, he criticized it harshly― he said it wasn’t deft. The technical aspects of the movie had left him wanting. It says a lot about his expectations towards Miyazaki. (Incidentally, he did praise Ponyo, saying that the composition of the film was good.)

I think that movies are becoming less and less relevant. It’s harder for them to become cultural phenomena. Anno’s trying his best to change that with his Rebuild of Evangelion series. I think the next ten years belong to him.

This July, we’ll see the release of Miyazaki’s new work, The Wind Rises, as well as Takahata’s Kaguya-hime. The Wind Rises is about the life and career of Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter designer Jiro Horikoshi, based on the novel by Tatsuo Hori. Anno told Miyazaki that if there’s a scene with Zeros flying through the sky, he wanted to animate that. If that happens, it’ll be the first time in 29 years they’ve worked together. Perhaps we’ll see another stand-off between pupil and master.

Originally published by Bungei Shunjuu.

2 responses to “Nausicaa: A Miyazaki and Anno Love Story

  1. Pingback: Nausicaä 2 Sure Seems Like It Could Happen | Kotaku Australia·

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