Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Starring: Atsuko Tanaka, Iemasa Kayumi, Akio Ôtsuka, Yutaka Nakano, Tamio Ôki
Directed by: Mamoru Oshii
Written by: Kazunori Itô, Masamune Shirow
Rating: NR Running Time: 1 hr 33 min.
Set in the year 2029, in a world interconnected by technology, Ghost in the Shell is part political intrigue mixed with a discussion about the nature of existence in an increasingly artificial world. The focus of the story is centered on dueling government agencies, while an emerging consciousness hacks its way to freedom.
As slickly made Japanese animation goes, Ghost in the Shell is one of the best. The beautifully drawn backdrops and the attention to detail during the action sequences are superb. And the aesthetic as painted shows us a dour and foreboding future where enhanced human brains can be hacked, and people’s memories can be rewritten. Which on occasion, is disturbingly realized when a character discovers a beloved memory turns out to be a fake, and there’s no cure to repair the damage. Forcing one victim to cherish a moment he knows is a fabrication.
Ghost in the Shell, however, often felt like narrative and objective were at odds with each other. It’s a simple story that’s unfortunately been saddled with a lot of psychobabble. Neither form nor function seem comfortable existing in the same space, resulting in a film with some serious pacing issues. When the script dives into the metaphysical, the production slows to a crawl, and gets lost debating the nature of existence. This gets in the way of character development, and you might ultimately question the motives of some key characters.
On re-watching the film, I found little substance beyond the slick design and often disturbing animation. I still enjoyed the film, but I thought the extraneous dialogue overcomplicated the idea that a soul (or ghost), in whatever form it takes, wants to survive, and will likely go to extreme lengths to do so.
This was released in 1995, so if you’re a fan of Japanese animation, you’ll probably already have this film in your collection. For those new to the genre, expect slickly drawn animation and some disturbing imagery. This cartoon is certainly not suitable for children!
I really enjoyed the action as The Major (Motoko Kusanagi) and her Section 9 team chase down a group of hacked humans.