Mamoru Oshii is a Japanese storyboard artist, writer, producer, and director who was influenced by European cinema when he was growing up. He graduated from Tokyo Gakugei University in 1976, and in 1977, he was hired by Tatsunoko Productions (where he worked as a storyboard artist on a few anime TV series). In 1980, he went to work for Studio Pierrot under the supervision of his mentor, Hisayuki Toriumi. There, Oshii worked as a storyboard artist and director on the Urusei Yatsura TV series. For this installment of Animation Corner, I’ll be focusing on the first two films Oshii directed, Urusei Yatsura: Only You (now celebrating its 30th anniversary) and its first sequel Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer.
Directed by Oshii, 1983’s Urusei Yatsura: Only You centers on a young man who tries to prevent his marriage to an alien he had accidentally proposed to over a decade earlier, especially since it threatens the relationship with his current girlfriend. Featuring the voices of Yoshiko Sakakibara, Toshio Furukawa, Fumi Hirano, Hisako Kyouda, and Saeko Shimazu, this critically acclaimed film was a box office hit in Japan. The production of the film was less than smooth; the producer kept demanding changes to the movie, which pissed off Oshii. Ironically, Urusei Yatsura creator Rumiko Takahashi considers this film to be the most true to the series. The film never received any award nominations.
Written and directed by Oshii, 1984’s Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer centers on a young man who, along with his extra-terrestrial fiancee, begin to discover that things are repeating themselves and the world is starting to change. Featuring the voices of Toshio Furukawa, Fumi Hirano, Saeko Shimazu, Akira Kamiya, and Kazuko Sugiyama, this critically acclaimed film was a box office hit in Japan. Oshii was dissatisfied with the constant changes made during the making of the previous film, so he went in his own direction with this film, basing it on Urashima Taro, an old Japanese fairy tale (creator Rumiko Takahasi disliked how much the new film was deivating from the original story, and almost quit because of it). The film never received any award nominations.