Ghost in the Shell

Well this 1995 Japanese animated film came with the highest possible recommendation and it sure lived up to the hype. Based on a popular manga by Masamune Shirow, this first film adaptation of Ghost in the Shell was directed by Mamoru Oshii. And though the movie is nearly fifteen years of age and may not be able to compete in picture quality with today's productions, this science fiction work has lost none of its luster.

Along with Sword of the Stranger (Canada, USA, Europe), Ghost in the Shell is probably the animated film which has the most cross-genre appeal that I've seen thus far. So if you want to give anime a shot, you can't go wrong with this one. Even better, as one of the first Japanese animated features to make it big in North America, it should be fairly easy to find at your video store. And for those who can't stand subtitles, it's been dubbed into English. See, there's no reason why you shouldn't give the flick a shot!

The Wachowski brothers, creators of The Matrix trilogy, have always said that the first Ghost in the Shell movie was a big influence on what became The Matrix. The cascading numbers and letters which became the series' visual trademark is the most obvious influence that the trilogy borrowed from the animated feature.

Although the visual effects and action scenes are "top notch," it's the depth of the story which really made this movie as satisfying as it was. I kid you not. Ghost in the Shell is as good or better than most science fiction movies out there.

Here's the blurb:

In the year 2029, the world has become interconnected by a vast electronic network that permeates every aspect of life. That same network also becomes a battlefield for Tokyo's Section Nine security force, which has been charged with apprehending the master hacker known only as the Puppet Master. Spearheading the investigation is Major Motoko Kusanagi, who -- like many in her department -- is a cyborg officer, far more powerful than her human appearance would suggest. And yet as the Puppet Master, who is even capable of hacking human minds, leaves a trail of victims robbed of their memories, Kusanagi ponders the very nature of her existence: is she purely an artificial construct, or is there more? What, exactly, is the "ghost" -- her essence -- in her cybernetic "shell"? When Section Six gets involved in the case, she is forced to confront the fact that there is more here than meets the eye, and that the Puppet Master may hold some of the answers she seeks. But little does she know that he has been seeking her as well.

The pace is crisp, and you don't always know what exactly is going on. But just buckle up and enjoy the ride. And it's a good one! Though the interaction between Motoko Kusanagi and Batou is interesting, I would have liked to learn more about them. The rhythm of the movie likely precluded that, but it would have been nice to see a bit more character development.

The worldbuilding is a futuristic and cyberpunk Japan, and overall the environment is perfect. The soundtrack by Kenji Kawai captured the feel of the film quite well, but it's not as distinctive as the scores composed by Joe Hisaishi or Tenmon.

All in all, Ghost in the Shell is a must-see movie for any science fiction fan. The only thing that left a little to be desired was the abrupt ending. It took me by complete surprise, for I believed that there was at least 15 to 30 minutes left. It was almost as though they ran out of budget and had to tie everything up rapidly. But other than that, this one was good from start to finish.

And the good news, at least for me, is that my video store has both Ghost in the Shell anime series on hand, so I can rent them and see what the buzz is all about. But first, I'll probably give Ghost in the Shell: Innocence a try. . .

Here's the trailer:

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe. Or for the remastered Ghost in the Shell 2.0: Canada, USA, Europe.

12 commentaires:

Dawfydd said...

Glad to know you enjoyed Ghost In The Shell.
It's definetly one of the animes to show people who aren't too sure if they'd ike it.
And regarding your point about Kusanagi & Batou, Stand Alone Complex gives you lots, LOTS more character development, for the entire team. Enjoy :)

Anonymous said...

If you are going for Innocence next then I hope you are of the same mind as Roland and co.
It is a lot more divisive then the first one is.
I thought it was terrible. Others love it. I guess it will be interesting to see what side you fall on.


Anonymous said...

It's perhaps worth noting that the environment is actually just present-day Japan for the most part and only futuristic in some scenes. It's definitely an interesting contrast to some other futuristic setting where everything seems completely altered.

Matt said...

Ah yes, about the soundtrack. I know there are some versions where the credit theme is something completely different than the main theme. But in some there's playing an extended version of the main theme with a nice solo climax. I always thought that gave a better closure to the film as a whole.
An awkward piece of music at the end can make quite a difference.

Anonymous said...

Dude, you so need to watch Akira. Please put it at the top of your list.

Unknown said...

As much as I love the movies, the animated series is much better. For sure give it a shot.

Simeon said...

It is not better. It is too different to be either better or worse. It's easier to watch, more "fun" and more mainstream. It's a very good cyberpunk crime series. But the movies are a work of philosophy. To compare the two in any way is ridiculous.

Chris M said...

Glad you liked it Pat. Definately one of my favourite anime movies. Now go watch the second one! :P That fanmade trailer is not bad either.

Anonymous said...

Heh. See, there you go again, Roland. Not quite calling half the anime community idiots this time but...

One is more action and excitement and one is more slow and contemplative. But they both share the same characters, world, missions etc. etc.

This makes it EXACTLY right for comparison. Not ridiculous at all. It's a simple question of how do you like your entertainment? Or your anime? Or even your Batou?
How is that ridiculous?

The only way it is unfair to compare the two is that the movies only have 2 hours to get their ideas across whereas the series' have 10+

Anonymous said...

Crap! I really ought to get an account for this thing...

That last comment was from me but I'm sure Roland realised that. :)


Simeon said...

I think that plot is the most superficial thing to compare by. Ideas and purpose are what defines a work of art. For example, can you compare "The Perfume" and "Dexter" because they are both about a serial killer?

True, in GitS it's easier, because the TV show and movies share characters. But still, I think that when two works have different purpose, it's exactly ridiculous to compare them on a basis that wasn't the same for both. For example, the movies don't try to develop their characters because their characters are just another tool for expressing ideas. But SAC is character-driven, so its characters are way more developed. Yet it hardly boasts any overly interesting ideas in terms of philosophy.

Is any one of the two poorer for its lacks? I don't think so.

Unknown said...

I feel like I'm late chiming in, but GitS SAC (and the Second Gig) were revelatory for me as anime. I had loved the original graphic novel when I found it years ago--my first exposure to Japanese manga--and wasn't sure the anime could live up to it.
They were involving. They made me laugh. There are episodes that I still go back and watch for the third, fourth, and fifth times. At times the animation had flaws, but the overall quality of the series was awesome.
(As a side note, I'm a subtitle guy; can't tell you how the English voice acting is.)
Very worth watching, at least once.