Once in a Life Time
Mamoru Oshii cannot read a map to save his life. Once the top and bottom is flipped around, he totally loses his current positioning. You can say he is bad with maps. For him, the map in the game Dragon Quest is the best. The map places him in the center and the world revolves around him.
“Today, I had no problem getting here. Because I just came to the studio. (In Mitaka, Tokyo, where Production IG is located.) But if this were a new location, most likely, I’d never make it. So, I only go to familiar places. I go between my house and the studio, and stop at the bookstore along the way. Sometimes I receive map links requesting that I go to where people are suggesting me to go. They think everyone in this world can read a map! For me, a map that doesn’t show where I am currently, doesn’t work.”
“There are a lot of guys like me in anime. Because we are always self-centric in our work, we are not really good at imagining where we stand from a different perspective. So, it’s a disaster if you took a bunch of animation artists to go, for example, on a location hunt. We are a group gone astray. As we are headed to our destination, we start to lose a few, and eventually we are all separated: missing in action. One time, we went on a field trip to go see an army tank. Before we knew it, someone was missing and, after some desperate searching, was only to be found under the tank.”
“For people like us, more than maps, we need something like a navigation for time. Like, ‘Be here by this time.’ Or ‘Be done by this time.’ The world is spilling over with all kinds of guiding methods, but I will understand better if it was more fitted for our daily lives, and with less options and information. A universally useful app for everyone doesn’t exist.”
Mamoru Oshii is surprisingly obedient, at least, in his daily life. He is like a dog with a leash following whichever way the owner may go. He will not fight even if there is a forceful detour off the regular path. Ironically, his wife enjoys her travels with road maps and railway maps. The couple was perfectly made for one another.
“Honestly, I don’t travel much. I tend to get into trouble when I do, so the best way is for me to just tag along. I really don’t want to go to any film festivals, but I just do what I am told to and get taken. If the media wants my attention, I rather go with the flow than to go through the trouble of telling them that I actually don’t want to pose awkwardly for the camera.”
“In Tokyo, I only ride trains. It manages to take me to my destination even if I am completely lost in thought. I can have some time to myself in a train by reading books and imagining things. I don’t have to be part of this world. It’s purely my own time. Thus, I like to put all responsibility on others while I am en route.”
“I am hopeless even with simple train maps, so put me in a car, and I will only drive near my house. I wish the car and the GPS could do all the driving for me. The basic GPS provides information as the outside world approaches, so I have to react to it every time. But I don’t want to have any responsibility while I am driving. Please make ‘by when’ and ‘to where’ happen for me, so I don’t have to think about any of it.”
Mamoru Oshii is hard to track down. Not because he is a great film director, (well, of course, that is part of it, too…) but because he is physically hard to catch. For one thing, he just started using a cell phone and email at work only out of necessity. Mamoru Oshii could be very “offline.” It is hard to imagine that this is the same genius that vividly illustrated the world of the Internet, more than twenty years ago, before anyone had really seen it.
“People today are required to be completely active for all their waking hours. Sometimes people even try to use their sleep to memorize things. Therefore, what is most needed for the modern man is some personal time. I protect my personal time, and I have been able to actually maintain it so far. It is important that this time is created by one’s own efforts.”
“Nowadays, people won’t treat you like a human being unless you have made an appointment. Before, we didn’t have to deal with such a vague thing as an appointment. Even if a promise was made to meet, you only had the choice of give up on waiting, or keep on waiting. So, when people actually met, they took it very seriously. The phase “ichi-go ichi-e*” comes from these very special encounters.”
(*A common Japanese saying that signifies meeting only once, or to cherish the occasion as if it will only happen once in a lifetime.)
“Even if the world became more and more convenient, at the end of day, it's a matter of the human psyche. For example, I was late getting here today by twenty minutes, but I had been up since 8:30 am this morning exercising, eating bread, taking a shower, and doing a whole lot of nothing. After all of that, I had already lost the sense of urgency to leave my house on time. I do admit, that somewhere deep in my mind, I was secretly dreading the hot day.”
“And then, when I finally can get ready, someone who likes to talk forever calls me up and I am stuck on the phone. After that, I have to get here in a hurry drenched in sweat. On the way here, my secretary was ringing constantly but every time I answered, the call got cut-off.” (But he never calls his secretary back…) “I am like the number one guy you can’t make an appointment with! Thanks to that, I get plenty of my personal time.”
Mamoru Oshii: he’s a once in a lifetime encounter.(Interview: Manami Iiboshi, Translation: Mika Anami)