Hideaki Anno has had many job descriptions and worked on many projects in his more than three decades as an animator, but he is best known as the creator of the enduringly popular "Evangelion" sci-fi franchise.

Beginning life as "Shin Seiki Evangelion (Neon Genesis Evangelion)," a 26-part series broadcast from 1995 to 1996 on TV Tokyo, the franchise has since produced five feature films, as well as manga, games, character goods and even a theme park attraction. From being a cult phenomenon with a small, if dedicated, fan base, "Evangelion" in all its permutations has become a mainstream success in Japan, with fans around the world.

The basic concept is simple: Huge bio-machines called Evangelions, or Evas, piloted by specially recruited teenagers, battle monstrous giants known as Angels that are wreaking havoc on the human survivors of a global calamity.