Film: Dystopian Anime: Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell (1995)
(Japanese original title: Kôkaku Kidôtai per IMDB)
based on the manga by Masamune Shirow
directed by Mamoru Oshii
1995 (Japan & UK), 1996 (US)

Continuing my new habit of watching dire futures as a way of tolerating the dire present, I went back and watched the first and possibly best version of Ghost in the Shell. GitS is another Masamune Shirow manga (I wrote about him previously when reviewing the translated Appleseed manga).

Overview: An anti-terrorist unit of a future police force has to battle an unseen hacker adversary who can ‘hack’ humans’ cybernetic minds, and turn innocent individuals into his violent henchmen. The protagonist is a female cyborg with human brain, who ponders questions about what it means to be human in an era of augmented individuals. Her philosophical exposition and debates with her coworkers break out between brutal scenes of hand-to-hand combat and cyborg-vs-tank battles in a visually rich future version of Hong Kong.

Here’s the original Japanese preview; if you are in the U.S. and over 18, you can watch the complete film subtitled in English on YouTube at this link.

Why I like it: The animation is top notch: real artists clearly developed the illustrations, which are colored well, and have just-realistic-enough lighting effects; the use of computer graphics is selective and well-placed. The music really sets a mood, especially the choral piece by Kenji Kawai (YouTube). The direction is excellent: there is a scene where rain falls quietly on the gun turret of a tank, and you are forced (at turret-point) to appreciate the effort that went into the many details of the scene. The protagonist looks intense, serious, and a bit unsettling (rather than young and playful, as protagonists are in many of Shirow’s manga) which FEELS RIGHT for a cyborg.

This is a different story with the same characters and settings as the 2017 live action version starring Scarlett Johansson: if you’ve seen that, you’ll appreciate the fidelity of that movie to the composition of certain scenes. That film was about the protagonist’s back-story, while this 1995 film is more of a standalone adventure, which ends on a very different trajectory for the main character.

Note that, the animator(s) and art director(s) are especially fond of women’s breasts, and even though there is no practical reason a cyborg would have nipples, you do wind up seeing them a lot. *shaking my head.*

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