r#119 – ghost in the shell 2: innocence

This week in #moe404, we’ll be continuing our adventure on watching the Ghost in the Shell franchise. It’s a 2004 anime film that serves as a sequel to 1995’s Ghost in the Shell. This time, it’s called Innocence and it was co-produced by Production I.G and Ghibli studio with the budget of approximately $20 million. So knowing this, do you still think this movie is not worth to watch?

Well, let’s discuss!

synopsis.

Life and death come and go
like marionettes dancing on a table.
Once their strings are cut,
they easily crumble..,..

Following the story after what happened in the first movie, three years later, it is now 2032 and Kusanagi Makoto is no longer a member of Section 9. With her reportedly missing, almost all the main cases are reassigned to the cybernetic operative Batou who’s teamed with Togusa, an agent with the very few cybernetic upgrades, which is the opposite of what was possessed by Major Kusanagi who previously was the partner of Batou.

The current case that Section 9 is to investigate a series of deaths due to the ‘gynoids’ —the doll-like sex robots— that were malfunctioned without any clear cause, it was believed the deaths were premeditated murders. Batou and Togusa are sent to find the answer, which possibly is linked to terrorism or political motives. Additionally, the most recent gynoid’s remains have indicated an implantation of illegal ghosts, which then Batou and Togusa conclude that human sentience was being artificially duplicated onto the dolls and making the robots more lifelike, even possibly acting as the motive of the murders.

settings.

Even though Innocence was written and directed by Oshii Mamoru himself, the story that happened in this movie isn’t really adapted from the manga as his first Ghost in the Shell movie. Well, the concept is a little bit based on one of the manga’s chapters called “Robot Rondo”, but that’s pretty much it. But a little bit sidetracking doesn’t mean that the movie is bad; as a breakthrough in the film industry, Innocence was honoured as the best sci-fi film at the 2004 Nihon SF Taisho Awards and was competing at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. And even for meeting the huge demand that the fans asked, a related novel called “Ghost in the Shell: Innocence – After the Long Goodbye” was released on the February 29th in the same year.

As for the background settings of the movie itself, it takes a good number of references from the symbolist science fiction novel by the French author Auguste Villiers de I’lsle-Adam, called “The Future Eve”. This is a noticeable change considering that the prequel movie would have a tendency to quote the bible instead of philosophers in order to hint a point at some deeper degree of symbolism. So don’t be surprised while watching the movie, if your mind is filled with the old believed abstractions of Buddha, Confucius, Descartes, Richard Dawkins, Max Weber, Jacob Grimm, Plato, John Milton, the Old Testament, the Tridentine Mass, Julien Offray de La Mettrie, the old Meiji-era critic Saito Ryokuu, 14th century playwright Zeami Motokiyo, and the list goes on..,..

I had a dozen ideas, linked to my views on life, my philosophy, that I wanted to include in this film..,.. I attacked Innocence as a technical challenge; I wanted to go beyond typical animation limits, answer personal questions and at the same time appeal to filmgoers.

— Oshii Mamoru.

Still though, while Innocence contains so many allusions to the past fantasies and philosophies, it still hasn’t left the true origin of the whole franchise; moral questions. It’s so hard for me to have watched anything produced by Oshii-sensei without questioning something related to the principles of right and wrong, especially when it comes to Ghost in the Shell; it’s pretty obvious considering that the franchise again and again had thrust forward the analogy of human and cyborg, more specifically about the way the main characters deal with the theme —we will discuss this more under the casts section.

Well then, I don’t want to make small talk so, let us just go straight to the review..,..

script.

If you’re a loyal reader of #moe404 and have read at least the last four anime reviews that I wrote before this, then I bet you understand now that the element of efficiency is so important in constructing a world in a story and introducing the characters, especially for the first time. But due to the different target audience that Ghost in the Shell has, that method of straightforwardness had to be changed a little bit. I would say that the director of Ghost in the Shell 2 knew its audience and he succeeded in delivering what the fans wanted, which is entirely the opposite of simplistic and instead, everything is complex and possibly frustrating for most people.

