Toshio Okada at Anime America '96

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 attendees.

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.



©1996 Viz Communications, Inc.