Ghost in the Shell (1995 movie)

This is our 100th review on Stereo Otaku! For a special review we decided to have our significant others write the review this week. Both Dustin and Jeffrey are huge Ghost in the Shell fans (bigger than either of us), so we thought it would be only fitting to have them take a look back at the original Ghost in the Shell movie.

Dustin (certified master automotive technician and advanced level specialist in automotive powertrain systems, military vet, and associates candidate in electronics and computer technology), while hardly being an anime fan, brings his own special expertise on themes including: military systems, economics, socio-politics, and technology. His vast knowledge on mechanical and technological systems make him a great insight to the technical world of Ghost in the Shell.

Jeffrey (PhD candidate in mechanical engineering, bachelors in Physics and Mathematics), on the other hand has an extremely vast background in physics, mathematics, and electronics. His straight forward and logical approach make his insights perfect for deconstructing Ghost in the Shell and interesting to say the least. As an added benefit he is a avid audiophile and collector of soundtracks and hidden musical gems.

We hope you enjoy their “outsider” perspectives on this classic anime must-see. As a further announcement, I would just like to say that from here on out our reviews will permanently be changing to every other week (I promise I’m not flip-flopping anymore). That is because Crystal is transitioning from student status to fully employed. Additionally, I will be working on my last year of grad school, which is bound to be hectic. This will mean a couple changes for the site. We are thinking now every 5th review will be a vs. review, and that possibly every 10th will be some “special” of sorts. If we can get enough people interested, we would like to have these “special” reviews be guest reviews as well. That of course would depend on interested parties. Now for the review! – W

Ghost in the Shell

GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995 movie)

Watched via rental

DUSTIN

Dustin 100

JEFFREY

Jeffrey 100

PLOT: The Section 9 task force is tasked with capturing the elusive cyber-hacker known as the “Puppet Master.” Initially the team suspects a delivery driver, who is using “ghost-hacking” software to track his divorced wife and daughter. A wild chase ensues, leading to the capture of the driver, and also the man that provided the program. The team later realizes the two men they had captured were decoys, having implanted memories.

A hacker determined to be the Puppet Master breaks into a Section 6 facility and begins constructing a cyber body. After connecting to the body before it was captured by Section 6, they learn of a secret program called Project 2051, which is essentially a tachikoma. Chief Aramaki and the Major sense that Section 6 and the Foreign Ministry are behind these incidents. After Section 6 makes off with the body, the team follows them to an abandoned building housing the tachikoma. A bitter firefight ensues. The truth is spilled about the true intentions of the Puppet Master, and during a ghost dive with the Major, Section 6 manages to sever the heads of the Major and the Puppet Master. Batou takes the Major’s head to safety and reattaches it to another body. Lastly, she realizes she’s is not just herself, but with a part of the Puppet Master as well.

PLOT: Question, what does it mean to be human? Is it the fact you have a brain? Is it the unique (1) set of experiences you remember? These questions drive the plot of this non-stop (2) — action (3) — sci-fi (4) —thriller (5). In a world where everything can be created, bodies, memories (6), (7), Section 9 is arguably the only protectors of the truth, so it only makes sense that it is indirectly their team which is the one answering these questions. As to be expected though their answer is vague (8), the conclusion is that progress marches on.

Footnotes: (1) Or not unique …. (2) Except when they are panning the camera over setting shots. (3) Oddly bionic nipple shot filled, oh and plenty of weapons action, but maybe more nipple shots, hard to say, I forgot my stopwatch. (4) This one felt left out without a footnote. (5) See (2), except add the longish (i) monologues. (6) Including wives and children of lonely bachelors, of which I’m no longer one because I’m recently engaged to the much better looking, and far clearer-writing normal writer of this blog. (7) Insert your favorite thing which I can’t think of because we all know these lists have to have three items. (8) Not to mention left way open to conspiracy theories (ii) since it actually concludes with Section 9 finding the “truth” of the mystery in the movie, but deciding that the rest of the populous need not know….

Footnotes for the footnotes: (i) This is only long by modern standards where people rarely have lines more than, if even, one sentence long; but still way short of Hamlet’s existential crisis. (ii) I imagine that given how you can find support for anything on the internet today, conspiracy theories in the future when there is almost no barrier (.) to sharing thoughts with other people, like twitter only way worse, oh how I tremble.

Footnotes for, well you get the idea: (.) Note I forgot to mention this is a cybernetic society where everyone is always tapped into the net, even the guy that still uses a revolver.

Dustin 50

Footnotes: lol

SETTING: The setting is 2029AD, Japan. A futuristic world run by computers dominates communication and society. Cybernetic implants are not just possible, but commonplace.

The setting is wrapped in clandestine operations and potential conspiracies which unfold as the film progresses. The economic imbalance that is portrayed in the lower class and the well-off government class underscores economic hardship even to this day. The weapons and technologies employed by class differentiation confirm this phenomenon.

SETTING: Typical sci-fi future Japan where they are a superpowered due to their technological (1) prowess. I will take this time to mention that one thing fun about this movie is its old-school setting pans (2), they pan the shot over the city to give you a better understanding of the settings and times. Example, there is one where they follow a boat, have a small plot point, then follow the river showing the economic spectrum of the city culminating with a shot of the designer store you can go to to get your fully prosthetic body.

FN: (1) And overwhelmingly cute things, although none appear in this movie, hence it is pure conjecture on my part. (2) Yes they are both boring and fun (i).

