Neurohard (c) Shirow Masamune / Fujimi Shobo


Who is Masamune Shirow?


Shirow's Profile

Shirow Name: Masamune Shirow (Pseudonym)
Born: November 23rd, 1961
Birthplace: Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture
Residence: Hyogo (since the Kobe earthquake in 1995)
Blood Type: A
Graduate- Osaka University Of Arts, Oil Painting Department
Major Works:
Black Magic, Appleseed, Dominion, Orion, Ghost In The Shell, Intron Depot, Galgrease.

Born on November 23rd, 1961 in Hyogo Prefecture's Kobe City, the manga artist known as Masamune Shirow (a pseudonym actually... I also have no idea what is his real name) started publishing with fanzine group Atlas. Shirow Sensei debuted in Atlas #7 in the year 1980 and continued to contribute, also to other fanzines until 1984. It was during this time that one of his works, Black Magic was collected and published.

cover to Atlas #12 feat. Shirow Atlas days cover to Atlas #12 feat. Shirow
The Atlas Days (Left to Right): Atlas #12 Cover, Picture by Shirow from his Atlas years, Black Magic (with Briareos!)

Early work
Masamune Shirow's illustration just before Appleseed One (around 1985)

Shirow Sensei was at the time also a student at the Osaka University of Arts. Upon graduation Shirow went on to teach art in a high school, where he created Appleseed. Shirow's professional debut as a manga artist was with Black Magic, and subsequently Appleseed (Volume 1) published in 1985 under Seishinsha. Appleseed went on to become a huge success, earning Shirow a Galaxy Award for best Science fiction Comic in 1986. It continued to be Shirow's 'life work' with 4 volumes published as of 1989, and promises of more to come. Since, Shirow's popularity has grown, with his works translated and published worlwide.

Shirow Shirow Shirow Shirow
The many faces of Shirow Masamune, whose real portrait was never published (by choice) as he prefers anonymity and lets his works speak for themselves. More popularly, Shirow Sensei represents himself as Takochu- the pen-wielding Mr Octopus, available even in 3D form.

Most of his works were also adapted for animation and games. Among the notable ones are the Dominion Tank Police anime series and Ghost In The Shell, which has been made into a hugely successful movie and an excellent Playstation game. However, Shirow has been openly expressing his dissatisfaction with the anime industry as being discriminating towards manga artists, and prefers to work alone, as an illustrator rather than on projects that involves teamwork. Most of the time his involvement in anime and games are minimal, and more often just doing character and conceptual designs. In 2002-2005, Ghost In The Shell was made into a very successful TV series spanning 2 seasons (Stand Alone Complex series) and Appleseed likely to follow suit after the release of a 3D Live Anime movie end of 2004.

Shirow's works reflects on his extensive reading and the huge influence of spiders and other crustacians is apparent in his designs. Medicine, general science, supernatural stuff, philosophy, military strategies, mythology, biology, nanotechnology, sword-fights, even comedy, Shirow knows it all, well except for maybe 'school-type' romance (Hm. Maybe not! I am sure Shirow is quite capable of this theme if he wants to be)...

Landmate Scheme
Blueprints for a Landmate- A well-known aspect of Masamune Shirow's works is the amount of detail and thought Shirow Sensei put into his works, from concepts to mechanical designs, making them scientifically "realistic" and "possible" for the readers. Science Fiction at its best!

Did you know?
Masamune Shirow regularly visits Universities around Osaka / Japan to understand and research first-hand the latest technological advances and practices developed- of course he doesn't go by the name "Masamune Shirow" on his visits, that would blow his cover!

Another interesting and lesser-known fact is that Shirow Sensei works alone. Except for a brief stint with an assistant, Hagane Kotetsu, who is still a good friend (Fact check! I am not so sure about Hagane Kotetsu, maybe he is Shirow himself after all? He was mentioned in an early interview with Shirow, but whether its meant as a joke or not, I'm not sure). Unlike many manga artists who have 'Studios' of assistants to help with inking, screen-toning, coloring and other fussy details involved in professional manga-creating, Shirow does everything himself. It is therefore understandable that Shirow's works tend to take a long time to be ready for publishing. So instead of getting monthly installments / episodes of say, Appleseed we Shirow fans have to wait in terms of years for Shirow mangas, most likely as a collected edition.

