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Learn about anime and the films of Mamoru Oshii

A guide by Brian Ruh (West Lafayette, IN USA)

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Anime is a very expressive medium that is perfect for directors with unique cinematic visions. Many filmgoers in the US are becoming familiar with Hayao Miyazaki, whose film "Spirited Away" won an Academy Award in 2003. Slightly less well-known are the films of Mamoru Oshii, although hopefully this will change with the US release of his newest film "Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence" later in 2004.

There are a couple of books that are essential to anyone looking to become better acquainted with Oshii's films. The first is my own book, Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii. It is the first book in English to provide an in-depth analysis of Oshii's major works. The other book is Susan J. Napier's Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation, which provides an excellent analysis of some of Oshii's films (as well as other anime series and films).

As of this writing, Oshii is most famous in the US for his film Ghost in the Shell, which shot to the top position on the Billboard sales charts when it was originally released on video. However, Oshii got his start in TV anime back in the late 1970s. His most famous stint was probably as chief director for the first half of the television series "Urusei Yatsura." (You can check out the first four of the 218 total episodes on Urusei Yatsura, TV Series 1 (Episodes 1-4).) The first full-length film Oshii directed, Urusei Yatsura - Movie 1 - Only You, was a strong first effort, although there were a number of missteps along the way. His second film, Urusei Yatsura - Movie 2 - Beautiful Dreamer (Collector's Series) was a far more developed film and showcased many of the themes Oshii would incorporate into his later works.

Another large franchise Oshii would become involved in is "Mobile Police Patlabor." Oshii directed the first six of the original "Patlabor" OVA episodes (available as Patlabor - The Mobile Police The Original Series Collection) and wrote the scripts for some of the "Patlabor" TV episodes (the first five episode [of a total of 47] are available on Patlabor - The Mobile Police The TV Series (Vol.1)). Oshii went on to direct the first two "Patlabor" films: the pop entertainment of Patlabor 1 - The Movie and the political thriller Patlabor 2. Similar to the two "Urusei Yatsura" filsm Oshii directed, the second film far outshines the first. And although Oshii did not direct the third "Patlabor" film, Patlabor WXIII - The Movie (Ultimate Edition 3-Disc Set), the box set release is worth picking up because it includes Oshii's fantastic "MiniPato" animated shorts.

After "Ghost in the Shell" (mentioned above), Oshii became involved in two projects he did not direct but helped guide to competion: Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (Special Edition) and Blood - The Last Vampire. The two films could not be more different. "Jin-Roh," directed by Oshii's protege Hiroyuki Okiura (and for which Oshii wrote the original story and screenplay), is a somber tale set in the Kerberos world Oshii had previously explored in a manga series he had written as well as in the two live-action films "The Red Spectacles" and "Stray Dog" (see below). "Blood the Last Vampire" (for which Oshii was the supervising producer) is an explosive and visually enthralling story of a vampire hunter trying to track down her prey on a US military base in 1960s Japan.

Oshii directed not only anime, but live-action films as well. Some of his earlier efforts have been gathered and released as Mamoru Oshii Cinema Trilogy Collection (Talking Head/Stray Dogs/The Red Spectacles) + Soundtrack CD. (The films can also be ordered separately as The Red Spectacles, Stray Dog, and Mamoru Oshii's Talking Head, but you don't get the bonus soundtrack CD featuring some fantastic work by Kenji Kawai.) While these three live-action films are interesting, they often have a very different feel from Oshii's anime films. Oshii's most recent film commercially available in the US, Avalon, is also a live-action film, but it is thematically and visually more along the lines of his anime films.

This is just a small sampling of Oshii's work. Unfortunately, some of his great films (like "Angel's Egg" and "Twilight Q 2: Labyrinth Objects File 538") is not currently commercially available in the US. Still, there is plenty available to choose from to begin (or to continue) an appreciation of the cinema of Mamoru Oshii.

Products mentioned include:
1.  Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii  by Brian Ruh
$19.00 Used & New from: $2.88
4.0 out of 5 stars   (1)
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2.  Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation  by Susan Jolliffe Napier
Used & New from: $0.01
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3.  Ghost in the Shell [Multiple Formats] [Anamorphic] [Animated] [Closed-captioned] [Color] [Dolby] [NTSC] [Widescreen]  DVD ~ Atsuko Tanaka
$9.63 Used & New from: $3.05
4.3 out of 5 stars   (564) | 5 customer discussions
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4.  Urusei Yatsura, TV Series 1 (Episodes 1-4) [Animated] [Color] [Subtitled] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Fumi Hirano
Used & New from: $10.30
4.7 out of 5 stars   (16)
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5.  Urusei Yatsura - Movie 1 - Only You [Animated] [Color] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Ken Ogata
Used & New from: $24.98
4.7 out of 5 stars   (9)
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6.  Urusei Yatsura - Movie 2 - Beautiful Dreamer (Collector's Series) [Animated] [Collector's Edition] [Color] [Dolby] [Dubbed] [Subtitled] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Fumi Hirano
Used & New from: $43.25
4.7 out of 5 stars   (54)
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7.  Patlabor - The Mobile Police The Original Series Collection [Animated] [Color] [Subtitled] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Mamoru Oshii
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8.  Patlabor - The Mobile Police The TV Series (Vol.1) [Animated] [Color] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Dan Green
$34.51 Used & New from: $0.01
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9.  Patlabor 1 - The Movie [Animated] [Color] [Dolby] [Letterboxed] [Subtitled] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Toshio Furukawa
Used & New from: $14.76
4.2 out of 5 stars   (17)
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10.  Patlabor 2 [Animated] [Color] [Dolby] [Subtitled] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Mîna Tominaga
Used & New from: $1.96
4.4 out of 5 stars   (44)
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11.  Patlabor WXIII - The Movie (Ultimate Edition 3-Disc Set) [Anamorphic] [Animated] [Color] [Dolby] [Special Edition] [Subtitled] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Katsuhiko Watabiki
Used & New from: $23.37
3.8 out of 5 stars   (36)
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12.  Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (Special Edition) [Anamorphic] [Animated] [Color] [Dolby] [DTS Surround Sound] [Live] [Special Edition] [Subtitled] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Yoshikazu Fujiki
Used & New from: $10.97
4.1 out of 5 stars   (163)
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13.  Blood - The Last Vampire [Anamorphic] [Animated] [Color] [Dolby] [Dubbed] [NTSC] [Subtitled] [Widescreen]  DVD ~ Yűki Kudô
Used & New from: $0.01
3.5 out of 5 stars   (269) | 1 customer discussion
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14.  Mamoru Oshii Cinema Trilogy Collection (Talking Head/Stray Dogs/The Red Spectacles) + Soundtrack CD [Animated] [Color] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Mamoru Oshii
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15.  The Red Spectacles [Color] [Dolby] [Subtitled] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Shigeru Chiba
$37.72 Used & New from: $6.97
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16.  Stray Dog [Animated] [Color] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Shigeru Chiba
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17.  Mamoru Oshii's Talking Head [Multiple Formats] [Color] [Dolby] [Subtitled] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Shigeru Chiba
$19.98 Used & New from: $1.94
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18.  Avalon [Multiple Formats] [Anamorphic] [Color] [Dolby] [Subtitled] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Malgorzata Foremniak
Used & New from: $4.43
3.8 out of 5 stars   (59)
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Author

Brian Ruh (West Lafayette, IN USA)
Qualifications: anime writer and scholar
Last updated: 5/24/04
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