Manga/Anime Memorandum

random thoughts on manga and anime

MAMORU OSHII book review [fiction] Part 22, ANGEL'S EGG (ANIMAGE BUNKO)

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There're some Mamoru Oshii book lists on the Internet, but they don't have detailed explanations about the contents. My Mamoru Oshii book collection is far from complete, but I'd like to write some short summaries for each of those books.

I apologize in advance for grammatical errors and misinformation.

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title: 天使のたまご

(Angel's Egg)

release: 11/30/1985

publisher: Tokuma Shoten

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[contents]

Angel's Egg

afterword by Mamoru Oshii

afterword by Yoshitaka Amano

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[review]

This is an illustrated novel version of Angel's Egg. It was released under Animage Bunko brand slightly ealier than the anime.

The story and the basic visuals are almost the same as the anime. It doesn't have deeper explanations about the story. The text part just tells what's happening in the illustrations or just quotes Bible. It was seemingly released as an advertising item of the anime. If you're not interested in Yoshitaka Amano's illustration, you don't need to get it. Some of the illustrations are included in The Art of Angel's Egg.

 

There are two different explanations about this book.

In the afterword of this book, Yoshitaka Amano says that it consists of layouts for anime. So, it was a collected book of the anime's preproduction materials. 

In Amano's biography book called Beyond The Fantasy, Amano says that he and Oshii made the bunko version first. According to the book, they needed to make some kind of source material to convince the sponsors. However, that story contradicts with the bunko's afterword and The Art of Angel's Egg.

In Animec Mar. 1986 issue, Oshii says that he requested character design boards for the proposal document from Amano. That doesn't contradict with other books.

In the end, only the interview from "Beyond The Fantasy" doesn't make sense. For now, I can't tell whether the bunko version was made before the anime or not.

MAMORU OSHII book review [fiction] Part 21, YUBAE SAKUSEN

-----

There're some Mamoru Oshii book lists on the Internet, but they don't have detailed explanations about the contents. My Mamoru Oshii book collection is far from complete, but I'd like to write some short summaries for each of those books.

I apologize in advance for grammatical errors and misinformation.

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title: 夕ばえ作戦

(Operation Twilight)

release: 09/01/2009 - 02/01/2011

publisher: Tokuma Shoten

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[contents]

vol.1

chapter 1 - 5

explanation about the source material

afterword by Mamoru Oshii

afterword by Tsutomu Ono

vol.2

chapter 6 - 10

vol.3

chapter 11 - 15

vol.4

chapter 16 - 21

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[review]

Yubae Sakusen is a manga written by Mamoru Oshii and drawn by Tsutomu Ono. It's based on a '60s sci-fi juvenile written by Ryu Mitsuse.

I already explained in another review that Oshii has been a big fan of Ryu Mitsuse. According to the afterword of this manga, Oshii was an enthusiastic reader of S-F Magazine from junior high school days. When he was in high school, he read Mitsue's "Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights" and got shocked by it. One day, he visited Mitsuse's house and talked with him. After several visits, Mitsuse told him that he should quit the left protest and face his real-life problems. Oshii got pissed off and stopped visiting Mitsuse's house. About 17 years later, Oshii made Angel's Egg. Mitsuse came to a talk session about the anime, so Oshii finally reconciled with Mitsuse.

After all, Mitsuse's works have a big impact on Oshii.

 

Yubae Sakusen is a time travel story for junior high school kids. The protagonist is a junior high school boy called Shigeru. One day, Shigeru finds a weird machine in an antique store. When he accidentally starts the machine, he leaps to Edo era, where Iga ninja clan is fighting against evil Fuma ninja clan. The protagonist joins the battle with modern technology and scientific knowledge.

 

Since it was written as a juvenile, the plot sounds a bit absurd. The novel explains that normal ninja's physical ability is lower than modern teenagers because Edo people's nutrition condition was so bad. It is a very simple juvenile. (Considering the release date, I should say it was an epoch-making story. The explanation part of vol.1 emphasizes the novel's importance as a starting point of the jidaigeki/ sci-fi mixture.)

Why did Oshii adapt it into modern manga? Oshii says in the afterword that a heroine called Yoko was so impressive. Yoko is a younger sister of the enemy’s boss. She fights against the protagonist at first. Since the protagonist takes her to the modern era, she gradually becomes his friend. She tries to stop the battle at the end.

