Masamune Shirow (pen name for Masanori Ota) is one of the most popular and influential creators of manga (Japanese comics). He is best known as the creator of Ghost in the Shell, which most Westerners know more from the 2 Anime movies (directed by Mamoru Oshii) and TV show than from the original manga they were adapted from. His other well-known manga include Appleseed and Dominion.
Ghost in the Shell is essentially a cyberpunk (computer oriented science fiction) story and the anime adaptation of it was very influential on popular films like The Matrix. The story is that the Wachowski brothers were running into resistance from the studio when pitching the idea for the original Matrix movie. The Brothers W couldn’t seem to get across to the studio execs what kind of a movie they were trying to make until they sat them down for a showing of Ghost in the Shell and said “We want to make a live action version of something like this.”
In addition to manga stories, Shirow also creates highly-rendered “calendar art” specifically designed to appeal to the prurient interests of young men. It usually features scantily-clad or semi-naked women with exaggerated sexual characteristics, (who may or may not be robots or androids), wielding large high-tech weapons amid gleaming sci-fi trappings and futuristic settings.
Many of his images will be unappealing or downright offensive to some women. Ironically, strong women are the central characters in his comic stories. They are the heroes, the movers and shakers, the ones who make things happen. The men are either supporting characters or the villains.
Shirow’s drawings, even his highly rendered calendar images, have that “anime” cartoon-style look to the faces that many western viewers have trouble accepting: large doll-like eyes, tiny pointed noses and exaggeratedly small mouths and chins. His comics storytelling, however, can be fairly straightforward for Westerners when it has been translated and the images have been “flopped” so the panels read left to right instead of right-to left.
I don’t know of an official Masamune Shirow website, although there is an official Ghost in the Shell site. Here is a Masamune Shirow fan site with information and links, and another Masamune Shirow Hyperpage with info, articles, reviews and fan forums.
Note: The sites linked here contain sexually oriented material and nudity. Avoid them if you’re likely to be offended.