Sunday, December 2, 2001

Ghost in the Shell

Genre: Cyberpunk, Sci-Fi, Action
Parental Guidance Recommended
Credits: 1995 Shirow Masamune, Mamoru Oshii


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Cover Description:
Major Motoko Kusanagi is an officer in the Section 9 security force with a cybernetic body so heavily modified that she begins to doubt her own humanity. With her partners Bateau and Togusa, Kusanagi follows the trail of the mysterious and elusive hacker known as the Puppet Master. Under analysis, the Puppet Master reveals himself and demands political asylum, but before Section 9 can investigate further, however, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the shadowy Section 6, interferes and captures the Puppet Master's shell. Kusanagi and Bateau quickly give chase, attempting to recover the Puppet Master. Section 6, however, is determined to keep him.

What is the true nature of the Puppet Master? Why is he so interested in Kusanagi? what drives Section 6 and why do they want the Puppet Master so badly?

Only Human >>> by Mnemolth
Taking its lineage from the cyberpunk genre pioneered by William Gibson's ground breaking Neuromancer, this is an example of intelligent and provocative animation, a feast for the eyes and for the mind. The film is both fluid and intense. Detailed backgrounds with multi-layered animation, the almost perfect blend of CG with traditional cell compositions, bring the story to life. The crowded streets and decaying buildings, the low flying commercial airliners that seem to just scrap over the tall residential blocks, they all draw us into the industrial wasteland and set the scene for the unfolding plot. From the stunning opening sequence to the open-ended conclusion, this is one hell of a ride.

It is the near future, humans are augmented by cybernetic bodies and parts, their individuality captured as information in 'ghosts' and transferable to these so called 'shells' as the need arises. Into this world is born the 'Puppet Master', a world class hacker, able to penetrate and manipulate people by breaking into their minds, much like a burglar would break into a house. At a time when information transcends all boundaries and borders, information becomes the key, and valuable. Chasing this outlaw is a group of clandestine security officers headed by Major Motoko Kusanagi. Practically a cyborg, she is the protagonist of this story and brings out much of the themes hidden amongst all the gun fire and violence.

Its true this anime overflows with longwinded explanatory monologues. Don't they all? Akira anyone?? Perhaps that is a fault in the translation, perhaps not. It is after all targeted at the young male adult market, youths whose pretentiousness is legendary. But looking past the set speeches that seem to ram the film's message down our throats (why is it that people give the audience so little credit that they feel the need to explain everything, as if we're children they have to spoon feed!), looking beyond the sexy graphics and the stylized violence (with a particular fetish for guns), there is something much more that this movie has to offer. The questions it raises will remain with you for hours and days after you have seen it.

Just what does it mean to be human? Who are we? Where do we come from? And where are we going? These are the eternal existentialist questions. But packed, as we are, like sardines in a can that is a city, separated and isolated from each other, these questions take on an increasing poignancy and we all feel an urgent need to understand and resolve these issues, for ourselves and to make sense of the world around us. If our individuality can be captured as 'information' or 'ghosts', then what separates us from a highly evolved computer program? If we are but the sum of our experiences, then any highly developed sum of information could possibly be human, could it not? What is so special about us? It's a frightening thought. Our identities, our souls, who we are, these are things that give us strength and solace. Take them away and we become weak and hollow. Has the advancement of technology launched us onto a cross-roads in human evolution?

These questions resonate in our minds long after the movie has finished. They are well served by the soundtrack, an unforgettable mix of haunting drum beats and eerie a word...awesome...

Perhaps all this is reading too much into the film, to give it too much credit. Maybe its simply a thriller, an action flick with attitude. Yet, the best of science fiction entices us to think of possibilities, the best and the worse of possibilities. And here, in this feature length animation we do just that.

A must see.

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