Time: 83 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence and offensive language
Atsuko Tanaka as Motoko Kusanagi (voice)
Akio Ōtsuka as Batou (voice)
Iemasa Kayumi as The Puppet Master (voice)
Director: Mamoru Oshii
In this Japanese animation, cyborg federal agent Maj. Motoko Kusanagi trails “The Puppet Master”, who illegally hacks into the computerized minds of cyborg-human hybrids. Her pursuit of a man who can modify the identity of strangers leaves Motoko pondering her own makeup and what life might be like if she had more human traits. With her partner, she corners the hacker, but her curiosity about her identity sends the case in an unforeseen direction.
Years ago I had watched the live action Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson, a movie that I actually liked even though I knew most people were a little mixed on it. However, I had been meaning to watch the original anime for some time, it’s widely acclaimed, it was incredibly influential, and it inspired filmmakers like The Wachowski Sisters and James Cameron. I’m glad I finally saw it, Ghost in the Shell is a great, immersive and revolutionary movie, exceptionally made on all fronts.
With so many anime movies out there, I decided to choose Ghost in the Shell as my first venture into them, and for me at least it worked out well. For those who’ve only seen the live action movie, although you can see some similarities in the plot, I can say it’s quite different from the original overall. The anime is a lot more complex and is less action based at the very least. We don’t really learn about Motoko as a character, in a conventional sense at the very least, like with her past and all that. The movie is only like an hour and 20 minutes long (and I actually do wish that it was considerably longer), but you really need to focus and absorb all of what was going on, because there’s a lot happening. As complicated as the plot can get, I was quite invested with everything that was going on. The only aspect of the plot I wasn’t really on board with was the bureaucratic and political side of the story, which was honestly rather hard to follow (maybe that part will improve on a rewatch). However, I was on board with the rest of the plot, with an intriguing central mystery. There are a lot of themes present in Ghost in the Shell, from what makes someone human, identity and belonging, and all of that is conveyed in both the story and visuals excellently. There was just so much to process in this one movie that I’m pretty sure that I’ll get even more out of it next time I watch it.
Mamoru Oshii directed Ghost in the Shell so greatly, the animation is fantastic with some great visuals and a lot of attention to detail (especially when it comes to the symbolism). He created a believable futuristic setting, you can get quite invested with it, and the movie takes the opportunity to showcase the cityscape quite often. It’s actually mesmerising and hypnotizing to watch. I wouldn’t call it an action filled movie, but the action scenes when present are fast paced, entertaining and absolutely stunning to watch. The score by Kenji Kawai is also excellent, and fits the rest of the movie really well.
Ghost in the Shell is a great movie for sure, beautifully animated, complex and thematic, and with an engaging story. You can see how it was an influence on many cyberpunk, futuristic and sci-fi fiction and film in general, from the animation and visuals to the story and setting. It holds up quite well to this day, and I do want to revisit it sometime. If you haven’t seen it already, it is worth watching for sure.