An Interview with Animation Director Takeshi Honda

UK anime company Anime Limited are great for getting guests over to the UK, this year alone they had Makoto Shinkai the director of hit anime Your Name, Psycho-Pass director Naoyoshi Shiotani, plus anime director Michael Arias.

Most of these guests appeared at either the May or October 2016 MCM London Comic Con. Our last interview of the year is no means the least. Here’s our interview with animation director Takeshi Honda. He’s probably best known for his work on the rebuild of Evangelion movies. He’s an industry veteran having worked on the original Evangelion TV series and the original movies as well. He’s also recently directed his own short anime.

We caught up with Mr Honda at the MCM London Comic Con in October 2016 for an exclusive interview.

What makes him interesting to interview was that he’s worked with so many top notch directors, Hayao Miyazaki, Hideaki Anno, Satoshi Kon, Mamoru Hosoda and many more. From an interviewer’s stand point we could easily talk to him for a few hours about any of these individual directors to gain insight. We know academics who would have a million questions for Mr Honda and picking a limited set of questions was a great challenge. For this interview we carefully selected a range of questions to cover his career and we hope that you find these insights interesting.

Your CV looks like an otaku’s dream. You’ve worked on so many A-list titles at many different studios, so we’ve got to ask. How did you get into the animation industry and how did you get the opportunity to work on all these titles?

I just love drawings. Whether to be a cartoonist or animation designer, that’s what I thought when I was a child. When I was at junior school / high school there was this huge animation boom in Japan, so I thought animation is the way. I really want to do that. I saw Miyazaki’s Future Boy Conan, Battle Ship Yamato and also Gundam, really they’re all huge. I thought right! I really want to do this!

It’s not like I started out with major titles, I’ve got some works I really don’t want to talk about now, very traumatic!

You’ve done a lot of work on Evangelion, what was it like working on the original series?

When I first got involved, I really wasn’t very sure about it or very positive about it.

Gainax the production company hired me to work on this other feature film before Evangelion, it didn’t get made. So then apparently there were plans and it didn’t get made, what are we doing to do now? Mr Anno had to create something new because this plan didn’t go ahead, so he decided to go for Evangelion. That was a TV series, I was hired to do a feature film, with a TV series you don’t really see the end of it, no particular kind of schedule, that was why I really wasn’t feeling positive about it.

Were you surprised by how successful the show was and the huge impact it had on anime?

Mr Anno wanted to make something that was never done before and also he wanted to make something bigger than Gundam. Which probably he did. But you know, you feel on the production side (like me), I don’t really get that, I don’t really get why it was a big hit. I kind of feel like an outsider. I’m pretty sure it’s a great work, but I’m not really with the people.

You’re the first person we’ve interviewed who’s worked on every version Eva (TV, original films and rebuild films). What is like being associated with a title like EVA for this long?

Actually, no I didn’t plan it that way. So the last episode of the TV series and then we made a movie out of it, I think that film was great, but the working conditions wasn’t really great, we had some problems. It was a really good movie, but I didn’t really feel like I did my best. So I wasn’t really entirely happy about it. So when they made the new Evangelion movie feature series, I was still kind of unhappy, unsatisfied. Rather than given it to someone else and still be unhappy about it, I thought right, I’ll do it! I’ll just give it my best shot! And also I really want to make my film with that, so it has continued since.

What’s it like working with Hideaki Anno?

It’s very, very hard! You’d hate him! It’s a bit like you don’t want to see your heroes, maybe, so you adore him. You think “yes great!”, it’s a great opportunity and by the end of the project, you don’t like him as much as you used to. I think that’s what it is.

Why is that? Would he make you work very hard?

I really can’t just give you one example! But actually I like him now. But every time I’m done with one project, I’d really want to kill him! Then we can be friends again.

I did so many drawings and then you cut most of it!

Which is your favourite Eva Unit?

I can draw the first Eva Unit, I really can draw it, if you ask me I actually can do it now, but my favourite is the 8th, the pink one with Mari.

Who’s your favourite Eva pilot?

I like anything that’s easy to draw. So Asuka is my favourite!

What was the trickiest bit to animate in the new Evangelion movies?

