Running time: 83 minutes (Ghost in the Shell), 100 minutes (Ghost in the Shell 2)
Screenplay: Kazunori Itô (Ghost in the Shell), Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell 2)
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Starring (voices): Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ôtsuka, Tamio Ôki, Iemasa Kayumi, Kôichi Yamadera
|The Major takes a moment to think.|
|A glimpse of some of the gorgeous Blade Runner-like|
It is with good reason that Ghost in the Shell is so venerated, as the artistry with which it is created is frankly mind boggling - the landscapes have a gorgeous Blade Runner-esque look that makes merely soaking up the imagery a joy. But the subject matter is also engaging. Set in a future where almost everyone is part cyborg, the story follows two government operatives Major Motoko Kusanagi (Atsuko Tanaka) and her partner Batau (Akio Ôtsuka), who are working for Japan's anti-terrorist division Section 6. While attempting to track down a mysterious entity who is able to hack pretty much any system, anywhere, Motoko and Batau find themselves on the trail of The Puppet Master (Iemasa Kayumi), a sentient program also known as Project 2501, a name which suggests it was created by the very government hunting for it. Project 2501 is looking for a body, and the Major may be just what it's been looking for.
While there is some of the graphic nudity and violence associated with Japanese animation, particularly in the show-stopping opening scenes, Ghost in the Shell is far from a non-stop orgy of action. It takes time to examine deeper undercurrents, and thinks nothing of slowing or even stopping the plot altogether to allow its characters to consider philosophical questions on what it means to be alive. By enhancing yourself using cybernetic implants and upgrades, as both Motoko and Batau have done to a great degree, are you sacrificing your humanity? The 'ghost' of the title refers to the small spark of life that remains inside the cybernetically enhanced 'shells' many people give up their flesh and blood for. If a person is entirely machine, are they still considered alive, do they not have a soul? Why? Should they not have the same right to exist as anyone? What, in the end, defines life?
|Batau struggles on alone.|
Both Ghost in the Shell and its sequel are entertaining and thought-provoking, which is exactly what a good film should be, but I suspect the changeable pace, which slows to a standstill at times, won't be for everyone.
Ghost in the Shell: 8/10
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence: 8/10
Ghost in the Shell and its sequel are held in high regard: see these reviews of the original and the sequel at Cyberpunk Review and these by Fransisco: Ghost in the Shell,Ghost in the Shell 2.