I just want to start off by saying that "Ghost In The Shell" loves to asks it's audience questions. What is it that makes us human? Is it the soul (refered to as 'ghosts' in this film)? Or is it flesh and bone? What happens when your memories can be erased and replaced like music on your iPod? If your body is entirely mechanical, can you still call yourself human? If your consciousness is active, yet your body is nowhere to be found, do you still exist?
Okay, I'm giving myself a headache. Let's get to the review.
Cyborg cops battle an anonymous super-hacker who takes control
of people's computerized brains and forces them to do his bidding. It's a wicked sci-fi thriller, yet it's also so much more. Not only is it a refreshingly original take on the standard Cops vs Criminals plot, but it manages to do it in such an intelligent manner. At it's core, the movie asks the audience "What is it that makes us Human?" Although it never truly finds an answer (can anyone?), it gets closer to it than any other film has yet dared to go. The best part is, with all the philosphical, existentialist and technical chatter, it never really tries to beat the audience over the head with it. Many of the "big questions" are handled in subtle ways that keep the pace of the film going, while still making the audience think. "Ghost In The Shell" is cyberpunk at it's best.
GitS came out in 1995 and still the visuals can compete with current animation standards. This film has aged extremely well. The action is wicked, every scene is full of atmosphere thanks to well detailed backgrounds, and the limited CGI is well integrated, even in such an early stage of CG animation. Yet the most astonishing part of the art is not the quality of the animation, or the artwork. It's the level of thought and polish that went into creating the look and feel of this film. As an exemple: There is a scene where the heroine, Motoko, is fighting a criminal while wearing a suit that makes her invisible. Even though she is invisble, we can still see her shadow. This is because her invisbility is only an optical illusion. There is still a solid mass blocking the light. It's little details like this one that make the visuals so incredible and, more importantly, believable.
The sounds of the film remain on the same high level as the art. Gunfire, ricochets, explosions, and even all the little computer noises are crisp and well implemented. The music is also quite fitting and original ('Making of a Cyborg', played during the opening credits, is one example). My only gripe is the voice actors are not at their best in this film (of course I mean the english cast). I greatly dislike Motoko's voice (Mimi Woods) and would much prefer Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, who voiced her in pretty much every other GitS project. The rest of the cast is the same as it is in current GitS projects, but you can tell they weren't as skilled as they are today. Still, they are quite good and it by no means ruins the film.
Though all the characters had aspects that made them interesting, Motoko is really the star of the show here and is the only character who developped over the course of the film. Of course, the direction in which her character went more than makes up for this fact. Throughout the whole film she is struggling with the thought of losing her humanity due to being a cyborg, and it all leads up to an incredible finale that just leaves you in awe.
Now, I'm giving it a 10 for enjoyment, but with an asterix. I personally loved this movie to death due to just how intelligent it is. Unfortunately, it is not an easy film to get into. Very little time is taken to explain how the GitS universe works. For example: The opening scene has Motoko speaking telepathically with Batou, who's nowhere to be scene. The film never really takes the time to explain how this is done, but you do manage to draw your own conclusions once you get your first glimpse of a cyberbrain. Unfortunately, much of the film relies on just how quickly the audience can put together the little details of the world and storyline. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it can make things needlessly complicated and actually alienate viewers who may not have the patience to put together the pieces of this techno-puzzle. Luckily, the principle story is simple enough, and the action is good enough so that viewers can still have fun with it. Basically, it can leave you feeling pretty stupid, but you still pat yourself on the back for seeing it through to the end. And don't be surprised if you want to watch it a second time.
With great action and an intelligent narative, "Ghost In The Shell" is a classic. It inspired "The Matrix", and anyone who has seen that film will know how great of a compliment that is. If you're into philosophical discussions about the soul and the consequences of technological evolution, see this film. If you just want to see a bunch of cyborg cops shooting stuff up, see this film. You will not be disapointed.
I didn't read any manga or anything about the Ghost in the Shell world prior to watching, so that may have influenced my enjoyment. I'm aware of the fact that this is an intellectual and philosophical movie, and not one that focuses on bombastic explosions and violence. No, this is a movie driven by concept, a concept that is shown, not told, in a slow, vague approach that requires attention, thought, and patience. Yet, despite the effort needed to fully understand the film, it offers a surprisingly simple and disappointing payoff.
This is a movie that did not provoke thinking or cause me to question my
existence or my self worth as a human being, it just wasn't complex or deep enough to change my views on humanity, and instead the topics it brought up seemed obvious to me. This is a movie that tackles human existence on a purely scientific level, which essentially boils it down to a simple fact: that our consciousness, memories, and emotions are merely created from electrical pulses within our brains. Humanity is separated into two parts, our consciousness and our physical body. For us, technology hasn't reached a point where these things that make us distinctly unique can be controlled and artificially replicated. The fact that we can't lends upon contemporary humans a certain sacredness to our existence, to birth, to life, and to our intelligence. The moment technology crosses that barrier, what makes us human will no longer be special or unique. This technological barrier is something that has already been crossed in the GITS universe, and with it, they decide to squander the potential of the setting, and only ask one question: What is a difference between man and machine?
At some point, there really is no practical difference, and ultimately, this is the answer the movie provides, and disappointingly, this is the only answer it provides with very little elaboration.
What truly scares me, would be if humans will be responsible enough to guide us on the correct path of evolution once we become powerful enough to control it ourselves. Will society be destroyed by the folly of man when we obtain the power of "god"? Or will we evolve into a more advanced species? Will humanity be willing to throw away the primitive identity of what makes us human for the sake of transcending into a higher organism? How will society compete in a world where cybernetic parts are far superior to the organic ones we are born with? How can we trust anyone or anything, how would we know what is real and what is not once our memories and senses can be completely replaced?
This movie sort of touches a serious topic, when hackers steal the memories of others for personal gain. This is to show that a human's soul can be modified, just like a program, and it is a situation that is only presented in response to the movie's central, existential question. But besides this the movie doesn't touch any remotely serious topic at all, and most of the movie spends it's time focusing on needlessly building upon a rather pointless existential crisis sort of thing. Because the movie ignored addressing actually important and very real issues future technology will impose on humanity, the movie simply fell flat to me. The setting was immersive and well made, and the story had potential to go a different and much more interesting route. But instead, it took a very simplistic philosophical approach and made it needlessly convoluted.
The setting and atmosphere of the world, as well as the artwork of the city were very beautiful and interesting. The music was very fitting as well. But besides that I did not find anything I enjoyed.
Ah...Ghost In The Shell. I'm writing this JUST after finishing it. If you watched the original Matrix and went "Holy Jesus this is the most amazing movie i've ever seen IN MY LIFE" then Ghost in the Shell will dropkick you in the face. Seriously.
Story: This is the kind of stuff that university essay could be written about. I'm going to have to watch this again just to completely understand everything about this movie. Now, just so you understand, the storyline isn't amazing. But the science and the mythology this anime is based on is so incredible. I believe,
according to a few sources, that if you took all the footnotes in the manga they total to over 30 pages. Or was it 200? The point is that the science that's used in this movie is absolutely amazing.
Art: The art is old. The art is...Akira old. It's very old, but the details that are in it are incredibly amazing. The art is old but it doesn't seem stale. It's that good kind of old....classic. They used some really cool effects in here...especially when some people turned invisible. Oh..major plot hole if anyone notices...there's a guy who turns invisible...with all of his clothes on. Whereas the girl....needs to strip naked...which she does QUITE often. The nudity in this is tastefully done...it's not like Elfen Lied (no offense) where Nyu shows her boobs every couple of scenes.
Character: There is major character development for two characters. Batou and the Major. No one else really gets developed too much. Sometimes they'd show you a character who did one thing and then you'd never see them again ever. I'm not complaining too much, it never bugged me at all. But you do get a real sense of humanity from these characters...that's a funny thing to say though, if you watch the anime you'll figure out why.
Enjoyment: I guarantee that almost anyone who enjoys anime will also enjoy this. Anyone who liked the Matrix will enjoy this. It's an incredibly amazing anime, it's deep, it's slightly frightening. The single thing that this anime does not have is comic relief...never once did I laugh. Never once did I actually want to laugh. This movie is so serious that if any attempt was made at making it slightly funny the attempt would surely fail.
Seriously, go...watch this anime right now, and I promise...that you will not be disappointed.
