GHOST IN THE SHELL
Ghost in the Shell is a certainly triumph of cerebral science-fiction over the visually spectacular for once. It is surprisingly short on the usual qualities that anime junkies go for in terms of all-out action and massively scaled vistas of devastation. There are a couple of worthwhile action sequences the pursuit of a suspect through crowded streets; another with the cyborg heroine taking on a heavily armoured tank. However, director Mamoru Oshii is not particularly interested in action in any other Japanese film, the assault on the tank would be the climax of the show. Rather Oshii concentrates on his depiction of the world. He conjures Cyberpunk tropes with enormous dexterity cyber-brains being hacked into; thermoptic suits; and the nifty trick of a typist whose fingers have been replaced by high-speed mechanical fingers. Oshiis Cyberpunk world is at its best during some of its wry throwaway observations Theres a lot of static in your brain, someone comments of the heroine, which gets the terse reply: Its that time of the month. Or how she and her partner sit drinking, while observing: With the merest thought the chemical plants inside our bodies could metabolise all the alcohol in our blood in about ten seconds, allowing us to sit here drinking while on standby.
The film is at its best during Mamoru Oshiis hauntingly melancholic meditations on the difference between machine and human. Like the scene where the heroine wonders what would be left of her if she quit the service and had to give her cyber-body back to the government and notes that she is no longer sure what parts of her are her anymore, if indeed any of her old self still exists. Or the scenes where the Puppet Master turns the questions around on its interrogators, claiming the right to be a lifeform by asking if they themselves are not just computers that use DNA and that humanity should have considered the implications when it started remotely externalising memory. Unlike most Western films, which are almost universally negative over the issue of human-machine meldings, this ends on an optimistic note. What shall we do now? the amalgamation of the heroine and AI asks itself, to reply the Net is vast and limitless. The last shot is a pan out across the city, an image reminiscent in its implications of the final shot of Tron (1982). On the downside, these impressive moments come embedded in a difficult-to-follow plot, a characteristic failing of Mamoru Oshiis films. The governmental goings-on are very murky it took a second viewing to untangle much of the plot.
Ghost in the Shell consolidated the name of Mamoru Oshii as a major director in anime. Oshii worked as a director in various anime tv series before making his debut as a feature director with the fantasy film Angels Egg (1982). He then went onto the childrens fantasies Urusei Yatsura: Only You (1983) and Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (1983), adapted from one of the tv series he had worked on, and the Transformer robot films Patlabor: The Mobile Police (1989) and Patlabor: The Movie 2/Patlabor: The Mobile Police 2 (1993). Subsequent to the success of Ghost in the Shell, Oshii made the move to a live-action director with the stunning Virtual Reality film Avalon (2001), its later quasi-sequel Assault Girls (2009) and the live-action clone wars film Garm Wars: The Last Druid (2014). He has also made the anime The Sky Crawlers (2008) and an episode of the anime anthology Halo Legends (2010). Oshii has also written the anime Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1998) about a werewolf anti-terrorist squad operating in an alternate world post-War Japan and produced the impressive anime short Blood: The Last Vampire (2000) about a vampire government agent engaged in a war with demons.
The Ghost in the Shell saga was continued in the 52 episode anime tv series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002). Oshii then returned with a theatrical sequel, the dazzling Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004), which is his single best film to date. This was followed by a series of four one-hour theatrical films under the title Ghost in the Shell: Arise (2013-4) and a further animated film Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie (2015). A live-action English-language remake has been announced with Ghost in the Shell (2017) starring Scarlett Johansson.