Mamoru Oshii is a filmmaker who exemplifies the breadth and complexities of modern Japanese cinema like none other. As a director, Oshii has made the majority of his complex and intelligent films in anime (Japanese animation). The term “anime” does not denote any particular style or content; it simply means animation from Japan. While anime has been gaining a broader audience in recent years, some critics still dismiss the medium as frivolous or lacking in depth based on a limited understanding of anime’s breadth. For example, Donald Richie, noted critic of Japanese film, has said that “the reason anime are so fast, and so violent, [is that] they have to make themselves apprehendable through splash alone.”1 Although Richie’s statement may be true of some popular anime programs (keeping in mind Theodore Sturgeon’s maxim that “ninety percent of everything is crud”), Oshii’s deeply complex films directly contradict such a generalization. Despite conceding that many animated Japanese films serve merely as lightweight entertainment, in his book Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Japan, Alex Kerr writes that anime is the “one bright spot in [the] otherwise gloomy picture” of modern Japanese cinema.2 Animation as a medium possesses much more artistic and creative potential than many critics and casual viewers appreciate; Oshii tries to make his films fulfill this grand potential of anime cinema, with a certain amount of success. Along with Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke), Mamoru Oshii is at the forefront of this cinematic movement.
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