Ghost in the Shell (Kōkaku Kidōtai Gōsuto In Za Sheru)
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Ghost in the Shell is an animated science fiction film set in the near future, a world where people stay connected to a ubiquitous electronic network using cybernetic ‘shells’. It follows Public Security Section 9 assault team leader Major Motoko Kusanagi in her pursuit of the mysterious ‘Puppet Master’, a hacker who is wanted by a rival government agency. All is not as it seems, and the true identity and intentions of the Puppet Master will have life-changing implications for the Major.
Director Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 adaptation of the Shirow Masamune manga is widely regarded as one of the greatest anime films of all time. Adult, deliberately paced and thoughtful (but still with its fair share of memorable action sequences), the film brilliantly uses Major’s existential crisis to tackle some big philosophical questions: What is life? What makes us unique individuals? Why do we reproduce?
The film’s imagining of the future is a memorable blend of old and new. The technological elements are vividly realised using groundbreaking animation techniques, and this contrasts nicely with the gritty Hong Kong inspired setting. The score by Kenji Kawai is a hypnotising and unearthly-sounding concoction of the ancient Japanese language of Yamato set to traditional Japanese notes and Bulgarian harmony. Fittingly, this mix of modern and traditional elements is reflected in the core storyline, something that could almost be described as a ‘boy-meets-girl’ story, but given a futuristic setting and consequences that make it startlingly original.
Remarkably, the film hasn’t dated despite the ever-advancing nature of our current information society. Rather, the film’s examination of individuality (and security) in an information age is perhaps more relevant than ever, and certain story elements - the tension between government departments, or the idea that anyone can hack our bodies, minds and thoughts - create an appropriate dose of paranoia.
A seminal cyberpunk anime and thought-provoking study of what makes us human, Ghost in the Shell is a must-see for anime fans.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Kōkaku Kidōtai Inosensu)
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Billed as a follow-up rather than a sequel to his original film, Mamoru Oshii returned to write and direct ‘Innocence’, and he delivers an intricately-plotted hardboiled noir that has lofty philosophical ambitions. Batou (a human-turned cyborg) and his partner Togusa (about as flesh and blood human as it’s possible to be in the future) investigate a strange case of ‘Gynoids’ (robot servants) murdering their masters before self-destructing. Meanwhile, the Major is still AWOL on the net, but her presence looms large...
‘Innocence’ is a compelling study of what it means to be human and why we model robots in our own image. Retaining the grungy, Hong Kong inspired setting and eerie chanting soundtrack of the first film, ‘Innocence’ adds breathtaking cityscapes and a spectacular parade scene to create a truly stunning and unique visual experience.
Be sure to check out other entries in the Ghost in the Shell series, including the new live-action film starring Scarlett Johansson, and the ‘Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex’ TV series.
Introduced by Greg Corbett
Greg Corbett has been visiting Japan since 1998. He has a keen interest in Japanese language and culture, and helps to organise a number of Japanese cultural events in Adelaide.