I took the time watching the highly acclaimed Ghost in the Shell, which is pretty famous for its philosophical and thought-provoking themes.
The story is set in a futuristic world where cyber-hacking exists, and one can control a person's actions through hacking their brains with an element known as "ghost". The film moves on a very slow pace almost throughout, alas a key factor in one deciding to drop it midway.
The script is the weak point of the movie. It it too short and it fails to explain just what is going on in this movie. It starts well, it has great pacing and it builds
nicely, but then it grinds to a halt about midpoint and it never gets going again.
The main premise of the movie remains unexplained: just what is a ghost and how does somebody hack into it? Are all humans cyborgs? Do they all have artificial bodies? Or just a few?
On a deeper level, the script tries to touch on a more interesting problem: what exactly do humans feel, if you take away their body? Are they still humans? Or something else? Are they still capable of love and devotion?
The music is great. The theme is haunting, it is surprising and quite stirring. It also complements very well the images on the screen.
Ghost in the Shell has some of the best animation I've ever seen, and the character designs really fit the story. There are moments when the camera simply stops in place, lost in a long contemplation, as people go in and out of the picture. There is also the use of water as a mirror, reflecting the reality above, around and beyond it.
The action scenes are well done, and during dialogues the camera has a way of focusing on the person who listens, not on the one who is talking, which may be confusing, at first, but then it becomes quite interesting. The camera moves a lot, and the director makes a point out of filling in the entire space around the characters.
20 years on after releasing, the art is still top notch and packs a punch. It might a bit dated by today's standards, maybe, but still very well done. The characters are interesting, and the surroundings are full of small, fine touches, of which some may seem like a little far-fetched, at first, but they all add to the atmosphere of the movie. The action sequences are also well done, but there's only a couple of them and they're short-lived. Then we're stuck with another long sequence of events which add-up to little.
In the end, I come back asking myself just what is Ghost in the Shell? The answer to that is that it's a good action anime, that develops a midlife crisis.
So I finally saw this movie. I've seen both seasons of Stand Alone Complex, Solid State Society, and Innocence, but I hadn't seen the original until now. And you know what? I'm kind of disappointed.
STORY - The central plot and concept is fine. As a cyberpunk fan, I think the human/machine divide is a fascinating topic that should be touched on more often and that Ghost in the Shell treats the subject well for the most part. Unfortunately, the storytelling and pacing in the movie is downright terrible. Sure, the movie's more than a decade old by now, but storytelling isn't really something that changes
with time -- people have been telling stories for as long as they've existed, so I won't buy age as an excuse for all the awkward silences, scenes that were way too long, and scene transitions that didn't make sense. The political mishaps felt a little haphazard and garbled, but that wasn't really the important part so I didn't care all that much.
The important part was Kusanagi's story and inner conflict, which was allowed one dream-like underwater scene followed by an oddly tension-filled conversation that ended abruptly without explanation. It wasn't obvious enough to me that she was deeply disturbed by the prospect of her ghost having artificial origins, and it annoyed me a little that they never directly explained what a ghost was even though I guess most people would be able to deduce it from context clues. Instead of putting in more scenes that fleshed out the characters or even the political situation they were in, we got five minute montages of the futuristic cityscape that contributed little more than eyecandy. I like eyecandy as much as the next person, and I love city backgrounds in particular, but I don't want my story sacrificed for it.
CHARACTER - Motoko Kusanagi should be a multi-faceted and complex character. She should be a capable leader with strong relationships with her team members, and despite her strong and independent exterior, she should be questioning her place in society, her origins, and her future. Those are the things that the Major should be, but I only got vague impressions of all of those points in this movie. I really felt like there could have been so much more to it if they had only spent more time on developing her character instead of whatever else they were doing. Her intelligence didn't seem as important as her strength, and her relationship with Batou didn't feel particularly natural or realistic. It was very frustrating to watch.
And if Kusanagi wasn't fleshed out, then of course Batou (or as the credits seem to say, "Bateau"?) hardly was. We saw very little of him on his own, which I guess makes sense in that the movie isn't about him, but I feel like his relationship with the Major is important enough to warrant a bit more attention, y'know? I felt like we needed more of his opinions on technology, cybernetics, and I dunno... the theme of the movie? But he was just a flat support character. Why did he care so much about Kusanagi? Beats me! Aramaki and Togusa are even further down the chain -- very little elaboration beyond their positions in Section 9. What did either of them think about the human/machine divide? Who knows?
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION - Cityscapes and waterscapes? Drop dead gorgeous. Interior building and laboratory designs? Nice. Gigantic machines and implementations of future technology? Wonderfully detailed. Weapons and vehicle design? Kickass. Oh, did I mention that all the action is excellent? The environment in Ghost in the Shell is really amazing looking, and it seems obvious to me that that's where they spent most of their time and energy in this movie. The character animation was pretty standard, but I did notice a lot of stillframes. It's a cheap trick to have digital thought communication and not animate lips moving, but I usually buy that. But here, in addition to that, there was also an over-abundance of panning shots, closeups, and other corner-cutting tactics.
It also really bothered me that Kusanagi's eyes seemed utterly lifeless and inexpressive the entire movie. Yes, she's a cyborg, but the point is to retain as many human qualities as possible -- even Batou seemed more expressive than she did and he doesn't even have (human-like) eyes.
MUSIC - I really love Kenji Kawai's work, so it's no surprise that I really like the music in Ghost in the Shell. Chanting and traditional Japanese instruments juxtaposed with a future teeming with technology just has an eerie quality to it. Since I did see Innocence before this original movie, I thought a lot of it seemed really similar, which I guess is a good thing? It's nice to see parallels between related things, even if it's just as simple as the music.
VOICE ACTING - Oh, god. I saw this dubbed. No one but Mary Elizabeth McGlynn should ever voice Motoko Kusanagi. In comparison, Mimi Woods's portral is bland, stereotypical, and just too... girlish? It was utterly bizarre for me to hear certain inflections in her speech, and after a while, I just tried to imagine everything Kusanagi said in McGlynn's voice instead (with only minimal success). Naturally, having seen all the other incarnations of Ghost in the Shell dubbed before I saw this movie makes me biased against Woods because I like McGlynn's portral so much -- would I have liked it better if I had actually seen this first? I really can't know.
Thankfully, both Batou and Aramaki had their SAC/Innocence voice actors already for the original movie. I haven't written a review for SAC, but it's worth mentioning that I think it's one of the best English dubs ever. All of those voices just fit so nicely. Their emotions and most of all, their personalities, are portrayed perfectly, and it's really great listening to them. Like Kusanagi, Togusa also had a different voice actor here, but while it still isn't up to par with his SAC/Innocence voice actor, it's not that bad.
OVERALL - Despite all the disappointments, I still think Ghost in the Shell has merit as a classic. Even though the storytelling was poor and the characters underdeveloped, the core theme of the movie wasn't lost. It took a while to get there, but the Puppetmaster's dialogue did clearly present the topic of a human mind with mechanical origins, and Kusanagi's actions did eventually reveal her inner turmoil over that idea. That idea is probably the only thing worth taking away from the movie though... and maybe some of those pretty backgrounds too. If you're like me and have seen everything related to Ghost in the Shell except for this movie, I'd go ahead and see it just for the sake of seeing. If you've not seen anything else Ghost in the Shell and are just curious, I'd recommend Stand Alone Complex first. You can dig up the history after you decide you like the series. :P
Puppet Master: ‘’And can you offer me proof of your existence? How can you, when neither modern science nor philosophy can explain what life is?’’
The story and themes present in Ghost in the Shell (GitS) are both striking and very relevant. GitS takes place in a more than possible future world where cybernetics and AI have become a social norm. The amazing detail given to the universe and the true to life reflection of today’s society makes the themes in question incredibly applicable. The different opinions in GitS are argued with a certain potency and precision. The maturity and skill of the characters in
putting across their arguments will encourage the viewer to contemplate these ‘philosophical’ issues from a very serious stance.
The ‘main’ story (when I say main, it is really just an excuse to bring up these themes, which are the focus) isn’t so revolutionary in terms of originality but is definitely very intelligent. A mysterious master hacker, known as the puppet master has been causing some negative repercussions in the political world of GitS. Section 9 has thus been asked to investigate. This can be seen as nothing more than the story of an extended and very standard TV episode. And to an extent, you can’t argue with that. But rather than witnessing the usual, ‘’-enemy is introduced, -enemy makes their move, [*good guys then find a way to defeat this enemy*], -enemy apprehended’’ sort of arc, the story unfolds in a very intelligent manner. The movie uses this particular case to initially explore interesting notions in the GitS universe, such as social inequality, the soul or ‘ghost’ of a robot and corrupt politicians. The story’s themes will then take over and the resulting dialogue leads to some very interesting ideas. Overall, it is a very smart and engaging version of what would’ve otherwise had been a standard plot.
