Manga/Anime Memorandum

random thoughts on manga and anime

MAMORU OSHII book review [nonfiction] Part 48, Storyboard of Talking Head

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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: トーキングヘッド 絵コンテ集

(Talking Head: Storyboard)

release: 10/1/1992

publisher: Bandai

[contents]

storyboard

About Talking Head, Mamoru Oshii

Talking Head is an Unprecedented and Exciting FIlm, essay by Shinsuke Nakajima

staff list

[review]

This is a storyboard for Talking Head.

It was sold at theatres when the film was released.

 

The storyboard itself is not so different from Oshii's storyboards for other anime films. However, some say that's an important part of the book: Later, Oshii came to say that all films became like anime. It looks like this '90s storyboard retrospectively shows the origin of his idea.

 

He had wrote storyboards for other live-action films as well, but full live-action storyboard books are rare. (There's no full storyboard book for The Red Spectacles.) Plus, other storyboard writers undertakes some action parts in later projects. This book for Talking Head is, for now, only full live-action storyboard written solely by Oshii.

 

It's a very satisfying book for Oshii fans like me, but it doesn't tell any hidden information or metaphors. It includes some omitted shots as well, but they don't change the film so much. The afterwords by Oshii and Nakajima just retell the basic concept of the film.

 

If you want to learn storyboarding/ directing techniques, it's an interesting material for you.

MAMORU OSHII book review [extra] A FLEDGING PRODUCER'S DIARY

-----

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: 僕のプロデューサーかけだし日誌

(A Fledging Producer's Diary)

release: 12/25/1987

publisher: Triangle

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[contents]

"Dear Fans", introduction

Pre-Urusei Yatsura Days

Before I became a producer

Stories Behind the TV Series Project

Contract Problems

The Begenning of the TV Series

Staffing

Originality of the Manga Author and the Anime Creators

Necessity of a Studio

Fun and Pain of the Films

Urusei Yatsura 1: Only You

Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer

Urusei Yatsura 3: Remember My Love

Urusei Yatsura 4: Lum The Forever

Introduction to Urusei Yatsura 5, Kanketsu-hen

Urusei Yatsura 5: Boy Meets Girl

The Main Studio Is Magic Bus

What Is Producers' Job?

My Producer Diary

Interview: Rumiko Takahashi & Shigekazu Ochiai

Urusei Yatsura TV series: Episode List with the Main Staff List and TV-Ratings List

Afterword

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[review]

This is an essay written by Shigekazu Ochiai.
Shigekazu Ochiai was a producer of Kitty Film. He is the main person who launched the Urusei Yatsura anime project. Before the release of UY Movie 5: Kanketsu-hen, he released the book to explain his situation to the fans. The fans were a bit TOO enthusiastic in those days, so he needed to calm them down.

The book starts with Ochiai's early career. He used to work in a newspaper company, but he quit and entered a university’s film department. After graduating from the university, he entered Saito Production as a scriptwriter. He became a friend of Kazuo Koike there, and they launched a small gekiga studio. They had some issues afterward, so Ochiai quit the studio. After that, he entered Tatsunoko Production. However, he couldn’t feed his family with Tatsunoko’s salary. He quit Tatsunoko and entered Kitty Film.
Ochiai knew Rumiko Takahashi from her early days because he was a supervisor of Kazuo Koike’s Gekiga Sonjuku school. From 1977, Kazuo Koike ran a gekiga creator school. That's Gekiga Sonjuku. Rumiko Takahashi was an excellent student there. So, Ochiai knew that Takahashi would be a star creator soon. That's why he launched an anime project of Urusei Yatsura in Kitty Film.
However, the Fuji TV network’s reaction was so weak at first. Ochiai explains that manga comic was not established as a culture yet in those days. Plus, Urusei Yatsura was not so popular at first. A chief editor of Shonen Sunday asked other anime studios to adapt the series earlier, but those studios just declined.

Coincidentally, Fuji TV was planning a drastic change in programming in those days. They wanted something new to put into the prime time slot. Ochiai also says that the popurality of the original manga rised during the business discussions. That helped the anime project a lot. (Still, he had to start the anime production without a formal approval by Fuji TV.)

 

Ochiai chose Studio Pierrot as the main studio because he thought The Wonderful Adventures of Nils was a good anime. In the Tatsunoko Production era, he was already acquainted with Pierrot’s president called Yuji Nunokawa. He says that most of the UY’s early main staff were his acquaintances. The only exception was the chief director, Mamoru Oshii. Nunokawa explained to him, “It is a challenging choice, but Oshii is a very useful person. I recommend him on my responsibility.”


Not only Oshii, but the anime’s staff got into a severe conflict with Ochiai. The staff used to say to him, “I can’t accept your correction because it’s not the director’s order.” Oshii said to him, “I can’t accept your correction because it’s the staff’s decision.” As a result, he couldn’t control the series at first. The worst thing is that they got so many complaints from fans and the TV network.
Ochiai and the head members discussed and decided two things:
First, they stopped the “two chapters in one episode” style. Ochiai chose that style because he thought it would be the best considering the source material’s pacing. But he realized that the anime staff had no free space to fill in. As a result, the staff deleted necessary scenes from the manga. They solved that problem by making whole 20 minutes episodes.
Second, they drastically changed the main staff. Yu Yamamoto used to be a head-writer, but Ochiai himself became a head writer. He was too busy to fully join the production, so Kazunori Ito acted for him. Masaki Tsuji joined the writers, and the background artist was changed to Torao Arai.