Mr Anno likes things really simple. So he tends to have not many shots, not many cuts, so he doesn’t want things to move too much. Which I don’t agree, so sometimes I think that would make the whole scene really awkward. So I do something nice, make it flow naturally, then Mr Anno wouldn’t like it and cut the whole bit. That was really difficult!

One of the more recent titles you worked was Denno Coil. Working alongside fellow Eva and Rahxephon staff member Mitsuo Iso,. The show anticipates information connected networked cities, augmented reality and handheld computing wearables. Outside the fantasy elements of the story, does it amaze or scare you how close we are to making the tech and tech culture of Denno Coil a reality?

I was thinking more about the actual work than whether the story would be scary or anything, but I believe that Mitsuo was thinking ahead, yeah this could happen. But I thought there might be games similar to this storyline. What I was more aware of was the virtual pets, you can see it, but you can’t really touch it, you don’t feel it. That was difficult. The director said, there’s a dog you can see it, but you can’t really pick it up. When you’re working on animation, how do you draw something that’s not there? The director said, you know what I mean? I said, yeah, I know what you mean, but how do I do it? That was really difficult to create something that’s not there in animation. So I was more conscious about that sort of aspect, so I just thought oh my god he’s just giving me a hard time. But I thought at one point then again it’s something they can deal with in the direction, not the actual drawing, that kind of made me a little be easier about the whole process. So that kind of uneasiness of having to draw something that’s not there was what I was thinking more about than the stories.

Out of everything you’ve worked on, what title did you enjoy doing most? Was there any particular scene or thing to animate?

The most fun thing was 20min Walk From Nishi-Ogikubo Station, 2 Bedrooms, Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, 2mos Deposit, No Pets Allowed, I really enjoyed working on that.

The deadline was quite tight. Originally everything had to be finished in three months. So it was hard work. So I had to create something from nothing. The character design was relatively easy, but what I wanted to do was Princess Kaguya from Studio Ghibli. I wanted to make animation like illustration, that was what I had in mind. So I wanted to use that for this. So the character design was relatively easy, because of that, but the set up, where do we set the story? I had to come up with something from nothing and we didn’t have much time. So I thought, right! I can set this in my own kitchen! So that was the scene, that was the start. I started creating the story, but it took about two months to get there. Then the storyline changed again and changed again and changed again, so until we got the final script it was gone past the first two months! So I think we spend six months all in all and completely ignored the deadline. That was fun!

What’s it like working with the late Satoshi Kon?

Millennium Actress, that’s the work I remember the most. He was really, really talented, he could do everything, anything and he was once and assistant to Katsuhiro Otomo. So his drawing just were amazing and he could create great storylines. Back then Katsuhiro Otomo made Akira, so manga artists were shifting to animation. I think that’s why Satoshi Kon went into animation. He was able to beat any animation creators although he came from the manga background. I think he’s one of the top five talented artists ever.

So I really enjoyed working with him. it was kind of easy because he can do everything. He can draw everything. He was really good at pointing the right direction. In a way it was easier for us to just work with it. He was very clear with what he wanted. Also there are so many animation people who wanted to work like him. So many people understood his style. I think that made everything easier.

Satoshi Kon looked after his staff really well. He was very nice to me and I really liked working with him, but you really don’t want him as an enemy, he will be quite scary if he doesn’t like you! I really enjoyed working with him.

While nobody could replace his kind of talent, how do you feel the industry is doing in fostering the kind of talent he had in today’s crop of creators?

That’s a very interesting question. My company Khara has been really trying as well, but it’s really down to the natural personal talent, whether the young person has it or not, that pretty much determines everything I think. Anybody who is talented is really good anyway. So I think what we have to do now is we’ve found the right talent, how do we make them better? That’s really hard, but I think what I can say through my own experience is that you just have to learn on the job. So you just keep working, work harder. That’s the only way to nurture any talents.

What’s it like working with Hayao Miyazaki?!

It’s fun! I was actually working with him until July, (July gone). There are things that are not really easy or fun, but generally it’s fun. I had the opportunity to work literally next to him, his desk was right next to mine. He would keep talking. So basically I was saying yes, I was nodding and agreeing. That was actually quite fun. What he had to tell me was really interesting.