The only ‘flaw’ in the story of the movie is that it assumes you to have at least a basic knowledge of the GitS universe. Whilst there isn’t anything vital you need to know, the huge amount of detail and history can be too much to take in at times. If anything, (if you are a fan of cyberpunk/ sci-fi) this should just inspire you to learn more about the complex universe. Do not worry about being new to the universe; just have your thinking cap on.
Sound/ art- 10/10
The art and soundtrack in GitS are ground-breaking. A new method of animation at the time used for the film was basically designed to create a sense of depth in the different levels of animation. This resulted in some amazingly detailed backgrounds and city views. Beauty is in the detail, and with so much detail, you are really able to become fully immersed into the universe before you. The art style is basically a timeless example of how to animate a mature and intelligent film like GitS. For example, the opening credits was just converted computer code used in a creative way. It was lovely to see this clear, harmonious language between the universe and the media used to portray it. The art and soundtrack was so inspiring, that in the film are a series of scenes that are entirely composed of visuals of the city backed by a brilliant OST. I couldn’t help but smile in awe at the level of detail and beauty.
This is an unfair section to mark a single film on, when in reality GitS just follows on from two whole series of character development. In reality, you can watch the film without watching the TV series’. This is sadly due to the fact that you never really see the characters personalities in the film. They just operate as speakers for the themes in the film. Despite this, the cast are able to deliver these arguments with great effect because of their own maturity and strength of character.
Ghost in the Shell is an all-time classic. As mentioned, I absolutely love the detail in the universe. I want to become immersed, and I can very easily become immersed thanks to the soundtrack and artwork. You cannot help but admire what you are watching. In terms of action, GitS certainly knows how to deliver. Although not an action led film, the two action scenes actually featured are nothing short of masterpieces. There was a mixture of technology, well-choreographed combat and intense build ups. All backed up by a great atmosphere. Having all of this done in such a mature style enabled me to take everything that much more seriously which made the arguments far more engaging.
Although released in 1995, the ideas presented in GitS are becoming more and more pertinent. The ground breaking media and level of detail in GitS has and will continue to inspire many films for years to come. I thoroughly recommend you to watch this film and I encourage you to look into the other GitS films and TV series’ that are equally as stunning.
“If you don’t know where you’re from, then you don’t know where you are, and you don’t know where you’re going.” It’s a clichéd if truthful saying, especially for this film. Well, sort of. This film knows where it’s going, but it doesn’t know how to get there, it doesn’t know where it is, and it doesn’t know where it’s from. This film is a voice pining to speak, but it studders at every word.
So where does this leave Ghost in the Shell? Read on to find out.
In the year 2029, cybernetic technology has strengthened the human body and connected the human mind. Barriers have
been broken as people can access the Internet with just their body alone. But with this new tech, comes cyber criminals looking to exploit it, and Section 9, a group tasked with stopping cyber criminals. One criminal, the Puppet Master, is skilled enough to hack the human mind. As Section 9 works to track him down, his very existence will challenge the idea of what it means to be human.
This is because almost every member of Section 9 is cybernetically enhanced. They’re basically super soldiers, with abilities far beyond even what most civilians can do. But at the same time, they’re just as vulnerable as anyone else. If a cybernetically enhanced person is hacked, their memories can be deleted or they can be fooled into believing a false life. Even then, their bodies need maintenance, and a system failure on that end would mean going back to their old shells or returning to dust. The story is basically used to explore what it means to be human.
But Ghost in the Shell explores these themes with as much discipline as an undisciplined soldier. Sometimes the themes are used believably, like with Motoko or Togusa’s dialog with the captured criminals after the garbage truck chase scene. Or Section 9’s dialog in Daisuke’s office about something they discovered. These scenes are believable because it raises the questions the film wants to ask, without letting them become heavy, so the plot still moves forward.
At other times, the theme use is cringeworthy. The last dialog from the Puppet Master shows an evolutionary tree several times, with the most roundabout way of saying “I want to evolve.” Or the boatside dialog between Motoko and Batou, where the former switches from soldier to philosopher at the drop of a hat, with deep water metaphors abound. There is actually a point where the second scene takes Batou’s point of view, giving the effect of Motoko talking to the viewer. Seriously.
Seriously. The film wants to be thought provoking, but doesn’t know how to express itself. At some points it expresses itself quietly, letting scarce dialog and a lot of plot progress imply questions for its viewers. At other times, the questions are loudly overplayed, hitting viewers over the head and grinding the plot to a halt. The story itself, for all the international conspiracy it involves, is underplayed. But that’s not a problem, since it’s just a vehicle for the themes the film tries to convey.
Too bad then, that said vehicle breaks down several times throughout the film. For minutes on end, the plot is road blocked by scenes of Motoko being cybernetically enhanced, random scenes of the city, and scenes of the military getting ready. But only the military scenes resemble story progress. The city scenes don’t progress the story, and Motoko’s scene would have worked as part of her background, but becomes pointless when later scenes explain it anyway. Time spent on these montages should have been used smoothing out character progress.
Most of the characters themselves have the same personality (military badass), making them hard to tell apart. Some background can help to tell them apart, but most of them are undeveloped on that end too, or share the same background anyway (“we’re all cybernetically enhanced”). This only leaves character progress to save its cast, but the result is like a failed military mission. And the one who takes the most casualties from this is Motoko.
Motoko has the most progress in the film, but it comes in chunks and lacks sincerity. Spending most of the film being a military badass, peppered with scenes FILLED with philosophical rambling, or worry over Section 9’s discovery, simply doesn’t compute. It lacks a middle ground to bridge the opposite sides of her personality, so it’s hard to believe her as the same person. Character progress should be steady, not sudden. The only one with steady progress is Batou.
Batou starts as a military badass, whose humanity slowly shows itself as the film goes on. During the boatside dialog, the viewer can get a sense of why Batou tagged along with Motoko when she’s changing out of her swimwear. During the dialog in Daisuke’s office, Batou casually tells Togusa why a recent discovery is a sore spot for Section 9. And during the last scenes, Batou’s emotions finally boil over in the end confrontation with the Puppet Master.
And speaking of confrontation, there’s the actions scenes in the film, and by extension, the film’s aesthetics. The animation is fluid, but the art design itself is grimy and imperfect. There’s a sense that every street in the city has been lived in, that characters have worn out their outfits, that colors lack any life to them. It’s not pretty, but then again, a crime that can invade the mind itself wouldn’t be pretty. The visuals have an organic look despite the high-tech setting and being computer generated, making them more impressive.
The action scenes themselves are quiet, forgoing actual music in favor of bone-crunching sound effects. The ground crunches when Motoko drops from a large height, and gun shots are the only melody during action-packed symphonies. Some of the scenes, like a criminal’s leg being twisted, or the snapping of Motoko’s arms when she’s trying to open an army tank, can be hard to watch. But that just goes with the gritty feel the film tries—and succeeds—to give.
There IS actual music, a haunting, choir-like piece. But it’s used in the montages that do almost nothing for the story, making for a nice but pointless soundtrack. Time spent on those montages should have been used to smooth out character progress. Even then, the story’s themes are believably used one moment, then without subtlety the next moment. Some viewers may wish the Puppet Master would delete their memories of wasting 82 minutes gawking at aesthetic wonders.
Now, to say Ghost in the Shell is enjoyable with the viewer’s brain turned off, watching it for the underplayed story, and being wowed by the aesthetics is a reasonable stance. But that would be ignoring everything else the film tries to do, and for something trying to be thought provoking, it’s inexcusable. This film may be a smart Ghost, but the voice it leaves behind is only a Shell of what it could be.
