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Monday, April 13, 2009

Ghost in the Shell. Manga Entertainment Ltd. DVD (1995)

A classic, beautiful animation, strong ideas, moody effective soundtrack all combine to create a stunning science fiction masterwork. Based on the extraordinary book by Masamune Shirow it clearly stands on its own. In the near future cyborg bodies will be more common, expensive and requiring regular maintenance, still they will be in reasonably common use. The most common use is to have implants that allow you to directly connect to a network and communicate directly with another person, right up to completely cybernetic bodies housing a human brain. Major Motoko Kusanagi works for Section 9, an anti-terrorist government agency. Since she is introduced in a scene in which she assassinates a foreign diplomat , anti-terrorist may be taken as having a flexible definition. The Major and the rest of her team become involved in a plot by a super hacker, The Puppetmaster, which steadily unravels to being both considerably more and much less than expected. The film traces how something extraordinary can have very squalid roots. This nice mix of bureaucratic infighting and philosophical investigation is what gives the film its spine. It never looses sight of being a exciting thriller either with superbly staged and paced action sequences that still dazzle with their complex artistry.
Science fiction can frequently age very badly as the assumed future is left in the dust by the current present, Ghost in the Shell sidesteps this by taking a very radical approach to the future and more importantly having a strong central core to it. The art and craft of the animation has not aged either, the detail lavished on the cityscape's is still a joy to behold, the technology is wonderfully integrated into the story, it is very much the human concerns that are to the forefront and they are always relevant and up to date. This film continues to set a standard for ambitious, stylish animated science fiction that later films are judged by.

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