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.
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.
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.
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.