This movie is great, if you want to watch fucking nothing happen for over an hour. I kept thinking, "when does the action start?", but it never did. The plot is a trainwreck; trying to connect a series of non sequiturs does not make for something interesting. The art was -OK- for a film from the 90s but I personally did not like the style. Music plays an important role in setting the mood for any presentation but you do not get that with this movie. Instead, you get a bunch of wailing that you're expected to enjoy. Other than that, sound effects were nothing
to complain about. Moving on, there was good characterization, everyone feeling like a corrupt future politician or cyborg or some shit, even though the main character was very boring (was it only because she was a machine? I can't think of another reason for having such a lifeless and impressionable protagonist. If so, they captured that well.) The main villain was a joke, doing nothing the entire length of the movie and yet somehow being a most wanted world class criminal, then talking the protagonist into joining his(?) side, then immediately dying. So, in case you're wondering, I did not enjoy this movie at all and do not recommend it to anyone.
‘’And can you offer me proof of your existence? How can you, when neither modern science nor philosophy can explain what life is?’’
Ghost in the Shell is an anime film adaptation of the cyberpunk manga of the same name by Masamune Shiro. Both the anime and manga have received critical praise for decades now and have built a strong fan base in Japan and the West alike. But while the manga is more comedic and light-hearted overall, the anime is much more serious and mature, with the film’s tone making it feel completely different from Shiro’s original work. Part of this is probably due
to the director, Mamoru Oshii and if you haven’t heard of the name before, remember it because he is one of the most thought-provoking filmmakers the industry has ever seen (e.g. Angel’s Egg and Jin-Roh) and his work for Ghost in the Shell is another reason why he is held in such high regard. This film loves to ask the audience existential questions, with the simplest, yet deepest and most difficult to answer being “what makes us human?”
Throughout the film, the protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi asks herself this while working for Section 9, a public security agency run by a group of cybernetically enhanced cops who are tracking down a notorious hacker known only as the Puppetmaster. The movie is set in the year 2029 in a Hong Kong-inspired city where the world has been overrun by a vast network that controls every aspect of one’s life and where people having cybernetic enhancements is very common. Motoko however, has a body which is completely cybernetic, which is referred to as a “Shell”. Due to technological advancements, the definition of being human has been altered; a “Ghost” is what differentiates a human being from a robot, hence the title “Ghost in the Shell”.
Because this movie takes place in the future, these are also advancements that have been made in regards to weaponry and military purposes. Concealment and usage of these advancements are executed exceptionally well, even at the beginning of the film. Therm-optic camouflage allows users to become totally invisible and is used heavily throughout the film by both Motoko and her enemies to escape and, in Motoko’s case, another way to kick ass. The guns that are used are able to destroy fully armoured tanks in a matter of seconds. And the way Motoko uses these weapons in battles further demonstrates how mature this film is. Ghost in the Shell as a series overall focuses on tension and strategic build-up before quick bursts of intense action rather than the kind of long, drawn out battles full of action that you’d be more likely to see in a long-running shounen. Ghost in the Shell makes those action scenes feel more important and reduce the amount of unnecessary choreography in these scenes, making every move made feel important and has reason behind it. Even the last battle with Motoko and the walking tank has no wasted movement by Motoko, as any false move could very well cause her death.
It’s also worth noting that even having a complete cybernetic enhanced body does not make one invincible. One can still die in the universe of Ghost in the Shell just as easily in real life, but what’s different is that with cybernetic enhancements, one’s sense of pain is lost to their enhanced part/s. From this, one can push their cybernetic body to their breaking point and cause their enhancements to break, whereas without them, such a scenario wouldn’t be physically possible. The amount to detail that went into cybernetic technology alone in this film is nothing short of amazing. These ideas are all fleshed out in the short duration this film has and makes the world of Ghost in the Shell more realistic that it’s possible that this could be our future.
There are also practical drawbacks from these advancements; a human can easily be ghost hacked, meaning that their mind can be erased and filled with completely different memories. This is touched upon when Motoko’s partner Batou states that “all the information that a person accumulates in a lifetime is just a drop in the bucket.” While the movie is aimed primarily at self-identification, it also looks at the unintended creation of new life forms, such as what would happen if a program from the internet could become self-aware and escape into the world we all live in, and the dangers that would have on us. It even deals with genetic manipulation, with how combining multiple sets of DNA to form one set that share the greatest features from each set, yet is fundamentally different from all of them. It’s no surprise that Ghost in the Shell is a very complex film when it comes to the subject matter, but the film never tries to shove all these concepts down the viewer’s throat. Many of the deep questions it asks are done in such a subtle way that doesn’t impact the pacing of the show, yet keeps viewers looking deep into the film always thinking. The film plays out more like a sci-fi thriller that keeps viewers both intrigued and entertained.
I’ve talked so much on the overall story and themes and yet I haven’t even begun to talk about the film’s animation, which is another one of its strengths since it was made in 1995 and over 2 decades still looks spectacular. Characters move fluidly in action scenes especially, every scene has a sense of atmosphere from backgrounds used, limited CGI that fits the look and feel the overall movie has and a keen eye for detail was clearly present. Every scene has something there that grabs the viewer’s eyes and keeps the viewers engaged even if they do get bored at some points. The level is detail is so high, that in a scene when Motoko is using thermo-optic camouflage, her shadow can still be seen, implying that her camouflage is an optical illusion, to put it simply. The film also has an artistic side to it as the opening shows us the making of a cyborg, more specifically Motoko herself and montages of the futuristic city are shown throughout the film, showing how advancements made over time have impacted the Hong Kong-inspired setting. Even the nudity within this film is rather symbolic and never meant to be taken sexually by viewers.
The soundtrack for this film is also amazing with very gripping music from Kenji Kawai that adds to the mystique of the world and at times even feels creepy because of how well it fits with the atmosphere, with “Making of a Cyborg” being one of my favourite OST’s of all time. My only issue with the sound would be the English voice actors, Mimi Wood especially (voiced Motoko) I found very unlikeable and it didn’t help with scenes that were dialogue heavy that involved her. But they were still pretty good and didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the film. The other main issue I had with the fil overall was the characters. Obviously, Motoko is the star of the show and her internal struggle of losing her humanity throughout the film is part of why she’s my favourite female anime character as I am writing this. However, she’s the only character who gets any real development over the course of the film. Batou and the Puppetmaster are the only other characters worth anything in the film overall, with the rest of Section 9 feeling unimportant and replaceable. Now I understand the staff can only do so much with a movie that lasts 82 minutes and they’ve already gone beyond what I believe was expected of them, but I just wish that the film was longer, if only to put more emphasis on the characters.
Overall, Ghost in the Shell is a very enjoyable sci-fi flick on the surface, that underneath lies a very mature and complex movie that doesn’t waste any time, and if you don’t pay attention, it will be hard to understand it at all. It’s very clever in how it leaves you in wonder and keeps you thinking about it afterwards, which in my opinion adds to its rewatch value. This film is excellent and should be a must-watch for every anime fan out there. It is not only one of the best anime movies out there, but one of the best science fiction movies that I’ve ever seen as well, up there with the likes of The Matrix and Blade Runner.
Based on the manga of the same name by Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the Shell is an account of a not-so-distant future when it’s not uncommon for you to walk on a busy street and bump into cyborgs— humans who have been ‘cyberized’ to such an extent that every aspect of their functioning is taken care of by high-tech equipment within their ‘shell’, the prosthetic body, and ‘ghost’ which is the slang term for consciousness. So what was it that you really bumped into? What is it that differentiates a human from a cyborg? What makes us human— the biological matter, the consciousness or the
memories? These are the questions which Ghost in the Shell explores. On the surface, it’s a cybercrime story. Rapid progression of cybernetics has resulted in various complications, particularly ‘ghost hacking’. Section 9, a unit of National Public Safety Commission of Japan, is responsible for dealing with such sensitive crimes. The protagonist is Major Kusanagi Motoko, a member of Section 9, whose body is almost entirely cyberized with the exception of her brain which is organic. With the aid of her co-workers, she must track down Puppet Master, an ingenious hacker.
The movie is an intricate piece of work with technical terms and phrases popping up every now and then. This makes it difficult to comprehend many parts of the movie and sometimes you have no clue what’s going on, especially if you’re watching it the first time and you don’t have at least a minimal knowledge of cybernetics and the like. However, if you watch it with enough focus, grasping the overall plot should not be that difficult. Basically, you need to look at it as a reel of threads instead of trying to disentangle every intertwined thread if you’re a first time viewer of the movie. For an in-depth analysis, you may require to watch it a few more times until you’re contented enough.
