Before I interviewed Mamoru Oshii, his publicist asked if I would need an interpreter. “He tends to mumble,” she explained. No, I didn’t need an interpreter, but I did turn the volume of my tape recorder on high, fortunately. Looking a decade younger than his 52 years, with a mane of unruly black hair, Oshii spoke rapidly in a croaky, whispery monotone, as though, after meeting the press nonstop for days, he was on the verge of vocal collapse. But for all his legendary shyness (it was the most eye-contactless interview I’ve ever had), his tumbles of words had the assurance and fluidity of one who has long been king of the rich imaginary domain that is “Innocence.”
Dolls are an important motif in “Innocence,” but the attitude toward them is quite different from that of a film like “Toy Story.” There is a sense that the dolls — especially the “gainoids” — have a human spirit, but at the same time are not quite human.