Ghost in the Shell, movie and anime review
Written by Ramon Mejia
Ghost in the Shell turns 20 years old this year and it’s still a better tech story than all the “cyber” television shows since. James Cameron, the director of Terminator and Aliens, described the movie as "A stunning work of speculative fiction" when it first came out in 1995. The film, and occasionally the series, tends to get a little philosophical at times and the animation feels a little dated compared to modern films. However the art style and story more than make up for any small deficiencies.
The animated series based on the movie are not as artistically stunning but still hold true to the themes of the film.
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Where to watch: Hulu
Ghost in the Shell premiered in 1995. The film script was written by Kazunori Ito and directed by Mamoru Oshii.
Plot Summary: In the year 2029, the barriers of our world have been broken down by the net and by cybernetics, but this brings new vulnerability to humans in the form of brain-hacking. When a highly-wanted hacker known as 'The Puppetmaster' begins involving them in politics, Section 9, a group of cybernetically enhanced cops, are called in to investigate and stop the Puppetmaster. The pursuit will call into question what makes a human and what is the Puppetmaster in a world where the distinction between human and machine is increasingly blurry.
Our Opinion: A must watch if you’ve enjoyed any cyberpunk movie, like the Matrix, in the last 20 years. Ghost in the Shell is an animated cyberpunk film that is considered by most to be a classic movie in its own right. The film served as the one of the first examples of Non-Disney animation having mass world wide appeal. Along with Akira, Ghost in the Shell is often cited as many peoples first glimpse of animation that was both adult and had a great sci-fi appeal. To this day many directors and writers cite this film in particular as having influenced their own cyber punk works.
If you’ve never heard of this movie, be aware that it does have female nudity but no sexual content. The film really was one part art film and one part cyberpunk detective movie. The version on Hulu and Netflix have an English dubbed option that we suggest you use if you’re new to the anime world and don’t like subtitles.
There is a Ghost in the Shell 2.0 that updates some of the animation and introduces computer generated images into the movie. However, we still think the original is still the better movie artistically.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002)
Where to watch: Hulu
Summary: In the not so distant future, mankind has advanced to a state where complete body transplants from flesh to machine is possible. This allows for great increases in both physical and cybernetic prowess and blurring the lines between the two worlds. However, criminals can also make full use of such technology, leading to new and sometimes, very dangerous crimes. In response to such innovative new methods, the Japanese Government has established Section 9, an independently operating police unit which deals with such highly sensitive crimes.
Led by Daisuke Aramaki and Motoko Kusanagi, Section 9 deals with such crimes over the entire social spectrum, usually with success. However, when faced with a new A level hacker nicknamed "The Laughing Man," the team is thrown into a dangerous cat and mouse game, following the hacker's trail as it leaves its mark on Japan.
[Written by MAL Rewrite]
Our Opinion: The first anime series adaptation of the famous movie. The story begins one year after the movie in the year 2030 A.D. and continues the cyberpunk detective stories that the movie had. There is no nudity or swearing in this anime adaptation. However, the show still stays true to the themes of the original movie, questioning technologies role in our lives and some of the potential pitfalls we may face as we become more and more integrated. The art style of the series is not quite the same as the movie but considering the budget of most anime this isn’t surprising. The anime trades some of the art and philosophy of the movie for a longer format story and more action.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG (2004)
Where to watch: Hulu (note: Hulu combines the 1st and 2nd season together)
Summary: In a futuristic world where the internet and cybernetics has blurred the borders between societies, the members of Public Security Section 9 are reinstated to assist in solving numerous cases of cyber-crime.
A spate of similar crimes committed by separate suicidal groups known as "The Individual Eleven" becomes the core focus for Section 9 as war approaches in the form of refugees flooding into the country.
Our Opinion: The second season of the animated Ghost in the Shell series. The story line doesn't really go as well as the first season but is still better than any CSI or Cyber show around. If you just have to have a cyberpunk fix, then this will do.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Alternative Architecture (2015)
Where to watch: Funimation
Summary: An ongoing series that is a prequel to the Ghost in the Shell movie. The anime chronicles how Section 9 came to exist and put together all the team members featured in the movie and TV shows after.
Our Opinion: While still an ongoing series, it fits wonderfully in the Ghost in the Shell universe. The series takes place approximately 5-10 years before the movie. The audience gets to see Major Kusanagi in a younger body and how she came to move from the military to Section 9. It’s still a good detective show.