nime America 1996 was a voice
actor's convention, illustrating that such a phenomenon is
growing in the United States. Toby Proctor ('Tuxedo Mask,'
Sailor Moon) drew crowds, as did Viz's own Matt Hill
('Laocorn,' Fatal Fury), Jason Gray-Stanford ('Godai,'
Maison Ikkoku), Paul Dobson ('Happosai,' Ranma 1/2), Janyse
Jaud ('Akemi,' Maison Ikkoku),and Cathy Weseluck ('Shampoo,'
Ranma 1/2). Of Japanese guests, there was but one--a man not
famous as an actor, animator, character designer, or
director.Yet the significance of Toshio Okada, the founder
and ex-president of Studio Gainax, was well-known to many
The story of how Okada and a group of fans with 8mm cameras
founded Gainax, the 'super-otaku' anime studio, has passed
into legend through Otaku no Video, the self-parody and
study of fandom. Okada himself (who appears loosely
disguised in the film) is known as the super-otaku, the
Otaking, alternately out of ridicule and respect. During
Okada's time, Gainax's features ranged from the
girls-and-mecha OAVs Top o Nerae! (Gunbuster), to the
Miyazaki-esque adventure Nadia, to the visionary alternate
civilization depicted in Wings of Honneamise. In 1992 Okada
left the company, which has since produced Neon Genesis
Evangelion and an increasing number of CD-ROM games such as
the Princess Maker series. He is now a university
lecturer--even though he himself entered college only to
join a science fiction club, dropping out after he did.
In two separate sessions Okada, whose frankness and humor
stand out among people associated with the industry, spoke
to fans and press. In English, and occasionally in Japanese
with translation, he answered questions from anime fans who
remembered the days of the late '80s when Gainax was the
studio every garage animator aspired to be -- and from fans
for whom A.D. Vision's Evangelion release will be their
first look at the studio Okada began. Fandom has changed a
lot since he, dressed in a Char Aznable suit, first sold
fanzines at Daicon...but, conversational with strange
questions and accessible with unexpected answers, Okada
still knows just what it's changed to.