|About the Series:|
It goes without saying that every art medium has its share of influential works. Japanese animation is no different. It’s virtually impossible to name them all off the top of my head, but shows like Akira, Astro Boy, Macross, Dragonball Z, Evangelion have all become quite well known and influential for one reason or another… and the original Ghost in the Shell movie from 1995 is no exception. Truth be told, there’s just so much to discuss regarding this movie—why the anime’s so good, its influence on anime as well as other mediums, its sequel, alternative universe stories etc.—that it’s impossible to discuss in this single post. As such, I have to split this post into two parts, with the first part focusing on a quick description its influential nature and the second part focusing on what in the movie itself made it great in my view. I will save the TV series (Stand Alone Complex) for a later Blast From The Past post. Also, just a quick disclaimer/note before starting: “As long as this post is, I have to say that this article merely scratches the surface and is in no way complete. There are so many aspects that make Ghost in the Shell so great that I just can’t describe in words or write out completely without making this too long for anyone to read.” Without further ado…
The Influences of Ghost in the Shell:
While many, its biggest influence probably involves its animation style. At the time, traditional cel animation or hand-drawn art was the standard of Japanese animation. But, the technique was quite time consuming and required an insane amount of work to combine into its finished product. Combined with deadlines that would usually require some kind of shortcut to meet, this technique ultimately limited the quality of the work that could be produced. Digital techniques and things such as CGI were available but still developing for the most part, with CGI being widely used only in the American movie industry through the 80’s and early 90’s. As such, Ghost in the Shell became a pioneer in terms of animation when director Oshii Mamoru incorporated digital techniques in addition to hand-drawn art in his production. The end result—a seamless mix of digital art and hand drawn cel animation—was an work which redefined “state of the art” animation at the time, setting new heights in regards to what animators could do. Effects that people only dreamed of at the time became possible, as did art that was exceptionally more realistic than its pure hand drawn counterpart. Ultimately, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Ghost in the Shell one of the most influential anime ever, from an animation technique standpoint.
Moving on, the fact that Ghost in the Shell was one of the first animated films to be released in North America also played a key role in introducing anime to the Western hemisphere. In fact, it’s played such a large influence on the west that it inspired films like The Matrix. To top it off, Ghost in the Shell is also one of the first anime to be heavily reliant on cyberpunk and thus sets quite the standard for the genre and how its depicted. Furthermore, the fact that the movie was one of the first animations to have a deep, adult orientated plot demonstrated that Japanese animation could incorporate more complex issues/topics, as well as cater to older audiences. In the end, it really can be argued that the movie is worth watching just because it has so many influential aspects. However, for you guys still unimpressed, here’s the next section.
About the Movie:
As mentioned previously, one of the biggest positives of the movie is the animation. A seamless blend of digital and hand-drawn art, it really is an amazing piece of work. Considering how even some modern series struggle to seamless combine CGI and hand drawn art… it really hammers in how innovative Ghost in the Shell was to be able to combine digital and hand drawn art over a decade ago. If you’ve watched other anime released around the time, you’ll know what I mean when I say that you can really tell the difference in quality of animation in regards to other works at the time. Furthermore, for those worried about it looking dated… the art style is old-fashioned and reminiscent of anime from the 90′s, but the seamless integration of digital art makes it so that it still looks quite good in modern times. It doesn’t look nearly as aged as other anime from the time period and really, it’s just a testament to how far ahead of the times its animation was. Notably, an alternative version of the original movie was released in 2008. Known as Ghost in the Shell 2.0, it adds a bit of modern CGI and some slight alterations in art to make it conform more to the more modern Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. These are the screenshots you will see at the end of this post.
But don’t get me wrong. I know I’m talking quite a bit about the animation, but by no means are the other aspects any less great. For one, there’s the exceptionally solid plot. The main premise is straight forward per se, but it supplements it with a large amount of complexity from the philosophical issues it brings up. What does it mean to be human? Are complete cyborgs with ghosts (an individual’s consciousness) really still human? What about artificial intelligence? At what point do you consider one an individual, living entity? These are just some of the many complex questions the movie asks of its viewers. And really, there are just so few anime that are so amazingly complex, yet so easy to understand. Heck, few ever bother incorporating such complex ideas within, but Ghost in the Shell does this without hesitation and to great success. Really, Ghost in the Shell is more than just an anime. The plot and the way the world is presented, the questions it asks… it’s a spectacular vision of a possible future come to life.