And by me pointing that out, I want you to reread that paragraph once again until you understand that everything I write here won’t ever be enough to dissect everything that has been told in the movie. But first and foremost, one very important aspect you need to understand before you jump into the movie is the feedback that will come to you as the result of watching the movie; it will be different from what anyone else has got. Because if you think the first movie of Ghost in the Shell is too complex already, then you won’t ever come to understand what Innocence is all about.

For the comparison, this movie covered so many things —more than its predecessor— to the point where I don’t even know where I should start explaining; some people would see Innocence as a movie that is more complicated, while some other would see it as something that’s darker. Unquestionably, you really have to know where you’re looking at to get a tiny grasp of the movie, and that’s probably why people’s interpretations of Innocence are always different from each other.

As for the story outline that you have read under the synopsis section, that was nothing more than the surface that the movie represents; it didn’t even act as the carrier that will guide you deeper into its realms. So to fully grasp the movie, you can’t just rely too much on this context. I would say, Innocence is a movie that specifically designed for you to use your own mind while watching it.

Mind game, Innocence is all about the mind game; a play that will only be fun for some people, while the rest of you will simply become frustrated. To be honest, I can’t even see a scenario about someone —anyone— who would survive by just ‘enjoying the ride’ when they watch this. With Innocence, it’s either you’re digging the ride or your mind is still too young to dive deeper into the realms. But this doesn’t mean that only certain people can get into the ride, everyone can —including you— because one way or another, there’s always a revelation that everyone can see and understand. It just that … some people see it in a totally different way.

But due to this review not intending to peel off that deeper and more meaningful context, let us just talk about the clearest process towards the clearest revelation —the movie’s essential; the story outline— so everyone can read this review as relevant as everyone else. In the basic level, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is about a traditional investigation concerning the rampage androids designed for sex, but somehow managed to murder their own owners in a mysterious way.

If it is true that our gods and our hopes are no longer anything but scientific, is there any reason why our love should not also be so?

— Villiers de I’lsle-Adam

Okay, maybe the first thing I need to inform is how slow the movie’s pace. In case you haven’t realized yet, all the prequel series before this one has a slow pace in telling its story … But in Innocence, everything is even way slower. Not only that, the duration of this movie is 20 minutes longer than the previous one, and that has to be the reason why people who have watched Innocence had to take the movie as a slow and boring haze.

In fact, it’s pretty easy to just give Innocence a low score for the reason that what you get from watching the movie is less than what you have got from watching the first one, while at the same time you have to spend 20 minutes longer than before to watch it. Innocence is filled with dialogues, and that’s pretty much how the narrative will guide you through one scene to another … and if your mind can’t comprehend the way one character expresses themselves using historical quotes and philosophical metaphor, you’ll see every one of them as simply a lifeless character that likes to say nonsense.

So yeah, every depth of this movie mostly relies on its characters —or should I say, it SHOULD BE relying on its characters. Innocence is so far from just being a two-dimensional movie, Innocence is something more, and this will only be explained if you keep an eye out for the characters. And with this, you need to understand them too to understand the story … or at least, you need to know how to understand them. So without keeping you confused any longer, let’s discuss the relations between these characters with the world and story around them.

casts.

From the individual of robots that so many times became the subject in question throughout the movie —whether it deserves to live and feel— the death and expression of animals being interpreted such as the empathy of birds flying, anthropomorphizing dogs, or the meaning of ‘crying for the gutted fish’ … even Satan is given a shout-out, and don’t forget about the children, and dolls, and of course, our main characters Batou and Togusa.

Well, most of the names and characteristic are mentioned not as a literal subject, but instead, as a personal expression. So to grasp the full context about what’s this and that certain character do, what feelings they feel, the kind of emotion or confusion that is inside their mind … you need to not only understand the character in question, but also to relate them with anything they say which oftentimes are connotations of historical allusions and quotes of other —mostly philosophical— people expression.

I know it’s weird, but that is what happens in the movie; they express themselves with ‘code’ and always in dialogue with each other in such surreal and unnatural way; full of —meaningful— abstraction. And just like any other element of Innocence, to really understand them requires you to think and/or expertise in a study of the fundamental nature about reality and existence. Anyhow, let us back to Batou and Togusa.

