Late in 1995 the Mamoru Oshii directed cyberpunk feature anime film Ghost in the Shell was released. Based on the manga of the same name, Ghost in the Shell was critically acclaimed for its story (written by Masamune Shirow who wrote the original manga) and special effects. After watching the live action adaptation back in April and hearing its constant praise, I finally watched Ghost in the Shell.
This is one of the most visually striking animated films I have seen. The animation was created as a mixture of traditional animation and CG. I could easily decipher the cell animation and the CG animation but it didn’t ruin the vibe or take me out of the experience. The visuals still look amazing in 2017 over 20 years after it was released. Monumental advancements have been made in CG and animation technology that the creators of Ghost in the Shell didn’t have, but yet it looks better than most of the anime today.
The opening sequence which shows a cybernetic body being created with the opening credits is remarkable in its cinematography and presentation. There are also scenes in the movie where night vision, infrared, thermos-active camouflage, and GPS tracking systems are used which all look great and had to be difficult to accomplish through animation.
One of the big disappointments of Ghost in the Shell (2017) was the lack of awe inspiring visuals. Regardless of its butchering of the plot and Americanization of the cast, I expected it to have incredible effects that would be pretty to look at. I still agree that the effects were lack luster, but after watching the original movie, I now feel like the live action remake nailed the gritty cyber punk feel of the original.
The special effects of Ghost in the Shell are incredible. The plot, not so much. I understand I am in the minority in this opinion and didn’t experience the full revolutionary aspects of the plot by watching the movie in 1995 when the idea was fresh. Taking place in 2029, the movie focuses on Major Motoko Kusanagi who leads the police group section 9. Motoko is a full cyborg minus her real brain (her ghost). Her cohorts in section 9, and many people in society, have cybernetic augmentations enhancing their body. A hacker named Puppet Master begins hacking all over the place causing issues that Motoko and section 9 track down and try to stop. It is later revealed that the Puppet Master was created by section 6 (a different governmental organization) and went rouge and they try to stop him to prevent legal trouble on their end from creating him.
The unsubtle villain name ‘Puppet Master’ is corny and the dirty government organization covering up its tracks is a stale premise. That plot isn’t terrible, I didn’t like the way it was told. I believe this is more of an issue on my end than with the movie. I am not fully accustomed to Japanese anime and their story telling techniques. I want to like anime but there are some glaring barriers that have prevented me from fully enjoying popular anime and movies like Ghost in the Shell.
Plot events and back story are revealed in a choppy fashion that isn’t satisfying in the way it is presented. I was never lost or confused on what was going on, but the jittery way of telling the story could have been done better. I watched the English dub version of the movie which also featured less than desirable voice acting talent.
Again this is more of a criticism of myself in not being able to accept anime limitations and Japanese story telling techniques. I need to expose myself to more anime to become more accustomed to them. Voice acting and choppy quick story telling is to anime what black and white old movies is to most people. Once you get over it, or used to it, or appreciate it for what it is, you open up a massive world of great movies and shows.
Ghost in the Shell is visually stunning and is deserving of its high standing in animated movies and in movies as a whole.