Reviews of yesteryear: Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is a franchise that needs no introduction. Shirow Masamune’s work has been adapted into several movies, video games, anime and even a line of toys. It’s been one of the most influential cyberpunk franchises out there. Whether you like or dislike it, you have to respect how much it’s influenced the genre. I remember liking this film okay when I first saw it. However, it has been quite a while since then. So it’s time to re-watch the movie and see how it holds up.

The story opens in a futuristic city with an attempted defection being thwarted by a group of largely cybernetic federal agents known as section 9. Section 9 is quickly charged with bringing in a hacker known as the puppet master who’s trying to hack the brain of a secretary who works for an important official. Now, these events are related, but I won’t spoil how they’re linked in case someone reading this hasn’t seen the film yet. The story here is really well constructed. Virtually every scene proves to be important. All the major plot points are introduced before they become important. Which isn’t easy given how much hinges on futuristic technology. The plot initially seems rather disparate, but as it advances you realise that it’s all very intricately put together with all of the events coming together to make the story a cohesive whole. It does raise some interesting questions about the future and the implications of technology, but I can’t give it too much credit there since the implications it deals with are nothing new to sci-fi. Still, the world is very creative and the questions aren’t handled badly by any means. The only real issue with the story is that there are some substantial stretches where nothing happens. Although, to be fair, these scenes do serve to immerse you in the world which does lead to a really strong atmosphere. Still, some of them do go on too long.

The characters aren’t as strong as the story. That isn’t to say they’re badly done, though. They all feel fairly well fleshed out and three dimensional. That being said, there’s a lot about them that isn’t explained very well. For instance, Mokoto becomes obsessive about the case for no adequately explained reason. We might be able to say it’s just who she is, but several other characters comment on how strangely she’s been acting. Which the audience can’t really recognise since we haven’t seen her behaviour outside of this case. In all fairness, there’s enough information provided at the end that you can make a decent guess, but there’s no way to verify it meaning it’s just going to be speculation.

The art in this is amazing. The environments are rich with good texture. The technology is really impressive. The climactic fight scene is spectacular. My only issue with the art is that Mokoto randomly takes off her clothes in order to use the camouflage technology they have. Now, before anyone tries to say “that’s just how the tech works” allow me to point out that another character is shown using the same technology and he does it with a fully covering suit. Mokoto’s only works differently because someone wanted to draw boobs. Which would also explains the opening credit sequence. It’s just ruddy fan-service. Which does detract from the film a bit, albeit not too much.

The voice acting is well done. Sakamoto Maaya, Kayumi Iemasa, Yamadera Kouichi, and Ootsuka Akio all do well in their roles. Really, there aren’t any weak performances in this. The music is really well used. The only real issue with it is that it plays the same song during every atmospheric scene and the song ends up kind of over-played.

The yuri factor is a 1/10. There’s really only one female character in this and she can’t exactly be homo-erotic towards herself. And no, the Puppet master doesn’t count even if he does use a female body for part of it.

Ghost in the Shell holds up surprisingly well. The world is immersive with a great sense of atmosphere. The story is excellent and the art and voice acting both hold up really well, even after nearly two decades. Sure, it has some issues, but there’s nothing that should detract from the experience too much. Unless you just hate cyberpunk you’ll probably find it an enjoyable experience. I give it a 9/10. I initially thoght I’d end up giving it a 6 when I was going from memory, but it’s actually quite a bit better than I remembered.

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