As you know, our main character in this story has changed from the previous one, and now we can choose between the two characters to relate to; the first is Batou, someone who’s in awe of Major Kusanagi Motoko, and her disappear has led Batou to miss/think about her; the second is Togusa, the most msfts someone in this universe, someone who is far from being an idealist, a rather normal human who’s forced to live in an environment full of metaphysical and irrational terms between human and cyborg.

For sure, if you’re new to this kind of sht then you’ll see everything through Togusa’s perspective; someone who’s not even sure what to do every time people around him talk about things using metaphorical expressions, such as when Batou and a coroner of a crime lab talk about the nature of industrial robots using the descriptive words of utilitarian pets, identities, suicides and chaos, maturity and free wills … Togusa would just interpret the conversation in a totally different way and yell, “Children … aren’t dolls!”

For short, Togusa is your comfort zone.

But everything will become more interesting when you get out of that comfort zone and try to relate yourself more to Batou rather than to Togusa; he’s someone who used to be contrary to Major’s ideology, but her now being disappeared now has made Batou to think about her so long to the point where Batou nowadays is in the similar realm that Major was back in the day. He loses his faith, now he’s looking for something else —possibly his ghost, a new direction to live, or maybe her ghost who has disappeared from his life.

With the movie depicting him as the centre of everything, now the world is illustrated with the tone of his mental character; it’s always night, narrow, and everything has become more difficult to accept. Even the city landscape seems different; now it’s darker and cloudy, connected with cramped alleys. It seems that the movie wants to establish this tone of landscapes as realistically as possible in the background of Batou, as something he lives in, it affects him —or Batou chooses to let it affects himself, creating a gap between him and society.

If you’re me, you can see easily that Batou is busy cracking the dilemma between his reality and the incomprehensible influence that Major had put him in the past. In a way, you can see him as a tsundere since most of the time he always keep everything to himself. But more than that, he is someone who doesn’t have a full understanding of the world around him, nor does he understand who he really is … maybe this is why he created the gap between him and society around him —society means, Togusa included. While at the same time, despite all of these confusions, he still tries to change the world and make it a better place.

To summarize, Batou and Togusa are pretty fun characters to watch, they are two interesting subjects for us to try to understand the very definition of life —two definitions in fact, Batou’s way of life and Togusa’s way to live. For example, only certain people can see the different way of look that Batou give when Major comes to play at the end of the movie, their relationship has changed as Batou now is approaching the same level that Major once was in —he found out who he really is, even he understands more about her. And yes, in a nutshell, Major is not completely gone; she’s introduced first time in the middle of the movie so her appearance in the last act won’t completely shocking for the audience to see.

visual and arts.

Now, we can’t just take aside the aesthetic element of this movie, can’t we? Of course we can’t. In the basic level, one thing that you can simply enjoy watching is to simply understand how good is the artistic design of the movie. I mean, Production I.G had to co-produce this movie together with Ghibli studio just because the funding simply wasn’t enough. We’re talking the huge amount of 2 billion Yen here! But now, as for the real question; how well does the movie stand out?

It’s not great, I’ll tell you that. But at the same time, this is the first anime movie that managed to compete for the highest prize award (Palme d’Or) at the Cannes Film Festival. So, what’s the deal with Innocence, really? Well in short, the first thing you’ll notice right away is the separation of the hand-drawn animation with the computer-generated animation; the two just couldn’t be put together in the movie, which is so disappointing.

When you see the combination of traditional cel animation and the CGI animation that the first movie of Ghost in the Shell had, it was fully blended to the point where we cannot separate the two of them. But here in Innocence, even at the first glance you’ll see that the animation quality seems unstable; we could see and pretty much enjoy the movie when there’s a bunch of layers giving us the beautiful and real-life imagery on screen, but at some points the movie seems to add too much and/or too less.

