When it comes to anime, I’m hardly an expert. My experiences are limited mostly to Akira & Pokemon.
Despite being a popular art form in Japan, anime has never caught on in the India. But in Japan, the viewers of Anime are large and for my knowledge- Ghost in the Shell is marvellous
Based on Masamune Shiro’s 1989 manga, this film paints a somewhat cold picture of the world, but unlike most of its contemporaries, not an altogether dystopic view of it. Ghost in the Shell is set in an unnamed Asian country, only identified once as New Port City–in a world where everyone is connected via technology. Obviously, Shiro should be given credit for seeing the future, but as I mentioned, this movie shows the city as a mostly vibrant place where everyday life is conducted by its average citizens. We get glimpses of these people only a few times in the film, but the city itself is made into a character during one calming sequence of shots that breaks up the story’s action.
The plot follows a cyborg police officer named Major Motoko Kusanagi and her mostly-human colleagues as they attempt to find a rogue hacker known only as “The Puppet Master”. Hacking crimes seem to be a common occurrence in the “near future”, but this criminal is unique as it appears to be a cyborg that possesses its own “ghost”, which it manufactured itself. Much intrigue and mystery surround the origin and purpose of “The Puppet Master”, leading another government agency to attempt its capture for their own selfish priorities. That’s a very nutshell version of Ghost in the Shell‘s layered storyline, but I didn’t find the film’s plot to be all that difficult to follow.
As with many science fiction tales, Ghost in the Shell does carry its own unique terminology. For instance, rather than computers as we know them being hacked, its people’s brains that are tapped into by cyber criminals. You’ll notice many visual and narrative similarities to The Matrix, so many in fact that I feel the Wachowski brothers should have co-credited Shiro with their 1999 blockbuster. In this film’s world, people have ports on the back of their necks which they use to hook into various systems, including cars for GPS navigation. Also, the term “ghost” can easily be substituted for “soul”, as its what separates humans from machines. Unlike in The Matrix though, this film is wholly set in the real world, with a majority of power being exercised by human beings.
The Major is a complicated character, who was once human but sold her “shell” (body) to the government in return for never-ending life and superhuman physical abilities–her ghost is referenced numerous times as merely a faint whisper in her own head. What director Mamoru Ishii asks his audience to do is identify with the isolation felt by the film’s cyborg characters. The Major’s feelings of hope for a new life are brought to light in a dramatically satisfying scene following one of her nighttime swims–which her friend and teammate Batou reminds her could be deadly due to her shell’s weight. She tells him her reason for swimming is because it’s the only thing that makes her feel fear.
The opening action sequence and titles are among the most memorable I’ve ever seen. If you have any reservations about watching a Japanese sci-fi anime movie, the outstanding artwork mixed with Kenji Kawai’s eclectic score will have you locked-in after the first ten minutes. And if that fails to get your attention, the gratuitous cartoon nudity displayed through the entire film will keep your perverted eye! But seriously, this is heavy filmmaking that proves what animation is capable of on a meaningful level.
Ghost in the Shell addresses several issues, including the pros and cons of technological dependency, and the theory that evolution is a must for survival. If you boil the entire plot down however, the message is about the difficulty of keeping one’s identity in a world where the entire population is easily connected. The film opens with a subtitle informing us that computerization has “not yet wiped out nations and ethic groups”–yet the wording tells us this may be inevitable. By the end credits, we find out technology is not to be feared but embraced, as regression isn’t a solution.
Ghost in the Shell’ also had its sequel and third is also around the corner. If you like original stories with a uniquely optimistic look at where society is headed- Ghost in the Shell will be a favorite of yours.
- Initial release: 1995
- Director: Mamoru Oshii
- Adapted from: Ghost in the Shell
- Music composed by: Kenji Kawai