Mr. Oshii was live from Los Angeles - at offices of the film's distributor, Dreamworks. Freshly arrived from Japan as part of the film's publicity tour, Mr. Oshii, since he speaks limited English, conducted the interview with the assistance of a translator from Production I.G., the production company responsible for Ghost in the Shell 2.
During the interview, Mamoru Oshii, the creative mind behind such visual feasts such as Red Spectacle, Ghost in the Shell, and now, Ghost in the Shell 2:Innocence, seemed to be in good spirits, affable, laughing freely as he tackled questions regarding Ghost in the Shell 2 and his work in general...
Q: What's new with Ghost in the Shell 2?
Translator: What's new?
Q: What's new about the characters, the animation?
A:(Oshii): Technology-wise, it's the first movie where the background is made all in 3-D. The first Japanese animation where background is all 3-D.
Q: Mr. Oshii, from a fellow Leo, happy belated birthday(Oshii's birthday is August 8, 1951).
A:(laughter) Thank you.
Q: I read that you were a big Godard fan...it seemed like the use of quotes and things on a intellectual/philosophical level seemed to be kind of influenced in this film, from Godard. Can you talk about Godardian influences in this film and your work in general.
A: Ah, my influence of Godard is more a basic, a basic way of thinking of how to make a movie. So I got an inspiration not only (just) the picture or the use of color, or any technical aspects, but more as the way that you approach the basic story. So one example would be, rather than making a movie for the audience, you, um, also make the movie for yourself, you acknowledge that the movie, you're making it for the audience but you're also making it for yourself.
Q: Mr. Oshii, one of the characters(in GITS2) makes a reference to multinationals and criminal elements which feed off their spoils. Is this a critique of multinational corporations and of American hegemony?
Translator: American what?
Translator: Can you explain?
Q: Hegemony. Ah, just American expansionism-globalism.
Translator: Go ahead and repeat question, please.
Q:(question repeated) is this a critique of multinational corporations today and American hegemony?
A:(laughter is heard from Mr. Oshii) Ah, I think maybe twenty years ago, the common antagonist were you know, Russia or China, or those companies. And so? The Cold War is over. But since then, I was thinking of to make the most ideal, so that the viewer can identify, I thought that maybe the big corporations would be the best one to make as antagonist. And um, if you see the current places in the world. The major antagonist are the communists, guerrillas...so I thought maybe my movie, I could make the big corporations and a doll factory as the major antagonist.
Q: First, I was wondering, had you originally plan on Ghost in the Shell having a sequel, or was it expected to be a sort of one-off?
A: I wasn't thinking of making a sequel to Ghost in the Shell at all. I never expected the first one to be a success, a success overseas.
Q: Hello, Oshii-san. We had dinner many years ago at an animation festival.
Q: And you autographed a self-portrait of you and your dog. I wanted to ask you, almost all of your films have been science fiction movies. And going back to Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell, and your live-action film as well, like Avalon; movies that have both celebrated technology, and been very cautious of the dangers of technology. Do you, as a science fiction filmmaker, do you have fears that the next evolutionary step is going to involve a melding of technology and human need?
A: So um, in the last century, technology has been developed very widely and quickly. I consider that to be a new type of environment which in addition to technology, to be both, a threat to humans, and also a help in the sense that it's gonna change people in a good way. And so, I think technology will, whether good or bad, will keep changing humanity, keep changing the world, keep changing human beings? An addition to? The changes? What religion, or ideology? Will? Will bring peace.
Q: There is definitely a difference between Japanese and American attention spans and cultures. What's hard about the translation to not only the language barrier plus cultural and attention span barriers?
A:(laughter heard from Oshii) So I don't believe that there is a movie that can be, ah, enjoyed, or that can be translated to the people in all countries, to all of the world. And I don't think its necessary to make a movie that can be understood by people all over the world. For example, um, if for instance, an American person that say, watches Japanese animation and finds it very interesting, weird and beautiful? We may be enjoying that because it is a transculture. And when a Japanese person and an American person watches Hollywood movies together...I'm sure they are not watching it the same way, as the other...the Japanese person is probably not watching it the same way as the American person watching. And I think, movies are very interesting in a way that people tend to (mis)understand the concept or the story of the movie because of which culture or country they come from. And as long as whether the person understands it or not, as long as he or she enjoys the movie, and I think that is all that matters.
Q: Like the Western here in America. Which is defined as the American genre. Anime is now kind of defined as the Japanese genre. What is Mr. Oshii's feelings on the definitive mark his films, GITS, and now this film, have made on animation, not only animation, but Japanese cinema history in general. Because Japanese cinema has a long tradition of specific genres?
A:(more laughter from Oshii) I don't think that my movies have any huge influence or huge impact on the companies, or distributors, or manufactures, or the sponsors. If any(thing) I think my movies may have influenced the animation directors, or the animators, or designers, or the production staff. And I think that it's what happens when somebody makes a movie and influences the people greatly. It's really not the companies or the entities that they influence, but it's more of the individual staff that they influence...In terms of whether my movies have influenced the animation industry in Japan or the Japanese film industry, is maybe I could say that rather than Japanese animation being used as things that are strictly for children, I think, I would say (now used) to entertain adult or the older audiences as well.
Q: When you make a film are you more concerned with capturing certain images and emotions, or with telling a story?
A: It's all case by case. In some of my movies, I put more weight on showing beautiful pictures. In other movies, I concentrate on the story. It basically depends on what kind of budget. What kind of production capacity I have for that movie. If I have a low budget, I tend to concentrate more on telling the story. If I have a bigger budget, then I concentrate on terms of a more beautiful picture.
Q: With such high-tech themes, particularly with the second movie(GITS2), how much research goes into the scientific and technical aspects of the storyline?
A: I didn't really do any research, just explicitly for this, Ghost in the Shell 2 movie. But, after finishing the production of the first movie, I directed two movies, and through the making of these two movies, I did a lot of research on how to make animation movies, essentially, by using computers. Those experiences led me to make this, Ghost in the Shell 2, the sequel.
Q: You mentioned at the beginning that this is - the first Japanese film to use completely computer generated background, but you still do all your character animation in hand-drawn technique. Tell me what you think the advantages of both, different types of animation are, do you think that the hand-drawn animation is threatened by the computer generated animation?
A: I think the biggest challenge in making all the background on 3-D for Ghost in the Shell 2, was to take advantage of the camerawork by making the background all in 3-D, I was able to give depth and more space to the background. And the reason I wanted to do the characters in 2-D rather than 3-D, is because of the group of very talented hand-drawn animators, I didn't want to lose their quality...I appreciate their quality and talent so much that I wanted use their skills in animating the characters by hand. And, in terms of whether the 3-D technology will eventually take over the 2-D animation, in Japan at least, I don't think it will happen, although I've seen people who appreciate, who highly value the quality of 2-D animation. In America, that may be the case where 3-D has basically taken over 2-D, animation in America are all work is done in 3-D CG. But I believe and hope that it is not really a case in Japan.
Translator: Thank you guys, that's all we have time for...