They also discussed the removal of Mamoru Oshii, but Yuji Nunokawa strongly opposed it. Ochiai admits that the team would have collapsed if they fired Oshii.
After the drastic changes, Ochiai came to receive positive reactions. He still didn’t like Oshii & Ito’s dark storytelling, though.

 

Ochiai says that the idea of the feature film was brought up by Kazuki Tanaka. Tanaka is a chief editor who first featured Takahashi in Shonen Sunday.
Ochiai chose Tomoko Konparu as a main-writer, but It took a long time for her to finish the script. The worse thing is that the storyboard artist took even more time. In the end, that storyboard artist was not useful, so Mamoru Oshii was brought to the film. Oshii and Konparu got into a conflict. In the climax of Only You, it is revealed that Elle froze many handsome guys and kept them in storage. That is Oshii’s idea. Konparu and Ochiai didn’t like it, but Ochiai thought as a producer that he should accept various ideas to make the film into reality.
Ochiai skipped or just didn’t know this, but Oshii was depressed by the result. It was not a “film” he imagined. He thought it was just a long version of the TV series. After that, Oshii was convinced that directors must stick to their visions no matter what. However, Ochiai, Takahashi, and the fans of UY were so happy. Ochiai was unsatisfied with the TV series, so he was glad to see fans’ positive reactions in the theaters.

 

The real problem was the Movie 2: Beautiful Dreamer. The idea of the second film was brought up by Toho.
Rumiko Takahashi wrote a plot at first, but she couldn’t finish it. She was too busy to correct it, so Takeshi Shudo joined as a main-writer. However, Mamoru Oshii didn’t like Shudo’s script. (The story behind Shudo’s UY2 is interesting, but Ochiai didn’t mention it in this book.) Then, Oshii recommended Kazunori Ito to Ochiai. Ito wrote a script based on episode 78, “Pitiful! Mother of Love and Banishment!?”. Ochiai declined it for the obvious reason. When they ran out of time, Oshii said to Ochiai, “I have an idea”. Ochiai thought Oshii’s new plot was pretty good. Takahashi was not satisfied with the plot, but he convinced her. (He skipped or didn’t know this, but it was Oshii’s conspiracy. Oshii intentionally prepared the “make this, or cancel the project” situation to make his vision into reality. Oshii himself says so in some books.)
The real problem was the storyboard. When Ochiai checked the first third of the storyboard, he realized that it was totally different from the plot. He still ordered some correction, but he couldn’t do anything with the limited schedule. He says, “I wanted to quit and run away with the finished storyboard.” After the preview, he thought, “I admit that Oshii is an extremely talented director, but how dare he make a UY film like this?”
After the preview, Rumiko Takahashi said, “The manga is manga, the film is film. The film has its own merits. It is based on my manga, but the film staff must make it into a film. That’s my thoughts on the film.”

 

After finishing Beautiful Dreamer, Oshii quit, saying, “I burnt out.” Ochiai got angry and thought, “What are you, Ashita no Joe?”
BD’s box office was so bad, but the home video sold well. That “unpopular in theaters, but popular in the home video” aspect can be commonly seen in Oshii’s anime. Even BD is pretty popular compared to Oshii’s other anime. (GitS sold so poorly in theaters.)
Ochiai thinks that BD was a really bad choice for Urusei Yatsura as a franchise. The other creators like Kazuo Yamazaki were influenced by BD, and UY went to the “niche” side of anime. Ochiai thinks that UY should be more mainstream, so he doesn’t like the tone set by Oshii.

 

After that, Ochiai talks about other films and Movie 5. I skip that part because this review is a part of the “Mamoru Oshii book list”. Plus, the most interesting part is from the launch of the TV series to BD.
What interested me is the story behind the “They Were Eleven” film project. “They Were Eleven” is Moto Hagio’s famous manga series in 1975. When Kitty Film decided to adapt it into a feature film, Hagio requested that Mamoru Oshii direct the film. She watched Beautiful Dreamer and liked it. She was interested in how Oshii would handle her manga in the film form. Oshii was making Angel’s Egg at that time, so They Were Eleven was directed by Satoshi Dezaki. Ochiai didn’t mention this, but Moto Hagio became a big fan of Angel’s Egg.

 

The interview with Rumiko Takahashi might be important to her fans, but, to be honest, it is not so interesting to me. If you’re interested in interviews with her, I recommend other books.

 

To conclude, this is a must-buy book even to Oshii fans. It explains many aspects Oshii doesn’t mention in other books. The unfortunate thing is that it is out-of-print after the first print. I hope someone will reprint and translate it.

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

-----

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: 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 the anime. So, this book is just a collection of the preproduction materials. 

In Amano's biography book called Beyond The Fantasy, however, 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. That story contradicts 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.

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.

-----

 

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. After several visits, Mitsuse told him that he should quit the left protest and face his real-life problems. He 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

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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.

-----

 

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.