With two feature films set to debut before the end of the year, you’d have thought Studio Ghibli grabbed as much media attention as possible. But the venerated anime production house managed to put itself even more squarely in the spotlight with the announcement regarding its upcoming feature film Kaze Tachinu, or The Wind Rises.

The film’s main character will not be voiced by a veteran voice actor. That in itself isn’t so surprising, considering Ghibli’s past casting of singers and Japanese drama stars, Takuya Kimura and Junichi Okada, for the heroes of its previous movies, Howl’s Moving Castle, Tales from Earthsea, and 2011’s From Up On Poppy Hill. Like them, the lead male voice actor for The Wind Rises is a famous member of the entertainment industry with hordes of fans. However, many of them don’t know what he sounds like, because the main character will be played by Evangelion director Hideaki Anno.

When first offered the role, Anno was hesitant to accept. However, a personal appeal from Studio Ghibli head Hayao Miyazaki, who is back in the director’s chair for The Wind Rises, convinced the 52-year-old Evangelion franchise-runner to take on his first major voice acting role.

This won’t be the first film featuring the collaborative efforts of Anno and Miyazaki. Anno has thought of the older animator as a mentor since working as an animator on Miyazaki’s breakout hit Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind in 1984, and later was part of the animation staff for 1988’s Grave of the Fireflies, also produced by Studio Ghibli.

Previously, Anno has lent his voice to bit characters in a handful of anime, most recently in Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, broadcast on satellite TV in 2002. He also made a cameo in the live-action film Cutie Honey, for which he served as director.

The Wind Rises focuses on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the engineer who became the designer of the Zero fighter plane used by the Japanese military in World War II. Yahoo! Japan feels Anno is an apt choice to deliver Horikoshi’s masculine, rapid-fire, and clearly annunciated dialogue. The film is set to open in Japan on July 20.

So how did Anno feel after returning to the recording booth after more than a decade, and working with the amount of lines a lead character has for the first time?

“It was hard,” he said with a tired smile.

Hold on, he was tired because he worked hard, and he smiled? Enjoy it while you can, Eva fans. It’s not often that Anno gives us an ending that’s both happy and completely understandable.

Source: Yahoo!
Top image: Studio Ghibli