Neon Genesis Evangelion and the fan legends about its budget control

1995 anime TV series Neon Genesis Evangelion is universally regarded as the greatest anime series ever created. There are many debates on whether it truly deserves that. Regardless, even its harshest critics cannot deny its importance to and influence on anime as an art form.

You might say that with great significance comes a great number of rumors, speculations, and legends. Among these the most popular stories revolve around the series’ supposed “duget control”. Though their reasoning may seem solid, these rumors or legends have not been, and likely won’t ever be, confirmed by Gainax, the production company behind the series, or Hideaki Anno, the creator.

These legends, though their true origins remain unclear, are likely created to explain the controversial artistic decisions throughout the series. Legend has it that Hideaki Anno had decided to create the show in a very impulsive and instinctual manner: there would be no script or even an over-arching outline; production would begin on every episode exactly one week before the episode was scheduled to air. As a result, most of their budget was already spent by the time it came to the last few episodes (there were 26 episodes in total). The legend would claim that this insufficiency in budget is the reason behind scenes such as: a completely static shot of two characters – no dialogue, no movement, no expression – in an elevator that runs for 3 minutes long; an entire scene that, besides the conversation between two characters happening off-screen, shows nothing but a static shot of an apartment bedroom mirror, table, and ashtray. And, of course, the infamously “minimalistic” episodes 25 and 26 that look like unfinished storyboard materials rather than animation.


The informant has just finished his undergraduate studies. He would consider himself to have been an avid fan of Japanese anime, manga, and games for more than 6 years. More than simply watching and consuming, he also actively contributes to the community, in the form of reviews, articles, discussions, and translation works. He told me of this folklore as a part of his collection of interesting facts/tales from the anime community.


When asked why he decided to select this piece of folklore, he replied simply that it was one of the most popular and enduring legends in the anime community.


These legends reflect what happens when a work of art house obscurity is met with extreme mainstream popularity – a phenomenon unique to anime. We see that in such a case where the creator does not want to explain any of his artistic choices, folkloric stories will be created and widely circulated as substitute explanations for these obscurities.