The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

Title: Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence
Company: Production I.G.
Genre: Action
Format: Movie; 99 minutes.
Dates: 6 Mar 2004

Synopsis: Three years after the Puppet Master incident, Section Nine’s cyborg Batou and his non-augmented partner Togusa are investigating a series of murders committed by robotic love slaves. Following the trails of an influential megacorporation, they are investigating a link between the industry and the local Yakuza syndicate. But to Batou, the entire case has a deeper meaning that relates to his own cyborg nature: Could it be human desires that turn robotic slaves into killing machines?

The Highlights:
Art and Animation: Groundbreaking and innovative.
Background World: Alive and disturbingly realistic.
Music: Eerie, if a little repetitive.
Plot: “Cop drama” staple; some pacing issues.
Ending: Deus ex machina resolution.

Let’s be frank: I’m a big fan of the original Ghost in the Shell(1,2) movie. Even today, I still consider it a good “starter anime” for fans of action movies. Stunning visuals, a gloomy atmosphere and a surprisingly deep plot make it one of the best cyberpunk dramas out there, if not the single best. Need I mention that I was absolutely thrilled when the first trailers of the sequel movie were released?

From a technical standpoint, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence easily surpasses its predecessor. The mix of traditionally handcrafted animation and CGI art is smoother than ever, editing and directing make the many action sequences a beauty to watch, and the backgrounds set new standards for anime. Never have I seen so many people and things move in the distance. If I didn’t know that everything is only animated, I’d swear it was real.

Speaking of backgrounds, the background world of Innocence is also very much alive. Oshii Mamoru‘s Hongkong is a breeding pit of crime and business alike, and the perfect blend of Chinese and Western elements in each part of the design make the city so realistic in looks that it’s almost disturbing to think it could one day become something like this. Brilliantly done!

The actual plot, however, cannot really keep up with the rest of the movie’s high standards. Essentially a cop drama or a buddy movie revolving around Batou and Togusa and their different looks on life, it’s much less than you’d expect for a sequel to something as deep as the original Ghost in the Shell. Even the pacing isn’t what it should be; Innocence doesn’t manage to find the balance between action scenes and moodsetter scenes that its predecessor did, and in a few scenes (especially in the last third of the movie), it becomes plain boring.

Add to that a musical soundtrack that, while a great moodsetter, becomes repetitive way too fast and an unworthy deus ex machina ending obviously only written to please the fans of the original Ghost in the Shell and you get a movie that has little substance beyond all the eye candy. I really would have loved to like Innocence, but unfortunately, Oshii Mamoru didn’t manage to recreate the suspense and drama of his former masterpiece. Innocence is by no means a bad movie, but it has too many pacing issues for an action movie and too little impact for a drama. Watch it for the super-impressive visuals and the great mood, and then forget about it.

Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Taleweaver

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