Ghost in the Shell (攻殻機動隊) Made in: Japan Language: Japanese Director: Mamoru Oshii Starring: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ôtsuka, Iemasa Kayumi Year: 1995
Based on the comic (or manga) series created by Masamune Shirow
Synopsis: In this landmark anime film adapted from the popular manga, the year is 2029. The human populace is interconnected, and practically dependent upon, a global informational network.
In the vast metropolis of New Port City (which looks like a mash-up between Gotham City and Hong Kong), a series of odd, elaborate crimes are being committed.
A mysterious criminal mastermind, known only as the Puppet Master (Iemasa Kayumi) "hacks" into the minds of ordinary people, temporarily controlling them. He also has the ability to replace their memories with false ones, which is part of the reason why he remains so elusive.
A branch of the city's elite Network Security Force, Section 9, is on the case. Spearheading the investigation is Major Motoko Kusanagi (Atsuko Tanaka), who is herself a highly advanced cyborg. She is aided by her partner, another cyborg named Bato (Akio Ôtsuka), who's a burly tough-guy.
Despite interference from corrupt politicians and other powerful forces, Motoko closes in on the Puppet Master. Then, she begins philosophizing about her own existence and self-awareness as an artificial life form.
Soon, she discovers that the Puppet Master has been searching for her as well, and has motives beyond what she could have predicted. All the while, Motoko discovers that the complexity of super-advanced technology has literally taken on a life, and maybe even a soul, of its own...
The Good: Visually speaking, Ghost in the Shell is quite remarkable. The art direction is gorgeous, and the visuals are great. The story contains a lot of interesting existential questions/points, and moves along at a methodical pace.
Although not action-packed, each action sequence is well thought-out and definitely intense.
The Bad: Despite the grand visuals, some of the shots in Ghost in the Shell just seemed like an excuse to show animated boob shots for lonely science fiction geeks. And don't send me messages claiming that I "don't get it and it's all for artistic purposes."
Masamune Shirow is one heck of an artist - I'll give him that - but you have to admit the guy's kind of a perv, too. Not that I have a problem with boobs, but with such a complex storyline and interesting premise, the frequent cyborg nudity comes pretty close to animated porn.
And instead of concentrating on more substantive points of the film, I am loathe to discover that too much of this review has been dominated by Major Kusanagi's hand-drawn jahoobies.
The theme of complex machines becoming self-aware and "human-like" is well-explored, but hardly original. Other science fiction films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner have discussed similar topics, and Ghost in the Shell might not stand the test of time as we move further along in the digital age.
Who would like this film: I would recommend this to fans of anime and science fiction, but most members of that demographic have probably seen this film already.
If you're just getting into anime, manga, discovering the works of Masamune Shirow, or looking for an excuse to look at full-color animated breasts, Ghost in the Shell is a must-see in your journey through contemporary cult science fiction (and gravity defying boobery).