I have a love hate relationship with Hideaki Anno, better known as the sad robot man who made Neon Genesis Evangelion. On the one hand I love some of his deeper character driven works, but on the other I also hate his sometimes pretentious attitude, his false use of "symbolism," and his wishy washy attitude on what his work means. However, I'm not going to talk about any of that today. Instead, I'm going to call one of the biggest names in anime a hypocrite.
Having watched the recent Me!Me!Me! video on a recent thread, which Anno seems to have been involved in, at least spiritually, I've been thinking about his criticism of the Otaku culture. And, for the most part, I agree with the criticisms he's made, both in that video and in the original Eva series. My problem is that he seems to say one thing and do another.
One of his earlier series was a little show called Gunbuster, a mecha series that served as a precursor to Eva. While it is relatively inoffensive, it does contain a trace amount of the fan service and breast jiggling that has, unfortunately, grown in prevalence in certain circles of the anime industry. A feature that primarily appeals to members of the Otaku culture, I may add. Furthermore, he gave us this little gem in an interview when he was younger:
AL: Yet, there are some fans that no longer go out with real girls...
HA: It is true that some fans of animation display unfortunate behavior.
AL: And yet you continue to create this kind of characters for them.
HA: You need to understand that Japanese animation is an industry that is, for the most part, male, and as is quite evident, everything is made for their gratification. Further, it is more gratifying for us to draw this sort of character, rather than old grandmothers.
Now, I found this to be rather offensive when I read it for the first time, as it seemed to encapsulate everything I disliked about the anime industry. What struck me, however, is the fact that it was ANNO who said this. The man who created Rei Ayanami, partly, as a deconstruction of the Otaku fanbase. The man who essentially tore apart the harem genre in EoE. The man who, alongside Miyazaki, has shown open disdain for the Otaku fanbase and the current state of animation. The difference is that Miyazaki has kept his hands clean, and has always created strong female characters. Anno on the other hand seems to be a mixed bag.
One could say he saw the light after finishing Eva, becoming successful, and settling down and starting a family. Perhaps he was a former Otaku who had simply reformed himself. But problem is that, in some ways, he's gotten worse. He created a new character, Mari, who served little purpose other then to be a fan service girl in a series known for criticizing fan service characters. His company then marketed the hell out of the merchandising and little figurines they make there. And yet, just recently, he released a music video that, long story short, criticized the Otaku culture, and even had the nerve to include the Eva merchandising as part of the video.
My point is, where does he come off criticizing a sub culture that he actively panders to? He's always had a tumultuous relationship with fans, who have sometimes sent him death threats, and yet, in many ways, he actively markets to them. Indeed, he actually comes off as an Otaku himself. How can he claim that the Otaku are ruining the anime medium (a valid criticism) when he, himself, is an enabler? At least Miyazaki stuck to his principles, however controversial his opinions may be.