And well, no future vision is complete without its people. And Ghost in the Shell delivers here with an exceptionally strong cast of characters. I don’t want to go into much detail here considering how many members there are in Section 9, but I have to at least talk about Major Motoko Kusanagi (Tanaka Atsuko): my favorite anime character of all time. And considering how much anime I’ve watched in my life and the multitudes of characters I’ve loved throughout… that should give you an indication of how much I love her character. I mean, from her exploits throughout the movie, as well as the TV series and manga, I can’t think of any character (especially a female one) anywhere near her caliber. In fact, I could probably write an entire post just on her character alone, but that’d make this post way too long and involves some spoilers, so that’s something I’m saving for another time. But let’s just say for now that there really is no one who can hold a candle to her. She has all the physical prowess you could want, being a full cyborg. She’s as skilled as they come in terms of military related aspects. And she’s also extraordinarily complex to top it all off, contemplating philosophical issues few people would even dare to ask, while balancing life as a cyborg and maintaining the cool and calm exterior necessary to lead Section 9 and its corps filled mostly with military veterans. Oh right, did I mention how she loves jumping off skyscrapers and single-handedly fighting tanks too? And this is all just scratching the surface! Anyway, I believe you guys get the point: the show’s theoretically worth watching just due to her character alone. Combine this with the fact that the other cast members are also pretty memorable, and that’s what I mean when I say “strong cast”.
Moving on, there’s also the music aspect. The soundtrack for the movie is made by Kawai Kenji, a man whose recent and past exploits really speak for themselves. The style ain’t quite like his more modern compositions for shows such as Gundam 00 and Towa no Quon, but considering the type of anime this is and the fact it was over a decade ago, I’m not surprised. Regardless, the fact of the matter is he captures the atmosphere of Ghost in the Shell perfectly. Haunting chants give way to calm ambiances to really emphasize how different this world is compared to any other. Furthermore, the fact that he utilizes such a different style while maintaining his normal quality really just emphasizes why he’s such a good composer.
And last but not least, I’d like to go back to the bit about Ghost in the Shell being a vision of a possible future come to life. See, no post about this series is complete without discussing the fact that everything in the Ghost in the Shell universe is indeed a possibility. Sure, it’s labeled a science fiction genre… but that’s more something that results from the fact we haven’t developed the technology yet, rather than it being impossible. Think about it. We’re already developing prosthetic limbs with ever improving capabilities. We’re starting to improve both our AI technology and introducing direct thought systems. We’re developing materials capable of rendering things invisible. Heck, a variety of scientific journals have published articles on the possibility of full cyborgs and even digitizing ourselves by 2050. And well, given the fact the movie was made in 95′ (based on Shirow Masamune’s original ideas in his even older 1989 manga) and managed to predict this, you can’t help but be awed by it. Furthermore, it’s something that makes you really wonder about what the future holds… the potential for immortality, the ability to literally surf the net with your mind etc. It’s stuff that makes your head spin, but in the end is a perfect representation of what Ghost in the Shell is: a series which words cannot adequately describe.
Ghost in the Shell is a deep, complex experience to say the least. Few anime have the capability to be so memorable… to be so influential to the point where it deserves to be watched just to see what the hoopla is about. Few anime have such amazing complexity in the philosophical topics it touches upon and in the world the story takes place in. And even fewer involve such spectacular visions of the future, let alone one where many of its visions have come true, and the rest is entirely possible. But this movie fits the bill. And to top it off, it adds in all the great anime staples: a strong plot, great animation and characters, and power music. Furthermore, there is a sequel movie, an alternative universe setting with 2 TV series and a movie, and multiple manga iterations to boot… things that further enhance the experience this movie gives, as well as things that demonstrate its popularity.
