“And can you offer me proof of your existence? How can you, when neither modern science nor philosophy can explain what life is?” – The Puppet Master

ghost_in_the_shell

Every once in awhile, a film comes along and kind of just punches you in the face.  A film that  calls for your attention and forcibly holds that attention for the films complete run time. For me, Ghost in the Shell (Oshii, 1995) did just that.

As someone who has become bored with the same recycled, cookie-cutter plots that the Hollywood system pumps out every year, I was shocked to find a film that deals with complex issues like humanity’s ever expanding dependence on technology and also packs a punch like a good action-mystery movie should.  

Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell is widely regarded as one of the first big anime films to take the world by storm during the nineties. It achieved massive box office success and critical acclaim, and in doing so inspired many american science fiction films, namely: The Matrix (Wachowski,Wachowski, 1996).

Ghost in the Shell is set in a world where cybernetic enhancements have become the norm, where human bodies are simply “shells” which can be cast aside and replaced, and human consciousness has been digitized and transferred to the internet into and contained as a “ghost.”

Thesegits1_04 ghosts contain everything the human mind contains, namely people’s memories and their identity as a whole. However, since ghosts are connected to the web, they can be hacked. This means that people’s memories and identities can be completely altered by “ghost hackers” at any time.

The plot of the movie centers around a task force called Sector 9 devoted to hunting down ghost hackers. This team, lead in the field by a cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi, begins to clash with a dangerous ghost hacker known as the Puppet Master, sinking them into a dangerous game of deception and intrigue.

Ghost in the Shell is a really complex film, it deals with themes of existence similar to the way that Spike Jonze’s Her (2013) deals with love. Both films create an alternative situation that allows them to question the very nature of a complex idea through the facet of technology. Her deals with themes of love from the perspective of a relationship between a human and an artificial intelligence interface, causing us to question what love really is.¹ 

Ghost in the Shell  takes this same idea from the frame of existence as, throughout the film, Major Kusanagi questions her humanity and existence.²  This is reflected in Kusanagi’s  dialog throughout the film, as she questions her existence and purpose with the members of her crew between missions. 

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Ghost in the Shell is beautiful, its background art encompasses the gritty feel of this dark, futuristic, world very well. The animation is fluid and precise, all of the characters movements seem natural and human, and the action is well
choreographed and stylized.  

The soundtrack is also excellent, it manages to capture the atmosphere of the world perfectly while also adding edge and intensity to enhance scenes and emotions throughout.

The film does receive some criticism due to the nudity shown in the film, especially by the main character Major Kusanagi, some of this was even called to question by legendary film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.³ However, I would argue that Major Kusanagi’s nudity throughout the film is a great depiction of her struggles with her humanity, as she doesn’t quite see herself as human, and seems almost unaware of the societal standards surrounding nudity.

This film is a masterpiece.  It is beautiful, thought provoking, intense, and it brings to light a dark and brilliant world that could potentially exist someday. Hopefully, this review compels you to check out the film, because not only is it one of my favorites, but it is an excellent jumping off point to the world of science fiction anime.

References:

  1. http://nique.net/entertainment/2014/01/16/sci-fi-film-eschews-gritty-setting-for-theme-of-love/
  2. http://nerdist.com/akira-ghost-in-the-shell-and-the-humanity-of-cyberpunk/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Il2l3hEEtdk
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10 thoughts on “Ghost in the Shell: The Popcorn Movie That Makes You Think

  1. Great analysis and thorough description of the movie, I really wanna check it out! I enjoyed the movie “Her”, and it’s nice to see a different type of movie come along that is as complex as “Ghost in the Shell” sounds. I’ve never really delved into animated films, so this will be a great one to start with. Glad I know about this so I can watch it first, because it will be interesting to see how the adaptation with Scarlett Johansson would look…not a huge fan of the Japanese culture being white-washed, but we’ll see how it turns out. :/

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    1. As someone who is continually disappointed by Hollywood live action reboots of animated movies, I have little faith unless they are being handled by a talented director. As far as the white washing goes, also not a big fan, aside from the obvious moral argument, I also see a missed opportunity to really make a star out of a new Japanese actress, which could be really cool. But nope.

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  2. I really like movies but similar to @plantbasedgoddess92 I haven’t gotten into the genre of Anime. I have seen the trailers and promotions for the live action version of Ghost in the Shell with Scarlett Johansson and I did not know it originally was an Anime film. Let alone it being THE anime film, that kickstarted many people’s interest in Japanese animation films and television. I planned on watching the new version in theaters soon because it looked cool and the story sounded obscure, but I guess I should first watch the original first! If I love it, I won’t watch the new version and potentially ruin the experience for myself!

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  3. I thought it was funny because as I started reading your description of this movie I immediately thought of the movie “Her” as you later mentioned in your post! I used to watch a few anime shows when I was younger (Dragon Ball Z is the one I remember the most), I appreciate how the genre has its own style of storytelling. Just curious on what your thoughts are of the new live action version coming out? From what I’ve read fans of the original aren’t too pleased with how it’s being advertised, and based off your description it definitely seems like that frustration is justified. The concept of this movie is very interesting and makes me want to see the original!

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    1. I think the new one looks visually really interesting, however, I highly doubt the film will live up to the original! You should definitely see the original if you want to see the new one, with the subtitles if possible!

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  4. I liked your description of the movie! I immediately looked up Ghost in the Shell on IMDB and its plot summery wasn’t as interesting as yours. I am a pretty big anime fan myself. Akria, Spirited Away, and Evangelion are probably my favorites. I have yet to see Ghost in the Shell so I am excited to have a new movie to watch especially since it is the start of the weekend so I have plenty of time!

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    1. Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Anything Miyazaki, and the Evangelion reboot films are literally the four films that I recommend to everyone looking to get in to the genre. I highly recommend that you check it out, and like I have said, try to find a subtitled version, it’s much better than the dub. Ghost in the Shell has a similar design to Akira animation-wise, with both being hyper-realistic. I think you would really like it!

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