And then I conduct some research for this particular topic and found one reason that has made this catastrophe; this is what Oshii-sensei had to say regarding the state of art and animation in Innocence: …

I think that Hollywood is relying more and more on 3D imaging like that of Shrek [American franchise animation]. The strength behind Japanese animation is based on [the] designer’s pencil. Even if he mixes 2D, 3D, and computer graphics, the foundation is still 2D. Only doing 3D does not interest me.

— Oshii-sensei.

And so, the people behind the production of Innocence always referring this approach as ‘CGI hybrid’, which then the term became one of the everyday concepts of the current generation of visual creators; the way they create realistic objects by mixing CGI with the traditional visual effects. And guess what? Innocence was one of the first pieces of creation that use this technique. How awesome is that?!

But of course, this trial experience is one of the main reason why the movie hasn’t aged well, this is why the current generation of anime consumers would see the movie animation as unsettling, weird, even possibly laughable if you’re an expert in visual and animation. But don’t drop the movie just because this drawback, considering there’s also a strong point that came from this other than its flaw.

Okay, animators continued to use the real-life scenery from Hong Kong as the movie’s animation template for their rendition of 2032 New Port City, and the attention they gave towards these details are so high to the degree that the real-life culture and traditions of the people there (were Taiwanese) are also adapted into the movie. There’s this sequence where a colossal parade takes place throughout the whole city, where the colourful triumph of animators runs the concept of CGI hybrid for nearly full five minutes … and these scenes are freaking awesome!

Well, it sure is a beautiful arrangement since that one sequence alone has taken the movie animators over a year to complete- what? A year?! Yes, more than one full year to just concluding a 5 minutes scenery … It’s definitely not a pure sakuga, but that sequence alone is still one year far from the garbage bin! I own the remastered version of Ghost in the Shell, but after I read about this information, I really want to get a hand on also the remastered version of Innocence. I hope someday I’ll be able to afford it.

The soundtrack was composed by Kawai Kenji, which is the person behind the music department of Mob Psycho 100. If you bought the soundtrack album, you’ll notice there’s an album note saying that these pieces are greater than the pieces of Ghost in the Shell, according to him of course. Kawai basically said that these pieces are different and much tighter, but it still followed the pace of the first pieces. Even one track in particular, “The Ballade of Puppets: Flowers Grieve and Fall” was composed based on the idea of the previous piece in the first movie, “Making of a Cyborg.”

And of course, there’s always a remake of a classic song to be added to the movie’s theme. This time, Innocence took a song of famous Greek singer Demis Roussos from his 1982 studio album Attitudes, the song is called “Follow Me.” Really, the production value of Innocence is so amazing and interesting to follow, it’s still surrounded by jazzy theme and it all done amazingly, especially with the music box. Wait, what? Music box?

Yes, there are two tracks called “Doll House”, and you’ll hear a melody of music box between the tracks. Wanting it to sound as if it’s played in a huge space —as the specific request that Oshii-sensei has asked— Kawai had the music box recorded in the studio with eight microphones, and then played it back in the underground quarry of Utsunomiya (largest city of Tochigi Prefecture) with four speakers and two subwoofers. Interesting right?

closing – nesha’s final verdict.

So it’s one director for the both movie of Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, but now you can tell that the style Oshii-sensei worked on was completely different from the first one. That not necessarily made the movie bad, because any anime enthusiast would understand too that he has a clear-cut vision in delivering anything he had in his mind; especially regarding the evolution of Batou’s character which I saw it as the main focus of this entire movie.

Veni sancto spiritus!
… come creator spirit~

For people like me, someone who enjoys a study about characters … the way of this movie delivers them is so new and very unique, which made it so interesting to watch. If you’re me, you gotta understand how amazing this movie is; the very strange footsteps taking the hideous and dark concept about children abduction, playing detective with machine guns and underwater torpedos, while everything is explained through a flawed perspective of a broken protagonist who’s trying to understand the ultimate meaning of creation.

It seems that only viewers who can see everything that happen in the movie as the decaying nature of people’s morality; from kidnapping to violence to Yakuza to sex dolls, anything that you would see as the revelation of this movie … it seems that you can only grasp everything after you come into a full circle and connect the dots, relating everything to one thing; morality. There’s a reason why Batou seems like always questioning the equality between all forms of —life humans, animals, and robots— and there’s a reason why Innocence is a more precious creation for Oshii-sensei himself than his first movie of Ghost in the Shell.