And well, at this point, it’s pretty clear how much I love the Ghost in the Shell universe as a whole. It’s my all time favorite anime series and as such, is something I feel everyone should watch regardless of their preferences. There’s just no excuse. You need to watch this movie, as well as the other iterations of the series.
Bonus: (**SPOILERS**) Similarities between GITS and Matrix
|Screenshots from Ghost in the Shell 2.0:|
The best story universe from Anime in my opinion. I wish they would expand on the universe, I mean seriously they mention what World War III, IV and V if I am remembering right. Technically the TV show takes place before this movie (and is based off the Manga, the end of the series lines up with a scene from the Manga) but the movie based of the TV show Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Solid State Society is in it’s own world since it seems to conflict with this movie.
Yeah, they could easily make a whole series or few movies regarding the few World Wars before Stand Alone Complex. I heard there’s a 3rd Gig in the works, but unsure what the plot’s about though…
Well, technically the TV series and Solid State Society are alternate universe/unrelated to the movie and GITS 2: Innocence, so that’s why it conflicts from time to time. 😀
Man do I hope this is the case, I want more so badly 🙂
GITS definitely belongs in the must watch if your a anime fan category. Like you said there is so much to write about it could take days. From the scene were Motoko Kusanagi rips her arms off. To the scene in the first minutes. GITS is just filled so much iconic scenes. Then you have all the ideas Oshii Mamoru puts in the story. The story is just a classic piece of scientific and human philosophy. Also if your going to do some BFTP post I would like to see you do “The Wings of Honneamise”.
Hmmm. I’ve actually never heard of that before, but I’ll add it to my watch list now. 😀
I hate saying, “Your going to like this”, but Im pretty sure you will. Especially if you like SF. Plus, its the first movie produced buy Gainax and Bandai Visual.
I wish I could enjoyed that one at the time I watched it but once I got to “The Wings of Honneamise” after a long line of movies and series with implied, attempted and rape scenes in it, want to take a knife to Shitotsugh myself. >_<
Alot of people who have saw the movie bring that up and it is a tough scene, but a point was trying to made. If it was just there for simple FS then I would totally agree with you.
Don’t EVER read the wolfen crest manga, theres a rape scene that goes on for about 5-10 chapters right at the climax, really pissed me off. It wasn’t like ok, she got raped, it’s a plot device, no it was basically a rape hentai manga for those chapters. Very dissapointed with the auther, if he wanted to draw that, he should of done it seperately.
Very informative post, Zephyr. Thanks for sharing!
I think one of the things that really drew me into Ghost in the Shell was how realistic the story seemed–nothing too crazy, but just complicated and, dare I say, “human” enough for me to imagine a world like the one portrayed in the anime as a kind of evolution of the world we live in today. At the root of things, the conflicts and problems in GIS are still very much the same as ones we face today, albeit on a more complicated cybernetic level. I’ve always thought it nice to make those connections and imagine if years from now we’ll be living in the GIS world….haha. One can dream… >__<
And yes, totally agree with you that Makoto is seriously fierce. The GIS team actually reminds me quite a lot of Jormungand's team. Many characters, each different in their own right, but you end up caring for them and seeing the "teamness" that holds the group together. 🙂
The first episode of Jormungand had me thinking damn “GITS and Black Lagoon just had a baby!”
I actually haven’t had a chance to finish Black Lagoon…is it good? I’ve heard great things about it, but I watched a few episodes and didn’t really feel for any of the characters.
Ah man, Black Lagoon was pretty darn ridiculous… in a good way. Definitely worth a watch in my opinion.
Yeah, I’m totally loving Jormungand.
GITS was one of those anime where I had first watched as a much-disturbed pre-preteen, like NGE, and despising its dialogues and glorious battle scenes because I couldn’t comprehend them, but then falling in love with in a few years later, continuing with the franchise, watching everything there is to watch about it (yes, including the hilarious Tachikoma na Hibi shorts), until finally becoming obsessed. The whole thing is just utter brilliance. I wasn’t too sure about Innocence and SAC SSS OVA (where Major Kusanagi looked like a more muscular form of Blood+’s Saya), but the whole plot/setting is so compelling and the characters so charming in both the TV and movies that it’s hard to think anyone would not like it. I’m was sad that the TV series didn’t conjunct w/ the movies’ timeline, though. Parallel universes and whatnot don’t float my boat: I don’t understand why they just fit everything into the storyline, as I’m sure it wouldn’t have been that difficult for the screenwriters after they’ve written this one.
