[AB 05] Mamoru Oshii’s Production of Multi-layered Space in 2D Anime

By Miho Nakagawa.

The article by Miho Nakagawa has examined the works of Mamoru Oshii well, detailing how Oshii maximizes the effect of 2D celluloid animation by developing a layout principle of three layers on screen: foreground (characters), midground (surroundings) and background (landscapes). The negation of space was examined in parallel with its precursors traditional Japanese prints and the art of calligraphy. Nakagawa proposes the layering in Oshii’s films may be derived from everyday life in traditional Japanese buildings with their layering structures and the practice of calligraphy. In both woodblock prints and anime, each layer indicates a different meaning rather than representing the real world in the unified principle of perspective.

The written Japanese language has potentially influenced the multi-layered space, vacant space and time. The characters could create a 3D visual structure of 2D discrete image planes sandwiching intervals of both space and time. An example of this layering is in his experimental film Avalon by transforming a colloquial layer among auditory layers (strata of music, dialogues and noises) into a visual layer (overlapping subtitles). The Japanese anime has been developed further by applying the concept of ma (which is a Japanese character that within its meaning means time) or vacant layers between frames.

Nakagawa has successfully researched and examined Japanese historical artwork, culture and calligraphy to suggest how these early influences have subconsciously been contributing to Mamoru Oshii’s animation works.


Nakagawa, M. (2013) Mamoru Oshii’s Production of Multi-layered Space in 2D Anime, Animation 8(1) pp. 65-83.


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