Innocence doesn’t give you 5 + 5 equals 10; in my opinion, Innocence questions you 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1 and let you figure yourself the answer. Innocence is not really a satisfying piece for a lot of people, definitely not a family movie … but it truly is a special one to watch when you’re all alone.

And that being said, if you haven’t ended the movie with at least a few moral answers constructed inside your head, then I suggest you have to watch the movie once again. Now after you read my review, I hope you know where to look. I hope you’ll get the new revelations, the deeper and more meaningful ones … because as I said before; Innocence is very far from an only 2-dimensional movie, and you can’t simply understand it with one time watch.

additional pieces of information.

material resources: official siteAllcinemaAmazonANNOfficial pageOfficial page (en)Wiki (en)AnimeNfo, and MAL

* this image is available to be downloaded!

Well, despite the topic we were discussing is all about the complex and complicated masterpiece, you must have realized by now that I was mostly just throwing facts and giving my evaluation predominantly towards what’s on the surface, I didn’t even tell you much about my enjoyment watching the movie. For my defence though, Innocence is a fundamental experience that one can’t fully explain or break down to someone else … just can’t, and I believe am not the only one who have distressed by this struggle.

Just imagine that, whenever I write a review this long usually comes out as a pretty heavy spoiler one, but here’s the lengthy review of Innocence and almost no plots are spoiled. Weird, right? Yeah, it’s pretty hard to flesh out everything that I have in mind about this piece … even though I realize that I haven’t fleshed out everything, to the degree that I only touched one sequence regarding the movie’s visual and animation. But well, I hope this review turned out all right.

Thank you for reading, it means a lot for me! Support us in Patron or buy us a coffee if you wanna, and in case you have an interest towards this kind of anime post, help yourself finding the subscription widget somewhere in this page to follow #moe404. Keep watching anime, and I’ll see you again next week! Bai-bai now~

© written by nesha5971
proofreaded by sliceofalfredo
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13 responses to “r#119 – ghost in the shell 2: innocence

    • managed to hold up the cool premise; but bad execution. too western-ish, too narrow. basically, the live action adapted really good of anything that could happen in the world of ghost in the shell, but it failed big time in representing what really is ghost in the shell stand for.

    • yeah, it seems there almost aren’t any series of ghost in the shell that are only PG/PG-13, almost all of them are rated with violence and profanity

  1. I think I enjoyed it a bit more than you did but pretty much agree with what you said. People who wanted another fix of the Major are probably the most disappointed. I love “deep think” movies and anime, so it is natural that I should like this..

    • well, i think i would give an 8 rating for enjoyment. but for the overall score though, considering that now not only the kind of people who were the target audience go watching the movie, plus the fact that it’s a sequel of the previous movie while at the same time it established as a stand-alone … it’s pretty hard for me to say to people that Innocence is a solid good, moreover recommend them to watch it.

  2. Wonderful review. As you know I am a fan of pretty much everything Ghost In the Shell, but this one I still haven’t grasped fully. As you said, it’s definitely complex and has so many layers, that with pretty much every watch you get a new experience and see it in a different way. I’ve seen it three times now, and I feel that I have still barely scratched the service. It won’t go down as my favorite one, but it was certainly an interesting film to be sure. 😊

    • thank you for reading my review as always~ and i agree that Innocence has a lot of layers indeed. i even wondered if Mamoru Oshii was understood every complex layer that he was put onto the making of this movie, or he just put a collection of unsolved tweets from both the old comedians and thinkers … i wonder

      • That’s a very good question, and one we probably will never get answered. But it’s something I wonder about too. It would no really suprise me if the answer would be that he didn’t understand everything 😊

      • lmao yash. once i watched a live-action movie (not an adaptation) of him and the movie was so slow and seems like trying too hard to carry a weight that i couldn’t follow … i forgot the tittle tho, it’s not an english movie nor japanese; the casts speak using a different language.

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