Although cyberpunk is the core, Ghost in the Shell also has several philosophical aspects. Cyberization enables storage of memories in external devices like hard drives and consequently their sharing. You can share the memories of a party you went to with a friend— what you saw, what you heard and even the sensations you had. So, how would you define ‘reality’ in a world where accessing others’ memories is as simple as browsing through files and folders on your computer? How would you know that the memories you possess are ‘real’? Candidly speaking, you’re no longer your own master in such vulnerability. Keeping aside the philosophy, let’s move on to the other aspects of the movie.
Visually, Ghost in the Shell is spectacular. Considering that the movie is more than a decade old now, the animation and graphics are noteworthy indeed. The action scenes are so well animated that they leave the viewers in awe. Not to mention, the backgrounds, machines, skyscrapers and other objects are really well detailed, rendering the movie what it is— a futuristic thriller.
There is not much to say about the audio. The voice actors did a fine job, if not the best. The song ‘Making of a Cyborg’, a traditional Japanese chanting more or less that plays during the opening credits and a few other scenes give an uncanny feel to the movie and is in contrast to the ‘futuristic’ theme.
To wrap up, Ghost in the Shell is a classy sci-fi thriller that not only offers an insight into a time when the line between man and machine constantly blurs but also provokes thoughts about what’s in store for us in the near future. It’s a must watch for every sci-fi fanatic out there.
When it comes down to it, all of narrative-based media can be summed up by one unifying arc: the search for mankind’s identity. What it means to be human as opposed to the animal or AI or god. Whether our short lives can have meaning in this incomprehensibly vast universe. Whether or not the reality we experience with the senses is verifiably real.
Ghost in the Shell (GitS) examines this question thoroughly in its 82 minutes. By seeing the Major’s questioning of her existence, being a fully prosthetic human, we can ask ourselves the same question. What really makes us different from humanoid robots that can
think for themselves? What makes us more alive?
In terms of production, GitS excelled, especially for being released in 1995. The level of detail on the urban setting, human faces, grey rain descending, the Major’s eyes, the scene in which the cybernetic body becomes a human. It may not be as crystal clear as Makoto Shinkai, but for some reason it felt to me more real. Watching Kimi no Na wa., for instance, felt real, but only real within a clearly anime world. Watching GitS somehow felt like a glimpse of a 2029 Japan. Of course for even more “real” visuals you can see the 2017 live-action adaptation, but don’t. Even just from clips you can tell that the 2017 version, while being aesthetically appealing enough, is just that, while sacrificing the philosophical depth of the original.
And I can’t not mention the great Kenji Kawai (Fate/stay night, Maison Ikkoku). Rather than go for the symphonically majestic like Sawano (AoT), Senju (FMAB), or Nakagawa (Code Geass), etc., he utilizes instruments sparsely, allowing for the spaces between notes to fill void with depth, expand nothingness into something. His track “Puppetmaster” with its sporadic drums and what sounds like tapping on metal, his “Making of Cyborg” with an almost tribal mantra to open the film, “Nightstalker” with its soft guitar atop synths -- apt. In questioning her existence, trying to validate that gap in self-awareness, Major plays proxy for the greater question for mankind, and Kawai’s OST develops that question very well.
I’m beginning to acknowledge a view Hayao Miyazaki expressed: that modern anime has forgotten how to draw humans realistically. I recognize that, being a visual medium and culturally endemic to Japan, anime carries a certain stylistic spirit; but while being artistic in its own right, there is still a loss of realism and thus ability to convey itself to the audience. We watch anime for the escapism. Some of us more than others certainly, but we do it for the experience of living in another world, albeit vicariously through the perspectives of its characters. Most of today’s anime caters to that phenomenon excellently; however, you can’t really get the feeling that you can actually live in that world. Look at the Fate series. It’d be out of this world, literally, to be there in person and witness the Holy Grail War with insanely powerful heroes of past and future. But try as I might, I can’t picture myself standing there alongside Shirou and Rin. Why? Because no matter how lucidly ufotable draws its backgrounds and characters, it only feels all the more uniquely anime and two-dimensional, and consequently all the more out of reach. Compared to titles of the modern zeitgeist, GitS and other “classical” anime like Cowboy Bebop and Eva provide truer escapism then, because they feel more real and identifiably human.
But I digress. My point is, when watching older anime with their different animation styles -- that look distinctly more human-drawn than computer-animated -- there is a lingering, almost surreal sense of closeness between viewer and screen. The descending shots of towering urban complexes, the almost eerie absence of music at times that forces you to only pay closer attention to the visualization, the sober grey overtones imbuing the entire film with a conscious sense of distance. Of alienation from the body, of distortion of the union between it and mind, of the realization and awareness of the ghost in the shell. GitS is perfect for having been produced in 1995; redoing it today with a more refined air would taint that cyberpunk atmosphere, distill it, remove that sensation of consciousness.
As such, what we receive as “worldbuilding” in GitS does not come ready explained. We begin in medias res and the technological lingo and mechanics of society advanced as it is are rarely elaborated. This is not a bad thing, but rather, yet another means of furthering the escapism, the conspicuous sense of distance and closeness between us as the audience and the world as the anime. Instead of seeing a story animated to the screen that requires explanation, we see an excerpt from another universe, a parallel and future reality that mirrors our own inner universe of thoughts and memories and desires.
Along the same thread we receive scant characterization of Major’s fellow agents, as GitS is not about its characters so much as it is about the questions its societal workings poses, which are conveyed to us via the Major, who is but a vehicle for that purpose. As she begins to question who she is and whether she is truly human, we, too, may begin to doubt our existence, and whether our lives are significant above and beyond a convenient arrangement of particles.
Ghost in the Shell is a rigorous exploration of the human being’s identity, superbly executing a cyberpunk atmosphere without losing the philosophical intensity.
I find "Ghost in the Shell" just as a concept AMAZING. The combination of the this idea of what the world could be like in 2029 and the psychological game that this story plays as you move through the movie.
I'm not going to lie, but after reading the synopsis for this movie i felt that i would be a classic group of bad ass special forces soldiers that hunt down the villain "The Puppet Master". But it is so much more than that!! This movie goes further, they don't just set this movie in the future just to display some cool future military tech(but
i will say the future tech they do display is pretty bad ass). The entire plot revolves around that there are human cells in-planted into cybernetic bodies to give human consciousness to a robot (aka cyborgs). The stories main characters are in section 9, a military group that is mainly comprised of cyborgs.They use the cyborg bodies(shells) which are pushed at the audience to realize these cyborg bodies are not just tools but who the people are and its just one thing i am so glad the focused on in this movie. The question that this story also pushes but might be hard to catch for some viewers is "what makes us human". Around the middle of the movie Motoko talks to Batou and questions her own humanity after seeing Project 2501. This can later be resolved up towards the end of the movie when Motoko links with 2501 after which 2501 forcefully combines with Motokos ghost to create one being(This confirms their qualities for basic life because their combination produce a new generic life form). This ending was something that I found both fascinating and never saw coming. Overall this story had so much information crammed into it that you will really need to be paying attention and rewatch it several times to get everything the movie attempts to deliver. The only flaw i could point out in this story is that you will need more background knowledge than just the synopsis to enjoy it to its full potential.
The art in this show was easily an accomplishment. If you specifically pay attention to the landscapes and cyborg bodies there is an unbelievable amount of attention to detail which isn't just beautiful but also provides as a great atmospheric element to make you feel more immersed in the film and really reflects on how great the "Ghost in the Shell" universe is. Now the animation is one of the things that really shined for me when watching this film. The effects were outstanding and never had a dull moment. Great examples of the animation is when ever a bullet impacts a surface, when Mokoto apprehends the first criminal in the market, and the best of all when she pushes her cyborg body over the limit to stop the tank. Really no flaws in this department.
The music in this movie provided as another great atmospheric element and gave the film some character. Also if you pay attention to the voice actors they didnt just do a great job the mixers also did great by providing well done echo effects and other changes to the voices to really make them one with the show.
This is my lowest rated part of this anime and its kind of unfair in my opinion to even review it. The reason i say this is because the creators of this movie did an amazing job stuffing loads of quality content into a minuscule 83 minutes. But there is only so much you can do with 83 minutes and strong character development was not one of them. The only character that i was moderately attached to by the end of the movie was Mokoto but in my opinion that is still a achievement in my book because of everything else they movie had to offer.
