The eraser that only had “Erase it with me!” written on it flew off the shelves.
“To be honest, my first impression when I looked at the proposal of Neon Genesis Evangelion was, ‘What on Earth is this?’(laughs). Because Eva was so different from all the other works I’d encountered till then. But the main staff, including director Anno, grew up on huge robots. The anime fans of their generation, they basically love huge robots, and they brought great happiness to the core fans with the OVA Aim for the Top! once. So at first I thought, maybe they want to pay homage to the huge robots and special effects of the past with a TV anime series? But the robots were different in shape, and instead of fusion transformation, they were plugged in with a power cable (laughs). I couldn’t understand with what purpose in mind they were trying to make this by only looking at the proposal, but I felt it right away after I watched the first episode, that a great anime had just started.”
And the people around you, just like you mentioned in the beginning, fell into a state of panic.
“It was because even though merchandise was in high demand, the materials to make them were overwhelmingly lacking. The picture materials at our disposal were limited, too. And that’s when I thought about products using symbols and motifs as their design material. We started making products that had some inside stuff from the anime, the NERV logo or only super bold Mincho letters, for instance. They sold really well. It’s not that rare nowadays, but back in the day there were surprisingly few anime goods with design other than character illustrations. Even the joke-ish items sold well. For example, the eraser that only had “Erase it with me!” written on it in super bold Mincho font, or the beach ball that had the round manifestation of the 12th Angel, Leliel, printed on it (laughs). The phenomenon that the customers are happy just because of a hint to the anime was totally new to me. And on the Eva side, there was a rich soil for understanding the fun and playfulness (in those products).”
One-half desperation and one-half fun. The huge “gag product” hits that were accidentally born from the mixture of those two greatly influenced Animate’s product development later on.
“In any case, I proposed all the ideas I could think of, so the range of products has grown considerably. For example, the first Eva goods I made were floppy discs, mouses, and portable speakers. Food such as “Evangelion Curry” were one of the first tries as well. This was a type of retort pouch curry intended for anime fans rather than children. At first, it had a design of Shinji wearing Indian clothing as a joke, but as expected, it was no good (laughs). When making something into a product, what’s important is whether you can express the world of Eva above understanding it, including the design. I understood that difference while doing it. Of course, the making of such products was made possible only because of the style of Eva.”