5 August 2004 | dee.reid
It found a voice... and a following
"Ghost in the Shell" is an intricate masterpiece of cyber-punk fiction and storytelling, successfully melding intriguing philosophical ideas with a coherent, well thought-out (albeit) confusing plot.
Even more, it's a nightmarish vision of a society that's dominated by cyberspace and looking back now, is eerily prescient of today's computerized times. Many of the characters in the film are enhanced, someway or another by machines, to help them get the advantage in a vastly changing society.
I'll avoid going real deep into the plot simply because there's a whole lot to grasp and even I got more than a little confused trying to follow it. The story is that a team of high-level government operatives are hot on the trail of a notorious computer hacker called the "Puppet Master," who is wanted for various crimes in cyberspace and has taken a particularly fond interest in the team's tough, female cyborg leader.
Not surprisingly, as with the stigmas surrounding Anime', "Ghost in the Shell" is not short of nudity and graphic violence. But it's far from being gratuitous, and does not slow down the movie at all.
"Ghost in the Shell" was one of the first Anime' films to skillfully blend traditional drawn animation with computerized imagery. This helps to give the film a surreal, yet beautiful look. And the dialogue helps sometimes too, with helping to sort out the confusing plot and many of its mythical ideas about personal identity and human evolution.
This film is also even more revered today, in 2004, since some of this film's core themes helped to develop the plot basis of the insanely popular "Matrix" films, and some scenes from "Ghost in the Shell" were even homaged to in the first "Matrix" movie. The Wachowski Brothers certainly do owe a lot to this movie for the success of their work in America.
I think that to understand "Ghost in the Shell," it would help to accept that Anime' is much more complex and daring than traditional American animation. Most Japanese animation films, like this one, "Akira," or Mayazaki's "Spirited Away," are on a level of sophistication that will never be matched in America.
It has been said that the majority of American audiences would be afraid of Anime' because of the many stereotypes surrounding it, but that's why it's boundless - it's been given free reign to use those stigmas to its advantage in developing truly remarkable pieces of art that have gone largely ignored here in the U.S. "Ghost in the Shell" could very well be a mere reflection or a parable of a doomed society that's probably already accepted its dark fate. Most American animation would never touch up on this sort of subject matter.
"Ghost in the Shell" is my #3 choice Anime' film (behind "Spirited Away" and "Akira") because it's so full of ideas and is masterful in telling a dark story about our times.