Mamoru Oshii talks Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

After nine years, acclaimed writer/director Mamoru Oshii follows up his cult hit "Ghost in the Shell"—one of the biggest animé successes of all time—with the long-awaited sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.

It is the year 2032 and the line between humans and machines has been blurred almost beyond distinction. Humans have forgotten that they are human and those that are left coexist with cyborgs (human spirits inhabiting entirely mechanized bodies) and dolls (robots with no human elements at all). Batou is a cyborg. His body is artificial: the only remnants left of his humanity are traces of his brain…and the memories of a woman called The Major. A detective for the government's covert anti-terrorist unit, Public Security Section 9, Batou is investigating the case of a gynoid—a hyper-realistic female robot created specifically for sexual companionship—who malfunctions and slaughters her owner. As Batou delves deeper into the investigation, questions arise about humanity's need to immortalize its image in dolls. The answers to those questions lead to the shocking truth behind the crime...and quite possibly the very meaning of life.

How do you approach your writing in order to achieve the ambiguity? Do you deliberately, consciously; layer your work with dialogue and visual symbols for the audience to consciously or unconsciously filter? Or do you have a single idea - a single meaning, at least for yourself - as you write and, ultimately, direct?

Dialogue and quotes merely act as an essence to my movie, and therefore whether the viewers understand their meanings or implications does not necessarily associate with whether they can enjoy and appreciate the movie itself. I think it is true to not only my movies but the movies in general.

How do you feel about the state of Japanese animation today as opposed to in the past? In that context, do you find it easier or more difficult to create your films?

The technique has highly improved. With computer technology being more reachable and available to us, we can do so much more of what was not achievable in the past.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about the movie, is there anything you would have liked to do differently but couldn’t because of various reasons.

I think I am completely happy with the outcome of the movie – thanks to the wonderful group of talented artists at Production I.G.

It is well known that you are interested in dogs, in particular basset hounds, when did you first develop this interest and why?

I like dogs in general, but Basset Hounds in particular because this is the breed whose characteristics and personality are so similar to mine. They watch and know everything but are content not doing anything.

I know about Innocence possibly being the last project for you involving the Ghost In the Shell Anime Franchise, but if the need or opportunity arises again in the far future for you to get involved with another Ghost In the Shell related project, would you consider doing it again?

Absolutely not – at this point, although it may change in the future, but I highly doubt it.

Judging by the high anticipation of Innocence here in the U.S., would you even consider directing a movie here if given the opportunity? Would you think of filming a movie here, or creating one for American audiences?

I never make my movies directed towards a certain group, culture, or country of people. If there is an opportunity to direct a movie, I will decide on what it is about, and not for whom it is intended for.

How instrumental is the Doll in conveying the many themes of GHOST: INNOCENCE?

Very much so.

Do you have any words of wisdom to pass along to the fans? Any lessons learned along your path to fame and fortune that would benefit us?

Yes, that you would be better off not to wish to work for an animation studio.

In Japan, animation is often seen as a medium for telling stories and it has the same respect as live-action. But in America is seen as a "child's medium". Mainly because studios don’t produce any other kind of animated features. What do you think is the real problem, uneducated audience or fear from filmmakers?

Animation and manga have always been enjoyed by people of all ages in Japan, since they have become one of Japan’s very important culture, whereas in other countries it is not the case. Whether the movie is animation or live action, as long as one can enjoy it, that’s all it matters. Because of the growing popularity of Japanese animation in the overseas, there may come a time in the future when it will be more widely accepted and appreciated.

My question to you is, based on what little footage of Innocence I have seen and the Roman album art book, how great an influence did classic film noir have on your vision for Innocence, if at all? Although I’m basing this observation on what little I’ve seen of the film it seems very apparent there is a classic noir visual motif going throughout the film. The cars, being mostly 40s and 50s, the stylized angular lighting (especially the opening scene), Art Deco (an art movement I’m quite fond of myself), the classic haunted detective on a quest to both solve an extremely complex case and find a lost love (Motoko). It’s has the classic noir feel and atmosphere, or so it appears to me. Just the way Batou is drawn he appears to wear his haunted past on his face, the drawings DO convey there’s history etched in those lines quite convincingly.

The classical film noir has had quite a large influence on my making of movies. I personally love and appreciate classical cars and architectures and atmosphere – which to me are all very beautiful, nostalgic, and intriguing. Great observation despite your having seen only a part of the movie. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to see the whole thing and discover many other aspects that I have hidden in the movie.