Directed by Mamoru Oshii
November 18, 1995 (Japan) / December 8, 1995 (United Kingdom)
- Mj. Motoko Kusanagi-Mimi Woods
- Batou-Richard Epcar
- The Puppet Master-Tom Wyner
- Togusa-Christopher Joyce
- Chief Aramaki-William Frederick Knight
- Ishikawa-Michael Sorich
- Chief Nakamura-Simon Prescott
- Mizuho Daita-Richard Cansino
- Garbage Collector A-Kevin Seymour
- Garbage Collector B-Doug Stone
A cyber security officer and her partner hunt a mysterious hacker in this classic animated film.
Ghost in the Shell was a groundbreaking animated feature. It is light on the action and heavy on the talking and philosophy among its characters. It goes deeper than anything you will find in Western animation. It is set in a world where technology has advanced to the point where some or all of the human body can be replaced with cybernetics. If you are more machine than person and memories can be changed with a few keystrokes, what then does make you who you are?
Before I get too far into this film the “ghost” referred to in the title is the human consciousness inhabiting the “shell” or body. Important information.
In one of the more disturbing moments there is a chase in the film as our two leads The Major and Batou track the film’s villain the Puppet Master. They capture a garbage man who prior to the whole scene is talking about his ex-wife and daughter and trying to show his partner a picture of his daughter which the audience does not initially see. After he is captured we are shown that it is nothing like what he thinks it is. His whole backstory is a complete fabrication of the villain. And the gunman involved is just some random individual with no connection to anything beyond having his mind hacked.
In our modern world we have so much technology at our fingertips. Back in 1995 much of now was still very theoretical. As of right now technology is much more integral to our lives than it was then. Imagine how indispensable it would be in a world like we have here. In the world presented disconnecting from technology is impossible. Their existence is dependent upon data streams and computer terminals.
Some have suggested there are themes of sexuality or liberation from gender. The character of The Major has a full body prosthesis which means she is entirely machine and cannot have children. The film also opens with Major in the buff. I think those people might be reaching a bit. Having watched other examples of Japanese animation I think the nudity is just a byproduct of what is common in those movies which often objectifies women. I am not saying Major is an objectified character. Not at all. I am just saying scantily clad women are not unusual in these types of movies from there and the mentality that allows for that allowed for the misinterpreted aspects. And animated science fiction from that country just goes all in. A cyborg is a cyborg and nothing more.
The Major and her partner Batou have a platonic relationship. They are just friends and it is clear they will be nothing more EVER! I find that refreshing. Characters do not need to be paired off and men and women can be just friends. I know the status has more than a little to do with the cyborg body but being a cartoon and being science fiction, I think it is not out of the realm of possibility that if the creators wanted our two main characters could boink.
One thing that I have missed until recently in my frequent viewings of this movie until now was what amounts to a throwaway line. The Major states that if she or Batou were ever to retire from Section 9, the agency they work for, they would have to give back all of their cybernetics and there would not be much left of them. Essentially these agents of the law are slaves to the government. The technology that has made them so much more has also trapped them in their current state. That is deep.
Plus it is just a beautiful looking film. They used digitally generated animation, which is a combination of cel animation and computer graphics. Animation director Mizuho Nishikubo strove for a level of realism in the movement of the characters and weapons. Bullets even created sparks on the spider tank which until reading a little about this movie I had not considered.
Japanese animation is very different from Western animation. I am talking about what they are willing to allow. Before seeing this I think the only other time I had ever seen a naked character in an animated film was in Heavy Metal. That goes for the graphic nature of the imagery as well. Blood is everywhere. They do not shy away from the rough stuff here.
Ghost in the Shell’s unique take on the cyberpunk genre is one of the main reasons this is still talked about today and has spawned television shows and several sequels. Because of this uniqueness it has become influential. Filmmakers from the Wachowskis to James Cameron to Steven Spielberg to Jonathan Mostow have either borrowed concepts or cited the film as an inspiration. That is pretty good for a film that did not make back its money on its initial release.
Ghost in the Shell is a classic of Japanese animation. It is a thinking person’s feature. This is most certainly a watch it!