There are few names as recognizable as that of Masamune Shirow, which is ironic given that his real name is Masanori Ota.

Shirow got the name from the mythical sword maker Masamune and, to be sure, his pen strokes are as formidable as any samurai. Shirow is one of my favorite character designers, and that’s an opinion shared by a large number of fans who enjoy his work.

Masamune Shirow Anime

Classical Education

Shirow is from Kobe, but he studied at the University of Arts in Osaka. It was here that he took notice of manga and he tried his hand at making a manga. Most people never get past that initial point, but his first work Black Magic/i> was fantastic. Full disclosure: I have a Black Magic android figurine on my desk, so my opinion of it might be a little hyperbolic.

This work was first published as a doujinshi, which are basically self-published fan products. However, many mangaka first get noticed in doujinshi and that’s exactly what happened to Shirow, who got a publishing deal out of it.

Apples and Cyborgs

Black Magic was a cyberpunk story and this was to become Shirow’s signature genre. His next manga, Appleseed, made him a household name. He drew a future that was dense, beautiful, and fascinating.

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell

While Appleseed put Shirow on the map, it was Ghost in the Shell that drew the highest praise. I highly recommend that people read the original manga before seeing the 1995 anime adaption by Mamoru Oshii. The Oshii film is important in its own right, but it lacks just about all the humor and artistic flair that’s so key to Shirow’s appeal.

Naughty, Naughty

If you do indeed read the original Ghost in the Shell manga, you may be shocked to find that Shirow puts plenty of explicit sexual material even in his mainstream works. What many people don’t know is that he also produces plenty of erotic material too in the form of manga and artbooks. Plenty of the Shirow figures you’ll find at your local comic book shop are actually from these erotic works.

Still in Business

While Shirow’s heyday was really between ‘85 and ‘95, he’s still producing artbooks and manga. His latest work was Pandora in the Crimson Shell, which came out in 2012. However, to this day Shirow works are still being adapted to anime and video games.

But his later works haven’t quite captured public attention as much, and the higher focus on adults-only content isn’t helping. Still, Shirow is relatively young and there’s sure to be a few masterpieces left in that legendary pen. Until then there’s plenty for new finds to explore and enjoy. Shirow remains one of the most unique and notable manga artists in the industry, and that will never change.

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