I Watched Ghost In The Shell for the First Time Thanks to the New Blu-Ray Release

I was sent a copy of the new Ghost in the Shell – Limited Steelbook Packaging with Exclusive Mondo Artwork on Blu-ray + Digital HD release to check out recently. The animated film is out on Blu-ray and Digital HD on March 14th (today!) and I was interested to check it out – both for context for the live-action film starring Scarlett Johansson but also because I hadn’t seen it before.

The packaging is very pretty! Here’s what I knew about Ghost in the Shell before watching: um… cyborgs. Here’s an actual summary:

A female cybernetic government agent, Major Motoko Kusanagi, and the Internal Bureau of Investigations are hot on the trail of “The Puppet Master,” a mysterious and threatening computer virus capable of infiltrating human hosts. Together, with her fellow agents from Section 9, they embark on a high-tech race against time to capture the omnipresent entity. Ghost in the Shell took the world by storm in the mid-90’s, exhibiting a new dimension of anime with unprecedented, mesmerizing cinematic expression. Seamlessly merging traditional animation with the latest computer graphic imagery, this stunning sci-fi spectacle challenged the boundaries of mainstream animation with detailed artistic expression and a uniquely intelligent story line. Veteran director Mamoru Oshii skillfully creates the ultimate anime experience in this futuristic masterpiece based on the groundbreaking comic book by Masamune Shirow.

Sounds right up my alley but anime is one thing I’ve never been particular into in the geek sphere. And even though this is one of the most famous, it wasn’t something I stumbled upon growing up. I’d also never read the original manga by Masamune Shirow, which was first serialized in 1989. The film by Oshii was released in 1995 and certainly holds up today.

Just the other day I was writing on how many stories we’re seeing right now focused around artificial intelligence so I was happy to immerse myself in another. Without giving too much away, Major Motoko Kusanagi’s journey is very similar to other “synthetics” storylines we’re seeing this year. What was refreshing, compared to almost every other (AI) story out there, was Major isn’t treated as a sex object. She’s a leader and barring a few off-hand remarks here and there, sexuality and gender aren’t represented as specific issues. As the story explains from the get-go, she’s not an AI specifically, but a cyborg ( both organic and robot parts), so that’s at least part of the reason she’s not treated as an object but it was still a nice change of pace. From my experience with Hollywood, I can only guess that won’t be the case with the live-action film.

The version of the film I watched was English dubbed and I must admit some of the voice acting left something to be desired. A lot of the delivery was very dry and the exposition was a bit much at points. Interestingly enough, I just found out recently the main Japanese cast of the anime (Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka and Kochi Yamadera) will be providing dubbing for the live-action film for when it debuts in Japan. Oshii said of the news, “It’s been a while since they’ve played these characters. I definitely want them to deliver performances they see fit. They’re all pros, so there’s nothing to worry about, and I can only say that this is something to look forward to.”

Overall it’s easy to see why and just how much Ghost in the Shell has influenced other creative works through the years. What I found peculiar though was just how much the live-action film is ripping off entire sequences shot for shot from the anime. Not having the manga in front of me I can’t tell you how scenes were laid out there but just from the trailers we’ve gotten so far I can see sequences that are pulled in their entirety. Some may just see this as an homage of course but it did stand out and I’m curious to see how fans will respond. If they decide to see it, that is.

[Editor’s Note: affiliate link] Ghost In The Shell – Limited Steelbook Packaging with Exclusive Mondo Artwork on Blu-ray + Digital HD is out now.

7 Responses to “I Watched Ghost In The Shell for the First Time Thanks to the New Blu-Ray Release”

  1. ShoeboxyOne says:

    What’s really interesting about the GitS universe, at least from my perspective, is that cyborging is…just a way of life now, like…parking meters or alarm clocks. A guy is a cyborg just like a guy has blue eyes. It doesn’t make them less of a person, it makes them a person with a couple of extra doohickeys. And then the live-action movie comes along and suddenly GOVERNMENT CYBORG OMG BAD!

    • Pernoda says:

      You may also want to check out the video essay Nerdwriter did on youtube about how GitS uses pacing and…environment, I think, to convey a sense of place and emotion. It’s definitely worth watching https://youtu.be/gXTnl1FVFBw

  2. Jason Rye says:

    Stand Alone Complex is the better of the three anime adaptions, the original movie/Innocence, SAC, and Arise. As it remembers the other members of Section 9 exist and takes time to tell a story without being condensed in 80 minutes.

  3. Zefram Mann says:

    Highly recommend the manga. The absolute density of worldbuilding and technological prognostication on Shirow’s part is astounding. The cartoonish faces he draws is also a fascinating contrast to the almost fetishistic detail he adds to the world and technology around them.

    Mild warning, Shirow is a notorious pervert, and while GitS is, for the most part, free of this influence, there is one hilarious scene where, in an emergency, Batou forcibly intrudes on the Major’s day off to apprise her of a situation, only to get an eyeful of her and her two girlfriends in a threesome. Makoto responds by remotely hacking Batou’s arm and punching him in the face with his own fist.

    • Jason Rye says:

      Those pages have been removed from the last few volumes. You would have to go digging for an old Dark Horse copy to see them.

  4. VindicaSean says:

    The two series made after the movie are just as good, if not deeper with the delve into what it means to be aware– there’s an entire episode where the semi-aware APC’s (tatchkomas, I think it’s spelled) argue about whether they exist because they’ve become able to reason. And that argument (along with other characters arguing about what if anything, should “be done about it”). I really love the series, is what I’m saying.

  5. They Call Me The Fizz says:

    Sadly, I fear the Hollywood remake’s more concerned with being an action thriller than exploring the franchise’s more existential quandaries…