Ghost in the Shell (anime) Review
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Manga: Masamune Shirow
Score: Kenji Kawai
First there was Akira, then came Oshii's vivid recreation of Masamune Shirow's manga, Ghost in the Shell, which broke into international audiences becoming a massive cult classic and an influential cyber-crime thriller. It was the most expensive anime of it's time and was actually the first anime to be released simultaneously in Japan, America and Britain in the attempt to breach the wider market, being a joint collaboration between Japanese studios Kodansha, Bandai Visual, Production IG and the then British Manga Entertainment company. However, it failed at the box office and at the attempt, to then gain cult status when released on to VHS. I was fortunate enough to grab this year's showing on the 25th of January hosted by, again, Manga Entertainment. (That date being quite significant to the Ghost in the Shell universe.
The original manga from which the film is based on is Masamune Shirow's work which ran from '89 till '91 originally under the publishers much desired name Mobile Armoured Riot Police and ran with the subtitle Ghost in the Shell which was Shirow's, and I can safely assume fans', preferred title. Whilst the core of the story remains intact, Major Motoko Kusanagi was made to look much older and more asexual compared to the younger, more feminine and expressive Major of the Manga.
Set in 2029, in a fictional Japanese city, Niihama which is actually based on Hong Kong as oppose to the popular belief that it's another Neo-Tokyo. We follow the antiterrorist squad, lead by Major, who go up against advanced hackers with the ability to hack into people's minds giving them alternate realities or to steal valuable information. Though, their attention is quickly switched to a hacker that goes by the handle of the Puppetmaster. He or she becoming quite the subject for Major's curiosity whilst wanting to bring him/her to justice, but there's more to it than what the government heads are letting on, much more.
It rather politically and mostly concerns counter cyber-terrorism with the Public Security Section 9 which consists of cybernetic enhanced, ex-military personnel as the focal point. Aside from political intrigue it's actually very philosophical and psychological being quite profound around the soul and mind of the body, or 'ghost' questioning what makes a human, human, is it the body or is it the mind. Much thanks to Shirow's influence being Arthur Koestler's philosophical, psychological book, Ghost in the Machine.
There's a depth of knowledge here, even quoting the bible. Questioning what is self awareness with a conflict of identity. Could artificial intelligence become self aware and decide to want to live, which makes this one of most profound animes out there, giving viewers food for thought.
However, this remains unbalanced with content of action which is incredibly good considering the extensive research the crew had to undertake, flying to Guam to shoot things with an assortment of guns, firing countless rounds at different surfaces to study for the purpose of creating the the most realistic effects. There's that particular scene with the spider-tank the Wackowski's pitched to producer Joel Silver which morphed into the stunning and equally destructive lobby shoot-out scene in The Matrix. This isn't the only thing that was taken from Ghost in the Shell and used in The Matrix, the opening credits of green code, and the on-foot chase scene is almost a shot by shot copy through the markets in both films, even the casting of Carrie-Anne Moss is rumoured to be because of her likeness to the Major. It's fair to say this film gave the Wackowski's more than just visuals when you look at the Matrix's philosophy again. I just wanted more action, which I'm hoping is quenched with the live action version. The action is so good but ends up being quite a tease of what could be amazing. A smart and action-packed cyber-thriller, but it's more smart than action.
Here's a really interesting in depth look at Ghost in the Shell courtesy of The Nerdwriter.
Something else that has to be mentioned about this film is Kenji Kawai's amazing score which is pretty much broken down into two main themes for the film. The Resurrection theme and the rest of the score which is an incredible mix of ambience, strings, deep drums and choral vocals. The theme is actually a melding from Bulgarian and Japanese influences that has becomes almost as iconic as the film itself.
It is without doubt one of the those iconic and recognisable animes that showcased animators incredible talents and again, confirming that cartoons weren't just for children giving the more mature audiences something to feast on. Still remains one of my all time favourite animes. Let's hope the live action version does both the anime and manga justice.
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 8
Job Description: 10
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for being that prime example of excellent anime with an intelligent, mature story. An inspirational masterpiece.
Would I buy the Blu-ray?: Already do.