Another guilty-pleasure read for me. Insufficient Direction (originally published 2002-2004) is a slice-of-domestic-life manga by Moyoco Anno. It is primarily a chronicle of her marriage to Hideaki Anno, an irreformable otaku and the creator of one of my favorite media of all time, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Broken up into about 20 short “episodes”, Insufficient Direction offers witty vignettes about their married life, and a tonne of anime references to boot.
It’s no secret to those who know me that I have a bit of an obsession with Hideaki Anno in general (and Neon Genesis Evangelion in particular), so I was already primed to enjoy the work.
Moyo describes “Director-kun” in his natural/domestic environment, and it really is just too fun to look away. Hideaki Anno is something of an otaku’s otaku (just look at his depiction in the pre-Evangelion film Otaku no Video), with a genuinely unironic love for tokusatsu films and all things Gundam, Ultraman, and Kamen Rider-related. Your heart can’t help but be warned by the scenes of Hideaki waking up early in the morning to catch the 7:30 AM broadcast of a children’s ninja show (doubly so if you remember that he made End of Evangelion).
Moyoco Anno (who depicts herself as an infant called “Rompers” throughout) is best known for her female-targeted josei manga, but is quite the otaku herself. (She notes early on that only in comparison to Hideaki is she “normal” in her interests). Their marriage might not be perfect, but it is clearly loving. They argue over collections of shopping bags and cereal box toys, sing along to anime soundtracks, hand out doujinshi to the guests at their wedding. But they also fret about their weight, try to stay healthy, manage their finances, and go to the spa in Australia. It is, indeed, a lovely relationship to read.
The forward of the book contains something like 30 pages of annotations explaining all the references to Japanese pop culture made within the manga. If you’re a lonely nerd like me and obsessively want to compile a list of the major influences on Hideaki Anno’s work, then this is an amazing resource. There is an anime adaptation of the series (which is only about 30 minutes long in total), which is just as good as the manga. (Incidentally, this is the first time since I think Evangelion itself that I’ve completely read the manga for an anime I’ve watched). The manga contains a few episodes that aren’t included in the anime, though sometimes the flow of the anime is better-suited to landing the humor. Both are highly recommended.