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What Mamoru Oshii Wants to Tell the Next Generation of Anime and Film Creators

by Kim Morrissy,

Photo provided by Narō. Photographer: Ippei Hosokoshi
The acclaimed director Mamoru Oshii, best known for the cult anime film Ghost in the Shell, is participating in an online video course on Narō about what it means to be a director. The 4.5+ hour course is filled with insights about Oshii's personal outlook and approach to creative work.

The veteran director is still very active in the anime industry; he served as the chief director of Vladlove in February 2021 and served as the series composition writer of The Fire Hunter in January 2023. So why did such a busy man take the time to participate in a video course? Speaking to ANN, he explained: “I'd been thinking lately of compiling my own particular theories and know-how on directing, but I'm not a scholar or critic, and I thought it would be too much trouble to write a book. I decided to participate in this course because I thought it would be possible to film me doing a lecture, and then edit it afterward.”

If there is a single lesson Oshii hopes fans to take from his course, it's that “whether it's work or personal life, it's utterly important to think things through in their proper order in order to make a judgment on things. However, there are few people who can do this.” He added: “If you can't do that, there has to be a reason for it. I intentionally reiterated that throughout the lessons.”

In order to hone one's skills, Oshii puts a strong emphasis on analyzing other creators' work, especially films. “You could say this not just about anime but film in general, but the very act of watching a movie requires proper training. When it comes to traditional forms of creative expression like art and classical music, people never doubt that it involves specialist expertise, but for some reason when it comes to film, everyone is convinced that their own evaluations are correct. When you think about it, it's a strange phenomenon.”

“I might refer to training, but it's not anything special or unique. All you need to do is watch the same thing repeatedly, or at least just twice. You will definitely not have the same experience. The gap—the discrepancy—is where everything begins.”

On the other hand, developing a critical eye for films can also mean becoming one's own worst critic. For people in that position, Oshii has simple advice: “Don't look at your own creations after you've completed and submitted them.” With a laugh, he added, “At least I make sure not to look until it's been at least three years since the release. That's the minimum amount of time necessary before I can evaluate my own work fairly.”

As for what Oshii is most interested in working on next, he says, “I don't think about anything until I'm asked to do a job. My next work will be what I'm asked to create next. Through preparing and going through the process of production for that work, I discover the thing I want to create most.”

Oshii is known for writing and directing numerous animated films, original video anime (OVA), television anime series, and live-action films. His early career included directing the first original video anime, Dallos. He also directed Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer, Angel's Egg, and several Patlabor projects. The 1995 science fiction animated feature, Ghost in the Shell, led him to international critical and commercial success. After the success of Ghost in the Shell, Oshii was involved in various projects such as Jin-Roh - The Wolf Brigade, Blood: The Last Vampire, and The Sky Crawlers.

Narō also features courses with 2 Michelin-starred chef, Shuji Niitome, the former sumo wrestler KONISHIKI, renowned ramen creator Tomoharu Shono, chef Zaiyu Hasegawa, and kimono designer and stylist Nobuaki Tomita. The platform plans to release a future course with Ultraman series director Takeshi Yagi on tokusatsu filmmaking.

The “Anime & film directing by Mamoru Oshii” course costs US$75 (currently discounted to US$61) and is available with English subtitles.

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