This was a movie that i could only describe by saying amazing. I am to this day pretty baffled about how the creators were able to fit so much quality into a small package for all to enjoy. There is so much content here and i have yet to see anything that really hits the sci-fi benchmark quite like this. The only thing that kept me from giving this movie a 10/10 was the simple fact that the movie was not long enough to do all the great things it did and provide good character development.
So i will end this review by saying if you haven't watch this yet i highly recommend it to anyone who likes anime or sci-fi genres but first try to get some background knowledge on the "Ghost in the Shell" universe. I would also recommend the other "Ghost in the Shell" works for they are also great productions in the same universe but not just to watch, these are must buys!!
As always thank you to everyone who took the time to read this review and have a good day.
I’ve seen Ghost in the Shell 6 years ago and I hated it.
Watching it 6 years later was amazing experience. One week after watching, I’m still haunted by the cold atmosphere it created and existential questions it raised.
The movie is very slow, there are few action scenes and they are really cool, but the strength of the movie is not action. In fact, if you expect action, ass kicking, fast cars and stuff like that, you will be greatly disappointed.
My favorite scenes are the slowest ones, accompanied with excellent music, they blew me away. They have something cold, atmospheric and even sad about them.
in the Shell is nothing without its philosophical touch. When human is no longer human? Are we still human? Is artificial intelligence human? What’s consciousness? Maybe we are just a puppet in the puppet masters hands?
I will have to watch it again few times until I can fully grasp everything.
And do I mind? Not at all, I’m already looking forward to it!
originally written for http://mykkanime.tumblr.com/
Ghost in the Shell is one of the reasons(besides akira) animes became so populare in america and in europe, because it shows how anime are suppost to be. This isnt a commercial product full of clichees and overused artstlye-types, its a beautiful masterpiece of art. But this anime is not made for everyone. It is made to appeal to mature audience, since the majority of anime ( and nearly ever recent made anime) is for teenagers or children, i would suggest you think about it twice before you just randomly start watching this anime, else you will just get confused.
Ghost in the shell shows a
realistic description of an idea of the future with better technology, humans with cybernetic modifyed brains and an connection of brains over a huge network. And besides presenting you this amazing futuristic world in this movie many fundamental questions appear, like: "Because DNA is just a code, which can be recreated artificially- is it possible for a robot to be a living person?" or "how can you define life?". The world around GitS is very complexe and interesting, and will fascinate you in its own way, showing you not only the bright ideas of this future, but also its dirty sides, the criminality and its weak spots. You can connect the whole idea very much with the already existing internet, only in Ghost in the Shell a hacker targets humans rather than computer.
Story 10/10: The story focuses around section 9, an anti-terror organisation of the gouverment trying to catch a brilliant hacker named "the puppetmaster". So at first it shows you some detective work finding out more about the main villain and later on you will get the ordinary package of combat and a big conclusion. Its made very solidly, but they used many details to make the story pretty complex. When you dont follow what everyone says exectly you will soon get lost in the story even though this anime is only 1,5 hours long and filled with action and philosophy as well. The story itself isnt even the main aspect of the show. I think the movie wanted to present the audience the storywriters personal idea of the futur and give you a bit of a lecture of his philosophy as a bonus.
Sound 10/10: With “making of cyborg” GitS had one of the best OSTs I have ever heard, because it is a very unique and rememberable theme with a combination of traditional Japanese instruments and voices. Mamoru Oshii really knows how to use his soundtrack to give his audience goosebumps.
Art 10/10: Ghost in the Shell impresses its audience with one of the most detailed backgrounds with very beautiful drawn skycrapers. The technical detail of the machines, weapons and especialy the robots(you can see an example for the detail of a cyberbrain on my side) are amazing and the character design is very good as well. In point of animation i would say that it sometimes lacks and sometimes its pretty nice. The talking sequences have their ordinary flap-mouths and they stand still pretty much while talking, but i would guess thats made so nothing distracts you while they talk, since the story is the main focus there. Moving animations are very solit and maybe even too good for their time made.
Characters 10/10: The characters in GitS are all very mature and some have a very logic thinking. You got some quite understandable charactermotivation for the main characters, and you see some dephts of some characters as well. The characterinteraction consists mostly out of police-talk or philosophical conversations.Since there are only mature characters, and characters are the personal connection to a story, you can see here that this anime is to appeal to mature audience. Overall the characters are pretty realistic (with their attitude and everything) and likeable.
I can only repeat myself: This anime is for mature audience. If your an ordinary animefan, then dont watch such a complex and deep shows like this, but over all: GitS gives you a whole package of a very dark and mature futuristic world and its ideas.Its based on a combination of very deep and meaningful conversations, dark and very beatuiful artstyle and entertaining combat, doing a great job in all of these. This anime succeed in every aspect so perfectly. Maybe there have been made some similar futur storys jet, but clearly not in this kind of way, so the originality of this show is quite high. In my opinion this anime deserves to be called "best anime ever made".
It's just shit really. I can understand what is it trying to do, and i appreaciate it but honestly it's way too direct. Shows that try to follow this whole "Show, don't tell" concept, which essentially means passing thought without saying it using visual means only and asking the audience questions are cool i know, i love them, but GiTS kinda just failed it overall, probably due to just being short with no bulid-up and the way it did the things it did, ugh it just didn't feel right.
Ok i agree it explored enough through the issues of a cyberpunk
society like "if anybody can get the body they want, what is the point of gender?" "if nothing other than a little piece of your brain is there, what really makes you human?" " You haven't seen inside your head, how can you prove you exist?" all those are the questions it asks, but it does that too direct, instead of giving a case study of a character, like Evangelion, or maybe giving a case study of any human, or just humanity in general like Serial Experiments Lain, or at least giving in some context like Ergo Proxy did, then yeah those would make the show a 10/10 because having all this exestintalism really is the tip of the iceberg, to finish off a good enough show and make it perfect and memorable, but GiTS does that and nothing else really.
I'm going to watch the sequel to see if it gets better.
If you really want to make the viewer think about what's happening on screen, you should really show him, instead of just asking almost comical pseudo-existential questions.
The art is the best side of this though, very cool and smooth high-budget art of the 90s really looks fine, reminds me of End of Evangelion
"Any simulated experiences or dreams, exist as information, and are simulaneously reality and fantasy"
Reading through the reviews of this film is honestly staggering; I cannot believe people have managed to uncover so much "substance" in a film so utterly lacking in it. Ghost in the Shell is, without a doubt, one of the most disappointing and overrated animes, and indeed films, I've ever seen.
First of all, I'm going to say two words: Blade Runner. Ever heard of that film? It's an occasionally interesting, visually stunning but also very flawed sci-fi cult classic, and a source of obvious inspiration for the creators of Ghost in the Shell. And when I say inspiration, I really mean it. Everything from the
cyberpunk character design to the gritty realism of the dystopic cityscapes appear to have been drawn while in the process of watching the aforementioned film. Here comes my only positive with this film- it looks brilliant (it's worth watching the birth scene of our main protagonist). The animation, if noticeably derivative (not only of Blade Runner but also the far superior Akira) is superb and really the only reason it managed to sustain my interest for as long as it did. Apart from that, this film is an incoherent mess from start to finish.
Let's start with the plot. Or rather, the lack of it. It makes, and I'm not exaggerating, virtually no sense. I struggled to follow it from the opening shot of the film, which is really quite staggering considering how much of the diabolical script is taken up by pointless, nonsensical exposition. Honestly, the characters say SO much in this film without ever saying anything at all. There are several moments where the writers appeared to just be throwing in as many political terms as possible without even bothering to make sure they actually formed a sentence. There is no character development to be seen. Whenever the film-makers appeared to display any interest in fleshing out their leads, the already excrutiatingly inconsistent tone and pace of the film was bogged down by pretentious waffle about androids, the meaning of life and what it means it be human. Tackling such themes, when done well, has the potential to be very intriguing (again, watch Blade Runner) but here the delivery is so unbelievably terrible it genuinely made me want to stop watching.
And here comes the nail in the coffin, at least for me personally, with Ghost in the Shell. It's not even an interesting mess of a film: it's mind-numbingly BORING. Even the action sequences feel contrived and strangely fragmented. What was most bizarre about the film was how utterly disconnected I felt as a viewer- I never once felt intrigued by what was happening on screen, or any real empathy for the robotic (in more ways than one) characters. It's frustrating, because somewhere in that rubble there's the potential for a watchable film.
Overall, I really wouldn't be drawn into the hype. This fim's numerous faults make it one to miss.