Recently, Shirow's attention and focus is on catching up and experimenting with new technology. His fascination and efforts with computer graphics (CG) is very extreme, and almost all of his recent artworks are CG, made with Photoshop and other imaging softwares as opposed to his traditional oil painting style. This resulted in the heavily digitised Ghost In The Shell 2: Manmachine Interface (2001), his latest effort in actually doing a manga.

Pirate Girl
Welcome to the Digital Age! The Modern Shirow Girls of recent years, with many art collections planned.

Shirow Sensei is 'popular' by name these days, owing mainly to Ghost In The Shell which is now a hit anime movie and TV series (Stand Alone Complex / Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig) and maybe a little bit due to Appleseed 2004 CG movie. But ultimately, Shirow Sensei's core fans remain somewhat of a cult, those who discovered Shirow through his manga series and databooks.

Although these days Tokyo is the place to be for professional manga artists due to its vast resources, market and support services, Masamune Shirow continues to work from his birthplace in the Kobe/Osaka area in Hyogo prefecture. Word of advice though- its pointless to dig around dustbins in Kobe as you are unlikely to find any of Shirow's discarded artworks/sketches as Shirow shreds and destroys them before disposal to ensure they won't crop up in "surprising" places...

If you are new to Shirow and are interested in his works, or want to go deeper beyond the anime GITS / Shirow CG Girls, I'd recommend the following manga/comics:

This is what I would call a "basic Shirow set" for fans like myself. Art collections such as the Intron Depot series, or other fancy stuffs like Galgrease are nice to have and very collectible, but if you want to "know" Masamune Shirow, my recommendation would be to go back to the basics, the classic manga series which defines Masamune Shirow. These are the works that elevated Shirow's international status and is the best representation of his unique talent and cutting edge ideas.

Shirow Resources on the Net:

Seishinsha Japan Homepage
This is Shirow's number one publisher. Seishinsha is an indpendent publishing house based in Osaka, where Shirow first publishes his works, and has continued to do so. Visit their website which hosts the Official Masamune Shirow Goods, News and Events page (well for Seishinsha publications that is) which you would find very useful! Also, while you're there, pick up the Shirow images from the Data Library (strictly for personal use, mind you!). If you have any queries, write to the good folks at Seishinsha, Preferrably in Japanese.

Kodansha Japan
Kodansha is one of the big mainstream publishers in Japan. They publish numerous manga series and also those weeklies, including Young Magazine in which Shirow's Ghost In The Shell was first serialized (I supposed to be published by Kodansha, Shirow Sensei can be considered 'mainstream' and 'elite' in Japanese manga scene eh? ^_^). Shirow also does quite a lot of one shot short mangas in this magazine (e.g Gun Dancing, Pile Up). So, do visit. There might be something new!

Dark Horse Online
Dark Horse Comics. They publish, in conjunction with Studio Proteus, the English versions of Masamune Shirow books. Visit the website for informations on back issues, and how to get them. Currently they are carrying a very good selection of manga titles.

Studio Proteus deserves more than a mention as this is the company responsible for acquiring, translating and publishing (now under Dark Horse Comics I believe) Masamune Shirow's works for the English readers. Although the art is stunning enough, we English readers would be lost and in the dark where Shirow's works are concerned. So to Mr. Toren Smith and the gang at SP, a heartfelt thanks and this Shirow fan at least will continue the support.

Besides English, I am also reading my manga in Chinese, in fact my early Shirow exposure are all in Chinese. Tong Li Comics (Taiwanese) publishes my Orion, Ghost In the Shell and Black Magic chinese editions. Witicomics (Hong Kong) publishes my Appleseed series.

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31st Oct 05: Shirowgraphy


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