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Mamoru Oshii: Post-Modern Surrealism in Japanese Anime - Essay Example

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Mamoru Oshii: Post-Modern Surrealism in Japanese Anime

In looking for surrealism in contemporary art and popular media, it is important to understand the difference between the appropriation of surrealist symbolism for shock value within the stream of media images that comprises everyday mass-media communications and what the surrealists themselves sought to express. In searching for a historical definition, “The Surrealist Manifesto” written by Andre Breton in 1924 states: “SURREALISM, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express -- verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner -- the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.”1 Through this interpretation, the surrealist use of automatic drawing, dream symbolism, and irrationality was an expression of the larger reality of mind and awareness than represented in the narrow frequencies of ego consciousness. Thus, in looking for examples of surrealism in contemporary popular culture, it is difficult to find many artists, directors, or producers who are really attempting to express “the actual functioning of thought” in their work either visually or methodologically. To do so is to approach the visual arts as an expression of philosophy, as Marcel Duchamp did in early Cubism and dada, or as Salvador Dali, Man Ray, and Andre Breton approached painting, photography, and literature in the Surrealism movement. Some of the most interesting examples of Surrealism in post-modern art that simultaneously attempts to view visual arts and narrative as a larger expression of mind consistent with its own logic are the animation films of Mamoru Oshii. Oshii is a Japanese anime producer, director, artist, and writer whose most famous works are “The Ghost in the Shell – I/II,” ‘Patlabor 1&2,” “Avalon,” and other animation films in both English and Japanese.2 This essay will focus on his most influential series, the “Ghost in the Shell” animated films which include three releases: Ghost in the Shell (1995) – The first anime in the series draws upon a “Blade Runner” theme of cyborg life becoming sentient, and can be seen as one of the first attempts to represent the visual and conceptual philosophy of “cyberspace” as William Gibson had outlined it in his novels. The question of “artificial life” develops on themes related to Philip K. Dick and schizophrenia, which Mamoru Oshii re-contextualizes through the use of surrealism in the film to reflect Salvador Dali’s “critical paranoia” in methodology. This anime was reportedly the influence for the Matrix films.3 Ghost in the Shell 2 - Innocence (2004) – The follow up film in the series continues the experimentation with subjectivity in the film, making the surrealist influence clear as “special officers of Public Security Section 9 are investigating a cyborg corporation called LOCUS SOLUS (a name taken) from the novel of the same name by French author Raymond Roussel...”4 The entire anime is presented as a series of distorted perceptions or hallucinations that evolve on a schizophrenic basis as an analogy for artificial intelligence but also as an example of post-modern theory as expressed in the writings of Deleuze, Guattari, Harraway, Baudrillard, Foucault, Jameson, and others. Ghost in the Shell 2.0 (2008) – This release involved the use of the latest 3D-CGI technology to “remix” the original anime, and it also included new voices and music. In continuing the theme of the “Ghost in the Shell” movies representing a larger stream of consciousness and fragmentation of personality into the characters, this release also highlights automatic aspects of digital art that is consistent with the original view of Breton of Surrealism in being symbolically representative of the unconscious. Salvador Dali reformed the early automatist oriented aspects ...Show more
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Summary

In looking for surrealism in contemporary art and popular media, it is important to understand the difference between the appropriation of surrealist symbolism for shock value within the stream of media images that comprises everyday mass-media communications and what the surrealists themselves sought to express…
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