So the very first work of Miyazaki that I got involved in was Ponyo. Toward the end of the film. I did the last final few cuts, where they had a group hug with the grandmothers and the main characters. That’s my work. Apparently, he didn’t tell me directly, I heard from someone that Miyazaki said “Oh my god, I didn’t know he did this and I really wanted it and I didn’t realise somebody could actually do it”. He was really impressed with my work. So since then I just get offers from him and I’m really happy to work with him.

The hardest work was the mob scene in The Wind Rises. That was really, really difficult, because the station where the main characters meet you just have to think of the depth, all those people. Some people coming in the foreground. So I really had to keep drawing so many, many, many drawings! I really wanted to give up. I thought oh my god, my brain is going! Apparently Miyazaki heard I said that from somebody else and he would still apologise to me. “I’m really sorry, I’m giving you a hard time! I’m really sorry”. Obliviously I say, “Oh! No, no problem!” But it really was hard work. But then again it’s really a great experience and it’s such an honour to work with him.

Out of everyone you’ve worked with, who has surprised you the most?!

Akihiko Yamashita. Before I joined Gainax I was working in a place called Atelier Giga, that was the first studio that I joined. Yamashita wasn’t that old, he was probably only a year or two older than me, but he was so talented and I thought wow, someone my age is doing such a great job. I was really impressed and really surprised.


Otaku News would like to thank Takeshi Honda for giving such awesome interview answers, plus MCM London Comic Con for hosting Mr Hondaand of course Anime Limited who arranged everything. Anime Limited’s new edition of Evangelion 1.11 is available to pre-order on Blu-ray and DVD Combi Pack Collector’s Edition.


















Anisong – The Musical World of Anime – London January 2017

Anime fans in London looking for something fun to do in the new year will be interested to hear about the Japan Foundation’s Latest Talk on Anisong – The Musical World of Anime.

The talk is set to run on Wednesday 18th January 2017 from 6:45pm at Foyles Bookshop on Charing Cross Road. Featuring a talk by Dr Rayna Denison, lecturer at the University of East Anglia, the event will trace anime music’s brief historical journey while examining the impact it has had upon the anime industry and its viewers.

Following on from the talk, there will be a special performance by Aya Ikeda, the songstress behind the themes of the very famous anime series Pretty Cure (aka PreCure) a “magical girl” anime, as well as the opportunity to sing along too!

The talk is free to attend, but booking is required. We suggest booking early to avoid disappointment.

Details as follows:

Anisong – The Musical World of Anime

Date: 18 January 2017, from 6:45pm
Venue: Foyles Bookshop, Level 6
107 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0DT

From the onset of anime in Japan, the accompanying music has always been fine-tuned to the content of the anime as well as its audience. While the music style of each song varies and differs depending on the period, the songs used and created for anime are often passionate, melodic and almost always undeniably infectious. Recently the songs have evolved from mere accompaniments or frills to the anime to become more independent and acknowledged in their own right as a genre known as anisong (“Anime songs”).

Responding to this musical phenomenon, the Japan Foundation present a special event delving deep into the topic of anime music, which is today considered one of the main driving forces in the Japanese music industry. Featuring a talk by Dr Rayna Denison, lecturer at the University of East Anglia, the event will trace anime music’s brief historical journey while examining the impact it has had upon the anime industry and its viewers.

Following on from the talk, there will be a special performance by Aya Ikeda, the songstress behind the themes of the very famous anime series Pretty Cure (aka PreCure) a “magical girl” anime, as well as the opportunity to sing along too!

Come and immerse yourself in the musical world of anime and kick-off 2017 in style!

This event is free to attend but booking is essential. To book your place via Eventbrite, please click here.

Your Name UK DVD and Blu-ray Pre-order Details

Without doubt the surprise anime hit of the years has been Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. Anime Limited have just announced that the title is now available for pre-order from Amazon UK.

They’ve set the provisional release date for Monday 30th October 2017. They do however state that this date is likely to change and hopefully they’ll be able to release it earlier.

You can pre-order one of 3 editions via
Your Name on DVD from
Your Name on Blu-ray from
Your Name Collectors Edition on Blu-ray and DVD Combi-pack from

Anime Limited have confirmed at this time they are uncertain if there will be an Ultimate Edition. All editions will contain the movie dubbed in English and in Japanese with subtitles. They’ve yet to clarify the contents of each edition as it’s still early days yet.

