r#81 – ghost in the shell

First of all, happy valentine’s day! I’m only one, so yesterday I didn’t really celebrate it. But anyway, the breakdown of one legendary movie from the past is coming right now!

For you who never heard of this, lemme explain the backdrop of it for you..,.. Koukaku Kidoutai that’s produced by Mamoru Oshii in 1995 was the first Ghost in the Shell film to adapt Musumane Shirow’s manga that has been released since one decade before that. The movie itself condenses the original storyline, but with reducing the original material’s comic relief and sexual content in favour of more serious tone and the change of setting from Japan, which right then the place was modelled after Hong Kong. One of the best thing that happened to the movie is its visual and arts, all of it produced using an innovative mix of cel animation and digital effects, all of it within one animated film.

Considering the year release that was so long ago, two decades ago to be exact, Ghost in the Shell has became one of the world’s most famous Japanese animated films, being the first to reach the number #1 on Billboard magazine’s video best-seller list, also served as a major inspiration for the Wachowskis in their creation of the Matrix (1999 science fiction action) western movies.

Anyway, I own and watched this movie which issued as the 25th-anniversary edition, so if you have the other version that probably different, just know that our views towards this movie could also different. That being said, let’s dissect this movie..!!!

synopsis.

Ghost in the Shell was talking about the future from the people in the past’s perspective, where today age is known as the electronic age. But more advanced than the real-life situation today; in the movie, logging into the public network is commonplace as making a phone call, and everywhere there are surgically enhanced people who have to merge with machines components and become some robotic and cybernetic organism … as something that we could see every day. From the cyber brains technology, thermo-optical camouflage, think tanks, cyborgs, and more, everything combined. The movie itself takes place in the year of 2029 and centred in an organisation of special operations task force known as Public Security, and our lead characters placed in the exact Public Security Section 9 of Niihama Prefecture —which is the fictional setting that’s inspired by Hong Kong city as I said before.

The section 9 that is incorporated into a diverse team of AI, cyborgs, and unmodified people … now faced with a case to investigate a corruption and actions of terrorism. A continuous operation of undefined hacks forced Major Kusanagi Motoko and her second in command Batou, to search the head of terror known as the puppet master, which lead them to the various actions of corrupt officials, companies, and cyber-criminals. Until the very end, our main villain didn’t show us his face and only talk through the ‘puppets’ he has hacked. But the thing that has made people concern is that his hack did not only can change the appearance in the surface, but also can control the soul that people have inside. In this movie, their soul often referred to “ghost” as the term for both living people’s mind and the conscience of pure robots and machines.

So many conversations and discussion going on around the argument of everything about the term of cyborg; as we know from every decision in story and reality, that every advance of technology always brings also its dark side which could destroy the humanity itself. In this story, that happens to our lead character —which I’m so happy that I have found another great female lead character— that fully cyborg at a very-very young age, she even went through a series of —not one, but— several artificial bodies to feel the sensation of growing up. At the present time, Kusanagi Motoko’s age estimated around 50 to 60 years old even though she prefers the body of 20 years old woman. More about her later, but there are some dialogue of conversations that were going pretty deep, talking about her sadness and mourning to having a life as a fully cyborged human being, until the point that made her not feeling like a human anymore.

plot and settings.

Of course, the famous topic of future technology is AI. In this case of terror, AI proves themselves that they could be dangerous for the human who made them; they hack and implant unsuspecting people with false memories, even manipulating them to do their dirty work. Later known as an AI program codenamed as Project 2501, one particular which have feelings towards himself and the world surround him, up to the point he falls in love with someone in Section 9. This is a dark thriller and intense action story, a slick cyberpunk-style, a reserved cerebral style, supported with a slow setting of artistic sequences and so many philosophical questions about human soul and identity in such an advanced age of technology.

Watching this probably will bring you the awkward feelings, knowing how the movie was illustrating the present time according to what people in the past would expect. But at least, not all the idea was weird and crossed the line of excessive; like the main possible future idea here is that computer so advanced, to the point that people could possess cyber brains; a technology that allows them to interface their biological brain with various networks, pretty much like a whole internet in their brain. Now because of that trend of technology, the level of cyberization divided into varies; from simple minimal interfaces to almost complete replacement of the brain with cybernetic parts, which leads to cases of severe trauma. This technology could also be combined with various levels of prostheses, with a fully prosthetic body enabling a person to become a cyborg … which is the case with our lead character, Major Kusanagi Mokoto.

It has found a voice … now it needs a body.

This metaphilosophy plot has been combined with the classification of a governmental conspiracy, although according to me, that topic was a little bit lack of substance and depth. The fans of its manga even claim that the surprise twist near the end has failed to surprise them one bit; although I can understand that two of the industry are different enough, to the point where it could be easy to be disappointed with one if you liked the other, especially when we talk about a story which delivers a huge numbers of genre and themes they never reach in real life. Plus, there are a lot of Ghost in the Shell versions, alternative settings and sequels, where each one of them somewhat different to each other, even the characters will be looked and act differently.

Maybe everything was because of the director —Oshii Mamoru— who decided to adapts the original creator’s —Shirow Masamune’s— framework into the movie which illustrated how the cyberpunk philosophy made its own way to the future society, as similar as possible to the original picture. Of course, the result won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it was unmistakable and powerful in its own way. There’re only a few shots of action scenes, but every decision the characters made was very real, up to the point I amazed at how the production was carefully planned. At least there are two sequences when all the scenes were filled only with scenery until the full music track in the background reaches its end. One of the sequences was the chasing scenes, which filled only with music and the amazing visual of the city surrounding, without dialogues until the music ended.

characters and development.

