Mamoru Oshii (押井守 Oshii Mamoru; born August 8, 1951 in Tokyo) is a Japanese animation and live-action film director and writer famous for his philosophy-oriented storytelling. Presently, Oshii lives in Atami, Shizuoka prefecture, Japan with his dogs – a basset hound named Gabriel (ガブリエル) and a mutt named Daniel (both are featured in Tachiguishi Retsuden).
In terms of directing, Oshii has stated his approach is directly opposite the Hollywood formula. For Mamoru Oshii, the visuals are the most important aspect, then the story and the characters come last.
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, Hisayuki Toriumi. During production of the Nils no Fushigina Tabi ("Wonderful Adventures of Nils") and Kagaku Ninja-Tai Gatchaman II TV series, Oshii first met longtime collaborator, writer Kazunori Itō, 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 1: Only You in 1983 and Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer in 1984. While the first film, though an original story, continued much in the spirit of the series, Beautiful Dreamer (which was also written by Oshii') was a significant departure and an early example of his now contemporary style. It deviated so far from the original manga by Rumiko Takahashi that 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 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 canceled 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 2 (2004). To this day, Oshii and Miyazaki maintain skeptical, but respectful, views of each other's films – Oshii considers Miyazaki too idealistic, unrealistic, and ruthless with his workers, while Miyazaki finds Oshii to be 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 Itō to join Headgear as a director. The group was composed of Kazunori Itō (screenwriter), Masami Yuki (original concept/character designer/manga artist), Yutaka Izubuchi (mechanical designer), Akemi Takada (character designer) and Mamoru Oshii (director). Together they were responsible for the Patlabor TV series, OVA, and 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 Dog: 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. It hit the top of the US Billboard video charts in 1996, making it the first anime video ever to do so.
After a 5-year hiatus from directing to work on other projects, Oshii returned to live-action with the long-awaited Japanese-Polish feature Avalon, which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001. His next animated feature film, Innocence (a sequel to Ghost in the Shell), was selected to compete at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for the coveted Palme d'Or prize, making it the first anime in this top category and only the eighth animated film to be shown at Cannes. His most recent film, The Sky Crawlers, competed for the Golden Lion in the Venice Film Festival and won the Future Film Festival Digital Award.
Oshii is especially noted for how he significantly strays from the source material, most notably in Urusei Yatsura, Patlabor, and Ghost in the Shell. In their original manga versions, these three titles exhibited a mood that was more along the lines of frantic slapstick comedy (Urusei Yatsura) or convivial "dramedy" (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 2: The Movie. For the Ghost in the Shell movie, Oshii elected to leave out the humor and character banter of Masamune Shirow's manga.
"Oshii's work... steers clear of such stereotypes in both image and sexual orientation," wrote Andrez Bergen in an article on Oshii that appeared in Japan's Daily Yomiuri newspaper in 2004. "His movies are dark, thought-provoking, minimalist diatribes with an underlying complexity; at the same time he pushes the perimeters of technology when it comes to the medium itself. Character design plays equitable importance."
Oshii also wrote and directed numerous animated movies and live-action films based on his personal world view influenced by the ANPO Hantai (opposition to the 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 world view 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, 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.
The Kerberos saga is Oshii's lifework, created in 1986. It spawned on all media and lasted for 20 years since his January 1987 radio drama While Waiting For The Red Spectacles introducing the live-action feature film, The Red Spectacles, released one month later. Then the manga adaptation Kerberos Panzer Cop was serialized in 1988 until 1990.