‘Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie’ is set in a post-world war Newport city Japan 2029, where technology is at the forefront of human innovation, and the development of cybernetics is pushing man into an era of technological integration beyond that of the assists from personal computers and mobile phones. Humanity is now connected through a single network made up of individual minds and personalities called ghosts. Some have chosen to prolong their lives by replacing their bodies with a fully cyberised version of themselves, removing sickness, and improving human ability. With these new developments come new weaknesses and flaws, a virus named ‘fire-starter’ has begun spreading through the network, people’s ghosts are being hacked, and a bomb has gone off, killing the Japanese prime minister. Major Kusanagi and her team are set on hunting down the culprit and stopping the virus before it ruins more lives.
Major Motoko Kusanagi, a top tier hacker, and leader of Section 9 team, and Batou, the second in command, and right hand man of Major Kusanagi lead most of the scenes, mostly for the sake of the story, or action. Saito the sniper, always looking for a kill, with his blood hunger unsated after the wars end, doesn’t really vary from his character type throughout the movie. And Togusa, the only member of the team not cyberized, is an honest and overly self-critical character who creates some personal development between the characters, but is mostly pretty shallow.
The plot is reasonably self-contained, and wouldn’t require viewing of the ‘Arise’ series to make sense of what’s going on, though it might help understand some of the story clearer. This can probably be attributed to why the movie felt slightly bereft, plenty of detail but not a lot of content. I will always enjoy the setting of Ghost in a Shell, though this lacks the subtle complexity and introspection which made the original so good. It still has the great detail of world and action sequences, but tends to rely on external factors to ponder on, such as the long lasting effects that full cyberization of someone’s body can have, where redundancy of technology and incompatibility due to modern advancement has made parts obsolete, leaving long cyberized civilians to make do with custom rigged bodies, or to take their own lives due to the misery of their condition.
There are some clever ideas portrayed in the futuristic technology throughout Ghost in the Shell. While analysing the crime scene where the prime minister was assassinated, a system they call ‘pyro reverse measurement’ is used to essentially replay a simulation of the explosion like a self-replicating orange pixel bubble. The scene is then rewound, detailing all the environmental features as it goes. It’s a visually creative idea, even if the awfully specific title of the technology makes it seem a bit too convenient to the situation.
It explains the ideas in such a specific manner, it can become hard to understand what they are actually referring to, so unless you are familiar with the procedure, or technology they are talking about, you could get a bit lost in it all. This level of specificity could come off as cheesy if they didn’t do it so well. It’s so serious about itself throughout the whole movie and presents itself so well in this regard, you end up just taking all the details at face value, and continue trying to make sense of the story.
The amalgamation of 2d and 3d animation throughout the movie was near seamless. It has come a long way since the original, and adds a lot of flexibility in what can be done in the scenes. Considering time and cost restraints involved in the animation process, it delivers on many occasions, without jarring the visual aesthetic of the art style. Great moments include the virtual reality space conferencing between the team, set in a digital lobby through the unified connection of their cyber brains, or when Major Kusanagi hacks into a system, with the whole world changing around her as she melds into the digital space projected by the machine. These moments really show off how far the styled 3d techniques they use have progressed, especially comparing it to the original Ghost in the Shell movie.
With the computer virus ‘fire starter’ hacking people’s cyber brains, taking control over their bodies, causing them to do things like brutally gunning down captured assailants, the action comes in fast and frequent. Sequences are well planned and choreographed, and great fights scenes between Major Kusanagi’s team, corporate security forces and their spider bots play out often. Unfortunately, it doesn’t carry the same punch as it did in the original, as if it has lost some of its grit, or power in scenes that used to impose. The characters lack the depth they once had, leaving them to feel kind of shallow, though considering that the movie caps off what the ‘GitS: Arise’ series started, it is contained enough for a new viewer to the series to watch and enjoy, though those who watch the ‘GitS: Arise’ series will probably have the most to gain out of the story and characters.
I can’t help but feel the series has lost some of its soul in the transition to its cleaner, more modern approach to its re-imagined style. The grit and darkness of the world and its introspective, thought provoking mood seems to have been lost somewhere in the process, making it feel lighter emotionally than the original. I know there have been quite a few comparisons made between ‘Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie’, and the original ‘Ghost in the Shell’, and it started with the title. My initial feeling when reading over the ‘Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie’ title was that this is a remake. This notion was only reinforced by the number off homages present in the movie, stifling its independence as an original anime, and reinforcing the idea of comparison.
In saying this, I applaud the style and seamless use of the 2d/3d animation. The flexibility of the style really shows in the execution, and fluidity in the choreography of combat, and makes those scenes in virtual reality environments really pop. The creativity and ideas are great, bringing out the uniqueness of this re-imagining, even if it does rely a bit too heavily on the series preceding it, as well as referencing the original ‘Ghost in the Shell’ movie. It is still a solid adaption in its own right and can be enjoyed by both old and new fans to the ‘Ghost in the Shell series’ .
For more information regarding Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie or to pickup a copy to own, head over to the Madman Entertainment website.
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Hi! I'm Cal. I've always had an interest for anime, the darker, violent, story focused stuff mostly. i find the grit and detail in the stories compelling. Ever since I watched Ghost in the Shell many years ago, I've been hooked. I hope to share my passion with you.