One bad thing that’s happened to this movie is that the movie not allowed us to reach deeper nor questions the reason behind everything. We’re not allowed to get too close, everything seems too solid which forced me to take the movie just as it is —especially considering that I never read the manga before I watched the movie, so I don’t know what to expect. That being said, I was surprised that some fans who read the manga pretty disappointed after they watched the movie. The awkward and clumsy nature also reflected from the characters, which completely humourless and having almost robotic personalities which made them difficult to relate, I can’t even see how their development can move further than this in the sequel.

But still, they’re not bad at all, they’re all sturdy and fill their role perfectly. After all, the robotic characteristics still works within the story theme and genre anyway. It’s just that the character seems can’t connect to everything that is happened in the story; like everything looks and drawn so emotionally, from the animation to the music production … made me understand what’s going on and how the characters will act, but it still leave a gap where I don’t know why this was happening and why the characters was acting like that. The fact that this is the first movie of Ghost in the Shell franchise, I just feel that they should give us more background of everything first of all, before they jump into the actual case and act like everything is built up already. They even not mentioning enough about their names, until the point that I couldn’t even remember their names if I was not looking for it in the Wikipedia.

It’s not only for the character though, we still don’t understand what kind of organisation Public Security is, don’t understand why they divided into sections, and why Section 9 seems like holding secrets for the good guy, and why Section 6 seems like holding secrets for the bad guy. There are also a number of foreign agents and ministry, characters which seems predominate that I don’t know who or why they seemed so predominate; I never knew about them at all. But still, all of these things did not make my view to this movie be bad, I appreciate everything, even their decision to keep Mokoto’s eyes intentionally forever unblinking —stayed like a doll in many continuous scenes.

visual and arts.

Keep in mind that the story was adapted from the manga which ran first time in Japan in 1989 and the movie itself was first time released in 1995, but the overall result is still beautiful. The animation was still fluid compared to today anime, the backgrounds were filled with artistic detail, everything looks sharp and well drawn, and even the robotic hardware and cyborg tools seems so realistic. From the manga fans point of view, a few changes were applied to the characters design that was quite different from its original, although I don’t really care of it as long as the final result is good enough, and they turns out great. All of them were pretty realistic and interesting even though the movie has shown less nudity and character movement, to bring us the more serious tone. And don’t forget that it contains quite a bit of blood and nudity with the androids naked body, including Kusanagi’s.

The visual was very showcasing pervasive attention to details, everything was so subtle and precise, smooth and natural, pretty much consistent. When the movie comes to the action sequences, which only happened twice throughout the movie —at the beginning and at the ending— but somewhat it’s subdued yet is nonetheless spectacular. Some people said that Ghost in the Shell is most definitely not an action movie, even despite the cyberpunk as its background setting, but it’s more about the philosophy than people shooting each other.

Another plus point is the musical production that managed by Kawai Kenji, which is the one who also contributed in the making of some other marvellous series such as Barakamon, Mob Psycho 100, some Fate series, and even Biohazard: Vendetta. Everything was consistently pervaded by an emotionally detached track and tones. One track that has stuck in my ears is the one with traditional sounding, followed by somewhat surreal choir and slow drumbeats. They insert it in time which were bizarre, evocative yet very creative way, followed also by the traditional city in the visual foreground, shown me that the technology advances does not ensure the future advances of society. Besides that, I also encounter many scenes that were almost silent; even one of those scenes happened when the actions were happening, when Kusanagi was diving underwater, and even the ending scenes were filled with no music at all. Was it good or bad thing? I’ll leave that judgement to you when you watch it.

closing – nesha’s final verdict.

Do you want to know some secret? Although Ghost in the Shell is the title of this story famous of, but the original title Koukaku Kidoutai actually means “Mobile Armored Tactical Group,” which actually would be more accurate to say that both of the titles has summarized the story which told. I admit, I hardly understood what’s going on and enjoyed watching it at the same time, it was a complex experience, to say the least. I’m not gonna recommend Ghost in the Shell to be watched by everyone, but if you’re a real fan of anime and want to know what has inspired the anime industry decades ago, then you should watch this.

I always keep astonished when I found out an anime that has been released long before I was born, actually provide me with an experience more breathtaking than some today anime series. Yes, some of the visual were outdated behind today standard quality, but everything was bold and I just couldn’t help myself to keep watching it through the end. It’s a revolutionary move in the time it released, was reaching a huge audience in the western society and the whole world, even become the portrayal resembles of the legendary film’s trilogy, The Matrix. Years through years has been passed, now some revolution in the anime industry has made its move, but Ghost in the Shell is forever still one of the first who made the bold move to influenced people perspective through the anime industry.

All of these depths and complexity of the plot, followed by the political intrigue, science fiction, up to the heavy philosophical concept … trust me, it’s pretty hard for you to skip this one movie. I don’t know if you would continue to watch the sequel of the movie, but if you’re a real fan of anime, then I recommend you to at least watch this one movie. Last year, Kenji Kamiyama and Shinji Aramaki announced that they will be co-directing a new Ghost in the Shell anime production, so the adventure still not ended yet. In the meantime, I will follow this series through the chronological order since the beginning.

That being said, you should follow #moe404 if you haven’t to receive the future anime reviews and posts, and visit the anime index. to see the list of anime that I’ve been reviewed.

additional pieces of information.

*material resources: http://www.productionig.com/contents/works_sp/16_/index.htmlAllcinemaOfficial pageWiki (en)AnimeNfoAnison, and MAL

Life perpetuates itself through diversity, and this includes the ability to sacrifice itself when necessary. Cells repeat the process of degeneration and regeneration until one day they die, obliterating an entire set of memory and information. Only genes remain. Why continually repeat this cycle? Simply to survive by avoiding the weaknesses of an unchanging system.

— Kusanagi Motoko.

Alright, see you in the next anime perspective. Keep watching anime! Bai-bai now~