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Philosophy At Its Finest, Eyes Of A Fourteen Year Old: Ghost In The Shell (1995)

Ghost In The Shell (1995) Poster

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Ghost In The Shell (1995) Poster

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Ah anime, my guilty pleasure. I say that not becuase it really is a guilty pleasure, but becuase the public thinks if you watch anime you are a weeaboo, not just a film nerd. Not to say there are not guilty pleasure anime (I’m looking at you Maid Sama). Of all the anime I have seen (which is not a lot), the best by far is Ghost In The ShelI. The 1995 cyberpunk masterwork gets a reboot this week, and has 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 8 stars. So, how does it hold up in the eyes of a fourteen year old?

*Note: This is a review of the English Dub*

Amazing! Although the voice acting can be wonky at times, the film serves up an interesting philosophical debate on the differences between Man/Woman and Machine. Ghost In The Shell follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, Batou, and Togusa of Public Security Section 9 as they track down the mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master. As the film goes on, you start to learn more about this hacker, and the titular Ghost. Ghosts are never clearly defined, but seem to be the difference between sentience and non-sentience. However, Ghosts and not souls, as characters hear “whispers” from their ghosts, and you can hack into ghosts (it is like hacking into a computer I think). To understand the philosophical debate, you have to understand ghosts, and who the Major and Puppet Master really are.

   Major Motoko Kusangi is a human, but is what people call a “full body prosthetics,” or a cyborg. While the film never explains her past, it is revealed in Stand Alone Complex (the TV series) that she was paralyzed in a plane crash when she was a child. However, Stand Alone Complex is in a different continuity, so it is hard to know whether this applies to this film. In Ghost In The Shell, the Major never blinks, a design choice take to make her seem more doll like. The Puppet Master, meanwhile, is an AI created by the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs and Public Security Section 6 to preform industrial espionage and intelligence manipulation. In the second act of Ghost In The Shell, the Puppet Master escapes Section 6 and goes to Section 9, claiming he has a ghost. This is the key debate: can AI become sentient on their own, and is the Major truly human.

Ghost in The ShelI takes place in a near future, somewhere around 2029, in a seemingly dystopian Japan. While skyscrapers dot the downtown wealthy area, the slums are old and in some places destroyed. The one other dystopian aspect of the film is technological progress. Most humans have cybernetic implants in their brain that allow them to access the internet, (known as “the net,”) at all times, thereby making them susceptible to hacking. Then there are the people in this universe that traded parts of their bodies, even their whole body, for cybernetic ones. People do this for three main reasons: medical, work, or recreation. Then there is Thermoptic Camouflage, a staple of the series, which makes the user invisible . In this film, Major will often fight in her Thermoptic Suit, which is a skin tight, clear suit, making it appear that Major fights in the nude. Thermopitc Camouflage is not perfect however, due to it getting disrupted by water and falling debris. Also, if the user get too close to someone they can see the user’s outline.

At a couple points through out the film, there are action scenes. All the action scenes, as well as the entire films, are accompanied by calming, ambient music, giving the action scenes a sense of melancholia instead of heart-pounding excitement. This is most prevalent in the film’s climax, where Major fights a tank. This scene is accompanied by both rain, and a song a bit more haunting then the other, and the scene really fills you with a sense of dread. There is one other aspect that is note worthy in the climax: it ends with a lengthy chat between the Major and the Puppet Master about the difference between them, bringing a climax to the philosophical debate.

Ghost In The Shell is an un-disputed classic, and is known as one of the best animated films of all time. It is not for everyone, as some people will not like the deep philosophy that accompanies the film, or how confusing the storyline can be. The film is also technically amazing.  I would give the film 9.5 stars saying “With astounding visuals, amazing score, and an incredible script, Ghost In The Shell might be the perfect global anime.”

Ghost In The Shell (1995) stars Mimi Woods, Richard Epcar, William Knight, and Christopher Joyce. It is directed by Mamoru Oshii, written by Kazunori Itô, and based on the manga Masamune Shirow.  It is Not Rated.

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