"Miyazaki-san and Takahata-san are outrageously energetic. I can't take my eyes off them."
- —Mamoru Oshii
Mamoru Oshii (押井 守 , Oshii Mamoru, born 8 August 1951) is a Japanese filmmaker, television director, university professor, mangaka and writer.
Famous for his philosophy-oriented storytelling, Oshii has directed a number of acclaimed anime films, including Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (1984), Angel's Egg (1985), Patlabor 2: The Movie (1993), and Ghost in the Shell (1995). He also holds the distinction of having created the first ever OVA, Dallos (1983). As a writer, Oshii has worked as a screenwriter, and occasionally as a manga writer and novelist. His most notable works as a writer include the manga Kerberos Panzer Cop (1988–2000) and its feature film adaptation Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999).
He has also produced several live-action films and shorts, making his debut with The Red Spectacles in 1987. His 2001 Polish co-production Avalon was officially exhibited at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2001, Tachiguishi Retsuden was officially exhibited at the Venice International Film Festival in 2006, and Shin Onna Tachiguishi Retsuden was officially exhibited at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2007. In 2014, he released his first English-language production, the Canadian-Japanese live action/animated science fiction film Garm Wars. Toshio Suzuki was one of its producers.
Unrealized Ghibli Collaboration
On a special issue of Kinema Junpo, Rika Ishii interviewed Mamoru Oshii on his long-standing relationship with Hayao Miyazaki and an unrealized collaboration project called Anchor. The interview, translated by Ryoko Toyama in July, 1996 and edited by Brian Stacy, highlights Ghibli co-founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata's aggressive and oftentimes prickly nature.
"I met Miya-san (Hayao Miyazaki) for the first time in 1983, for an interview in Animage. It was right after I finished directing my first film, and he was more like a god. The first (work of) Miya-san's I saw was Future Boy Conan. It was on the air when I joined Tatsunoko Production to be a director, so I was really blown away by it. I had a feeling that we would meet some day, but it was sooner than I expected, so I was really nervous.
My first impression was that he was a really light hearted person. But when the conversation got heated, he was really merciless, and I was told many harsh things. [laughs] So it ended with the impression like "what a SOB!"
He is unbelievably energetic. The point where I thought he and I were alike was that he is really aggressive and talks a lot. It's the same with Takahata-san, it's like the one who talks more wins. There is no idle chatting when we talk. (We?) always try to convince the other. [laughs] So it's really tiresome. I myself think the winning rate is 50%. We've been busy these days, so we can't meet more than once a year, but once we meet, we always end up like that.
Since Takahata-san works at the same place as Miya-san, I often meet him, and we talk from time to time. There was even a project which we three were going to do. I think it was after Angel's Egg (1985), it was a Ghibli project called Anchor. I think Miya-san was going to be the producer, I was going to be the director, and Takahata-san was going to produce too. We three got together and made a plot, but one night, we had a big fight and disagreement, and I quit."
Impressions on Miyazaki and Takahata
Oshii elaborated on Miyazaki and Takahata's personalities in private as well as in public, and his feelings towards their films, "On the surface, Takahata-san also likes to argue and has a passion to convince others, but he is very different inside. Miya-san has something sweet in him, and in the end, it comes down to (for him) "what's good is good, though it's not logical." In the case of Takahata-san, he is consistent. He is a person of logic. I heard that Yasuo Otsuka-san once said that Takahata-san is walking logic, and I'm logic riding a bike. [laughs]
I guess I should be able to get along with Takahata-san better (than Miya-san), but, film-wise, I sympathize more with what Miya-san makes. I feel that a part of Takahata-san is a bit cold. He is like a person who doesn't get hurt or feel failure fundamentally.
He doesn't say what he wants to say up front like Miya-san does. He looks like a warm guy, but once something happens, he totally changes. It's like he gets a totally different personality. When he denies someone, he denies everything about that person, including their personality. I think of him as a Stalinist. [laughs] Miya-san is a bit like a Trotskyist, but for me, they are both men (ojisan) of 1960s Anpo, having very intimidating tendencies. Especially, it's really something when they intimidate the young staff members. It's totally different from their everyday smiling nature. They get totally different personalities once they are in a project.
Studio Ghibli is like the Kremlin
In 1995, as Studio Ghibli had recently released On Your Mark and was gearing up for the production of Princess Mononoke, Oshii likened the famed studio to the Cold War-era Kremlin, "In short, in the 1960s way of saying things, if the end is just, the means don't matter. I think that for them, making a movie is still a kind of extension of the union movement. Making strategy, organizing people, and purging traitors-- it's the same. There are agitation and intimidation characteristics to any popular movement. Basically, it's a thorough organizing to carry out the top's will.
I think Studio Ghibli is (like) the Kremlin. [laughs] The real one is long gone, but it's still sitting in the middle of the field in Higashi Koganei. But in a sense, there is a reason for it's existence, meaning, I think it plays a certain role by existing. Just like those steel-like athletes could not be produced other than in the communist countries, a certain kind of people can not be produced by the principals of the market economy.
There should be a type of animator who can be fostered only by Ghibli, where the level of staff is really high, from in-between to painting. So, it can be valued in the sense that it cultured (such staff members) purely, but if you ask me if it's totally right, I'd say I don't think so. I think they should be disbanded immediately. -laughs- I think it would be more meaningful if those who grew up at Ghibli would go outside.
However, there are things that only Ghibli can do, and if it disappears, the tradition would disappear. But that's a relative value, and as for an individual value, I think they should be disbanded immediately. It's the same with the question of whether it got better after the Soviet Union was disbanded, but I think for creative work, anarchy is at least better than freedom under a state power.
It's like Miya-san is the chairman, and Takahata-san is the head of the party, or the president of the Russian Republic. Producer Toshio Suzuki is definitely the chief of KGB. But the things that are made and the reality of the organization which makes them are two totally different things. People who think such cohesion is good flock there."
On Telling Stories in this Era
"They are probably at a loss right now, more than ever. I think they are in great confusion, not knowing what to make now. Though I guess it's the same with everybody. Both Miya-san and Takahata-san are the kind of people who wouldn't make a film unless they could justify the cause (to make the film) to the world, and to themselves, after thinking through why they make this film now. Considering the situation as it is now, I think it must be harder for them.
More than anyone, he himself knows that his next movie, Mononoke Hime won't hold up (as a story) in principle. How in the world can he make a story like "they defeated the evil sheriff, and the village folks lived happily ever after" in this era? The world is filled with stories about things becoming worse after an evil sheriff got defeated, so how can he make children believe in (such a story)? The story of "defeat the dictator," like Horus: Prince of the Sun could be believed in back then, but what's the use of doing Horus now?"
- He influenced creators such as James Cameron, The Wachowskis, Quentin Tarantino and Guillermo del Toro.
- He was the model for the character Heen in Howl's Moving Castle.
- "The Animation of Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Studio Ghibli Kinema Junpo Special Issue, Number 1166; July 16th, 1995
- "The Origin of Garm Wars, Director Mamoru Oshii & Toshio Suzuki release treasured photos 30 years ago", Real Sound
- AnimArchive on Twitter, February 2020
- "Toshio Suzuki x Mamoru Oshii talks about "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea", Ghibli Official Side
- Mamoru Oshii on Twitter