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.