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Mamoru Oshii (押井守 Oshii Mamoru; born August 8, 1951 in Tokyo) is a Japanese animation and live-action film writer and director. Presently, Oshii lives in Atami, Shizuoka prefecture, Japan with his dogs – a basset hound named Gabriel and a mutt named Daniel.
As a student, Mamoru Oshii was fascinated by the film La Jetée by Chris Marker as well as the films of Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Andrzej Munk and Ingmar Bergman.
In 1976, he graduated from The Fine Arts Education School of the Education Department of Tokyo Liberal Arts University ("Tokyo Gakugei Daigaku"). The following year, he entered Tatsunoko Productions and worked on his first anime as animation director on Ippatsu Kanta-kun. In 1980, he moved to Studio Pierrot under the supervision of his mentor, Nagayuki Toriumi. During production of the Nils no fushigi na tabi ("Wonderful Adventures of Nils") and Kagaku Ninja-Tai Gatchaman II TV series, Oshii first met longtime collaborators, writer Kazunori Ito and painter and character designer Yoshitaka Amano.
Mamoru Oshii's work as director and storyboard artist of the animated Urusei Yatsura TV series brought him into the spotlight. Following its success, he directed two Urusei Yatsura films: Urusei Yatsura: Only You in 1983 and Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer in 1984. While the first film was adapted directly from the series, the second film was a big departure and an early example of Mamoru Oshii's contemporary style. It deviated so far from the original manga by Rumiko Takahashi, she barely approved the script.
In the midst of his work with Studio Pierrot, Oshii took on independent work and directed the first direct-to-video OVA series, Dallos, in 1983. In 1984, he left Studio Pierrot and has remained independent ever since. He next wrote and directed Tenshi no Tamago ("Angel's Egg") released in 1985, a surreal film with biblical themes featuring the painting-like character designs of Yoshitaka Amano. The producer of the film, Toshio Suzuki, later founded the renowned Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. Following the release of the film, Miyazaki and Takahata began collaborating with Mamoru Oshii on his next film, Anchor. The film was cancelled early in the initial planning stages when the trio had artistic disagreements. Despite their differences, Toshio Suzuki and Studio Ghibli would later help Oshii with his production of Innocence: Ghost in the Shell (2004). To this day, Oshii and Miyazaki maintain skeptical, but respectful, views of each other's films. Oshii criticizes Miyazaki as being too idealistic, unrealistic, and ruthless with his workers. Miyazaki criticizes Oshii as being too much of a philosopher and not enough of an entertainer in his work.
In the late 1980s, Oshii was solicited by his friend Kazunori Ito to join Headgear as a director. Headgear was an anime/manga collective of notable industry professionals formed as a creative team to achieve greater publicity for their work and sell their manga to anime sponsors for film production. The studio pooled the different talents of Kazunori Ito (screenwriter), Masami Yuuki (scenarist/concept), Kenji Kawai (music composer), Yutaka Izubuchi (mechanical designer), Kazuchika Kise (animation director), Akemi Tadaka (character designer), and Hiromasa Ogura (art director). Together they were responsible for the Mobile Police Patlabor OVA (1988), Twilight Q Episode 2: Meikyu Bukken File 538 (1987), and the Patlabor: The Movie (1989), and Patlabor 2: The Movie (1993) films. Released in the midst of Japan's economic crisis, the Patlabor series and films projected a dynamic near-future world in which grave social crisis and ecological challenges were overcome by technological ingenuity, and were a big success in the mecha genre.
Between production of the Patlabor movies/series, Oshii directed three live action films. The first was The Red Spectacles (1987) which led into his later work Stray Dogs: Kerberos Panzer Cops (1991). The third was Talking Head (1992), a surreal look at Oshii's view on film executed through a plot about an anime production where the director is missing and has to be replaced by a new one.
In 1995, Mamoru Oshii released his landmark animated cyberpunk film, Ghost in the Shell, in Japan, the United States, and Europe simultaneously. It hit the top of the US Billboard video charts in 1996.
After a 5-year hiatus from directing to work on other projects, Oshii returned to directing with the long-awaited Japanese-Polish live action film Avalon shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001. His latest animated film Innocence: Ghost in the Shell was selected to compete at 2004 Cannes Film Festival for the coveted Palme d'Or prize, the first animated film in this top category and only the sixth animated film shown at Cannes. The festival described Innocence as a film in which "the political tone has given way to a philosophical one, a hymn to life. Furthermore, the technical rendering is much more formal, mixing 2D, 3D and computer graphics."
Mamoru Oshii's films typically follow a rhythm of slow-paced exposition in near-silence, punctuated by several sequences of fast action. His visual style is easily recognizable with long dramatic moments of beautiful images in montages in which nothing significant generally occurs. Frequently repeated elements include flocks of birds (like Hong Kong action director John Woo), and basset hounds similar to his own. The basset hound was seen most prominently Ghost in the Shell 2, and was a major plot point in his live action film, Avalon.