You can read our review of Your Name and our interview with the film’s director Makoto Shinkai.

Kiki’s Delivery Service Theatrical Adaptation an Interview at the Southwark Playhouse

Date: 2016 December 14th Wednesday [15:33] | Posted By: Joe

The holiday season is always a good time to relax and catch a performance at the theatre. There’s always something for everyone in London. This year the Southwark Playhouse have looked to Japan for some inspiration and produced stage play of Kiki’s Delivery Service.

The title is best known as the much loved Studio Ghibli feature film, which is based on the book by Eiko Kadono. Being fans of Japan we were certainly intrigued. We caught up with the Southwark Play House’s Artistic Director and CEO Chris Smyrnios for an exclusive interview to find out more about the play.

Full Story

Out of all the material you could have chosen for a stage play, why did you decide to adapt Kiki’s Delivery Service for the stage?

Well each year we try to avoid doing the usual panto or Dickens adaptation and try to do something different that will appeal to a family audience. Kiki’s Delivery Service seemed like the ideal fit and Ms Kadono very kindly allowed us to adapt it for the stage.

Kiki's Delivery Service - Alice Hewkin

As the book is out of print and rather expensive to purchase on-line, did you have any trouble sourcing copies of the book for the play?

I didn’t have any trouble sourcing it, although I think I bought it online through a US supplier.

How much involvement has Eiko Kadono had with the play?

She’s been involved a bit although she lives in Japan so we’ve been sending her drafts and asking for her approval at each stage of development via email. She also came to see the production during previews and we were obviously delighted that she enjoyed it and stuck around to take photos with the cast and audience members after the show! She’s already made plans to come back and see it a few more times before she has to fly back to Japan.

How will Jiji be portrayed? Will he be a puppet? A human dressed as a cat? Or will it be a surprise?

Jiji is a puppet! Although his human operator is very much a part of the character too. Matthew Forbes, who plays Jiji, has worked on War Horse in productions of it all over the world and is a truly impressive puppeteer. We did had some early audience comments from people who admitted they were a bit nervous about how Jiji was going to be portrayed but thankfully, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far. I think he’s a character you really warm to throughout the production, through Matthew’s brilliant performance and his manipulation of the puppet.

Kiki's Delivery Service - Matthew Forbes, Alice Hewkin

Have there been any particular challenges adapting the book into a stage play?

Many challenges. Since the story is so fantastic the creative team have had to really think about how to represent the different parts of the story.

Have you been influenced by the Studio Ghibli anime, and the recent live action movie?

We very much wanted to represent the novel rather than the film and to create something that is unique to the medium and the creative team.

What response have you had so far about the production?

So far it seems to have been positive. It will be interesting to see what the dusty old critics think!

Kiki's Delivery Service - Jack Parker

So far you’ve been tight lipped about casting. As everyone been cast yet?

Everyone is cast. It is an ensemble of six.

Kiki's Delivery Service - Paksie Vernon, Alice Hewkin

Were there any challenges in the set design?

Again, many challenges, with the set design since it has to represent so many things like Kiki’s parental home, the town of Koriko, Osono’s Bakery etc. Simon Bejer, the designer, has done a great job in creating a set that reveals different things to set each scene.

Kiki's Delivery Service - Paksie Vernon

How will the flying scenes be portrayed?

We’ve used different techniques at different points during the show. You’ll have to come along to find out exactly what we do!

Thanks for your time Chris! We look forward to seeing the play soon!


Otaku News would like to thank Chris Smyrnios and the team at the Southwark Playhouse for taking time from their busy schedule to answer our questions.

Kiki’s Delivery Service will be running from Thursday 8th December 2016 until Sunday 8th January 2017 at the Southwark Playhouse in London.

Photo Credit: Richard Davenport


Matthew Forbes
Tom Greaves
Alice Hewkin
Anna Leong Brophy
Jack Parker
Paksie Vernon

Creative Team

Kate Hewitt

Simon Bejer

Video Designer
Andrzej Goulding

Composer & Sound Designer
Max Pappenheim

Lighting Designer
Elliot Griggs

Movement & Puppetry Director
Robin Guiver

Casting Director
Verity Naughton

Otaku News