What a visually striking film. That’s my main takeaway from Ghost in the Shell, this film has an incredible aesthetic that intensifies its storytelling. From its locations, to its characters to how it displays the technology of the future it has this great unique vision of a future dystopia in Japan.
The story themes revolves around technology and identity, the main characters are cybernetic beings that operate as government officials. In an opening text that gives some context to the world: split into sections, society is connected through an advanced network, an interpretation for what the internet could become. Due to people having their cybernetics be used to access this network, their mind is known as a “ghost” and their cybernetic body which inhabits their ghost is known as a “shell”. It is difficult to follow at times, you need to pay attention to when they explain the science to this as I got lost at some of the logic.
Ghost in the Shell’s story revolves around a mystery and its linked conspiracy. The main characters Mokoto Kusanagi and Batou are agents for public security agency Section 9 who are investigating and hunting a hacker known as the Puppet Master. The mystery of the Puppet Master drives the first half of the story, he is a criminal who “ghost hacks” taking over the minds and bodies of people to his own agenda. The reality of his abilities is chilling, manipulation of memories and complete control of all functions. Innocents are manipulated to complete his mission and are put in danger as Mokoto and Batou pursue them with lethal force. As the story unfolds Mokoto, Batou and the rest of Public Security Section 9 learn more about the history of the Puppet Master leading to an intense, violent and soulful confrontation with their enemy.
Mokoto Kusanagi is an interesting character at times, as made clear from the opening credits her cybernetics make up most of her body. She at times questions her existence, if she was ever alive to begin with and the conflict that comes with the true reality of the Puppet Master, those internal conflicts influence her actions in the final act. She is extremely capable as a fighter, an intelligent tactician but at times the way the film tells its story made it difficult for me to connect to her character.
The story and its themes are interesting, they become more relevant as our society evolves and technology evolves with it. However there were times where I was confused, unable to follow certain plot points and a result, the film’s intended emotional impacts weren’t as powerful as they could have been. Now this could be my fault as the viewer, its clear that Ghost in the Shell portrays a dense, richly developed world that probably requires repeat viewings to full appreciate the world in this story. Hopefully those repeat viewings leads to new interpretations of this material, maybe I need to make myself familiar with more of the source material to fully grasp this film.
So its storytelling isn’t perfect but it does have some really great moments, the scene of “ghost-hacked” man realising his memories of his beloved wife and daughter are actually fake and he his crushing realisation is fantastic. Ghost in the Shell also has a fault with some of its animation, there are many dialogue scenes where the frame is static, the only movement being the mouth, no facial expressions just speech. I found it distracting and took me out of the movie and it just added with my confusion of pieces of the film.
It’s definitely a worthy if you’re interested in Anime genre or stories about cyberpunk dystopias. There is a lot to unpack, I don’t feel that I fully understood this film but I really want to back explore the world of Ghost in the Shell. Even though I was confused at places and feel it didn’t pay off completely, I want to recommend this film, its inventive and visually creative with its ideas on what the future may become. I look forward to revisiting this film and making new discoveries.