The story of this fourth installment takes place amidst signs of postwar reconstruction in the winter of 2028. Tensions are rising in New Port City as demonstrations are held concerning the interests of foreign cartels. This leads to a shooting incident involving riot police. It all started with a cyberbrain infection released by the terrorist "Fire Starter." An independent offensive unit led by Motoko Kusanagi entrusts the suppression of the situation to their ghosts and aims for their own justice. Below the surface of the incident, lies the "tin girl" Emma and the "scarecrow man" Burinda Junior. As Kusanagi deals with the incident, she draws near to what those two ghosts were seeking.
In 1995, Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell emerged from the pages of his manga and onto the big screen, wowing audiences across the world with tales from his adult oriented, mystical cyberpunk world of police, political intrigue, mysterious technological crime.
Fast forward to 2015, and the Ghost in the Shell franchise is one of the most well known and respected names in the medium- along with boasting three TV series, four hour-long films, a feature length special film, three feature films, the newest of which having just aired two months ago.
Very few anime or manga series can claim to have had the success
that Ghost has over the past 20 years, and even fewer have maintained the quality of writing or demand for the audience's attention as it, either.
Enter Ghost in the Shell Arise- the new series of four hour-long films, to be capped off with the ambiguously named "Ghost in the Shell" theater released film. This review is for all four films together, as a series.
Arise takes place in 2027, some three years before the events of Stand Alone Complex, focusing on the story of how the Major Motoko Kusanagi came to be associated with Section 9 of the Nihama, and met/recruited the members of her team that we all know and love. Each of the first two episodes concentrates on the major's past (which has been altered slightly to fit in this new continuum, something old fans of the show might pick up on) and then subsequent involvement in a government wide conspiracy investigation, respectively.
The 2nd and 3rd installments are more closely tied- forming a longer mystery of a master hacker causing deep political unrest by means of a virus that creates false memories and enables people to be controlled remotely.
Ghost in the Shell Arise borrows a lot of classic Ghost in the Shell moments- mirroring setpieces, scenes, and imagery from the original movie and both SAC series. It also tackles similar types of conflicts- obvious homages to past stories: master hackers infiltrating the government and performing terroristic acts, refugees crises, and widespread, deep political intrigue and corruption. Massive, untraceable remote hacking, Having multiple "ghosts", and melding a consciousness with the net/"is it possible to live without a body?" all make an appearance here- with some subtle nods to the aforementioned 1995 movie and SAC. Arise tries to take its own identity, but for better or worse, ends up feeling a lot like a retelling of some of the deepest parts of those, in a much shorter and concise way.
Having such source material to draw from gives Ghost Arise a bounty of tales to tell, but perhaps this is merely a reimagining of the originals, with new artwork and some new clothes for the Major (which she SORELY needed. That onesie swimsuit with the baggy cargo pants looks like garbage.)
Arise was animated by Production IG- the longtime architects of bringing Ghost in the Shell to life. As in my review of Guilty Crown- I must once again give them credit for their body kinetics. The characters move in realistic and lifelike ways, which helps keep the anime feel more grounded and gritty- without delving into too "high" of action. There are quite a few dismemberments and broken limbs- and when this happens, they hang, swing, and flex appropriately. One scene in particular made me grimace, where two characters are fighting, and one pulls the other character's arm over his shoulder, and pulls down on it with such force (since he's a cyborg) that the arm flexes out, hyperextends, and then breaks, elbow out. But it doesn't stop there. He keeps going and completely tears the arm off- ripping tendons and ligaments with it. It's all shown in very visceral detail- and fairly close to anatomically correct.
Other times, people are shot, or have fingers broken, and they remain twisted and limp, and the characters have to deal with these crippling injuries- they aren't just magically healed by the next scene.
The voice acting in these movies was decent. It's obvious that this is a Ghost for a new generation of fans, and along with that comes the departure of most of the former voices, for better or worse. Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, (the voice of the Major until this series) does play a supporting character, as Motoko's boss. I thought this was a good sendoff for her, who had done such a great job voicing the Major in the past.
In a breakout role, Elizabeth Maxwell heads up the cast as the Major. She sounds as an appropriately younger and less experienced Motoko should- authoritative, sarcastic, and driven. Ms. Maxwell is a relative unknown, with only 8 roles to her name currently. I will be interested to see how she does in the future, because she's convinced me as the Major.
John Swasey (Gendo Ikari, NGE | Gouzaburou Seto, My Bride is a Mermaid) performs excellently as a crotchety, but slightly younger Aramaki. Jad Saxton, tiny voice extraordinaire also perfectly captures the essence of the Logicoma- predecessor to the annoying but endearing Tachikomas from SAC.
One role that I didn't think fit very well at all was Chris Sabat as Batou. There's really no replacement for Richard Epcar, but it just was not convincing for me, given that Batou is probably my favorite character in the franchise.
The other voices of the team, Ishikawa, Borma, Saito, Pazu, and Togusa are all newcomers- and it's nice to hear some unfamiliar voices, even if they're not what I'm used to.
Overall, these movies are nice additions to the franchise, even if they are weaker than previous editions of the series. I enjoyed the nods to the previous material, and the new material as well- especially the fresh coat of paint, as it'd been about 7 years since Ghost hit the screen the last time.
There's still plenty to enjoy if you have the desire for more Ghost.
Ghost in the Shell has influenced many Hollywood filmmakers, from the Wachowskis, to James Cameron, to Steven Spielberg. Now, DreamWorks wants to make a live-action adaptation of the original manga by Masamune Shirow. Let's see what the studio is planning.
Ghost in the Shell has an instantly recognizable original soundtrack. The music sets the tone for the introspective, philosophical moments of the film, while also providing atmosphere for the more action-oriented scenes. Let's take a look at what makes Kenji Kawai's OST so special.