See concept art from the original Ghost in the Shell anime, Innocence, Patlabor and more

See watercolour paintings, pencil sketches and drawings by art directors who worked on the classic Japanese anime films.


Background illustration for Ghost in the Shell cut 334 by Hiromasa Ogura. All from this film are © 1995 Shirow Masamune, KODANSHA · BANDAI VISUAL · MANGA ENTERTAINMENT Ltd

Concept art for Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 Ghost in the Shell anime film is on show at London’s House of Illustration as part of an exhibition celebrating handmade background illustrations for classic sic-fi anime films – which has been timed to coincide with the live-action Hollywood remake of GitS starring Scarlett Johansson.

The Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan exhibition will feature 1950s-born Japanese artists from Tokyo and Niigata created convincing dystopian visions, which became huge influencers of anime as we know it today, and further popular culture.

Film art director Hiromasa Ogura’s architectural vision for Ghost in the Shell’s cityscape - Niihama/New Port City - influenced not only Rupert Sanders' 2017 film featuring Scarlett Johansson released on April 1, but other sci-fi films such as The Matrix and Avatar.

Background illustration for Ghost in the Shell (1995), cut 341 by Hiromasa Ogura

His watercolour paintings of the city in Ghost in the Shell were inspired by Asia’s emerging megacities and based on photographs of Hong Kong. The original concepts for Niihama reflect the striking contrast between a neglected Chinese town and a sprawling urban development.

VFX studio Territory, who worked on around 200 3D assets for the cityscape in the Ghost in the Shell 2017 film, says initial inspiration drew from the 1995 anime film, but took a contemporary aesthetic direction. Read: In-depth: Territory on creating the futuristic 3D cityscape for Ghost in the Shell


Concept Design for Ghost in the Shell 2 - Innocence by Takashi Watabe © 2004 Shirow Masamune, KODANSHA · IG, ITNDDTD

Pencil drawings for the 2008 anime sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence by Takashi Watabe are also showcased. Takashi is a well-known Japanese illustrator of his generation. His realistic style has become iconic in the wider genre of Japanese anime films.

It's the first time this body of work will be shown in the UK. Director of House of Illustration Colin McKenzie says the selected artists not only had huge influence on the world of anime, but inspired artists across popular culture.

Advertisement. Article continues below

Photo by Paul Grover

The exhibition also features Mamoru Oshii who worked on Patlabor:The Movie (1989 - shown here) and Metropolis (2001). Mamoru was an influential director in Japan, who began his production process by drawing the entire storyboard himself before coordinating with a creative team. Oshii’s work is marked with his signature dog’s head stamp.


Background illustration for Ghost in the Shell cut 311 by Hiromasa Ogura

Hiromasa worked closely with Mamoru on backgrounds for Patlabor: The Movie and Ghost in the Shell. As head of the art department at Production I.G for 12 years, Hiromasa now runs Ogura Koubo, which creates hand-painted backgrounds. His style is iconic for its painterly technique.


Background illustration for Ghost in the Shell cut 311 by Hiromasa Ogura

You can check out Anime Architecture: Backgrounds of Japan at the House of Illustration until September 10. The House of Illustration in the UK’s only public gallery space dedicated solely to illustration.

Advertisement. Article continues below

Layout for Ghost in the Shell cut 311, illustrator unknown

As well as matte paintings, the show also includes sketches and layouts from Ghost In The Shell, its sequel Innocence, Patlabor and Metropolis.


Layout for Ghost in the Shell cut 341 by Atsushi Takeuchi

Some of the concept art is incredibly intricate, showing how much work went into realising these near-future worlds.


One of the best parts of the exhibition is seeing the matte paintings placed next to their concept art, which gives you an insight into their development (especially if you can't read Japanese, so the annotations can't be understood).

Read: A 'deep dive' into Ghost In The Shells meditative underwater scene

Advertisement. Article continues below