Ghost in the Shell

Tagged: Film

Animated film (1995). Kodansha/Bandai Visual Manga Entertainment. Directed by Mamoru Oshii. Written by Kazunori Ito, based on the Manga Ghost in the Shell (1989-1991) by Masamune Shirow. 82 minutes. Colour.

Released with a relatively high profile in the West, Ghost in the Shell became one of the most influential Anime productions of the 1990s. In a future East Asian metropolis, Cybernetics have become commonplace. As a side-effect of the computerized modifications made to human brains, it has become possible to hack into people's minds, changing their memories or making them slaves. This is the modus operandi of a criminal known only as the Puppet Master. Against this background, a covert Cyborg police officer, Major Kusanagi, investigates occurrences seemingly linked to the Puppet Master, all the while struggling with philosophical issues of Identity: for example, can a Computer have a soul? Is she still the same person as she was before her body was rebuilt artificially? The Puppet Master downloads his consciousness into a newly created cyborg shell and demands political asylum from Major Kusanagi's organization. He/it also claims to be an artificial intelligence (see AI) evolved from illegal programs created by the Foreign Ministry to justify their policy goals. The Foreign Ministry tries to cover its tracks by kidnapping the Puppet Master, but Kusanagi tracks it down and merges with its consciousness to create a new shared mind, portrayed as a form of offspring.

Ghost in the Shell struggles to cram its convoluted story into the short running time, and frequently resorts to lengthy exposition scenes to help the audience keep up. This sometimes awkward plotting is masked by how slickly crafted the film is, its fascinating urban images well served by an evocative and ghostly score. But under the surface Ghost in the Shell is neither groundbreaking as a work of Cyberpunk nor as an anime. It is nevertheless a well-made action thriller, and while it owes an obvious debt to the work of William Gibson, this makes it less culturally alien to Western eyes, and thus a good introduction to the Anime genre. [JN]

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