When many hear the word “anime”, they’ll often think of over the top battles, ridiculously muscle-bound men, unrealistically voluptuous women, and fantastical settings. They think of a medium which exists to provide escapism. However, while there is nothing fundamentally wrong with escapism or any of the things I just mentioned, this notion is a false one. Anime is a medium with as much diversity as film, literature, music and any other entertainment medium you can think of and, like those mediums, it is capable of more than just entertainment; it is capable of producing genuine art. Works that question the human condition, the meaning of
life, the nature of morality and other pertinent questions that continue to remain relevant long after they are released. One such work is Mamoru Oshii’s magnum opus Ghost in the Shell, an adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s drastically different manga of the same name. It is a film that has often been regarded as being one of the absolute essentials for anyone getting into anime, and for good reason.
The film revolves around a government organization by the name of Section 9, comprised of both humans and cyborgs, as they pursue an elusive hacker known as The Puppet Master. However, this isn’t the narrative’s main focus as it explores themes of transhumanism, existentialism and individuality through its well realized setting, in which the line between man and machine has become blurred. People can replace their bodies with cybernetic prosthetics and even place cybernetic implants in their brain. It uses concepts such as these to ask questions regarding the definition of humanity and this is done through thought provoking albeit heavy handed dialogue as well as through striking and memorable imagery, which also aids in evoking an eerie and captivating atmosphere.
That’s not to say the film only delivers in that regard though, as I’d be remiss not to mention the absolutely stellar action scenes. They are excellently choreographed and, in spite of the fact that they are animated, they have a very realistic feel to them.
The characters are also an absolute treat, as aspects of their characters help reinforce the themes of the story. The highlight is definitely the protagonist, Motoko Kusanagi. She’s intelligent, resourceful and empowered, which was a welcome change from the damsels in distress that plagued a lot of anime at the time and her existential crisis is both engaging and subtle, aided by ingenious choices on the part of the director.
Other notable characters include Batou, who plays a pivotal role in Kusanagi’s development and can be regarded as her foil, Tougusa, a human with very few cybernetic enhancements who aids in reinforcing the film’s core theme of the nature of humanity, and the aforementioned Puppet Master, who I won’t talk about much for fear of spoiling it. That being said, their identity is brilliantly foreshadowed early on in the film and their motivations are also thematically pertinent to the story.
The film also looks spectacular. The sheer amount of detail given to the backgrounds is jaw-dropping and the animation is arguably better than a lot of the stuff coming out today. The character designs are also something to behold due again to the amount of detail. Couple this with Oshii’s brilliant direction and you’ve got yourself something utterly beautiful. The soundtrack is also wonderful as Kenji Kawai’s eerie and atmospheric score complements the film perfectly. One can even listen to the tracks outside of the movie and be spellbound.
Overall Ghost in the Shell is an incredible artistic achievement as well as an absolutely quintessential film for all anime fans and for fans of film in general.
Ghost in the Shell is a franchise that needs no introduction. Shirow Masamune's work has been adapted into several movies, video games, anime and even a line of toys. It's been one of the most influential cyberpunk franchises out there. Whether you like or dislike it, you have to respect how much it's influenced the genre. I remember liking this film okay when I first saw it. However, it has been quite a while since then. So it's time to re-watch the movie and see how it holds up.
The story opens in a futuristic city with an attempted defection being thwarted by a group
of largely cybernetic federal agents known as section 9. Section 9 is quickly charged with bringing in a hacker known as the puppet master who's trying to hack the brain of a secretary who works for an important official. Now, these events are related, but I won't spoil how they're linked on the off chance that someone reading this hasn't seen the film yet. The story here is really well constructed. Virtually every scene proves to be important. All the major plot points are introduced before they become important. Which isn't easy given how much hinges on futuristic technology. The plot initially seems rather disparate, but as it advances you realise that it's all very intricately put together with all of the events coming together to make the story whole. It does raise some interesting questions about the future and the implications of technology, but I can't give it too much credit there since the implications it deals with are nothing new to sci-fi. Still, the world is very creative and the questions aren't handled badly by any means. The only real issue with the story is that there are some substantial stretches where nothing happens. Although, to be fair, these scenes do serve to immerse you in the world which does lead to a really strong atmosphere. That being said, some of them do go on too long.
The characters aren't as strong as the story. That isn't to say they're badly done, though. They all feel fairly well fleshed out and three dimensional. That being said, there's a lot about them that isn't explained very well. For instance, Mokoto becomes obsessive about the case for no adequately explained reason. We might be able to say it's just who she is, but several other characters comment on how strangely she's been acting. Which the audience can't really recognise well since we haven't seen her outside of this case. In all fairness, there's enough information provided at the end that you can make a decent guess, but there's no way to verify it meaning it's just going to be speculation.
The art in this is amazing. The environments are rich with good texture. The technology is really impressive. The climactic fight scene is spectacular. My only issue with the art is that Mokoto randomly takes off her clothes in order to use the camouflage technology they have. Now, before anyone tries to say "that's just how the tech works" allow me to point out that another character is shown using the same technology and he does it with a fully covering suit. Mokoto's only works differently because someone wanted to draw boobs. Which would also explain the opening credit sequence. It's just ruddy fan-service. Which does detract from the film a little bit, albeit not much.
The voice acting is well done. Sakamoto Maaya, Kayumi Iemasa, Yamadera Kouichi, and Ootsuka Akio all do well in their roles. Really, there aren't any weak performances in this. The music is really well used. The only real issue with it is that it plays the same song during every atmospheric scene and the song ends up kind of over-played.
The yuri factor is a 1/10. There's really only one female character in this and she can't exactly be homo-erotic towards herself. And no, the Puppet master doesn't count.
Ghost in the Shell holds up surprisingly well. The world is immersive with a great sense of atmosphere. The story is excellent and the art and voice acting both hold up really well, even after nearly two decades. Sure, it has some issues, but there's nothing that should detract from the experience too much. Unless you just hate cyberpunk you'll probably find it an enjoyable experience. I give it a 9/10. I initially ended up giving it a 6 when I was scoring it from memory, but it's actually quite a bit better than I remembered.
The wheel, the boat, the firearm, the car, the computer; technology has come quite the long way over a relatively short period of time. With the advent of the Internet and pocket-sized smartphones, it seems as if the gap between what is science-fiction and what is reality will eventually become nonexistent. One step along that path is the concept of cyborgs, or people who are half-man and half-machine. But what's most interesting isn't just the concept, but the questions it raises. For Ghost in the Shell, it brings about both action and answers.
Ghost in the Shell begins in
stunning fashion. Major Motoko, presumably working for the government, assassinates a political diplomat, setting the stage for what the film has to offer.
With such an opening, Ghost in the Shell comes off as both mature and aimed at providing entertainment. This isn't a tale about a high school boy's harem or a campy slice-of-life; it's grisly, with espionage, violence, and killing. And it's something that the movie does quite well. Computer hacking, a one-on-one brawl taking place on an open pond, harrowing car chases, military tank battling, helicopter snipers; it's filled to the brim with sequences that are simultaneously action-packed and real. That last part is important, for two reasons. One, the show is fantastical, with its robots and invisibility cloaks. And two, the scenes progress "normally." There are no over-expositions or lame outcomes; bullets pierce cars and people in an "appropriate" manner. In other words, the show maintains both realism and non-realism in just the right amount of doses.
This mix of two opposite sides isn't just found in the action. In fact, Ghost in the Shell actually goes philosophical. Here, in a world filled with computerized information and inhuman humans, a debate on man versus machine is had. Throughout the movie, Motoko questions her existence, as does the Puppet Master. And during the final scenario that takes place, a culmination of thought spills out. Humans themselves can be looked at as machines, containing rational thought, while harboring more animal bases. But there are still limitations in what is "humanly possible." Machines are purely logical, making the choice that brings the most efficiency or the right answer. Being able to perform massive computations gives them the ability to understand the impossible. But their inability to incorporate emotions also limits their "processing power."
So what does Ghost in the Shell make of these two opposing forces? Like my introduction discusses, that "next step" is taken. A merging of both people and ideals is had to attain a higher form of life, that next leap in technology. What the film conveys is that man and machine are definitely different but strangely similar. Questioning one's place and wanting to be "something more" is natural for any person, and, in this circumstance, cyborgs and robots, too. And by the end of the film, these thoughts of life and death that were presented continue on in the viewer, giving him or her newfound perspective.
