"Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards."
When computers settled down in our lives for good, digital world was right there, wide open. Animation industry did not sit and wait but decided to use the opportunities that were created. 3-dimensional animation was developed and one of the earliest examples was used in a 1976 movie called Futureworld. It was created by Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke studying at University of Utah in 1972.
Nevertheless the full potential of 3D was not used until late 1990s and early 2000s. However 2000s did not only bring breakthroughs in CGI but also in the usage of digital technology in the production of 2D animations. Many people may think that with beautifully detailed and naturally looking CGI, old fashioned 2D animation would be gone from TV screens, although that is not the case. It is true that most feature films in Europe and America are produced in 3D, however the Asian market, especially Japan, is still overflown with 2D productions.
A company called Production I.G. is a Tokio based, studio which is best known for its ground breaking technical advances of animation. The first attempt of turning digital was during the making of Ghost in the Shell movie in 1995, where they used digital overlaying and colouring techniques. Cells were still hand drawn but with the ability to put the layers together digitally countless possibilities were created. Through the possibility of having more layers than there could be traditionally, more effects, details and colour adjustments could be arranged.
The most important project of Prod I.G. when considering innovation is definitely Blood: the Last Vampire (2000) which was their first film to use digital computer generated animation. Story itself was not based on any other media, unlike most of the productions, but a stand-alone creation. Cells were first drawn traditionally and then inked, coloured and animated using computers.
GITS became a cult movie, mostly outside of Japan. Mamoru Oshii decided to make a sequel that would push the limits of animations but also show a rich story with, characteristic for the director, deep philosophical themes. It was made with help from Studio Ghibli's Toshio Suzuki as co-producer.
Mamoru Oshii, as every director, has his way of portraying the stories. Very often the characters in his movies operate within a group eg. Section 9 in Ghost In The Shell. It is a reflection on Japanese tradition and culture where there was always put importance on group affiliation. However, protagonists are still "isolated and solitary individuals". To convey all of this, Oshii uses a characteristic approach to eye contact. As he said in an interview with Fluctuat.Net (2002):
"In Partlaborthe characters converse but never look at one another. They are never facing one another but always face the viewer. The characters only communicate to a screen. I have found this device to express my idea of people's loneliness. I believe that throughout history, intersubjective communication has been far too often privileged. We have never explored the relationshipthat may obtain between a human and a dog, or a human and a machine. If humans do not yet know themselves, it may be because they have always approached the human person in relation to other human things. I am concerned with other types of relationships."
Oshii portrays the characters as being repeatedly forced back into communal structures even though they yearn for solitude. He presents "the double paradox of isolation-in-commonality and commonality-in-isolation". It connects to the sense of privacy, which is different in the west, "the feeling that one is quite never alone".
Many assume that Oshii does not include love in his works but in fact he just approaches it differently. Not as straightforward, romantic or erotic. Oshii present it in a sense of melancholy as well as missed and lost opportunities, which for me seems less idealistic and more realistic than most of representations of love in media. However there is no right or wrong perception of love, to understand it best you have to look at all visions and experience it yourself. Mamoru Oshii celebrates respect and friendship instead. It may be connected to the Japanese culture, where for both "I love you" and "I love toast" is used the same phrase, suki desu. This does not mean that they do not love others, but they just did not describe it like it was done in Western culture. Techniques often used in his movies include: long shots, cut-back, cut-in, swish pan, rack focusing, reverse motion, montages, cut away, tilt, pillow shots and extreme high/low angles.
Mamoru Oshii was also the inventor of OVA/OAV format (Original Video Animation / Original Animated Video). It is a direct-to-video type of production which does not mean it is worthless. OAVs allow for more creative freedom than TV shows or full length features. They can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as 2 hours; the length does not have to be the same in every episode. Very often they introduce side stories to existing shows or serve as a try-out for new series. Quality of the animation definitely surpasses this of a TV series and it certainly can be compared to feature film quality on a few occasions.
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