Oshii is especially noted for how his directing style has uniquely influenced the films for Urusei Yatsura, Patlabor, and Ghost in the Shell. In their original manga or anime forms, these three titles exhibited a mood that was more frantic slapstick comedy (Urusei Yatsura) or convivial seriocomic (Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell). Oshii, in adapting the works created a slower, more grey overcast atmosphere especially noticeable in Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer and Patlabor: The Movie. For the Ghost in the Shell movie, Oshii elected to leave out the humor and character banter of Masamune Shirow's manga, resulting in a presentation reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick, who himself considered Mamoru Oshii a "genius."
Oshii also wrote and directed numerous animated movies and live-action films based on his personal worldview influenced by the anti-Anpo (U.S.-Japan Security Treaty) student movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Because the student movements were falling apart by the time Oshii became involved, he has a much more cynical worldview than older members of the same movements, like Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. The first film to touch on his political background was the live action film, Jigoku no banken: Akai megane, known in English as The Red Spectacles (1987). This film, set in the same world as Hiroyuki Okiura's film Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (for which Oshii wrote the script), is about a former member of the special unit of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force dealing with a fascist government.
In addition to his directing work, Oshii is a prolific screenwriter and author of manga and novels. He wrote the Kereberos (Panzer Corps) manga drawn by Kamui Fujiwara (1991), which was later translated into English and published by Dark Horse under the name Hellhounds Panzer Cops. In 1994, he wrote the manga Seibu Shinjuku Sensen Ijou Nashi ("All's Quiet on the Seibu Shinjuku Front"). He wrote the script for the manga Seraphim drawn by Satoshi Kon and published by Animage between May 1995 and November 1996. He also wrote the script of Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade and was involved in the supervision of Blood: The Last Vampire in 2000.
- Urusei Yatsura: Only You (1983)
- Urusei Yatsura II: Beautiful Dreamer (1984)
- Patlabor: The Movie (1989)
- Maroko (1990): edited movie version of Gosenzosama Banbanzai! OVA
- Patlabor 2: The Movie (1993)
- Ghost in the Shell (1995)
- Innocence: Ghost in the Shell (2004)
Live action films
- The Red Spectacles aka Jigoku no banken: Akai megane (1987)
- Stray Dog: Kerberos Panzer Cops (1991)
- Talking Head (1992)
- Avalon (2001)
- Killers: .50 Woman segment (2003)
- Dallos (1983)
- Angel's Egg aka Tenshi no Tamago (1985)
- Twilight Q Episode 2: Meikyu Bukken File 538 (1987)
- Patlabor: The Mobile Police (1988)
- Gosenzosama Banbanzai! (1989)
- Urusei Yatsura (1981 - 1984)
- Patlabor (1989 - 1990)
- Todo no Tsumari ("When All's Said and Done") (1984)
- Kenrou Densetsu ("Legend of Wolf-Dog") (1988)
- Seibu Shinjuku Sensen Ijou Nashi ("All's Quiet on the Seibu Shinjuku Front") (1994)
- Seraphim (1995)
- Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (2000)
- MiniPato: Mobile Police Patlabor Minimum (2002)
- Blood: The Last Vampire (2000)
- Mezame No Hakobune (2005)
Innocence: Ghost in the Shell
On hearing about a nomination for the film:
"This is only the 5th time that an animated film has been screened in competition in the history of Cannes Film Festival. I am very grateful for the film to receive this honor, as this nomination is yet more proof that Japanese animation (Anime) is finally being recognized as a "movie." However, I am not too happy about having to wear a tuxedo, but I know that it's part of my job as a director. Wish us luck."
On the origins of the film:
"When Production I.G first proposed the project to me, I thought about it for two weeks. I didn't make Innocence as a sequel to Ghost in the Shell. In fact I had a dozen ideas, linked to my views on life, my philosophy, that I wanted to include in this film. [...] I attacked Innocence as a technical challenge; I wanted to go beyond typical animation limits, answer personal questions and at the same time appeal to filmgoers."
On his narrative intentions:
"for Innocence, I had a bigger budget than for Ghost in the Shell. I also had more time to prepare it. Yet despite the economic leeway, abundant details and orientations, it was still important to tell an intimate story. [...] Personally, I adore the quotes in the film. It was a real pleasure for me. The budget and work that went into it contributed to the high quality of imagery. The images had to be up to par, as rich as the visuals.”
"This desire to include quotes by other authors came from Godard. The text is very important for a film, that I learned from him. It gives a certain richness to cinema because the visual is not all there is. Thanks to Godard, the spectator can concoct his own interpretation. [...] The image associated to the text corresponds to a unifying act that aims at renewing cinema, that lets it take on new dimensions.”
"I think that Hollywood is relying more and more on 3D imaging like that of Shrek. The strength behind Japanese animation is based in the designers' pencil. Even if he mixes 2D, 3D, and computer graphics, the foundation is still 2D. Only doing 3D does not interest me."
On digital movies :
"On the digital level, all movies become ‘anime’."
On Studio Ghibli's personality:
"I think Studio Ghibli is (like) the Kremlin. The real one is long gone, but it's still sitting in the middle of the field in Higashi Koganei (Ghibli's address) . But in a sense, there is a reason for its existence, meaning, I think it plays a certain role by existing. Just like those steel-like athletes could not be produced other than in the communist countries, a certain kind of people can not be produced by the principles of the market economy."
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