The best description I encountered so far of Ghost in the Shell is that it is "an action flick for scholars." I'm no scholar, so I forgive myself for not recognizing the virtues of this movie on the first viewing. I struggled to follow the story, no doubt due to my slow uncyberized brain that all the characters in the movie seem to have. But also because the plot remarkably dense, and almost completely impenetrable.
I gave up on the movie until I came across an interview with Mamoru Oshii in the now defunct AniméPlay magazine. Here is an excerpt from the interview:
Question: "Is 'Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence' a love story?
Oshii's answer: "Yes, but it's not necessarily between a man and a woman. It's between mind and body, between human and machinery and between human and animal. It's the only possible love story I can create."
That quote had me hooked. I got a copy of the original and the sequel and watched them in succession. Okay...so this time I still struggled to understand, and I wasn't all that clear on the sequel either. In fact, it took several viewings before my uncyberized brain started to get it. But what I did appreciate on the second viewing of the original was the ambivalent relationship that the lead character Motoko has with her own body. Though Motoko's body is completely artificial, throughout the entire film she is introspective about her own humanity. She is going through a chrysalis stage; on the verge of transformation from someone wholly physical to transphysical. This is in sharp contrast to her close friend Batou who seems to have both feet planted on the ground.
Knowing this allowed me to better appreciate the separation anxiety that is implied in Batou's character as he sees his friend, Motoko, growing further apart from him. It also enriches the experience of immediately watching the follow-up where Batou now echoes the mood of Motoko, no doubt because he is now finding himself within his own chrysalis – ready to break free.
I now consider myself a fan of both movies, as well as an ardent follower of Oshii's work. To a fault, really. I unfairly compare most movies I watch to his, hoping that they are imbued with the same level of subtext. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. But not often. Like its complicated plot, Ghost in the Shell is a tough act to follow.
Before I go off reviewing this anime masterpiece, I'll share my personal history with Ghost in the Shell, which dates back nine years ago. Back in July of 2002, I had a bug to watch anime that came out of nowhere. I went to the nearest Blockbuster and gazed at their meager selection of anime and the two VHS tapes that caught my attention the most were Akira (because I heard good buzz from friends) and Ghost in the Shell. I noticed Ghost in the Shell because the tape box had a naked cyborg … more
One of the best animated films I have ever seen is a Japanese anime called KOKAKU KIDOTAI, otherwise known as "GHOST IN THE SHELL" (1995) Honestly, for those very unfamiliar with anime, its storyline can be quite difficult to follow; the maturity of its script and its psychological depth is far-reaching. Based on Masamune Shirow's manga (Japanese comic) with screenplay by Kazunoki Ito and directed by Mamoru Oshii, the film attained an award-winning worldwide acclaim not just because … more