According to the afterword, Yoko defined Oshii's "bishoujo"/ pretty girl image. He even says that Yoko is an archetype of his heroines. So, she became the core of the manga adaptation. I think Oshii’s plan worked perfectly. I really like Yoko in this manga. This level of straight heroine is rare in Oshii’s stories.

Oshii changed many plot ideas, character relationships, and even the conclusion of the story. Yet, as Oshii said in the afterword, it somehow feels like a very authentic adaptation. It directly conveys the emotions of the story and the characters.

 

It's a shame that this manga is not well-known even to Japanese Oshii fans. I can't find many copies on online markets. This is not a popular opinion, but I think it is one of the best things Oshii has ever made. I hope more people will read it.

MAMORU OSHII book review [nonfiction] Part 47, ANGEL'S EGG GUIDEBOOK

-----

There're some Mamoru Oshii book lists on the Internet, but they don't have detailed explanations about the contents. My Mamoru Oshii book collection is far from complete, but I'd like to write some short summaries for each of those books.

I apologize in advance for grammatical errors and misinformation.

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title: 天使のたまご GUIDE BOOK

(Angel's Egg Guidebook)

release: 12/10/1985

publisher: Tokuma Shoten

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[contents]

summary and screen captures

key animation by Yasuhiro Nakura

interview with Mamoru Oshii

interview with Shichiro Kobayashi

interview with Yoshitaka Amano

interview with Yasuhiro Nakura

interview with Jinpachi Nezu, Mako Hyodo, and Shigeharu Shiba

illustration by Kitaro Kosaka, Toshio Kawaguchi, Masaaki Endo, Toyoaki Emura, and Nobuharu Otsuka

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[review]

This is an extra item of Animage Dec. 1985 issue. Animage used to release this small anime-film guide book series.

 

Most pages are filled with screen captures, story summary, and Bible quotes, but it also includes some interesting interviews.

In Oshii's part, he says that only the fossil of an angel was brought from Lupin III. The girl in Angel's Egg is similar to the girl from Lupin III project, but they have totally different backgrounds, he says. The girl in Lupin III is a daughter of a mysterious architect. Lupin finds out that her true identity is an angel. Oshii also says that she plays a Beatrice-type role. On the other hand, the girl in Angel's Egg is an ordinary girl.

At the end of the film, it is revealed that the egg is empty. Oshii says, it means that the girl believed in a nonexistent thing. In other words, the egg symbolizes hope or dream. As long as she believes in it, she can't face the reality. He also says that the story structure is based on Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. The boy's cross-shape canon symbolizes burden of the reality.

Oshii says, "The Bible says Noah's dove came back, but I suppose it didn't come back in reality. It died or flew away. The boy can only see feathers without the dove. I hope that scene will evoke some emotion in the audience." He also says that the girl's ending shows salvation.

 

As for the reason why Oshii featured Christianity, he says, "Anyone has their own background. To me, it was Christianity. That's all. I have some weird faith and images of the apocalypse." He did it in the abstract fantasy form just because Yoshitaka Amano's character design doesn't fit Japanese environments.

 

Oshii says that Angel's Egg is a futuristic/ post-Noah story, so maybe the girl is a descendant of Noah. But he also says that maybe the whole world is the girl's dream.

 

Most importantly, he says, "The destruction of the egg and the transformation of the girl's ego will change the shape of the world. I suppose only that part can convey a religious message." In other words, he says that religious symbols are actually not so religious. Angel's Egg is a story of self-transformation, and it is a religious story only in that sense.

 

 

Other interview pages tell nothing special. The illustration part includes some Ghibli animators.

MAMORU OSHII book review [nonfiction] Part 46, STRANGE TALES, TACHIGUISHI RETSUDEN

-----

There're some Mamoru Oshii book lists on the Internet, but they don't have detailed explanations about the contents. My Mamoru Oshii book collection is far from complete, but I'd like to write some short summaries for each of those books.

I apologize in advance for grammatical errors and misinformation.

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title: 異聞・立喰師列伝

(Strange Tales: Tachiguishi Retsuden)

release: 09/22/2006

publisher: Kinema Junposha

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[contents]

biography of Mamoru Oshii

interview: Oshii talks about Tachiguishi Retsuden

genealogy of Tachiguishi

early proposal document

background of the original novel

interview with Mitsuhisa Ishikawa

long interview with Mamoru Oshii

analysis of Tachiguishi Retsuden

advertising materials

A Film Like A "Stray Dog": analysis by Ryota Fujitsu

credit

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[review]

This is a booklet of Tachiguishi Retsuden DVD Box Collectors' Set. The DVD includes an extra disc, which covers a making video and an interview.

