The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Ghost in the Shell

Title: Ghost in the Shell aka Koukaku Kidoutai
Company: Production I.G.
Genre: Action
Format: Movie; 83 minutes.
Dates: 18 Nov 1995

Synopsis: In a future where the line between man and machine is growing more and more blurred with every passing day, a wanted hacker known as “Puppet Master” starts brain-hacking politicians. That’s when Section 9, an elite team of cybernetically enhanced cops, are called to find “Puppet Master” and stop him immediately.

The Highlights
Artwork: Beautiful art and animation.
Background: Psychologically and philosophically deep.
Plot: Main twist predictable.
Pacing: A few useless scenes.

Ghost in the Shell was my first true action anime after Akira and the first one after the “classic” which was able to stun me with its sheer visual beauty. In fact, even today Ghost in the Shell‘s art and animation can be considered top-notch. From the dark and gritty streets of downtown Hong Kong to the pale neon lights of Section 9’s headquarters, everything has exactly the right mood for a “dark future” setting. The action scenes are also fast-paced and perfectly timed so that excitement is almost guaranteed.

The visual qualities of Ghost in the Shell were able to stun me, but it was the deeper qualities which convinced me. While the main plot packs action galore, the calmer scenes revolving around Kusanagi Motoko show a different side to our stalwart cybernetic heroine: on the inside, she’s an introspective person questioning her own existence, her individuality and humanity and even the definition of humanity itself. If everything about a human can be replaced, even memories, then what is the sense in being human after all? Many scenes of Ghost in the Shell revolve around that question, almost always with powerful imagery. The dark mood of the movie is enhanced by the peculiar music – it’s sounding rather weird and disturbing but has a beauty of its own.

With so many highlights, it is almost a shame that a few scenes work neither to advance the story nor strengthen the mood. A small side plot about a political conspiracy is woven into the storyline, and it doesn’t really seem to fit in. Also, the main plot twist about the identity of the “Puppet Master” is rather predictable – in fact, it’s just what you would be expecting from a film about the meaning of humanity. But as this plot twist works to underline the message behind Ghost in the Shell, it doesn’t really lower the overall quality of the movie.

Ghost in the Shell offers a highly suspenseful and visually striking look at a few of the great philosophical questions of the new millenium. Though its commercial success clearly stems from its production values, its true qualities lie within storytelling and character development. This is a movie not only for the eyes and ears, but also for your mind… or should I say “ghost”?

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Taleweaver

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