FN-f-FN: (i) Note one of my undergrad degrees was math, so I take logic seriously, meaning that I don’t really say things and ever mean them in a binary fashion, there is always a grey area, and in that grey area there are boring-fun things.

CHARACTERS: Chief Aramaki: The old wise man of the group. His years in intelligence give him a distinct advantage of determining the source of trouble be it an internal threat or not. He is cautious to a degree and occasionally reckless, playing his cards appropriately as the situation requires. His allegiance is to the team first, to country second.

Jeffrey 50

I would put him as a macro-managing god. By that I mean he acts as the mice do in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he facilitates the other characters as to discover the answer to the ultimate question, well the ultimate question for this show.

Motoko Kusanagi, “The Major”: Often thick-headed (literally), she leads the group in fearless style, and she needs very little clothing to do it. She is quick-witted and combat hardened, and does not fold up under pressure.

The pivot, the one which actually answers the question, but as I have said before it is rather vague… As to be expected of good artsy movies.

Batou: The hulk of the group, he is also the “muscle” of the group. He acts honorably, and despite having biceps the size of my legs, is capable of human emotion. I believe he would put himself in harm’s way to save his commander.

The compassionate one, odd being the hulk, but he is the one which cares for the Major and shows her what unconditional love is.

Ishikawa: Ishikawa is a well-built member whose primary job is scanning “The Internet” using a fancy high-tech headset to provide intelligence and information for the rest of the group. Even though based on subsequent series I believe he resents his primary job to a degree, he understands the importance of his role and is willing to “toe the line” as required.

The narrator, his job is to explain all of the random politics that are happening behind the scene, then disappear back into the matrix.

Togusa: The only member of the group with a live body. He has roots in the old days, you know, where people bled when you shot them. Even in an era of high-technology, his personal weapon of choice is still a reliable six-shot revolver, which is less prone to jamming in the field. Of all the members, he exhibits human weakness (or strength) the most.

The human, well the prime example of one. His job is to remind us what people are like even in the future.

The Puppet Master: The elusive hacker that Section 9 is on the hunt for. His identity and intent is only revealed near the end of the movie. He reveals what could be the ultimate strength of any AI: self-awareness.

The prompter, he is the one which props “the question”(1).

FN: (1) I feel it has been too long since I used “ “ (i) and a footnote.

FN-f-FN: (i) I also feel that having been labeled a “hipster” by those in “the know”, if I don’t say things with air quotes every now and then with irony or whatever they call it I feel I’m letting them down.

CHARACTERS: Hmm… I’ll do most of my commenting as a reply to Dustin’s, but first some explanation. My favorite part of the characters is how they are each designed to provide a different view point towards the main theme of what it means to be human.

Dustin 50

FN: Just had to put footnotes on my side too huh?

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: The quality of the animation for the time I would rate as being above par. Again, the usage of technology aids in confirming the plot setting, using enough detail to portray the setting without going over the top with over-futuristic features. Also the clothing (or lack thereof) is fitting of the period. I prefer a realistic view, even in a futuristic world.

The soundtrack was not deeply memorable in my view. The choice of tracks seem more the problem, not the sound quality overall. But from a single movie that has spawned excellent sequels, it was good enough. My, oh my, has technology advanced.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: The CG Tron scenes are kind of odd, but I really have no perception of the progress of animation and time. I suppose since I deal with computer simulations I can see how computer progress has helped but I don’t know enough about animation to know what would have been computationally impressive in those days.

The backgrounds are pinup gorgeous, zero qualms there.

The people are a bit odd, not enough of the anime-ness that I’m used to in characters, and a bit too flat compared to the backgrounds for my taste.

OVERALL: The style of the plot is the most appealing aspect of the movie. The TV series is much more enjoyable in most aspects, but given the originality of this first film, it was a decent movie.

The utilization of different members, from the fearless cybernetic Major, to the humanoid Togusa, each have purposes in various missions.

The plot is timeless in my view, a struggle of a group of honorable individuals fighting to preserve what they interpret as an ideal society. The plot is along the lines of any hero good/bad plot in my view. Is Section 9 honorable? Was WWII honorable? You be the judge.

OVERALL: Rent but not buy for me. I like the storyline enough from the latter episodes to still be interested in it, but the change of pacing from what I’m used to makes it too difficult to rewatch on a whim.

Now to add the most important category that the normal two writers always leave off,

Music: For me my biggest reason for loving the other TV series is the soundtrack. It is definitely my favorite TV score of all time, and quite possibly my favorite score, but that is a biased decision, however for best TV score I think that is pretty much fact (1). Yoko Kanno, amazing, fact. This soundtrack however isn’t bad, it is actually quite good. It is much more Japanese in its style which is a fun thing and better fit to the movie with its panning shots (2).

FN: (1) The reason movie scores might win out is because a good movie is far easier to sustain emotional development because of the fact that it is shorter and designed to be watched in a single sitting, whereas the breaks between episodes of TV shows intrinsically break the emotional-ness of it (i). (2) In retrospect by the end of this review maybe for me the fun of the panning shots was the music….

FN-f-FN: (i) My favorite definition of music was given to me in a History of Jazz class: Music, the rise and fall of tension through sound. It is by this criteria that I partially judge the effectiveness of music.

FINAL SCORE: (7/10) FINAL SCORE: (8/10)
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