 

The most interesting part is the early proposal document. Oshii developed the idea of Tachiguishi from the 80s, so he tried to adapt it into an episode of the Twilight Q series. The title is "The Last Tachigui Hero". The story is set in a post-apocalypse world. A few wanderers find a soba joint in the wasteland and fight with each other. The last soba joint in the world is destroyed in the end. Later, the plot was adapted into an episode of Shin Onna Tachiguishi Retsuden. The proposal document also includes Oshii's storyboard.

 

In the long interview part, Oshii himself explains the concept of the film.

For example, grifters in the film have ideological backgrounds. Oshii says that he needed those ideologies because grifters can't get any motivation other than that. Fast food grifting is not a profitable job. Oshii had to make up their motivations. That's why he started the film from the explanation about post-war history.

That starting point led him to portray the 60s and 70s new-left movement. The first three grifters show three different generations/ phases of the leftists. 

Oshii also says that the curry part is a parody/ caricature of the Asian culture movement in the 70s. After the failure of the new-left movement, people tried to find new things in Asian countries. The most typical example is Shinya Fujiwara's photo tour in India. Oshii had been heavily inspired by Shinya Fujiawara's books, especially by Tokyo Drift, but he decided to cut ties with Fujiwara in Tachiguishi Retsuden. After the bubble economy burst, Fujiwara's antithesis became ineffective. Oshii said good-bye to the hippie-like Asian movement.

After all, Tachiguishi Retsuden was Oshii's summary of Japanese post-war history and a good-bye to Tokyo. Tokyo can't be a core theme anymore.

 

The analysis part covers parody illustrations drawn by Tetsuya Nishio, so Nisho fans should get the booklet.

 

This DVD Box set also includes a full storyboard of the film. It doesn't have Oshii's commentary, but it shows some deleted scenes and lines.

MAMORU OSHII book review [nonfiction] Part 45, AVALON PRE-PRODUCTION BOOK

-----

There're some Mamoru Oshii book lists on the Internet, but they don't have detailed explanations about the contents. My Mamoru Oshii book collection is far from complete, but I'd like to write some short summaries for each of those books.

I apologize in advance for grammatical errors and misinformation.

-----

 

title: AVALON "PRE-PRODUCTION BOOK"

release: 07/25/2001

publisher: Bandai Visual

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[contents]

proposal document and commentary

proposal document 1

proposal document 2

draft script and commentary

draft script

storyboard and commentary

storyboard

mechanical design sheets

biography of staff and cast

staff & cast credit

dub cast credit

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[review]

This is a collection of Avalon's preproduction document. It is included in Avalon DVD Memorial Box.

It covers a full storyboard of Avalon, but that's not so important. The storyboard is not so different from the actual film.

 

What matters is the proposal documents. Those documents reveal that the early ideas were pretty different from the film. For example, the protagonist is a man called Ryu in the early version. He dived into Avalon to find out his buddy called Rei.

Oshii put a memo into the early document. In that memo, Oshii shows some inspiration sources:

Game freaks should be like characters from "The Warriors" or "A Clockwork Orange". Oshii also says that Avalon's world should be different from so-called "cyberpunk" worlds like AKIRA or Blade Runner.

Futuristic production design tends to look cheap, so Oshii decided to use more traditional aesthetics in Avalon. Oshii introduces "1984", "The Element of Crime", and "Fahrenheit 451" as inspiration sources.

An inspiration source of the game idea is Wizardry. (According to another book, Oshii heard of Wizardry from Kazunori Ito. Before that Oshii was so addicted to Ultima that he openly said "my job is Ultima".)

The main characters were supposed to go to "The Sunken Labyrinth" in this early version. The protagonist looks for his friend called Rei in that labyrinth. Oshii calls it "a near-futuristic version of Apocalypse Now".

The "ghost" girl already exists in this version, but "Nine Sisters" doesn't appear yet.

 

In the next document called Ver.25, the story became pretty similar to the film. The protagonist was changed to a woman called "Ash". Bishop, Stunner, Ash's dog, Wizard, Class REAL, and many other ideas already exist in this version.

However, the ending is different from the film. In this version, Murphy's corpse doesn't disappear. When Ash looks at dead Murphy and looks back, Ghost/ the girl is smiling there.