Intermittently throughout the movie, the show usually "calms" down so significantly, one wouldn't be remiss in thinking that it was switched out for another. This tactic is intelligent; not only does this give it the opportunity to showcase the world -- such as the creation of the "Shells" and the daily lives of the people -- but also it ties in with its established theme of dichotomy. By revving up the speed and then suddenly slowing everything down, it's as if the audience is taken on a roller coaster, experiencing the action-packed highs and the thought-provoking lows of the tone. Having one's adrenaline pumped up, losing it due to a moderate stretch of "nothing," then immediately having it picked up again further adds to the uneasy sense that permeates the entire film.
The art and animation for Ghost in the Shell are easily the highlight.
The art for the movie perfectly captures its own feelings. Many dull colors -- grays, browns, blacks, and purples -- are used for the backdrops and characters to give a heightened sense of ambiguity to match the mysterious nature of the ideas being presented. At the same time, everything feels dreary. The grainy filtering, the dilapidated buildings, and the constant overcast with rain create a mood that comes off as something being wrong. That despite the futuristic technology at everyone's disposal, not everything is right in this world.
At the same time, the camera direction gives various views of the cyberpunk environment. Wide shots of a darkened room with a lone window, scenic shots of the city from the rooftops, and seeing through another person's eyes gave unique takes on the world, adding further to the elements of action and vagueness.
The character designs are both appropriate and cool. Togusa and his mullet, Batou and his coined eyes, and Matoko and her stern face further cause the reiterated dissonance to be clearly evident.
To top it all off, the film's animation is superb. Bodies twist and turn during fights, with guns, bullets, and vehicles flowing seamlessly. Combined with smoke effects, subtle movements during conversations, and non-still backgrounds, it gives life to the setting where it is purposely designed to have none.
Where Ghost in the Shell missteps ever so slightly is with the characters that populate it. Essentially, there are only two key players in the events that take place: Major Motoko and the Puppet Master.
Major Motoko takes center stage in this futuristic adventure. Stalwart in mind and strong of body, she is the epitome of soldiers designed for warfare. While her best friend is Batou and her police-partner is Togusa, she mostly keeps to herself, doing what she wants, if her propensities are powerful enough. Early on, we see Motoko contemplating the kind of life she leads, and a lot of her characterization is mired in the concept of "birth." More specifically, "rebirth" or "renewal." Having dreams of one's creation are not common; she frequently finds herself literally floating upwards in the sea to recreate that sensation and event. At the same time, we find her discussing the concept of "becoming someone else" with Batou and later on seeing her head on that of a child's body: not a regression, but a restart of her entire person.
And what's interesting is where her mind focuses. Motoko places heavy emphasis on the beginning of life, but almost completely ignores its end. For her, death means nothing; she doesn't care if she drowns while enjoying her hobby or having her head crushed by immense pressure. What she values is not just where she came from but who she is now. On a daily basis, she sees how easy a soul can be snuffed out by her or anyone. The film extends this thinking further by investigating the psyche. She witnesses a man whose very memories are altered, and even "finds herself" on a self-reflective walk through the city. In short, she is constantly worrying about her existence.
Transitioning briefly to the last important character, the Puppet Master is another person -- or rather a program -- who holds similar trains of thought. Without a true Shell of his own, "he" was created as a tool to be used at will by those of Section 6 for their personal gain. His name holds symbolic meaning on many fronts; he is master of the system to which he is a part of yet a slave to the rules and regulations that govern it; and while he may be able to take over lifeless "Shells" at a whim, he himself is just as much a doll as the one's he controls (as is said by the head of Section 9, Daisuke).
Sadly, not much is known about his character; in essence, he is barely shown at all. There is one exception: his obsession with life and death. He sees himself as a sentient being, as someone who is defined as existing in this world. However, he feels "incomplete" due to a lack of death. For him, his start holds no meaning, for it revolves around malice, anger, and evil. Instead, his interest in death is logical in that it makes the most sense for his "well-being" and rational in that it provides him with the "closure" he dreams of having.
And thus it becomes clear once more. As the Puppet Master aptly describes it, he and Motoko are "mirror images." They're similar but separate; one thinks of birth and life whereas the other thinks of life and dying. The recurring theme of opposites and the unknown that divides them shines here quite brightly. And in a poignant conclusion, the two become one, signifying a departure from what is seemingly "broken" to unbelievably "whole." Unfortunately, this development in their characters is not looked at in length. Despite having built up to a crescendo, the film falls silent; perhaps this is just one more demonstration of the theme at play. Regardless, the audience is left to ponder what exactly such an outcome means, both in context of that universe and our own.
What's fascinating is how little music actually goes into Ghost in the Shell, while still remaining atmospherically relevant. The one track that gets used the most, with its lone drum and creepy singing, further generates the unsettling sense that takes over much of the movie. At certain moments, it even opts to use more ambient sounds, where one can barely hear the faint tones of the wind-like music. The film can get more "spiritual" when it wants to, too: the slow violin and erratic guitar piece feels mysterious and the violin, chimes, and eventual choir-singing track that backs up the final fight has a distant but hopeful aura about it.
Beyond the soundtrack, the sound effects that comprise everything involved are also well-done. Bullets flying, guns clicking, water splashing, camouflage activating; a flurry of sounds barrage the audience that replace the modern use of music, making the film that much more unique.
Overall, the voice-acting involved is about average. Atsuko Tanaka as Motoko is soft-spoken and serious, Akio Atsuka as Batou is rough yet kind as the situation needs it, and Iemasa Kayumi as the Puppet Master maintains a monotone form of talking that matches his machine-like manifestation.
As a final note, the film is markedly quiet. Certain lines are hardly audible when spoken, and many segments are inhibited from being even marginally loud.
This movie sounds awesome when described: cybernetic hacking, slick action sequences, and various weapons utilized for combat are just a slathering of what the movie has to offer. Yet I never found myself truly enticed by the film. Certain parts are exciting, but it never felt as if I had to see what was going to be happening next.
Part of this issue is the characters. Honestly speaking, they're intriguing, but incredibly boring to watch. Relating to them is extremely difficult, not just because they're mostly made up of computer parts but also because they have this air about them. An air of "in-control," where the entire circumstance never feels as if it will not go their way. It's not that "realism" is destroyed; it's more that the experience isn't gripping, all of the "Hollywood" moments notwithstanding.
Finally, it felt as if the film was a half-hour or so too short. With a bit more time, more fighting sequences, more characterization of the Puppet Master, and more meaningful development of the hybrid of technology that was instantiated could have been had, making it an even more well-rounded package.
Ghost in the Shell is a movie that introduces two concepts: a futuristic, computer-dominated world and philosophical questioning on what it means to be. With its well-crafted story, interesting characters, and stellar art and animation, it's a movie that still stands the test of time.
Story: Great, nice action sequences, moral questioning on man versus machine, thematic balance
Animation: Great, dreary art to create ambiguity, nice camera direction, cool character designs, great actual animation
Characters: Good, Motoko and the Puppet Master are "mirror images," but lack consequential development
Ghost in the Shell is without doubt my favourite anime movie ever released.
Where to begin? This thing is dense, because there's so much that happens in it from machiavellian political subterfuge, to incredible gunplay and vicious combat, and a mystery that opens up one of the biggest can of worms there is.
This is probably what cemented cyberpunk as a genre in anime, hitting harder than anything before and that's followed. High tech low lives, Ghost in the Shell is drowning in them. That isn't the biggest pull in the film, what really gets me is the questions it leaves you with:
What are the differences between
artificial intelligence and human consciousness? What happens when you merge the two, does that become something new? If your memories can be rewritten electronically, how can you be sure you are really yourself? When you can customise every part of your physical appearance, how can you remain an individual if you change entirely or something becomes identical to you?
This film was more than entertaining, it made me want to learn more about what it was talking about. If that isn't the sign of an incredible movie, what is?
Throughout the whole film, it never feels overly preachy. Once you get into the rich story at the beginning, it all flows so (ironically) organically that the whole philosophy bits creep in subtly enough that its easy to digest, at least it did for me and I knew absolutely nothing about 'em. This is one of those films that gets more rewarding in the second or third viewing just because so much is going on at once. Every time I watch this movie, I think I love it even more. It was also great to see a really strong female lead character dealing with completely unpredictable situations, even if her clothes/swimsuit seems a bit out of place at a board meeting. Hey, that's anime for ya!