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Mamoru Oshii

by Judit Kawaguchi

Animation and live-film writer and director Mamoru Oshii, 56, is best known for making the animated 1995 movie “Ghost in the Shell,” which was a strong influence on the Hollywood movie “The Matrix” (1999). The work Oshii is most satisfied with is the 2004 sequel to that film, “Innocence” (which was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival), mostly because it features his beloved dog, Gabriel. Both films are based on the work of manga artist Shirow Masamune. Some of the pair’s visionary predictions about a still imperfect technological future where artificially enhanced humans, or cyborgs, connected by an almost infinite network of man-machine interaction in both the real and online world, are already becoming reality. Oshii likes to liken himself to a dog, so perhaps you could say they were barking up the right tree. Right now, Oshii and the studio Production I.G. are busy licking into shape a new animation, about which they will say no more.

Japanese feel free and creative within the confines of a controlled environment. For hundreds of years we painted and mass-printed images, but we always drew the lines first and then colored between them, which is exactly how animation is made in this country. Japan is the world leader in manga and anime because we love lines, as they create a safety net to work within. Lines keep us straight.

Tools of the trade deserve respect. Everything has a spirit, and we Japanese sense it, whether it is in a mountain, a doll or a kitchen knife. Therefore, we usually give names to our tools; we treat them as partners. Once they are broken, we make elaborate ceremonies to thank them for their service and hard work. For example, we place old needles in tofu, and we pay our respects to them in a Shinto ceremony called harikuyo- (literally “mourning needles”). I named my first NEC computer Basset 68,000 and I still keep its brain, its hard disk, in a drawer. I can never throw it away.

Women run Japan and not in the right direction. Japanese wives boss their husbands around, and the smartest way to deal with these overpowering women is to give in to them. At home, I behave just like a dog: I show my appreciation to my wife and always apologize in advance, even if I have done nothing wrong. Of course, she gets mad anyhow, so it is best to stay at work. I think this is universal, though: Men are struggling and losing out to stronger women, but I find many foreign women a lot gentler than their Japanese counterparts.

The shogun, or general, has a lot more stress than the foot soldier. As a director, I have all the responsibility, and I have noticed that bossing people around is more tiring than following orders.

Dogs have instincts, and it’s wise to follow them.I adore my two dogs, Daniel and Gabriel, and I listen to them; if they like someone, he or she is definitely a good person.

Fantasies are healthy, even when they are violent. Japan produces some of the most intense and erotic manga and anime, yet we have a lot less crime in real life than in other countries. We satisfy ourselves in fiction, and it stops us from acting out.

Animators need more support. Whenever I’m working in a production studio, I feel like a primary school teacher. Creators tend to be like children inside a protected environment, but a harsh, adult, business-based reality is waiting for them out there. Many great talents do not succeed because they cannot handle the real world.

Japan’s greatest treasure is its language. The Japanese language is very flexible and open, and we have been freely importing from many languages in every time period. Our language is always evolving, and that says a lot about our whole culture.

The sun might be the star, but for us Japanese, the leading role belongs to the moon. We prefer the moon’s poetic atmosphere to the power of the sun. We have many beautiful stories about how the moon gently reflects the sun’s light. This is how Japanese want to be: always second, never showing off. I am like that, too. I am so glad Hayao Miyazaki is the No. 1 anime director.

Non-Japanese who love Japan become more Japanese than the Japanese. I guess they already might have the typical Japanese characteristics of ambiguousness and lack of aggression at the start, and these just get enhanced as they master the Japanese language and get deeper into the culture.

Manga and anime fans are already otaku (obsessive fans), regardless of nationality.They are all over the world and in every walk of life. They can survive because they are educated and can make money. It sure costs a lot to be an otaku.

Music is as important as imagery. Kenji Kawai’s music is responsible for 50 percent of my films’ successes. I can’t do anything without him. He is a genius at music, but he is also a bum at life. I never get tired of him because his answers are always different from mine, even though we have been together for 20 years.

Animals need more protection. My dream is to set up an animal rescue force, similar to those that exist in other countries, where the officials not only help animals but have the authority to arrest those who hurt them.

Those who torture animals deserve severe punishment. I feel like giving them all the death penalty because it’s the worst kind of crime, and I rather suspect that such predators usually move on to children next. Also, if a man hurts a woman, he should get a life sentence.

Pamper those you love while you can. Atami, in Shizuoka Prefecture, has the best climate for my dogs, so I moved there. We walk the mountains, take onsen (hot spring) baths together and enjoy the good life. They eat better food than me. I get soba noodles and they chew on veggies, meat and rice. They deserve it!

One can never be the same after losing a loved one.I’m in constant fear about the inevitable death of my two dogs, Gabriel, 13, and Daniel, who is maybe 16 now. I’ll never be the same without them. Even now, I have a big hole in my heart for my cat, which died years ago.

Little white lies make people happy. I love people and I often resort to telling them what they want to hear. When I say such things, I even believe it myself.