 

Those two versions are Oshii's original plots.

From the next version, Kazunori Ito joined and wrote the script. It seems that the idea of Nine Sisters was added at this phase.

Ito wrote it in a full script format, so it has scene headings. The storyline is almost the same as Oshii's second plot and the film, but Ito added more explanatory words into the script. Ash speaks more than her in the film.

The ending is different from the film. Murphy sinks into the underground after his death. Ghost/ girl takes Ash to the outside of the building. Ash sees a huge ad board of "Avalon" there, and an unrealistic flying wing aircraft comes in.

 

After finishing Kazunori Ito's script, Oshii went on a location hunting tour to Poland. After coming back to Japan, he started making a storyboard.

The iconic line, "Don't let appearance confuse you", was added at this phase.

 

By the way, Murphy's last line is "事象に惑わされるな" in the Japanese version. It can be directly translated as "Don't let things confuse you." That "things" obviously has a philosophical context. It is the same thing as Husserl's "Thing and Space". I'm not sure how intentional Oshii was in choosing that word. If he was aware of the context, "appearance" doesn't look like a perfect translation. Maybe Oshii tried to say something about epoché. Murphy should say "Go back to things themselves" in that case, though.

MAMORU OSHII book review [nonfiction] Part 44, MAMORU OSHII IN POLAND

-----

There're some Mamoru Oshii book lists on the Internet, but they don't have detailed explanations about the contents. My Mamoru Oshii book collection is far from complete, but I'd like to write some short summaries for each of those books.

I apologize in advance for grammatical errors and misinformation.

-----

 

title: 押井守 in ポーランド ―『アヴァロン』撮影現場記録―

(Mamoru Oshii in Poland: "Avalon" shooting diary)

release: 02/14/2001

publisher: Kinema Junposha

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[contents]

summary of shooting in Poland

Mamoru Oshii's essay

interview with Jun Kubo, Katsuhiro Ogawa, and Masato Araki

interview with Nobuaki Koga, Isao Kaneko, and Makoto Kamiya

summary of production

shooting calendar

shooting diary: preparation

shooting diary: Warsaw

talk session by staff during the shooting

shooting diary: Wrocław

shooting diary: Kraków

commentary by Koji Morimoto, Hideo Kojima, Hisayuki Toriumi, Yoichi Shibuya, and Hideaki Sena

afterword by Mamoru Oshii

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[review]

This is a shooting diary of Avalon.

Unlike the making book, it doesn't include analysis nor explanation about the post-production process. It's a book purely about the shooting. It shows what kinds of problems they confronted, and how they handled those problems. The same problems and events are included in a making video called "Days of Avalon", but the book includes a more detailed explanation.

For example, Oshii felt some pain in his foot, and he had to use a wheelchair in the end. While Oshii just says it's some sort of neuralgia in the video, the book reveals that it was gout. Later, Oshii said it is unfair because other fatter staff had no problems.

This book mentions some differences between Polish film production and Japanese film production. For example, the Japanese staff was so shocked by the fact that the Polish staff "eats breakfast every day". In most Japanese films, the staff starts shooting immediately after arriving at the site because their schedule is so tight. Japanese staff enjoyed yummy breakfasts in Poland.

They were also surprised by the freedom Polish staff has. Polish staff could easily restrict traffic in a city, and they could even move unnecessary cars. That is very difficult in Japanese cities. Japanese staff envied Polish film creators' environment.

 

The staff had a lot of difficulties in shooting visual effect materials. Green screen shooting didn't work well in the early phase.

They also confronted cultural differences. '90s Polish film creators didn't know much about video games, so Oshii had to give basic lectures about video games and Avalon's world.

(Later, Oshii explained that it might be caused by the class differences in Poland. Many film creators were educated classes, so that might be one of the reasons why they knew little about gaming, he says.)

MAMORU OSHII book review [nonfiction] Part 43, AVALON MAKING BOOK

-----

There're some Mamoru Oshii book lists on the Internet, but they don't have detailed explanations about the contents. My Mamoru Oshii book collection is far from complete, but I'd like to write some short summaries for each of those books.

I apologize in advance for grammatical errors and misinformation.

-----

 

title: アヴァロン メイキングブック ムービーコンストラクション クラスSA

(Movie Construction Class-SA: Avalon Making Book)

release: 01/31/2001

publisher: Media Factory

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[contents]

introduction

story of Avalon

analysis of Oshii's direction

preproduction

shooting

postproduction

shot list

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[review]

This is a guidebook about Avalon's production process.