I’ve heard about this 3rd Gig too. So excited I can hardly wait.
There needs to be a way to “like” individual replies other than the thumbs up.
I think there actually needs to be a way to distinguish a good comment from a comment that you agree with. Some comments constructively criticize a post, episode, or its theme/message but is, overall, a logical comment, and one that is most likely well written. On the other hand, there are comments like “This episode is awesome!” or “Chitanda Eru would make a great wife,” which many may agree with but should hardly be considered a quality comment.
Sorry, welcome to the Internet: 99.99% of it is crap.
I remember watching this back in teh old days and my mother shut off the tv and forbid me to watch the movie ._. something about nudity. I never had the chance to watch it again and now over a decade, I see it sitting in my library but never got the time to watch it
Lol, it’s time to dust it off and watch it yo.
Lol, I will, I will. After watching Evangelion and Captian America
Those were times where watching anime and playing mortal kombat and doom were more dangerous than waching porn, gore or smoking.
I had the same problem with tenchi muyo, even if it was censored by the mythical mannequin bodies (no nipples, no hair xDDD)
I remember those 12 am days of them showing 2nd Gig on Bionix. Man I wish anime had this much flair/style/ execution in each and every show. Last I’ve seen of this execution was Black Lagoon. Thanks Zephyr for the post
I first saw this movie on VHS during the good old blockbuster days where it was sitting in that small anime shelf that had all these 90s ultra violence and boobs animes like Ninja Scroll and Wicked Ciry. Thankfully, Ghost in the Shell had much more substance. Watching it now, it still holds up to this day. I always find the future setup to be the most interesting aspect of the franchise because it’s becoming close to our reality.
Oh man the VHS days… those were good times.
Oh god. Don’t remind me. You’d get dinged if you didn’t rewind. All those neighborhood video stores. Yikes.
That so reminds me of high school.
Yeah the VHS days were the best days of anime I have Genocyber,Violence Jack,Detonator Orgun, M.D Geist Death Force, Biohunter, Baoh, Guyver all under my belt on top of those mentioned. Ninja Scroll should definitely be covered for a blast from the past. I strongly believe there would be no Basilisk or Naruto if Ninja Scroll had not come out. GITS helped pave the way for anime like Artimage, Iria:Zeiram and other cyberpunk films with a strong female lead. They just don’t make anime like this anymore. It seems to be mainly harems, action-comedies all with bishi heroes or school boy heroes thrown into dangerous situations. I wish some of the new anime studios would stop and look at the greatness of their predecessors work instead of focusing on the use of new technology to make their jobs easier. Most the 90’s anime were about telling a story and getting a moral point across sometimes beyond the ultra violence. Now it seems the anime to throws stuff together with hopes that it entertains people. Look at the recent heavy hitter Guilty Crown, what was that even about. Seemed like another ploy to push the fetish of incest by making Shuu fall for a clone of his sister and his personality switches were really out place. Hellsing Ultimate, Sword of the Stranger, Gundam Unicorn, Deadman Wonderland and Mirai Nikki are the only two anime that have stood out to me in a long time.
*Mirai Nikki are some of the few anime* really wish there was an edit button
The vhs were the best days of anime… no. It was exactly the same to find really good anime back then and now, most of anime of that time were like now but with older formulas, even the morals in it haven’t changed that much, wich most of them tell you to be a good person and a hard worker 😛
Mardock Scramble isn’t bad. And in another genre Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 was pretty good. (though Grave of the Fireflies still beats it)
Agreed. Mardock Scramble is actually a pretty good watch so far (haven’t seen the 2nd and obviously the 3rd movie yet so I can’t vouch for those). What made it were Balot and Oeufcoque’s interactions and I actually like the fact that it tries to deal with the issues surrounding sexual exploitation rather than simply using it as a prop for the backstory. Also great animation and has a solid soundtrack.