There are some other books about Avalon, but I suppose this has the richest content.

 

The main content is divided into four parts: direction, preproduction, shooting, and postproduction.

 

The direction part is too long. A famous writer called Toru Nozaki wrote this part, but his commentary is too vague and verbose. You can analyze the film by yourself, so you don't need this part.

 

The preproduction part explains the background of the film, scriptwriting process, storyboarding, location hunting, audition, concept art design, mechanical design, and prop design.

In the late 90s, Oshii joined Digital Engine Project and developed G.R.M. That project was canceled, so Oshii brought the ideas into a smaller project. That's Avalon.

The starting point of the story idea was Oshii's game experience. He played Wizardry so much, and one day, he thought "Why can't I buy anything with these golds in the real world?" He also saw fighting gamers in arcades. Those two things gave him an idea of "game players who earn living from a game."

Oshii and Kazunori Ito co-wrote the script. The idea of "Nine Sisters" was made by Ito. Oshii said, "That idea made it much easier to understand the world of Avalon." They developed the story to show the punchline of the film, "Don't let appearance confuse you. This is the world where you belong."

In the audition, Oshii ordered the staff to find someone who looks like Motoko Kusanagi. The staff said that's impossible, but Małgorzata Foremniak was a perfect actor for that role.

In the concept art phase, Oshii introduced René Magritte's "Empire of Lights" as an inspiration source. In that painting, the difference of the sky and the ground makes a surreal atmosphere. Oshii wanted to achieve that kind of effect in Avalon.

In the mechanical design process, Atsushi Takeuchi made realistic weapons, but Oshii rejected them. Takeuchi didn't get what was the right direction, but one day, he tried unrealistic, absurd weapon design. That was what Oshii wanted. Takeuchi realized, anime weapons need to be realistic, but Avalon's world needs more fictional design.

Small props like the headgear, ID card, and keyboards were made in Japan. Other environmental production designs were done by Polish staff. Oshii's request to the design staff was "Vostok". After finishing the film, Japanese designers were surprised by the quality of the Polish staff's design, especially the design of the Avalon terminal room.

 

The shooting process is explained in another book, so you don't need to get this book for the shooting diary. However, only this book includes interviews with Polish staff.

The production designer called Barbara Novak imagined something like "1984". The writer of this book says that her dog mediated between Japanese staff and Polish staff at first.

In the interview page of Gregorz Kedzierski, the writer explains how the Polish shooting system inspired Oshii. Oshii says "Polish system with directors of photography is a perfect system. I realized that in the shooting process. In that system, the staff has only two bosses: a director and a DP. Those two people decide everything."

Kedzierski says, he realized in the meeting that contrast, focus, and aperture don't matter at all in Avalon. That's why he chose Kodak's new film. He used wide-angle lenses a lot in Avalon to break the sense of reality.

Małgorzata Foremniak tells that Oshii's direction was always to the point and simple. Generally speaking, Oshii earned respect from Polish staff, apparently.

 

The main part of this book is the explanation about post-production.

The writer put short explanations and summaries of special effects’ history, visual effects, digital composition, motion-tracking technology, 3D-CGI, film's color, digital color, etc.

From the beginning, Oshii intended to change colors, textures, and backgrounds by Quantel's Domino system. If they can control all the materials by computer, any kind of material including live-action footage, anime, and tokusatsu can be used in the same film. That's the core concept of G.R.M., and that idea was partly brought to Avalon. It is not a unique idea by today's standards, but the process is much more complicated and interesting than people think.

For example, to make the 2D fire effects in the introduction, the staff needed to synchronize the camera movement and the composited 2D effects. The visual effect supervisor called Koga made special motion tracking markers for that kind of shot. (It was a dolly-and-pan shot, so Koga needed to shoot the 3D rotation movement of markers.)

The explanation about CGI makes us consider the machine powers. You probably remember the GitS-like staff roll. Even that kind of simple image was pretty difficult to render because they needed to render the afterimages like nixie-tube. It was difficult with the late 90s machine powers.

This book includes much more interesting content about effects, but they're too much and too complicated to summarize here. Please check it by yourself.

 

Overall, it is a very good book for Avalon fans and Oshii fans. It makes it easier to understand the changes in Oshii's later works like INNOCENCE.