Going back to subject at hand:
Okay I won’t lie, but this comment and the one about Guilty Crown being mentioned as a “heavy-hitter” leads me to think you haven’t exactly seen enough of other recent anime to realize that there’s actually a whole ton of good stuff out there beyond the occasional hiccups *cough*Guilty Crown*cough*. Kara no Kyoukai, Bakemonogatari, Steins;Gate, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero just to name a few (and please no one add to my list as that’s not really the point.)
I remember Ninja Scroll showing on the Sci Fi channel not too long ago…I hadn’t seen it in soooo long, lol.
Its a real pleasure to see this movie getting some attention. It was my “gateway” to anime watching after blindly picking up as a rental because the cover looked cool. Was I ever in for an eye opening experience. Been addicted to anime ever since.
definitely MUST WATCH in my book
I am amazed how the movie predicted the rise of special forces and secret services in importance… and I am positively sure somewhere out in the Hindukush someone is trying out first real life equivalent of thermooptical cammo:
I watched Ghost In The Well movie too… It didn’t look anime like this to me, but it was Japanese.. and it’s horror.
Gosh, this brings back some good memories.
RandomC definitely should contain more articles about old animes.
Just wanna add to this, I agree. These kinds of retrospective posts are actually a pleasure to read, not even taking into account that RandomC always manages to bring out some interesting perspective to various anime. So to see more occasional posts on “old” anime would be pretty fun to see.
Pleased to oblige. 😀
Weird thing about it is that i was listening to the GITS movie opening on youtube for a few hours yesterday.
The net is vast and infinite indeed.
Wait….judging from the screenshots this seems more like the 2.0 version right? The main difference being that 2.0 has more CG animation and the green lighting is changed to amber lighting.
I’d actually like to ask from those who like the film as to which one actually seems like the “better” (read: preferable) version?
The original is better, 2.0 ruined a few scenes with CGI. Especially the one in which Motoko resurfaced from deep diving and then looked at the sun setting sky through the water droplets on her google. The scene was stunning on the original.
By the way there’s no way 2.0 came out 1998. It actually came about the same time as innocence so 2004 or so.
Oh my bad. Yeah it came out in 08′ not 98’… seems like I mixed up some numbers in my head as I was going about it.
And yes, it has been agreed for the most part that the original is better than 2.0, because some of the CGI stands out a bit awkwardly at times and the distinct green hue it used to have was replaced by an orange hue to match the art of GITS 2: Innocence. Part of the reason I used 2.0 for screens was because I’ll prob. end up covering GITS 2: Innocence… and also due to other chance circumstances at the time I made post eh.
Groundbreaking and epic. This anime has been at the top of my list for a long time. I think it even surpasses Akira based on its content and effect on media. It asks some weighty questions that we will soon need to answer. What does it mean to be human? We will have self aware machines within the next 10-25 years- and what do we do then?
This is the Blade Runner of the anime world.
“Notably, an alternative version of the original movie was released in 1998. Known as Ghost in the Shell 2.0…”
It should be 2008
Yeah, my bad. Apparently confused 08′ with 98′. Lol. My mind’s still in the 90’s after writing this post it seems.
GITS !!! Yikes I’m old. I watched it all, many years ago. As much as I like Motoko… (that Shangai hotel scene……) My favorite has to be Batou. I just love his character how he loves her without bounds, his backstory. How far he will go for her. Oh the tachicomas (spelling?) they wree a funny crazy bunch. My first villian character the laughter I still love his logo and hasn’t liked a “villan” like him.
This blast from the past are good for our young readers and a great remembrance for us old timers! I still want to marry a cyborg girl…..
Excellent post Zephyr. Major Kusanagi is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time and as you said, the show is worth watching just for her character alone. I have seen the movie multiple times, still it never ceased to amaze me just how well thought-out the Ghost in the Shell universe is and impressively, the creators managed to fit such a complex plot within 83 minutes. Anyone who is a fan of sci-fi should definitely watch it firsthand, period!
What I wouldn’t give for another GITS series!